Thursday, June 23, 2011

Daring To Share Can Be Terrifying

I’ve spent weeks sending individual notes to every person who added Warriors of the Cross to their 'to-read' list on Goodreads. In my messages, I've included the free link to Amazon or Smashwords and a notification about how to download the book for FREE. My hope was to garner interest in Guardians of the Cross, which should be released within the next few months.

Realizing a percentage of these people would eventually post a rating/review, I could have cherry picked the people contacted. By this, I mean I could have targeted people who have historically rated books with four or five stars. If I'd only contacted those individuals, my odds of getting great reviews would have been vastly improved. Unfortunately, I wouldn't have been satisfied with the results. My goal was to get a true rating for Warriors of the Cross. As such, I refused to shy away from people whose average ratings were barely greater than three. I knew they would be tough on me. I braced myself and hit the send button time after time.

I'm happy to report that even with those hard to please critics in the mix the average rating for Warriors of the Cross on Goodreads - right now - is 4.30 (33 ratings later), and the average rating on Amazon is 4.14 (14 reviews later). AWESOME!

Embedded within these ratings are the most wonderful reviews I could have ever hoped to have gotten. These reader's words, kindness, and passion for Warriors of the Cross will forever be engrained into my memory. For them, I've been motivated into getting Guardians of the Cross published as soon as possible. I'm including a few of the comments I would rate with 5 Stars because they mean so much to me. Please note: A few are just partials.
  • Michael Maedo (Breathtakingly beautiful): This is the first book I have ever written a review on for amazon. If I could give it more than 5 stars I would. I voraciously read multiple books a week but this is one of the best books I have ever read. The love of God and the desire to do the right thing permeates this book but does not hit you over the head. Brody, Allison, and Clark are so real. I feel like a better person after having read this book. I can't wait until the next book comes out.
  • Rae (Warning remember to breathe!): I stumbled across this title and am glad I decided to give it a try. I won't rehash what the other reviewers have already said, except to say remember to breathe! This is a book that you will hold your breathe from page 1 due to the fast pace of the action, emotion, events and suspense that never stops from one page to another. I am eagerly looking forward to the next one in the series. Great Read!
  • Laura Mcguire (Make sure you have time!): Warriors of the Cross is one of the best books that I have read since I got my Kindle a couple of years ago. I have spent many hours reading lots of books but few have held my attention the way this book has. Make sure you have some time to sit down and read it because it is very hard to put down. I am longing for more and I will be waiting anxiously for the next book in the series.
  • Karen in Williamsburg (Couldnt put it down!): Thanks so much for writing this book! I love that you have taken my 3 favorite genres (romance, paranormal fiction, and Christian fiction) and blended them so well and seamlessly that I don't know how I will ever read one by itself again. I don't think I have ever read a book before that has managed to do paranormal while still keeping Christian values. Right now, I am in that stage of withdrawal/mourning that we get when we finish a book that has no sequel (yet).
  • Emily: ...I have had very few books that I can't get out of my head, and this is one of them! Great job! I can't wait to read the next one in the series. UPDATE: It has been 2 days since I finished this book. I can't get it out of my head...I have tried and stopped reading 3 books since then...I think I'm going to have to read it again starting tonight!
  • Loren: Love this book! Started reading it last night after receiving a link from the author. Best link ever! Before I knew it it was well past my bed time and into the early morning hours. As soon as I got up this morning I had to know how it ended. The characters are amazing and I fell on love with them almost instantly. Allie is so loving and positive and I enjoyed reading about her. I love Clark for the same reasons as Allie although he is a little darker and it was hard to read his motives but Brody is my favourite. The story is a breath of fresh air different to a lot of the books I've been reading lately. I'm not particularly religious but enjoyed the religious aspects of the story. Overall it was a great and addictive read and I am eagerly awaiting the next book!
  • Amanda: I loved this book. The characters pulled me in, the book was well written with a great story line. I can't wait to read the next one and I'm thankful that the author sent me the link for the free download. The only reason it doesn't get a 5 from me (and it is really darn close), there are things I still have questions on and I didn't feel those were adequately explained or not explained at all. Overall one of the best books I have read this year. I am hoping a sequel is coming out soon.
  • E: ...Now, to be honest, I'm not a fan of romance. At all. Something about it just turns me off. Luckily, this book was so well-written that I actually enjoyed the entire romance aspect. Add in the paranormal aspect and this book was golden. The paranormal was on the religious side, which was new for me as I'd never read anything of the sort, but I enjoyed it very much. I particularly enjoyed the medical/more realistic pieces of the book that balanced out the supernatural, as well as most if not all the characters. Okay, Suri was just plain mean, but every other character was at least likeable. I found myself sympathizing with poor Allie and especially Clark more than once. Other than that, the pacing was impeccable, and it was a fairly quick yet fun read. It was interesting the whole way through, but the ending is what made me love the book rather than just really like it. Granted, cliffhangers are usually just annoying, but this one has made me very excited for the next book. As a whole, the book was intriguing and worth every moment spent reading it. I can't wait for the next to be released!
I don't want you to think the review/rating process has been all sugar plums and gumdrops. I've received my fair share of negative reviews and constructive criticism. For those who have offered sincere suggestions for improving the book/story, I want to say THANKS. It will take time to weed through the recommendations and even more time to make the updates.

In the spirit of this week's topic, I thought it would be appropriate to share a beautiful blog I read this week. When THANKS Is Not Enough, by M. Leighton. In it, Michelle eloquently expressed the exact emotions I experience every time someone reads Warriors of the Cross and becomes an ardent follower of the story and characters. I, like Michelle, am humbled by the great reviews and ratings received from the readers who have fallen in love with Allison, Brody, and Clark.

Click below to download M. Leighton's Madly for FREE.

Here are my new Goodreads fans. A few of them are the originators of my favorite reviews as listed above: E, Rae, Tara, Ms. Twilight, Amanda (1), Amanda (2), Christy, Sheila Ann, Emily, and Amber.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

☠ The Frightening...The Scary...The Face Wall ☠

There is one very eerie location around which the Warriors of the Cross revolves...The Face Wall.  I wish I was creative enough to make it up, but I'm not.  It is a very real and very frightening site.  As told in the book, there is a story about the previous owner embedding his face onto the wall as an act of retaliation because his family sold the property to the university after he - emphatically - demanded they not sell the property upon his death. That particular story does nothing to frighten me. 

The Face Wall story haunting me is very personal.  Almost twenty years ago, there was a bright and beautiful Canadian nurse with whom I worked. One evening, she and another nurse decided to see what The Face Wall looked like late one night.  'Something' scared them while they were there.  Frightened, they jumped back into the car and planned to leave.  Somehow, my nurse friend - the driver - inadvertently backed into the ocean rather than the road leading out.  My friend never made it out of the car alive because her seat belt's mechanism failed, and neither girl could get it to release.  Before all hope was lost, the other girl swam to the surface and rushed across the street to the ER for help.  By the time the rescue team arrived, it was too little and too late.  This reality makes The Face Wall more than an urban legend for me.  It makes it one of the most frightening places around, and the very reason I've made it into the Devil's Lair in the Warriors of the Cross.

Because I worked closely with that nurse, I knew her to be wonderful and kind.  She was a great caregiver, a patient mentor, and a gentle person.  I'll never forget one of our long-termed patients, a teenage boy who was deathly ill after a traumatic accident.  This nurse spent every shift taking care of this young man.  In fact, she came in day-after-day and requested him as her patient even though his care was complicated and strenuous...especially after several 12-hour shifts in a row.  She didn't let her own fatigue stop her.  She cared for him meticulously and was a major reason he recovered.  After months of recuperation, the two of them bonded.  It was a wholesome connection unlike anything I'd ever witnessed between a nurse and a patient.  She cared about him and his recovery, and he cared about her as a friend. 

Her commitment to this gravely ill boy exemplifies the caliber of a person the world lost on that horrific night.  Having known her and her pure heart, I'm confident that God immediately carried her to the heavens and sat her next to him.  I’m equally sure she is watching all of us through a spirit that is not hampered by the boundaries of our earthly bodies.

Recently, I found The Face Wall has a Facebook page.  Check it out (via the internet and not in person)!

Important Updates:  This week has been EXCITING for me.  Warriors of the Cross has reached some highly anticipated goals on Amazon:  

As has become customary, I would like to give a few shout outs to my new friends, followers, and fans.  My newest Goodread fans include: Brooke, Julie, Vicky, Darimar, Miss Reviewer, Linda, Erin, Janet, Jody (2), and Jackie

I especially want to thank Jody (I'll call her Jody (1) since there are two Jody fans).  Her Five Star (*****) response after reading Warriors of the Cross was the exact type every author dreams about after putting so much of themselves into their work.  She made my day!  I've included just a few of her comments below. 
  • If you are looking for a fresh paranormal romance thriller, Warriors of the Cross delivers.
  • I have never recommended a book to my Goodreads friends but I just did. I feel like I discovered a hidden treasure that I can't wait to share! Keep the story coming. I love the characters!!!
  • Besides the Romance, there are many layers to this unique plot. It takes place in a hospital and there are medical patients and cases coming and going like a really good episode of ER. The descriptions are both realistic and enthralling. It really reads well and I didn't want to put it down. When I wasn't reading it, I was thinking about the characters and plot. 
I also want to thank Julie for her Five Star (*****) rating and Amber for her Four Star (****) review.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Through The Eyes of Strangers

I've spent the last several weeks getting to know people I would never have met if I hadn't written Warriors of the Cross.  In fact, I never would have met these worldwide friends without the unbelievable technology in existence today. The interesting thing about blindly introducing yourself to strangers is you have to come to terms with who you are. Your answers must be open and honest.  If not, you will be branded the fraud you become when you lie. 

The question I've been asked most is "What is your favorite book?" That's innocent enough, right? For me, this is difficult because I know my reply makes or breaks the friendship. The honest answer is...(you guessed it) Warriors of the Cross. The problem is that particular answer makes me look arrogant and could lead my new 'friend' to think I am lying in order to sell a book (hard to do when they are FREE). I'm positive their first thought is 'how could it possibly be better than some of the greatest books ever'?  Well, the short answer is - as I found myself honestly disclosing - I embedded my friends and loved ones most interesting and endearing mannerisms into the characters of this fantasy. I truly love reading Warriors of the Cross because it makes me feel like I have just had a homecoming visit with wonderful friends/family (dead and alive) by the time I make it to the end.

Another question giving me pause is "Why did you write your book?" I had to think long a hard about this because there is not one single reason. Instead, my many motives were complex and personal. In response, I have given several versions of the following:  'I'm a nurse by profession and choice…and passion. For the rest of my life, my heart and mind will vividly remember every man, woman, and child dying on my watch. I recall each tear shed (my tears and theirs) while standing by and watching the families grieve for their loved ones. These extraordinary patients and families impacted me and made me the person I am today. They sparked a desire in me to want to change the world into one where people can be healed with the touch of a hand and the merging of souls. In fact, the mere thought excites me. If only...sigh!'

The one thing I'm sure of is my new friends, followers, and fans will continue to force me to analyze who I really am, what my goals are, and how those objectives will be accomplished. Actually, I thrive when I'm challenged; therefore, I'm confident our relationships will work out perfectly.

Again, I want to send special thanks to people who are adding themselves as T. R.’s Fans on GoodreadsJessica, Tee, KyraVani, Tamara, Tatyana, Joel, Janel, Emily, Lisa, Jody, Amber, and Nevey.  I'd also like to thank Ms. Twilight Twilight and Melissa for reading Warriors of the Cross and for giving it a 5 star (*****) review and Kerry H., Amber, and Cheryl for their 4 star (****) review.  I really appreciate the time you took to post the review and - of course - the kind words.  In fact, I want to thank everyone who is following my blog, who accepted and/or requested a friendship with me on Goodreads & Facebook, and who is now following me on Twitter & Scribd

You are all awesome!

Friday, June 3, 2011

It Really is Better To Give Than To Receive

I've spent the week contacting and being contacted by hundreds of people who have flagged themselves on Goodreads as interested in reading Warriors of the Cross.  In response, I gifted each of them a coupon to download a free copy of the e-book.  When I started this endeavor, I had no idea how rewarding it would be to give complete strangers an unsolicited and unexpected present.

My efforts were met with vacillating responses ranging from sincere gratitude to hesitant skepticism.  Regardless of the reaction, I'm convinced more than ever that 'giving really is better than receiving'.  That simple act yielded an innumerable number of new friends, followers, fans, and thanks on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, and this blog-site.  I am eternally grateful for each and every one.

Keeping the good karma going, I've been diligent when it comes to adding the blog-sites of my new friends/followers/fans to this page.  For some phantom technical reason, there are sites I could not add.  I decided to give up trying and come back later to investigate the issues associated with the nemesis 'void error'.

As I said last week, there are so many generous people helping me to spread the word about Warriors of the Cross that I can't possibly mention every one.  Instead, I am dedicating my actions and successes this week (#2 on Smashword's Best Seller's List) to the people who labeled themselves as T. R. Graves's Fans on Goodreads: Kim, Shanna, Joanne, Lady, Shannon, Rebecca, Annmarie, Francis, Mariela, Shay, Marjie, Jayde, Andrea, Jessica, Rachel, Sarah E., Beth, Sabrina, Lali, Ronda, Crystal, Melissa, Tee, and Emily.  I especially want to thank Lali (my toughest critic and biggest fan), Jayde (a fellow author constantly willing to share trade secrets with me), and Emily (a new friend who read the book within hours of purchase) for their 5 Star (*****) reviews.

I’m excited to see what the next week holds.  Stay tuned!