Graphic Public Service Announcement

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If I were in charge of the posters in airports, train stations and tram stops, they might look something like this.


Or like this:


I might even get a bit preachy.


Or blunt and demanding.


Okay. I’ll admit that this blogpost is inspired by my recent caving in to yet another social media platform: Instagram. I ignored it for years based on its’ name alone. As a writer, I savor a well-written article, short-story or book. I enjoy taking the time for a story to unfold on the page. Instagram was for me the antithesis of this idea.

As you can see by my little image gallery here, I’ve been using the app Phoster to combine words and images for my Instagram posts. I have to admit, it’s been fun.

Speaking of fun, the proof for my second novel The Things We Said in Venice just shipped. Any bloggers or columnists who are into reviewing books, please let me know if you’d like a review copy.

Any readers up for a light, travel romance, my second novel should be available to order by mid-May! The cover of my second novel is still a secret, but if I were to announce it’s pending arrival in Instagram terms . . .

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!

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

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 Indy Books to be highly recommended in 2014: is yours one of them?

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How many of you have read a great Indy 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 Indy 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.