Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Zoe Sugg, Penguin, and why I'm an Indie Author

Let me start by saying that I know that I am behind the times and this story broke a few days ago, let me also say that until today I had no idea who Zoella, or Zoe Sugg was, nor had I heard of her debut book Girl Online.

More importantly, I have nothing against Zoe Sugg, or her book.

That said, this story caught my attention today. For anyone who doesn’t know (as I didn’t until I started researching this blog post) Zoe Sugg is a YouTube celebrity with millions of followers, who was offered a book deal by Penguin books, and whose debut novel outsold the debut offerings of JK Rowling and Dan Brown in their first week of sales.

Now let’s ignore the fact that neither Dan Brown, nor JK Rowling had millions of followers before the publication of their books, and that their debut books sold purely on the basis of their writing talents, because that’s not what this post is about.

This post is about the ‘revelations’ that Zoe Sugg didn’t write her book completely on her own. In fact it now seems that she had the help of ghost writers and editors.

Here’s the thing. I have no problem with Zoe Sugg. She made a smart business decision that is no doubt going to make her a tidy sum of money. She’d have been silly to turn it down.

I have no idea how much or how little she wrote of the book. But there was one quote from her that spoke volumes. To me at least. When talking about the involvement from the editorial team, she said:

“Everyone needs help when they try something new.”

She’s right. They do. But I think where it rubs me up the wrong way is this. Most writers don’t publish their first book. Most writers bury their first book somewhere and hope it never sees the light of day. Because we know that we have to develop our craft. We have to hone our writing skills. We write and we write, and we edit like crazy and we become better writers. Most of us don’t get that first book deal handed to us on a silver platter. And out there is the ghost writer, who did hone her craft, who developed her skill and became a great writer, and who isn’t getting the credit because she’s not a big enough name. And that makes me sad.

Sugg has said that the characters and idea are all her own. But there is so much more that goes into writing a book. Weeks, months, even years of working on plots, sub-plots, dialogue, character growth, the prose itself. These are the hard bits. These are the bits that take skill.

Trust me, Zoe Sugg, coming up with the idea is the easy part.

But no, my problem is not with Sugg, the problem I have is with the publishers. In fact, with the traditional publishing industry in general.

This whole story is just another sign of how the traditional publishing industry is failing. Failing itself, failing truly talented authors out there, and more importantly, failing readers themselves.

It seems that there is an ever increasing slew of celebrities publishing books – almost all of them ghost written. These books sell in huge numbers because of the ‘brand’ behind them. Great for the publishers. Not so great for the rest of us.

I understand completely that publishing is a business. And the goal of any business is to make money. Otherwise what’s the point. But increasingly, it seems, the publishing industry is throwing away any kind of integrity, or standards, in the search of big sales.

There is a quote from Penguin that I find particularly interesting:

“As publishers our role is, and always has been, to find the very best talent and help them tell their story and connect them with readers.”

Right. But the problem is, they didn’t go out looking for incredibly talented young writers to hone and encourage their talent. They went looking for a big name that would sell books. They didn’t care about the content, they cared only about the name on the front cover. Their role as publishers should be to find the very best writers. Not just any celebrity who can sell a few copies, even if the work isn’t their own.

Which tells us what?

That traditional publishing isn’t interested in finding new voices to tell you unique and interesting stories, or about finding beautifully written works of art. They’re interested in sales. Full stop. End of story. And I have to admit, in the laziest way possible. Who needs marketing when you have a book that’s guaranteed to sell?

And people wonder why more and more writers such as myself aren’t even trying to go the traditional publishing route. We’re not interested because we know they’re not interested.

What message does this send to the struggling writer out there? Want to write a bestseller? Don’t write an amazing, original, well written book, just have a lot of followers on Twitter or Youtube, and then let someone else write the book for you.

Every time a story like this comes out I lose just that little bit more respect for the traditional publishing industry, and I ask myself, is it any wonder that more and more writers are turning to the Indie, or self-published route?

I think not.

A Rockin' Review of Kiss Me Dead by Dale Ibitz 

Purchase on Amazon

Kiss Me Dead is a great book that tells the stories of two characters-- a reaper and a girl who can see reapers.  While, in some respects, it follows the paranormal formula, the beautiful writing really sets it apart.  The stories are told in parallel, and intertwine in the present-day thread of the story, where the reaper enters the life of the girl.  Romance and numerous questions follow.  Can the guy be trusted?  The answer is "probably not", which makes for an interesting tale as the two characters navigate through this strange relationship.

Dale Ibitz has a definite gift for description.  As a person who appreciates writing for *writing*, I was just *wowed* by the beautiful use of language and fresh, interesting way she has of putting things across.  From my perspective, that was the most awesome thing about this book.  There are a lot of teen paranormal books out there, and only a few of them with writing anything like this.

Things that held me back (note that these are personal opinion): 
  •  I just didn't *feel* the characters, especially the girl.  She was kind of "meh" to me.  I'm honestly not quite sure why I felt this way, because the character is fairly well-developed.  I think maybe it was because she was kind of in-your-face, but then she didn't *do* much about it.  And then she was also described as angelic, but I didn't see that shine through in her actions.  I liked the reaper character better-- he was tragic and I *love* tragic characters.  
  • The other thing that bothered me was the insta-love.  I personally need more from characters than a couple of meetings before they declare undying love.  But then, I'm not a teenager, either.  I don't imagine that the book's target audience will have a problem with this.  So yeah, both of these things are just opinions and I doubt they would hold true for a lot of readers. 
Things that rocked:
  • The writing.  I can't say this enough.  Beautiful writing.
  • The portrait of Giltine, goddess of death.  She was awesome.  Actually, the whole otherworld was awesome, but especially Giltine.  Ibitz created this amazing visual of the goddess.  I was frightened and intrigued.  I wanted more of her, but she scared the hell out of me.
  • This is related to the previous comment, but there was a freshness about some of this story that was great.  Even some of the expected elements had a fresh take on them.  Ibitz took the paranormal reaper thing and gave it her own spin so it is not just another paranormal book by any stretch.
  • Tension-- sexual and otherwise.  There are a lot of what-ifs and OMGs in this story.  The characters obviously want to be together, but it looks like a really bad idea.  And then you never know if the reaper is good or bad.  For that matter, one of the supporting characters is also deliciously indiscernible.  Bad guy?  OK guy?  Hell, even the goddess of death leaves you wondering.  I definitely enjoyed that about the characters.  Also, there are a lot of high stakes in the storyline.  So yeah, tension.  Tons of it.
Overall, I thought this was a great book.  I think that the problems I had with the story are mostly a product of me not being the target audience.  And despite those hang-ups, I truly enjoyed reading this book.  I was absorbed in it and found myself wanting to keep reading.  I would definitely recommend this book.  I think the writing was absolutely as good as any book published traditionally.  Awesome read!

Connect with Dale Ibitz





Wednesday, 3 December 2014

A Rockin' Review of Anthem's Fall by S.L. Dunn


Purchase on Amazon

This book was recommended to us by a reader.

Anthem's Fall is like an intellectualized comic book.  Crossing scientists with flying superhero-style aliens, it is surprising and interesting.  The book focuses on ethical issues revolving around scientific discoveries and advancements, and then tests those stances by introducing an unexpected threat.  It is both a moral, cautionary tale, and, well... something like a comic book.

I love comic books, so I was totally there from the beginning.  However, having heard it was something like a comic book, I was surprised when the beginning read much more realistically.  I thought it was very interesting how Dunn firmly grounded the book in the real world before introducing more unbelievable elements, and I think this lent gravity to the story that wouldn't have been there otherwise.

I was pretty sure that I knew where the story was going from not-that-far in.  However, there were a number of surprises that kept me guessing.  The story was well-written, and crafted beautifully.  Dunn proves that he knows how to weave a story expertly.

As far as things I *didn't* like, they are mostly matter-of-opinion.  I felt that the battle scenes were incredibly long.  I was kind of like... "They're fighting *again*?"  I wanted it to be over.  In this respect, I'm going to be a bit sexist and say this is a "boy story".  I wanted more personal-level interaction and more depth.  Not to say that the characters were not well-done, but they were more intellectual than emotional.  I like emotional.  That is really the only place where the story fell short for me.

What rocked:
  • The writing was great.  Solid.  Professional.  I don't see a lot of writing of this quality in Indie books, to be honest. There were only a couple of typos.
  • Twists.  While I wouldn't exactly call these "plot twists", there were some cool reveals.  One I loved in particular.  Totally didn't see it coming.
  • The epic feel of the disaster.  Beautifully described.  I felt like I was living part of the nightmare.
Overall, a solid book that I really enjoyed.  It will be interesting to see what happens in the next one.

Connect with S. L. Dunn







Wednesday, 26 November 2014

A Rockin' Review of Brew by David Estes

OK, this was one of those books that just made me want to read more.  It was an awesome read.  I *loved* this book and would recommend it to all my friends.

Honestly, I read it because I wanted to know what all the hype was about.  And when I started reading it, I wasn't entirely convinced.  It was a little slow to start-- something that is not necessarily a bad thing.  More than that, I had a little trouble with my suspension-of-disbelief with some of the politics involved in the premise.  Allow me to explain:  The story revolves around the modern discovery that witches (of the bubble-bubble-toil-and-trouble variety) do exist.  I had no problems with that.  But there's all this political stuff linked to that discovery that was hard for me to "get with".  Particularly when the government started burning witches at the stake, and then drowning them....  I just had difficulty believing that this could really happen in modern times.  It jarred me.  But lemme just say, if you feel the same way, get over it.  The rest of the story is worth it.  I continued reading because I found the characters to be intriguing and fresh.  I wanted to see if the potential played out.

At the beginning, I expected the story to be a little canned.  I expected the high school thing.  I expected idunno... the girlfriend to be a witch, and so on and so forth.  *Not* what happened.  The story kind of has a *wham* moment when you're like... what the hell?  And then it seems like it's going to really get going.  Then it... kind of gets going.  But not yet.  Not really.  Just wait for it.  All I can say is keep reading.  Keep reading.  No really.  KEEP READING.

The story *really* gets going after you get through a preliminary sequence that, yes, is actually very important to the story, though not nearly as enjoyable (IMHO) as the rest.  I will say again, reading the first bit is entirely worth it.  Also, as I write this, I realize that it sounds like I am saying the first bit is bad, and that is not the case.  The whole thing is well written.  The characters are unique from the get-go.  It's just that the beginning honestly does not do justice to the body of this work.

So... what rocked:
  • The characters!  These characters really stick in your head.  They're so *real*.  They are believable, and loveable, and understandable.  They're your new BFFs.  You will root for them, and cry for them, and shriek in fear as horrible things come at them.  Oh.  And you will laugh, even though the whole world has gone to hell.
  • The dialogue:  I know.  It kind of comes back to the characters.  But the dialogue is great.  No awkward conversations.  The dialogue reads really well and ties together the whole massive adventure with thoughtfulness and laughter.
  • The wisdom:  I don't see this in a lot of books.  I mean, a lot of books *try* to be wise, but just come off as contrived.  And no, this book is not *trying* to be wise, as far as I can tell.  There were just a few little profound statements here and there that really made me stop and think.  Things that I really connected with.  These came through moments where the characters were reflecting or talking.  I don't think an author can make this stuff up-- it comes from bringing something *real* to your books, and again, in my humble opinion, that's a gift that not many authors have.  This was probably what turned this book from "like" to "love" for me.  It had some real depth.
  • Kick-ass pacing:  Once we got past the beginning, the pacing was killer.  I was tired trying to keep up.  I was like... "Wait, guys, can we stop and take a break for a minute?"  But I didn't want to stop.  Not really.
  • The dog.  OMG, I love the dog.  And while it might have something to do with the fact that he is sooooooo much like my dog (aside from the glowing part), he is just beyond awesome.  Read it for the dog, if nothing else.
So yeah, this is one of the best books I've read lately.  I can't wait to read the next one, and can't believe I have not done that yet!

Connect with David Estes

Monday, 24 November 2014

A Rocking Interview with Merry Farmer

Today we have Merry Farmer, author of Historical Romance and Women's Sci-Fi novels, sharing her experience with us.
Find more about this prolific writer on her website, Facebook, Amazon, Goodreads, Twitter, or sign up for her newsletter to be up to date with news about her.
What made you decide to go Indie and self-publish?
I’ve been writing since I was ten years old, and through the years I’d toyed with the idea of publishing. I even started sending one manuscript out on submission to agents the old fashioned way about ten years ago. But the whole process left me cold. Then I discovered Indie publishing, and I knew in an instant it was exactly the publishing method for me. I am a self-starter who likes to set my own schedule and write the things that I want to write. I love the freedom Indie publishing gives me to construct my books the way I want to see them constructed. I also love the fact that as an Indie author, I own my work and no one else has rights to it.
What do you think is the biggest challenge an Indie author faces?
Fortunately, I think the challenge that existed when I was first starting out—to be taken seriously as a writer—is long gone. The problem all writers have these days is being discovered by readers. It’s particularly hard for Indie authors just starting out because often being discovered means paying for promotions that reach readers. There are a lot of resources to be discovered though, from working with your fellow writers to approaching bloggers about being featured to hiring a publicist full-time or for specific campaigns. But any Indie author just starting out needs to take a deep breath and accept that once you’ve clicked “publish,” then the real work begins! And it is a lot of hard work. Rewarding, but hard.
What are you working on right now?
Well, today is release day for my latest, Trail of Hope! I'm currently working on the next book in the Hot on the Trail series, Trail of Longing, which is coming out on January 5th.

What advice can you share with other Indie and aspiring Indie authors?
Never let anyone tell you that you can’t do it.

Why do you write in the genre that you do?
I write historical romance because I absolutely love and adore history. No, seriously! I’m a total history nerd, with not one, but two degrees in History. More importantly, through all my study of history, I’ve learned that people who lived decades or even centuries before us really weren’t that different than we are now. They got stressed out, they fell in love, they had disappointments and crushes and trouble with their parents. In my historical romance, I try to bring out all of the similarities between modern life and the lives people lived in the past. I sort of fell into writing western historicals accidentally, though. I always thought I would write Victorian novels set in London. But the West called to me, and I answered!
Do you write every day, 5 days a week or as and when?
I write every day. EVERY day. I feel like you have to do at least some writing every day to keep the juices flowing. I am pretty disciplined about how I write too. Monday through Friday, I get up at 5:30am and write for about an hour before getting ready for work. When I get home from work, after supper, I write for another hour and a half or so. And don’t tell my boss, but when things are slow at the day job, I do a lot of plotting and outlining. On the weekends, I work for an hour or two when I get up and in bits and pieces throughout the day when I can. The funny thing is, as disciplined as I am about writing, I max out on creativity after about an hour, an hour and a half, and need to take a break so I come back fresh.
Do you work to an outline or plot, or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you?
I used to be a big-time pantser and just write where the story wanted to take me. But then I got serious about publishing on a schedule, and I realized that I had to impost at least a little structure. I switched from pure pantsing to plotting out a few major points that I knew I needed to reach in each story, but pantsing in between. I guess I was a plantser then. But this past summer, I had a sort of revelation about my writing process. I started using an extensive outlining plan put together by my fellow writer Patti Larsen. Her method works really, really well for me. Now I outline each book in detail before writing. The difference is that now I can finish a first draft in under three weeks! And since that means I can publish faster, who knows where it will take me in the end.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

A Rockin' Review of The Enemy's Table by Charlotte Woollard

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Charlotte Woollard's The Enemy's Table is a solid debut novel.  I'm not sure if this is actually a genre, but I'd call it Christian paranormal romance.  At any rate, in The Enemy's Table, both angels and demons are real and at work in a small town where teens are mysteriously committing suicide in droves.  While the deaths do appear to be self-inflicted, it's clear that something fishy is going on.  Our main character, Beryl, a southern beauty with a faulty heart but a strong spirit, finds herself targeted at the middle of this conspiracy that is apparently linked to a group of high school wrestlers-- including her new bad-boy love interest, Holden.

Feeling-wise, I'd call this book a Christian Twilight.  No, there's no vampires, but the small-town high school romance, paranormal aspects, and teen drama have a similar feel.  I was worried that it might get preachy, but while it was clearly message-driven, I did not feel that it ever interfered with the story.  Ultimately, I think I enjoyed this book as much as I enjoyed reading Twilight, and it would be a great choice for a teen looking for a belief-centered story.

What I liked best:  Beryl was definitely a charmer, and I really enjoyed her falling head-over-heels for Holden, this bad boy that everyone warned her about.  I also loved that she made her own decisions about him, which weren't based on what other people told her to think.

Though I felt the pacing was a touch slow in the middle, I think this was a well-written debut novel that shows Charlotte Woollard has a lot of promise.  The ending packed plenty of punch and excitement, as well as some great emotional pull that was truly touching.  I was rooting for Beryl and Holden all the way, and was really satisfied with the way it all turned out.

Connect with Charlotte Woollard





Saturday, 22 November 2014

A Rockin' Review of Gailene's Vow by Stuart Land

Purchase on Amazon

Stuart Land has written a fun, sexy, exciting vampire adventure that is sure to please.  The story in this book weaves between the lives of two women-- Gailene, who lived in the past, and Zondra, who lives in the present.  Both of these women portray strong, distinctive characters, but each are full of their own complexities and driven by their histories as well as the events around them.  I loved that this was not another of those entirely predictable vampire stories, but was its own thing.

Normally, stories that jump between viewpoints are a little annoying to me, but Stuart wrote this one so well that it didn't bother me at all.  As a matter of fact, I really enjoyed the contrast between old-world, society-hopping Gailene and new-world, motorcycle-riding Zondra.  I also loved the interplay between the two perspectives, and how all the pieces of the puzzle gradually came together.

Another treat in this book was the complexities of the characters.  Even the minor characters were done really well.  I particularly enjoyed the relationship between Zondra and Calverton, the (kind-of) butler.  I also really liked how Gailene had so many faults and yet I felt for everything she was going through.  She was truly well-rounded and real.

All in all, a really fun book!  I'm glad I read it and am sure I'll be checking out more of Stuart's work in the future.

Connect with Stuart Land:





A HUGE Holiday Giveaway with #IndieBooksBeSeen

Enter for your chance to win one of these fabulous Indie Book Titles.

Plus by subscribing to the newsletter you will be kept up to date with news, events, giveaways, new releases, cover reveals and much, much more.  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Current list of authors and books:

DB Nielsen - SEED: Keepers of Genesis I
Mark Shaw - The Keeper of the Wind
J.C. Brennan - A Fine Line
Kylie Kaemke - Heavy Hearts
Robert A Palmer - Relyk
C.L. Schneider - The Crown of Stones
K.S. Marsden - The Shadow Rises
L.A. Starkey - Deceived
K.K. Allen - The Summer Solstice: Enchanted
LISA - The Elemental
Kevin Moore - The Golden Merra volume 1
Wanda Smith - Summer Winds
Jacci Turner - Bending Willow
Renee N. Meland – The Extraction List
Heather Day Gilbert - Miranda Warning
Jonathan M.Dixit - BabyWorld
Christina L.Rozelle - The Treemakers
Taylor Ann Bunker - Witch In The Woods
Donald Wilson II - Cross Roads
Rose Montague - Jade
Colleen Gareau - Sam(uel) and My Mother's Summer Vacations
Mika Jolie - The Scale (Martha's Way Series)
C.K. Dawn - Cloak of Shadows
Wesley Morrison - Let No False Angels
D.M. Cain - A Chronicle of Chaos
Suzanne McKenna Link - Saving Toby
Ash Krafton - Bleeding Hearts
Peggy M. McAloon - Elle Burton and the Secret Portals
Ksenia Anske - Irkadura
Dylan J. Morgan - The Dead Lands
Kristen Mott - Odie the Stray Kitten
A.S. Washington & De'Quan Foster's - The Twelve
Adam Dreece - The Yellow Hoods: Along Came a Wolf (Book 1)
Lori Crane - Oaktibbee Creek
Lori Lesko - Copyright
Johanna Harness - Spillworthy
J.S. Snow - Redemption
Mikey Campling - Trespass The Darkeningstone
M.J. Fahy - The Magpie King
Neil Winnington - Religious Pursuit
C.J. Morrow - The Finder
Danielle Prophet - The Opposite Of Gravity
Robin MartinDuttmann - Zoo to the Moon
Rochelle Campbell - Fury From Hell
Christina McMullen - Going Green
Paul David Chambers - Manners Cost Everything
Clara Grace Walker - Gratification, Gossip and Redemption
W.M. Calloway - The Xenton Chronicles
Christy Heron - Unrequited
Josephine O'Brien - Shared Skies
Mark Victor Young - Once Were Friends
Patrena Miller - She's Not Worthy and The Road
M.E. Walker - The Finding
HJ Lawson - War Kids
Elizabeth Guizzetti - Other Systems
Jo Bissell - Beyond the Reach of Judgement
Suzette Brown - Alzheimer's Through My Mothers Eyes
Kirby Howell - Autumn In The City Of Angels
Michelle A.Picarella - Livian
Jessica Keller - Saving Yesterday
Elena Sandovici - Dogs With Bagels
K. M. Herkes - Controlled Descent
A.T. Russell - Sacred Puppies
David P Perlmutter - Wrong Place Wrong Time
Jennifer Gibson - Sway, Compass and Destiny
Kory M. Shrum - Dying for a Living and Dying by the Hour

Friday, 14 November 2014

Fighting Writers Block

Now, I don't know about the rest of the writers out there, but there are days when the words simply won't come.

Or in my current case, weeks, possibly even months.

I couldn't tell you exactly when it started. When I suddenly began to find it hard to get the words that were in my head down on paper.

But for some reason the flow has stopped.

Instead of my typing skills barely being able to keep up with my brain, I find myself staring at a blank screen for hours on end. Looking at the little blinking cursor.

And if I do manage to write, I end up deleting most of it in a fit of frustration. Even blogs. I can't tell you how many times I wrote and deleted this post.

I'm afraid that for once, I don't have any advice. Instead I'm asking for it. What do any of you do when the writers block simply won't shift? What are your tricks and ideas for getting rid of writers block?

I'd love to hear them!

On a separate note, huge congratulations to my fellow Rock the Book Chick, Kate on the release of her second book, Evolution. If you haven't read the 'E' series yet, get yourselves on Amazon and buy a copy. E was my favourite book of the year by far, and Evolution comes in a very close second.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Announcing the release of Evolution by Kate Wrath

Evolution, the second book in the E series, is now available! Get Evolution and E for only 99¢ each during release week, November 12th-19th, 2014.

cover of Evolution by Kate Wrath

Outpost Three is still standing… barely. But the deadliest threat it has ever faced is on its way-- a violent force that will annihilate every man, woman, and child.

With the Sentries under his control and Grey’s army defeated, Matt is more powerful than ever. Eden is little more than his prisoner, but that line is blurring as her affection for him grows. Now, as the Outpost faces total destruction, Matt must sacrifice the possibility of attaining Eden’s love in the vague hope that her past might hold the key to saving them all.

Eden’s journey will begin to unravel the mysteries of her previous life, reveal dangerous new questions, and change not only the future of Outpost Three, but shape the course of history.

This eagerly anticipated sequel to Kate Wrath’s E begins an epic quest into the dark, dystopian landscape of Eden’s world.

Add to GoodreadsBuy E $0.99Buy Evolution $0.99
Get both books in the E series, E and Evolution, for 99¢ each on Kindle for a limited time only: November 12th- 19th, 2014.

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Connect with Kate:
Kate Wrath's WebsiteTwitterGoodreadsFacebook

Join Kate for the Evolution Release Day Facebook Party:

You're invited! Come hang out November 12th from 8-12 pm Eastern and celebrate the release of Evolution. Woohoo!

An excerpt from Evolution:

We run down the narrow alley and take the first turn, then another. We keep running, moving. I don't even notice my surroundings until, at last, we slow to a stop. The smell hits me first—the stench of piss, of something rotten, all condensed into a small space. Breathing hard, we stand in the street and look around us. We're in a main thoroughfare now, judging from the traffic, but it’s still narrow. I feel squashed, smothered. On all sides, a crowd throngs around us. Most of them are dressed in rags. Hollow faces huddle three or four bodies deep against both edges of the road, dirty, hopeless, and lost. Many of them are children.

I'm scanning their faces frantically before I even realize what I'm doing. "Oscar," I hear myself whisper. It hits me, and I break off before I can call out his name. Before I can start running again, sifting through the masses of them.

Apollon's hand clamps onto mine, but he says nothing. He and Jonas are focused on Jacob, who is shaking violently. Tears are pouring from widened eyes down his face. I want to help him, but all I can do is stand here trying not to break down, myself.

"We need to find somewhere to regroup," Jonas says quietly. "Get out of this mess."
I cast around for somewhere to go, but as far as I can see, it's piles upon piles. People, and people, and buildings looming over them. There's no breathing room. No space. I have to force my breath to steadiness. It's too much.
There is a commotion on the street ahead, maybe a block away. The ragged masses push away from the center, squashing and trampling each other in the process. We're caught in a wave of motion and carried backward, but still we try to look. Where the commotion started, there's a group of figures, similarly dressed in black with blue bandanas. They're moving down the street toward us.

The wave of people suddenly backlashes from the other direction, and we're pushed the opposite way from before. We manage to finally see why. On our opposite side, there's another group of people. These are dressed primarily in white. One of them, clearly a leader, wears a purple doo rag and carries what might be the biggest gun I've ever seen. He raises it toward us.

Monday, 10 November 2014

A Rocking Interview with Bronwyn Elsmore

Today, Bronwyn Elsmore is sharing her experience as an Indie author. Find out more about Bronwyn on her website, blog, GoodreadsFacebook, Twitter, or check out her books on Amazon.

What do you think is the biggest challenge an Indie author faces?
Doing one’s own marketing. It takes a huge amount of time and is certainly not for the faint-hearted. I find it a lot harder than writing the book.

What are you working on right now?
Another novel. I’ve had some lovely reviews for the one before it – that’s my novel Every Five Minutes – and I’ll be really pleased if the next one appeals as much to readers.

They’re different, though both are set in New Zealand and have a woman as the central character.

Every Five Minutes is written with a unique format. It follows a woman, Gina, over a day of her life, through her thoughts every five minutes of each hour. Through these snippets she gradually reveals her life to this point. I’ve been so thrilled with the reaction of many readers. I’ve received private letters from several who have told me how they’ve identified with Gina, and how much the book meant to them. To touch people in such a way is really why writers love to write.

What advice can you share with other Indie and aspiring Indie authors?
To have your book rise above many indie publications, have it proof-read and edited professionally.

What genre do you write in?
I’ve been a professional writer all my adult life, so my writing has covered a wide range of forms. My books include the genres: children’s, fiction; non-fiction; history, academic. These days I am keeping to fiction – novels, though there will be a collection of short stories coming up sometime.

How much research do you do when you write?
A lot. Research is always necessary. I’ve done years of research in the past to inform my non-fiction my works, but it is essential even for fiction. There are readers who know all about the background to your story, whatever it is about, and will pick up on any mistakes. Research used to be very difficult involving much time and travel. Thanks to the internet we have much more at our fingertips, but you still need a good basis of knowledge to use it – there are many traps for the unwary!

Do you work to an outline or plot, or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you?
For fiction, a mixture of both. I start out with a plan of where it is going, but as it progresses my characters tend to take over. Good characters that an author has taken the trouble to know well before they start writing, will do this and should be trusted to write their stories, with some authorial guidance, of course.

Is there anything else you would like to add that you haven’t included?
Thank you very much for the invitation to be featured on your site.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Why do we do it?

A week ago today I published my third book.

You'd think it would get easier with every book, less doubt, more confidence.

I'll tell you this - I was as terrified about a terrible response to the third book as I was about the first. Possibly more.

In fact, I spent the three or four days before Blood Calling came out, asking my Other Half if I was doing the right thing. After all, I kept telling him, it's not like other books are flying off the shelves. Why do I keep putting myself through it all, for so little reward?

Well, two things happened over the course of the following week that answered my question for me.

The first was a couple of brilliant reviews of my first book, The Last Knight. Reviews from readers who had really connected with the book, and loved it.

The second was that I got stuck into writing something that will probably never see the light of day - but I loved writing it none the less.

The point is, these two things reminded me of why I write. And it's not for sales.

The two reviews were from free copies I had provided. I didn't make a dime. But it doesn't matter because I always wrote not for the money, but because I love telling a story that can entertain people. Even if the only person it entertains is me.

I knew when I got into indie publishing that it wasn't about the money. I was never going to make a fortune. It was about getting my books out there, finding people to read my stories (other than just my mother and my Other Half). It was about touching one or two, or if possible, a thousand readers.

But it was never about the money.

Sometimes with the promoting and advertising, and desperately trying to get heard, I think I forget about that. The obsessive (sometimes) checking of the sales graph, the constant research into how I can get my book to a wider audience. That becomes the only focus.

It's good sometimes to remember that I write because I love to write. And those sales? They're just a bonus.

What about everyone else? Do you ever lose track of why you're doing this? What things remind you why you write?

Have a good weekend everyone!

Thursday, 6 November 2014

A Rocking Review of Billy and the Cloneasaurus by Stephen Kozeniewski


5 out of 5 Guitars! (or stars!)

Let me start by saying don't be fooled by the title. It sounds a little silly and I think it might put some people off, but I will say that this has to be one of the best books I've read in a while.

So, here's the deal, if you love 1984 (like I do!) you will enjoy this book. The influence of George Orwell's classic is all over this book - but in a good way. And judging from the references I would guess that Kozeniewski is a fan too.

Right from the opening page this book had me hooked and intrigued. I honestly couldn't put it down. The concept is simple enough - what if the world was populated by clones? What if you were a carbon copy and individuality was an alien concept? And what if one day you suddenly realised that you could be different - you could stand out?

Now, I will just say that as a big fan of 1984 I could see a lot of similarities, but it worked in the books favour rather than against it.

The downside is, I can't say too much about the plot here without giving too much away.

But honestly, I can't recommend this book enough. It might not be everyone's cup of tea - but if you enjoy 1984, Fahrenheit 451 and similar books, and you like a little humour mixed in with your sci-fi, pick up this book.

A great read!


Wednesday, 5 November 2014

A Rockin' Review of Choosing the Right Way in Any Decision: compounding the right decisions that will transform your life Tiffany Hurd

Choosing the Right Way in Any Decision by Tiffany Hurd was surprising and refreshing.  I expected the typical experience of wading through pages and pages of regurgitated self-help advice.  This book, however, was short, sweet, and directly to the point, distilling the information into a potent nineteen pages.  There was nothing to wade through, nothing to put me to sleep-- just the meat of the subject made simple and clear.

I enjoyed reading this book and found it to be relevant and fresh.  Hurd's approach to the subject is broad enough that her advice can apply to anyone, but specific enough to be useful.  Within this book you will find advice about making decisions, managing your time, and attaining personal growth.  The ultimate goal is to grow into the successful person that you would like to be.

Check out Lightknocks, a website where Tiffany Hurd and Jerome Jackson blog about personal development, positivity, and growth.  They also showcase artists from creative industries such as music, film, and writing.

Tiffany ‘Tito’ Hurd is a video producer from Lynchburg, Virginia. She graduated from Liberty University in 2011 with a B.S. degree in Communications. She now owns and operates a freelance business, Dazed Ent., and spends her extra time in personal development. Her heart is to inspire others, provide in any way, and lead a revolution with her generation. “Are you ready to be apart of something revolutionary?”

Monday, 3 November 2014

8 Ways to Grab Your Reader's Heart with Emotional Scenes

Read Part I of Sasha Leigh's article on how to grab your reader's heart.
Think of Kuber-Ross’s Five Stages of Grief when you are writing an emotional scene: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. If you are aware of these, you can more accurately predict how a character will respond so that it is believable, and not just what you want them to do. Here are a few exercises to attempt when you are having trouble getting those emotions out, or just like to practice in between projects:

1. Draw from your own memories. Write down situations you have been in using brainstorming, snowflake method, or even just making little pieces of paper which you later pick from a hat. One at a time, pick a situation and write about it. You can:
  •   Freewrite -Write everything you know, from start to finish of the memory, without pause or edits;
  •   Jot Notes - Make a bulleted list of the emotions the situations you have been in made you feel;
  •   Again, brainstorm with words about those emotions; 
  • and
  •   Use the Stages of Grief (the five above or what some believe to be Seven Stages of Grief) as an outline and identify what you felt during each event comprising an emotional memory.

2. Watch TV. Discover which situations will provoke more emotion, what age group overreacts more than another (usually teenagers), and how they get over what they have been thrust into by the writers.

3. As a writer, this is one of your most important resources, but I put it as the third tool because the old, "Write what you know" cliché does have its place, and is important when you are attempting to write a scene powerful enough that your reader can't pull their nose out of it. Also, you can write while watching TV, so there's that. But we all have our favorite scenes in our favorite novels that we can't help but go back to, so do it again. Read it over and over until you can say with certainty what it is about the passage that has gotten you so hooked, and then try to incorporate the qualities that you admire (without copying).

4. Now that you know the level of reaction, and which situations will be more likely to provoke a more intense outcome, figure out the dialogue. Do they moan and cry? Slur? Stutter? Or is the character so traumatized, they shut down, and a group so shocked, they are silent? A really great example of this, especially for YA, is The Vampire Diaries. Though it's not my favorite show, it does have some of the most believable dialogue when compared to the reactions/dialogue of actual teens.
5. Set a mood and stick to it. I've read some scenes where the emotion is on full-throttle, but the effect was broken by bouts of humor in between the protagonist declaring it's the end of the world and wishing they could be at the mall instead (needless to say, I didn't finish that book). Dry humor is sometimes okay within emotional scenes, if it fits with the character's voice, but don't overdo it or you'll lose the effect.

6. Remember your audience. If you are writing for children, you're going to fluff it up i.e. "Oh, Tommy was so sad . . ." But if you are writing for MG/YA/NA, your content can become more graphic with each age category. MG might get hit in the nose from a bully, and then go tell a teacher. YA might use a few swears in the same situation, plus a return swing, while NA could turn into a full-fledged bar brawl that, because they are now "in the real world", ends with having a sleepover with the police. Now escalate to an adult novel (Rated-R for violence, nudity, mature language and/or subject matter), and you'll have to read the book between the cracks of your fingers as you cover your eyes and blush.

7. Surprise your reader (or character) and write what would be least expected to happened in a given situation. Abnormal situations with high emotion will provoke people to do things that they would not do otherwise. Use this as a tool to make your story more interesting.
8. As I mentioned above, most speech and action is stilted and short in an emotional scene; however, too much of this will drop your reader's interest, so mix it up every few paragraphs with a thought or two from the character. A gesture, short description, revelation, or a really good, incoherent ramble, could be used, as well, if implemented in SHORT DOSES.

As always, this list is not exhaustive for this topic. It is based on my own experiences as a writer, as well as what I have read from authors I admire. All writing takes practice, so work on it, and sooner or later you will find what works for you. However, if you are ever stuck, try one of the above. Before committing an emotional scene for publication, make yourself aware of the "triggers" people may encounter when reading about certain subjects. While much of this is over-done, there are subjects that can trigger episodes, and for your readers' sake—and your reputation—make sure to put a warning on your written works, which can easily be worked into the blurb or copyright page.

Do you know of any other ways to provoke emotions in your writing? Acting out a scene with a friend? Improvisation? Obviously, I write, so those aren't big on my list, but it would be interesting if they worked.

By Sasha Leigh
Sasha Leigh is a self-diagnosed dreamer. When she isn't stuck in worlds of her own making, listening to characters squabble for attention in her head, she's immersed in stories created by others. A lover of all things "weird", Sasha's world is considered complete when she has her daughter at her side, her sketchpad, notebook, and something to write with - even if it's just a piece of chalk. Working by day in the insurance industry, she spends her evenings and weekends devouring or writing new tales of magic, mythology, and all things supernatural (except dragons).

To find out more about Sasha, check out her interview.