Dirty Dozen Author Interview – Trish Hubschman #Uniqueauthors #Meetanauthor

Author name: Trish Hubschman

Please tell us a little about yourself. What makes you a unique author (or artist)? I live on Long Island, New York, US, with my husband, Kevin and dog Henry.

Please tell us about your publications/work. I write the Tracy Gayle mystery series, Stiff Competition (a Miss America mystery) and Ratings  Game (Talk Show Queen).  Tracy is a Long Island private detective. Her sidekick is a rock and roll musician. She was hired by Danny Tide to find out who set his band’s summer tour bus on fire. They became close friends that eventually developed into more.

What first prompted you to publish your work? I love these characters and this series. I created Danny Tide in 1998. Tracy came years later. They came together by accident. The chemistry between them was wonderful. One mystery/eventual romance led to the next. I had to share it with others. Right now I’m working on the prequel to the series

As a disabled author how do you overcome the extra challenges involved with producing your work? Let me start out by saying I’m deafblind.  I’m not a tech genius. I do what I can do on the computer and I’m learning little by little. I can’t do promotional things like podcasts and book signings are very difficult. I love to write and I want people to read my work but I don’t like being that heavily in the spotlight because of my disabilities. I use a screen-reader and magnification. I do everything by email, talk to people, interviews, handle publishing, etc.

What have you found the most challenging part of the process? Do you think the publishing world is disability-friendly? I don’t disclose my disabilities in my author bio. I’m not ashamed of who I am, but I want to be counted on my merit , not my disabilities. I have a wonderful publisher, DLD Books in Denver. They work with disabled authors. They do everything, edit,  formatting, cover,  They put the book on all the sites, etc. The most challenging part of writing for me is the synopsis.

What’s your greatest networking tip? I’m on facebook.  I have a timeline and a special page for my books where I showcase my writings, short stories and essays. I still have a lot to learn about  Facebook, blogging, websites, technology, but I’m doing my best.

How much research do you do for your work? What’s the wildest subject you’ve looked at? The world of music, rock and roll is a lot of fun, but it’s also hard work.  I know musicians, so I can ask questions, and my husband is a music encyclopedia.

What’s the best advice you’ve received about writing/publishing? Just do it and don’t give up. A lot of the roads along the way are rocky. Don’t let them stop you.

Which authors have influenced you the most? I love reading mystery/romance.  My favorite author is Lisa Gardner. I love her Boston cop series. I’m into women cops and detectives and macho man FBI agents

What is your writing space like? I’ve got a 27-inch computer monitor, a nice clean raised button keyboard, headphones attached to a stereo box and a bottle of water on my desk.

Tell us about your latest piece: Ratings Game, it’s about my hero, Danny Tide’s, second wife. Blair Nelson is a popular New York talk show hostess.  She ingests a drug overdose but survives. Somebody is trying to kill her. Why would anyone want to kill the Queen of daytime TV? Tracy will assist the police again in finding out who.

What’s your next writing adventure? I’m working on the prequel to the series,  Tidalwave  (That’s Danny’s band’s name). It’s how Danny and Tracy met and the first mystery   they’re involved with together

Are indie/self-published authors viewed with scepticism or wariness by readers? Why is this? I think the traditional publishing world feels that self-publishing is somehow second-rate. As they see it, we’re not putting forth legitimate stuff.  DLD  does not allow typos in their work. My book covers are so incredible.

What is your greatest success? Holding the two books I published side by side and knowing that they’re top of the line.

How important is writing to you? Writing is all I do, creating stories. It’s my life.

RATINGS GAME (TALK SHOW QUEEN)

by Trish Hubschman ((c) 2019)

In print ($9.50) and e-book ($2.99) from Amazon, Smashwords, and other online sellers.

The e-book is text-to-speech enabled.

Cover image, free text preview, buying links, and more:

http://www.dldbooks.com/hubschman/

Ratings Game

Trish Hubschman has three previous Tracy Gayle mysteries in print: The Fire, Unlucky Break, and Stiff Competition (Miss America).

Synopsis of Ratings Game:

The Danny Tide story continues.

Somebody’s trying to kill the rock star’s second wife, talk–show hostess Blair Nelson. Danny and Tracy, now a couple expecting a baby, get pulled into it because Danny finally agrees to do an interview with his ex–wife. She’s been bugging him for a while.

That evening, after a draining day at Blair’s studio, when Danny and Tracy are home in bed, Danny’s phone goes off. It’s his and Blair’s daughter, Liz, announcing that she found her mother unconscious on her bathroom floor. Blair ingested a drug overdose.

Who would want to eliminate the talk show queen, and why? Could the perpetrator be Blair’s housekeeper? Her personal assistant? The owner of the television station? The show’s producer? Even Danny and Liz are on the suspect list.

Everyone had opportunity, but no one has a motive. They’re all devoted to Blair. They need Blair to wake up and give them some answers.

Editing, cover design, print layout, and e-book conversion are by DLD Books Editing and Self-Publishing Services, www.dldbooks.com. Cover photo is by Joshua Hanson on Unsplash

Adventures in Self-Publishing – Reviews -Part 2

I remember the first ‘bad’ review I got for my first book. It was 2-star review on Goodreads, and I was angry, upset and lots of negative emotions.  How dare someone think that! Of course, now I have moved on, and I realise it is just one reader’s views, nothing more, nothing less.

My point is – for new writers a bad review feels terrible. Someone who doesn’t care how much time you spent writing, what sacrifices you made etc. Correct – the reader doesn’t give a damn about that. He or she just wanted a good experience with the book they spent money on. If you go to a restaurant and order a meal, it arrives and it’s not what you expected, or you think it’s too cold, or too hot, or has garlic in then you will complain. You don’t care that the chef has a headache, or his car broke down on the way in. You want a nice meal. It’s the same principle.

I have a mix of ratings on my books from 1 star to 5 stars, some great comments and some… less than great comments. The books I write are NOT mainstream. Light Beyond the Storm features violence against women, murder, sex, slavery and other contentious topics. I’ve been told it can be difficult to read. Am I going to change it? No. The issues therein are part of the story and the world of Erana: Elves are slaves, Dii (the main female character) is an Elven woman who is not only a slave but a magic user. She has no rights in that society – and her very existence is illegal. The poor girl is at the bottom of the social heap. Olek and Archos are the good guys (and I use that term relatively), but they aren’t nice. Olek is a thief and an assassin – he kills, he steals, he blackmails. Archos is a sorcerer and he deceives, he kills, he flouts the law, and he is, essentially, a crimelord. There are very few really ‘good people’ – except Dii and Ozena. I can understand why readers might be shocked by what happens, or upset by the violence. Some folks are. But then again some aren’t.

Books are a varied as the authors – everyone is different. Readers are different.

So how to deal with ‘bad’ reviews.

  1. DO NOT COMMENT – Really just don’t. It’s unprofessional, it’s likely to backfire. A few years ago there were some individuals on Goodreads who had rated a particular author’s book with a low rating and unfavourable review; said author then started bitching about these reviewers. There was name calling, trolling and general nastiness. No one came out well, least of all the author. Such behaviour tarnishes other authors (and readers) who don’t behave like that and indie author suffers.
  2. ANALYSE THEM – is the reader just unhappy because the story didn’t fulfil their expectations? Or are they reporting technical issues? The first you as the author can’t do much about, but technical issues can and should be fixed.
  3. DO NOT GO BITCHING ON YOUR BLOG – this relates back to 1. Yes, you might be annoyed or upset but venting online will not help. People forget what is said online can be deleted but not removed. By that I mean if someone sees it, then it’s ‘out there’ – it can be copied, or shared. If you feel you must vent do it privately.
  4. MOVE ON – pretty much every book from Shakespeare’s plays to Game of Thrones will have a bad review. It happens.
  5. KEEP WRITING – don’t give up. Writing is a craft, and it takes practice, and commitment. One or two bad reviews can knock your confidence – but just shrug and keep writing. Look for how you can improve – which is pretty much the same as in everything.
  6. DO NOT COMMENT. Yep it’s that important I am saying it twice.

There are blogs offering reviews – and they can be useful. But don’t buy a good review – it will show and many sites (such as Amazon) will remove ‘fake’ reviews. This also goes for review swaps (I read your book and rate it high if you do mine).  Indies don’t have the best reputation and behaviour like that doesn’t do anyone any good.

Don’t get your mum/brother/cat to post a review. They may indeed like your work but the review will be biased. Again most review sites will remove those, and in some places, your publishing account can be revoked.

Wait. Reviews will come. Not every reader reviews.

Good reviews are nice to have, but it’s not the end of the world if they are few.

As I said in my previous article you can’t please everyone. There will always be someone who doesn’t enjoy your work, and that’s fine. Move on. Keep writing.

 

Audiobook Narrator Interview – Stephanie Montalvo

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*Name: Stephanie Montalvo

*Tell us a bit about yourself: I’m a retired professional dancer. I’m also a trained actor and singer. 14 years ago I started a production company. We’ve produced videos, voiceovers, shows and special events for private clients, municipalities, Fortune 500 companies, and brands such as Nickelodeon. I also have a strong connection to nature and so I founded a non-profit dedicated to environmental education and inspiration. Creativity and nature are my life force.

How did you become involved with audiobook narration and production? As a multi passionate artist it was natural to move my storytelling skills into audiobook narration. I love to tell stories and create characters.

Is this your day job? Yes

Tell us about some of the titles you’ve narrated. Do you have a favourite amongst these? I’ve narrated a wide range of genres. I love voicing children’s books because they have so many fun characters to create. I also like working with authors who really understand their characters and have created a detailed background story. Knowing the story behind each character helps you bring them to life.

Do you have a preferred genre?  Do you have a genre you do not produce? Why is this? I enjoy Romance, Comedy, Sci-Fi. I’m pretty open to all genres if the writing is engaging. I don’t think my voice is the right fit for historical work, although I do love to listen to them.

What are you working on at present/Just finished? I just wrapped the Healing Springs by Rhavensfyre.

*Tell us about your process for narrating?  (Be as elaborate as you like.) I like to read the whole book cover to cover first. I make notes about what touched me and any questions I might have for the author. Then, I like to meet via phone or Skype with the author and talk about their inspiration for writing the book and get to know them. I find that hearing the author speak about their characters helps me get a good idea of where they are coming from. I ask for specific details about each character even the smaller characters. I like to know what the authors are thinking about their characters. When an author can give me examples or match characteristics to popular figures it really helps create a better sense of the person and how they would sound. Then, I go and pull images or I draw features I like about the character and start working with my voice to give them their sound. I do lots of research on vocal styles for specific regions. I always keep samples of the voices I’ve created for each character to reference later on. If I need more information or confirmation on a particular character I contact the author with a sample. Once I feel solid about each character’s voice I go into the studio and start to tell the story.

What aspects do you find most enjoyable?  I love creating characters and telling their story. It feels good to listen back and hear their voice, not yours.

What do you find least enjoyable? Editing is hard at times. You spend many many hours in the studio all alone looking at a waveform on the screen. Your arms can fatigue which isn’t enjoyable.

Have you ever found an author you couldn’t continue to work with? How was this resolved? Unfortunately, yes. I’ve had an author that just disappeared. I didn’t hear from them for months. I had to move on to the next project. Sometimes life happens, I understand. I’ve never had any issues with a difficult author. I research them before accepting a project.

Do you consider royalty share when looking for books to narrate? If not why is this? Yes, I do consider royalty share. I’m happy to collaborate with an author if they have a nice following and good reviews.

Do you listen to audiobooks? I sure do. I love them!

*With many people owning MP3 players do you think this is the future of storytelling? Yes, I do believe that audiobooks are the future of storytelling. You can listen on morning commutes, while waiting in line, anywhere!

Why do you think audiobooks are becoming so popular? Audiobooks are calming and comforting. I’ve found that humans, and some animals, love to listen to stories. It is like having a good friend in your pocket. Audiobooks let your brain relax into the drama of a character instead of the day to day stress that many people encounter. They also stimulate your imagination. You create the imagery to the story. That is powerful!

Can you remember the first audiobook you owned? I had books on tape as young as 5. We would get them from the library. I loved them then too.

If you are an author, do you produce your own audiobooks or do you prefer to look for an independent narrator? Why have you made this choice? I’m currently working on a book and I will produce it. I made this choice because I know the work and the story and would enjoy telling it.

Has ACX/Audible fulfilled your expectations? (such as earnings, ease of use, workload etc.?) I truly enjoy working with ACX/Audible. I find it easy to use. I’ve met some great authors there. It is a fantastic platform.

Have you ever had a negative experience producing a book? I’ve had some authors that don’t explain their vision well upfront which makes it harder to produce but nothing negative.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve had? The devil is in the details. Always find out exactly what the author’s full vision is for the main character from start to finish. The small details can shift a book and that is very important to know before you record the complete work.

What is the worst piece of advice you’ve had? Don’t read the book before you voice it. Ouch!

If you could narrate any book you wanted which would it be and why? I’d love to narrate the Wizard of Oz. There are so many fun characters and it is a wonderful story.

Please tell us a silly fact about yourself. I love bunnies. I had 12 at one time, all spayed and neutered rescues. They are not the easiest animals to care for but if you love them and learn their language you will get mountains of love back.

Where can we learn more about you? www.stephanievo.com

 

Social Media links:

Twitter: @StephanieVoice

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/stephanievoiceandvideo/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/StephanieVoiceandVideo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adventures in Self-Publishing – 1.3 – the basics – Smashwords 1.1

https://www.smashwords.com/

I like Smashwords – but uploading the MS is a bit of a pain. The meatgrinder as it’s known is notoriously fickle. On the plus side, it will throw the MS back and tell you what to fix. It can take several attempts before it goes through. The help pages on Smashwords are good and will offer advice.

One of the benefits of SW is the Premium Catalog https://www.smashwords.com/dashboard/channelManager/

You can submit your book, and have it distributed to a multitude of other sites – including Barnes and Noble, Kobo, I-books and many others. The most useful aspect I have found for Smashy is the coupons. You can produce a coupon to reduce a specific book, for a specific time. It’s great for gifts, review copies etc.  Smashwords pay monthly (sort of). But the distribution stores pay at different times so it’s a little fiddly to keep track. That said it all goes through Smashwords and they pay via Paypal in USD.  Or you can just stick with SW.

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https://www.smashwords.com/upload

I have only added the pic for the first bit (as it’s quite long), but pretty self-explanatory.

You can also have a publisher account with SW. So, if you write under a pen name or publish on behalf of others then that works out nicely. It’s far more awkward on KDP – where you can publish under a pen name. The publisher account is helpful.

The dashboard for SW is reasonably easy to fathom and it’s easier to make changes to a book than on KDP and it’s better for readers as it offers Mobi, Epub and other formats (Amazon only offers the Amazon Mobi and it’s Kindle/Kindle app only).

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Smashwords requires an ISBN but will provide one free if you don’t have one. This is required for access into the premium catalog, but not solely publishing on SW.

If you can manage the meatgrinder then Smashwords is a great way to get that wider reach.

It’s more accessible than KDP (see the other posts about this).

Blog Tour – Kyra Halland – Chosen of Azura – #Fantasy

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Title: Chosen of Azara

Author: Kyra Halland

Genre: Fantasy/Romance

Hosted by: Ultimate Fantasy Book Tours

 

Are you a full time author or do you have another job as well and if so how do either of these fit in with writing time?

After being a stay-at-home mom and homemaker for twenty-seven years, I now consider writing to be my full-time job, even though I don’t work full time hours or make a living yet.

 Do you write on your novel daily or do you try to have days off?

I work every day except Sunday, which is a day for rest, family, spiritual renewal, and scrapbooking.

What do you think is the most effective marketing is for your books?

I’ve been having a good deal of success lately in cross-promotions with other fantasy/science fiction authors. When we all pool our resources, we can reach so many more readers and help everyone do better.

 If you have a ‘baddy’ in your book, can you tell us a little about this character?

My villains usually have what they think are perfectly good reasons for doing what they do. Mostly, they think they know what is best for everyone and try to impose that through whatever means necessary, for the greater good of course, without regard for the rights of the people being imposed on or what they really want.

 Is there any romance in your story and if so can you tell us a little about this?

My novels always have romance in them! In fact, that’s why I started writing, because I couldn’t find fantasy novels that handled romance in a way I found satisfactory. I like stories where the developing relationship has an influence on the fantasy plot, and where the couple have to work together to solve the story problem. The romance in Chosen of Azara is between Sevry, who has been searching for a very long time for the woman who holds the magic that can bring his destroyed homeland of Savaru back to life, and Lucie, who inherited a magical secret from her great-grandmother but she doesn’t know what it means. It seems like a hopeless romance, between Sevry’s duty and Lucie’s family obligations, but somehow things work out 🙂

 Do you ever write sad scenes and do you feel the sadness as you write it?

I always like to have a happy ending, but there can be plenty of sad scenes on the way to that happy ending. I have made myself get all teary at times.

 Did you write as a child or did you come into your talent as an adult?

I’ve always loved reading and stories, and I wrote a little bit as a child, but I took a long detour into music. My degrees are in music education and music history. After I finished my Master’s degree, I immediately became a stay-at-home mom with my first child. Looking for a new intellectual challenge, I decided to try writing the kinds of fantasy novels I wanted to read but had trouble finding.

 Can you give us a little insight into any fantasy characters in Chosen of Azara?

Chosen of Azara is a tale of several generations of a family and the sacrifices they make to try to prevent a war from destroying their homeland Savaru and then to restore it after it’s destroyed. Juzeva only wants to serve at the magical Source she’s sworn to, but she has to enter into a treaty marriage with the enemy. She doesn’t want to, but she does her duty gracefully. Sevry, Juzeva’s nephew, has lost everything, and only his pure heart and dedication to restoring his lost homeland keep him going through his long, difficult quest. Lucie, Juzeva’s great-granddaughter, doesn’t want to leave behind the comfortable life she knows to help Sevry restore Savaru, but her heart tells her what she knows she has to do. With each of these characters, love gives them the strength to do the difficult things that have to be done.

 Is your the world in your book like earth or is it a fantasy world?

Estelend, the world of Chosen of Azara, is a fantasy world. I based it on the idea of magic coming from Sources, or natural features in the earth, like caves, springs, trees, mountains, and so on.

 What is the time period setting of your latest book?

The time period of Chosen of Azara ranges from roughly equivalent to the middle ages to the early 19th century. But these times from our world really don’t have much to do with the world of Estelend.

 Do you prefer to write as a series or standalone books?

For a long time, I only wrote standalones. Then I wrote a fantasy set in an Old West-style world, just as an experiment, and it turned into a 6-book series! At the same time, I’ve written other novels set in Estelend; they don’t have any characters in common with each other or Chosen of Azara, but since they’re in the same world I consider them a loosely-connected series. So I sort of accidentally turned into a series writer!

 Chosen of Azara is actually one of my older books; my upcoming novels Source-Breaker and Heir of Tanaris return to that world. I also have some story collections related to Chosen of Azara, The Warrior and the Holy Man, about a couple of historical figures briefly mentioned in Chosen, and The Brilliant Career of Sajur Golu and Other Tales of Azara, which contains backstories, character sketches, and alternate points of view for Chosen of Azara.

 Do you like to use lots of subplots or do you think just confuses?

I stay pretty focused on the one or two main story questions of the plot. Usually, beating the bad guys and getting the hero and heroine together. Sometimes there might be a few minor story threads going on, but mostly I stick to the main plot and the romance plot.

 Can you tell us a little about one of your sub plots in Chosen of Azara?

Probably the main subplot is about Lucie finding the strength to stand up for what she wants and get out of a destructive relationship with the man she’s supposed to marry.

 Can you tell us a little about your protagonist and your antagonist and how they relate to each other?

Sajur Golu, high priest of the Madrinan Empire that conquered Savaru, and Sevry are pretty much the opposite of each other. Sajur Golu is ambitious, wanting glory for himself, his family name, and the Madrinan Empire; Sevry is quite literally willing to die to save his people. Sajur Golu has thoroughly corrupted himself in the pursuit of his ambitions; Sevry remains pure of heart no matter the burdens he has to carry. Sajur Golu pursues Sevry to stop Sevry from stealing Sajur’s final victory from him, and when they finally confront each other, with Lucie as the catalyst, it’s a battle between Sevry’s purity and Sajur’s corruption.

 What is your latest project?

My latest project is actually a multi-author boxed set that I’m very excited to be part of. It’s called Light in the Darkness: A Noblebright Fantasy Boxed Set. Basically, as C.J. Brightley, the coordinator of this boxed set, says, “Noblebright fantasy has at least one important character with noble, idealistic motives who does the right thing out of principle. The character is flawed, but his or her actions are generally defined by honesty, integrity, sacrifice, love, and kindness. The story upholds the goodness of the character; the character’s good qualities are not held up as naiveté, cluelessness, or stupidity, but rather shown to be worthwhile. Good characters can make a difference. Noblebright characters can learn and grow. They can deliberately choose to be kind when tempted to be unkind, they can choose generosity when it hurts, and they can influence their world and other characters for the better.” My book Beneath the Canyons is part of this set along with 11 other full-length novels and a handful of short stories, a great value for the price of $1.99. It releases on Tuesday Oct. 18, at these stores:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01K3534QI

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/light-in-the-darkness-cj-brightley/1124360518?ean=2940153673578

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/ebook/light-in-the-darkness-a-noblebright-fantasy-boxed-set

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/light-in-darkness-noblebright/id1143589450?mt=11

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/657111

 Do you think all readers should do reviews to help the writers improve? When you receive reviews do you find yourself influenced to make changes?

I honestly believe that reviews are for readers, not for writers, to help other readers decide what books the want to read. It’s not the reader’s job to help me become a better writer. It’s interesting to see what readers like and don’t like, but usually some readers like things that other readers don’t, and you can’t please everyone, so it doesn’t do any good to change your books according to what reviews say. Of course, writers should still be working to improve their skills by reading good books in all genres and books about writing, doing writing exercises, taking workshops from professional writers, etc. But they should also trust their own creative vision and not be changing their books all the time according to what one reviewer or another says.

Blurb:

Juzeva, a princess of Savaru, vowed to the service of the magical Source Azara, sacrifices everything to try to stop a war, only to be caught in a web of evil and deceit.

Sevry, the last king of the war-ravaged land of Savaru, is tasked by Source Azara with finding the secret that disappeared with Juzeva, the secret that can heal Savaru and its Sources.

Lucie, a sheltered young noblewoman, is unaware of her true heritage and the power she bears, until a stranger claiming to be the legendary king of a long-dead land takes refuge in her father’s house.

Torn between her familiar world and the truths her heart can’t deny, Lucie must find the courage to join Sevry on his quest to restore Savaru and its magical Sources to life, a quest that will sweep her away to adventure, danger, and a love that could change her life – and the lost land of Savaru – forever.

Epic romantic fantasy for adults and older teens.

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31456955-chosen-of-azara

 

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Buy Links:

 Amazon.com ~ https://goo.gl/SaUy2t

Amazon.co.uk ~ https://goo.gl/NpXqlo

Barnes &Noble~ https://goo.gl/oudviU

Kobo ~ https://goo.gl/A6XmUH

 Author Bio:

Kyra Halland has always loved fantasy. She has also always loved a good love story. Years ago, as a new stay-at-home mom, she decided to combine those two loves – like chocolate and peanut butter! – by writing the kinds of romantic fantasy novels she wanted to read.
Complicated, honorable heroes; strong, smart, feminine heroines; magic, romance, and adventure; deep emotion mixed with a dash of offbeat humor – all of these make up Kyra Halland’s worlds. She loves sharing those worlds with readers and hopes they will enjoy her stories and characters as much as she does.

Kyra Halland lives in southern Arizona. She has a very patient husband, two less-patient cats, two young adult sons, a lovely daughter-in-law, and two adorable granddaughters. Besides writing, she enjoys scrapbooking and anime, and she wants to be a crazy cat lady when she grows up.

 

Visit her at:

 

Website: http://www.kyrahalland.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KyraHalland/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/KyraHalland

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Kyra-Halland/e/B00BG2R6XK

 

Cover Designer Interview Number Three – Lori Follett

Hi Lori Follett and welcome to the Library of Erana, please tell us a little about yourself.

1) You are a cover designer, what made you decide to get into this line of work? I have been a freelance graphic designer since 2001 and have always loved books, even more so since e-readers came on the scene and there were so many indie authors out there publishing books themselves.  As I was shopping for books I noticed that so many of them had pretty bad covers, which was an instant turn off to me as a graphic designer.  So, I decided to focus my business on books and author services.  Now, I offer pre made and custom covers, formatting, editing and proofreading, blog design and DIY blog/website hosting, all at low prices so most indie authors can afford them.

2) Can you tell us about some of the covers you’ve designed and authors you’ve worked with? I have worked with J. Thayer McKinney on her Haunting of LaBelle.  I designed the cover, formatted the print and ebook versions and also designed her publishing company’s, Cedar Loft Productions, logo.  I have also worked with Jan Goldie, Chelsea Scott and Sylvain Neuvel, though their books have not been released yet, among others.

3) Can you tell us what is involved? (I have no clue so you can be as elaborate as you like!) Software used – where you source your images, how long a cover takes etc. There is a lot of time involved.  My process starts with clients filling out a lengthy form about their book.  From there, I tend to stew on their descriptions for a while.  Then, I start searching through stock photo sites (I use many, including DeviantArt occasionally, but mostly Shutterstock).  A cover takes anywhere from 3 to 8 hours, or longer if there is a lot of illustration and digital painting involved.  I use a combination of Photoshop, Illustrator and inDesign for my covers with a pen and tablet on a Mac.

4) Where does your inspiration come from? Do you read the book first, then come up with a design, or can you produce something from an author’s description? I ask my authors to provide more than just a back blurb for me, so it comes from their description and from their style and a lot of times just spending an hour or so going through stock sites.

5) What are your thoughts on ‘generic’ covers – such as a sword or throne and skulls for fantasy, or interchangeable torsos for romance? Personally, I am not a fan of them, though I have done a few and have a few available as premades.

6) When you buy a book do you look at the cover first? What else attracts you? What turns you off? The cover is what draws me into a book.  If the cover is poorly done or clearly no thought was put into it, I will not purchase a book.  I figure if so little care is put into the cover, it is likely that little care is put into editing and proofreading.  I cannot read a book that has not been edited or proofed.  It pulls me out the story and makes it painful to read.  lol

7) What advice would you give to anyone starting out in this line of work or who might want to design a cover? I am pretty much just starting out myself, having started this year, though I am building pretty quickly now.  My best advise is to do free work to start with.  Work with authors and show them what you can do before you ask another struggling artist to hand over cash to you.  Another way to showcase your skills to by doing pre made covers.

8) What are your thoughts on sites like Fiverr where people can buy covers cheaply? Do you think they encourage substandard or very generic images? I think they do more of a disservice to designers and buyers than a service.  Our skills are cheapened and you don’t get quality in most cases out them.  I absolutely think they encourage substandard and generic images.  Not much time can possibly be spent on the covers for such little amount of money, nor can it cover the costs involved in creating covers.  There are software costs, stock images cost and time to consider.  Stock image subscriptions are definitely not cheap!

9) Do you have a genre you prefer? Not really, I love aspects of most genres.  I don’t particularly like doing religious covers though.

10) Please tell us about your favourite image and the favourite cover you have worked on? My favorite image hands down was a mermaid for Jan Goldie.  It was actually a pre made cover to begin with.  It was really hard to part with!  I started with a headshot of a young woman with a water splash.  I morphed her into a mermaid and the cover just really came together.  It is the one that has gotten to most comments.  It is now the cover a YA novella called A Mer-Tale.

11) Can you give us a silly fact about yourself? I have to have the first spoonful of the just-opened peanut butter jar.  My whole family knows this and makes fun of me for it.  I don’t know what it is, but the smooth top and the fresh peanut butter, it tastes so much better when it’s just opened.  lol

 

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Wicked Book Covers

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7 unknown worthwhile reads – a guest post by Shane Porteous

Hello one and all, my name is Shane Porteous, I am an author but this post isn’t about me plugging any of my works, rather I would like to talk about books that I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed. Instead of talking about the works of Tolkien, King, Rowling, Martin, Clancy, Barker and Lewis, all of whom are now household names, I thought I would talk about relatively unknown books that I feel are definitely worth a read. The reason for this is rather simple, like almost all writers I love reading but rarely have a chance to talk about books I have discovered and enjoyed.

So I have decided to indulge the reader in me, I feel that all readers are on a quest to discover unknown gems of literature. I think this has to do with just how rare such a feeling is. The feeling that the story you are holding in your hands is something precious, something special, something rare. While stories like Lord of The Rings, The Stand, A Song of Ice and Fire are magnificent stories, their brilliance is common knowledge. When you discover their brilliance for yourself, you’re discovering something that millions of people have found before you. Those gems though beautiful have been read by everyone, I personally think that if you could somehow visit every book shelf in the world you would be hard pressed not to find at least one book by the aforementioned authors on it.

So my hope is that I can help you discover new books for your bookshelves (or e-reader). Keeping in mind that quality is all a matter of an opinion. The old saying, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” comes to mind. With that said I hope you feel the same way I did when reading these books and enjoy discovering these unknown gems for yourself. So without further to do, in no particular order I present my 7 relatively unknown worthwhile reads.

 

Number 7. Woken by Kaine Andrews

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Woken-Kaine-Andrews-ebook/dp/B00C6KBSRG

Woken is the story of Ophelia a young woman who barely survived a savage attack at the hands of Andrew, her sister’s boyfriend. Several years have passed since that horrible night and Ophelia is still haunted by what occurred. Relying on medication just to get through the days and haunted by terrible nightmares. Her only sanctuary is that Andrew has been in a coma since that night. Finding comfort in the arms of the charming Roger, things finally start looking up, if only slightly. But all of that is about to change because Andrew has woken from his coma and is ready to finish what he started.

The first praise I need to give this novel is the fact that Kaine Andrews made each of his characters matter. Ophelia is not a generic victim whose torment is exploited for the sake of performing horrific acts upon her. She is a fully realized character and grounded in reality. She isn’t some supermodel looking woman with the intelligence of a scientist. She feels like a real person, someone you could honestly meet in real life.  When bad things happen to her, you actually give a damn about it, you feel her pain, you feel her fear.

Feeding into this perfectly is Andrew, the villain of the piece. Andrew isn’t a campy character, he isn’t a Halloween special. Andrew is a sick, twisted monster of an individual and at no time did the author pander or try to lighten his mood.

This is a true horror story, not something you would read to your children on Halloween night because they want a spooky story. This is dark, bloody and horrific; Kaine Andrews manages to show the brutality of violence without every exploiting or relying on it to tell his story.

Beyond these points is just how talented of a word smith Kaine Andrews is. Every word in this book feels like an ant of the same literary colony, working together to tell this story. There are no red herrings, no pandering and no fillers. Woken doesn’t rely on anything other than its own strengths, a true rarity for books these days. If you like horror that is as horrific as it is well told, you would struggle to find a better book than this one.

 

Number 6. Masquerade (book one of the Heven and Hell series) by Cambria Hebert.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Masquerade-Heven-Hell-Cambria-Hebert-ebook/dp/B008RG09SM

Masquerade, revolves around Heven, a high school student, who once was leader of the cheer leading squad. Several years before the story begins she was attacked and left disfigured by an unknown creature. Still reeling from the scars both physical and emotional of that attack her life suddenly takes a positive turn when she meets Sam, the handsome new stranger of her small town. But while new love is in the air so is terror for the creature that once attacked her is back and ready to finish what it has started.

I am bending my own rules a little bit mentioning this story. I just checked Cambria Hebert’s goodreads profile to discover she now has hundreds of reviews and thousands of ratings. This doesn’t surprise me in the least for several very good reasons that I will get to in a minute. I just need to stress the fact that when I first read this book there were only a handful of reviews for it. Also another point I need to make is that ultimately this list is my opinion on things and I am not saying that people should or shouldn’t like or read certain types of genres.

For me normally, there are three things that will stop me from reading a book, Romance, an Urban Setting and Young Adult. Masquerade has all three and yet I read it from first page to last without a problem. This is because this book is the most well paced story that I have ever read. It is amazing just how well Cambria Hebert was able to pace this story without ever once making it feel disjointed or underwritten.

While it is very much a young adult paranormal romance story, I was never bored reading it, every chapter brought a new revelation, something of value to the story. It left me guessing for its entire run, something that very few books have ever done for me.

It is often said, that a good book is one that can transcend its genre and this book definitely does that as far as I am concerned. The fact that I felt engaged and interested the entire time while reading about things I normally could care less about such as teenage angst, social politics and romance shows just how great of a story is actually is.

 

Number 5.  The Superiors (The Superiors #1) by Lena Hillbrand

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Superiors-Lena-Hillbrand-ebook/dp/B004ZGB2I4

The Superiors represents a future where vampires have taken over the world and humans, better known as Saps are little more than livestock. The main character is Draven, a rather unassuming vampire that has a mediocre job and lives a rather ordinary life who one day meets a young sap called Cali, trying to run away from her predetermine fate.

There is a lot that can be said about an author that can take something as overused as vampires and actually make an engaging, interesting story out of it. Reading my brief summary of the plot you are probably thinking that such a story has been done before and you’re right it has. But putting that aside, I found The Superiors a story that honestly stands on its own merit. Lena Hillbrand has created a fascinating fleshed out world.

Draven the main character is a kind of “Joe Vampire,” he isn’t some dark shadow that stalks the night or some Romeo who for some reason is only interested in teenage girls. There aren’t ANY romantic overtones in this story and that is a true rarity in vampire literary.

Beyond using vampires, the story itself is just incredibly engaging, what I loved about it is that the author takes her time with the story, she doesn’t rush through it (something that quite frankly annoys me about a lot of books that are written today). Instead she masterfully crafts every inch of this world, she doesn’t so much tackle social issues as deals with them with the subtly of an assassin.

A perfect example of this for me was how the vampires, who consider themselves the master race have fallen into the same traps of the world that humans once did. The vast majority of the vampires seem no happier than their human counterparts whose jobs they took over. There is a hypocrisy there that most vampires are now realizing and only the older order, who haven’t had to take these mediocre jobs to keep the world running are not affected by this reality.

That’s what I love about this story, it doesn’t represent a romantic or mystic vision and this world is dark, gritty and carries an undeniable genuineness to it. The author hasn’t tried to emulate anybody; they have told their own story and told it well. 

I read and enjoyed the Superiors during a time in my life when I would’ve rather gone to the dentist than suffer through another generic vampire story. I honestly can’t give it bigger praise than that.

 

Number 4. Veil of the Dragon (Prophecy of the Evarun) by Tom Barczak

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Veil-Dragon-Prophecy-Evarun-Barczak-ebook/dp/B0086RX20Y

A High Fantasy story revolving around a land that has seen better days and the resurrection of the fallen King Chaelus by a boy knight called Aaron all in the hopes of fulfilling a certain prophecy.

When writing a review for this I gave it the title, Like Reading A Dream, because that is the truest way I can describe this story. There is something otherworldly about reading this, a powerful feeling that fills you from the very first word to the last. I honestly felt like a ghost in this world, watching this world through eyes that weren’t natural.

I am a big believer that works of fiction need a personal stamp and from that point of view I have never read another book before that has been told with such a strong personal style that the author represents with this story.

It is often said that a good book is one that is brought to life in the reader’s mind and if that is the case this book is the very embodiment of that. I didn’t feel like I was so much reading about this world as experiencing it. Because that is what this story is, an experience, one that I doubt I will ever forget.

I wish that I could say more about this book, but frankly I couldn’t do it justice. As I stated before this book is an experience, one that has to be experienced personally in order to understand what I truly mean.

 

Number 3. Reader of Acheron (book one in the Slaves of Erafor series) by Walter Rhein

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Reader-Acheron-Slaves-Erafor-ebook/dp/B00HS1532E

 

In a dystopian future, reading has been outlawed and slavery is rampant. The corrupted ruling class of this bleak existence is on the hunt for the so called Reader of Acheron, all hope is far from lost however as Kikkan, a slave that took his freedom is on a journey of his own, a journey that could change the entire world if successful.

Look I got to be upfront about something before I say anything else. A huge reason why I enjoy Walter Rhein’s books is that his writing style is very reminiscent of David Gemmell’s, who is an author that I loved reading while growing up. So I am sure there is a kind of nostalgia by proxy, if I can use such a term, when I read this story.

With that said, Reader of Acheron has a lot going for it that should be judged on its own merit. Obviously as a reader I could immediately identify how dangerous of an impact outlawing the act of reading would be. But what I liked about this story and the author deserves a hell of a lot of credit for this, is that I never felt like he was trying to force a morality tale down my throat, like he was using this book to get across his own personal opinions.

Rather this was first and foremost an engaging story with fascinating characters. It is as well worded as it is well paced. I read the whole story in a single setting and afterword I found myself thinking about the meaning of the tale, the points that were so finely raised within it.

It isn’t often that I can say this about any book, let alone one written by a somewhat non established writer. This book both entertained me and made me see things about society that frankly I had never really thought about before and to me that is the mark of an excellent story teller.       

 

Number 2. Mathion (book one in the Mavonduri Trilogy) by Jeff Shanley

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mathion-Book-Legacy-Wolven-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B00ENQBM9K

Mathion is the story of Mathion, the prince and future heir of the Wolven people. His kind has been stuck in a war lasting thousands of years with the Kanin (werewolves). The story revolves around this young prince accompanied by his white wolf companion Elekan as he risks certain death to save a friend from the clutches of The Betrayer, the terrifying king of the Kanin.

The first thing that impressed me about this book was its genuine depth. There is a back story, to a back story, to a back story, to a back story. Literally tens of thousands of years that have been thought out and known by the author and it really shows while reading this story. It is rather quite sad, how rare this trait is among a lot of high fantasy writers today, considering genuine depth is the strongest corner stone of the High Fantasy genre.

But that isn’t the main reason why Mathion makes this list; it is because how it made me feel while reading it. While Mathion isn’t a children story by any means (it is after all a story about thousands of years of warfare between werewolves and medieval like warriors.) it made me feel the same way I did when I was 12 and read the Hobbit for the first time. I felt full of wonder and excitement reading about this world, a world that I had never quite imagined before.

I honestly felt like getting under the covers and reading this story well past midnight, because I was so enamored by it. Mathion is a better representation of classic heroic traits than almost any other character I have read about. I felt sad, when he was sad, I felt compelled by his conflict between duty and personal friendship. His relationship with his white wolf Elekan felt so real to me, reminding me of what I felt as a child raising a pet of my own.

With the exception of Tolkien himself, I cannot think of any High Fantasy writer that can embody the traits of classic High Fantasy as well as Jeff Shanley has with this story and considering that High Fantasy is my favorite literary genre, I think that is saying something. 

It is no exaggeration when I say that I found myself thinking about the Mavonduri world almost every day for basically a full year after I had finished reading it. Mathion is one of the very few books that not only have I a re-read a number of times, it is one of the few books that I make time in my busy schedule to re-read.

People will often ask what is a good High Fantasy story? Some say a book that resonates with the real world; others will say a story that represents a world that is nothing like the real world. My answer to this question is this book, Mathion.

 

Number 1. Of Good and Evil by Gerald G. Griffin

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Griffin-Gerald-Author-Jul-27-2010-Paperback/dp/B00AACIEZ6

Ron Sheffield is a former green beret, who fought in the Middle East but was discharged for his erratic behavior. In truth it was because he possesses powers unlike any the military has seen before. In the civilian world once more Ron becomes a hit man for the mafia in order to deal with his powers. He soon meets Amber Ash, who has powers of her own. Together they realize that they cannot escape their pasts.

While I meant what I said in the beginning of this post that these 7 books haven’t been placed in any particular order, I am going to state for the record that this book is my personal favorite of the bunch. While all 7 of these books are worthwhile reading, Of Good and Evil is simply in a league of its own.

There is a great maturity to Gerald G. Griffin’s writing, one almost never seen in MOST author’s work regardless of whether they are well known or not.

The sheer scope of this book is impressive, dealing with the paranormal, terrorist cells, the mafia, government conspiracies, secret societies, doomsday plots and much more. But more impressive than the scope is just how deftly Gerald G. Griffin handles all of these themes. This book easily could’ve come off as muddled and incoherent and yet nothing could be further than the truth, it is just flawless how well told this story is.

With startling effortlessness Gerald G. Griffin accomplishes mystery without frustrating his reader, he deals with real world issues, but does so in a way that doesn’t require expert understanding of the world’s politics and yet clearly shows a great understanding of such politics himself.

I cannot stress just how much I recommend this book to any mature reader. It truly boggles my mind that this book isn’t on the New York Times best seller list. With that said I am proud to say that apparently this book is going to be turned into a movie! It makes me genuinely happy to know that this magnificent book is finally getting the treatment it so richly deserves.

So there you have it, those are my seven recommendations. I appreciate you taking the time out of your life to read this post and I honestly hope that I have helped you to discover some literary gems.

 

Reviewer Interview Number Seven -DelSheree Gladden

Please tell us a little about yourself. Hi! I’m DelSheree Gladden. I live in New Mexico with my husband and two children. By day, I am a dental hygienist for a non-profit company that provides dental cleanings in public schools. When I’m not working I love to read, write, and spend time with my family doing all kinds of adventurous things!

On average how many books do you read a month?  What genres do you enjoy? Normally, I review 4 books a month. I just started a new job and I haven’t had time to read as much, but I’m hoping to get back on track over the next few months.

Where do you tend to review?  I post all my reviews on my blog, The Edible Bookshelf, as well as Amazon and Goodreads. If an author requests I post a review on any other sites, I’m always happy to do that as well.

Why do you review – for other readers, for author feedback, for yourself?  As an indie author myself, I know how hard it is to get reviews and promote your books. I love helping other authors get their books out. There are so many amazing indie books out there that readers just don’t know where to find.

Are you influenced by other reviews when choosing a book? What other factors influence your choice? I don’t read other reviews of books before accepting a book for review. I go purely off the summary they provide me with because I want the review to be my honest opinion not colored by anyone else’s thoughts.

When reviewing what are the important criteria? Editing? Plot?  Which factors do you overlook? (if any) Characters and plot. If I can’t get into the characters, or if the plot doesn’t make sense or has holes, it won’t get a great rating from me. Editing is important as well, but if it only has a few errors I’ll overlook them. If the editing makes the book hard to read, I’ll mention it in the review as a problem. I’m tougher on traditionally published books when it comes to editing than I am on indie books because I understand it’s hard to find good editors that are affordable when you’re an indie author.

What are your opinions on authors commenting on a review – negative and positive? I’m always happy to have authors comment on the review. I do my best to be fair, even if I didn’t care for the book, and they usually respect that. I’ve only had a problem once where I had to speak to the person privately and address negative behavior directed at me and my blog. The majority of the authors I’ve met have been a pleasure to work with.

Goodreads have just changed their guidelines regarding mentioning an author’s behaviour in a review and there are a lot of unhappy reviewers who feel this is limiting freedom of speech. Do you think it is appropriate to speak about this in a review or are their more appropriate places for this.  Does it make a difference to your own choice of buying a book if the author ‘behaves badly?’ I don’t think a review is the place to critique the writer personally. That needs to be dealt with in a different forum. Having said that, if I hear negative things about an author’s personal life or actions (provided they are actually true) it does affect whether or not I will buy their books.

A lot of readers comment about a book with all 4 or 5 star reviews and nothing below as being suspicious, what do you think about this? I think you have to look at the content of the reviews. If every review is gushing about how much they loved the book, but provides no real description of characters or plot, I don’t take those ratings at face value. If the reviews are well though out and tell why they liked the book, I give them much more credence. Some books really are worth 4 and 5 stars!

Do you give negative reviews? I do. If I don’t finish a book because it is poorly written of I just can’t find anything I like about it, I will contact the author and tell them I couldn’t finish the book. I don’t review these books. If I finish a book and still did not enjoy it, I will review the book as fairly as possible, pointing out both good and bad and why I did not personally connect with the book.

Do you mainly stick to your preferred genres, or would you consider reviewing outside your comfort zone? I review a wide variety of genres. There are a few genres I don’t review like erotica, nonfiction, middle grade, and poetry, and I don’t vary from those. Otherwise, you can find all kinds of books on my blog!

What are your opinions on paid reviews? When it comes to paid reviews, I think it’s hard for readers to believe they are honest reviews. The same could be said about a lot of review sources, though. In the end, I think readers will spot reviews that aren’t legit and not let them cloud their judgment.

Do you deal with reviewing Indie books differently to how you review a mainstream book? I expect both indie and mainstream to be well written, have good characters readers can relate to, and a strong storyline that keeps readers’ attention. I am a little more lenient on editing with indie books, but only to a certain degree. The editing can’t get in the way of the readability. I am not concerned with how a book was published, just how good of a book it is.

Feel free to add your blog/website etc. http://www.theediblebookshelf.blogspot.com/