Blog of Author and Illustrator, JD Holiday: A NEW JERSEY AUTHOR
~ BOOKS for Kids: Janoose The Goose, its sequel- Janoose And The Fall Feather Fair, The Spy Game & The Great Snowball Escapade, a chapter book for 6 to 9 years old; SIMPLE THINGS, a Christian Christmas middle-grade novel, and for Adult; Stories And Imaginings For The Reading Spot.
Author and Book Reviewer Fran Lewis worked in the NYC Public Schools as the Reading and Writing Staff Developer for over 36 years. She has three masters; Degrees and a PD in Supervision and Administration. Currently, she is a member of Who’s Who of America’s Teachers and Who’s Who of America’s Executives from Cambridge. In addition, she is the author of three children’s books and a fourth that has just been published on Alzheimer’s disease in order to honor her mom and help create more awareness for a cure. The title of my new Alzheimer’s book is Memories are Precious: Alzheimer’s Journey; Ruth’s story and Sharp as a Tack and Scrambled Eggs Which Describes Your Brain? Because We Care, Faces Behind the Stones, Bad Choices and my two latest YA books: Bertha and Tillie Friends Forever and Bertha and Tillie, Sisters Forever.
Fran reviews only print copies and her reviews are detailed, honest, stand as written but never have spoilers. She was the musical director for shows in her school and ran the school’s newspaper. Fran writes reviews for authors upon request and for several other sites. You can read some of her reviews on Ezine.com and onijustfinished.com under the name Gabina.
Fran Lewis and I have been friends for many years. I admire Fran greatly and am happy to interview her.
Tell us about your latest book, Hidden Truth And Lies?
Hidden Truths and Lies is told from the point of view of the deceased person behind the gravestone. The person has either done something wrong and or has been wronged. In the first story 27 minutes and Silences Maria D has been wronged but it is only time that will tell if Tony her husband is guilty of her death or if there are other reasons. In the second story the main character did something wrong and definitely belongs behind the stone. This is my fourth in the Faces series but the last two stories are my attempt at writing horror and a touch of science fiction. Faces Five will be told from the viewpoint of three people based on real life events plus five or more that need to learn a lesson in life. I hope that all of my books in this series teach young adults and adults lessons to make sure they do not wind up behind the stone in Golden Gate Cemetery.
When did the storyteller in you surface?
I have always loved writing since I think I was five. But, writing books started as a dare from my sister, Marcia. My mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and I had to retire early to make sure she was taken care of at home. So, my sister dared me to not only review my first book, which was a cookbook, and Fran does not cook but to write a children’s book about our antics growing up in the South Bronx. Of course she managed to edited the book and critique it too and that she did. By the time I got it published I think she read it ten times and wanted me to change some of the endings of the stories but I told her everything or every ending does not always end happily ever after and that what I wrote was what really happened making the stories authentic and real.
What was your ambition for your writing career to start with, and what is it now?
I started to write short stories in 2003 and published them on a great site : Writing .com and was able to get some valuable feedback. It is great for writers and authors to publish stories and see what other writers think. I started there and then I took all of my Bertha and Tillie stories and created my first children’s book never thinking that I would continue on to write even more. But, when my mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s I decided to do some major research and then create a book that would honor her, let everyone hear her voice and help caregivers and families understand how important it is to take care of someone if they can at home and provide outside help to give you a chance for some type of freedom.
What do I hope Now? I hope that I will continue to review books for a long time. I find that I learn a lot from the writing styles of all of the authors and even more from the informational books, historical novels, memoirs and at times even the self-help books. Reading is power and power gives you the knowledge to make choices in life.
Do most of your books usually convey a theme or message?
My Bertha series deals with bullying, mean girls, skating lessons that went sour, being overweight and friendships. My Faces series I hope teaches teens, young adults and adults lessons that they need to learn. For example in Bad Choices one of the stories deals with suicide and being overweight. Another deals with mean girls at a sorority party who treat some of the not so pretty girls in a mean way and what the boys do is even worse. Hard lessons are learned in these books along with the pressures of school and too much homework. Each story is different and each one presents it own theme.
Are there parts of your life in your stories?
In every one of the Bertha Stories you will read about me, Bertha and some of the things that I went through trying to take dancing lessons, ice skating and dealing with a teacher that was cruel and insulting. Winning a writing contest and having the teacher say she would not submit it to the principal even though the teachers on the grade said I came in first. My aunt was a teacher in the school and although the assignment was given in class and done in class she thought my aunt told me about it before and that I had rewritten what she told me even though I started like everyone else with a blank paper. Needless to say it was the first time I ever talked back and spoke up for myself in a different way.
Fran, you are a book reviewer. How did this come about and what can authors expect from your reviews? The first book I reviewed was a cookbook by Martha Cheves and I had no idea where to go with it or how to review a book. But, I managed to come up with something unique and funny. As a result someone else read it and invited me to join a site just for authors. For some reason many of the authors asked for reviews and I have not stopped yet. I love Tess Gerristen and I took a chance and emailed her and she sent me her book to read and was my first New York Times best selling author to interview on my radio show. She is doing an on air with me in October.
I am always tense when I review a book for an author who asked me to. I feel I have to get it done right away. It’s nerve racking for me. Is there pressure on you knowing that authors are awaiting for your review of their books?
From the moment I get the request whether it is a new author, Indie or internationally famous author or New York Times best selling author I read the book at my own pace, try to find something different to start the review and let the author know beforehand that my review stand as rated and written, I am honest, straightforward, don’t claim to be perfect but I will give them an honest review. However, if the book does not warrant at least 3 and a half stars I won’t review it. I will create a short summary for the author for promotion purposes and will not post it on Amazon of Goodreads. I never pan a book. Just because I do not find it four or five stars someone else might. I do not want to cloud anyone’s judgment.
My Bertha and Tillie series focuses on my real life experiences growing up with my sister in the South Bronx. We both took dancing lessons, ice skating lessons and I shared some stories about mean girls in school, getting bullied and how Bertha created a peer mediation group to deal with student differences in Bertha Fights Back. The series is supposed to promote understanding, tolerance and hopefully teach kids to work together in a respectful way. Bertha and Tillie are totally different and one story also focuses on how we dealt with the fact that my mother, in this case I used my grandmother, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and how we all came together to care for her. Memories are Precious, Because We Care and The Vanishing Mind of Ruth Swerdloff provided valuable information for caregivers, families, Alzheimer’s stages and short pieces where you can actually hear my mom’s voice and understand what she went through. The Faces Behind the Stones series is told from the point of voice of the deceased person behind the gravestone. Each story in this series teaches a lesson the person behind the stone should have learned before committing crime, hurting someone else, or generally failing at life. “We’re about to enter Golden Stone Cemetery, where these unfortunate people are buried so deep you can barely find their markers. Their crimes are so heinous and their deeds so cruel that family members buried them here because they want to forget they ever existed.”
What advice would you give your younger self, Fran?
Always stay true to who you are and never let anyone put you down or make you feel less that you are no matter what. All too often kids find themselves in a position where they are unsure, lack self-confidence and tend to want to conform to the thinking of others. Within my Bertha series this theme comes through loud and clear until Bertha realizes that she is smart, intuitive and does not need to be like everyone else because she is BERTHA. My sister was always thin and I was always, not anymore, overweight and battled to just stay below 170. With the help of my grandmother, Katie and my doctor, Dr. Ballot I was able to combat the problem and learn the cause. Till this day, I am not overweight by any means, I still battle with my weight and eat healthy al the time. Living up to your own standards and finding your own niche is important. I learned not to be a follower and to use my musical talents in playing both the violin and piano as my strong suits and eventually they helped give me the confidence I needed back then and even now my book reviews and the fact that authors want my opinions and reviews is really gratifying and great. To anyone young, teens, young adults find something you like doing and go for it. Be who you are and being different is okay.
My sister and my aunt Tova played important roles in my writing. My sister encouraged me to write what I know about and that of course if me. I write about school, friendships, Alzheimer’s and areas that can be researched and of interest to teens and young adults. I love writing the Faces Stories and that came from visiting my family’s cemetery and wondering as I looked at the headstones what each person would say if they could speak to me and what my sister would want me know that she never got to tell me before she passed away. I took walk around the cemetery and wondered what the stories behind each stone were and what some of these people might have accomplished in their lives if they could speak to me and what others would like to confess.
Who do you read?
I read different authors: Brian Freeman, Jon Land, Tess Gerritsen, J.D. Holiday and her great children’s books, Marsha Casper Cook, Robert Dugoni, Allan Topol, Linda Fairstein, Daniel Palmer and Christoph Fischer to name a few. I love reading Carole Roman’s historical series for children. I enjoy reading memoirs and biographies. One of the best books I have recently read is The Progeny by Tosca Lee, and Ink and Bones by Lisa Unger.
What is your next project?
I am currently working on a piece for my Magazine: MJ 9 on obesity and the causes to make people aware of the need for parents and children to be more vigilant about their health and the pitfalls of falling into binge eating. I am working on MJ9 and coming up with new ideas for Faces 5 and have started to create titles for the book such as 21 shots and designated driver.
Did you ever want to have revenge on those who have harmed you in some way? Reading Hidden Truth and Lies, I was able to feel a little substitute pleasure with my thoughts. I smiled through this collection of Edgar Allan Poe-like sci-fi short stories. The author’s characters are vivid and fascinating throughout these clever, dark and captivating stories of crimes and heinous choices. Fran Lewis is a superbstoryteller. A quick, fun and delightful, (Yes, I said fun and delightful,) read! 5 VERY Large Stars!
at World's Best Story, 2015, and Boundaries, was a finalist at WBS, 2014. In her former life, Ica Lova had a few successful jobs including a former Examiner at Examiner.com, but it’s writing her own stories that lit her fire. Ica believes being passionate is about curiosity, stepping out of comfort zone, pushing your limits, filling the void that you know is there. Ica doesn’t just create stories; she travels with her characters and creates worlds that she wishes existed.
An avid reader, Ica is also a Reader's Choice Official Reviewer. When she is not writing, editing, or marketing, she's a proud wife, mother, and grandmother, with a substantial sense of humor. She loves spending time with her family and pets, shopping for shoes, or just lazing around with a good book.
Thank you so much for being here and telling your writing story to us. I appreciate you being here, my Friend.
What is your book She Never Got To Say Goodbye about, who are the main characters, and how did you come up with this story?
She Never Got To Say Goodbye is a two-part paranormal romantic thriller.
The main characters are Brandon—a successful lawyer, and Olivia an aspiring lawyer, fresh out of law school. They meet, they fall in love, they marry, and they have a baby. But their happily-ever-after ends abruptly when Brandon falls prey to alcohol and drugs following the tragic death of a client. One minute Olivia is thinking of leaving the marriage, the next she floats at the foot of her son’s bed. Dead. Murdered. Confused and angry, she comes back to find justice for her premature death.
I can’t tell for sure where the idea behind She Never Got To Say Goodbye came from. I woke up one morning with the phrase, She Never Got To Say Goodbye, swirling around my mind. It could’ve been the remains of a dream, it could have been something that I’ve heard somewhere, I’m not sure. As the day went by and the words continued to hammer my previously quiet thoughts, my writer’s mind kicked in, and as a plot began to sprout inside my skull, involuntarily, I started to take mental notes. I’m glad I did because, in 2015, She Never Got To Say Goodbye won third place at World’s Best Story.
Ica, tell us about your other books; Boundaries, Resilience – The Sequel, Unsung Victims – The Prequel, Whispers.
Boundaries is a romantic thriller that was a finalist at WBS 2014.
Gabriela Parson joins a prestigious law firm in Vancouver expecting the usual discomfort of starting a new job. Instead, she is faced with her one-night stand from years ago—none other than her new boss—Landon Godchild. Old sparks reignite, but Gabriela has principles and one dating rule: absolutely no office romance. Landon, in contrast, is determined to continue what they started if only he could convince Gabriela that rules are meant to be broken. But an anonymous letter brings his efforts to a halt and sends Gabriela searching for the truth.
Up against the unknown, she must navigate through a minefield of frustration, fear, and mistrust as her pursuit for innocence propels her deep into a bizarre vortex, where reality blurs into illusion, and evil looms in the shadows.
The question remains; is any love strong enough to withstand such dynamics?
Whispers, is a short novella in the chick-lit genre.
Sofia Bellrosi wakes up in the hospital following a car accident which kills both her parents; she has amnesia, a string of unexplained nightmares, and a husband she doesn’t remember. She wants answers but what she finds are more questions. Adrift in a marriage she can’t remember, Sofia struggles to understand where her nightmares come from, and why they are mingled with sensual dreams about her husband. Sure, she knows their story, but it’s a story told by Marcus, and his memories are not hers. Some pieces from his story seem to be missing, and Sofia believes that somehow he, her nightmares, and the missing pieces are all connected.
Unsung Victims – The Prequel is drama surrounding divorce and all the craziness that goes with it.
During divorce people behave in a way that they wouldn’t normally behave under any other circumstance, and the family courts are simply not equipped to deal with these situations. Johanna is a successful, career-focused, young woman who considers herself intelligent and well-educated. Louis is the youngest detective in the police force, who takes part in triathlons and eats multi-color vegetables with his lunch. Two ordinary people with both feet planted firmly on the ground, but once Johanna makes the decision to part ways, all hell breaks loose, because Louis is not the forgiving type. He uses his power and the couple’s children to punish Johanna. Add to the mix a conniving mother-in-law and lawyer determined to win at all costs, and you have a recipe for disaster.
Resilience – is The Sequel to Unsung Victims.
After years of court battles over custody of their young children, Johanna finally wins in court, but her joy is short-lived. Louis is found dead, his girlfriend is missing, and Johanna is the prime suspect. To top it all off, the detective working the case is Louis’ old partner and he’s not even looking for another suspect. Johanna’s only chance is to hire a highly skilled attorney, and the best she knows is a man from her past, but who likely despises her. The question is, will he set aside his contempt to defend her? And then, if she didn’t kill Louis, who did?
Resilience hit Amazon UK top 100 bestselling list in the first couple of weeks of publication.
When did the storyteller in you surface and you began writing them down?
I think God has blessed me with the power of story-telling from a very young age. I always wrote various stories—some I completed, some are still collecting dust—but I chickened out and never thought of publishing any of them until 2012, when I finally decided to give it a try. What was your ambition for your writing career to start with, and what is it now?
For the longest time, I wrote because I loved to write without setting any goals. I chose the path most traveled and worked for a paycheck. After I began publishing and received positive feedback from my readers, I dreamed of adding award-winning author to my resume. Now that I have accomplished that, I’m working on adding best-selling author to my author bucket list. What is the plotting process for your stories like?
I’ve authored a total of 10 books and not a single one of them followed my direction. In other words, I plot but not obsessively; when my characters take charge, I simply go with the flow. I’m, by the writing world’s definition, a platnser. Who gave you help and guidance along the way?
My family, especially my husband, were—are—my biggest cheerleaders, but when it comes to guidance, I have my group of author friends—Lisa Vandiver, Linda Barton, Taabia Dupree, Carrie Vaught, and of course my talented editor, Sandra Kay, whose combined, invaluable advice helps polish my stories to a crazy shine. What has been your most rewarding experience in your publishing journey?
Every day, every story, every new experience is rewarding in its own way, but I’ll never forget the feeling when the announcement was made that She Never Got To Say Goodbye won the award. I think I jumped before I even registered why. Besides the stories themselves, do your books convey themes or messages?
Each one of my books brings to life captivating relationships that embrace family with all its ups and downs. The intended message is that genuine relationships are not only about what goes on in the bedroom. Genuine relationships need attention and effort, and yes, all actions have consequences. Is there pressure knowing that readers are eagerly awaiting your book's release?
Of course, but I have learned my lesson not to rush. Quality over quantity will always be appreciated by readers. What advice would you give your younger self starting out?
Do what you love doing. Life is too short to worry about what others might think or say.
Was there any particular book or author who influenced you?
Stephen King is my hero.
Who do you read?
I am an avid reader, but I love everything romantic best. Right now I’m reading Bridge Back—a hilarious, well-plotted, hard to put down, Christian romantic suspense by bestselling author Stephanie Parker McKean.
What is your next project?
I just finished writing another paranormal romance titled, Angelic Measures. This one is about a handsome doctor who doesn’t believe God exists, a best-selling author, who thinks all men do is make a mess and leave the toilet seat up, and a little angel who is determined to prove them both wrong.
Thank you so much, Ica for coming on my blog. I'm honored!
You can find Ica Iova at any of the following sites:
THE BOOK REPORT: Hag: A Contemporary YA Romance by Rachel Rueben
HAG is a teen drama that has it all. Author Rachel Reuben has not forgotten her teenage years drawing from the reader the ability to feel along with Audrey as Audrey bumps, ducks and crashes with every obstacles and problem in her young life. Audrey begins to like the company of Roddai's, someone she tried not to like while at the same time finds her ex-boyfriend, Desmond, is interested in her again. Trouble follows as both boys have a secret they keep from Audrey as bullying leads to tragedy. I felt a connection with Audrey. My own teen years came floored back as I remembered friends who sadly didn't make if past their teen years. I loved Audrey and you will too. 5 Stars.
A TEENY TINY PUBLISHER: Working With AMAZON
I have heard it said that a year is the life of a book and if that is so then it is the end of my children’s book Janoose the Goose life. It turns out that most of my book’s sales came through Amazon. For a small self publisher Amazon has a lot to offer and most of it free. However, at first I had no idea Amazon would pick up my book so I had to come up with my own plan.
I learned there was no guarantee that Amazon would carry my book even though my POD printer and distributor would be submitting it to Amazon. Adding to this was the fact that I set the discount for distributors and booksellers as low as 25% and set it for no returns meaning I would not have to refund overstocked books, so I felt there was a good chance that Amazon and other online bookstores might not pick up my book.
I made plans to sell the book on my website. I set up a shopping cart, ordered a supply of my books, jiffy envelopes for mailings and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) the site and my book on over a hundred search engines so if anyone was looking for my book, it would be found.
I watch daily and even hourly to see for Amazon would take on my book, and on eleventh day my book, Janoose The Goose appeared on Amazon!
This was great. Amazon did it all; they ordered and sold my book. They even direct deposit the sales to my bank account. Now I just had the marketing plan to do, which is daunting on its own.
I started by using my own Amazon account, I did all I could to help sell it. I uploaded my cover image, filled out the author’s profile, added the book’s descriptions, publisher’s notes, I did the Listmania program so customers could see my book with other books children would like to read and filled in as many tags that fit the book’s description at Tags Customers Associate with This Product to help build its presence on Amazon. For Janoose The Goose I added; picturebooks, fox, goose, geese, barnyard, and farm animals. Then when people looked for children’s books on farm animals, Janoose will come up because it is listed in that category.
I lucked out when a reviewer reviewed my book and ADDED that for me to my book’s page on Amazon. I even uploaded the book trailer under add a review. Over the months people who told me they like Janoose the Goose and I asked them to add it to the review area.
I added another picture to the page under the books picture at: Share Your Own Customer Images. I made my book into an e-book for Amazon’s Kindle electric reader by following the instructions and make your book available electronically. I also did Amazon’s LOOK INSIDE program giving readers a nice look at sample pages to help them decide if it’s a book they’d like to buy or read it on the Kindle Reader.
I also did Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought, Frequently Bought Together and then filled is my Author’s Profile under YOUR PROFILE were you can add your website link, reviews of books and items you buy on Amazon and place blog posting about you and the book and more. You find all these Amazon programs on the book’s page.
Amazon resently added Author’s Pages where authors can add their profile, and even upload their BLOG’S RSS feed making this a place authors connect with their readers.
Yes, I LOVE working with Amazon. Amazon leaves me free to do other things. With any luck my book will continue to sell way pass its year mark.
That will keep me happy.