Author Kristin Anderson’s double book review: Disappearing in Plain Sight and The Light Never Lies

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Earlier this year, I announced that I would be delving into the world of Indy author book reviews. Since then I have acquired a diverse array of reading material, and it was difficult to choose whom to read first. But then I came upon the intriguing Crater Lake series by Indy Author Francis L. Guenette. Set in a lake side community in Canada, the Crater Lake Series currently comprises: Disappearing in Plain Sight (January 2013, Friesen Press) and The Light Never Lies (2014 Friesen Press).

Disappearing in Plain Sight by Francis Guenette

When I read the first chapter of Disappearing in Plain Sight, I knew that author Francis Guenette was an accomplished writer, but I was worried that I had signed up to read a teen romance. Instead, I discovered a book that explores relationships between friends, lovers, personal identity and the myriad factors that shape a person’s current existence. Tales of love play out in various forms from unrequited love, struggling and successful. I enjoyed the cast of multi-faceted characters so thoroughly, that I delved right into Guenette’s sequel, The Light Never Lies; thus my double book review.

But before I start talking about the second title, I would like to acknowledge the refreshing setting and pace of book one, Disappearing in Plain Sight. Guenette’s easy writing style pulls you into the Crater Lake community in Northern Vancouver Island, Canada. Whether it is the wind blowing through the trees, the play of light on the lake’s surface, swimming or fishing or the hours spent in Izzy’s prolific garden, nature is a prominent force in this novel, creating a dynamic backdrop to everyday life.  Just as nature can be at one moment calm and peaceful and the next full of excitement and impending danger, a similar tumultuous landscape exists within the psychological make up of Guenette’s characters.

Due to the remote setting and the introduction of a handful of fast friends, I was expecting a slow-paced novel where characters lazily unfold, each chapter bringing more depth and history alive. Guenette does just this. But, what I found clever and unique about this book concept, is the contrast of the local crew with the clients of Micah Camp.

Micah Camp is not a typical kid’s summer camp. It is an accredited counseling center / residential program for young adults between 18 and 22 who have been through the often traumatic foster care system and need extra help transitioning to university and / or a career. Micah Camp helps these at-risk youth by providing a comprehensive counseling, assessment and job placement program. Many of these kids wear their past traumas like armor, and their often fast-paced lifestyles and hardened outlooks on life contrast greatly to the slow and ambling pace of the locals. Or so it seems.

By locating this camp within the idyllic lakeside community, she creates a juxtaposition of the locals outside the world of counseling and those within. These two worlds intersect through the presence of Izzy Montgomery, a Micah Camp counselor and Crater Lake resident. Attractive and compassionate, Izzy is the axis that ties the two worlds together and the cause of many a fluttering and frustrated heart. The further you are drawn into the personal histories of each character, the line between those within and those without begins to blur, as if the author is telling us that every human that has lived has a past to be reckoned with, and could benefit from a bit of soul searching combined with the helpful ear of a counselor to walk you through. It also becomes obvious that counselors don’t always come in the form of a person with a degree in the field. For example, Liam Collins, a middle-aged Native American man who runs the local saw mill isn’t much of a talker, but has the ability to fully listen and be present for others.

The author’s personal work history—Guenette has worked as a trauma counselor and researcher and has a master’s in Counseling Psychology—shines through in the writing. She fleshes out the characters with such thoroughness that they become people you think about long after you have closed the book. I recommend this book and found it a thoroughly enjoyable read.

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The Light Never Lies by Francis Guenette

The Light Never Lies  by Francis Guenette

The Light Never Lies brings back the full cast of characters from book one and throws in a whole new line up of characters and problems that bring chaos into the previously well-ordered world of Izzy Montgomery and her friends.

At first, I was frustrated by the sheer number of new characters. It felt unsettling, like there were just too many stories to follow. And then, like an overworked counselor, I threw my hands up in the air and began to accept the new reality, right along with the characters in the book.

Guenette adds a new element of suspense and insight through the introduction of Robbie, a young boy and half-brother to one of the lead characters with a special talent. Through his eyes, the readers gain insight and foreshadowing into events that will play out, and access to feelings and connections that exist between characters that they themselves haven’t yet realized.

Not only is the cast crowded in book two, but the pace is notched a few decibels higher with elements of impending danger taking the story in the direction of a thriller.

Although some may feel that The Light Never Lies could be read as a stand alone novel, I see great benefit in reading this series chronologically. I liken it to the following; if you had a chance to go back in time and gain personal insight into past experiences that shaped the way your friend or lover interacts with the world, wouldn’t you take it?

Guenette’s ability to get inside the heads of so many characters and express their inner workings in a believable manner makes The Light Never Lies a pleasure to read. Yet, the reading experience is not limited to interior thoughts. She puts the daily pace of life into the book by covering the simple things that fill the daily worlds of the characters, thus grounding the story in reality.

At the end of book two, Guenette resolves a fair amount of conflicts, but leaves enough open ended threads dangling to keep readers pining for more.  But you will have to be patient, because book three is not expected to be out before 2015.

I recommend The Light Never Lies but for the full reading experience, strongly suggest starting with Disappearing in Plain Sight.  For more information on author Francis Guenette, please visit her on Goodreads, or on her blog http://disappearinginplainsight.com. You can purchase her books on Amazon.com

Friends don’t let friends drive drunk and Indy authors support Indy authors.
Interested in submitting your Indy book for review by author Kristin Anderson? Please see the guidelines outlined in the post linked here

Alto Sax, Creativity and Green for .99 cents Friday March 14th

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For years I expressed my creativity through music; patterns of notes passing over my fingers, given momentum through an exhalation of breath enforced by my stomach muscles and entering the world through the bell of my alto saxophone.  Music allowed me great adventures–playing in bars in Boston, Reno and Los Angeles, opening for Willie Nelson in Ventura, jamming with  musician friends at Cold Springs Tavern tucked into the shady sycamores beneath a rural mountain pass. Music also brought me in close friendship with a circle of creative people, who shared a passion for exploration, collaboration, performing. I miss those times, but I don’t regret that my creativity has wandered down another path–that of writing.

The differences between music and writing are vast and yet overlapping. I am still expressing myself creatively, producing an experience for others. But instead of collaborating with a band of musicians, I am delving into research, which means interaction with authorities on certain subjects, or with the writing of individuals. My team of readers who read earlier drafts of my first novel and provided feedback were also part of the collaborative process, pointing out to me things I had overlooked, or letting me know how certain scenes affected them.

Now that my debut novel Green has been out in the world for five months, I have heard and read reactions of readers, which reinforce that this book is worth the read. But how do people pull my one  book out of the digital ocean of millions of millions of books? Hopefully, the KINDLE COUNTDOWN SALE I’m having this Friday, March 14th through March 18th, 2014 will help draw new readers. Because, just as a musician wants to play with others, or be heard by others, a writer wants their writing to be read by others. So, here is how it works:

Friday, March 14th, 2014 Ebook version of GREEN is .99 cents!
Saturday, March 14th, 2014 Ebook version of GREEN is 1.99
Sunday, March 15th, 2014 ebook GREEN is 2.99
Monday, March 16th, 2014 3.99
Tuesday, March 17th, 2014 4.99
Then back to the original price.

Available through Amazon on the links to the right of this post (under the pretty cover picture of my book).

Please spread the word!

The Seven Change Challenge

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Releasing a book into the world in the days of online customer reviews and blogs is akin to walking out of the house naked; you are suddenly exposed to the elements in a deeply personal way and no matter how thick your skin, it offers little protection from harsh weather or a cold-hearted review. Take Anne Rice, for example, and her famous retaliation against a negative review of her book Pandora. Despite resounding success (she has sold over 100 million copies of her books) she was so upset by this ruthless review that she gave this reviewer a virtual skinning alive in the public arena. (Get a fuller account of this story on the blog themarysue.com.)

By and large, however, the live skinning is usually a one-way street; by the mere act of reading a book, readers are given the authority to share their opinion on every aspect of a book–no further experience needed. Customer reviews are extremely important and shouldn’t be written carelessly, as other readers often rely on these straight forward reviews written by peer readers to guide them in purchasing decisions.

I am in the dawn of my novel-writing, and as the author of only one self-published title, I have thus far only been subjected to favorable reviews. I know my time will come for that other type of review, and I hope I will heed the overwhelming advice of the collective wisdom and hold my tongue when it happens. But where I can’t hold my tongue is when people write wonderful reviews. Call me an optimist, but positive energy begets positive energy and quite often sparks ideas.

In my debut novel Green, Jake Tillerman, the hot, yet sometimes overbearing environmentalist, introduces  The Seven Change Challenge, an online campaign against The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, encourages people to make seven changes in their daily lives to limit their impact on the environment: buy local, organic produce, seven-minute showers or less . . .(What are the rest of the seven changes? You can discover them in my book GREEN, available on Amazon. Just click on the pretty picture to the right of this blog post to go to the page where you can look inside, read other customer reviews and purchase an e-book or paperback).

A handful of readers have written me to ask if the Seven Change Challenge exists online. Although there are many programs online about analyzing your carbon footprint, and numerous guidelines elucidating methods to reduce your impact on the environment, I have yet to find a challenge presented in this manner. Although the seven changes are real and can make a real difference, the concept of a virtual challenge was an act of fiction. But perhaps it’s time to bring it into reality! And speaking of inspirational, the following is my latest reader review on Amazon.

I am not prone to reading romance nor have I ever been accused of having a social conscience, but at the behest of a friend I downloaded and read Green. So many times we are reminded of how opposites attract. I fervently believe that our significant others make us more of a complete and balanced character and as time goes on our extremes are tempered.

I found both the plot and the relationship that unfolds between the characters very enjoyable. I found myself not only rooting for the success of the budding romance but for the resounding success of the Seven Change Challenge!

The story contemplates the Green adjective on so many levels and indeed makes one question their personal responsibility and impact in this world. I would welcome a “real” Seven Change Challenge web experience and encourage the author as well as the publishers to pursue such a tie-in.
~Customer review by Tom De Mercurio, Sacramento, California

The following review has inspired me to find a way to make the Seven Change Challenge a real deal. It might take some time, considering all of the back of house database management that would need to be developed to make it possible, but the seed has been planted by a reader! Thank you Tom de Mercurio!

How many of you, as readers, would be interested in taking the Seven Change Challenge; to be able to log in your  accomplishments and see how your daily actions cumulatively make a difference? Please let me know in the comments section. If I receive 50 unique comments, I will randomly select one responder to receive a free kindle version of Green.

12 Great Indie Books to be highly recommended in 2014: is yours one of them?

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How many of you have read a great Indie author  in the last few years who really surprised you with their smooth writing, compelling plot and beautiful prose? Was it a great work of literature? Or perhaps a fun, yet witty romance that made you laugh, cry and fall in love? A book that kept you thinking about the transformation of the characters within the pages long after you finished?  Did you want to share that author with others, but weren’t comfortable writing reviews? Or perhaps you have written such a book yourself, but haven’t figured out how to get someone to review it.

As an Indie author, it’s hard to figure out just how to get your book noticed. This year, I would like to change that for at least some Indy Authors by writing reviews on my blog. The good news is, I am only interested in writing POSITIVE, yet critical reviews. Thus, if you send me your book and I am not able to honestly give it a strong recommendation, then I will simply not review it. If I review your book and you like my review, you are welcome to share it on your own website, on Twitter, put it on Facebook, etc, as long as you include my name Kristin Anderson and a link to the original review on this blog http://www.authorkristinanderson.com. Last but not least, your book must be thoroughly edited. I can let a handful of typos slide, but any more is distracting and breaks the flow of reading. (I have professionally edited a number of books, thus I find typos and spelling errors very distracting;  they remind me of work!)

Still interested in submitting your book for review? Here are the criteria and categories I will consider.

Requirements
1) Self-published within the last three years (thus from January 1, 2011 to present).
2) Less than 400 pages
3)  Thoroughly edited
4) Available as an e-book / Kindle

Genres
1) Fiction including general fiction, women’s fiction, environmental fiction, romance with a message,  and thrillers of the not overly violent persuasion.
2) Non-fiction about environmental issues and social justice that offers hope, rather than doom.

Reminder: Since I want to write positive reviews, I am seeking novels with a strong, coherent plot, well-developed characters, smooth writing style and an inspirational message. Romance with a message note: Heat is okay as far as romances go, but no porn or erotica. Non-fiction note: I am looking for quality of information and insight into contemporary environmental issues that is presented in layman’s terms, or introduces technical and complex ideas without getting too bogged down in  jargon.

Submission Procedure
Please use the contact form on this website to submit one paragraph describing your book and one paragraph explaining why you think I should review it. Please include a link to your website, title, date published and a valid email address. I retain the right to refuse any submission based on personal preference and you agree not to slander me for what may feel like (but is not) a personal affront.

50% off my ebook GREEN through tomorrow!

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I like to write posts of a more contemplative, informative nature, but just now, I have very timely news; the Kindle version of my debut novel GREEN is 50% off from now until December 23, 2013. This means that if you have been thinking about getting my book GREEN and you have an e-reader, strike while the iron price is hot! Because at 11:59 pm (23:59) on December 23, 2013, this sale will be over.

Here’s a few quotes from reader reviews that might add to your curiosity:

I had a hard time putting this novel down. Green’s characters were compelling and likeable. Not only was it a very satisfying, engrossing story but it left me as a reader more inspired to “take the Challenge” in my own life. If you want a ‘fun read’ that makes you think and inspires you to act, read this book! ~reader review, December 18, 2013

Anderson manages to be highly romantic yet somehow realistic, unabashedly optimistic yet somehow wise, and always fun! Emotionally and intellectually satisfying good read. ~reader review, December 18, 2013

You can also purchase an e-book for a friend, and what better time then when it’s 50% off? Please tell your friends and thanks for spreading the word!

Author Kristin Anderson

The glories of e-book reading

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I sold some expensive jewelry from an ex  and purchased an iPad earlier this year. That one purchase transformed the way I consume fiction. Let’s just say that some people compulsively shop when lured in by tantalizing window displays and an appropriately placed sales sign and others are lured into the amazon.com kindle store, where books can be automatically downloaded. I fall into the latter category.

The biggest problem I’m facing? “Buy now with One-click.” Oh, that little yellow button. What is a girl-who-loves-to-read to do but click, click?

Here are some of the books I’ve purchased this year and enjoyed:

Black and Abroad by Carolyn Vines (autobiography with a good dose of humor and real life insight into being black in America and abroad).

Delusions for Breakfast by Kate Johnston (hilarious, subtle, deliciously written book about food and life).

Just This Once by Rosalind James (Burning hot romance set in New Zealand, this author keeps you flipping the pages and buying sequels, and yes, I’m admitting this in public!)

Crazy Little Thing by Tracy Brogan (Hilarious, well written romance sprinkled throughout with wit, passion and laugh-out-loud moments of absurdity).

Open City by Teju Cole ( a rambling, beautifully written anti-story–lacks cohesiveness–about a young Nigerian doctor doing his residency in New York who takes nightly walks through the city. Still not my favorite book, but the story and characters linger–which mean it redeems itself in some way. And to give it creds, the critics love it.)

Fifty Shades of Gray Kale by Drew Ramsey, M.D. (A wit-filled recipe book extolling the extreme goodness of leafy greens by a doctor who capitalizes on a copycat title to boost his ratings.)

This is just a sampling of the 26 books I’ve purchased this year and read outside my book club choices (only one overlaps).  At least I’m not talking about 26 pairs of shoes, or 26 cashmere sweaters. But what I like about reading e-books, is that you can highlight passages you like, look words up instantly online and make the reading experience interactive. And if I read it a second time, I can delete previously highlighted sections; something I can’t really do in my hardback and paperback copies. Since I have a screen with light, I can read in bed after I’ve wrestled the iPad away from my son (I swear he transforms into an Angry Bird whenever I ask for my iPad back) and I can continue reading after my husband has fallen asleep without disturbing him.

As an author, I am glad that my book GREEN is available in both Kindle and print format. Seeing as the print version has to be printed, it is of course, less environmentally friendly. On the other hand, it is a print-on-demand title, which means it is only printed if ordered–thus no wasteful stacks of unsold books waiting around for a reader.

I’ve priced the Kindle version at 60% less than the print version. Why? Because I actually want people to READ the book, and by offering a low kindle price, I can hopefully eliminate one barrier. My print version is priced as low as possible to cover printing costs and enable me to earn a small royalty.  Once again, my pricing decisions were based on the following premise: books are meant to be read and enjoyed and accessible to all.

Despite my new found love of e-books, print will continue to be my favorite. I especially enjoy my reminiscent strolls by the bookcase where I can touch upon a book like a long-lost friend, remembering the experience I had within its pages. Seeing all of those spines lined up on the shelf, uncategorized and jumbled together, I see a flash of my  interests presented in a spectrum of colors and shapes. An eBook just can’t replicate that experience.

Five Days

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It is the sort of cold and dreary weather that is meant for authors and readers alike; tea-drinking, curl up and read or write sort of weather–indulge in the adventures within the book or within your mind.

Five days ago, I had a day, that if I write it up, will seem exaggerated in it’s perfection. It was a day where everything clicked. I had an interview scheduled with Lily-Anne Stroobach from Dutch Buzz about my debut novel GREEN. I was working in the church and had about twenty small, detailed tasks I wanted to finish before heading to the interview. I was able to accomplish almost all of them. As I finished my last email, my husband came over and reminded me I should head out now if I wanted to be on time. I asked him if he could make me a sandwich for the road, since I had to travel across The Hague and hadn’t predicted a growling stomach. Instead of rolling his eyes, he actually made me the sandwich, and even transferred my latte into a to go cup.

My tram pass was where it should be, my keys didn’t play hide and seek with me, my cell phone was actually charged and easy to find. As I slipped on my coat and headed toward the door, my husband handed me my sandwich and latte like a sexy personal assistant, and rather than looking emasculated by the experience, he was all confidence and full of encouragement.

I walked to the tram stop and within one minute, the tram arrived. Pulling in to Den Haag Centraal, my connecting tram also arrived within seconds. I stepped from one tram and walked to the platform, as if the world were aligning for me. The tram headed into an area of The Hague I had never encountered, and as I looked out on small shops and squares, I felt the excitement of one on a journey in a new city: senses alert, in the moment, drinking in the new impressions with the same thankfulness and pleasure as as one gulping water after a hard workout to rejuvenate the body. I wasn’t sure how many more stops, so I called Lily-Anne, who answered quickly, and told me it was the very next stop.

The interview went smoothly and Lily-Anne proved to be a fascinating South African Dutch woman, whose open personality and frankness clicked with mine. The ride home was another flawless journey, with trams lining up with such precision, it seemed they were ordered just for me.

When I went to pick up my son at school, I thought of a mom I needed to talk to. Just then, a little red car pulled up, parked, and out stepped said mom, directly in my path.

I headed back into the church to finish up a bit of work, and one of the church members who works in finance happened to come by. He told me that they would be paying me the balance of my bonus for the year at the end of the month. I won’t bore you, but the entire day continued in this manner–sales of my book popping up on the online reports, my son happy, time with my husband in the evening.

I realized this was a miracle of sorts, this day. And like a gambler who finally hit the jack pot, I wanted more days like this, and said something to that effect on Facebook. But my friend Kirsten Klitgaard pointed out in response: “Don’t get greedy, Kristin. I’m still waiting for ONE!” True. Point well taken. I truly enjoyed this day and the thought occurred to me, why today? Why me? Are there people who run around life with many days like this? Is this the Power of Positive Thinking? The Law of Attraction? A little teasing by the Universe? God moving just the tip of her pinky in my direction? But I don’t recall doing any particular meditations, or especially trying to be in the moment–it just simply was.

Five days from now, Saturday, November 16th, is my Official Book Launch party. I have always dreamed of writing a book. I have started over a dozen, but only ever finished one. So this book launch is a great moment in life, however it plays itself out.

It still feels far away. My life is just continuing along with all the sundry lists and responsibilities of daily life. But I know that this coming Saturday, there will be this event. It will happen in one form or another, and then life will move forward; this too shall pass.

As an author, I am thankful for all of you who have delved into my novel, getting to know the characters within, living with them in your mind and following them along on their journeys. I am thankful to those of you who have taken the time to share your thoughts on my book, have shared it with friends, who are taking the time to write reviews on Amazon. And I’m so excited to see what Saturday will bring! Who will purchase my book this day, who will log on to google+ and find Author Kristin Anderson and join a hangout with me.

If you are interested in hearing the interview on Dutchbuzz.nl, you can tune into the hour long program tonight (Tuesday, November 12th, 2013) at 22:00 (DUTCH TIME) on Den Haag FM 92.0. Or the broadcast will be available tomorrow on http://www.dutchbuzz.nl after 12:00.

See you in five days?