General Thoughts,  Novels (my writing updates)

Almost-winter writing update

It’s almost winter, which is my second favorite season after autumn (fall). I enjoy snuggling under fuzzy blankets to read great books while drinking hot chocolate (But who am I kidding? I can do that in any season).

I held a book signing at Dog Ear Books last night. It’s an awesome independent bookstore in Russellville, Arkansas. Now, some new readers will discover my books. Book signings are fun and nerve-wracking at the same time. I enjoy talking to readers of my work, but I also am a natural introvert, so the public venue is difficult for me.

Dog Ear Books author signing event, December 6, 2019.

Trying to sell my work is the most difficult part of writing. I sit there and watch a person pick up one of my novels to read the back cover blurb. I don’t want to stare at the person during the reading, but I am silently chanting in my head the whole time: “Please like my blurb so much that you just have to buy this book!”

I rely on word-of-mouth so much for book sales. I feel conceited calling myself a great writer, but I am sincerely flattered when someone else does. The best compliment I can receive is when a reader likes my book and takes the time to write a review and tell a friend about my work.

Another thing I do for my writing career is enter writing contests. The most recent was the 2019 Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards. This is the second time I’ve entered. The first time was back in 2017 for “Caroline’s Lighthouse.” The judge rated my writing well, but had a lot of critical commentary about the descriptions, cover, and a nit-picky thing involving grammar (which was in a character’s dialogue).

*I took the judge’s advice on the cover, but I left the rest of the items in my second edition along with an author’s note. I have worked on not going overboard with descriptions in my later work, but, to be fair, I had more people comment on loving the descriptions than I did critical comments. To each their own.*

For “Jordan’s Sister,” while I also didn’t place in the contest, the judge’s commentary was stellar and made my whole day. See below. The sections are rated 1-5 with 5 being the highest possible score.

Judge, 27th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards.

  • Structure, Organization, and Pacing: 5
  • Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar: 4
  • Production Quality and Cover Design: 4
  • Plot and Story Appeal: 4
  • Character Appeal and Development: 5
  • Voice and Writing Style: 5

Judge’s Commentary:

Former child star Taylor has finally gained an amount of anonymity and is trying to create a life away from her troubled family (including still-in-the-spotlight sister, Jordan), when a face from the past makes an appearance and stirs up old feelings that threaten to pull her back into the drama. This story is about healing, uncovering the true nature of people, and burgeoning romantic love between two wounded souls. It’s well-written and engaging throughout.

Author Brandi Easterling Collins convincingly tells this story of the downsides of young stardom with compassion for both our protagonist and for her jealous and mentally unwell sister. She develops both through believable situations and the consequences of their personal choices, and it is easy to become invested especially in sister Taylor. Love interest Layne is also a great character, and compatible with Taylor because of his own experiences in the entertainment industry. I appreciate that he didn’t rescue Taylor necessarily, even though he supported her along her journey. The author allowed Taylor to do her own difficult interior work.

The resolution of the story is satisfying, if tragic. And the overall production quality of the book is good. I liked the cover art better after I understood the significance of the roses, though I was initially not a fan of the font choice and title placement over the main art elements.

See what I mean!!! I loved hearing back from the judge about my novel. This reader’s job was to be critical of my work and he or she liked it! Reviews mean just as much coming from other readers. That’s why it’s so important to write a review when you love a book. Some authors don’t read reviews as a rule, but for those of us who do, it means the world to us.

In the meantime, as this year approaches its end, I am working at a good pace on my next novel. I just passed the 11,000-word mark. My target word count for the novel is between 55-65,000 depending on how much it takes to effectively tell Charlotte and Julia’s tale. Writing won’t be my primary focus these next few weeks because spending time with my family is more important, but I will plan my standard year-end book review on the best novels I’ve read this year. Look for that soon.

As always, if you’ve read one of my novels and haven’t done so already, please write a brief review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Thank you.

-Brandi Easterling Collins

Featured image: Mockup psd created by Qeaql-studio –

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