Guest Feature – Excerpt – Lucky Starflowers #LBGT #Romance

EXCERPT: Lucky Starflowers – Olivette Devaux

Sunshine tickled his eyelids. He burrowed himself deeper in the sleeping bag that must have slid down to his chest.

I slept.

The realization woke him up just as the nonevents of last night began to creep in. The cold, the urge to piss, the thirst for a hot cup of tea or coffee or just plain warm water. The tossing and turning. He’d probably have bruises on his knees from kicking the damn steering wheel.

He couldn’t wait to get out and about. Maybe the coffee shop, or a nearby library. Or a truck-stop diner. He’d settle down with his laptop. Maybe update his blog. The shop would be warm, the coffee hot and aromatic. If he smuggled his toiletries into the bathroom, he could brush his teeth and shave. And change his shirt into something less… fragrant.

He reached into the duffle behind him and pulled out his small toiletry bag. It would squeeze inside the computer case if he was careful. That, and his phone charger. He’d recharge and call the sheriff with his forwarding address.

If only the casinos hadn’t adopted that dumb facial recognition software, he’d be set. There was a casino in Pittsburgh. He could’ve earned enough money to… oh, that’s right. His hand gave a dull throb. He was itching to sign up for a poker game and earn some living, but the casino would have to wait until he could handle cards without wincing in pain.

Sam was about to get out when two guys marched into his field of view. He shrank back.

White snow. Blinding sun. Cutting wind. Pain.

They crossed the little three-space parking lot with its coveted little nook, the one Sam had been eyeing earlier. He was glad, now, he hadn’t shoehorned his way in.

Sunday morning, two guys. What were they up to? He noted their easy body language. Like a couple. Like two guys used to each other’s physical contact. The taller one said something and the shorter one laughed. They both had dark hair, but the shorter guy kept his shoulder-length and mod, with what might’ve been caramel highlights. His hips swished in an easy sway as he negotiated the ice patches in his way. Gay? Maybe.

The thought of a gay couple in Pittsburgh floored Sam. He’d never imagined the descendants of grizzled steel workers to be… gay. Then again, the snow was still white. There was no soot in the air.

Pittsburgh seemed cleaner than expected. People had been, to date, nicer than expected as well. The drivers took turns at intersections, and the coffee was Seattle quality.

For a brief second, the idea of settling down crossed his mind.

No.

Absolutely no fucking way.

He was staying only long enough to get his papers, and to figure out how to work the card tables again.

The two guys disappeared into the building through a basement entrance. Its double door gaped like a maw to the underworld. Sam remained still.

They came out soon, both carrying a white bucket in each hand. Something was sticking out – long and green, covered on top with paper. Sam watched them close the door and walk back around the corner and up the street, and as they passed within ten feet of his car, he realized they were hauling huge buckets of roses.

He let them get out of sight before he crawled out of the low seat of his Porsche. Creaky and miserable, he stretched in the cold morning air. The pallid sun had moved since it woke him, and now half of his car was covered in the shadow of the warehouse. Sam hoisted the black computer bag out of his trunk, added the necessary toiletries, and stuffed a rolled-up T-shirt into the pocket of his leather bomber jacket.

First hygiene, then coffee, then brunch recommendations.

As he crested the hill to turn right onto Butler street, a kitty-corner door caught his attention. The mosaic of its entrance said “1896” in little tiles, surrounded by a design of ivy leaves on a cream background. He stopped to look closer. It had been recently restored, and with loving care at that. The sign above the door read Starflowers, and inside he saw an array of plants. The OPEN neon sign was turned off, but there was light on inside. He skirted the potted conifer with its red and silver heart decorations and pressed his nose to the glass.

The two guys he’d seen before were working at an island. The taller gesticulated wildly, waving a red rose in the air. His shorter partner seemed to have only sighed. He was cute, though. Sam wouldn’t have minded getting to know him better. Maybe they weren’t a couple after all. He stepped away, thinking this was all a very bad idea, when he noticed a small “Help Wanted” sign on the window.

Very bad idea.

He hurried off to the coffee shop down the street. He had… stuff… to do.

The Conall Series – Blog Tour and Guest Post #HistoricalFiction #HistoricalFantasy

The Women of Conall – Guest Post – David H. Millar

The Conall series is a tale of the ancient Gaels, their lives, loves, and battles. It is a story of a warlike people who also had an undisputed talent for art, design, and music. The series is set in Europe, 400 years before Christ, in a time when life was harsh and violent, and the boundaries between myth and reality were fluid.

A young blacksmith’s apprentice, Conall Mac Gabhann, returns home from a hunting trip with his friends to find his parents and young sisters slaughtered, along with the rest of the small rural community. A meeting with the mysterious Sidhe, Mongfhionn, and a geis accepted, sets Conall on the path of retribution. Several decades later, the former apprentice, now Rí Ruirech, King over Kings, of the great clann he founded and nurtured, stands before the gates of Rome to face his nemesis, Marcus Fabius Ambustus, Pontifex Maximus of Rome.

Conall is a journey of bloody battles, honour, treachery, tragedy, love, and high passions. It is an epic tale of vengeance and retribution, of courage and the frailty of body and spirit.

In Gaelic society, the women fought alongside the men, and many would argue they were the better and more ferocious warriors. From Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and north-western France, the ancient Gaels were guided by the Fénechas (The Law), a set of laws predating those of any Western civilisation. The Fénechas was well ahead of its time in establishing and protecting the rights of women.

Conall III: The Sisters—Na Deirfiúracha is the third book in the Conall series, and the women take centre stage. That said, all the Conall novels feature strong, sometimes tragic, and in some instances truly frightening women.

Mórrígan and Mongfhionn are the main female characters of the series. Both are powerful, troubled souls. After her family was slaughtered, a darkness of the soul overtakes Mórrígan, threatening to destroy her. From beginning to end, Mórrígan, a haunted, beautiful, and emerald-eyed queen, treads a fine line between sanity and madness, often finding relief in dispensing terror.

Her eyes blazed in fury, and her appearance was terrible to look upon; her waist-length, almost white hair shot through with streaks of red-gold. Her face was pale, highlighted by fiery red cheeks and full, blood-red lips; her eyes near black as the night sky.” Mongfhionn of the Aes Sidhe—a race of demi-goddesses—is an enigmatic and ageless creature whose driving force is avenging the murder of her sisters. Sometimes dark, the lady and her alter ego—the Hag—terrify both friend and foe.

A further sampling would include: Mòrag, “A voluptuous, somewhat narcissistic beauty, and an inveterate flirt, Mòrag was also a fierce warrior who could flatten most of the men in the army,” sets her sights on Conall, setting up an inevitable clash with Mórrígan. The tragic queen Ceana whose betrayal of her husband is a lesson in misjudgement and the descent into madness. “Áine had a mind, and it was a cunning, manipulative one that interpreted everything through its own twisted perspective.” Áine, a spoilt and indulged princess whose guilty conscience sets her on the path to madness, murder, and disease. After extreme abuse by her grandmother, Gràinne, of the Cinn Péinteáilte, swears that never again will she be defenceless. The malevolent Queen Kartimandu is not all she appears and is the only truly irredeemable female character.

Author Tidbits

My influences? I have three main influences: my Irish cultural background, my love of history, and my wife, Lauren. It was Lauren who, when I was constantly complaining about the paucity of stories in this genre of historical fantasy, turned to me and said, “Write your own.”

My target audience? Anyone with an interest in Celtic culture. I had always considered my books historical fiction. However, given the time period of 400 B.C., the distinction between myth and reality is quite blurred, and I recently recategorized my genre as historical fantasy. Some characters are mythical, such as the Sidhe, Mongfhionn, and others such as Medb, queen of the Connachta, are open to interpretation. The latter had a unique negotiating style and was often described as “Medb of the friendly thighs”!

My goals? My priority is to give readers a good yarn in the tradition of the ancient Celtic seanchaithe—the storytellers. The books are a gritty reflection of the time, the battle settings are bloody, and some scenes may raise a blush to your cheeks.

Future works? The future is Celtic. It is a niche that I enjoy writing about and is underserved.

Now that I have completed the Conall series, there is a need to emphasise marketing and promotion. For most authors, marketing, which includes acquiring reviews, is a daunting, vital, and ongoing need. Branded merchandise, author events, and blogs like the Authors’ Lounge are all part of the mix.

 

The Place of Blood – Rinn-Iru

Conall Book I

by David H. Millar

Genre: Historical Fantasy

Over four hundred years before the birth of Christ, the island of Ériu is a patchwork of feuding kingdoms, wide plains, and impassable bogs. Battle, intrigue, betrayals, and courage are part of life for the Celts who call Ériu home, while from their underground halls the mysterious aes sidhe seduce brave warriors, turning men in to kings and binding them with fearsome geis.

Conall Mac Gabhann is content with his apprenticeship to the local blacksmith. Content, that is, until his family is slaughtered in their home.

Two men share responsibility for the massacre: a mad Irish king and a dissolute Roman. Conall will have his vengeance on both, or die in the attempt.

Accompanied by his childhood friend Brion ó Cathasaigh and the veteran warrior Fearghal ó Maoilriain, Conall’s hunt takes him northward through unfriendly kingdoms and treacherous bogs to a confrontation beyond the ancient earthworks of the Black Pig’s Dyke.

Along the way, Conall will gather an army, and come to the attention of the aes sidhe. An apprentice blacksmith could become a king with their help—if he so desires.

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The Raven’s Flight – Eitilt an Fhiagh Dhuibh

Conall Book II

Conall II: The Raven’s Flight continues to chronicle the epic journey of the warriors from Ériu (Ireland).

Conall Mac Gabhann and his brooding queen, Mórrígan, lead over two thousand warriors together with their followers across the narrow sea that separates Ériu from Albu (Britain). Their quest: the capture of Cassius Fabius Scaeva, the dissolute Roman patrician held responsible for the slaughter of their families.

The Ériu encounter human, natural, and supernatural foes and friends. At the mercy of the aes sidhe, a race of demi-goddesses who demand that he fulfill an ancient geis, Conall is named as the “Hand of the Goddess” and given the instrument that will crush the Na Daoine Tùrsach—a tribe of fanatical, blood-lusting priests.

They battle fierce northern tribes: the Aos na Coille, whose one-eyed king, Drostan Ruadh, opposes their presence as do the Na Mèadaidh led by the sly Finnean Mac Sèitheach. Not all are enemies. The Aos an Fhithich offer their support, although it too comes at a price.

Heroes and villains from myth, legend, and history converge in this saga set in the vast ancient forests, treacherous bogs, snow-capped mountains, and mysterious lochs of Scotland some four hundred years before the birth of Christ.

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The Sisters – Na Deirfiúracha

Conall Book III

It is 406 B.C. The Gaels tramp through the vast forests of lowland Scotland, cross the brooding moors and marshes of the Pennines, and plough the grain fields of the South. The majestic stone brochs and dùns of the north give way to the great hillforts of the south.

Cloaked in a rich tapestry of tattoos or wearing armour inlaid with iron scales, the Gaels stand as one, taunting their enemies with fierce battle-cries and insults.

In Conall III: The Sisters—the third book of the Conall series—the women take centre stage. Brighid and Danu are kidnapped on the orders of Kartimandu, a malevolent queen bent on conquering the North. Mórrígan and Conall’s blood oath promises no quarter until the young twins are returned.

Will Eachdonn Breac, betrayed by his queen—Ceana, redeem his honour on the battlefield? A merciless assassin stalks the community. Tadhg Ó Cuileannáin is given the unenviable task of tracking the killer down. A mission made worse, when the signs point to the sister of one of Conall’s closest friends. Amid, the battles and intrigue, Mòrag Ni Artair, a tall beauty and fearsome warrior, sets her sights on Conall. A clash with Mórrígan—Conall’s queen, appears inevitable.

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A Brace of Eagles – Snaidhm Iolar

Conall Book IV

Butter-gold and cruelly hooked, the beak ripped a ragged gash across the newborn’s throat.”

Son of a blacksmith, Conall Mac Gabhann’s only desire was to follow in his father’s footsteps and enjoy a long life with his childhood love, Mórrígan. The slaughter of their parents dashed those dreams. Fuelled by vengeance, both embark on the dark path of retribution.

From the ancient forest, two great eagles take wing. With amber-gold eyes, Fate and the Goddess watch, ready to guide and meddle in human lives. Conall, now Clann Ui Flaithimh’s ‘king over kings’, must complete his geis—at any cost. Conall takes another stride closer to Rome and a reckoning with Marcus Fabius Ambustus. Flat-bottomed biremes carry Conall’s army cross the Muir nIocht to crash on the shingle beaches of North-western Gaul. New enemies and uneasy alliances flourish.

Assassins, treason, and treachery thrive. Above all, Conall values loyalty. Thus, treason within the tribe sours his belly. Mercy will have no part in his response.

The fourth novel in the Conall series, Conall IV: A Brace of Eagles is a rousing epic of Celtic heroes and villains, bloody battles, political intrigue, honour, treachery, and forbidden love.

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Retribution – Díoltas

Conall Book V

Witch!” Tullus gasped.
“You are not that fortunate, Roman,” came the menacing reply.”


Blood has purchased a fragile peace for Conall and Mórrígan and the close circle of friends they call family. Now, allies and enemies alike wonder if the king and queen have lost the thirst for vengeance on those who slaughtered their families. Alarmed, gods, kings, and despots conspire to poke the slumbering fire.
Brennus of the Senones still smarts at his defeat at Conall’s hands and covets his lands and wealth. Will a bruised ego and hubris overrule the Gaulish king’s normal pragmatism?
The Gaiscedach want revenge for the defeat and execution of their queen. In the dead of night, like cockroaches, they scuttle over the walls of Lugudunon.
Marcus Fabius Ambustus tolerates no challenge to his plan to be Dictator of Rome. But has arrogance blinded him to the enemy he has nurtured?
The gates of Rome and retribution draw closer. But Conall needs his enemies as much as his friends. Still, who are enemies and who are friends? It is a time of schisms and rebuilding, of loved ones endangered, and assassins and spies revealed.
Yet, there has always been one constant. Only the foolish doubt Conall and Mórrígan will show any mercy to those who threaten their family.

Conall V: Retribution is the fifth and final book in the Conall series.

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Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, David H. Millar is the founder, owner, and author-in-residence of Houston-based ‘A Wee Publishing Company’—a business that promotes Celtic literature, authors and art.

Millar moved from Ireland to Nova Scotia, Canada, in the late 1990s. After ten years shovelling snow, he decided to relocate to warmer climates and has now settled in Houston, Texas. Quite a contrast!

An avid reader, armchair sportsman, and Liverpool Football Club fan, Millar lives with his family and Bailey, a Manx cat of questionable disposition known to his friends as ‘the small angry one!’

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Conall t-shirt of choice – 3 winners, US only!

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Songs from the Wood – Blog Tour and Guest Post

Songs From the Wood

Olympic Vista Chronicles Book 2

by Kelly Pawlik

Genre: YA Horror, SciFi


Delve into the mystery of the strange, small town of Olympic Vista, WA.


In the days following a foray into a dilapidated house, twelve-year-old Darius Belcouer becomes desperate to find another unexplained phenomenon to investigate.

When animal attacks around town are reported in the news, Darius and Adelaide band together to solve the mystery. The trail leads them into the forest beyond Adelaide’s house where the pair discover that much like the small town itself, nothing in the woods is as it seems.

An eager new kid, a deadpan music-lover, a fast-talking troublemaker, an anxious bookworm and a girl torn between popularity and adventure. Follow this group of friends as they delve into the mysteries of their small town while juggling the trials and tribulations of their home lives.

Songs from the Wood is the sequel to Yesterday’s Gone, and the second novella in the Olympic Vista Chornicles.

Praise for the author:
Pawlik has a flare for writing about this period and I could truly visualize the eighties vibes through her description of music, fashion and even food.”

Pick up your copy today and join this motley group of friends as they journey into the strange!

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Yesterday’s Gone

Olympic Vista Chronicles Book 1

Delve into the mystery of the strange, small town of Olympic Vista, WA.

Pawlik has a flare for writing about this period and I could truly visualize the eighties vibes through her description of music, fashion and even food.”

Book one of the Olympic Vista Chronicles follows Darius and Adelaide as they explore a house rumoured to be haunted. What they find is so much worse.

Darius Belcouer, a rich kid from Boston, moves to the strange, small town of Olympic Vista, Washington at the end of the summer of 1986.

Here he meets Adelaide and her friends. Eager to embrace his new life, Darius encourages them to help him explore a haunted house.

When the children discover government agents tasked with maintaining order in the chaos created by local scientists, they realize the house is only the beginning of the strange happenings.

An eager new kid, a deadpan music-lover, a fast-talking troublemaker, an anxious bookworm and a girl torn between popularity and adventure. Follow this group of friends as they delve into the mysteries of their small town while juggling the trials and tribulations of their home lives.

Yesterday’s Gone is the perfect quick read for those with a nostalgia for the 80s or who love a good kids-on-bikes story.

Praise for Yesterday’s Gone:

Nostalgic and highly readable.”

Yesterday’s Gone is fast paced and the perfect weekend read!”

“It evokes the feeling of the eighties, bringing back some fond memories”

“A great poolside read that’s impossible to put down”

“A throwback to the 80’s”

Pick up your copy today and join this motley group of friends as they journey into the strange!

ABOUT OLYMPIC VISTA CHRONICLES

Everything twelve-year-old Adelaide Winter knows about her Washington state hometown is turned on its head when Darius Belcouer moves to Olympic Vista at the end of summer 1986.

The two become fast friends as they bond over the mystery of a local haunted house Darius wants to explore. The house, it turns out, is only the tip of the iceberg. They quickly discover the more they dig, the more they uncover, and the trail leads back to The Link, a research and development facility in town. Together, Adelaide and her friends delve into the strange occurrences around Olympic Vista.

A tale of horror, friendship, and coming of age in the late 1980s.



**Only .99 cents!!**

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Kelly Pawlik dabbled with story writing from a young age. She spent her childhood reading, dressing her beloved cat, Midnight, up in doll clothes and hunting garter snakes in the backyard. Her favourite cartoon as a child was Jem and she is proud to own the full box set of DVDs. Her childhood dream was to be an author and she is proud to be bringing characters to life with the Olympic Vista Chronicles.

Kelly is a tabletop roleplaying game (TTRPG) writer and has released multiple RPG supplements with her husband under their micro-publishing company, Dire Rugrat Publishing. She has also contributed to several best-selling works with Kobold Press.

Kelly lives on Vancouver Island, BC with her husband, their three inquisitive children, and two lazy cats.

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Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!

$25 Amazon

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Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why?

I’m not a fan of music on while I write. I find it distracting. I like to write in near silence but silence is impossible to find and almost eerie! But my husband is usually tapping away on his computer when I’m writing. There might be a fan going. I can often hear my kids in the background with the low murmur of a television or them squealing in the backyard while they chase each other with homemade lightsabers. As long as the sounds remains consistent, I’m usually good. It’s the sudden silence that scares me!

Do you write one book at a time or do you have several going at a time?

Several for sure! Books one, two and three were the start of a novel originally, but my editor suggested I pull them apart into novellas. I did, but it meant I had three books in various stages and then as soon as the first one was done, I was starting book four. And, between you and me, I actually have another book in the early stages of a draft. It takes place long after all of this. The before story started to really intrigues me though, so I set it aside for now. I want the readers to get to know this motley crew as kids before we see how they turn out. Of course, I might change my mind and resume working on both again at some point.

Pen or type writer or computer?

I love type writers. My nana had one and whenever I’d visit her, I’d beg to use it, even if I had nothing to write. She’d always let me and I’d smile at the thudding sound the letters made as they hit the paper. When it comes to writing though, it’s a computer for sure. My penmanship is so horrible I can barely read it, and I can type faster than I can print. Plus, I often end up rearranging my words and sentences far too much to feel productive on a piece of paper. A computer is more forgiving.

What made you want to become an author and do you feel it was the right decision?

I think on some level I was always an author; it was just about how serious I was about it, how much time I spent doing it. Now I’m a published author, but I was still writing before that. I liked telling stories from a really young age. Over the years I spent more or less time working on my writing craft, but that desire was still always there.

In school I was always asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said writer for awhile, but teachers and counselors always pointed out how few people could be successful at that. Of course, it also used to be more difficult to get your book into the world as self-publishing wasn’t as much of an option. Amazon, among other things, has certainly made that easier.

I had a fear of rejection that really stopped me from pushing at the path of being an author. It took years to come back around to it, and I absolutely think it was the right decision. If you want to do something, you should do it. If writing doesn’t work out in the big scheme of things for me, I can’t imagine regretting I tried. I’ve had some great feedback from people who loved the characters. Even if not everyone likes the book or the characters (and they won’t), getting to share that world with people, creating something strangers have picked up and read, that’s an amazing thing.

 

 

 

 

 

Child of Destiny Blog Tour and Guest Post – #YAFantasy M.K. Adams

1: Do you have any “side stories” about the characters?

I don’t have any stories fleshed out quite yet. But I do envision a future where I’ve finished this trilogy and am working on my next series, whilst perhaps publishing the odd short story here or there that fill out the world of the Rive. The first story that immediately jumps to mind would be a prequel-esque story covering how Turiel and Kwah first met in the Shimmering Isles. I already touched on it in book 1, Child of Destiny, but I think there could be a fun story to tell there. It would also allow me to expand on the worldbuilding for the Shimmering Isles, as they haven’t really be explored yet within the story. Other than that, I can think of one or two other ideas that could be written as short stories as well, but I won’t talk about those as they spoil parts of Book 2!

I think short stories can be beautiful additions to fantasy worlds. If you want some prime examples, although they’re not short in the slightest, you should look to Joe Abercrombie’s standalone novels that are set between his initial First Law trilogy and his new trilogy. They build out the world wonderfully, introduce us to a whole host of great characters, and help us understand the world-state as we find it in the sequel trilogy.

I would also consider writing short stories based on reader feedback. If the readers fell in love with a specific character that I wasn’t really expecting, then I would definitely consider fleshing them out with backstories and “side-stories” in the future.

Child of Destiny
The Rising Saga Book 1
by M.K. Adams
Genre: YA Fantasy
A young orphan on the run from the King. A warlock with the power to protect her. And, the fighter holding them together.
The Rive, a realm ruled by the iron grip of a war-hungry King, is on the brink of rebellion and Lyvanne, a young girl who has witnessed a vision of his downfall, is the key to victory, whether she wants to be involved or not.
Forced to leave her loved ones behind, her life becomes a deadly game of cat and mouse. With the King willing to stop at nothing if it means finding the one who threatens his reign. But when a defiant insurgent group known as The Spring takes her into their protection, Lyvanne is offered something she never could have dreamed of before. The chance to fight back, the chance to make a difference.
Embark on a journey of self-discovery and political upheaval as a common street rat takes the first steps of her great journey along the paths of love, magic, and war.
**Only .99 cents!!**
M.K.Adams is a new author within the fantasy genre. He works in politics by trade but writing is where the heart lies, and he’s been concocting worlds and stories since he was a child. He carried out his degree at the University of Kent, Canterbury, before moving into the private sector in London.
M.K. also has an unhealthy obsession with collecting Funko Pops and can often be found listening to the Lord of the Rings soundtrack when locked away working on his next novel. An avid reader of fantasy and all its sub-genres, M.K. is always on the lookout for the next great story.
Able to find inspiration in the smallest of details he is a firm believer that creating new worlds from scratch is one of the most fulfilling past-times. That belief also led him to the world of Dungeons and Dragons, a hobby that he believes perfectly compliments the creative outpouring of working on a new fantasy novel.
His favourite author is J.R.R.Tolkien, and he found great inspiration when he visited Tolkien’s hometown (and local pub!) in Oxford.
Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!

 

Echoes of Love – Book Tour – Guest Post – Gina Ardito – #Historical #Romance

Today we welcome Historical Romance writer Gina Ardito.

Gina – over to you…

We’re living in strange days. And we’re all trying to find a new normal we can live with. One of the aspects of writing historical romances I love is that I know how it’s going to end. Oh, not the way my characters will win in the end (I’m a total pantser, which means I have no idea where my story will go ‘til it lands somewhere), but definitely how the historical crisis they’re living through will end. That’s a luxury we don’t have these days. But it’s important to remember that when our historical figures were surviving their trying times, they had no idea how it would end, either. We just have the luxury of hindsight.

When I opted to choose to set ECHOES OF LOVE during the time of Napoleon’s march on Russia, I knew how the emperor’s gambit turned out. Chesna, my royal governess, has no such certainty—though she suspects. And yet, time and again, when I threw the worst sort of betrayals at her, she outwitted me and rose to the occasion. Take, for instance, this scene when the French army has invaded her city and she has fled to the church with her young prince for sanctuary until she can plan their next move.

“Please, Your Majesty, you must listen to me.”

The boy flipped down the blanket and opened one eye to stare at her. Obviously, her use of his new title had struck through his sleep-fogged brain. His brow furrowed, and a lone tear slipped down his cheek. “Papa?” The squeaky tremor in his voice confirmed her suspicion that he sensed the truth regarding his father’s fate. “He’s gone, isn’t he?”

She bowed her head. “Yes, sire. Forgive our haste, but we must speak quickly.”

The cot creaked as Mikhail sat up. With a shiver at the cold air, he folded his arms over his chest, and looked around in confusion. “Where are my garments?”

Chesna exchanged a quick glance with Karol, who came forward with the bundle of dirty clothes. “Here, Your Majesty.”

Mikhail’s expression mirrored his disgust. “Those are filthy. Where did you get them?”

Cheeks flushed, Karol backed away from the boy’s indignance. “From a dead boy in the street, sire.”

“How dare you!” he shouted. “I do not wear dirty garments.”

“You do now,” Chesna said flatly. She halted the argument he might attempt with an index finger pressed to the child’s lips. “Please, Your Majesty. Listen to me. I’ll explain.”

Although his eyes narrowed in displeasure, Mikhail nodded.

She removed her finger and gestured for Karol to bring the clothes forward. “Do you recall what you asked of me when I told you of your mama’s death?”

“Yes,” he replied warily. “I asked if you’d be my mama now. But you said you could never take her place.”

She shook out the threadbare shirt to remove any stray dust or insects, then slid the rough garment around his satiny shoulders. “Well, sire, I’ve changed my mind.”

The boy looked up, one eyebrow quirked. “How so?”

“To rule Amatia, Napoleon would destroy the royal family, including you. But the French only plan to remain here for a short time before pressing on toward Moscow. They must cross the mountains before the cold weather sets in. And if they’re defeated in Moscow, a fate my father claimed was all but certain, your throne reverts back to you based on your alliance with Tsar Alexander. Until then, we must keep these foreigners from discovering your true identity so they cannot harm you or take you prisoner.”

One eyebrow quirked up, an expression so like his father’s, Chesna sucked in a sharp breath. “And how will we accomplish this?”

She refocused on the new king. “While you slept, Karol took your garments and went out into the streets. He found a dead boy of about your age, removed his clothing, dressed him in your royal attire and left his body beneath that of your father’s. By tomorrow morning, Napoleon’s army will be under the assumption they succeeded in killing the entire royal family.”

“So you’re going to pretend to be my mama to fool our enemies,” he surmised. At Chesna’s nod, he clapped. “How clever of you!”

I wish I had the answer as to how our current circumstances will end, but the best I can promise is that it will, eventually, end. Until then, why not lose yourself in stories where you may not know how they’ll wind up together and happy at the end, but you know they will? I highly recommend you start with ECHOES OF LOVE.

Echoes of Love
by Gina Ardito
Genre: Historical Romance
Royal governess Chesna Dubrow must protect the five-year-old king of Amatia from Napoleon Bonaparte’s invading army. To do so, she’ll be forced to wed one of the emperor’s loyal soldiers. But Pietor Gabris isn’t any soldier. Years ago, he broke Chesna’s heart, forgetting the vows they’d made to love each other forever.
Pietor’s return to Amatia is embroiled in subterfuge. Amidst the deceit surrounding him, he clings to the one truth he cannot ignore: his timeless love for Chesna. Yet confessing what’s in his heart would sentence them both to death. To keep Chesna safe, he must portray the role of traitor, ensuring her animosity continues to blow hot and harsh.
As danger and intrigue swirl around the palace, can Chesna place her faith—and heart—with the one man she swore she’d never forgive?
Editorial Review from Entrada Publishing:
The old saying goes, if you love something, set it free, and if it is
meant to be, it will return. In Gina Ardito’s historical fiction
novel, she explores the idea of lost love, and bitter-sweet homecomings.
Set in the fictional country of Amatia, Chesna is the governess of the
young prince Mikhail, as a means to ease her broken heart. Six years
prior, her childhood sweetheart, Pietor was sent off to Russia, and
soon forgot all about Chesna. However, fate will soon bring the two
lost lovers together again, but under dire circumstances. As
Napoleon’s armies march upon Amatia, Chesna finds herself caught
between loyalty to her country, and what her heart desires.
Ardito does a masterful job blending real-life historical events, with a
beautifully crafted love story. She crafts a suspenseful and engaging
narrative, taking readers through historical events, and the inner
conflicts within Chesna, and Pietor. The storytelling is beautifully
done as Ardito explores the concept of long-lost lovers, betrayal,
and learning to follow your heart. The narrative flows in an organic
way, with tension masterfully woven throughout. The dynamics between
Chesna and Pietor is natural, and their relationship is very well written.
Along with a tender love story, the author sets up a mystery that Chensa,
and Pietor must unravel before it is too late. Readers will be on the
edge of their seats, as they follow along in the race against time.
Chesna must figure out who to trust, and who she can place her faith in.
For those looking for a suspenseful, yet tender love story, Echoes
of Love
is a fantastic historical fiction novel. Gina Ardito is a fantastic
writer, and her novel will pull at your heartstrings, as well as
leave you breathless.
I honestly don’t know. If I believe you, someone whom I’ve known
all my life wants me dead. I have nowhere to turn and no one whom I
can trust. I am surrounded by enemies on all sides. Do you have any
idea how that makes me feel?”
I kill houseplants. There. Now you know one of my greatest shames. I’m not boasting. I just figure that if you’re reading this, you’re looking for more than how wonderful life is as a writer. You get enough of that elsewhere. Ditto for political rants, how to lose thirty pounds in a week, and creating gorgeous crafts with nothing more than twine and soup cans. My goal is to connect with you, dear reader, even if you’re not a writer, not a New Yorker, not a mother, not a female. We’re human (unless one of us is a spambot), and what we have in common is flaws. So here are a few more of mine:
I sing all the time. I sing songs most people don’t know–jingles from television, crazy stuff I used to listen to on Dr. Demento, Broadway and movie soundtracks, and I can even bum-bum-bum through instrumental music. I sing in the car. In the shower. While I’m grocery shopping. And I headbop while I sing. When I’m not singing, I talk to myself. Just ignore me and move on. You get used to it after a while.
I don’t eat my vegetables. Seriously. I only started eating salad about ten years ago, but I’d still rather have a cookie.
Given the option, I would live in a mall where I would never have to worry about freezing temperatures or too much sun. I’m extremely fair-skinned and could burn under a 60-watt light bulb.
I can’t sleep without background noise so the television’s on all night. If it’s too dark and too quiet, all I have are my thoughts. And even *I* don’t want to be alone with my thoughts.
Don’t ask me to Zumba, line dance, or march in the parade. I have absolutely no rhythm.
I color outside the lines. Not because I’m a rebel, but because I suck as an artist. My artistic ability is limited to being able to draw Snoopy sleeping on his doghouse. And I don’t even draw that well.
Regrets. I have more than a few.
My favorite activity is sleep, and I’m pretty good at it. I don’t clock a lot of hours, but I can powernap like a Persian cat and rejuvenate within ten minutes.
I consider shopping and dining out excellent therapy for anything wrong in my life.
My feet are always cold. Always. My husband of more than a quarter century claims it’s because I’m an alien sent to Earth to destroy him. (He might be right about that.)
Coming to my house for a visit? Unless you’ve given me plenty of advance notice, be prepared. My floor will not be vacuumed, there will be dishes in my sink, and I only make my bed when I change the sheets once a week (I’m climbing back into it ASAP. Why make it?) Housecleaning is not high on my priority list. Okay, to be totally honest, it’s not on the list at all.
I can resist anything…except ice cream.
Since this is our first date, I figure I’ve revealed enough secrets for now. But if you’ve read this bio and think I might be the author for you, pick up one of my books or stalk my website: www.ginaardito.com.
$25 Amazon
Follow the tour HERE for special content and a giveaway!

 

Guest Post – Mary Ann Cherry – It Isn’t Just About the Verb

Today we welcome Mary Ann Cherry – author of the Jessie O’Bourne Art Mysteries

ALOHA!

IT ISN’T JUST ABOUT THE VERB

My short talk is about adding excitement to your writing, not about the difference between active and passive verbs. To use active words instead of passive, you must first know the difference. so even though most of you are old hands at it, I’ll give a short explanation.

Recognizing passive voice takes attentiveness. The biggest giveaway is some form of the to be verb in a verb phrase. The “to be” verbs are essential in writing. But with overuse, they can also be an enemy of the novelist or short story author.

So let’s first go basic.  In passive voice, the subject receives the action such as: This scarf was made by my grandma. Or…the building was demolished by the storm. Sometimes, in the passive voice, you can’t even tell who is performing an action. For instance: The building was demolished. (By what?)

In active voice, the subject performs an action such as: My grandma knitted this scarf. Or…the storm demolished the building. Or better yet, get some action going:  The scarf twisted under grandma’s knitting needles, growing and stretching like the beanstalk in that old fairy tale.

Phew. That’s done. Now let’s talk about how to use words to activate scenes, characters and descriptions that don’t bore the reader. Active writing isn’t just about the verb. It’s about engaging the reader. So when I talk about active words, I am talking about words that elevate a story from the mundane to the exciting—or at least to the interesting. Choices between boring and exciting can be as basic as what your character is eating or drinking. Words should be painting a picture in your reader’s mind. They should bring taste, smell, and color. When you are writing fiction and have a choice between active and passive verbs think physical. Think “show don’t tell”. It helps to start with the basic sentence and then reevaluate the words.

  • She was drinking apple juice
  • She drank apple cider
  • She sipped hot cider with mulling spices

Okay, there you have the basic. Now, think physical. Think Aloha moment…that which is different will always stand out…

  • She lifted the mug to sip steaming cider, redolent with the heady smell of cinnamon and cloves and hot enough to burn her tongue—badly. That can show rather than tell…another way to show rather than tell.

 

She lifted the mug to sip.  Now give the CIDER a personality – “The amber cider burnt an angry path down her throat like flowing lava.”

The steam, the heat, the smell, the burnt tongue all bring the reader into the moment. It’s about engaging the reader. Active words overhaul a boring story the way exercise shapes and sculpts a flabby body.

Does it have to be verbs that make a story seem to rumble with action? It is certainly better to use verbs that show action instead of the boring passive verbs. However, I have found those can be overdone easily as well.  To augment those words that move, that suffocate, that rejoice, use words that entertain—that DO something to the reader’s experience.

When someone picks up a book, they want to be entertained. They want to be sucked into the story until they become part of it. They want your hero or heroine’s life to become their alternate reality, if only for a short time.

What makes that happen?

Let’s talk people. Fabricate a character readers love, or a character that readers love to hate without making them look in the mirror so often, or have their ex-wife tell about what a jerk they are. Instead, do most of it with—and I’ll repeat it–action!

DESCRIBING YOUR CHARACTER: Description of the character doesn’t have to be dull. A description can be active, and inanimate objects can be given life.

  1. She looked in the mirror and saw freckles, red hair, and her favorite blue shirt– okay, we’re describing the woman…but it’s a bit dull.
  2. Freckles and red hair run in the family – she hated both… a little more active.
  3. Her red hair curled about her face and freckles peppered her nose and cheeks. With an action verb, notice that the freckles have become a living thing? They participate in the story.

If you want more drama, then think more physical. The freckles are alive, but give them something to do.

  1. Freckles didn’t just run in her family – they stampeded through generations of O’Bournes like the running of the bulls in Pamploma.

Character traits: You can describe your character’s personality the same way, but usually it is better to give examples of what the character does to SHOW true character rather than describe it.

  1. Adam is selfish
  2. Adam is a penny pincher – too clicheʼ
  3. More active – Adam pinched pennies until they squealed like piglets.

Or think show don’t tell…

  1. Adam lifted the heart-shaped box and flipped it over to look at the price. Would it take the twenty-dollar box of truffles to make her forgive him? Or could he buy the ten-dollar box of assorted candies and have the clerk gift wrap it free? He took the smaller box off the shelf and handed the clerk his platinum card.

 

LOVE SCENES – of course passion should be active. At least one hopes.

  1. John is passionate about Carrie… informative but boring
  2. John kissed her
  3. John swept her into his arms and kissed her passionately – better

Think physical…think action

  1. In the middle of the sidewalk, John yanked her to him as though saving her from an oncoming bus, then kissed her until traffic stopped.

DESCRIPTION – How about scenic descriptions? They can be active as well.

Tumbleweeds rolled across the dry ground and settled against the fence like waves rolling in from a brown ocean. The clay soil crunched and cracked under Jason’s feet.

Instead of “The sky was cloudy grey ”  anthropomorphize… The wind grew in strength and the oppressive grey clouds trembled like goose-bumpy teens slipping into a haunted house.

FEELINGS AND MENTAL ACTIVITIES are not exempt from action…from page 132 of WRITING the THRILLER by T. Macdonald Skillman…

“…Comprehension swept away denial, eroding her self-control, allowing the fragmented thoughts swirling about her to tumble out.”

Example two – show, don’t tell…from Cherry –

She stood slightly bent, the broken thoughts swirling about her weakened body like the serpent hair of Medusa. She put her hands to her pale face and heard a feral muttering, realizing the sound burbled from her own mouth. The truth will out.

ANTHROPOMORPHIZE: How does the “humanizing” of inanimate objects, the sky, a kitchen table, a random thought or a tumble of nut-brown hair make your writing more exciting and active? Readers spend their days sitting, watching, listening. They yearn for something exciting to do but either haven’t the time, the money or the inclination. The elderly live sedentary lives. The ill are bed-ridden. The activity of words used in extraordinary ways pulls them into the story and gives them an experience. It doesn’t have to be monumental—just different from hum-drum. The story doesn’t have to be outlandish. It just needs to be told in a manner that gives the couch potato a sense of something happening. Let them experience movement and delicious description vicariously.

Colors can be active. The correct color gives personality and mood in a scene. We all know this but seldom think about it.

Which one brings a love scene to life?

Example one: Her billowy dress was low-cut and in his favorite color—a pale, baby’s breath pink (makes you think right away of babies and diapers, doesn’t it?)

Example two: Her billowy dress was low-cut and in his favorite color—a blast of erotic red (red is erotic, aggressive, demanding…

EMOTIONS have color. You may hear “red-hot anger” – you never hear “pink anger”. Any shade of color that would have white added to it, pink, pale lavender, light blue, denote weaker emotions. The primary colors vibrate in your writing. Make sure you use them in ways that are appropriate. Use variations such as crimson for red, ultramarine for blue, etc.

COLORS—especially in a scene: Think about things you like to do and places you like to travel Each one should have a color that comes to mind. We seldom think about that but it part of the way our world works. Morning starts with white bread that becomes brown toast or a blackened charcoal slab fed to the birds.

Color affects mood in our daily life and will do so in the book. A grey drizzly day, a happy sunshine-filled blue sky, etc. Make yourself set the stage. Color can do that in a similar manner of the active verb without having to elaborate. But when you join both together they rock!  A noun that has some latent action will help…

A shimmer of pale-blue draperies –where are we? A bedroom? A B&B?
A blast of Navy-blue – are we at a military parade?
Green –we can’t think green without thinking “nature” and grass OR envy, depending on the scene
A riot of yellow sunflowers – we can almost see them waving in the breeze
How about an explosion of crimson? – we immediately think blood

Colors that sound like food or include food activate two senses—vision and taste—without the reader even realizing it: Nut-brown, candy-apple red, caramel, coffee-colored, creamy white and so on…

Again, let color be active by humanizing the tint or shade and making it DO something…

Black erupted across his vision…
Sea-green rushed in, hammering the beach with wave after wave…

ALOHA!

COLOR SENSE: Excerpts from How Color Affects Our Mood by Rachel Bender
“…
There are several reasons why colors influence how we feel. …There are social or culture levels as well as personal relationships with particular colors,” explains Leslie Harrington, executive director of The Color Association of The United States, which forecasts color trends. …You react to color.”

  • RED – Red is the hot, crazy girl of colors, evoking powerful emotions such as fear, anger and passion. The mood red conveys changes dramatically when you lighten it (sweet and innocent pink) or darken it (sophisticated burgundy).
  • GREEN – associated with the environment, it puts you in a relaxed or refreshed mood
  • YELLOW – Yellow carries both positive and negative connotations — from sunshine, which conveys a joyous, happy mood to jaundice and sickliness
  • BLUE – Psychologically, blue is the opposite of red — it lowers blood pressure. Red picks you up and blue takes you down, but not down to depression level. That may be because if you look to nature, such as the sky and the ocean, blue conveys tranquility. That’s also what you project when wearing the shade. Blue is also associated with trustworthiness, strength and dependability — hence, the blue power suit.
  • ORANGE – Orange evokes action. It is said to stimulate enthusiasm and creativity and symbolize vitality and endurance. It’s a little “edgy”

PASSIVE VERBS –  The forms of the verb “to be”

When? Who? Form Example
Base form   be It can be simple.
Simple Present I am I am here.
You are You are here.
He/She/It is She is here.
We are We are here.
They are They are here.
Simple Past I was I was here.
You were You were here.
He/She/It was She was here.
We were We were here.
They were They were here.
Simple Future I will be I will be here.
You will be You will be here.
He/She/It will be She will be here.
We will be We will be here.
They will be They will be here.
Progressive form   being He is being unusual.
Perfect form   been It has been fun.

Check out the info for the blog tour.

Guest Post – Are Character Interviews Worth the Effort? – T R Robinson

Are Character Interviews Worth the Effort?

Guest post by T. R. Robinson

I first came across character interviews here in Alex’s Library of Erana blog. There have been a couple elsewhere but the majority have been here. Now for a bit of honesty: My initial thought? ‘Silly and pointless.’ As a consequence, I simply glanced (not even sped read) through a couple and thereafter ignored them. I now feel a little ashamed. It is not usual for me to make such determinations prior to fully investigating the validity and seeking to comprehend people’s motivations. Why I did not do so in this instance I am not sure. I suspect it may have been I was new to authoring and probably, as most when first setting out on a new career, felt under pressure to complete a work and to interact in social media. Time pressure in other words: there never seems to be enough for all we want to do. Of course, this is no excuse but I hope it helps readers understand.

Character interviews appear to remain a rarity. I certainly see few. Nevertheless, I now take more note of them. One question that occurs: Who are these interviews for? The author or the reader? I would say both. I will consider them in reverse order.

The Reader

Of what interest are character interviews to readers?

  • (Perhaps with the exception of some self-help or scientific books, the majority of readers are looking to be entertained.)
  • (Usually provide further idea of the character’s true nature, aims and goals.)
  • (Provide some backstory details which will enhance the eventual read. Assuming they do go on to read the book the character is in.)
  • (Build interest in and expectations for a story.)

 

The Author

What benefits do character interviews provide for authors?

  • Display writing skill. (Readers do not readily pick up books by unknown authors. These free interviews provide them with an idea of what they could expect from the author’s books.)
  • Avoid ‘padding’. (Able to fill-out character personalities with additional information that would not fit or be appropriate to include in the primary manuscript.)
  • Know characters. (Authors are advised, for best results, to fully know their charters by writing biographies. Interviews go part way, probably a long way, toward this aim.)
  • Refreshed mind. (Continuous writing on the same theme can lead to fatigue and some degree of stagnation. Writing something different usually breaks the trend.)
  • Marketing/Publicity. (Done right, interviews may set a story’s scene and create intrigue and interest in it.)

Of course, the above are by no means the full extent of what readers and authors may gain from these interviews. Everyone is different.

Worth the Effort?

Back to the original question.

Having now admonished and corrected myself, I may unequivocally state, as far as I am concerned, character interviews do have their place in the reading and authoring world. Now, with respect to Alex’s own books: Fantasy is not a genre I usually read, or if I am honest, really enjoy, at least that has generally tended to be my past experience. Nevertheless, I have read and reviewed Alex’s Tales of Erana: Myths and Legends and have to say I enjoyed it. That was in December 2017. I have not read any others since but admit some of the character interviews here have intrigued and inspired me to contemplate reading more in the genre.

So far I have not undertaken interviews for any of my own characters. This is primarily due to the fact I write in the memoir and biographical fiction genre where, most frequently, who the person is forms an integral part of the tale. However, in view of how much I have enjoyed Alex’s character interviews, I may consider undertaking a few for some of the fictional charters I have utilised to enhance the real events within the biographical fiction and short story collections. There, see, I have been inspired. From sceptic I am now a believer.

Thank you Alexandra for giving me this opportunity to share some of my thoughts with your readers.

 

*********************

 

In addition to authoring T. R. Robinson provides free guidance, tips and ideas for both authors and readers.

T. R.’s Primary Website and Blog: https://trrobinsonpublications.com

T. R.’s More Personal Blog: https://trmemoirs.wordpress.com

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Guest Post – How to Get Rich in Indie Publishing: Marketing Tips for Authors – Ron Vitale

Today we welcome author Ron Vitalie – who brings with him some awesome tips for indies.

How to Get Rich in Indie Publishing: Marketing Tips for Authors

By Ron Vitale

 Catchy title, right?Unfortunately, only a tiny number of indie authors have cracked the $100,000+ club on Amazon. In his May 2016 report, Data Guy reported that “1,340 authors are earning $100,000/year or more from Amazon sales. But half of them are indies and Amazon-imprint authors.”

With millions of ebooks competing for readers’ attention, there is a lot of supply, and demand is hot or cold—depending on your genre. A literary memoir? Probably isn’t going to earn you $100,000. Putting out one military science fiction book every month over the next year, odds are better that you’ll earn money with this strategy (for the short term).

I’ve been an indie author since 2011 and continue to struggle to make a profit off of selling my books. With my full-time day job, I release a book once or twice a year. My strategy has been to slowly build up my backlist and increase my readership over time.

I only know a few people who have struck gold being an indie author and many of them have since left the industry. Fads come and go. But writing good books and learning effective marketing strategies will help you succeed for the life of your author career.

Long gone are the gold rush days of indie publishing. The market has matured and what worked then (free days on KDP select), does not work today. Instead of getting frustrated, you have three options:

  • Adapt and learn new skills
  • Give up
  • Or worse: keep doing the same things and don’t change

 

Write and Keep Writing

The best advice that I can share is for an author to keep writing. This advice is often given, but I don’t know if authors take it to heart. Writing means that: Keep writing books. Devise series, different genres, experiment and allow your creativity to fly free. If the only reason why you’re writing is to make money, well, there are much easier ways to be successful.

Writing novels or short stories is great, but an author also needs to know how to write effective book descriptions, ad copy, email autoresponders and other marketing promotional materials. If you can’t do that, then hire a virtual assistant, learn how to do it or barter with another author.

In my experience, the authors who are doing the best (yes, this is a generalization) are those who are publishing books on a regular basis.

For me, this means that I don’t just write when I feel like it. No. I have a schedule and stick to it no matter what. If I’m sick or something comes up with the kids, I make the time up. To hold myself accountable, I do two things:

1. I tell my family and friends that I’m writing a book.

2. I track all the words I write in a Google sheet.

I used to write when the “muses came to me.” Then I wised up. I don’t go to work at my full-time job when I feel like it. I go because I want to be productive and earn a paycheck to provide for my family.

It took me a long time to understand this and to wrestle with not wanting to put my butt in the chair and do the work. But now I have 8 novels published and 2 more in the works.

 

Writing, like tennis or running, is all about mind over matter. It’s like a mental game.

If you believe you can’t do it, then you’ll fail. But if you work hard, get better, keep plugging away, chances are that you’ll still fail (since few authors earn back the money they put out to make the book), but that’s where marketing comes in.

First step is to write books and to keep on doing that.

 

Be a Unicorn

Now that you have a book ready to share with the world, what do you do?

Write the next book and then the third.

Seriously.

If I could pass anything that I’ve learned to new authors, it would be to think like a marketer.

When I published my first book, Lost (Cinderella’s Secret Witch Diaries), I fantasized that I would release it and I’d be raking in the money. Everyone would love my book. I worked hard, published the book and my dream fell flat. I think I tried to fly without wings and hit the concrete hard. Thankfully, I could still pick myself up, learn from my mistakes and keep writing.

The mistake I made is a classic one: I only had one product to sell. I used my five free days on KDP Select to give my book away and there was nothing else for readers to buy. I didn’t have an email list, I didn’t have autoresponders created, a funnel, an editorial calendar or email strategy that would help promote my brand.

I had none of that.

I only had a desire to write, but no idea how to get there. For the last five years, I’ve read, studied, experimented and watched more training sessions than I can remember. And that learning is never going to end. I need to keep evolving, learning and growing.

I like that because that fits nicely with my personality. I love learning.

 

To succeed, I recommend becoming a unicorn: An author who not only can write good books, but knows how to connect with people and apply that to marketing.

 

Email Equals Love

If you’re looking where to spend your energy, then the choice is simple: Build your email list. I use Mailchimp, love it (though it does get expensive) and I took the time to build out a 6 part autoresponder chain.

Either through Instafreebie or my website, I offer a reader a free book if they sign up on my email list. Once they signup, they receive (over 6 weeks) an email every week on topics related to what my brand is.

My mission (branding statement) is simple:

I believe that, no matter how difficult our childhood, we can use imaginative stories to heal ourselves and lead lives filled with love and hope.

The characters in my books reflect and live that theme. After users receive my emails, I then start sharing my bi-monthly newsletter. Some readers love it and write to me while some unsubscribe. But that’s a good thing because I want to make certain that my list contains people who are into what I stand for and what I write about.

It’s taking much longer than I had expected, but building the list organically is a slow burn.

To start out, ask yourself: What value can you give to readers that will make your emails stand out?

 

Build Trust

How does one actually do that with readers? It’s pretty simple if you stop and think about it.

  1. Ask people what they want.
  2. Provide good and useful content on a regular basis.
  3. Open up to your readers: Be authentic (and sometimes vulnerable)

 

I like to think of things this way: If I meet someone for the first time and they shake my hand and say: “Would you like to buy my book? It’s on sale for $.99.” Well, I’d slowly walk away from that person.

Just because someone gives you their email address doesn’t mean that they want to be spammed by you.

Not only is that type of marketing unsuccessful, but most readers tune that out. Especially in the area of social media, there’s the 90-10 rule:

90% of the time, share content that’s helpful and useful to people. The other 10%, you can promote your own work.

I highly recommend that you sign up to Seth Godin’s email list and read his books if you haven’t already. His marketing style is honest, helpful and is a great model for what works. Every single day I read the short email he sends out. Over time, I’ve come to look forward to his emails because I learn something and find them useful. It’s not just him trying to sell me a book or a class. Yes, he does do that (very infrequently), but he provides not only good content, but writing that causes me to question why I’m doing what I’m doing. He’s upbeat, personable and extremely relatable with his posts.

When I first started my email list, I sent out emails when I remembered. I was scattered, had no editorial plan and no idea what to write about. I’ve come a long way in the last year. I now send an email out every two weeks (I chose this because the majority of my readers picked this option in a survey I had sent to them) and I share updates on my creative process, but have found that the most popular emails are those that relate to my brand—personal stories about my upbringing that I share with readers.

I’ve had people from all over the world respond with their own stories and it allows me to see how interconnected we all are. I’m not alone and neither are those who also went through difficult childhoods. That commonality is a thread that binds us together and by sharing our stories, we own them and can heal rather than being poisoned and trapped by the difficulty we grew up with as kids. That’s a heavy topic to sometimes discuss and share, but it’s also what I believe is needed in today’s world. I was tired of feeling ashamed and decided to talk about my past in a way that was not only healing for myself, but for others. The benefit is that I not only get to connect with people from around the globe, but readers get a glimpse into what my writing style is like and what I write about. It’s honest and true.

 Advertise

I once believed that if I just wrote my heart out that my book would be “discovered” and I’d be selling copies easily. That didn’t happen. Yes, some authors have had success like that, but that’s not happened to me and to thousands like me. The reality is that authors need to juggle multiple hats and not only need to know how to write, but we need to also market our books.

Today we have Amazon (AMS), Facebook, Google, Bookbub and dozens upon dozens of other options out there. Some authors swear that this one technique on this certain platform works. Others say it doesn’t work.

Unfortunately, the only way to know what does (or doesn’t) work for you is to experiment. I’ve not had success with Facebook ads, but know that others have. The possibilities are tremendous because we can target people by demographic, location and interest. You could even send an email to your readers and then retarget them via Facebook, so that they’d see an ad for your book that way as well.

The big question is: How much are you willing to invest in marketing?

And when I say invest, I don’t refer just to money, but also to time. If you have unlimited funds, then you can hire a virtual assistant to run this all for you. And if you have that type of money, you probably aren’t in need of this article.

The biggest benefit is that authors can (and do) help each other. Email swaps, webinars, blog posts with actual sales numbers, there’s more information out there than there is time. I find that to be my biggest challenge. As I learned back in 2015, I can’t work full-time, raise two kids with my wife, be an author popping out books every few months and learn everything I need to know about marketing. I tried that and nearly imploded. I failed because I tried to take too much on. I need sleep, mental rest, time to have fun with my family and friends, and room to breathe. I can’t have every second of every day scheduled for work. That type of commitment nearly broke me and wasn’t healthy for me or my family.

It’s the dark side to being an indie author that many don’t talk about. We read and see all the success stories, but what about the failures? That’s where I come in. I share what I’ve been through because I think it’s important to give a true rundown of what I’ve experienced (and what many others are experiencing as well).

In my book, How to Become a Successful Author While Working Full-time: The Secret to Work-Life Balance, I go into detail about my personal experiences from the last six years of trying to figure out how to be an author in today’s vastly changed publishing landscape. I share it all—the highs and the lows.

Even if you have had success, maintaining that over years and decades will be hard. The challenge is being flexible and continuing to learn.

In 2017, without a sound marketing strategy, I think it’s extremely rare that a new indie author will find financial success. For me personally, I had some success in the early years, but as I’ve needed to grow my business, I’ve had to spend more on services to keep my business running.

Now I need to pay for website hosting, editing, covers, Mailchimp, advertising, and a bunch of other fees. I track how much I spend and how much I earn and there’s no shame in my sharing that I’m struggling. It’s the truth because I’m making choices to invest in my business and those expenses need to be spent or I cannot grow to where I want to be. I’m investing in my future because I see great potential in the long term.

Summing Up

No matter if you’re extremely successful as an indie author or just starting out, all of us will need to adapt and change. Maybe Amazon will change KNEP again or another service will rise up while others go extinct (I see your days numbered, Nook). We have virtual reality, augmented reality and who know what other “reality” is coming down the pike. Change will continue to happen and disrupters (like the Amazons of the world) will continue to affect the publishing industry.

The challenge for us as authors is to hold two incongruent ideas in our mind at the same time: We need to be as creative and inspiring as we can with our fiction but also need to understand marketing and its implementation in the real world.

Sometimes those two ideas will war with each other. I personally don’t believe that we only write to market. Someone will need to take a risk and try something different. Remember Harry Potter? The Twilight Series? Fifty Shades of Gray? Times and tastes change and I don’t always want to be following the herd. I need to write what moves me and inspired me to be an author from the start. The honesty that I write about in my books is what enables me to get up at 5:30 a.m. to write. Sometimes my main characters make mistakes, just like me. I like displaying the truth and complexities of my characters’ lives. But everything can’t just be about creation. I also need to take my author career and treat it like a business. I need to show up, write regularly, publish books and market them well. Having the tension between creativity and selling can be a challenge sometimes, but I choose to see it as a healthy struggle. I hope you do as well. Have questions? Feel free to contact me.

Bio:

RVitaie-bio-photo

Ron Vitale is a fantasy, science fiction and nonfiction author. He’s written the Cinderella’s Secret Witch Diaries series, the Witch’s Coven series, book one in the Jovian Gate Chronicles, and the Werewhale Saga. His first nonfiction book, How to Be a Successful Author While Working Full-Time: The Secret to Work/Life Balance is also now available. When not writing, Ron loves spending time with his kids even when they beat him in the fun card game Kittens in a Blender.

 

Guest Post – Publishing on Bundle Rabbit – Barbara Tarn

So, you joined BundleRabbit… great! You’re just another hopeful author waiting to be picked up! And when you do get picked up, all you have to do is follow Diane’s advice – she is one of the authors of my first bundle and I couldn’t have said it better. She explains everything about how BR works for authors.

But wait, months go by and nobody requests anything. You see dozens of other great authors and start thinking… why not? Maybe I should become a curator! How hard can it be?

Putting bundles together at BundleRabbit is great fun, but it’s also exhausting. Not very hard, but there is a small learning curve.

First of all, you apply for “curator” status. Create a draft with your vision (it can include your book or not) and choose a release date, but check what else is coming out that month.

Try to book a release date that is not already taken. When too many bundles come out at the same time, even though they’re not in the same genre, it kind of clutters even BundleRabbit’s page… So please take a look at the calendar and select a date – and keep in mind it takes at least a couple of weeks for the whole publishing process, so it can’t be tomorrow because you’re so excited and just can’t wait!

Then you start browsing the marketplace. Since not all authors upload a preview, if you’re not already familiar with their work, I suggest you read at least an excerpt before choosing someone for your awesome bundle.

Even though BundleRabbit allows bundling from a minimum of 5 to a maximum of 25 books, try to stick to 10, especially if it’s novels, and don’t price them too low. You can always make a sale for a holiday, a special occasion, etc.

Create a Sales Blurb telling about all the great stories included and in the About section write some kind of curator’s note – like how fun it was to gather these people together and things like that. Don’t just repeat the Sales Blurb or the Vision! And don’t forget to fill the Thank You note!

You only need to provide a 2D cover and a background image – BR will take care of making the 3D cover, cover fan and… contributor’s copy, plus the “ads” for each title. You can use the forum of the bundle at first to communicate with authors (I did it with the fantasy bundle to ask their world’s name), but then you better create a mailing list, since not everyone wants to check the BR forums (or gets the email notifications).

And when your bundle is publishing, and you see the contributor’s copy is ready, please tell the authors they can download their own copy by going to their dashboard – bundles you’re in – and to the book in the bundle (where they will also find the “ad” a few days later).

It’s up to you or not to make a Facebook page for the bundle(s). I made just one for all my SFF bundles, both the ones I curate and the ones I’m in. Send out clear messages to the authors: when the bundle will go live on BR (it goes on pre-order on Amazon, Apple, Kobo and Barnes&Noble), when you do a sale on BR – and if you have a bundle that allows coupons, ask the authors if they need any for their giveaways.

Try to coordinate the efforts to boost the signal! And have fun!

Barbara G.Tarn

http://creativebarbwire.wordpress.com

www.unicornproductionsbooks.com

https://www.patreon.com/BarbaraGTarn

https://vimeo.com/user65901088

Fantasy and Sci-fi in Society Guest Post – Deborah Dixon

Name: Deborah Dixon

 

Location: New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

 

How do YOU define fantasy/science fiction/heroism?

Fantasy generally involves the use of fantastic creatures and settings. Science fiction involves the use of fantastic (for now) technology. Obviously there can be major overlap between the two; that’s why I like the term “speculative fiction” to cover them both. As for “heroism,” I specifically don’t define it. More on that below.

 

How pervasive do you think fantasy/sci-fi is in our society today?  Why do you think this is?

HBO’s most successful show is a high-fantasy epic. The Star Wars reboot came out as one of the highest-grossing films of all time. SF offers a special sort of escapism that society is searching for today, which puts SF writers in a very unique position.

 

Are these genres seen in a more acceptable light than they used to be?

I don’t think they were ever unacceptable. Perhaps sci-fi was at first, in the days of H.P. Lovecraft and Harlan Ellison and others (and that’s a very specific sort of sci-fi), but that’s way before my time. I could only offer hearsay.

 

What makes a ‘hero’? Would you say this definition is different within literature to real life?

Heroism is a concept that I find much too simplified in fiction as well as in real life. The definition varies from person to person – I doubt you’d find anyone over the age of five who would give the same answer. Is it a person who does good things? Perhaps, but what if they use undesirable means to do good things? Is it a person who obeys the law? Perhaps, but what if the person follows the law to the extent that other people are hurt? There is no basic definition one can put on heroism, or on villainy.

 

If you’re a writer how do you portray heroism in your books?

I don’t. I write characters who act based on their beliefs, their frames of reference, and their own capabilities. Whether any of my characters are heroes or villains I leave for my readers to decide. My first novel to be published specifically deals with this concept – of what makes a hero or villain, and who gets to decide who wears those labels. I personally do not label my characters as either (although for story reasons a few of my characters refer to themselves as one or the other. But it’s based on their perspectives of themselves.)

 

It has been argued fantasy is full of ‘tropes’ – what are your views on this?

Do you mean tropes or clichés? There’s a huge difference. Tropes are everywhere – in fantasy as much as your favorite romantic comedy and the last reality show you watched. They’re helpful writing tools in any genre or format. Clichés are tropes that are overused to the point of making a reader groan upon spotting one, such as the typical damsel in distress. Some fantasy writers do overindulge in clichés, but I would stop short of stating the whole genre suffers from them. Authors such as George R.R. Martin and Neil Gaiman have made an art of writing fantasy while shunning clichés or turning them on their heads.

 

Fantasy and science fiction used to be seen as very male-oriented, do you think this is still the case. Do you have any experience of this?

In terms of writers? The field is certainly more even between women and men in fantasy than it was a couple of decades ago. Sci-fi is probably still more male-dominated, but I suspect that’s by choice; the readership of sci-fi absent any significant romantic element tends to be decidedly male, and so men end up writing it as well, just as women are all over romance. I like being an obviously female sci-fi writer; it’s a novelty I can market. But as far as my work goes, I’d rather get past sex and gender and focus on the material.

 

How important are ‘facts’ in fantasy/science fiction – does something need to be plausible to be believable?

Facts provide a basis on which the writer can build plausibility. For example, if you take the care to explain a hierarchal society in ways that relate to the real world, that will make the action in your high-fantasy novel much more sturdy, and then you’ve built up trust with your reader once you decide to whip out the dragons and magic rings. The same goes for sci-fi; introduce some technology or science your readers are familiar with, and later they will be more likely to accept that the spaceship just traveled from Earth to the galactic north in two hours. Don’t just dump phlebotinum on them with a “they can do that because that’s how this book works” hand wave. You have to establish why they should accept the rules of your world/galaxy.

 

How has science fiction changed from the days of Mary Shelley and Jules Verne?

I personally consider Shelley and Verne to be general literary authors, not science fiction, but that’s due to technology pressing forward and the concepts they worked with no longer holding the novelty of impossibility they did when they were published. Hey, it’ll happen to me too some day. “Oh, the Singularity. I remember that fondly. How quaint.”

 

Fairy-tales, anthropomorphic personifications, mythical beasts and cultural fantastical persons are all about us – such as Santa Claus, St George, dragons and fairies – how vital are these for our identity? Are we who we are because of the myths our cultures hold?

It’s the other way around. Our myths and creatures exist as they do because we are who we are. There’s a reason so many widely spread cultures have such similar stories – we as human beings have a need to believe in a higher power, to create an origin story, to explain away the best and worst in ourselves through benevolent and malevolent beings. Agricultural societies always have nature deities. Hierarchal societies always have pantheons. And they’re still vital to us, even as psychology and science explain many of these things, because they appeal to our sense of imagination, and they give us something to lean on and hide behind.

 

What myths have influenced your work?

All the myths I know. My own background means my works focus most on Abrahamic stories, but I’ve included and toyed with elements from Celtic, Norse, Greek/Roman, and West African mythologies, and feature anything from shapeshifters to kami and all in between. One of my own characters sums this approach up succinctly: “Everything is true, at least in part. All anything needs is a believer.”

 

What are some in YOUR society/cultural identity, how are they perceived and why are they important? Why have they endured?

Jamaica’s stories as they exist now are mostly those brought over from Africa in the slave trade, such as Anansi, the spider who weaves all webs and tells all tales. The reason for those enduring probably has to do with African slaves needing to bring something over from their own lives (including vodou, which is not practiced in Jamaica, but it is in Haiti. Just for the record). Unfortunately, the mythologies that existed before European colonization are not enduring; they were oral traditions and very few of them were written down before the native islanders were wiped out. A large part of my ancestry is made up of people who were extinguished before their stories could be immortalized; I suppose that has something to do with my interest in writing and helping others to write as well.

 

Bio: Deborah Dixon is a lifelong writer residing in New Orleans. She has written nine novels, five novellas, and numerous short stories. She is also one of the three founders of Shalamar, a publishing company designed to help new writers. Aside from writing, she also composes music and promotes small business in her hometown.

 

Links:

http://shalamarmedia.com (Shalamar, my publishing company)

https://twitter.com/Deboracracy (my professional Twitter)

https://shalamartanara.wordpress.com/ (our blog about writing and publishing)

https://www.facebook.com/shalamarllp/ (our Facebook Page)