Tag Archives: A Book of Kells

The Silver Lining after a Bad Book Review

Margaret Kell-Virany: “Right now I’m on a high because I just got two four-star reviews for my Kindle book, A Book of Kells — the one that was called “Unable to Read” and awarded two stars by a reviewer last May.

At the time, the review was hard for me to take because I had just been pimping the book  like mad and given out 4500 free copies in a three-day promotion.  However, the review turned out to be a blessing in disguise because it alerted me to formatting problems I didn’t know about and wasn’t directly responsible for.
Amazon had offered to convert my paperback into a Kindle edition. They outsourced the formatting to Amazon Digital Services (this company doesn’t exist any more). I had trouble finding anyone at Kindle Support who could help me.

I corrected the mistakes (it was an awfully big job) and it is now up for sale again with perfect formatting.
Until quite recently no one who was not a personal contact of mine had reviewed the Kindle edition of A Book of Kells.  I had given up hope that people who downloaded free copies ever contacted the author.
But, interestingly, the readers who wrote the wonderful reviews {below) must have read the book in its “unable to read” state, since I’ve made no sales since the May promotion.”

The silver lining is also that my faith is renewed that the promo was worthwhile and I may do another one.  Meanwhile, I’m doing a little celebratory dance and hope you will join me. Here are the two reviews:

Brenda Lutz (MORRISTOWN, TN, US) July 16/12
” Different and interesting.
“Another book written from letters. Enjoyed this book and the historical background is always intriguing to me.Learned much about early Canada and their natives. Recommend this book.”
J. Corbett (Arizona) Aug. 31/12
“A Book Of Kells brought me back in time to when people were more concerned about God, country, and family than they are today. I often thought what was life was like back then for people working in the spread of Christianity. Well, this book does a very good job of explaining what it was like. The dedication of the people is amazing!
A book about real people, in real life situations makes for real interesting reading!
I loved this book!”

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Posted by on September 12, 2012 in Book Reviews


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7 Steps for Using Euphoria to Boost Your Success

nice flower bouquet


Author Bouquets: When you shower a new book writer with bouquets, you risk assisting at the birth of an infamous author’s ego. But praise and feedback are vital to a sensible author who learns to assemble them into a tool for later sales. Here are ways I have used – you can try them too:

How to Make a Readers’ Comments List

1. Just say thank-you and smile until you have something in writing from someone you know who has read the book.

2. Don’t destroy any messages that come in from or via your first buyers. These will be from family, friends and others they lent their copies to.

3. Open a readers’ comments file in your computer. Enter all email messages and scans of letters that contain solid feedback.

4. Acknowledge all messages and include the phrase, Do you mind if I quote you on that? People don’t mind, as long as they are quoted exactly and with no gaps. They are glad to be helpful and supportive. (If you absolutely must omit something in mid-sentence, insert three dots in its place: “. . .”)

5. Delete salutations and personal sentences from entries, keeping the most articulate, focused excerpts. Here’s an example of the format I use: “My flight out to CA was made all the more enjoyable because I read A Book of Kells on the way. I thought it was very well done – a very good read. It has real potential for a wider audience.” Chris Delmar, Westport, CT. For clarity, I substituted the name of the book for “your book” in the original.

6. Let readers submit a few of the comments to your Amazon page, under “Create a Review”. This must be done by someone other than the author. The review on is honestly entitled ‘Comments Received Directly by Publisher’. These are serious, freely submitted opinions from legitimate sources. For whatever reason, the writers were not able to send them in on their own. To take a look at what I’m referring to, click on this link and scroll down to the second review:  This review has been a placeholder until I received independent reviews. Now I can remove it, as I did the ones on and

7. Print out a copy of your review list and bring it when selling at book bazaars or book fairs. Browsers will enjoy its gossipy interest.

Guest blog by Margaret Kell-Virany
Author of “A Book of Kells”


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Review by Bestseller Author Ellen Tanner Marsh

Kathleen in Portsmouth

“When Margaret Kell Virany subtitled her family memoir A Book of Kells with “Growing Up in an Ego Void,” readers could well get the impression that this is just another tell-all tale written by the bitter survivor of a dysfunctional family. The elements are all here: an undemonstrative Methodist minister for a father, a high-strung, humorless mother and three impressionable daughters who must live up to their parents’ expectations of “devoting their lives to being a good example to others” and “not taking credit for themselves but giving it to God.”

Yet Virany’s affection for her remarkable and rather famous parents is evident throughout the book, and if she still wrestles with lingering confl icts stemming from the way she was raised, she has evidently learned to live with them well. Not that growing up in the Kell household of pre-WWII Ontario was easy. A sign in the church basement where Jack Kell preached warned, “Christ fi rst, others next, self last,” a dictum Virany forever struggled to live by, even if it meant subjugating her natural exuberance and fierce intellect, and living with the secret guilt of resenting her cool and occasionally critical mother.

Virany recounts her litany of church functions and crises of faith with all the charm of the willful child she used to be, but it is in the telling of her parents’ early lives, taken from the diaries and letters left to her when they died, that her narrative soars. Virany’s father, Jack, was born in Cookstown, Ontario in 1897, a descendant of William and Mary Kell, who immigrated to Canada from Europe in the 1850s. Even as a boy, Jack knew he wanted to be a minister, and at a surprisingly young age he left civilization for the great wilds of the Canadian north to aid in the Methodist Church’s mission of evangelizing the Indians.

Blizzards, biting cold and hunger mark Jack Kell’s early years of ministry, yet he seems to have thrived on the challenge. The Cree Indians, fur trappers and other hardy souls who comprised his fl ock welcomed his ministrations, while a budding transatlantic courtship with a young Englishwoman soon proved successful, providing him with the wife and helpmeet he so desperately yearned for.

Kathleen Ward Kell, Virany’s mother, embraced the hardship of wilderness life with admirable courage for a sensitive young woman raised in the more genteel environs of Portsmouth, England. Virany’s account of their adventures, particularly the trek by sleigh through a blizzard to bring the pregnant Kathleen to a distant hospital, are riveting. When the Kells finally return to civilization the pace of the narrative doesn’t fl ag; Virany has the natural gifts of a born storyteller who keeps you caring about the characters no matter where they are.

Even as the story moves to her parents’ later years, when adulthood allows her to see them with a more discerning eye, Virany tends to treat them with the same exasperated affection, bringing their very human shortcomings to light with admirable clarity. Her own struggles to come to terms with her religious beliefs as well as her battle with the depression that seems to run in her family, are given equally honest scrutiny.

The real Book of Kells, Virany reminds us, is the earliest known illuminated manuscript known to western civilization. Produced by ninth-century Catholic monks in Kells, Ireland, it is perhaps one of the most beautiful works of illustrated Holy Scriptures. “It would be a stretch for me to claim lineage from them,” admits Virany at the end of her book, “but my family did try to illuminate the gospels by the way they lived their daily lives.” And by all accounts, they succeeded.”


Ellen Tanner Marsh, New York Times best-selling author 




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Writing a Book from Love Letters

By Margaret Kell Virany

I can’t give advice about falling in love, but I can tell you how to write a book that shows readers how it’s done. If someone’s old love letters fall into your hands, and you wish to write, look at them as coupons to be redeemed.

Take them to the store of your memory which is open 24/7, even while you sleep. Work at your computer every day during the hours when you are at your brightest.

The onionskin love letters I had were in two file folders, half in my mother’s handwriting and half in my father’s, 72 in all. I say “had”. After my book was done, they were burned by a beloved, trusted family member silently succumbing to Alzheimer’s.

1. Don’t ever think the letters can be published as is.

2. Sit down and be their first patient, receptive reader.

3. Open separate, numbered chapter files in your computer under “Love…”. The order of the letters is already chronological, so each chapter is a time span.

4. Consider what genre you are writing in – Nonfiction or Fiction? History or Personal Memoir? Biography or Autobiography? Confession? Love Story?
This is important. It gives your material a theme, a slant, an organizing principle, and eventual title.

5. Judge what’s most interesting in the letters and type quoted segments into the appropriate chapters. The continuity will come later, as you are inspired in your sleep.

6. Make a note of things to be checked or researched on the Internet, in photos, from surviving friends and family members. Find out more about well known people or events cited, unanswered questions, contradictions, intriguing assumptions, contrasts to today, etc.

7. Pin down the facts. Return to the drawing board. If you misconstrue one thing, your whole story will become skewed and false. Even a work of fiction must be convincing.

8. Start back at the beginning each day, always looking for a better word and making sure you keep up the pace. If your attention droops you are boring the reader and that’s the worst sin.

My personal memoir based on love letters is read around the globe, always to high praise. Its shorter companion has been as high as #77 in the Kindle store.

If I market it well it will stay a bestseller. The hard copy of the memoir sells like hotcakes at book fairs, malls and through word-of-mouth. Meeting readers is a source of my writer’s joy.

A Book of Kells, is free March 13-17 as a St. Patrick’s Day promo in the Kindle store. 

Kathleen’s Cariole Ride, is free in the Kindle store March 18-19

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