Tag Archives: writing

Writers: Don’t Get Lost in the Traffic!

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Wrote a great book, did you? Looking for ways to reach readers, are you? Well, have I got the place for you. It’s called RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB! Yep! I’ve been telling you all about it for the past three-plus years.

And just what exactly is RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB? I’m glad you asked. RRBC is an online community of readers and writers whose sole goal is to support one another. Members buy, read, and review fellow members books. It’s what we do.

But wait!!! There’s more!!!

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By joining the RRBC community, you will have your book(s) placed in the club’s online catalog, making it available to the entire membership (currently at just under 400). Those who choose to be supportive of fellow members will discover the perks of membership. Books of the Month? We select three titles and promote them on Twitter, blogs, and Facebook each and every month. Many club members purchase these titles and review them.

Spotlight Author? Well, let me explain it to you. When chosen to stand in the spotlight, the author embarks on a month-long journey that includes wicked Twitter support, a blog tour, a seat on the shelf with club President Nonnie Jules (chit-chatting about you and your book), and a live interview on one of the RRBC Blog Talk Radio programs.

Look, most of us here are writers. We understand the marketing struggles indie authors face in today’s world. RRBC is meant to be a tool for the writer. But it requires more than just signing up. Support is vital. Those who don’t support, well, they receive little support themselves. It is through support that members become familiar with the names of fellow members. Marketing, branding — this is a foothold, an opportunity to meet other authors who also happen to be readers. This is the writer’s chance to build a foundation on which to establish their work.

If it sounds like something you may be interested in, stop by the RRBC site and have a look around. It only costs $25 per year (though it’s just $20 for those who join before 11:59 pm CT 2/22/17).

Click here to visit the RRBC SITE!

Writing the (Almost) Perfect Book Review

Today we will take a look at what goes into writing the (almost) perfect book review. Nothing is ever really perfect, but those imperfections should never be an excuse for being unprofessional or rude.

Okay, so you’re new to the fine art of writing book reviews. Maybe you’re not quite sure how to go about sharing that incredible (or terrible) story you just finished reading (or couldn’t force yourself to read the entire thing). The hope here is that perhaps we can shed some light on approaching the task—regardless of your feelings toward the book in question.

Book reviews are opinions and nothing else. But these are valued opinions (when done correctly) that can guide readers to—or away from—an author’s hard work. Opinions will always vary when it comes to books, movies, restaurants, or anything else that is often the target of reviews. I may not have enjoyed the mashed potatoes at Cracker Barrel, but those same spuds may stir recollections of Granny’s home-cooked Sunday dinners from way back in another patron. So does that make my opinion any greater than another’s? Not a chance. My opinion is just an option for those reading reviews of dinner choices at the local Cracker Barrel.

But this presentation isn’t about culinary creativity. We’re here to discuss books and the reviews we seek to write. I’ve written over a hundred book reviews and dozens of concert and record album reviews. Book reviews (and movie reviews) are a different breed from other write-ups in that there are certain things of which you need to be aware when sharing your thoughts on the latest novel you’ve read.

The first (and most important) item to remember is: NO SPOILERS! Not even with a “spoiler alert” attached to the front end of your review. If there’s a twist at the end of the story that really blew your mind, then please allow the next mind to be equally blown. I hate it when such things are divulged—even with a warning. I may choose to not read beyond the warning, but that doesn’t mean a friend will stop at that point. This friend then decides to bring up the twist as I’m mentioning the new book I just added to my Kindle.

I call to mind the first time I saw the movie The Others. I hadn’t even heard of this film prior to my viewing it one lazy afternoon. I remember thinking that the film trotted along at a rather slow pace—so much so that I nearly turned the channel. I’m glad I didn’t. As the film progressed, I became even more invested. And as it reached its conclusion, POW! I honestly did not see that twist coming. And thankfully, I was able to be floored by the brilliance of the writing and the acting because nobody spoiled it for me.

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I’ve read the novel Me & Emma by Elizabeth Flock. This wonderful story contains a twist at the end that spins the entire story into a whole new perspective from the one through which I’d viewed it right up to the final two chapters. Good writers will do these things. Good reviewers will leave those things hidden, allowing the next readers to discover those gems for themselves. So please leave the spoiler alerts out of your reviews.

The next thing to keep in mind is: DITCH THE PLAY-BY-PLAY! A review is never meant to be an outline spilling plot details. Neither is it supposed to be a road map through the story. If I can gather most of what’s going on between those book covers from your review, what reason do I have in investing money and time in reading it for myself? This only serves to cheat the reader out of a good read, and it snuffs out a sale for the author.

A well-written review will give us just a taste of the plot, a glimpse into the lives of the characters, and offer opinions on whether or not the author has what it takes to tell a fine story. It should be a critique of story and style.

This leads us to another very important point: ATTACKING CONTENT MISSES THE MARK! Okay, so what exactly am I talking about? Saying you didn’t like the story in question because the girl was raped or a child died says more about the reviewer than it says about the book. If we’re voracious readers, we’ll eventually run into a story that may, at points, make us feel uncomfortable. My skin was crawling at times while reading The End of Alice by A. M. Homes. It’s a dark read, this story. But Miss Homes is one of my favorite writers. Her stories are vivid with living characters. She, as a writer, is skilled at yanking the reader from his or her comfort zone. The best writers are able to do these things without a second thought.

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The End of Alice is a bestseller. I mention this only because, as such, there are quite a few reviews for this work. The titles of some of those reviews posted on Amazon are rather telling. Beautifully Disturbing; Disgusting, But Impossible to Forget; Fascinating, Frustrating and Disappointing—but Unforgettable. Most opinions of this book award four and five stars—even though many of these reviewers found the story quite disturbing. Then there are those who simply attack the content and do all they can to steer potential readers away from this work.

Did the writing captivate you? Are the characters believable? What sort of emotions did you experience while reading? Did the author pull you out of your comfort zone? Is it a well-written story without punctuation or spelling errors? Did you care about the characters or were they worthy of being hated? These are the sorts of questions we should ponder while determining our opinions of the works of others.

Not all reviews warrant four and five stars. But that’s not license to attack an author’s work either. An honest review should be constructive in its criticism, not destructive. Social media is rife with mean and nasty comments that are designed to tear down rather than build up. Take into consideration the author may learn something from your review, and thus become a better writer because of you! Be honest, be tactful, be kind—even if it’s a 1, 2, or 3 star review. If you don’t like a particular story, explain the reasons behind your opinion.

As reviews coordinator for RRBC, I’ve heard from members who found issues with books they’ve read. They tell me they feel guilty writing a one or two star review. Well, if that’s their honest opinion, then that’s what they should award. I challenge them to offer the author—as well as potential future readers—an explanation on why they arrived at this rating. Are there punctuation problems? Plot holes? Is the story just too unbelievable? Share these details—but do so in a way that teaches. Be encouraging rather than discouraging.

And finally, when posting your reviews, be sure to proofread before sharing with the world via Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Nothing is quite as ridiculous as a critique of another’s work in a review filled with misspellings, missing or poor punctuation, and sentences that make little or no sense at all. If need be, allow another pair of eyes to do the proofreading for you—before you hit the post button. Your words represent you as a writer—whether they’re reviews, blog articles, essays, or novels. Always strive to make a strong impression. And remember, writing reviews is another way to make connections in the indie author world. If you’re needlessly harsh in your criticisms, that’s a reflection on you.

 

RRBC Book & Blog Block Party

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Greetings and welcome to Rave Reviews Book Club’s BACK-TO-SCHOOL BOOK & BLOG BLOCK PARTY at The Indie Spot!  Location: Lansing, Michigan, USA.

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Here’s What I’m Giving Away Today:

** PRIZES HAVE ALREADY BEEN AWARDED**

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I invite you to check out my books and the book trailers that go with each title. I’ve included an excerpt of Jazz Baby and a short blurb for each book to help you become better acquainted with the stories!

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Jazz Baby Chapter Four Excerpt

722 Dauphine Street promised little in the way of excitement—from outward appearances. What once had been a Digby’s Department Store now went by the somewhat famous Crescent Club.

Revelers of every color, size, and persuasion lined the sidewalk out front, passing around flasks of bootleg hooch, eager for the doors to swing open so nighttime could finally begin.

Nobody paid us any mind as Tanyon and I split the crowd on our way down a side alley leading to the rear entrance.

Tanyon laid a coded knock against the heavy red door.

A fella’s chubby face filled the small peephole.

“I have Miss Teegarten with me,” said Tanyon to the man.

That door swung wide; entrance was granted.

Dozens of round tables lay scattered willy-nilly throughout the cavernous main room. A wide stage rose five feet above the floor. Four colored boys worked up a number I could sing in my sleep.

I said, “I’m ready,” drinking in a dream fixin’ to come true.

That chubby fella let go a laugh. “How’s about we open for business before you get started, huh?”

Waitresses lit candles and set ashtrays on each of those tables.

Tanyon snatched the one closest to the stage, and ordered a pint of bourbon from a dark-haired girl dressed out like a flapper.

“Tell me something,” I began to say.

’Cept Tanyon, he had an answer all lined up. “Your mama was not a whore—if that’s what you’re meaning to know.”

Fine enough by me.

Even if I really didn’t believe him.

Frank Rydekker himself brought Tanyon’s pint to our table. “So this is the little songbird,” said the short, stocky man, pulling me into a splash of orange glowing off a candle. “Can you sing any of these songs?”

My eyes tumbled down the list he presented. “I can sing ’em all,” I gladly admitted.

Rydekker nodded toward a big fella up near the bar and hollered, “Let ’em in, Bill!”

“Don’t be scared, Baby,” Tanyon said, handing me a go at that pint.

I raised the hooch to my lips, had a good pull. “Don’t call me Baby anymore.”

*      *      *

Cool blue dripped onto the stage from lights burning high above.

My body stood in its gathering puddle.

A boy on drums got us going with a slow shuffle that took up with the bass like a couple of long-time lovers knowing each other’s next move before it’s even been considered. Sullum Cass kissed his shiny saxophone with the breath of something painful and delicious, tossing delicate notes into the smoky air. When the boy on piano sprinkled all the right keys into the mixture, I eased my body against that skinny silver microphone stand, closed my eyes to the fractured night, and told all about that man done me wrong.

Everybody on that parquet dance floor caught on real quick. It’s me they stared at.

Me!

Emily Ann Teegarten.

And wasn’t a single one gave a tinker’s damn about my age or my station in life. Faces opened in welcoming smiles as wicked rhythms spun us all toward a whole new place—a place tucked up high as heaven.

Bodies shimmied and twirled at my feet.

One song blurred into another with nary enough time to breathe.

If I’d dropped dead then and there on that Big Easy stage, I’d have no real complaints. I reckon I’d tell the first angel I set eyes on I’d lived a full life.

I lived out my dream.

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Jazz Baby

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While all of Mississippi bakes in the scorching summer of 1925, sudden orphanhood wraps its icy embrace around pretty Emily Ann “Baby” Teegarten, a young teen.

Taken in by an aunt bent on ridding herself of this unexpected burden, Baby Teegarten plots her escape using the only means at her disposal: a voice that brings church ladies to righteous tears, and makes both angels and devils take notice. “I’m going to New York City to sing jazz,” she brags to anybody who’ll listen. But the Big Apple—well, it’s an awful long way from that dry patch of earth she’d always called home.

So when the smoky stages of New Orleans speakeasies give a whistle, offering all sorts of shortcuts, Emily Ann soon learns it’s the whorehouses and opium dens that can sidetrack a girl and dim a spotlight…and knowing the wrong people can snuff it out.

Jazz Baby just wants to sing—not fight to stay alive.

Click here to view the Jazz Baby book trailer

Click here to buy Jazz Baby

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Slivers of Life: A Collection of Short Stories

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These twenty short stories are a peek into individual lives caught up in spectacular moments in time. Children, teens, mothers, and the elderly each have stories to share. Readers witness tragedy and fulfillment, love and hate, loss and renewal. Historical events become backdrops in the lives of ordinary people, those souls forgotten with the passage of time. Beem Weeks tackles diverse issues running the gamut from Alzheimer’s disease to civil rights, abandonment to abuse, from young love to the death of a child. Long-hidden secrets and notions of revenge unfold at the promptings of rich and realistic characters; plot lines often lead readers into strange and dark corners. Within Slivers of Life, Weeks proves that everybody has a story to tell—and no two are ever exactly alike.

Click here to view the Slivers of Life book trailer

Click here to buy Slivers of Life

Once again, thank you for stopping by. Don’t forget to share your thoughts and comments below.  Good luck on winning my giveaways!  I’ll see you at the next stop of this awesome BOOK & BLOG BLOCK PARTY!

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Writing Less To Say More!

Indie author Kim Cox is standing in the Rave Reviews Book Club Spotlight! I invite you to discover this talented writer in her own words! Take it away, Kim…

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Last month I read a few articles about writing less to say more. I’ve come a long way but I still struggle with this. Writing a story came much easier before I learned so many rules about it.

Okay, I’m from the south, born and raised in North Carolina. I’ve lived in the southeast of the United States all my life. I moved to the western part of the state about twenty-seven years ago. I now live in the North Carolina mountains. People move here from everywhere. Most of those I work with lived somewhere else, Texas, New York, and Virginia are three of the places I know for sure.

Being southern, I naturally love to use lots of words to get my point across. I don’t really write flowery or try to use big words but I do talk and write in a wordy manner. Why use two words when I can use five or ten instead. For example, I used to say (until someone made fun of me), “I need to go do that now or I’ll be forgot.” Trying it again in a shorter manner, “I need to do that now before I forget.” Even shorter. “I’m doing it now.” See how easy that was. Not really but you get the idea.

In other words, coming from the south, I grew up in a passive speaking atmosphere. I try my best to write active instead. I even try to talk better.

At work, I write in a business manner, so I’m forever changing the words “You need to” or “You should” to “This needs to be” or “This should be” in order to not come off to others as accusatory.  So, sometimes I have to use more words than are needed to not sound harsh to the person I’m trying to train or explain something to. This doesn’t help my fiction writing where I need to write shorter and less stilted. Business writing is formal, especially the reports I have to write.

Does anyone have a trick they use to keep their writing short and less wordy?

For more information on the subject of Writing Less to Say More:

Write Less, Say More: The Power of Brevity

How to write less and say more

Embracing Brevity: How to Write Less and Say More

Saying It Short: A ‘Less Is More’ Guide to Effective Writing

About Kim Cox

KC - Author PhotoKim Cox is an author of Paranormal, Mystery, Suspense and Romance. She lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina with her chain saw artist husband, their West Highland White Terriers–Scooter and Harley, and a Yorkie mix, Candi. Kim is published in novels, short stories and articles.

Sign up for Kim’s Readers List for exclusive information, new releases, contests, giveaways, and free books.

Visit her at the following sites:

Author’s Website: http://www.kimcoxauthor.com

Blogs: Kim’s Musings, Kim’s Author Support Page

Amazon Author Page: http://amazon.com/author/kimcox

Social Media locations:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kimcoxauthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KimCoxAuthor

Google: https://plus.google.com/+KimCoxAuthor/posts

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/kimcox

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/kimwrtr/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kimwrtr

ALL THIS TIME

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Style & Profile Series – Book 1

At thirty, Jenny Morgan’s biological clock is ticking. But as a fashion magazine CEO with a busy schedule and no significant other, her wish is unlikely to come true. When her father receives a potentially terminal diagnosis, he longs for a grandchild before he dies. With her religious beliefs, a sperm donor isn’t an alternative. Jenny’s only immediate available option is her single co-worker and best friend, Trevor Drake. Can she really trust him to be a good husband?

Trevor has loved Jenny since college, but she only sees him as a friend with no ambition. After he learns of her predicament, he proposes and sets out to prove he can provide everything she needs. Jenny is determined to have a prenuptial agreement with an “out” clause after one year. Can Trevor convince Jenny of his love by then?

As if they don’t have enough on their plate, someone at the magazine is out to stop their wedding and their impending parenthood, and destroy the magazine’s reputation. Jenny is nearly killed in a sabotage attempt. Can Jenny and Trevor to make a life together while uncovering a common enemy?

Available now in print and electronic formats through Amazon Kindle and Amazon Print,  24Symbols, Barnes & Noble Nook, iTunes iBook, Kobo, and Page Foundry.

Read more . . .

Coming up next in the Style & Profile series, book two, BEFORE WE WED: With her family visiting from Atlanta, Sarah Martin is left at the altar when her fiancée, Jon Clayton, is carried off in handcuffs for running a car theft ring. Is Jon being guilty or being framed? If was frame, can Sarah find out who’s behind it without getting herself killed?

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When Does It End? (And Other Writing Matters!)

Writing entertaining stories and articles takes skill and know-how. But there’s more to writing than simply constructing sentences, scenes, and characters—though these are worthy and necessary talents to possess.

Outlining helps keep the plot in place. An outline is merely a road map meant to guide the author from the beginning of the journey to its ultimate climax many chapters later. An outline allows for travelers (both writer and reader) to exit the highway and visit attractions found in that area between start and finish.

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Creating characters that are compelling and alive will ensure the reader retains interest throughout the story. This is perhaps the most important aspect of telling a great story: If your characters are dull and lifeless, than so too will be your story. The only good dead characters are zombies and vampires.

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Okay, so you’ve outlined your story. You’ve developed believable characters that you can actually hear inside your head. They have personality and charm; they can even make your readers laugh or cry or feel anger. You sit at your desk (or wherever it is you feel most comfortable) and you begin your story. This is actually the easy part. The scenes unfold with ease as your fertile imagination gives birth to word combinations that nobody else has considered. Time ceases its existence. Days blur into weeks, weeks run together forming months. Before you know it, the journey is almost over.

Next on the itinerary is the ending. That perfect place to bring the characters, the plot, and the months of your hard work to its ultimate close.

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But how and when and under what circumstances will this story end? The ending can make or break a story. A misplaced ending will sink even the best stories. So how do we decide on the finish line? That is something the author should always have figured out before putting the very first sentence onto the page. You should know exactly where you are going before you load the kids, the dog, and suitcases in the car and jump onto the highway. The getting there, those spaces in between start and finish, are open to changes and tinkering along the way. The ending is something that must stand out. It is the very last moments of your creation. It’s what remains with readers in their immediate memories. An ending that lingers and comes back to a reader without invitation is usually the best sort of finish.

Road ends

There really is no stock answer for a proper ending. Some authors prefer to tie up all loose ends, leaving little to ponder—Jimmy and Thelma eloped and ran off to Fiji, where they grew old together and lived happily ever after. However, some authors choose to leave endings loose and open to interpretation—Jimmy and Thelma ran away together, but did they marry? Did they ever get to Fiji? Or did they decide on Hawaii, because Jimmy had gone there as a child and had always dreamed of returning?

By tying up loose ends, the author signals closure to this particular journey. By leaving ends dangling in the breeze, this invites readers to become part of the journey. We get to decide what has happened to these characters that we’ve invested time into getting acquainted. Neither way is wrong.

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When do we end our story and prep it for that first rewrite? Only the author will truly know that answer. Have your characters and plot line arrived at that point you imagined before beginning? Is Disney World in sight? Check the map; make sure your destination isn’t supposed to be the Eiffel Tower. If everything feels right, go back to the beginning and start that rewrite! Most importantly, have fun.

 

He Said, She Said: The Art of Dialogue

Here are a few thoughts on writing dialogue. This is NOT meant as a teaching lesson. These are simply my opinions.

Dialogue. It can make or break a story. Dialogue is the lines your characters speak aloud in a written story. They differ from the narrative voice in that even the peripheral characters are given a voice through dialogue.

Writing lines for your characters is not always an easy task–though it doesn’t have to be difficult, either. In real life, people speak in ways that may seem impossible to capture on paper. Consider the varying dialects within the same languages. British English has its own patterns and words that differ from American English or the Aussie brand of the language. (And that’s not even counting the varying dialects within the same country.) A skillful writer should be able to illustrate that, of the three characters conversing in the opening scene of chapter seven, two are from England while the third is from Australia–without mentioning this every time they speak.
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If the writer can hear those voices in his/her head, they should be able to drop in little vocal hints within the written dialogue that give life to the characters and to the stories they tell. But it’s not always easy.

When writing my novel Jazz Baby, I had to research the era (1920s) and the region (Deep South, USA) in order to capture the voice of not just my narrator but of each and every character that utters a line in the story. Some were Louisiana Cajun. They spoke with a twang, had a particular way of saying things, which is not always easy to put onto paper.
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What about Neesie, the young laundry girl, who befriends the main character? These two girls are the same age, but they come from vastly different backgrounds. Though both were poor, one came from Mississippi and the other from Alabama; Emily is white and Neesie black. They would have had differing speech patterns–as would the better-educated adults who crossed paths with my young narrator. These differences have to come through in the dialogue. There’s a rich stew of slang going on in these characters’ words. Slang is part of language–no matter where you come from. This is where good research pays off. It takes time, searching for words and idioms used in certain regions and eras, but that extra effort is worth it in the end.
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Dialogue is probably my favorite part of writing fiction. These are words and accents that give personality to characters that did not exist until I put pen to paper (or tapped those computer keys) and gave them meaning, reason, and life.

So here’s my advice to any writer who might be struggling with dialogue issues: Just write what you hear. Listen to voices on the street or those being spoken inside your head; read works by other authors; study classic films. That little extra effort will usually show up in the finished product. The great thing about language is: it’s all around us in so many differing forms.

Connecting With Readers

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As writers, most of us are thrilled to read reviews of our work posted on sites like Amazon and Koobug. Unsolicited, these words can spur sales of our books. They can also let us know where we lack in this craft we’ve chosen.

Then there are those messages that are of the personal nature, not intended for anybody but the author. I receive these every so often in the message box of my Goodreads account. These come from readers who were touched by something I’ve written or were reminded of some lost memory stirred back into their conscience by one of my short stories.

“Thanks for the message in your story,” they may write. “It brought back an event from my younger days—an event I’d long forgotten.” We never truly forget, though. It may slip from our thoughts but it’s always there, tucked away until the moment it’s challenged to reappear.

The thing is, I don’t set out to weave messages or lessons into my work. I write to entertain. But even so, messages appear. I believe these are out of our hands. Our egos tell us we are just creating. But there is somebody somewhere who has experienced what we’ve written.

I recently wrote a short story called Remaining Ruth, in which a teenaged girl cuts herself with a razor blade, in the privacy of her bathroom, just to have that one thing her parents can’t take away from her.

The messages were almost immediate: “I, too, was a cutter.” “I knew a girl just like Ruth.” “I didn’t cut myself but I did develop an eating disorder.”  “My sister did this for years.” This particular story touched a nerve with so many readers, though that wasn’t my intention.

My novel, Jazz Baby, has prompted many such comments as well. Talk centers around the race relations within the story; Emily’s sexuality; the struggles Emily faced to achieve her dreams; women’s rights issues. I was asked by one reader why I chose to not use the N-word in the story—after all, it is set in 1925 Mississippi and New Orleans. The truth of the matter is: that wasn’t a conscious decision. I hadn’t even really thought of it until the reader brought it up. I suppose there may have been a desire to avoid the stereotypical racist clichés. The very real racism of the deep south of early twentieth-century America is indeed present within the story; I just found more creative ways to express it without resorting to what’s been written a million times in a million other stories.

And somebody found a message in that unintentional deletion.

Not every message need be heavy, either. After I wrote an essay about a childhood incident entitled Bigfoot Was My Father, I received many wonderful stories from readers wanting to share some silly moment their own fathers provided. I am honored and humbled that so many people consider me worthy of their memories.

As authors, we create worlds and characters that wouldn’t exist without us. It’s what we do. We convince ourselves of a story’s originality, of its uniqueness. But there will always be somebody somewhere who will be reminded of a long lost moment in time. It may not be spelled out in exact detail, but it’s there. It may be the metaphor you used to describe the loss of a loved one or the silly joke your main character’s love interest tells while trying to woo the girl. It will remind somebody of something. And that’s a blessing. It means you’ve written a piece in which others find a connection. It means your story matters to another human being.

There’s a verse in the Bible that says: There is nothing new under the sun; that which has been will happen again.

I believe that. We just tell it in our own personal way.