Friday, February 28, 2014

Female Protagonists - Why Women Love Them

Happy, happy Friday, everyone! I'm thinking maybe the title of this post should be Strong Female Protagonists - Why Women Love Them; because I'm speaking from a female point of view, and I read a LOT of book reviews by women that cite that very thing as what makes the character great. Either way, let's get on to the discussion. I think this post may help female writers, but it might help some of the guys, too. Grab your pens and notebooks and let's get going!


I suppose you all remember the post about your characters being too perfect. Well, that also plays into this discussion. Since all characters are on a journey from page one to page five hundred, we'll assume you're starting out with a flawed female who thinks she needs one thing, but will find out that what she's looking for isn't what she needs.

Being flawed is what makes us human. Remember: To err is human, to forgive is divine.

So, why do women love female protagonists?

It's not just any old protagonist with a vagina we ladies love to read about. It's the ones we want to be more like that move us emotionally (and women are driven by emotions). We have to connect with them on a deeper level. Here's a quick list of things that make a strong female lead (and some of the females that rock):
  • She doesn't know she's awesome and doesn't preen like a peacock (Jane Bennet-P&P).
  • In a fight, she'll always come out on top. Maybe not because of her brute strength, but because of her brains (Hermione - Harry Potter).
  • There should always be self-doubt as to whether she can do what she's about to attempt (Katniss - The Hunger Games).
  • These ladies don't need a man, and they don't whimper in a corner when things get hard (Millie - The Help).
  • Hard times or abuse have fallen on them in the past, and they grew from the experience (Kate - First Visions).
  • Many of these women are completely selfless and put others first (every lady listed above).

Now, that's not everything that makes a great female protagonist; but it's a good list to start with. Add to that some skill with a sword or bow, a successful line of self-employment (all of Fern Michaels's leading ladies), some serious self-doubt that's overcome, or a hidden power, and you have a winner.

But she must also be the underdog. We must have some reason to root for her to succeed and the fear that she won't. A girl whose never seen the other side of the tracks is difficult to get behind. Let's face it, life isn't easy or fair for 99% of the population. If you make it fair, 99% of the population won't connect with your character.

If you do these things well, your readers will fall in love with your characters, identify with them, and want to be more like them. That's the key.

I bet you've heard of most of those women. Guess why? Yup, they were strong. If you haven't read Kate's story in First Visions, you should. It's free. Forever. On Amazon.

I'm going to let you in on a little secret: If your female lead is weak, annoying, leans on a man all the time, or acts childish, female reviewers will ding you for it. Give us someone we can really root for.

Who's your favorite leading lady?

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

Jo

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Book Review - The Bestiarum Vocabulum

Happy Thursday, everyone! Wow this week flew by, huh? Today, I bring you another book review. This one is a collection of beastly horror stories (from A-Z) and is titled The Bestiarum Vocabulum (TRES LIBRORUM PROHIBITORUM). There are a lot of authors on this book so I'll give you the full wrap cover rather than list them. It's yet another I'll be adding to the Indie Fever Reading Challenge 2014 page. You can join in the fun here.

As always, a little information about the book up for review today before the meat (get back in your cages):

Title: The Bestiarum Vocabulum (TRES LIBRORUM PROHIBITORUM)
Author: Many
Genre: Horror Short Stories
Length (Print): 398 pages
Links to Purchase: Amazon Kindle $3.99 Paperback $15.26


Synopsis:
A catalog of mythic beasts and demons that were summoned by esoteric means. Once owned by Count Allesandro Di Cagliostro, it was thought forever lost in a fire at the Chateau de Versailles.

Two hundred years later, twenty-six modern day masters of the macabre bring The Bestiarum Vocabulum back from the ashes. 

**Not to appear in review elsewhere - As for the cover of this book, I think it could use an overhaul. I can't really make out what that is supposed to be on there; but it looks like some kind of beastly egg. It just doesn't mesh with the great stories inside.**

Now, on to the good stuff.

I picked this book up during the 12 Days of Christmas event on my blog, where I ask Indie authors to pitch me their books, I grab a sample, and then I choose and purchase the 12 books to be reviewed over the next year. This one was another stand-out in that crowd. After the sample, I was horrified there were no pages left and zipped over to Amazon to buy it. Enough about that, let's get to the review, eh?

From a Reader's Perspective:
This was an enjoyable collection of short stories. There were a couple that really stood out from the crowd and a few I wouldn't read again. I read one of them three times and still couldn't follow the story. It meandered around and jumped in time telling things that didn't seem to be pertinent. However, if you're a fan of horror, there are a ton of other really great stories in this collection. Some of them had me cringing, a couple had me doing an internet search to find out the history of the fantastical beast portrayed. I'd never heard of many, others were all too familiar. Description and world building was great for 9/10 of the tales. I do enjoy a good horror story. All in all, a very cool collection that was well worth the money and kept me entertained for long periods of time.

From an Editor's Perspective:
Most of these stories were very well edited. A couple could've used a hand in the punctuation and redundancy department. After all, it's a short story and every word matters. Having said that, I read a disclaimer in the front of the book that talked about keeping the author's voice intact (because they're from around the globe). Okay, I get it. Keeping the idioms makes sense. But it's a whole other beast to let blatant errors through. I've read books from every country, so I'm familiar with differences in writing. However, with so many authors, surely they could've shared the editing hand before going to print/publication. Those few that made little to no sense left me reeling and I don't feel like I enjoyed the other stories as much as I could have because my brain kept checking out to think about why I didn't get those that meandered.

Rating:
+1 Star for a wonderfully creepy collection
+1 Star for descriptive writing
+1 Star for bringing me to the edge of my seat more than once
+1 Star for teaching me (I love books that do this)
-.5 Star for those meandering/unreadable stories (there were only about three out of twenty-six)
+.5 Star for the editing on the others

Overall, 4.5 Stars! We all know I round up, so you'll see a 5 star rating everywhere ratings are used. Highly recommended for lovers of Horror.

What do you think? Have you read this book?

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

Jo

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Cover Reveal - Pariah by Casey L. Bond

Happy Thursday, good people of the blogosphere! I hope you're all excited about tomorrow being Friday and the weekend to come. I know I am. A break is very badly needed by me. Such exciting things going on, I'm feeling like I'm about to jump up and dance the salsa. If you recall, there's a giveaway going on here for a chance to win an e-copy of Keepers of Arden (The Brothers Volume 1) by L. K. Evans, and today I have a cover reveal for Pariah by Casey L. Bond! I can't wait for you all to see this cover. You're going to flip out!

Ready? Let's get going!

Pariah
The New Covenant Series
by Casey L. Bond

Synopsis:
What are the things that you need most in life—the things you crave? Solara longs for freedom. Having been raised under the Kingdom’s lock and key since the age of two, she wants to see the world. Upon turning seventeen and receiving no mark from the Lord, she believes freedom is finally within her grasp.

Unfortunately, she is wrong. The Kingdom has been fooled. She is marked by an angel of light and one of the fallen dark ones. Solara is God’s chosen, and with her birth, the new covenant made with mankind is made manifest.

Solara also longs for love, strong enough to last a lifetime, and beyond. Riven loves her. But is one of the fallen prophesied to betray the chosen. Can she trust him? Love him? Prophesy states that she is the key. The fate of humanity rests with her decision. She alone will determine whether the doors of Heaven or the gates of Hell open upon the Earth.

But how can a normal girl, who has been raised with no knowledge of either side, make such a decision? And how can she turn away from finally tasting those things she has craved for so long.

For fun, here's the full wrap cover:

Everyone say, "Oooooooooooh!"

Isn't it gorgeous?

Now, if you want to add Pariah to your Goodreads TBR list, go here:

Pariah on Goodreads

If you'd like to check out Pariah's Pinterest board, check it out here:

Pariah on Pinterest

While you're hanging around here, why not check out Casey and give her a follow on social media?

Website
Facebook
@authorcaseybond


Or, you can check out other books by Casey L. Bond: Winter Shadows, Devil Creek, Reap (3.17.14)

Tomorrow, I'll be putting up my review for The Bestiarum Vocabulum. You want to come back for that one!

What do you think of the cover?

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

Jo

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Keepers of Arden The Brothers Volume One Re-release and Giveaway

Happy Tuesday, good people of the blogosphere! Today, I bring to you an awesome re-release and a wonderful giveaway. If you recall, a few weeks ago I wrote a review of Keepers of Arden. Well, the author is re-releasing it and INDIE Books Gone Wild is doing a giveaway promotion! That's right, you'll have a chance to win one of two e-copies of the book. I hope you all have a clicking finger ready to go! I'm gonna start with information about the book, then move on to the Rafflecopter widget. Enjoy!

Title: Keepers of Arden (The Brothers Vol. 1)
Author: L. K. Evans
Genre: Fantasy & Sorcery
Length (print): Approx 459 Pages
Buy Links: Amazon Kindle $2.99

Synopsis:
"Slowly, year by year, day by day, hour by hour, the evil grew stronger while he grew weaker. It found ways around his shield, and, even as he sat in the sun on a beautiful spring day, he could feel the tiny nibbles
the evil bit off from his soul."

This is just the beginning of the Laybryth brothers' journey, to not only rid the lands of Arden of a vile evil, but for one brother to save the other from the darkness that lives within him.



Believe me, it's awesome. I read it and loved it, then the author let me do the proofread on it and I loved it again!

Enter away, readers! Here's your Rafflecopter widget:

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Good luck!

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

Jo

Monday, February 24, 2014

Dialogue Traps to Avoid and How to Fix Them

Happy Monday, everyone! I do hope you all had a fabulous weekend and are raring to go for the week ahead. Today, I'd like to talk a little bit about dialogue traps many authors fall into and how you can pull yourself from the quagmire of quicksand that's sucking you down. These are things I find in many of the books I edit, and the author usually does a little head slap once I point out what's going wrong. Grab your pens and notebooks and let's get going! Be sure and check out the link to some dialogue exercises near the end of this post.


One of my most popular posts, He Said, She Said, Who Said What?, goes into ways to keep the local vernacular true to the characters. It uses extremes, but I did it to make a point.

Let's expand upon that and talk about how to keep the speech true to humans.

In I, Zombie, I used dialogue to help pull the reader into the culture. Some people enjoyed it, some didn't. However, it's true to the location and that's what I was after. Bronya, book one of the Mystic series, is also set in Southern Louisiana, but I chose not to use the local dialect. I both loved and hated that aspect of the book, but it's a choice an author has to make.

Note what I said there: Choice. It's up to you how your characters will speak, but the key to doing anything well is consistency. I know, there's that word yet again! Remember when I talked about creating a style guide for your novel? If your characters are gonna talk a certain way, be sure you're consistent. Your style guide will help you (and your editor) do that.

Now, a few things to keep in mind when characters are speaking to one another:
  • You don't always have to use a dialogue tag (said, mumbled, asked, answered, etc...), an action tag (Sabrina put her feet up on the couch, Luke took a long drink of his coffee, Pig plopped his big, round bottom down, etc...) will work as well.
  • There's no need to name the character the one speaking is talking to unless: There are more than two characters in the room and he/she is speaking to someone out of the group specifically, or there's no action tag like: Pig looked at Sabrina.
  • When a character uses another character's name in speech, it sounds like a lecture or like one is lording their superiority over the other. Think about how you speak and when you use someone's name.
  • We speak in contractions unless we're speaking formally (old English, Historically, etc...). Use them. It'll help. Remember to practice writing in contractions everywhere, not just in your novels. If a character doesn't use contractions, be consistent and don't ever use them. One day, you'll thank me. *wink*
  • Watching the rename will help with pronouns. Time for an example! 

If we know Pig and Luke are having a discussion, it might go like this: 
Pig looked at Luke. "So, you're saying I didn't need to sit?"
He answered, "That's exactly what I'm saying."
His tail uncurled and his ears drooped. "I thought I was being good."
This is wrong, wrong, wrong. It creates a pronoun problem. Either you have to rename Pig (which gets irritating to readers if it's done too often) or remove Luke. We know who Pig is talking to because the scene has been set.

How about: 
Pig looked up. "So, you're saying I didn't need to sit?"
"That's exactly what I'm saying."
His tail uncurled and his ears drooped. "I thought I was being good."
Note that Pig was the last male named so the pronoun his is used correctly. There was no need to rename Pig or worry that we couldn't use the pronoun his after we named Luke.

Please, know your action tags and your dialogue tags. Here's a post that will help with that. Some get commas and others get periods. Be sure you're varying what you use. Dingle said, Pig said, Sabrina said, Luke said, Howey said, Dog said, gets redundant and boring after a while. If it's obvious who said it, leave it alone. If you must give a name, use an action tag now and then.

Are you ready to practice flexing your dialogue muscles? Here's the fifth post in a series with links to the previous four: Dialogue Exercises. There are fifteen practice scenarios for you to use. Have some fun, okay?

Did you know these loose rules? Do the examples above help at all?

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

Jo

Friday, February 21, 2014

I, Zombie Soundtrack

Happy, happy Friday, everyone! I hope you all have something awesome planned for the weekend! In order to kick your weekend off the right way, I've compiled a little soundtrack for the book I, Zombie. These are the songs I've heard that made me think of the story (or songs others told me were brought to mind as they read). When possible, I used the videos with lyrics so you can read along if you choose to do so. I'll give a short explaination of why I used each one after. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the videos below and the sound of music!

#1: Zombie by The Cranberries



This may seem like an obvious choice, but really listen to the lyrics. If you've read the book and this song doesn't make you cry, I don't know what to say...

#2 Let Her Go by Passenger



Again, seems like an obvious choice given the nature of Trixie and Jack's relationship. But he didn't know he loved her 'til he let her go...

#3 Dust to Dust by The Civil Wars



Takes one to know one? Thank you for the recommendation, Casey L. Bond! I listened to this and bawled my eyes out...

#4 I Need a Hero by Bonnie Tyler



The epitome of Jack.

#5 Bring Me to Life by Evanescence



Oh my... It's that scene! You know of what I speak if you've read the book. If not, pick it up, listen to the music after you've read it. Heartbreaking, no? *grin*

Okay, so if you don't have a copy of I, Zombie yet, you can snag one over on Amazon (for Kindle) for just $3.99. It's sitting at 4.3 stars on 31 reviews, so it's doing pretty well! Get yours here.

I hope you all enjoyed this little foray into the world of I, Zombie and what music speaks to the author (and why).

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

Jo

Thursday, February 20, 2014

What Kind of Editor do You Need?

Happy Thursday, good people of the blogosphere! I missed my post yesterday! But, it's all good because I'm caught up with work and back to one hundred percent. Kids are back in school, there's no snow days causing my internet to malfunction (you wouldn't believe how slow it is when the whole neighborhood is home and online!), and I'm back in my office after being run out by the cold. So nice! Anyway, today we're gonna talk about the different kinds of editors and how to decide which one is right for you. So, grab your pens and notebooks and let's get going!

You've written a novel! Yay! Good for you. Now you have this manuscript you don't know what to do with. Well, first things first. You need to do at least four rounds of edits on it yourself. Start by following the steps listed here and the tips on what to look for here. Once you're done with that, then you'll be ready to start looking for an editor. But there are so many to choose from. Hopefully, this list will help you choose the right kind for your novel. Heck, you may think you need more than one. Allow me to open your eyes to a fabulous secret! But, that's on down the page. Keep reading!

First up, we have the Developmental Editor.
These guys will check your plot, structure, and flow. They'll make sure you don't have holes in your story and ensure your facts are kept straight. Yeah, they're the ones doing all the research and making copious notes on long, yellow legal pads. They're the right choice if you aren't sure about your novel's storyline, character building, or facts.

Next, I give you the Beta Reader.
These folks are fans of your genre and know what they're looking for in a story. Giving them a questionnaire to answer will help them give you much needed feedback. Commonly, a beta reader is used before you go through a ton of editing, but huge errors will have them complaining that you need to write your story better.

On to the Copy Editor.
These folks check facts, grammar, punctuation, and spelling. They do exactly what their title implies: edit the copy. They won't be looking for what the Developmental Editor looks for. There will be no plot, storyline, or character development checking. They live and breathe the written line.

Now, the Proofreader.
Your proofreader is NOT your editor. They exist to find those little, niggling errors missed by your editor (and yourself). Their whole purpose in life is to make sure your copy is clean and error free after the editing is done. It shouldn't take them as long as it did your editor because they should be able to skim your work to find what was missed.

Next up is the Content Editor.
They live and breathe plot, characters, voice, and setting. These folks don't give a hoot about your grammar, punctuation, spelling, or otherwise. All they care about is the story and making sure you aren't jumping tenses, head-hopping, or meandering off the storyline.

Bet you're freaking out right about now, huh? I suppose you can see how you could need more than one of these folks for your novel and how it would behoove you to have them all in your corner. Well, that leads me to the last (but certainly not least) type of editor on the list. This is the fabulous secret I mentioned earlier. Your secret weapon.

I give you the Line Editor.
These folks do it all. They check facts, grammar, punctuation, POV, plot, characterization, flow, tension, storyline, word count, redundancy, tenses, and every other manner of novel content. It should take them a long time to edit your novel. They don't play around and a lot of writers become dismayed by the amount of feedback given by a Line Editor.

Line Editors will cost you a little bit more. But, that's understandable, right? They're a one-stop shop. This is the service we provide at INDIE Books Gone Wild. We check it all. Your MS will have so many comments, you'll think you died and went to heaven. Plus, we hire one of our own to do your proofread after your edits are complete (yeah, it's included in the cost of editing). That's just good business.

Which one do you need? I'm sure by now you're foaming at the mouth. You already know. Indie authors should expect to use a Line Editor and then a Proofreader. ***Warning! If your proofreader gets your MS and it's obvious it hasn't been edited, they'll send it back to you (and will have every right to do so). So be sure you've used an Editor before you contact a Proofreader.***

Most importantly, be sure you know about your editor; no matter what kind you use. Vet them. Do the work to find out if they're worth it. Don't get snowed. Refer to Monday's post and Tuesday's post to know what to ask, what to expect, and what to look for in your contract. This is SO important. I won't take it personally if you don't use IBGW. I just want you to be careful and know what you're getting into.

I can't stress it enough. Watch your back because you're all you have. There's no big publishing house that's gonna do it for you unless you're traditionally published.

Questions? Comments? Pop them in below and I'll answer everything I can. If you have an editor you'd like vetted, feel free to shoot me an e-mail and I'll do everything in my power to check them out for you. Let's not use the comments section for that, okay?

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

Jo

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Contract Considerations

Happy Tuesday, good people of the blogosphere! Well, the kids are back in school and not a moment too soon. While I enjoy having the little nose-miners at home, it's not productive to have them pulling at my skirts while I'm trying to work. I've been busier than a one-armed paper-hanger! Anywho, today we're gonna talk about contracts! I know you're all super excited about that. I'll tell you what to expect, what to avoid, and what you should be looking for. Grab those pens and notebooks and let's get going!


Yesterday, I talked about finding a good editor and what you should be looking for when you vet them. If you missed that post, take a look at it here. Tomorrow, we'll talk a little about the different kinds of editors. But, for today, let's discuss the contract. This applies to proofreading, editing, and any other service you have done by an outside source (book design, cover design, etc...).

What you should expect:
  • A contract outlining exactly what your editor will do for you.
  • Dates things are due back to you.
  • The ability to read over the contract before you're expected to sign it.
  • Clauses that prevent you from defaming your editor (and your editor from defaming you).
  • A very straightforward clause that releases your editor from any claim to your work.
  • Something that says your editor is allowed to refuse your work at any time.
  • An out clause for you that states the contract is allowed to be terminated if you choose to do so and at what point it becomes null and void.
  • An informational page that details the book to be worked on.
  • Something stating when payments are due and when the contract is settled.
  • A clause that states you're required to display the editor's name on the copyright page (this is pretty standard).

What you should avoid:
  • Anything stating the editor has claim to any part of your manuscript once work is completed.
  • An editor who doesn't use a contract (this is HUGE).
  • A feeling of unease. If your editor seems shady, listen to your gut.
  • Anyone who doesn't answer you in a timely manner.
  • Someone who changes the price on you EVER. Once you get the job quote, that's what should be on the contract.
  • An editor who's known to slander other authors.
  • Someone who doesn't give you a final, signed copy of your contract.

What you should be looking for:
  • Someone who has lots of references and is well spoken of.
  • An editor who has a backlog of books they've worked on you can check out/read.
  • A person you feel you can trust once you've talked with them.
  • Someone with a good knowledge of the English language (yeah, go read their blog).
  • A copy of the contract as soon as your inquiry is responded to so you have time to look it over.
  • Everything should be spelled out in black and white on your contract. It should include:
  1. Prices (fees section)
  2. Dates things are due (goes in the services section)
  3. Termination details
  4. A detailed list of what you're going to get for your money (services section)
  5. Slander clauses that go both ways
  6. A release of claim by the editor to any part of the work's copyright (ownership of work)
  7. Your editor's full name and address
  8. Details about the book (title, genre, word count, author, format)
  9. A spelling out of all prices (watch out for editing contracts that only contain numbers - these can be changed)
  10. Something that releases the editor of guarantees (sales, etc...)
  11. A clause detailing how the editor won't talk about your work to any third party
  12. Non-transfer clause (this is so the editor can't send the work to anyone else to be completed)
  13. Something detailing how additional changes will be handled (outside what's agreed upon in this contract)

If you read your contract and it's full of legalese, be sure your editor/proofreader/designer answers all your questions in full before you sign. Don't go into anything not understanding exactly what it is you're getting (or signing).

If you find an editor who doesn't use a contract, run away. Please.

I hope this helps you all in some way.

If you have contract questions, pop them into the comments or shoot me an e-mail. I'll be happy to answer anything.

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

Jo

Monday, February 17, 2014

Editors - Good vs Evil

Happy Monday, good people of the blogosphere! I realize you were all probably looking forward to meeting Ms. Allison Pensy today, but I made a last minute decision to push everyone back to the dates they were originally given for their interviews. Ms. Pensy will be here in 2 weeks. I'm super duper busy this week and want to give Allison's interview the attention all my other guests' have gotten. So, today I'm going to talk about editors instead. Grab your pens and notebooks and let's get going!

Over at IBGW, we do a lot for our authors. Not only do we take a book and help it be all that it can be; we also throw a team of editors at it while we're working it and into the promotional stuff once the book goes live. Our authors become like our family members. When the books we work on go live, we watch them like hawks. One thing can be said about every IBGW book: There are no technical flaws in the writing (unless the author rejects some of the changes that are suggested). While people may not love the story between the covers, they can't complain about the grammar.

Our mission: To have the IBGW mark/name represent quality. We want to make it known that if you pick up a book, flip to the copyright page, and see our name there, you can buy the book with confidence.

When you're looking for an editor for your novel, be sure you're in sync with your editor and that they have a proven track record of turning out quality work. How can you be sure? Here are a few tips:
  • Be sure you know which style guide your editor uses and you agree with the rules between the pages (your edit will turn into a headache if you don't). Also, be sure your editor has a style guide they reference and has it listed on their about me page. Anyone who doesn't follow a style guide is going to have trouble giving your book the proper consistency.
  • Ask your editor what books they've edited in the past. Check those books out on Amazon and Goodreads. See what reviewers are saying.
  • Make sure your editor isn't the proofreader on your work. Once you've been through two rounds of edits (or three) your editor is as close to the work as you are and begins to miss things.
  • Is your editor an author? Read their work. Read the reviews on their work. Yeah, it matters.
  • Perhaps most importantly, be sure your editor has a contract and they let you read over it and ask questions before you're expected to sign.
I give you these tips because I'm a reader and Indie author as well as an editor. I can't even begin to say how angry I get when I know a fellow author paid someone a lot of money to have an edit done, and I still find a book full of errors. No, no, no! One or two are common (even in traditionally published books). Those I can ignore.

A good editor will be available to answer your questions about the changes after the work is done. They'll be able to explain any changes made to your novel and why those were done.

Please, for the love of all that's good, vet your editor like you would your child's date. Don't hand over your money willy-nilly.

A good editor won't be cheap. Understand that and be okay with it. Remember the old adage: You get what you pay for. It's as true today as it was when it was coined.

Oh, and don't hire more than one editor to work on your book at once. It shows a lack of confidence in your choice. While you may think it's a good idea, if the person finds out, they may refuse to work with you in the future. Too many chefs in the kitchen makes for an unstable soup.

I hope this post saves someone from a headache.

Tomorrow, we're gonna talk about contracts and what you should be looking for.

Questions? Comment? Epitaphs? Post them below!

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

Jo

Friday, February 14, 2014

Blogs You Need to Read

Happy Friday, good people of the blogosphere! Today I'm bringing you a list of blogs you might want to check out. Some are writing blogs, some are review blogs, and others are all about book design or marketing. So get your clicking fingers ready and let's get going!


First up, I'll give you the writing blogs:
The Hungry Freelancer - A place to go to find tips and tricks on freelancing, author interviews, and book reviews. Great site!
Grammar Girl - If you haven't heard about this blog, I have to ask where you've had your head stuck the last few years. Answers to many writing questions can be found here.
Depression Cookies - This is a writer who self publishes and is one of the editors for IBGW.
Ice Cream for Zombies - All about writing. Gives a plethora of tips on how to, what to, and when to.

Next, we'll go to the review blogs:
Heather's Book Chatter - At least two reviews per week on this awesome little blog (many times you get four!)
b00k r3vi3ws - It's exactly what the name implies. You get tons of book reviews from this site.
Mom in Love With Fiction - Lots of great book reviews here (and the rating is in the title of the post!).
Books by L. K. Evans - Reviews galore and personal stuff on writing, too.
The Kindle Book Review - Bet you've heard of this one, too.
ShhMoms Reading - A review and book tour blog.

Now, on to the marketing and design blogs and sites:
The Book Designer - It's also exactly what the name implies it is. All things book design, all the time.
Ask David - This site promotes books and is awesome at it.
Kindle Publishing for Blogs - Think your blog is awesome? Will folks want to get it delivered to their Kindle? Go here and sign up!


A few other sites you may want to check out:
Share a Rafflecopter giveaway - This page is a form you can fill out to have Rafflecopter share your giveaway!
50 Websites Every Author Should Bookmark - Lots of great stuff here!

So? How about that? Did you all find something new today?

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

Jo

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Style Guide Per Novel

Happy Thursday, good people of the blogosphere! Well, the snowpocalypse is still going strong and I'm considering writing a collection of fictional short stories about things that happened. But that's for another day! Today, I wanna gab about style guides for your novels and why they're important. So, grab your pens and notebooks and let's get going!


First and foremost, we all get an itch now and then to break a writing rule. This is all well and good until you don't break it consistently. For each of your novels, you should have a short list (in a notebook or separate Word document) which details the rules you're breaking or the particulars of your own style.

What the heck am I talking about?

I'll give you an example:
Character A always uses the word wanna rather than want to when speaking.
Character B not only uses want to and never wanna when speaking, but also never puts an S on the end of toward.
Character C is a mother and never, ever curses as one of her quirks.

So you're writing along and you throw the word wanna into Character B's speech. This is totally fine; write on. You feel the need to have Character C and Character B face off with dialogue. It's a heated argument  which the two almost come to blows over.

Suddenly, Character B is saying something about Character C walking backwards out the door. Add to that, she's suddenly in Character B's face, screaming expletives. Still, all good; write on.

Now it's time for editing. Chances are, you're going to catch those expletives and find tamer ways for Character C to say what's on her mind. During the heat of the battle, will you remember to check for that S on the end of backwards?

This is where your style guide will come in handy. Once you're done writing, you can do a quick find and replace on any phrases you've decided the characters will use or any rules you're breaking to check and make sure they're consistent.

When you send your novel to your editor, be sure an attach your style guide. This will help all those involved because the editor can also be sure you're breaking the rules consistently, and they'll know of any particular quirks your characters have and add or remove things as needed.

It doesn't take long to create a style guide. But the payoff is enormous.

If you have certain writing quirks, keep a running list of those, too. I'm an author who doesn't put the S on the end of backward, toward, forward, etc... so I know to do a search for those words when I'm done and be sure I'm consistent.

Make sense?

Good print book formatters keep style guides on the novels they're working on, too. Again, it's all about maintaining consistency.

For I, Zombie, I had a rather extensive style guide. Folks from Southern Louisiana have a particular way of speaking. They tend to leave the G on the words anything, bring, along, and everything, but drop it from nothing, doing, having, and leaving. Since I wanted to be true to the regional dialect, I had to be sure everyone spoke the same way (except when Tammy was on the air). It's quirky, but it's consistent.

Style guides are especially important for series. You can't have Character A suddenly belting out want to in novel three when he hasn't for the last two books.

What's in your personal style guide? Have you ever made one for a specific novel?

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

Jo

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

PoSSeSSive S

Happy Hump-day, everyone! Snow in Georgia again and all the kiddies are out of school. I have to say, I'm more than ready for spring so I can get back to a normal schedule. This weather and being sick last month has really thrown me off. Anyway, enough about all that. Let's move on to today's post about the possessive S. Grab your pens and notebooks and let's get going!


If you aren't familiar with INDIE Books Gone Wild, allow me to share a bit of information with you. Every now and then, one of us posts on that blog about grammar, punctuation, or other little tidbits we find frequent errors revolving around. Before we get to the good stuff here, pop on over there and check out Tia's post on the Apostrophe. Yeah, it matters. Go read that sucker.

Now, I'm a Chicago Manual of Style lady. I have a copy of the 15th edition, and I follow it to the letter when doing an edit. Of course, this causes some of my clients to have small hernias when they don't agree with my edits or they have a style guide that's different from mine (which is totally fine, they should go with what feels right to them). I try to be very clear on our About Us page over on IBGW and state that I use the book I own as a reference. So, today's discussion will be the rules from that style guide.

When you show possession of a singular noun (not the demonic kind), the rule says you add an apostrophe and an S to the end of the word (section 7.17). Examples:
  • Dora's shoes.
  • Kitten's playground.
  • Lola's necklace.
But what if those words end in S?

Well, here's where we get into a bit of a pickle. When choosing names, one usually avoids the ones ending in S so they don't have this conundrum. If you happen to select one that ends in S, how do you handle it? This is where the general guides don't agree.

If you're showing possession of a collective, like a family or group whose names or title of the collective end in S, the solution is easy, you add an apostrophe to the end. Examples:
  • The Huss' house (this is the Huss family).
  • The Picketts' son (this is the Picketts family).
  • Those kittens' meows (more than one kitten).
  • These dogs' leashes (more than one dog).
However, if you have a character who's named Cleatus, how do you show possession?

In section 7.18, page 282 of The Chicago Manual of Style 15th Edition, it states: The general rule covers most proper names, including names ending in s, x, or z, in both their singular and plural forms, as well as letters and numbers. This means writing the name and adding an apostrophe with another S at the end. Examples:
  • I saw Cleatus's sneakers over there.
  • We went to the mall to get Kriss's new purse.
  • I can listen for hours to Venheis's violin.
Now, this is the way it's written out in the guideline. I think, when reading, it keeps me from thinking there's more than one Cleatus who owns sneakers I saw over there, and makes the possessive name read more easily.

All this is great! But...

Yeah, you knew there was a but. *grin*

In section 7.23, there's a suggestion for an alternative usage by simply adding the apostrophe to the end of the name. While easier to remember and apply, I think it reads with a clunky timbre. But, try it both ways and see what works for you. This goes back to Tia's post I mentioned above, where she talks about Strunk and White.

Before we wrap this post on possessive S up, I'd like to remind you of another rule of possession you may not be familiar with. Section 7.24 talks about more than one noun. When mutually exclusive, both nouns get an apostrophe S. If both are owning the same item, only the second named gets the punctuation. Examples:
  • My daughter-in-law and son's house.
  • Our niece and nephew's car.
  • or
  • My ex daughter-in-law's and son's houses.
  • Our niece's and nephew's cars.
Seems a lot of stress rests on the S.

How can you avoid this when writing fiction? Easy: Choose names that don't end in S when you're making your list.

I hope you all enjoyed our little lesson for today. If you have questions, comments, or otherwise, feel free to pop them into the comments section.

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

Jo

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Book Review - The Memory Witch

Happy Tuesday, good people of the blogosphere! Today I bring you another book review from my extensive TBR list that was created to support the endeavors of Indie Fever 2014. What's Indie Fever? Well, it's a collaborative of readers who get together and read Indie books all year and write reviews. There are many different levels to sign up at! You can see them all here. I invite you to join the reviewer roster, read Indie books until your eyeballs ache, and write some reviews. It's easy; just decide how many books you're going to review, add your name to the linky list, and get busy. Not interested in reviewing but love to read reviews? Check out the reviews written by members here. Grab your comfy chair and let's get going!

First, a little about the book on the butcher block today!

Title: The Memory Witch
Author: Heather Topham Wood
Genre: Young Adult (I think it's maybe supposed to be New Adult) Urban Fantasy
Length (Print): 230 pages
Links to Purchase: Amazon Kindle $7.99 B&N (paperback) $12.98

Synopsis: Ten years ago, Quinn Jacobs’ mother made a bargain with a local witch—steal away Quinn’s memories from the first eight years of her life and in return, Quinn would spend a year in servitude to the witch.

On Quinn’s eighteenth birthday, she’s forced to leave her home and friends behind. For the next year, she’ll live at the Chadwick House, learning everything she needs to know about being a spellcaster. As her powers grow, Quinn begins to unravel the secrets of the past and the reason her mother was so desperate to conceal the horrifying truth.

~                  ~                   ~

*Will not appear in review elsewhere*
Let me start off by saying how much I LOVE the cover for this book. I did a look inside over on Amazon and I wish the inside matched the cover awesomeness. Even the chapter lead-ins done in the same font as the cover would've given it that little something extra. Being a lover of great typography and a graphic designer, I'm a huge fan of those gems I find in interior design when checking out the preview of a print book I enjoyed on Kindle. All that being said, I don't knock off points in a review for the cover of the book; I just like talking about them. *grin*

On to the good stuff!

I grabbed this title during my 12 Days of Christmas party, that special time of year when I stock my Kindle with books I intend to review over the next twelve months. Heather is an author whose work I love reading and she showed up with a pitch for The Memory Witch I couldn't say no to (I've also been sitting on pins and needles waiting for this title to hit the shelves). So, I popped on over to Amazon and ponied up the dough. I have to say, I'm glad I did. While Amazon has this categorized as Teen and Young Adult, I don't think it's appropriate for those under the age of sixteen/seventeen because of some graphic scenes. But, enough rambling, let's get to the review.

From a Reader's Perspective:
I loved the main character, Quinn. Wood has such a unique way of painting her characters so the reader can identify with them, I really enjoy delving into the mind of a new one she comes up with. That being said, Quinn seemed a bit prudish to me. According to the book, she's eighteen and a member of the dying breed known as virgins. That doesn't bother me so much, but her actions during the story threw me for a loop a time or two. I was left scratching my head and asking, "Why?" But the premise of the story and the pacing (which was wonderful and fast) made me care less about the questionable morals of a teen and more about what secrets would be unraveled during the course of the tale. I was hooked. Magic, a father Quinn can't remember, and an unanswered mystery about the past kept my eyeballs riveted to the pages. You'll cringe a number of times when the author gets to some very graphic scenes, but she wrote them well. Details were horrifying. Either way, I adored the story and stayed up late to finish it. Can't wait for the second installment! Let's move on to talk about the writing.

From an Editor's Perspective:
I waited on this novel for so stinking long, I thought I'd get the best of the best of the best (Sir! With honors!) as far as writing goes. Well, not so much. As anyone who reads my reviews knows, I mark errors as I go (it's an editor/proofreader thing). I found over seventy errors. Not misplaced pronouns or comma drops, but errors like: "I hadn't stay up hours each night..." and "...dating back almost thousand years." or "A startled sound broke into..." Needless to say, my head landed in my hand a lot. This isn't the norm for Ms. Wood. These errors didn't fudge with the story, but they were noticeable and did make my mind stutter over the words.

Rating:
+ 1 Star for a great reveal
+ 1 Star for pacing (fast)
+ 1 Star for the well written magic and horror scenes
+ 1 Star for hooking me with a world I felt could exist
- 1 Star for editing
Overall, 4 out of 5 stars. A highly recommended read if you love fantasy, magic, and curses.

Join me next week for a review of The Bestiarum Vocabulum (a collection of beastly short stories).

I hope you all enjoyed that review. If you've read it, what did you think? If not, will you take a chance on it?

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

Jo

Monday, February 10, 2014

A Guest Post by Carlyle Labuschagne

Happy Friday, good people of the blogosphere! Today, I have with me author Carlyle Labuschagne with a guest post on why it's important to read when you're a writer, and how it changed her life. Carlyle is the author of Evanescent and The Broken Destiny, as well as being one of the authors attending UtopYA Con 2014 in June. If you don't have tickets to that event yet, click the name to buy yours soon. So grab your pens and notebooks and let's get going!

Reading and Writing and How it Changed My Life
by Carlyle Labuschagne

Thank you Jo for having me on as guest today, I am absolutely thrilled.

Why is it so important to read as a writer?

Books are very much an addiction to many. I read because I enjoy it, but as a writer I learn a lot from other books and authors. As many might know, English is not my first language, so by reading as much as I can – I learn the way of the English language. It is also good to see what is out there, what grabs at you and what you can bring differently than others. There are an abundant of gifted Authors I have read and yet to read. I am one of those readers who are swept away totally by a read. I am there within every book I read. My imagination allows for it. I think we are addicted to our imaginations more than anything, but what would our imaginations be without reading and for the talented Authors to ignite it for us? Books to me are a work of art, they are feelings, thoughts, and souls between the pages of books.

I write because I want to understand others as well as myself. I first started expressing myself at a very young age though poems, song writing. But finally found my true passion. Novel writing. My first novel The Broken Destiny is as I am sure many authors can relate to, is a combination of my experiences my world and the world inside my head, understanding myself as well as others , and feeding the passion. A almost craving for the feeling that writing has brought me. I have overcome the biggest obstacle of my life – to believe in myself , to prove myself to no one but myself of what I am capable of. To be a hard worker and enjoy it. To see things through.

Through writing I have learnt a lot about myself. Finally being able to move on from my mistakes. The Broken Destiny is about a girl who has to find her true self to unleash her Destiny towards greatness. Every person has good and bad, and everything comes down to a choice, and sometimes making the wrong choice is actually the write choice at the time - To grow, to learn - To love yourself. The only person who can hurt you is you. You are your worst enemy. Don’t change who you are for the sake of satisfying others, in the end it hurts only you. Your path is one of greatness and being true to yourself is the greatest gift you can give yourself and others. But it is often only through experiencing who you are not to know who you are. To know the light you have to have experienced the dark. But always remember everything you go through, no matter how hard - is for a reason. Writing gives me great pleasure and satisfaction. Writing heals.

My desire for everyone is to find that one thing and go for it, no matter how impossible it may seem at the time, you will never know if you don’t try, and once you have tried you will know you can never be without it. If you have a passion, you can perform deeds you never thought you were capable of.

~ Don’t be crippled by fear. Let love and passion give you wings ~ The Broken Destiny
Happy writing all
~Carlyle Labuschagne

I couldn't have said it better myself, Carlyle! Inspiring words.

If you'd like to check out Ms. Labuschagne's books, you can find The Broken Destiny here on Amazon as well as Evanescent here.

Thanks for stopping by and be sure to enter the rafflecopter giveaway to win!
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Got questions or comments? Pop them down below!

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

Jo

Friday, February 7, 2014

What's in a Name?

Happy Friday, good people of the blogosphere! Oh, man, the weekend is right around the corner. I know you can smell it. Here's hoping everyone has a wonderful Saturday and Sunday! Today, I'm going to talk with you a little about naming your characters and why any old name won't (and shouldn't) do. So, grab your pens and notebooks and let's get going!

When naming characters, there are a few things you should always be mindful of:
  • Is the name difficult to say/read?
  • Does the name have more than two syllables?
  • What does the name mean?
  • Do any of the names sound too similar?
  • How many of the names begin with the same letter?
  • What does the last name say about the heritage of the character?
A lot of authors make a name swipe list for minor characters that run from A-Z. Time is spent gathering names that sound different from one another and those are organized in alphabetical order. When the author needs a new name, they simply pull out the list, choose one of the names, and mark it off. That way, they're guaranteed not to have too many characters whose names sound alike. This is a great plan! Do it! However...

In my humble opinion, you should also look into what every one of them means and write it next to the name in your swipe file. For example, the meaning of the name Trixie (MC in I, Zombie) is "bringer of joy," Bronya (Mystic, book one) means "strength," and Stormy (MC in The Bird) means "impetuous nature." Those names fit the personalities of my characters because I took the time to do the research. Guess what? It didn't take me long at all.

How did I discover that information and think to use those names in my books?

Well, there's a super secret website that I'm gonna share with you in a moment where you can search by name, meaning, number of syllables, gender, or first letter.

Yes! I'm actually telling you someone took the time to help authors out and give us a place where we can find hundreds of thousands of names at the click of a mouse.

What is it? BabyNames.com

Click on advanced search and get your happy on.

I know, you all just groaned inwardly. But this is one of the best resources I've found for character names. I wouldn't want a meek, confused girl to be named Bronya or Stormy. Just like I wouldn't want either of those characters to have a name like Naomi, which means "gentle."

Yes, readers will pick up on that. Even if they don't know it right away, they'll feel something is off if they're reading about Naomi kicking butt and shooting bad guys.

Thought I'd share!

Did any of you know about this site before today? Did you use it? What gems did you find?

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

Jo

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Excerpt! Sneak Peek at Mystic ~ Markaza

Hello and happy Thursday, good people of the blogosphere! Today I'm giving you all a sneak peek into the pages of Mystic ~ Markaza, the sixth and final book of the series. It's been outrageously popular (especially since I released the five in one book) and I've had a few messages from readers asking when Markaza will be released. Answer: I'm going to try to have it out before UtopYA Con in June of this year. I have a good bit of it written and am almost to the point where the big baddie begins to cause trouble for the world. This one is a full length novel, so it's taking me a little longer.

After all, we have to have some burning questions answered before the girls can fight! What the heck will their powers be used for? You'll have to wait and see. But, here's a snippet for all those who've been asking. Kindly remember it's unedited and a NEW ADULT novel. There's some strong language in here. Grab a cup of coffee, relax in your chair, and get to reading. I hope you enjoy it.

This is for those of you who read chapter one of Markaza in the back of the last book, Coralie. It's around 3200 words so be prepared to read for more than a minute.


Chapter Two ~ Happy Birthday!

Markaza woke up screaming. Her vision from the night before paralyzing her body as the horrors replayed through her head.

Sunny was standing on the tarmac at a small airfield, watching the instructor show them how they’d be tethered to the seasoned skydiver. Her face was lit up; eyes sparkling with excitement.
 
Markaza was inside Sunny, feeling everything she felt. Her thoughts were as clear as a summer sky.

When the instructor showed the girls where the straps would go and how their tandem partner would have to hold on, her heart leapt in her chest. What a thrill it would be to have her body strapped so tightly to his! Antsy, her mind playing out sexy scenarios, she bounced from foot-to-foot, not hearing half of what was being said.

He paused. “Sunny, are you listening?”

“Yes.” No!

“Okay, let’s continue.” His lecture went on for another ten minutes before he finally told the girls to get their harnesses on and follow him.

Sunny stepped into hers and buckled the straps like she thought she remembered seeing the hot instructor do it. Satisfied she was good to go, she sauntered over to her friend. “Holy hell he’s hot! Which one of us do you think will get to be strapped on to that?”

The friend giggled. “Maybe you will. It’s so cool of your mom to sign us up for this!”

“Right? I’m so excited!” Sunny’s feet went into a tap-dance as she waited for the others.

Once everyone was geared up, they followed the instructor to a place where a group of young men were waiting.

Her heart started beating double-time. These dudes were as good-looking as the one who showed them how to get into the gear! She smiled and locked eyes with a boy who had brown hair that was almost shoulder-length, warm green eyes, and a perfect set of teeth. He smiled back and she felt her face grow warm at the contact.

They were assigned their jump partners and, as luck would have it, Sunny ended up with the one she’d been eying.

He approached slowly, looking like a bronzed god, and her brain played scenes from every romantic movie she’d ever seen.

“Hi,” he said.

“Hey.” She wanted to slap her forehead for being lame.

“You excited about the jump?”

She nodded, feeling like if she talked, she’d sound stupid.

While the other team members were getting ready, Sunny and her jump partner sat down and chatted. She found out he was seventeen and had already made twenty jumps solo.

“Yeah, I just fell in love with it from the first time. This is only my second go-round with tandem, but I’m sure glad I’ll get to wrap my arms around you.” His gaze was smoldering and her ability to talk whooshed right out of her again.

All she could do was smile while her inner-goddess danced and sang a happy song.

They climbed into the plane and everyone sat down for takeoff. He reached over and grabbed her hand, caressing her thumb with his own as they rolled down the runway.

Roaring of the propeller was drowned out by her heartbeat echoing in her ears.

They reached jumping altitude and everyone was buckled to their partners. When he put his arms around her, she melted back into him. Instructions were being shouted over the din of the engine, but all she heard was his whispered words. “You smell so good.”

At once, the door was opened and the first pair of jumpers dove out. Screams of the young lady wafted back through the door as she experienced the first tingles of free-fall.

Sunny was shuffled to the opening. “Don’t be scared. I got you.” He had to yell because of the rushing wind, but she was grateful for the reassurance.

She leaned over and looked down. Squealing, she jumped backward, making him stumble a little.
He put his hand over hers and pulled her tightly to him. When the boss yelled, “Go!” they tumbled out into the open air.

Wind.

Warmth.

His strong arms around her body.

Her hair blowing around her face.

Blue skies and fluffy, white clouds as far as she could see.

Brown and green landscapes, broken only by the appearance of the white dot of a house now and then.

It was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen.

When he squeezed her, she fell a little in love with him and her entire body tingled. Adrenalin rushed through her veins, causing her to scream, “Woooohoooooo!” It was a welcome release.

She could hear him laughing as he let go of her so he could pull the ripcord.

A jerk.

Pain searing through her inner-thighs.

Suddenly, she was falling again. She couldn’t feel him near her anymore and she grew cold. Her body began to flip and bend in awkward ways as the speeding wind abused it.

A scream ripped from her throat as she plummeted toward the ground; completely out of control. Her heart did flips inside her body and caused her throat to constrict. Then, everything went quiet except the rushing sound of the wind and her jumpsuit flapping. I’m going to die.

She quit fighting and was flipped upside down just in time to see the ground as it rushed at her face.

Her body slammed into it like a bullet into a target.

Markaza buried her face in her hands and screamed again; letting her feelings flow out with the sound. Death. The word consumed her mind and she recognized the agonizing fear for what it was. Never had she been in the body of the person who died. She began to shake so hard, the bed banged against the wall as it moved with her tremors.

Her mother rushed in, gathering the girl up, trying to console her. “What happened?”

“I… I… Where’s Nancy?” Markaza screamed.

“I don’t know! Can’t I do anything?” Her mother screamed in return, flapping her arms like a penguin’s wings.

“No! Get her! Find her! Ahhhhhhhhhhhh!” Only Nancy would listen and not have Markaza committed for what she saw.

An agonizing five minutes passed, during which she collapsed to the floor and cried, letting the sobs tear from her lips, not caring who heard.

Nancy arrived and sat down on the floor. “What is it, child? What did you see this time?”

Markaza threw herself into the woman’s lap, wrapping both arms around her waist. “Oh my God it was horrible! Nancy, we have to do something!”

Rocking the distraught child, Nancy used an even voice when she spoke. “Calm down. I can’t understand you when you’re hysterical.”

Markaza gulped for air, taking it in like she was being suffocated. Her stomach settled as her hair was stroked. “Sunny died.”

“Baby, you’ve seen these kinds of things every year since you were just a little thing. What was different this time?”

“I was inside her head. I saw what she saw; felt what she felt. I died, too,” Markaza whispered. She pushed back and began to tremble again. It started deep in her belly and radiated out through her limbs, causing her words to come through chattering teeth. “She went skydiving and got severed from her partner when he pulled the chute open. We hit the ground… What do I do?”

“Oh my God.” Nancy’s eyes were wide and blank, her lips were pressed together, and her hand flitted up to touch her forehead. “I’m so sorry. I can’t imagine…”

“It was horrible.” Rapid breathing ensued and Markaza could feel she was losing her grip again. “What do I do? If I call her, she’ll think I’m a freak! She’s the only friend I have.”

“Let me think. Just try to calm down, okay? We’ll figure it out.” Nancy pulled the girl back up and embraced her. “Shhhh…”

They rocked for a long time. Markaza felt her body relax; sure the woman would know what to do next. After all, she’d saved almost everyone for the last six years.

“Okay, I’m gonna call Sunny’s mom. I’ll tell her you said Sunny was going skydiving but we decided to have a party for you and were wondering if she could come. That’s all I can do.”

Markaza nodded. “That sounds like a good plan. But what if her mother says no?”

“Then you’ll have to call Sunny and hope she listens.”

A knot of dread tied itself around her body, holding her prisoner, but she agreed.

Nancy pulled out her cell phone, got the number from the rolodex on the office desk, and dialed Sunny’s mother.

“Hi, this is Nancy, I work for the Turner family?

“Yes, hi there. I’m calling because it’s Markaza’s thirteenth birthday today and we’ve decided to throw her a party. I was wondering if Sunny—

“Yes, I realize this is late notice and she did tell me Sunny was—

“Yes, ma’am. I understand. I’m sorry to have bothered you.”

Markaza’s heart was bouncing around like it had been put on a trampoline. Looking at Nancy’s face when she hung up and turned, Markaza knew she’d have to call and sound like a crazy person. After pulling her thoughts together, she picked up the phone and dialed Sunny’s cell number.

“Hey, girl! How are you?” Sunny sounded like she was smiling.

Markaza took a deep breath to steady her nerves. “I’m okay. Hey, I was thinking about having a birthday party today. I know I said I wasn’t going to, but I thought maybe you could blow off that thing you were going to and come see me instead!”

“There’s no way you’re asking me to blow off skydiving to come to a party you just decided to put together, right?” Sunny laughed. “Have you gone crazy?”

“No. I just thought you might be able to re-schedule.”

“What is it? Are you jealous because I didn’t invite you to come?”

Girls could be heard giggling in the background.

“No.” Markaza’s heart sank.

“Then why bother suddenly throwing yourself a party that you know I can’t come to because I have plans?”
“I… I thought, maybe…”

“Seriously, what’s really going on? Can’t I do anything without you?”

“I saw you die while you were skydiving!” The words flew from Markaza’s mouth before she could stop them.

“Oh my God! You’ll resort to anything! Girls, listen to this: Markaza says she saw me die while I was skydiving.”

Giggles echoed in the background again and someone shouted, “What a freak!”

Markaza’s blood boiled.

Sunny laughed and snorted. “You’re so lame. Go have your stupid party with no one there. I’m out.”
“Fine! When your fucking head slams into the ground, remember I tried to warn you, bitch!” Markaza’s phone beeped, signaling the call had been ended. She looked up, tears streaming down her face. “She wouldn’t listen. I lost my temper. What can I do now?”

“I was afraid that was going to happen,” Nancy said.

“Oh, you have no idea what I just did to myself. Now those cows in the car will tell everyone at school what happened. If Sunny dies today, I’ll be a freak show. Not to mention I’ll be losing someone I thought was my friend.” Markaza started to shake again. “Guess I just did that anyway. Why does this stuff happen to me? What did I do to deserve this curse?”

“You can’t look at it that way. Instead, think about all the people you’ve saved with your gift.”

“Funny thing; I don’t think they ever would’ve been in danger if it wasn’t for me. It seems the people I love the most are the ones who get hurt.”

“I’m still here and in one piece.” Nancy smiled.

Markaza shuddered. “Yeah, and I’m trying to work out why that is. Of all the people I care about the deepest, you, Mom, and Dad seem to all be immune.” She let out a sigh. “It’s weird. You’d think you three would be among the first to get hurt.”

Nancy laughed. “You sure have a way of making people nervous. Don’t jinx me, okay?”

“Okay. Sorry. This thing with Sunny has my head all messed up.”

“You did what you could. So did I. If people won’t listen that’s not our fault.” Nancy brushed Markaza’s hair back. “Why don’t I bring you something to help you sleep? You can pass the day that way. You need to calm down; your face is still all flushed.”

“You’re right. Okay. Thanks.”

Nancy returned a few minutes later with some pills and a glass of water.

Markaza downed them and crawled back into bed.

“You want me to stay until you fall asleep?”

“No. I’ll be okay.” An odd numb feeling had taken over her body and she wondered if she was experiencing shock. “I love you.”

“I love you, too. Get some sleep.” Nancy left, closing the door softly.

Markaza could hear her mother arguing with the woman in the hallway. They were doing their best to whisper, but the walls carried the sound.

“What’s wrong with her?”

“Nothing. She just had a scary dream.”

“Is she going on about those stupid visions again? I hear you two talking sometimes; you really shouldn’t encourage her.”

“I help her try to deal with what she sees. I don’t know if any of it’s real, but she believes it is, and I’m going with the assumption she’s not crazy.” Nancy’s voice got rough and low, like she was getting angry.

“I’m taking her to a psychiatrist. She needs help.”

“You do whatever you think you have to. She’s your daughter.”

“Yes, she is. You might remember that.”

Everything went quiet and Markaza fell asleep, the drugs making her feel heavy and peaceful.

Banging on the door roused her from her slumber.

“Markaza, wake up! Get out here!” It was Mom. She was having a fit.

Markaza ground the sleep out of her eyes and rolled out of bed. Her head spun and she sat back down.
“Are you up?”

“Hang on a second! My head is spinning!” After a moment she was able to walk to the door and pull it open.
Her mother was completely disheveled. Hair that was usually perfectly coiffed stood in every direction and mascara streaks—that for some reason went right into the wrinkles—marred her face, making her look really old. With her eyes as big as hula-hoops, she leaned down and whispered, “You have to come see what’s on television.” Alcohol wafted from her body and caused Markaza to gag.

“Geeze, Mom, how much have you had to drink?”

“Not nearly enough. Come on.” Mom grabbed Markaza by the hand and dragged her to the living room. “Look at that. It’s on every channel.”

A reporter was holding papers in his hand and looking at the camera with a gloomy expression. “It seems to have been incorrectly used equipment that cost this young woman her life.”

They cut to a video where a tiny figure could be seen plummeting from the sky.

“Her tandem partner said the buckles weren’t fastened properly. You can see in the video how she’s jerked up for a moment when the chute opens, but falls away from him when it begins to slow their descent. Let’s watch it again.”

It was rewound and played back, this time showing the entire grisly scene. When the parachute opened, the figure was flung away from the body it was attached to and went spiraling out of control before slamming head-first into the ground.

“They say her name was Sunny Carter, daughter of James and Melanie Carter. She was fourteen years old. We’ll bring updates as the investigation…”

Markaza fled down the hallway and dry-heaved over the toilet before passing out on the tile.

***

“When I woke up, my mother asked me if Sunny’s death is what I’d seen. I told her it was and I ended up at a psychiatrist’s office that same night. He put me on a bunch of pills that made me groggy and skewed my visions. I went months feeling like a zombie. I’m kinda surprised I didn’t walk around moaning and drooling all over myself. It was the first time I was heavily medicated for what they called depression.” Markaza paused and blew her nose. “Who the hell wouldn’t be freaked out? Geesh. Because of that little fiasco, I was bullied at school so badly, my parents had to pull me out and send me somewhere else.

“That’s how I ended up at Her Majesty’s Other Preparatory Academy—which we New Yorkers lovingly call Hemop. Those years were some of the best and the worst of my life.”

“So your mom thought you were crazy because you saw the death of someone and had the gumption to try and stop it?” Lily’s voice rose as she asked the question.

Markaza nodded.

“That’s more like hero stuff, in my opinion. What a bitch!”

“Yeah, well, she didn’t really understand, did she?”

“Still. Argh!”

“How about we take a little break before I get into life at Hemop?”

Everyone agreed and Markaza ordered dinner to be sent up. Nancy pushed a cart into the room an hour later.

All the girls hugged the woman and thanked her for being awesome.

She smiled at them. “Markaza’s been telling her tales, I see. You ladies doing okay?”

“We are,” answered Melody. “Thank you so much.”

“Good.” Nancy turned. “Markaza, we need to talk. It’ll wait until tomorrow, but I wanted to let you know.” Her voice lowered. “It’s about your mother.”

“Okay. I’ll come down first thing in the morning. Thanks.” Markaza hugged the woman and ushered her out the door. “See you soon!”

After they ate dinner, they gathered in the living room once again with a huge pot of coffee and a tray of fruit and veggies; courtesy of Nancy.

“Where was I?” Markaza asked.

“Ooh! You were gonna tell us about the shrink, the meds, and life at Hemop.” Coralie was sitting forward, looking eager for more. “I’ve heard of that school. Always wondered what it was really like.” She grinned.
“I promise not to leave out any of the gritty details.”

“Great!”

Melody swatted Coralie on the leg. “Shhhhh! Go on, Markaza.”

“Hemop is the priciest school in New York State and is K through twelve. My parents were trying to avoid sending me there, because they wanted me to hobnob with more ‘down to earth’ kids—or so they said. Let me tell you, Mom and Dad weren’t crazy. Those were some of the strangest teenagers I’ve ever met.
“It was like they’d never been real kids and were born as adults. They had perfect hair, perfect clothing, and perfect grades. I went to school with the president’s daughter, the vice-president’s son, and tons of movie star offspring.

“Because I started in sixth grade, everyone wanted to know where I came from the minute I set foot in the door. It was like I was famous.

“I also got my first period right before I transferred. Talk about dealing with a lot of shit! Ha!

“Of course, it didn’t take me long to realize, if I was going to survive, I had to pretend to be something I wasn’t.”

~ End of preview

 If you enjoyed that, consider picking up the Mystic Anthology of books 1-5. It's just $3 over on Amazon and you get over 100k words for your money. Plus, you'll get to read chapter one of Markaza!

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

Jo

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Book Review - Masked Encounters

Happy Hump-day, good people of the blogosphere! Today I bring you yet another book review from the Indie Fever Reading Challenge 2014. I'm slowly but surely making my way through the list. If you'd like to join in the fun, click here, fill out the linky thing, and grab the badge from the sidebar. Indie Fever is all about reading and reviewing great Indie books.


My list for 2014 (in no particular order):

Rebecca Trogner The Last Keeper's Daughter Amazon Kindle $7.99
Scott Marlowe The Five Elements Amazon Kindle $2.99
L.K. Evans Keepers of Arden: The Brothers Volume 1 REVIEW HERE
Sarah Mäkelä The Witch Who Cried Wolf Amazon Kindle $0.99
Felicia Tatum Masked Encounters REVIEW BELOW
Peprah Boasiako The Hitman Amazon Kindle $0.9
David T Griffith The Bestiarum Vocabulum Amazon Kindle $3.99
C. S. Janey Surrender To You Amazon Kindle $2.51
Thaddeus White Sir Edric's Temple REVIEW HERE
Gloria Piper Finnegan's Quest Amazon Kindle $4.99
Elle Todd The Elect Amazon Kindle $2.99
Heather Topham Wood The Memory Witch Amazon Kindle $7.99
N. L. Greene Illusions Begin REVIEW HERE
J. A. Huss Tragic REVIEW HERE
Morgan Wylie Silent Orchids Amazon Kindle **FREE**
Laura Howard The Forgotten Ones Amazon Kindle $2.99
Pauline Creeden Sanctuary Amazon Kindle $0.99
Casey Bond Winter Shadows Amazon Kindle $7.99
Casey Bond Devil Creek REVIEW HERE
Skylar Hamilton Burris The Strange Marriage of Anne de Bourgh Amazon Kindle $2.99
Christina Marie Morales Ambience Amazon Kindle $0.99
Tamar Hela Feast Island Amazon Kindle $2.99
Molly Taggart Off Target Amazon Kindle $2.99
S. G. Daniels The Druid's Doorway Amazon Kindle $3.99
Misty Provencher The Fly House Amazon Kindle $0.99

Now, let's get into the book on the chopping block today!

Title: Masked Encounters (Intoxicating Passion #1)
Author: Felicia Tatum
Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance
Length (print): 44 pages
Buy Link: Amazon Kindle $0.99

Synopsis: Korah Daniels has been through a lot in her nineteen years. Broken hearts, abusive relationships, and horrid dates have caused her to doubt love. When her friend talks her into attending the local frat house’s Halloween party, will she find the one person who can change her outlook on life?

Dane Davidson is the worst kind of playboy. The ultimate frat boy, drinking and ending up with a different girl every night. When his frat house throws a masked Halloween party, a certain angel catches his attention and may just turn his life upside down.

Masked Encounters is the first in a five part novelette series.


I think the cover fits the contents perfectly! It's enchanting and clandestine, like the characters. But let's move on to the really important stuff, shall we?

I snagged this book after I checked out a sample on Amazon. Felicia Tatum pitched the title to me during my 12 days of Christmas party and I really got into it. Needless to say, I picked up a copy pretty quickly when I hit the last page and was left screaming, "Noooo! Not yet!" I read it in an hour or so and will now give you my review.


From a Reader's Perspective:
I liked the main characters, Korah and Dane. It was obvious each had their fair share of pain the in past, and a novella was the perfect way to introduce the two. Masked Encounters is a quick read with a lot of action and college-age angst between the sexes. There are a couple of graphic scenes that bordered on erotica but they never played out "just because." It seems the main characters needed the interactions to happen and the reader needed to see/feel exactly what was going on during the act(s). That being said, there's plenty of good stuff for a series starter and the characters are well developed for this to be a novella. I'll be checking out the other books in the series because I want to find out what happens between these two.


From an Editor's Perspective:
There are a couple of tense hops in the beginning of the story that left me scratching my head until I worked through them. Other than those, the editing was pretty good. I did find a couple of minor errors. Here's a funny one: ...I shared with Leela and Windi, I slid my shoes off hoping they wouldn't hear me enter. Again, this is a pronoun mix-up. They is referring to shoes, not the roommates like it should be.


Rating:
+1 Star for giving me a fast, interesting read that left me wanting more
+1 Star for well developed characters despite the length of the book
+1 Star for making me actually care what happened to the characters
+1 Star for a great plot (so far)
+.25 Stars for not writing "those" scenes just because
-.75 Stars for the tense hops, making for a slow start
Overall, 4.25 stars! A highly recommended read if you want to lounge and indulge in something that will read fast and hold your attention.


I hope you all enjoyed that review! Next week, I'll be reviewing The Memory Witch by Heather Topham Wood. You don't wanna miss that one!


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


Jo