Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Momentum and Keeping In Touch

The LAST prompt in the ABC...

What are you going to do to keep the blogging momentum going? What plans do you have to continue your connection with other Author Blog Challenge participants?

My momentum will stay the same only I will cut out two days of posting a week. I only posted 5 days a week before, I will only post 5 days a week after it's done. I write. I must write to keep myself sane. All those crazy ideas in my head have to come out or I'll go stark raving mad :)

I do hope you'll all keep up with me. I know I'll be peeking in on you!! Many of you post to my reader and I only access it about once a week (weekends) but those that come via e-mail, will continue to come via e-mail. So know, I'll be there, lurking. :)

I have a number of projects going on with participants so, I'm looking forward to that! You all know who you are!

That sounds creepy, huh? LOL!

I'll miss you all!!

That's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!

Jo

Author Blog Challenge Besties

Noooo! Tomorrow is the last prompt for the 28 Day Author Blog Challenge!!! That makes me sad :(

But, fear not! There will be a WINTER Blog Challenge! Watch http://authorblogchallenge.wordpress.com for updates on that! Moving on...

What has been the best part of participating in the Author Blog Challenge? What are your suggestions for improving the next Author Blog Challenge?

I would have to say the best part of the ABC has been the wonderful people I have gotten to know. So many lovely folks and fellow authors participated. I didn't think there were many people in the world that I had so much in common with. But, I found out that most authors are as crazy as I am. GLEE!

I feel more comfortable knowing that I'm not the only one struggling in the publishing world and wonder if we all got together and yelled, if we could be heard on Mars or Saturn...

Now, there's talk about a collaborative project!! I can't wait!!

Some of the people I have met, I will keep as very close friends and perhaps, someday, meet them in person. Some are over the pond but I just know that I'll end up in the UK one day :) I know I'll continue to peek in on the many blogs I have come to know and love as well.

I only have one suggestion for improvement for the next challenge:

I'd like to see a page for each day on a blog somewhere that I can visit so I can be sure I'm not leaving anyone out when I make my rounds of commenting. Some people joined in late and I just don't feel like they got enough attention.

While the FB group was a fantastic idea, I loathed going through and clicking because the posts opened in FaceBook's browser and not my own. I comment on the fly a lot. :)

I am saddened and a bit relieved. I know I'll not be posting 7 days a week and that's a relief but I also know that after something like this challenge is over, people tend to drift off in different directions. BUMMER. :(

We need to be there to cheer each other on. Sometimes, we all need that little section of fans :)

That's all for today, folks. Until next time, WRITE ON!

Jo

Monday, June 25, 2012

New Book Sneak Peek!

You are getting this sneak peek due to a prompt from the 28 Day Author Blog Challenge :)

What is/will be the subject of your next book?

Congratulations! You get a sneak peek at the rundown for Player! Enjoy the synopsis:

Richard Meretis thinks he has it all figured out. He's decided to replace his wife and use a patsy to end his marriage. A patsy is necessary because there's no way his wife, Julia, will believe he wants a divorce any other way and he can't let her know about the true object of his affections. His sights are set on a number of women as possibilities, but a chance meeting leaves him reeling.

Enter Kathy. She's trapped in a loveless marriage where she feels like a slave. Searching for evidence of her husband's debauchery online, she happens upon Richard. They meet and the electricity is off the charts. Even the L word is considered.

Emotions run high through this story of betrayal and escape. Richard might achieve his goals but the real question is: Who's playing whom?

Due to release in October 2012!

Now a sneak peek at Mystic:

X girl (yet unnamed) has a crystal ball. She sees in it the end of the world and four young girls who can stop the rise of evil and prevent that end.

But they must come together, and X girl must be the one to bring their meeting to reality.

The fourl girls' lives are riddled with problems. One is a lesbian who's afraid to admit who she really is. Another is a glutton who self-abuses because of a difficult upbringing. Every girl has a unique problem to overcome.

If X girl cannot help the young ladies overcome their fears and tap into the power that resides inside, the world will come to an end. How can she do it? Will she be able to bring the young ladies together and make them see their own power in time?

And that's the synopsis for the Mystic series!! Let me hear you say, "Ooooooh!" :) The first book is due to release in December 2012!!

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!

Jo

Shout Outs! And the Winners Are...

Another prompt in the 28 Day Author Blog Challenge!!

Time for some shout-outs. This may mimic your acknowledgement page, but whom would you like to publicly thank for their help in creating your book or completing it to the point where it is presently?

I have a number of people to thank:

#1 - The Greatest Boyfriend in the World - He has encouraged and believed in me from the start. It means a lot to have someone there that pushes you, gently, toward your success.

#2 - My mom. She has gone to war in my defense so many times! Without her, I would have quit writing back in middle school and never bothered to try again.

#3 - My kids. I did college to show them that we can all be MORE. Without college, I would never have had the chance to hone my craft.

#4 - My professors (Dr. Khun and Dr. Ketchersied). They are the ones who saw my skill and nourished it.

#5 - My friend (Crystal Lee). Without her, I would have holes in my story a mile wide.

#6 - My brother (Ben). He said to me, "Keep writing like you write and you'll be a household name." He's so cute :)

All the people who pre-read my book (you know who you are!).

Moving on...

The Abigale Chronicles - Book Two releases next Tuesday! Go get book one and be prepared! Your kids will love little Abigale :)

That's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!

Jo

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Book Sales

Today's prompt from the Author Blog Challenge:

If your goal is to sell books, you must view your book as a business. In what ways do you treat your book as a business? Where could you improve? What resources could you leverage to improve your book business?

Actually, my take on this is a bit different. I am the business and the books are my product. Treating my books as product makes me want to deliver the best product possible to my consumers. When I go into a store and buy something, nothing makes me angrier than getting it home and having it not meet my expectations.

My books are priced accordingly. Yassa is 90k words, I priced it at $9.99. The Abigale Chronicles - Book One is 11k words, I priced it at $1.99. My goal is to keep my novels between seventy and one hundred thousand words and hang them on that price point of $9.99. Along with keeping customers familiar with my books, it will let them know what to expect to pay for one. Every Abigale book will cost just $1.99. Mystic's small books (between twenty and forty thousand words) will likely be at the $4.99 price point with the end novel being set at $9.99.

It all falls along the same lines as branding. Consistency and recognition are key while meeting expectations of consumers. I'm building my brand for my business model with my prices.

I could improve by designating a logo for my brand and naming a publishing company. Both are things I'll be doing in the near future.

Resources is a tough cookie. I had a FaceBook account with over 400 friends (and yes, I knew them all) but I recently deleted all said friends and deactivated the account because it was riddled with junk. I couldn't keep up with my family through all the crap that was posted everywhere. I lament the loss only because it would have been a great venue for advertisement. I am working on building my FaceBook back up under my pen name but I know it'll take a LONG time. I shot myself in the foot on that one...

I am also going to try to sell my wares locally which means rubbing elbows with some of my town's booksellers. From what I understand, they are allowed to take small risks on new/local talent. I have to be like Nike and just do it. The worst they can tell me is NO, right? No is not such a dirty word.

So, while we're on the topic, The Abigale Chronicles - Book Two releases July 3rd. Go discover the mystery behind Abigale and Emmett's weird adventures. When you're done, come back here and tell me if YOU think it's real or if you think she's dreaming. :)

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!

Jo

My Book is a Movie!

I'm loving the imagination prompts in the 28 Day Author Blog Challenge! For today:

If a Hollywood agent were to come knocking on your door with an offer to turn your book into a movie and told you that you could call all the shots, who would you have direct and star in it? Write the first paragraph of Roger Ebert’s review of your film.

If I got offered a movie deal, I would insist on calling the shots because I wouldn't want the story's heart and soul skewed. My message is not one of violence but of absolute love, trust, loyalty, and protection. It delves into how those three things shape someone throughout life. I would be scared that the story would be warped into one of horror and abuse. Also, my cast would need a decidedly Asian look (all but Borte). So, with that said, I present you with my choices:

Director:
Stephen Spielberg or Clint Eastwood (for obvious reasons)

Young Temujin:
Noah Ringer











Adult Temujin:
Ken Wantanabe











Young Borte:
Anna Sophia Robb











Adult Borte:
Scarlette Johansson











Jelme:
Daniel Henney









Bo'orchu:
Aaron Kwok











Kutula:
Harry Shum Jr.(You have to picture him with really long hair)








Jamuka:
Hiroyuki Sanada











Roger Ebert’s fictional review:
Law, Love, and Defense of a Family
Stories of great Mongolian warriors can step out of the familiar genre story and show us something new. They can enlighten us to a new culture and a coming-of-age tale that we aren't familiar with, while including ethical challenges said culture has inflicted. "Yassa," the best of them thus far, tells of young Genghis Khan and introduces us to the possible struggles of children in 18th Century Mongolia. He's a force to be reckoned with, certainly, but his shaping into the man he became was a direct result of both a law he wrote based upon his culture's requirements for honor and the love he had for a woman. It leads us through a boy's journey of change because of betrayal at the hands of people he loves the most.

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!

Jo

Offical Book Signing

Another prompt from the 28 Day Author Blog Challenge:

Describe your first book signing - real or imagined.



Oh, this is gonna be fun! Please, sit back and lose yourself in my imagination...

I open my eyes an hour before my alarm goes off and spring from bed with an energy rush. I punch the air before doing a little Indian dance in a circle; much like the ones performed by my ancestors to call down rain. Not that I want rain, but a little sprinkle of magic would be nice on a day where I'll be showing my face to the world and meeting fans.

I rush through the shower then apply the usual makeup: blush, eyeliner, mascara, and a bit of lip gloss. Dressing carefully in the clothes I have chosen, I pile my hair on my head in a disorganized fashion before strapping on my favorite shoes. I realize I'm way too early so I pick up a book and read to pass the time. No good. I'm too distracted to be consumed by the story on the pages, so I rise and pace the floor. This action excites my maltchi, and he happily paces after me with a wagging tail. I lift him and give him a snuzzle for a moment, professing what a good dog he is.

I return to the bathroom to check my appearance three times over the next hour - just in case something changed from the last time I looked.

I check my phone and realize it's time to go. Grabbing my purse, I head for the door to wait on The Best Boyfriend in the World to arrive. As usual, he pulls in right on time and tells me I look beautiful before whisking me out and into his truck. He drives, I ride. And I find myself unable to stop talking. I'm nervous as hell at the prospect of meeting so many people!

We arrive at the event to find images of my books and my face plastered all over the venue. I duck my head and blush because I'm not used to so much attention and fanfare.

He turns me, lifts my chin, looks into my eyes, and says, "No looking down. You did this and I'm so proud of you."

I tear up, and he kisses my forehead before saying, "No tears. Not today."

I nod my head, blink the hot liquid back before it has a chance to run down my face, and take his hand to head inside.

There's a smarmy looking manager who greets us and leads us to a table that's covered in my books. My heart hammers in my chest. He turns to hand me a pen and gives me a look of surprise when I pull my own out of my pocket. This is the pen. Metal from top to bottom, heavy, and has been with me since day one of college; my lucky pen (GPA 3.98 lucky). I smile at the manager and he returns it with one that doesn't reach his eyes.

The Best Boyfriend in the World leads me to the other side of the table and holds my chair as I sit. He takes his place next to me and, again, I'm stricken with word vomit. My nerves are getting the best of me, but he's a sport and doesn't complain. He takes my hand to calm my brain; it works. I shut my mouth and find peace through his touch.

Customers are lining up outside the store. I'm suddenly very sure they have no clue I'm there and are just the usual Saturday morning crowd. My heart sinks into my feet and melancholy threatens to overtake me. Just when I think I can stand no more, the doors are opened and people line up at my table so I can sign their books. They were for me. Wow. I've brought joy to this many people through my words! I think.

For the next three hours I'm shaking hands, cooing over babies, telling kids how important reading is, signing books with inspirational messages, and posing for pictures my boyfriend takes while sporting a huge grin. Holy crap. I love him so much! By the time it's all over, I'm in a daze.

I thank the manager and the store employees for everything and turn to my boyfriend. "I can't believe it. That was the second most amazing thing I've ever experienced. Only topped by the day I met you. Thank you for being by my side," I say.

He takes my face in his hands and says, "I never doubted you."

I smile, and we kiss.

My feet are light as air and my heart feels like it could sprout wings and soar away at any moment. Kissing my pen, I return it to my pocket with a whisper of thanks and we head home.

Well, that's all for today folks, I hope you enjoyed my tale! Until next time, WRITE ON!

Jo

Friday, June 22, 2012

Indie Ideas

Only a few days left in the Author Blog Challenge. So sad :( On to today's prompt:

What is the single best piece of advice you’ve ever received about the publishing process and/or what advice would you offer to a first-time author?

The single best piece of advice I got was from The Best Boyfriend in the World. He said, "Don't give up. Finish everything you start even if it feels like you're pulling teeth. Your book is your business. Treat it like one."

On that note, I must say he was right. I spent three months writing Yassa, three months editing, and a week getting it ready for publication (formatting). During the book's cool-off period of six weeks, I designed the cover (which people are loving - and that love gives me a happy) and wrote The Abigale Chronicles - Book One. This is the funny part: I released The Abigale Chronicles - Book One in April and Yassa in June. How's that for screwed up?

Along those same lines of thought, I am releasing The Abigale Chronicles - Book Two in just two weeks and have planned a release schedule for one book every three months. At $1.99, it's a steal and won't break the bank. Each one is a stand-alone story so you don't have to read book one to understand two or three, etc... I think it's important to keep delivering new/interesting material on a consistent basis as well as not leaving your reader hanging between books. That's another piece from treating my books like a business. If people run out of things to buy/read, they go elsewhere. If your "Going out of Business Sale" sign never comes down, people quit believing it. 

Here's my advice to a first time author: Keep your content new and fresh. Don't ever stop writing. And, for the love of all that's holy, price your books fairly. If you're a good writer, people WILL buy them! Most of all, follow The Best Boyfriend in the World's advice above. It's good advice.

Something that bugs me: People seem to be jumping on the fake mini-series bandwagon. A mini-series should have a point and each book should be self contained. A whole book broken into three parts is not a mini-series. I have heard complaints from readers that encounter this. Not a good idea. Just sell them the whole book, you know?

If you have ever enjoyed a V.C. Andrews series, you'll know what I mean about mini-series (and, NO, not the ones AFTER she died). Flowers in the Attic and Ruby were two of the best series I have ever read. I love her unexpected twists and turns (what do you mean, she married her BROTHER? UNCLE? OMG!).

My series Mystic will fall into that mini-series category (four small books with five characters coming together in one final novel) and broach some pretty sensitive topics. After all, even controversial press is still PRESS, right? It's gonna raise a ruckus, methinks. I couldn't be happier with the prospect.





Anywho... That's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!

Jo

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Social Media Mayhem

Social media prompt from the 28 Day Author Blog Challenge: 

How are you using social media to promote your book? What aspect of social media would you like to learn more about? What are your next steps?

I use buffer to post auto-tweets in promotion of my books. During the day, I tweet about my blog here and there with automatic updates going out to my FaceBook wall.

You can follow me on Twitter here or find me on FaceBook here. Follow my blog to get automatic updates when I post, too! I put out a lot of useful information for writers, designers, and writers who design. You'll usually get five posts a week unless something major happens.

I would like to know a lot more about LinkedIN - find me here. I use it but not often. I was planning to get into it a bit more after July of this year. We'll see how that goes.

What I'm really counting on is word-of-mouth advertising. I know that once a few people read my books, they'll tell others. I have deep faith in my ability to turn a tale that is interesting, fun, and educational.

Release day is July 3rd for The Abigale Chronicles - Book Two. If you haven't read book one, go get it. It's just $1.99 for the Kindle version and $5.99 for the printed version!

As promised, the cover for The Abigale Chronicles - Book Two:


















Leave a little love and tell me what you think! I'm trying to use a different color scheme on each one and a little bit of a different design but I'm keeping the title elements the same for recognition purposes.

That's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!

Jo

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Platform Smatform

The 28 Day Author Blog Challenge prompt for today is: 

What are the three most important things you are doing to grow your platform?

First off, if you haven't signed up yet, there's still time. Just do it. Now, on to the goodies... 

Number ONE:
I enter challenges, like the 28 Day Author Blog Challenge and I participate heavily. I take time to go through and read as many other posts as I can and leave comments. My network has grown vastly through this exercise. Never ever enter unless you plan to participate because you'll end up with guilt. I hate guilt. 

Number TWO:
I friend every follower I have on Goodreads. I want to know what you're reading, I really do. Plus, that keeps my peeps in the loop on my releases and giveaways (watch for The Abigale Chronicles - Book Two giveaway in July!). Giving two copies to Goodreads for people who desire an excellent book is my way of reaching out to people who may become fans. I sign both copies and add a little note for personalization. 

Number THREE:
Social media: I friend readers and follow writers like crazy on Facebook and Twitter. Their fans could be my fans, too! My blog is a way of growing my platform as well. I try to give useful/helpful information for indie authors and writers in general. If you look here: CLICK ME! or here: CLICK ME, TOO! I even have ways you can make your writing stronger through word usage and suggestions for building a writing bible, how to write descriptions that don't paint exact people for your reader (we have to let their imaginations do something, right?), and general, interesting stuff.

Most of all, don't spend more than an hour a day on networking. Right now, I'm doing more than that but once the challenge is over, I cut off after 9am every day. I write from 9-3. Period. We are writers, we must write. A good day shows me with 3k-4k words and my Abigale books fly from my fingers when I'm in the zone. You know what that is. Flow baby.

Now, if you haven't read The Abigale Chronicles - Book One you better get on the ball! Book Two releases in just two weeks! Eek! Come on now, it's a short, fun read. My daughter is getting a kick out of book two; it's about cats. Not telling any more! No cover reveal today, maybe tomorrow...

That's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!

Jo

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Blabbering Betties

And on to yet another post for the 28 day Author Blog Challenge...

Who did/could you ask to write a blurb for your book? Why that person/people? How did/will you go about reaching them?

I asked the best boyfriend in the world's twenty-one-year-old daughter to write a blurb for my book. She read it and wrote me some lovely ad copy. Without further ado:

"In this riveting portrayal of the emperor of the Mongol Emperor Genghis Khan, Yassa depicts the untold story of the undying love between Genghis and his wife, Borte. The novel creates speculation that who Genghis Khan had become is a result of the turmoil amongst his wife, family, and brotherhood, and the betrayal of the ones he remained devoted to until the end. The author Jo Michaels demonstrates her curiosity of the history behind Genghis Khan in this brave replica of the leader of the largest contiguous empire in history. You will find yourself laughing, crying, smiling, and sympathizing with the characters throughout the entire book. Yassa is a must read that will keep you wanting more of the bygone times that have never before been depicted like this."
  ~ Katlynn G

I asked her because she's a reader. She consumes around two books a week. If she liked it, I figured the general public would, too.

I found her via my association with her father. Her personal feelings were not put on display but she told me that when she got to the last page, she cried. SCORE! Tears mean my characters resonated with her.

When I write, resonance is my goal. I want people to take a little piece of my novel and store it in their heart forever. When you read Yassa, you'll have a perfect understanding of how I feel about my boyfriend. He's my once in a lifetime.

News: The Abigale Chronicles - Book Two is ready for release on  July 3, 2012. If you haven't read Book One yet, now's the time. Follow one of the links at the top of my blog to get yours! I'll be doing a cover reveal sometime this week. If I told you when, that wouldn't be fun! So getcher butts back here for that!

Even more news: Yassa received another FOUR STAR review yesterday! See the writeup here.

That's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!

Jo

Monday, June 18, 2012

Target Market

On to another prompt for the 28 Day Author Blog Challenge:

Describe the market for your book - to the tiniest detail (e.g., childless divorced women past age 50 who want to remarry). Why that demographic? How do you connect with them to market to them?

My market for Yassa consists of anyone who has loved fully, intensely, and faithfully. People who understand and appreciate the power of that faithfulness. Most of all, people who want to connect with a character and take something away from a story for once. While my intended audience was women from age 25-45, I have found that teens like my book a lot and that older women seem to gravitate toward it.

My market for The Abigale Chronicles is young readers from age 6-13, male and female. Those kids with imagination who can grasp that something weird is going on with Abigale. Kids who need to identify with a character and understand that when they have a problem, they should face it head-on with their eyes wide open.

Why that demographic? For Yassa, it's because women need to understand the inner workings of a man. Men desire to protect and be loved unconditionally. When any of that fails, they struggle. It changes them in ways we don't understand. For The Abigale Chronicles, it's because I want to teach them that reading can take you places you never dreamed you'd go.

In Yassa, Temujin fails to protect Borte and the act of losing her drives him a little crazy. It's Genghis Khan's coming-of-age tale. It tells why he was shaped into the brutal man he became. Life shapes us all in interesting ways and his life was hard. But he loved like no other. He was loyal to his friends and family and took slights against them personally, making anyone who dared to dishonor him the next target on his list of payback.

With The Abigale Chronicles, I feel like I have a last-ditch chance to get kids to pick up books and read. All books, not just mine. Abigale is intended to inspire a love of reading and realize the places books can take you with their words.

I connect with my target markets through advertising and networking. When I'm out and about, I talk about my work with anyone who'll listen. I do giveaways on Goodreads so those that are interested, have a chance at a copy for themselves. Word-of-mouth should take it from there. Don't forget to enter the giveaway at Goodreads for a chance to win one of two signed copies of Yassa!

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!

Jo

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Persnickety Publishing People

On to yet another day in the Author Blog Challenge. If you haven't signed up yet, feel free. The link is on the right. And the prompt today goes to...

Did you publish your book as a traditionally printed book, an eBook, or both? How did you come to your decision? Which company(ies) did you use for printing and distribution? How did you select them?

If anyone has been following my blog, you know I'm a self published author. I chose to use Smashwords for my first distribution of The Abigale Chronicles - Book One and by doing so, learned a lot of what to do and what not to do. I went through my experience in an earlier post. Feel free to pop over and take a gander.

Now for the juicy stuff. I did both an e-book and a traditionally printed version for my books. I used Createspace to publish the tangible versions. I learned a lot from putting The Abigale Chronicles up there as well. I'll make a blog friendly list of what to do and what not to do.

Please DO:

1. Take the time to make sure your manuscript is ready to go. Createspace takes longer to look over your stuff with a second submission. Why should they rush when you didn't bother to make sure it was perfect?
2. Use a cover designer that understands CMYK is different than RGB. Let me tell you, some greens and oranges look TERRIBLE when converted. Trust me.
3. Design your cover WITH a bleed. They trim 1/8" off every side. I went into this in an earlier post as well (link below).
4. Make sure your font is easy to read and prints well.

Please DO NOT:

1. Make changes.
2. Design your cover in RGB colorspace. Ugh.
3. Assume you know what you're doing. You don't know what a widow or an orphan is, don't try to. Seek a designer to help you format the inside of your book, please.
4. Use a tiny font (under 8pt).

I am linking to some earlier blog posts of mine that explain a lot of the above. Please go take a look. If you're using a designer, ask them if they know what kerning is and what the difference is between CMYK and RGB (CMYK is the four color process of ink printing on a press. RGB is the colorspace that is created with light - like on your computer). If they know the answers to those questions, they have been to design school.

Kerning Lesson
Printing Lesson
Color Spaces Lesson
Fonts Lesson

I chose Createspace and Smashwords by reading reviews online. I research EVERY company I do business with (so does my boyfriend) and we seek an outside opinion always. I find this to be a good way to expect the unexpected. Be prepared for the worst.

I decided to self-publish for a number of reasons:

1. I queried agents but they couldn't figure out my market so they declined.
2. I wanted control. Yes, I am a control freak (this surprises you? Really?).
3. The artist in me cringed at letting someone else decide on my design.
4. I had the time.
5. It was the best option for me.

Don't forget to enter my Goodreads giveaway for a chance at a free copy of Yassa.

Well, that's all for today, folks. Until next time, WRITE ON!

Jo

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Reader Interview

On to the next prompt in the Author Blog Challenge... 

Find someone you know, either online or in the real world, who is a true bibliophile and interview them about their reading habits. Ask questions such as: 

How many books do you buy per month?
Five 

How many do you actually read?
Five 

What do you read?
Mysteries, Romance, Sci-Fi, Historical Fiction, Thrillers, Medical Myseries, Crime Novels, Young Adult 

Where do you buy your books?
Amazon now, I used to be a book club member. 

Who is your favorite author?
Mary Higgins-Clark 

What do you like about the author?
Her storytelling style is less descriptive. She doesn’t go into what color the floors are, grass is, d├ęcor style (unless setting an era). 

How often do you attend signings/readings? What do you enjoy about them?
Never. I’m  a reclusive. 

If you could ask their favorite author any question, what would it be?
Do you do any charity work for neglected or abused children? 

Which book has most recently surprised or delighted you?
Yassa. Because it’s historical fiction and I don’t usually read them. It was thrilling and unexpected. Out of the last ten to fifteen books I’ve read, it’s my favorite. I just couldn’t put it down. 

Of everything you’ve read so far this year, what would you most recommend?
I tend to recommend things that are freshest in my mind. So, I would recommend: Yassa by Jo Michaels, Intensity and 77 Shadow Street by Dean Koontz, and Exclusive by Fern Michaels.




















What I learned from this interview is that people who buy tangible books, read them.

While you're on my blog, go check out the review I wrote for Ashley Howland's Ghostnapped!


That's all for today, folks! I hope you enjoyed reading this one!! Until next time, WRITE ON!


Jo

Book Review - Ghostnapped!


Book Review: Ghostnapped! By Ashley Howland

Get ready for a ghastly, ghost-hunting mystery that will chill the very marrow in your bones! Ashley Howland makes her debut with a sensational spectral adventure that will ‘fright and delight’ kids and teens everywhere. 


My Rating: three out of five stars

Ghostnapped! has a wonderful, weaving plot that caught me after just the first few pages and held me until the end. Trying to figure out what the monster was had me scratching my head and turning the page. This book will resonate with young readers everywhere. Alex’s adventure leads her to understand what it means to love your sibling and the book ends on a happy note. A good lesson for children.

However, there are a few errors in the writing that took me off guard. A few small things could be changed to give the story a smoother flow.

Overall, an enchanting read. I recommend it.



Synopsis:
Ten-year-old Alex loves to explore, but when her younger brother is mysteriously ghostnapped on their camping trip at the beach, it is up to Alex and her trusty Labrador, Thuds, to investigate her brother’s sudden disappearance. 

As she surveys the grassy hills and dangerous rocky cliffs near their camp, Alex uncovers a hidden secret to other disappearances that occurred at the very same campsite – over 50 years ago! 

A chilling mystery that can only be solved by Alex, Thuds, and a ghost girl named Susan, Ghostnapped! explores mysteries of the past, present and beyond the grave.

Ashley Howland grew up in Adelaide, South Australia, where she now lives with her husband, Ross, their daughters, Maddy and Aijay, and her faithful Labrador, Obi. When not writing or spending time with her family, Ashley is busy working for Labs ‘n Life, a non-profit organization that trains Labradors as assistance dogs.

If you'd like to purchase Ghostnapped! here are some links:


For other books by Ashley Howland (@AshleyHowland) visit her author page here. To read an interview with Ashley done by me, go here.

That's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!

Jo

Friday, June 15, 2012

Surprise!

There's still time to join the Author Blog Challenge! If you haven't, just do it. Moving right along to today's prompt... 

What has been the biggest surprise about writing/publishing your book? What has been the most enjoyable or most memorable aspect?

My biggest surprise was all the different formats that were wanted by all the different e-book publishers. Why can there not be consistency? Geeze Louise!

I love that Amazon has started to crack down on allowing public works publishing. It clears the market for real books. When I heard that, I did an Emeril Lagassi style, "BAM!" in my head.

Take that, you profiteers of other people's work!

I have enjoyed the people I have gotten to know through my networking efforts. There are some great folks in the publishing world. Many of them can be found here. Yes, that's The Author Blog Challenge participant link. So what if I invited my friends to join as well?

I never realized what a wonderful community writers have formed around the globe. How great is it that I can talk to Ashley Howland in Australia, Lisa Cherry in the UK, and meet people from the US as well? I adore intelligent discussion and giving people a new way to look at things that they may not have considered. A number of them have returned and given back as good as they have gotten.

I enjoy talking with writers because they are almost always open to new ideas and constructive feedback.

I enjoy talking with artists because they have a different view of the world we live in and take the time to paint or draw it.

I enjoy talking with most people on most topics as long as their thoughts are original and not pulled from the main-stream way of thinking.

Many of the people I now know, I would not have met without networking or voicing of my own, rather skewed opinion of the world. I wouldn't trade it.

Since this post is short, I am going to take today to share with you all some of my photography and illustrations. I hope you enjoy the eye candy.























Illustrations shown large, original photograph in icon. First is colored pencil on black canson drawing paper. Second is india ink on hot press illustration board.




















In tandem with today's post comes an interview with Ashley Howland, author of Ghostnapped! Tomorrow will be my review of the book.

That's all for today, folks, Until next time, WRITE ON!

Jo

Author Interview with Ashley Howland


 Today, a little something extra for my readers.

Ashley Howland is the author of Ghostnapped! and Obi the Super Puppy and the Mysteryof the Red Mist. Welcome, Ashley! Thank you for stopping by to visit with us today!

You write children’s novels. What attracts you most to that genre?

I write for children because that’s where the pure enjoyment of reading begins. Reading was also so much a part of my childhood, I always loved getting a new book. This is something I have been able to share with my daughters and love every step on this journey.

  

Ghostnapped! is set in South Australia at Rapid Bay. Why did you choose that setting?

I started writing Ghostnapped! on a camping trip at Rapid Bay. A friend and I both wrote stories that weekend, it was great fun to go and explore the local area. When I got home and did some research into the old mine and the local habitat the story just kept evolving.

Where did the idea for your protagonist, Alex, come from?

Alex is a strong girl, she loves to explore and gets annoyed by her younger brother, who like lots of kids wants to be just like their older sibling. She developed along with the story, but there are certainly aspects of her personality that I can relate to.

Obi in Obi the Super Puppy and the Mystery of the Red Mist is patterned after your own dog. What is your favorite characteristic?

Obi is an amazing dog, he has always been a little bit different from other Labradors. He likes to sit and observe, or supervise as we now believe. It is so hard to put into words exactly what he does for the children he works with, but the best think about Obi is that no one gets missed.

You participate in Labs ‘n Life – a non-profit organization that works with autistic children (BRAVO!). How has that interaction shaped your writing?

Labs ‘n Life does so much, we train Labradors as companion dogs for children on the autism spectrum. However we also work with at risk youth to do this training, they are the ones who train the dogs for other families. This way so many people benefit from the training of a single dog. We also have a curriculum that centers on training the dogs, which can provide our students with credit into further study. This curriculum is rich in literacy development and in some ways this has helped shape my writing. I certainly get lots of material from the amazing dogs and students I work with.

Have you ever considered featuring an autistic child in any of your books?

I probably will at some stage, as I am currently writing a sequel to Obi, so it may happen. When I am writing I tend to just see where the book will take me, so you never know.

I see that you published Ghostnapped! with SBPRA. Can you tell us about your experience with them?

To get a book published is an amazing thing, I was very happy when Strategic took on both of my books. I have to thank them for giving me a go, there are some aspects I know other authors find difficult, but I tend to think along the lines of proving myself as an author. That is generally what Strategic are interested in. I have met the basic requirements of both books, in terms of numbers sold, so now I need to prove I can sell more books in order to have my next one published. For some authors this approach may seem difficult, and while it’s not easy I am happy to give it a go. 
 
What methods have you used for advertising your book, Ghostnapped!?

I have an author web page, Facebook page, twitter (@AshleyHowland), blog and a YouTube channel. I also have press releases and a YouTube video that were made by the publishing company. This advertising process is the most difficult, hopefully it is something I will get better at as I work on my writing. The publishing company has provided me with many ideas, it’s just trying to find the time to get things done, and after all writing is a hobby.

Have you considered a giveaway on Goodreads for Ghostnapped!? Why/Why not?

I have only just joined Goodreads, so I guess anything is possible. It is something I will be looking into.

Do you have any events (book signings, meet the author events, sales, etc…) planned?

I am hoping to be available to present some reading challenge medals at a few schools later in the year, this is something I really enjoy. I would also be more than happy to do book signings and meet the author events, it would certainly be an experience.

What types of things do you discuss on your blog?

At the moment I am doing an author blog challenge, so I have used a few of their prompts. This has given me a chance to blog about my writing process, and learn about the processes of others. I will  never claim to be a complete author, just someone who wants to share a story. Most of my blogs outside of the challenge tend to be about the dogs, and the crazy things they do.

Is there a specific message you’re trying to send with Ghostnapped!? What is that message?

I wouldn’t say there were any specific messages, but there were two themes that developed. I enjoyed touching on the natural rivalry between siblings. Now that I have two daughters I will get a lot more material in this area. It’s fun to explore that love/hate relationship brothers and sisters have. The other was an environmental theme that fit into the local area of the beach. 

What are some of the books you’re planning for the future? Where will we be able to find them?

At the moment I am editing two more children’s books. One if for younger readers and I am having a friend do some illustrations. I hope to begin the publishing process with this one towards the end of the year. The other will take longer, as it is more of a teenage novel, but one I am really enjoying. I am also writing that sequel to Obi, so I have lots of writing to keep me busy.

Thank you, Ashley, for taking the time to answer my questions. I wish you the best of luck with your books and look forward to having you back for a visit soon!

A review for Ghostnapped! will be appearing on my blog tomorrow with a synopsis so come on back for that.

That's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!

Jo

Thursday, June 14, 2012

I Challenge Thee... To a Duel!

Day 13 of the Author Blog Challenge. Today's prompt, brought to you by the letters MF... Where did your mind just go? Shame on you! 

What has been the most challenging part of your book process: writing, building the book, printing, distributing, marketing, etc.? What do you wish you'd known before you began? 

Marketing and Formatting have taken the cake for being the most challenging part of my book process. Smashwords also provided some frustrations. Allow me to provide you with a few guides. 

Formatting: Now, formatting an e-book is easy cakes if you've done it before. You understand that you should never ever ever tab at the beginning of a paragraph and every space after a period should be single. You know to compose with a normal paragraph style in word and not to have auto formatting turned on to parse hyperlinks or correct errant spelling errors. That being said, if you don't know those thing to begin with, formatting an e-book is a royal pain in the arse.

Why? Because you have to undo all those things that typing class taught you in high school. Ugh.

Another problem with doing it yourself is allllll the different formats that every e-reader uses. NOOK wants an epub file, KDP wants an html document, and Smashwords wants you to add returns at every page break so the meatgrinder can find where your pages split. If you're publishing a print version? .doc or .docx along with a PDF of the cover file is what you'll need.

Easy steps that I can advise that will take you far:

Make sure your manuscript is ready for publishing. Period. If it's not, don't bother doing any of the things below because you will have to re-do them all if you change something.

Follow the Smashwords Style Guide. You can download it via the link provided. It tells you how to get rid of tabs, apply different formats, create a table of contents and erase errant hyperlinks. Even if you aren't publishing with Smashwords, I recommend you pick up a copy now. It's free, why not?

Install the Calibre e-book management tool. You'll thank me later. It takes an .rtf file and makes it into an epub file with lots of cool options and little boxes to tick check-marks into. 

I know, I know, I'm so informative! It's only because I love you all. 

Now, after you have followed The Style Guide (without the extra returns between paragraphs or little cutesy icons) take your final file from word and save it as:
TITLE_SMASHWORDSFORMAT_JUNE142012.DOC
TITLE_NOOK_JUNE142012.RTF
TITLE_KINDLE_JUNE142012.HTML
TITLE_CREATESPACE_JUNE142012.DOCX 
Make a folder for each site. Mine look like this:
Desktop>BooksWritingsEtc>Yassa>NOOK
and so on, and so forth.
Remember to open the original file every time before saving it out as something different. Obviously, use your title and the current date.

Revise the Smashwords version to be happy with the meatgrinder as instructed. Open Calibre and turn the .rtf into an epub. Save that as:
TITLE_NOOK_JUNE142012.EPUB

Make sure your cover follows each site's requirement for size and save each cover with the same extensions. Let your cover designer know where you are going to publish your book and what size your print version will be.

When/if you upload to Smashwords, go and opt out of distribution to NOOK and Amazon. Now, go upload your files and be HAPPY! 

Yes, it's a lot of work but you're working for yourself and things will be the way you want them to be. No better reward than that, in my opinion. 

Marketing is it's own beast but my best advice is to participate, network, and offer assistance to others. Above all else, have consistency. My name will always appear on my book in the same font, in the same place. Keep that in mind when working with a designer. Make it BIG. Your name is a selling point. No time to be shy now.

Another tool for marketing is Goodreads. I always publish a print version of my work and offer a giveaway on that site because it's just good business sense. You gotta get your book into the hands of people that will read it.

Now, for my frustrations with Smashwords. They took a while to approve me for premium distribution and send The Abigale Chronicles to iBooks and NOOK. I ended up opting out for Amazon distribution and doing it myself just last week. I am impatient. I opted to do both Amazon and NOOK myself in my second release. A little more work, to be sure, but I'm a happier camper for it. NOOK is still not showing the cover for Abigale but iBooks got it quickly after approval and it looks gorgeous there.

Sorry this was long winded but I hope you got some useful information out of it.

That's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!

Jo

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Design, Write, Create!

Explaining today the process for cover design. Hold on to your hats!! 

Describe your process for choosing and designing your book cover. Who created your cover? How did you find him/her? What do you love about your cover? What might you do differently next time?

I have a degree in graphic design. Business cards, logos, fliers, mailers, CD covers, banners, ads, and much much more all make up what I know how to do. But, best of all, I can design book covers. My own and other people's. It may or may not surprise you to know I am also an illustrator, photographer, and painter. What the hell, right?

I am a creative. My brain works differently.

My boyfriend (the best one in the world, by the way) and I often discuss how my head works in a different way. All creatives are like that, authors are probably the most browbeaten of the bunch because folks wonder, not only where our worlds come from, but how we can write some of the things we do.

It is precisely this different way of working that allowed me to design my own book covers. I decided on a watercolor cherry tree with a beautiful woman sitting beneath for the cover of Yassa because it's a love story at its heart. Yeah, it goes into murder, betrayal, and law, but it's really the relationship of Temujin and Borte that drives the whole darn thing. So my cover reflects how my heart felt at the beginning and at the end.

I love my cover because it's a piece of me. I put a lot of time into the watercolor illustration and design and I stressed over which fonts to use. It had to say, "Something is different about this book." I believe it does that.



When I designed the cover for The Abigale Chronicles - Book One, I thought about my protagonist and what she would want her diary cover to look like. I then approached a twelve-year-old girl who lives down the street from me and asked her for a handwriting sample. She wrote the word Abigale and I scanned and vectored it for something unique. You won't see that font on ANY other book. It's very personal and feels so much more authentic. I gave her a signed copy of the book for helping me. She'll get one of every new volume as well. It's the least I could do.



I see so many book covers today that could use a tweak or two where lettering is concerned. I have a few lessons on my blog; starting with this one. If you have ever wanted to know what a designer does and how much tweaking they do to your lettering, I urge you to check it out. Your typography is EVERYTHING. It's the first thing people notice. Forget about images or color. Many e-readers are black and white. Your letters count. Go peek at the lessons (there are 4) and you'll see what I mean.

I've considered creating a short book with tips and tricks on cover art design and how to use lettering for impact. We'll see. I wouldn't charge for it, of course (it wouldn't be long), but I think it might come in handy for some who are short on cash and want to design for themselves. I can even have a section of what NOT to do. That way, we won't end up with glaring color oopsies that make our eyes feel like they are going to burn out of our skulls when we look at them. Who knows? I might, I might not. If I do, you can guarantee the news will be HERE first!!

That's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!

Jo