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Monday, February 23, 2015

Try a Thaddeus Whiskers QUIZ!

Think you can read my mind? Thaddeus Whiskers and the Dragon goes live on March 1st, so unless you are one of my lovely beta readers, you haven't read it yet. That didn't stop me from making a quiz about it!

If you think you can guess the answers based on your psychic abilities (is your name Shawn?), click here and try the quiz!

Shawn could definitely ace the quiz

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Reviews that Writers find ANNOYING!

A short while ago, I ran a post about things writers like to see in reviews (read it here), so I thought it was only fair to show you the other side of the coin, the things people say in reviews that make writers groan, moan, and bang their heads on their keyboards in frustration. I tried to stay away from anything that could be seen as justifiable criticism or reader opinion and stick with things that are either a major breach of courtesy or common sense or just plain unhelpful. 

As with the last post, I asked for input from writer friends and acquaintances and have provided some author links to the sources.

I didn't actually read this book . . .

Then why are you reviewing it? It seems like such a no brainer but you get various versions of "I haven't had time to read it yet." I think what happens in most of these cases is Amazon sends out that, "Do you want to review your purchase?" email and the person somehow assumes they have to review right that second even though they haven't had a chance to crack the cover. It is often accompanied by a "three star" review because people assume this is a "neutral" rating. (Newsflash. There's no such thing as a "neutral" rating.)

Image courtesy of Melissa Miles

It wouldn't download right!

Deborah GarnerProbably my favorite one star is from a reader whose Kindle wouldn't download correctly. Though it's a close tie with the one that looks like a cat walked across the keyboard.
Believe it or not, Amazon will actually replace the ebook if it doesn't download correctly the first time. Also, if the paperback is damaged in the mail, it isn't the author's fault. Email Amazon, get the refund, and don't review. 
Caveat: if the problem is that the author incorrectly formatted the ebook, then, yeah, justifiable complaint, but if other people have left reviews having actually read the book and not mentioned anything about wonky formatting, chances are, that's not the problem. 

This short story was too short!

Here's a little secret: short stories are short. Here's another: if you go to Amazon and scroll down to the bottom of a short story listing (here's mine, The Baby and the Bacon as an example), it actually lists the number of pages. Therefore, when you buy a short story, read it, and then give it a low rating for being 'too short,' or a novella for the same reason, it just shows you don't know how to read. If you don't like to spend money on fiction that won't take you very long to read, don't buy it. Especially don't buy it and then complain because they are exactly what they told you they were!

Spoilers, Sweetie!

As my good friend, Professor Song will attest, no one likes a spoiler. Yes, maybe your favorite part of the story was the twist. Or maybe you didn't like the ending because, "The butler did it it, so cliche!" But come on! Find a way to review it without giving away the entire plot. Occasionally you read reviews from people who apparently think reviews are like 2nd grade book reports where you basically are supposed to tell the teacher back the story to prove that you actually read it. People shouldn't read your review and feel like they skimmed the whole book.


These can be personal attacks against the writers, the writer's fans, or other reviewers. Writers are probably most keenly aware of attacks against the writer where instead of focusing on the book's content, the reviewer takes a swing at a personality trait or perceived personality trait of the writer. Usually against their intelligence. Sometimes at their religious beliefs or supposed lack of morals. Now I say writers are most aware of the attacks against writers because sometimes we do forget it goes both ways.
Google responding to reviews, and you're going to find that almost everybody out there says, "No, bad idea. Don't do it!" However, I have seen some writers go to the mattresses (I actually haven't seen the Godfather. I only know that quote because of You've Got Mail.) against reviewers, commenting on reviews, arguing, making accusations. 
And sometimes even if the writer avoids the fray, his/her fans take it upon themselves to "defend" him, commenting meanly on negative reviews. Alternately, sometimes a reviewer will argue with positive reviews or reference them cruelly ("Unlike what that idiot said, this book has no character development and the fact that it has so many reader speaks volumes about the idiocy of the average reader.").
I don't think there is anything wrong with addressing other reviewers in a polite manner within your review. An opposing viewpoint can help readers make up their mind about a book. What is bad is insulting or attacking someone for having a difference of opinion with you. 

I hate this book for being what it is!

Now if a book has been mislabeled or deceptively marketed, this complaint can be justified. It can be incredibly annoying to buy a book expecting one thing and find out a couple chapters in that it is something else. If writers are getting a lot of these sorts of reviews, check out their listing. Is their marketing clear enough? Is the work correctly categorized? Does the cover art represent the genre? What about the blurb? Is it specific or vague?
If the writer has covered all these bases, though, and someone still reviews with, "I was expecting a murder mystery, and it was just a love story" or "Why wasn't this sweet romance steamier? I wanted more sex!" it really isn't a very useful review.
I've seen this on both sides of moral and religious issues: Christian readers getting upset because they "stumbled" on an erotic novel and atheists upset because they read a Christian book and disliked the references to God and religion. 
Please, if you really dislike a certain sort of book, make sure that this isn't that sort of book before you buy, and definitely before you review. 

Vague Criticism/Praise

Specific criticism/praise made it onto the list of what readers want in a review, so it makes sense to see the opposite here. 
And vague praise isn't "annoying" per say. I think more of us would rather see a five star "I liked it a lot!" than a detailed one-star rant on why a book sucks. That's just human nature.
However, "I liked it!" does not help shoppers decide whether or not they want to read a book, so those reviews are just sugar coated dross.
Similarly, "I didn't like it" or "I hated it" or "meh, it was okay, I guess," are all just throw away reviews, and if that's all you have to say about a book, do you really need to review it at all?
"I didn't like it" gives me nothing to work with as an author.
And yes, "I found the characters to be too shallow and the world building too simplistic," might sting a little bit, at least it gives real reasons. 

More Horror Stories from Authors:

An annoying one to me is when they seem to be thinking of a totally different book while reviewing mine, referencing a character I didn't have or a plot point that didn't happen in my book. Tristi Pinkston

 It is particularly annoying when the review is written by another author and reads more like a not-so-cleverly-disguised ad for their own books. Bruce A Borders

"3.0 out of 5 stars Bored
I didn't like it too much. I think more of who Abraham Lincoln really was should have been emphasized more."
The book is about writing and avoiding scams in the publishing industry. There is NOTHING about Abraham Lincoln.  
Sabrina Sumsion

I had some friends have another author leave a review stating that their new release contained graphic rape scenes. The book, of course in this case, didn't. Luckily they had enough people report it that it was removed. So, I guess I'm trying to say completely false reviews that are trying to get readers not to buy the book.
Paige at Electively Page

Friday, February 20, 2015

Sales Promo Results: Fussy Librarian

Here's another of my posts on advertising venues. As always, this is just my personal experience as I stumble around the web trying new and exciting ways to sell books.

Now with Fussy Librarian, I've had friends who have done pretty well on it. However, I don't think those friends write fantasy, and personally, it isn't the best "promo site" I have used. It is one of the cheaper ones. Their pricing differs depending on the genre you are promoting. Fantasy is one of the cheaper categories--$8 an ad, you can view their pricing guide here--but if you look at their subscription list there is a reason for it (check that out here) . . . but since it was only $8, the amount of sales I'd need to make that back weren't much.

So if your genre is not fantasy, take these numbers with a grain of salt.

I only sold 12 copies on the promo day. Now that's great sales for a non-promo day, but if you'll notice, I sold 8 copies the day before, without any promo. My average day runs around 4 copies sold across my books.

I think the day before the promo was higher because I asked a question about marketing my book in a facebook group, someone asked me to link it so they could read the blurb, and at least one person said they picked up the book from there. I'm guessing more than one did because the marketing discussion had a lot of participants, so I found some buyers that way, which is not something I did intentionally, I swear! I really was there to ask a real question and only linked the book because they asked (if you go around linking your book in random facebook discussions, you'll probably just annoy people, not make sales.)

A couple of other ways I judge whether a promo has worked: did any of the buyers return the book, meaning the bought it impulsively, immediately regretted it, and put it back? In this case, no returns, but with only 12 purchases, that's not a big surprise.

Did sequels get a boost after the promo? Also no. Sales have actually been down since I ran the promo.

So for a writer of fantasy, I'd say Fussy Librarian works about as well as casually mentioning you are a writer in general conversation. Not that much better.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Another Goodreads Giveaway

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Thaddeus Whiskers and the Dragon by H.L. Burke

Thaddeus Whiskers and the Dragon

by H.L. Burke

Giveaway ends March 02, 2015.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Interested in winning a copy of my next book? You can enter starting midnight on the 20th on Goodreads! To pre-order on Amazon click the link below!

Thaddeus Whiskers and the Dragon

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Why I Bedazzled my Vacuum . . . house keeping and the stay-at-home-writer

My mother-in-law got Coryn this adhesive gem craft set for her birthday. Since then, I've found the shiny little things pretty much everywhere. They stick too, so if they end up on the floor you can't sweep them or vacuum them up. You have to peel them up.
Now once I peel them up, I could walk them over to the garbage . . . or I could hold them in my hand until I'm done vacuuming, but always one for a simpler solution, I've started sticking them onto my vacuum cleaner. I rather like the effect.

One thing I struggle with as a stay-at-home-mom AND stay-at-home-writer is definitely cleaning. It's never been my favorite activity, and now that I have a second job, it is much easier for me to sit in front of a computer and write or market or edit than it is to make myself vacuum, dust, wash, rinse, repeat. 

However, until I make enough to hire a maid, it's kind of the job I agreed to when we came up with the me at home, him at work arrangement. 
Still, I sometimes have to come up with interesting ways to make myself keep up on it, and one of these is apparently vacuum bedazzlement. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

What WRITERS want to read in your reviews

I think most writers I know are a little obsessed with reviews. They get all excited about a new positive review, all conflicted about new "bad" reviews. 
Review ratings also drive notice on Amazon. A high star rating can attract a new reader. Some promotion sites have a requirement for a certain star rating in order to qualify for their site. 

But yeah, we all like to be told our work is good. Some of what we want to see is gushing and flattery (OMGOSH! Best book EVAH!), but there are other phrases that carry real meaning to an author.

(I actually reached out to some author friends while making this post. I attributed them where they desired it, but the full disclosure is these are NOT all from reviews of my books.)

A friend/coworker/etc recommended this book to me:

Why we like it: it means people are talking about our books. It means people are buying based on recommendations. It means my stories have feet. Word of mouth is always the best marketing for things like books. You want to be the answer when someone is asked, "Read any good books lately?" And in this case YOU WERE!

I can't wait for the next book!

Why we like it: it means someone liked it enough to want more and also that if we keep on keeping on, someone will be there to buy the next book. Other versions of this include "I will keep following this series" or "I can't wait to see what this author comes up with next." 

Flattering Comparisons to Other Authors

Yes, this almost falls under the "BEST BOOK EVAH!" category, but it is still pretty nice. To quote author Cynthia P. Willow,  I love when someone says my writing is similar to another series. I've had reviewers say they were taken back to their childhood when they read the Narnia series for the first time. One series has been compared to The Box Car Series as well as Harry Potter. 

That you handled a specific issue sensitively/well

Why we liked it: because it means we did something right. Sometimes this is an issue/subject we intentionally wrote about in order to make a difference. Sometimes it is something that we maybe were a little nervous about. A personal example: I've shared (here) about my anxiety writing my Deaf character for Beggar Magic, and how I didn't want to step on any toes in that community by "writing what I don't know" as a hearing individual. I did my best to get feed back and do research, but I knew I could be stepping on an emotional landmine, so the first review that referenced this character in a positive light from someone with hearing impaired family was a big relief for me. At least for that one reader, I did okay. 

I can't wait to share this with. . .

Be it their family, friends, kids, next door neighbor, or that crazy woman living under the stairs with 2000 cats and a gopher, it's nice to know people want to keep your books moving. Sometimes this means extra sales, but sometimes it just means someone hands their paperback to someone else after their done with it, which doesn't mean a financial gain, but it is still a major win.

This kept me up all night!

Unless your book is about heartburn relief or how to cure insomnia, different versions of "I couldn't put it down" are a clear winner with many writers. Though the flip side is, "Dang, they read it in an hour. . . I wrote it in 2 years. . . I either need to write faster or longer."

I made them laugh, cry, think . . .

Emotional response was a very popular answer when I asked about reviews. I remember when someone told me the end of Dragon's Debt had them in tears, I felt like I'd unlocked an achievement. We authors are a sadistic lot. Dragon's Debt (The Dragon and the Scholar Book 2)

Reasons . . .

If you really feel like you have to give a negative review, for the sake of the author's sanity, try to be specific. There's nothing more annoying than two stars paired with, "Meh, I didn't like it." or some other not really telling statement. It doesn't help other readers decide whether the book is "for them" or not (which is the main purpose of a review), and leaves the author going, "What? WHAT didn't you like? Was it the plot, the pacing, the writing style? What!?!?!?" And yeah, sometimes it can be hard to see actual, deserved criticism (the beginning was too slow. This particular character was annoying. This writer doesn't use enough contractions.), but it is better for our sanity, and if the point is a good one, who knows, maybe we'll write it differently next time. 
Also the same goes for positive reviews. "BEST BOOK EVAH!" is nice, but "I felt the characters were well rounded and interesting, each with their own voices, and the descriptions really painted a picture of the world" is better. 

Some specific instances listed by authors:
From the grandfather of a reluctant reader who didn't put the book down till she had finished it: "Keep writing, our kids need you." . . .  As a children's author, I love the thought that my books might help a child discover the joy of reading. Cynthia Port

I always like it when it's obvious from the review that my book has stirred an emotion--enough to elicit a reaction. Whether that is in a favorable or unfavorable review, it lets me know I've done my job.
Bruce A Borders

"This book is my story too" is a reader comment that brought me to tears (my Alzheimer's book)
Marianne Sciucco

My book was dedicated to my best friend, my Golden, who died in the spring of 2013, so I was elated when the following review appeared: This is an easy review for me to write. Several years ago I got a Golden Retriever puppy from a pet shop. The puppy had been mis-treated and neglected and I paid $5 for the best puppy ever!! So, for me, reading this joyful story was fun and it gave me memories of our "Jiffy"! This story has twists and turns and certainly kept me immersed in the story which I did not want to end.I did want to know who' the bad guy was' but I wanted more stories about this super-intelligent Golden Retriever. If you are a dog lover you will really appreciate this story which is well-written and with 'down to earth' characters.
Richard Houston

My favorite thing to see is when readers state that my books have strengthened their walk with God.
L. N. Cronk

"This made me laugh out loud and scare my cat!" I liked that one...
Lia London

I guess the reviews that made me happiest elaborated on what they liked: "characters were rich, multi-layered and complex", "vividly rendered settings", emotions "realistic and deftly shown" though my fave is definitely "recommend to Christian and non Christian readers alike" because it can be so easy to be pigeonholed when your work has a strong faith element. Anyway, the more readers help me see specifically what worked (versus broader experiential "loved it," "kept me up late," "made me cry"), it's somehow loads more encouraging. Not that general praise is bad at all, but it doesn't drive me to work on my craft to the same degree.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Review: For Mercie's Sake

For Mercie's Sake is an inspirational short story by Sharon Srock. I picked it up during a free day (as I am wont to do) and read it a over the last few days. You can purchase it on Amazon through the link below.

For Mercie's Sake: an inspirational women's fiction novella

I find I'm getting pickier and pickier as a reader. Of the last four or five books/stories I've started, I've put about 75% of them down before reaching the 10% mark (I love how the kindle ap on my phone tells me the percentage left). I'm also not a big reader of inspirational fiction or women's fiction or anything that doesn't have dragons (bring on the dragons, people!), but I definitely enjoyed and was in some places moved by this short book.

It does have Christian elements, so if that sort of thing makes you annoyed or angry, you have been warned, but I did not find it overly preachy. It was a good, feel good read with a lot of character development considering the length.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Happy Valentines Day to You (free book linked within)

For better or worse I've was always in a rush to get married. 

I get that it's not really very politically correct to see marriage as an end, and what not, and marriage for marriage's sake isn't a great goal, but I just always had this idea that I'd be really good at marriage and that marriage would be good for me. I didn't really worry about the wedding much (and  my eventual wedding was pretty understated as such things go), and dating always seemed like a strange proposition to me, but I was on the hunt for "Mr. Right" from a very young age. 

And I found him at a very young age, but didn't "land" him until several years later, but that's a long story. . . 
The shorter version is after falling deeply in love with a good friend who told me I was like a "little sister to him" when I confessed my feelings (then ran off to the Marine Corp to escape me because apparently terrorists were less intimidating to him than I was . . . well, that and he had some sort of drive to serve his country or something like that.), I felt a little lost through my late teens. 16-year-old me  had fallen in love and tried to manage it, hoping maybe he'd come around. 18-year-old me took a leap of faith and confessed her long carried feelings only to receive a disappointing response. 19-year-old me tried to figure out what to do with her life even though she couldn't stop pining for a man who was obviously NOT interested and no longer even lived in the same state as her. 

And 20-year-old me wrote a book about love.

I was always writing, but this book came really naturally to me. I wrote about a hero who was what I wanted in a man, a friend, honorable, protective without being overbearing, someone who I could spend my life with quite happily . . . and he sort of still looked and acted like my high school crush turned distant Marine, but I was okay with that. I wrote it in terms of knights and princesses and presented other potential "prince charmings" to my princess to illustrate what I didn't want in a man (romantic but insincere or cowardly and impractical) and I wrote the love story I wanted to live. 

A couple months after I wrote "The End" on this work of escapism/hope (a few weeks before my 21st birthday), a young Marine came back into town on leave. I sent him an email asking if he wanted to get coffee and catch up. Coffee stretched out for longer than I'd dared to hope, leading me to invite him to a group Bible study the next day, and after Bible study, he told me he wanted to talk to my dad about courting me.

That was about nine years ago. We've been married for eight, have two daughters, and marriage is pretty awesome. Matt's my best friend. He makes me smile and laugh. He's reliable, dependable, and sweet (when he wants to be). I always feel like I captured the knight from my story, somehow wrote him into existence.

And that is why, even though I've written better structured and more commercially viable books since "The Ordinary Knight" still has a special place in my heart.
So as a Valentine's gift to my readers I'm making "The Ordinary Knight" and its companion piece "The Invisible Princess" (which deals with romance but also with self-image) free for a few days. From 2/13-2/17 you'll be able to pick up the book for free on Amazon Kindle.
Click the link below:
The Ordinary Knight and The Invisible Princess: A Tale in Two Parts

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Writing Sprints

I've been having trouble staying focused, so I decided to try something new: Word Sprints.

Now Word Sprints are usually a NaNoWriMo thing and also usually a competitive social thing. I don't do social writing. It's not because I'm introverted. I usually test "ENFP" in the Briggs Myers what not. However (cue psycho babble):

"Unlike other Extraverted types, ENFPs need time alone to center themselves, and make sure they are moving in a direction which is in sync with their values. " (source
In other words, I like people but prefer to work alone.

However, the idea of focusing on just getting as many words on paper as possible in a short time seemed like a good idea, especially since I'd go a few words, check facebook, look up a synonym on dictionary.com or fiddle with my music. 

So I'd write down my word count, set a timer on my phone for five minutes, then type type type type type until the timer went off. 
As I got into it, it got smoother. 

I thought I'd post my results from a series of them I did yesterday afternoon. 

  • 126
  • 170
  • 111
  • 142
  • 149
  • 122
As you can see, I never broke 200 words in five minutes, but if you add it all up, I got 820 words in a half hour. That's not bad.

I tried another set of them later that evening for a total of 1260 words in 40 minutes. Still only an average of 150 or so words per five minute sprint, but it definitely adds up. 2000 words a day is nothing to sniff at. 
Some advantages. Racing the clock means you don't procrastinate. If you really really want to look something up, you wait until that five minutes is over. Stops me from the "Dang, this music isn't very inspiring." 
And I did take quick breaks between sprints to do little things like pull up my email. 
I'm thinking about expanding my sprints to ten minutes. It's more about increasing discipline (do NOTHING but write for five minutes, then ten, then . . .who knows?) than writing quickly. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

Clarice's Book Nook: Thaddeus Whiskers and the Dragon by H.L. Burke

Clarice's Book Nook: Thaddeus Whiskers and the Dragon by H.L. Burke:  This is a new chapter book for kids by H.L. Burke that I recently read and I really enjoyed it!  In fact, so did my oldest child!   ...

Genres and Tea

While I am a coffee drinker, I also like tea. Mostly black. I prefer Asian blends to plain English breakfast, Assam tea is good. Oolong on occasion. Earl Grey to fulfill a particular mood. I'll do herbal teas sometimes, especially licorice, and find red/rooibos teas to be a nice change of pace. Not big on mint and anything "fruity" is an abomination.
I'm not quite to the Lemony Snicket, "Tea should be as bitter as wormwood and as sharp as a two edged sword," point yet, but I'm getting there. I don't take sugar, though I'll add honey if I have a sore throat.

That said, specialty teas are a bit of luxury (my favorites come from Stash because they are based out of Oregon, hard to get in Florida, and make me feel at home), and I often use them as an answer when someone asks me what I want for Christmas.
Fancy teas please. 
In colorful tea cups.
Maybe with a cat on the outside. I do like cats and tea.

Now and then my tea wish will be honored and my relatives will present me with tea. 
About 50% of the time, though, it is the wrong tea!

I think there is an assumption among non-tea drinkers that if tea is good then tea plus blueberry+apricot+apple pie must be better. This is especially bad if someone gifts me an assortment . Assortments are a good idea in theory, but in practice, an assortment usually equals three or four good teas and a landslide of nasty tea-Frankenstein-monsters. Green tea mint mojito? Caramel truffle black tea? Cinnamon apple chamomile? 
Even if it is "good" blends made with like actual fruit instead of some lab produced concoction of God only knows what, by the time you get past all the additives, you can barely taste the poor, overwhelmed tea!

Because I like TEA. Tea that tastes like tea. 

This is one reason it is important to take genre into consideration when you are getting peer input. It can be a very good practice to read outside of your genre and a lot of authors can give well rounded advice across multiple genres. However, if you dislike a genre or have never read it, there is a "but I don't like tea" thing that clicks in.
You know, like some people say they like coffee, but only decaffeinated with an extreme amount of flavoring, sugar, and milk added  . . . coffee without the coffee? 
I like fantasy IF it doesn't have too much world building.
I like romance IF it isn't completely focused on the guy/girl dynamic. 
I like horror IF it isn't too scary. 

And yes there is a place for cross genre pieces and different degrees of genre. Genres are big, wide, open playing fields . . .no! They're like pools. You have the shallow end and the deep end and people who may enjoy wading in light fantasy may be uncomfortable going off the high dive into massive fantasy epics. 

However, if you start getting input on your strong, dark earthy oolong tea and someone comes along suggesting cream and sugar . . .or God forbid, blueberry . . . it is okay to ask them, "Do you even like tea?"

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Review: Adventure on Nemesis Mountain

Not really part of my review, just a musing, but the name of this mountain is a little bit on the nose.

Emilio would rather eat a slimy worm than miss the fifth grade field trip. Nemesis Mountain must be full of rare leaf specimens and bugs for his collection. Besides, he needs a break from the playground and Hans’s nonstop teasing. His excitement is squashed when he gets lost in the woods with his worst enemy. 

Alone in the forest, the two boys battle to survive the harsh wilderness, facing challenges that will change their lives forever.

I felt a little bit like I wasn't the intended audience while reading this book, so my review is going to be less my opinions (which are kind of like "it was okay, but it didn't excite me") and more around the lines of, "Who do I think will enjoy this book?"
I don't usually like to say something is "for boys" because my daughter likes super heroes and "creepy stuff" (as she puts it) but this book is very cut and dry, facts not feelings. It involves conflict resolution and bullying (at an appropriate level for the 8 to 12 crowd) but I couldn't really get under the skin of either character. The one boy antagonizes the other, and then they get lost in the woods together and have to rely on each other to get out. 
But all the interactions were very masculine. 
It does have some interesting parts girls might enjoy (you don't have to be a boy to enjoy the moments of danger and excitement). It's just that the characters seemed to be speaking so specifically in "boy" that I think there are better options for most girl readers. 

Available on Amazon through the link below:

Adventure on Nemesis Mountain

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Writing Update: Lands of Ash

you can buy this shirt here 

I posted a few things about my work in progress Lands of Ash back in November, and really haven't updated you since.
Basically after writing just over the 50k needed to win NaNoWriMo, I had  a very slow month in December and things have only really picked up in the last half of January, word count wise. I was averaging a couple hundred words a day. Really pathetic stuff. Part of the reason was Christmas. Part of it was my concentration on editing/rewriting Thaddeus Whiskers and the Dragon and part was my renewed focus on marketing The Dragon and the Scholar Saga. . . basically I was wearing too many hats and still am.

But now that Thaddeus is finished and marketing set up for the month, I'm trying to concentrate on getting Lands of Ash through its first drafts.

Lands of Ash is officially the longest and darkest thing I've written. It's probably not dark by modern standards, but for me, there's a lot more death and betrayal. The characters are living in a shattered world in the aftermath of a long war and are dealing with issues like survivors guilt and grief.
As for long, my previous record holder was Dragon's Bride, which I think tops out a little over 73k words. Lands of Ash already sits at 82k and I'm not done with it yet.

It has a lot of things I'm excited to share, characters, fight scenes, fire elementals, but I'm nearing the end finally. I hope to have it completed by the end of the month. I'm estimating a near 100k word count on this one.

But anyway, that's where things stand. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Review: Think-Valerie Howard

What would happen if you woke up one morning and realized that everyone you met could hear every thought going through your head? Soon-to-be-wed Nicole Murphy is about to find out. 

This follows my series of "short" reads as well as my further attempts to read outside my genre.
This is a well written short story. I'd say the premise (given above) tells you pretty much everything you need to know. A people pleaser ends up spouting out everything she actually thinks for a day and chaos ensues.
I particularly liked that the story didn't try to shoe horn in a romantic happily ever after (was maybe even a little disappointed that it hinted at one, but it wasn't a big negative), and while I don't identify too much with the main character (if I spouted out all my thoughts it would mostly be book plots and random movie quotes. People would think I was crazy but I wouldn't offend very many folks), she was likable and well thought out.

Also, this is a short read. Don't go reading it, complaining it is short, and wanting your money back. You've been warned. I think it took me less than a half hour to get through. It is free through Kindle Unlimited, however.

Available now on Amazon through the link below (99 cents at the time of posting)

Think: A Short Story

Review: The Borderlands

This is the first full length novel I've read through in a long while. I've been very much focused on shorts lately. They're just easier for me to fit into my life.

You can purchase this book on Amazon through the link below.
The Borderlands (Book One): Journey

This book starts out with a fish out of water protagonist with a very unpleasant family situation, unpopular at school, friends only with an elderly homeless man who she dreams of escaping on a sail boat with for a summer trip. However, sometimes she sees things she can't explain (auras and visions) and remembers speaking and playing with sprites as a child, before people around her, including her disapproving mother, convinced her this was insane.
However, as things get progressively worse at school and home, she determines to run away. An unexpected act of violence makes this even more essential and she finds herself setting off alone on a sail boat trying to find shelter . . .but does she even belong in this world at all?

A lot of things that bugged me initially while reading the book made sense in the end. Like her mother being so awful, to me, seemed indefensible and extreme, but there was a reason for it.

Honestly, my favorite parts of the book were her in the sail boat, fighting for her life, learning to survive. While I am generally a fantasy fan, the parts with more fantastic elements, towards the end, felt a little bit like a new book, maybe leading up to a sequel, which I would happily read, but the boat and the adventure was definitely the most interesting section to me.

Since the book is labeled YA, I will mention there is some crude language scattered about, so I wouldn't say this is for the younger side of YA. With some of the plot points and the age of the character, it is right on the cusp of NA, though. I think the book is well suited for +17 plus and adults, in spite of the teen protagonist

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Review: Christmas with the Black Sheep

A little out of season, I know, but I hesitated posting this review for a few reasons. 
Reason A is that while I try to read broadly across genres, I don't read a ton of romance/romance. I read fantasy romance and fairy tale romance, but just boy meets girl in the real world, not so much. Oddly, I find the relationships in FANTASY romances to be so much more real than those in the few regular old every day romances I've read recently. Maybe because they usually have something else of importance/interest to do rather than just moon over each other and get into stupid fights about nothing. 
Also, I hate to be harsh about typos and misspellings. I'm an indie author myself who can't afford a proofreader, and I know that some of my books have typos that slipped into print. Heck, the last traditionally published book I read (not a mom and pop press either, it was through Hyperion) had two typos glaring out at me. You do what you can, but this was a pretty short book (44 pages), and I found at least three errors, once of which made a sentence incomprehensible. That said, it wasn't error riddled. Three is not unforgivable in this game.

There were places sentences did not make sense, repeated words, bad punctuation, little things that could be fixed by a good edit. Also I didn't buy him going straight from not recognizing her to deeply in love. I wished they'd been childhood friends or something.
But the writing was decent and the main character likable enough. On Amazon I gave this book three stars. On here I'm giving a caveat that I don't read a lot of romance and I know that typos happen. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Review: Hi, My Name is Bobo

I don't claim to understand poetry, so when I review this piece, it is as a "reader" in general, not a well verse poetry reader who knows what they are talking about. You can purchase this poetry collection on Amazon through the link below.

Hi, My Name is Bobo.: (A Weekend in the Life of a 5th Grader) (Step into the World of Bobo Book 1)

The voice kept me reading this book because it really did read like it was written by a young man. I was a little confused about the intended audience because as an adult I craved a little expansion into deeper and possibly darker topics that in places seemed to be lurking behind the words. However, while the content level and prose were ok for young readers it wouldn't really hold my daughter's attention.

I think it works best as a nostalgia piece, but since my childhood was very different from the one described, there were places where I felt like I was reading a letter written for someone else.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Review: The Clockwork Dragon

The Clockwork Dragon is a series of short stories with a shared vein written by multiple authors. All involve wrestling with temptation and possibly possession and are wrapped around a mysterious golden dragon statue.

As an added bonus, this compilation is free on Amazon (you should double check before you buy. I can't guarantee it will still be free when you are reading this) and you can download it through the link below.
The Clockwork Dragon

As with any compilation, there were some stories I really liked and some that didn't resonate with me at all. There was a very similar style to a lot of the stories but that made the ones that broke the mold all the better. I think it is best read one or two at a time rather than the whole collection in one sitting.
My only complaint is that some of the worlds felt out of place. Most of the stories took place in "our" world, but there were a couple of side trips into fairy land and "who knows where" that seemed not to fit with the general mood. I also would've liked to see the stories have more of a connecting thread and maybe a chronology. As standalone stories they don't need it but since they all were in such a similar vein anyway, I think it would have improved the experience.
I will say there is one story that made me tear up, and that doesn't happen a lot. I'm a fairly jaded reader, in spite of my somewhat fluffy tastes. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Dragon's Rival Bargain Days!

Are you in the mood for some bargain fantasy?
Well, as I have mentioned before, Dragon's Curse is now 99 cents.
Book two in the same series, Dragon's Debt, is on a countdown deal until February 4th, also for 99 cents.
And starting today (2/2) and going until February 9th, the third book, Dragon's Rival, will be 99 cents as well! That means you can grab three books right now for under three dollars!

Here are the books on Amazon:
Dragon's Curse (The Dragon and the Scholar) (Volume 1)

I love this series. I know, I wrote it, but I put EVERYTHING I love about fairy tales into it, the romance, the fantasy, the adventure, the whimsy. I am definitely going to visit these characters again someday. 

If you love dragons and twooo luv (meant to sound like the priest from the Princess Bride), check out the Dragon and the Scholar Saga today!