writing

Meet Kelley Kaye – A Cozy Mystery Author to Watch For

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 I haven’t done an author interview for some time, but when southern California author Kelley Kaye reached out to me to review her Chalkboard Outline series, and I finished the first one, Death by Diploma (which will be reviewed in tomorrow’s blog), I knew I had to know more about her and share that newfound knowledge with my readers. She taught High School English and Drama for twenty years in Colorado and California, but her love for storytelling dates back to creating captions for her high school yearbook. Maybe back to the tales she created around her Barbie and Ken. Her knowledge, and love, of learning comes through very clearly in her books, but rather than bore you with my nattering, why don’t we let her tell you about herself and her writing.

 

 

How long have you been writing?

 

I have loved writing since birth, practically. But I’ve  only been writing to share since my first published short story—a horror story called “Wobegone” published in Crimson magazine in 2000. I’ve only been able to write full time since October of 2013.

 

 

When did you realize that you wanted to become a writer?

 

I am book obsessed—have been since I was three years old. It has always seemed like such a natural progression, from being obsessed with reading stories to wanting to dissect them and wanting to create some of my own. New obsession!

 

Is being an author all you dreamed of, or did it just happen?

 

I feel like my life all around just happened, just keeps happening, and YES it is all I ever dreamed of. I work hard to keep it happening, though. I mean, once it starts. If that even makes sense.

 

What inspired you to become a writer?

 

People always talk to me like this was some sort of a choice. I’ve always loved stories, have read obsessively since I was three, and because of this there are always stories in my head. The stories have to come out, somehow. It’s crucial to my mental health. So I let the stories out, and then there’s much less likelihood of a meltdown. Meltdowns bad, stories good.

 

No, seriously, when I read good writing it makes me want to make my own stories better. Other writers inspire me to write.

 

Who are your influences?

 

My biggest influence is most definitely my dad. He was this obsessive reader and adventurer who ended up opening the first-ever used bookstore (in the U.S. anyway. I think Europe has always had them). He traveled back and forth to that store—Salt Lake to Grand Junction and back—usually with his knees gripping the steering wheel and a book splayed across it, for years (true story), and he brought us any books we wanted. He also brought books HE liked, and shared those as well. My love for YA started with Madeline L’Engle (our books), and for mysteries started with cozies by Nancy Pickard, Jill Churchill, and Julie Smth (his books) and graduating to more hard-boiled fare by James Lee Burke and Harlan Coben (also his). He died in 2012, and I found out he, himself, had always wanted to write. I was heartbroken to hear of this unrealized dream. I hope I can do justice to those dreams, in memory and in honor of him.

 

What books have most inspired you, and who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?

 

To Kill a Mockingbird is a perfect book, in my opinion. But there are so many others—books inspire me because of the way the author turns a phrase, paints a picture or makes me hungry for the next moment. East of Eden. Cat’s Cradle. Something Wicked This Way Comes.

 

Harlan Coben is the one who inspired me to write a mystery—I wanted to write something where the reader laughed a lot and didn’t know how the book would end. Dean Koontz has always inspired me because I think he’s such a great storyteller. My friend Shawn told me once to read TickTock because the rapport between the two main characters sounded a lot like my voice as a writer. I read the book and was so flattered to have a comparison made like that! Stephen King is, also, in my mind a genius storyteller. 11-22-63 had so many moving parts to it and he made them all come together in this amazing machine. Plus I feel he’s a romantic and a feminist and an optimist—all wrapped up in this word package that can scare the bejesus out of you.

 

When did you begin writing, and what was the very first thing you ever wrote?

 

I have always loved writing, the way words can be combined in so many ways to create so many feelings. Stories can go anywhere I want them to go. Unlike life, which is much harder to

control. I’ve always liked messing around with words—stories for my Barbie dolls, captions for my yearbook—but I didn’t really start working on fictional stories and poems until my college creative writing class. I wrote a sci-fi story while listening to “Unforgiven” by Metallica (betcha didn’t know I was a Headbanger from way back), and my professor, Charles Clerc, thought it was good enough to enter it into an L. Ron Hubbard short story contest. I didn’t win, but the process of letting the story in the song inspire me to write a totally unrelated story was intoxicating.

 

How do you come up with your stories, characters, character names, POV, etc.?

 

I people-watch and eavesdrop. A lot. In Death by Diploma, Emma was the name of my college roommate and current friend, and Leslie is one of my closest friends and colleagues from Colorado. The other names are just random ones I pulled out of my…hat.

 

 

The storylines can come from anywhere, I guess—news, television, myths. I taught high school English and drama for twenty years, including mythology—one of my favorite classes to teach. You can get a lot of ideas from mythologies and fairy tales, plus it’s SO fun to tell those stories in the classroom.

 

 

POV is tough to decide. I experiment with it all the time—the Chalkboard Outlines series is third person attached, but the Foundation series (YA Paranormal) alters between first and third person. And the YA standalone Down in the Belly of the Whale is first person, present tense. I’ve never done second person—maybe that’ll be next!

 

 

What do you think makes a good story?

 

Interesting characters with difficult decisions to make. I like it when I’m constantly asking “why did THAT happen?”; “who the heck is THAT?”; “why did that guy choose THAT path?”; etc. The questions are what keep me reading, and the people in the story make me care what’s going to happen as a result of those questions.

 

 

What does it take for you to love a character?

 

I need to believe their actions are true to their belief system and history.

 

How do you utilize that when creating your characters?

 

I ask that question of myself whenever the character decides to do something.

 

What is your writing routine? Are there things you absolutely need to start writing?

 

I have a small “office”— AKA a chair—in the corner of my bedroom, complete with laptop and picture of my late father, bookseller extraordinaire. There is a schedule taped to the side of my dresser, laying out chunks of time for each writing project and each social media outlet. Seven days a week!

 

Do you work from an outline?

 

Ha. I WISH I were organized like that. No, I take whatever my basic story premise is, combine it with whichever characters I pick, and then we’re off to the races. It goes where it wants to. I bought this pretty pink three-ring binder. With pockets. My intention was (is) to have a section and a pocket for each of my characters, with journal entries, magazine pictures, objects, anything that would contribute to my knowledge of the story. Isn’t that a great idea? A mystery writer, Michele Scott, gave me that idea. It’s still sitting on the shelf next to the computer—pretty, pink, and empty. I’m lucky if I can find pockets of time to do both marketing and writing, much less organizing my life that way.

 

Can you tell us a little about your writing philosophy?

 

I don’t know that I have a philosophy, per se. I have a compulsion to write stories or observations which expand upon people and situations. I hope to find an audience who likes the stories, but I will continue writing them no matter what, because if I don’t my head will explode.

 

 

What is your writing style? Outliner/planner or seat of the pantser?

 

My writing style has most definitely been pantser, but I’m in the middle of a book which is neither— instead it’s about tapping in to the brain’s evolutionary REQUIREMENT for story. It’s called Story Genius by Lisa Cron and so far it’s super interesting—I’m excited about implementing elements of this “blueprint” which is neither outlining nor pantsing, and I hope it helps me get better and better, which is always what I’m trying to do…

 

 

 

Can you tell us about your editing process?

 

I don’t edit anything until the entire first draft is finished. Then I give the manuscript to several beta readers, compile all their comments and ideas, and then dive in to the editing.

 

Do you listen to music as you write?

 

I have this recording I picked up at a “Write Your Book in a Weekend” conference. It’s sort of a beach-y, meditative type track with music and ocean sounds—also coyotes howling in the background. I know, right? Coyotes? But it puts me in a mind space that helps the words come out, for sure.

 

What do you find most challenging about the writing process, and how do you deal with it?

 

I am most challenged by the number of ideas I have in my head and on my plate, and the inability to find enough time to spend on them all. I don’t deal very well with it, I think. I’m trying to just attack one thing at a time, because that’s all anyone can really do, isn’t it? I just wish I did it better.

 

 

I feel lucky that dealing with this constant challenge means I don’t really suffer from writer’s block. I have so many projects happening at any given time—right now I’m trying to finish a humorous self-help memoir (you’re right. Not an actual genre. Yet.), I have to change the POV on one YA Paranormal, COMPLETELY overhaul a YA Paranormal that is first in a series, and I need to finish Chalkboard Outlines® Book Three, which I am very excited about even though Book  Two—Poison by Punctuation, is brand new and nobody’s really read it yet. So you see? If I get blocked on whatever I’m working on, then BAM, I shift to a different project. It’s nice that I have constant assignments for my magazine job also, because it’s a completely different type of writing, as are my fiction and non-fiction projects. Allows for whatever state my brain is in!

 

One more challenge—I have MS, have had it since 1994. Two symptoms I have are crushing fatigue, and the pesky problem of my right hand not working so well after a certain amount of activity on the computer or on the paper. Same problem with my left leg (on the street, not on the computer). I deal with those by living my life as a champion napper (I have a scooter, too). At least once a day I have to stop everything and lie down for a while. I did this when I was teaching, too. It’s awesome. I think everyone should do it.

 

 

When and where do you do your writing?

 

This is my office, AKA a chair and a laptop in the corner of my bedroom:

New Book Review Schedule for 2018

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Throughout 2017, I have been doing a book review per day. I will end the year with a total of 365 reviews, which, when added to the reading I do just for pleasure, will mean that I will have read over 400 books this year. It’s been fun, and educational, but the press of other writing and non-writing projects have taken their toll. When I did my annual eye exam in late-November 2017, I was informed that, while my distance vision had improved, my lack of binocular vision, due to a childhood accident, meant that I’ve been reading with only one eye. Even with store-bought readers, that one eye was just reading enlarged text. I was given prescription reading glasses, which, to my surprise has made quite a difference. What it means, though, is that I need now to use reading glasses, not just for reading books, but when I’m on the computer as well.

Because of this, I have decided to set a new reading and reviewing schedule for 2018. Beginning in January 2018, I will only do one book review per week on this site. I still have to do a lot of reading as I research my own books, and I’d like my eyes to be able to reach the end of next year without any further degradation of visual acuity.

Thanks to all my readers who have reacted to my daily reviews, and here’s hoping you’ll keep reading the reduced schedule.

Review of ‘The Emotion Thesaurus’

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Experienced writers know, after tedious trial and error, that it is compelling characters that hook readers on what you write. One of the best ways to get readers to invest in your characters is to be able to show their emotional state. The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackermann and Becca Publisi is a handy list of ways to ‘show’ what your character is feeling, without having to expressly ‘tell’ your reader. Whether you’re a beginning wordsmith or a grizzled veteran, this book is a must-have for your writer’s reference library.

I purchased this book about four years ago from Amazon and made it part of my library. I’ve lately been going through these books and selecting those that I think would be of interest to those readers who are also writers. This one is a great time-saver that will give you loads of ideas to improve your writing.

I give it five stars.

Review of ‘The Complete Guide to Writing Fantasy-Volume Three’

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Writing is hard work. But, getting published, and getting your book read is even harder. The Complete Guide to Writing Fantasy, Volume Three: The Author’s Grimoire edited by Valerie Griswold-Ford and Lai Zhang is a comprehensive guide to the networking and self-promotion practices that will help writers, from tyro to experienced, gain maximum exposure. Detailed guidance on approaching publishers and agents is useful for those deciding to go the traditional publishing route, but most helpful in today’s publishing world, are the hints on generating buzz for your work, which is quite useful to independent authors.

I purchased this book from Amazon several years ago, and still refer to it from time to time when I’ve just published a new book, as a reminder of the work that needs to be done to attract readers.

I give this book four stars.

Review of ‘How to Write a Novel the Easy Way’

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Because I know that a lot of the readers of these reviews are authors themselves, and because, as a writer, I happen to have a large collection of books on writing, I’ve decided to review some of them as a service to my readers. One of my favorite how-to books, and one that has been in my library for some time, is How to Write a Novel the Easy Way by Jim Driver with Jack Davies.

A brief book by an author, editor, and publisher in the UK, this book discusses the pulp fiction method of writing, harking back to the 50s and 60s, the heyday of pulp fiction, when authors cranked out book after book, not exactly literary fiction, but well-crafted stories for the broadest possible audience. The authors describe easy-to-apply methods for writing stories that will entertain readers, which, at the end of the day is what we writers really want to do.

From character development to outlining and writing your book, you will find this a handy reference for your own shelves. They take the mystery out of mystery writing, and put the romance in your bodice-rippers. I purchased this book from Amazon so long ago, it’s no longer listed in my purchases. While I spend most of my time writing, or reading books for review, these days, I hadn’t picked it up in a long time, but when I did, I wasn’t surprised to find that there were still things I could learn from it.

I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Writing at Work’

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Writing at Work: Professional Writing Skills for People on the Job by Edward L. Smith and Stephen A. Bernhardt is a comprehensive guide for anyone who wants to improve writing skills at work. It covers everything from grammar to improving the appearance of your writing. I use this book in connection with a summer writing workshop on professional writing that I conduct for select college seniors interested in careers in foreign affairs. I’ve found it to be a handy guide, in conjunction with a style guide, to assist students in the task of improving their writing skills.

Whether used for teaching others, or as an individual self-help guide, for the young professional, this book should have a prominent place in the reference library.

I give this handy reference five stars.

My Writing Office

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A real writer can work anywhere

Don’t Wait for the Muse

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Writers who wait around for the muse often get nothing written.

Authors Beware of deals that seem too good to be true – they are just that!

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There’s been a number of articles on various sites about publishers who hook unwary authors into contracts that give nothing in return. Many indie authors have fallen into this trap—I include myself, unfortunately, in that number.

 

When I was working on my first book length manuscript, a book on leadership that I was encouraged to write by a young man who worked for me as my speech writer when I was U.S. ambassador to Cambodia (2002-2005). After slaving over the manuscript for nearly three years, I went searching for a publisher.

 

I encountered an ad from PublishAmerica, a Maryland-based small imprint that, unlike the many vanity publishers advertising at the time, touted the fact that they PAID authors for their work instead of asking for payment. Knowing, or at least suspecting, that the book I’d written would have limited appeal, it didn’t sound like a bad deal, so I submitted it.

 

A few weeks later I received an email advising me that my book was accepted for publication. Attached to the email was a contract. Naïve in the ways of publishing, I unwisely didn’t have that contract read by a lawyer before signing it. From what I’d read, it didn’t seem to bad – the advance was paltry (a mere $1.00), and I was locked into an 8-year commitment. But, the book would be published, so I figured I had nothing to lose.

 

It was published, but from that point on, it was a nightmare. The cover was somewhat amateurish—even then, just learning the art of designing book covers, I could’ve done a better job. The price was a bit high, I thought, but again, I was new to all this and didn’t know any better. I was encouraged to buy copies for myself at a measly discount from the inflated cover price. The royalties were also small; something like 8% of the cover price (compare that to the 75% you can get publishing it yourself through the Kindle Direct Program, or even the rather generous percentage you get when you publish a paperback through CreateSpace). They did, at least, list it on all the major book-seller sites; Amazon, etc.

 

Surprisingly, there were a few early sales, and I even got it included in a couple of libraries (The U.S. State Department Library, and my college library, to name two). A few people I met at conferences, who had read it, also informed me that they’d purchased copies to use in their management training programs. Despite this, my royalty checks over the past eight-plus years have yet to exceed $50. Looking back, when I compare this to the $100 per month I get through KDP, and an average of $30 per month through CreateSpace and other sales of paperbacks, I can see that what seemed at the time to be ‘too good to be true,’ in fact was just that.

 

The eight years in the contract are up now, and you would assume, as implied in the contract, my book rights belong to me. Guess again.

 

PublishAmerica changed its name to AmericaStar, in an effort, I believe, to attract foreign indie authors, but its practices remain the same. It does nothing to promote the books it accepts, beyond importuning the author regularly to buy copies, and lately it has done something that seals its fate as far as I’m concerned.

 

Over the past 60 days, I’ve been getting emails from AmericaStar nee PublishAmerica, informing me that the company is getting out of the publishing business and going full time to book promotion. In doing so, it plans to sell the rights to the books it holds to another ‘Indie’ publisher, but I can get them assigned to me for a modest fee of $199—it said in the initial emails that this was to cover the cost of removing it from selling platforms, etc.

 

At first, I couldn’t believe they would have the gall to do something like this, so I just ignored the first four or five emails. Then, they said, if I couldn’t afford $199, for a few days I could get my rights back for a mere $149. Again, I ignored them. A week later, another email, informing me that I had only two days to BUY my rights back, and they were doing me a big favor by reducing the cost to $99.  Thoroughly steamed by now, I just filed the emails away and went on to other projects.

 

The latest are . . . funny, pathetic, I’m not sure how to characterize them. I now have 24 hours to obtain the rights to my own work for $79. If I fail to do this, someone else (as yet unknown) will own the rights to my book, and they can’t promise what the buyer will do with these rights.

 

Thankfully, I’ve self-published scores of books since my first mistake, and while I’m not on any best-seller lists, and not getting rich from it, I’m enjoying fairly regular sales, and getting some pretty solid reviews. As for buying the rights back to my own work—I’m in wait-and-see mode. If the last email is correct, I will probably be hearing from the mysterious new publisher someday soon with a request that I buy my book, or something equally ridiculous.

 

I’ve written that book off as a lost cause, and a lesson learned. Never were the words caveat emptor more appropriate.

Review of ‘The Savvy Solopreneur’s Guide to Outsourcing’

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If you’re an indie author, or are otherwise engaged in a solo entrepreneurial activity, you might think growing your business (or selling more books) means that you have to cram in more hours of work and learn a whole suite of new skills. Not so. With a minimum outlay of money you can do what many big businesses do; you can outsource the things you’re not good at and spend more time doing the things you do well.

Karen Banes’ The Savvy Solopreneur’s Guide to Outsourcing is a brief tutorial that will help you in the task of finding skilled people to do things for you, leaving you more time to spend on doing the things you love doing. Written in plain words and crammed full of links to resources ranging from dirt cheap to expensive, and with a clear-cut guide to setting your solo business up to take the best advantage of the many resources available, this is a handy reference book for anyone who desires to grow their solo business.

Whether you’re just getting started, or you’ve been at it for a while, you’re sure to find a useful nugget or two of information in this book, so don’t delay; get it today and start taking advantage of all that it has to offer.

This one is a five star addition to your reference library!

Review of ‘Inspired Writer’

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Bryan Hutchinson is a freelance writer who shares his views on writing in a blunt, no-holds-barred manner. In Inspired Writer: How to Create Magic With Your Words, he takes the gloves off with some down and dirty advice on everything from overcoming writer’s block to finding  your muse (or perhaps it’s better to say, letting your muse find you).

This isn’t a how-to book. It’s a think piece for anyone who wants to write better. Hutchinson’s focus is on YOU the writer, and how to unlock your ability to get your thoughts across in the most effective manner.

If you want to write better, you’re the key, and this book can help you find the right keyhole. It is not the magic bullet that will guarantee your next book will be a best seller; just some no-nonsense advice on how to write what’s inside you in a way that will resonate with readers.

Four stars.

#PoweredByIndie: My Fascinating Journey in Self-Publishing

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Shy and withdrawn as a child, my only solace was found in books, books that I devoured voraciously from the time I was seven or eight years old. The worlds I found between the pages gave me comfort in ways that human contact did not. By my early teens I’d overcome my shyness, but my love affair with the written word endured.

Transitioning from reading to writing was, perhaps, inevitable. I’m not sure when or how it really began, but by the time I was twelve, I was already writing little short stories, creating worlds like the ones I’d encountered in the books I read—but, only for myself.

When I started high school, not long after my twelfth birthday thanks to a special program that put students in grades based on their test scores not their age, I met Paulyne Evans, my home room teacher and the English teacher in my high school, Booker T. Washington elementary and high school in the small East Texas town where I grew up. She helped me get over my shyness, but she also recognized my love of writing, and encouraged it. When I was thirteen, she talked me into entering a national Sunday school magazine short story contest, and to my surprise—but, she insists, not hers—I won first place. The prize was small, about ten dollars, if I recall, but seeing my byline on a piece of writing in a publication that was circulated throughout the U.S. hooked me forever.

After graduating from high school, and without the resources for college, I joined the army. Over a twenty-year career, I often moon lighted as a writer/photographer/artist for local newspapers near the bases where I was stationed, did freelance articles and art for a number of magazines, and wrote poetry. After retiring from the army, I joined the U.S. Foreign Service, and for most of that thirty-year career, I pretty much put my creative writing on hold, except for the occasional opinion piece, book review, or poem. I didn’t return to fiction, or try my hand at a book-length work until about twelve years ago; eight years before I retired from government service.

After four years of rejection slips, I almost gave up on ever being able to get a book published. Then, eight years ago, I got a bite from what at the time seemed like a reputable publisher for two books on leadership. I won’t, for legal reasons, name the ‘publishers,’ just suffice it to say, it was a rip-off. I got hooked into an eight-year contract, and incessant requests that I buy my own books. They haven’t sold well, although the first one did get a few rave reviews, and does still get the occasional sale. My royalties have been miniscule at best. The experience soured me on publishers, and almost killed my desire to write.

Then, I started seeing articles about self-publishing. I researched it, and discovered that many other writers, including some who already had relationships with traditional publishers, were taking that route. This was, unfortunately, just before indie publishing began to be viewed with a little respect, and I was hesitant. But, I finally decided that if others could do it, so could I.

I dusted off a manuscript that I’d been working on for three years, did some rewriting, enrolled in one of the POD self-publishing programs, and after a year, had my book available for online sales in paperback and e-book format.

Surprisingly, it got a few good reviews, and even a few sales, despite being roughly done. I was just learning that self-publishing involved more than merely writing the darned thing; you had to know formatting, editing, and cover design, and . . . yuck . . . marketing. But having a book out there for all to see, and getting even a few sales was energizing. I then dug out my journal in which I’d written down ideas for other books, and started writing seriously.

Over the past eight years, I’ve managed to create a substantial list of published books, fiction, children’s books, and nonfiction, and get modest, but steady, sales in both paper and electronic versions.

More importantly, with each book, I get better—at least in my own opinion—and, I learn something new. I can now format a book’s interior almost as well as a traditional publishing house, I’ve learned to edit my work as if it was written by someone else—which means cutting, changing, or adding  to that first creative outburst with a reader’s eye. I’ve learned to do covers. Oh, none of them will ever win an award, but they’re technically acceptable, and a few of them aren’t half bad. My experience as a photographer, editorial cartoonist and magazine artist helps there.

Am I ready to make the NYT Bestseller’s List? Not hardly. But, I’ve gotten some good reviews, my books continue to sell, and occasionally I get an email from a reader telling me that they found themselves immersed in my book and loving the characters. I get the occasional review that pans a book. I even learn from them. If the criticism is valid, and not just trolling, I make a note of it, and incorporate it into my next book, or as I did in one case, unpublish, rewrite, and republish the book.

Independent publishing has been for me an exciting journey, one that is just beginning. Along the way, I’ve learned some fascinating things, and met some wonderful people. Indie publishing might not be for everyone. It’s a daring thing to do. But, if you want some excitement in your life, and if you want to write, it’s a combination that will change you forever.

Review of ‘Marketing Your Book On Amazon: 21 Things You Can Easily Do For Free To Get More Exposure and Sales’

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Have you written and published a book, but sales are depressing—or nonexistent. Maybe what you need is a way to get readers to notice your book. Marketing Your Book on Amazon: 21 Things You Can Easily Do For Free to Get More Exposure and Sales by Shelley Hitz is a short Kindle book that outlines in easy-to-understand steps a marketing plan for your book, using some of the handy programs on Amazon as well as other social marketing platforms. Hitz shows how authors can use the Amazon Author Page, use keywords effectively to enable more readers to see your book, and many other methods, some well-known to anyone who has published on Amazon’s CreateSpace or Kindle Direct platforms, and others perhaps not so well known.

Along with the handy hints, Hitz has also included in the book a link to a free video tutorial that takes you through the marketing plan—a great tool for the visually oriented learner. While these tips won’t guarantee that you’ll instantly become a bestseller, they will certainly improve your chances of selling more books, and building a following of readers for future books.

If you’ve been struggling to sell your books, this is a worthwhile investment. I’ve used several of the suggestions, and while not all have worked for me, I have seen an increase in book sales over the past several months, so I can say that some of them do work. The one thing that is definite, writing your book is just the first step; marketing it is the essential next step if you want to be read.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Bullies, Bastards & Bitches’

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Bullies, Bastards & Bitches is a politically incorrect title (in today’s PC world), but it’s the absolutely correct title for Jessica Page Morrell’s book on how to write the bad guys of fiction.

Starting with an in depth description of the primal fears that motivate all of us, Morrell than proceeds to chart how to create memorable bad guy (or girl) characters that will keep readers turning the pages of your book, because they see in what you write the things they fear, and they’re afraid to stop reading.

Replete with examples of effective bad characters from classic fictional works, this book will help you bring life to your writing like no other. A total five star book.

Review of ‘The Art of War for Writers’

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Best-selling author James Scott Bell channels the Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu in The Art of War for Writers, a book of strategies, tactics, and exercises to help a writer navigate the terrain of creating characters and plots that will captivate readers.

Writing, Bell maintains, is a lot like waging war, and using the tactics of Sun Tzu, Bell takes readers on a journey through the campaign of bringing stories to life in a way that makes perfect sense. The final chapter alone is worth the price of the book; the writer must apply wisdom, sincerity, benevolence, courage, and strictness in the craft of writing, for it’s only through mastering these traits that truly great writing can be achieved.

So, be wise, and sincerely get this book for your reference library, and then have the courage to strictly apply the guidance contained therein to ensure benevolence in your writing.

I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Modern Mythmakers: 35 Interviews with Horror & Science Fiction Writers and Filmmakers’

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Modern Mythmakers: 35 Interviews with Horror & Science Fiction Writers and Filmmakers by Michael McCarty is a gem. A collection of 35 interviews with some of the biggest names in sci-fi and horror fiction and film, this book is chock full of sage advice for those who want to write in these genres, or fans. It gives a down and dirty look at what drives or drove such greats as the late Ray Bradbury, Dean Koontz, and others who have given us books and films that have become classics.

This is a book that you’ll want to read again and again. It’s now in my reference library, and I proudly award it five stars–only because I can’t give it six.

#IWSG: Amazon – Big is Neither Good Nor Bad, It’s Just Big

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InsecureWritersSupportGroupIt’s time for another posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. This is where you can see posts from a group of writers who share their success, fear, and advice with you on the first Wednesday of each month. This month, I have only a brief message; about a subject I’ve been avoiding, but there has been so much in the media about it the past several months, I’ve decided to be silent no longer.

In American politics, there are a number of topics that arouse intense debate whenever they’re brought up: immigration, gun control, gay marriage, social security, to name a few. In the publishing world, though, among publishers and writers, there seems to be only one subject that does this: Amazon.

The ‘Zon seems to be the third rail of the publishing world—especially when it comes to indie writers and publishers. Everyone has an opinion on it, and all opinions seem to be at one pole or another; Amazon is either a behemoth that is devouring publishing as we know it, or it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread.

Let me give you my view, for what it’s worth. Amazon is big. It’s huge. And, while big is not necessarily better, it’s also not necessarily bad. Sure, Amazon’s a business, and the business of business is to make money. Amazon has become big because it’s been good at doing that. And, it’s made all that money by supplying what customers want. Along with the thousands of other products available for sale on Amazon.com and its other sites around the world, are tons of books in all forms, from hardcover to e-Book (to audiobook), all of them available at the click of a few keys on your computer; available, I might add, often at relatively reasonable prices. Reasonable prices attract more customers, which means more sales, which means more income—or so Amazon’s reasoning seems to be.

Now, one of the arguments against Amazon has been that it is creating a monopoly which will restrict the availability of books, which will hurt authors. Looking at what’s available for sale on Amazon and my own book sales over the past year, I have a hard time believing that argument. Will Amazon help or hurt writers, especially indie writers? I think the answer to that is, it depends. If you have a large backlist and your books are pretty good, I think Amazon’s business model will benefit you. Take my own case, for example. My books are so-so popular (I have a few diehard fans), and I have a backlist of 60+. Amazon’s new model, which pays authors for total pages read, has caused a 25% increase in my monthly revenue. Why? Simple really; the more you have available to be read, the more will be read. For example, if you have four books and readers read 75% of each, you still won’t do as well as I will with 60 and readers only reading 35% of each. Don’t believe me; do the math.

The same can be said of many of Amazon’s other business models, such as KDP Select, where you make a book exclusive to Amazon for a period of time. It’s easier to do that if you have several books, and can chose which ones you want to make exclusive, and which ones you want available on other platforms (and, I’m talking e-Books here, as paperbacks aren’t exclusive).

So, briefly put, Amazon is in the business of making money. If you’re an author, you should be in the business of gaining readers, and you do that by offering a wide audience of readers a wide selection of things to read. Amazon is the platform to do that. Not the only one, by any means, but a good one. So, rather than getting embroiled in the debate, get to writing.

Introducing Author Shannon Hayes

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Author S.I. Hayes is up in my spotlight for the month of July. I’ll just let her tell you about herself, because she does it so much better than I ever could.

Introducing author Shannon (S.I.) Hayes

If you wish to do Reviews and need a copy of the work or want me to do interviews or a guest post from please contact me @ shannonihayes@hotmail.com and put Blog Tour in the Subject line.

Epic Fantasy Trilogy Blurbs, and Links

book cover

In Dreams… The Solitary Road
S.I. Hayes
Dumped in a treacherous Arctic land, Amara Dagon must master her spell craft if she is to survive a year in exile, but fear, doubt and the loss of her family threatens to take hold. Can Amara gain control of her magic or will she succumb to it leaving her people in the hands of a dangerous tyrant?

book cover 2In Dreams… The Unavoidable Road
S.I. Hayes

“You’re going home and I’m coming with you.”
Just eight little words will bind their fates forever.
Amara is feisty, strong, and alone. She is human, she is a spell caster.
Morgan is charming and faithful. He is Meiores-Meiore, a Shape-shifter, and Telepath of dangerous persuasion. He is the trainer of Kings and Queens.
Amara is one who sees signs, following them no matter where they lead. When she stops in De Suet, encounters with a cloaked stranger make her question if he has some place in her future.

Book cover 3In Dreams… The Savage Road
S.I. Hayes
Amara Dagon is going home…
Will she be able to ascend to High Priestess and give her people the help they so richly deserve or will she crumble to her mother’s whims?
Take a walk on the shores of the Isle De’ Corlen, a beautiful and dangerous land, especially if you’re uninvited.
Trials and tests await Amara and Morgan and his life hangs in the balance if they fail…

Paranormal Historical Drama Blurb, and Links

Book cover 4Centuries of Blood: Becoming

Three men, a single heart. What’s a girl to do? Especially when one of them has fangs…

16th Century England. A land at war. It’s people fighting, dying for a king who chases skirts and takes heads on a whim. It is a time of reformation, of love, lust, betrayal and secrets. Catharine Morrigan Cecil is but sixteen years old as the tale unfolds, but her soul screams to be free of Glastonbury. Named for a child lost, she is chained to a life she doesn’t want. Promised to a man whose ways foretell an unhappy life while still in love with another who will not fight for her.

Left rejected, in a reach for freedom she runs. Finding a mysterious town with an even more mysterious stranger. Alexandarious (Darious) is young, strong, and Immortal. A Blood Devourer. Knowing his nature, Catharine Morrigan dares to give him her heart. She has pierced him through and through, but his people are warring and her safety is in peril. He wants and needs the beautiful woman “Morrigan” is becoming. But his heart knows better. She deserves a full life, one he cannot give her.

The marriage bed awaits her as the Ottoman War zone calls him. The pair must separate to save the people to whom they are bound. While Darious fights for his Lord and Lady, Morrigan must fight for her survival at the hands of the man she calls husband.

Can they beat the odds, find each other once more and prove that love truly is Eternal?

Author photo

Bio:
Shannon (S. I.) Hayes has been telling tales for so long as she has been able to talk, and began writing them down shortly thereafter. She is the singular author of the In Dreams… Series, and a Paranormal Historical Romance called Centuries of Blood: Becoming. Shannon is the Co-Author to Awakenings: The Wrath Saga, a Paranormal Drama likened to Big Brother meets The Real World of the Preternatural, as well as several blogs and host to her own website. S.I.Hayes.com. In her own words… I have a mind that is easily distracted and prone to wandering. Tangents are my forte, and if you think my characters are going to fit a cookie cutter shape of any kind, think again. They live, they love, they eat, sleep and f***. I believe that people are inherently sexual creatures and my characters be they human or something altogether else are no exception.
I don’t adhere to a single genera, I toe the line on several and wouldn’t presume to be a master of any. So I suppose you could call me jack-of-all-trade-paperbacks.
I am a truth seeker, in my life, in my work. I’d apologize for it, but I kinda can’t help m’self. It’s my best and worst personality trait, well mostly, being Bi-Polar I guess you could say that is the worse. But I believe that the disorder has made me, well… Me.
I have taken this life and twisted, carved, shaped and molded it in to the worlds of my characters. Albeit with a chainsaw, and it has made all the difference.

Links:

A Writer’s Mind, More or Less
The 131 Preview Review
Facebook
Website
Amazon
Twitter

Introducing Author Kim Cresswell

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Blurb

THE WAR HAS JUST BEGUN…

Once the top leader of the Sur del Calle cartel, Colombia’s largest drug trafficking organization, Pablo Sanchez has declared revenge against Blake Barnett, the FBI agent who’d killed his twin brother over a decade ago.
After one failed attempt forced him to flee the United States, Pablo has a bold new plan and he’s even more determined to kill Blake and his fiancée, Whitney Steel.
From Las Vegas to the militant infected jungles of Bogota, Blake has no choice but to risk his life and infiltrate the cartel’s inner world and eliminate the ruthless drug lord.

Bio

Kim Cresswell resides in Ontario, Canada. Trained as a legal assistant, Kim has been a story-teller all her life but took many detours including; working in legal and adult education before returning to her first love, writing.

Her debut romantic thriller, REFLECTION, has won numerous awards: RomCon’s 2014 Readers’ Crown Finalists (Romantic Suspense), InD’tale Magazine’s Rone Award Finalist (Suspense/Thriller), UP Authors Fiction Challenge Winner (2013), Silicon Valley’s Romance Writers of America (RWA) “Gotcha!” Romantic Suspense Winner (2004), and an Honourable Mention in Calgary’s Romance Writers of America (RWA) The Writer’s Voice Contest (2006).

Kim’s short novel thriller, LETHAL JOURNEY, was a finalist in From the Heart Romance Writers (FTHRW) Golden Gate Contest (2003) and more recently won RomCon’s 2014 Readers’ Crown (thriller/suspense).

Her action-packed thrillers have been highly praised by reviewers and readers. As one reviewer said, “Buckle up, Hang on tight!”

Kim recently entered the true crime writing arena. Real Life Evil – A True Crime Quickie (two short stories) was published in January 2014. You can read her latest true crime stories in Serial Killer Quarterly, a new quarterly e-magazine published by Grinning Man Press. You can read her latest true crime stories in Serial Killer Quarterly, a new e-magazine published by Grinning Man Press. She is also a member of The American Investigative Society of Cold Cases (AISOCC), a non-profit, volunteer based organization of professional investigators who assist in solving cold cases.
Web Site: www.kimcresswell.ca

Facebook: www.facebook.com/KimCresswellBooks

Twitter: http://twitter.com/kimcresswell

Purchase Link

Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/Retribution-Whitney-Steel-Novel-Book-ebook/dp/B00SYWNXPK/