Rachel Thompson

Jack Canon's American Destiny

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 naiveté 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



             "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.

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