Thursday, December 1, 2016

Books from Santa

A Book for Christmas? Are you serious? Has Santa fallen on his head? OK, even if you don't celebrate Christmas....a book, as a G-I-F-T?
Hmmm, I might need to think about this...

No, but wait!

Haven't you seen it?
It’s been making its way around the internet. You know, on sites such as Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram.

Personally, I like it. So here it is:

...Something to read...now why would you want to do that?

Excellent question! Because you see, it is the most wondrous gift of all.

"Something they want," will be quickly replaced by what they really want -come January.

"Something they need," will move over so the  next need can make itself known,

"Something to wear," will be outgrown in the blink of an eye, if not outdated before, but 

"Something to read," will live on forever. 

Wait, hear me out. Just think about it...

A book is so much more than a movie. It's portable, doesn't require batteries, and then there's the fact that you can get inside your character's head. You know their innermost thoughts and emotions. you feel along with them. 
The special effects are as limitless as the imagination, and the stories are more fantastic than one's dreams.

Every time you read it, you notice something that might have been overlooked in the past. Yes, you can re-read a book. This is not a 'one-time' gift.

You get to know and love the characters. You think about them as though they were right there beside you...making you laugh or cry, taking you on the ultimate adventure to save the universe or just sharing good conversation and a comforting cup of cocoa.

Here are two articles that give you 10 reasons why people who read more make better leaders, or how they are more likely to be successful. They go on to list how these readers have better people skills, a wider vocabulary, a more rounded perspective, to name a few. Now aren't these good reasons to promote reading? Your gift can impact a person's life....whoa, profound.

Paperbacks and hardcovers can be expensive, but have you ever considered an e-book? It can be read on one's phone, iPad or PC if the receiver doesn't have an e-reader.

Owning an e-reader means you can carry literally thousands of books with you everywhere you go. With built-in dictionaries and some models who can read to you, this makes the idea of offering a gift that 'keeps on giving' phenomenal. From the very young to the very old, makes it out to be one fantastic gift. (Not to mention the tons of free or bargain priced books offered by authors, just waiting to load up the e-reader).


Taking a trip to your local bookstore can be quite the treat once that spark for reading has been ignited. And it is one that will burn on throughout a lifetime. 
From picture books to comics, reference manuals to novels, cookbooks and craft ideas, there IS something for everyone.

Now admit it....this is something that just can't be beat!








Friday, July 1, 2016

A Lesson in Living History


History, a word that has made many cringe, shudder, and possibly cry in high school. But what if we were to consider just how much we could learn from reading historical novels of any genre. Fictional characters like Sherlock Holmes, or writers like Jane Austin, have allowed us a glimpse into an era long past.

Charles Dickens
Historical fiction authors have the burden of research, and the joy of discovery, while today’s readers have a wonderful opportunity to step back in time and let a world long gone come alive in a way no history book could compete with.  If you choose an author like Charles Dickens, his authentic characters and descriptions of setting must have some measure of historical accuracy…don't you think?

Arriving at Ellis Island
The magic comes alive as you open a book, for amidst the lines on the page you find yourself walking through New York over one hundred years ago, breathing in the smells from the steamships docked at the port. It’d rained yesterday, transforming the streets into a thick mud that clings to everything that dares touch it. You wait, anxiously glancing around, hoping to spot your family coming in from Ireland, praying they made it past the inspection on Ellis Island…hoping they haven’t succumbed to illness on the long ride in the overcrowded, unsanitary conditions.


Stark Home, Co
Or maybe, you're a young woman, moving west to a new life. Promised to a man you’ve never met.
Used to a life of privilege overseas, nothing could rightfully prepare you for what lies ahead. As our heroine comes to face her reality, so can readers.

The richness found in novels brings not only random facts, but life itself, filled with emotions, situations, struggles, sights and smells of a time lost to us. So when you add a date and event to the lives of these characters, it makes history real, easier to remember, and if you’re lucky, stirs your curiosity.


Read on, Watson.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

A Marketing We Will Go...with Colorado Marshal

Summer! Yes, it appears to have arrived at last. (So we won't complain about it being only 3 degrees above freezing last week). Yes, I know, and I'm sorry that the posts have been sparse of late, but let's hope we can get back into the swing of internet things. Today we are going to welcome Colorado Marshal, so let's dive into is and see where it takes us. 

Could you share a little about yourself and what led you to become a writer?
I have always been telling stories. I grew up on a ranch in the middle of nowhere, so self-entertainment was a necessity. I used to pass the time by watching a lot of old, classic movies and trying out my own wild adventures on the Breyer collection I had. I don’t know when I started writing things down, but once I did I couldn’t get enough of it. When I was little, I had extreme night terrors, and my mom used to help me try to “fix” the endings to the dreams; added to that, I had a really bad time as a teenager – depression, horrible anxiety, and zero confidence – so writing became a lifeline. I used it to heal. I suspect the impetus for using storytelling to improve my own situation came from my mom and those horrid dreams I had. I can relate to using writing as a means to heal. Good for you to have made use of your creativity to heal!

Do you write full time? How much of your life is set aside for writing?
I write as much as possible. At any given time I will hold between 2 and 4 jobs during the summer, but as I live in a tourist town, it dies off in winter. I use those months to write (a lot). I spent an entire winter, standing at the back counter of the ice cream shop I managed at the time, working on my book. The longer I do it, the more I am realizing the importance of routine, and the establishment of one. A routine can give the craziest of days a semblance of normality.

What genre do you write? Do you think your genre makes marketing easier or harder?
I am adventure romance all the way! A lot of my influences were the old movies I watched as a kid; as a result, my writing reflects similar values, methods, and relationships. I don’t believe this genre is any harder or easier to market than anything else, but my target audience is smaller than that of most adventure romance novels due to the “clean” nature of what I write. In the end, you must respect your writing and not worry about writing for others or the market because that'll be reflected in the writing. Trust that there is an audience for your work...and your job is to find it.

Do you know your target audience? What efforts do you make to reach out to these potential readers?
I am currently in the process of narrowing down and defining a specific audience. I have it generalized at the moment, and am starting to “stalk” them online to find out where they hang out. So it's kind of like stalking? You might want to rethink that in the future lol, but for now, as long as it is strictly for research, I suppose you can get away with it.

Do you have a traditional publishing contract, are you with an Indie publisher or do you Indie publish your own work?
I currently publish my own work and hope to expand into publishing the works of others, as well. Now that's ambitious. I couldn't imagine adding publishing to my schedule because then I'd really have to give up sleep.
                                                     
Do you have an author platform? Can you tell us what yours consists of? 
*Crickets* Well maybe you can pick up some tips from the other authors participating in our blog series. Or let me know if you'd like my help.


How do you handle marketing? Do you have a plan, a publicist or just take one day at a time? Please elaborate on your methods.
At the moment I am taking it one day at a time, learning the craft of marketing, and trying to understand the various methods and outlets. Once I have done that and gotten my feet wet with a few reviews, experiences, etc, I will take what I’ve learned and properly establish a set plan. I believe a marketing plan is just as essential as a timeline for a novel; you need to know where you’re going and how you’re going to get there to avoid being distracted by all the tangents you will encounter along the way. Marketing today is an ever-changing experience. What worked today, may be of no use tomorrow. One must keep on trying and learning. Action, any action, is better than none.

Do you have perma-free books, occasional sales or leave your books at a fixed price?
I will. Once I have finished/published Part II of the trilogy, I will set Part I as perma-free. I think this method will work particularly well for series that have heavily-integrated plotlines, where the reader must finish all books in order to finish the story itself. That seems to be a popular option.

Where can your books be found?
Amazon.com at the moment, as well as all outlets enabled for their extended reach (paperback only). The ebook version is Kindle only for the time being.

Do you actively seek out promotional sites?
Yes. Currently, this is what I am doing.

Are there any sites or actions you now avoid when it comes to marketing, either due to poor response, or large costs vs poor income results?
Get back to me in a few months once I’ve done some experimenting, and we shall see! OK, fair enough. But don't hesitate to reach out and let us know what you've been up to.

Do you use Goodreads, LibraryThing, Bookbub author page or other sites to promote yourself?
I have only tried Bookbub and got rejected after 48 hours, so still working on that one!





EXCERPT FROM THE HUNT

The only option is consorting with the enemy. What is your next move?



            “That was close,” Jared said, wiping a hand over his forehead. “Sorry, man, I thought I killed the program.”
            “It’s all right, Jared,” Gregg said. “But Miss Goldstein is right: we can’t stay here. It won’t take them long to find us. What I want to know is who set that alarm off.”
            “Well, they were about to shut down for the night. Maybe somebody walked past the wrong sensor.”
            “The alarm wouldn’t have been armed yet, as there was still staff inside,” Amantha said. “Someone set it off intentionally. The only place to do that is in the back of the building, near where I ran into that guy –”
            “What guy?” Gregg asked sharply. Even as he said it, the situation became clear. Gregg looked at Jared, found him looking back, and slumped hopelessly back against the wall.
            Ian. Ian was the guy. Gregg should have known he couldn’t lose him for long.
            “An uncouth beast,” Marilla said indignantly. “Had his arms all the way around Amantha, he did. The poor girl was pressed against him like a grape.”
            “Yeah that sounds about right,” Gregg muttered to himself as Amantha tried, rather unsuccessfully, to hide the blush coloring her fair cheeks. Even in the darkness, her discomfiture was tangible.
            Bloody Ian. He had set up this whole thing, waiting until Gregg was well and truly committed before setting off the alarm in the building and making things too hot to handle. Somehow, some way, he had known about the museum despite Gregg not saying anything, used the information to his advantage, and engineered a very slick job. He had set up the trap, sat back, and was probably somewhere nearby, just waiting for Gregg to call him for help. And by doing that, Ian would get his hands on what he really wanted: Marian’s Necklace, and the riddle.
            Add Amantha Goldstein into the mix, and Ian would think all his Christmases had come at once.
            How had he known? How had he figured it out? Gregg sighed. Maybe, at the end of the day, Ian was just that damn good.
            “What are you going to do?” Jared’s question was quiet.
            “You know what I’m going to do.”
            “Look… I know I suggested it, but I was sort of kidding. Are you sure that’s a good idea?”
            “Nope.”
            What Ian would do with them was uncertain. For all Gregg knew, calling him might be worse than taking their chances on foot. The problem was he didn’t have a choice. Two men had just come into view through the gloom and found Jared’s trail across the way, five more were fanning out along the street on either side. Flashlight beams were everywhere. Slowly, the entourage began to tighten their circle, heading right for the small alcove where Gregg and the others waited like so many ducks in thunder. One of them was pointing at the building across the street; it wouldn’t be long before they closed in. And Gregg knew there was only one thing to do. He only prayed Ian wouldn’t shoot him on sight.
            “Who are you ringing?” Amantha asked as Gregg whipped out his phone.
            “The bloody guy that got us into this bloody mess in the bloody first place,” Gregg groused, and hit call.
            “Who’s that?”
            “Ian Lowell.”
            Amantha glanced over.
            “And who is he?”



EXCERPT FROM THE LEGEND

Home at last. But at what cost?


            “Robert of Locksley,” she said. The voice was not kind. “I see you have found your way back.”
            “Hello, Marian,” Robin said. “It’s been a long time.”
            Marian Fitzwalter stepped forward slowly, out of the doorway, light sliding in muted shafts up her figure. And Robin knew as soon as he saw her that his previous expectations were far from accurate. “Little Marian” was no longer a child. She was no longer the girl he used to play with. She was a woman, and a beautiful one at that, endowed with a grace and poise he had seen in very few places – or on very few people. Her hair had darkened over the years to a color nearly touching black, a contrast made all the more apparent by the cream of her skin and vibrant, sizzling green of her eyes. Robin could only imagine how easily those eyes could shift straight to blue with the right hint of color. Her figure was curvy without being too much so, imparting a willowy elegance fit for royalty, one that would surpass even the most perfecting of opinions.
            If Marian noticed the slight look of surprise that crossed his face, however, she ignored it, sauntering casually into the courtyard with her arms hugged lightly to her chest. The expression on her face was tolerant enough, but far from welcoming. Not surprised at all.
            “It has been a long time,” she said as she reached them. “I believe the last time we met was the day you allowed my brother to accompany you on this suicide trip you called a crusade.”
            Robin knew he should have expected this; Marian hadn’t changed in the least. Subconsciously he prepared for battle. Again.
            “He made his own decision,” he answered.
            “He followed you,” Marian said sharply. “He always followed you because he respected you.” She surveyed him briefly, reading in his eyes what Robin couldn’t say aloud. “He’s dead, isn’t he?”
            Robin nodded.
            “I should have known,” Marian said, her voice edged with bitterness. “It was a fool’s hope I entertained that you would look after him.” She turned to Jasmine, who, though unknown to her, provided an adequate outlet for anger that had been pent up for a long time. “You may not know it,” she added in an enlightening tone, “but you are traveling with a man who has managed to single-handedly take away the two things I held most important in this life, all within five years.”
            “I know little about him,” Jasmine answered in Robin’s defense. “Only that he has given me the thing I hold most dear. Freedom.”
            Marian rounded on Robin again.
            “And just what is it you want to give me, Robert? Come to pay your penance?”
            “I’ve paid my penance, Marian,” Robin said, and he could hear the anger etched into his own voice. “I spent a year locked up with twenty other men who would have gladly given their lives for our king’s quest, eleven of whom did, rotting away like rats in a cage while the rest of the army came home without a second thought. I watched men suffer and grow ill with fever, watched their hope slowly fade away until there was nothing left. I have seen war and killing and bloodshed, all of it locked away in my mind forever, never to be removed, never to be forgiven, so believe me when I tell you, Marian, I have paid my penance.”


Reviews for Forever the Horizon: Part I, Fortune’s Charm



“If you like the story of Robin Hood (and who doesn't) you will LOVE this book!!! The author has done a tremendous amount of research on the Robin Hood story and incorporates this into a modern day treasure hunt! This is a fun, fast- paced, action-packed read with a little romance thrown in for good measure. A must buy! The only bummer..... waiting for Part Two!”
-        D. Shinn
-       

“A cool spin on Robin Hood's adventurous life! Flashbacks really make this fun to read...this definitely has "movie" written all over it!”
-        C. Christie
     


“Great Read. A quirky little insight into Robin Hood and a group modern-day treasure hunters. Fast-paced and easy to read.”
-        Davo

Purchasing and Review Information









Contact Information





About the Author


Colorado Marshal was born and raised in rural California. An avid storyteller, she has been writing for most of her life. A wide variety of interests and hobbies gives her plenty to put on the page, and themes ranging from aviation to equestrian vaulting are all likely to crop up in her books at some point or another. In addition to writing, she is in the process of starting her own publishing company, Tomcat Alley Press, with the intent of helping other writers achieve their literary dreams. She divides her time between beautiful San Luis Obispo County, California and the equally-beautiful Margaret River Region of Western Australia.


About the Press


Tomcat Alley Press was derived from the simple notion that adventure is everywhere in life, and all you have to do is reach out and grab it. Adventure means many things to many people. Sometimes, it is simply creative expression at its finest, those moments in life when one’s desires match up perfectly with their actions. Writing. Singing. Painting. Creating something that, until then, only existed in the mind. Tomcat Alley Press is an embodiment of many of these concepts. The thrill of travel, the freedom of flying. The reward of success after a long, hard road to the top. Our authors are the alley cats of art: they are tough, resilient, and determined to succeed in their craft.





Welcome to Tomcat Alley Press. Adventure lives here. Enjoy the trip.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

A Marketing We Will Go...A closer look at authors and their personal marketing journey

I had planned on getting this series up and running last month, but like Spring in Quebec...we're a little behind schedule. Snow last weekend! Can you believe it? Today, and I kid you not, it's 27 degrees C....that's 80 degrees F. Oh well, we aren't going to complain about the heat!

For now, let's get back on-topic because it's a serious one if you're an author. Marketing. 
Hmm, just as I thought. The mere mention of the word has sent a few of our authors running. What we're going to do in this series, is interview authors regarding their marketing practices. Where it gets interesting is when we look at their results, and in the end, compare and contrast the results with the others.

We are chatting with M. K. Wiseman on this lovely spring day. Let's she what insights we can gain into marketing through her eyes.



Could you share a little about yourself and what led you to become a writer?

My first love, admittedly, was animation. During my undergraduate at UW-Madison, I threw myself into a program called “Integrated Arts and Technology” -- basically an excuse to play with really expensive animation/video editing suites. Ooh, now I'm tempted to try out a course like that just to get my hands on those programs! Oh, sorry, continue, please. But then, faced with the reality that I would have to move to California to become that Academy Award Winning animator (hahaha), I did an about-face and ended up going for a librarian degree. So books and storytelling haunted my background for some time and I just dabbled in writing for a bit of fun. But then, writing ought to be fun, yes? Oh, for sure! Until you're having it out with an uncooperative character.

Do you write full time? How much of your life is set aside for writing?

I actually am lucky enough to be able to write full time. I have a very patient patron of the arts (e.g. my husband) who has agreed that I need to jump into this whole ‘author thing’ feet first and see what happens. What happens, apparently, is that I sometimes am so entrenched in my fictional worlds that I forget to make dinner or iron the clothes. Wow, lucky you! 

What genre do you write? Do you think your genre makes marketing easier or harder?

My Bookminder series sits squarely in YA fantasy. It is what I most enjoy reading. Which makes it easy for me to market from the standpoint of connecting with a reader . . . but it makes it infinitely difficult when you realize how flooded the YA and fantasy markets both are. Some days my book feels like a mere drop of water in the oceans of the world. Also—and perhaps I am wrong—it feels like the YA genre, being so wide, is much more subject to ‘trends’ than other genres, meaning you’ve got to be a bit luckier at hitting things ‘just right’ than in other genres. This is a genre we share, and my thoughts and opinions are very similar to your own. I find that YA marketing is infinitely more difficult than say romance or mystery.

Do you know your target audience? What efforts do you make to reach out to these potential readers?

A while back, there were memes going around social media about “. . . the songs of my people!!!” That’s how I feel about my target audience. They are me. They are my fellow geeks who kept reading YA long after middle school, high school, college . . . etc. etc.
Take Twitter. Twitter, for me, is not the slog of “have to” that a lot of people have lamented. It is a glorious place for me to expand my own massive TBR list on Goodreads; it is a platform for finding friends—I received an actual Christmas card from an actual Twitter follower/friend whom I have never met! Now, see, this is where your comments become interesting. This is definitely an important point authors will have to examine more closely, and then re-evaluate their use of Twitter.

Do you have a traditional publishing contract, are you with an Indie publisher or do you Indie publish your own work?

I am published through the lovely small press, Xchyler Publishing. Brilliant team, they really “get” what I am about but also have not let me be complacent in my writing. I feel like I’ve been living under a lucky star with this whole writing experience, truly. Awesome, now all you have to do is save some of that stardust for emergencies.
               
                                      
Do you have an author platform? Can you tell us what yours consists of?

Erm . . . I’m going to say no, I do not(?)
Or maybe I do and am thinking that a “platform” should be bigger and less Timey-Wimey-Wibbly-Wobbly in appearance. Because, even with my reach on social, even with my contacts in Real Life, even with public appearances and the net that my publisher provides, I am haunted by this feeling of invisibility. I will admit that I was surprised at how many authors were unaware of what the author platform was or how to use it. But then, as an author, I thought my job was done when I typed "The End"...yeah, the joke was on me.

How much time is set aside for marketing?

Ah . . . ah-haha-haha . . . the marketing monster . . . that which tries to tell me that sitting online all day trying to be visible, viable, and buyable is a perfect excuse to not get to that which is really important: writing the next book.
If I really look at the time spent for marketing, it far exceeds what I planned on spending. Because an email or a press release always takes longer than you ever expected. Trying to catch that perfect moment of the day to Tweet some-clever-thing that is sure to triple your exposure to the masses takes sitting on social all day. Heck, even updating my website with a quick “here’s what’s new” (I built my own site. Hardcoded HTML. I am a terrible person) can end up burning through a morning.
So, for me, I don’t ‘set aside time’ because I would likely miss many of the organic just-sprang-into-my-mind opportunities with which I might build my struggling little platform. In essence, my marketing simply likes to share time with my writing. And life, lol.

How do you handle marketing? Do you have a plan, a publicist or just take one day at a time? Please elaborate on your methods.

I used to have a plan. Two massive computer crashes back, I had spent about 100+ hours researching different avenues/making massive spreadsheets/generally being a big, ol’ thorough nerd about the whole thing. I had a pre- and post-release schedule of Things I was Going To Do. I had entire spreadsheets of Ways To Do Those Things.
After losing said documentation twice (yes, it’s been a bad year for me, computing-wise) I have sort of winged it, sticking with what has worked so far and, as ideas come my way, vetting the rest as quick as I may. I’ve become a big fan of the ‘slow and steady’ method of building and am quick to shy away from anything that purports itself as a quick fix. I don't think there is a 'quick fix' when it comes to marketing. I think you're on the right path.

Do you have perma-free books, occasional sales or leave your books at a fixed price?

I do not have perma-free or even 99¢ books. This is largely because pricing is at the discretion of my publisher. Yes, we have had super-duper sales (e.g. Black Friday) but, for the most part, prices generally stay fixed. That's what I thought about my books too, but I have found that if I give my publisher a 'head's up', she lowers the prices so I can participate in promotions and such.

Where can your books be found?

The Bookminder is sold through the usual outlets—Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Smashwords, etc. But it can be found on Overdrive (ask your library to stock it!!); it is listed on Goodreads and LibraryThing; and I managed to get it listed in iAuthor.uk.com so that people would have access to a sample.


Which sites sell the most books?

*blush* I actually haven’t the foggiest. The book is too new for me to have seen any hard numbers yet. My guess is Amazon. 

Do you actively seek out promotional sites?

This is actually what flitted through my mind while I was ruminating on my ‘marketing plan’ above. I have actively sought out any number of different promo sites and opportunities, often becoming mired in the “yes, it’s great/no, stay away” back and forth of internet commentary. As such, I have chased many false starts before later coming to my senses. Note: Any opportunity that isn’t free (or near to) has almost always been debunked as ‘ick’ once I took a closer look. Not to say that such sites/opportunities are not great but for me they just have not seemed a good fit as of yet. 

What has worked best for you when it comes to marketing your book?

Reaching out to networks of people that I actually know seems to have worked quite well. It has landed me press releases in publications and local signings/talks. That and Goodreads giveaways. Nifty way to connect with the readers that would love your book but would not otherwise know of your book.

Are there any sites or actions you now avoid when it comes to marketing, either due to poor response, or large costs vs poor income results?

Amazon Giveaways. (Terrible to say, as I have a giveaway going on as I type this very sentence.) They are well run, I’ll give them that. Really, the problems I see have nothing to do with Amazon or their system. But I’ve found that it’s a lot of flash with almost zero serious connection to readers. My Twitter follower count has seemed to flood with faceless, near-empty accounts that seem bent on winning anything for any reason both times I have given this a try. It’s disheartening . . . not just because of money or effort spent. But the librarian in me likes to think the ‘right reader’ finding the ‘right book’ and I just don’t think this does it very well, if at all. (Note: If someone out there has received my book as part of one of these promos and loved it, my hearty congratulations! That would make my day to hear!)

How many reviews do you have per book? Do you think this helps promote or sell your books?

I have a handful of reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Not sure if it helps promote my book but I would assume that it probably helps sell it, should someone be directly curious about Bookminder. I mean, as a reader I am susceptible to reviews. Sometimes a person says just the right thing to confirm that you have, indeed, found the right book. This works especially well with people who review a lot and clearly have a ‘type’ of book they like. And to tie in with your comment above about finding the right reader...my first book had been part of a book tour set up through a goodreads group, and some of the hosts/reviewers were far from a good match to my genre. This made an impact when one of the hosts reviewed a book in a genre she hates....no comment :P

Do you use Goodreads, LibraryThing, Bookbub author page or other sites to promote yourself?

I became aware of Goodreads and LibraryThing in library school. Surrounded as I was by fellow book-junkies, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. We then all abandoned LibraryThing in short order when we found that they limited the number of books you could list in your account if you did not pay for an ‘institutional’ membership. I have only recently come back to LibraryThing, discovering that I no longer had that obnoxious limit on my account. But I have not been all that active as most of the books I want to add in are currently stored in boxes due to lack of shelving at my new place. I hope they survive their growing pains, I do. I fear they killed off a lot of interest at a critical time and Goodreads took advantage of it.
Goodreads, on the other hand . . . I live there. Seriously, they’re going to have to start charging me rent soon! I love it so much that I have begged and begged the Goodreads people to develop some sort of browser plug-in that would work similar to Pinterest’s “Pin it” button. Imagine being able to add a book to your TBR list in a couple of clicks. *swoon!!* Goodreads is absolutely lovely, even when I take off my ‘author hat’ and just enjoy being an avid reader. For me, that’s the mark of excellence—they’re where I go to find books. What impressed me most about Goodreads was the realization that is was endless...or at least, it seems to be. What displeases me, is that I sometimes have books added to my page that I did not write, even though Goodreads seems to think I did....and I can't remove them without going through a librarian.

Scroll down and learn a little more about our guest and her YA novel. 


Title/tagline:
The Bookminder
– Knowledge, the most dangerous magick.

Blurb:
Istria, 1679 A.D.
Sired by magick and violence, sixteen-year-old Liara is found guilty of witchcraft and banished from her tiny village by the very priest who raised, then betrayed her. However, a mysterious mage steps forward to assume custody of her: Nagarath, the Wizard of Parentino, whose secret spellwork has long protected both Liara and Dvigrad from the ravages of war.
Despite Liara’s best hopes, Nagarath refuses to apprentice her to his craft but tasks her instead with the restoration of his neglected library. Liara gleans what magickal knowledge she can on the sly, determined to learn, come what may. But the first test of her stolen knowledge goes awry and renews an evil wizard’s interest in the people of the Limska Draga valley.
Only by tapping Liara’s inherent magick and joining it with his own can Nagarath protect Parentino from suffering a horrible fate. However, her discovery of his secrets destroys their fragile trust and ignites the darker tendencies of her gift. Now, he must rescue her from the influence of his mortal enemy before their powerful new alliance destroys them all.

Book Excerpt: (note: longer excerpt available for free from iauthor.uk.com if desired)
Though her resentment toward her situation had doubled the moment Nagarath reaffirmed that he wouldn’t be teaching her magick, Liara couldn’t help but feel a small spark of warmth for the man as his laughter rang out in the darkening wood. The wizard was nothing like Phenlick, who’d have likely scolded her for her impudence. She liked the difference.
Encouraged by the mage’s response, she pressed him for details, feigning interest in answers magickal and non-magickal alike, teasing out in the exchange what bits of information she might find useful later on. She would again build her nest, this time with knowledge rather than mere trinkets. After all, she was about to enter the home of a wizard. There would be time to press the issue of her magickal education later. With Liara, a tactical retreat was never surrender.
And, she was curious. Superstitious accounts of a wizard were one thing. It was another thing entirely to come face to face with said rumors, finding that the fabled wizard of the wood actually existed.
Clearly Father Phenlick knew him. She’d seen their silent conference, noting that the men recognized one another. The priest had outlawed magick in the Limska Draga valley some twenty years ago, and here was Nagarath, wizard of Parentino, come to claim Dvigrad’s magicked orphan girl. Why hadn’t Phenlick banished him?
It occurred to Liara that perhaps this wizard was a sham, a fake. He certainly didn’t look the part of wizard: eyes alight with laughter and good humor, face open and honest.
“So you’re a real wizard?” Liara approached the matter directly.
“I’m not sure what you mean by ‘real,’ but yes, I am a mage who performs magick.” Nagarath’s reply came with a sly smile. Liara suspected the wizard might be playing her own game against her.
“Even though Father Phenlick said you shouldn’t.”
“He and I have an understanding, if that’s what you are getting at.” Nagarath seemed more cautious, prompting Liara to switch tactics.
“I just wanted to know how you’re able to live in the wreck of a castle, that’s all.”
The last of the late evening sunshine had ceased to illuminate the small footpath before them. In the deepening gloom, Liara imagined she could see Nagarath’s answering smile. But no words followed to answer her query. Quiet alarm reentered her mind. She remembered the journey across the valley to Parentino’s ruins from her excursions with her friend, Krešimir. It was not long, nor difficult, and though the fading daylight rendered the landscape foreign, she knew they should be close . . . if, in fact, that was their destination.
Lost in new worries, her footsteps lagging, she nearly ran into the wizard from behind. Nagarath turned, gently ushering Liara ahead of him on the path.
“Behold, Liara. My humble home.”
Rising darkly amidst the towering wood, Parentino looked just as Liara remembered it. Stone thrown from stone, crawling vines crisscrossed over broken walls, the ruins were every bit as forbidding as she feared. And while the tops of the nearby trees still wore their crown of late-evening gold from the sun’s fading rays, the ruins stood in hulking darkness.
Facing the wreck of the old castle, Liara almost wished that the wizard had been spiriting her off to somewhere unknown.
Deep and gravelly, Nagarath’s voice sounded behind her, the foreign words delivered in a near whisper, strange and sharp. Liara felt her skin prickle, first from apprehension, then from the mage’s touch as his hands rested gently upon her shoulders.
Liara had little time to ponder the spell—for spell it must be, of this she had little doubt. The sight before her demanded all of her attention: Parentino was growing. Twisting upward, the stones shook off their leafy cover, piling neatly upon one another as walls and sagging battlements righted themselves. In the space of a breath, the castle ruins became a wonder, restored to their former glory by the mage’s power.
Reluctant to look away from the fortress, lest it somehow change back to tumbled stone, Liara stared at the castle with hungry eyes until Nagarath dropped his hands, calling her back to herself.
“And that is how I manage to live in a ‘wreck of a castle,’ Liara.” The mage was smug. He had every right to be.
Liara let out a slow breath, her mind still trying to process what she had just seen. “How did you—?” She reached up to her shoulder thoughtfully. Had Parentino just changed, or had she?
- Excerpt From: M. K. Wiseman. “The Bookminder”

Reviews excerpts:
“I think this book just cemented my interest in historical fantasy . . . an absolutely compelling read, pulling you into the character’s world very skillfully. The superb writing and descriptions also helped contribute to this. Make sure you get your hands on a copy of this book . . .” - Fatima, Goodreads.
“. . . a clever book to read for fans of complex and unique magic systems. As a matter of fact, the whole book is dripping with this sort of magick from start to finish. . . . I had no problems slipping into the Croatian locales of Dvigrad, Parentino, and Vrsar. All the dialogue between the characters felt natural and nothing of note took me out of the story. I mostly enjoyed the multi-layered and flawed characters such as Father Phenlick, Nagarath, and even the impetuous Liara (though she frustrated me to no end). I felt great sympathy for them as they tried to succeed in their various goals and lamented past mistakes as we all do. Their flaws, failures, and desires to fix them resonated deeply with me . . .” - BelartTheIlliterateReviewer, Amazon.
“The Bookminder by M. K. Wiseman is beautifully written. The characters are complex and delightfully flawed, making them relatable, and the magick system is well-developed and quite believable. The author has a talent for writing vivid descriptions. The plot advanced at a good pace and left room for a sequel, without leaving loose ends within this book. I can't wait for book #2 of the Bookminder series!” - KA, Amazon.

Contact info: (links)
Official website  http://mkwisemanauthor.com

M. K. Wiseman bio:
M. K. Wiseman was born in Wisconsin but lived in New Mexico for a time, falling in love with the Southwest. She later returned to Milwaukee, immersing herself in her Croatian culture. With degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in animation/video and library science, she lives for stories.

Purchase links:


Friday, March 4, 2016

All About that B....er Review

 Hello! This morning we are going to grab the bull by the horns and have a little chit-chat about authors, books, readers, and reviews. So you might want to start your day with an awesome smoothie, an open mind, and a little consideration. 

R-E-V-I-E-W

Broken down that way hardly seems to be the kind of thing to make an accomplished author want to quit on the spot…but the blade of the review can be sharp and merciless, leaving behind a wound so deep that it can be near impossible to recover from.
 
In truth, all authors hope their readers will take the time to leave a review, but in reality, very few of them do. I have had people tell me how much they loved my book. Much appreciated…until I asked them if they might post a review. You’d think I’d just asked them to streak at the next Super Bowl. Either that or they pull out the red pen and dissect the novel…hardly what I was going for, and didn’t you just tell me you loved it?


Taste is personal. Just because you like something that I don’t, doesn’t mean it’s bad. It’s simply not my taste. Do I strip away the stars in a review? Not necessarily. There are some points to take into consideration. Things like spelling and grammar, plot, storyline, character development, and conflict are all essential items. But as a ‘reader’ leaving a review, no one asked me to put on my ‘editor’ cap and dissect the piece.

When we give an evaluation in the military, we are asked to highlight strong points, and bring up points to improve on, indicating WHAT and WHY. How does this apply to a review?  
Don’t just say, “Ugh, I hated it.”  What does that tell the author or the other readers? Try something like this: “I didn’t like the MC. Maybe she was bi-polar, I simply couldn’t believe her ‘I’m superwoman and can handle everything,’ one minute, and her psychotic meltdowns the next.”
OR
“I liked it because the characters had such depth and were so believable I couldn’t help but feel what they were going through. I had to cheer them on…”

Now, when you consider that there are only 5 stars to begin with, that doesn’t leave much leeway for a good vs bad balance. Some things are a given, like spelling and grammar. If you are putting a book out there, there is no excuse for an over-abundance of mistakes. If English wasn’t your forte in school, then hire an editor. I spend an average of $500 per book to have my work edited, (and my manuscript is as polished as I can get it before sending it in). Sadly, that does not guarantee a 100% typo-free book, and yes, it is a lot of money. I am the author, the ‘professional’. I am responsible for my creation and its quality.

Another point is accuracy. In the last book I just finished, the MC notices her suitor’s dimples the first time they meet and she melts…and then near the end of the story he smiles and she does a repeat, claiming to see them for the first time and melts...again. (This could get messy). This was a novella…not the Bible. How can you forget a simple detail that creates such a dramatic response barely 80 pages down the line?
In another, the MC is supposed to be Hispanic, and uses Spanish expressions throughout the story….only he comes from Brazil…and they speak Portuguese there…not Spanish.
Yet another story has the group charter a flight and take off in an ice storm….uh, no. There is no way a small plane would ever risk flying when freezing rain is coming down. Even commercial airliners do not blindly take off under these conditions. (I have flown single engine planes, but if you don’t have that personal knowledge, GOOGLE IT!)

And lastly (though trust me, I have many more), name changes….In book One, the names given to the kids vanish somewhere down the line, and in the latest book, the kids now sport the names that had originally been given to the dogs. Hopefully, if these are mentioned in a review, the author will pay more attention to details next time around. (Or if you're lucky, correct the mistakes and upload a new version for readers).

Not every author has taken a creative writing class. Some simply respond to the deep and overwhelming urge to write, to express themselves, and not everyone (classes or not) is born to be a storyteller. A constructive review can help authors improve their writing. If the descriptions were so vivid and realistic, to the point that you were convinced you were there, then say so. The dialogue was convincing and poignant, let the author know the good and the bad.

Let’s recap.
Why write a review? In a nutshell, people need oxygen, authors need reviews.

Anyone can write a short, honest and constructive review. No one said it had to go on forever. And when I say constructive, I mean tell them something that will be useful to encourage the author to continue working on his/her craft, by pointing out things that need improvement as well as the things that rocked. You’ll be doing everyone a favor. And that star rating thing….I’ve been given detailed, awesome reviews, yet only 3 stars and no clue why. I once received an impressive review, pointing out things others hadn’t, BUT since the reader did not like Sci-Fi, and it happened to be just that…she gave it 3 stars. In the end, I am more inclined to relate to the comment than the rating. I am grateful to have someone take the time to write a review, and guide me on my journey as a writer.
See it as teamwork, creating better stories and adventures for all.



Sunday, February 28, 2016

Celebrate Love Blog Series with author Beth Honeycutt and What Dreams May Come

WooHoo! I am off for a week, and can stay around home with my girls, take them skating and warm ourselves by the fire. I can't wait! Savannah, my two-year-old has been pretending to skate around the kitchen wearing slippery socks. I am excited to see how she likes the real thing, and we're lucky enough to have this awesome place to go where the icy path winds its way through the woods. I might even share pics.
OK, ok, back to work now...and on to our next guest, Beth! Read on, you won't be disappointed. 

Could you share a little about what led you to become a writer?
I love stories of all kinds, especially those with happy endings, and being a writer is the only career I've ever really wanted. When I was in fourth grade, I wrote my first book—a story about some baby birds we’d rescued. It won a Young Authors award at school and my mom laminated it (the book, not the award, LOL) and I've never looked back. Wow, that is so cool!

Do you write full time? How much of your life is set aside for writing?
I do write full-time but sadly, not novels. In my day job, I write marketing copy and corporate communications. Now I have to wonder if your work writing interferes with your creative writing, or does your creative writing disturb your work writing.

Could you tell us a little about your novel?
What Dreams May Come is about Ellie, a shy and overlooked girl who would rather live in her dreams than in reality, where she’s a constant disappointment to her mom, who wants her to be slim and pretty, popular and outgoing. Her one comfort is her imaginary friend, Gabe, who's always there for her, waiting in her dreams whenever she needs him. Ooh, I like that.

But then a new guy shows up at her school and he knows things about Ellie—secret things—that he shouldn’t have any way of knowing. Suddenly, Ellie’s faced with the possibility that she may not be as ordinary as she’s always thought and that maybe it doesn't matter if the whole world knows your name, as long as someone special sees you for who you really are. I love it.
                                                     
Where does the inspiration for your story come from?
This was actually an idea I had for a short story, but as I started writing, it grew into a novel. It all grew out of one tiny seed of an idea about a girl who meets a boy who knows things about her that he shouldn’t have any way of knowing, like how she got the scar on the bottom of her foot. She doesn't know him, but he knows all about her.

I thought about how unnerving that would be, to be faced with someone you couldn’t hide from, who already knew all your deepest secrets, and how interesting it would be to see that play out—especially for a girl like Ellie, who’s so used to being invisible and overlooked, who’s made her way through life hiding away from the world. And how cool it would be to find that this person who knows you so well—the good, the bad, the ugly—loves you anyway, just as you are. Sounds like a great read, something you definitely want to fall into.

What do you think makes a good romance story?
A happy ending, of course. LOL It might be easier to say what I don’t think makes a good romance. I don’t like stories where one of the characters is abusive or mean to the other, who puts up with it in the name of love, hoping to improve them. I don’t like stories where both characters would be better off if they didn’t get together, since their relationship obviously won’t be healthy. And I don’t like stories that aren’t grounded in genuine emotion and character development, but are just focused on the physical aspects of the relationship. Also (and I know this is unpopular), but I hate love triangles. I truly believe you can have a compelling romance without introducing a love triangle. I love romances where the relationship brings joy and light and love to the characters’ lives and they become better together than they were alone. I love romances where the main characters are good friends and really like each other, as well as love each other; where they respect each other and really talk about things. Thanks for sharing, those are good points.

What is the message behind the story? Was it something you specifically wrote a story around or did it develop as your characters came to life?
A little bit of both. The message behind my story is that you don't have to change in order to be loved, that there is someone out there who will love you and accept you, just as you are. You have value, even if you don't meet the definition of what our culture calls beautiful. There is beauty in you, no matter who you are or what you look like. Now you need to go print out t-shirts with that message and pass them around.

Do you work from an outline or just go with the flow?
I fly by the seat of my pants. I used to try to outline, but I found that knowing everything that is going to happen makes me lose interest in the story. What drives me to write is finding out what's going to happen next. I do usually have a vague idea of the beginning and, hopefully, the end. But for what comes in between, your guess is as good as mine. J Now that's my kind of writing!

What is the time span in your novel, weeks, months, years?
My novel takes place over the course of just a few days. However, there are flashbacks to incidents in the past that show our couples' history together before they actually meet in the novel.

How much research went into your story?
I love research! It's actually kind of dangerous for me, because I get so wrapped up in finding cool information that I forget I’m supposed to be writing. LOL Actually, this story didn't involve as much research as some of my others. I read interesting things and they stick with me, and then I sometimes incorporate them into stories. That's something that happened with this one. I am the same way with research and I often end up with pages and pages of notes that never make it into the story, but hey, I learned something!

How does this book differ from what you have written in the past?
Most of my other novels are more plot-driven and often have some sort of suspenseful or even scary elements in them. This novel was definitely driven more by the characters and getting to see their relationship blossom. The remaining two books in the trilogy will have more of the suspense and plot-driven elements, but this one is really sort of a gentle love story, allowing the reader to get to know the characters as people and as a couple before we jump into the actiony parts of the series.

How do you handle marketing? Do you have a plan, a publicist or just take one day at a time?
The amount of planning I do varies—sometimes I have a plan I’m following, other times, it’s just a day at a time. I've attended a lot of sessions on marketing at conferences and try to follow the advice I’ve gotten there and from other authors. I definitely don't spend as much time on marketing as I should, though, because my free time’s so limited. When I do have free time, I’d rather write than do marketing. I’d kill for a publicist. I hear you! 

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
My biggest advice is to find out what method works for you, whether you’re a plotter (someone who outlines and plans it all out) or a pantser (someone who writes by the seat of their pants) or a mixture of the two. Either way, I find the most motivating thing for actually finishing a project—whether it’s flash fiction, a short story, or a novel—is to have a deadline and accountability.

For this reason, one of the best resources out there, and one that I recommend to all aspiring writers, is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Not only is it a great motivator that provides accountability and a deadline, but it provides companionship with other authors and turns the novel-writing experience into a wild, crazy roller coaster of writing fun. Definitely check it out! If nothing else, it’s nice to hang out with other people who won’t look at you funny if you say something like, “I just found the coolest way to kill someone!” For sure, LOL. I remember getting worried because of the strange searches I was doing online. But, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Could you tell us what you’re working on now?
Definitely! I'm working on WHERE NIGHTMARES WALK, the sequel to WHAT DREAMS MAY COME. It starts to introduce more suspense and danger into the couple's storyline, but rest assured that everything they face, they face together.


 What Dreams May Come: In Dreams, book 1


He knows her darkest secrets, sees into her dreams. Math class will never be the same.

Reality is overrated. Or so Ellie Cross believes. She greatly prefers the dreams she shares with her imaginary friend and lifelong BFF, Gabe, to the nightmare of her real life. And okay, so yeah, lately Ellie’s noticed that Gabe’s kinda hot. Make that incredibly hot. But that doesn’t mean she’s crazy or anything. So what if she happens to have an itsy-bitsy crush on her reality-challenged friend? Who’s it hurting, really?

But things are about to get complicated, because there’s a new guy in school—a guy with hauntingly familiar eyes. A guy who knows things about Ellie that he shouldn’t have any way of knowing…

Come check out the book that readers are calling "fantastic," "wonderfully sweet," and "a young adult novel with true heart and soul."




Excerpt
Across the room, their gazes locked. Time seemed to move syrup-slow. Green—she could see now that his eyes were a familiar, brilliant green. All the saliva in her mouth dried up.
Those eyes…they were the eyes from her dreams. It was impossible, but…he had Gabe’s eyes.
***
For a long moment Ellie sat stunned, just staring at the new guy. She felt lightheaded and dizzy, like the world had fallen off its axis and was spinning madly.
She realized she’d forgotten how to breathe. Crap. Breathing—that was important. How did that work again?
She started to panic as black dots appeared in front of her eyes. So not good. Forcing herself to close her eyes, she concentrated and finally drew a shuddering breath, then another. Phew, back in business.
Now that she was fully functional again, she opened one eye, peeking at the new arrival, then, when he still appeared to be there, she opened the other, looking at him full on.
He was definitely still there, still staring back at her with those impossible eyes as he took his new textbook from Mr. Barker and deliberately made his way across the classroom toward where she sat.
Was this a dream? None of her Gabe dreams had ever taken place at school before. Just to be sure, she pinched herself. Yep, that hurt.
Still, this couldn’t actually be happening—she had to be dreaming. Or was this it? Was this the moment she finally lost her ability to tell the waking world from the dream one?
It was just…his eyes. She looked down at the notepaper in front of her, then back to the new guy who seemed to be watching her with interest, as if somehow aware that she was experiencing an existential crisis. Watching her with Gabe’s eyes.                
Ellie shook herself, trying to dislodge the idea. They were just green eyes. Just regular, ordinary, not-belonging-to-a-figment-of-her-imagination eyes. Not Gabe’s eyes. Just eyes…belonging to a guy with an admittedly similar name...
That must be it—the name. It was making her see things that weren’t there, making her think he was looking at her like he knew her. But…that wasn’t possible. Gabe was imaginary. As in not real. She’d made him up. And—this was ridiculous. She was arguing with herself.
Someday I’ll find you, Ellie, her memory whispered in Gabe’s voice.



Beth M. Honeycutt

A professional writer and editor, Beth has written everything from poetry and short stories to proposals for government contracts, science textbooks, and standardized tests (yes, you have her to thank for those!). Her real love is writing fiction, though, especially YA. She loves to travel and has been to nine different countries (more if you count layovers!). At home or abroad, she can usually be found with her head in a book or madly scribbling down ideas for a book of her own. She loves spending time with family, stories of all kinds, and happy endings. She firmly believes in the enduring power of love.




Reviews
"I haven't found a book since the Twilight series that held my attention long enough to finish. I couldn't put this book down. 5 STAR all the way."
"Wow, this book rates right up there with some of the best I have read. LOVED IT."
“Ms. Honeycutt weaves a tale of magic. Effortlessly written and thoroughly enjoyable.”

“This story was everything I hoped for as well as everything I believed that it would be. It was sweet without being too sensual and romantic without being too sappy. My heart just smiled with every endearment that was spoken. It was truly just beautiful.”

"A sweet story about finding love unexpectedly and finding the courage to take a chance with the seemingly impossible. It's a quick read, but a must."
"I'm so glad I read this book. This is a well written, 'clean' book that proves that you don't need sexual innuendo and filthy language to keep a reader's attention. I love the unique story and very likable characters. I can't wait to read the sequel!"



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