THE GHOST FILES—Taking on the Dead with Style

[The Ghost Files Cover]I can see why this book is popular—and why it’s headed for the big screen. (Supposedly, it went into production this past summer.) I’m sure with the right cast, the movie could be a lot of fun. Oh, how I wish Roddy McDowall were still alive to play Dr. Olivet! Never mind. Maybe Brian Cox is available.

I only had a couple of quibbles with the story. Mattie sure has a lot of guys in her life who she thinks are “the one.” Hey, maybe that’s sixteen-year-old girls. Who am I to judge? That, and the ending is a little convoluted. No spoilers here, but I thought the reveal was a bit messy. These are minor points, though, so please don’t let them stop you from reading this very entertaining book.

Book Blurb

[The Ghost Files Cover]

Cherry blossom lipstick: check
Smokey eyes: check
Skinny jeans: check
Dead kid in the mirror: check

For sixteen year old Mattie Hathaway, this is her normal everyday routine. She’s been able to see ghosts since her mother tried to murder her when she was five years old. No way does she want anyone to know she can talk to spooks. Being a foster kid is hard enough without being labeled a freak too.

Normally, she just ignores the ghosts and they go away. That is until she see’s the ghost of her foster sister … Sally.

Everyone thinks Sally’s just another runaway, but Mattie knows the truth—she’s dead. Murdered. Mattie feels like she has to help Sally, but she can’t do it alone. Against her better judgment, she teams up with a young policeman, Officer Dan, and together they set out to discover the real truth behind Sally’s disappearance.

Only to find out she’s dealing with a much bigger problem, a serial killer, and she may be the next victim …

Will Mattie be able to find out the truth before the killer finds her?

Where to Buy
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon CA

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

Your Home Workplace—5 Things to Start Using Right Now

[Emily Johnson]Guest post by Emily Johnson

This post contains new, original material, and is based on the article “How to Organize Your Writing Space at Home,” which appeared at GalleyCat in September.

As a writer, if you know how to organize your home workplace, that’s great. If you know which items can help you stay more productive, that’s even better!

It’s simple: try to use these things to boost your productivity.

1. A digital highlighter. This device can help you scan, translate, and transfer texts. Once you start using this gadget, you’ll start boosting your productivity. Create texts and just transfer them to your computer or phone.

2. Mini elliptical trainers. If you want to stay productive and focused, you need to pay attention to your health. Using mini elliptical trainers helps to prevent health problems and promote a good posture.

3. A USB cup warmer. We often drink coffee or tea while working. If you want to take a cup of hot tea, you should use this gadget. Plus, try to drink green tea only, as it contains L-theanine and caffeine that lead to improving brain functions.

4. Live plants. As soon as you decorate your workplace with live plants, you will see spirits boost. Plus, it goes without saying that live plants freshen the air. No matter what type of plant you like—whether a cactus, an aloe, or an Orchidaceae—you can make your writing place look cozy.

5. A painting or quotation. Every writer needs to find his or her muse. If you want to get inspiration, find a corner where you can hang your favorite painting or a quote. It will motivate you to work harder and better!

Is there anything we left off the list? Add your own ideas in the comments section below.

[Your Writing Cabinet]

About the Author
Emily Johnson is a writer and a blogger at OmniPapers.com, an academic writing extravaganza. You can find her on Twitter.

The Monster Mash—Creating Believable Beasts

[Lauren Scharhag]Guest post by Lauren Scharhag

I grew up in the 80s. It was a magical time when bug-eyed, glowing-fingered aliens crashed in suburban back yards, when heroes rode luckdragons, when David Bowie danced with goblin puppets, when nightmare creatures battled for the fate of a flawed purple gemstone … well, you get the idea.

For me, the creatures of science fiction and fantasy are just as compelling as the main characters in the story. Anybody writing in the genre knows how important world-building is. Part of good world-building is creating believable creatures for your distant planet or magical realm.

Here are some things to consider when designing your monsters from the claws up:

Magical or Cryptozoological?
Is your creature born or conjured? Did it hatch from an egg, or did a rabbi scoop some mud together and slap a sign on its head? The way a creature comes into being tells a lot about what its habits will be like, where it lives, what it subsists on, etc. Magical creatures don’t have to be as convincing from a biological standpoint—or stand up to close scrutiny at all, for that matter:

  • Don’t feed a mogwai after midnight. Um, isn’t it technically always “after midnight”?
  • How the hell does a Pegasus fly? Does it have hollow bones like a bird?
  • What about Beholders? How do they—ahhh, you know what? Never mind.

As magical creatures, it’s part of their charm. But if we’re talking about an animal that is born or hatched, this takes a little more thought.

What Is Your World Like?
What is your world’s climate like, its ecosystem, its culture? Animals adapt to their environment to survive. Consider how the animal might have evolved in relation to where it lives. Is the animal native to the area you’re writing about or did they come from someplace else? If they’re not native, how did they get there? How do they interact with other species?

Some of my favorite fantasy beings are the elephant-like Mulefa from Philip Pullman’s The Amber Spyglass. Now, it helps that he was writing them from the point of view of a scientist who made keen observations regarding their anatomy, habitat, social behavior, etc. But Pullman obviously put a lot of thought into their ecology. A species of pod-bearing tree combined with some solidified lava beds gives the Mulefa the means to move—and I don’t mean that in the sense that they use pods for transportation. I mean they have evolved in such a way that they now require the pods to peregrinate, attaching them to spurs on their legs and zooming around on them like Tony Hawk.

I was blown away by the level of detail, planning, imagination and originality the Mulefa required. How in the world did someone dream something like that up?

Real Creatures, Alive or Extinct
Start with real critters. I know this seems like a no-brainer, but coming up with good, convincing and memorable creatures for your book has to be more than a Horse of a Different Color (enchanting though that rainbow-hued equine was, he was still just a horse with a dye-job).

I co-author a series called The Order of the Four Sons with Coyote Kishpaugh. It takes place across multiple dimensions. In the second book, the heroes find themselves marooned in an inhospitable, desert world called Carcosa. Keeping the Mulefa firmly in mind as we began to design the world, we gave a great deal of thought to what sort of flora and fauna could thrive under its harsh conditions. We researched animals and plants that live in the Australian and Saharan deserts, as well as Death Valley. To give the animals an otherworldly bent, we turned mainly to creatures that have gone extinct like the Tasmanian tiger for inspiration.

We also took into consideration the symbolism of the place. We have stranded the heroes in a world where everything is either aggressive or toxic. We looked at some of the fiercest-looking desert dwellers we could find, like the Solifugae, an order of desert spiders that can get quite large and look like an ungodly mixture of arachnid and scorpion, with pale, segmented bodies and pincer-like mandibles. They’re not terribly threatening to humans, but the point is, they look scary.

Another type of creature we looked at was some sort of animal to transport people around our deadly fantasy desert. Ultimately, we found our way to tapirs, an endangered South American animal with a prehensile snout (maybe Pullman influenced me even more than I realized!). Related to horses and rhinos, tapirs are decent runners, so with some alteration, we thought they would make fine pack animals. In the course of researching them, we found out that tapirs appear in Asian folklore. In Korean, their name is maek, so we named the creatures “meks.”

Finally, there are the real, live animals that share space with you. I can’t tell you how many creatures in my oeuvre have been influenced by an ugly, runty, squinty-eyed, foul-tempered little cat I found by the side of the road one day and decided to bring home. She has way more attitude than a five-pound bundle of dirty-looking orange-brown fur ought to have, but she’s my little beast, and I love her. Without her, I wouldn’t have stories full of dragons, mermaids, ehlems and man-eating blobs. At least once a day, I pay homage to my little feline muse with offerings of tasty treats. She seems as pleased with this arrangement as I am.

So all those hilarious pet stories you love to tell at parties? Yeah, turn those into fantastical adventures.

Barring that …

Tap into Some Folklore
There’s an entire world of myths, legends, fairy tales and folklore from which to draw inspiration. From kitsunes to skin walkers, from djinn to Baba Yaga—there’s always some creature or entity begging to be remade into a new story.

Obviously, you have the perennial favorites: vampires, werewolves and zombies. Personally, I find those to be a bit tired, but even they can have new life breathed into them—reanimated, if you will. (I know, I know. Feel free to throw things.)

To use another example from our books, in The Order of the Four Sons, we have an Eastern European sorceress who practices necromancy. Eastern European folklore is rich with blood-suckers and the undead. We came up with creatures called eretics, a sort of zombie en flambé. The amount and type of magic it takes to raise and sustain them burns their flesh, so they’re blackened, red and quite disgusting as they lumber about, flaking off patches of skin and doing their mistress’ bidding.

Another resource is the good ol’ D&D monster manual. I’m not saying to blatantly rip something wholesale from the Eberron or Forgotten Realms playbooks or whatever. What I am encouraging you to do is a monster mashup—create composites. Synthesize. It’s amazing what sort of literary Frankenstein might emerge. A fang here, a bit of drool there, some galvanic action and voila! Your creature will be up, wreaking havoc on a poor, unsuspecting populace in no time.

I hope you find my thoughts on monster-making helpful. Thanks for reading, and best of luck dreaming up your own ghoulies, ghosties and three-legged beasties!

Book Blurb

[The Order of the Four Sons Cover]

For centuries, two ancient, magical sects, the Order of the Four Sons of Horus and Starry Wisdom, have battled for possession of the sacred, powerful Staff of Solomon. Whoever possesses the staff can open doors to other dimensions—or rip open the very fabric of existence.

The staff was broken into pieces and scattered across the cosmos.

Now, a member of the Order, Fernando Rios, has disappeared in a small Missouri town.

When a team is sent to investigate, they discover that Rios was close to finding one of the lost segments.

The problem is, he wasn’t the only one.

The Order of the Four Sons by Coyote Kishpaugh and Lauren Scharhag is a classic tale of good versus evil. An epic, magical journey of fantasy and adventure.

Join members of the team, Colonel JD Garnett, novice mage Kate West, Detective Ryan Murphy, scholar Doug Grigori, and field techs Bill Welsh and Cecil Morgan, as they race to stop evil from destroying not just Earth, but a myriad of worlds.

And life as we know it.

Where to Buy
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon CA

About the Author
Lauren Scharhag is a writer of fiction and poetry. With Coyote Kishpaugh, she is the co-author of The Order of the Four Sons series. She lives in Kansas City, MO with her husband, two cats and a squinty-eyed beastling. You can find Lauren on Twitter, on Facebook and on her blog, www.laurenscharhag.blogspot.com.

FLIP SIDE—Gangsters, Ghosts and Magic!

[Simon Oneill]Simon Oneill is one of my favorite authors. I’ve been trying for years to figure out how his brain works. Forget it! His books are always fresh, funny and full of surprises.

So, I’m thrilled to let you know about his latest novel, Flip Side, which will be published later this month. Here’s the scoop …

Book Blurb

[Flip Side Cover]

Dead gangster returns to living world to correct his mistakes only to cause more problems for the ones he loves.

Johnny Knight is on top of his game as kingpin drug lord. His enemies are either dead or licking their wounds. Now tired of all the killing, he wants to live his dream in the Caribbean with his family.

Johnny’s dream turns to a nightmare when the ghost of his father appears, causing chaos and mayhem. His Old Man must correct a mistake he made and this means Johnny’s dream will never be fulfilled.

The ghost shows his son the error of his ways, making Johnny weak in the eyes of his enemies. Johnny’s empire crumbles around him. All he has is his dream.

Synopsis
This is ‘The Sopranos’ meets Scrooge meets ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ full of sex and violence and Jimmy the wise ghost who must do his best to set things right or return time and time again until his family’s problems are resolved. Only then can he be happy on the Flip Side.

Tough gangster Jimmy Knight is a ghost sent back to the living world to sort out his family problems that he left behind. These problems have festered in his soul making him unsuitable for the Flip Side where peaceful spirits can live out their dreams. The biggest soul crusher for Jimmy is getting revenge on the hitman that snuffed him out and to do this he must reveal himself to his youngest son, mob boss – Johnny. But there are certain rules to adhere to in the Flip Side. A ghost can enter a family member’s mind and use memories and words of wisdom to alter the course of their life or imminent death. But the closer that person gets to death the more visible the ghost becomes and when they can touch their beloved dead family member they are ready to flip.

Ten years ago, Jimmy is on his deathbed, a bloody bullet hole in his chest. Standing over him are his two sons, Johnny and Chalky. With his dying breath, Jimmy chooses his younger son, Johnny, the more stable, the man with the savvy. The look on Chalky’s face says it all – the drugs business was his to have as he is the oldest. Jimmy flipped, but his baggage was heavy not knowing who killed him, it gnawed at him not knowing. Now he has to return to his chosen offspring and fix the mess he has left behind.

Ten tough years later Johnny has stayed on top of his drugs empire. His enemies are either dead or licking their wounds and in no fit state to harm him. But of late, Johnny has been having strange dreams, annoying flashbacks to the days when Jimmy ruled the roost and even worse he has heard that haunting music more and more often – LA BAMBA – music played at his wedding! Chalky has been inside since their father’s wake, since he beat to death some geezer for not paying his respects to the old man’s remains. Chalky loves to use his hands, he’s a real genuine hands on kind of guy. Johnny accepts the Old Man’s intrusion in his head and shows signs of weakness when talking to himself. Jimmy uses La Bamba to warn Johnny of imminent death.

Chalky’s hatred of his brother sets in motion traumatic events as he does a Clint Eastwood on Johnny’s cool rat-pack gang and his most ruthless enemy – Rosa, Queen of the Ganja boss of The Yardies. The gangs go to war each side manipulated by Chalky’s devious tactics.

There are plenty of situations where Jimmy uses his music of chance and wise words to alter the inevitable course of Johnny’s life. He shows Johnny what might have been and also what could possibly be in the near future with swift acts of ghostly magic to prevent that bullet with Johnny’s name on it finding the target. But with each attack on Johnny’s life, Johnny gets closer to his father, seeing him, having a joke with him until finally touching him. Johnny learns what it is to be a loving father even when his love falls on hatred and vengeful family members.

Families are ripped apart by death and betrayal, plans within plans, greed and avarice fueling a war that can only end one way for Johnny, unless his old man’s magic can save him.

About the Author
Simon Oneill resides in South Wales UK with his wife Shirley Anne. He is a writer of all things paranormal fantasy in both the YA and Adult categories. He loves to collect fossils when not writing, and will often be found combing the local beach for fossils and shells. Or he can sometimes be found in a local pub enjoying a pint of real ale. You can find Simon on Twitter, on Facebook and at his Amazon author page.

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.

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.

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.

Check Out SEEKER, Amy Reece’s Debut Novel

by Amy Reece

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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

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.

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..