Monday, October 28, 2013

What to read next - Dog Books!

It's time for my latest recommendations on what to read next! Normally, the list is full of variety, but this time I'm going to zero in on dog books. While it's not hard to find books that feature dogs, it does seem hard to find ones that are really memorable, so I want to share the ones I've come across over the years that have stuck with me.

I loved Donald McCaig's Nop's Trials, but it's not available on Kindle. If you have a dog book favorite, feel free to mention it in the comments below!


1) The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein
My all-time favorite dog book and one of my top 5 favorite anything books. In this novel, we get the dog's perspective as race car driver Denny Swift struggles with his wife's illness, her loss and the threat of losing his daughter to over-controlling in-laws. What makes this story so engaging is Enzo's (the dog's) erudite insight into the happenings in Denny's life. He's loyal, endearing and sometimes opinionated. Stein makes Enzo a totally believable and likeable character and it's impossible not to become totally invested in his life. If you only ever read one dog book, read this one.

2) A Dog's Purpose, by W. Bruce Cameron

 A close second to Stein's book, A Dog's Purpose follows one dog's soul through several lives as its coul is reincarnated. With each cycle, the dog learns something new about him/herself, people, and life in general. This is a very touching book. For those who've owned several dogs and discovered the unique differences among them, this story gives an insightful perspective to how a dog's mind works and the uniqueness of different breeds.

3) A Dog's Life: The Autobiography of a Stray, by Ann M. Martin

Martin's book is appropriate for younger readers, but adults will also enjoy it. A Dog's Life follows the stray-born pup named Squirrel as life takes her through many twists and turns and different homes.

4) Because of Winn-Dixie, by Kate DiCamillo

Another great children's book,  Because of Winn-Dixie is about a dog (Winn-Dixie) who helps 10-year old Opal overcome life's previous disappointments by helping her make new friends.

 5) Where We Belong, by Catherine Ryan Hyde

While the dog in this story isn't the focus, it does feature very prominently in that autistic Sophie discovers an immediate connection to her. Hyde is one of my favorite authors. Her stories are simple, profound and strike a cord that resonates with all of us. There's often an underlying theme of the adolescent-parent relationship that's on shaky ground and some unusual friendships.

6) Jack: A book about a dog where the dog doesn't die at the end, by Ray Braswell

I had to include something humorous. This one had me laughing out loud - I was glad for that, because I was on a long cross-country trip, so sitting in the airport passed much more quickly. This isn't a story, really. Just a running commentary from a dog's perspective that'll provide a few snorting laughs.

Happy reading,

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

When readers (almost) make me cry

It happened today. I took a quick peak at Amazon just to see how the ranking for In the Time of Kings was holding up so far and ... Oh, another review appeared. This could be good or bad. I've had plenty of both.

My first instinct is to brace myself for the worst. Squeeze a lime into my glass and pour myself a tall caffeine-free Coke. Grab that remaining hunk of dark chocolate I've squirreled away in the back of the cheese tray in the fridge. And look.

But never too early in the morning, because that can make the whole day suck eggs if it's a clunker. And never too late at night, because then it's hard to get to sleep. And never before going out with friends, because then I'm moody. That is, if it's bad. But most of the time, it's good. Like today.

In the past few days, some readers have messaged me to say one of my books is one of their all-time favorites.  Or they say in a review that they've read ALL my books. It still blows me away. As in, my heart feels all warm and gushy and pitter-pattery. And I'm reaching for the tissue box. I pulled myself together this afternoon just in time. Probably because the dogs were barking at the mailman. Good thing, because I'd hate for him to see me all red-eyed and blubbery.

The thing is, it's my job to make readers cry. Because they connected to a character. Because something happened in the book that they could relate to. Because it was so incredibly real to them that they felt like they were there, living the story themselves.

Pushing the 'Publish' button on a book is like sending my baby out into the world. I want to reel it back in, perfect the details some more, proofread it one last time, rethink the ending... You have no idea how badly I wanted to hold onto In the Time of Kings and nurse it awhile longer. For years, maybe. But if I did that, no one else would ever have the chance to read it, right?

Anyway (*scuffs toes in dirt, hands in pockets*), I just wanted to say 'Thank you!' to every reader out there who has written to me, reviewed or recommended my books. You're all so unbelievably nice.

Nothing sends me back to the keyboard quicker than knowing that every word I wrote meant something to someone. Readers rock! I [ HEART ] you. Big time.

Happy reading,

Friday, October 4, 2013

Subcategories for Historical Fiction now on!

Book nerd alert! has added subcategories for Historical Fiction. You can now sort not only by location and type, but by time period as well. Those of you who like to read Historical Romance will still have to check under the Romance subcategories for new reads.

It seems that the sorting may have been done by a computer program, so for the time being some books are missing from their proper categories and some are just plain in the wrong ones, but for the most part the lists are correctly populated.

Last spring I had the chance to talk to a representative from Amazon's KDP program (their self-publishing platform) and when she asked what they could do to improve things, I mentioned adding more specific divisions for HF. Other authors also put in a word and there was a small movement of readers requesting the same.

I know I prefer specific time periods and places, so this definitely makes looking for HF books that might suit my tastes MUCH easier.

Here are some examples of the categories:

Type - Short stories, Religious, Women's Fiction, Fantasy, Biographical, Mystery ...

Location - Scottish, British, Irish, Italian, United States, Norse/Icelandic, Chinese ...

Time Period - Medieval, Ancient, 19 century ...

Just another indication that Amazon is genuinely interested in making the customer shopping experience the best it can be. Thank you, Amazon!

Happy reading,