Janice’s Review Blog

Archive for June 2009

"Whale Song"

"Whale Song"

While reading a newsletter by Jerry Simmons, I came across a great article on Twitter written by Cheryl Kaye Tardif, author and book marketing coach.  An added article invited readers to follow her on Twitter to win prizes in a contest she planned.  I followed her on Twitterand not only won a prize during the contest but also learned about one of her wonderful books, “Whale Song.”

I picked up the book on a Tuesday and read the entire novel by Thursday.  What a piece of art.  Tardif touches on so many important lessons and spins the tale so I believed it to be a true story.  Her descriptions of people, places and scenes captivate the readers’ imagination and place them within the pages of the book. 

Tardif handles controversial subjects, such as bullying, racism, child abuse, mysticism and the right to make  decisions on life or death, all in one novel.  Readers also gain an appreciation for the beauty of killer whales and Vancouver Island, Canada; the customs of Nootka Indians; and the true love of family and friends.

The book spins many kinds of mysteries inside its pages.  Sarah Richardson, the 11-year-old main character, lives many years of her life in the book supported by family and friends as the mysteries unfold.  Anyone 10 years old or older would enjoy this exciting, well written novel.

Tardif dedicates the Special Edition of “Whale Song” to the memory of her late bother, Jason Anthony Kaye.  Kaye lost his life in a brutal murder on Jan. 23, 2006.

“It is my ‘heart book,'” says Tardif in a Twitter message.

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Janet Evanovich shows "How I Write."

Janet Evanovich shows "How I Write."

A fellow writer, Bonnie Wentzel, loaned me some great books to read.  One, “How I Write” by Janet Evanovich with Ina Yalof, showed how the writer went about putting together her bestselling books. 

Evanovich went into detail on creating her characters, writing and researching the book, planning plot and point of view, editing and revising and getting her book published.  She also gave insights into her life as a writer.  She shared tips on overcoming writer’s block, handling rejection and setting aside personal time for the other joys in life.

A handy Appendix at the end of the book gives writers valuable information on such things as contests, organizations, useful Web sites and query letters.  Evanovich supplied an introduction of her characters in her Stephanie Plum series of books.  I wondered how Evanovich became so knowledgeable about bail bondsman and the police department, and she revealed her research techniques in one of the sections in the book.

The descriptions she uses and the action associated with the characters and the plot made me pick up my first Stephanie Plum book, “One for the Money.”  Since I usually read nonfiction books, this series works to allow me to read while just plain enjoying myself.  The content contains hilarious moments of adventure, suspense and everyday life.  The characters and the conversations made me laugh, and I marveled at the many different ways that Plum got herself into and out of tight situations and the numerous ways she destroyed cars.

I recently picked up two more volumes of the series and have only two more plus the new “Finger Lickin’ Fifteen” to read before I complete the series.  If you want to know the secrets to writing a successful series of books, “How I Write” lays it all out, and if you want to laugh and forget about your troubles, read the Stephanie Plum series of books.

Paradise ValleyCommunity College offers a wide range of noncredit courses in addition to its credit courses.  I’ve taken many of their courses over the years online and at their campus.  They not only teach you the subject matter, but they give students an opportunity to meet new and interesting people.

My latest venture includes a Beginning Conversational Spanish course.  I took Spanish for three semesters at ASU in the mid-1980s, but the instructors never made us speak enough Spanish so that we’d feel comfortable speaking to Spanish speaking individuals.  I think that when you’re older and learn a language there’s a tendency to be afraid of making mistakes and that kept me from speaking Spanish. 

Now I go to cover stories for The Catholic Sun and many of the people speak Spanish.  I loose a lot from the story when I can’t interview these people, so I decided to do something about it.

Every Tuesday night for eight weeks from 6 to 8 p.m., I attend my Beginning Conversational Spanish class.  We get to know each other and our instructor, Albert Shank, makes sure that we speak Spanish during class.  He teaches us basic phases and adds vocabulary, and he also asks us for phrases we need to know in our daily lives or for future ventures.

The first night of class we worked in groups of two or three and prepared a conversation to give in front of the class.  We worked on it during class and each group gave their presentation at the end of class.  Even though I hate to get up in front of people and speak, I survived and remembered most of the conversation.

The Spanish text used in noncredit conversational Spanish class.

The Spanish text used in noncredit conversational Spanish class.

We work from our text book, “E-Z Spanish,” in groups to learn new vocabulary and phrases.  We watch Spanish videos and Shank asks questions about them.  Shank suggests that we use English to Spanish flash cards to learn five to seven words a day.  A half hour per week of Spanish news, game shows and soap operas also helps in the learning process, he says. 

Learn five to seven new Spanish words per day with flash cards.

Learn five to seven new Spanish words per day with flash cards.

In addition, Shank gives us links to free online study guides like WordReference.com and StudySpanish.com to help us learn Spanish.  StudySpanish.com provides tutorials with audio and visual features.  I also like to go to FreeRice.com and change the subject to Spanish.  I not only learn the meanings of Spanish words, but I also get to contribute rice to hungry people.  Shank encourages us to go to Ranch Markets and strike up a conversation with Spanish speaking people there.  Even though I won’t be fluent in Spanish at the end of the course, I think this noncredit course gives students an affordable way to learn conversational Spanish.

I received my July/August issue of Writer’s Digest this week.  The magazine always provides informative articles on all aspects of writing.  This issue contains a special section on Publishing 101.  Experts provide writers in-depth articles on how to succeed in the industry. 

One of the contributors, Jerry D. Simmons, shares his 25 years of New York publishing experience in an article entitled Your Step-by-Step Guide to the Publishing Process.  Simmons takes readers through the publishing process, so they know how to help make their books a success.  He explains the 90/10 rule and what it means to authors.  He gives a list of the six largest publishing companies along with a brief on each one.

Simmons gives tips on things writers can do while they complete their book.  Then he goes through each step from acquisition through the production and sale of a book.  He summarizes the steps and gives tips on how and why the writer needs to stay involved in the process.

The success of a writer’s first book probably determines whether a second book is published.  Sell-through helps determine the profitability of the book and the success of the author, and Simmons defines sell-through and gives an example.

Even though I’m not presently writing a book, the information contained in this article helped me understand the publishing process.  Simmons also supplies more helpful writing and publishing information on his Web sites WritersReaders.com and NothingBinding.  

A free eNewsletter, Tips for Writers from the Publishing Insider, keeps readers up-to-date on everything going on in the publishing industry while also offering writing tips.  To give writers a more detailed perspective on publishing and how it affects their success, Simmons wrote the book, “What Writers Need to Know About Publishing,”