Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Who's YOUR avatar? (What the heck is an avatar?)

Who's your avatar?

So . . .  I am taking an online class for writers. The instructor told us to develop an avatar---a very specific individual who is your target reader. She said inventors of the first iphone did that... and the phone sold well because their target, or avatar, did buy it, and buyers did match her profile, and extended beyond that.  think that's what she said. Obviously, the phone sold well. 

 My book-in-progress, O'Connor's Honor, has the following reader: She's 50, empty-nested, college-educated, well-read, with many hobbies and interests, always ready to learn something new. She drives a Honda electric car, is an ecclectic dresser, and an animal lover, especially dogs. Can't bear the thought of animal cruelty. Loves quilts. 

 She's a good friend and neighbor, passionate about the environment, loves Fleetwood Mac, Celtic music, the Kingston Trio, most folk music, classical music (not country western), is a beginning yoga (at home) student. She's intuitive and tired of cooking. Formerly, she was a soccer mom, PTA president, and Cub Scout Leader. 

Loves art, especially watercolors. Loves the theater and traveling. Wishes she'd done theater in school and community when she was younger. Her bucket list includes NOT skydiving, but more travel and a large oil painting by a local artist she's been lusting after (the painting, not the artist). She wonders if she has/had any artistic talent (painting or sculpting), regrets not staying with childhood piano lessons. 

Hates politics but cares deeply about her country. Writes letters commending exceptional service by store employees, also writes letters of complaint to CEOs when she feels treated unjustly. She's outgoing. Has health issues to manage. Hates New Years Resolutions. Loves old classic movies and books, is selective about contemporary books and movies. 

Loves libraries and bookstores. Has a dry sense of humor. She wonders what she's accomplished in the long run. She embraces her spirituality but has her doubts. She wears sensible shoes. She may or may not know where her car keys are. I know, in some slight way, she may or may not resemble me, but my story resonates with me, so that's how I picture my avatar. Forgot to mention she's happily married and a grandma.


Thursday, May 30, 2019

About sensible shoes...

I have "surgical" ankles, feet and toes. They've had a total of seven surgeries. Painful. I hope that era is over. They are what they are. In the meantime, I have found the perfect "surgical shoe." It doesn't allow my toes to reach the end of the shoe. They remain untouched, unbattered as I walk. And they can get wet.
They're like waterproof Mary Janes, I guess, but it's all about comfort.

The valley grieves

I've neglected this blog for a while. I'll blog more frequently on a variety of subjects---whatever comes to mind. First, though, some sad news:

I went to a workshop at the Logan Library yesterday and in the parking lot a helicopter droned overhead and the KSL News van was parked in front of the adjacent police station. It confirmed what I'd been dreading. There was to be a press conference. I kept on walking.

I've forgotten how to embed a link, but here's the story. She was only 5 years old. Lizzie was her name.


Monday, October 3, 2016

Missing: Zina Martin

Why is Zina Martin, 16, standing beside the highway two miles from the polygamous hamlet of Gabriel's Landing, Utah, with $13.84 in her pocket? Follow her journey as she leaves the only home she has ever known and becomes the woman she was destined to become. 

Gabriel's Daughters
a novel
Janet Kay Jensen

September 21, 2013
Jolly Fish Press

Monday, September 19, 2016

I'm a Fixator

Book Reviews: I'm a Fixator

Some authors don't read reviews of their own books. Others fixate on them. I'm a Fixator. probably because I've only written a couple of novels. I like to read nice things about my books. Five star reviews make my day. 

But there is grade inflation on how many stars a book receives. Your friends and family will award five stars because they love you. Other readers may not (they may or may not love you, and they may or may not award your book with five stars). But I really think that getting some negative reviews makes your book more balanced when both good and bad are posted on a review site such as amazon. To compare this to the traditional school report card, getting a "B" or even a "C" (which actually is/was "average" back in the day) brings us down to the real world, where some readers like a particular book and some don't. When I think of the great writers (Steinbeck, Hemingway, Faulkner, etc.) and compare them to myself, I'd award them twenty out of five stars. Maybe more. 

I've seen websites where other authors offer to post five-star reviews on your books if you'll do the same for them. I suspect many of these books aren't actually read.They can read the back cover and pull up a few reviews or descriptions on amazon.com, and that's all they need to write a credible review.  
When we purchased a car, the salesman made a point of telling us we would receive a survey, and---there it was in his those puppydog eyes---the pain and fear of not getting top marks. Seems his friend had bought a car from him at the dealership and had raced through the post-sale survey, rating everything as "Good," with no knowledge of the harm he was causing the salesman, who explained to us that it had taken him two years to "pull his grades up" and overcome the "Goods" in his file. Who knew that Good was Bad?

Waiters and cruise ship stewards will ask you for "excellents" too. Their livelihood may be at stake. I nod my head and reassure them that they'll get top ratings from us. I've come to anticipate that embarrassing little speech and cut it short with a quick "Yes, you'll get all 'excellents' from us." So I became a player in that game, too.

You never know what to expect in a review. I have to wonder if Very Sensitive (and kind) Readers will give five stars to just about anything they read, while Insensitive Readers won't. I reviewed books for one nationally-known website for several years, but stopped when their instructions were modified: If you can't award four or five stars, please send this book back to us and we'll give it to another reviewer (presumably one who gives lots of fours and fives). Sometimes they'd sent me books that needed a lot of work and weren't ready for prime time, and I'd tell them I couldn't give it a fair review.  But now there's no room for that kind of interchange. They are now a four and five star review site. Perhaps business has flourished.

But now, in my case, we come to some of the Bigger Guys: Foreword Magazine and Kirkus Reviews. They shoot straight from the hip. In their reviews, there are some mentions of my strong points as a writer and negative comments that make me squirm. Well, I read both Squirmy Reviews and did a little wincing, too, because I think most of the criticisms were accurate and fair. Plotting has always been my weakness and a good reviewer will take note of that. 

These two sites offer you the option, after you've read your review via email, to allow them to post it on their web page or to not post it anywhere (the term on their web page is "kill it"). If you go for the "publish" option, the entire review appears on the company's website and may be posted (or excerpted) elsewhere.That means, of course, that you can quote one flattering sentence and put it on your amazon page. By excerpting and only publishing the best parts of the review, you can make it appear that the reviewer loved your book when they didn't. It seems we're all players here.

So, Gentle Readers, there you have it. 

p.s. I do like such terms as "nuanced," "strong character development," "imaginative tale" and "Jensen takes a light touch..." if you ever write about my book. 

Monday, September 5, 2016

Foreword Magazine's review

Gabriel's Daughters

Reviewed by 
Gabriel’s Daughters is a lovely and optimistic story about the uncrushable nature of women’s spirituality.
Janet Kay Jensen’s Gabriel’s Daughters is the imaginative tale of a young girl who breaks away from the expectations of her rigid religious community to live a life with more possibilities.

At sixteen, Zina knows that her artistic dreams will have to be put on hold soon so that she can marry Cyrus, a friend of her father’s. But Zina is resistant to the prescriptions of her polygamous Utah community and craves a future full of passion. Her ambivalence leaves her vulnerable to the sweet-talking of a handsome young Gentile teacher. At risk of communal exile, she flees into the wider world, where she must challenge all of her taught notions of right and wrong.

The narrative pits polygamist traditions against more welcoming Christian belief systems, from the emotive Protestant church where Zina first finds refuge to a more modern articulation of Mormonism than that she first knew. Zina is not the only woman from Gabriel’s Landing to question how she was raised; two sisters also resist the roles assigned to them. Moments devoted to their barrier-breaking are fascinating in the text, which openly celebrates women’s dreams without insisting that they must abandon all beliefs to pursue them.

But those optimistic explorations also lead to some less-than-believable moments in the story, which always seems designed to afford Zina a wealth of opportunities. Her fortunes are incredible: she finds work and shelter immediately, even as a pregnant, teenage runaway, and is able to complete school with ease. A friendly young man with an art-laden apartment shows up offering her a room, rent free, when she needs it; later she inherits millions from a woman whom she knew only briefly. Even her grand struggles dissipate quickly, including her resistance to the love of a kind man.
The lack of suspense is consistent, and sometimes at odds with the story itself, which takes many dramatic turns, including a brutal assault and a kidnapping. There is never much doubt that Zina and her family will prevail and that forgiveness is always at hand. Where the story concentrates on Zina as a vulnerable and growing young girl, it is a successfully sweet foray into women’s religious lives; where it strives for more incredible turns, it strains credulity, sometimes beyond reason.

Years pass quickly, and kind characters move in and out of the story with ease and gentle presence. Prose is both swift and self-consciously affecting. Characters are somewhat formulaic, particularly black and gay characters, who are subject to light, if nonhostile, caricaturing. The text works to celebrate differences, if it does not always do so with much depth.

Speeches around personal progress are preachy, but they also result in small, happy redemptions. Zina herself grows into a woman of presence, and other characters develop in a similar style, always emerging from their challenges as more well-rounded, and eternally hopeful, people. The result is a cast that is lovable and admirable, if not always believable. Happily-ever-afters are never much in doubt, but those who come to the tale for its spiritually cheerful core are likely to still find much about the conclusions in Gabriel’s Daughters to celebrate.

Gabriel’s Daughters is a lovely and optimistic story about the uncrushable nature of women’s spirituality.

Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The author of this book provided free copies of the book and paid a small fee to have his/her book reviewed by a professional reviewer. Foreword Reviews and Clarion Review make no guarantee that the author will receive a positive review. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

charlie chaplin eating a shoe شارلى شابلن بياكل جزمة

The review is in from Kirkus

 Kirkus Review: Gabriel's Daughters

Questions of faith and family haunt a young woman fleeing from her isolated polygamist community.
In this follow-up to 2007’s Don’t You Marry the Mormon Boys, Jensen follows Zina Martin, the sister of the previous novel’s protagonist. Faced at age 16 with becoming a plural wife to an older man, Zina embarks on a doomed affair that leaves her alone and pregnant. Desperate, she abandons Gabriel’s Landing, her sheltered polygamist community in Utah. In the first of many fortunate plot points, Zina is picked up by an angelic African-American couple, who take her home to Chicago and treat her like a daughter. Zina slips easily into modern life: college degree, good job, an apartment of her own. But her past and the family she left behind still plague her. At one point, she tells a friend: “I don’t have one object, not one reminder of home. Not a picture or a letter or a quilt.” Zina especially wonders about her sister Louisa, who left Gabriel’s Landing to become a doctor. Zina’s quest to reunite with Louisa eventually connects the two books, and the sisters’ struggle to reconcile the worlds of secular society, conservative polygamy, and mainstream Mormonism dominates the book’s latter half. 
Jensen’s nuanced consideration of that struggle is the story’s greatest strength. She refrains from easy judgments, and her ability to present the Martin sisters’ genuine love for their home alongside its real pitfalls challenges readers to embrace the full complexity of polygamist communities. The rest of the plot, though, is less subtle and at times implausible. The ending seems predestined, and the difficult aspects of Zina’s story are rendered in an oddly unemotional fashion. For example, Zina undergoes a trauma shortly after arriving in Chicago, but the author quickly abandons that painful event and leaps months into the future. Jensen explains Zina’s sudden progress in bland, matter-of-fact prose: “Zina had been in Chicago for over a year. She had moved into an apartment with other girls her age, and learned to love the city and her job.” Secondary characters come and go with similarly little fanfare, often seeming more like plot devices than vibrant individuals. Such narrative distance and too-convenient plotting keep Zina and the other characters from becoming as compelling as the book’s broader themes.
A serviceable plot and characters bolstered by unusually sophisticated thinking about polygamy and its relationship to mainstream Mormonism.
Pub Date: Feb. 10th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-939967-19-0
Page count: 328pp
Publisher: Jolly Fish Press
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online: July 13th, 2016

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Have you written YOUR obituary yet? Consider the alternatives....

 Here’s mine, more or less, and a pox on any of my family who consider altering it. My reasons for authoring it were quite reasonable: names and dates and facts will will be accurate,  (some of the novels are nonexistent at this writing) and there is no suggestion of sainthood.

Janet Kay Craner Jensen passed away (actually, she died) on ___________. She was born April 3, 1951, a surprise, to Darwin Kay and Lorene Ethel Miller Craner, in Berkeley, California. Her first recorded sentence was “Me do it.” She was raised in several western states and graduated from Skyline High School in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1969, where she won distinction as a state champion in debate. After being accepted and then rejected by Brigham Young University, she attended Utah State University on a Debate scholarship, where she affiliated with Mortar Board and earned a B.S. in Communicative Disorders.

She met her husband, Miles Peter Jensen, at USU, where both were members of the Intercollegiate Debate Team. After some debate, they agreed to marry, and on August 19, 1972, they were sealed in the Ogden Utah LDS Temple, after which they continued to debate for the next -------- years. They honeymooned in Chicago, where both earned graduate degrees from Northwestern University:  Miles in Law and Janet in Speech-Language Pathology.

Janet was employed as a Speech-Language Pathologist for twenty years, beginning at Augustana Nursery in Chicago, Ill.; following with Cache and Logan (Utah) School Districts; and part-time faculty at Utah State University’s Department of Communicative Disorders and Deaf Education and USU’s Center for Persons With Disabilities.

(You may skip the next two paragraphs. In fact, this is highly recommended.)

Janet's second career, as a writer, was noted by poems and articles that appeared in Healing Ministry Journal, Everton’s Family History Magazine, ByLine, Meridian, The Magic of Stories, Parables of Our Times and Intermountain Health Care’s Heart to Heart newsletter. A personal essay, Baking Day, won second place in a national competition. She co-authored The Book Lover’s Cookbook, Recipes Inspired by Celebrated Works of Literature and the Passages that Feature Them (Wenger and Jensen, Ballantine, 2003). Publication of this book was greeted with great surprise by friends who swore she could not cook. She published her first novel, Don’t You Marry the Mormon Boys (Cedar Fort, 2007). This was read with great surprise by her husband, who did not know she could write. She went on to publish more novels, Gabriel’s Daughters (Jolly Fish, 2015), Come, Girls, Come (and listen to my noise); Grace Will Bring Us Home, O’Connor’s Honor, Chrissie, The Best is Yet to Be, and Drs. Birt, Hogg and Dube′.

Janet also won numerous awards from the League of Utah Writers, including first place in short story, humorous poetry, and personal essay. Her novels received several national awards, including finalist in the Eric Hoffer Award for New Fiction, Foreword Magazine’s Indiefab contest, and Southwest Book Design and Production Award. 

She served as president of the Cache Valley Chapter of the League of Utah Writers and was a member of the LUW State Board for several years. Other professional affiliations included The American Speech-Language and Hearing Association, Women Writing the West, and USU’s Old Main Society. She was a tutor with Bridgerland Literacy for ten years and was proud to be honored as Logan Library’s Top-Fines Patron of the Year.

Janet was known to play practical jokes and was devoted to her family. She enjoyed travel and theater and had a passion for reading. After accidentally sipping fruit-flavored champagne on a Caribbean cruise, (which inspired many family stories), she remained alcohol-free for the remainder of her life. She served in many capacities in the LDS Church including Cub Scout Leader, Relief Society Instructor, Primary President, and Newsletter Editor. At the time of her death she was a member of the Lundstrom Park (Logan East Stake) Third Ward.

She was preceded in death by her parents and one grandson, Christian Jensen.

She also outlived numerous mixed-breed dogs: Chevy, Malibu, Molly, and Lita, and one large white rabbit, Harvey.

She is survived by her husband, Miles, of Logan; her three sons, who provided inspiration for many humorous poems and essays: Kevin Scott Jensen (Evelyn), Draper, Utah; Benjamin Paul (BJ) and Marica Jensen, Jyvaskyla Finland; and Jeff Cameron Jensen, Emeryville, California; two sisters: Anne Cloward, Portland, Ore.; Ellen Croft, Riverton, Utah; five remarkable grandchildren, and Gus, a BorderBeagle who was her faithful companion and partner in crime.

In lieu of flowers the family suggests donation to the WalMart Where Did I Park my Car Club. Serious donors may contribute to CAPSA (Citizens Against Physical and Sexual Abuse), Cache Valley Humane Society and Bridgerland Literacy.

Graveside Services will be highlighted by a rendering of "Amazing Grace"  by the USU Pipe and Drum Corps, and will be conducted by Bishop Tom Auga who was quoted as remarking, “Who knew being Primary President could shorten the average woman’s life span? Besides, Sister Jensen was anything but average.”