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The Digital Age - Delightful or Dangerous?

I recently received a letter from fellow author Jel Jones.  Though Jel and I have never met in person, we have a great deal in common, and we bonded over our similar interests in books and tranquil imagery, on Facebook.  It's ironic that we met through social media because it was Jel's instinct to send me an "old-fashioned" snail mail letter, which got me thinking about how much our world, and more specifically the world of books, has changed in such a short period of time. I am rather new to the world of publishing, as I have only been a published author since 2011. But things have changed rapidly in our industry in the last seven years and I wonder, as I observe social media outlets constantly updating and making "improvements" to their sites, where this is all going. Where is the world of fiction headed?


It wasn't all that long ago that the internet did not exist. Paper newspapers, the kind that got ink on your hands as you read them, were a primary source of news for most people. Magazines (actual paper magazines) were poolside reading and paperback novels were the way fiction was delivered to eager readers. I know many readers who still prefer reading a paperback novel over a digital one (myself included!) but the dawning of digital publishing changed things exponentially. Traditional publishing was the only form of publishing once upon a time, meaning the authors were at the mercy of the gatekeepers, so to speak. On the other hand, there were a number of traditional publishers then that no longer exist today, which equated to many more lines through which authors could have their work exposed to existing readers. Contests, such as Romance Writers of America's Golden Heart Contest, might have played a critical role in launching an author's career, as it meant getting your work in front of agents and editors who played a key role in making one's dreams come true. Once this happened, your traditional publisher did something that is becoming rarer and rarer today - they helped authors market their books. For instance, publishers sometimes advertised a book club, something a reader could join through which the publisher would send them a select number of titles in a month. As there was no internet of course, these clubs were advertised on an old fashioned postcard, inserted into a book in such a way that the reader could tear the card out, complete it and mail it into the publisher. It sounds as though I'm talking about something that must have occurred a hundred years ago! But as older millenials such as myself, or certainly anyone older than us could tell you, it really wasn't that long ago.

What's so bad about progress, you ask. After all, the dawning of new technology has given authors the opportunity to take control of their own destinies, and as one who has never considered herself a team player, I don't necessarily see this as a bad thing. But, as I recently observed that my eyes felt quite strained after yet another long day at a computer I realized just how much that our world really has changed. It's almost unheard of these days not to have a smart phone, not to drive past a bus stop and see the kids who are waiting for the school bus not engaging in conversations but instead scrolling through their phones.  They might be reading a digital book. Though, my gut instinct tells me that is probably not the case.


I've attended many workshops in which authors are told that it is absolutely essential to an author's career today, to have a social media presence. Workshop moderators insist that even if author's aren't necessarily into the idea, it's still good to be present on at least one or two social media outlets, just to let readers know you're alive. I agree with this thinking to a degree, but I see the harm in it as well. First of all, no matter how much we may tell ourselves that we're going to limit our time on social media, we almost always wind up spending more. We're curious about what our friends have recently posted, and it's critical, of course, that we do our own posting as well. Replying to comments has become more important than reading the mail. And don't even get me started on political posts. Authors who once got together on Facebook to share pictures of their dogs and grandchildren are being torn apart by a political war exacerbated by the ease with which messages are sent back and forth across the web within the blink of an eye. Is this really benefiting our writing careers? How about our human relations in general?


I miss the days of sitting in my mother's yard, with a glass of lemonade in one hand and a paperback book in the other. I miss the feeling of being able to truly shut out the world around me when reading or writing a good book because in essence the world is NOT all around me 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Naturally, I write this message as a blog post which I will later share with my reader and writer friends through social media. But I do hope those who agree with my thinking will somehow find a way to step back from it all and strive to simplify our lives once again, and to remember what used to make the world of fiction and romance so great. Books are still the greatest source of relaxation. I only hope that by the time that it is finally my turn to take my own kids to the library to pick out books to read, there will still be a library to take them to! 



My review of Four Brothers in Love by Jel Jones:




   

I greatly enjoyed Four Brothers in Love, as it is not your every day, run-of-the-mill romance novel. Where another author might have broken the stories of each of these four brothers out into individual books as part of a series, Jel Jones combines their stories, alternating scenes between brothers Rome, Paris, Britain and Sydney and their respective partners, making for a colorful, dynamic read.

Veronica Franklin, mother to the story's heroes, is a force to be reckoned with. As her late husband Ryan made a name for himself in the acting world, Veronica believes her sons should do the same, and nothing less will do, least of all careers at Franklin Gas, the family business, as it happens. Veronica believes her sons should fall in love with and be married to women whom she sees as worthy of them, namely, rich women, and she manipulates numerous situations in order to get her sons together with the women she deems their best prospects, their next-door neighbors, the Taylors. I kept waiting to see when Veronica would get hers, but there are many twists and turns in this story as this well-meaning widow is hiding dark secrets which gave me reason to pause and sympathize with her character.

Brothers Sydney and Paris quickly fall in love with the Taylor sisters, but there is much complication in the works for the eldest brother, Rome, and his younger brother Britain. Courtney, a young woman who works for Franklin Gas quickly replaces feelings she believed she had for Rome, for his younger brother, as the two share lunch together. Her crush spirals out of control and when Britain rejects her, Courtney finds herself once again entangled with the eldest Franklin brother, and the drama only intensifies from there. Meanwhile, Paris is caught up in his own real-life drama, but you'll have to read the story to see it all unfold!

Another element that distinguishes this story from your everyday romance novel is the ending - the book ends on a suspenseful cliffhanger I never saw coming!

This book is the first I've read of Jel Jones's titles and it was a real treat! I enjoyed getting caught up in the drama surrounding the Franklin brothers and I can't wait to read Four Brothers in Darkness!



My Review of Four Brothers in Darkness by Jel Jones:




I greatly enjoyed Four Brothers in Love, the first title in this series, and was very much looking forward to Four Brothers in Darkness. Definitely worth the wait! This book lives up to its title as nearly every character is dealing with some sort of darkness, a tragic loss or an unexpected occurrence, namely a very suspenseful one.

The story begins where Book 1 ends on a cliffhanger, where Sydney Franklin, one of the four brothers, has been abducted by their later father's former agent, Jack Coleman. Jack appears to be unhinged, as he confesses to having been in love with Ryan Franklin and intends for Sydney to serve in his father's place, as his partner. Sydney assures Jack he isn't gay, and upon coming to regret his actions, Jack starts a fire and appears to take his own life. Did Jack really die in the fire? Meanwhile, Sydney has his own theories that Mr. Coleman mistook feelings of friendship toward his father to be more, and doesn't hate the man who abducted him the way others around him believe he should.

Rome Franklin, the oldest brother, is dealing with problems of his own. Finally married to the woman he loves, Rome believes he has everything a man could ask for until a tragic plane accident takes the lives of his new wife Amber's children. Amber goes into shock, threatening their marriage, and very existence.

But perhaps the person to suffer the most in this story is the Franklin brothers' Aunt Catherine. Catherine's ex-husband comes back into her life, hoping to make amends and start anew. But he's keeping a big secret, and when things go awry and Antonio is shot, a chain of events ignites, prompting Catherine to confess to his murder.

There are twists and turns aplenty in this page-turning story. Get ready for another cliffhanger and fasten your seatbelts! Four Brothers in Darkness will remain in your mind long after you've turned the last page! 
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