Gifts all year long

Valentines dayWhen I look back on 2015, I have to say, the best books I’ve read in the last twelve months have been the ones I read for free, before anyone else got to see them. Whether for a review or to beta read, I can’t help but see the opportunity to read these manuscripts and to help the authors in some way, as gifts, and feel lucky as hell to have been entrusted with the work of such talented people.

Grateful for authors like, DJ Molles, who gave me his latest book, Wolves to provide an early review. It’s an amazing story that will be delayed for publication because a smart publisher decided to pick it up.  Trust me. It will be well worth the wait.

Red rainAnd Toby Neal, who let me read something that takes her Lei Crime series in a whole new direction. After almost a dozen books in the series, and the talented host of Lei Crime Kindle World authors have cranked out fan fiction in homage to her work, it’s amazing that the series remains fresh and engrossing. Her latest, Red Rain, which is available for pre-order before the December 26 publication date, is not to be missed. If you’re a Lei Crime fan, or if you’ve never read Neal before, Red Rain is a page turner and worth every penny.

Bespelled, the third and final book in Zander Vyne’s Tales of a Vampire Hunter series, brings a close to this vampire journey unlike any vampire series you’ve ever read. I had the honor to read all three of the books in this series as a beta reader. It’s amazing to have read the first draft and then to see what magic Vyne creates after the rewrites to the final version. Bespelled, follows Depraved (book two) and Immoral (book one) and brings Tales of a Vampire Hunter to a close. Vyne’s prose are lyrical and unexpected. If you haven’t read this series, pick it up now and read it one after the other for an engrossing story you can really get wrapped up in. I’m thinking hot chocolate with maybe a little Kahlua or Baleys, a cozy blanket, a fire and Vyne’s books. Perfection!

LadyboyBut the story that got me thinking about this past year of reading goodness is one I wish I could tell you to go out and buy today, but it’s not ready yet. Susanne Aspley’s Granola, MN. I’m not sure how to describe this book and I think any description I give it won’t do it justice. If you read Aspley’s Ladyboy and the Volunteer, you know she can write serious, gut wrenching stories that make you laugh out loud and wonder how she can pull the words she uses together in a way that makes so much damn sense. I raved about Ladyboy and felt great satisfaction when the book won a well-deserved McKnight Artist Fellowship.

In Granola, MN, Aspley takes her quirky style of writing to a small Minnesota town filled with characters you love, mixed in with some romance, tragedy, parades, baby bumpers, Hamburger Helper, a pit bull and The Price is Right. I was sad when I saw the words, The End.

As a writer, one of the most useful tools you can have is a good beta reader. Before you send your work out to the world, even before you begin your rewrites, having someone read your work, give you feedback, and tell you where you’re headed in the right direction and where you’re way off track, is invaluable. Sometimes they’ll give you ideas you hadn’t considered, or make suggestions that fix a problem you didn’t know you had. Having someone you can trust read for you, someone who you know will treat the work with the respect it deserves is priceless.

I’ve had the benefit of some fantastic beta readers in the last few years so when anyone asks me to beta read for them, I take the job very seriously. It’s like getting your hands on the baby before it comes out and deciding how the genes should be tweaked to make it just a tiny bit better than it already is.

Yes, it’s that serious.

So, I’m grateful to the authors that entrusted me with their work this year. And even more grateful to the readers who beta read, The Bonding Spell for me, Loreen Doyle-Littles, Alun Seymore, Lara Seymore, Kristen Wilson, Ali Bettencourt, Susanne Aspley, Michele Budka, Jill Savin and the rest of the folks in Novel Experience, Gale Deitch, Cindy Young-Turner, Jonathan Allen and Brian Connors.

For 2016, I’m already looking forward to sending out work to my trusted beta posse and hope I’ll be asked to read the work of others. I can hardly wait.

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