Tag Archives: readers

Complexity: Simplicity in Reading and Writing. #amreading #badbooks

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We all read for different reasons and some of us like variety in our reading. There are times when I want deep and meaningful prose that is intellectually stimulating and there are times when I want a fast, fun little story. I feel the reviews I write might also reflect what I was looking for when I sat down to read and whether or not my expectations were met.

I was looking on my iPad at the books I had to put down. A few of them I went back to many times trying to absorb the words and get into the story. I discovered something about these books that I felt I should share with you. I don’t know if you are reading or writing, but you are either the audience or you are trying to reach an audience.

Complexity:

I’m not going to touch the YA audience with this post. Writing for children, pre-teens, teens, young adults, new adults all carry a host of intricacies that I can’t touch on.

I feel that I am a reasonably intelligent adult, maybe above average in some areas (I can recite the Krebs cycle and tell you all about adenosine tri-phosphate, and Acid-Base balance is an easy topic for me).

The majority of times that I had to put a book down and not go back to it has to do with its complexity in word choice.

Here is a list of words from one such book (I stopped at about 25%.) This is supposed to be a contemporary fiction but so many words are archaic. I think the author was striving for artistically archaic, but having to stop and look up every third word made for terrible reading. These words were all used in the first three chapters.

Ignominious

Abjured

Orison

Sepulture

Quixotic

Abrogate

Fallacious

Obstreperous

Expiate

Execrable

Hegemony

Nascent

Peregrinate

Troth

Varlet

Poltroon

Malapert

Truculent…okay, I’m going to stop now. I think I made my point, but the list goes on and on.

The story, at least what I could make out about it, after pausing to look up the words, was very interesting. But really, the effort required???

 

I like to be intellectually stimulated, and some of these words I knew…just not in the context that they were used in the story. I like to learn new things. But this was NOT entertaining in the least. It was a bothersome chore.

 

In other words, I felt more common words could have told the story better. The complexity of this “contemporary” western fiction required far more brain energy than I was willing to spend.

 

Writers, don’t make it unnecessarily difficult for us! The fact that you can use a thesaurus or know well the meanings of these words does not impress me. Tell me your beautiful story in words that paint me pictures. Don’t pull me out of the flow of you story to look up and contemplate the meaning of your words.

 

Simplicity:

 

On the flip side, the other books I set down and did not go back to were not overwritten, but underwritten. More often than not, they were dialogue with not much narrative prose. This is tricky when telling a story and is frequently why people complain about “show” and “tell”.

 

In trying to cut out exposition and back story, I think we sometimes go overboard and that leaves a very simple skeleton of a story with no substance.

 

I am going to admit some guilt here. With Alliances, I feel that some of the rationale for me being dissatisfied with it has to do with lack of narrative prose. I cut so much of the exposition. Character development is critical, and without some history, descriptions of behavior, setting the stage, a hint of some thought processes, a life before your event and the like, we aren’t going to get to know the characters very well or bond with them and the read is going to seem critically superficial.

 

Reaching your audience requires more than a plot. You can have the most beautiful, fascinating setting in the world, the best thought through plot ever designed, but if you complicate with your choice of words, or leave me wondering who, what, when, why and how…I’m going to put the book down.

These are just a couple of reasons I stopped reading. The two that jumped out at me. There were other reasons, but I won’t go into those now.

What makes you put down a book and never go back?

Have complexity or simplicity stopped you from finishing a story?

Have you ever returned a book after a few pages?

I’m looking for balance.

Readers and Holiday Shoppers #amreading

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Got someone on your Christmas list that is hard to shop for?

What about books?

The Read Tuesday campaign is off to a good start and the preliminary catalog is now available.You can review it here. See if your favorite authors are listed or get to know some new ones here. This second annual Read Tuesday is like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but it’s all about books, and it’s HUGE!

This is your opportunity to view a variety of authors; both traditionally published and independently published, and see what books are available at great savings. These books are a great gift item. If you know the reading preferences of your friends, browse the catalog and check them out. Then, on Tuesday, December 9th, grab yourself and your friends a few.

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Red Clay and Roses will go on sale Monday, December 7th, and be available at 99 cents for one week throughout the Read Tuesday campaign.  Many authors are listing their sale prices early, and some will have sales continuing throughout the week, but

ALL will be discounted on Read Tuesday.

I have an Ereader News Today promo going on Tuesday as well, so if you want the book at a good sale price, support an author and buy early, help bring that ranking up for the big event on December 9th. The Russell Home for Atypical Children thanks you, too!

First Read

The alpha reader has finished my MS. He loved the story. He particularly enjoyed the last two chapters and the way that it ended. He really likes the sidekick, Brandi.

Initially, I decided I would not share anything remotely negative about the series. We already know that I am unconventional, and do not always follow rules. I am told we must praise our work as if it’s the best thing since sliced bread. But a first draft is exactly that, a time to examine what might not be working.

Maybe you don’t have any problem areas in your writing and kudos to you if you don’t. But more often than not, with a first draft it is time to take a realistic look at your product and decide where it needs tweaking. There may be parts that need revising, rewriting, or developing further. Better now, than after it has hit the market.

When I first published Red Clay and Roses, I did not know about alpha readers and beta readers. That resulted in putting a product on the market that needed a revision. I learned from first reviews that there was disconnection that wasn’t working all that well in the very first chapter. I revised it, but still didn’t spend the time I should have smoothing it out. I would like to think I have learned from that experience.

I do not want to rush Naked Alliances, or the series. I have some work to do.

I spent a lot of time and energy on developing the character of Brandi. I did not give my main character, Richard, the detective, as much attention and it shows. He needs a life beyond these crime adventures.

The rocket scientist says that he is likable, but flat. Where I was trying to show action and dialog, I neglected narrative and character development. Richard also needs familiars.

The story moves really fast. Though it is 27 chapters (maybe more when I am done), the time spanned is about a week. That’s not a long time to get to know someone. I did not want to write a lot of back story, so I opted to let Richard develop as the story moved along. It really did not work out as effectively as I had hoped and I understand why.

He’s so busy. A lot is going on. Everything around him is new to him. People, settings, and the type of work assignment he has, all new. Nothing is familiar, comfortable. He’s out of his element, but you, the reader, don’t know what his element is yet. He starts out as a bit of a loner, but it is told in third person, and he is hard to get to know in this way. It is difficult to sidle up to him, identify and feel he’s your friend.

So that is what I am doing now. I am working on Richard’s character development, giving him a bit of a life outside of his work. Narrating in a few things to introduce him, and adding a few experiences that let you know who he is before everything in his life suddenly changes.

This may take a couple of weeks, maybe more. I am going to need a couple of pairs of virgin eyes when I am done. I would like to have two people read. Edit and then have two more people read. I do have two beta readers lined up.

It is an off the wall crime caper. I am working hard at doing this right. I don’t want you more confused than a chameleon in a bag of Skittles, so have patience with me.

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Central Florida has never been hotter! The first in The Naked Eye Series Novels has Richard Noggin, P.I. scouting the swinger’s venues and a nudist resort to solve a vicious murder case and bring down a crime boss. A young Asian girl’s unexpected appearance on the doorstep of a gay club sets off events that have him struggling to protect her and a fighting to survive.

Happy Birthday Red Clay and Roses!

 

Tomorrow is the first anniversary of the day that Red Clay and Roses went live for the whole world to see.

I want to express my appreciation to all of the people who gave me an opportunity to share this story. Thank you most sincerely for the decision to invest in me and the time you spent reading; perhaps reviewing, my work.

Tomorrow I will put on my lab coat and go to work on an assignment that will pay me more in eight hours than I have earned in sales on this book this year. Yes, nurses often earn more than writers. Does this mean my sales are bad? No, it means my earnings in nursing are better. Most of you know I stepped out of career nursing to write. “You must be crazy!” some people have said to me.

Though I can’t refute that I am crazy, what they don’t understand is this: It is not about the money. Not for me, anyway. It’s about having the time and the peace of mind to dedicate myself to a life that I love. To do what I most enjoy. To spend my time pleasing myself and my readers.

I don’t write genre fiction. I don’t cater to trends. I don’t even write to fit into any specific category.

I write American life drama. Maybe some would call it historical fiction; maybe some would call it literary fiction. There is even a little romance in there. It wasn’t written about the last ten years, so it doesn’t qualify as contemporary fiction, but there are issues explored in it that are contemporary issues. I cannot even claim to know what it is by Amazon or Goodreads definitions.

I cannot claim to to know anything except that I am a perpetual student.

I have learned so very much this year and there is so much for me yet to learn.

Red Clay and Roses was written between April and July of 2012. I spent four months doing nothing but writing. It was not written as a novel to be published. It was a creative writing project that I devoted myself to out of a passion to record a story.

After I wrote it, I placed it on a shelf for about a year. I took it down, read it, and made a few changes. After sharing it with others, which took immeasurable courage, we (my support group and I) decided to publish. It was published March 27, 2013.

I did not know what the hell I was doing. (Not sure if I know now.)

I liked to read. I liked to read stories about life in America. I liked to write stories about life in America.

I liked history. I liked reading about history. I liked writing about history.

I made all of the mistakes it is possible to make. I published Red Clay and Roses in its rawest form. I was clueless. I didn’t know a damned thing. I did not know about blogs, platforms, branding, writing rules, beta readers, editing, blurbs, book cover images, marketing, sales. I didn’t know shit. I won’t claim to be an expert now either. I am learning every day and I am writing and reading every day.  I will say this: I have mentors, trusted confidants, other authors, a reader audience, friends, colleagues, valuable associates that I did not have a year ago.

As I learned from these people, and continue to learn, I made improvements on my product, my book, my novel, Red Clay and Roses. I know now that it is not the best that it could have been, but it is what it is, features, flaws and faults included.  I know that my next product will be even better, because you are who you are. Most significantly, I have the capacity to keep learning from YOU!

I was going to end this post right here with my eternal gratitude, but I think this is a good place to tell you the rest of the story if you will bear with me. I want to tell you how I feel about the concept of success. Success is measured many ways through different perspectives.

I have read numerous posts declaring success is measured by numbers sold, dollars earned, an ability to make a living at the craft, and I suppose that may be true for some, but it isn’t for me. Success is measured by starting a project and seeing it through.

Red Clay and Roses is a success.

After we (I say we because I had support people around me at the time.) pushed the publish button, there was a celebration. Of course, nothing much happened.

For weeks, nothing much happened. I think a few friends and family bought the book, nobody posted any reviews. On the advice of a friend, I started a blog. I didn’t know much about that either, but I learned. (Am still learning.)

Not knowing anything about how to find readers, I went to the library. Surely there would be readers there. I met a reading group, strangers, people I did not know, and they expressed interest in reading my book. So they bought it and read it. This was in May of last year.

They were eight people, a nurse, a middle school teacher, a college professor, an IBM corporate executive, and so on. Ordinary people, strangers who became acquaintances. Four of the eight wrote my first reviews on Amazon. Five star reviews. I was excited, overjoyed. That was enough for me. My confidence was stoked, but they did not stop there.

These eight people, whom I barely knew, were so very impressed with my literary work that they entered me in a contest. It was a surprise to me when they shared the news. What grand support is that?

My book deals with American life during an era of conflict and political strife. It is about everyday people who made tremendous sacrifices to promote social progress, whether they knew it at the time, or not.

The Pulitzer is awarded: “For distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life.”

This group of eight people had pooled their resources to pay the fifty dollars necessary to submit Red Clay and Roses as an entry for the Pulitzer. Eight people thought my literary work was distinguished.

Now, I chuckle, and you may be laughing out loud as you read this. But I thought it was an amazing honor that they bothered to do this.

I have no unrealistic expectations to win a Pulitzer, or to even become a nominated finalist.

They discourage anyone from claiming nomination simply because an entry has been submitted, so there are no grandiose expectations here. I did not know how simple it was to be entered. It takes fifty dollars and four copies of your book in physical form. That’s all!

I am not trying to belittle the Pulitzer award, I am just saying that I did not know.

Anyone can enter. An author or publisher can submit their own work. Self-published works are accepted, but not in eversion. It is easy to do online. Then you mail in your proofs or your books. I have only sold one paperback copy, but four of them were mailed off by this group of readers, and passed through the hands of Pulitzer judges. Whether or not they felt the book had any merit I may never know, but it has been an exciting adventure in writing.

The Pulitzer winner and nominated finalists are to be announced on April 14, 2014.

They receive approximately 2400 entries, and there are 21 awards. In 2012 there were three nominated finalists in fiction, but no one was awarded. How they determine finalists and award winners is a mystery. The judges have the final say.

I have read many Pulitzer Prize winners, some I thought had merit and some I did not like. So, at least in my mind, it is all relative to personal opinion…a subjective analysis like it is for any reader. I am not holding my breath or anything like that, but I am honored by these readers who thought my work worthy.

I only mention it to say this; DO NOT GIVE UP ON YOURSELF!

Whether they are Pulitzer judges, a library group, hundreds of strangers found through a marketing campaign, or a few blogger friends, all of your readers are what makes doing this worthwhile. They are the measure of your success.

It is not a finished project until it is read, so keep writing! I love you all!

I am not doing any special promotions or running any sales or ads for this birthday, but if you would like to pick up a copy of Red Clay and Roses you can find it here on Amazon, where you can also find the paperback. You can also find it on Kobo, Apple, Barnes and Noble and smashwords.

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Surviving Sister: A Melody of Madness

This is a tattered photograph that I have carried around for 43 years since the age of ten. It was retrieved from a scrapbook that my grandma had in an old trunk that held my mother’s personal effects after she died in 1969. The scrapbooks were filled with the sorts of things teenaged girls and young women collect, postcards from places visited, movie and theater tickets, coupons for dancing lessons, pressed corsages, letters exchanged between friends and lovers. On the back it is signed, “Love, Carol.” I don’t know who the intended recipient was supposed to be, but it became the only tangible image of her that I possessed for thirty years.

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My aunt, my mother’s only sister, had a few photographs. They were mostly small pictures taken in their childhood years and there were only a couple that my aunt had of her sister as an adult. There were other pictures, but they were given to my older sister for safe keeping and we became estranged over the years of separation that followed Mama’s death.

In 1997, after coming to Florida and connecting with a cousin, the one who owns Cypress Cove Nudist Resort and Spa, I learned that my uncle, his father, who started the resort back in 1964, had been a photographer with the Miami Herald during the 1950s. When my Aunt Pete, his wife, died in 2000, my cousin was cleaning out boxes in their home and ran across some photographs of my mother and her sister that were taken in their teen years. There is now a vast treasure of black and white 8X10s, and smaller photos of the two sisters. I was overjoyed to be gifted this collection and shared them with my mother’s sister, who was also thrilled.

I want to ask you to take a look at two sets of these photographs that hang on my wall. You don’t know the story of these sisters, Claudette and Carol, but I would like to ask you to tell me if you see anything that hints of a story in these images.

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The images alone demonstrate the differences in these two sisters.  My mother, Carol, a ballerina and dance instructor died of suicide at the age of 26, and Aunt Claudette, a pianist and horticulturist, is 74 years old now.

Carol was a hopeless romantic and a dreamer, and Claudette was a hopeful realist and pragmatic. Carol was cosmopolitan and sophisticated. Claudette was countrified and domestic. Carol, a soprano. Claudette, an alto. Carol was open and free-spirited. Claudette was closed and restrained. As young adults, Carol was dressed in stockings and heels, and Claudette wore jeans and penny loafers.  Both were well educated and cultured in their youth, but their childhoods, teen years, and young adult lives were tumultuous. Music and dance were where they mutually sought solace.

That side of my family is riddled with mental illness and addiction.  Of all the many cousins and aunts and uncles on my maternal side of the family there are geniuses who became entrepreneurial millionaires, and there are paupers who suffered epilepsy, neurological conditions, psychiatric disturbances, multiple tragedies, became institutionalized, or died trying to overcome the obstacle that is madness.  There is a fine line between madness and genius. Mental illness and neurological disorders were cloaked in a veil of secrecy in their era and still have a degree of stigma associated with them that needs to be overcome.

Very few were able to walk the middle of the road, but the strength found in faith, time, and modern science and medicine has made a huge impact. My aunt is one of those who did, although she had severe issues with bipolar and addictions.

I had a brief adventure with drugs and alcohol between the ages of 17 & 19, but addiction was never a problem for me. I was hospitalized for an acute psychotic episode when I was 19, and have been on medications for bipolar and in therapy ever since that event. I drink socially on rare occasions but the experiences of me and my aunt have paralleled many times…either on a personal level, vicariously, or through my patients in my nursing career. My moods are relatively stable now. I am still “driven” at times and “depressed” at times, not to extremes, but such has not always been the case. I would like to tell my story someday, but not before I tell the story of the two sisters, my mother and my aunt.

When I wrote “Red Clay and Roses”, I was telling a story that was wrought with historical tragedy and the serious issues of racial tension and reproductive rights and responsibilities. I wrote passionately about events I witnessed personally or events that had been shared with me by others who had lived the experiences. I did not set out to write a novel by a specific formula or template. I documented a harsh reality. It was open and candid. I have never been one to shy away from that which is painful or shameful. A wounded society does not heal itself by looking the other way, and neither do individuals. At the same time, I tried to be as unbiased as possible and approach these unapproachable issues with sensitivity. On that level, I feel it was successful.

In addition to numerous short stories, I have three works in progress. One is a crime novel. I am about 30,000 words into it and my husband, who reads them daily, loves it. I feel that it is superficial and shallow, amusing and entertaining in its own way, but I am not certain that it carries the weight that makes me comfortable in my own writing skin. Another is a murder mystery. It is more a psycho thriller than a crime novel and I am about 15,000 words into it. I liked the beginning of it, but it doesn’t seem to be going in the direction that I planned for it. Sort of hard to explain, but it, again, doesn’t flow with the passion from the pen that I feel most comfortable with…it feels forced and I am beginning to see that in the way that it reads.  At any rate, I am not so sure that this genre of crime/murder is where I need to be right now. I don’t feel like I am in my element. Perhaps this is something that I can come back to at some future point. The final work is an autobiography of sorts that is almost unbelievable as a memoir.  It is a complex life that I have lived in foster care, an orphanage, on the street, in the islands, small town USA, the countryside, the nudist resort, and the big city. So I am not sure what to do with this either, whether to continue it or shelf it for a while.

Which brings me to questions that I need your help with. It seems to be the passion that I felt when writing “Red Clay and Roses” that I am missing.

For those of you who have read “Red Clay and Roses” (A fictionalized true story set in the 1950s-60s, but involving relatives on my father’s side of the family), you already know that Carol is mentioned twice in that story…once by Hannah in relating her memories of her mother and her mother’s death, and again by her cousin, Sybil, in relating the death by suicide of her cousin, Henry’s, wife, leaving three little girls with no mother.

If I decide to write this book, I would approach the writing process much differently, not as a fictionalized true story being told to a narrator, but as pure fiction (which is always, in part, based on some truth).

Without knowing the details, do you think the story of Claudette and Carol is one that you would find interesting? Particularly, how Claudette coped in the long run to turn her life around. I have been all over Amazon reviews this past week and there seems to be quite a market for this sort of thing as well as the era…people are saying that they are too old to enjoy the drama of Paris Hilton, and too young to relate to the 1930s and 40s, about which so much is written.  Finding and connecting with these people will be another challenge.  People my age and ten years older are beginning to retire, have the time to read, and they are dissatisfied with what is on the market.

As a family saga, beginning in the mid-fifties and moving into the mid-nineties, do you think this story would make a worthy sequel to “Red Clay and Roses”?

For those who have not read “Red Clay and Roses”, what are your thoughts about “Surviving Sister: A Melody of Madness”?

Read Tuesday is Today! December 10th

“Red Clay and Roses” is in this fine catalog and can be purchased today for $2.99.

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It is also now available in paperback for $10.80.

In 1992, Hannah Hamilton finds an old ledger that prompts an investigation, only to discover Untold Secrets.

An African American girl is missing since 1954.  Why can there NOT be an inquiry?

Find out in “Red Clay and Roses”.

This one day only sale includes hundreds of titles, from children’s books to mature audience reads, fiction and non-fiction.

Check out the full catalog at the Read Tuesday site here: http://readtuesday.com/book-catalog/

Buy “Red Clay and Roses” Here Today!

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 CLICK ON COVER to see full book description in another window!

Questions for Readers to Aid With WIP

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I have a few quick questions for readers:

How long do you like for your chapters to be?

This is a crime novel that I am putting together.

I am hoping for it to become a series, so the word count per book probably won’t be as long as a stand alone book would be.

I have read some James Patterson, Jonathan and Faye Kellerman recently and find most of the chapters to be short and numerous.

Some of these books have as many as 44 chapters, but still having the same numbers of pages per book as other books with fewer chapters.

Do you like for each chapter to cover just one scene, or do you like two or three scenes in one chapter?

I am using Scrivener for setting up the novel, so scenes are easy to move around.

With my last book, a Historical Fiction/Faction novel, the chapters were very long, 20-30 pages, often with numerous scenes in one chapter, but it covered many years, not just days or weeks. In paperback it has come to 430 pages, 98,000 words. (286 on a reader).

Some people complained that the chapters were too long.

Do you get bored or tired of reading books with long chapters, even if fleurons are used to break up scenes?

Do you feel, as a reader, that shorter chapters are easier to get through?  Do you prefer just one scene per chapter or does it depend on the flow of the story?

This is a new genre for me and genre writing and rules can be very different.

Page counts can be tricky.  The word count per page is typically 350 words.

Word counts for scenes are usually about 1500 to 2000 words (about 5-6 pages).

Some people feel short chapters can be too distracting.

Would you want your chapters to be 2000 words (5-6 pages), or would 6000 words (or would 15-20 pages) work for you?

I am shooting for an 80,000 word count novel.

That would give me just shy of 230 (paperback) pages, maybe a little more.

If it goes as long as 100,000, it would make it roughly 286 pages.

Would you feel like you are getting your money’s worth at 80,000 words or would you want to see at least 100,000?

Any ideas, thoughts, or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

WIP: I need help concerning nicknames!

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I need help from readers and writers concerning nicknames in published works.  Everybody knows McDonald’s by the nickname Mickey D’s.  At least, I think they do.  I named my youngest son Daniel, and I refused, though, to allow anyone to call him Danny or Dan, because I liked and wanted Daniel.

I have come to a point in my work in progress where I seriously need to decide on a name for my detective.  Right now, I am using a Scrivener name generator produced name for my detective and I don’t like it.

I have decided on either Robert Richardson, or Richard Robertson and I will tell you why.  It has to do with nicknames.  Many nicknames can be made from Robert: Bob, Rob, Bert, and from Richardson: Rich.  Likewise many nicknames can be made from Richard; Rich, Ricky, and Robertson. These can be used interchangeably between Christian and Sir names, if need be.  This is most likely going to be a series, so this name will follow him throughout.

Questions though:  Do you really care for nicknames in what you are reading, or do they bother you? Do they get too confusing?  If the name stays the same in narrative, are nicknames more acceptable in dialog?  Or do they still trouble you?

I have read books that used nicknames in dialog without problem and it was easy to follow.  I have also read nicknames used in narrative and dialog that became too difficult to follow, especially at the beginning of a book.  I have a couple of humorous scenes in my WIP wherein the detective could get into trouble because of the use of nicknames, but I am unsure if the reader would enjoy that, or would it be too confusing?  This detective takes his work seriously, but has a rather not so serious sidekick.  The detective is fortyish, comes from a small town outside of Atlanta, GA (no, I won’t call him Bubba), and currently resides in Orlando, FL.

I know that he has sold 19 million copies of The Bat: The electrifying first appearance of Jo Nesbø’s detective, Harry Hole.  But I can’t go with anything like Hairy Hole…I just can’t do it.

What are your thoughts on reading books with nicknames? Do nicknames make a storyline too challenging to follow?  Do you have any suggestions on; perhaps, a different name besides the two that I am debating?

Read Tuesday: We need your help to get the word out!

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All you Facebookers: We need your family and friends.  Help us promote this event with a post to your Facebook account.  This event is like Black Friday or Cyber Monday, but it is all about books. It can read something like this:

Authors interested in promoting your books?  It is easy to sign up.  Gift Givers: Support the Indie Author & the Traditional Author and give the gift of books for the Holidays this year. This is going to be HUGE! December 10th! Mark your calendars. Free and 99 cent books. HUGE discounts. http://readtuesday.com/.”

Feel free to copy and post to your Facebook site.  Post it to your group sites, as well!  Or make your own message!  (Copy and paste the Read Tuesday URL http://readtuesday.com/ into your Facebook status with your message!)

When you post the link, a gold bow will appear in a thumbnail with a link directing folk to Read Tuesday’s site.

We appreciate your support.  Participate!  Get your books signed up today!