Rachel Thompson

Jack Canon's American Destiny

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

10 Things You Don’t Know About Harriet Hodgson

10 Things You Don’t Know About Nonfiction Author Harriet Hodgson

  1. I’ve been a freelance writer for 35+ years.  My career began when I was teaching at a private nursery school and I wrote a book about making toys and games from trash. At the time, I also submitted articles to teaching journals, and they were all published. “This is fun,” I said to myself, “and I get to see my name in print.” A new career was born.
  2. I am the author of 32 published books. My first sale was to Warner Books. Titled “I Made it Myself!” the book had a second printing and sold well. After this success, I wrote three more books for teachers about making toys, games, and contraptions from safe throw-aways.
  3. I have 32 published books to my credit. Though some of my books are long and some are short, I count every one. Non-writers may not realize that writing “short” is harder than writing “long” and takes more time. For me, writing short is like writing poetry.
  4. I had a poem published in the American Anthology of Poetry. It is called “First Steps, First Snow” and based on a night walk in the North woods of Wisconsin. Even if I’m the author, I can say I love this poem so much I asked a calligrapher to letter it for me. The framed poem hangs in the front entry of the house. I also wrote a book of poetry for young children.
  5. I am a bereaved parent. In 2007 my elder daughter died from the injuries she received in a car crash. Two days later, my father-in-law succumbed to pneumonia. Eight weeks after that my brother, and only sibling, had a heart attack and died. In the fall, my grandchildren’s father died in another car crash. My husband and I were appointed as their legal guardians.
  6. I changed my writing because of grief. Before the deaths I was writing about aging, Alzheimer’s, and other health topics. A week after my daughter and father-in-law died, I sat down at the computer and vowed to write my way through grief. Six grief resources came from this decision and you can learn more about them by visiting www.harriethodgson.com.
  7. I speak at national conferences. Recent speaking engagements include the Association for Death Education and Counseling conference, and The Compassionate Friends national conference. In addition, I serve as a volunteer Forum Editor/Writer for www.opentohope.com, an Internet community for those who are grieving.
  8. I’ve been married to my husband for almost 56 years. We met in college and married when we were both 21 years old. My husband is a retired physician, an internist and specialist in aviation medicine. He continues to fascinate me and I love him more every day.
  9. I love to cook. Unfortunately, when it comes to cooking I am my best customer, and have to monitor my eating. Baking really makes me happy because it makes the house smell so good. Earlier in my writing career I was a food writer for a local magazine.
  10. Other than family, writing is my passion. I write every day. My writing projects include Internet articles, brochure writing, article writing, and working on books. When I’m writing I become so absorbed in the task I lose all track of time.

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Genre – Health / Wellness

Rating – G

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Website http://harriethodgson.com/

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Corr Syl the Warrior by Garry Rogers

When an armed Danog patrol crosses the border into Wycliff District, the Wycliff Council sends a young Tsaeb warrior named Corr Syl to investigate and recommend a response. Corr soon learns that spies have infiltrated his district, and already many lives are at risk. He catches a glimpse of something truly evil, and with no time to spare, must choose between a safe response that might fail, and a sure response that might start a global war.

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Genre - Science Fiction

Rating – PG

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Website http://garryrogers.com/

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Orange Karen: Tribute to a Warrior by Multiple Authors

Change Finds You

by Cara Michaels

“The date of record is October thirtieth, two-thousand-twelve. This is Special Agent Everett Benjamin.”

The voice drew my attention from the digital voice recorder resting on the table. The red recording light assured everyone observing that my words would be captured for all time, with “all time” defined as “until the Gemini Group buried the story”. At best, anything I said today would end up in a heavily redacted report buried in some government archive. Hadn’t stopped me from trying to get the word out, though. No, the FBI could take credit there. Getting nabbed at a convenience store just proved I’d never been intended for the undercover life. I’d only lasted two months on the official run.

“For the record, please state your name.” The special agent sitting across from me held an air of comfortable superiority. As homegrown investigative organizations rated, he still believed his FBI sat at the top of the food chain.

How sweet.

“Dr. Savannah Welborn.”

“Thank you, Doctor.” For a tough FBI guy, he had a nice voice. Kind of deep, kind of mellow.

The pen held between his index and middle fingers drummed an uneven, impatient beat. The air conditioning kicked on, a background hum of recycled air smelling faintly of paper and dust. Like the room needed to be colder. What brainless desk jockey thought hypothermia contributed to productivity? The beds of my fingernails had turned blue some fifteen minutes of waiting ago. My body had already forgotten how it felt to be warm. Inside, outside, and everywhere in between. I ground my teeth to hold in a shiver.

“Not a problem, Agent Benjamin,” I said. I even flashed my gritted teeth as I smiled. Just call me Doctor Cooperative.

His gaze slid over my Celldweller concert tee. Beneath the table, worn blue jeans allowed refrigerated air to sneak in at the torn knees. Like I needed his visual disdain to tell me I was way underdressed for a federal interrogation. They didn’t do anything without a tie or stockings.

At least my feet stayed warm in socks and sneakers.

“Sorry,” I said. “I didn’t get apprehended in my Sunday best. I’ll try harder next time.”

His lips pinched, biting down on whatever he wanted to say and emphasizing his stern features. Add a sense of humor and strip away the premature aging of his job, and I put him in his early thirties, maybe. Salt dashed his black pepper hair, the cut military short.

“You understand why you’re here, yes?” he asked.

“I can play stupid if you’d prefer to explain it for the viewers at home.” I gestured to the large mirror dominating the end of the room on my left.

Benjamin clenched his teeth, let out a slow breath.

“You’ve been charged with obstruction of an ongoing investigation, as well as aiding and abetting the vigilante organization known as the Paladins.”

He made a good show of flipping through a manila folder stuffed with evidence. Of my so-called crimes, no doubt. My actions over the last several years tied me to the Paladins and — if one knew where to look — to the Gemini Group who had unintentionally created them. I’d built the Gemini Group, created the experiments, written the procedures. I’d documented its transition into a monster as the sons and daughters of my trial groups grew and revealed the changes in their genetic codes.

The cells made to save their parents had resulted in unexpected, even terrifying mutations. A woman with Ehler Danlos Syndrome gave birth to a daughter who could dislocate and reshape her bones and body at will. A man with early-onset Alzheimer’s fathered a child with eidetic memory. A treatment for severe hypothermia resulted in a son with extreme cold tolerance, who could manipulate the temperature around him, and even generate ice from the water in the air.

In short, my efforts to cure disease created superhumans.

But Karen Gemini, the reason any of my work had been possible, accused me of using her to play God.

She had it right, maybe. At least in the beginning.

Like a proud parent, I’d been thrilled by these gifted children. But like regular humans, they came in all shades of good, bad, and indifferent. Some made an effort to use their unique abilities to help the world around them. The public had taken to calling them the Paladins, and it suited them. Honorable, fierce, and steadfast in the face of a world turning on them.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Karen Gemini gathered the blackest souls to her bosom, a nightmare brood poised to unleash hell on earth.

The FBI and Agent Benjamin might not yet realize it, but the Paladins stood in the way of gathering darkness. And as the woman whose research had started all of this, I stood to shield the Paladins.

If Benjamin meant to intimidate me, he needed a new strategy.

Go ahead, Agent Benjamin. Take me down. This is so much bigger than you know.

“Dr. Welborn?” Benjamin’s gaze, his eyes an eerie amber-orange, fixed on me.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “Did you want me to deny the allegations? For dramatic effect?”

He turned away, but not before I saw him grimace. Aw, did my attitude hurt his career advancement opportunities? Tough shit.

He needed to toughen up his poker face for this job.

I’d stepped into sharky waters with open eyes. I’d known the risks of siding with the Paladins. Of siding against Gemini.

I smiled.

He rolled his eyes, tension visible along his jaw. “Belligerent charm. Does that work for you often?”

“What do you want from me here, Agent?”

“Names. Aliases. Addresses. We want the Paladin operation.”

I laughed. Not a polite titter, but a snort of disbelief. “Sorry to say, but you’re doomed to disappointment.”

“Doctor—”

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Genre - Short Story Anthology

Rating – PG13 (some strong language)

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Monday, July 29, 2013

Paula Boyd – 6 Practical Tips for Beginning Fiction Writers

6 Practical Tips for Beginning Fiction Writers

by Paula Boyd

Author of the Award-Winning Jolene Jackson Mystery Series, Hot Enough to Kill

When you’re just starting out on your dream of becoming a published author, you can get wrapped up in the technicalities of it all and miss the big picture. Here are a few practical tips to remember that will keep you on track of your goal of writing stories people want to read—books they want to buy.

  1. Forget about being a great writer. The number one thing to remember is that it doesn’t matter if you’re a great writer, what matters is that you’re a great storyteller. Big difference. Learn the rules and the ropes, but don’t hang yourself with them. You can turn readers off just as easily with stiff and stilted perfect prose as with poor grammar and ignorance of punctuation.
  2. Write what you know. I know you’ve heard it, but do you know why it’s so important? It’s easier! It’s also more authentic. I’m not saying you can’t research anything enough to write about it. I’m saying it is far easier to craft a story around a setting, occupation and even character traits that you have lived with. There’s enough to deal with in writing a first novel without adding unnecessary complications, so stack the deck in your favor however you can!
  3. If you don’t read it, don’t try to write it. The prerequisite to this is that if you aren’t a reader, you can’t be an effective writer. Unless you awake one morning with a vision and a script divinely delivered, you’re going to have to know your craft, your audience and their expectations. And, by being well read in your genre, you naturally and intuitively know the language and rhythm and will write accordingly.
  4. If you have to explain it, it doesn’t work. Just because it makes total sense in your head doesn’t mean it does in anyone else’s. If you have people saying they don’t understand—believe them. You can’t be there to explain to every reader what you actually meant, so make sure your words convey what you intend.
  5. Be cautious about critique groups. We all want to share our work, and the support of kindred spirits is essential, however, you have to find the right fit. A critique group can be a lifeline and leapfrog you forward in improving your craft and getting published. It can also kill your personal voice and your creativity and set you back years in being able to write a publishable book. It is a fine line to walk between getting the feedback you need to improve your work and writing to please a particular or person or group who aren’t any farther along than you are.
  6. Just because you can publish it doesn’t mean you should. These days, anyone can instantly and overnight become a “published author.” It is a fabulous time to be a writer! Unfortunately, most of what gets published isn’t ready for prime time—no matter how many times your friends said it was. If you want to be a professional writer and author, hire a skilled book editor with expertise in your genre (no, your friend the English teacher can’t do it). Once it’s been published—errors and all—you can’t take it back and the reviews will haunt you forever.

Ultimately, your job is to create a world that your readers lose themselves in. You want to make them forget they’re reading and keep turning pages to find out what happens next. So, learn your craft, find your voice and tell a great story!

* * * * *

Paula Boyd is the author of the award-winning Jolene Jackson Mystery Series. To register for chance to be a character in her next book, visit www.PaulaBoyd.com

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Genre – Mystery & Thriller / Women Sleuth

Rating – PG13

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Website http://paulaboyd.com/

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Author Interview – JD Combs

How many friends does a person need? You know, it’s funny.  A writer friend, Julie Farley, and I were just talking about the perception most people have about writers.  We both came to the conclusion that most people assume writers are solitary people who prefer their own company.  Julie and I feel that we are not the same as other writer’s.  Both of us need the company and companionship of friends to help keep us motivated and moving forward.

The last book I read was Finding Emma.

My favorite color is green.  It coordinates with my favorite place in the world.  Ireland.

Have you ever had writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it? Writer’s block.  Every writer’s worst nightmare.  When it happens to me I find a writing prompt and write through it.

How did you come up with the title? I came up with the title to my book as I listened to the soundtrack to The Phantom of The OperaThe Point of No Return epitomized the journey of my main character, Charley, and the choice she had to make.

How important do you think villains are in a story? Villains are as vital to a story as they are to life itself.  They are the ying to the yang.  You can’t have a hero or heroine without a villain of some sort.  Just like in life.

Charley, a devoted wife and mother of five, has a life that looks picture perfect to those around her. But years of living life in a neglected marriage make her question her relationship with her husband. Charley spends sleepless nights writing in her journal and trying to find happiness in the life she has. She’s not sure she can continue living a dull, loveless life anymore.
When an old high school crush strikes up a conversation on the Internet, an innocent flirtation begins. Charley begins to, once again, feel alive and vibrant, but she quickly learns not everything is what it seems. Will her naivetĂ© in the online world propel her toward the point of no return? Will the woman who seemed to have it all lose it in the blink of an eye? Or will Charley finally find the happiness she’s been craving?

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Genre –  Romantic Suspense

Rating – R (adult language / sexual scenes)

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Website http://www.jdcombs.com/

Paula Renaye – Looks Count

Looks Count—Why Book Covers Are So Important and 5 Tips for Creating Your Own

by Paula Renaye

Author of Living the Life You Love: The No-Nonsense Guide to Total Transformation

There’s just no way around it, people do judge a book by its cover. Whether it is an eBook image online or a hardback jacket on the shelf in your neighborhood store, looks matter.

Most writers don’t know what elements are required for a great book cover—nor would they know what to do with them if they did. I certainly didn’t, which is why I hired a pro to do the cover of Living the Life You Love. I was solid on my content, but I had no clue what would appeal to buyers on the outside, including the title. So, I hired a pro to guide me. Here’s what he has to say:

“Well-designed book covers are crucial. I have found in many years of calling on senior buyers at chain stores, wholesalers, and independent bookstores, not to mention international publishers that we deal with for foreign rights sales, that if the cover isn’t professionally designed, there’s little chance of selling the book. People who say, ‘You can’t judge a book by its cover,’ have never met with top buyers in the industry. It often ends the conversation when the cover isn’t excellent. On more than one occasion, I was able to salvage a book getting picked up by Barnes & Noble by having the original cover redesigned. The Barnes & Noble corporate buyer liked the content of the book, but the original cover (which, in their words, looked ‘self-published’) would have been a deal breaker. ” –Nigel J. Yorwerth, President of Yorwerth Associates (www.PublishingCoaches.com)

An amateurish cover tells the world that you’re not a pro and that what’s inside probably isn’t ready for prime time either. And remember, once you push that “publish” button, you can’t take it back. Yes, you can unpublish it, but it will always be “out there” to be found—and judged.

Also, remember that “graphic designer” does not automatically mean book cover designer. The best option is to hire someone specifically skilled and experienced in designing books. However, if you absolutely can’t afford to do that and must take charge of your cover creation, here are some tips:

  1. Stalk the Competition. Study successful books in your genre and use them as a guide for creating your own cover.
  2. Shoot Straight. A book cover must accurately reflect the tone and emotion of the book (e.g. don’t put a dark foreboding image on a light funny book). If your book is scary, the cover should reflect that.
  3. Can the Cheese. Forget the cutesy fonts—don’t even think about using Comic Sans, Chiller or the like. Ditto the standard issue Times, Arial, etc. Try matching the font used on a successful book.
  4. KISS it. Keeping it simple is key. A clean cover with an intriguing image and properly placed title can be more effective than trying to do a Da Vinci hidden meaning thing.
  5. Ask the Pros. It doesn’t matter if your mom and best friend like it. Ask as many industry pros—local bookstores and online sources—as you can for feedback. And remember, this isn’t about convincing people your baby isn’t ugly. It’s about creating an effective product, so listen objectively.

Of course, if you are a household name or have 100,000 people on your mailing list, you can ignore everything and do whatever you want. If you don’t, you have to play you’re A game. That won’t automatically guarantee success, but it certainly won’t hinder it, and at the very least you will have a product that you will be proud of for years to come.

* * * * *

Paula Renaye is a life and relationship coach, speaker and eight-time award-winning author. Her award-winning self-help book, Living the Life You Love: The No-Nonsense Guide to Total Transformation was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best of 2012 and won the Independent Publisher IPPY Gold Medal for Self Help. The book is available worldwide in English, Spanish and Chinese. Writing as Paula Boyd, she is also the award-winning author of the Jolene Jackson Mystery Series. www.paulaboyd.com For more information, visit www.paularenaye.com

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Genre – Personal Development / Self-Help / Motivational

Rating –G

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The Darkest Lie by Angela Day

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CHAPTER 3

             "I bet he escaped from the psych ward," Remi mused, fascinated by Thane's story. "He sounds like one of those savants, people who can do one thing better than anyone else on the planet but lack in their connection to reality." 

              They were at his locker in the school hallway during lunch, two days after Thane's mad dash to catch the bus and lightning strike. Remi had been glad to see him and drawn out everything that had happened since he left school on Monday, and he'd just finished telling her about Brennan Tayler. "Here's your backpack, Flash," Remi said, smacking him in the chest with it. Thane gave her a quizzical look, and she colored. "He's a comic book guy. Wears all red, runs so fast he's hard to see."  Thane kept looking at her until she punched his arm. "Cool people like comic books."

              "Sure," Thane said, smiling a little. It felt good to be doing something normal after the last few days. He stretched the fingers of his right hand, thinking about the hospital and Brennan again. 

              Remi noticed. "Let me see it?" Thane held out his previously injured knuckles for her and she stared at them like a jeweler inspecting a diamond. "There's nothing here. No bruising, no swelling, nothing. Are you sure you even hurt it?"

              "Yeah," Thane answered. "It was broken. He fixed it."

              "I wonder why," Remi mused, reaching out and taking his hand in both of hers.  Thane stiffened, unsure, but Remi was too deep in her thoughts to notice. She rubbed his knuckles with her thumb, trying to feel for any inconsistency. Thane felt his face going red and was about to pull away when something inside his hand moved.

              Remi froze-- she'd felt it too. Their eyes met over his hand. "What is that?" she asked him. He shrugged, pulling his hand out of hers to look at it himself. He pushed his finger down in the space between his second and third knuckles, and felt that same something hard roll away. It was so small he never would have noticed it on his own. He pulled his hand up to his eyes, and Remi stood on tiptoe to get a closer look. They both leaned in, trying to see any evidence of what they were feeling under Thane's skin.

              The bell rang, startling them both. Thane and Remi realized their faces were only inches apart, and sprang back. Snickers around them in the hallway let them know their display had not gone unnoticed.

              "New girlfriend, Thane?" Ben called from a few lockers down. 

              "You could do better, new girl," Jeran said, flexing his muscles. "I could show you a lot more than that weak loser." Thane's face colored, but Jeran walked off laughing with his buddies. Jeran was an entitled prick, the star of the second worst football team in the state. He wasn't smart enough to be the quarterback but as a wide receiver, you only had to get the ball somewhere near him and he would catch it. Tall and muscular, girls flocked around him and grownups loved to talk to him. Thane wanted to punch him hard enough to make it impossible for him to smirk for at least a week.

              "Don't worry about those idiots," Remi started, but Thane spun around and left her behind. From the moment Mr. Hoffman introduced them, Thane had failed at his one cardinal rule. When he was with Remi everybody saw him.

              Thane was one of the first into the room. Ms. Rasmussen didn't look up as he entered, engrossed in some magazine. He managed to slide onto his stool in the back row without exciting note or comment from anyone. He took out his notebook and pretended to read it as the rest of the class arrived in twos and threes. 

              Remi's voice, laughing and chatting, stabbed his ear and he couldn't help glancing up. She was walking in with Jeran, smiling at him and shaking her head so that her dark hair bounced. As they came in, Ms. Rasmussen's attention was diverted by Remi's giggle and she smugly observed them. "Know your way around now, sweetie?" she asked Remi in a satisfied voice. Remi gave her a half smile, but did not respond. Jeran flashed Ms. Rasmussen a grin calculated to charm, then turned to Thane and transformed it into a self-satisfied smirk.

              "Thanks, Jeran," Remi said, and walked back to sit with Thane. Jeran's face darkened as she walked away.

              "I found your girlfriend lost in the hall," Jeran swaggered down the aisle towards him, voice dripping with false sympathy. "I told her you were unstable." Thane was clenching his teeth, jaw taunt, and Jeran bent down in his face. "It's okay, loser. If your dad doesn't wake up, I'll take care of your hot mom, too."

              Music blossomed in Thane's mind as his fist connected with Jeran's jaw. There was a crunch and a sizzle and the smell of burnt flesh as Jeran fell backwards and the second bell rang. Jeran landed on the floor, as surprised by the sucker punch as Thane was. Jeran sprang back up, blood in his mouth and rage in his eyes and oddly, a bright burn on his jaw. He moved at Thane.

              "That is enough, Jeran!" Ms. Rasmussen snapped. Jeran hesitated, and then lunged for Thane. Ms. Rasmussen grabbed Jeran's shoulder and spun him around, her eyes flashing and her breath quick. "Get out of my class." 

              "What?" Jeran was stunned. "But Cressa--"

              "You will call me Ms. Rasmussen. Go to the nurse's office, then the principal's.  Now." Her voice had gotten softer, colder, and somehow so dark that Thane repressed a chill.

              Jeran crumbled. He fled from the room, the door banging as he ran through it. Ms. Rasmussen came to stand in front of Thane and rested the tips of her fingers on his arm. "Aren't you a hero for defending your mother's honor like that!" She was sweet, but her green eyes glowed with something Thane didn't recognize. Greed? Insanity? She tugged at his arm a little, and he stood up. "Why don't you come up here and take Jeran's seat? He won't be needing it."

              Thane obediently gathered his things and went with her to the front. Remi followed him. Ms. Rasmussen seemed delighted. She even clapped her hands to get the attention of the class, which was completely unnecessary as every eye was already on her.  

              "Change of plans today, everyone! We're going to be doing hands-on experiments instead of a quiz." Her announcement brightened the feeling in the room considerably. "Put away your books and keep out your notepads. You'll need to take good notes. Every team will need a Bunsen burner, a holding tray, one five hundred milliliter beaker, one hundred milliliter beaker, safety glasses for each of you, a thermometer, and a pair of tongs. We're going to talk about thermodynamics!" She seemed gleeful, as manic as Thane had ever seen her.  

              Thane got up and gathered the implements since Remi wouldn't know where they were. He felt awful for ditching her in the hall. Carefully holding as many of the implements as he could in his arms, he set them down gently on the table in front of Remi and spread them out. 

              "I stole his playbook," Remi whispered. Thane attached the Bunsen burner to the short tube that rose out of the center of their rectangular table. "I thought we could do some creative play changing."

              A rush of gratitude warmed Thane. Having a friend had perks. Ms. Rasmussen continued to give instructions.  "...and be sure, girls, to keep your hair away from the flames. I'll be around to make sure that the gas lines are connected. Place the holding tray about six inches above the flame and fill the larger beaker with water from the sink..." Remi grabbed the larger beaker and followed the line of students back to the sink. Soon all the students had their beaker of water in place on the holding tray and were turning the burners on, seeing the waving yellow and orange flame tighten into a straight blue and purple one. "Open the air hole to only about half, we don't want it fully on. We're just heating water."

              The lean, tall woman walked around the classroom checking each burner to ensure that the gas lines were attached correctly and the flames were high and hot enough. She came to Thane and Remi, bending to peer closely at their set up. "I think you need to lower your holding tray slightly," she instructed, and Thane made the adjustment. The corner of Ms. Rasmussen's mouth twitched, and then she moved on.

              Her foot slipped, the thin heel shooting into the air, and she flailed her arms. With one hand she grabbed the side of a table, and the other grabbed Thane's left arm, pulling his wrist directly across the open flame.

              "Argh!" Thane grunted, jerking his hand back. There was a shiny red mark along the underside of his wrist as wide as two fingers. He stared at it as his teacher regained her balance and turned to him.

              "Oh, Thane, I'm so sorry," she gushed. "Someone spilled some water on the floor and I slipped! Let me see it," and she jerked his arm towards her. Her green eyes studied the red welt for a slow heartbeat, and she appeared... pleased. But only for a moment. Her face was full of concern and contrition when she looked back at him. "It's not badly burned. Run cold water over it. As for the rest of you," she whirled to face the class, her beautiful features twisted in fierce and dangerous anger, "be more careful. This could have been a serious accident. If you spill any liquid, clean it up immediately. I could've broken my ankle and poor Thane," she looked down at him and her tone quieted, "poor Thane could have lost his hand. Well," she said, her voice returning to normal, "back to work, everyone."

              As the flames burned and the students adjusted their safety glasses, Ms. Rasmussen pulled a box off the shelf behind her desk. It was dusty, and she smiled and held it for a moment. Then she wiped it off and placed it on her desk. "In this box I have several pieces of Field's Metal. Has anyone ever heard of it?" She paused, but no hands went up. "It is a most impressive alloy. It's a non-toxic mixture of bismuth, tin, and indium. There are many alloys that melt at low temperatures, even though the metals they are mixed from require much higher temperatures to melt in their pure form. These low melting point metals are called fusible alloys."

              Several of the students were scribbling furiously, as Ms. Rasmussen was not writing on the board. Instead, her hands were resting on either side of the open box as she was intently watching the beaker and the flame in front of Remi and Thane. Remi was one of the desperate note takers-- Thane couldn't take his eyes away from the chemistry teacher, like a bird staring at a snake. His heart pounded against his chest and his palms felt sweaty. Something was wrong. 

              She reached her hand into the box and drew out what looked to be a silver straw. "Each of you will be given one of these Field's Metal wires. Place your thermometers into the water and the metal wire into your smaller empty beaker. Using the tongs, hold the smaller beaker partially submerged in the boiling water. Record at what temperature, both Fahrenheit and Celsius, the metal begins to melt. I will pass out molds to each team for you to pour your liquid metal into, and you will time how long it takes the metal to re-harden."

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Genre – New Adult Urban Fantasy

Rating – PG

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Website http://awriterbyday.com/

Bill Hiatt – How to Make Your Characters More Believable

 

How to Make Your Characters More Believable

by Bill Hiatt

Greetings, and thanks for hosting me.

Readers often ask writers where their characters came from, and writers often wonder how to make their characters believable. The writers have to be able to answer that question before they can produce anything worthwhile to read, but ironically the readers’ question contains within it the answer to the writers’ question. If a writer’s characters come from somewhere (probably the writer’s own experience), then they will be believable.

Some of you may be snickering at this point if you know that I write fantasy, since some of my characters are obviously not drawn from life. Living with Your Past Selves features a main character who can remember all of his previous lives, an ancient witch, faeries, and numerous shapeshifters, among others. Pretty clearly none of those characters spring directly from my own experience. You might think that writers in genres like science fiction and fantasy inherently can’t write believable characters, but actually in those genres believability is critical. Clearly the writer has to create an imaginary world, but in order for readers to be willing to suspend their disbelief of that world, there has to be some element for them to care about. Yes, that’s right: that element is be the characters. Readers bond with characters because of their personalities, not because of their physical attributes, whether natural or supernatural. If you look at the issue in those terms, you will see that being a vampire, a faerie or an extraterrestrial does not make the character any less believable in the psychological sense than the character’s having red hair would make him or her less believable. Only a psychology that doesn’t seem realistic could do that.

Where do writers get that realistic psychology? By drawing on their own experience and the experiences of those around them. I don’t mean that characters should be thinly disguised versions of the writer or of people the writer knows. The former can make a writer seem too self-absorbed; the latter could in extreme cases lead to litigation. But a writer can merge bits and pieces from various sources to make believable characters. Consider F. Scott Fitzgerald’s in The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald puts a big chunk of himself into Gatsby: his youthful desire to reinvent himself, his distance from his parents, his pursuit of a woman who at first spurns him because of his lack of money, his wild parties. However, Fitzgerald did not become a bootlegger to finance his romance as Gatsby does, and other characters also have pieces of Fitzgerald in them. Tom, for example, has achieved an early dream of Fitzgerald’s—to play college football. One could run through all the major male characters and find some bit of Fitzgerald in them, just as we could look at the female characters and find some bit of Zelda, his wife. If one were to research Fitzgerald, one could probably figure out what other elements have gone into the characters as well.

Ironically enough, making believable characters comes down to the old adage, “Write what you know.” A writer can’t literally always do that in science fiction and fantasy, but in any genre a writer can do it with the psychology of the characters. If a writer draws inspiration from his own life, then the writer will know his or her characters as if they were real people, and, more to point, write them in such a way that they seem real to readers. Perhaps that isn’t the only ingredient necessary for character creation, but it is certainly the most important one.

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Genre - Fantasy / Young Adult

Rating – PG13

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Review: Refuge by NS Osborne

RefugeRefuge by N.G. Osborne
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What were the main relationships explored in this book? Noor - Charlie Noor - Aamir Charlie - Wali Noor - Tariq

Favourite scene …. When Charlie ran in and saved Wali, after the mine blew up.

What did you like least? Charlie being thrown in the dungeon. In some ways, I felt like I was cheated of a happy ending but then again so were Charlie and Noor.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from the author.

View all my reviews

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Survivors by Daniel Harvell

The Survivors

When seven strangers impossibly survive a horrific airplane crash, they find themselves changed in remarkable ways. The survivors are endowed with powers that defy explanation. Some are blessed. Some are cursed.

Going their separate ways, they adapt their extraordinary “gifts” to their ordinary lives. The results, however, aren’t always pretty — particularly when one of them engages in a killing spree. With little more to go on than the psychic link that they all share, the survivors seek out one another to uncover the murderer and bring him or her to justice.

The fireman, the grandmother, the psychiatric patient, the basketball player, the mute girl, the rich blonde, and the man in the wheelchair — they all have secrets worth hiding. They can’t trust each other. They can’t even trust themselves.

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Genre - Fantasy

Rating – PG

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Website http://danielharvell.com

Orangeberry Book of the Day – The Blackout by Stephanie Erickson

5.

The next morning Molly got up and went to class, prepared to hear the groans from her Modern Poetry class for their late papers.  She usually punished them with half a letter grade for every class they were late, but she wasn’t sure what to do to compensate for her own lateness.  She thought if she could come up with a few options, like having class in the garden one day or letting them pick the next poem to discuss, and let them choose, they’d be happy. 

Her other classes held better prospects.  She was excited because the day brought discussions about Gulliver’s Travels in British Literature, and The Poisonwood Bible in Modern Fiction.  Save for the groaning from Modern Poetry, she expected it to be a pretty good day. 

It happened in the middle of Modern Fiction.  A student had asked what point Kingsolver was trying to make by sacrificing the family’s youngest child. 

“What could possibly be worth killing such an innocent character?” she asked.

“Well, what do you think?  Do you think the father is so taken by his ‘mission’ to ‘save’ the heathens in the Congo that his youngest is a fair sacrifice, as you put it?  What’s one life if it saves a handful of others?”   Molly had just said it to spur the discussion.  She often made extreme statements in class just to stir the pot and get a good discussion going.

She sat cross-legged on top of her desk looking at the rows of students as hands shot into the air.  She smiled and surveyed their faces.  Their expressions ranged from angry to mischievous.  Molly picked one that seemed undecided.  “Mia, what do you think?”

Before she could answer, the lights went out.  It wasn’t really all that dark, because the back wall had several windows on it, and for that she was thankful. 

“Um…OK.  Just a second here, let me poke my head into the hall and see if I can find out what the deal is,” Molly said as she got down off the desk.

The students whispered to each other as she walked to the door.  “Settle down.  I’m sure it’s just a power surge, and it’ll be back on before I can even find out what happened.” 

“My phone doesn’t work.  Does yours?”  A boy in the front row asked his neighbor.

It caught Molly’s attention.  “Is your battery dead?” she asked.

“No.  I left home with a full charge.” 

Other students began retrieving their phones.  The consensus was unanimous.  No one’s phone worked.  Molly took her phone out of her pocket to see, and to her surprise, it displayed nothing but a black screen. 

She frowned and continued on her journey to the door.  “I’ll find out what’s going on.  Just stay calm,” Molly assured them.  They all looked worried.

Teachers were beginning to poke their heads out of their doors, making similar inquiries about the outage.  No one seemed to know what was going on.  Normally, there would be an announcement or some sort of directive about what to do, but they’d never encountered this type of outage before. 

Molly ran to her office to grab her laptop and returned to the classroom.  By then the kids were getting a little panicky, letting their imaginations run away with them. 

“Why would the power and our phones be out?  What could possibly cause something like that?”

“How long do you think it’ll be out?”

“My mom said she thinks the apocalypse is coming.  She said the signs are all there.”

Another student burst out laughing.  “Your mom is crazy.”

Molly interrupted before a fight could break out.  “OK, enough.  The power will probably be back on soon.  The school has an emergency generator that should kick in any minute now.  Just let me get my laptop going, and I’ll see if I can get some information about it.”

“Dr. Bonham, if the power’s out, will you be able to get online?”

By then, Molly had already gotten her computer out and was trying to get it powered up.  “Oh, that’s a good point.  Probably not.” 

Then she noticed nothing was happening with her computer.  She held the power button down, with no response.  She waited a few moments and tried again.  Still nothing. 

“What on Earth…” Molly muttered.

“What’s wrong?” 

“Um…I’m not sure.  I can’t get my computer to come on.” 

“What should we do?  Can we go home?”

“I don’t know about that either.  The stairwells are dark, I don’t want there to be a stampede.  Just give me a minute to think about the options.” 

They weren’t prepared for something like this.  They knew exactly what to do for a tornado, a fire alarm, or an earthquake.  But this was new territory. 

There really was no reason not to continue with class.  The only things they were using were the lights, and it was plenty bright enough to continue the discussion without them.  However, the kids were rattled, and quite frankly so was Molly.  Continuing with the discussion seemed fruitless, but leaving right this second wasn’t a good option either. She didn’t want to put the students in an unsafe situation. 

“Let me run back to the department head’s office and see what he thinks.  You guys wait here until I get back, OK?”  Molly looked at them all, seeing the panic starting to bubble up.  “I mean it,” she said sternly.  She thought giving them a task, even if it was just sitting still, would help occupy their minds.

Molly caught up with Terry Longman in the hallway.  She looked at him and shrugged.  “Now what?” she asked.

His normally disheveled appearance looked a little more unruly in his stress.  His grey hair stood straight out and his tweed coat hung unevenly.  “I have no idea.  I’m telling the kids and teachers to stay put for now.  There are no lights in the stairwells, and I don’t want anyone getting trampled.  Let’s wait twenty minutes or so and see if it comes back.  If it doesn’t, we’ll let the classes go one room at a time to prevent a stampede.  So, since your class is at the far end of the building, they may be here a while.”

“No problem.  Just keep me posted.”

Molly stopped in Cindy’s room, knowing she had a rowdy group this time of day.  They were arguing with her about getting to leave.

“HEY!”  Molly hollered to get their attention.  They were immediately quiet.  “This is a professional environment, not a middle school.  Arguing is not tolerated.  You will stay put until Dr. Longman says you can go.  He’s making his rounds now, and he’s said if power is not restored in another twenty minutes or so, he will let everyone go home.  However, he doesn’t want any misconduct, so he’ll be letting classes go one room at a time.  Just sit tight.”

A unified groan went up.  “Hey, you’re supposed to be in this class right now anyway!  I don’t want to hear your complaints,” Molly said.

“Yeah, well I’m not sitting here any longer than I have to.  Class gets out at three, and I’m out of here at three,” declared an older student, dressed in black jeans and a black t-shirt.  It was obvious that his silver chains, piercings, and long hair were meant to intimidate.  Molly was unfazed.

“You’ll do whatever the head of the department says you’ll do.  No questions about it.  This is considered an emergency situation, and for your own safety and the safety of others, you’ll stay put for now.  We’re not keeping you here forever, so just relax.” 

Cindy had that deer-in-headlights look.  Molly turned and put her hand on Cindy’s upper arm.  “Hey, straighten up.  These kids’ll eat you alive if you let them.  Don’t.  Terry said he’ll be letting classes go one at a time if the power’s not back in twenty minutes.  The process shouldn’t take too long, since there’s about ten rooms downstairs and ten up here, so just hold the fort for maybe an hour tops, OK?”

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Genre – Adult Fiction / Contemporary

Rating – PG13 (some strong language)

More details about the author & the book

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Website http://stephanieerickson.weebly.com/

Alana Cash – Book Covers

Book Covers

by Alana Cash

Now that most books are purchased online or in electronic format, the book cover isn’t  as important as it was were when books were sold by display in the neighborhood bookstore.  A book cover used to sell a book (people did judge books by their cover), but a thumbnail on a website isn’t going to do that.  The synopsis, reviews, recommendations from friends, and possibly, the author’s reputation will draw the reader first, and then the cover.  However, when I hold my book in my hand, I want to love looking at it.  I already know what is inside and my cover needs to represent that to me.

I like to see photographs on book covers – small towns, empty fields, skylines – because they are evocative and create questions.  .  I want to know what’s happening there.  Of course not all photographs work that way – if I see a man and woman kissing passionately, I pretty much get what the story is about.  If I see a silhouette of a man and woman kissing, well, there’s mystery there.

I chose a photograph of a long, lonely stretch of road for the cover of HOW YOU LEAVE TEXAS.  It’s what you see when you are driving west towards El Paso.  That’s clear because the sun is setting and you are driving out of Texas into that sunset.  But why?

Graphic artist (and musician) Suzanne Birrell put together the cover for HOW YOU LEAVE TEXAS.  I sent her the photographs and text and a link to the fonts I wanted to use.  I also gave her links to extra items – barbed wire, longhorns, and other Texas icons – and asked her to place them on the cover.  Suzanne did exactly what I asked her to do, I got exactly what I asked for and I wasn’t happy.  It was only when Suzanne edited out all the extraneous graphics, leaving a clean photo and titles, that the book cover was exactly what I wanted and I was really happy with it.

The back cover is a bit unique.  The text is printed in the shape of a “T” – synopsis is the top of the “T,” my photograph is the middle/stem, and the bio is the foot.  In the photograph I’m holding a monkey.  I could have chosen a headshot, but I thought this picture was more evocative, and it has its own story.  I was at a gypsy fair in England with my Scottish grandmother who had come for a visit.  She took my brother and me to the fair and paid that photographer to take the picture, which he mailed to us later.

For my novel, TOM’S WIFE, I worked with Jackie Lindo.  I sent Jackie the photograph of the dog and pine house that’s on the cover.  I chose that particular photo because it evoked the sense of poverty and loneliness that Annie (the main character) lives with.  I asked for the pine board graphic, colors, and a simple font, all representative of the Depression era and rural placement of the novel.  The photograph on the back of the book – a little girl in a hat and gloves – is not me.  I chose that photo to represent Annie who is married and pregnant at nineteen, a little girl trying to be a grownup.

I was deeply involved in the creation of both covers and I trusted myself to get what I want.  But it isn’t necessary to get that involved if you can give some simple descriptors of what you want or four or five words that would describe your novel.  Your designer will give you a cover and [should] work with you to make any changes you want.

HOW YOU LEAVE TEXAS is a volume of four unique stories about four young women who leave Midland, Austin, Fort Worth and Mayville, Texas for New York, California, Jakarta, and in one instance, jail. These young women seek escape from boredom and sorrow and find it. Told with humor and pathos, here are the synopses:

DAM BROKE – after high school graduation, two quirky best friends reveal big secrets.

“In sixth grade, I abandoned the reading glasses for a blond wig and a fake mole above my top lip. Mickey started wearing sunglasses indoors and carrying business cards.”
—–
CAMILLE’S NET WORTH – on her 40th birthday, Camille’s life falls apart in uncontrolled demolition. Life improves when she gets a job creating art paper and returns to painting. But the plot twists and she ends up in jail, laughing.

“I’m not going to spend much time repeating myself,” Camille said, “I want you to remove whatever you want to keep from this house. You can store your stuff in a rental truck if you need to until you find a new home, but you will be gone from here by midnight and never return.”
“You can’t do that!”
“If you are not gone by midnight, I will set fire to the house.”
——
KRYSTAL’S WEDDING – Heading for New York, Krystal leaves behind her shoddy family in Midland, Texas. Ill-prepared for the culture shock and expense, she takes a few slippery steps before she finds true independence.

“Krystal’s family wasn’t an American success story. Mom felt like life had cheated her since Daddy never made any real money and spent most nights getting drunk at the Welcome Inn. Erin never finished beauty school and worked at a donut shop. Bethany worked as a bar-back at the Rusty Nail and was turning out like Daddy. Alcoholic, back-slapping, charming. Eddie Garthwaite, owner of Garthwaite Used Cars located on Interstate 20 between Midland and Odessa. Eddie Garthwaite who currently had his driver’s license suspended because of a DUI.”
—–
FRYING YOUR BURGER – Nicky and her friends spend mornings slinging repartee in a coffee shop. While paying a traffic fine, she meets a director and soon finds herself a pawn for two directors trying to ruin each others careers.

“I went into the room marked Cashier and got into a long line. And there he was. Grinning that grin. He should have had a license for it. It was that bright. I stood next to him in my white t-shirt and white pants looking like someone straight out of the ‘hospital orderly fashion catalogue.’ It was all I had clean that day.”

Buy Now @ Amazon

Genre –  Women’s Fiction

Rating – PG13

More details about the author

Connect with Alana Cash on her

Blog http://howyoulovetexas.blogspot.com/

Death Ain't But A Word: A Supernatural Hot Mess - Zander Marks

Death Ain’t But A Word - Zander Marks

Amazon Kindle US

Amazon Kindle UK

Genre - Urban Fantasy

Rating -  PG13

4.4 (29 reviews)

Free until 31 July 2013

Just because Wilkin's a crackhead doesn't mean the shadows aren't real.
They're real. And they've been haunting him since he was seven years old. Mostly he ignores them.
But when the ghost of his best friend from childhood shows up at the local motel, Wilkin can't ignore the call of friendship. And when his friend's killer buys the motel so he can destroy the remains, Wilkin can't ignore that, either.
Wilkin steals his friend's skull before the killer can destroy it and is plunged into a hot mess of a supernatural thrill ride.
A death-race pursuit of a child's skull. A spirit-whispering trucker hauling plush toys to Kansas. Five demonic farm-kids in a housing project. A Dodge City marshal who executes wayward ghosts. A nasty yellow jersey that takes the joy out of living. And a graveyard full of snitches.
It's enough to make you want to hit the crackpipe. All leading to a climax where staying alive is the least of Wilkin's worries.
Because when most of the people around you are spirits anyway, DEATH AIN'T BUT A WORD.

Review: How You Leave Texas by Alana Cash

How You Leave TexasHow You Leave Texas by Alana Cash
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What is stronger in the book: plot or character development? Character is the strongest. Yes, it was intentional. They are likeable and definitely made an impression on many of us at the book club.

What are the most revealing scenes? When Camille was arrested. None of us were expecting this.

Summarize the book without giving away the ending. The story was about moving away from your home and starting fresh. It was about lies and betrayal. It also centered on the character's big hopes and dreams. Mainly, it was about growing up.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this book from the author.

View all my reviews

Friday, July 26, 2013

Dogs Aren’t Men by Billi Tiner

Dog's Aren't Men

A contemporary romance.

Rebecca Miller is a gifted veterinarian with an extraordinary understanding of animal behavior. She is leading a fulfilling life as the owner and operator of the Animal Friends Veterinary Clinic. Ever since her 30th birthday, her mother has made it her mission to help Rebecca find a man, get married, and give her grandchildren. But Rebecca doesn’t see the need for a man in her life. She has her dog, Captain, and that’s all the companionship she needs. However, her world changes the day she literally runs into Derrick Peterson, a gorgeously handsome ER doctor.

Derrick’s experiences with women have taught him that they are vain, silly, and untrustworthy. He keeps his relationships with them brief and superficial. However, he finds himself being irresistibly drawn to Rebecca. She’s smart, witty, compassionate, and very different from the women he usually encounters. Will Rebecca be the one to break down the wall he’s spent a lifetime building around his heart?

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Genre - Contemporary Romance

Rating – PG13

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Website http://www.tinerbooks.com/

Kelly Lowe – Imagining a World Bigger Than You

Imagining a world bigger than you is a prime element in imaging a book

by Kelly Lowe

I’ve heard many people say they’ve had an interesting life and would like to write a book. It takes more than that.

More than anything, writing a book requires having a sense of a world bigger than yourself. After all, to create a book is to create a separate world born out of the imagination—even if the book is nonfiction. I guess the way I came to understand that the world was bigger than little old me, was by seeing many different places and ways of living while I was a child. I feel very fortunate in that my father was a career Navy man and we had the opportunity to live in many interesting places as I was growing up.  He was stationed in Virginia Beach, VA, when I was very young and I still remember the big waves at the beach.  I went to middle school in San Diego and still find that to be one of my favorite places to visit.

We were stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii for a few years, long before they built the monument over the USS Arizona.  At that time we could walk on the deck of the ship.

Perhaps my most favorite place that I lived was Guam.  I celebrated my sixteenth birthday there.  Loved the island living.  We lived on the Naval Air base which had many recreational amenities.  I got my life guard certification and fell in love with one of the life guards at the neighborhood pool.  My Dad was chief of police on base, so I couldn’t get away with much.

While we lived in Guam I enjoyed our family vacations, including a couple of trips to Japan.  That was when the US dollar was worth a whole lot more the yen. I remember that everything seemed so inexpensive.  Shopping in Japan was a real bargain at that time.

It was a real culture shock for me when we were transferred to Philadelphia from Guam.  I even had to wear shoes to school. It wasn’t long after I graduated from a Catholic high school in Philadelphia that my father was transferred to Satellite Beach, Florida.  That was another culture shock.

Our move to Florida happeed to be during the space industry’s hay day.  It was all about going to the Moon during that time.  I was fortunate enough to be employed at Cape Canaveral by Grumman which had the contract for the lunar landing model.

It wasn’t too long after our landing on the moon project was completed that I left the space industry to become a flight attendant for Delta Airline.  This was in the era when traveling was still fun.  It was long before 9-11 and the long security lines at the airport.  It was also before flight attendants could be married.

After graduating from Delta Airlines flight attendants school in Atlanta, Georgia, I was based in Chicago which was not an especially good place to be flying out of in the winter.  And it was especially not a good place for Florida Girl to live in the winter.  Needless to say, I requested a transfer to warmer weather as soon as it was possible, and it wasn’t long before I was calling New Orleans home.

I could stretch the truth and say my time involved in the NASA moon mission led me into astrology and my book, but it’s not true. However, I do believe all that I saw traveling the world gave me a sense of perspective, a vision that showed me that I was part of something larger than myself and gave me the confidence to capture that vision in a book.

kelly-full-cover-1

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Genre – Memoir / Astrology

Rating –PG13

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Website http://astrologytalk.com/

Summer Kindle Fire Giveaway

Kindle Summer

This is a joint AUTHOR & BLOGGER GIVEAWAY EVENT! Bloggers & Authors have joined together and each chipped in a little money towards a Kindle Fire HD 7".

Kindle Fire HD 7" Giveaway

The winner will have the option of receiving a 7" Kindle Fire HD (US Only)

  Or $199 Amazon.com Gift Card (International)

  Or $199 in Paypal Cash (International)

 

Sponsoring Bloggers & Authors

  Giveaway Details 1 winner will receive their choice of a Kindle Fire 7" HD (US Only), $199 Amazon Gift Card or $199 in Paypal Cash (International). There is a second separate giveaway for bloggers who post this giveaway on their blog. See details in the rafflecopter on how to enter to win the 2nd Kindle Fire. Sponsor a future Kindle Fire Giveaway by signing up HERE. Ends 8/15/13 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer http://iamareader.com and sponsored by the participating authors & bloggers. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW.   a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Orangeberry Book of the Day – I’d Kill For You by Alan Plessinger

Chapter 2: A Detective, pursuing a lead not likely to produce significant results, comes upon a young girl needing to solve a certain mystery of her own, and upon interrogation finds her life to be not quite an open book, if not yet a fully closed one.

After reading and memorizing the case file that’d been faxed to the office, Riley grabbed the key to his residence for the night, the apartment of a lovely blonde secretary named Karen. He also grabbed his overnight bag with a few essentials. He left the office and took a cab out to her place in Tribeca, let himself in, and crept silently to her bedroom. A light was on. He eased open the door, and found that she had fallen asleep with the lamp on and a book in her hand, waiting for him. He took off his clothes as silently as possible, but not silently enough.

She woke up and asked what took him so long, but it was plain to see she had no real interest in the answer. He smiled, crawled across the bed, and kissed her.

When they were finished making love, Riley got up and took a shower, taking a moment to flush the condom down the toilet. After the shower he dried off and took a moment to use his beard-trimmer and then brush his teeth with his toothbrush from the overnight bag, things he liked to take care of at night. When he finished, he returned to the bedroom and sat naked on the bed, finally ready to get some sleep. Karen was lying there, looking at him, smiling, her arms and legs relaxed, her body contented. Before he could lie down, she crawled across the bed and hugged him.

“I’ve got some bad news, Riley,” she said, kissing him on the shoulder. “I’m taking myself out of the harem.”

“Oh. I’m sorry to hear that, Karen. Why?”

“I’m getting married.”

“Really? That’s great! Congratulations!”

“Thanks. I’m really sorry, honey, but you can’t stay. He’ll be here in a few hours for a breakfast date. You’ve got to be gone.”

Riley was a little taken aback by being thrown out unceremoniously, considering they’d just made love. But he didn’t want to be a nuisance.

“Couldn’t I get some sleep on the couch? I can be your cousin from Schenectady.”

“Honey, I’m marrying the guy who gave jealousy lessons to Othello. You can’t be anybody’s cousin.”

Riley sighed a little and said, “OK, Karen, if that’s the way you want it. I’m sure you two will be very happy together.”

“Thanks, honey. Let’s hope so. I’m not starting things out too well, I know. I should’ve stopped you. I should’ve told you about him, but I had to have one last little taste of the Riley.”

Riley had the unpleasant reaction most men would have, hearing the word little used in any context during pillow talk, but he didn’t complain.

“I take it you never told him about us?”

“Us? There is no ‘us,’ Riley. One day a month does not an ’us’ make.”

Riley smiled. She intended to enjoy dumping him, getting some of the power and control back for the first time in a long while. She continued.

“Honey, how long do you think you can go on this way? A lot of the girls in the harem are worried about you. You’re knocking on forty, you know.”

“Please don’t call it a harem. If you call it that, I might start calling it that. I started this arrangement because I was tired of everybody hating me for having a lot of sex with a lot of different women. I’m tired of being the bad guy. I don’t like people acting like I’m a predator. This way at least there’s no lying, and everybody knows where they stand.”

“Plus you don’t have to pay rent.”

“Yeah. That’s nice.”

“And when’s the last time you told any random woman about the arrangement?”

“I’m discreet.”

“Because you know any woman who hears about it is going to hate you.”

“I wish women could be a little more understanding about this. You’ve never had any cause to complain, have you?”

“Honey, I’ve been a part of the arrangement for more than two years now, and I look forward to the twenty-fifth of every month like a high holy day. You never disappoint. But I never kidded myself for a second that this was a real relationship. Don’t you want a real relationship? Don’t you want to get married one day?”

“I’ve never understood the point of marriage, at least for me. You’re getting married; you explain it to me. What is it for?”

“Lots of things. Companionship. Not dying alone.”

“Oh, what’s the big deal about dying alone? If a couple is married for fifty years, unless they die together in a car accident, at least one of them is going to die alone. Right?”

“So you really don’t ever want to get married?”

“I really don’t. I don’t even like dating. Seduction kind of bores me. I really think I don’t have any ability to fall in love. But maybe some day I’ll meet a woman who might change my mind. I don’t want to say it’s totally impossible. It might happen.”

“Not if you never date, it won’t. Honey, I’m not kidding. A lot of the girls are worried about you.”

“Do you all get together and talk about me, or something?”

“There’s a Web site.”

“Of course. Of course there is. Please don’t tell me the name.”

She kissed him on the shoulder again and said, “Your clothes are hanging up in the usual place, Riley.”

“Thanks. Your fiancĂ© didn’t find them?”

“If he’s checking out the clothes in my closet, we’ve got worse problems than you. Forget the dry-cleaning bill, OK? It’s on the house.”

He stood, turned, and leaned down to kiss her good-bye on the lips, but she gave him her cheek.

“Denied!” he said.

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Genre – Murder / Mystery

Rating – R

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Steven O’Connor – Indie publishing

      Indie publishing: A direction in which I was pushed. And so I jumped

      by Steven O’Connor

      I am one of millions of readers who also write. No one’s counted, but I’m quite sure that’s how many we are. We’re like the countless music lovers the world over who also play an instrument or sing (to varying degrees of success). Our pens and pencils, our scraps of paper, our notebooks (paper-based and electronic) and our keyboards – these are our musical instruments. We are everywhere and we stretch from those who are happy to simply bash out something and immediately publish it – in a wild breeze of confidence – to those who toil hard to hone what they produce, in the desire to create something that will be seen as unique and memorable. Most of us who work hard to improve our craft sit somewhere around the center of those two points.

      For me, writing is the completion of a circle. We are all consumers. We consume food. We consume art and music. We consume stories. Some of us continuously consume stories! Movies. Books. News. Even gossip. But we are creators too. To me, it feels wrong not to want to also produce something, if I can. (And hope it is good enough for others to enjoy. That would be nice too.)

      I do slip into sleep more easily at night when I feel I have created something that day. It’s very satisfying. And I know others feel this way too. I meet them every day on Twitter. Writers like me. While having an audience is not an essential element to the creative process, it still feels good to know others might be interested in your creation. And the opportunity has never been greater to put our creative works out there and invite others to come and see. The publishing industry has split open and millions are pouring in. Myself included.

      I am also grateful that I had the opportunity to traditionally publish – however brief. EleMental was written on a first-generation laptop back when laptops were as heavy as milk crates, and long before ebooks were a reality. It took one year to write the novel but nearly ten years to get it published, even though the manuscript had won a national scholarship award early on in the proceedings. Does that seem like a long time? It’s a common story.

      I present to you now, in one fast paragraph, my one-and-only experience of traditional publishing…

      EleMental was published by Pier 9/Murdoch Books (one of Australia’s major publishers) in 2010. The staff publisher who bought my book subsequently left Pier 9, the company dropped its young adult fiction list, which had been that staff publisher’s baby, and the whole publishing house went on to be bought out by Allen and Unwin. The end.

      As delightful as the people were that I met during that brief experience, perhaps you will understand why I say after nearly ten years of trying to get there, it felt a bit of a letdown. Hence, like countless other writers, indie writing has been a direction in which I feel I have been pushed. And so I jumped.

      Self-publishing is no longer a dirty word. At least it isn’t, if you do it properly, never letting go of quality. Indie writing is a valid, exciting new route to publishing – one that can also include traditional publishing in the future if that option opens up for you and you want to take it (sometimes called the hybrid approach – sounds like a car, or a rosebush).

      The indie approach can be exhausting as you have to steer all of your own promotion. Imagine taking that task on immediately after self-publishing your book, with all of the work it entails. And it can be lonely when you know of no one else – outside of the virtual arena – also pursuing this route (it’s yet to catch on in Australia in a big way, unlike the UK and the US).

      But it has one very distinct advantage: you are in control. I am still new to indie-publishing, but my experience of the traditional publishing process has given me an appreciation of the importance of control, one I would not let go off lightly if ever I found myself traditionally publishing again.

      Another significant advantage of indie publishing is speed. Don’t get me wrong, you should never take shortcuts with your writing just because you’re indie publishing. You must be as slow as you need to be. But traditional publishing, that’s another story, it is so slow. Apart from it taking a long time to break into traditional publishing, it also takes a long time for your manuscript to shuffle through the publishing process.

      I would love to have published EleMental soon after I’d finished it, even a year or so later. I absolutely believe the book still depicts a fun, tongue-in-cheek future. But some aspects are no longer as interesting as I would have liked. Video gaming, on which the futuristic plot is based, has come a long way since I wrote ‘The End’ after the last line (I don’t really write that). When I finished the final draft, the world did not have consoles like the Wii or the Xbox, or online console video gaming, or the iPad. That last one is particularly irking, as both EleMental and its follow-up, MonuMental, feature something very like an iPad – called a Zeepad. I’ve a hard time convincing people I came up with my Zeepad before iPads emerged to rule the world (for the time being).

      However, the professional social work influence that I have in my writing remains as pertinent as ever, sadly – the human condition does not date like technology, even if we wished some aspects did, such as addictive behavior.

      All writing is a lonely business. But there is a flourishing indie writing community on the internet with numerous collectives. I belong to the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), a global collective based centrally in London, but (thanks to the internet) present everywhere.

      I still have a lot to learn about the indie approach, particularly around marketing and business management, neither of which comes naturally to me, but also around social media. And there always seems to be something new to learn about information technology! To be honest, it never seems to end. But I have become far more aware of how to step up and be counted amongst the countless other indie writers out there in the world. I meet with many of them every day through Goodreads, through Twitter (especially through twitter), through Facebook, and through numerous other social media avenues.  The important thing is to remember why you are there in the first place. You have enjoyed creating something and now you’re jumping into indie publishing to say to the world, Come and see what I’ve made. I hope you like it.

      Don’t forget to drop by sometime and say hi. I’m always around and love to chat – on twitter, on my website, on Goodreads, on Facebook…

      Twitter: https://twitter.com/StevenWriting (@StevenWriting)

      StevenWriting website: http://stevenoconnorwriting.com/

      Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5189661.Steven_O_Connor

      Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/StevenWriting/140091559338623

      Little Readings: http://stevenoconnorwriting.com/little-readings/

      Steven O’Connor writes young adult fiction with a futuristic bent. His writing is influenced by Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), Blade Runner, Dr Who, and just about every sci-fi film and TV show you could possibly think of. His EleMental and MonuMental ebooks are available through Amazon.

      Elemental-cvr-low-res

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      Genre – Young Adult / Science Fiction

      Rating –PG

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      Website http://stevenoconnorwriting.com/