Writing YA isn’t about censoring but more about communication

by
Barbara Kloss

There has always been something magical to me about YA novels. It’s not any one thing in particular, but if I had to focus on one, I’d say the main reason I love both reading and writing in that genre centers around the themes YA tends to deal with. Themes like discovering yourself and finding love for the first time or finding the strength to stand up for what you believe. It’s during that period in life where we really find which platform to stand on. Where we truly begin the course that helps define the rest of our life. I love watching characters (and people) grow into who they were made to be and find the courage within themselves to become who they truly are, and YA, for the most part, tends to dwell there.

But what “can” and “can’t” you write about for YA? I’m pretty sure anything goes, these days.

YA has changed so much over the years. The lines defining things we “can” and “can’t” write about seem to have, well, gone, and more and more often I find myself reading something that surprises me, considering YA is “technically” ages 13+. YA has become more inclusive of what may have traditionally been referred to as “adult themes,” because YA isn’t just read by teens anymore; adults make up a large percentage of the YA readership. Twilight is proof of that.

For my own writing, however, I draw a line, but it’s not because I don’t think the YA readership “can” or “can’t” handle certain subjects and situations. It has more to do with who I am as a person. Even as a reader, I tend to enjoy books that lean toward the “more censored” side. It’s not that I like pretending certain aspects of the world don’t exist. I know they do; I just don’t like reading about them in great detail when I can get the idea in a few words or sentences. I also have a fairly happy disposition, so while I might appreciate darker novels, I don’t typically enjoy reading books with a tone that dwells on the darker side of humanity, unless there is some great redemptive quality at the end.

Over the years, I’ve really had to think hard about the idea of what I “can” and “can’t” write about in YA. But again – YA has changed so much, and I’ve realized it’s more a question of what I “want” or “don’t want to” write about, and the answer to that question is so different for every writer. Once I answered it for me, I realized that my answer would have been the same had I written for middle grade or new adult or adult.

It’s less about censoring myself and more about what I’m trying to communicate. As much as I write for me, I also believe that I have a certain responsibility to those reading my stories, and now that I have a toddler, I’m feeling the responsibility of that even more. Do I want to write characters who learn the importance of forgiveness? Or do I want to write characters who desperately hold on to grudges and seek revenge? Do I want to show how important mercy is? Or write an emphasis on judgment prevailing? What kind of person is my hero or heroine? What lessons or sense of morality am I trying to convey? I mean really…what is the point of this, anyway?

There is such a rare and very beautiful relationship between author and reader; what am I REALLY saying to others about what I think is important in life? In relationships?

But how does that specifically apply to YA? I love the voice of YA. How raw and real and honest it is. I love its emotional potency and the focus on relational dynamics and personal growth, and I love that emotional connection I tend to feel more with YA than any other genre. Probably because there will always be a little teenager inside me, and I think that’s true for most of us. Pretty much anything goes in YA fiction these days, and I think as a writer, deciding what you “can” and “can’t” write about is more a matter of personal preference.

Introducing…
Breath of Dragons

After Prince Alaric’s death, Daria and Alex set off in search of the legendary box of the Pandors’. The box is famed to hold a secret of power—one strong enough to overcome Lord Eris and the shield of power he stole from Valdon. Daria doesn’t know where the box is hidden, but she can’t ignore the silent urging, beckoning her to the land of Pendel—the land her mother, Aurora Pandor, was from
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Time is running out. Lord Eris’s army of shadowguard vastly outnumber Valdon’s forces, and if Daria doesn’t find the box in time, Valdon will need reinforcements from the other territories to survive. But those territories will not hand over their armies willingly, not without Daria’s hand in marriage. 

And there is another, older power rising, one that hasn’t been seen in centuries—one thought lost since the days of Galahad: the dragons.
Barbara Kloss studied biochemistry at California Polytechnic State University, and after she began working in a clinical lab, found herself daydreaming about far off lands and slightly deranged wizards. She, her husband, baby boy, and Lhasa currently live in Arizona, where she escapes the summer heat by writing about lush vegetation and moderate to cold climates. Author of the Pandoran Novels, a YA fantasy series.

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Excerpt from Breath of Dragons

Sal left, and Alex put one hand on my waist, took my hand in his, and led me into the next dance.
“Where have you been?” I hadn’t meant the words to sound accusatory, but they did.
Alex raised a dark brow, looking a little startled by my outburst. “Where I always am: keeping both eyes on you, and that seems to require a lot of energy these days.” His gaze trailed after Sal, who had already found another morsel to snack on in the form of one of Alex’s groupies.
“You said he’s a thane?” I asked.
Alex nodded, his gaze drifting back to mine. “He governs the land on the western shores. He is Mercedes’ nephew. He will be furious with me for cutting in like this, but I couldn’t help it. He looked like he was about to eat you alive.”
“How do you know I wasn’t about to eat him alive?” I teased. I tried pulling Alex closer, but he firmly held me back at an appropriate distance.
“Careful, your grace,” he said, eyes locked on mine.
He was setting the precedence for our conversation tonight. He was holding up barriers and urging me to stand behind them. He was reminding me that I was a princess and he was my guard, and that I had better act that way.
A new piece started, much slower than the others, and the melody had a kind of lilting and heartbreaking quality to it. I tried not to take it as any kind of symbolism. Still, the dancing slowed and couples moved closer. Even Alex pulled me close, sliding one arm around my waist, and I was distinctly aware of the warmth soaking through the fabric of his sleeve and onto my bare lower back.
“How are you feeling?” Alex asked. His expression was carefully stoic, but his eyes were layered in concern.
“Well, if you must know, I feel a little bit like a pinwheel. Much more twirling and I might just twirl myself right off the edge of this balcony.”
Alex grinned. “We don’t have to dance. I could escort you back to—”
“No.” I held him tighter, gazing defiantly into his eyes. “I missed my turn last time, and I’ve regretted it ever since. But I am a little surprised you’re allowing this…?”
“Allowing what, exactly, your grace?” Even behind his walls of formality, he made the words your grace sound like an expression of intimacy only lovers used.
“Us dancing together.”
“Ah.” He was so controlled and elegant. “I didn’t see any harm in it, considering I’m your Aegis and that you’ve already had your fair share of attention this evening.” There was a glint in his eyes that made me certain he’d heard Sal’s proposition.
“And I see that you’ve had yours.” I glanced askance at the group of girls watching us, clearly unhappy that I’d stolen their shiny new toy.
Alex followed my gaze then whispered, “It’s nice seeing you jealous.”
I let out something of a snort. “Well, I could just put an end to it by ordering you to dance with me the rest of the evening. I’m not so sure I want to share you.” I tried to move in a little closer, but Alex’s grip firmly held me back again.
“I’m sorry, your grace,” he said, his eyes glittering like emeralds, “but I would have to politely refuse those orders.”


“Allowing what, exactly, your grace?” Even behind his walls of formality, he made the words your grace sound like an expression of intimacy only lovers used.
“Us dancing together.”
“Ah.” He was so controlled and elegant. “I didn’t see any harm in it, considering I’m your Aegis and that you’ve already had your fair share of attention this evening.” There was a glint in his eyes that made me certain he’d heard Sal’s proposition.
“And I see that you’ve had yours.” I glanced askance at the group of girls watching us, clearly unhappy that I’d stolen their shiny new toy.
Alex followed my gaze then whispered, “It’s nice seeing you jealous.”
I let out something of a snort. “Well, I could just put an end to it by ordering you to dance with me the rest of the evening. I’m not so sure I want to share you.” I tried to move in a little closer, but Alex’s grip firmly held me back again.
“I’m sorry, your grace,” he said, his eyes glittering like emeralds, “but I would have to politely refuse those orders.”


“Us dancing together.”
“Ah.” He was so controlled and elegant. “I didn’t see any harm in it, considering I’m your Aegis and that you’ve already had your fair share of attention this evening.” There was a glint in his eyes that made me certain he’d heard Sal’s proposition.
“And I see that you’ve had yours.” I glanced askance at the group of girls watching us, clearly unhappy that I’d stolen their shiny new toy.
Alex followed my gaze then whispered, “It’s nice seeing you jealous.”
I let out something of a snort. “Well, I could just put an end to it by ordering you to dance with me the rest of the evening. I’m not so sure I want to share you.” I tried to move in a little closer, but Alex’s grip firmly held me back again.
“I’m sorry, your grace,” he said, his eyes glittering like emeralds, “but I would have to politely refuse those orders.”


“Ah.” He was so controlled and elegant. “I didn’t see any harm in it, considering I’m your Aegis and that you’ve already had your fair share of attention this evening.” There was a glint in his eyes that made me certain he’d heard Sal’s proposition.
“And I see that you’ve had yours.” I glanced askance at the group of girls watching us, clearly unhappy that I’d stolen their shiny new toy.
Alex followed my gaze then whispered, “It’s nice seeing you jealous.”
I let out something of a snort. “Well, I could just put an end to it by ordering you to dance with me the rest of the evening. I’m not so sure I want to share you.” I tried to move in a little closer, but Alex’s grip firmly held me back again.
“I’m sorry, your grace,” he said, his eyes glittering like emeralds, “but I would have to politely refuse those orders.”


“And I see that you’ve had yours.” I glanced askance at the group of girls watching us, clearly unhappy that I’d stolen their shiny new toy.
Alex followed my gaze then whispered, “It’s nice seeing you jealous.”
I let out something of a snort. “Well, I could just put an end to it by ordering you to dance with me the rest of the evening. I’m not so sure I want to share you.” I tried to move in a little closer, but Alex’s grip firmly held me back again.
“I’m sorry, your grace,” he said, his eyes glittering like emeralds, “but I would have to politely refuse those orders.”


Alex followed my gaze then whispered, “It’s nice seeing you jealous.”
I let out something of a snort. “Well, I could just put an end to it by ordering you to dance with me the rest of the evening. I’m not so sure I want to share you.” I tried to move in a little closer, but Alex’s grip firmly held me back again.
“I’m sorry, your grace,” he said, his eyes glittering like emeralds, “but I would have to politely refuse those orders.”


I let out something of a snort. “Well, I could just put an end to it by ordering you to dance with me the rest of the evening. I’m not so sure I want to share you.” I tried to move in a little closer, but Alex’s grip firmly held me back again.
“I’m sorry, your grace,” he said, his eyes glittering like emeralds, “but I would have to politely refuse those orders.”


“I’m sorry, your grace,” he said, his eyes glittering like emeralds, “but I would have to politely refuse those orders.”


Chasing the Cookbook!

A Day in the life of… 
Joan Porte


As a cookbook author, my methodology is not typical of
most writers. I do not have to face a blank screen or piece of paper and will
the words out of my right brain.
I don’t have to fear writers block. However,
that does not make my task any easier than that of the novelist or biographer.
In fact, I am not as fortunate as those lucky people are. Every time I sit down
to work on a recipe, I face something much more dastardly. It is the memory of
the days when I had to chase my mother around the kitchen to try to have her
actually write down a recipe for what she was making. Don’t snicker! This is
something that can cause flashbacks of horrors for decades.
Members of my mother’s family were of the touch-and-feel
school of cooking. If you would ask her how much salt to add to a pasta recipe
she would say something like, “Feel it, when it feels like there is enough, it
is good.” How do you write a recipe that reads – amount of salt — to the
feel? It can’t be done.

One day I was determined to get her recipes on paper and
spent days which seemed like decades  –
yelling “STOP” every time she was about to add something – and then grab a
measuring cup to get some idea of an amount. It was not pretty – nor were the
looks she was throwing me throughout the process.
Actually today, when I see one of her recipes, I smile
at those days.  I now know that they were
good training for cookbook writing because they instilled in me two skills you
must have to write a good recipe. The first is measure, taste and measure again.
Whether it is an old recipe that needs to be updated or something I concoct I
pay special attention to that extra ½-teaspoon of cardamom and the ¼-teaspoon
of lemon zest that will just make the dish pop.
When I get an old recipe – and I love scouring colonial
cookbooks for ideas – I, of course, have to change some of the meats. There is
not much call for squirrel anymore. Then I always update the herbs because
today fresh is always better. However, you cannot just toss in the same amount
of a fresh herb as dried. Something like oregano packs quite the punch and 2
teaspoons of fresh will destroy the flavor of every other herb. Therefore, you
measure, taste, and measure again.
The second lesson is to take the recipes that friends
gave and make it your own. In other words, I had to “feel them” and see if they
needed something else to suit my personal taste. Many friends offered family
treasures for my cookbook but I had to rework each so they had the same “tone”
as all of the others and still had my touch. I would make the recipe exactly as
written, then take those same ingredients, and make it my way.

What do I mean by tone? You have to remember that a cookbook is still a book
and you do not want to have it appear disjointed as if two different voices had
written the same book.
It is a mistake to take someone else’s words and think
that they will flow naturally with yours. I had to be sure that everyone was
fine with me not taking her recipe verbatim. I wanted no hard feelings but had
to be sure it was totally mine.
So, while the training was harrowing I thank Mom for the
lessons and for the food – and the memories.


“Signs of the Tines: The Ultimate Astrological Cookbook”
is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Sign of the Tines
.  Link for chart readings or contact Joan via email or visit her blog (above). Download her podcast Astrological Cooking.
The 295-page book with more than 120 recipes is written to celebrate a unique pairing of food and astrology. 
Goodreads
Amazon.com
Barnes and Noble
A new breed of cookbook that combines personal astrology with a love for preparing and sharing delicious meals. 
Astrologer and gastronome Joan Porte brings a new, fun twist to cooking by showing anyone who loves to cook how to personalize a menu for your family and friends. Beautiful photographs complement the more than 120 featured recipes organized by zodiac sign. Choose a dish or plan a multi-course meal with selections from: Appetizers, Soups, Pasta, Veggies & Fruit, Meat & Fish, and Dessert for each of the twelve signs. SIGNS OF THE TINES is a heart-warming and mouth-watering invitation to eat in alignment with our stars!
Discover why:
Scorpios have
a craving for pasta puttanesca
Librans feel
grounded when they dig into a chocolate mousse parfait
Cancerians stand
tall with their bowl of Brunswick stew
Virgoans set
aside their healthy-conscious habits when faced with chocolate raspberry
ramekins
Aquarians respond
to the sustainable fish used in Pollock with berry prosecco sauce
Pisceans beat
a common ailment when feasting on quinoa with roasted root veggies.
“These recipes are taken from a
number of sources; some are family gems, others I’ve concocted and tweaked over
the years,” says author Joan Porte.

The home cook will discover how
astrology as a source for new food ideas and new ways to entertain friends. And
the astrology enthusiast will discover how cooking can be a new use for
astrology as a way to add more meaning to the daily ritual of eating we perform
to survive and thrive.
Enter the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win a signed paperback and a $10 Starbucks Gift Card!

Joan Porte started “playing” with
Astrology when she was in grammar school. She always had a fixation with the
planets – Pluto being her favorite (surprise she is Scorpio Sun!) Yes, Pluto is
still a planet to her! She put her astrology “toys” away when she
grew up and went into the “real world,” sadly convinced that it was
time to do more important things. The universe and her North Node in Sagittarius
woke her up in her mid-thirties after which she began an intensive study of
Western astrology.

According to Joan, “Modern Man takes for granted the Sun and how its
energy propels and sustains life. Moon energy controls the tides yet we ignore
the other more personal influences it has on our bodies and lives. We have lost
the art of appreciating and reading the stars as messengers from the god and
goddess. Humanity has disconnected from its source


and consequently suffers emotionally, spiritually and physically.”

“Each person is born with a map – a soul map – that is his or her
astrological chart. It is a map through the maze of life that shows the karma
we need to balance our soul’s desire for a life that leads to enhanced soul
growth. I simply read the map – illustrating where you have been and where you
are going to make your journey through life less bumpy.” With this cook
book Joan is combining her astrological knowledge with her lifelong love of
cooking in her own inimitable way.
 

Gram’s Cranberry Pie

Every Christmas my friend, Diane Stoy,
makes her Gram’s cranberry pie as a way to keep her grandmother’s memory alive.
It is a wonderful tradition – to be appreciated by tradition-bound Cancer, and a very good pie!
This is what Diane has to say about her Gram’s pie. “So you thought cranberries
were only for use in cranberry sauce??

Here is a famous original recipe for cranberry. Gram lives on in many ways, but
especially in this recipe. Over the years, her granddaughter shared this
special treat with many others in Washington, D.C. Now this delicious memory
can be enjoyed by friends everywhere. Thanks, Gram!”

1 ¼ cup fresh cranberries, washed
1 cup sugar, divided
1 egg (2 eggs if you want a fluffier batter)
¼ cup butter, melted
½ cup flour
⅛ teaspoon baking powder
¼ cup walnuts or pecans (optional. Diane leaves these little buggers out when
she brings this to my house.)
1 cup whipping cream or vanilla ice cream (optional)

Makes one 8-inch pie
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Place the cranberries in a plate and
sprinkle with ¼ cup of the sugar. In a large bowl mix all of the other
ingredients well except the ice cream or whipped cream and pour on top of the
berries. (Batter may be thick.) Bake for 45 minutes in a greased 8-inch pie
plate. Serve warm or cold with the whipped cream or plain.
To serve with the whipped cream just beat the cream with an electric blender
until it becomes cream and dollop on top.
You can also serve with vanilla ice cream. 

Comedy and Fun Excerpts

by
Bryan Taylor


When you think about fun, what is the first word that comes into your mind? Is it nuns? No? Most likely you never met the nuns in my novel, or you had to put up with nuns as teachers for twelve years in Catholic School, or both. As one person who read my novel put it, I never knew any nuns like that. To which I replied, what is it about the word fiction that you don’t understand?

Though I have written a book about three former nuns who do things most nuns would never think about doing, it isn’t from experience. I have never been a nun, since I am a man, and I have no background as a Catholic. My dad was a minister, and both my parents’ dads were ministers of the hellfire and brimstone Jesus-died-for-your-sins variety, which probably explains more than never having attended Catholic School. So as you can see, when I took that writing class and the teacher told me to write about what I knew, I didn’t listen to a word the teacher said.

My nuns listen to others about as well as I do. Coito endured twelve years in Catholic School, though I’m sure the nuns who taught her prayed every night that she would go to a public school and leave them in peace. She usually did well in school, but even if she had flunked every subject, I’m sure they would have passed her to the next grade just to get rid of her. Let me give you an example of why the nuns were happy to get rid of her.

One of our goals in Catholic School was to save the Pagan Babies. For only five dollars, which seemed like a pretty good deal to me, we could get a Pagan Baby baptized and sent to heaven. They even showed us short movies of Catholic missionaries in Africa baptizing the Pagan babies to spur us on. We could buy a saint stamp for ten cents to paste in a book, and when the book was full, we could redeem the book for a Pagan Baby, whom we could name on our Pagan Baby Adoption Certificate. When we were first told about this opportunity, I rushed home to my parents and said, “Guess what, I’m going to have a baby, and she’s black,” which would have given my dad multiple heart attacks were it not for the biological impossibility of my statement at that tender age.

These Catholic equivalents to S&H Green Stamps prepared us for the future because they taught us how to buy on the installment plan. I asked our teacher if our book were half full, if we could we redeem it for half a Pagan Baby, but she said no, so there was always a rush to fill the book before the Pagan Baby Awards Day ceremony. There was a poster with Jesus in a pastoral scene at the front of the classroom and every time someone adopted a Pagan Baby, we got to add a child to the poster. By the end of the school year, Jesus had become the most prolific father in history.

In a way I thought the pagans were lucky. They automatically went to limbo and didn’t risk going to Hell until the missionaries baptized them. I could just imagine tribes fleeing the missionaries to make sure they kept their spot reserved in limbo. When my mother told me that our dog had gone to “Doggie Heaven,” I wondered whether unbaptized pagan dogs went to “Doggie Limbo.”

After realizing that once the Pagan Babies were baptized, they too would need a Catechism to guide them along the straight and narrow path, I wrote K’s Catechism for Cannibals in perfect Palmer Method penmanship, providing dozens of important questions and answers as well as prayers written just for the pagan cannibals.

Q: Is it better to cook a Virgin Martyr or a Heretic?
A: It is better to cook a Virgin Martyr than a Heretic because the Virgin Martyr is sweeter to the palate and the meat is softer to cook than that of a Heretic.
Q: Should a converted Cannibal woman continue to walk around topless?
A: A converted Cannibal should continue to walk around topless because Priests are celibate and will not be tempted.
I even provided the cannibals with a prayer to say before each meal.

Our Martyr, who hath been cooked, blessed be thy meat. Thy flesh be done, so thy sweet taste will fill us when we eat.


I sold my literary creation to my fellow students for a dime and then contributed all my earnings to converting the Pagan Babies in Africa. Despite my altruistic intentions, when the sisters got a copy of my addition to the canon, they imposed an excessive number of penances on me. The nun who imposed the greatest guilt and fear in us was Sister Mary Margaret whom we referred to as Attilla the Nun because she behaved more like a four-foot, ten-inch tall Auschwitz prison matron than a Sister of Mercy. Some students were convinced that not only did she have eyes in the back of her head, but that the Blessed Virgin Mary had endowed her with the ability to see through walls and read our minds. It was rumored that she made extra money in the summer by training Marine Drill Sergeants, and we had no doubt that she gave every penny she made to the church. We joked that Satan would rather do battle with the Archangel Gabriel than Sister Mary Margaret because at least Satan had a chance with Gabriel. Even I watched her step around Attila the Nun.
So as you can see, not all of the teachers were scared of Coito, but I’m sure even Attila the Nun had had enough of Coito by the end of the school year. If you want to read more of The Three Sisters merry adventures, you will just have to read the book.


Introducing 

The THREE SISTERS

Nuns just want to have fun! 

But when three former Catholic nuns, Coito GottTheodora Suora and Regina Grant have too much fun and get in trouble with the law, they become nuns on the run.

Amazon
Driving back to Washington D.C. where they
work at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Parts, the three sisters are
arrested in Tennessee. After defeating the local deputy in strip
poker, they escape from jail, and are pursued by the zealous Detective Schmuck
Hole, who has personally offered a $10,000 reward for their capture on the 700
Club. Little do they know that when the three sisters visit the Washington
Monument, their lives will change forever.

Set in 1979, The Three Sisters is a
sacrilegious satire that skewers not only organized religion, but the
government, the media, intellectuals, corporate greed and every other part of
the establishment. Maybe not the greatest story ever told, but possibly the
funniest.

“Blessed are they who read The Three
Sisters, for they shall inherit eternal laughter.” — Matthew 5:66
“The most pestilential book ever vomited
out of the jaws of Hell.” — Billy Sunday
“Les trois soeurs valent bien une messe.” –
Henry IV
“Lasciate ogne speranza, voi che leggete Le
Tre Sorelle.” – Dante Alighieri
Warning: The Surgeon General has determined
that reading The Three Sisters may lead to Eternal Damnation.  Side
effects may include a renewed sense of humor and a better sex life.


Win a copy of THE THREE SISTERS …





Bryan Taylor is a double PK, a preacher’s kid of a preacher’s kid. With that legacy he faced two destinies, being an unhappy triple PK (Jubilees 17:23, “He that is born unto the son of a preacher and himself preaches shall be miserable until his dying day and suffer eternal damnation.”), or being sacrilegious and happy.

He decided to forsake the Southern Baptists for Catholicism, but when he applied to join a convent, he was rejected (sex discrimination!), so he decided to do the next best thing: write a novel about the three nuns he would most like to meet.

Bryan Taylor was born in Louisiana, grew up in Michigan and Texas, went to school in Tennessee, South Carolina and California, taught in Switzerland for a year, and has traveled to 50 countries, more than any Pope except Saint John Paul II. He now lives in California, which is one of the few places with people crazier than him.



Excerpt from THE THREE SISTERS

Chapter 1            One
of our goals in Catholic School was to save the Pagan Babies. For only five
dollars, which seemed like a pretty good deal to me, we could get a Pagan Baby
baptized and sent to heaven. They even showed us short movies of Catholic
missionaries in Africa baptizing the Pagan babies to spur us on. We could buy a
saint stamp for ten cents to paste in a book, and when the book was full, we
could redeem the book for a Pagan Baby, whom we could name on our Pagan Baby
Adoption Certificate. When we were first told about this opportunity, I rushed
home to my parents and said, “Guess what, I’m going to have a baby, and she’s
black,” which would have given my dad multiple heart attacks were it not for
the biological impossibility of my statement at that tender age.
These Catholic equivalents to S&H Green
Stamps prepared us for the future because they taught us how to buy on the
installment plan. I asked our teacher if our book were half full, if we could
we redeem it for half a Pagan Baby, but she said no, so there was always a rush
to fill the book before the Pagan Baby Awards Day ceremony. There was a poster
with Jesus in a pastoral scene at the front of the classroom and every time
someone adopted a Pagan Baby, we got to add a child to the poster. By the end
of the school year, Jesus had become the most prolific father in history.
In a way I thought the pagans were lucky.
They automatically went to limbo and didn’t risk going to Hell until the
missionaries baptized them. I could just imagine tribes fleeing the
missionaries to make sure they kept their spot reserved in limbo. When my
mother told me that our dog had gone to “Doggie Heaven,” I wondered whether
unbaptized pagan dogs went to “Doggie Limbo.”
After realizing that once the Pagan Babies
were baptized, they too would need a Catechism to guide them along the straight
and narrow path, I wrote K’s Catechism for Cannibals in perfect Palmer Method
penmanship, providing dozens of important questions and answers as well as
prayers written just for the pagan cannibals.
Q: Is it better to cook a Virgin Martyr or
a Heretic?
A: It is better to cook a Virgin Martyr
than a Heretic because the Virgin Martyr is sweeter to the palate and the meat
is softer to cook than that of a Heretic.
Q: Should a converted Cannibal woman
continue to walk around topless?
A: A converted Cannibal should continue to
walk around topless because Priests are celibate and will not be tempted.
I even provided the cannibals with a prayer
to say before each meal.
Our Martyr, who hath been cooked, blessed
be thy meat. Thy flesh be done, so thy sweet taste will fill us when we eat.
I sold my literary creation to my fellow
students for a dime and then contributed all my earnings to converting the
Pagan Babies in Africa. Despite my altruistic intentions, when the sisters got
a copy of my addition to the canon, they imposed an excessive number of
penances on me. The nun who imposed the greatest guilt and fear in us was
Sister Mary Margaret whom we referred to as Attilla the Nun because she behaved
more like a four-foot, ten-inch tall Auschwitz prison matron than a Sister of
Mercy. Some students were convinced that not only did she have eyes in the back
of her head, but that the Blessed Virgin Mary had endowed her with the ability
to see through walls and read our minds. It was rumored that she made extra
money in the summer by training Marine Drill Sergeants, and we had no doubt
that she gave every penny she made to the church. We joked that Satan would
rather do battle with the Archangel Gabriel than Sister Mary Margaret because
at least Satan had a chance with Gabriel. Even K watched her step around Attila
the Nun.


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Social media isn’t important to an author…

… it’s CRUCIAL!
by 
Angelina Rose

VBT Cafe

Social Media

Social media is probably the most
powerful marketing tool for writers. It gives you free access to millions of
potential readers. Business owners tend to dive head long into social media
expecting to see huge results in short periods of time. That is simply not the
case. It takes patience in order to build up a presence on social media. Here
are a couple of frequently asked questions.

How important is Social Media to Authors?

It’s not just important, it’s absolutely
essential for writers to establish themselves in the social media world. Here
are some of the reasons why:

Brand Building

Social media is perhaps the most
powerful brand building platform in the marketing world. You can use it to
decide the manner in which you want people to perceive you as a writer. If you
don’t find a way to make readers feel that your books are in demand, then you
will not sell very many copies.

Thriving Community of Readers

Social media brings with it a diverse
and cultivating community. It puts millions of potential readers right at your
fingertips. When you build a community, you are guaranteeing that future
opportunities will be more successful. 

Gives you Authority as an Author

Without being active through social
media, you will not be able to garner the authority needed to convince readers
to buy your books. Authority is especially important if you are a non-fiction
writer.

Competitive Advantage

The
truth is that a lot of individuals don’t do a good job with social media.
Therefore, keeping on top of it will give you a significant advantage. When
starting out as an author, you need all of the advantages you can get.

What is the Best Social Media Platform

There
are so many opinions as to the best platform to use that it’s a bit of a toss
up as to which one you should use. Here are the three you should be most
concerned about:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn

Facebook

If
you don’t know what Facebook is then you must be living under a rock. It’s the
granddaddy of the social media world. You should definitely have an account
with an author page. Just be sure to make your profile and page come across as
professional. The trick to simplifying Facebook is to use your author fan page
to promote new books as opposed to creating pages for each book you release.
Only do that when you can afford to hire a team to manage your Facebook
accounts.

Twitter

Another
great (and necessary) platform for writers is Twitter. Fans absolutely love to
be engaged by authors. Twitter lets you easily connect and sometimes reply to
readers in a more personal way. In addition, you can effectively get your fans
to advertise for you through retweets.

LinkedIn

Finally,
we come to LinkedIn. Many tend to skip over this ever-important platform of
social media. If you’re trying to get signed by a traditional publisher, a
LinkedIn account is necessary. Publishers are guaranteed to search through
LinkedIn once they read your query letter. If they don’t find you on, then you
will likely be ignored.

Final Tips for Social Media

Let’s
end this article on a few quick tips of some things you should keep in mind
when using social media.

Don’t Spam your Fans

Spamming
is the fastest way to scare off fans (or send them storming off in rage). In
the social media world, if you only ever post that people should buy your books
or products, then you are spamming. So most of your posts should be fun and
entertaining posts, with a few promotions scattered throughout. 

Be Consistent

You
can be as active with social media as you want but I do recommend that you at
least add one post a week. However, stay consistent. If you plan on posting
once a week, then make sure you do so. Don’t go weeks without posting.

Never bite off more than you can chew

In
other words, don’t try and do too much. Maintain a schedule and only spend a
limited time on social media.





The Eyes of Love

After a tragic
loss five years ago, Sally Overby becomes an Attorney in Atlanta. She convinces
herself that all she’ll ever need again is her young son, David, and her life
as an attorney. Until one day, Colin Dean barges back into her life and promptly
blows her safe world apart, driving her crazy as only a guy she’d had a
“school girl crush” on can.


Although shocked
and thrilled by Colin’s attention, Sally is wary to love deeply. Only, with
every loving look Colin gives her plus every sweet kiss, as the attraction
between them sparks, she can’t help but wonder if she’s met the one she should
be with. And although Colin didn’t realize his life was going to change so
quickly, amazingly, he isn’t the least bit interested in fighting that change.
Instead, he’s gearing up for a different fight altogether… the one for Sally’s
heart.

Will Colin be able to convince her
that’s it safe to love him… and that forever isn’t really out of reach?

Romantic, amusing, and deeply moving,
Book 4 in the Mill Creek Crossing Romance Series, is a tale that will stay with
you.

The Eyes of Love is a novella… you
will be able to enjoy it in just one day!

Join in the fun for prizes:

Angelina Rose
Author Angelina Rose is the first daughter of immigrant parents, and from childhood has had her head buried in books. It was a shocking experience that jump-started Angelina’s author career.

In 2010, Angelina had a long stint in hospital following a motor vehicle accident. It was then she took up pen and paper wrote four short fiction stories for young adults, entered them in several competitions, and managed to win three first prizes!


Angelina has now authored four books in a new “Mill Creek Crossing Romance” series… contemporary romance intended for adults.


The “Starting Over Series” is another contemporary romance series she wrote about a subject she knows well… nurses and their love life. At a recent reunion of her graduating class, she could not help but notice how the same girls would group together and laugh, chat, and even shed some tears over their lives since graduating. Many of the girls had divorced… so Angelina thought “what if a group of the nurses came up with a plan to meet in two years and have a new love story to share?” Then the first story in the series was born.


Angelina really loves to hear from her readers and she invites you to connect with her on Facebook as she interacts daily with her readers there!




 The Eyes of Love


“Well, if it isn’t the handsome Colin Dean,”
she said fanning herself and smiling. Gracie was older than he was, but he
remembered her younger sister, Eva, quite well. They’d all hung out together at
parties when they were younger, and Gracie had been a fixture at Stella’s for
years even though she recently came into some inheritance money.

“Hey, sweetie,” he said kissing her on the
cheek. Women loved Colin because he made them feel good, and he was always
kind. Stephanie hadn’t been able to take that away from him.

“I’ll never wash this cheek again,” she said
touching her face and smiling. “How are you, honey?” she asked with a
frown.

“Hanging in there.”

“I hate to see you so sad, Colin,” she said
sliding into the booth across from him.

“I’ll be fine, Gracie.”

“I know you will, but if you ever need to
talk…”

“Thank you, but I don’t. Not yet anyway. The
divorce was finalized last week.”

“I’m so sorry about Stephanie, but she was never
good enough for you.”

“Gracie…” he said shaking his finger at
her.

“It’s true. Ask anybody. That woman is trouble
with a capital T. Always has been,” Gracie said, refusing to mince her
words. She’d despised Stephanie since she first met her.

“Glad you’re always on my side, sweetie,” he
said rubbing her hand and laughing. “I sure wouldn’t want you on my bad
side!”

“Good thinking. Oh, crud, I’ve got a
customer,” she said as she slid out of the booth and headed back up to the
counter.

“Dean!” he heard a voice call from behind
him. It was one of his baseball buddies, Cal Erwin. “How are ya,
man?”

“Good. Where’ve you been lately?” Colin
asked as Cal dropped down into the seat.

“Well, I went out to California to visit my
brother for a few months. Played in a band out there and gathered up lots of
ladies along the way,” he said grinning.

“Glad you had a good time.”

“Where’s Steph?” Cal asked.

“I have no idea. We’re not married anymore,”
Colin said as he looked at his menu.

Cal’s mouth dropped open. “What?”

“We divorced, Cal. She screwed Jazz and I walked
in on them.” Cal’s mouth dropped open yet again.

“Dude…”

“You know, we’re not sixteen anymore. You should
stop saying dude,” Colin said with a chuckle.

“I’m sorry, man. I had no idea.”

“No biggie,” he lied.

“I can’t believe Jazz…”

“Look, can we not talk about it? It’s kind of old
news, and I’m really done discussing it,” Colin said pointedly.

“Sorry. So, are you skipping the reunion
then?”

“Of course not. Why would I?

Alison Neuman on how social media is important to her

For us authors, social media is important.
Not only are we able to keep readers and friends up-to-date with our writing but also with the life events of others. Currently, it is impossible for
me to travel so social media allows me to reach my destinations from the
comfort of home, and I love that opportunity it’s given me.
In the past few years, there has been a huge
shift to the Internet. Blog tours are a great example of this and an excellent way
to promote your books.
How it works is that the author visits several blogs and
they are introduced to a new audience.
I have heard of authors who have been made into bestsellers
just because of social media.
It’s a tool in the authors’ promotional
toolkit that should not be overlooked.
Although, we have to be careful. When I
get continuing posts from individuals trying to sell me products, I must admit, I tune out. When that happens, we are losing a potential relationship. For
myself, I plug Ice Rose during the holiday buying season and for blog tours or
events. Just enough to keep my book out there, but not enough to cause offence.
Like most authors worldwide, I like to share activities and
events that are going on with my career, but my
 blog isn’t only focused on writing, it’s also about the arts and crafts. A writer once advised me
to post a new blog every two weeks,
but I find this challenging. Finding fresh
topics can be difficult and I wonder how other bloggers manage it.
And, I admit, when I write my posts, I do
not always focus on how worldwide social media can reach. So when, few years ago,
I posted a blog on a cookie bouquet that I was making, and received a comment
from a reader in Germany I was very shocked and pleased.

Ice Rose 
Amazon.UK
Amazon.com
A teenager’s world is turned upside down when an explosion steals her dad and her identity. Entering an exclusive academy that immerses her in the world of secret agents, she must overcome her fears and disabilities to discover the truth about her dad’s mission, his software, and the mystery man stalking her before she ends up like her father — lost.
Alison Neuman 
Alison Neuman lives in
Alberta, Canada, where she is a freelance writer and lyricist. Nearing the end
of her studies for the Bachelor of Applied Communications Degree program at
Grant MacEwan College, she was inspired to complete the first draft
of  Ice Rose. The pace of secret agent books and movies gave her an
unlimited playground for  imagination. Music and performing are passions
she was able to bring into her writing and build into her characters.




Alison’s writing has appeared in “MacEwan Today”, “Westword”, and the “Edmonton
Journal” along with three tracks on the CD release Outside The Window.
Co-writing the screenplay adaptation of the book Whale Songwith author
Cheryl Kaye Tardif exposed her to the world of screenwriting, which she hopes
to continue to examine further in the future. Alison also has been writing
shorter pieces of non-fiction, one entitled Establishing Roots, that
earned a top ten ranking in the Edmonton Stories contest. This past spring she
was a winner in The Expressions of Hunger Contest in the Emotional Poetry
category. Her piece Undeniable Craving was on display in June and
July in various artistic locations across the city of Edmonton.  She has
completed a final edit of her memoir “Searching For Normal” and is currently
writing her next young adult manuscript.



When not writing creatively, Alison  is editing or writing for her
business, Sandy Tree
Communications
.

Confessions of a writer… researching.

by 
Laina Turner

I was thrilled
when I saw the topic of the month for this blog. Why? Because I love hearing
secrets, who doesn’t, and I thought it would be fun to share some of mine,
about my writing anyways. They say confession is good for the soul.

I sometimes
forget if a memory is real or whether it’s something I thought-up in a book. I tell a story and find myself wondering if it’s true or just a cemented
figment from my imagination.
I have to think really hard to figure out which it
is and there have been times where I can’t, so I just go with that it’s
real. 



Some of you may think that is a little crazy and I understand. I happen
to think it’s quite normal.
At least for me, which I will whole-heartedly blame
on my parents because I’m an only child (their fault) and that made me overuse my imagination in order to entertain myself. So it’s no wonder I have
a hard time going back and forth between reality and fantasy.

It’s also no
wonder I closely identify with my characters. I like to afford them experiences
that I would like to have. Not that I would have any clue what to do if I came
across a dead body, but I’d like to think I would know.
It’s fun to pretend to
have that excitement.

I like to write
about places I have visited and experienced, and use my it as the background in my books. So
I have, on occasion, pretended to be one of my characters in order to fully
immerse myself in what she might see or do.
Again, you might think that’s
strange I like to think its good research to role-play and play make believe.

What do you like
to pretend?


Laina Turner, when she’s not working toward her
goals she likes–
OK fine–LOVES wine, coffee, shopping, and books. She enjoys
her kids, they are awesome. She hates the cold but yet lives in the mid-west.
Vegas is one of her favorite spots as she loves to people watch and if she ever
gets married again it will definitely be in a drive through chapel by a fake
Elvis.



Laina is currently
living in Indiana, with her family, and is always writing something, whether
it’s blogs, articles, business journals and books or ideas for her next novel.
She is continuously doing what she loves which is writing or drinking coffee.



Mystery and Romance



all in one book




Presley tells her boss what he can do with her job in HR and embarks on a new career as a freelance journalist. What seems like a simple interview with a Senator turns to murder when the day after her interview the Senator turns up dead. Does the fact that Presley was one of the last people to see him alive make her a suspect? Her ex-boyfriend Cooper, who was in charge of the Senators security, might think so. Presley is determined to clear her name but can she do it and resist Cooper’s charms?

Necklaces and Nooses 
When Presley’s boss is found hanging she thinks its suicide until the police discover its homicide. Who would want to kill a boutique owner? Presley’s not sure but she’s determined to find out. The cute detective assigned to the case makes it all the more exciting.

Handbags and Hooligans 
Presley went to Vegas to watch her friend Anna get married and the event turned into solving the mystery of her brothers girlfriend disappearance. But Ashley wasn’t exactly the schoolteacher she appeared to be. Who was she and was she kidnapped?

The holiday short…Mistletoe and Murder
In this holiday short story, Presley goes home for Christmas expecting it to be a relaxing holiday until her old boyfriend, Brian, asks for her help finding out who has been stealing from him and it turns from theft to murder. Why would anyone want to kill Tommy and what was he hiding?

Gems and Gunshots

Presley heads to San Diego to hang out with Cooper and enjoy the great west coast weather. She didn’t expect that while hanging out at the local coffee shop she would be a witness to a robbery and murder at Gemstone’s Unlimited. Much to Cooper’s dismay Presley feels compelled to investigate. She discovers that not only was the store owner a womanizer but also was filing false insurance claims for diamonds that weren’t really stolen. Was that why he was being blackmailed? Was that why someone robbed his store? Presley is determined to find out!


As a bonus get the short story prequel, A Day in the Life of Trixie Pristine.
In this short story prequel, Trixie and her friends Berklie and Sophie, considered themselves typical thirty something females until someone turned up murdered in their newly opened bookstore/wine bar. They thought they would be living out their dream in their new shop not trying to catch a killer. Who killed Sylvia and why? Or was one of them the intended target?


Enter the Rafflecopter for the giveaway:





Excerpt from Stilettos and Scoundrels

“Hello?”
“Presley!
I need to talk to you right away!” It was Helen Daniels, hysterical. I could
hardly understand her.

“What
is it, Helen? What’s wrong?” I had fallen asleep, but the sound of fear in
Helen’s voice quickly woke me up.

“Just
meet me at Gardner’s old warehouse in thirty minutes. If you’re not there, I
will not be able to wait. It’s not safe. You have to hurry!”
“Helen!
Calm down, safe from whom? Why all the drama? Helen…Helen?” She’d hung up. I
glanced at my watch. Crap! I’d never
make it there in thirty minutes. All I could hope for was Dirt and his deputies
were out investigating the Senator’s murder rather than trying to keep the
streets safe from speeders.

I
ran out of the house, running past my mother still working in her garden.
“Presley,
where are you going?
“I’ll
be back in a bit.”
“For
dinner?”

“I
don’t know.” I said exasperatedly. I didn’t need the third degree.
“Where
are you going?”
“I’ll
explain later. Just eat without me if I’m not back.”
“Pres!”
“Bye,
Mother.”

I
pushed seventy in a forty-five mile an hour zone, my Kia humming, just hoping
to get there on time. I was surprised my car could go that fast. In Chicago, the
traffic was so bad you didn’t really have a chance to speed this much. My phone
rang again, but I didn’t look at it. I needed to concentrate on my driving.
Gardner’s warehouse, located about twenty miles outside of town, used to be a
production plant for some automotive part. The plant closed years before, when
I still lived here. It was so long ago that I couldn’t remember what the
company actually produced.
I
pulled in the parking lot, gravel flying, hoping Helen was still here. The
clock on my dash said it had been thirty-three minutes since she called me. I
pocketed my keys, not wanting to weigh myself down with my purse, and jogged
around to the front entrance. I had on flip-flops, not the best jogging shoes,
but I was so startled when Helen called I just ran out of the house without
paying attention to what I had on. This was a big place, and I huffed trying to
catch my breath. I really must get in
shape
, I wheezed to myself.

Helen
hadn’t specified exactly where to meet her, so I assumed she might be at the
front entrance. She wasn’t waiting outside for me, so I tried the front door or
what I presumed was the front door. It was unlocked, which I thought strange
for an abandoned building, but I assumed Helen had unlocked it. Though had it
been locked, I could have crawled through one of the many broken windows. I
carefully stepped inside the building and the darkness engulfed me. The little
bit of light in the building was let in by the broken windows, and it took a
few minutes for my eyes to adjust. It smelled dank and musty, and I could hear
the scurrying of what were probably little furry rodents. I shuddered
involuntarily and didn’t want to think about what type of creepy crawlies were
in this building, especially with me in flip-flops. I wasn’t thrilled about
stepping any further into the building.

“Helen,”
I called softly. No answer. Where the
hell is she?
I tiptoed a little further into the building in an effort to
be quiet, though I still couldn’t see very well, so tiptoeing wouldn’t do me
any good if there was anything in my way. All of a sudden, I felt a hand on my
arm; I jumped about ten feet and started to scream.

“Shh,
Presley. It’s just me,” Helen said. “Do you think you could be a little
quieter?”
“Then
don’t ask me to come to an abandoned building and grab me when I’m not
expecting it. I can’t see! You could have been anyone or anything,” I retorted.
“I am not a big fan of the creepy things I am sure are in this building.” I
took one look at Helen and grew concerned. She was usually one of those women
who always looked impeccable, but her dark brown hair, usually in a knot at the
nape of her neck, was disheveled and loose. I could tell Helen had been crying,
from her smudged make-up. She definitely wasn’t her normal well put together
self. I could see that, even in this poor light. I still felt a stab of
jealousy because, even a little worse for wear, Helen looked better than most
women. Not fair at all.

“So
what is going on, Helen? Why all the cloak-and-dagger stuff? Why did we have to
meet here, of all places?” I asked, looking around and waving my arms. “Should
we even be here? The place looks about ready to fall down. I’m sure the owners
wouldn’t be too happy if we fell through the floor or something. This building
is quite a liability.”

“It’s
the only place I could go where I could easily see if I was being followed.
Besides, we own the building. Or rather, I do now,” Helen, replied giving a
little laugh—the hysterical kind, rather than the ha-ha kind.

“Why
would anyone be following you?” I took a step forward, concerned Helen might
really be in danger. It seemed so surreal.

Helen
tried to keep herself from crying again. “They called my house, Presley. They
called my house and demanded money. They said if I didn’t pay up, they would
make sure I met the same fate as Tom. I knew they would want their money, but I
didn’t think it would be like this. I thought I would have some more time. I
can’t get my hands on that kind of money right now. It would look too
suspicious; besides, I don’t even know yet where I am going to get it!” Helen
then burst into tears.

I
waited for a few uncomfortable moments for the tears to subside. To help Helen,
I needed her to calm down and tell me everything she knew. Plus, I had a few
questions of my own.
“Do
you know who it was that called you, Helen? Who did the Senator owe money to?”

“I
don’t know specifically who the caller was, nor who Tom owed money to. I didn’t
recognize any voices and they didn’t tell me their names. Tom tried to hide as
much as he could from me about this aspect of his life, I told you that
already, and when I forced the issue, he told me as little as possible. Usually
just enough to get me to shut up. To be honest, it got to where I didn’t even
ask much because I didn’t really care.”

“Who
else knows about the Senator’s gambling problem? Maybe that’s who called you.
Could it be blackmail?” I thought blackmail seemed as good a reason as any.

“The
only people who know about this, besides the people he owed the money to, are
me and Tobey. As the Senator’s assistant, Tobey was privy to a lot more
information than I thought he should have been,” Helen explained. “Tom said he
would find out anyway, and that we could trust him. I don’t think Tobey is the
type to try to blackmail anyone. Other than that, there is no way Tom would
have told anyone else. He might have been a gambler, but he wasn’t stupid. At
least not that stupid.”

“What about Garrison Palazzo.”




CREATING IS ONE THING—LETTING IT MARINATE IS ANOTHER

by
Cindy McDonald
 People are always
asking me: where do you come up with the ideas for your Unbridled series? I
always chuckle a little bit and then I explain: Well, hanging around the
backside (stable area) of a racetrack for twenty or so years will give you
plenty of fodder for story lines—trust me!

It’s true. So many
characters hang out at the racetrack: gamblers, liars, jockeys, agents (yes,
jockeys have agents), liars, horse trainers, exercise riders, veterinarians, crazy
blacksmiths, and did I mention liars?  There
are lots of liars. Oh yes, the racetrack is a treasure trove of characters, and
if you are paying close attention (I’m a watcher by nature) they will give you
as many storylines as your little heart desires.

Now just to be
clear, I have never seen anyone murder anyone else, nor have I been murdered
myself at the racetrack, so there is quite a bit of exaggeration placed in the
Unbridled books. And although the Unbridled books are fiction, there is a lot
of truth that lies between the lines.

Another question
people are always asking is: Cindy, where do you find the time to write? The
answer is quite simple, I make time. I write everyday. Sometimes I feel as
though I am handcuffed to my computer, but like anything else that you want to
do well, writing is a commitment.

I love to write in
the evenings. It is the quiet time of day, and after I have finished cleaning
up dinner, I pour a glass of wine—usually a chardonnay—I never drink red, it
makes me sweat. Wait a minute.  Maybe I
should reconsider—the sweating might help with those love scenes that I pen.

My stories are
taken from the original telescripts that I wrote for the TV drama series,
Unbridled. Warner Brothers sniffed around it, but the show never got sold, so
my telescripts are excellent outlines. Even with the scripts, it takes me
approximately ten to eleven months to write an Unbridled story. After months of
writing, rewriting, thinking, and yes banging my head off my desk the
manuscript is read to upload it to my editor, right?

Whoa, not so
fast—not for me anyway. This is where my writing and publishing habits may
differ from other authors. This, my friends, is where patience must persevere, and
sometimes that’s a mighty big order.

Okay, take a deep
breath, because it’s time for the marinating process to begin. Yep, that’s what
I said “marinate”. You’re probably wondering if I’ve hit my head off the desk
one too many times, not really. When I’ve finished a manuscript I do the same
thing most authors do—I start over from the beginning and read, tweak, read,
tweak, and then read and tweak some more. And after I’ve gone through this
procedure several times I close the file and let it marinate.

I let the file sit
for up to six weeks without opening it, without re-reading or tweaking it. But
I never stop thinking about it. I keep a notepad close by to jot down thoughts
during those six weeks that the manuscript is becoming juicy and succulent. It
is definitely an exercise in fortitude, but hey, ya know what? It always pays
off in a very big way because when I open the file to re-visit the story, I’m
reading it with fresh eyes and fresh thoughts and the results are always well,
fresh.

Hurrying my
manuscript is never an option for me. I want to make sure that it is a story
that my readers would not be able to put down. Every author has their writing
rituals, for me it is contemplation. Beyond marinating my manuscripts, I
usually take short breaks during the writing of a book as well. Sometimes, I
will walk away from a manuscript for a week or so. If I find that I am becoming
frustrated with my story, I know that it is time to take off my glasses, turn
off the computer, and go for a walk or take my dog, Harvey, for a nice long
run.
The sunshine clears my head and it feels good to stretch my legs for a while—I
was a professional dancer for twenty-six years, I need to move around a bit!
But if I return to the problem pages and nothing has been resolved, then its
time for a break from Unbridled for possibly a week or so. Honestly, it doesn’t
take long until I’m missing my characters and I’m back in the saddle tapping at
the keyboard once again.

Yes it’s true,
marinating and contemplation is a long process, however I am always pleased
with the outcome. I am usually able to publish two Unbridled books per year.
How? Well, I am always a book ahead—sometimes two books ahead of what you are
finding on 
Amazon.  Example: the fourth book of the Unbridled Series, Against
the Ropes, will release on June 1
st. I am almost half-way through
the fifth book, Shady Deals—it will be marinating by July. 

Whew!

I must admit
that no dust ever settles on my computer and those handcuffs come in darn
handy, too. ;}



Other posts on WWBB from Cindy McDonald:
Memories of Presque Isle
When writing romantic scenes where does one draw the line?
When reviews count for nothing.




Deadly.com
by Cindy McDonald

BIO FOR AUTHOR, CINDY McDONALD…

For
the past twenty years Cindy has helped her husband raise, train, and race
Thoroughbreds at their forty-five acre farm known as Fly-By-Night Stables near
Pittsburgh.
During those years Cindy has paid
close attention to the characters that hang-out at the back-side of the
track.  She found the situations and life style most intriguing. In 2005
she sat down at her computer and began a journey into writing about this life
that few understand.
Cindy has recently retired from making
her living as a professional choreographer. She owned and operated Cindy
McDonald’s School of Dance since 1985.  She studied at Pittsburgh
Ballet Theatre School and with the Pittsburgh Dance Alloy at Carnegie Mellon
University to name a few.  She has choreographed many musicals and an
opera for the Pittsburgh Savoyards.


Enter the giveaway:
One signed paperback or ebook (winners choice, US/Canada), International – one ebook: DEADLY.COM HOTCOCO or DANGEROUS DECEPTION

DEADLY.COM

Make a note: never agitate a madman. Successful Thoroughbred trainer Mike West just made that mistake, and he’s gonna pay—more than her ever realized. But it’s all in the family; his sister, Kate, has been the object of the madman’s desire on the social network site “My Town”. Her constant rejections have infuriated him. People who seem to be in the way start turning up dead, and he’s got Kate and Mike next on his list! In the first book of “The Unbridled Series” Cindy McDonald introduces you to the world of Thoroughbred racing, while taking her cast of characters for a wild ride through a maniac’s mind.

EXCERPT:

The heat of a summer night wrapped its arms around Westwood Thoroughbred Farm. The farm’s vast one hundred acres nestled in the rolling hills of Pennsylvania outside the small town of Grantville. Westwood was a lucrative, bustling horse farm. In the mornings exercise riders would put the horses through their daily workouts. The stable hands would scuttle about the barn chattering in Spanish while cleaning stalls and filling water buckets. In the afternoon, the farm manager, Punch McMinn would deliver the horses to the racetrack where they would dash hell-bent–for-leather toward the finish line. 

Not tonight. Not for Kate West anyway. Kate was only looking for peace and quiet tonight. The glimmer of candlelight and the comforting scent of sweet lilac filled the room. She took a long, gratifying sip of her Sleepy Time tea with a drizzle of honey, a tiny indulgence to help her unwind. She ran her fingers through her blonde, silky hair. Dressed in a soft cami and a pair of pajama pants, she was feeling cozy and glad to have the evening off. She often worked late into the evening as a veterinary assistant at the racetrack. Tonight was going to be a hot one.

She stretched out on the sofa in her father’s study. The sweat dribbled down her neck to between her breasts. Her cami clung to her like a contestant in a wet t-shirt competition. She propped her feet on the coffee table. Her lips curled devilishly as she thought how her father would disapprove. 

Twenty-five-year-old Kate was much too old for scolding, but Eric West could be somewhat over-bearing. He loved the grandeur of the old Victorian-style farmhouse. He claimed that installing a modern convenience such as central air would compromise the home’s integrity. But he wasn’t home. She wiggled her toes, lifted her laptop from the couch, and logged onto a local networking website. The Wi-Fi delivered the site speedily to announce “MY TOWN” across the screen in bold letters. 

The blueness from the laptop’s screen illuminated Kate’s face. She arched a brow and she bit her lip softly when the picture of Giorgio appeared on the screen.

He’s logged on! Oh yes! There he is a delicacy of pure eye candy.

Giorgio had smooth olive skin. His long, dark hair swept across his broad shoulders. His eyes were a cool, inviting green. His jaw was square and strong. It was as if he wasn’t real, as if he was one of those erotic-looking characters on the cover of a romance novel. 

Kate chuckled to herself. She could easily picture this half-naked Adonis, embracing a buxom beauty with her brunette hair cascading over her shimmering bare shoulders with a title like Desire at Dawn scrawled over their heads. 

She had been cautiously chatting with Giorgio for several weeks after he had requested her friendship on the site. His picture was so stimulating, how could she resist? A congregation of attractive woman worshipped him with suggestive messages and invitations on his page. And why wouldn’t they adore him? His half unbuttoned shirt clarifies one thing. He’s ripped.

Among the women who paid daily homage to Giorgio was Ava West, Kate’s ex-sister-in-law. Kate had a healthy disdain for her. She was unfaithful to Mike, Kate’s older brother. Ava blatantly flaunted her beauty in men’s faces to get what she desired. Tall and leggy, beautiful Ava allowed her auburn hair to dangle so she could brush it back with a coquettish smile when in seduction mode. Like Giorgio, she too had green eyes, but they weren’t soft. They were definitely piercing. 

Every man’s wet dream featured Ava, and she knew it. She could be quite the smooth manipulator. Her messages to Giorgio weren’t so much suggestive as straight to the point. Ava liked men in multiples. One man, no matter how handsome, was just never enough for very long.

In general, Kate thought little of women who participated in cyber-sex; she considered it a pathetic, desperate activity. But merely flirting with a gorgeous man in cyber-space couldn’t hurt, right? She laid her fingers thoughtfully on the laptop’s keys just as a message popped onto her screen. 

“Want some company?”

Her fingers jerked from the keyboard. Giorgio! Has he been waiting for me to log on? Hmmm. Maybe he prefers sultry blondes over auburn, green-eyed manipulative monsters.

The cat and mouse game she’d been playing with him for several weeks had been a lot of fun. He had suggested hooking up several times, but she wasn’t prepared for a face to face meeting. Not yet anyway.

She licked her lips in delight as her fingers found their way back into position. I have to hold him off a little longer… make him want me… make him really want to be with me. She typed, “Soon… maybe.”






Are you an ‘organic’ artist? Zackery Humphreys explains…

by

Zackery Humphreys



I consider myself a very organic artist.

Many of my ideas come from dreams or inspirations from other artists: Salvidor Dali, Ray Bradbury and Walt Disney are some good examples. When I get an idea, whether it is a character, an ending, or even just a line, I write it down either in my notebook or on my phone for later use. After that, I think about it quite a bit, usually as I’m lying in bed trying to sleep (which doesn’t help my sleep schedule!) until I have a rough outline in my head with a few more ideas, which I, in turn, write down in my notes. After that, it’s off to writing. 


Author Zackery Humphreys


I prefer this more organic way of creating as it bleeds into my writing. Each sentence inspires the next, and the next, which can sometimes lead to the creation of more ideas as I go along. It’s like stream-of-consciousness with punctuation. I prefer this to a solidified outline I may have already thought about ahead of time. It’s more exciting to write organically and it’s hopefully more fluid for the reader. 

For the entire process, I continue lying in bed thinking, jotting down notes, and writing until the project is finished and I’m dead tired!

Speaking of “finished,” the question I’ve been asked probably more than any other is, “How long does it take you to finish a book?” Well, it took me seven years to write Epsilon A.R., from the first word to the final product. Enough time to nearly get through all of high school and college.

This isn’t to say I was working on it constantly though. I started the novel as a fourteen-year-old in my sophomore year of high school and finished the first draft about four months later. That one draft sat on my hard-drive for years without a single word changed.

VBT

It took certain things in my life to stop for me to be able to start the project again. From that point, it took another four months to finish the second draft, and about two months more (I’m now twenty-years-old!) to finish the draft I sent out to publishers. 


That being said, I’m half-way through two novels within five months along with a few other finished projects on the side. It took me seven years to finish Epsilon, but expect the sequel much sooner. I’ll leave the long waits to George R.R. Martin. Long waits are not usually my thing. I’m impatient and goal-oriented. I like to bunker down and get things done, which is also why I have so many other projects on the side. 


In-between the times I’m writing on my novel, I do smaller writings such as screenplays, plays, short stories and poems, some of which will be included in my next book. Writing Epsilon, however, takes a much different type of focus than anything else I do. When I sit down to do it, I start around midnight after all of my rehearsals. This is when the rest of my life can shut off and I can find peace and quiet to write and not think about anything else. 

I sit at my desk, put in my earbuds (which don’t play anything) for added silence, and focus all of my attention on it. No one would know just by looking at the page, but I am a perfectionist when it comes to my work, especially Epsilon. I designate certain line spacing, fonts, and sizes for nearly everything. It needs to be laid out perfectly in order for me to focus solely on the writing. I always tell my friends, “I’m not a perfectionist, but when it comes to my work, it needs to be perfect.” 


With that being said, I’ll leave you with this one fine word of wisdom and perfection, “ldkfanafdrhgfjdfsfdjukykedbfaafsaof.”

EPSILON
it’s beautiful here until you’re alone.
Hundreds of years into the future, mankind has gone underground to relocate to the beautiful city of Epsilon. 

Epsilon is run by a strong, secretive government that keeps its citizens in check by subtle manipulation and strict schedules. No one questions its authority and no one is unhappy. 

ALN-896, an average man who is just trying to live a normal life,
begins to have dreams; something strange and rare in Epsilon. In his dreams, he
meets a man named Harry and everything is fine- until Harry dies. 

When ALN-896
wakes up, he shrugs it off as if nothing has happened. It was only a dream. But
then the next day, he is suddenly arrested and sent to prison for killing
Harry, whom ALN-896 assumed was just a figment of his imagination. 

Now
inside prison, ALN-896 begins to learn about everything the government of
Epsilon has been doing and he plans on escaping. Not only from prison, but from
Epsilon. This one decision turns him against everything he has ever known and
forces him to face against centuries of lies. To escape means to live. But what
will it cost?

Enter the Rafflecopter for a chance to win a signed copy of Epsilon AR (3)


Something to whet your appetite. An excerpt from Epsilon:

A black-and-white tie…
—-
Thoughts froze within his mind. Spit
bubbled through his pursed lips.
ALN-896 finally managed to pull away
from the exposed wire. He fell to the ground and wiped away the spit dribbling
down his cheek. His heart raced, and sweat poured down his body.
That was the most painful sensation he
had ever experienced.
I
never should have grabbed that wire…
ALN-896 stood up slowly and looked
around. No one saw what had just happened. He was alone on the desolate stretch
of Simov Street.
Fortunately,
I did not get hurt.
Instead of continuing, he decided to
get back into his car and let a nice cup of tea calm him.
From the center console of the car,
green tea was automatically dispensed into a cup. He let the liquid slide down
his throat, easing every muscle that had tensed. He melted into his plush seat
as he let his mind come to a halt. Then the silence was interrupted by a
robotic voice. “ALN- 896, your vitals are irregular. Is everything all right?”
“Everything is fine. I went to inspect
one of the house’s trashcans as I was instructed to, but I noticed an exposed
wire on the ground. I went to cover it back up when it…”
ALN-896 wasn’t quite sure what had actually happened when he
touched the wire. He hadn’t been electrocuted, but something strange had
occurred. The only thing he could get out of the experience was that he had
seen a black-and-white tie floating in the darkness behind his closed eyelids.
Nothing surrounded it, but he knew it had been attached to a body. One he
hadn’t been able see, but one he knew existed somewhere within the black.
Irrelevant.
“When it…,” ALN-896 stumbled. “When
it shocked me,” he lied.
“Your job still needs to be completed.
You still need to inspect the trashcans for Monday’s workday. After your tea,
you need to continue.”
“Yes, I understand.” 


T. M. Shannon’s writing process

by
T. M. Shannon


From tiny idea to the book shops. What is your writing process?

Having the idea: 


It’s not always “sit down and let the ideas flow”. Ideas pop up when you least expect it, and need to be written down or at least remembered (luckily my memory is good). 


Sometimes an idea would come with such a burst of energy that it’s not only writing an idea down – but twelve pages of the beginnings of a story that goes nowhere. But it’s still saved, idea 001 so to speak, left to return to and either bring to life, or leave to give to dust. 



My other dream is to write a Role Playing Game. Sadly, I don’t know coding, but I know writing. Either way, these blunt ideas were the conception for The Torment, The Shadow, The Heart. 


Author T.M. Shannon
Drafting: 
At first, I had such a urge to write that I did a lot of Hero of Talbadas (Vol 1) on the fly. I began on the PC, creating the idea of the world – what became the Verity in the published version, but then, like most writers, I had a day job to go to. I would leave work early, and take my time getting home just so I could write in an exercise book. Afterwards, I’d re-write it on Word, improving the narrative as I went. The project stalled near the end of the third book in the fantasy trilogy, all motivation gone. What I needed was to look at getting published for that final push.

Revising:
To get an agent or just to publish yourself you need to get the book up to a high standard. It starts making sure you have the book that you want. Revising is simply making sure your work makes sense. As I went with The Torment, The Shadow, The Heart I ended up removing some chapters and putting them in book two, took the start of book two and used it as the denouement for book one, and re-wrote a few things in between. It was just a matter of improvement.

Editing:
Past revising, editing is like “cutting the fat” off a steak. Go through and find proofing errors (I missed some of them and had to go again). Go through and ensure the formatting is good. Go through and make sure it makes sense i.e. delivers the narrative well. And after that, it pays to get it checked out by a fresh set of eyes.

This last step I actually haven’t done with The Torment, The Shadow, The Heart but intend to soon. It’s a bit of a monetary issue, but I wasn’t going to let that get in the way of my dream of becoming a published author


Publishing:

This is it. You’ve written your book and now you want to sell. You look up agents, send a couple of copies out, you get rejected. Twice was enough for me to give up trying about two years ago . . . until I heard about Createspace. All of a sudden, I had the chance to fulfil my dream AND give myself the drive to keep writing.

Past this process, marketing is the only part left. But that’s a blog post for another day, I suppose.
The Torment, The Shadow, The Heart

The Hero of Talbadas, vol. 1


“To a kingdom facing darkness, a Hero will come…”

Amazon.com

As the King of Talbadas nears his end, and treasonous parties seek to usurp the throne, young farmer Halm Dresden finds that his father’s dying advice, the actions of two elves, and a nightmare vision have put him on a destined path.  While impressionable youth and some of his friends join this treacherous league, Dresden has a sword made and prepares for looming conflict…


Author T.M. Shannon works full time, pays rent, and
has a head full of ideas. He is currently living the dream in Sydney,
Australia with his darling other half, and a 99% well-behaved son.
FREE books to be won!
Excerpt 1 – “Grab”
Dresden got to his
feet, stretched his arms and legs, and cracked his neck and knuckles both. He
looked to his family with eyes that no longer showed compassion, but dreadful
finality; and he made peace with the possibility that he may never see them
again.
“Dresden?” Kethis
asked uncertainly. Bindie and Gorden peered at him.
“This will not be,”
he said bluntly, his voice calmly level, different. “I will not have my
family, nor the people of my town, fear for their lives.” He had nothing else
to say; and having uttered those words, he strode for the hallway.
“Mum, where is he
going?” Gorden asked excitedly. “Where are you going, Dresden?!”
He
moved for the study, his eyes set in cold, calculating slits. “Out for a
walk
,” he growled…

Writing Process of Daitoku Daiichi – Summaries

by
Daitoku Daiichi



“In
this busy, dusty world, having accomplished nothing, I suddenly recalled all
the girls I had known, considering each in turn, and it dawned on me that all
of them surpassed me in behaviour and understanding; that I ,shameful to say
for all my masculine dignity, fell short of the gentler sex.” – from the
Dream of Red Mansion.



As I have
interests in books, film, television and video games, they are often major
influences on my work. Although I like to write something innovative, I am also
aware of respecting the work of others before me. It can also be fun and more
meaningful to the reader when my novel references some other work.


One of the
main things I do before planning a story is to narrow down on these ‘selected
works’. For ‘Hot Spring’, the first in the series of Godfrey and Chucky’s
adventures, I spent two months ‘drawing out the essence’ from the Chinese
classic ‘Dream of Red Mansion‘. Since this revered classic had a common
theme with my story idea, I wanted to make sure that I don’t write a scene only
to discover it had been done before. Both my story and “Dream of Red
Mansion” deals with the growing up phase of a young boy in an affluent
household. In both stories, the young boy is uneasy with his father and
fascinated by his aunt. The adolescent is also discovering his conflicting
feelings for two of his female friends. But enough of the similarities for now.
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The
original work has 120 chapters and about 2500 pages. I have the English
translation from Foreign Languages Press. I remember taking 6 months to finish
reading this, and I was sure I didn’t want to write something of that length.
So I did a summary of the timeless work, which helped me to remember some of
the major plot themes I had read before. You have to know how something is approached
traditionally, before you can give it a twist, don’t you?

In short,
the Dream of Red Mansions describes the slow decay of the esteemed Jia family,
and how the young heir Jia Baoyu awakens to spiritual discovery. Stripped bare
of all details, the classic is about a boy living in a large house with plenty
of women.
On the
other hand, in ‘Hot Spring’, the Gao family is prospering, and the story is
about how they overcome a threat to their business. There is still the
wonderful dynamic of a young boy living with many beautiful women in the hotel
and at school. On top of that, the Gao family hotel hosts wealthy tourists
Godfrey and Chucky, and even assists them on the adventure. The hotel’s name,
Red Jade Palace Hotel, is an allusion to the classic novel, and provides an
extra layer of amusement for its fans.

Doing the
summaries beforehand can really help an author to plan out the story well, and
ensure there is no unwanted repetition with a more famous cultural work. For my
second book I am already summarizing the films that I hope to pay homage to.
The same applies when a TV series or a video game inspired your writing
passion. If you want to read a fresh, innovative novel inspired by ‘Dream of
Red Mansions’, you should definitely catch your copy of ‘Hot Spring’ at Kobo
books.


The Wonderful Times of Godfrey and Chucky: Hot Spring

KOBO

Godfrey is young, wealthy and able-bodied. He has all the women you can imagine, and unbelievably deep pockets. But Godfrey wants more. His Great Greatness wants to rid the world of a menacing scourge, and restore what is truly superior to an elevated position. Why would anyone stop him? Who could possibly stop him?

Chucky arrives as the new assistant, and tries to perform every duty that is handed to him. What challenges for a dull servant! Look at him muddling through! With passports of exclusive privilege, the two adventurers make a splash in tropical Langkawi, where the water is blue and the girls are brown. Then they rendezvous with the locals in Singapore, where pleasures are plentiful and multicolored. Food and money are found in piles. Life in a global city should be, possibly, one of uninterrupted leisure…shouldn’t it?



Desire is a seductively red piece of jade, which resides even in our dreams.



“I am a healthy, strong and sexy male with a life, most of it sex life.” – Godfrey Mann


“I did not know how to reply, since the words were difficult to speak.” – Chucky

Inspired by English and Japanese gardens, Daitoku Daiichi is
committed to sharing scenes of beauty with his readers. He hopes that through
the mansion-like device of the novel, he can host a tea party to serve his
readers exotic delights. In the day, he is a tutor, essayist, gourmet and world
traveler. People somehow love to share their secrets with him, and he wants use
his gifts of perception to tell innovative stories.


Giveaway: 5 e-copies of The Wonderful Times of Godfrey and
Chucky: Hot Spring

Hot Spring Excerpts
Godfrey and Chucky discover a great way to fly.

Just like Master Gawd’s fast car, this big bird-like thing
has seatbelts. We watched a TV program where the Singapore Airlines girls,
called SIA girls, showed us how to evacuate in the event of an emergency. I
looked around and noticed that very few people were paying attention to the TV
program, and my master himself was alternating his gaze between the dinner menu
and the SIA girls that walked down the aisle. From the behavior of my fellow
passengers, I could only conclude that air emergencies did not happen very
frequently, so I felt reassured. They sound quite scary, these emergencies.


My master proclaimed, “They should have given us bigger
seats, don’t you think. There’s just barely enough space for me to stretch my
legs. What if one of those hot girls comes to sit on my lap?” He slouched
forward and wiggled his feet.


“They seem to be busy standing up and walking about to get
us things, master,” I replied, trying to defend the air servants.


“We might even have been short-changed, Chucky. Look at this
picture,” said master, pointing to the Krisflyer magazine. “They got these
first-class seats where you can like, lie down and roll about. That’s the way
it should be, don’t you think?”


“Yes, master. I guess they only have it for the bigger
planes.”


“They gave us a small plane, Chucky. This sucks.”

I was feeling a little upset because my master was not too
satisfied with our business class seats. It is very important that servants
work hard for the sake of higher authorities. I was actually quite happy that
we could get tickets just like that with our credit card, but I did not dare to
mention it to my master in case he would get angry. Usually when I book the
train in the Eastern Heaven, I have to make reservations beforehand.


Now, I was expecting this to be an unpleasant flight for my
master, but it turned out that things went the other way. The SIA ladies
started to walk down the aisle and gave us these strange-looking black things
wrapped in a see-through bag. There was one lady on Master’s aisle, wearing the
interesting dress with the shape of the female body and hair rolled up into a
bun with a neat, shiny side-parting. There was one lady on my aisle too,
wearing the same interesting dress with the shape of the female body and hair
rolled up into a bun with a neat, shiny side-parting. Both had a mild smile on
their faces and were walking down the aisles at about the same speed. When the
lady walking down Master Gawd’s aisle met Master Gawd, her smile widened and
she started talking a lot in a loud voice. Master Gawd greeted her and
introduced himself as ‘Great Godfrey’, and she chuckled and introduced herself
as ‘Mindy Wong’. Master mentioned that it was his ‘first time on your wonderful
airline’ and she proceeded to explain to Master that she was giving him
headsets for entertainment and that her beautiful dress was called the Sarong
Kebaya. Her English pronunciation was not the most clear and I think I might
have heard ‘headsex’ but I probably was mistaken. From my master’s reaction and
smiling face, the lady must have been quite beautiful and pleasing to his
taste.


When the lady walking down my aisle met me, her already-thin
smile almost vanished. She took out a yellow piece of headset and passed it to
me in silence before moving on really quickly. The yellow headset felt a little
tight as I spread it around my ears. I was fumbling about with the controls
while Master Gawd was already fully plugged in and flipping through the
channels. Then the most mysterious thing happened: the same SIA girl whom I saw
just a short while ago comes down the aisle once again. This time she looked at
me, with the same face as before, and spoke:


“I’m sorry sir, my colleague just now gave you the wrong
headset, which is for children. Here is the correct one.” She passed me a black
headset just like the one everybody else had.
I am blinking my eyes looking at this same SIA girl who I
saw moments ago. I think the take-off is making me imagine things, don’t you
think?


“Is there anything else I can get you, sir?”

“Sorry…I mean no. Well, I don’t know, it’s my first time.
Never mind.” I stammered.
The colleague who looked the same as the same-looking
colleague I met before, walked off briskly, leaving me to my confusion. Perhaps
this is what the ancient sages call ‘mystery of mysteries’.


When I was going to the washroom, the curtain happened to be
drawn and down the aisle I noticed a whole new area to the aircraft with many
people inside. The seats looked smaller than ours, and every seat had someone
in it. They were being served by a male steward, and when I asked him what this
area was, he stared at me with a confused look, and replied “This is economy
class, sir.” I felt somewhat relieved that I was not the only confused man on
the aircraft. This economy class seems to be quite popular though.


Our dinner was served to us in small boxes. Master Gawd
exchanged many words and glances with Mindy. I was not used to the descent to
Changi Airport, so I threw up into the throw-up bag. I felt a bit embarrassed,
but Master Gawd did not seem to mind.

How to Get Ideas for Books

by

Lisa Binion




Before I began to write, the complex plots in the books I read would amaze me.  I just could not figure out how the authors of these books came up with such fantastic ideas.  Since beginning to write, I have discovered ways to come up with some terrific ideas.


VBT

Take a look at your own life.  Life has a tendency to throw you into all kinds of situations, and each situation can be made into a story.  Softly and Tenderly came from the death of my mother when I was nine-years-old.  It was a traumatic time of life for me, and it took me a very long time to recover from her death.  I could have turned it into a mystery or a story that made people cry.  I could have written events just as they happened, but I really would not have been satisfied doing that.  I chose to make it creepy.


A few years ago, something happened to me that I’ll never forget.  It is something that I don’t want to live through again.  While I was out jogging, a spider must have fallen on my shoulder or in my hair.  That’s bad enough in itself, but when I discovered this spider on me, it was in my ear.  I didn’t realize at the time it was a spider.  All I felt were its legs as it crawled deep inside my ear.  Many excruciating hours later, I finally managed to coax it out by about drowning it with hydrogen peroxide.  It was one clean spider when it hit the floor.  I couldn’t let that horrifying event be for nothing.  I’m writing a book, Whisper, very lightly based on what happened.  Again, it will be a tale of horror.


If you can’t decide on an event in your life to write about, take a look at things that have happened in the lives of people you know.  Read newspapers and magazines to see what interesting things have happened in the lives of people you don’t know.  Check out current events and what is happening in the world today.


When you go shopping or go to town to pay bills, notice what is going on around you and listen in on other people’s conversations.  Just try not to be too obvious about what you are doing.  Is there someone you see doing something unusual?  Maybe someone is dressed in an unusual way.  Did you see someone walk away from their cart only to have someone else come along and pick up an item out of their cart?  Was that arranged beforehand?  Maybe it was a trade of some kind.


Perhaps your neighbor has a strange habit.  Does she walk outside every morning at exactly the same time and look down the road?  Is she watching for someone?  Why?  And who is she watching for?  I’m sure you can come up with all kinds of interesting scenarios to explain that.


Listen to your muse.  Pick up a sheet of paper and write down a word that interests you, a word that has a lot of meaning for you.  Now start jotting down other words that your main word brings to mind.  Before long, a story should start to form in your mind.  Keep at it long enough, and you should have enough to start writing.


One other way you can come up with ideas is to look at story prompts.  There are hundreds of these floating around on the Internet.  A lot articles on my BellaOnline Fiction Writing site have story prompts included in them.


Story prompts happen all around us each and every day.  All you have to do is notice them and build a story around them.







Softly and Tenderly
Death’s doors will part and evil shall be seen through the eyes of a child.

Amazon.UK
Amazon.com
“Mom died in her sleep last night.” Those are terrifying words for a child to wake up to. The beetle that falls off the stretcher and stares at her is only the beginning one of the strangest and most frightening times in Lori’s life. Death is not a pretty thing, especially not when the funeral is to be at the Lights Out Chapel and Crematorium.

Once she walks into the funeral parlor, she experiences things that no little girl should ever have to experience. No one is acting normal. No one can see what is going on. Is Lori the only one who sees the blood oozing from the pictures of Jesus on the cross? Doesn’t anyone else see the beetles? Is Lori hallucinating when she sees her mom sit up and hears her speak? There is absolutely nothing soft and tender about what happens to Lori.

From her overly morbid piano teacher to the creepy preacher and a father that just isn’t acting like himself, Lori is surrounded by people and things that hint of something bizarre. Once she leaves the Lights Out Chapel and Crematorium, things will go back to normal. Or will they?

Enter the Rafflecopter for a chance to win a copy of Softly and Tenderly by Lisa Binion. Competition open Internationally

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Something to whet your appetite: a short excerpt from Softly and Tenderly.

“Lori, it’s your turn to say bye now. You need to tell her that you love her and how much you will miss her.” Daddy put me down next to her coffin and placed his hands on my shoulders. He pushed me so close to her death box that I felt the white satin that overlapped to the outside. It rubbed against my hands. At least it was soft for Mommy. She would be comfortable in there.




I decided to speak out loud this time. Maybe no one else would bring me back up here again if I spoke my goodbyes out loud. “Mommy,” I began, but then I started crying so hard I couldn’t speak. Daddy rubbed my shoulders until I quieted down and could begin again. “Mommy, I love you. I don’t want you to leave me. Please come back. No one, not even this Jesus, is worth leaving me over.” I opened my eyes and looked at her. She hadn’t moved since Mrs. Minuet had dragged me up here. But then her eyes opened, and she stared at me. She was staring at me! I sucked my breath in and felt my legs grow weak as my head began to spin. With one hand I grabbed on to the edge of the coffin, while with the other hand I grabbed hold of Daddy’s arm.


“Daddy! Daddy! Mommy’s not dead! She looked at me!” I screamed as I jumped up and down. “She was still alive when they took her out of the house. I saw her trying to get out from under the sheet.” I pulled on his arm and shook it. “Please, Daddy. You’ve got to save her.”


Daddy was beginning to sound a bit mad. He picked me up and held me over top of Mommy. “Maybe if you give her a goodbye kiss you’ll understand she’s dead, and believe me when I tell you she isn’t coming back.” I was so close to Mommy’s cheek that I could see the makeup was beginning to cake in her pores. There was no warmth rising up from her body, only icy coldness.

Author Lisa Binion

Lisa Binion is a writer, editor, and wife. She makes her home in the beautiful state of Kentucky. Her two children are now grown, but she has been blessed with two beautiful grandchildren, Tyler and Zoey. Her family also includes four dogs, four cats, and two goats.


As the Fiction Writing Editor for BellaOnline, she writes articles, reviews fiction books, and interviews fiction authors. She is also an editor for Silver Tongue Press and Edit 1st. In her spare time, she attempts to clean house and relax.

Book Reviews: The Good and Bad Apples

by
April L. Blanding
AKA Vogue!

VBT

So, you’ve finally finished your manuscript (congrats!), have decided on a publisher or have chosen to self-publish and are looking for your first shot at marketing your product. Aside from social media, which is the quickest outlet to reach an audience, you learn that the next most common marketing tip out there is to send your book to reviewers.

Yes, this means that you will be providing a free retail copy of your book, gifting an ebook or even sending a PDF file to book lovers across America and beyond. Then, you start, “the wait.” The wait is the waiting period from when the book reviewer gets your book, reads it and then finally posts their review. This process can take months, but there is no greater feeling then when you see a four star or five star review on your newly published novel. Even, a three star review, if written professionally with constructive criticism can become one of your favorite book reviews.

Nevertheless, there are always bad apples with good apples. These are the book reviews that you did not solicit; the ones that are written unprofessionally, with rude and uncouth remarks that make you question the sanity of these individuals. You know these reviews, you’ve read these reviews and perhaps, you may have even written one. Maybe, these reviews were not left on your book, but you have seen them.

These reviews feature comments such as, “I’m seriously getting fed up with these authors,” “I’m a big fan, I can’t believe you wrote this bad book,” “Don’t waste your money on this book, wait until it’s in the library,” or even, “If I could throw this book out of the window and run over it 5 million times then I would.”

The worst book review that I have come across is not even a legitimate book review. An Amazon user gave a book a 1-star review simply because the book was only available on Kindle. This review prompted me to take a look at Amazon’s guidelines for Customer Reviews. Reviews as such should not be featured on any author’s product.

However, when you are the author, how do you deal with these reviews? Quite naturally, we may want to contact the person and give them a piece of our mind. Still, our feelings have been hurt and our brand has been slightly tarnished. Personally, I believe that the best way to overcome the burn is to vent, get it out of your system and move on. Sometimes, we give so much attention to the negative that we lose sight of the positive. Remember this, every wound heals over time.

Nevertheless, what I would like for readers who leave the “bad apples” to understand is this: The author (s) who wrote the book you are reading is human. We are not invincible and we are not superhuman. Just like you, we laugh, we cry, we get mad, we get nervous, we make mistakes, we learn from our errors and in a nutshell- we have feelings. Take a second and think about what you are posting before you hit submit. This does not mean that you can’t voice your opinion, but there is a line between constructive criticism and being cruel.

For all of you authors out there, keep your head up, keep writing and keep working towards your goal. No one can stop, but you!

The Ace of
Diamonds
by Vogue

Since his release from prison, Brookstone’s most notorious drug lord, Jay Santiago, has been hard at work rebuilding his life and empire. With two businesses under his belt and one in the making, Jay is readily known as one of New York’s elite men. 
  

While the root of his financial status lies in the newly rebuilt Santiago cartel, Jay is determined to expand his wealth. After reconnecting with an old comrade, he believes that he has found the one thing that could increase his fortune and allow him to leave behind the dangers of his criminal enterprise for good. 

However, as Jay’s new business venture begins to come to fruition, he quickly learns that the one material object that he loves the most could lead to his biggest downfall yet.

Put your name in the rafflecopter below for your chance to win autographed copy of Diamonds are Forever. Open to US/Canada only. E-copy for International.

Author April L. Blanding/ Vogue
Vogue is the author of Diamonds in the Rough and Diamonds Are Forever. A native of Greenville, South Carolina, she is a graduate of Winthrop University, possessing a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work and is a proud member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc. Vogue currently resides in Rock Hill, South Carolina. 
Excerpts from The Ace of Diamonds
Carmen stared out the window as Kane’s Jeep backed
out of the driveway. She wanted to  call him to come back, but she knew
that he wouldn’t. While they had cleared the air on one issue, another one had
surfaced. This one, though, she couldn’t fix. She was nine months pregnant and
Nyla was coming regardless of how Kane felt. He might not have liked the idea,
but he knew when they renewed their vows that she was pregnant. He seemed okay
with it then, but obviously the whole thing was an act.
When his car disappeared out of the gates, Carmen
began to think that her marriage wasn’t going to survive. If Kane was running
out now then she knew it would be worse when Nyla came. Jay would be around
more than ever and she would be forced to communicate with him. There might
even be times when he had to come to the house. The distance between her and
Kane would only grow.
Carmen pulled the curtains closed as she made her
way back to the bed. She sat down, and tried to fight back her tears. She and
Kane had been fine until Jay’s lawsuit, which sent them spiraling back into a
place that neither one of them wanted to be. Carmen wanted to come up with an
answer to fix everything, but she couldn’t. Softly crying, she did the only
thing she knew how; she prayed to God for guidance and strength. She told
herself that this would be the last time she would allow Kane to leave. After
tonight, she would put her foot down. If she wanted to 
save her marriage, she had to act like it, now or
never.   

Win a copy of YA novel Life and Times of the Heir and the Keeper

by 
Etta King 
Ah the guest blog! My time to shine!
What shall I share? This is rather like a “Show and Tell” isn’t it? Hmmm…well I
think I’ll go back in time a bit – not too far – and take a peek at a little
episode in dear Jonathan’s life. Now Jon is sort of the quintessential prodigal
son; he just loves doing whatever he wants, bucking convention (why should he
join the legacy of Reinhardt men inducted into the Keepers?) and breaking
hearts (didn’t an ex call him Delish? Yum!), yet he always finds his way home
(figuratively, of course, since he can’t wait to leave his grandfather’s
mansion…hey! I never said he was sane!). But don’t the daring ones always have
the most fun? Go to the best parties? Kiss the cutest girls? Perhaps there’s a
method to this madness? Let’s see…the year was…I’m blanking…the grade? 11th!
Oh high school, the wonder years…
Jon
I
was exhausted. But in a good way. A sated way. That was pretty much the only
reason I was smiling at the gentle nudging that was bringing me out of my coma.
I didn’t even have the blinding headache I associated with any and all brands
of Tequila. I was in an Aybee-trance. AB Baby, my sort-of, maybe, probably
girlfriend. Angelica B. McCarthy, to anyone who wasn’t a ‘close and personal
friend.’ Which was a grand total of probably five people. Yeah, AB was very
popular. She was also insanely cute. No, not hot, cute. She was a Blake Lively,
not a Megan Fox; you never could bring yourself to hate her, you just wanted
her to notice you. She had that effect, a subtle glow that made even teachers
curry her favor. And I was lying in her bed. How I’d gotten up here, I couldn’t
remember. What we’d done? Well I remembered that. That brought a second smile
to my lips.
“I
know what you’re thinking.” She whispered in my ear.
I
had to laugh. Somehow, I didn’t doubt that; she had a way of guessing people’s
thoughts.
“You
need to get up; I’m riding with Kit this morning.”
I
opened my eyes and raised a brow at that. Christopher, who insisted everyone
call him Kit, was her British “cousin.” The air quotes were unimagined; I was
pretty sure Kit and I were as related as he was to AB. I couldn’t mentally
reconcile what I knew was a lie, but I consoled myself with the fact that at
least I knew.

“Why
are you riding with him, you could be riding with me,” I replied with a crooked
smile. It was corny and I knew it, but she laughed.

“I
promised,” she said, brushing her hair out of her face. “Besides, Cassidy needs
the exercise, and you haven’t ridden since…” She paused and chewed her lip
before continuing. “Anyway, you know it doesn’t mean anything.”

Yes,
I hadn’t been near a horse since my father’s accident. That was what she’d
stopped herself from saying. But she ignored it and bypassed the awkward
moment. There were no awkward moments around AB. Did I know it didn’t mean
anything? Probably.
“Right.
So why do I need to get up, again? You’re not riding up here.”
“Haha,
hilarious. I need to get ready and my mom might stop by.” She rolled out of the
bed, automatically adjusting the Alice and Olivia tank dress she’d fallen
asleep in.
“Oh
right, and she hates me.” I couldn’t even say it with a straight face. She bit
back a smile herself.
“She
doesn’t hate you…what you did at the club…honestly; I don’t know how you dare.”
I
shrugged; I hadn’t exactly been in a great mood on that eventful day and I’d
forced her party of bird lovers into a smaller room with my ‘reservation.’ Yes,
I’d used my family’s name to outrank her. No, I wasn’t contrite. She’d made a
point of mentioning my spiked loafers one too many times. I couldn’t understand
how that was her problem.
AB
tossed my shirt at me and I sat up slowly, stretching in the process.
She
was looking around the room with a small frown.
“This
place needs a makeover.” I looked around too; It was an art piece, called AB;
from birth to seventeen.
“Less
Marilyn, more Audrey,” I made the observation more to myself, but she looked up
with a wide smile.
“Yes!
You totally get it!” She made a running leap for the bed and practically landed
on top of me.
“Really?
Necessary?” I asked, laughing.
“And
that’s why I love you.”
I
blinked. We hadn’t said that yet. Were we saying that now?
“That’s
why?” I asked, playing it cool.
“Yes,
because you act like you don’t care, but I know you do.”
“Maybe
I don’t really care.”
“No…you
care, you just hide it so well.”
Hide
what?
“Hide
what?”
“All
your secrets…why you’re so jaded…”
She was staring right into my eyes, hers so blue they were almost violet. I
felt like she was looking right into my soul. I blinked.
 
Life and
Times of the Heir and the Keeper
Amazon
 
Amazon Kindle  BarnesandNoble
They say college is a
lot of things; a haven, a four-year party, the place you met the girl – or guy
– of your dreams. What they don’t tell you is, the best part of college is the
drama YOU bring to the table! After all, that dirty little secret, that
not-so-little white lie, and those texts you wish you could erase from
cyberspace can’t stay hidden forever. At CU, someone’s always watching, and you
better hope there isn’t a camera phone on hand when you get caught.
It’s the Spring Semester, but it’s not all fun in the budding
sun for Jon and Franz. Follow them as they delve through the politics of secret
societies, the inevitable drama of the F-word (that’s FAMILY, for the
uninitiated), creepy Resident Advisors, creepier residents and girls who don’t
always say what they mean. Who wouldn’t need two months to recuperate?
Cheers! And GL!



Comment, share and join the tour and you could win a $30 Amazon Gift Card PLUS a Signed Paperback of Life and Times of the Heir and the Keeper:



Etta King is the author of the Caspian University novels, a series chronicling the life and times of a group of wealthy teens who inevitably discover the various flavors of college drama. Etta writes from her personal experiences as a college co-ed and as the product of an all-girls prep school. Here she witnessed the very eccentricities and foibles which she depicts in her novels.

In a home filled with books, it was no surprise that Etta grew to be an avid reader, and that translated into writing when she was thirteen. She wrote simply for the fun of it, whatever would come to mind, from fantasy to thriller to romance, and shared her stories with her friends.

In 2010, at twenty-one and just as she was about to graduate from college, Etta began writing “The Life and Times of Elizabeth and the Duchess.” This was a story which had first taken shape in 2008, after her freshman year, but had been put on hold. With graduation looming, Etta recalled the characters, and the events which had inspired them, and took pen to paper. Literally, as Etta enjoys writing out her stories before typing them out. Soon the first book had been completed and the series was born.

“The Life and Times of the Heir and the Keeper,” comes as the sequel to “Elizabeth and the Duchess,” and serves as the second semester of these teens’ college saga. Etta is currently working on the third book, in what will be an eight-part series.

Etta King lives with her family in Westchester, New York.





Excerpt from 
Life and Times of the Heir and the Keeper
I woke up to the sound of my phone
vibrating on the floor. I scooted out of bed, trying not to wake Elizabeth as I
went to pick it up. I missed it and I saw four missed calls. All from Chadwick.
Crap, it was six thirty-seven. I called him back and made my way to my bathroom,
while it rang.
“Hey,” I said when he picked up.
“Sorry, about that; you were on the phone when we went
upstairs.”
“Yeah, that’s okay, I’m home. Look,
Jon, I’m going to say this just this once and then I won’t say it again.” I got
an ominous feeling and leaned against the sink, ignoring the cold marble.
“Okay…”
“Judith,” he began and I bit down on
my groan. If ever I was tired of hearing one person’s name in a day.
“I don’t care what it is you did, I
really don’t.”
“I didn’t do anything.”
“Whatever. Just don’t do anything
else.”
“What?” I couldn’t help the irritation
creeping into my voice.
“Nothing else, okay? Just don’t lead
her on, don’t mess with her.”
“What the hell do you think I did?”
“Honestly? I think you hooked up with
her and never called her back. Or maybe you did and she didn’t understand how
you worked.” How I worked??
“Jesus, Chad, seriously?”
“Look, I’m not judging you.”
“Are you drunk?”
“I’m not judging you, I just want you to leave her alone, okay?”
I was silent; what the absolute fuck
had Judith said to Chad? What was her problem anyway? Three weeks was all it
had been, for God’s sake.
“I didn’t do anything to her, Chad.”
“So why is she calling me and crying?”
I massaged my temple and shook my
head.
“Because she’s Judith, Chad. Because I
haven’t told her about Elizabeth and I, and I don’t feel like calling her and
skipping that conversation, so I’d rather just not. Because yes, she called me,
called my house, sent me messages, but all I want is for her to calm down and
stop acting like I’m Judas. Because yeah, we’re friends and she feels that
means she has exclusive rights to my number. Because…” My God, I could go on
and on.
“Not because you hooked up with her?”
“She told you that?”
“You’re not saying you didn’t.”
“This is not about hooking up. I don’t
understand why she’s so anxious to talk to me, but that’s pretty much it. I’m
just not ready.”
“You’re an ass, Jon. You’re my friend,
but you’re an ass.”