Thursday, June 28, 2012

Guest Blog with Indie Book Reviewer Amanda Speer

Let’s face it: being an indie author has its perks and its pitfalls even in the golden age of digital reading devices.  We have complete creative control over our books and we decide when our deadlines are.  However, the pitfalls can be brutal.  One of the hardest things I’ve discovered during my short career as a writer so far has been finding willing reviewers for my books.  I don’t know if I was in the right place at the right time, or maybe if it has just taken me this long to find them, but several weeks ago I stumbled upon a forum on Goodreads that gave indie authors the opportunity to offer up free ecopies of their books in exchange for honest reviews.  Immediately, I signed up and the response has been very promising.  One of the readers who asked to read and review my newest novel, Faelorehn, is Amanda Speer, a blogger who is new to the world of indie books as well.  Amanda and I have been trading emails for the past week and I invited her to write up a guest post on my blog.  I wanted to know why she decided to read and review indie books, what genres she liked and how indie authors could contact her for a book review of their own.  Well, Amanda has kindly answered some of my questions below.  Enjoy!

-J.E. Johnson

* * *
Interview with Indie Book Reviewer and Blogger Amanda Speer

To start off I’d like to say thank you to Jenna for allowing me to write this blurb as a guest for her blog.
A little about me, I’ve been reading and reviewing books for a while now, I’d say a couple years now, and I just started about a year ago to get my own blog up and running. Initially, I started just reposting my goodreads.com reviews into blogger and left it at that. But I decided that even though I wanted to connect with other readers and share in a conversation about books, I really was not accomplishing that; I also was getting little if any traffic to my blog, which meant no one was reading my reviews there anyways. I branched out a bit and discovered an acquaintance on goodreads.com that had a blog she wrote reviews for in addition to her goodreads.com account. I checked out her blog and was blown away by how amazing her site looked. On a whim I emailed her and asked her how she got started. I had noticed that she was reading and reviewing both mainstream and indie authors. I also asked how she went about contacting the authors in the first place because that seemed pretty intimidating to me. She got back with me quickly giving me the info I needed to get started myself.

First things first she told me to start reading other people’s blogs, leaving comments and before you know it they will be following you as well. I did just that and within a matter of a couple days I had gained a couple followers myself. She also told me to just start contacting authors letting them know I would like to read their novels and review them. So I got brave and started scouring the internet looking for indie authors who were looking for reviewers. I was having little luck until I stumbled upon a couple groups on goodreads.com that connected authors and reviewers. I contacted a few authors within a day of getting my email from my acquaintance and the next thing I knew I had received a few books to read/review AND even gotten a couple more followers on my blog! I was incredibly excited because I was realizing THIS was something I wanted very much to do and I thought I can do it well! I’ve always been a reader so to be able to connect with other readers and actual authors looking for honest reviews was a great thing to discover. I’m finding I can not only feed my addiction for books, but I can help get the reviews out there and help push these indie authors with their sales.

So why did I decide to start reading indie authors in particular? Well I was skeptical and didn’t see having much luck with published authors. I thought this would surely be a difficult process and I thought I may not get much response either with this route. Instead I decided to start reading more along the line of indie authors because I read so many books that are basically the same story but with different characters and some not as well written as others and I thought I was bound to stumble upon something better than what is currently being mass published. I am looking for something different than what the mainstream is saturated with. I’m looking for originality, odd twists and quirky stories! I’m looking for books that can stand alone and don’t always have to be a series. Although some stories can only work really well as a series, sometimes there is just too much story, I do at times like to see an ending and know I’ve read all there is to the story. Sometimes you just need some closure.

To kick off my attempt at becoming a reviewer of indie authors and a blogger, I’ve read and reviewed Jenna Johnson’s novel Faelorehn. I’m very thankful for the opportunity, and honored to be asked to be a guest blogger. I have to shamelessly plug her novel Faelorehn a bit and say I’m so glad I contacted Jenna about her novel after having read her post on goodreads.com. I really enjoyed the story and am looking forward to reading more of the series. The thing with this series that really caught my attention is it is not like everything out there that is in the mainstream! Sure there are fairies and the main character Meghan learns she is part of this whole new world she is just discovering. Sure she falls for the boy that is different (and gorgeous) and is going to help her understand her place in this new world. But guess what, this girl is strong and not wishy-washy like some other characters I’ve been reading out there in mainstream.

To keep things rolling in terms of reading and reviewing indie authors I’ve already been in touch with a couple other indie authors. For example LM Stull, author of A Thirty-Something Girl, and Darcy Town, author of Wastes of Space, and I will be reading a novel by each within the next few weeks. After I’ve read and reviewed their novels I hope to interview them as well and add the interviews to my blog.

As to what types of books I read, I read a variety of genres and don’t stick to any one thing. I do tend to read more Young Adult novels than anything else. That I admit freely. I’m not ashamed to read Young Adult novels although some people don’t understand the appeal. I guess because there always seems to be a lot of hope and chances to take risks that you don’t see as often in adult novels. There are also times when chances have been taken and even if there is failure there is still a chance to pick yourself up and start over without completely turning your life upside down. In addition to Young Adult novels, I enjoy Science Fiction, Dystopian novels, Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romances. I really like novels that are in the Young Adult area that contain Science Fiction, are dystopian and have elements of fantasy and romance in them. A conglomeration of all of those elements has me on board no questions asked! Historical fiction is also a favorite for me is because I like to have that little window in one time period and see just what things were like in another era. I love to see the customs, the dress codes, the manners and the speech of a time completely different than the one I live in now.

If any indie authors were looking to contact me about reading a book they think may be in an area of interest to me I welcome them. I can be reached at my blog areadersaddiction.blogspot.com or via email at skinnieminne@gmail.com

Once again I thank Jenna for being so kind in being the first author I’ve reviewed and interviewed. The experience has been wonderful and I hope to continue helping her get her books out there and to help other authors as well!

* * *

You’re very welcome Amanda!  And thank you for taking the time to answer some of these questions.   Here I was all this time, thinking it was the book review bloggers that were hard to find!  I wish you well in the future and I as always, happy reading ;).

-J.E. Johnson

Monday, June 25, 2012

Author Spotlight: Interview with David McGowan

1. Quickly, give us the title and genre of your book and a 30-word or less tagline:

The Hunter Inside – A serial killer thriller with a supernatural twist, packed with suspense and psychological horror! Fast paced with real menace!

2. Who is your intended audience and why should they read your book?

Grown-ups who are not afraid of books with a little bit of the fear factor in them!

3. How did you come up with the title of your book or series?

It’s a tough one to answer, but I think it came about because of the fact that the characters in the novel are being stalked, or hunted, by someone or something that can get inside their heads. Therefore, the novel is about the hunter being inside the characters, and vice versa.

4. Who is your favorite character from your book and why?

My favourite character is Sandy Myers. She is the mother of twin boys, works, and is completely 100% focussed on her family and their futures. She is on the cover of the book!

5. How about your least favorite character?  What makes them less appealing to you?
There are several unsavoury characters in The Hunter Inside. Obviously, the evil and barbaric killer would be the least favourite of my characters, but you’ll find several to choose from!

6. If you could change ONE thing about your novel, what would it be?  Why?

The opening. I think I found it pretty hard to write the opening as it was my first novel and I edited it so many times. I got to a certain point and it just seemed to click, and from then on I loved every minute!

7. Give us an interesting fun fact or a few about your book or series:

My novel is set in and around New York and New Jersey. Bizarrely, I’d never visited these places until after I’d finished the second draft of the novel!

8. What other books are similar to your own?  What makes them alike?
I’ve always been a big fan of Dean Koontz. I would say The Hunter Inside has a very Koontz-esque feeling to it. It is a real page-turner from page one, laden with suspense and excitement on every page. Everyone who’s read it has said they struggled to put it down!

9. Do you have any unique talents or hobbies?

Wow, I wish I had time for hobbies! There aren’t enough hours in the day. I’m working two jobs, promoting The Hunter Inside as an indie author, and writing my second novel as we speak (currently almost 20 thousand words written).

10. How can we contact you or find out more about your books?

I have a website and author blog at http://davidmcgowanauthor.com, you can follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/dmcgowanauthor, or you can visit The Hunter Inside’s Facebook page at http://facebook.com/thehunterinside.

11. What can we expect from you in the future?

My second novel, which I’m currently writing at a frantic pace (over 6 thousand words in the last three days!) is called From the Sky. It is about how a small town in Northern California is affected by the arrival of visitors from the sky, and how a band of characters must undertake a pilgrimage across land and over mountains to a destiny they are unsure of. It is very much influenced by Stephen King, and I’m sure some would say it’s almost like The Stand and Under the Dome rolled into one. If it’s even 1% as good as those two then I’m sure people will love it!

12. What can readers who enjoy your book do to help make it successful?

Spread the word to your family and friends, on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Kindle forums – anywhere you can think of! Also, I am currently running a very special offer. If you read The Hunter Inside and like it, and post your review at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk and email me your details to gow2002@sky.com, you will receive From the Sky FREE when it is released!

13. Do you have any tips for readers or advice for other writers trying to get published?

Why not consider self-publishing for Kindle and other tablet/reading devices? It’s a lot of work and really tough going at times, but the rewards are marvellous, it’s so enjoyable, and you will have complete control over your work and how it is represented. You’ll also get a better cut of the profits, and won’t be tied into any contracts! In the 21st century, the power has shifted from big publishers to individual authors, and it’s an exciting time to be a writer!

14. Is there anything else you’d like to say?

I would like to thank you so much for the opportunity to appear here, and say to anyone struggling to write – don’t give up! Check out my blog for some great tips and advice to help motivate you to get that novel written and out there and in the hands of readers.

15. And now, before you go, how about a snippet from your book that is meant to intrigue and tantalize us:

Okay! Here is the opening of the second section of The Hunter Inside:

It had been cold for a couple of weeks. Too cold for Connecticut at this time of year. The nights were like winter and the mornings always brought a frost that coated the ground and affected anybody who was forced to venture through it. Paul Wayans had been affected by this. He had never been a big fan of cold weather, and although he didn’t have to rise early in the mornings, the cold often kept him awake at night, yearning for the warmth of a wife to comfort him through to a warmer, sunnier day.

For five years he had hoped that day would come – the day when the torture of losing Marcie would be replaced with something other than depression – but each day he had felt the same chill that now bit at his joints and made getting out of bed difficult. The chill went further than his stiff fingers; it went all the way to his heart, and Paul did not think the sun would ever rise on that warmer day he envisaged. It was like a sailing boat that bobbed up and down on the horizon but never got any closer.


It was normally about eighty degrees at this time of year. The theory of global warming actually making the Earth hotter seemed to have by-passed New Jersey; the temperature hadn’t gotten above sixty for four weeks. Bill Arnold had been affected by this. The journey he had undertaken had been made ten times more difficult by the cold. Extra layers made it difficult for him to turn the wheel at any great pace and this, coupled with the effect of the early morning frost upon the roads, had made him fear being part of an accident not unlike the one he had witnessed as he returned to Glen Rock. It also made him wonder if he had made the correct choice of career.

It had affected Sandy Myers, who was finding it nearly as difficult to get herself out of bed as she was to rouse the children each morning. Sean and David’s reluctance to come to life each morning, and their subsequent disinclination to move away from the fireplace each day made her wish for sunny, warm mornings when the world seemed better and children wanted to play and everybody had an extra spring in their step. Sandy loved the sun.

Day after day the sun did not seem to want to shine though, and this had the same effect on Special Agent Sam O’Neill as it did on Sandy Myers. His bed was the only place he wanted to be, and he always wore the wrong clothes for the climate that he was by now starting to get used to. Things would be different if he had somebody to keep him warm at night and to give him advice on the clothes he chose each day, but the demands of murderers had put paid to his relationship with Louise after just six months of dating. Every day was now a bit of a challenge.

 

The being that was affected most by the cold snap of weather was the huge figure that stood in the shadows forty feet from the front door of Paul Wayans’ house, hidden by the darkness and crouching beside a tree that stretched about twenty feet into the air. The tree was something that he needed, as he was over eight feet tall, and his reason for visiting was not a friendly one. And he was a he – as he developed he felt more and more male. Testosterone flowed through him, especially on nights like this one, and despite being only half complete, his body told him he was male.

The cold had slowed him down and made his actions difficult to accomplish, sapping vital strength from his body and diminishing his strength; threatening his objectives with every minute that passed, and making him hungry to succeed and achieve his goals while he still could.


Everything had to be right. No mistakes could be made if he was to achieve his destiny.


This was something that the shadow constantly considered as the day passed and preparations were made, and while anybody else would have thought that Paul Wayans had decided to stay away from home, he knew differently. He had known exactly where Paul Wayans was, and had not been surprised when he saw him for the first time, walking up the road to the drive of the house and pausing, before finding the paper that was nailed to the door. Neither was the shadow surprised to see Wayans enter the house after removing and inspecting the message that he had prepared earlier in the day at some distance from his current location.

His dreams were not really dreams. Whether awake or resting, he saw these people going about their everyday lives. His head was a constant whirl of activity as he moved towards his goals.

He knew their names, addresses, even their thoughts.

He knew what their next move would be, but they didn’t know his.


They only knew what he wanted them to know. He was in control and determined; more determined every day, that the cold was not going to beat him.

Nobody would stop him.


Not now.

Paul Wayans was afraid. The shadow hiding behind the tree knew this and this was what he wanted. Wayans heart beat at twice the normal rate and this was a thing that brought strength to the figure, who remained in the same position, crouched at the base of the tree, waiting for Wayans to leave the house.

He fed off the fear of his intended victims, waiting for the time when it was at a peak, before taking them and taking their strength, their knowledge, their lives.

So far it had been easy. The people he needed to give up their lives had done so without too much of a fight. Now the time had come again, and now the urge was stronger. He was nearly complete, but fear was not enough to keep him strong for long. Tonight was definitely the night for him to feed again. He could not wait.




*****

Thank you David for taking part in my Author Spotlight interview! I hope your writing continues to flourish and we hope to see more of you in the future.
*****
If you or an author/illustrator you know is interested in being interviewed, feel free to send me an email at
jejoescienne@yahoo.com

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Guest Blog with Kathryn Meyer Griffith

Kathryn Meyer Griffith, one of the authors who has taken part in my Author Spotlight Interviews, has returned to share with her readers some of her own experiences as an author.  And now, without further ado, here is Ms. Griffith's essay on why she has written some of her books.  Enjoy!

-J.E. Johnson

Why I Wrote Evil Stalks the Night

…and also The Heart of the Rose

Damnation Books: http://damnationbooks.com/people.php?author=79 (in E-book and print)

Buy at Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com


Evil Stalks the Night-Revised Author’s Edition is special to me for many reasons. It was my first published novel in 1984 and as it comes out again on June 1, 2012, rereleased from Damnation Books for the first time in nearly thirty years, it’ll bring my over forty year writing career full circle. With its publication all fourteen, and one novella, of my old books will be out again for the first time in decades. Sure, it’s been a grueling, tedious two-and- a-half year job rewriting and editing these new versions but I’m thrilled it’s over. I have my babies reborn and out in the world again…and all in e books for the first time ever. Now, perfectionist that I am, I can finally move forward and write new stories.

I’ll start at the very beginning because, though Evil Stalks the Night was my first published novel, it wasn’t my first written one.

That first book was The Heart of the Rose. I began writing it after my only child, James, was born in late 1971. I was staying home with him, no longer going to college, not yet working full time, and was bored out of my skin. I read an historical romance one day I believed was horrible and thought I can do better than that!

So I got out my borrowed typewriter with the keys that stuck, my bottles of White-Out, carbon paper for copies, and started clicking away. I’d tentatively called that first book King’s Witch because it was about a 15th century healer who was falsely believed to be a witch but who was loved by Edward the Fourth. At the library, no computers or Internet back then, I did tedious research into that time in English history: the War of the Roses, the poverty, the civil and political strife between the Red (Lancasters) and White Rose (Yorks); the infamous Earl of Warwick and Edward the Fourth.  Edward’s brother Richard the Third.  A real saga. Well, all that was big back then. I was way out of my league, though. Didn’t know what the heck I was doing. I just wrote page after page, emotions high believing I could create a whole book. So na├»ve of me. Reading that old version now (a 1985 Leisure Books paperback) I have to laugh. Ironically, like that historical novel I’d thought in 1971 was so bad, it was pretty awful. That archaic language I’d used–all the rage back in the 80’s–sounds so stilted now. Yikes! Yet people, mainly women, had loved it.

And so my writing career began. Over 40 years ago now. Oh my goodness, where has the time gone? Flown away like some wild bird. It took me 12 years to get that first book published as I got sidetracked with a divorce, raising a son, getting a real job and finding the true love of my life and marrying him. Life, as it always seemed to do and still does, got in the way. The manuscript was tossed into a drawer and forgotten for a time.

Then years later I rediscovered it and decided to rewrite it; try again. I bundled up the revised pile of printed copy pages, tucked it into an empty copy paper box and took it to the Post Office. Plastered it with stamps. I sent it everywhere The Writer’s Market of that year said I could. And waited. Months and months and months. In those days it could take up to a year or more to sell a novel, shipping it here and there to publishers, in between revising and rewriting to please any editor that’d make suggestions or comments on how it could be better. Snail mail took forever, too, and was expensive. But eventually, as you shall see, it sold.

Now to Evil Stalks the Night.

In the meantime, as I waited for the mail, I’d written another book. Kind of a fictionalized look back at my childhood in a large (6 brothers and sisters) poor but loving family in the 1950’s and 60’s. I started sending that one out as well. Then one day an editor suggested that since my writing had such a spooky ambiance to it anyway, why didn’t I just turn the story into a horror novel…like Stephen King was doing? Ordinary people under supernatural circumstances. A book like that would sell easily, she said.  

Hmmm. Well, it was worth a try, so I added something scary in the woods in the main character’s childhood past that she had to return to and face in her adult life, using some of my childhood and my young adult life–my heartbreaking divorce, raising my young son alone, my new love–as hers. It was more of a romantic horror when I’d finished, than a horror novel. I retitled it Evil Stalks the Night and began sending it out. That editor was right, it sold quickly to a mass market paperback publisher called Towers Publishing.

But right in the middle of editing Towers went bankrupt and was bought out by another publisher! What terrible luck, I remember brooding. The book was lost somewhere in the stacks of unedited slush in a company undergoing massive changes as the new publisher took over. I had a contract, didn’t know what to do and didn’t know how to break it. Heaven knows, I couldn’t afford a lawyer. My life with a new husband, my son and my minimum-wage assistant billing job was one step above poverty at times. In those days, too, I was so clueless how to deal with the publishing industry.

That was 1983, but luckily that take-over publisher was Leisure Books, now also known as Dorchester Publishing. A publisher that quickly became huge. Talk about karma.

As often as has happened to me over my writing career, though, fate stepped in and the Tower’s editor, before she left, who’d bought my book told one of Leisure’s editors about it and asked her to give it a read. She believed in it that much.

Out of the blue, in 1984, when I’d completely given up on Evil Stalks the Night, Leisure Books sent me a letter offering to buy it! Then, miracle of miracles, my new editor asked if I had any other ideas or books she could look at. I sent her The Heart of the Rose and, liking it, too, she also bought it in 1985; asking me to sex it up some, so they could release it as an historical bodice-ripper (remember those…the sexy knockoffs of Rosemary Rogers and Kathleen Woodiwiss’s provocative novels?).  It wasn’t a lot of money. A thousand dollar advance each and only 4% royalties on the paperbacks. But in those days the publishers had a huge distribution and thousands and thousands of the paperbacks were printed, sent to bookstores and warehoused. So 4% of all those books over the next couple of years did add up.

Thus my career began. I slowly, and like-pulling-teeth, sold ten more novels and various short stories over the next 25 years–as I was working full time, raising a family and living my hard-scramble life. Some did well, my Leisure and Zebra paperbacks, and some didn’t. Most of them, over the years, eventually went out of print.

And twenty-seven years later, when publisher Kim Richards Gilchrist at Damnation Books contracted my 13th and 14th novels, BEFORE THE END: A Time of Demons, an apocalyptic end-of-days-novel, and The Woman in Crimson, a vampire book, she asked if I’d like to rerelease (with new covers and rewritten, of course–and all in ebooks for the first time ever) my 7 out-of-print paperbacks, including Evil Stalks the Night–I gave her a resounding yes!

Of course, I had to totally rewrite Evil Stalks the Night for the resurrected edition, as well as my other early novels, because I discovered my writing when I was twenty-something had been immature and unpolished; and not having a computer and the Internet had made the original writing so much harder. Also in those days, editors told an author what to change and the writer only saw the manuscript once to final proof it.  There were so many mistakes in those early books. Typos. Grammar. Lost plot and detail threads. In the rewrite I also decided to keep the time frame (1960-1984) the same.  The book’s essence would have lost too much if I’d updated it.

As I finished the final editing I couldn’t help but reminisce about all the life changes I’ve had since I’d first began writing it so many years ago. Though it was actually published in 1984, I’d started writing it many years before; closer to 1978 or 1979. I’m as old as my Grandmother Fehrt, my mother’s mother and who the grandmother in the story was loosely based on, was back then. While I was first writing it so long ago, I was a young married woman with a small child holding down my first real job and trying to do it all. Now…my Grandmother, mother and father have all passed to the other side. Many other family and friends I’ve left behind, too. I miss them all, especially my mom and dad. It’s strange how revising my old books reminded me of certain times of my life. Some of the memories I hid from and some of them made me laugh or cry. This book, though, is the most autobiographical of all my novels as it contains details of my childhood, my devastating divorce, and what my life was like when I first met my second husband, Russell, who’s turned out to be my true love. We’ve been happily married for thirty-four years and counting. Ah, but how quickly the years have clicked by. Too quickly. I want to reach out, at times, and stop time. I want more. I have so much more life to live and many more stories to write.

So Evil Stalks the Night-Revised Author’s Edition (http://damnationbooks.com/people.php?author=79 ) republished by Damnation Books/Eternal Press will be out again for the first time in nearly thirty years on June 1, 2012, and I hope it’s a better book than it was in 1984. It should be…I’ve had over thirty more years of life and experiences to help make it so. 

Written this 1st day of June, 2012 by the author Kathryn Meyer Griffith



***



A writer for over 40 years I’ve had 14 novels, 1 novella and 7 short stories published with Zebra Books, Leisure Books, Avalon Books, the Wild Rose Press, Damnation Books and Eternal Press since 1984. And my romantic end-of-the-world horror novel THE LAST VAMPIRE-Revised Author's Edition was a 2012 EPIC EBOOK AWARDS FINALIST NOMINEE.

My books (all out again from Damnation Books http://damnationbooks.com/people.php?author=79 and Eternal Press http://www.eternalpress.biz/people.php?author=422): Evil Stalks the Night, The Heart of the Rose, Blood Forge, Vampire Blood, The Last Vampire, Witches, The Nameless One short story, The Calling, Scraps of Paper, All Things Slip Away, Egyptian Heart, Winter's Journey, The Ice Bridge, Don't Look Back, Agnes novella, In This House short story, BEFORE THE END: A Time of Demons, The Woman in Crimson, The Guide to Writing Paranormal Fiction: Volume 1 (I did the Introduction) ***



You can keep up with me on my Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1019954486, my Author’s Den www.authorsden.com/kathrynmeyergriffith  or my My Space www.myspace.com/kathrynmeyergriffith 


Monday, June 18, 2012

Author Spotlight: Interview with Michell Plested

1. Quickly, give us the title and genre of your book and a 30-word or less tagline:

Mik Murdoch, Boy Superhero is a YA Adventure that tells the story of an eight-year-old boy who one day decides that his destiny is to be a superhero.

2. Who is your intended audience and why should they read your book?

The intended audience is 9 - 15 year-old boys and girls who enjoy stories of adventure. The story is really one of self-actualization and gives young people a hero they can both relate to and look up to. Mik suffers many of the same problems as other kids: he is bullied and must make hard decisions about what is truly important.

3. How did you come up with the title of your book or series?

The name Mik Murdoch just popped into my head one day. Maybe the alliteration spoke to me. I don't honestly know.

4. Who is your favorite character from your book and why?

Mik, most definitely. He is a normal kid in so many ways. He is uncertain and self-conscious and has to deal with the same problems other kids face. He has to wrestle with decisions that aren't true to his ultimate goal of being a hero and must chose to take the harder path.

5. How about your least favorite character?  What makes them less appealing to you?

There are bullies in this story and they are my least favorite characters by far. I had to deal with bullies of my own when I was young and it was never pleasant. In order to make the experiences more true-to-life I had to make sure that the bullies in this story were not caricatures, but fully fleshed out characters with their own problems. It was both hard and therapeutic to inhabit their skins to write them.

6. If you could change ONE thing about your novel, what would it be?  Why?

I don't think I would change anything. The story is my first to be published and, as such, was a growing experience for me as a writer. There were times I wasn't sure it would ever be finished, but I am so proud of the finished product and know that all the work was worth it for this book and for any I write in the future.

7. Give us an interesting fun fact or a few about your book or series:

Mik Murdoch is actually the second book I ever wrote. The first was a 90,000-word fantasy novel that took me seven-years to complete. A week later I started Mik Murdoch as part of my very first NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and wrote the entire 50,000-word book in 23-days. I have since written two more in the series, also during subsequent NaNoWriMo's.

8. What other books are similar to your own?  What makes them alike?

That's a hard question. I don't know of others that are similar to this because I haven't really read in the genre for a while (my kids are both older). Ramona the Pest is maybe one simply because the characters are both precocious and know what they want.

9. Do you have any unique talents or hobbies?

Unique? Hmm. I'm a Boy Scout leader (not that unique, I suppose). I podcast and I collect swords. Are those unique or just weird?

10. How can we contact you or find out more about your books?

My website, www.michellplested.com is a good place to start. You can also listen to my writing podcast "Get Published" on iTunes. Just look up Michell Plested. Or email me at author@michellplested.com. Or Twitter @mplested.

11. What can we expect from you in the future?

Lots more Mik Murdoch for starters. I'm also finishing the revision of my podcast novel "GalaxyBillies" which has been described as The Beverly Hillbillies meets Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I'm also co-editing an anthology titled "A Method to the Madness: A Guide to the Super Evil". I'm collaborating on a YA Steampunk Superhero mashup, too. Oh yeah, and I writing and podcasting "Boyscouts of the Apocalypse" as part of the Action Pack Podcast (www.actionpackpodcast.com). I'm sure there's more, but I've already put two people to sleep since I started. ;)

12. What can readers who enjoy your book do to help make it successful?

We are currently offering PDF versions of the Advanced Reader Copy in exchange for reviews. I'd love to send a copy to anyone willing/interested in helping.

13. Do you have any tips for readers or advice for other writers trying to get published?

Network, network, network. Don't be afraid to talk to people and tell them what you are working on (if they look interested, that is). The job of the author these days is to do much more than just write. Marketing and self-promotion are critical too. Take the time to get familiar with the networking tools out there (i.e. Twitter) and make use of them.

14. Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Don't give up on your dream. If you want to get published, keep at it until you do. That's the only way to really make it happen. A long, slow, sometimes hard road but definitely worth it.

15. And now, before you go, how about a snippet from your book that is meant to intrigue and tantalize us:

Over the next several days we explored Cranberry Flats, rescued cats (some of which Krypto had chased into trees) and searched the surrounding ponds and creeks for minnows and frogs. We even spent part of a day sitting on a hill watching the town hang glider club floating through a deep blue sky.

And we found a body.

We were near one of our favorite fishing and frogging spots when we found him. It was old Mr. McGrady who lived a few houses away from mine. He looked so peaceful leaned up against the tree you would hardly know he was dead.

Krypto went up to sniff at Mr. McGrady and I grabbed a stick. While Krypto smelled, I poked Mr. McGrady’s feet. Nothing happened. I walked a little closer and poked at his side. Still nothing.
I had never seen a dead person before and was curious. My only experience with death was the bugs I had accidentally cooked that time, and television. In the shows I watched, the dead person often came back to life.

That was biggest reason I poked Mr. McGrady. As a defender of Cranberry Flats, I had a duty to protect the town from all threats. That included the risen dead.

I wasn’t quite ready for what happened next.

When I poked him in the crotch the old man suddenly stopped being dead. As he jumped up bellowing and waving, he tripped over Krypto who yelped and bit his leg. I started to run.
*****
Thank you Michell for taking part in my Author Spotlight interview! I hope your writing continues to flourish and we hope to see more of you in the future.
*****
If you or an author/illustrator you know is interested in being interviewed, feel free to send me an email at
jejoescienne@yahoo.com

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Jahrra's Journal: What I Discovered Today

The latest entry from Jahrra's Journal . . .

Dear Journal,

Today I learned mathematics with Master Hroombra.  I hate mathematics!  I thought it was going to be another boring lesson, but when Master Hroombra left me to add the numbers on my own I noticed a pile of paper in the great big fireplace.  I crawled closer and peeked in, hoping to see what the notes said, but the markings on the paper were so strange!  I picked up the one closest to me and tried to read it, but whoever wrote it used marks not at all like the ones Master Hroombra has taught me to read.  I know I should have put it back, but I kept it, tucking it away to put into my journal later.  Someday I’m going to figure out what it says, but for now, I’ll just look at the marks.  They are pretty in an odd way.

- Jahrra
The paper I found in Master Hroombra's fireplace.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Author Spotlight: Interview with Phillip M. Bryant

1. Quickly, give us the title and genre of your book and a 30-word or less tagline:

They Met at Shiloh, Historical and Military Fiction. In two of the most bloody, horrific days of the war, April 6-7, 1862, shocking for their unbridled carnage, Confederate and Federal meet on the fields and farms surrounding a tiny Methodist church. Its peace broken, Shiloh grips those who trample its fields to make war.


2. How did you come up with the title of your book or series?

When I was in college a friend of mine wrote a short story with a group of us as main characters. People loved it. While I was on leave from Army basic training I thought I'd put my hand to writing a novel with all of my friends as characters. It would follow that characters would inevitably meet personally at various points, be they enemy or friend. It had the affect of describing what any war tale would, the meeting in battle but also the more interpersonal interactions of my characters with one another.

3. Who is your favorite character from your book and why?

A minor character, a young dutchman named Huebner. I like underdogs and though I seem to rarely write them as main characters I like to have my mains have to deal with irritants. Huebner is a simpleton, a waif, a knave embodying the innocence of youth and someone of low intelligence. He is simple, though, and driven by simple faith and belief in his own failing of honor (he and his comrades have fled the battle).  He is the unlikely hero of one of my stories. He is the kind of person I would want to be in action and dedication, having the courage to do what is right.

4. How about your least favorite character?  What makes them less appealing to you?

Robert Mitchell, one of my main characters (of four total) is my least favorite for his lack of understanding and inability to reciprocate the friendship of Huebner, who genuinely calls Robert his friend throughout the novel. Robert is more like me than I care to admit and judges people by what they can do for him and not what they represent as a friend. Robert tolerates Huebner like one might a little brother but without the bond of blood or love.

5. If you could change ONE thing about your novel, what would it be?  Why?

I would probably change the beginning chapters and remove some of the backstory, it has tended to be a little slow in the beginning.

6. Give us an interesting fun fact or a few about your book or series:

The 150th anniversary of the battle of Shiloh is this April, a reenactment to happen the weekend of March 29th through April 1st, 2012. Events in They Met at Shiloh can be followed by taking the Shiloh Military Park's driving tour in Hardin County, Tennessee. The last scene in the novel takes place at what became known as Fallen Timbers for the multitude of fallen tree trunks left from a severe storm. The Civil War Preservation Trust is trying to purchase 275 acres of this spot and add it to the National Park land.

7. Do you have any unique talents or hobbies?

I've been a civil war reenactor, lead a drama group, sing, and paint 1/35th scale model soldiers. I'm an IT administrator for an international company.

8. How can we contact you or find out more about your books?


9. What can we expect from you in the future?

A short story titled Two Struck Images about two daguerreotype images found long after the civil war of two brothers and what happens to them. The follow on to They Met at Shiloh called River of Blood following a few of the characters after Shiloh and to the battle of Stone's River over Christmas, 1862 by the time of the 150th anniversary of that event next year.

10. Do you have any tips for readers or advice for other writers trying to get published?

Know why it is you are choosing how to publish and do your research thoroughly. I made some initial mistakes with pricing and cover blurbs and hiring an editor. We engaged an editor for both grammar and story flow but didn't shop and price, possibly spending too much. I did not discover Kindleboards until long after we'd put the kindle version up and could have used more informed decision making early on. You can edit forever, but you will need to decide where to end it and decide it has been enough. Take advantage of the freedom of Indie publishing, not because you think you aren't good enough for the Big 6 but because there is benefit for both earning power and creative control over the whole process.

11. Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Advice on writing and anything you can do to learn is great, but hold to your method and whatever allows you to write and keep writing. Experiment, add to your bag of tricks but know and stick with what works.

12. And now, before you go, how about a snippet from your book that is meant to intrigue and tantalize us:

Rising, rising, rising was the terrible sound of death and destruction all about them. Their own skirmishers steadily pushed through the muck and reached the tree line, disappearing into it. In front of Stephen, sitting in the water and nursing a shoulder wound, sat a skirmisher. His face was creased with pain and weariness, his clothes were soaked with brackish water, and his rifle was resting upon his good shoulder. A lone Federal forage cap lay a few feet from him, its crown laying upside down, its owner nowhere to be seen. Further on in the wood line, half submerged in the backwater, lay a Federal skirmisher with only his waist and legs visible. Stephen drew nearer and saw that the man’s arms and head were under water. A pool of red spread upon the surface of the water. Stephen had to step lightly so as not to kick the man as he marched past.

Stephen leaned forward to catch William’s attention. “We’re doin it! We’re whoopin’ ’em!”

The skirmishers made a ragged chorus of hoots and hollers when they finally entered the tree line and found drier ground and surer footing. Ahead, he caught short glimpses of the enemy skirmishers ascending a long steep hill. At its crest stood an enemy camp. The sight of the enemy’s tent line brought another chorus of yips and yells from the whole of the brigade. The moment of truth was near.

After what seemed an intolerable pause and reshuffling of the brigade regiments in line of attack, the moment arrived.

“Forward, march!”

At the command came the emanation meant to strike fear into any Federals for miles, the queer, high-pitched yipping that was the trademark battle cry of the Confederate fighting man. The trees resounded with the yell. The three regiments tapped for the attack stepped off proudly. They cleared the trees that had hitherto shielded not only them but the enemy, as well. Stepping into the open, they beheld a sight that might have dampened the spirits of lesser individuals. Arrayed before them on the top of the steep hill was a long unbroken line of blue.

Shouting and yelling, Stephen girded himself once more for what he hoped would be another short succession of volleys followed by their triumphant entrance into the enemy’s camp. With their color guard stolidly marching ten paces in front and leading them ever upward, all sense of danger and foreboding was drowned out in the rush of movement.

The long blue line erupted in a cloud of rushing smoke. The crack of the report engulfed their yelling and caused Stephen’s heart to skip. The zinging of lead filled the air and stung the ground, sending chips of sod flying into the air and bodies crumbling earthward.

For an almost imperceptible instant, the rebel yell was hushed, replaced by the gasps and groans of the inflicted. As if the air had been sucked from their lungs, they ceased their cry. Men gasped at the suddenness of the enemy’s destructive fire. The vacuum was soon filled by the guttural and manly huzza from the Federal line atop the hill. Without order, the movement forward halted. Stephen scarcely perceived that he and his pards were no longer moving at all. He, himself, was riveted by the sight of the man lying at his feet. Known to him only as Ox, the man was hardly to be recognized without the top of his head.

“Forward, forward!” rang the voice of Colonel Thornton from astride his horse at the rear of the regimental line. “Forward, march!”

Reinvigorated, the regiment and cry resumed with a greater intensity. The cry steadied Stephen’s mind, and the fear that had spiked in that instant Ox fell was forgotten. The hill was steeper than it had appeared from its base. The effort to keep up the pace told upon his legs. They were close enough now to see individual faces in the enemy formation, faces that didn’t look much different from their own, faces with names and histories and families and hopes for survival. In these faces, too, were fear and that particular look of men in a desperate situation.

“At the double quick, march!”

They gave one last shout and jogged forward. Stephen brought his weapon to the position of port arms and braced himself for the clash.

The long line of blue vanished once again in a cloud of sulfur and smoke. In that instant, the words of his father echoed in Stephen’s mind.

“I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him.”

*****

Thank you Philip for taking part in my Author Spotlight interview! I hope your writing continues to flourish and we hope to see more of you in the future.
*****
If you or an author/illustrator you know is interested in being interviewed, feel free to send me an email at
jejoescienne@yahoo.com

Monday, June 4, 2012

Author Spotlight: Interview with Howard McEwen

1.  Quickly, give us the title and genre of your book and a 30-word or less tagline:

Wrath-the life and assassination of a United States Governor tells the story of the only governor to be killed in office.

2.  How did you come up with the title of your book or series?

I stole the title from a straight biography called William Goebel: The Politics of Wrath. I chose it because it was the defining characteristic of Governor Goebel - his anger.


3.  Who is your favorite character from your book and why?


My favorite character is the entirely fictional character simply called The Mountain Man. He is the antithesis of William Goebel and is the hero of my novel. He's the one that pulls the trigger that stops Goebel.


4.  How about your least favorite character?  What makes them less appealing to you?


If by least favorite you mean which would I not want to spend time with I'd have to say my lead character William Goebel. That is part of the mystery of the man. Normally, even loathed politicians are personally like by man. In this case - and this is part of the drama of the book - no body that knew the real man liked him. How Goebel overcame that to become a successful politician is another part of the drama of the book.

5.  If you could change ONE thing about your novel, what would it be?  Why?

I quit looking at the book because every time I opened it up I saw something that could be improved. But there's a point where perfection becomes the enemy of the good. Also, one change upsets the entire balance. I'm not avoiding your question but I'm happy with the book. Early on I found somethings that I regretted and some errors that were pointed out to me. That's the beauty of independence. I went in and made the changes and uploaded them!


6.  Give us an interesting fun fact or a few about your book or series:

One things I try to communicate is that politics are not more divisive now than in the past. For example, in 1899, William Goebel was elected governor of Kentucky and assassinated. However, in most biographies of Goebel gloss over the fact that in 1895 he shot a fellow politician of his own party...and killed him...and Goebel was walking with the Attorney General of Kentucky at the time. Imagine a modern day governor having killed a man in front of his state's chief law enforcement officer and being elected to the state's highest position four short years later.


7.  Do you have any unique talents or hobbies?

I'm a beekeeper. Nothing focuses the mind and drives out all outside worries that opening up a hive of 50,000 bees than can cause you discomfort if you don't take care with them.

8.  How can we contact you or find out more about your books?


And here's the Amazon link

9.  What can we expect from you in the future?

I'm on two writing projects currently. One is a dark and depressing modern tale of the consequences of bad fatherhood. It's called Daddy Issues and I can only work on it when I'm in a good mood. However, when I'm in a good mood it's the last thing I want to work on. But it's getting done.

I'm also doing a series of novelettes called The Prescott Carmichael Jaunts. It's light-hearted humor stuff that I think people will enjoy.


10.  Do you have any tips for readers or advice for other writers trying to get published?

Don't try to get published. Write a book or story. Polish it. Upload it. Don't look for approval from an agent or a publisher. I'm convinced that there's no economic justification to using them. There may be other justifications such as wanting your ego stroked by being published traditionally but that's up to the individual author.


11.  Is there anything else you’d like to say?


Thanks for asking the questions!

12.  And now, before you go, how about a snippet from your book that is meant to intrigue and tantalize us:

Sure:

Goebel and Hendricks crossed the street. Helm followed. Sanford stood on the step of his bank. Sanford and Hendricks shook hands. They did not speak. Sanford kept his eye on Goebel. He’s not gonna make this easy for Goebel, Hendricks thought. If Sanford wanted to cuss him in the street then Goebel has it coming. Helm came around and stood beside Sanford. Sanford gave his left hand to Goebel. That’s strange, Hendricks thought. Goebel took Sanford’s hand with his left hand. The meaning dawned on Hendricks a moment before the stinging burned his cheek. He heard the roar then the ringing in his ears and he smelt sulfur. Hendricks opened his eyes and saw black soot on Helms’ face. He felt Goebel turning away. He looked to Sanford. He stood limp. A black hole on his forehead suddenly trickled blood. He crumbled to the ground.


Hendricks reached out to grab him. Sanford’s head smacked the brick bank step. Hendricks knelt down and cradled his head. Helms held a handkerchief to his own face and put his free hand over the hole in Sanford’s head. Hendricks put a hand to Sanford’s face.

It felt…slack...dead.
“A doctor? Someone get a doctor,” Helm screamed as a crowd started to peak out from behind their hiding places. Hendricks, thinking of Goebel, looked around. Goebel was walking slowly down the street against the stream of people running toward the three men. He saw Goebel come to an intersection, round a corner and slip out of sight.

Hendricks damned him.

Goebel sat down in Chief of Police Atkinson’s office.

“What can I do for you, Bill,” the chief asked.


“I just shot John Sanford in front of his bank,” said Goebel. “I’m sure he’s dead. He had a gun too. Jack Hendricks and Frank Helm were with me.”


Atkinson whistled through his teeth. “Have a seat, Bill.”

Goebel took a chair. The two men sat in silence for a long moment. Atkinson offered a cigarette. Goebel waved it off. Atkinson noticed Goebel fingering a bullet sized hole in this suit coat.


“And here I thought you wanted to be governor?” said the chief.

Goebel snapped out of his thoughts. “Bitte?” Goebel corrected himself.

“What?”

“A big chunk of General Lee’s old Army lives and votes down state, Bill. And you just shot a son of the Confederacy. And you…you as Yankee as they come. The son of a kraut Union soldier.”


“Yes,” said Goebel. “Yes. That will be a problem.” Goebel leaned his chair back against the wall and stretched his legs out. He put his feet on the corner of Atkinson’s desk. “That will be a problem that I will need to address.”
*****

Thank you Howard for taking part in my Author Spotlight interview! I hope your writing continues to flourish and we hope to see more of you in the future.
*****
If you or an author/illustrator you know is interested in being interviewed, feel free to send me an email at
jejoescienne@yahoo.com