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June 24, 2011

Schledia Benefield: The Heart of Plain Jane (a guest post)





Today, I am happy to have Schledia Benefield on my blog. She is the author of Plain Jane, which I reviewed earlier this week. You can read my review here. Please give a warm welcome to Schledia Benefield.

Hi everyone! Thank you, Donna, for inviting me to share a piece of my heart.



THE HEART OF PLAIN JANE

When Donna asked if I would be interested in being a guest on her blog I was eager to have the opportunity to share what inspired Plain Jane and its purpose.

HOW IT BEGAN:

On a cold night in November of 2008 while sitting in my parked van waiting on someone, a simple phrase popped in my head. “A lovely dress covered with lace and frills could enhance even the plainest of girls, and I was plain.” I had been pondering my life-long struggle with a low self-esteem. I’m not sure exactly when I began to feel that I wasn’t pretty, but I know that I was fairly young. Despite my early struggle with self-esteem, I always felt pretty when I slipped on a ruffled dress. The more ruffles and frills it had, the better I felt about myself.

cover Plain Jane
As I contemplated what I recognized to be my own defense mechanism, Plain Jane came to life in my heart. I quickly scrambled through my purse, pulled out an envelope, and scribbled down the phrase. As the ink bled through to the paper, I knew I would be telling a tragic story of a girl whose self-esteem had been damaged through words as well as the lack of them and the path her life took as a result.

WHAT IT IS ABOUT:

The preface of Plain Jane begins with: “I crawled onto my bed with a bottle of sleeping pills in one hand and a bottle of vodka in the other. This way won’t hurt, and it shouldn’t take too long, I thought to myself. I could no longer endure the pain, the pain of being completely alone in the world.” Within the first sentence the reader is vividly aware that Aralyn’s story is one that leads to the issue of suicide.

I’ve had many responses to the preface, but I have been most frequently asked, “Is this a true story about you?”

WHY I HAD TO TELL HER STORY:

In response to that question I quickly answer, “No, Aralyn’s life is fiction; nevertheless, I did reveal many of my own emotions and struggles in order to tell her story." At times I had to tap into the deep recesses of my own heart and hurts to make her come to life. While my life was not the same as hers, I did face many similar situations which led to a low self-esteem, depression, and an attempt to end the pain I felt I could no longer endure.

What I went through was difficult for me to face, but once I reached adulthood I began to volunteer my time working with teenagers and often shared one-on-one or in small groups about my struggles. I wanted to try and help others who felt hopeless. Then in 2005 a family member took his life. I felt the pain of those left behind, and I watched my aunt suffer greatly. I knew what it felt like to be on both sides of that coin. I understood wanting to stop the pain, and I understood the pain suicide caused the family.

After that, I still shared my battle with depression in small settings, but I wanted to do more to help stop as many as I could from taking their lives. I know that it does get better and there is hope. I’ve written stories throughout my life and have always dreamed of writing a novel, so when that phrase popped into my head, I realized that I could tell a story that serves several purposes.

THE PURPOSES:

To begin with, I wrote Plain Jane through the eyes of the main character so that maybe those who do not comprehend being in that kind of darkness can learn compassion and gain understanding. I secretly hoped that there would be many readers who have picked on their peers or even bullied them who would finally see the pain they have caused others. I desired parents and adults to be able to see resemblances in their children or friends and get them the help they need, but most importantly, I prayed that someone experiencing the darkness of depression would find hope.


Thank you Schledia for your guest post and sharing about Plain Jane. It is an incredible book and think everyone should read it. You can find out more about Plain Jane and Schledia Benefield at the following links...

Plain Jane Facebook 
On Twitter: @Schledia


Buy Plain Jane at Amazon


The views, opinions, and beliefs expressed by guests are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of Girl Who Reads. Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon through the links above. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

June 23, 2011

Tips on Thursday - Length

Tips on Thursday is a weekly meme where book bloggers can share tricks and tips on book blogging. It can be on anything from technical (html coding) to creative (layouts and content). If you have shared a blogging tip on your blog, please link it below so others can find it (you don't have to post on Thursdays).

One of the more common questions I get from bloggers and authors who are submitting guest posts is how long should the post be. One of my blogging friends even did a poll on her blog to see if readers thought her reviews were too long. It is not an easy question to answer.

I feel a bit like a teacher when I think about my answer to this question. The true answer is to how long should a review/post be is not what most want to hear. A post should be long enough to give all relevant information and to fully support your point, but not so long that you are rambling or using filler words. You don't want to lose your readers' interest (or for reviews give away too much of the plot). Anyone who has had any writing instruction already knows this, so what is it we are wanting to know when we ask how long a post should be? We are looking for a word count limit.

When I wrote on paper in school, I would have to write so many lines on whatever the topic the teacher assigned. My teacher considered 25 lines to be 1 page. When I wasn't too sure about a topic, I was really good at writing 3 words per line. When I liked the topic, then I would write normally. So the number of lines isn't a good measure (and we no longer write assignments on paper). When we started using computers for assignments, we were given a word count. And now that has become our guide to how long our writing should be.

A well written post should be our measurement for length, but for those that want a number, I do have an answer. On average, a good length for a post is about 500 words. But again I want to emphasize we should be striving for quality and not quantity. If you can say all you need to say in 250 words, then great that is the length the post needs to be.

If curious, this post is 353 words.

How long are your posts? Have a tip or trick to share with other bloggers? Please leave a comment and/or link to your post.



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June 22, 2011

Emotional, Powerful: Plain Jane

Plain JanePlain Jane by Schledia Benefield
Paperback, 272 pages
Published February 2011 by Xlibris Corporation
ISBN 9781450032803
Read June 2011

I knew from the preface that this would be an emotional story. What I wasn't expecting was to be catapulted back to my childhood. In many ways, I could have been Aralyn and I saw what life could have been had I made a few different choices growing up. The first few chapters had me both shedding tears at the loneliness Aralyn felt and smiling at the memories of being a child of the 80s (big hair, fluorescent clothing, and multiple watches).

Schledia Benefield writes a powerful story that many teenagers would identify with. Once you start reading you'll find yourself swept up into the emotional undertow that is the life of Aralyn (aka Plain Jane). Several times I would find myself picking up the book thinking I would spend only a few minutes reading a couple of  pages, maybe a chapter, but then hours later realize I had blown through many chapters. This is due to both the compelling story and the easy flow of words on the page. 

I believe every teenager and anyone who has teenagers, works with teenagers, knows a teenager should read this book. It is a realistic look into the mind of teenagers. Many times when I read stories of tragic teens there is a sense that too much has occurred (you know, "can't the character catch a break" runs through your mind), but not with Plain Jane. Just like in any person's life there are highs and lows and we get to experience both with this story. 

Plain Jane is the best piece of realistic teen drama I have read in a long time. The plot is spot on; you would think that you are reading a real person's biography. The writing is superb. Like I said, the words flow nicely and the chapters transition seamlessly to the point you don't always realize you finished one chapter and started the next.


You really should read this book and now would be a great time to buy it. For the rest of the year, 25% of profits from Plain Jane will be donated to the Yellow Ribbon Foundation, a suicide prevention program. You'll want to have a Kleenex or two handy when you embark on this journey, but you don't want to miss out on this powerful, emotional novel. 

I'm excited to announce that Schledia Benefield will be on my blog on Friday with a guest post about what inspired her to write Plain Jane


I received Plain Jane free from the author. The above review is my honest opinion and was not influenced by the receipt of a free book.

June 21, 2011

J. B. Lynn: I Need Lion Taming Skills (a guest post)

I am thrilled to have author J. B. Lynn joining me on my blog today. I had the privilege of reading an advance copy of her romantic thriller The First Victim (you can read my review here). I absolutely loved the book and was excited when J. B. agreed to write a guest post for my blog. Please give a big welcome to J. B. Lynn.

Thanks so much for having me, Donna! I’m thrilled to get the chance to talk about The First Victim.

I Need Lion Taming Skills

Remember in the old cartoons and movies where all a lion tamer had to do was crack his whip to keep the ferocious beast at bay? I need one of those whips. Badly.

It’s not a ferocious beast I need to keep at bay, but my secondary characters. If I don’t make a concerted effort to keep them in line, they’ll do their best to take over my novel. Personally, I think that’s the way it should be. As a reader I enjoy getting to know secondary characters and caring about what happens to them. BUT as a writer, it’s my job to make sure they don’t become more important than the main characters.

I battled three secondary characters in The First Victim.
The First Victim
Mark Castle, the B&B owner and surrogate father of the main character Emily Wright, is a wonderful guy, but like any good character, he’s got flaws and issues he’s contending with. More than once, I found myself delving deeper and deeper into his motivations. Unfortunately that took away from the story, so I had to crack my whip, sending him back to his proper place in the novel.

Another character who threatened to run away with the story is Anna. A number of readers have told me that Anna is one of their favorite characters in The First Victim. I understand this completely. She’s loyal, quirky, and likeable. It was a conscious choice to make her so. It was important to me that the reader like her….a lot. The problem was that I liked her too much. I wrote entire scenes (that don’t appear in the book) that showcased the Pierced Wonder teenager. I forced myself to remember that she had a curfew and couldn’t stay on the page later than she was needed.

The secondary character who may very well get his own book someday, is Evan Swann. When they were teenagers Evan rescued Emily…not because he was a heroic kid, but because he was a juvenile delinquent. If he hadn’t been cutting classes, he never would have stumbled upon her trying to escape from the Babydoll Strangler. I desperately want to know how this changed him, how it shaped him, how it influences the man he is today (which is why he may get his own book) but exploring those questions took away from Emily’s story. Sadly, I had to crack my whip and relegate him to the role of a supporting character.

As you can probably tell, I don’t enjoy my lion tamer status. I love my secondary characters just as much as my main characters and I hope my readers do too.

Who are some of your favorite secondary characters? (I will admit that Dobby, the house elf, from the Harry Potter series, is one of mine!)



Ooh, I hope Evan Swann does get his own book as I have some questions for him. Thank you again J. B. for sharing this behind the scenes look into your secondary characters. Readers, I hope you will check out this great romantic thriller. You can find the books and learn more about J. B. Lynn at the following links.
 
JB Lynn's website: http://jblynn.com 
The Publisher's website: Carina Press 
For your Kindle at Amazon: The First Victim
For your Nook at Barnes & Noble: The First Victim
You can also find J. B. Lynn blogging on Mondays at Killer Chicks 
On Twitter: @JB_Lynn_author

June 20, 2011

It's Monday and I'm reading...

It's Monday (again)! This is a weekly meme from Book Journey.

I had a good reading week last week and finished almost everything on my reading list from last week, except for that pesky non-fiction book that I will probably be reading all summer. I'm starting all new books this week. 

ThrowawayThrowaway by Heather Huffman
This was a free Nook book I downloaded recently.
When society deemed Jessie a throwaway, she didn't let it stop her from finding the sunshine in her world...
But that world is threatened when she finds herself undeniably drawn to the mischievous glint in the eyes of a man unlike any she's ever met before.
What starts as a simple crush will lead them both on a journey they could never have anticipated. From a vibrant St. Louis neighborhood known as Cherokee Street to a cave in the Ozark Mountains with a 120-year-old mystery to hide, Jessie fights organized crime, corruption and her own fears to reclaim her life and leave her mark on this world. From Goodreads.com
I will probably have to switch to something light and fluffy next week, if I make it through these books this week. 
 
Tribulation Point: Sometimes Just Making It Through Another Day Isn't Always Easy Tribulation Point: Sometimes Just Making It Through Another Day Isn't Always Easy
by Ricci Lane 
Abandoned at birth, conceived from a vicious assault on her mother, left on the steps of an orphanage, Precious must also face many other trials from her past. Teased and mocked by the children in the orphanage, she is called "half-n-half." She finds her first love only to lose him. Her second love turns out to be something totally different from what she expected, another disappointment. The third time appears to be the charm until new obstacles surface within this relationship. Other misfortunes occur which she must face and conquer as she forges her future and overcomes her tribulations in life.

Also touched by life's uncertain events, James, Precious' son, learns that life is not always so easy. He encounters his own despair, suffering, disappointment, and a dashing away of part of his dreams to shape his own future. He is finally forced to reveal a long-kept childhood secret to an unsuspecting friend. He continues to evaluate his relationship with a long-time friend who has become a dangerous person with the potential of jeopardizing the safety of James' entire family. From GoodReads.com
I'm accepting Audio book recommendations. I'm currently 2 and 4 on the list for the two audio books I am waiting for so I won't get either one this week.

There you have it. This is what I'm reading this week. What about you? Be sure to check Book Journey for all the other participating blogs and you might find your next read.

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