telling tales of doing the impossible

Posts tagged ‘#amwriting’

When do you get to call yourself a BESTSELLER?

I review and feature a lot of books on my blogs, and it astounds me how many of these books are written by “bestselling authors” I’ve never heard of. I suspect there is a lot of wiggle room when it comes to that title, particularly when you bestow it upon yourself.

So what’s fair and what isn’t?

I’m finishing one of my most successful Kindle Select giveaways ever. (You know, the ones Amazon will only let you do if you don’t let anyone else sell your eBook.) I’ve given away about 2000 books and guess what?

Yup. That is me sitting there at number 1. Now — this just for historical thrillers, and it only lasted for a day, and I was giving them away, not selling them. However, I was number one in a spot on big old Amazon! Does being there make me a bestselling author? (You could say I was selling them for $0.00 …)

What do you think?

Should I join the ranks of those making this claim? Then maybe I’d sell more books and then I’d have more evidence to shore up my boast. We all know people tend to buy books they think other people like … so a little success breeds more success.

Yeah. I’m thinking about it …

… and they’d be pissed.

I can’t believe my latest book comes out in TWO DAYS! Here’s another of my favorite quotes from She’s the One Who Gets in Fights.

Pre-order it now on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08TQKGCP4 or on Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1068509.

I promise it’s a fun read!

More Rebellion by Minor Characters

In my books I’ve always had at least one minor character who insists on playing a larger role than I intended. My most recent series is no exception. In She’s the One Who Thinks Too Much, Ryalgar’s grandmother Aliz was slated for nothing more than an introductory scene, but she not only insisted on sticking around, she quietly took over the entire Velka organization. That is one canny old woman for you…

I’m always curious if other writers experience this and recently I got to ask two very different authors what they thought..

Author Geoffrey Saign has a degree in biology, lives in Minnesota, and has written a YA fantasy series called Magical Beasts. His response to my question was emphatic.

Yes!!! Vampire bat Queen Valera in Book 4, Guardian The Stand, the only book she’s in, is in 5 short scenes. Yet she is so fundamentally important to the story, to the main character, and to the fate of an entire world, that it cannot be overestimated. Plus she is super powerful, mysterious, and interesting! An immortal, she can kick butt, and has no patience for stupidity. But she empathizes with the hero of the series, Samantha (Sam) Green and doesn’t want her to die. When this character first appeared, I had a vague idea about her. Then I loved her immediately and needed to put her into three more scenes. I was so enthralled with her, she came into the climactic ending too.

The same thing occurred in the other books in the series, where a character began as rather mild and ended up as wildly important. In Book 3, Guardian The Sacrifice, the same thing occurred with the Beister, a maniacal killer with huge secrets in his past that directly affected the main character in a shocking way. In Book 2, Guardian The Quest, Drasine, the golden dragon had a significant role, was mysterious, and very powerful. And in Book 1, Guardian The Choice, Heshia, a minor character at first, again became wildly important for the main character, even though she was only in 4 scenes.

Heshia, Drasine, the Beister, and Queen Valera all had a major impact on the main character, the plot, and the ending. They all made my writing more exciting and fun to complete, and the stories richer.

Author M. C. Bunn is a songwriter with a master’s in English who creates Victorian romance novels, including her most recent one, Where Your Treasure Is. She declared that her misbehaved minor characters made her stories better.

If our characters behaved, we wouldn’t have any stories!

Actually, during the first draft of Where Your Treasure Is, a host of characters completely blind-sided me. Though I never planned per se to write a romance that only focused on the lovers, I was unprepared for the world that opened up around them while I wrote their story. There are Winifred’s cousins, young and old, her Uncle Percival and his manservant Morrant, her staff in the town and country—and George Broughton-Caruthers, her handsome, devilish neighbor. Court is a gang member and horse racing enthusiast. His cronies are other prizefighters, cardsharps, gamblers, prostitutes, and circus folk.

The beginning of Winifred and Court’s story came to me in a flash, as did its end. What I had to find out was what happened in the middle. Every time I sat down to write, thinking that I was about to get back to my lovers, all these characters popped out, and the plot, with all its twists, followed them. What was really strange was how familiar they all were. Dorothy felt like that the entire time she was in Oz. Mentally chasing after these characters through London’s streets and around the Norfolk countryside, so did I.

Yet it was Beryl Stuart, Court’s half-sister, who added a richer, darker layer of complications to a plot that could otherwise have easily been summed up as “lonely rich girl meets poor bad boy” and “the course of true love never runs smoothly.” Because of their differences in social class, Winifred and Court were going to have a rough time of it, no matter what. There’s a dark current that flows out of Court’s world into Winifred’s long before their love story begins, though neither one of them is aware of it. Beryl and her friends bring a second love triangle into the plot, which leads to the next book in the series, Time’s Promise.

I’m also deeply fond of Court’s friend Sam Merton, a boy with a love of firecrackers, rip-roaring yarns, and penny dreadfuls, and Winifred’s memoir-writing uncle, the old adventurer Sir Percival and his manservant Morrant.

I appreciate hearing this from both authors. Frankly they made me feel a little more sane!

For the full posts about both books, each of which was part of a blog tour sponsored by Goddess Fish, check out Magical Beasts Series and Where Your Treasure Is.

We need eerie music for this!

I host other authors on a different blog, and when I get the chance to ask them a question, I go for information on the things that fascinate me about writing. Recently I asked one such question, and to my surprise, the author (Susan Merson of Oh Good Now This) answered two of my favorite questions. Weird, huh? Both answers were interesting so I am reposing them here.

I said …

I am fascinated by characters that undergo a major transformation in a story, so I often ask an author if there is such a metamorphosis in the novel I’m featuring. I asked Susan Merson this, and you’ll see her interesting response below. But here’s the thing.

Sometimes, instead, I ask a different questions and it usually goes like this. “In my books I’ve always had one minor character who insisted on playing a larger role in the story. I’m curious: was there such a character in your novel?”

Guess what? Author Merson answered that question also, and I didn’t even ask it. Cool, huh? Read on …

She said …

Susan Merson

I like to think of my new book OH GOOD NOW THIS  as a second time around, coming of age story. I am fascinated by how people survive and live their lives fully, especially after loss and the plain old battles of living day to day.

Amanda is a woman in her 60’s who ends up living near Vivi, my protagonist, on a country road, hidden behind tall pine trees. She craves light and strips the house of all its possessions, heaves her clothes into the dumpster, white washes the walls, and scrapes the floors til they shine. Through the large window in her living room she can see the moon and puts her white mattress and white duvet directly in the path of its glow. She can not bear the weight of any memory, any lover, any remnant of what was and lives a reclusive, solo life until she welcomes a young man into her home. He is visiting the local college for a seminar and she needs the money from his room rental.

And she falls in love with him. His easy loping style, his curiosity, his tease of pleasure at her company. Just his presence in the house inspires her to return to the root of who she was as a young woman and she spends her days painting pine cones and making soup, pretending she does not care when or if he returns.

Of course, he leaves, returning to his own life, but freezing Amanda in this new beginning as a person who sees the world deeply, through an artist’s eye once again. And the love she bears for this man-boy, releases the hold her body had on its poisons. Renewed, refreshed, no blockages to hold them back, the old poisons find their way into her body, creating illness when she was just reclaiming life.

Amanda’s death informs the lives of my other characters in this world. The journey she makes from cynical, rejected trophy wife, to full and faulty artist—this unfolding—surprises everyone. And inspires them, as well.

Amanda was a surprise to me when I was writing the book. She showed up when Vivi needed to see how the choices we make in our own lives can affect us, can make our choice for life or death very real. Vivi insists that life is worth the struggle even though she has seen how giving in to poison can loosen our grips and let hope recede. Amanda shoves Vivi toward choosing life at an important juncture in the story and I am grateful she showed up to let me introduce her.

Isn’t she beautiful?

I understand cover reveals can be a big deal, but it’s just not my style. I’m happy to get an attractive cover I like and one that represents my books well. When I do, well, I want to share it. Like right away.

So …. here is the gorgeous cover for book 5 in the Seven Troublesome Sister Series.

It really is beautiful, isn’t it?

What is she holding? It’s called a psaltery, and it’s a stringed instrument that was quite popular in the 1200’s.  This 5th sister is a musician. (It’s one of the reasons she can’t keep quiet.)

Like it’s predecessor (cover 4) this was done by the fine folks at Deranged Doctor Design and arrived almost perfect. The way it showed up is on the left. I had a few minor concerns. A psaltery is too heavy to be held the way she holds it. The lighting effects made her hair look like she was going gray. She seemed rather too tall and thin to be a real woman and her arms, in particular, looked off.

Most if not all of these, of course, were artifacts of the sort of photo manipulation DDD does to make their stunning but still affordable covers.

Back came this version, which corrected most of my concerns, except for the oddly long and skinny arms. We had one more round to improve the arms, and then I decided I wanted the castle on her other side. I was all excited about how our brains are accustomed to going from left to right and felt that the castle on the left would better convey that she was leaving to go somewhere else. (See my post Better Covers: Does Your Brain Prefer Left to Right?) Flipping the castle didn’t make as much difference as I’d hoped, but I liked it okay and was happy to call it good with only these three minor revisions.

I’d love to know if other authors are more, or less, picky than I am about their covers. If any of you reading this self-publish, please speak up and let me know!

This was originally posted on my blog Seven Troublesome Sisters which talks all about that series. Check it out for more info on these books.

Better Covers: Does Your Brain Prefer Left to Right?

I love book covers! After ten years in the self-publishing industry, I realize I spend a lot of time thinking about my covers, analyzing them, and just plain staring at them.

I designed my own first one (and had so much fun doing it), but since then I have relied on professionals who can produce a better product. I was lucky to find Deranged Doctor Design a few years ago and they’re now working on their eleventh cover for me!

But it was cover number ten (shown here) that brought out something I was unaware of.  The final product, or at least what I thought was the final product, shows Olivine, a shy, artistic woman who takes up archery because of her unusually gifted eyesight.

I loved the olive color, and the sense of capturing her in motion, so I happily gave DDD the okay to call this one done with only a minor revision to her hair. (Don’t think that has ever happened before. I always see something I want to change.)

I second-guessed my decision, however, when I studied this cover next to the first three books in this series. The other women all look so strong, so sure of themselves, while my fourth sister — she hesitates. To me, she’s looking back over her shoulder like she’s not entirely sure if she should go on.

Well, she is shy, I thought. Maybe this captures that part of her and I should be glad. But honestly, I wasn’t. I know Olivine is strong inside, like her other sisters, and I wanted my readers (and my potential readers) to know that too.

Then a weird thing happened. I was trying to crop the cover image in PowerPoint to just get her face, to put it into a promotional idea I had. You know how if you grab the side of a small image in PowerPoint to move it, sometimes instead you end up pulling one edge all the way over the other and reversing the image? It’s annoying. Well, I did that, and the reversed image surprised me. Here was Olivine, reversed and looking more sure of herself!

Yet, it was the same picture. How could that be?

I puzzled over this for a while before it occurred to me that I’ve spent a lot of my life reading (and writing) and my words always go left to right. In our alphabet, left is backward. Right is forward. So looking left is looking over my shoulder, gazing at the past. Looking right is boldly looking ahead.

Flip the image of a woman looking to her left and suddenly she appears more ready to face the future. It’s amazing.

Yes, the nice folks at DDD were happy to flip the cover image for me, and today I got a draft of the result.

Look at her. Now she’s perfect.

And, I’ve learned something that should help me evaluate cover designs going forward.  For just as our bodies respond differently to chemical compounds that are mirror images of each other, I believe our brains respond differently to mirror images as well.

This means I can ascribe attributes to a character on a cover by paying attention to which way her gaze is directed.

Cool, huh?

(Note: this was reposted from my blog for the ‘Seven Troublesome Sisters” series. Check out Seven Troublesome Sisters to learn more about these books.)

Wow. Eight books.

I spent over twenty years trying to finish my first novel. Now, as of yesterday, I’ve published eight books. Sometimes it doesn’t seem real to me.

I’ve learned so much. The most important lesson of all, of course, has been to trust that I can do this. That when the ideas come, some will be worth pursuing. That when the page is blank, words will fill it. That when the rewrites start, much will be worth saving and those parts can be fit into a coherent plot. Finally, when I put that final product out there in front of the world, many people will enjoy it.

(Some won’t of course, and a few will take their pleasure saying so in unnecessarily snotty ways, but I’ve also learned that intentional hurtfulness is their problem, not mine. That’s a different sort of lesson.)

Besides all that, there is my killer knowledge of formatting text, my growing abilities to manipulate graphics, and my always increasing presence on social media. If you are looking for a hobby that will force you to stay technologically savvy, I highly recommend self-publishing.

And guess what? I now know what fruits and vegetables were native to Eurasia, when tea and coffee became popular in Europe, what a crossbow is and how to feint in fencing. Seriously, if you are looking for a hobby that will leave you more knowledgeable, may I suggest writing historical novels?

The truth is, I love what I do. I love writing books and I can’t imagine my life without it.

Which novel is my favorite? It’s always the one I’m working on. I spent the last month and a half putting the final polish on Coral’s book, so of course I’m in love with her and her story.

Tomorrow I will turn to the sketchy notes and two chapters that constitute the beginning of Celestine’s book. By Tuesday, I’m sure Celestine will have become the best main character I’ve ever created. It seems to be how I function.

Today, I’m just talking a breath, looking back at the road I’ve traveled and being glad that I function at all.

A Burst of Sparkle

I’m opening a favorite sparking drink tomorrow, metaphorically at least, as I kick-off a month-long blog tour for my first series, 46. Ascending. It seemed fitting to do this before my new series begins to dominate my life after the release of its first book on November 13. After all, I do love this original series too.

I’ve found a new blog company, Silver Dagger Tours, to put this tour together and I’ve been very impressed so far. I love the people I’ve worked with on previous blog tours, but my hope is a new venue, with new hosts, will introduce me to new readers.

So far I’ve got these great visuals to use …

and the schedule of stops below, many of them on blogs I’ve never visited. I’ll keep posting here about the tour and how it goes.

Oct 9

KICKOFF at Silver Dagger Book Tours (Link live at 3 am tomorrow Oct. 9)

A Pinch of Bookdust

Oct 12

Sadie’s Spotlight

Scrupulous Dreams

Oct 13

Insane Books

The Book Dragon

Oct 14

Bedazzled By Books

The Bookshelf Fairy

Oct 15

All Things Dark & Dirty

The Faerie Review

Oct 16

Midnight Book Reader

Twisted Book Ramblings

Oct 17

The Avid Reader

Oct 19

Musings From An Addicted Reader

Luv Saving Money

Oct 20

Renee Wildes Weblog

Drako’s Den

Oct 21

Why I Can’t Stop Reading

Momma Says: To Read or Not to Read

Oct 22

My Crazy Life

Inside the Insanity

Oct 23

The Pulp and Mystery Shelf

Teatime and Books   

Oct 26

eBook Addicts

Always Love Me Some Books Blog

Oct 27

#BRVL Book Review Virginia Lee

Stormy Nights Reviewing & Bloggin’

Oct 28

Sapphyria’s Book Reviews

Readeropolis

Oct 29

Airin’ My Dirty Laundry

Dragon’s Den

Oct 30

IndiePowerd by No Sweat Graphics

Books a Plenty Book Reviews

Oct 31

The Book Junkie Reads . . .

A Wonderful World of Words

Nov 2

Bayou Queen Book Fanatics

Books, Authors, Blogs

Nov 3

Books all things paranormal and romance

Girl with Pen

Nov 4

Literary Gold

Sylv.net

Nov 5

Authors & Readers Book Corner

T’s Stuff

Nov 6

Craving Lovely Books

Book Corner News and Reviews

Nov 7

The Sexy Nerd ‘Revue’

Nov 8

Books A-Brewin’

Nov 9

Anna del C. Dye official page

Valerie Ullmer | Romance Author

It’s Really Happening

Writing a book is a really long process.

Even for self-published authors like me, the path from best-idea-I-ever-had (they all are) through getting-the-first-draft-finally-done (they all suck) is no small thing. Then come the rewrites, then the critiques from whatever support system you pay for or coerce, then the next set of rewrites, and the cover design, and the final edit and proofread, and the formatting, and there is nothing quick or easy about getting a novel out there.

I continue to be amazed by how many people do it. I continue to be amazed that I somehow manage it. And yet, I’m about to do it again.

The great idea struck in May 2019. I was at a local spa, enjoying a mother’s day present called “the works” or something like that. I was bored while people massaged things into me.

Now, my seventh novel, and the first in my new series, will be out on kindle November 13, and in paperback and through other retailers shortly after.

I’m excited. I’ve moved on from writing about superpowers in my own world to creating an alternate history. For a year and a half, I’ve been living and breathing the 1200’s on another timeline, one in which seven young women work together to save their homeland. My days have been filled with magic and bravery, and with treachery and a little romance. It has definitely helped get me through Covid-19.

To celebrate having got this far (and to maybe sell a few pre-orders), twenty-four different excerpts from the first book will be featured on twenty-four different blogs over the next four weeks. So, from August 31 through September 25, you’ll find parts of my new novel on a variety of blogs.

I’d love to have you check it out. You can enter to win a $25 gift card while you’re at it, and also take a look at other people’s interesting novels. Despite how long it takes to make a book happen, there’s a lot of good stuff out there.

TourBanner_She's the One Who Thinks Too Much

Those excerpts can be found at:

August 31: Rogue’s Angels
August 31: Welcome to My World of Dreams
September 1: All the Ups and Downs
September 2: Fabulous and Brunette
September 3: The Avid Reader
September 4: Kit ‘N Kabookle
September 4: Author Deborah A Bailey
September 7: Archaeolibrarian – I Dig Good Books!
September 8: Andi’s Book Reviews
September 9: Two Ends of the Pen
September 10: Our Town Book Reviews
September 11: Joanne Guidoccio
September 14: Danita Minnis
September 14: Readeropolis
September 15: Iron Canuck Reviews & More
September 16: Novels Alive
September 17: T’s stuff
September 18: Stormy Nights Reviewing & Bloggin’
September 18: Dawn’s Reading Nook
September 21: It’s Raining Books
September 22: Locks, Hooks and Books
September 23: Sybrina’s Book Blog
September 24: Gimme The Scoop Reviews
September 25: Viviana MacKade

Thanks for looking into it.

 

How much backstory should one provide?

Everyone loves a series, right? And … everyone wants to be able to read each book as if it were a stand-alone novel. True?

I struggled (a lot!) with this quandary in my 46. Ascending series, so when I got the chance to ask author R.W Buxton (who writes an urban fantasy/paranormal romance series) any question, I went right for his solution to this dilemma.

Here is his fascinating answer.

I read a lot of series. It seems that it’s the most popular format for authors to write these days. Honestly, when I started writing Capital Thirst, the first book, it wasn’t my intention of writing a series myself. But there was more story than I wanted to stuff into a single book so I did it, I started a series.

Backstory is always an issue, whether it’s the second or third book of a series or the first book. The trick is to get it in so the reader knows what’s going on, without boring them to death. I hope I could achieve that. I am reading the second book in a series by another author. I loved the first one, but in the second book the author will take paragraphs in the middle of action to cover the backstory from the first book. I tried not to do this. As a reader of the first book, I find I just skip this stuff and even if I hadn’t read the first book, I don’t need to know the details of what happened just that something did and it has an impact now.

When I wrote Beverly Hills Torture, I knew new readers wouldn’t know what happened in Capital Thirst but there are just key parts they needed to know. So if you read Beverly Hills Torture without reading Capital Thirst I tried to only include the key points that you need to know without retelling what happened in the first book.  This also means a lot of what was in Capital Thirst isn’t revealed. But I hope just enough for the reader to know why things are happening in Beverly Hills Torture.

Most of the backstory I tried to include in dialog or quick thoughts that Erin or Gerry have. There is a bit of explanation in the first chapter, but when you jump in right in the middle there has to be a brief explanation because the new reader knows nothing about the characters.

Writing a series is a progressive thing to undertake. In the first book, all you need to worry about is the backstory of the characters. In the second book, you have to worry about the character backstory and reintroducing it for new readers as well as including key elements of what happened in the first book. The third and fourth books are even more difficult to pick the details because there are a lot more of them and keeping them straight becomes more and more complicated. Not to mention deciding which ones are important and which aren’t.

It’s a balancing act, I hope I have enough, but if I erred, I would prefer to err on the side of not enough. If it’s not there, readers can make their own decisions or assumptions. If they’re curious, they can go back and read the first book. But I would rather do that than spend paragraphs writing about what happened that will bore readers that have read it and may or may not add something for the readers that have.

The facts about how Gerry became a “day walker,” and his relationship with Erin are all there. The rest, if I really felt it was important, is there.

I thank R.W Buxton for such a well-thought-out and interesting response!

For the full post, which was part of a blog tour sponsored by Goddess Fish, check out Beverly Hills Torture.

 

 

 

When was the first blender created? It could matter.

I’ve been spending a lot of time learning about 1200’s as I craft my new historical fantasy series, The Seven Troublesome Sisters. I wonder if I’m overdoing the research.

So, when I got a chance to ask author A. Gavazzoni anything at all about her WWII action-mystery novel, Sketches of Life, I asked her how much of her time was spent on being historically accurate. Here is her fascinating answer.

The novel is set in an historical era, but it’s not really an historical novel. Still, I wanted to show my readers only the real facts, places, and events, so I had to spend a long time researching various facts, from simple things such as when the first blender was created, to more complicated topics such as the presence and actions of the Mob in New York City.

I hate when I read a book and the facts are completely phony. I feel betrayed by the author, so I wanted to write fiction but in a way that a person could read my novel and know for certain the events and settings were accurately described. Every scene is calculated to have a true-to-life background; I did extensive research on each place and the people who inhabited those areas during those times. I try to make certain every character acts, dresses, and thinks in accordance with the novel’s timeframe and setting.

It takes a long time to conduct research like that. I write at least one hour per day, and usually, the research consumes at least a third of that time, but in the end, I’m usually very happy with the results.

I thank the author for such a well-thought-out and interesting response!

For the full post, which was part of a blog tour sponsored by Goddess Fish, check out Sketches of Life.

True life is lived when tiny changes occur.

I recently wrote this for what will become my new personal blog, called Treasure Hunting for a Good Time. I wanted a place to talk about anything but writing ….

Please come visit me there.

True life is lived when tiny changes occur. At least, that’s what Leo Tolstoy thought. If Leo is right, then I’ve been living life to it’s fullest lately, because tiny changes are all around.

For the past eight years I’ve enjoyed having six (yes six) different WordPress blogs. The idea was that each would not only be about a book I’d written, it would also talk about the subject matter of that book. My hero was a telepath? I’d also talk about empathy and understand the feelings of another. Seemed like a great idea. And sometimes it was.

Only now I’ve gone and written more books.

The best idea I could come up with concerning my blogs was to retire at least a couple of them, then figure out why I blogged and what I liked about it so much, and then parcel those needs and joys out to the remaining blogs.

This one had my favorite tagline. So why not make it the place where I get to talk about all those things other than writing that I find fascinating. I love travel, wine, and that place where science meets mysticism. I enjoy cooking a fine meal, late night philosophical discussions, and creating spots where plants are happy to grow. I’ve been sneaking posts about these things and more into all six of my writing blogs.

But not any more. Starting now, all those fun subjects will be mulled over here. Yes, often with a nice glass of wine.

Is it a bad idea to change course after eight years? I don’t think so. It’s said a wise woman changes her mind, but a fool never will. So, here’s to trying to be wise.

Introducing My New Historical Fantasy Series

I’m far enough into my latest project to be writing blurbs! What do you think?

It’s the 1200’s in Ilari, a small mythical realm somewhere between Europe and Asia. Peace and prosperity have reigned for generations. That doesn’t mean every citizen is happy, however.

In the outer nichna of Vinx lives a discontentedly intellectual farmer, his overly ambitious wife, and their seven troublesome daughters. Ilari has no idea how lucky it is to have this family of malcontents, for the Mongols are making their way further westward every winter and Ilari is a plum ripe for picking. These seven sisters are about to devise a unique way to save their realm.

And here us how the mythical realm of Ilari looks (so far).

This Blog is Dying, Too

Yup, two of my six blogs are being put into WordPress cryogenic storage.

Flickers of Fortune is one of them. It’s bittersweet, for sure. I put this creation together to celebrate my fifth book, which I first published in January of 2015. I already had four blogs I was struggling with, so it’s not so surprising this one never got the attention I intended to give it.

And it had a lot of promise, too. I wanted to write about the future. Speculating about it. Trying to predict it. Does anyone ever really get a glimpse of it? And what are the time travel (and free will) implications of a future that can be known?

So many ideas, and such little time. Sigh…

But, as I posted on my other dying blog in This Blog is Dying, I’ve discovered I like writing novels more than I like blogging. And time spent doing the one is time not spent doing the other.

Read more about my decision to self-destruct two of my blogs at This Blog is Dying, Too.

This Blog is Dying

No, not this blog. The one I’m writing about here. It’s called Fire Dancing for Fun and Profit and I’ve had so much fun with it. But, at best, it’s being put on life support, or in cryogenic storage. Why?

Way back in 2012, I had this great idea to have a blog for every book I wrote. “Shape of Secrets” was my second book, and Fire Dancing for Fun and Profit was my second blog. My hope was to deliver interesting content (don’t we all want to?) on subjects relevant to that particular book’s plot.

It seemed like a good idea. It probably was. And I even did it, sometimes.

But I also wrote four more books over the next few years, and then I had (you did the math in your head, didn’t you?) SIX blogs. That’s a lot of them. Content diminished.

I discovered I like blogging, but I like writing novels more. And time spent doing the one is time not spent doing the other.

Read the rest of my eulogy for a blog at This Blog is Dying. You’ll also find more on the mechanics of stopping a blog on WordPress, and more on the painful but necessary task of setting priorities. Ugh.

Researching a Terrorist Plot

Books need bad people. Bad people do bad things. But if you’re an author, and your bad people are doing things you don’t know very much about, you have to do some research.

What poisons kill the quickest? How long does it take to die from a knife wound? How do you build a bomb?

I was researching the bomb thing for my book One of One, along with details about how well a commercial aircraft could withstand a blast, when I thought …. you know …. these internet searches could cause me some problems.

I recently featured author Bill Blodgett’s novel Love, Lies, and Bad Guys on one of my other blogs. His main characters are dealing with some serious terrorist threats to NYC and it got me curious. When he began writing his book, I suspected Mr. Blodgett didn’t know much more about how to blow up a subway system than I did about how to blow up a plane. How did he get his information?

Read on for his fascinating answer.

We’re you apprehensive when you did the research to write about terrorist threats?

At first I wasn’t. It seemed like researching any other book. I found out about the Native Americans, who were labeled Downwinders because they were exposed to nuclear fallout that was carried downwind after the tests of the atomic bombs in the 1940’s through the early 1960’s in Nevada. Many Downwinders developed various kinds of cancer due to the exposure. Then I contacted several leaders in the Native American community and asked for their input and they were very willing to share what information they had, especially after I told them my wife was part Native American. It was all very natural and a great learning experience.

Then I researched nuclear power plants near New York City, and it was again very natural. It’s then the research began to get serious. I researched the subway system of NYC looking for easy points of access. Then I looked into dirty bombs and what they were made from and how to make them. After that I researched how Homeland Security and other agencies monitored for possible terrorists. I had to create a world that would be believable to the reader, whether they were techno savvy or not. That led to the dark web and dark web browsers that would hide these would be terrorist’s identity and location. Then, of course, the research demanded that I look into Virtual Private Networks, VPN’s. VPN’s also hide your identity by masking where you are logged in from.

They say that curiosity killed the cat and I was beginning to be concerned that I was on that slippery slope, but I felt I needed to continue. I guessed the searches I was conduction on Google contained certain words that would be flagged by law enforcement and I was just waiting for Homeland Security to be at my doorstep any day! In a way it was kind of scary, even though I knew I wasn’t doing anything illegal, but I would have to explain and they’d probably seize my computer, freeze my bank accounts and put me on the “No Fly” list until the matter got settled in maybe five to ten years!!

I downloaded TOR, the most popular dark web browser, but didn’t bother to purchase a VPN from any of the popular venders that can be found online these days. The TOR browser is a dark web search engine much like Google, but it hides your identity and location by jumping for one “node” or location to another all around the world. This was all new to me. Interesting, but a little weird.

So after researching the use of TOR I went online and searched for random things and the lists of providers was immense and most were selling something illegal, from drugs to chat rooms about any subject you could ever dream of. At that point I figured that maybe I was in a gray area of legality and consorting with questionable characters from around the world. Yes, I was just lurking in those chatrooms, but I was still there! I knew I had enough knowledge about the Dark Web to write about it so I uninstalled TOR. Then I began to write Love, Lies, and Bad Guys!

For the full post about Love, Lies, and Bad Guys, which was part of a blog tour sponsored by Goddess Fish, check out Love, Lies, and Bad Guys.

Review: Sleuth on Safari

My Review:

In Sleuth on Safari, A.R. Kennedy has written a fun and easy-to-read amateur sleuth novel that will have you turning the pages to cheer on its rookie crime solver, all while enjoying the excitement of a safari.

I’ve been lucky enough to go on a trip similar to the one in the book* (without the murder, of course) and I can assure you Kennedy does a fine job of capturing the wild beauty of nature in sub-Sahara Africa as well as some of the less story-book aspects of such a trip.

She does it while presenting a likable sleuth, an adequately complex cast of suspects, and a satisfying ending.

My most significant complaints all occurred early on, when the two sisters in questions seemed more like they were squabbling preteens, not young women in their twenties. As other characters were introduced they came across as stereotypes. However, Kennedy was just getting started. Most of the safari guests became more complex as the trip went on, and the protagonist Naomi and her sister began to act their age after the first few chapters.

One the things I enjoyed most was the ongoing humor regarding the lack of internet access. Her description of other little things like the ubiquitous safari-themed decor, lavish meals and five a.m. game rides were all right on the mark, too. And anyone who has ever spent a night alone in the wilderness (yes, I have) will love reading about Naomi’s night alone in the tree house.

I recommend this book to those who like cozy mysteries, and to all who enjoy travel, whether they’ve been to Africa or not. This novel is a fine way to take a memorable armchair trip.

For more about this book, and the review tour this review was part of, see Sleuth on Safari.

Free Through Tuesday!

Enjoy Flickers of Fortune free on Kindle through Tuesday night, April 7.

GET MY COPY NOW

Here’s what reviewers are saying:

“S. R. Cronin is a mistress of story telling. Yet again she’s pulled me into an exceptional world that has swirled a magical web around me. With beautiful imagery, some suspense and details that transport you to new places Flickers of Fortune is captivating.” — Archaeolibrarian – I Dig Good Books!

“Yet again, I found myself enthralled in a book of this excellent series… Ariel was a fantastic heroine… As always, the plot was complex and intriguing. Combined with more truly interesting characters and another look into problems plaguing the world … I will say it again: I can’t recommend this series enough.” — Kit ‘N Kabookle

“Flickers of Fortune is a fast paced read … all the twists and turns kept the pages turning to see what the future held. I liked getting to see the points of view from more than one character [and] trying to figure out how they all connect in the end. I highly recommend Flickers of Fortune to all fans of science fiction.” — The Avid Reader

“An action novel for intellectuals! It has a steady and gripping plot which incorporates a fully thought out phenomenon of seeing into the future, as well as addressing the philosophical question of what to do with that knowledge… So clearly – 5 stars for another brilliant novel in the “46.Ascending series.” — Paul Wandason, Time2timetravel.com

What is this book about?

It’s about clinging to the edge of your seat in this high-finance, high-stakes adventure.

What do we do with knowledge of the future? Clairvoyant Ariel has been doing her best to ignore it, finding the whole thing a nuisance. But when she comes across people using similar abilities to get extremely rich, her interest is piqued.

Then she discovers a second collection of gifted people. They care about ensuring the survival of the human race, but that doesn’t stop them from being dangerous and crazy, too. Soon Ariel becomes the object in a game of tug of war between the two groups, as they fight to have her–and her particular talents–on their side.

She can’t possibly help them both. Aligning with either could be a terrible idea. But how can she stay out of it when so much is at stake?

But I haven’t read the first books in this series.

Fear not. Flickers of Fortune is part of the 46. Ascending collection of six interrelated yet stand-alone novels celebrating the superhero in us all. These stories can be read in any order as they overlap in time and compliment each other.

GET MY COPY NOW

Can I try an excerpt?

Of course you can.

The work portion of the trip would all be at the end, so Ariel tried to enjoy the beginning of her vacation. She packed a few good books and her warmest clothes, and delighted in a window seat as she watched the late afternoon sun set on her way into Iceland. The giant Vatnajökull glacier gleamed beneath her when the plane dipped below the clouds and Ariel thought she’d never seen anything so beautiful as the various shades of blues glistening off of the ice in the light of low winter sun.

She joined her group at the Reykjavik airport for the evening flight on to Nuuk. The small band of mostly Icelandic travelers was quiet, but friendly, and she felt thankful to live in a time and place where a woman could travel alone without problems. Nuuk was a quick stopover, and the next morning they boarded the pint-sized plane for Ilulissat, the main tourist destination in Greenland.

Ariel stepped off the plane to her first view of the barren rocks mottled with bright colored lichens that make up the tundra. She’d never set foot inside of the Arctic Circle before. Tiny flickers and flashes erupted as her boot touched the ground.

My premonitions are stronger here. The cold dry air? The earth’s magnetic field? There had to be a reason.

While they were waiting for the luggage, Ariel wandered off, looking for a bathroom. She turned into an office and noticed a man’s legs sticking out from under a desk.

“Are you okay?” She felt like she should say something.

She heard him chuckle. “No, I’m in serious need of somebody to grab the other end of this wire. One man doing a two man job.” Ariel saw that he was trying to get a computer cable to go through a small hole in top of the desk.

“Let me help.” She came over, pulled the cord through and plugged it into the monitor where it was clearly intended to go.

“Thanks,” he said as he wriggled out from under the desk. He noticed she’d connected the cable. “A helpful tourist and one that knows how to connect hardware.”

“I can manage more than plugging in a monitor.” She laughed. “IT training here, though I don’t use it enough these days. I’m Ariel and I’m looking for a ladies’ room.”

“You came all the way to the arctic to find a place to pee?”

She rolled her eyes and when he held out his hand she took it without thinking.

“Siarnaq,” he said and Ariel saw a small spark in the air before their hands touched.

Then for a few seconds, neither of them could have said a word if they had wanted to.

Ariel saw the flickers of the distant future going wild in the corners of her brain, like far off flashing lights. He let go of her hand.

“You’re a seer.” He said it like it was fact. He studied her red hair, fair skin and blue eyes. She wasn’t of the People, or at least if she had Inuit ancestors they were few indeed. Had he ever met a seer who wasn’t mostly Inuit? He didn’t think so.

“You get visions of the future, too?” Ariel’s heart was beating harder. She’d never expected to be asking this question.

The Inuit man laughed. “The world is full of seers.”

I had no idea that would be so good to know.

“You have a lot to learn about your gift. You’re with the tour group?” She nodded, not trusting herself to speak. “Today, they give you time to shop and sightsee. Let’s go get a cup of coffee.”

Free Through Sunday!

Enjoy Layers of Light free on Kindle through Sunday night, March 15.

GET MY COPY

Here’s what reviewers are saying:

“Complex and well-researched … The author does an incredible job making it all come to life in both beautiful and horrifying ways. The detail here is astounding, and the setting truly becomes a character of its own. There are solid, loving friendships formed and [the] book tells a strong, important story. I’m glad I read it.” — Long and Short Reviews

“I think it’s safe to say I’m hooked on this series. … Sure enough the characters [are] thrown on a dangerous path, full of adventure, girl power, intrigue, and gut-wrenching moments… this is another great addition to the series.” – Sharing Links and Wisdom

“The concept was great. The plot was intriguing, and the mystical aspects of the work were described well.” — Happy Booker

What is this book about?

Celebrate those who light a candle in the darkness in this compelling and eye-opening tale.

Teddie is into country music, her old pick-up truck and getting through high school with as little drama as possible. Yet somehow her best friend, Michelle, talks her into spending a semester in Darjeeling, India. The thrilling adventure turns treacherous when she uncovers a seedy underworld in which young women are bartered and sold–including her friends.
As she fights to understand a depravity she never dreamed existed, a stranger makes her an unexpected offer. He will train her to find her missing friends, but she will need to have trust in abilities she barely believes exist and more courage than she ever thought she could summon. And there will be no going back.
Given the choice between this and abandoning her friends to their horrifying fate, the decision is simple. She must rise to the challenge.
But how can she be a superhero when she doesn’t know what her power is?

But I haven’t read the first books in this series.

Fear not. Layers of Light is part of the 46. Ascending collection of six interrelated yet stand-alone novels celebrating the superhero in us all. These stories can be read in any order as they overlap in time and compliment each other.

(Layers of Light does contains some non-graphic mature content and references to human trafficking and the sex trade.)

Can I try an excerpt?

Of course you can.

Teddie knew she should have called Amy first, but she was so excited to have a pass to leave school alone that she didn’t want to wait. The constant monitoring and need to stay in groups was one more thing she hadn’t considered when she signed up for this. She knew it was for her own safety, but some days all she wanted was to get into her little pick-up truck, turn her music up loud, and drive.

Ana, the employee at Amy’s small office, apologized. Amy had left for the day.

“She’s chasing a lead on Usha and made me promise to tell no one where she was going, for Usha’s safety.”

“Can you give me the direction she went?”

“No, but she’s left the city. She won’t be back until tomorrow.”

As Teddie headed back to the bus, she realized the school expected her to be gone for a while. She could go shopping, or go visit some of the little art galleries along Nehru Road. Playing hooky for an hour would do wonders for her outlook.

She wandered around, enjoying the street art and small shops, and on her way back to school, she stopped at the mall for a soft drink. She was sitting at a little table in the food court when she saw him.

He was at the other end, staring at her. She looked away and pretended to look for something in her purse. Out of the corner of her eye she saw him stand up to his full six-feet-plus height. Her heart start to pound. He was walking in her direction. Teddie felt dizzy with fear and looked around for a stranger who could help. She got up to talk to an older woman to her left, but as she stood up fast she felt light-headed, and then she started to faint.

Teddie stood over her own collapsed body, confused. Was this another variation of these dreams? She looked up. Everyone else in the food court was ignoring her and looking at her unconscious body on the floor. The woman to her left, the one she’d hoped would help her, was gathering up her parcels to leave, not wanting to get involved.

Only the large man was looking into her awake and aware eyes. He gave a short, solemn bow, then jumped into the air and turned a perfect double-forward somersault, landing on his feet like the girl and boy had done in the snow. Not a soul in the food court noticed him.

As the strangeness of the situation sunk in, Teddie felt light-headed again. Then, she was lying on the cold tile floor, watching a security guard hurry towards her. The large man was gone.

I Know When You’re Going To Die

My Review:

In the cleverly titled I know When You’re Going to Die, Michael J Bowler begins with a fascinating premise and delivers a taut and unpredictable tale. I raced through it.

What I liked best:

  1. The concept of needing to solve a murder before it happens is an interesting one. I’ve seen it elsewhere in science fiction, but the idea of having a “superpower” to know when others will die is unique, as far as I know, and the whole idea of solving a crime to prevent it is well executed here.
  2. The pacing is perfect. The suspense builds throughout the story and Bowler keeps the reader turning the pages without overloading or exhausting them.
  3. Leo, Bowler’s clinically shy good-guy protagonist, is a hero for all. Seriously, if you can’t cheer this guy on, consider seeking professional help.
  4. It’s a genre crime novel, so the reader knows the mystery will be solved just in time, but the ending is sufficiently convoluted and unexpected. It feels worth the wait.
  5. The underlying messages of friendship, tolerance and kindness are a refreshing bonus.

What I liked least:

I enjoyed this book a lot, and I think my minor issues with it stem from it being a young adult novel, one in which all of the protagonists are high school students. So, my recommendation comes with the caveat that the reader should not expect the story to go outside the scope of a young adult novel.

  1. I felt too many of the adult characters were not well-fleshed out. For example, the story included not one, but three moms who cared little about their teenage children. Hard for me to believe, but maybe not so hard for a teen-aged reader.
  2. The complicated relationship between close same-gender friends during the teen years and early sexual attraction and exploration is central to the story, and yet the author shies away from resolving issues. Again, I suspect the young age of the intended audience is the reason, so I gave him a pass on this one.
  3. The premise behind the plot brings up major philosophical questions about predetermination, death and even cause and effect. I’d have loved to see some of this stuff tackled … but again…..

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good crime story, or a good superhero story. You absolutely have to read it if you enjoy both.

For more about this book, and the review tour this review was part of, see I Know When You’re Going To Die.

 

Introvert? Empath? Good Literary Citizen? (3 of 3)

Because I’m an introvert who sucks at social obligations (see the two posts mentioned below) I’m looking into ways I, too, can be a good literary citizen. I’ve identified three problems, three solutions and three dangerous traps I have to avoid.

This is about the third of these three.

A Problem:

Like most (maybe all?) people driven to write novels, I grew up reading dozens of novels a year for fun. College classes slowed me down a little, but not much. Likewise, marriage, children and a full-time job only put a dent in my addiction of choice.

It took writing books myself to bring my favorite pass time to a complete halt. And I’m still sad about it. Turns out I can do almost anything and read all I want, except write.

I’ve already written about how I use (and enjoy) flash fiction to stay current in my genre. And I’ve written about how I follow a limited number of blogs and online groups, trying to be supportive of them while refraining from comments.  I make an effort to stay away from others all together.

Today, I’m considering the rare times I do read a novel these days, and why.

A Solution:

Most of my reading today is done for blog tours, providing reviews for others like me, trying to gain attention for their self-published or small indie press published works. I’m sympathetic to their aims and I try to be positive in my reviews, while still being honest. Often the books aren’t chosen because I’d choose them off a shelf, but rather because they are available for review.

I’ve discovered there are genres I need to avoid.  I already knew I lacked the gene to appreciate true horror novels, or anything grisly or gross. Now I know not to sign up for anything with the word romance in the description. (I’ve nothing against romance in real life, I just prefer my plots to be less predictable.) Recently I’ve learned to be careful choosing YA novels too. I’ve enjoyed some, but they need to be pretty special before I get emotionally involved in teenage troubles.

“Then what do you read?” you may ask. Good question, as I’ve just eliminated a lot of  what’s written. I do like crime novels, science fictions, and most fantasy. (It can get too dark and grim for me out on the edges.) If I stick to this, I find I generally enjoy any reasonably well-constructed story and can say something good about it. That’s nice for me. It means I got to read a book. And it’s nice for the author. They got one more positive review.

The Problem with the Solution:

To be honest, reading to write reviews doesn’t feed my addition. It doesn’t fill some longing deep in my brain. Why?

I read these book the way I used to read assignments in school. I skim and I skip and I barely touch down, just enough to render a fair review, the way I used to do when I had to produce an adequate paper.  Yes, I often enjoy the story, but not the same way I enjoy a leisurely immersion in another world.

And, the truth is, these are often authors still early in their own learning curves. Even though they’ve accomplished the remarkable feat of producing a full-length, coherent novel, they often have habits I want to avoid, not emulate.

To write better, I decided I needed to read better as well.

Recently I’ve started allowing myself to take short vacations from writing, to read a carefully selected novel. I’m turning to award winners, to those books highly recommend by friends and to stories whose descriptions call to me for one reason or another.

I have two rules as I read these books. Well, actually three. The first is to take my time and enjoy the book. The second is to keep my eye out for ways I can grow as a writer. (No, the two tasks don’t seem to be mutually exclusive.) The third is to write a review of these books as well. Even acclaimed authors can use a little a more praise.

Next up for me? Recursion by Blake Crouch and The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix Harrow.

I know I’m not the greatest literary citizen with these few techniques, and I never will be, but I am managing to produce my own fiction while no longer groaning every time someone mentions being “a good literary citizen.” I’m willing to call it achieving a balance.

Introvert? Empath? Good Literary Citizen? (2 of 3)

Because I suck at social obligations (see the post right below this one) I’m looking into ways I too can be a good literary citizen. I’ve identified three problems, three solutions and three dangerous traps I have to avoid.

This is about the second of these three.

A Problem:

Engaging in chit chat stimulates many people. Some find it relaxing, others create better when they feel less alone. Most conversation happens to drain me, but the online kind is particularly exhausting. People can and will say any old stupid thing from the safety of their computer, and the conversation just keeps on going.

Please, please don’t make me respond to any more people on Facebook, or try to sound witty or important on Goodreads, or, you get the idea … I really don’t like this. And yet, online is where most of the conversation is happening.

A Solution:

I’ve found online forums and blogs that I find worthwhile, and you can do the same. There are  amazing sources of information online for writers. What you will find useful is different than what I will, but we can all seek out what speaks to us. Then read, enjoy and support them.

One of my favorites is a blog called Mythcreants. Self-described as “Fantasy & Science Fiction for Storytellers” it offers a wealth of ideas for avoiding common writing mistakes and I’ve been reading it for years. I still have a link to Four Tips for Depicting Disabled Characters, a post I reread several times as I developed Violeta, my telepath with an old judo injury that forced her to walk with a cane. I like to think she was the better for the fine advice I was offered. Another post entitled Why We Shouldn’t Be Fighting Over Trigger Warnings convinced me to add trigger warnings to the descriptions of two of my books.

I’ve recently come to enjoy Fantasy Book Critic and have been following along with their reviews as part of the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off. This has given me the chance to read detailed analyses of what other self-published authors are doing, sometimes along with interviews of the authors. While I think this keeps me more in touch with what is happening out there, I do need to be careful. Sometimes too much reading about how great other books are can leave me discouraged about my own. There is a balance to be struck.

What to Avoid:

My kryptonite in this arena is clearly comments. I’ve learned to stay away from them. Do not engage. I’m not all that quick about these things, anyway, so by the time I read a post, dozens of people have already expressed themselves. Even I did have something interesting to add, it’s usually been said, and often several times.

I do like and follow the blogs I enjoy, and try to do the same for the writers providing the material. There are other ways to provide support, too. Some places ask for donations. I donate. Some get mentioned in my own posts, some on twitter. It’s possible to spread around appreciation without getting drawn into a conversation. For me, that’s the way to do it.

.

Introvert? Empath? Good Literary Citizen? (1)

I suck at social obligations.

Three Myers Briggs tests have found me to be an off-the-chart introvert, and my abilities as an empath once made me fear I was secretly from Deanna Troi’s home planet. It’s not a great combination. If I have to go somewhere, I soak up everything around me and it leaves me drained.

This doesn’t mean I can’t function around people. I’m practiced at faking normality. (Aren’t we all?) What it does mean is if I have to deal with people for very much or for very long, I can’t write.

The first time I heard the phrase Good Literary Citizen, my heart sank.

You see, I agree with the principals behind the idea, but I’m horribly suited to putting them in practice. Over the years, I’ve found three avenues that work for me, at least in limited quantities. I’ve found corollaries of these that have the capability to be my kryptonite. This post covers one set. (Two more posts are coming.)

A Problem:

I’m from the US. Put me and a handful of other Americans in a room full of Brits and I’ll be the first one to start talking with a slightly British accent and I won’t even notice it. Yes, I have my own voice, but it’s as mutable as everything else about me. If I’m not careful, I write like the last person I read.

A Solution:

Read short things by different people, and read lots of them.

I’ve become a great fan of flash fiction. My genre is speculative, so I subscribe to Daily Science Fiction. Most days they send me a story of 1000 words or less. Some are brilliant. Occasionally one is sort of dumb. Every few days I read several of them at once. This keeps me current on themes and word choices floating around in my chosen genre, without any one author getting too deeply into my head.

Sometimes, DSF lets readers vote for stories they like. I do this to support authors who impress me. I also seek them out elsewhere and follow them or list their works as “want to read.” It’s my way of giving them a quick thumbs up before I move on to my own writing. (I also save their stories to reread and inspire me to write better.)

What to Avoid:

I avoid long novels by others, and I will not let myself get involved in a series. Not now. Not me. I can read all those great series out there when I retire from writing. I’m looking forward to it.

I also avoid authors with too distinctive of a voice. There’s nothing wrong with them; in fact some of them are great. They just aren’t for me right now. Again, someday …

As a result (1) I’m generally writing, (2) I generally sound like me, whatever that is, (3) I’m not completely out of touch with what is happening in my genre and (4) I’m doing at least something to support other authors.

I think it’s a win-win-not lose situation. Given my constraints, I’ll take it.

(This post was originally published on my blog Face Painting for World Peace, which focuses on themes like empathy and telepathy.)

Free on Kindle thru Dec. 1

Layers of Light is FREE on Kindle thru Sunday Dec. 1 at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00I58T5FU.

The nice people at Amazon let me give away copies of my book once every 90 days, so what better time than thanksgiving weekend to offer it for FREE .

My hope of course, is that you will download the book, and then read it. In fact, my hope is you will like the book so much that you actually go ahead and buy one of the other books in the collection. Hallelujah!

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  For now, just DOWNLOAD THE BOOK.  Let’s see what happens after that. 🙂

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