All posts by rebekahnbryan

Book Review of Widow 1881


When I read the first version of this book four years ago when it was published under another title, I remember being impatient with main character Jane, which was reflected in my 4-star review at the time. I don’t know if it was the additional content in this version or my four more years of life experience, but Widow is a 5-star book. I adored it.

I wish I could go into all sorts of spoilery things in this book and how much I relate to them, but I’ll keep it high level for those of you who haven’t read the book yet.

First, a little background. Jane is a widow…in 1881… (no, really?) who leaves her comfortable life on the east coast to go west in search of a new life and maybe even a new love. Circumstances following her husband’s death result in Jane’s desire to reinvent herself in a place where no one knows her. But life on the prairie is hard and sometimes gruesome work, which comes as a shock to Jane. To pile on, Jane also has to room with a native woman who doesn’t speak to her.

Luckily, Jane is realistic with a thirst for knowledge, which makes her surroundings more bearable, even when she messes up royally at first. With her eager demeanor and open-mindedness, Jane endears herself to the town, and vice versa. Soon, it becomes her home, and she grows more and more comfortable playing house with her employer, Irishman and fellow outsider Dr. Kinney.

Of course, the life Jane was trying to escape catches up to her in a dramatic and painful way, which changes her relationship with Dr. Kinney. I read the last third of the book at rapid speed. Even though I thought I knew how it ended, I needed to know it still ended the way I remembered from the first read.

Sara captivated me once again with her vast historical knowledge and ability to create a vivid, engrossing scene. What she excels at most is capturing the maturity of love and how adult responsibilities intersect and with and sometimes impede the pursuit of happiness. With an ultimately deliciously satisfying ending.


This weekend, Sara and I will be partying it up at the Chanticleer Authors Conference, where she will be leading a few sessions and also competing for the Chatelaine Book Award for Women’s Fiction & Romantic Fiction for her book Wine & Children. Which is also a 5-star book, by the way. Good luck, Sara!

Meanwhile, I’ll be nervously awaiting the results of my two categories, the Gertrude Warner Book Awards for Middle Grade Readers and the Dante Rossetti Book Awards for Young Adult Fiction. Wish me luck, too!

How to Read The Fandom Collection


Funny story. Or at least “mildly amusing.” My dad read The Chronicles of Narnia to me when I was a child, so for Christmas, he bought me the complete set to read to my daughter now that she’s 7. Except, as I understand it, there’s some debate as to which order these books should be read in—the order they were published, or the order the story happens chronologically. My dad took the liberty of rearranging the books in the box set so that I could read them in the “correct” order.

Cut to three months later, I had a few of my writer friends over, and I told them about this. They demanded (not really, but they were pretty worked up, haha) to see what my dad had done and immediately put things back the way the publisher had intended. So which way is “right”? Because I still don’t know…

As for the Fandom Collection, I didn’t set out originally to write a series, which was likely to my detriment, but it is what it is. Front Row was supposed to be a one-and-done, but then I realized I had more, unrelated fan stories I wanted to tell. Thus came three standalone stories, which you could read in any order. One character does appear in all three books, but that’s an Easter egg I’ll leave up to you to find.

Here are a couple logical options:

Chronologically by story

  1. Track Two on Repeat
  2. Front Row
  3. Lyfers

In this scenario, start with Track Two on Repeat, in which the characters are in high school in 2001 at the height of boy bands and the birth of emo. Then, move onto Front Row, where college kids discover a love for smaller, more accessible bands. Finish with Lyfers, set closer to present time, with adults treating themselves to a boy band reunion cruise.

Chronologically by publication

  1. Front Row
  2. Lyfers
  3. Track Two on Repeat

Front Row was my first book baby, and maybe you could argue that it shows. But I love it, warts and all. From there, I took on the daunting task of multiple POVs in Lyfers without letting up on the fandom hysteria in my characters. Finally, I pumped the brakes and went back to my music-loving roots with Track Two on Repeat, to show how a music fanatic is born.

You could also start with Lyfers! Why not? That’s what some of my coworkers did when I all but declared it as mandatory reading to be on a team with me. (I kid, of course.)


There are three weeks to go until I randomly choose a winner for the autographed paperbacks of all three books! You can still share on Twitter or comment on Facebook for extra entries.

Camp NaNoWriMo 2018

So far, all of my novels have been NaNoWriMo or Camp Nano projects. The healthy competition, the camaraderie, the deadlines, and the achievable daily goals create my perfect writing environment that I haven’t been able to replicate other months of the year. I take that back, I haven’t actually “won” at Camp yet, but then again I haven’t “lost” at NaNoWriMo in November yet either. So I guess I only have my stuff together in November. But Nano, I just can’t quit you, so I keep trying to succeed at Camp in April and July.

The great thing about Camp Nano is that you set your own goals, whether it’s how much you want to write (words, pages, or lines) or for how long you want to write (minutes or hours) in the course of a month. You’d think that’d make it easier to win for me…

This April, I’m setting my goal at 25,000 words to get started on the first draft of my next Jane Austen retelling. My plan is to have three books written, in some draft form at least, before I release the first one. As I’ve mentioned before, the first book is the story of Emma. This next one will be Pride and Prejudice, and finally Persuasion with overlapping characters in each book.

Speaking of Jane Austen, if you’re in the mood for something goofy, I started an Instagram account with colorfully rendered Austen characters and quotes.

Read on for an excerpt from the first book introducing “Mr. Darcy” and “Elizabeth Bennet,” who will be (unless I change my mind) club manager Mike and Dominican-Canadian bartender Sharnita in this story.

Continue reading Camp NaNoWriMo 2018

Why Reviews Matter to Authors


A friend and I were talking about reviews the other day. She’s a voracious reader, a member of Kindle Unlimited, and often reads several books a month, both traditionally published and self-pubbed—whatever she can find on Amazon that strikes her fancy. But she admitted to me that she hardly ever leaves reviews, to which of course I gave her a look of horror and encouraged her to please do going forward. Even if it’s just a star rating and one short sentence!

Later, she asked me what authors expect from reviews. She had come across an author complaining that the reviews she was getting were not helpful—they were just a summary of the book. She knows what the book is about—she wrote it—she wants feedback! I get it, I guess, but this person took the time to leave a review. The only response should be a resounding THANK YOU!

And ultimately…

Reviews are for readers, not authors.

I can’t remember where I heard that, but it somehow eased my mind.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts lately, and episode SPF-106: How To Get Reviews from Mark Dawson’s Self-Publishing Formula resonated with me. Not only does he go into tips for writers for finding and encouraging readers to leave reviews, but he also explains WHY reviews are important.

One thing Mark Dawson said is that it doesn’t matter if the review is good or bad, as long as it’s honest. Negative reviews give the page credibility, as long as the positive reviews balance out the bad ones. While getting negative reviews is never fun, and it takes some getting used to, it’s OK. It’s part of the job.

So here are some actual ways reviews of any kind help writers and, more importantly, readers too:

  • Some promotional sites require a minimum number of reviews. Writers need paid promotions to reach more readers who would enjoy their books.
  • Reviews give the book legitimacy and encourage others to take a chance on it. If you could buy a book with more or less reviews, and all other factors were equal, which would you choose?
  • Writers can benefit from the feedback and learn if they need to market their book differently. Maybe they chose the wrong category, and the book isn’t reaching its intended audience. I know this has happened to me!
  • Not only that, constructive criticism helps them to improve going forward. For example, my endings needed work, which I learned in part from non-five-star reviews. With some soul searching and research, I realized I was making promises to the reader in my stories and not fulfilling those promises. That was actionable feedback I could use moving forward.
  • The good ones brighten our day!

If you have read any of my books, please consider leaving a review! Good, bad, or otherwise. It’ll be painless for both of us, I promise, and you’d be helping me immensely.

Thanks so much for being my reader!

3 Times I Got a Guitar Pick at a Concert


I’d like to start a new series of favorite concert memories of mine and hopefully others! I don’t know about you, but I’ve always enjoyed reading concert experiences, especially when something out of the ordinary happens. If you have any stories you’d like to share, send ’em in! I’d love to post about them.

I figure I’ll try to go thematic for these semi-regular posts, and the first theme is catching a guitar pick, a hallowed souvenir for any concertgoer. Here are my three favorite guitar pick memories:

1. Popping my guitar pick cherry. I acquired my first guitar pick at a Hanson concert in October of 2003, which should surprise no one who knows me. The five of us girls rolled into Cincinnati at midnight the night before and camped out in order to get front row. It wasn’t warm… And we weren’t even the first group there! My plan was to hold a small, unobtrusive sign asking Isaac for a pick. And it worked! Unfortunately, I couldn’t catch that day, and he had to throw a couple before I dug one off the floor. Sometimes, all you have to do is ask nicely.

Continue reading 3 Times I Got a Guitar Pick at a Concert