Saturday, 29 June 2013

What inspired me to write the novel, The Tortoise Shell Code, and its non-fiction corollary, Universal Co-opetition?…

- Guest Post by V Frank Asaro

When my son, Dean, was in high school thirty years or so ago he shared an assignment with me that involved a very thought provoking concept.­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ It related to the question of how people can compete for something, yet at the same time help each other– seemingly against self-interest. But sometimes one will gain the thing they competed for – and reach success – often to the exclusion of the other.  For example, students often cooperatively study together for the final exam, yet compete against one another to be the best on the bell curve.

That set me to thinking about whether there is something – a paradigm fundamental to nature – that enables such melding of cooperation and competition to happen. Perhaps, for example, this paradigm could lead to avoidance of polarization in politics? I thought.

I read and studied and finally came to the conclusion that this fusion of cooperation and competition is in nature itself, and is even a fundamental law of the universe.  It is in music, chemistry, economics, political science, business, snowflakes, everything!

I hired a handful of university graduate students, independently from one another, and gave them assignments to research various fields of thought – such as philosophy, physics, etc. – to find either support for, or invalidation of, my theory.  After a summer of research and course correction meetings, to a person they came back and enthusiastically said, “Validated. “

So during the decade of the 1980’s I wrote up a monstrous treatise on my coined word: co-opetition.  I did this in scraps, usually in the middle of the night, primarily to get into a zone away from the crowding thoughts of whatever trial I was in at the time.  This was how I eventually could get back to sleep.  The finished manuscript I titled Synthesis Between Order and Chaos, and I sent it around to publishers and circulated it among many others.  Generally, they were intrigued, but in those days they wouldn’t invest in my book unless I went on a speaking tour and commercialized the idea.  I was no Carl Sagan, nor did I have the time from my busy law practice to become so engaged.

The word co-opetition, obviously a contraction of “cooperation” and “competition,” has since been used by others– usually in the field of business theory, but I frankly don’t know where they got it, or whether someone also independently came up with it. It all has the same meaning, however:  a synthesis of the behaviors of cooperating and competing.

But in my view, I expanded the co-opetition idea to apply universally.  Order, I likened to cooperation.  Chaos, I likened to competition. My conclusion: to achieve the highest level of success in any system, a melding of cooperation and competition – in varying proportions – is necessary.  If we recognize that both behaviors to some extent are necessary to any equation for success, we are better able to achieve that success, or to resolve whatever problem may be under consideration.

A very brief example from my books, among many is that: Capitalism has built into it a healthy element of cooperation, i.e. ethics, fair dealing, trust. Such is necessary in order for the competition of free enterprise to work with optimum effectiveness. That was part of Adam Smith’s invisible hand.

In 1989, I sent an outline of the manuscript to best-selling author Spencer Johnson M.D. (Who Moved My Cheese, One Minute Manager), who six months later, called from Hawaii and wrote me a letter, dated February, 9 1990, telling me that I must write and publish the book. Thus, I wrote Universal Co-opetition.  Later, I figured that the best way to get the concepts across was to novelize the theory – a la the genre of Huxley, Orwell, Rand, and Burdick et al.  So I put a story together, calling on what I know – the law and the courts and maritime issues. The Tortoise Shell Code came to life – a saga of high seas crime, ship sinking, romance, courtroom drama, fisticuffs, prison break outs, revolution, sea-going gun battles, all with the spice of co-opetition theory interwoven though the plot.

And that is the inspiration.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Feature and Follow #31: Preferred reading format?

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Thursday, 27 June 2013

Author Interview ~ NS Wikarski

Tell us a bit about your family.

The less said the better.

What is your favorite quality about yourself?

My tenacity. I don’t know the meaning of the word “quit.”

What is your least favorite quality about yourself?

My tenacity. This late in life, I ought to know the meaning of the word “quit.”

What are you most proud of accomplishing so far in your life?

I would have to say earning my doctorate from one of the toughest graduate schools in the world. There were so many obstacles thrown in my path by the people in my life that it was a miracle that I got into the program at all. Then, I was even more surprised to find out that I had the intellectual talent to graduate with honors. I guess you never know what you can do until you try.

What is your favorite color?

That depends on the day, the season, and my mood. I’m partial to fire engine red, electric blue, and fuschia (though not at the same time).

What is your favorite food?

Any ethnic cuisine. Indian and Middle Eastern in particular. I’m a vegan.

What’s your favorite place in the entire world?

Any place near a large body of moving water.

How has your upbringing influenced your writing?

Thankfully, it hasn’t.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

Honestly, I don’t know. I was always good at it. Maybe I fell into writing simply because I was too lazy to cultivate a talent that would have required hard work to master.

When and why did you begin writing?

Since I majored in English literature, I’ve been writing all through my school years and graduate school. My doctoral dissertation was my first book. As to why I continued to write, I suppose it was out of habit.

How long have you been writing?

In the back of my mind, I’d always intended to write a novel at some point in my life. When I reached the age of 40 without having gotten around to writing that novel, I finally decided to knuckle down and get it done. I’ve been writing, off and on, since then. Nineteen years.

When did you first know you could be a writer?

I think it was all the positive feedback from my teachers during my school years. I learned early on that I might be pretty good at this sort of thing.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

What Are The Best Way To Teach Kids About Business And Finances?

- Guest Post by EW Taylor

Money is one of the major things that empower both young and old people to make decisions that affect their lives. One can only be able to live a comfortable adult life if they are able to keep a large percentage of the money they earn or if they can stretch their dollar on the things they purchase. All this requires early education and motivation to save and invest. Day to day spending and the decisions made on savings and investment will play a major role in determining a child’s financial future and quality of life as an adult. The good news is that any child can be taught the basics of managing money and personal finance.

Start As Early As Possible

Introduce your child to the different concepts that relate to money as soon as he or she can count. Children learn as they grow through observing and repeating what they see, so you should take an active role in making sure they have knowledge and information on money, business, savings, and investment. Make sure that your personal values about saving money, making it grow and wise spending are clearly communicated. By helping them to identify the differences between what they may want, need, or wish for, they will be better prepared to make wise spending decisions in future.

Teach the Importance of Setting Financial Goals

In almost all areas of life, people rarely make major achievements without having set them as goals first. Personal finance and investment is no different. Being able to determine financial goals is the foundation upon which a kid can build an understanding of the value of money and savings. Almost any item or toy that your child asks you to buy can be used as the object of a lesson in goal-setting. This will help a child to learn to be responsible for their financial decisions.

Demonstrate the Importance of Saving Money

Whenever possible, find ways to show your kids the importance of saving more money than they spend, and the advantages of having a healthy nest egg. You can also demonstrate and explain how the interest on savings can be an extra stream of income. You could do this by paying interest on the money they save in a piggy bank; have your children participate in calculating the interest to demonstrate how quickly money can accumulate through compound interest. As they continue to save, they will realize that the quickest way to obtain a good credit rating is through regular and successful savings. To encourage kids to save, you may even choose to match what they manage to save on their own.

Encourage Your Child to Open a Savings Account

The key to future success in savings is beginning the habit early and being familiar with savings institutions. For this reason, one of the most important steps you can take is to take kids to a bank or credit union to open their own accounts. Remember that you want your kids to have knowledge of all aspects of personal finance, so do not refuse if they ask to withdraw some savings to make a purchase, as they may be discouraged from saving if they cannot benefit from their money. It will also provide a valuable lesson in how savings can help them achieve their goals.

Link Allowances to Savings and Spending Decisions

When giving your kids an allowance, make sure that the cash is in denominations that encourage them to save. For example, if your child’s allowance is $5, break it down into 1-dollar bills so that you may encourage them to set aside at least a dollar in savings. A saving of $5 every week at 6% compound interest calculated quarterly will come to a total of about $266 after one year and a whopping $3,527 in ten years!

Encourage Kids to Keep Records of Savings and Spending

Keeping accurate records of money that is invested, spent, or saved is one of the most important skills in money management that everyone – young or old – must learn. Make the process of keeping records simple for your kids by using 12 small envelopes, with one for each month and a different, larger one for the entire year. Ensure that you establish a system for each child. Kids can then keep track of their finances by placing receipts in the appropriate envelopes after each purchase they make. They may also place notes about what they do with their money in the envelopes.

Let Kids Learn From Their Own Decisions

When young people are given the freedom to make their own choices when it comes to spending their money, they learn from both the good or poor decisions and are wiser for it. You may then discuss the consequences of their decisions, identifying the pros and cons before they spend on another purchase. This will motivate children to use common sense when deciding what to buy. They will learn to carry out adequate research before they make any major purchases, be able to wait for the right time to buy and avoid spending on impulse. An effective way to reinforce these traits is to give the child a choice of several things they could purchase with their money, and helping them decide on the pros and cons of each.

Teach Kids to Evaluate Ads and Offers

Some of the poorest financial and spending decisions are due to unrealistic promises in flashy and captivating TV or radio ads and glossy brochures. Teaching your kids to identify whether a product really performs as advertised or whether the sale price is the only cost will make them wiser in making purchasing and investment decisions in future. They will also better identify alternative offerings that offer more value or do more for a lower price. One of the most important lessons they will learn is that if a product or service sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. Learning to process information and read the fine print will enable kids take on greater responsibility in ensuring their own financial well-being.

10 Things You Didn’t Know About January Exposure

- Guest Post by Sunny Benson

  1.     January Exposure incorporates three mysteries into one storyline: a kidnapping, wacky pranks at a rest home, and a murder. The three mysteries intertwine and relate to one another, and all are resolved by the end of the book.
  2.     Can you deduce who did it? January Exposure is a whodunit, with clues interspersed throughout the novel. Every major character is a suspect for wrongdoing. The protagonist, Ellie Craven, doesn’t know whether to protect her family members or to flee from them.
  3.     January Exposure refers to Ellie’s mother as ‘Iron Chef Cheesecake’. My mother is the original ‘Iron Chef Cheesecake’. I hear an Iron Chef gong inside my head every time I see my mom carrying one of her luscious cheesecake concoctions to the table.
  4.     I originally wanted to write twelve book-of-the-month mysteries, including “January” in the title for the first Ellie Craven book and “February” in the title of the second. Then I learned there’s already a series of book-of-the-month mysteries set in Minnesota, so I had to change my naming convention. I titled the second book in the series “Fargo Fracture” as a result.
  5.     Although I incorporated a few characteristics from real life people into the characters of January Exposure, none of the characters in the book are based on real life people, whether physically or personality-wise.
  6.     Settings in the book based on real life locations in the Fargo-Moorhead area include Dike West and the ice rink.
  7.     The word “Exposure” in the title reflects the book’s reoccurring theme of exposure. The murder victim in the book dies of exposure to cold, the protagonist exposes the evildoers in the book, and the protagonist herself experiences exposure due to her perennially bragging mother and the media.
  8.     January Exposure refers to many North Dakotan and Minnesotan characteristic items and places, including buffalo, prairie dogs, White Butte, ice fishing, lutefisk, lefse, and walleye.
  9.     The amateur wrestler character, “The Duke”, and the phrase found on a T-shirt, “Fargo Frenzy”, will reappear in the second book in the series.
  10.     When writing January Exposure, I didn’t know the identity of the killer until I reached the end of the book.

Monday, 24 June 2013

A Day in This Writer’s Life

- Guest Post by Patti Larsen

I often have people ask what my normal working day looks like. And I snort. The word “normal” feels like it belongs to someone else.

I like to sleep in until at least 8am or even 9am, depending on how late I worked the night before. I used to be able to sleep later, when I was working at other jobs full time, but now the voices prod me to get out of bed and get to their stories and, because I love what I do so much, I’m happy to do so.

Breakfast is a cup of hot tea as I jump into social media to see what I’ve missed while wasting time sleeping. A quick tally of my sales numbers from the day before—with a huge THANK YOU to the Universe for allowing me to write for a living—and I’m off and running.

Mondays are begun with at least two hours of chin wagging with my amazing editor, Annetta Ribken. I try to schedule meetings with my cover designer, Valerie Bellamy, the same day if I can.

Those done—with a great deal of giggling and only a little work involved—it’s time to hop a ride to another place.

Sometimes to Wilding Springs, where my main character of Family Magic lives with her wacky family. My husband laughs when he asks me how my day was and I tell him I had to spend some time in the Ukraine or Harvard or an Austrian castle full of vampires.

No airplane required.

If it’s a writing day, I schedule hourly bouts with short breaks in between to check the almighty Facebook and update my readers on my progress before diving in again. I like to schedule five or six chapters per day and usually hit the mark.

I’m forced into the odd caterlude by one or more of my five massive cats, mixed with a quick lunch, more tea and a chat or two with friends on Skype or Google Hangout.

Or, at times through the week, I trot off to schools to talk to kids about what I do and how fun it is to be a writer. Meet with emerging authors looking for advice on where to go from where they are. Or have a lovely lunch with a good friend just to get me out of the house.

The days are just packed.

If it’s winter, dinner is cooked for me, thank goodness, by my very patient Boo. The rest of the year, I usually eat alone, my golf-course manager husband gone until after dark. If there’s something interesting on Netflix, it might catch my attention. But I usually unwind with a hot bath and a book on Kindle for at least an hour before tumbling into bed, ready for the next day’s adventures in far-flung places.

Don’t I have the best life?

About Patti Larsen: You’re not looking for my polished bio, huh? You sure you want more? The real dirty, down deep, nitty gritty? Fair enough. Here goes: I’m a card-carrying nerd. It’s taken years to admit it. I’m also a hermit in a writing basement who prefers solitude to people (cats always welcome). I’m a writing fiend who hears the voices of teenagers and blushes at the S-E-X parts. I don’t sleep very well. Ever. My mind is too busy. I am a feline loving married woman who could easily end up a crazy cat lady if my husband would let me. I am a paradigm shifter, a believer in self and my own personal power. I see everything in black and white until the gray is explained to me. I am a fiercely loyal friend, a confidant and a Tarot card reader and intuitive. I am a proud roller derby girl, a total dweeb and can’t dance to save my soul. I am terrified of heights and challenge that fear every chance I get. Oh, and I’m the Creator. The Queen of my own Destiny. I love that.

Friday, 21 June 2013

The Myth of the Constant Writer

- Guest Post by Molly D Campbell

Writers write. At least, that is what I always thought. A writer is born, not made. From the time he or she can just barely form the letters of the alphabet, there are little sentences, tiny stories.

When I was a child, I read about Jo March writing in her chilly garret, crunching on apples and bending over a candlelit trunk. Anne Shirley also wrote stories and poems from the time she was adopted by Matthew and Marilla. These were fictional writers, but I also knew about Emily Dickinson, Beatrix Potter, the Bronte sisters, et. al., who wrote volumes as they grew up.

It was a given, then, that since I never really entertained stories in my head or kept even so much as a diary, that I was no writer.  Apparently I had a “knack” for putting words together, and I took to grammar like a duck to water, but that was all it was. I was a good student. I was organized. I had a big vocabulary, thanks to Anne of Green Gables, Little Women and their ilk.

There were no journals under my bed. No plotlines scribbled on pieces of notebook paper. I didn’t contemplate rewriting the endings of any of the many books I enjoyed. I was never once tempted to write “in the style” of one of my favorite authors. I wasn’t a writer!

I grew up. Got married. I had a career or two, raised two children, and experienced life as we all do: one task at a time. I read some terrific books, and I even enjoyed some trashy ones. But never once did I consider that I write one myself, trashy or not!  I wasn’t a writer!

My husband had a stroke, and I struggled to help him recover. The children left home. The dog died. Finally, there was retirement and all the leisure time that accompanied it. Boredom set in. A friend told me about blogging, and I decided it might be fun to start one.

Eureka. At the age of fifty, I discovered that I was, indeed, a writer. Not only did I have a lot to say, but it was the exact right time to begin speaking. It was as if the many strata of my existence were suddenly aligned to form what for me was the foundation of my “real” self. It took me a long time to feel confident as a writer. I never said the words “I am a writer” out loud. Real writers, after all, had been at it their whole lives. Real writers were born to write.

I kept at it because I loved doing it. But that old truism that “writers write” undermined me. Was I legit? It didn’t feel like it. I had no books, no magazine articles, no agent.

All it took was a contest. I had nothing to lose, so with one entry, everything changed. I had years of living under my belt, and I used my own family for inspiration. My age worked in my favor. My entry was recognized.

These days, after more than five years as a blogger and columnist, with one book published, I feel comfortable saying it out loud: “My name is Molly. What do I do? Oh, I am a writer. But I started very late.”

I make it a point to explain. Because writers don’t always write. For many of us, there is a life to live first. Then we begin our life’s work—as writers.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Beware Procrastination Demons

- Guest Post by Madeleine McLaughlin

In a perfect world, I would jump up every morning at five AM and settle down in front of my computer to write. The word I need to use would be swimming in front of my eyes instead of locked somewhere in my foggy brain.

But no, it isn’t so.

Well, I do get up early. Sometimes as early as four AM, but it never goes that smoothly. First, I need to check my e-mails. This is a must. Then I go to my critique sites and other assorted sites that could well be put off for a time. I feel I need a warm-up.

It’s so easy to get sidetracked. Checking Amazon rankings and such can fill up your writing time like nothing else. And that’s just the computer stuff. There’s other things. How simple to say to yourself. “I need to think about this for awhile.” And walk out the door for a walk, especially in the nice weather we’re having now. Sun is shining and the breeze is mild. Why not spend your day outside?

But at some time during the day, you’re going to write. Maybe evening in front of the TV, maybe you are one of the disciplined ones who get up and write. Good for you.

You need to remember you’re not alone in your rituals to put off your writing. You need to remember that you will get it done. Some people need to work up to things. In my opinion and what works for me, is my notebook. When I find myself procrastinating, I just pick it up and write in old-fashioned long-hand.

For some reason, this feels more comfortable to me and enables me to let loose and get the writing flowing. It helps ideas come and become more cohesive. I mean, who wants to wreck their computer-work with stream-of-consciousness ideas? But this loosening up is, to me, the key to ending procrastination and getting things done.

I don’t know what I would do without my notebook. I can sit in my easy chair and balance the book on the armrest and write. Just anything that I need to and explore ideas. For me, this works because of the freedom to explore that I just don’t find I have when staring at a composition on my computer screen.

And I enjoy sitting with my notebook. I make sure it’s a nice one with a hard cover, no use making things difficult, and it’s like having a book open in front of me. Since a great portion of my life has been spent with a book on my knee, it just feel more comfortable to me than a computer.

Now I’m not saying get rid of your technology. Just that the immediacy of a hard-cover notebook with blank pages in front of you, lets you ‘go crazy’. Experiment with words and characters. Try new plot developments. Anything your heart desires and you’re not wrecking your computer saved MS.

Most of all, I don’t worry about what I do. If I miss a work time, I can do it later. Now, I can hear all you disciplined people shuddering with horror but I’ve actually done good work in the evenings with my notebook and my computer. The procrastination demons might get you from time to time but as long as you find yourself a way to get around them, they won’t control you and keep you from doing what you love to do: WRITE.

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Becoming a Published Author

- Guest Post by David Jester

1. I didn’t know how hard it was going to be. There’s so much work involved that I never accounted for. Endless amounts of editing, rewriting, publishing, marketing and designing, and that’s before I do any actual writing. I want to keep on publishing as many books as I can and ideally want to average 1 per month for the first year. I know I can write enough to fulfill that quota, but it’s not easy to find the time to write.

2. The reviews are hard to take in the beginning. I understand that nothing can be to everyone’s taste, but it’s still hard when those first bad reviews come. The pain eases over time, but as writing is a very solitary job and you’re very temperamental when you start out, they’re hard to accept.

The worst ones are the nonsensical ones. One of my first bad reviews (under my other alias) was from a woman who read another review which mentioned that my book had a lot of swearing in it. She then decided to write a review which ‘warned’ everyone else that the book had ‘foul language’ and told them that was the reason she wouldn’t buy it, let alone read it.

3. It’s lonely and stressful. There is a lot of work and a lot of long hours with only you to shoulder the burden. There’s also a great deal of doubt involved. If you’re not worried that your next book won’t sell, then you’re worried that your current book will stop selling.

4. No one cares.

When I first published my memoir I was worried that people who knew me would want to ask questions about it. There was a lot of stuff in there that I never told anyone, so the thought of them hounding me was the main reason I decided to use an alias in the first place. I shifted 400 copies of that book and expected the topic to be raised not only by my family, but by strangers.

The truth is: no one gives a shit. I have since sold another 30k copies of that book and the questions never came.

When I was a struggling writer, lapping up rejection slips like a melancholic dog, it seemed everyone wanted to talk about it. They all wanted to know how the writing was going, was I any nearer to getting published? Blah blah blah. I hated talking about it. Now that I’m finally published; now that I’m doing well; now that I’m finally happy with them talking about it and asking questions about it, no one mentions it.

5. It’s fun. Despite everything that I’ve just said, despite the long hours, the solitude and the endless doubt and worry, I really love what I do.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Guest Post by Marquis Bone ~ How to Make Your Characters Believable

- Guest Post by Marquis Bone

Spend more time living as the character and not just writing about them. the more you become the character the more believable they become. I put myself in the story and during my writing I live like them and I allow my living like them to flow in my writing.

Buy Now @ Amazon & Smashwords

Genre – Religious Fiction

Rating – PG

Cool blog tour with over $800 in prizes for bloggers! Come sign up!!!

Hey, blogger friends, listen up! I’ve got a chance for you to receive two free eBooks and to compete for over $800 in prizes, and it’s so easy to participate. Read on for more…

Novel Publicity is currently recruiting for one of their gigantic whirlwind tours. This time, they’re touring two books by David Litwack. The first, Along the Watchtower, is a work of contemporary fiction with a fantasy bent. The second, There Comes a Prophet, is a YA dystopian that follows in the proud tradition of such classics as 1984, Brave New World, and Fahrenheit 451. Review one, both, or neither. That’s right, you don’t even have to read the books to participate–although that’s definitely an option. Novel Publicity will provide your choice of a pre-formatted excerpt, interview, or guest post to make participation easy.

Along the Watchtower
Tour Dates: July 22 to 26, 2013
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, YA Dystopian
Page Counts: 225, 266
The Prizes:
* $100 Best/ most creative entry (2 prizes)
* $100 Random commenter prize
* $50 Rafflecopter (2 prizes)
* $50 Random blogger award
* $50 GoodReads party prize
* $50 Facebook sharing contest
* $100 in the special author contest
* Kindle Fire in the special author contest

About Along the Watchtower

A Tragic Warrior Lost in Two Worlds…
The war in Iraq ended for Lieutenant Freddie Williams when an IED explosion left his mind and body shattered. Once he was a skilled gamer and expert in virtual warfare.  Now he’s a broken warrior, emerging from a medically induced coma to discover he’s inhabiting two separate realities.  The first is his waking world of pain, family trials, and remorse—and slow rehabilitation through the tender care of Becky, his physical therapist. The second is a dark fantasy realm of quests, demons, and magic that Freddie enters when he sleeps.

In his dreams he is Frederick, Prince of Stormwind, who must make sense of his horrific visions in order to save his embattled kingdom from the monstrous Horde.  His only solace awaits him in the royal gardens, where the gentle words of the beautiful gardener, Rebecca, calm the storms in his soul. While in the conscious world, the severely wounded vet faces a strangely similar and equally perilous mission—a journey along a dark road haunted by demons of guilt and memory—and letting patient, loving Becky into his damaged and shuttered heart may be his only way back from Hell.

About There Comes a Prophet

But what are we without dreams?
A thousand years ago the Darkness came—a terrible time of violence, fear, and social collapse when technology ran rampant. But the vicars of the Temple of Light brought peace, ushering in an era of blessed simplicity. For ten centuries they have kept the madness at bay with “temple magic” and by eliminating forever the rush of progress that nearly caused the destruction of everything.

A restless dreamer, Nathaniel has always lived in the tiny village of Little Pond, longing for something more but unwilling to challenge the unbending status quo. When his friend Thomas returns from the Temple after his “teaching”—the secret coming-of-age ritual that binds young men and women eternally to the Light—Nathaniel can barely recognize the broken and brooding young man the boy has become. And when the beautiful Orah is summoned as well, Nathaniel knows he must somehow save her. But in the prisons of Temple City he discovers a terrible secret that launches the three of them on a journey to find the forbidden keep, placing their lives in dire jeopardy. For a truth awaits them there that threatens the foundation of the Temple. But if they reveal that truth, the words of the book of light might come to pass:

“If there comes among you a prophet saying ‘Let us return to the darkness,’ you shall stone him, because he has sought to thrust you away from the light.”

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

How to Make Your Characters Believable

- Guest Post by Nhys Glover

Let me first state that I don’t believe it’s possible to make characters believable. When you write, those characters have to become people to you, before they ever have a chance of becoming credible to someone else.

That doesn’t mean you have to know your people inside out before you begin to write. I know some writers create a whole biography for their central characters before they start. But that’s not how it happens for me.

When I write, I start with a picture in my mind of the person I’m going to write about, in much the same way as I might describe someone I meet for the first time. They’re just an image in my mind behaving in a certain way, at that point. If I like what I see, then I’ll allow my Muse to follow him or her on their adventures. I try to write about everything they think, do and say that moves the story forward.

But ultimately I’m an observer, and so when my people do things that surprise me, I have to know why. That’s when I start to get more deeply into their heads. Why is Pia so shy and insecure in The Titan Drowns? Her subservience is actually rather annoying to me. So I let her show me her early life in Norway, before the Last Great Plague changed everything for her, as it did for every survivor. And when I saw where her thinking has led her astray, I was then able to introduce her to people on the scene who could give her a better perspective, and I could put her into situations that provided her with further awareness. So just like real people my people are always growing.

Sometimes my people are based on historical figures, and I allow those real lives to give me the perspective I need to find a place for them in my story. That’s what happened to Maxwell. I’d read about one of the celebrities who went down with the Titanic, and I found him fascinating… stuffy and very upper-crust, but with the heart of an artist and a champion of the underdog. So I let that real person morph into my imaginary person, complete with an imaginary wife who is a manipulative, unfaithful schemer.

Place influences people. So my Max had a very typical Victorian upbringing that warped his sexuality. In his case, he’s remained celibate because sex is disgusting. My job as the facilitator of my people’s growth is to introduce them to just the right person who can love them. In Max’s case it’s Eilish, an uninhibited but hitherto equally celibate woman from the future. And sparks fly from the first moment.

In the New Atlantis series this kind of instant attraction always happens because it’s part of my world’s dynamic. As I said, place influences people. It must. In the case of my world of New Atlantis, Old Timers suddenly go from emotionally numb to painfully alive as soon as they meet their Key or Soul Mate, which spins them out and often brings up stuff they’ve kept buried for hundreds of years. By describing that psychological process I add to my people’s authenticity.

So if you want to make your people credible, believe in them yourself. This doesn’t make you crazy; it just makes you capable of ‘suspending belief’. If you expect your reader to suspend belief to get into your story about flesh-eating zombies, then you have to do it too, whole-heartedly, before you even put pen to paper.

Author Interview – Zoe Brooks

What is your favourite quote, by whom, and why?

“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.” Albert Einstein

I have always loved fairytales and I think adults should read them too. We tend to discard them as we grow older but they are the purest form of stories, you can learn so much by reading them.

What is your favourite food?

I love seafood. When our son was young we had many happy holidays camping in Brittany and Normandy (in France). We used to eat at restaurants overlooking where the fishing boats were unloading. Our four-year old son used to consume adult-sized plates of mussels, particularly liking the ones which had little crabs inside. As he grew older we started to holiday in Greece and would eat meze beside the beach – octopus, squid, as well as mussels etc.

What is your favourite place in the entire world?

South Bohemia in the Czech Republic. I fell in love with it about twelve years ago. With its forests, mountains and old castles, it is straight out of a fairy tale. I bought an old farmhouse there and it is where I write all my books. Of course I also love the Cotswold hills in England, where I was born and still live, but when it comes to writing it has to be South Bohemia.

When and why did you begin writing?

I’ve always written poetry: I was first published at the age of thirteen and was regarded as one of the bright young things of British poetry, but poetry doesn’t pay the bills and I had to focus on my career. For over twenty years I had a very demanding job working with disadvantaged people and loved it, but about a few years ago it all became too much and I changed my career. I decided I would follow the dream of writing novels. I had always made up stories but up until then they were for my enjoyment only.

What inspires you to write and why?

I have two main inspirations – when I am writing. Firstly I am influenced by my former career, during which I met and talked to some amazing women, who had been to hell and back. Those women influence both my heroines, who both are outsiders who have to struggle against prejudice. Secondly I am influenced by knowledge of history – I studied history at university – which is full of fascinating stories and themes. In this book I used the history of how women healers were persecuted and killed (as witches) between the 14th and 17th centuries.

What genre are you most comfortable writing?

I have been told I write magic realism. I had never heard about magic realism before – but basically it’s realistic but with something magical or strange in it. My books are set in an unspecified place and time, which some people find disturbing. The book is also women’s fiction – I write about women, all my books have strong heroines. There’s some romance in the book, but it’s not the only thing by any means.

Who or what influenced your writing once you began?

A major influence was my dear friend, Hannah Kodicek. She was a story editor in the film industry – her most successful work was on the Oscar-winning film The Counterfeiters. She also lectured on story editing and structure, so it was not surprising that it was to Hannah that I turned when I decided I wanted to write novels. I think she was nervous about critiquing a friend’s work, but she needn’t have worried. I found what she had to say fascinating and inspiring. Hannah died suddenly of cancer nearly two years ago. Before she died she made me promise that I would publish my books.

Did writing this book teach you anything and what was it?

Because I write magic realism, I do a lot of research to ensure the world I create is realistic. The central character is a traditional healer and perfume-maker. I knew a little about traditional medicines but absolutely nothing about perfume making. I went to the Bodleian Library at Oxford and found some old manuals about making and selling perfumes. It was fascinating – I found out  about the raw materials and how perfumes are blended. There was a lot of overlap with traditional healing. Did you know that traditional healers used to identify illness by the smell?

Have you developed a specific writing style?

A recent review said that my “writing alternates between lyrical and straightforward”, which is I think a fair description of my style. I try to write accessible popular books which get under the skin of the reader.

Have you ever had writer’s block?  If so,what do you do about it?

Yes. I always get it fifty pages into writing the first draft of each novel. I was very pleased to see on a BBC programme that Ian Rankin has the same block only his starts at page sixty five. I start full of ideas and excited but by page fifty, it’s not exciting any more and I realise any plotting problems I’ve got. My usual answer is to take a break. I might go for a walk, do some gardening or even start cleaning the house ( yes, it really is that bad).

How did you come up with the title?

In the realistic world that I have created one of the fantasy elements is Shadows. The central character and the book’s narrator, Judith, has a Shadow called Sarah. Shadows are very like human beings, but they do not have the emotions of humans. Because they are different they are victims of prejudice and persecution. Judith’s love for Sarah is at the heart of why she takes action to help when Shadows are attacked, it is also why she is drawn to a man called Bruno, who too knows what it is to love a Shadow. The Shadow concept came very early on in the writing of the series. Shadows allow me to explore what goes into being human, about prejudice and relationships.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Choosing Your Setting is as Important as Your Plot

- Guest Post by Kat H. Clayton

There are lots of elements that are important to consider when you start writing a story that will hopefully lead to a fully fledged novel. Characters, plots and themes are some of the first things that come to mind, but something equally important is the setting.

Honestly, I think and choose my setting before I really delve into the story itself. I’ll have a vague idea of my plot and a few scenes fleshed out in my mind, but the process can’t continue until I find the perfect setting for my story.

I write contemporary suspense/mystery novels, so there’s limited world building that goes on for me. I can make up towns and settings, but they have to be based within the framework of our natural world (i.e. no space colonies or underwater cities, unless of course they become reality).

For my mystery/suspense series, The Kings of Charleston, I had to find a place that to me evoked an air of mystery. Where could I place my characters that would allow even the setting to play a role in building up the tension? There were a couple of places that came to mind, but I had to really think carefully how to choose just the right one. I know there’s no keeping secret where I chose to set my novel since it’s in the title, but I think that only demonstrates even more how important the setting is to this story.

I let you know right away that the novel is set in Charleston and you immediately start to get an idea of what to expect from the story if you are familiar with the city. Charleston is a very old city (in terms of old for the United States) with lots of history. Along with that history comes a fair amount of stately mansions with tales of ghosts lurking about, old graveyards and superstitions. Another spooky element to me is the Spanish moss that hangs all over the trees like tattered cloaks. It always looks creepy to me, especially after dark or when the trees are bare and the limbs look like skeletal hands. Even the oppressive summertime heat and humidity adds an air of sexiness and intrigue.

Charleston not only added a lot of mystery, it added some sophistication because it’s known for its hospitality and old world charm. It was the perfect setting for a group of wealthy families with lots of decorum and traditions, but also with lots of secrets to keep hidden.

As you can see, so much could already be conveyed about my story simply by choosing it’s setting. And even if you are not familiar with Charleston, hopefully my descriptions of this mesmerizing Southern city will help you see my vision of why Charleston is the perfect backdrop for this particular story.

Reviews Are The New “Gold” in Publishing Currency

- Guest Post by AFN Clarke

You’re an Indie author, you just finished a new book and you know the only way to sell it is to promote it.  But you’re also told by successful authors that without 10 – 15 reviews promotion is a waste of time and money, as most readers won’t buy a book with few reviews. But how can you get 15 reviews, without promotion and sales?  It’s a circular and exasperating predicament.

Here are a few tips to building those prized reviews quickly (what I suggest for Amazon can be replicated on most other ebook retail sites):

1.         Give your book away for free to boost readership and reviews.

Offer a free pre-publication edition of your book to family and friends in return for a review. Make the offer 1-2 months before publication – the moment it appears, your readers can post reviews.

Alternatively, whatever your book’s final price, launch it at something like 99 cents.  Offer to gift your book for 1 week to those in your social networks in return for a review (Email, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ etc). The Gift A Copy button is under the Click To Buy button on Amazon. Yes, you pay for each book you gift, but that sale registers in Amazon’s algorithms, increasing your book’s ranking and visibility. The resultant reviews aren’t Verified Purchase Reviews, but better than nothing. Never demand a review, request one politely AND ask for an honest review – the whole purpose is to increase the number of genuine reviews for your book.

Giveaways are another way to get your book out there to readers quickly for free in the hope they will post a review. Ask any reputable author/reader website to work with you on a giveaway or contact sites like Freebooksy, BookGoodies, Free Book Dude, The Frugal eReader.

2.         Request reviews through the author community.

Established author/reader websites are great places to request a review including: Author Marketing Club; World Literary Café; Book Tweeting Service; BookGoodies; GoodReads; Zwoodle Books; The Kindle Book Review; Facebook; Kindleboards.

3.         Create a virtual blog tour.

Well-known bloggers reach thousands of readers that you could never reach alone. Reputable websites like Orangeberry Book Tours (OB) offer an amazing selection of virtual book tours through their extensive blogger network. The cost is very reasonable and the service excellent. For me, OB is a busy author’s dream-come-true.  Just the 7-day tour for my politically provocative thriller An Unquiet American yielded great results.  I’m now in the middle of a longer tour for my latest book The Orange Moon Affair – the first in a new thriller series – and while it’s already doing well with 4.9 Stars on Amazon, my guess is that once the 30 day blog tour is over I will have at least 25 more reviews and thousands more readers who will have heard of my book, and many who’ve hopefully bought it.

The key is to keep working with people/service providers who can help you go viral – to leverage what you do, expand your promotion efforts exponentially and get you out to tens of thousands of readers.

4.         Ready to promote?

Once you have a decent number of reviews I recommend you read the Author Resources section of The Kindle Book Review and follow Jeff Bennington’s tips for effective marketing.  Also read Jim F. Kukral’s The Ultimate Digital Promotion Handbook at the Author Marketing Club. Start promoting using their recommendations and slowly build your own expertise.

5.         Track your results

Before you do any of the above, enroll your book(s) in Kindle Nation Daily’s eBookTracker and track your Amazon pricing data and sales ranking.  Note when your sales ranking rises -  in response to reviews? Advertising? Specific promotions?  Price changes? It’s a great way to determine what works and what doesn’t.

May you win the “gold” and have the greatest of success!

AFN CLARKE is the son of a British MI6 operative, pilot, sailor, screenwriter, father of four who’s lived all over the world, served in the British Army and recovered from the physical/emotional traumas of war.  His bestselling memoir CONTACT was serialized in a British newspaper and made into an award winning BBCTV film.  He’s insatiably curious, loves heated discussions and has a rascally sense of humor. He now writes fiction of various genres – thrillers (The Orange Moon Affair and An Unquiet American); human drama (Dry Tortugas), humor/satire (Dreams from the Death Age; Armageddon), horror (Collisions) with more coming soon.  For more information visit, connect on Facebook or Twitter (@AFN Clarke).

Friday, 14 June 2013

10 Things You Didn’t Know About The Green Berets: Chasing the Lost

- Guest Post by Bob Mayer

Thanks for having me guest post on your blog.  I appreciate the opportunity as my 51st title, The Green Berets: Chasing the Lost is now out and #1 in Men’s Adventure, even though a woman is at the core of the story.  Aren’t they always?

-I lived on Hilton Head in the same, old house, my main character, Horace Chase moves into when he arrives on Hilton Head.

-The Gullah have a long and interesting history in the low country.

-Pat Conroy taught school on Dafuskie Island, where my other main character, Dave Riley, lives.

-One of our best friends on the island, was the island bookie, so I learned a lot about that business from him and use it in the story.

-We also ran into people, who shall we say, might have had affiliations with organized crime?

-Hilton Head doesn’t have its own police force, which is strange for an island of 30,000 full timers and over a million visitors a year.

-If you don’t think Predators are flying in US skies, don’t look up.

-Doesn’t matter, because you won’t see them anyway, they’re so high up.

-The world of covert operations is full of paranoid people who think everyone is out to get them.

-Everyone is out to get them.

This book, The Green Berets: Chasing the Lost is unique in that the theme is loyalty:  how much is too much?  It also brings together Dave Riley from my six Green Beret books and Horace Chase from Chasing The Ghost (which is only .99 right now) into one story.  I’m starting to merge characters from various series about the world of covert operations.  My 30 July book, Nightstalkers: The Book of Truths merges that series with my Cellar series.

Right now, this book has all five star ratings on Goodreads and reader feedback is that the ending blew them away. Hope you enjoy and feel free to visit us at

Thursday, 13 June 2013

How I Broke Out of Publishing and Learned to Write in Obscurity

- Guest Post by Ted Olinger, Author of The Woodpecker Menace: Stories from an Accidentally Unseparated Island

I was in my cubicle, a large, gray pen lined with unsolicited manuscripts from unknown writers, when the phone rang. It was from a friend in Publicity, on the other side of the building.

“Get over here. You’ve got to see what’s on television right now.”

I crowded into the department head’s corner office with two-dozen others, all staring at a big screen TV. Germans were standing on the Berlin Wall, demanding its removal, live. Some of us wept, some of us wondered if the East Germans would fire on West Germans. At last the department head said something like, “We’ve all got plenty of books to sell now. We’ll worry about Berlin next season.” And we went back to work.

I didn’t know it then, but that was to be my last day in publishing.

I had already been laboring away at this famous New York publisher for more than two years. Editorial assistants, at least then, took the job of long hours and low wages to learn the business. I was fortunate to work for a veteran editor who was determined to mentor me whether I wanted it or not. I studied the manuscripts she bought and all of her line notes and correspondence with the authors. I read five to eight submissions a week and wrote one-page reader reports that she used to cross-examine me. I wrote respectful and even encouraging letters to writers, returning their rejected manuscripts months after they’d arrived. And this was all after working hours.

During the actual working day, I fielded phone calls from agents, authors, and other editors or publishing departments. I proofed galleys and drafted jacket and catalog copy. I carried proposals, contracts, and cover designs around the office seeking approval signatures from a dozen people. There was endless photocopying, coffee drinking, and sharpening of blue pencils.

But I wanted to be a writer. I had found this job to learn about it from the inside out, and I wasn’t writing anything under my own name. That began to gnaw at me.

My boss was sympathetic. She included me in editorial meetings and introduced me to agents and editors who were writers as well. But they were a wary lot, downplaying their own work even as they promoted the work of authors they represented or published. One confessed that the more success he had as a writer, the more skeptical his superiors became about his work as an editor. He later found himself “down-sized” to smaller and smaller publishers, until he went freelance.

My own end was less subtle.

One day I pulled yet another unsolicited manuscript off the towering shelves surrounding my cubicle. I took it home to read, as I always did. But I did not write a reader’s report for this manuscript. I handed it to my boss and said something like, “This is the kind of book I want to write.”

She frowned. She read. She bought.

The manuscript went into production the following season. She argued for an elaborate dust jacket, lobbied for publicity money, and solicited blurbs from name brand writers and reviewers. Our new author acquired an agent who rode us for a still better cover, more quotes, and more ad money, as a good agent should. The author called me directly and repeatedly with expensive last minute changes to the galleys, which I shepherded through Copyediting into print. We worked hours on the single paragraph that would promote the book in our sales catalog.

And that’s what killed it.

A voice from Sales or Marketing or Somewhere saw the ad and made its way around us to the Editor-in-Chief, who walked down the hall to our office one day saying, “We don’t think it’s gonna earn its money back after all,” and pulled the plug.

My boss took us out to a midtown bar close to the office on the company’s dime. We watched the news from Berlin on the overhead televisions. The wall was coming down. She had earlier absorbed the reactions of our unknown author and his enraged agent. The agent swore never to work with her or me again, ever.

“Doesn’t he know what we did for this guy?” I asked.

“We have to be grown-ups about this,” she answered.

After a moment, I said, “I don’t want your job.” We smiled at this, but then it began to sink in. I really didn’t want her job. We were watching history being made on TV, Europe was coming apart, war in the Persian Gulf was approaching, and we were battling our own copyeditors and sales department for nothing.

My boss remained at her post for another year before moving on to a second successful career.

But three weeks after that night, I was in Berlin writing down everything I saw.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Making characters believable

- Guest Post by Bette Lee Crosby, Author of "Spare Change"

For me, the most important part of a story is character development. As a reader, I have to feel a connection with the characters in a story, or I find myself quickly losing interest. I believe it’s the same for most people.

Before I start to write a novel, I spend weeks getting to know each and every one of the people in the story. I imagine their response to challenge. I dig down to find what makes them happy and what makes them sad. I also look back at the individuals who have crossed my pathway of life and allocate select personality traits to the certain characters.

I’ve been genuinely fond of all the characters I’ve created, but Ethan Allen Doyle of Spare Change is probably my favorite. He has a voice and an attitude that is uniquely his, so I thought I’d let you get to see him as I did. This is my interview with Ethan Allen Doyle…

Q: Who are you?

A: My name’s Ethan Allen Doyle, I’m an eleven-year old kid and I ain’t the hero of this story, but I got more troubles than any ten heroes ought to have. I suppose you could say Grandma Olivia is the hero, but it sure didn’t start out that way. Matter of fact, Grandma Olivia never even wanted kids, never mind an eleven-year-old boy with trouble dogging his heels.

Q: Where do you live?

A: Me, my Mama and Daddy lived on a farm smack in the middle of nowhere—folks claim it’s the Eastern Shore of Virginia, but Mama used to say it was the ass end of the earth. ‘Course I don’t where I’m gonna live now, guess that depends on whether or not Grandma Olivia changes her way of thinking about kids.

Q: Do you run from conflict?

A: I got no choice but to run; if I stay here Scooter Cobb is gonna blast my butt to kingdom come. And, telling the truth ain’t an option—whose gonna take the word of a kid over that of a policeman?

Q: How do you see yourself?

A: I see myself as the most unluckiest kid in the world; I got a dead Mama, a dead Daddy, and a policeman’s daddy looking to kill me. Is that unlucky enough for you?

Q: How do your enemies see you?

A: Right now, I ain’t all that sure who’s my enemy and who’s not. I know for sure Scooter Cobb is, he’s got a sneaky suspicion I know the truth of what happened to Daddy so he’d rather see me dead than alive. And, I got a notion his son Sam, feels the same; with Sam being a policeman things are just gonna get worse. That other detective, Jack Mahoney, I’m not too sure about him.

Q: What do you think of yourself?

A: I’m nobody’s fool; I know trouble when I see it and I can generally figure my way around it. Mama says I’m a lot like her, but there’s one difference—when Daddy gets ugly, she eggs him on, me, I just up and disappear.

Q: Do you have a hero?

A: Yeah, I reckon my hero is Grandma Olivia; she had guts enough to stand up the Cobbs. She told me not to worry ‘cause we got God on our side, ‘course the Cobbs got guns and meanness on their side, but Grandma Olivia didn’t seem to let that bother her none.

Q: Do you have a goal?

A: ‘Course I got a goal—stayin’ alive! When Mama was alive we was thinking we’d go to New York City so she could be a singing star, but that plan’s shot to hell, so stayin’ alive is the next best thing.

Q: What are your achievements?

A: Getting outta Scooter Cobb’s house for one thing. I come up with that plan by myself, nobody was slipping me some good escaping suggestions that’s for sure. Okay, I was scared when my foot missed and I started sliding off the roof, but I didn’t give in to screaming or anything; a lot of kids would’ve been yelling for their mama, but not me—yelling for Mama wouldn’t of done me no good anyway.

Q: What makes you happy?

A: I like when the Orioles win; ‘course they don’t win much so I ain’t got a lot to be happy about. I used to be happy when Mama talked about me n’ her going to New York City. I figured if we ever got there, I was gonna see a New York Yankees game. The Yankees, now that’s a team you can be happy about.

Q: What makes you sad?

A: Thinking about Mama lying in the driveway like she was taking a nap and thinking about Daddy with his head squashed open; and of course knowing I ain’t never gonna see that Yankee game I was counting on.

Q: Are you lucky?

A: You gotta be kidding me! I done told you, I’m the most unlucky kid in the world! If I was lucky, me and Mama would be in New York eating a bunch of hot dogs and watching a Yankee game.

Q: Did you get along with your parents?

A: Yeah, we got along okay. With Daddy I mostly stayed outta his way, but Mama and me, we had ourselves some good times talking about all the stuff we was gonna do. Mama wasn’t like most mamas, she didn’t like cooking and cleaning, she said life was too short for such nonsense, she said we was put on earth to be happy and that’s what she was trying to do. I felt real good when Mama said I took after her and was not like Daddy; I never wanted to be like Daddy.

Q: Was there ever a defining moment in your life?

A: Yeah, when I found Mister Porter’s shotgun in the basement, if it wasn’t for that rusted old shotgun Grandma Olivia and me would both be dead. I would’ve preferred finding some shells for the Browning ‘cause a rifle’s a lot more accurate than a shotgun, but luckily things worked out okay anyway.

Q: What is your most prized possession?

A: Is a dog a possession? ‘Cause if he is, then I’d say Dog. If a dog ain’t a possession, then I guess it’s a toss-up between my catcher’s mitt and those birthday cards I got from the grandpa I ain’t ever met. If I didn’t have those cards, I’d of never found Grandma Olivia.

Q: How do you envision your future?

A: That’s a funny question. Anyway, I done seen the story of how I growed up, so I know what I become; but I ain’t saying. If you really wanna know, then you gotta read Grandma Olivia’s story—‘cause that’s the God’s honest truth of how it happened.

Why Social Networks are the Keys to Good Networking

- Guest Post by Alexandra Sokoloff

I don’t suppose it’s any secret that networking and promotion is half the job of writing. Whether you’re traditionally published or indie published, a strong Internet presence is absolutely mandatory for an author. It is if you want to make a living at it, anyway. I’ve been a published author for six years now, with nine crime, supernatural and paranormal thrillers out, as well as two non-fiction workbooks on writing.  Before that I was a screenwriter for eleven years. I’ve been a professional writer since I was twenty-five years old. I don’t know how to do anything else, so making a living at it is not optional for me.

When I switched from screenwriting to writing books I really knew nothing at all about the book business, and even less about book promotion. I’m a pretty quick study, though, in general, and I jumped into the Internet research. And in 2006 it was pretty clear that blogging was the thing for authors to do.

Blogging used to be the primary method of getting yourself out there, and if you had a personal blog and participated in a group blog, or several group blogs, well, even better. I did five years on the popular group mystery blog, and I know I benefitted from the professional exposure as well as the lively dialogue and companionship.

But lately so many group blogs have shut down, including Murderati, now, and authors seem to be burned out on personal blogging. You no longer hear agents and editors pushing blogging to their authors.

It seems the conversation has moved to Facebook.

The truth is, writers don’t seem to have enough time to blog any more. It feels like diminishing returns, when there’s a fast and easy alternative conversation on Facebook. The technology has changed. We’re having to reinvent.

I hear from a lot of people that Facebook is on the decline but it seems to me that those conversations that used to be had in the comments of blogs, and the large communities of “backbloggers” – a lion’s share of that action has moved to Facebook, and that that aspect of Facebook is growing.

When I e-published my crime thriller Huntress Moon last July, it hit the top of all the Amazon mystery/suspense lists and brought me a deluge of new readers. Suddenly my Facebook subscribers jumped from a few thousand to twenty thousand.  I have over 78,000 subscribers at this writing. It was clear to me that my readers wanted to engage with me there and I’d better figure out how to do that. But I’d been busy blogging and had spent next to no time with other social media. Again, I had to do some quick catch-up.

Blogs are in-depth entities. The joy of a blog is that you can really explore a topic (as well as sometimes do some virtuoso writing), and the comments that follow deepen the conversation, and there’s something compelling about the feeling of that closed, fixed space that a blog is that makes it a sort of virtual salon. People return to their favorite blogs. They’re really like places where you can always find people you know and where other people can drop by and join the party.  I love that virtual reality aspect of it.

But blogging takes a lot of time, not just for the blogger. It takes actual effort to read a blog, in that you have to go to a particular place to get to the conversation.  If the conversation there isn’t what you were looking for, you have to look elsewhere.

Facebook is a different kind of experience.  It’s all right there in front of you. You throw a topic up there and whoever happens to be passing by on the endless river of “feed” may or may not jump in.  You never know who or what you’re going to get.

Facebook has tailored a social media experience that is either still a novelty, or possibly more suited to the kind of social media experience that we are looking for – quick, fun, convenient interaction that gives you a buzz of relevance without much work.

But I do notice a base of regular commenters coming back to my Facebook page over and over, so there is an aspect of place to it as well, and I try to provide content and conversation for those regulars as well.  Some of my posts are funny, random comments or pictures or memes, but I also write longer posts that I often also link to my Screenwriting Tricks for Authors blog ( for an even more in-depth discussion for those who want it.

I’ve heard that referred to as “microblogging” and I think that’s a perfect description.

My Screenwriting Tricks for Authors blog is getting more traffic than ever (though far fewer comments these days), and a great deal of that traffic is for much older posts that are constantly reposted and linked to as people discover the blog and read the accompanying workbooks.  It’s a hugely important selling tool for my nonfiction books.

But I feel like I’m casting a far wider net with FB than I can with blogging.  Any post I make I get comments from people I don’t know at all. It’s a quick interaction that introduces me to a huge number of people who may remember me and the fact that I’m an author, which is the groundwork of all promotion – name recognition. And I enjoy the format of Facebook.  It’s so visual – which puts it light years ahead of Twitter, in my opinion. There’s an aspect of improv to it, in that I can always find something fun to say about something someone else has posted. I am, for better or worse, a social butterfly, and I love to have random conversations with large groups of random people.

I know, I know, it’s sounding like I’ve just discovered Facebook (“Where exactly has she BEEN for six years?” you’re asking). But it’s only recently that I’ve felt that I can use it properly and that it’s at least for the moment being a form of social media promotion that gives me the most bang for my time.  Time being always of the essence – not just for writers, but for everyone who reads them.

And that’s why I also think that as an author you have to choose one or two of the social media that you actually enjoy, and don’t worry about the others. We can’t possibly do it all. It took me a while to learn to love Facebook, but now I honestly do.  It’s my reward for my hard writing work.  And when work is play, you’ve got the best of all world.

So today, I’d love to hear what you others to say about it. Do you think blogging has moved to Facebook? Authors, have you had luck microblogging over there?  Readers, what are your personal preferences in social media and interaction with authors?

And while we’re on it, where does Twitter figure in? If people ARE leaving Facebook, where are they going? I’m really interested in what you all have to say about it.

Buy Now @ Amazon
Genre – Mystery / Thriller 
Rating – PG13 
More details about the author & the book
Connect with Alexandra Sokoloff on Facebook & Twitter
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Stories Behind My Books: Spanish Jail

- Guest Post by Vadim Babenko

I met a girl – the year my life reached an impasse. I rushed about and felt only despair, a total lack of strength. The concept of SEMMANT had been elaborated to the smallest details, but I couldn’t write a single line.

And here I met a girl – I saw her first in a photo. Then we skied in the Alps together. Later we became lovers, and I decided she had not come into my life by happenstance. I told myself: Now, she’s a source of inspiration, a long-awaited sign. I compelled myself to believe this – almost by force – just because it was high time.

I began to write without giving in to any indulgences. The further the book moved ahead, the closer the girl and I got – I even moved to her country, and we started living together. Her presence in the novel was not significant; it was almost imperceptible, except for some details. But her presence in my life was necessary for the novel to be born. And, in turn, the book that was created, its authenticity, its scale, were necessary for our love story to continue, for our relationship to grow stronger.

At some point it became uncomfortable for me. The book and our life together began to depend too much on each other. They fed on mutual energy, and it wasn’t clear where this energy originated. After all, no one had repealed the physical laws of preservation, and I knew their rigor well.

This was the energy of love, my girlfriend told me, and I believed her – having no other theories. And then an event occurred that again turned my life upside down. I was slandered by my former family – out of jealousy and greed, and a desire for revenge. The Spanish authorities brought a criminal case against me. Suspecting nothing, I flew to Madrid to collect my things; they arrested me as I got off the plane. The next several days I spent in a Spanish jail.

This was a new – and utterly negative – experience. I learned that the monstrous state machine could roll over you and crush you even if you were absolutely innocent. Against it you can do nothing – only grit your teeth and endure it until they give you a chance to somehow justify yourself. It took a year and a half for me to completely clear my name. The opposing party was persistent, inventive, and did not want to relent. Nevertheless, I won – after spending an unbelievable amount of money, time, and energy.

However: in that same year and a half I finished my novel! Furthermore, its plot, its whole conceit grew deeper and better structured. And, in addition, the book and the story with the girl became independent from each other right after prison. They had lost their internal link and parted on different trajectories. I no longer felt that one was pledged to the other, and vice versa.

The trajectories, incidentally, were successful. We married, and the book turned out just as it had been conceived. The robot named SEMMANT came to life.
Buy Now @ Amazon & Amazon UK
Genre – Literary Fiction
Rating – NC17
More details about the author & the book
Connect with Vadim Babenko on GoodReads

Review: Redwood Violet by Robin Mahle

I really love cliffhangers..seriously, I do!  They are the one that makes the wait more painful as well as the next read more interesting.  But I definitely don't agree with this type of endings.  Maybe, when they say this is a two-part read, they mean that this is like an episode, not a series.  Anyway, read on to know more!

Author: Robin Mahle
Release Date: March 13th 2013
Source: From Orangeberry blog tours
Genre: Mystery

Katie Reid is living the quintessential Southern California life. A dream job and her college sweetheart Spencer, top it all off. But the nightmares that have been haunting her for months are getting worse.

After seeking help from Dr. Reyes, it becomes apparent that Katie is dealing with something much deeper and much more sinister. Her only solution is to delve into a past that no one wants her to remember.

With the horrific discovery of a secret kept hidden for years, Katie is drawn into a world mired in evil and lost innocence. And only with the help of Detective Marshall Avery will she be able to channel her pain and anger.

But, will he be able to contain Katie’s desire for vengeance that has begun to unravel her perfect life?

The first in a two-part series, Redwood Violet will keep you firmly in its grip and refuse to let go!


Katie Reid, living a great life in Southern California, with a great job and a great boyfriend, Spencer. But all this greatness shatters when Katie is having some bad dreams, which are not just dreams, but something which is going to turn her life 180 degrees. There were things happening and Katie takes a path which makes her perfect life collapse. Is Kate really going to go there deep? Is she going to risk everything to find the cause of her haunting dreams? Or with the help of Detective Avery, will Katie get her life back away from all this mess? In all this "discovering the past" things, is she going to lose her Spencer?

Although the plot in itself is engaging, the writing was not-so-comfortable for me. I kept going only because I want to know what happens next and that thrill that the author has brought in the novel is appreciated. Katie is a strong character and I felt myself shuddering every time something going amiss. Her entire life being a lie, is not something that can be taken easy about. And I think maybe being innocent would have been better, although I know that is the escape route. Sometimes, all this thing about karma sucks.

Well, I felt like the ending was abrupt. I know there is another part to this series. AND series CAN have a cliffhanger. A cliffhanger that makes you read the next book is one thing. But, a cliffhanger/climax of the book, which makes the reading of the first book without reading the second one as useless, is something else entirely. According to me, that's not good.

If this is the debut by Robin, then it is really a good effort!

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

The unfair criticism of self-published authors

- Guest Post by Michel Sauret

I typically hate when people use the word “unfair” in their argument. It has a childish tone, that of someone who isn’t able to deal with reality and resorts to complaining about it instead.

But when it comes to books, self-published authors really do get some unfair treatment.

Immediately, book-reviewers, journalists, editors, libraries and even some readers will jump to the conclusion that unless a book was pulbished through the traditional route, it must suck.

What other artists get that sort of treatment just because they’re unrepresented?

I try to compare self-publishing to things that I know… About three years ago, my wife, Heather, and I started our own photography business. We called it One Way Street Production because of our faith in Christ. We invested our own money (we didn’t go into any debt or borrow money from anyone) to buy camera equipment, computers and editing software, which totaled thousands of dollars. We launched a website that we control and update ourselves directly.

We were a self-started business. Our company name was our own. We worked directly for the clients who hired us, not some third-party representative whose existence validated our work.

Families and brides who wanted to hire a photographer came to our website and judged our work based on its own merit, not based on who represented us. We didn’t need anyone’s permission to take photos. We simply had to produce quality work and make sure our clients were happy.

And yet, in book publishing, most people still believe you must earn someone else’s permission to publish your book. They say, “You have to go through the gate keepers, otherwise you’re no good.”

A few months ago, my sister, Marta, who is also my publicist, helped me set up a workshop on self-publishing at a local college. The professor who helped her organize the event was generous, understanding and very supportive. Marta and that professor posted flyers around the college campus in the weeks and days leading up to the workshop.

The night of the workshop, Marta was setting up the room about an hour ahead of schedule. I wasn’t there yet, but she told me how another professor from that college had come to the room to tell her how much he disagreed with this workshop.

He called self-publishing illegitimate. He called it a crock. He called it no good.

That professor was a coward. That’s what I call him.

He went to my sister to complain about my workshop instead of coming to me directly. After the workshop, I left him a note with my email and phone number inviting him to talk to me, and I still haven’t heard from him.

Not only was that professor a coward, but he was wrong about all of his accusations.

The reality is that self-published authors are gaining ground in the book industry. More and more indie authors are gaining the attention of publishers who originally rejected their books. There have even been self-published authors who hit the New York Times, Amazon & USA Today beste-seller lists!

Up until recent years, the world of book publishing did hold a different standard. There were gate-keepers in the book publishing world more so than in other artistic pathways.

In order to be published, you had to first go through an agent (no publishing house with any sort of reputation would dare to accept a manuscript directly from an author!), then the agent had to go through the publisher, then the publisher had to go through their accountants (in other words, it wasn’t enough for a book to be good, it had to sell!), and then finally the book reached the public!

A whole slew of independent publishing houses (small presses) bypassed that formula and often accept submissions directly from the author, but self-publishing has defied even that principle!

Self-publishing allows authors to skip the agent, the publisher, the editor, even their accountants and go straight to the public.

Self-publishing took the door ram straight through the gate and rushed into the castle uninivited. For that, this form of publishing has left a bad taste in many people’s mouths.

And because we’ve barged into the party uninvited, some have resorted to cowardly name-calling and unfair criticism.

My take, read first, judge second.

Buy Now @ Amazon
Genre – Short Stories / Literary Fiction 
Rating – PG13
More details about the author & the book
Connect with Michel Sauret on Facebook & Twitter

Monday, 10 June 2013

Novella Reading Week!!!

So, we are starting with Novella Reading Week!

Novella Reading Week

What is it?  See here for more information!

DATES: Novella Reading Week will take place from JUNE 10th to JUNE 16th.

GOAL: To read as many novellas as possible.


  • RADIANT (Unearthly #2.5) by Cynthia Hand
  • A DANCE WITH DARKNESS (Angelfire #0.5) by Courtney Allison Moulton
  • VALKYRIE SYMPTOMS (Valkyrie #0.5) by Ingrid Paulson
  • ELEMENTAL (Elemental, #0.5) by Brigid Kemmerer
  • FEARLESS (Elemental, #1.5) by Brigid Kemmerer
  • BREATHLESS (Elemental, #2.5) by Brigid Kemmerer
I think I will finish with at least four of them!  Will update you soon on my progress..

Anybody else taking the challenge with me?

Review: Confessions of an Angry Girl ~ Louise Rozett

The fact that I love contemporary romances and high school drama is no big secret.  I just have a shelf in Goodreads named "teen-college-middle-school". :-)  So, when I got this from Harlequin, I totally had those bookish moments where you feel happy no matter what people around you say to you.

Series: Confesssions #1
Author: Louise Rozett
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Release Date: August 28th 2012
Source: From the publisher
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Chick Lit, Young Adult

Rose Zarelli, self-proclaimed word geek and angry girl, has some confessions to make?

1. I'm livid all the time. Why? My dad died. My mom barely talks. My brother abandoned us. I think I'm allowed to be irate, don't you?

2. I make people furious regularly. Want an example? I kissed Jamie Forta, a badass guy who might be dating a cheerleader. She is now enraged and out for blood. Mine.

3. High school might as well be Mars. My best friend has been replaced by an alien, and I see red all the time. (Mars is red and "seeing red" means being angry—get it?)

Here are some other vocab words that describe my life: Inadequate. Insufferable. Intolerable.

(Don't know what they mean? Look them up yourself.)

(Sorry. That was rude.)


Rose is a freshman in Union High.  Is that supposed to be fun?  I guess, but Rose seems to be getting more sad and angry by the end of each day.  Her dad is dead, her brother abandoned her and went to college and never even want to come home for Thanksgiving and her mom separates herself from Rose.  Nothing is ever the same for Rose Zarelli.  When the school seems to be a living hell for Rose, one senior boy, Jamie, who is out of her league, not because he is so bad-ass handsome, but he has a girl friend, is the only thing she likes. 

Well, I love high-school drama and obviously, this book is so full of it.  I loved every moment of it and was in a dilemma whether I should laugh or cry at those moments.  Rose thinks and says some sarcastic things, even in her sad moments and that makes those scenes more lovable.  Rose is just fourteen, and I can understand a kid with all those personal problems battling through them.  This is just not about her dad alone, but also the change in her friends and is a lot to take in, especially for a girl like Rose, who is such an introvert.  And just when things go crazy, her close friend and brother, Peter, had to become a jerk.

Although I am not sure why she treats her friend, Robert (who is so into her) so badly, I just am happy that Robert can move on, instead of forming a love triangle, which is the last thing I need in a book like this with so much drama already into it.  I like the other characters and even the cheer-witches.  They all add the drama in a right blend to the novel.  I enjoyed hating the Regina, the cheerleader and Jamie's girlfriend, who made Rose's life more complicated, because Regina is the major reason Rose learned to stand up on her own shedding her fears. 

At the end, Rose didn't grow up a lot, but definitely I can see through some growth from 14 to 15.  Even though this book is categorized as a chick-lit, it gave a feel of sadness that Rose feels some times.  And I mean that as a compliment to the author.  It's great work from Louise Rozett. 

I loved the way Louise started every chapter in the novel..with a complex word, that defines the chapter.  When I near the end of every chapter, I am excited to learn another new word and also excited to read what it means with respect to the novel.

Definitely recommended for chick-lit and high school drama lovers!


1.  Confessions of an Angry Girl - Amazon | Goodreads
2.  Confessions of an Almost-Girlfriend - Amazon | Goodreads

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