The axe, the horn, the reviewer

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I have been writing recently not about my own novel, but about the beautiful writing of author Michael Cunningham, the insightful Crater Lake series by Francis Guenette, great mother’s day presents and environmental organizations in The Hague. Well, sometimes on an author blog you need to mix it up and toot your own horn.

Tooting your own horn can have two meanings in this context. Those who have known me in years past may now have a vision of an alto saxophone in my hands, my lungs expanding as I break into a solo while playing with an indy band. Yes, that used to be my creativity. Sax was my axe.

But in recent years, my passion for music and connecting to others through song has given way to a new form of connection; writing, whether through my author blog, my expat blog or my debut novel Green. The difference between playing a live gig and interacting with the audience and writing a blog post or a book are too numerous to count. But there is one big difference: time.

If you nail a solo, or sing that third part harmony in tune, people respond instantly with clapping, a nod, or a follow-up comment on how much they enjoyed the performance this evening. Sometimes words are not even necessary to convey appreciation or dismay. Body language speaks volumes. With blog posts, people read, but don’t always comment. Those who do comment display a certain daring to enter into the written word–a comment on a post that is now present on the internet, linked to your profile in some manner, a digital footprint of your existence.

Dropping a quick comment of “sweet solo” or “enjoyed the performance tonight,” is a zen moment in time without a history or a future. That is the beauty of music. Recordings, whether CDs or YouTube videos, can be listened to again and again. Books are locked to the page and are usually only read once, twice if you’re extremely lucky. But for all the people who have read my book, many have given me verbal feedback or quick little Facebook comments of “loved it”, “it was awesome,” reminiscent of the friendly compliments a musician might receive; compliments that are in the moment. Oh what an author would give to turn those quick compliments into written reviews. Why? Not for the ego (okay, a little for the ego), but for the fact that reviews beget new readers. And that is what all writers want: people to read their work; the more the better.

And so, when I discovered this review on Amazon.co.uk from a complete stranger, I had to share it with you, and toot my own horn. Luckily, this review doesn’t give my debut novel GREEN the axe. On the contrary; it shows that somewhere in England there is a reader who understands me as a writer of fiction, saw the characters within the novel growing before her eyes, and appreciated the presentation of the eco message in my novel Green. If any of you out there who have read my novel need a little inspiration to write a review, here it is!

Posted June 17, 2014 on Amazon.co.uk. (five stars)

The fact Anderson’s novel is described upfront as a ‘romance’ book is almost a disservice to what is in fact, a novel that transcends the rigid romance genre. ‘Green’ has been written with real literary insight and intelligence.

Our two protagonists are city dweller Ellie Ashburn, who indulges in a consumerist lifestyle, surrounded by friends, while her time is occupied with an ascendant career. Despite this, Ellie still holds traditional values close to her heart which is apparent after a series of unsuccessful relationships with LA men leave her despondent. Ellie is about ready to give up on love altogether until she meets environmental activist Jake Tillerman. And thus the setting for our romantic backdrop is revealed.

Despite the odds, the two fall for one another in the kind of way that would have E.L. James’ temperature rise – however, the relationship between Ellie and Jake provides more than a romantic romp, it is the perfect narrative arc to engage the audience in political diatribes and discussions which bring to the fore eco-concerns about how the way we live impacts on the environment.

It is important to note that the novel never becomes a sermon on Anderson’s part to force environmental issues down the throats of readers, and this is shown through a series of comedic, passionate and frustrating events which take place as the couple grow closer. This is how Anderson really showcases her talent as a writer, she makes both of our heroes likeable, honest, human and never one dimensional. As readers we learn from selective narrative how each character has come to see the world and define it, while examining what it means to compromise and relate to one another within this.

‘Green’ is a multi-faceted novel that is both informative and entertaining!

The inspiration that is Michael Cunningham

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My friend Riette from book club invited me to join her Friday night to see author Michael Cunningham speak at Theater aan het Spui. This American author is most known for his Pulitzer prize-winning book The Hours, published in 1998. I read that book years ago. I was impressed by his writing style, but also remembered longstanding traces of melancholy from the reading experience. Nonetheless, I jumped at the opportunity to attend a Border Kitchen presentation and hear him speak. I picked up a copy of his latest book The Snow Queen, which he would be discussing at the event, two days before the reading.

Photo courtesy Michael Cunningham's website

Photo courtesy Michael Cunningham’s website

Within the first five pages, I was completely drawn in. Not in a Da Vinci Code, page-turning way, but in a poetry turned novel walk-about within the inner workings of people’s minds, hopes, aspirations and connections. His unique descriptions had me looking at the world through foreign eyes that created devastating beauty where I had only seen ugliness. A man snorting cocaine in the morning was somehow transported by grace in Cunningham’s prose; the unspoken bond and understanding between two brothers is dissected and lain forth; not with the precision of a scalpel, but with a poesy of shocking sensualism.

Hearing Michael Cunningham read a passage from his book aloud transformed the beauty of his writing to an oral language of tradition beyond the words themselves.

After unsuccessfully trying a line of questioning about how being a gay man informs Cunningham’s writing, the interviewer finally changed tactics to a more relevant subject; the author’s writing process. As a teacher, Cunningham informed us, he encourages his students to find their own writing process. With that disclaimer, he shared his approach: daily, steadfast writing, without the influence of drugs or alcohol; no checking emails during the writing process, rewriting a sentence or passage again and again until it is right, not always being in collecting mode as a writer. In other words, although he is observant to the world around him, and his characters are informed by others, he also allows himself to go out with friends and interact with the world as Michael Cunningham the person, not as a writer looking for inspiration for his next plot.

He admitted that sometimes he re-writes one sentence a hundred times. A hundred times? He also writes enough content for two books during his writing process and in the end, only uses about half of it. Talk about killing your darlings; that’s a 50% kill rate.

I had more than one  “aha”  moment during the evening, but the following insight was a big one. Cunningham explained a phenomenon that occurs in his writing. When he reaches page 70 or 80 of a new novel, he is sometimes overwhelmed with the conclusion that the novel is not what he set out to write. Thus, he starts another novel, and so on and so forth. But finally, he realized something; novels will never be that rigid thing you pictured in your head, because characters and plots develop on their own, becoming bigger and other than you imagined. Letting go of those preconceived notions and limits lets the book breathe itself into existence. I’m paraphrasing here, and adding my own interpretation of his words. But as an author who has stopped an attempted novel at page sixty on multiple occasions for this very reason, this was a light in the muddle of my writing existence, encouraging me to revisit my abandoned manuscripts and approach them Montessori style: freedom to develop (open my mind!) within a controlled environment (consistent writing schedule unhindered by the sister muses of  Merlot or gin and tonic).

Michael Cunningham

Kristin posing with author Michael Cunningham

By the end of the reading, I was completely jazzed, excited, ready to embark on a new writing project. Encouraged by Pauline, another book club friend of carpe diem persuasion, I posed for a picture with author Michael Cunningham.  After he’d signed my book and disappeared behind the curtain, my friend looked at the iPhone pictures.  Most, including the one of me and Michael, had been taken with a flash, creating a muddled gray light around us. Oh! Woe is me!

Michael looks more like a devil than my new found inspiration, and I look, well, a bit like a poser in need of Weightwatchers membership than an aspiring author. Despite this rather ghastly digital rendition, for me the moment was one of absolute clarity. I am a writer and I will continue to persevere as a writer, and I am inspired by this wonderful man,  Michael Cunningham the person and the author.

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.

Tales of an Indy Author book Release

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This past Saturday, after much anticipation and cumulative hours over the last three months sharing messages of hope, fear and excitement, nuanced with begging and pleading for attention and support with my friends, family and online followers alike, I finally had my book release. Phew! You can all wipe your collective brows and know that Author Kristin Anderson’s launch of her debut novel GREEN is now over.

Kristin Anderson signing debut novel Green

Kristin Anderson signing debut novel Green

But as my friends are now pointing out, my work as an author, has only just begun. Now I need to get the world to realize my “debut-novel Green by Kristin Anderson” has been released, that it is receiving great reviews and should be in that stack of books on your bedside table, or in your kindle library. Well, before I begin that journey, I thought it might be fun to share the highlights as well as the strange events that occurred during my book launch this past Saturday, November 16th.

Earlier in the week I thought about contacting my friend Welmoed, owner of Orange Gloss Styling, for her opinion on the best booth location from a Feng Shui perspective. This was the first sign that I was taking this whole thing a little too seriously. (But that was a brilliant idea, wasn’t it?) The night before the launch, my friend Bo Rodenhuis came over and rummaged through my tired collection of clothing with her fashionable eyes. As if invoking some fashion voodoo spell, she created a clothing combination I would have never come up with on my own, and voila! Style!

I awoke Saturday morning with feelings reminiscent of childhood Christmases–I couldn’t wait to jump out of bed and start my day. With the whole “Oh-dear!-what-am-I-going-to-wear” dilemma eliminated, my morning routine was a breeze.

My book launch was held at the Christus Triumfatorkerk in The Hague, The Netherlands, as part of the BezuidenhoutFestival– a neighborhood-centric festival for local clubs, politicians, and community leaders. There were a handful of groups selling handmade items, locally made honey, bridge clubs, a neighborhood watch program, a flower project, politicians and me. Even though the idea for my book was conceived in Santa Barbara, California and set in Los Angeles with a contemporary opposites-attract plot with the Deepwater Horizon Gulf Oil Spill looming in the background, it could not have been more “locally made.” ; I wrote 80 percent of this book in the Bezuidenhout, The Hague.

To my surprise, friends from just about every hook of my social life here in the Netherlands materialized. They brought offerings of flowers and candles, body lotions and kind words, along with euros to purchase my debut novel. Sister and brother-in-laws, in-laws and nephews joined the celebration. People I didn’t know who had come to the festival attended my book readings along with my friends and family, and even purchased my book. People stood in line for me to sign. This one day felt like a little movie of how I would like my life to be; how it would feel to be a full-time author–how right that would feel. Funny how just a few hours being in one role can change your life perspective.

Minister Ruud Stiemer purchasing Green

Minister Ruud Stiemer purchasing Green

friends purchasing my novel Green

friends purchasing my novel Green

Author Kristin Anderson with reader Janita van Nes

Author Kristin Anderson with reader Janita van Nes

Variety of friends purchasing my book!

Variety of friends purchasing my book!

Considering my eco-romance novel is set in Los Angeles, and is written by an American, it only makes sense that I needed to focus my launch on the U.S. market. Yet, I currently live in the Netherlands. So, I attempted to use some of the social media skills I’ve been learning in Zestee online media school, and create a virtual book launch as a counterpart to my physical launch here in the Netherlands.

But what is a virtual launch? Was the resounding question. My definition is that during the time of your physical launch, you post updates on your website or facebook author page, and plan a group chat through Skype or Google+ hangouts for a hands-on, interactive experience. I decided on Google+ hangouts. It boasted being able to chat with up to 10 people at a time, and I could even make it public, in case Maria Bustillos or another L.A. Times book reviewer might want to join in on the streaming conversation / video and interview me about my fabulous new genre eco-romance. So, I decided to make it public. It took me the better part of a week to figure out how to do a public chat, but I did it! And boy, was I surprised what a public hangout on Google+ could bring!

My first caller was published Santa Barbara author Leslie Westbrook. She’s the real deal, with an agent and multiple titles, and also just an all around friendly person that I knew when I lived in Santa Barbara. While we were talking about the dramatically changing landscape of the book industry, Yuri from the Ukraine joined our conversation. Leslie and I were having Blair Witch Project style flashbacks as Yuri’s toddler grabbed the camera and twirled it around, giving us a seasick overview of the strange warehouse setting where they stood. I tried to politely explain to Yuri that I was doing a book launch and that he was about to make me lose my dinner, but he only wanted to talk to us, and not listen. I quickly discovered the ignore button, and Yuri was no longer in the conversation.

Within a few minutes, another user joined the conversation. But instead of seeing a person, a strange icon appeared, which twirled in circles. The optimist in me considered for a nanosecond that this could be someone genuinely interested in my book. But when he didn’t speak or respond to my conversation, the pessimist in me imagined this spinning disk to be some sort of computer sweeping device munching through all of my files. I quickly discovered the “block sender,” button. Soon a message appeared from said sender that was extremely aggressive, sexist and derogatory because I had blocked him from my conversation. Thus the concept that rules of civility don’t always apply in these non-policed arenas of online interaction.

I closed my session and re-logged on in a private chat, inviting only friends. And friends came to hang out with me. They joined the conversation over the next few hours. As contemporary nomads, many of us author types have friends in various regions of the world. Thus, a virtual launch with a real-time media component, such as Skype or google+ hangouts is very handy. But before you consider doing a virtual launch, I recommend having a method to screen participants.

As the evening wound down, I went to bed as a happy, contented, exhausted author. I knew that the next day, or perhaps a few days afterward, I would need to start the hard work of actually marketing my book so that I can reach readers beyond the scope of my friends and friends of friends. Words that a family friend parsed out the day after my wedding when the job of clean up was at hand came back to me. “You are only Queen for a day.”

First Reviews In!

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As a newly-minted author, I would have nibbled my fingernails off by now waiting for the first reader reviews to come in. Luckily, I was never a nail nibbler; luckier still, my first three reader-reviews have been quite flattering! My book launch is a tantalizing thirteen days away, but these are reviews from purchasers who couldn’t wait that long. There are only first reviews once, and only a debut novel once, thus here’s to this new experience; thank’s for sharing it with me.

Amazon reader reviews of Green, by Kristin Anderson

5 of 5 STARS
It’s Green-tastic!

By Fara Jones on October 20, 2013
Format: Paperback
Firstly, I thoroughly enjoyed this book! I’m not one for romances,(I read about one per decade) but this was such a joy to read. Every time I picked the book back up and I always fell right back into the evolving romance between city girl Ellie and eco-focused Jake Tillerman. It’s a solid novel. The structure is solid, great crackling dialogue and steamy emotions fly between these two opposites who continually attract each other despite their differences, and the plot keeps developing with surprises that I didn’t see coming. I never really visited a green-centric character before (except in college…), and the conflicts and the sparks that fly are eye-opening and fascinating. The Green movement is suddenly alluring to me and this book has an original voice.

5 of 5 STARS
Couldn’t put it down!!

By Peter J. Dibonaventura on November 2, 2013
Format: Paperback
I was surprised by how much I loved this book!
I didn’t read the back cover and all I knew was the title “green”. I love a good romance and this one had some real struggles and a happy ending.

5 of 5 STARS
Great book!

By Bailey Quarters on October 22, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
I am a big fan of romance novels, although I readily admit, it is difficult to find well written ones. This book breaks that mold. It is well thought out, and artfully written. I couldn’t put it down. It also tastefully makes you think about how you can make a difference for the planet. You don’t have to be a romance novel fan to enjoy this book, it should have broad appeal. However, if you are a romance fan, you are in for an extra special treat because this book sets the bar at a higher level.

Green by Kristin Anderson is available through the following links:
https://www.createspace.com/4462273
http://www.amazon.com/dp/1492854352
http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1492854352
http://www.amazon.de/dp/1492854352

Happy Birthday Oscar Wilde and Calling All Reviewers

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October 16th is not only the birth date of the famous author Oscar Wilde, the 51st birthday of Flea (bassist from Red Hot Chili Peppers) and the 32nd birthday of American wrestler and Jiu-Jitsu specialist Frankie Edgar, but the one month marker until the November 16th launch of my debut Novel GREEN. Truth be told, if you just can’t wait until the release party, the book is ready for your review NOW on Amazon.com. And if you buy it, read it, and write a review in the next 30 days, I will offer a content-appropriate prize to the most creative and heartfelt review.

Know of any organizations that might be interested in reviewing my book? I would love to hear your comments below.
Here is the summary:
Green by Kristin Anderson

Ellie Ashburn has come a long way from her poor, rural upbringing: She has an upwardly mobile career, great friends and access to culture and consumerism denied to her in her youth. Although she loves the fast-paced life of Los Angeles, she can’t stand the fast-paced men.

Just when she’s about to throw in the towel on dating, she meets environmental activist Jake Tillerman. Although the attraction between them is sizzling, their lifestyles could not be more different. As they get to know each other, a series of events unfold that range from comedic and frustrating to passionate and eye opening in this romantic story of opposites attract.

As Ellie embarks into his eco-friendly world, she begins to question the very things she holds dear. When presented with a seemingly irresolvable conflict in their beliefs, both Jake and Ellie must decide if it will tear them apart or transform their budding romance into a lifelong love.

Title unveiled

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Two-and-a-half years ago I launched a personal blog about my expat experiences in the Netherlands. The most difficult part was finding a name. I was hoping for a name that would encapsulate the many rich experiences I was having on my transition experience in a new culture and climate. But when it comes down to it, simplicity can sometimes really be the right choice, thus I went with Kristin in Holland. Afterall, my name is Kristin and I’m living in Holland.

Today, I am happy to unveil the title of my debut novel: Green. Yep, that’s it–Green.

Green, a debut novel by Kristin Anderson, coming to you through an online portal of your choice this November 16th, 2013.
Summary:

Ellie Ashburn has come a long way from her poor, rural upbringing: she has an upwardly mobile career, great friends and access to culture and consumerism denied to her in her youth. Although she loves the fast-paced life of Los Angeles, she can’t stand the fast-paced men.

Just when she’s about to throw in the towel on dating, she meets Jake Tillerman, an environmental activist. Although the attraction between them is sizzling, their lifestyles could not be more opposite. As Ellie embarks into his eco-friendly world, she begins to question the very things she holds dear. When presented with a seemingly irresolvable conflict in their beliefs, both Jake and Ellie must decide if it will tear them apart or transform their budding romance into a lifelong love.

Literature to Romance; The Slippery Slope

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Background of Snobbery
With a B.A. in English Literature topped off by a Master’s in a completely unrelated field, I had a phase in my life where I would only read literature. My elitist attitude went something like this; give me literature and a glass of chardonnay, not pulp fiction and wine out of a box. Although my eye occasionally wandered at the airport bookshop or grocery store check-out stand, bestsellers were nothing to me.

The Slippery Slope of Motion Pictures
Although I was keeping my snobbish pact with literature in the book department, I was shifting away from thought-provoking indie films and more toward those with a man and a woman on the cover, promising romance and a happy ending. Because really, tragic love and heavy topics can pull you down after a while. There’s enough of that in real life. Put simply, sometimes you just want to be entertained and use the less convoluted parts of your brain–you know,those that stimulate laughter and romantic love.

Romantic films must be the gateway drug of pulp fiction reading, because not long after, romance novels started making their way into my stack of library books and Amazon shopping cart.

Denial
At first I claimed that it was research for my own book, which at its core, is a romance novel. If you want to do well in your genre, you must get to know your genre–including reading and analyzing the writing style, plot, structure, etc.

Surrender and Realization
Soon it was undeniable; I wasn’t approaching these books with critical analysis, I was actually getting caught up in the development of the romance, staying up late, going to work blurry-eyed and continuing this pattern until the author released me from his or her hold.

But the more I read, the more I realized that romance is a diverse genre. Filled with a broad spectrum of approaches and quality, romance can range from literary genius (Jane Austen) to what your cat offers up on a daily basis in the litter box (_____ ____). Speaking of that double blank in the parentheses, I read several “bestselling authors” who truly gave me the bubble gum experience, making my head feel light, my stomach churning from too much sweetness, and a slight headache from repeatedly chewing on zero calories. I won’t name any authors here, because there’s no point. These authors obviously have a niche, a dedicated audience and thus fulfill some need in the world.

I read highly polished writers like Danielle Steel and Nicholas Sparks. I understood their appeal, but I was craving something else; something more contemporary. And then I happened upon Tracy Brogan while doing my romantic research, and have subsequently purchased two of her novels.

Romance Author Tracy Brogan
Crazy Little Thing felt fresh to me. I found myself laughing out loud on more than one occasion, and although some of her characters and scenarios seemed over the top, I really enjoyed the ride. The second book I read by her is entitled Hold on My Heart. I have to admit I don't like the title or the cover art, but once I started reading it, I knew she was going to crack me up, while reeling me in to her characters, their lives and their entanglements.

I read Hold on My Heart on my iPad during our vacation in France, and it was a fun vacation read–humorous characters, funny situations, some heart-felt moments, smartly written, light enough to remind you you’re on vacation, with just enough substance to leave both your stomach and mind content.

Thanks to a wonderful expat book club I’m in that meets every six weeks, I still read literature on a regular basis. My dive into the romance genre has made me realize humans have always loved love stories, as stories are what make the world go round and we would not survive this human experience without love in our lives.

Launching a New Novel

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Welcome!
If you are reading this, welcome to my new home, Author Kristin Anderson. I just purchased this virtual home, and the rooms are still empty; my works of fiction still in the boxes waiting to be unpacked. But soon, I will be revealing the title of my first novel, and inviting all that are interested to my e-book launch, currently and optimistically scheduled for Saturday, November 16, 2013.

A bit of Background on Kristin Anderson
I have written freelance articles for magazines and newspapers over the last 5 years and have been writing a personal, non-fiction blog since 2011 as a means of letting my mind flow and practicing the art of writing. Simultaneously, I have been working on my first novel.

Writing a Novel
If you are writing a novel and want to make a go of it, in addition to being passionate about the topic, you need to do at least four things: write (of course), read other novels in your genre, read books / posts about writing novels and have a steadfast marketing plan (e.g. promote the heck out of your book).

I have been doing steps 1 through 3 over the last few years and now is the time to activate what I have learned about step 4–every author needs a home, and shy or not, they need to have an open door policy. As authors, we open our homes to just about anyone interested and willing to settle in for a cup of tea and listen to us weave our stories. Homes used to be physical structures with welcoming porches and a front door, but as modern-day authors, our homes are on the internet, nestled within the fluid walls of a website.

Genre
But hold on, you say; what do you write? I don’t read just anything. It is important as an author to know your genre and thus know your audience. My writing fits into three categories: general fiction, romance and environmental issues. I guess you could sum it up as eco-romance. Sound intriguing? Then feel free to click on the “follow” button on this blog / sign up to receive my posts in your inbox and comment frequently.

Thanks for reading.

Author Kristin Anderson