Newsflash—Amazon Isn’t Evil After All

Photo Courtesy of Jason Scragz via Creative Commons
[Evil Monkey]Thanks to our friends over at Authors United, there’s been a lot of back-and-forth about Amazon’s business practices as they relate to bookselling. Apparently, the kerfuffle began with the tense negotiations between Amazon and Hachette and has escalated to a letter from Authors United to the DOJ, demanding that they investigate the monopoly that is Amazon.

For the record, I agree with Joe Konrath. These folks appear to be a bunch of “whiny little babies” who are not at all pleased with the direction bookselling has taken—especially concerning independent publishing. Thanks to Amazon, readers are—wait for it—saving money on books. How dare Jeff Bezos put his customers first! And also thanks to Amazon, indie authors like me get a chance to be heard without relying on traditional publishers.

Rather than rehash the debate, I thought I would provide a couple of links. Enjoy!

Joe’s Letter to the Assistant Attorney General
“For the past fifty years, a handful of big publishers have functioned as a cartel, controlling the majority of what has been published. They did this by having an oligopoly over paper distribution. If a writer wanted to get their work into a bookstore, the only way to do so was to sign a contract with them.

“My best guess is that out of every 1000 books written, only 1 was published. That meant 999 out of 1000 books were effectively deep-sixed, prevented from ever reaching the public.”

A Message from the Amazon Books Team
“The fact is many established incumbents in the industry have taken the position that lower e-book prices will “devalue books” and hurt “Arts and Letters.” They’re wrong. Just as paperbacks did not destroy book culture despite being ten times cheaper, neither will e-books. On the contrary, paperbacks ended up rejuvenating the book industry and making it stronger. The same will happen with e-books.”

Authors United founder says Amazon’s control of the book industry is “about the same as Standard Oil’s when it was broken up”
“Amazon is like any other corporation; it has two goals. One is to increase market share, and the other is to increase profits. So anyone who thinks that Amazon is their friend is deluded. Is Exxon the friend of everyone who fills up their tank with gas? I don’t think so. Anti-trust laws are to prevent the natural growth of companies to grow to a monopoly status, and then use that monopoly power to stifle competition. And that’s what Amazon has been doing.”

Hugh Howey on Author’s United Letter to the DOJ: “I think it’s hilarious!”
“Amazon has done more good for literature than any other organization in my lifetime. They make books available to people without bookstores nearby, and at great prices. And they pay authors nearly 6 times what publishers do.”

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‘Maggie’—A Poignant Family Drama

[Maggie Poster]
Photo Courtesy of IMDb
Maggie’ (2015)
Directed by Henry Hobson
Screenplay by John Scott 3
Drama | Horror | Thriller
Stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Abigail Breslin, Joely Richardson
LionsGate
Rated PG-13
Log Line: A teenage girl in the Midwest becomes infected by an outbreak of a disease that slowly turns the infected into cannibalistic zombies. During her transformation, her loving father stays by her side.

You see, the thing about zombies is, they’re incredible boring. I’m pretty sure that’s why George Romero always chose to marry the “ghouls” in his stories with political commentary. I had to learn this lesson myself with my own horror-thriller trilogy. You cannot expect readers to embrace three novels—nearly three hundred thousand words—if all they have to look forward to is a bunch of drooling braineaters on the loose.

Forget Zombies
‘Maggie’ is not a zombie movie—not in the normal sense. Yes, there are zombies in it—in particular, the title character, played by Abigail Breslin. But these are not the undead we are used to. They are victims of a plague that has swept the planet and has made ordinary people sick—slowly. They may no longer eat, but they can still talk and think and love. They don’t shuffle, and neither do they move ultra-fast as in World War Z.’ They are simply people who are dying.

Against this backdrop you have a father, played beautifully and with quiet strength by Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is determined to keep his daughter not only alive, but safe for as long as possible. In doing so, he drives away his wife and their two small children, manages to earn the scorn of the police and quite possibly risks his own life. Because when the day comes that Maggie “turns”—and that day will come—he will be forced to either take her to a quarantine facility, where they will end her life with a death cocktail, or deal with her in his own way at home.

Family Is What Matters
If there’s one lesson that ‘Maggie’ teaches us, it’s that family and friends matter—especially in times of crisis. This movie didn’t have to be about zombies. Wade and his daughter could have ended up exactly in the same situation as a result of worldwide famine, cataclysmic climate change or End Times. It doesn’t matter. For me, the poignancy is most present in those quiet moments when Wade and his daughter are sharing a memory or a laugh. It’s when he desperately tries to get her to eat something to keep up her strength. And it’s when she’s starting to turn and he exhorts her to fight and stay human.

Box Office Fiasco
‘Maggie’ bombed at the box office. As of this writing, it has earned only $187,112 domestic, according to BoxOfficeMojo. And that’s a shame. I think perhaps LionsGate may not have known how best to market this film. I sympathize, though. As soon as you say “zombie” and Arnold Schwarzenegger, audiences are going to have certain expectations. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were thinking guns, brains, and lots and lots of blood. Too bad. This movie is not that.

I’m really hoping ‘Maggie’ does well on video. It deserves an audience—the right audience.

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Interview with M. J. Williams, Author of the ON THE ROAD Series

[MJ Williams]Today, I’m pleased to have as my guests Peggy Williams and Mary Joy Johnson, who together write under the pen name M. J. Williams and are the authors of Books One and Two of the “On the Road …” mystery series, On the Road to Death’s Door and On the Road to Where the Bells Toll.

Q. Welcome to you both. Mystery is a genre that seems to appeal to both young readers as well as adults. Personally, I love them, though I haven’t written one myself. So, tell us what’s unique about your stories.

A. Our “On the Road …” mystery series features a retired couple, Emily and Stan, who travel in an inherited, second-hand RV. The most frequent comments we get about our main characters are that they are the kind of people our readers would “love to sit and have a drink with.” We’ve sort of flipped traditional roles and put Emily in the lead when it comes to investigating, because of her law enforcement background. Stan, a retired history professor, is research oriented and more contemplative than his action-oriented wife. They are also grandparents, and in our second book, On the Road to Where the Bells Toll, which takes place in Boston, reviewers have consistently mentioned enjoying the interaction between Emily and Stan and their granddaughters, one of whom is a typical—if moody—teenager.

Q. That’s funny. So, it sounds like you are really contrasting the two generations which, I’m sure, makes for some interesting conflict. Since there are two of you, can you tell us a little bit about the writing process?

A. The process of writing is actually an evolving process of learning how to write as a team. We do all our initial brainstorming and plotting together, something we happened onto while writing our first book, On the Road to Death’s Door. We depend hugely on outlining—using a day-by-day and scene-by-scene outline format that we’ve designed. And we’ve just started using Google docs so that we can work simultaneously side-by-side or from wherever each of us happens to be at the moment. However, once we have a detailed enough outline, we each take a chapter and begin writing solo, often leapfrogging one another from one chapter to the next. When the first draft is done, we sit down together again and our individual voices pretty much automatically meld into one voice as we revise and edit subsequent drafts, just as we’ve done for this interview.

Q. Wow, you’re both way more disciplined than I am! In terms of the theme, what are the one or two things you are hoping the reader will come away with in each book?

A. Because we set our stories in colorful, current-day settings with the mysteries having historical connections, we hope the reader comes away with a deeper curiosity of a time and place, as well as the satisfaction that comes with a good whodunit. Relationship is another important theme for us. We find ourselves exploring the transitions that come later in life. However, readers of all ages can empathize with the interactions between Emily and Stan and between the couple and their friends and family.

Q. What are you working on now, and is it in the same vein as your current mystery series?

A. We are hard at work on the third book in our series, On the Road to the Deadly Apostles, which takes Emily and Stan and their RV up to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore in Lake Superior, just off northern Wisconsin. There they become ensnared in a sting involving Native American artifact trafficking. We are not quite sure how it all turns out yet.

Q. That sounds exciting! Best of luck to both of you, and thank you.

Book Blurb

[On the Road to Where the Bells Toll Cover]

In this second book in the “On the Road …” mystery series, Stan and Emily pack up the RV and head to Boston for some R & R with the grandkids and a chance to immerse themselves in colonial history. But their Fourth of July celebration comes to an abrupt halt when they stumble over a body on the Boston Esplanade and then another hanging in the tower of the Old North Church. Now the couple must unravel a tangle of forged clues and flush out the perpetrator before their own untimely epitaphs are written onto the historical landscape.

Where to Buy
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon CA

About the Authors
M. J. Williams is the pen name of sisters-in-law Peggy Joque Williams and Mary Joy Johnson (nee Williams). Peggy is an elementary school teacher and freelance writer. Mary Joy is a retired college professor and professional quilter. Their “On the Road…” mystery series features RVers, Emily and Stan Remington. Both writers live in Madison, Wisconsin.

You can find Peggy on Twitter, and both Peggy and Mary Joy on Facebook, as well as on their Amazon author page.

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Meet Samantha Powell from DESIGNING SAMANTHA’S LOVE

[PJ Fiala]Guest post by PJ Fiala

My name is Samantha Powell. I’m in my mid-fifties and have three children—all boys. Joshua is married to Tammy, and they have given me my beautiful, sweet grandchildren—Abby and Dodge. My middle son, Gage, is not married, though he recently started dating, and my son, Jake, is married to Ali. My sons Josh and Jake and my daughter-in-law Ali, all served in the Army. Josh and Jake were both deployed and saw conflict. I’m happy to say they are all home now and doing well. Scary times for us as a family.

I manage a small law office in the Green Bay area and fill in as a paralegal when deemed necessary. The management position is a combination of many functions: HR, scheduling, changing systems and software, overseeing marketing, and so much more. I like the varied tasks built into each day and it’s never dull, which is good and bad. I enjoy my job, but it isn’t without its frustrations.

I was married to my husband, Tim, for close to thirty years. Our marriage, while not a bad marriage, was stressful and unfulfilling. Tim suffered from depression, and it completely consumed us. Each day was filled with the challenge of what Tim couldn’t or wouldn’t do that day. His mother was another story. She constantly meddled in our lives. Because Tim couldn’t break from her strong personality, he would often cave to her many whims. The boys and I were left out in the cold where his attention was concerned.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I was relieved when Tim died in a car accident. I’d thought of divorce many times over the years, but I was worried that, due to his frail mental state, he would do something drastic. If he harmed himself because I left the marriage, I knew I couldn’t live with that. Finally being free from that stress left me feeling giddy one minute and scared the next. I know that sounds foolish, but after nearly thirty years of constant manipulation and dealing with Tim’s constant mood swings, I’d lost my identity. Where had Samantha gone?

I spent the first few months following Tim’s death trying to figure that out. I’m not totally there yet, but I’m getting there. I had decided to sell my house and buy a condo where I wouldn’t be tied to the constant upkeep of owning a home, and I could have time for me. So I contacted my friend, Shelia, a seasoned realtor, and she came out and pounded the “For Sale” sign in my front yard. Instead of immediately searching for a new place, I thought it’d be better to wait until my home sold.

Then I met Grayson Kinkaide.

I was minding my own business at work one day, taking care of one of my favorite clients, Mrs. Koeppel, when he walked in the front door. When our eyes met, he smiled, and I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. Oh. My. God. Feeling like a teenager at my age was a whole new concept for me.

He asked me out that morning before he went into his appointment with one of our attorneys. I was giddy, excited, and scared out of my mind. I hadn’t been on a date in what…about thirty years? I knew nothing of the current dating protocol or proprieties. After all, it’s not like we were both still virgins. Honestly, I hadn’t felt sexual for the past decade or more. Part of me thought those days were over. The butterflies in my stomach immediately came to life, and I could feel my face heating up as I began to sweat. I know, right?

We went on that first date, and I was enthralled while I listened to him talk about his kids, his parents and siblings, and even his ex-wife. I’m sure it sounds corny, but I think I fell in love instantly. He was working on a big project and we had to wait a few days for another date. We emailed and texted each other in the interim, and just as I was feeling as though I could probably handle a relationship…BAM! There it was—he allowed himself to be manipulated by his ex. You know what they say, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Something compelled me to see where it could go though, so I cautiously dipped my toes into the waters of Grayson Kinkaide. There were more surprises to come, and it’s probably a good thing I didn’t have the ability to see the future, because I may have just cut and run. Gray continued to stay strong and he fought hard for us. I’m so happy he did.

Our families are blended—Grayson’s three kids and two grandchildren, Lily and Lincoln, and my three boys and two grandchildren get along well. We spend Sundays at Gray’s parents’ house and we spend Fridays at our house. Now I would say, “If it seems too good to be true, thank your lucky stars!”

Book Blurb

[Designing Samantha’s Love Cover]

Nothing terrifies Samantha Powell more than starting over, but after devoting three decades to a troubled man and an unhappy marriage, Sam finds the courage to seek her own happiness. She imagines a nice quiet life filled with friends, family, and a career that leaves no room for relationship drama. Unfortunately, no one told the alluring Grayson Kinkaide.

After escaping a bad marriage of his own, Grayson realizes his soul mate is still out there and his heart is set on Sam. Their instant attraction begins a steamy affair, but the women of Grayson’s past aren’t ready to let him go. Can Grayson convince Sam that she is the only one for him?

Designing Samantha’s Love is a steamy romance that contains sexual content.

Where to Buy
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon CA

About the Author
PJ Fiala is a wife of thirty years, a mother of four grown children and the grandmother of three lovely grandchildren. When not writing a new story, she can be found riding her motorcycle and exploring this fabulous country of ours. Her writing revolves around people anyone would love to spend time with. No self-absorbed billionaires for her. You can find PJ on Twitter, on Facebook, at Goodreads, and at her website, www.pjfiala.com.

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BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S—A Holly You Won’t Recognize

Let’s face it, the film ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ is iconic. Who doesn’t immediately picture the lovely and elegant Audrey Hepburn when someone mentions the name Holly Golightly in conversation? I pretty much grew up with this movie—and it is a good movie, though a little sentimental and tinged with studio conventions. And let’s not forget the rather embarrassing portrayal of Mr. Yunioshi by the talented Mickey Rooney, saddled with fake Asian eyes and buck teeth. Really, Hollywood?

Thankfully, the novella is not that. I had the pleasure of reading Breakfast at Tiffany’s recently and found it to be sweet, charming and a little heartbreaking. The Holly of this book is much younger—not quite nineteen, in fact. She’s not brunette either but blonde—or something resembling blonde with “tawny streaks.” Like the movie, though, she makes her way in New York generally by using men and acting educated. And she’s running—always running. Even her business card reads, Miss Holiday Golightly, Traveling. All I can say is, I wish someone would make this movie!

There’s a bonus in this 50th anniversary edition—a short story by Truman Capote entitled “A Christmas Memory.” I recall seeing the PBS production years ago, narrated by Capote. The story is evocative and sad, and it’s easily the best Christmas-themed story I’ve ever read.

You can find this review at Amazon US.

Book Blurb

[Breakfast at Tiffany’s Cover]

In this seductive, wistful masterpiece, Truman Capote created a woman whose name has entered the American idiom and whose style is a part of the literary landscape. Holly Golightly knows that nothing bad can ever happen to you at Tiffany’s; her poignancy, wit, and naïveté continue to charm.

This volume also includes three of Capote’s best-known stories, “House of Flowers,” “A Diamond Guitar,” and “A Christmas Memory,” which the Saturday Review called “one of the most moving stories in our language.” It is a tale of two innocents—a small boy and the old woman who is his best friend—whose sweetness contains a hard, sharp kernel of truth.

Where to Buy
Amazon US
Amazon CA

More Reviews
Did you enjoy this review? Check out my other Amazon reviews here.

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A Writer’s Life—Makin’ da Pizza

Photo Courtesy of Arthur Mouratidis via Creative Commons
[Hand-tossed Pizza]Almost a year ago I posted some musings on writers and the marketing side of the business. And, yes, this is a business. Speaking of which, I’ve been blessed to be able to make a living for many years, doing something that has nothing to do with writing fiction. This feeds my family and keeps my wife from panicking every time the price of groceries goes up. And though I’ve been writing in one way or another since I was fifteen, it wasn’t until a few years ago that I decided to approach writing fiction in a much more professional way by taking advantage of indie publishing platforms like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and others. And the advent of these new alternatives to traditional publishing is both a blessing and a curse. I’ll get to that shortly.

Why We Write
It isn’t unusual to hear from writers who claim they do nothing but put pen to paper because the alternative is to go crazy. Stories are bursting out of them—stories that must be told. And to a large extent I agree with that. But, having had the benefit of writing and holding down a job at the same time, I can say in all candor that, at least from my own experience, writers write because the idea of actually working for a living is horrifying. I’m thinking of Charles Bukowski, who worked in a post office for a time. Don’t you think he would have rather been writing? I mean, at least Ernest Hemingway started out as a journalist. Look, all I’m saying is, if everyone had the choice of slaving away in a soul-killing office or holing up in a clean well-lighted place, which would they choose? Fine, salespeople would probably still prefer to sell because it’s in their blood. That and the fact that they are evil. Kidding! No, really, they’re evil.

Writing is a Blessing
Okay, enough about that. Writers write because blah blah blah. Now, if you are spending your time writing, good for you. You are probably a person with tons of imagination who likes creating stories and sharing them with the world at large. And, as a bonus, you’d like to get paid, right? Of course you would. Otherwise you’re Bukowski at the post office.

For me, sitting in my basement creating characters who often find themselves in dangerous situations is fun. Want to know what’s more fun? Hearing from readers who tell me they liked seeing characters in situations in which there’s a very good chance they might wind up dead. It’s a real high.

But for indie writers, it’s not just about creating the story.

Writing as a Curse
Unless you are a successful author with a publisher who is waiting with baited breath—and a fat advance—for your next book, there’s a lot of other work you have to do. It’s almost as if you are having a shared experience with the guy in the soul-sucking office job. Here are just a few things you need to worry about …

A Decent Cover. This thing has to look good. And guess what—you’re going to have to spend money on it. I’ve seen too many Kindle books with covers that look like they were designed by an eighth-grade dropout with a new set of Sharpies.

Proper Editing. I include copyediting and proofing in this category. How many books have you downloaded lately that read like an instruction manual that has been translated into English? I mean, seriously. I get that you have a good idea and want to give it life. But if you are a lousy speller or have problems with tenses, get an editor.

eBook Formatting. That’s right. You can’t just upload your Word document and hope for the best. Well, actually you can, but that’s not the point. You want to ensure that your darling will display correctly on virtually every device. Unless of course you decide to kill your darling because, you know, Faulkner said it … Never mind.

Marketing. This one’s my favorite because it never ends. Why can’t these things sell themselves? I’ll tell you why—because there are literally millions of titles available on Amazon. How in the world is anyone going to find your book in that roiling sea of bright covers and pretty prose?

Which Brings Me to Me
Part of marketing is figuring out things like book titles, descriptions and SEO, which contribute to the all-important goal of being discoverable. Me? I’m in the process of rebranding my horror-thriller trilogy, the first two books of which are published. The third is coming out later this year, and I arrived at a place where I realized that I needed to tie the three books together better—for brand recognition. This is no easy task. Other authors much more famous and successful than I have taken different approaches to their series. I had to consider what I have going with my books and capitalize on that.

Though I haven’t figured it all out yet, I do know that I’ve had some pretty good success with the title of the first book, Tell Me When I’m Dead. That title rocks, in my opinion. The second book is entitled Dead Is All You Get. Not as good as the first title, but I still think it packs a punch. I was going to hold a contest to come up with the title of the third book, but my wife put the kibosh on that idea in short order. “You’re the writer,” she said. “Do your job.”

My wife’s not a sentimental person, and she likes to speak her mind. But you know what? She’s right.

So what to expect. The third book is almost finished. (I’m not as slow as George R.R. Martin—I swear!) Then I will design a cover and do a cover reveal. At that time you’ll see the new title, as well as the new branding for the trilogy. Finally, the book will be edited, formatted and published.

There’s a lot to being an indie writer—doing things that have nothing to do with the words. But as I said at the beginning, writing is a business. Once you understand that, you’ll have the time of your life. It’s like making pizza—really good pizza.

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Check Out SEEKER, Amy Reece’s Debut Novel

by Amy Reece

Seeker-212x311

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I am excited to announce the release of my debut novel, Seeker. I started writing last year during NaNoWriMo and never stopped. I love it! What started with a short novella I thought I might share with friends and family turned into a 4-book series published through Limitless Publishing. This has been quite a journey and I’m just getting started. Books 2, 3, and 4 are coming this summer and early fall 2015. They are all written, so those of you who, like me, hate to start a series until all the books are out can rest easy.

I live and work in New Mexico and think it’s the best place in the entire world to live, so I love to bring it alive for my readers. The Seeker Series is primarily set in Albuquerque, although they do travel around a bit to amazing places like Rouen, France and Galway, Ireland. My new work-in-progress is also set in Albuquerque and is a ripped-from-the-headlines type mystery/thriller. Oooh, such fun to write about! And stay tuned for a spin-off to The Seeker Series coming soon. I hope you’ll join me on this journey!

Seeker: Book 1 in The Seeker Series
Ally Moran has always known about things—things she shouldn’t really be able to know…

When she starts having vivid visions about a former friend who is in desperate trouble, the adults in her life think she might hold the key to an ancient mystery.

Jack Ruiz has a troubled past, but is trying to make a fresh start at a new high school…

He just wants to keep his head down and graduate, hopefully before he turns 20. The last thing he needs is to get involved with a feisty redhead and her psychic visions.

While Jack valiantly attempts to keep Ally at arm’s length, she is equally determined to be a part of his life. Who will win this battle of wills?

More importantly…

Can this unlikely couple work together to find answers to Ally’s visions before someone gets killed?

About the Author

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Amy Reece lives in Albuquerque, NM with her incredible husband and two ridiculous mutts, Greta and Sodapop (who makes an appearance or two in The Seeker Series). She also drives Jack’s ’65 Mustang. When she’s not writing, she teaches high school English and social studies along with various classes at the local community college. She loves bringing Albuquerque to life for people not lucky enough to live there. She is a voracious reader and has never met a wine she didn’t love. She’s hoping to need many research trips for future writing projects.

Book 2: Dreamer, published June 9 Dreamer-186x300

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Interview with J. Cafesin, Author of REVERB

[J. Cafesin]Today, I’m pleased to have as my guest J. Cafesin, author of Reverb.

Q. Welcome, J. In some ways, your novel seems to defy genre. What would you say makes it so unique?

A. Everything. Reverb is literary romantic suspense about a master musician, initially so obsessed with his own talent that he’s neglected to actualize love. In the tradition of literary fiction, the novel personifies—even amplifies—the foundations of narcissism, particularly rampant among artists, and men, in particular, who are more focused on their careers than their relationships. Reverb is “nothing like I’ve read before,” many reviewers have commented. Unlike classic romantic suspense, Reverb is “raw, brutal, graphic,” according to some reviews, but at its core it’s a love story about a man who learns to love someone other than himself.

Q. Wow! So in terms of the theme, what are the one or two things you are hoping the reader will come away with?

A. I’d love readers to fully grasp James’ awakening—that love is not a concept or an abstraction, but an action we take to show someone that we care.

Q. What are you working on now, and is it in the same vein as Reverb?

A. I’m working on an outline for the sequel to Reverb now. Resonance is (hopefully) coming out Summer 2016, and will take place in real time, picking up over three years after the end of Reverb.

The Power Trip, the first in a trilogy, is about four Stanford students who create an app that helps students manipulate each other with predictive modeling. It’s in editing, and is due to come out late Summer 2015.

I’m also writing another fable for Fractured Fairytales of the Twilight Zone. Virtual Life will be added to the series in Fall 2015.

Q. That’s a busy schedule—and you’ve given us a lot to look forward to. Thank you, J.

Book Blurb

[Reverb Cover]

James Whren is brilliant, beautiful, rich, and taken—with himself, or more precisely, his genius for creating music. Desired by many, committing to no one but his muse, on the eve of his brother’s funeral, his father inadvertently turns his life into a living nightmare, and James is left abandoned in hell with no one real to save him.

His odyssey to freedom takes him beyond the looking glass, to the reflection of friends and lovers. Humbled and alone, James escapes to the Greek island of Corfu. But instead of finding solace there, loneliness almost consumes him.

Until Elisabeth, and her son, Cameron.

Reverb is a love story, a psychological thriller paced with romantic suspense. Told in a new, uniquely “clipped” style, Reverb reads fast. Immediate. Intense, like a sting of texts for today’s reader. Spun from The Magus, also about a man who learns to love someone other than himself, and way beyond 50 Shades of Gray, Reverb is told like Crime and Punishment—modern, clean, edgy verging on sharp. Like nothing you’ve read, guaranteed …

Where to Buy
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon CA

About the Author
J. Cafesin is a novelist of taut, edgy, modern fiction, filled with complex, compelling characters so real they’ll linger long after the read. Her debut novel, Reverb, hit #1 in Kindle Store Contemporary Romance, and #4 overall in Amazon’s Best Sellers Rank during a recent BookBub promotion. Recent reviews: “Riveting; Compelling; An original and unique read.” Reverb was also #1 in Read Our Lips Book Reviews—2013 Year In Review.

You can find J. on Twitter, on Facebook, at Goodreads, and at her blog, jcafesin.blogspot.com, as well as at her website, jcafesin.com.

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Historical Terror—Horror that Happened

[Alan M. Clark]By Alan M. Clark

What Were They Thinking? How could the people of Jonestown drink the cyanide laced Kool-Aid? How could Jim Jones ask them to do it?

How did Marine Sergeant Herbert J. Thomas, Jr. decide to fall on a grenade during fighting in Bougainville in WWII? Surely, he didn’t do it for the posthumously awarded Medal of Honor. No doubt he did it to save his fellow soldiers, but that’s a pat answer that leaves out all but the barest glimpse of the emotions involved. When it’s difficult to put myself into the shoes of the people making these sorts of mind-blowing decisions, their choices can become a fascination for me.

This post was originally developed as a presentation about writing historical fiction for the WordCrafters in Eugene writers’ conference under the title “What were They Thinking: The Drama Available in History.” The driving force of human emotion can be quite mysterious when we’re not present to see it in action. If the emotional context is missing, I am frequently befuddled by the decisions of my fellow human beings. History is filled with dramatic events that involve momentous and pivotal choices, some heroic, some dastardly, taken by human beings under great emotional strain. Those situations that ended in tragedy were often a result of decisions made, often hastily, based on a poor selection of choices, none of them good, or in the pursuit of a desperate agenda. Those that ended well often resulted from a persistent hope, faith, love, or just dumb luck.

Here are some of the types of choices human beings make that are difficult for me to understand on the surface.

1) Suicide (sometimes there’s no explanation left behind).
2) Maintaining relationships with those who are emotionally difficult, abusive, or dangerous.
3) Engaging in activities that are known to easily lead to addictions.
4) Unusual risk-taking or other self-destructive tendencies (sometimes referred to as a death wish).
5) Self-sacrifice (a willingness to sacrifice oneself for the benefit of others).
6) Courage in the face of overwhelming odds.
7) Striking out for the unknown with little but hope to sustain the effort (Christopher Columbus comes to mind).
8) Acting on intuition alone (trusting oneself to anticipate something of great import).
9) Willingness to pursue a course despite the obvious pain endured or caused to others.
10) Unwillingness to consider anything but one’s own agenda or beliefs in the face of obvious reality (Hitler comes to mind).
11) Collective belief systems that seem obviously harmful to others (South African Apartheid comes to mind).
12) Falling in love with highly flawed, even destructive individuals.
13) Hating individuals for reasons that seem to have little depth.
14) Scapegoatism.

For this paper, I’ll refer to these quirks of human decision-making as “fascinating choices.” Most of the choices seem unreasonable on the surface, so why should I trouble myself to understand? I’ve certainly made some weird, even bone-headed decisions in my life, but then, I know why, at least most of the time. If hindsight is 20/20, I should be able to evaluate others’ fascinating choices objectively, right? Of course not. If there’s no record left behind of what the actors involved were thinking and feeling, a lot information is missing. Should I dismiss my astonishment with the notions that those who made the fascinating choices were insane, ill-informed, or merely bad at decision-making, some lucky and some unlucky? I think the fact that I’m left scratching my head in wonder is an indication that something particularly human and emotionally complex has occurred in these situations, something that holds great drama. Sometimes, we have the pat answer—he gave his life to save his fellow soldiers—but that doesn’t satisfy my curiosity. Was he motivated by patriotic fervor or was it a special relationship with those particular men that motivated him. If the latter, what events led to such strong feeling?

Read the rest at The Imagination Fully Dilated Blog.

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Interview with Jennifer Loiske, Author of Demon’s Touch

[Jennifer Loiske]Today, I’m pleased to have as my guest Jennifer Loiske, author of Books One and Two of the “McLean Twins” series, Black Diamond and Demon’s Touch.

Q. Welcome, Jennifer. Young Adult is a very popular genre—one that even adults enjoy reading. So, tell us what’s unique about your stories?

A. My books are very, very realistic. They’re urban paranormal/paranormal romance stories, but there are so many facts hidden inside of them that even though the creatures are supernatural the story could very well be true. I believe in mixing reality with myths, and making my characters look like they could be anyone you know … the boy next door, your mum, your best friend … In fact, many of my adult readers have said that they couldn’t sleep in the dark for days after reading my stories and that the characters were creepy-realistic. My stories are also fun, a bit sassy, and the ones meant for YA or mature YA, quite sexy. I love cliffhangers, so one of my trademarks is the pacing of the chapters, and ending them in a way that makes it nearly impossible to put the book down before the reader reaches the last page.

Q. Sounds like you really know how to hold an audience. In terms of the theme, what are the one or two things you are hoping the reader will come away with in each book?

A. As said before, there are a lot of facts in my stories. Also, I can’t help but put some of my educational experiences in use whilst writing, so my goal is to challenge my readers. I have very clear values and I’m not ashamed to put them out for my readers to see. So, I’m happy if a reader finds out at least couple of the facts in the story and learns something new whilst enjoying my story. I’d like to think that I’m offering food for the brain as well as entertainment for the soul. Examiner.com described Black Diamond as “mind candy,” and for me it was the best compliment I could have hoped for.

Q. What are you working on now, and is it in the same vein as Demon’s Touch?

A. I’m writing the final part of the “McLean Twins” series so, yes, it’s in the same vein. Hopefully, I will get it done before midsummer so my readers can enjoy it before Christmas. I’m also working on the second part of the “Blood Hunters” series, which is a follow-up to the “Immortal Blood” series. Usually, I have two or three works-in-progress going, so whenever I get bored with one I can easily switch to another. In that way I keep the writer’s block away and will never get bored!

Q. Excellent strategy! Thanks so much, Jennifer.

Book Blurb

[Demon's Touch Cover]

“Magic is all about words and believing. If you believe then anything is possible.”

Shannon McLean had come a long way since she lost her mother. A while ago she’d thought she was alone in the world, a plain Jane with no place to go. Now she knew better. Suddenly she was surrounded by relatives: a crazy talented twin brother, Ian, who literally held the keys to magic in his hands; a demonic father, Connor, who had paid a high price for a one-way ticket to hell; and a wannabe big brother, Simon, who was not only half demon but also a hit man of some sort; and herself … so not a plain Jane but a witch with ancient spells tingling on her fingertips.

Oh, and if that were not enough of a burden for a thirteen-year-old girl, her father had sent her to London on an impossible quest. Truth be told, she might have volunteered, but only because she naively believed that the world was beneath her feet and she was capable of performing a miracle as long as her brother stood beside her. She’d been so wrong.

No matter what she did, or who tried to help her, she kept failing time and time again, and time was not something she had. If she ever intended to save her father from becoming the next king of hell, she had to act fast. She had to find a way to do the impossible and save a demon. After all, every witch knows the hard truth: demons cannot be saved.

Where to Buy
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon CA

About the Author
Jennifer Loiske lives in Finland in Naantali, which is a small sunny town on the southwest coast. She is a Teen/YA paranormal fiction author, with four exciting series available worldwide: the “McLean Twins” series for teen readers, the “Immortal Blood” series for mature young adult readers, the “Blood Hunters” series—also for mature young adults, and a follow-up to the “Immortal Blood” series, and the “Shape Shifter” series for anyone ages sixteen and up.

Jennifer’s stories are full of creatures of the night—vampires, demons, witches and shape shifters … but even if they are mostly fiction you can find a hint of a truth in every story. Jennifer loves to research, so every time she gets an idea for a new story, she does a crazy Google session looking for places, old myths, names, folklores and magical items—anything that could spice up her story and make it more real for the reader. Jennifer is also part of Authors for Charity, an international author alliance, and team member in Epilepsy FI magazine. She is a pre-school teacher by profession.

You can find Jennifer on Twitter, on Facebook, at Goodreads, and at her blog, jenniferloiske.wordpress.com, as well as on her Amazon author page..

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