Books

Introducing: Jennifer Pereyra and her take on Tate!

Posted on March 31, 2011. Filed under: Authors, Children's, Publishing | Tags: , , , , , |

I have to apologize for not getting this out yesterday. Suffice it to say that it’s been a long week. That said, I’m posting now in the hopes that people will see this and find some good information from the interview I did with Jennifer Pereyra.

This is a part of the author interview Jennifer so graciously gave me, and I hope you’ll find her insight helpful when you consider Tate Publishing. Following today’s post, I’ll be putting up another post tomorrow featuring Jennifer’s background and history. I hope you’ll stick around to read more about this budding new children’s author.

With no further ado, here is the Q&A session I had with Jennifer concerning her experiences with Tate Publishing. She was very thorough and answered all my questions with detailed information about her experience, and I think you’ll find it as informative and helpful as I did.

What process did you go through to finally find your current publisher?

A LOT!  I did a ton of research to figure out how I wanted to go about publishing.

I looked at what the process would be to get an agent and to hook up with one of the big NYC firms.  What I found, however, is especially in the children’s book genre, unless you are a previously published author or a celebrity with built-in marketing (think Tina Fey) where people will buy the book just because it was written by you, your chances of getting out of the slush pile are slim to none.  I wanted to make sure that this book got into print during a timeframe when my daughters would still be able to enjoy it.  It was, after all, for them that the story was written.

Next I looked at the vanity presses and also read a lot about self-publishing. The vanity presses out there offer little to no marketing support, they don’t have relationships with the major bookstore chains, and they will print anything as long as you are willing to pay. One can literally be nickeled and dimed up to the point of having to buy back your own work should you choose to sever the relationship.   Going the self pub route didn’t seem realistic for me either as you are completely on your own.  To be successful going either of those routes, one would need to be able to dedicate time as if it were their full time career.  I just don’t have that luxury.

Then I came across Tate Publishing.  Being a business woman myself and always trying to find non-traditional methods for achieving good business results, I immediately understood and appreciated their business model.  By requiring an author investment, they are mitigating their risk. They want to make sure that once they have invested their time and money into your book that you are going to reciprocate and work as hard as you can to sell your books when at signings and other marketing events that they schedule for you. (By the way, I did put together an Excel spreadsheet comparing what the vanity presses would charge for the same services that Tate provides and it ended up being from $12,000-$18,000.  Knowing that, the $4K charged by Tate is quite a deal!) Dangling the carrot of the 5,000th copy sold to get your money refunded (which also results in Tate publishing subsequent works by you at no cost to you), is their “insurance policy”.  It made perfect sense to me.

Did you attempt to get other agents and/or publishers before going to Tate? What was that like?

I did have a conversation with Mill City Press, however, based on how they do business, it would have cost me a minimum of $12,000 for a full color picture book.  They seemed reputable but that price tag was just too high for me to even consider.  Beyond that, there weren’t any out there that after all of the research I had done, I would seriously consider.

How long did it take you to find a publisher who wanted to publish your book?

As with the writing, I dove into this project head first so I think I had made a decision in a few weeks.

When you first began researching Tate, what were your thoughts on the company? Did you have any initial misgivings?

Honestly, I completely understood their business model from the get-go.  However, I don’t trust anything at face value so I checked the Better Business Bureau and they had an A+ rating.  They were also listed as one of Oklahoma’s Top 100 Companies to work for.  In addition, I set up a Google Alert for Tate Publishing and followed those for a while to see if any red flags popped up.  At the end of the day, I decided that they were indeed on the up and up.

If you had any questions or concerns about Tate, what made you change your mind?

After I looked at all of the information objectively, I didn’t really have any concerns.  All of my questions were answered as a result of the research I had done.

I know Tate is fairly up-front about the cost investment for first-time authors. Did that bother you in any way?

No…well, don’t get me wrong, of course I would have loved for them to have taken on my book without having to invest any money into it but that isn’t how they work.  It is exactly that model which allows them to take a risk on first time authors.

What is Tate’s process for vetting books from first-time authors? Can you tell us how the process worked for you from submitting your manuscript to getting the go-ahead for publishing?

In terms of the review process they go through, well, you’re going to have to ask them about that.  I wish I could tell you but once I hit the submit button on their website, my manuscript was off and I don’t know what they did with it from there.  All I know is I received an e-mail, about 6-7 weeks after submitting it asking me to respond to some questions about my motivation for writing the book.  I replied to that message and within 7-10 days, a contract had arrived via UPS at my house.  I remember because I had been taking an afternoon nap and when I came downstairs my husband had the package in hand.  It was very exciting!

How involved have the people at Tate been in getting your book from the manuscript stage to the final published format?

They have been extremely involved in getting it to this point!  I started off working with my editor, Hannah.  She was great and handled making sure all of the commas, quotation marks, etc. were in the right places.  She also made recommendations to me as to where she felt the story could be enhanced a bit more and even in some cases where she felt that something just didn’t flow properly.  I was very pleased with all of her feedback and my manuscript is definitely better because of it.

From there I worked with Liz, my illustrator.  Liz read the story and then contacted me to set up time to speak with me about the main characters in the book.  After going back and forth several times, we came to agreement on the character reference sketches (which can be seen in the photos section of my Facebook Fan Page).  A few days later, Liz contacted me so she could talk with me about her ideas for the storyboard.  She told me how she envisioned the illustrations and I was able to comment on some things that I thought should be included.  I will say, however, that I am a firm believer in letting the experts do what they do best so while I would share with her what I was thinking, I also made it clear to her to push back on me if anything I was saying wouldn’t have the desired effect…and she did in a couple of circumstances.

After the illustrations were complete, my file was passed on to Chris, in layout who was responsible for the cover design of the book.  Chris looked at the illustrations that Hannah had done and provided me with a few different options (they can also be seen in the photos section of my FB Fan Page) and this is where I decided to do something a little bit different.  I reached out to as many people as I could via e-mail and through Facebook and asked them to vote on their favorite.  In addition to voting, many people provided ideas for minor tweaks here and there that ended up getting incorporated into the final choice.

From there, Chris (not my layout designer, Chris…another Chris) my marketing representative contacted me to set up time to talk about the pre-release marketing plan for my book.  I told him what I had in mind and what I was already doing and he also provided me with some additional suggestions.  Chris has been great about getting review copies out to those that have expressed interest in writing a review on the book.  He is also in the process of coordinating the development of my media kit which will be ready by the official release date of the book which is April 5th.

Do you feel that Tate was the right choice for you in getting your book published?

I do.  Thus far, they have done everything that they said they would and there has not been one bump in the road.  Considering that the book was just printed, I am sure there is still much to write in terms of our relationship, however, for now, I have no complaints.

What were your experiences working with the people at Tate?

So far all of the interactions have been great!  My e-mails are always answered and my phone calls are always returned.

What would you say to those people who are curious about the claims that Tate is a vanity publisher?

I guess that I would say they are trying to stick a square peg into a round hole.  The fact is that as human beings, we like things to fit nice and neatly into predetermined definitions and whenever something is outside of the norm of how we understand things to work, we get uncomfortable.  I think that thus far, the publishing world has been defined by three means of publishing; traditional, vanity, and self-pub.  Tate doesn’t fit neatly into any of those and as opposed to creating a new “bucket,” folks would rather try to make Tate fit where they feel appropriate.

Do you believe the author investment is a fair one to make in order to get your book printed? And is Tate making good on their promise to invest a far heftier amount in publishing, advertising, and placing your book?

I do think it is a fair amount.  Like I had said previously, of course I would have preferred to not pay anything up front.  With that said, it’s the nature of the beast.  I am fairly confident that with the genre of my book and the fact that it appeals to a niche market, I would not have even gotten a first look from a traditional press.  They are looking for books that appeal to the market where everyone is a target reader.  There are few examples out there of a traditional press taking on a children’s picture book that was written by a first time author.  Also, I mentioned earlier that I had priced out what it would have cost me to go with a vanity press and get the same services that Tate offers and it was pretty astronomical.  Finally, if I had chosen to go the self-pub route, it would have cost me more than the author investment to hire an illustrator and layout designer.  On production alone, the investment has paid for itself.  I am, of course, definitely working towards selling the 5,000 copies to get the investment refunded altogether!

Since it is fairly early in the marketing phase, I can’t fully speak to all aspects of marketing yet as there is still much to be done once the official release date hits.  Perhaps we can touch base again in 6-9 months to follow up on that topic.

Overall, have you had a positive experience getting your first book published?

Yes, I can honestly say that I have had a very positive experience.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell the readers who are considering getting a book published?

Do your homework.  Don’t try to tackle something that’s been done a hundred times before unless you really believe that you have a truly unique way of telling the story.  Also, start making your own connections, even before you have been accepted for publication.  Of course the writing has to be good, however, never…never…never forget that books make it on “best-sellers” lists, not “best-written” lists so good writing is never enough!  Finally, do your own research on what method of publication is best for you.  Read everything that is out there and look at both the positive and the negative.

Then take all of that information into consideration when deciding what will work for you.  I believe that ultimately, when provided with all of the necessary information, people will make the right decision for themselves.

And there you have it! Jennifer Pereyra is the author of “Mommy and Daddy Work To Make Some Dough,” which will be coming out in stores on April 5, 2011. She has already agreed to speak with people who have questions about her experiences with Tate, and she was gracious enough to offer her thoughts to me for the purposes of my blog.

Check out her Facebook page for more information about the book and her writing! And check back here tomorrow for more information about Jennifer, her book, and my review of the book before it hits shelves! Feel free to leave a comment as well!

– Rae


 

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A Little Q&A With Dr. Edward Group

Posted on March 28, 2011. Filed under: Authors, Books | Tags: , , , , , |

Today I’m posting the short interview I had with guest post writer and published author Dr. Edward Group. His book The Green Body Cleanse is now available in print and e-book formats from Amazon, and he is the founder of the Global Healing Center.

Dr. Group was gracious enough to permit me a few questions about his successful career and the books he has written. Now I’m going to present the questions I asked and his detailed responses for you. I hope you’ll enjoy this brief Q&A and find it as enlightening as I have, and if you’re interested, please feel free to check out his books and company.

Can you tell me a little about who you are, your history, and your career background?

I hold a variety of degrees related to natural health and healing from many established institutions including a Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) from Texas Chiropractic College, a Naturopathic Physician (ND) degree from the Natural Healing Institute of Naturopathy, an Alternative Medical Practitioner (AMP) certification from the American Alternative Medical Association, and more.

I’ve studied natural healing methods for over twenty years and now use that knowledge to educate individuals and practitioners throughout the world. My mission is to help as many people as I can by providing them with the most accurate health information in the world. I want to help educate and heal the world, promote a clean environment, and bring back good health, positive thinking, happiness, and love.

You are the CEO of Global Healing Center. What does this company do, and where is it based?

I founded Global Healing Center in 1998 with the goal of providing individuals with a variety of resources related to alternative, natural, and organic health. Global Healing Center offers a wide variety of products and home health equipment such as air purifiers, water purifiers, hi-tech supplementation, radiation protectors, books and educational material, colon cleanse supplements, custom designed health programs, personal consulting and more. The company’s goal is to educate people in understanding what causes poor health and to help them achieve their health goals by providing people with the tools that they need to live a long, healthy, happy life.

What inspired you the most to write the books that you have?

Over my 20 years of research and study, I’ve become disgusted with the mainstream medical community. It seems to me that the health care industry is more focused on treating the disease when its real goal should be to prevent disease. Following extensive research, I realized that our environment is full of toxins, and by living a toxin-free life, we can reach optimal health and happiness.

Can you tell me a little about what The Green Body Cleanse book is all about? What is the book’s biggest message to readers?

The Green Body Cleanse addresses disease with a different attitude than most health care professionals take: to prevent disease instead of simply treat it. A significant amount of the book focuses on the toxic state of the average person’s colon, and I provide readers with ways to test exactly how toxic his or her colon is. I then go on to discuss the overwhelming amount of toxins that we come into contact with during each and every day. I also supply solutions to the problems with a list of tips at the end of each chapter. Some of these tips are lifestyle-changing, but many of them are easy to implement and are promised to do a world of good. Finally, I give readers a complete plan: the Green Body Cleanse.

Who is your target audience for this book, and why do you think it’s important for that particular audience?

My target audience with The Green Body Cleanse is every single person in the world. I feel that people are grossly uneducated about the lifestyle choices they make on a daily basis, and many of these choices lead to an unhealthy state. Only through education can a person gain the knowledge they need to eradicate toxic living and lead a fulfilling, healthy life.

The Green Body Cleanse can be bought from the official website TheGreenBodyCleanse.com, or you can buy the Amazon Kindle edition for just $2.99.

And there you have it! I hope you’ve enjoyed this short interview with Dr. Group, and please feel free to leave any comments you may have! Tomorrow I’ll be starting a new series that you won’t want to miss. In the meantime, I hope you’ve enjoyed this mini-series on e-books and Dr. Group’s particular insight into the process!

– Rae

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Guest Post: How To Make E-Books Work For You

Posted on March 26, 2011. Filed under: Authors, Books, Guest Post | Tags: , , , , , , |

Hello all – I’ve got a fantastic guest post for you today courtesy of Dr. Edward Group. Dr. Group is the founder of Global Healing Center and has written several books. In his guest post, he’ll be talking about e-books and how he got into the electronic version of books. So, without further ado, here is the guest post by Dr. Group!

The Green Body Cleanse by Dr. Edward Group

The journey to getting a book published and having it released to the public is a difficult, but rewarding path. You must think about the message you’re trying to convey, and you must decide if print or electronic is the way to go.

 

When I first began writing The Green Body Cleanse, these worries were the furthest thing from my mind. I was concerned with one thing: telling what I knew in order to help my readers live healthy, toxic-free lives. I was more concerned with portraying the best information and advice to my readers than I was with worrying about if I should push for hardcover, paperback, or electronic book formats.

 

Once the book was published in hardcover in 2009, I sat back and basked in my glory. It was listed on Amazon.com, and I was thrilled that my message was now out there, ready to be received by all those looking to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

 

After a year, it was time to try out an electronic version. After all, it couldn’t hurt matters, right? So The Green Body Cleanse was converted into a version suitable for e-readers such as the Amazon Kindle.

 

I knew that it would take a lot of work to get attention drawn to the Kindle version of my book. By utilizing various forums and tools on the Internet, my team and I did all we could to get the word out that my book was now available in Kindle format. It made sense to first turn to Amazon to promote the e-book—that was where it was being sold, after all. We created an Amazon Listmania list focused on the best natural health books available for the Kindle and also created a So You’d Like To… guide on Amazon focused on natural cleansing. We got the word out on a number of e-book and Kindle forums, and then targeted sites that featured author interviews. The promotion never seemed to stop—but it was all worth it.

 

The result of all of our hard work? The Kindle version of The Green Body Cleanse went to the #1 spot on the Amazon Kindle Natural Health bestseller list! My book is just one true-life study of how you can make e-books work for you!

 

 

Dr. Edward F. Group III has authored several books including The Green Body Cleanse and Health Begins in the Colon. He is also the creator of the revolutionary Oxy-Powder colon cleansing program.

 

 

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Getting the Low Down on E-Books

Posted on March 25, 2011. Filed under: Books, Publishing | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Hello from the wonderful world of China! It’s been an interesting week here, and what with recent current events (i.e. the earthquake in Japan), I’ve been kept on my toes. Teaching, submitting job applications, waiting to hear from friends in Japan, and trying to get my proxy server working again have kept me from the blog. But I’m back now and ready to chat about e-books.

For those of you who are watching this blog, you’ll be happy to know that with my access to the proxy back in place, I should be updating more frequently. In fact, today begins a series of posts on e-books that will go through the weekend. I’m writing because I received a request from an author’s production coordinator about doing a possible guest post on the blog.

In the interest of full disclosure, I received the request and did not seek out the author. However, I believe you’ll find that his experiences are interesting, especially given his field and current occupation. That said, I’ll tell you a bit more about him when I post his guest post tomorrow. And on Sunday, I’ll post the author interview I did with him.

Now, onto the world of e-books!

Today I’d like to start with a discussion of how cyclical things seem to be. A few years ago, people were saying that print newspapers would be eclipsed by their online counterparts. Years before that, they were saying the DVD would be the end of VHS. And the same goes for cell phones and their older counterparts. So now the question is: will e-books grow more popular than their print companions?

The internet age has opened up a great deal of opportunities for people to make money. Technology is advancing at a frightening pace, and with it, we’ve gotten more options to make our lives more convenient, comfortable, and technologically savvy.

With Apple’s introduction of the iPad, competitors like Amazon’s Kindle are having to amp up their offerings. Being able to get the Kindle app on your iPad means the best of both worlds: beautiful Apple graphics and functionality with access to the giant library associated with Amazon.com.

Here in China, you can buy a legitimate iPad for around 3,000 RMB, which is equivalent to US$450. Not a bad deal when you consider the reasons people are getting into e-books.

Some of the reasons are simple: convenience. Instead of purchasing a paper copy of a book, I have it on my computer and e-reader with the touch of a button and the transfer of a few dollars from my bank account. The ease of downloading multiple books to a device with graphics designed to make reading on a screen easier has many people purchasing the various e-readers on the market.

Not to mention the fact that several e-book sellers are promoting their services by offering free books on their software. With Amazon, there are a number of classics that you can download to your Kindle for free. You can’t go to your local Borders and pick up a classic off the shelf for free. And for most people, free offers are something they just can’t seem to pass up.

E-books are also convenient for the traveler. I should know. Since I have yet to really purchase an e-reader, I am lugging my limited amount of books around with me. Getting to China with packed luggage is hard enough. Adding extra weight in terms of novels that I want to read really limits my space for clothes and other things I might need.

With an e-reader, however, I could have brought many more books to China without having the added weight. I know that would be an easy solution to my desire to read; however, I balk at the idea of paying for books I already own in print to put them on an e-reader.

There are other advantages to having an e-reader. Manufacturers have really done their homework. They specifically design e-readers with screens that are easy to read. Some of them allow you to adjust the size of the print (and wouldn’t some people love to do that with their printed books!), others have LED backlights to keep the light crisp and clear without being too overwhelming, and still others have more perks to pique your interest.

I still have misgivings about e-books despite those things I listed above. Perhaps it’s because I’m a traditionalist, but I love the feel of pages under my fingertips. And I, like so many others, love the smell of new and old books. A new book always smells like an adventure to me. An old book smells like a familiar companion.

These are things you can’t experience with e-books. Sometimes I’m enticed by the feel of a book’s cover under my fingertips. You don’t get the same feeling when you’re looking at a cover on a screen. You can’t trace the imprints of letters and feel the shiny bits to see if they’re muted or not. Call me old-fashioned, but I love having a library.

My little girl dream was always to have a library like the one in the Beast’s castle in the Disney film Beauty and the Beast. No offense, but that library was amazing. And I always dreamed of having my own home with a room full of books, even if it wasn’t as spectacular as that one.

That aside, though, I’m more willing to try e-books now than I used to be. And I’d be willing to publish one as well. The possibilities for e-book publishing are growing now, and new authors are paying attention. Getting your book published for the Amazon Kindle is as simple as going through a self-publisher who will format it for you. For first-time authors, that’s a tempting author.

Having an e-book to your name gives you another advantage: you’re potentially reaching a wider audience. I think the prices of e-books are typically comparable to print, but the audience you target grows exponentially. Many people have purchased Kindles, Kobos, Sony Readers, iPads, and others. The market is exploding, and it’s time that new authors find their niche in this field.

Think about the possibilities for writers. More and more people are moving to self-publishing venues, finding ways to market themselves, and gaining small but loyal audiences who will buy their books. Authors who do this might find publishing an e-book to be complimentary to their print versions. I may write a future article about marketing yourself and your e-book, but I think the obvious conclusion is that if you know how to market yourself properly, having an e-book only enhances your marketing strategy.

And having an e-book has enhanced the strategy of one Dr. Edward Group. His book, The Green Body Cleanse is a new edition of an earlier book. His research in the health field has given him insight into how the body functions and led him to write this book that explains the vital role keeping a “green” body and diet has in promoting total body health.

The Green Body Cleanse has made its debut on the Amazon Kindle and is now selling for $2.99 on the Kindle, which is a steal of a deal for readers who want to sample the book without having to purchase a bulkier print version.

Tomorrow I’ll be posting the gust post written by Dr. Group to explain his decision to make an e-book version of his book. I hope you’ll stick around and read it as it’s quite interesting. Look forward to that and a brief author interview with Dr. Group on Sunday.

Also, I’ll be following up on my previous Tate Publishing post with some new information. I’ve interviewed Tate author Jennifer Pereyra, whose new children’s book will be on sale in April. This series of posts will begin next week, and I’ll be reviewing Jennifer’s book and doing a two or three part series on the interview I did with her. For those of you who have paid attention to the Tate Publishing information here, you’ll be pleased to see what Jennifer has to say about the company and her experiences with it.

There are lots of things to look forward to here, so I hope you’ll bear with me. And I’ll be back tomorrow with the guest post from Dr. Group.

Thanks for reading, and please feel free to leave some comments and questions!

Rae

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Something Old, Something New…

Posted on February 7, 2011. Filed under: Books, Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Romance | Tags: , , , , , , , |

No, I’m not getting married. Phew! That’s a relief, right? And to finish, there is something borrowed but not something blue. Something Green, yes, but blue? No.

So let’s do the run-through. Of late, I’ve been trying to read as many books as possible before I travel back to China. It’s going to be interesting to see if I can finish the one I’m reading now, given that it’s more than 800 pages long, but I’m trucking along. I’ve been reading it while doing the free step exercise on Wii Fit Plus.

As far as the something Green goes, you probably already guessed that I finally read Ted Dekker’s book, Green, from his original Circle Trilogy. Granted, that has now become four books, and there’s no cool name for four books, so we’ll call it a series.

After reading it, though, I was completely lost and confused, mostly cause it’s been so long since I read the original three books. So I had to go back and start rereading the series from Black. I got halfway through Red before moving on to another book. So I suppose that also answers my something old question as well.

I loved Thomas Hunter’s story. The way Dekker wove the history of earth with the history of Hunter’s dream-world-turned-reality was amazing, and the fact that the two worlds were colliding through one man and his connection to both blew me away when I read it originally. Dekker’s originality and creativity made me really appreciate his series.

However, I think I’m with the people who have critiqued the latest release. Instead of answering questions, it left me with more questions. Instead of wrapping up what was already a phenomenal trilogy, it gave me another book with plot twists that only got more and more confusing and led to a cliffhanger that was unsatisfactory. In short, it left me feeling disappointed, and it definitely fell flat in my opinion.

So what else? Oh, yes, that leaves me with my something new. And that would be a book totally outside my normal authors and genres. Actually, I’m not sure where this book would fit. It’s a romance, to be sure, but it’s kind of a fantasy mixed with historical fiction as well. I haven’t looked at the official classification, but I assume it typically falls under romance.

I picked it up because so many people in the NaNoWriMo forums are always recommending this author as one of the greats. I wanted to read some things that I’ve heard people talk about as I tend to read authors who are either less well-known or more obscure (which is really the same thing, I suppose) than the many readers on the NaNo forums. I often find myself feeling as if I’m not well-read at all when I peruse the forums, so I decided to do something about it by choosing a few authors and books that sounded interesting and reading them this year.

The result? I picked up Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, an 800+ behemoth that is the first in a series of at least seven books.

Boy, was I stupid.

Now, before you start thinking that I say that because I was hoodwinked into picking up what is the first in a series of huge books instead of just some one-off, stop. That’s not what I meant. My problem is that I have, so far, really enjoyed the story Gabaldon weaves. It’s actually somewhat plausible to me, and given her protagonist, I can see how the woman’s placement in the time period she’s in would give her opportunities to use her knowledge of history for good while simultaneously avoiding being singled out as a witch and killed.

That said, I don’t have the money to buy the rest of the books in the series. I’m a little sad about that.

But the great thing is that I’ve never read anything by Diana Gabaldon before, and so far, she’s really impressed me. I’m loving the story, even though I’m not even halfway through the behemoth, and I can’t wait to see what other twists and turns it takes before it reaches its end.

So now I’ll end this by asking if you’ve done the same: taken someone’s suggestion of a book or author only to come across someone you really enjoy. Got any other suggestions for me? I don’t read many mainstream books because I tend to gravitate towards others, but I’m always open to suggestions, especially if I’m going to read 50 books this year.

I’ll update you on my progress towards 50 soon, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Rae

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What is it about magic…

Posted on January 14, 2011. Filed under: Books, Children's, Fantasy, Musings | Tags: , , , , , |

…that makes me feel like a child again?

There’s something about children’s stories that always awaken the child in me regardless of how old I am. I hope I never lose the sense of wonder and awe that I feel when I see movies where magic happens or read books that tell tall tales of dragons and hobbits and elves.

Tonight was another magical night.

Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader

My parents and I went to see The Voyage of the Dawn Treader at the theater. I was amazed it was still out in theaters, and we went to the non-3D version of the movie. I think because we saw the regular version, which might contribute to the graphics looking a little off. In fact, I was a bit disappointed in the graphic quality of this Narnia adventure as compared to the first two.

Never mind that I finally realized they’re making the movies out of order.

I imagine it’s because they needed to have the children close to the correct ages to fit into their respective books, but I also suspect it’s because they never intended on making the entire series into movies. But then again, maybe I’m wrong about the order the novels are supposed to go in. I was looking at my old, ratty copy of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe tonight and realized it listed the books in a different order from some of the newer copies I purchased last year. So if anyone can link me to the proper order or simply fill me in, that would be great. Is there even an official reading order? I’m not sure.

But if there’s one thing I love about Narnia it’s the story. The story always captivated me as a child. I think I’ve said this before, but I always, always wanted to be Lucy. I would spend hours playing make-believe games and going into the bedroom in my granny’s house, opening double doors on closets and whatever else I could find and pretending they were wardrobes taking me to a frozen Narnia wonderland.

I love Lucy because her faith is so simple and pure. I think she’s always inspired me to achieve some of the same kind of belief in something so amazing that it seems incredible. I don’t think I have her faith yet, but I do think I have her awe at the way things happen.

And as it happens, I’m on a children’s theme today. I’ve been reading through A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh today and found it delightful. Truthfully, I was always a Winnie-the-Pooh girl. My childhood blanket was a Pooh themed blanket that I still have. I have a Pooh picture framed in my room and a Russian Pooh nested doll that features five of the characters.

I know people always love Tigger for his energy. I love Pooh for his simplicity and adventurous nature. Instead of a silly old bear, as Christopher Robin always put it, I find Pooh to have a certain charm that makes him one of my favorite childhood characters.

Pooh Bear and Christopher Robin

Milne’s story is one I’ve never actually read; I always watched my old-school Disney VHS versions of Pooh Bear. Or I’d watch “The New Adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh” with that snappy theme song that started something like, “Gotta get up, gotta get movin’, ready for a brand new day…”

And, in case you were wondering, yes, I am such a Pooh fan I can sing the original Disney song.

From the beginning now…

“Deep in the Hundred Acres Wood, where Christopher Robin plays,

you’ll find the enchanted neighborhood… of Christopher’s childhood days…

a donkey named Eeyore is his friend, and Kanga and little Roo,

there’s Rabbit and Piglet, and there’s Owl, but most of all Winnie-the-Pooh.

Winnie-the-Pooh, Winnie-the-Pooh, tubby little cubby all stuffed with fluff,

he’s Winnie-the-Pooh, Winnie-the-Pooh, willy, nilly, silly old bear.”

So how much of a nerd am I?

I can still remember the sound of the narrator’s voice reading the book and the look of the pages as they magically turned and you saw Pooh Bear climbing along letters and commenting back to the narrator. It was always one of my favorite images as a child. And I find myself still appreciating the simplicity of Milne’s book, even down to the amusement I feel that Pooh’s name always starts as “Edward Bear.”

I’ve also got Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner on my list to read and am equally looking forward to that one. And I’ll finally finish reading Benjamin Hoff’s The Tao of Pooh as well.

I’ll eventually go back and review the other two books that I’ve not reviewed yet. I still have about two chapters left of Pooh Bear to go, and I plan to finish that tonight. It makes for a nice, light read.

I hope you have something magical in your life as well! Share it with me?

Rae

P.S. Is it hypocritical to join a number of challenges based on books already on my to-be-read-2011 list? Just curious!

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On Reading Challenges for 2011

Posted on January 13, 2011. Filed under: Blogs, Books, Musings | Tags: , , , , , |

I realize it’s pretty popular to host reading challenges now. People seem to get amped up and rush into them with the banners waving. I’ve also noticed there are a ridiculous variety of these challenges.

One in particular caught my attention and got me started thinking about the challenges in general. It’s by Historically Obsessed and is a Lauren Willig Reading Challenge. Of course, if you’ve read my blog, you’ve probably gotten a little sick of my admiration for Lauren Willig’s historical spy series, but I can’t really help that; she’s one of my favorite authors.

The challenge asks readers to take on reading all the books in her series in a year. Currently there are 7 books out and one more coming in the end of January. That makes eight books total to read in the series over the course of the year. That’s not half bad, and I’ve been thinking of rereading the books on my list, so I might give it a go if the last two books have come out in paperback by the end of the year.

I started looking up reading challenges, though, and I came across this blog, which tries to stay current with all novel and non-fiction reading challenges thrown out there on the blogosphere. As I started reading through just a handful of the challenges for the year, I was struck by how serious some people are about these challenges.

Now, for the record, I’ve given myself some challenges. I plan to read at least 50 books this year, interspersed with a smattering of new authors and genres to open my outlook a bit. I think that plus the Lauren Willig Reading Challenge are all good things and things I would normally have come up with on my own.

Then there are challenges like the Gilmore Girls Reading Challenge that takes a list of all books quoted, mentioned, or otherwise shown throughout all episodes and puts together a challenge for readers. Now it may be because I’m just not big into television and haven’t really caught onto a show that I wanted to watch since NCIS aired, but this strikes me a little much. The challenge files the books into categories and asks readers to pick a level, which determines how many titles from each category they will read during the year.

I like the idea of reading a variety of books, don’t get me wrong. But I think I’ll pick that out myself for now. I’ve actually already managed to branch into some books I never thought of reading before simply by picking them up from my pile and starting in on reading them. Perhaps these reading challenges are a good idea if you’re not into reading a variety of books or have gotten stuck reading a few authors and aren’t willing to branch out.

I decided last month I would try to branch out this year because I think it will make me a better author to be more well-rounded in my reading.

Does that mean I think I’m better than those of you doing reading challenges? Of course not! It just means that, for me, the reading challenges don’t seem like ones that I would enjoy. There are lots of titles on that Gilmore Girls list that I’ve put on the backburner and several that I’ve already read; so it’s not like I couldn’t join in the challenge. I’d just rather do my own challenge and read things that will both interest me and help me grow as a writer. And I’ll add that I want to do it in my own way.

If anything, I’d start a reading challenge to throw out all the other challenges and read a specified number of books within the year where you’re trying to challenge yourself to read outside your genre and author preferences. For me, the key is to read things I enjoy in between reading new genres and authors; that makes all the difference.

I hope this hasn’t come across as necessarily condescending. It’s just my thoughts for myself on reading challenges. I may yet join in the Lauren Willig one, but that’s one that I’ve been toying around with doing for a while now on my own. Joining the challenge has no real bearing on my doing it besides motivating me to post thoughtful reviews and commentary on the Historically Obsessed contest page.

Perhaps I should participate in a reading challenge this year simply to see what all the commotion is about. We’ll see.

What about you? Are you going to participate in any reading challenges? Which ones? Let me know what you think because I’m always curious!

Oh, and I’ll post another blog soon with my reviews on two of the books I finished this week: Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game and James Patterson’s Mary, Mary. So I hope you’ll look forward to those! Now I’m off to find another book to read to satiate my book lust!

Rae

P.S. I’m enjoying that challenging myself to do the reading has gotten me reading a few of those pesky books on my list that were sitting around my room looking lonely and unloved. Have you been doing the same?

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Musing on God Knows What

Posted on January 10, 2011. Filed under: Books, Reviews | Tags: , , , , , , |

I finished reading a second book on my list of 50 books yesterday and thought I would share a short review of it with you all.

Donald Miller is a well-known (at least in my circles) Christian author. His books are all in the realm of Christian non-fiction from my understanding, and before he authored books, Miller went on crazy adventures, joined various churches, experienced God at Reed College, and wrote for other, smaller publications.

I picked up Blue Like Jazz because a friend recommended it to me. To be fair, I’ll admit I didn’t want to read it. Not because it didn’t sound like a good book but because it was like so many Christian books. As soon as someone liked it, it became an instant sensation with people buying it up left and right. I always liked being able to find the more obscure or older books that seemed more personally meaningful to me, so I avoided it when it joined the Christian craze.

But my friend told me I would like it, so I grabbed a copy before going to China, left it in the house, and have subsequently picked it up again. It’s an easy, short read and took me about a day to read the whole thing.

Blue Like Jazz carries the subtitle “Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality,” which is a fairly good description of the book. Instead of spewing the same Christian terminology and teaching why we should do this or do that, Miller looks at his own life and faith and describes those using metaphors the church, as a whole, might find a bit odd.

I enjoyed reading the book as it was quick and easy to grasp. I didn’t enjoy some of the stream of consciousness moments that seemed at random and unmoored with the theme of the chapter. Each chapter is broken into themes that are basically the idea for the whole chapter, and no chapter is completely sequential. I tend to think you could take the chapters apart and read them separately, out of order, and be just as happy as you would reading the book through from beginning to end.

What I liked about it was Miller’s blunt honesty. He never sugarcoats things, and the whole book is laced with his derision towards organized religion, particularly churches as a whole. At the same time, you come to recognize Miller’s faith for what it is: the faith that an individual person has developed through his own myriad of experiences.

It’s a journey I’d like to take sometime.

So while this isn’t the best Christian non-fiction I’ve read, it’s good, and I enjoyed it. I would even recommend it to some of my non-Christian friends as a means of understanding more of the Christianity I strive to move towards. It’s no Mere Christianity, but then again, few authors compare to C.S. Lewis. In his own way, Miller chronicles his journey of faith and reminds me that I, too, have a story to tell if I can just muster the courage to explore my own life and faith. And that is encouraging.

So what’s next? I decided to read something different and am now in the middle of Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game in my second attempt to like sci-fi. We’ll see how it goes, but so far it has been a fascinating read. I like Card’s writing style, but I’ll talk more about that in a subsequent blog, I’m sure.

Oh, and I started reading Chinese for Dummies and practicing all the lovely Chinese I can find in the book. Let’s just say this is going to be a lot tougher than it looks!

I’ll update with more later!

Rae

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New Year, New Goals?

Posted on January 8, 2011. Filed under: Books, Musings, Reviews, Suspense | Tags: , , , , |

Wow… it’s been such a long time since I’ve posted here, and there have been way too many things that have happened to really begin to tell you all the craziness in my life. Since you might be wondering (if you’re keeping up with this blog at all, which I wouldn’t blame you if you aren’t), I am back in the good ole’ US of A.

That’s right, folks. Rae has returned from the Far East and is currently residing peacefully at her granny’s kitchen counter where she is typing away. However, that won’t be the case for long. Tomorrow we hopefully return to Tennessee and then become cozy there for a few more weeks. But eventually I’ll be heading back to China to complete my contract.

Why am I home again? It’s a long story. I haven’t even shared it on my China blog for those of you who read that, but the basic gist is that my grandfather had a heart attack and was subsequently diagnosed with lung cancer and given a rather grim prognosis. So I’m here to visit family in between semesters and then heading back to China to finish my contract.

This is my first chance to really update this blog, and I’m actually relieved it’s still breathing, despite not having added to it in the months I’ve been gone. I have a few new goals I’m going to be working towards this year, and some of them will affect the blog. So I’ll go ahead and outline them and then give you a short review of the “first book of the New Year” that I completed earlier this morning.

My Goals In Reading and Writing

First, I have a goal to read around 50 books in a year. That might be tough given that it’s hard to come by books in China that aren’t horribly translated (from English to Chinese and back to English), but I imagine my parents will be happy to send me books with packages they send my way. I’m trying to get a head start on it while I’m home.

Second, I have a goal to read books outside my norm. I’m wanting to try some new, popular authors that I’ve never read before as well as genres I typically don’t read. This means I’m going to be reading some Patterson, Gaimon, King, or whatever else suits my fancy and doesn’t look like it’ll take me a year to actually finish reading. Anyone who has suggestions can feel free to offer them!

Third, I have to complete my NaNovel 2010. That’s right, I did participate in and complete another NaNoWriMo. My novel, In Search of Guanxi, isn’t even close to being finished, but I ideally would like to finish it by the beginning of February. My goal is to complete it by February 14th as I think Valentine’s Day would be the perfect day to finish a novel (more importantly, I fly back to China February 15th!).

And last, but not least, I need to edit my NaNovel 2009 for the CreateSpace proof copy. I never received my proof copy last year because I was too lazy to edit the novel. This year, however, I had a fellow WriMo writer and graphic designer create a beautiful cover for my novel that I want to use in the proof. She’s graciously given me her permission to use said cover for my proof copy, and I am wanting to get the novel edited and revised to match the amazingness that is the cover. For those of you not on NaNo, this woman is amazing, and she definitely deserves praise for her work. So I can only hope my novel will come close to matching the cover she made me.

In theory, I have a date of finishing revisions by April in order to get the dimensions and personalizations onto the cover and putting the whole thing together to be submitted to CreateSpace by mid-May. We’ll see how it goes. Either way, I have a goal, and now the idea is to get motivated to complete it.

I should add here that in revising I’ll probably be reading a few of the writing books I collected last year to give me ideas and tips on the process. I’ll most likely try to review said books and their processes on this blog as I come to them, but that might take me a bit of time. Either way, they’ll fall into my 50 books goal, which will be good.

Someday I’ll go back and tally up all the books I read last year. That won’t be for a while, though. Oh well.

And speaking of goals, I’ve already worked towards fulfilling two of them. I’ve finished reading my first book of the new year, and it was a great book.

I’ve never been a big suspense and thriller reader because I tend to shy away from the blood and guts. It’s not that it really bothers me, but I prefer happy, comedic moments in my fiction as opposed to shoot-em-up deaths and near-deaths. But I will read it on occasion; my preference usually is to stick with the authors I already know I can handle, though.

So reading Lisa Unger’s Beautiful Lies was going a bit out of my comfort zone. I got the book when I was working at The Book Gallery one day. The boss brought in a box of Advanced Reader Copies that he didn’t want anymore, and this book, published in 2006, was among them. I snagged it when no one else wanted it and forgot about it in the bustle of getting ready to head to China.

Now that I’m back, I noticed it on my bedroom floor and picked it up to add to my pile of trip books to take with me to Indiana. I started reading it and was immediately immersed in the story of Ridley Jones, whose identity is questioned throughout the story. In Ridley’s world, her life has been easy and comfortable, the daughter of a wealthy New Jersey pediatrician and adopted niece of a well-known charity endorsing man, both of whom have spent their lives protecting her identity.

Ridley’s journey begins as a series of choices, which she tells readers is what brings all people on their journeys. She says that one choice, one small change in her daily routine, is all it takes to bring her world to a crashing halt and create questions she’s not sure she’s ready to answer. With help from her new friend Jake, who Ridley spends her time questioning as much as she questions her family and childhood friends.

On her search for the truth, Ridley discovers the truth doesn’t always set you free, and sometimes it lands you in a heap of trouble. The fast-paced, first-person narrative was gripping at times, but at others, I found myself drifting a bit. That could always be because I’ve lost some of my ability to really focus on a book, though. Whatever the case, the story was fascinating and held my attention to the last page, and I really enjoyed it.

I will admit, however, that I’m not sure I’m cut out to be reading ARCs. I realize they are uncorrected proofs, and that’s why I noticed so many glaring errors that any publishing house would have eradicated before printing, but still… perhaps that kind of book is not for me. I have at least one other ARC in my collection to read, a Patterson book that I snagged from my boss as well. We’ll see if that one has as many glaring errors, and then I’ll know not to read them unless I’m not worried about perfection.

Hopefully I’ll be adding new posts more frequently now that I’m home. And when I go back to China, I should be able to continue adding posts as I have a proxy (thank heavens for people who create ways around the Great Firewall of China!) that has enabled me to visit such contraband sites as Facebook (gasp!) even in my Chinese apartment. I look forward to writing more on this blog so that it won’t be lost in the mass of the blogosphere, and even if no one keeps up with it, I think keeping it going will be my joy.

I hope you’ll bear with me as I regroup on this side of the world and get my bearings. And if you have any thoughts, feel free to share them! I’m always interested in hearing from people.

Until next time –

Rae

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Just a Quickie…

Posted on May 13, 2010. Filed under: Books, Manuscript Submission | Tags: |

…to encourage those of you wondering if you would ever get published.

I’m not sure how I missed it, but apparently a man submitted chapters of some of Jane Austen’s most popular novels to various agents and publishing companies back in 2007. The response? Mostly a great number of rejections.

This article highlights the story and explains that David Lassman hand typed the first two or three chapters from some of Austen’s works including the most famous, Pride and Prejudice. Lassman changed only character and place names. Of the various publishing houses he submitted to, he received no reply from several houses and varying responses along the lines of the work being original but not publishable.

Only one agent bothered to write back that he might check his copy of Austen and not plagiarize.

Honestly, you should read the article to get the full effects. I laughed when I saw just the title, and the concept is fantastic.

I’m writing this as encouragement. I know everyone always cites authors such as J.K. Rowling and Stephen King as examples of well-known authors who faced multiple rejections in their bids to be published. But the truth is, that doesn’t really encourage me.

What does encourage me is knowing that there are still amusing moments in publishing. When publishing companies don’t even recognize the opening lines of some of the books they’re currently publishing, I think it’s quite entertaining, almost enough to break out the popcorn!

So when you’re wishing that agent hadn’t rejected you or wondering if you’ll hear back from a certain publisher, just remember: at least you’re not blatantly plagiarizing the classics! (And if you are, let me know. I wanna hear about your experiences getting published!)

I know this was short, but it’s been a long day of work and cleaning. I feel rather nasty, actually, and my poor room is still a disaster zone. (They haven’t called in reinforcements cause I finally managed to make a walking path to the door.)

In any event, I hope you all got a chuckle out of this post, and let me know what you think.

-Rae-

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