Cover Reveal: Back to You by Jessica Scott

We first met Trent and Laura in “Because of You” and “Anything For You”

Coming soon from Jessica Scott, Trent and Laura’s story “Back to You”

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From the back cover:

He’s in for the fight of his life . . .

Army captain Trent Davila loved his wife, Laura, and their two beautiful children. But when he almost lost his life in combat, something inside him died. He couldn’t explain the emptiness he felt or bridge the growing distance between him and his family—so he deployed again. And again. And again…until his marriage reaches its breaking point. Now, with everything on the line, Trent has one last chance to prove to his wife that he can be the man she needs …if she’ll have him

to win back his only love.

            Laura is blindsided when Trent returns home. Time and again, he chose his men over his family, and she’s just beginning to put the pieces of her shattered heart back together.  But when Trent faces a court martial on false charges, only Laura can save him. What begins as an act of kindness to protect his career inflames a desire she thought long buried—and a love that won’t be denied.  But can she trust that this time he’s back to stay?

Pre-Order your copy today!

Cover Reveal: “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” by Jessica Scott

I am pleased to be part of the cover reveal for Jessica Scott’s upcoming release on November 5, 2013. I’ll Be Home For Christmas is Vic Carponti’s Christmas novella. For those of you who have read Because of You and Anything For You, I am sure that like me, you found Carponti’s wit and humor irresistible and perhaps had you begging (or stalking) Jessica Scott for his own story. 😉

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Barnes & Noble: http://bit.ly/14B1EbK
If you have not read anything by Jessica Scott, I highly encourage you to do so. Not only is her contemporary romance steamy but her non-fiction writings are profound. For more information, see her website.

The Authentic Character and Plot

One of the things that irks me when I am reading any book is when I encounter the inauthentic character, dialogue, and/or plot. You know what I’m talking about. The female cop who cries incessantly, trembles in fear when she draws her weapon, and doesn’t know any hand-to-hand combat. Then there’s a hero who is former military helicopter pilot who has flown in numerous missions under fire and during sandstorms but cannot seem to pilot a helicopter through a windy city. Really? How do these characters keep their jobs? It is not to say that certain professions require perfect behavior 24/7, but there is something about making sure a character’s personality characteristics are consistent with the demands of the profession you assign them. Yes, even are most trained soldiers may encounter panic during a firefight, but not during every single firefight. If they did, they would not survive. Lapses are understandable, but consistent behavior that lies in opposition to the task or job at hand is inauthentic.

Authenticity issues are not necessarily reserved for professions and personality characteristics, rather, it applies with dialogue as well. If you have a character who can barely read due to some learning disability, don’t have them reading Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” without any trouble. Additionally, keep terminology and language consistent with the character’s education attainment and reading proficiency. That is not to say that someone with only a high school diploma cannot handle reading high-level, scholarly books, but you need to build in the believability aspect. I have a friend who is a construction worker with only a high school diploma but he reads all the time and challenges himself with his reading material and it is plainly evident when you have a conversation with him that he is well-read regardless of the absence of a college diploma. Within dialogue, the author may feel compelled to write with the appropriate dialect, however, an English teacher will not “axe” someone a question. Yes, there are issues of dialect but not at the expense of demonstrating language proficiency, grammar, and speech.

Do not mistake my critique to include characters that I find annoying. There have been several novels and films where I found main characters to be extraordinarily annoying, however, if I am invested in the plot and/or the other characters, I overlook it. I never would’ve finished watching “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy if I let myself get hung up on an annoying or whining personality. In some cases, the annoying nature of the character is still important to the overall plot and relationship with other characters of the novel, film, or television show. So back to authenticity…

Sadly the inauthentic character, dialogue, and/or plot is something we find in a wide range of genres and sometimes, unfortunately written by popular authors. Depending on the level of disconnect I feel between the character’s personality and profession or behavior not only determines whether I finish the book, but also whether I will read any future novels written by that author. Some may argue that I am being too harsh, that when reading fiction or watching any fictional visual media, there is the willing suspension of disbelief. For me, that does not mean that I will accept the improbable as fact. If you are the only survivor of a catastrophic event, it is improbable that you will have electricity and running water. Who is working at the utility companies maintaining and operating the equipment if you are the last person alive? I do recognize that Samuel Taylor Coleridge acknowledged the reader to believe the unbelievable and place enjoyment above realism, but for me there are limits that I reach in which the object of my entertainment, be that a book, movie, or television show where I no longer find enjoyment or entertainment, rather just annoyance at the absurdity of what is being presented. This being said, I do not write reviews on works that I find to have authenticity issues. Just because I have limits to my willing suspension of disbelief does not mean that anyone else will see the characters, dialogue, and plot in the same way. That is the important part that makes us unique and I always encourage people to critically analyze any information, factual or otherwise, and come to your own conclusions.

These are my personal standards as a reader, however, I try to keep this in mind as a writer. I hope that I achieve the level of authenticity within my character development, dialogue, and plot that my readers will find to be believable.  I hope to meet the standard set by so many of my favorite authors, and they indeed have set the standard high, although I am not complaining. If it were easy, it would not be worth doing.

Is Self-Publishing the Non-Peer-Review Journal Publishing of Non-Academia?

I think I have reached the point where I am about 95% positive that I will self-publish but there remain issues that seep into my psyche as I work on my revisions. Until now, my professional writing experience has been within the realms of academic social science writing. For those not familiar with peer review, it is a process that some journals require where a researcher submits her work and several experts in the field read and review the work before the work is accepted for publication. In many cases, the work may require some mechanical editing issues and in other cases, the work may be flat out rejected due to design flaws, data collection issues, validity issues, ethical issues, etc. To avoid this, a researcher does have the option to pay to have their work published in a non-peer-review journal. Basically, you are paying to have your work published and the publisher is not going to thoroughly review your work for the abovementioned issues. That is not to say that poorly designed and conducted research never gets published in a peer-reviewed journal, only that it is very difficult to have poor research published in peer-reviewed journals. Because of the rigorous requirements among peer-reviewed journals, as an instructor, my students are required to cite journal sources from peer-reviewed journals for any research they do. I do allow my students to utilize information from non-peer-reviewed articles, however, they understand that the conclusions from such articles may be limited and in some cases, flawed.

Moving into the fictional publishing arena, I found myself comparing the peer-review process to the publishing options out there. With the increased popularity of the e-readers, self-publishing has risen in recent times. I wondered if the self-publishing option is akin to the non-peer-review publishing option and in a non-scientific way, tried to explore this comparison. I wondered if readers’ expectations of a novel would be based on publication type and so far, I have not gotten this impression. I must admit that I thought I would tend to hesitate on purchasing a more expensive novel if it is self-published rather than not, but in the interest of full disclosure, I look over the customer reviews and reviews on my favorite book review websites before I purchase any book. I tend not to seek out publishing information to start with and really only become aware of it if a reviewer comments on the publishing type. For me the reviews tend to tip the balance as to whether I will read a book or not.

My initial concerns regarding self-published books were not only concerning reader reaction and support but also issues of quality. I was concerned that self-published books would be poorly written, not only in terms of storyline but in mechanics which drives me up a wall. What I have found is that how a book is published may be independent of these issues. My initial instinct was to believe that the highest quality works would be published through publishing houses however; I have found as a reader that even large publishing houses release books riddled with grammatical, storyline, and anachronistic errors. Based on my non-representative reading sample of contemporary romance, I found that definitely quality is not necessarily correlated with method of publishing, which was a very surprising finding. I found a much higher correlation between author and quality than publishing and quality. This finding was also consistent when looking at authors that both self-publish and use publishing houses for their novels. Quality remained consistent regardless of publishing process.

What have you found in your experience? Do you think that self-published authors are akin to the non-peer-reviewed academic writers?

To Hire a Literary Agent – Yes or No?

With my first novel finished minus editor and critique partner revisions, I am faced with the next dilemma as an aspiring author. While working on this novel, I have spent a lot of time researching the pros and cons of using a pen name or using my real name. Based on the current economy, I did not want to risk my job in any way and thus decided on using a pen name. Following my decision on a pen name, I started working on my author brand and then I moved on to researching and taking an online workshop about publishing options (to go through a major publishing house or try to self-publish as an e-book).

For me, the reason I wanted to write this novel and publish it are personal and I am not seeking any particular notoriety for writing. I enjoy writing in the romance genre and will continue, but there is no aching need for me to see my name in print, my book on a store book shelf. That is not to say I dismiss those who do aspire and enjoy reaping the rewards of their success. Rather, my expectations remain grounded in my own personal reality and that is that I am writing for myself and hope that someone out there likes what I have to say. I am not about to ditch my day job and jump into the deep end thinking I will be an immediate success. I love my teaching too much to give it up without a fight. By my writing is fulfilling and until recently, has been so even in the absence of having any one else read what I have written. This novel will be the first time in 21 years that anyone has ever read a piece of my fiction writing and I must admit that I have been very anxious about releasing this novel for others to read.

As I have researched and worked through all of my options, there is one area that I am still struggling with and that is whether to find an agent. If I decide to self-publish and use freelance editors and design teams for covers, I retain a lot of control over my work. Not to say that I am unwilling to consider constructive criticism, rather, there are parts to my novel that I will remain rather firm on. Most of the advantages that I have found regarding retaining an agent is strongly connected to publishing with large publishing houses, ease at securing strong editing and design teams, and public relations issues including book readings and signings along with other promotional opportunities. I am sure that I am missing some important aspects and so I turn to you and ask, what the advantages and disadvantages are to having an agent?