Eleven-year-old Fairday Morrow had no clue that moving from Manhattan to the small town of Ashpot, Connecticut, would lead to an unsolved mystery. Her parents’ dream of renovating a crumbling Victorian, called the Begonia House, into a bed and breakfast had seemed like treachery at the time. But Fairday found out that her new house kept secrets, and once inside its twisted front gates, anything was possible.
When mysterious notes start showing up warning that a librarian is in trouble and a bookworm is eating words, Fairday thinks the Begonia House has more skeletons in its closets. She notices a passage in her favorite book has been changed, and she’s certain something is dreadfully wrong. What happens to stories when their words get eaten?
The Detective Mystery Squad is ready to investigate! Fairday, Lizzy, and Marcus take off on a sticky trail and tumble into Nowhere. Like Alice in Wonderland, Fairday finds herself in a world where nothing makes sense and the lines of reality are blurred.
The three sleuths discover amazing things about themselves as they unravel more secrets within the walls of the Begonia House. Follow along with Fairday and friends as they open the next case in the DMS files to unlock the mystery of the Talking Library.
Fairday Morrow woke to a loud crack of thunder. As she bolted upright in bed, her gray eyes flew open. Rain pelted against the window. Electricity charged the air. Lightning flashed, and she saw the old willow tree in her backyard lurching wildly. A whip-like branch smashed the glass and the storm raged into her room. BOOM! The sky lit up. The wind blew in like a tornado, tossing wet leaves and sticks around. Fairday shrieked and ducked under the covers.
“Fairday! Are you okay?” her dad shouted from the hallway.
Auntie Em, the family pug, was barking her head off.
“Yeah, I’m alright,” Fairday answered in a shaky voice. She peeked out from the blankets as a burst of light split the dark. For an instant, glass shards twinkled like stars across the tattered lion-and-unicorn carpet; the heavy drapes flapped, twisting in the wind. On the next lightning strike, Fairday saw a paper blow in through the broken window. But the second she glimpsed it, thunder boomed, the house shook, and everything blacked out.
Fairday Morrow and the Talking Library
I got married the same month. Now I am reliving it with my son through footage. As the second plane crashed. As the first tower fell. Then the second. The Pentagon. The plane in a Pennsylvania field. The heroes. The dead. The shock rushing back into me as I sat home all day glued to the t.v. thinking the world had gone mad.
My son wanted to know how we felt watching it unfold. I could not find the words to explain how I felt. Sometimes you just can’t.
I love New York. All of it. I grew up on a mountain above Albany. “Upstate” as New Yorkers would say. It was when I got my first job out of college and moved to Nutley, NJ across the river from the Big Apple City that I overcame my fear of big cities. I fell in love with it. This giant, pounding alive thing. It surged with lights, noise, smells, and people.
Here I was, a country girl living just across from the big city. All alone. I forced myself to drive into its grandness. The Lincoln Tunnel sucked me up into its curved darkness. I was afraid of being swallowed up. But I wasn’t. In all that organized madness, I was free. It made me feel so alive. To walk anywhere. To see it all. And no one knowing who I was. No one knowing where I was. Free. And safe. New York City made me feel safe.
This doesn’t sound so extraordinary. But it was for me. I fought panic attacks for years. Panic of the new, of being out in open spaces, of people, of crowds. I would grocery shop at midnight when no one was there. Always parking in the same spot. It was safe.
It took me years to finish college at a large university. Each process of getting to campus was an agonizing step. First, park. Then measure the distance of walking to my class building. Avoid people. But they’re everywhere! Wear sunshades to feel invisible. Find a seat in class alongside the wall to feel safe. Try to get through class without sweating profusely or spastic coughing. It was not a safe place. Safe was home, alone between comforting walls. Safe.
Then along came a career and a big city to conquer. Only while conquering the big city, it conquered my phobias. From Times Square to the Lexington Deli to the Guggenheim to Broadway and home across the river. In a world of flowing people I felt safe. Alone and free and safe.
So thank you New York for embracing me and showing me your chaotic beauty and grandeur.
Thank you for making me feel safe when I could not before.
Thank you for helping me overcome my anxieties and find freedom in your vast and colorful landscape.
We still feel that same way about you.
You haven’t let us down yet. The heroes of 9/11 never did.
We won’t let you down.
And we will never forget.
I’ve loved John Grisham a long time. Over 25 years.
He came into my turbulent life with The Firm. I stayed up all night reading it, my heart racing and on the run with Mitch McDeere. I didn’t want the story to end and return to my uncertain life.
In John Grisham’s stories, the characters were pushed into uncertainty. But, unlike me, they always found their way. I, too, was seeking answers after failing out of college (panic attacks hinder getting to class!), a failed marriage, and a stint in the Navy – I landed in limbo. Like John Grisham’s characters, I had been on the run a long time. Running from my depression, from my dark childhood, from my anxiety, from my uncertainty – from not believing I had any worth.
Reading and writing were my only escapes then where I could have purpose, have strength, have confidence, and change my life.
John Grisham was there for me.
I fought for justice and the truth in The Last Juror. I faced my demons and overcame then in The Testament. I returned to my childhood and found solace from it in The Painted House. I sought a champion by my side in The Client.
So, when my husband passed along the ad that John Grisham was coming to our town’s bookstore, The Doylestown Bookshop, for his first book tour signing in 25 years to celebrate the release of his 30th book, Camino Island, I rushed to get a ticket.
Giddy with delight, I fan-girled in line waiting to get my book signed with another lady as giddy as me. And he was all I dreamed. Gracious, inviting. He shook my hand, looked me in the eye, asked me about my books. He was a true southern gentleman. I couldn’t breathe! He’d been my rock star author for decades.
This man had given me hope in desperate times. Times when I knew I wanted to be an author but didn’t even know myself yet. I could only dream of writing a book and getting it published. And at times, the hope of fulfilling this dream was all I could cling to.
But my time with him wasn’t over. I sat in the front row for over an hour and listened to him in discussion with author Lisa Scottoline. His conservative wit crackled alongside her unbridled humor.
You can listen to the podcast here from each stop along his book tour (his 6/29 date I sat in on should be up the first week in July. I got to ask a question too!).
He told us that he wrote his first book, A Time to Kill, without any outline. It came out to 1,000 pages! He said he would never do that again as the editor cut over 1/3 of it. He said, “That third was a year of my life!” He always uses an outline ever since then and knows the end first.
Just like me.
He shared how he rose at 5 a.m. each morning to write for hours on his first novel at his office before his lawyer job started.
Just like me.
He said how he was rejected for years but never gave up.
Just like me.
He persisted. He kept writing.
Just like me.
John Grisham knew what he wanted to write. He’s forged the top niche in legal thrillers. He’s written a book a year for 30 years. I didn’t always know what I wanted to write. I just knew I must.
I’m not that young woman I was decades ago when I first fell in love with him. I am no longer uncertain about my path. I am no longer paralyzed with fear and depression. I am worthy. But I didn’t take the straight road to get here. I took the road of his characters. I wandered. I stumbled. I ran into walls. I ran away. I wrote my first novel from grief when my mother passed away, a dark thriller. I wrote my demons out with that series. I wandered then to writing middle grade and then for teens and now picture books. My writing path has been a crooked twist.
It took me longer to get here but I. AM. HERE.
John Grisham made it all clear to me in a time now when my life is filled with so many project details – business and teaching – that flood my day. I was born to be story teller. That’s what I do. That’s what I need to get back to. The simplicity (and complexity) of telling a story, sinking myself into it, and not tearing its claws from me until I am done. Share my awareness of the world around me. Share the human condition. Explore our purpose. Take readers on a journey to find themselves. Just like John Grisham did for me.
He made it clear to me that all this messiness of life can’t get in my way of doing what I was born to do. And if one way doesn’t work out, I will find another. And another.
And I have finally found my way in my writing. To write for kids and weave stories in that magical place with one foot in the dream world of endless possibilities and one foot grounded in the grown-up world. A place where I dwell as well. I took a roundabout path to get here. But I. AM. STILL. HERE.
The next 30 years look splendid.
Thank you, John Grisham.
Are you a debut author or writer looking to get published? I’ve just launched a free training series on writer platform building and am giving away an info-packed cheat sheet on how to connect with readers before your first book even comes out. Subscribe to my YouTube channel Your Awesome Author Life and Writers Facebook Group and get tips on craft, marketing, and a dash of inspiration! Happy writing!
It’s a funny thing once your book is published. People you don’t know are reading it and reviewing it. Some reviews will be good. Some will be conflicting. Some may be bad. As part of the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop, Here’s my take on what you can do as authors in response to bad reviews and also how to find best fit reviewers.
But first, you can also check out my free cheat sheet on 4 proven steps to connect with those best-fit readers even before your first book comes out! For advice on reviews read on…
You may wonder how two people can find such differences in your book. Easy. It’s all subjective and your readers will vary. Just as your book is unique, so is everyone’s opinion of it based on their collective life experiences.
In the same week, a reviewer for my book noted “absolutely no grammar errors were noticed which proves that good editing is out there!” and another noted “Good plot, but a lot of typos.” Recommendation? Laugh over them and then ignore them.
Unfortunately, you may receive them. Are bad reviews all bad? Not necessarily. If people are talking about your book passionately, it’s more likely to reach some readers who’ll like it but would never have found it otherwise.
A bad mention can be better than no mention at all, particularly for those readers who are skeptical of too many glowing reviews. It can lend more credibility to the book.
The more reviews you get the more exposure your book gets on Amazon – good or bad reviews. As you get more reviews, Amazon ranks you higher in their search engine for keywords related to your book so more potential readers can find your book. As you can see, even bad reviews can then help boost your book’s discoverability. It also helps your book to be more balanced for reviewers.
A few rotten reviews are expected with every book, as a book is so subjective to each reader, and it gives your book more credibility. A book with all 5-stars seems a bit good to be true. Readers will weed through the reviews and can surmise the value of your book and if it will appeal to them.
Best reviews are the ones that are a mix of critical comments and positive as it means the reader was affected by your book enough that they took the time to leave a thoughtful review on many points.
What not to do about a bad review? Respond. All authors receive them. Even the New York Times bestselling authors. Why a bad review? The reader might not normally read your genre, or was misled by the cover. The writing style might not be one they normally connect with. Have you read a book and wondered how people could praise it? A bad review can even lead to self-awareness of your writing and improvement. And remember, they are reviewing the book – not the writer.
Finding Best Fit Reviewers
Can you increase your chances of finding positive reviewers? Yes! Research book review bloggers in your genre and age-range that you write in. Review their website and see what kind of books they have reviewed in the past. Check out their review request policies. See if your book falls within the guidelines of what they want to read and request a review.
Places to find book reviewers? Use Google Alerts. Type in key words like “romance stories” or “action novels” and then in what medium you want them to appear (as they appear in blogs, the news, etc.). Google will then send you a list every day of all the hits according to your search specifications. Click on the links recommended. If they include bloggers that do book reviews, send them a request for review. Also, search for “book blog” plus your genre to find reviewers. Try searching Facebook book groups. They can have corresponding blogs that offer book reviews.
Have Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs)? Use them to do a Goodreads giveaway. This can generate positive reviews as readers who enjoy your kind of book will enter to win a copy of your book. Always send a handwritten thank you note with the book and politely ask that they write an honest review.
Have an ARC in e-book format only? Many book bloggers accept them for review as well.
Final tip on finding best fit reviewers. Search for comparable and successful authors with keywords of “author name” plus “review”. You will find book bloggers that reviewed that author’s book. These are good blogs to familiarize yourself with and not only request a review, but ask to do a guest post and/or giveaway.
Best of luck with your reviews!
P.S. Don’t forget to grab my free cheat sheet on how to connect with those best-fit readers even before your first book comes out!