Monthly Archives: June 2014


Fridays are for Fabulous Fiction Writers.  If you didn’t have a chance to check out the frosty beverage Elle Marlow shared on Crackerberries yesterday, be sure to hop on over. It’s a fun summer drink that you will definitely want … Continue reading

Do You Really Want To Get Inside John’s Head?


We are sitting down with John Guzzardo, Author of “A 38 Day
Education.”  John has agreed to go with a “Twenty Questions” format.

First Ten:  About John

1.        John, what’s your primary motivation for writing?

Oddly enough, teaching.  I wanted to be a teacher as a teenager but,
as life has demonstrated, we tend to be more open to learning lessons
on our own schedules.  Well told stories provide a perfect vehicle for

2.       When you write, is with an outline, notes or do you just
write whatever comes to mind?

I write whatever comes to mind, the go back and work with what doesn’t
figure.  It’s a clunky way to write for me, but it works so, why

3.       Who was a childhood hero growing up?

I was a cartoon junkie, so that would have to have been Mighty Mouse.
And I was pretty devastated when Optimus Prime was killed in the 1986
animated version of “Transformers:  The Movie.”  Yeah, I was a nerd
and dork in the same body.

4.       What was your childhood itself like?

Difficult and weird.  I was that “weird, fat, dorky kid” you expect to
grow up, own a comic book store, and live the in basement of his
parents house.  My parents both worked, and my siblings did their own
thing.  I was loud, chatty, and pissed off my teachers pretty
consistently.  I was too smart for my own good, and too willing to
question everything which, in hindsight, actually turned out to be a
pretty damned good thing.  I never really had a hometown.  Born in New
Jersey, four years in New York, 11 in Pennsylvania, and last three
years of high school in Florida.

5.       So, what’s your favorite place to vacation?

Well, it used to be Atlanta but, since I live there now, that’s a
question to be determined later.  Probably going to be Tampa, where I
used to live!

6.       Cats or dogs?

Seeing as how I have three cats, it’s a pretty obvious answer.  As for
breed, I would love to own a Norwegian Forest Cat or Maine Coon.
Something about big, fluffy, affectionate cats appeals to me.  I do
like dogs, but prefer cats.

7.       Favorite drink?

Tie:  Coffee and Sweet Tea.  I LOVE sweet tea!  Coffee is a necessity
– I need to down at least three cups to manage my impulse to clobber
someone.  Four cream, four sugars, of course.

8.       Favorite treat?

Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans – if they make an ice cream in that
flavor, I’m buying every single carton and putting them in cold

9.       Dumbest thing you ever did as a child…

I would talk about an experience I had at a lake in 8th grade, but
that’s a little too dumb.  Instead, when I was 11, I decided it would
be great to take my dirtbike and try to “skid stop” at the base of my
driveway.  Naturally, my feet got confused, I pedaled forward instead
of backward to brake, and I landed, face-first, into the rear fender
of 1976 AMC Gremlin….the Gremlin won.

10.   Any childhood crushes (girls, teachers, etc.)?

Too many to list…I was pretty lonely growing up.  I did have it pretty
bad for my 7th grade music teacher.  She was pretty sweet looking!

About “A 38 Day Education.”

11.   Who is your favorite male character in the book?

Craig Johannsen, hands down.  He’s tough, honest and fair, and way
more mature than Jay Ferragamo.  He’s a great foil, who demonstrates
unswerving calm and candor.

12.   And favorite female character?

Probably Cassie Owinger.  She’s sweet, quiet but wily enough to do
some daring things.  That and she handles a few touchy situations with
class and dignity.

13.   Which character would you kill off it served the plot?

Vanessa LeBlanc.  She’s a heartbreaker and is the first in a very long
line of heartbreaks a main character endures.  She’s not really a
bitch, but she’s a harbinger of things to come.

14.   How did you come with the nickname Mastodon?
I was watching “Ice Age” and realized that Mastodon was not a commonly
used nickname.  Since I wanted things to be really an alternate
universe, it fit.

15.   Are there steamy love scenes inspired by real events?

Next question.

16.     How long did it take to write the novel?

Start to finish, three years.

17.   Is the newspaper The Scope is based on still around?

Oh yeah!  The Sou’Wester is not only still around, but I ended up
helping to run the thing in 2011.  That’s an extremely long, difficult
story I rather not recount at this point but, yes, there will be a
book based on that.

18.   What about Jay Ferragamo is exactly like you?

He’s cocky, brash, and extremely insecure.  Beyond that, he’s the guy
I wish I could have been, but never really was.  Strange that would

19.   When you started writing this novel, did it go in a different
direction than intended?
Absolutely.  There were several “deleted scenes” in the book which
never ever made the authors manuscript, let alone the final.  Those
are all deleted so, sorry, no deleted scenes.  If I come across one, I
will incorporate it into a reprint.

20.   Finally, if you could some up your feelings about the book, what
would it be?

To paraphrase Tom Hanks from Apollo 13, that was 7 years of hard work
followed by 30 days of sheer terror.

John Guzzardo

The Red Horned Green Monster


It was a beautiful sunny day and I was out in the garden pulling up weeds.  I saw this very interesting creature on one of my tomato vines.  It was a lime green large caterpillar of sorts, with a red horn at one end of it.  It was some what leathery looking with white strips and little black dots.  I had never seen anything quite like it.  I left it basking in the sun on my tomato vine thinking this would be cool to see it transform into a beautiful butterfly.  I went about my business of pulling weeds in the garden.

The next day I was out in the garden and I noticed my tomato plant.  It reminded me of Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree.  I quickly began to inspect it for bugs but all I could find was the beautiful leathery caterpillar.  After a little research on-line I found this little critter is very damaging to tomato plants.  So much for raising a beautiful butterfly; it went straight to the chicken pen.  After it oozed out this purplish inky goop from where the horn was, a couple of chickens fought over it, pulled it in half and munched it down.  I assume the ink stuff was some sort of defense mechanism and I was a little concerned for the chickens that ate it hoping they were not poisoned.  They wiped their beaks off in the dirt and went about their normal scratching and pecking business.

We are similar to that caterpillar in a sense because we have the capability to destroy everything that comes in our path. Wicked people plot deception in which the innocent are captured and victimized.  From what I gather, the caterpillar eats everything in its path until it cannot eat anymore and then it burrows into the soil and remains under ground through the winter going through a metamorphosis.  In the spring it emerges into a moth.  It transforms into something not as destructive as it once was.

God created every single creature for a purpose, though I haven’t figured out what for the cockroach/palmetto bug? I understand the tobacco hornworm which has a red horn; the tomato hornworm has a dark green/black one. Both consume tomato plants—and become large dramatic moths that are important pollinators of night-blooming flowers. But I don’t care about their good habits, because their big babies really can defoliate tomato plants almost overnight.

The red horned green monster destroyed several of my tomato plants throughout the summer.  There were more than one of these little creatures and every one I caught I fed to the chickens.  These caterpillars reminded me that once God gets a hold of our hearts the renewal of our mind is transformed into a new creation.   Okay, so the ones that I caught a hold of transformed into chicken feed, but you do get the idea, yes?

We may not like all of the creatures that He created and we may question for what purpose it was created.  We may even feel this way about people sometimes.  I know I do. As I reflect on the green leathery caterpillar with the red horn, I am reminded how I thought it was pretty at first.  But then I saw how destructive it became.  Once it turned into a not so pretty moth, it was not as destructive any more, in fact it became important to the night flowers.  We should remember that people can sometimes be the same way.  They may be really pretty on the outside but inside they are full of destruction. And just the opposite, really crude on the outside, but inside is a big pussy cat.  Everyone is born that way; it is inherited by nature.  But God made everyone for a purpose and once He gets a hold of a heart, the metamorphosis can begin.


Stimulating the Taste Buds


(click picture for tour)

Mercer House Estate Vineyards — Taste and Sensory Evaluation

               This was my first experience of wine tasting. I am very thankful to Melony Stuckey for inviting me. I’m also grateful for the warm welcome extended by Shannon and Kim Mercer for allowing me to visit and share in the tasting opportunity.

We entered into a large portrait studio, restructured into a comfortable wine tasting room with tables set up with plenty of munchies. Cheese (from a local goat farmer) and crackers, veggies and Kim special blend of Saba. Let me tell you about the Saba, a gourmet condiment sauce made out of muscadine grapes, the first of its kind.

Kim says, “Most people like it on meats and salads, but Shannon likes his on ice cream.”

I had some on a cracker, a piece of crusty bread, and some different vegetables. So tasty and would be outstanding on any kind of meat. I wouldn’t recommend it on ice cream. (I meant to buy some before I left, but I guess after all the wine, my mind was in a different place). I’ll definitely be back.

We started with a Hattie 2011 Vintage. Hattie is named after a Greyhound Shannon had. This was a very full body red wine with good taste. I gave it an 8.

“Sweet wine and chocolate go good together,” says Shannon. “Chocolate comes from a tree and therefore it’s a vegetable.”

The second wine we tasted was another version of Hattie 2013 Vintage. Now this one was quite a bit different than the previous. We all sipped and puckered our lips up. I suggested it may be good on collards, or perhaps cucumbers.

The labels for the wine must go through an approval process before they can be used. Shannon and Kim are still waiting for the red tape process before their license to sell wine is approved. Most of the wine labels were created by artist, Melony Stuckey. She has a great talent at designing images that stimulate the mind. It’s like a double whammy with the explosion of taste you get when you try one of the Mercer Estate’s fine wines.

Kim makes a muscadine wine jelly out of some of the different wines. There was some discussion on which vintage of Hattie it was actually made from. It was a very good jelly that would taste so good on some homemade warm biscuits. Yum!

The next wine that was shared in our glasses. Oh I should say in the beginning of wine tasting there is a new glass for each taste. By now we are just wiping out with a napkin or shaking the glass into the “vinegar vat”. I wiped my glass out with my tongue…no sense in wasting fine wine. We had a Sally Mae 2011 Vintage. Sally Mae was named after a Dalmatian. It was a little flat.

“At this time I won’t sell them in a store.” Shannon says.

There are many variables that effect the wine making process. Right now the vineyard is going through many changes, and under construction in more ways than one. Shannon explained how they have recently tried a new way of pruning the grapevines. After touring through one of the yards, he was very impressed with the outcome of the new pruning technique. With the weather and conditions constantly changing, new techniques are part of the routine process for Shannon in managing the vineyards.

The next wine we tried was a Mal’et 2013 Vintage pronounced ma-lee. I add this in because with my accent I want to call it “my lay”. This is named after a terrier-poodle mix of a mongrel dog that Shannon loved. This was my favorite. It has a very full body red wine taste with a little fizzy sparkle. Yes I could drink gallons of this tasty wine.

There is a battery of barrels, all different woods, coming from Italy. It takes 25 years to brew a good balsamic and Mercer House Estates will be the first to produce a muscadine balsamic.

Our next taste comes from Neal-Anne, which is an interesting story about the image. Apparently the praying mantis would land on both Shannon and Kim while they were out in the vineyards. They decided to use their middle names for this fine wine, which would make an excellent table wine, if you ask me. I gave it an 8.

Bottles without labels are referred to as ‘Shiner’s’ (because moonshiner’s never labeled their bottles. We tried one of these which was a strawberry and raisin blend. Very sweet. Would make a good jelly wine. It was quite new and if it has a little more time to age, it will be an excellent blend. Not sure if they have a name for that one yet. Kim mentioned the song by Deana Carter. Of course we remember that song! Who wouldn’t?

We tried Adele 2013 Vintage. This hummingbird label was illustrated by Bob Hickman. The wine is a very tasty fizzy red. I liked it, but I can’t remember what I rated it. My notes have become a little hard to understand.

We toured the Barrel Room. It was filled with an assortment of 5 gallon bottles of wine in the making. They go through a three stage process of racking to clear the wine. Egg whites are used to help settle the particles in the wine. Apparently in the Old World, ox blood was used as a fining agent. It became illegal when Mad Cow Disease was discovered.

There were several more samples that we had the opportunity to taste. All were different and tasty in their own way. One of the reasons Shannon says he wouldn’t be able to sell in a store is because wine consumers find something they like, and they expect it to be the same the next time they buy it. Because conditions are ever changing so are the flavors of Mercer House Estates wines.

If you have the opportunity to visit Mercer House Estate Vineyards, you will meet some very nice people, and your taste buds will not be disappointed. Right now they are waiting for the license to be approved to sell wine, but they have many other items available. Visit the website at or on Facebook





Guest Blog: Book Release: Dark Rainbow’s End – Rebecca L. Frencl

Dark Rainbows End RLFP


Looking for something to keep you busy this summer. Rebecca L. Frencl has a new book releasing today!

  • Five things you didn’t know about: Rebecca L. Frencl:
    1. I am an avid Disneyphile.
    2. My grandfather taught me how to shoot a bow when I was ten.
    3. I use proper grammar when I text.
    4. I own over 100 polyhedral dice.
    5. I’ve been in 8th grade for more than 17 years-you’d think I’d get it right by now!


Book Three of The Star Circle Trilogy

Dark Rainbows End RLFP

Book One of The Star Circle Trilogy

book 1

At the Dark’s gathering the Nine shall stand. Circle of Light, Hope of the land . . .

Robyn and Aerin have been down this road before as they hunt for the other seven Starbearers who will once more drive back the Darkness that wishes to unravel civilization and drive mankind back into howling barbarism.
Silar and his silver-eyes, the soulless minions of that Darkness, dog their steps, trying to hinder them and force them to doubt.
Death is easy. Silar wants the star bearers broken–unable to fulfill their duties and shatter the Circle, allowing the Darkness to win.
Robyn and Aerin think they’ve outsmarted the Darkness once before, but they discover that Silar’s plans have been much more complex and far-reaching than they’d ever believed.


Book Two of The Star Circle Trilogy

Book 2

When evil passes through the very shadows, is anywhere in the world safe?

Aerin and James hunt for answers and aid, searching not only to cure a shadow born plague, but healing for the heart and mind of the young Sylvie. Ghosts of the past haunt their nights and the stars slide ever closer to alignment.

Robyn and Demar’s hope hinges on the Mirror Maker’s looking glasses. They pray to see a hint of plan, a clear direction. A murderer drops bodies at their feet, staining their names, and suspicion dogs their steps. Evil twists the hearts of mankind and doubt plants its devious seeds.

While the ultimate Darkness prepares to take a hand in the coming battle, and a traitor walks among them, the final star bearers heed the call to stand at a point of The Star Circle and save the world.

About Rebecca


I write, I teach, I’m a union rabble rouser . . . I get work with kids on a daily basis which makes me feel simultaneously very young and extremely old. I grew up on choose your own adventure books, the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon, and polyhedral dice. So, I write fantasy and paranormal romance. It’s an eclectic mix, but that’s what I love to read. I’m a very firm believer that there is no such thing as someone who doesn’t like to read. They just haven’t found the right book yet!

2012 Ribbons of Moonlight—Best Romance Novel, Solstice Publishing Contest

2014 Author of the Year—Solstice Publishing

Buy Links:

Contact Me:

Blog: Not All Who Wander Are Lost

Facebook Fan Page:

Please do not leave comments here.  Please contact Rebecca directly by clicking one of her links.

Summer Solstice







Acknowledgement vs. Reciprocation


Acknowledgement – Reciprocation — two completely different actions.

Recently I was accused of being in need of something that I thought was something else. I dug out my trusty-rusty Webster’s and did some research. I came to realize I’m right, and again, I’m right. Now I know why people have such an issue. They don’t care. I do.


Acknowledgement: a thing done or given in recognition of something received. A response.


Reciprocation: A mutual exchange. A swap.


Springboard for the Catalyst


Ever have something that means so much to you, and you hold it to your heart so dearly that when someone else uses it or tries to take it from you, the result is devastating? I have learned in my short 46½ years of life that when I commence to idolatry, God sets me straight in a hurry. He uses the most unexpected people, or things that I wouldn’t imagine could be used to bring something good. (Then I remember the story in Esther of Haman) As much as I hate these incidents, I am thankful. I know that He is teaching me a lesson, and if I am not open to learning, my growth with Him will not increase. How does John the Baptist put it? “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30) No one likes humiliation, and I for one, hate to admit when I am wrong, especially when I’m not. But sometimes in order to move forward, and grow spiritually the way God has planned for us, we need to humble ourselves, accept defeat, and be willing to let go of the thing that we have held onto so tightly.

My sister and I have had a rocky relationship ever since the day she was born. In fact rumor has it that I tried to kill her by whipping her with a dog choker chain when my mother brought her home from the hospital. I don’t know if that is true or not because I was only 18 months old. Who remembers anything when they are 18 months old? I do remember a lot of fighting growing up, a lot of competing for attention, and a lot of blame put on the other one for whatever reasons: spitting behind the couch, lighting a fire in the closet, whose idea it was to go in the road across the street to the neighbor’s house … the list can go on and on. All siblings go through some sort of rivalry. I always thought they grew out of it. Apparently this is not so, or so I am experiencing in my now 40+ years of life.

I grew up thinking that my aunts and uncles all loved each other because they would gather at my grandparent’s house several times a year. All of us kids would play outside and have fun, and have great expectations looking forward to the next function we could come together for. Unfortunately, as I grew older the coming together commenced to being sicknesses and funerals. Little did I know the aunts and uncles hated each other, held grudges towards each other, and finally when my grandparents both died, the covenant was broken, and the aunts and uncles didn’t need to gather for anything anymore.

I have been doing a Bible Study that touched on generational sin. Exodus 20:5-6 has revealed so much to me in these past few weeks, and I am filled with new hope. My sister was my springboard this week. I recently tried to reconnect with her. She has so much going on in her life that she doesn’t take the time to correspond with me, nor anyone, as she was quick to point out. I really just wanted her attention, and wasn’t looking for any hostility, which unfortunately, as I mentioned earlier, that is all our relationship has ever been — aggression. But within the short communication that we had with each other, she was the springboard I needed to admit my imperfection, and ask God to help me with rebuilding the ancient ruins that have held me captive for so long.

The thing I have held onto is my undying desire to be a writer. I have written since I learned how to write. Apparently unbeknownst to me as well as other members of my family, this also has been my sister’s dream since the third grade. I had this idea that I wanted to write first. I guess that is the competitive ego within me coming out. There are a million gazillion writers out there. So my sister gets to go to college for free and get all of these writing degrees under her belt and maybe she will make it as a published writer before me. Good for her. All my best goes out to her. God has helped me realize through her, that if I have something I want to do, do it. No one can stop your dreams and if you think someone is stealing them or taking something from you, you probably should not have a hold on them so tight anyways. Everything is Gods, and He will give you what you need. This is what He gave me today, and I know it has been a long few months since I’ve posted anything. If it’s His will, more will come in due time.

This was first published on March 2, 2012 on my recipe blog. I felt the need to share it again because not much has changed. Again, my sister gives me reason to reach out to God and ask forgiveness for my own sin. But God is good. My book is published and I am working on the next one. My sister recently graduated from college with an English major and is quick to point out that she “has an education”. It’s one thing to have an education, it’s quite another to use it.

Went Fishing


Update to Promotional Criticism

I really don’t know what to say about the hoop-la other than ‘wow’. The bait worked well. This subject really struck a nerve with too many people in the café. Last time I checked there were still more comments being added to the stream. The forum sort of reminded me of another forum I used to be involved with. It’s a place where you stroke the forum leader’s ego, and as long as you do that, all is well. Cross that person and you are voted off the island. I’ve been in too many places like that. I don’t stroke egos, and I don’t expect mine to be stroked either. I write what I write the way I write it. Like it, love it, hate it, or don’t read it.

I don’t mean to sound like I can’t take criticism and maybe I come across that way. But the original question I posed was if the description was not clear.  She decided to take it and turn it into something more than it was. It was her who first offered her opinion about the images. I do appreciate all of the insight and wisdom that others shared regarding my book description and the image that the forum leader picked to have a problem with, and shared on her forum. Not sure if the other members actually went to the FB Fan page to see for themselves, or just took for granted that their leader knew what she was talking about and trusted her.  You do know what happened with the Koresh followers, right?

I have worked very hard on this book for over two years.  My opinion is if I were to take others suggestions, and let them tell me how to do things differently, I give up. Then it’s not my work, it’s what someone told me to do.  I want to see how well the book does based on what I have done with it. Not because I made a change that someone I don’t even know suggested. I know what’s in the damn book, and I am not one to deceive people with things that are not there. Funny how one picture of provocative women caused such a stir in the writing forum.

I mentioned I was going to read The Bell Curve, and actually started it. It was on the bookshelf collecting dust, waiting to be read. After 20 pages I have decided it probably will go back to the bookshelf. It is a little intimidating and it bothers me that social class plays into how people are treated. It did help clarify my feeling of being an idiot savant in the writing forum.

Most people who dole out their list of credentials, letters after their names, achievements, awards, certificates, degrees, etc. annoy me. There is a certain condescending air to them. Does it mean they are more experienced in what they do, than someone without the list of accolades? Not really, it just means they are paying a lot more student loans back.

I believe if you are going to do something, do it well to the best of your ability, and keep doing it.  Perfect practice makes perfect. Listen to what people have to say. But that’s all. Trust your own judgment. You are the one who put your blood, sweat and tears into your project. Only you know if it’s good or if it needs work. What’s that old saying? We are our own worst critics.


Promotional Criticism

(This has been copied and pasted so please disregard grammatical and punctuation errors.)

Blackhorse 2015 Cover Art

I had an interesting interaction this morning and feel a need to put this out there. DON’T ASK QUESTIONS THAT YOU CANNOT HANDLE THE ANSWERS TO. I’m writing this from me personally, but I mean it as an overall suggestion about asking anyone for advice. Make sure you really want to hear the answer.
A person asked if an image on their page made me want to read their book. Quite honestly, it made me want to run from the page, but I didn’t answer that blatantly. I said it screamed of topics other than what I was told the book was about, and the person took offense. I want everyone to know that If you ask for my opinion, I am going to respond honestly, even if it stings. It’s who I am, and I cannot, in good conscience, give fake answers just so authors think they’re on the right track. It doesn’t help them in the long run. But I’m also not the end all with book marketing. I have nothing to hide in any of this fun publishing world. We’re here to help each other, not harm each other. I’m one person, with one opinion. I’m not an expert in any of this. None of us are. This industry is an ever-changing one that takes continual efforts to stay on top of trends and techniques in marketing, writing, and the like. My opinion is that of ONE person, not the masses. Please keep that in mind when asking anyone for advice. And if you are wondering, yes, I’d give the same honest answer again in the same situation. And yes, I get negative feedback, too. You must be able to receive as effectively as you give (even when it stings).
Top of Form

LikeLike •
44 people like this.

Massimo Marino Someone needs to thicken their skin 🙂
6 hrs • Like • 2

Travis Simmons Melissa, I will admit when you first started critiquing my book covers, it stung, but I didn’t stop asking, because I knew you are a lot like me: you give honest advice to help the person. And, using your advice, I now feel completely confident in my covers. You give great advice, and it’s never from a bad place. A lot of times I feel people don’t want advice, they just want a pat on the back. I’ve had friends who want me to beta read for them, and when I start giving them constructive feedback, they don’t like it. Now I don’t beta read for those people, but the ones who understand that I’m being helpful enjoy my help. Also, they will never be able to take comments from editors well if they can’t take a little feedback about an image they are using! Editors don’t have time to handle people with kiddie gloves!
6 hrs • Like • 4

Allison Tidwell How is that person going to feel when actual book critics respond? It’s part of the business. If they can’t take constructive criticism then they are in the wrong line of work.
6 hrs • Like • 4

Melissa Foster Travis Simmons sorry:-) But I’m glad you stuck it out. You care about your work, and I could tell that from day 1, which is why I took the time to give complete answers. I also accept criticism. It’s part of the process. I’m years into this business and I still have people who knock my work (writing, covers, input), and even the stuff that makes me want to hide under a bed still gets the same ear as the good stuff. I listen and evaluate with a fine toothed comb. There might be a smidgen of truth among the garbage, but when we aren’t open to it, we might miss it. So yeah, I know it’s hard, and important. Allison Tidwell exactly. Massimo Marino I think we need alligator skin in this business lol
6 hrs • Like • 5

Carol May Vaughn If only we had MORE friends like you…
6 hrs • Like • 2

Ann Bracken One of my critique partners was hemming and hawing until I told her to be my friend and spit it out. What resulted was a much better story. Criticism stings, but can be invaluable.
6 hrs • Like • 2

Crackerberries Anderson First of all, I did not ask if the image made her want to read the book. Melissa asked what the book was about and I asked her if the description was not clear. She then went on to tell me how the image on the page looks like an erotica book is coming and screamed of lesbian love and dirty hot sex. I responded and said the military was changing and didn’t it kind of make her want to see what it was all about. Then she went on to tell me about her husband and what she thought about marketing and blah, blah, blah. If someone is going to share insights I think it’s important to be honest about the whole interaction, not just to make yourself look better. And I admit I am new to this world of publishing and thanks to people like Melissa my skin grows another layer every day.
5 hrs • Like

Melissa Foster Crackerberries Anderson let’s be honest here, you asked if the image made me want to read the book. I did not name you in this post for good reason. I was making a point, not pointing a finger, but since you would would like to be named, here is our full conversation:

Crackerberries Anderson
Jun 4th, 2:25pm
#ShareTheLove4Authors from the World Literary Cafe (WLC) community! Great page!

Hi Melissa, if you would like to return the favor, my page is
Thank you! Have a great day.

Melissa Foster
Jun 4th, 2:58pm
What exactly is the subject of your book?

Crackerberries Anderson
Jun 4th, 3:31pm
It’s a Military novel spanning over a 20 year period. The Blackhorse Strategic Regiment is home to conspiracy, racketeering, and treason within the United States Military. Just out of curiosity, is the description not clear?

Melissa Foster
Jun 6th, 5:56pm
The image on your page looks like an erotica book is coming. Is that what you were going for? The Comstock image cries lesbian love or dirty hot sex I definitely don’t get a military vibe from your fan page.

Crackerberries Anderson
Jun 7th, 5:58am
The military is changing. Kind of makes you just want to see what it’s all about doesn’t it?

Melissa Foster
Jun 7th, 7:42am
Maybe for some people but not me. My husband is a retired colonel and yeah, the military is changing, but those pictures don’t tell me anything about that. I’m not here to judge how you market your book. I was just curious. Good luck!

Crackerberries Anderson
Jun 7th, 8:15am

Crackerberries Anderson
Jun 7th, 8:28am
Some people remember that old saying ‘don’t judge a book by it’s cover’. Also, you being in the business as long as you have shouldn’t be so negative to jump on someone who is just starting out. And yes, you are exactly judging my marketing skills. My husband too, is former Army MP and he’s helped me write an excellent book. Thanks for you good wishes.

Melissa Foster
Jun 7th, 9:23am
I’m not judging. I saw another post on your page that also asked if the pic was really from you, which is why I had asked. You asked if the cover would make me want to read it and I answered honestly. That’s not judging your marketing skills, that’s giving an opinion after you asked.

You had sent me your link to like your page, and the reason for asking my initial question was because before I like a FB page and make sure it’s something that my readers won’t find offensive. I needed clarification, which you gave me, and after reading the other post on your page, I passed along that the image didn’t seem to convey a military presence to me. I’m sorry if you took offense to that. As I said in my note to you, I’m not here to judge your marketing skills, but as an author advocate and mentor I always try to give honest answers, even if they’re tough to swallow–and I accept your criticism and appreciate your candor.

As for “Don’t judge a book by the cover” – yes, that’s an old philosophy, but I think you’ll find in this day and age, unfortunately, it’s almost a given that books are judged that way in the realm of sales. You have about 3 seconds to hook a potential buyer’s interest, and the cover has a big impact.

I’ll close with this thought, and hope you understand. Opinions are just that. Personal feelings on things. My opinion is solely my own, and just because I read an image one way does not mean that someone else will read it the same way. I assume the other person who posted on your wall about that image was a friend of yours. Maybe asking that person their opinion would be better. My business is publishing and marketing, and I apologize if my opinion offended you. I certainly did not mean to do so, and I meant “good luck” with the sincerest hopes.

Write a reply…
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Crackerberries Anderson Exactly I asked you if the description was not clear…. thank you for sharing.
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Bazzi Annamaria Melissa, honesty can be brutal, but it’s the one thing that really helps. the publishing world is harsh world and if an author can’t take the truth he/she shouldn’t be in the business. in this group, i’ve found, that people answer with great honest, and that is what helps us go forward. Melissa Foster, i’m glad you’ll continue to give your honest opinion when asked. I personally wouldn’t want it any other way. thank you for being who you are and creating this group where we know we will get good feedback and honest answers.
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Melissa Foster Yes and you asked if it made me want to see what it’s all about, which is what I answered, and this was the image in question:

“Crackerberries Anderson
Jun 7th, 5:58am Jun 7th, 5:58am
The military is changing. Kind of makes you just want to see what it’s all about doesn’t it?”

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Crackerberries Anderson Yup that is one and if it doesn’t make you want to read, that is fine and if you don’t like my marketing technique that’s fine too. Thanks for the free promo, BTW. And I am completely honest and I did mention I was new to this. Do you people remember what it was like when you first started out? Give me a break okay? Geees.
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Allison Tidwell I would have jumped to the same conclusion looking at the book cover.
Nothing on that cover suggests a change in the military. It looks like erotica. Not all young women want to become hot, bikini clad military personnel. Many female soldiers I know want to be considered equal to their male counterparts and want to be taken seriously for what they have to offer. I’m sorry, but the image sends out an entirely different message, and it isn’t a good one. But again, I am one person and my opinion, you can take it or leave it.
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Melissa Foster Crackerberries Anderson absolutely, which is why I didn’t make this personal when I posted originally (I was surprised that you wanted to by posting what you did). This is a very tough business, and I’m truly sorry that you weren’t happy with my opinion. We’re ALL still learning. My post here in the private group (the initial post) was about accepting criticism, and again, you were not mentioned bc it has nothing to do with pointing fingers, but rather learning/growing/accepting that sort of thing.
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Crackerberries Anderson Thank you … I learn a new lesson in this business every day. I appreciate it…
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Crackerberries Anderson And I should add my publisher chose the book cover because it was more intriguing than boring military covers.
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Allison Tidwell I think it would have been cool to see a close up of the two women’s faces with camouflage makeup on and sporting their military-issued rifles. 🙂 your publisher doesn’t sound like he/she relates well with a female audience. Good luck

to you Crackerberries on getting your book published. Many good writers don’t even get that far.
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Crackerberries Anderson Thank you Allison Tidwell I’m pretty sure the cover works well with the book… we’ll see how it all turns out. But I do lve your idea of the camo and chicks with rifles … maybe I’ll have to work on a new trailer.
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Melissa Foster Crackerberries Anderson the other great thing about this business is that nothing is permanent. If you have trouble with the cover the publisher can always modify, or maybe it’ll blow us away and be exactly what the audience wants ❤
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Helga Zeiner that is only fair, Melissa Foster and we expect nothing else from you. However, it can happen the other way around too. As you know, I was not happy with a cover design that was made for me and told the designer so. The reaction I got back still stings, so I understand your frustration. It is a pity that we can all handle honesty as well as pretty white lies.
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Erica Marchant I am the same way. People take offense because they only want to hear something good about something they worked
So hard on even if it’s untrue. I would rather you be honest so I can fix the issue.
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Marlene Hudson It’s like those asking for constructive criticism – followed by keep it positive; if you don’t have something nice to say, I don’t want to hear it. Really? 😉
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Paul Stawski Melissa Foster Keep doing exactly what you’re doing in exactly the way you are doing it. Exactly. And thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!
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Jerry Hatchett Amen and amen, a thousand times, amen!
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Marjorie DeLuca Truly honest, constructive advice is priceless and we all appreciate it. That’s what helps us grow. So keep on doing what you’re doing Melissa Foster and don’t look back!!!
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Jerry Hatchett After reading the whole thread, wow. Given the tissue-thin skin shown in response to such professionally tendered thoughts from Melissa, I can only imagine the response she’s gonna have when reviews start rolling in, if they ever do.

First, Melissa is spot-on; the cover in absolutely no way hints at a “military novel.” It screams erotica and thus will be of no interest at all to the overwhelming majority of readers looking for a military novel.

Second, it looks like something that was whipped up in a couple hours by someone with zero experience or skill in graphics; I could go on for an hour about all the things wrong with it.

Third, someone wanting to be an author said something about “not judging a book by its cover.” REALLY?

Just when I think I can no longer be shocked by what I see from the “writing” world, I am not only shocked, but blown away.
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Jerry Hatchett BTW, what feels like a thousand years ago when I had only been writing fiction for a couple years, I applied to and was accepted into a very selective online crit group; you had to submit writing samples, be voted on, etc.

I was absolutely certain I was all that AND a five-dollar bag of chips. Submitted my first chapter to the group. The crits rolled in. I’ll preface this next part by saying I am about the unweepiest guy you’re likely to meet. The crits, which I thought at the time were harsh and mean but which I now recognize as the most helpful and professional gestures I could have ever hoped for, brought tears to my eyes. Literally. But I read them over and over. After a few days of licking my wounds, I looked at the crits and thought, “OMIGOSH, THEY’RE RIGHT.”

That was a life-changing moment for me, and I mean that in the most literal sense. It was at that moment that I understood that they accepted me into the group because they saw raw talent, but that’s nothing more than the seed that must be present. I vowed to myself and to my crit partners that I would do whatever was necessary to learn to write at a pro level.

I immersed myself in the craft. I read every craft book I could get my hands on. I studied. I devoured bestselling thrillers to try to pick up on what they were doing that drew people in. I relentlessly sought out and begged for honest, competent crits, because YOU CAN’T FIX WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW TO BE BROKEN.

A lot of years later, I still have a ton of improvement ahead, but I can indeed now write at a professional level and feel good about people paying me money to read my work. I also know who I am as a writer, and who I am not. And it ALL started with accepting a few brutally honest crits.

Now? I’m sad to say I almost never agree to read and crit others’ work. I do so only within a tiny group of writers who have shown that a) they have talent, and b) they want to become professionals. It’s NOT because I don’t want to give back. It’s 100% because I encounter so very few who actually want honest feedback. The overwhelming majority of people I observe in this endeavor may say, “Be honest,” but what they really mean is, “Be honest and tell me how great this is!”
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Christine Cunningham Just to add my two cents, if you want to build an audience for your book it’s vital to honest with your audience. Baiting and switching will shrivel your audience in the blink of an eye. Today’s reader has tons of choices and once burned it’s not likely they will give you another chance.
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Crackerberries Anderson Thank you Jerry Hatchett for your brutal honesty…I did point out that I was new to all this and hey, I do what I do because I like it. So critic away and whatever will be will be. Maybe this one won’t be the next great best seller, maybe it won’t sell at all, but you know what, at least I’m trying and I’m not giving you my resume of how great I am. I’m not, I’m simply a story teller and story tellers tell stories…
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Melissa Foster Jerry Hatchett it’s all a learning experience. I’ve stopped critiquing work, too. I will help a handful of people who are truly interested in honest feedback, but reading and critiquing take time and to put in the effort and have it all ignored is a waste for both parties. When I first started working with my deve editor she gave me 15 pages of notes and I tossed it aside and thought, “My readers will love it my way.” **rolls eyes**

Now, although that book sells very well, I see EXACTLY how much better it could have been. I work with her very closely now on all books and would never put out even a short without her eyes on it.

We all start, learn, and hopefully grow along the way
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Michael J. Tobias Thank you so much for posting this, Melissa. I get asked my opinion on occasion and I have adopted a routine: Do you REALLY want my opinion? Or are you looking for a pat on the back? Yes, that is blunt, but I’m tired of getting asked for my honest opinion when people don’t want that. Honest feedback is, to me, a precious gift. I don’t treat such gifts with disdain and I don’t want to waste any thought or you know, think about how to help you, if all you’re looking for is a pat on the back.
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Christine Cunningham A cover like this would catch my eye and portray the message a little better in my opinion. You keep the sex appeal, but make the girl look more like a badarse who is taking her military career seriously.

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Jerry Hatchett Crackerberries, you’re welcome. My suggestion would be to solicit criticism and not respond at all for a while other than to say thanks that someone spent their time for you. Let it roll around and revisit it over a period of a few days or a week. See if you still feel the same way after that time. Each person has an opinion and not every opinion must be accepted. BUT, when you start to see a pattern emerge in comments from multiple people, you ignore at your own peril. Good luck.
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Jerry Hatchett Exactly, Melissa. Maybe it really was pretty good as it was, but what might it have been if we had listened? 🙂
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Crackerberries Anderson Thank you for your suggestion Christine Cunningham but the picture Melissa shared is a promo, not the cover. The Comstock House is only part of the story…. not the whole story. Might I add this book is fiction and be it a military thriller, science fiction, or as Melissa referred to it an erotica lesbian love or dirty hot sex isn’t grabbing the potential reader’s attention what we’re after?
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Jerry Hatchett Grabbing attention in a way that accurately portrays the book is what you’re after. Do it in any other way, and you’ll open a whole other nasty can of worms. People will buy it, feel misled, and bury you in one-star reviews for it.
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Melissa Foster Crackerberries Anderson if your book is not erotica or sexual then you do not want to solicit the reader’s attention in that manner. It will lead to poor reviews and losing readers by misleading them. However, if your book does have those elements then you’re on target. However, “military thriller, science fiction” does not mean “erotica” or “lesbian sex” at least not by any definition I’ve ever heard.
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Melissa Foster Crackerberries Anderson I just reread the book description: ~~After supervising military intelligence, and less than a month away from retiring to his hometown of Winston-Wisdom, Sergeant First Class Jon Hunter has one more mission. Operation Goatfish involves transferring nuclear weapons from Bonfire Island in the Pacific Ocean to a more accessible location in the states. Only the elite are chosen to be involved. Jon, a dedicated and decorated E-7 for the US Army, gets a bad feeling about Captain Todd Carlin who is in charge of the mission. Jon travels to Fort Wyatt Military Foundation to see what is behind The Blackhorse Strategic Regiment, and uncovers Captain Todd Carlin’s real MOS.

That doesn’t say anything sexual in the info. To me, the images are misleading, but again, just my two cents. I might also suggest that you check out Blackhorse Regiment, because it’s a real military outfit and I would wonder how they might react when this is published if it does portray them in the light of the images. Again, not my place to judge, just a recommendation.
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Crackerberries Anderson Mine is Blackhorse STRATEGIC Regiment. I’m sure the cover is an accurate portrayal as well as the promo trailers and pictures…After all I did write the book and I did mention the military is changing. It is a thriller and it does have sexual and erotic scenes. Read it and then tell me what you think. Thank you all for sharing your comments, I do appreciate it. I don’t think you’re judging (too much) but I do think that I’ve touched on a nerve with a lot of people. Hmmmph, imagine that?
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Melissa Foster Is there a reason you don’t have any reference to erotic or sexual scenarios in the description? It just seems to me that the pics and the description don’t jive. I wonder if there’s a reason you’re trying to keep it from the reader in the description.
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Melissa Foster Oh, as far as a nerve goes, I’m not at all against erotic or lesbian sex in books. I write graphic sex in my romance novels on a daily basis 🙂 I just believe in being transparent to the readers so you gain the right audience.
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Crackerberries Anderson As I mentioned it’s part of the book, it’s not the book.
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Crackerberries Anderson How many books have you read that give you every detail on the back cover of what takes place in the book? I’m teasing and tantalizing with things that happen in the book.
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Melissa Foster Oh, i don’t at all think the summary should give you everything. But I do think that there’s a big difference in readership of erotic scenes and military thrillers, so my marketing sense tells me to include a hint of that or perhaps bare the consequences of poor reviews because of it. But I guess if your cover is going to be more erotic or imply erotica, then it may not matter what your summary says. They’re just so far from one another that I think it has the potential to backfire and confuse/alienate readers, but again, just one opinion.
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Crackerberries Anderson I’m going to read The Bell Curve by Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray. It looks like a great book to help me understand this whole book publishing experience. It amazes me that so many people have taken the time out of their day, on a weekend, on what too many people here have implied is trash, to comment and share their opinions on a ‘hack’ such as myself. I’ve done nothing in the literary world. I’m not even published yet. It’s gotta say something about the book if it gets this much attention. 🙂
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Melissa Foster Crackerberries Anderson you happen to belong to a very giving group. We help each other to understand the ins and outs of the industry. I can’t tell from your post if your comment about The Bell Curve is supposed to be a spear toward the helpful, intelligent people here, but I will hope for the best and won’t assume that.

In any case, the people in this group care about helping others, but it doesn’t sound like you are looking for any sort of advice. You obviously feel as though know what will work, but please don’t confuse attention over appropriate marketing strategies with if your book will sell. Given the feedback in this particular thread, there is nothing to say it will, given the images you’re posting to try and make it happen.

The fact that you’re not published has nothing to do with receiving answers in this group. If you’re a NYT bestseller or not yet published, everyone gets the same attention in this group.
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As of time of this post, the beat goes on. What is all the hoop-la?

But I Wanted A Rose Garden


As I think about this book publishing experience, it reminds me of a walk through a rose garden.  At the beginning everything is beautiful and smells delightful. I look around and wonder how anything could be any more perfect.  But then a little further in prickly thorns try to poke into my side.  After closer examination I notice these pesky aphids and beetles trying to eat my beautiful rose garden.

Writing a book is kind of like that.  In the beginning it’s all good. Especially when you find a publisher that accepts your manuscript.  That is the most awesome feeling ever!  Then, once you start down the road toward being published, you will run into thorns and pests that try to infect your progression.  It will be subtle things that take your attention away from what you should be doing. A lot of times these distractions go unnoticed until it’s too late.

Most people would like to believe it’s their family and friends who are going to support them. This is true in just about anything and everything we do: sing, paint, dance, act, or whatever our job might be.  In anything that brings accolades to ourselves we want our family and friends to applaud us. Unfortunately people are generally too busy with whatever it is in their own life to be concerned with what someone else is doing. Especially if it involves praising someone other than themselves. For some this can be like a pesky aphid.

I do have a few (I can count them on one hand, and you know who you are ☺) true supporters that want me to succeed. But most of my family and friends are not supportive, and are not eager to jump on the Crackerberries bandwagon.  For whatever reason, they are not going to ask how the book writing is going, if there’s anything they can do to help with research, or simply bring me a Coke and a smile.  If I count on that happening, I can just forget about it!

Too many people cannot get past the green eyed monster that lives inside all of us.  I may be stepping on some toes in saying what I believe.  I might lose some family and friends too.  But just like a rose garden infected with pests, sometimes the best thing we can do for our own sanity is to eliminate what’s not working.

I have found my biggest supporters are fellow writers.  These are the people I count on to pat me on the back, and tell me to keep on going. They are the people who know what I’m going through. I am not sure that they are going to be great followers for my book. But I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.  I do believe if we share with each other our trials and tribulations, we may get lucky enough to earn a fan or two.  Not sure, never been down this road before.  It’s all a new learning experience for me.

I have learned this.  Dwelling on getting support from family and friends that are too wrapped up in themselves is like a beetle infestation in a rose garden.  If you don’t get rid of them, they will destroy the beauty of the garden.

If you want to write, write.  Don’t let distractions get in your way.  Just do it, and do it, and do it.