Salutations September 2022

Greetings this lovely fall day! After what feels like weeks of rain, the sun finally appeared, and this kid is grateful! Doesn’t a bright blue sky make you feel better too?

Wearable Art News

My pal and partner Pat and I had fun at Naples Grape Festival last weekend, especially when our Butterfly Junction booth won a ‘Best in Class’ award! We sold well – though never what I think we will. Wouldn’t you think grape scarves and earrings would sell out? Or the sunflowers or Starry Night scarves? Nope. So those will be available at our next show the Christkindl Market on November 11-13 where we and shoppers will appreciate the heated tent! Between now and then, I’ll be making more wearable art – this time with a holiday flair. I’ve got lots of ideas brewing… And we have all our other head-turners too!

Writing / Research News

With one novel in editing, I’ve dusted off a story I began before the pandemic. Covid kept me from properly researching my setting – a Finger Lakes vineyard and estate winery. But now that we know how to stay safe from Covid, it’s time for me to visit, take tours, and taste… You know. Research. I’m eager to begin. First up is an afternoon at the New York Kitchen where I’m taking a workshop/tasting on The Science of the Grape: Riesling. Our area is known best for Riesling wines so I need to know more – and perhaps find a Riesling I actually like. I confess I’ve never been a fan. I’m hoping what I learn will give me the depth of understanding that might convince me otherwise. Or if not me, then perhaps my lead character will be convinced. I’ll let you know.

I’m also researching by re-reading Evan Dawson’s informative book – thanks to my friend Amy. I kvetched to her when we didn’t feel safe to venture out to wineries and boom, she had Summer in a Glass delivered to my door. I’ve got lovely friends!

Dawson profiles about a dozen wineries, vineyards, and winemakers, and you can bet that many of them will be on my list to visit in person. I’ll trust many of his observations – but do my own drinking, thank you very much! Our local wine industry has grown since 2012 when he published this book in 2012 so there are many more wineries to visit. But he’s certainly given me some intriguing places to start!

A Search for Comps

My next bout of reading aimed to find what the publishing and book-selling world calls ‘comps’ – books that might be considered like my own. I’ll confess that comps are a mystery to me. I haven’t a clue what my books are comparable to, but I get that it would help my advertising efforts if I could target ads based on what my potential readers also like. In theory my Amazon ads ought to help me identify what they see as my comps by where they decide to place my ads and/or in the ‘also bought’ and ‘products related to this item’ lists on my books’ Amazon pages. But their choices would rarely match what I’d consider to be comps for my books. So I also use as an ‘if-you-liked-this author-you might-like-this one-too’ guide – to search out authors who might be like some authors’ works that I’d like to consider comparable to mine. Below, you’ll see some of those, some that Amazon picked for me, and some whose descriptions lead me to believe they might fit. It still feels mysterious. So if you’ve read my books and have any thoughts about others that seem similar, please leave a comment below. I’ll deeply appreciate your comp leads!

Jen Lancaster matched closely with Marisa De Los Santos who’s an author I’d love to be associated with. I enjoyed this tongue-in-cheek tale about buying a money pit of a house. Realistic? No! Who’d buy a place with so many obvious problems? And after such disasterous decisions, who’d pay down their debts? But since it wasn’t me footing the bill, our heroine’s bad sense made for a fun vicarious romp. Mostly. The schtick ran on long enough to wear thin in spots. But overall, I liked the book. And I’d like my books to sell as well as Lancaster’s. But would I call it a comp? Can’t say I would.

This next book is a tale about female friendship. Four bloggers from different parts of the country meet up for the eldest’s birthday celebration. Each has their own story and particular challenge though not all four got full treatment in my eyes. People who like cake, recipes, and sweetness in a book will likely enjoy this one. I’d rather eat my sweets than read them. I didn’t hate this book, but I also didn’t find a lot to recommend it – if you’re not into recipes. Again, I’d like to sell like O’Neill sells, but I wouldn’t consider this book a comp for mine either.

Now here’s one Amazon thinks should be a comp – probably because there’s a house in the title. The house needs renovation like my Home Place did, and the characters must heal before they can step up to the possibility of romance. But is it a comp when this story takes place in Ireland and mine in the US midwest? And I know I stretched imagination when Kat opts to live alone in a 15-room house, but does a brand new writer dashing off a publishable novel make this a fantasy? Hello? First time out of the gate, she’s got a publisher offering big money? Hello? I know romance novels are supposed to deliver hope. But this seems like way, way too much to hope for!

Another house on the cover. Also in need of renovations. But this one’s in Australia. Will literary travelers be satisfied taking a trip to small-town America? Okay, there’s an inheritance with the accompanying grief and conflict between siblings. And the possibility for romance if our lovers can heal first. So Mirren explores some similar issues, but Australia? And while fully aware of my lack of objectivity, I will say my editors did better work (even when I did all the editing myself on Come Back!) I get impatient with redundancy. Tell me once. Not a dozen times. So is a book with similar issues but not as good as mine a comp? Do I even want it to be? I do not know.

So you see why I find this comp thing so mysterious? I reiterate my plea. If you’ve read either of my novels and said, ‘This was like that other book,’ PLEASE tell me the title of that other book! I’ll even up the ante and send you a free Kindle of my next novel Look Up as soon as it hits the shelves. Just be sure to leave me your email address – and be patient. It may yet take a few months before Look Up is available.

Beyond the Comp Reading News

Okay, enough comp-search reading. This one was just for fun – because I saw it on sale and I liked the premise. This group of guys meet in secret to discuss romance novels – because they figured out the way to a woman’s heart is to behave like a romance novel hero. Huh. Ain’t that interesting? Romances are written for women usually by women. So maybe we women do long for a romantic hero who acts like he would in a romance novel? I find it a plausible theory. Our hero is a doubter but desperate to fix his marriage. It’s great fun seeing how his buddies coach him – based on the romance novels they’ve read. They’ve got – as you might expect a guy would – a preference for ‘book-boner’ stories, and there’s plenty of enjoyable steam in our hero’s approach. But what makes this book – and genuine romances – work are the same things that make for good sex. Listen. Demonstrate affection (without expectation.) Be present. Put in the effort. And sure. Read a good romance. It couldn’t hurt!

I LOVED this author’s first novel Be Frank With Me – and so did my book club. So it didn’t surprise me when Amy chose this one for our discussion last month. I think we all agreed that her second novel didn’t quite measure up to the first. But this tale of a late 1930s divorce-dude-ranch near Reno, Nevada rated our ‘liked but didn’t love’ rating. Back when, Reno was divorce mecca – if you had the means, and if you established residence in Nevada. Might as well stay at a dude ranch those six required weeks, right? Johnson cooked up some interesting characters with even more interesting dilemmas – including handsome cowpoke Ward who falls for one of the soon-to-be-divorcees. It’s a rompy sort of book. With plenty of heart. Just not quite so much as her debut.

And here’s this month’s winner book – and it was free on Freebooksy last week. Neighbors Marjette, black, and Noa, Jewish, aren’t friends. They don’t actually know each other. Until Marjette finds Noa drunk and grieving on her porch because her husband died the day before. Over the next school year when Noa’s daughter is in Marjette’s kindergarten class, the two become fast friends. The two women struggle with single parenthood, past betrayals, loss, and the biggest question of all – what now? They learn together to navigate new paths. Marjette narrates the tale and has a snarky, quippy turn of phrase I greatly enjoyed. The issues feel real and hard – and tempered with humor. Oh. And there are recipes. At the end where they add value but don’t steal the story. I liked this book a lot!

That’s my reading round-up for September. Some okay, some good, some very good. All in all, lots to like. And tomorrow, on to October when I may find it acceptable to wear socks. My no-socks-till-October goal wasn’t painful this year. I call that clear evidence of climate change – a far more benign morsel of proof than my family and friends in Florida have seen this week. Fingers crossed you can mark yourself safe – and grateful. Till next month, I offer up my best hopes for you and all you love – along with my Salutations.

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