Random Sunday

OK, I postponed the randomness because I messed up dates for the latest interview. Meh. Fried brain in this heat. Glad I met Laxmi, though!  Sorry. So, for the randomness – some reading and a movie!

World cinema again! I had it on my ToBuy list and it was graciously offered in Italian newsagents courtesy of Ciak magazine this month, so I bought it. Et maintenant on va où? apparently started like Spurlock’s Where in the world… – the writer director on the verge of parenthood thought about the future of his/her unborn child. In this case, she was pregnant during religious struggles in Lebanon. So, it’s the eternal fight between Christians and Muslims (see My name is Khan), but this time the women step in. It’s a Lebanese movie, but it might as well be Bollywood – they call it a “musical”. Not really, although there are a couple of songs for the romantic subplot. And I absolutely love this song (the reason why I wanted to watch it in the first place, LOL! Sorry I couldn’t find it with English subtitles)!

The movie has humor, sadness and shows another place. World cinema recommended for everyone – stop silly religious struggles, no God EVER asked to kill whoever doesn’t follow the same precepts/rites that you do!

I read The Lair of the Jaguar God because it deals with were-jaguars. I’m not a fan of werevolves – but was curious to read about other kinds of therianthropy. Besides, this book is also hot M/M romance, so it was a fun ride. It didn’t gave me any ideas for my own were-animal (in sci-fi, so he’s called a mutant, LOL), but it was good nevertheless. Pity for the bad editing provided by the publisher. Oh, and I’m not saying for how many months it had been sitting on my Kindle! 😉

Another Blog Hop win is Scarlet and the White Wolf – which is book one of a trilogy. Now, for those of you familiar with yaoi scene, this is really an uke/seme story, from the look of the characters (short, young, dark-haired uke, tall, older, fair-haired seme) to probably the execution – they meet, they hate each other, but they’re meant for each other, so we already know where they’re headed. It’s Jason Mink and Ricky in a fantasy setting. OK, Ai No Kusabi (the novels) is longer (and I’m still waiting for volume 7, that comes out in September. I might actually give up and just remember the much shorter OVA). I might read the other two books in this series when my TBR pile goes down a little. But I’m actually sick of Yaoi storylines and would rather read real gay literature instead! 😉

Final Blog Hop win is Caged – #2 in a series. Not that it mattered that it’s book 2, mind you. Mixed feelings (and not because it’s erotica – so don’t read it if you’re not eighteen, LOL). I like the story, but at the same time it had a very slow beginning and the characters felt very stereotyped (especially the parents) – sometimes falling in the “too stupid to live” category that is normally used in fantasy. And it also felt like a sci-fi story unless the whole world turned gay while I was not looking – I know they usually stick to their peers, but there was no trace of straight relatives or friends in this story. AND being Italian, I had problems with the guy called after a town + at some point I was wondering where he was because he was looking at the “ocean” outside of his window and there’s no ocean in Tucson,AZ nor it Italy (the Mediterranean is a SEA, not an ocean. Not big enough to be called ocean. That’s why we use WINDsurfs – or used to in the 1980s. You can tell I don’t go to the beach much, huh?). So that’s why I hesitate to read the other books in the series, especially if they’re actually set it Italy (as apparently is #1). But I did like the story in spite of the “heavy” parts with rape and torture (I skipped more the sooo-romantic ones, actually, haha) so I’ll wait and see if I want to read more of this series. Maybe I should just stick to the author and ignore all books set in Italy or with (co-called) Italian characters! 🙂

And because it’s so darn hot I’d rather procrastinate writing, I spent yesterday afternoon drawing. So here go the results…

Hritik – color pencils (Caran d’Ache)

Keanu – black pencils + gouache (black & white)


Book review and author interview – Nora Weston

I won her book, The Twelfth Paladin, at a giveaway, and she’s also a member of Creative Reviews.

A little slow paced for my tastes, a little too preachy, sort of repetitive and sometimes confusing with the sudden introduction of third person point of view (omniscient) in chapter twelve. A bad editor didn’t really help – and I’m mentioning it only because it’s a small publisher (if one goes to a publisher, big or small, and don’t get any editing, one might as well self-publish and keep all the earnings, right?). Not my cup of tea, I guess. But if you like angels and demons – and Harleys and happy endings – you can check it! I give it 3 stars.

Now having started a correspondence with the author who is a wonderful person, I got curious about how she came up with the story and the likes, so I sent her my usual questions… hence, ladies and gents, please welcome Nora Weston!

1. Where do you live and write from?

Currently, I live in Michigan, but I’m from Wheeling, West Virginia. My husband’s job requires us to move a lot, so I’ve been lucky to meet amazing people in a handful of states. I can pack up a family of eight…plus two dogs, faster than you can imagine!

2. When did you start writing?

Sad to say, my writing career began in my high school math classes. I know, I should’ve paid attention, but that was simply not possible since my characters beckoned from afar. Anything that related to writing or history held my interest, but geometry, statistics, and chemistry in a twisted way inspired, or maybe provoked me to daydream. Yes! I wish I had paid better attention in high school, because college would’ve been much easier.

3. What genre(s) do you write?

My writing is mainly science fiction, horror, and fantasy. Since I have six kids, I tend to like stories that pull me away into supernatural realms where no laundry rooms exist. Escaping reality is all good! Every so often, I’ll have a nonfiction piece published concerning kids, especially teenagers. Internet safety for kids is a huge topic I like to write about and discuss.

4. Where do you find your inspiration? Do you put yourself in your stories?

I’m inspired by chaos…like when people are tempted to let go of commonsense, causing them to fall into dangerous situations, by the ability of some people to love unconditionally—and by those who seemingly cannot love at all, and by hope. I don’t give up easily on anyone or anything and know people can change. Do I put myself in my stories? Occasionally, a habit or obsession of mine (like an incessant craving for donuts and Twizzlers) will enter the plot, lol—but I’m not like any of my characters too much. If I were like my characters, they would probably charge me a small fortune for the nonsense they’d have to do!

5. Do you have a specific writing routine?

Ah, a writing routine. Yes, if writing at night, when the rest of my town is probably sleeping, is a routine, then I do. That so-called routine is never for the same amount of time, and is frequently interrupted by things I still can hardly believe. Once, when I was just about to complete a story, called Silence of Indigo, high winds delivered a window into my bedroom. I was angrier about having to halt my creative burst than I was about the window, rain, and tree limbs that had inserted themselves into my home…uninvited no less!

6. Outliner or Improviser? Fast or slow writer?

Yes, to all four options! That’s a terrible answer, but true. I have more fun writing when I’m improvising, but at times, outlining helps get the story back on track. Now, that’s not to say everyone will want to get on that track with me! Train wrecks do occur, characters and chapters have been killed by the delete button many times, so I live and learn something new every day about writing.

7. Tell us about your latest book (add link if published)

My latest book is still The Twelfth Paladin. I’m thrilled an updated version is coming soon!

It was inspired by an actual email I received, which was an invitation to play with wickedness. I thought it was a frightening joke or possibly a virus, so it got trashed. I have no idea what would’ve happened if I had accepted that invitation, but I’m glad I don’t know.

8. Indie publishing or traditional publishing – and why?

My publisher is Melange Books. It is a small publishing house. I went that route because being a relatively new author, I felt better able to handle the publishing process with them. In the future, I want to learn more about formatting, distribution, marketing…just everything about publishing so I have more options. Since I’m also an artist, I’d love to get into graphic novels.

9. Any other projects in the pipeline?

Absolutely! I’m working on the sequel to Guardian 2632, my science fiction adventure, and then I’ll begin the sequel to The Twelfth Paladin. Now I know supernatural horror is not for everyone, but I cannot get enough of it…so after those two sequels, I have another novel to complete. It is a cross between science fiction and horror.

10. What is your goal as a writer and what are you doing to achieve it?

Okay, this is a tough question! (Two hours have now gone by…yikes!) My goal as a writer is to always leave my readers with a sense of awe about the world we live in and in worlds yet to be discovered. From a very young age, I questioned why people do what they do and why some people always see the cup half-full, while others only see the same cup half-empty. My writing goals also include laughter! Many of my characters have a great sense of humor, because after-all…reading a book should be entertaining.

Achieving my goals? I’ll be researching like crazy, connecting with other authors and readers, reading a lot more, and writing as much as possible. It’s a grand adventure, isn’t it?

It’s been a pleasure visiting your blog! Thank you for the review and interview.

Well, thank you for putting up with me! 🙂 And hey, we’ll meet at the San Diego Comicon some day, signing our graphic novels… how does that sound! 😉

Happy writing, everybody! 😀

Book review & author interview – C.S.Splitter

OK, truth is… I was a beta-reader on this one, so I haven’t read the final, upcoming version. Still – I liked his humor and his characters. I haven’t read the first book, but it seemed to me that I almost had. It was a fun ride, fast paced and all, and he neatly tied up all the plots. Uhm, OK, my review skills still kinda suck. Sorry about that.

I recommend Cassie’s review – she’s much better than me at that! 😀 Oh, and she’s also an excellent editor, in case you’re looking for one… 😉

Anyhow, this marvel will come out on Nov.21st and you better check it. The author was also kind enough to answer my usual nosy questions… ladies and gents, please welcome fellow Creative Reviewer C.S.Splitter!

Where do you live and write from?
Like my main character, Tom Crayder, I now live about 35 miles north of Washington DC in the state of Maryland.  When my books get turned into a TV series or movies, I will move some place warm!
All of the places I talk about in my books are real, thus far, even if I do not name them.  All of the houses, restaurants, and towns are real (though I take liberties with details).  All of the missions Tom flies are missions I have been along on our flown in a simulator.  I even know the hotels in Houston where Tom and Lorena begin book two.  I may put in some fictitious locations in the future, I just thought it would be a hoot to “keep it real.” 

When did you start writing?
I always enjoyed writing and even in the years before I got the idea for “The Reluctant,” I wrote.  I threw a lot of it away or abandoned in on long dead hard drives—or floppy discs.  Yes, I am old enough to remember having to choose between 3.5” and 5.25” floppies.

What genre(s) do you write?
I read fantasy, mostly, but I write Action/Adventure with touches of humor, suspense, thrills, and mystery.  If I ever have a good and original idea for a fantasy novel, I will write one.  I spent more than ten years starting and stopping fantasy novels when I realized that someone had written something too similar beforehand.  At one point, I pretty much gave up on writing.
I never intended to write the stories that I do.  The idea hit me one night when I was out at dinner.  A police acquaintance mentioned that criminals get caught because they do stupid things, leave clues, and brag.  I started wondering what would happen if someone that had to do “bad” things for very “good reasons” had a little means, a bit of MacGyver, and could keep their mouth shut.
Tom Crayder was born by the time we got home from that dinner party. 

Where do you find your inspiration? Do you put yourself in your stories
People think Tom Crayder must be me, but he is not.  Trust me.  I am not that interesting!
Tom is a conglomeration of “guys.”  That is why all of us with a Y chromosome understand him.  It is also why those of the XX variety like him.  Everyone knows Tom.  He is their husband, father, friend, or co-worker.  His rough edges and good heart are familiar even if he is not based on one person.
I am a firm believer that there are every day heroes out there that we see and do not notice.  Sometimes, they have conflicts in their own lives and in their minds simply because they are real.  That is what I wanted for Tom.  The only difference is that he encounters unique situations while meandering through life doing the best he can.
As for story ideas, they come from everywhere.  The “leading two lives” and multiple identity themes came from a Billy Joel song (free eBook to the first person who names it!).  The idea for book two, “The Willing,” came from an old movie called “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  I know readers might not see how a guy like Tom could have anything in common with George Bailey, but he does!  Tom just has to deal with more bad guys, bullets, and bodies.
I am working on the third book and the working title is “The Unmasked.”  That idea came from multiple trips to Las Vegas and my love of gangster movies.  Just imagine all of the interesting characters one could interact with in a town like that…

Do you have a specific writing routine?
I think a lot and write a little.  I drive a ton of miles and spend most of that time thinking about stories and dialogue.  I AM that guy who you see talking to himself at the stop light!
When I am doing a book, I limit myself to less than two thousand words per day with a minimum of one thousand.  Any more and I find my writing getting stale.  Unlike other authors, I have to avoid setting word-count goals, which is terribly difficult for me.  So, I set weekly minimum goals and anything above that is just icing on the cake.

Outliner or improviser? Fast or slow writer?
Doing an outline is vital for me, but it gets trashed about half way through the books.  The writing process gives me ideas as the story unfolds.  So, while the ending may stay the same, the way I get there changes.
I guess I am a fast writer when compared to George R.R. Martin!  Lightning speed as a matter of fact.  But I am slower than someone like Stephen King who is bloody prolific.
And that, my friends, is the only time you will see me compared to either of those writers lol.
The key for me is that when I sit down to write a story, I write every day.  Even with the one to two thousand words per day pace, it adds up quickly because I do not take many days off.  When the story is done, the editing and proofing process begins.  By the time the story is ready for other people to read, I have played with it so much that I hate my own book!

Tell us about your latest book (add link if published)
Planes, guns, drug lords, beautiful women, dangerous men, and the resulting humor are there for the taking.  If I did my job right, that is.  You can find links on my website:“The Willing” is the second book in “The Crayder Chronicles” and it comes out on November 21st of 2011.  This volume moves at near breakneck speed but I was still able to flesh out some important characters that my readers were really curious about from the first book.
If “The Reluctant” was about introducing Tom and his moral dilemmas, “The Willing” is about the relationships he has formed.  The reader gets some insight into Lorena and other characters in Tom’s little world and people seem to enjoy them.  Lorena is more than the pretty face from the first book and more than the sociopath from the beginning of   the second book.  Even Jenny has a surprise or two up her sleeve that begins to crack the “too good to be true wife” image.  Of course, everyone loves Tiny because, well, he’s loveable.
“The Willing” asks the question: How far would you go to protect your friends and family?  There may be other important questions in there, but the readers will come up with those.  I just write the stories.

Indie publishing or traditional publishing – and why?
I went the indie route because I did not know any better.  Seriously.  I had no idea whether or not the first book would be any good.  I figured the best way to know was to put it out there for the public to judge.  So far, it has all been positive so I am not complaining about my initial ignorance.
I write a lot on my blog about the trials and tribulations of indie publishing because I, like most, am learning as I go.  It is both frustrating and exciting.  Publishing these days is like the old Wild West where there are few rules and fewer answers to questions we do not even know to ask.
Will I stay indie?  I don’t know—make me an offer lol.  Really, I think at this point I would love to find a small publisher with good terms who believed in my work.  But I am not beating the bushes at all for that publisher because I do not want to put everything else on hold to do so.
If my work is good enough and if I get “discovered” I will be happy.  If I just continue with the indie route, I will be happy.  I love writing the stories and the feedback I get makes the whole effort worth it.
As Tony Montana (Scarface!) might say if he were a writer:  First you write the books, then you get the fans, then you get the power of a book deal.

Any other projects in the pipeline?
Book three is in the outlining process right now.  “The Unmasked” will be out by June of 2012…which seems like a long way off, but it’s not when you have to write and polish a whole book!  I already feel the pressure.
Like the first two books, characters come first and I am writing up their life stories for myself as we speak.  I am a passable writer, maybe, but I think I can write good characters and stories.  For me, coming up with the characters is the part that is the most fun.
I am also going to do a “How To” book on coaching baseball but I will probably do that under a different name.  I know, I know, no one reading your blog cares about that but you did ask lol.

What is your goal as a writer and what are you doing to achieve it?
Hah!  There is the million dollar question.  I am not sure I have an ultimate goal, but I dream big.  Sometimes in those dreams, I am signing the contract to make Tom Crayder a movie star.  Sometimes, I am kissing my wife “good morning” and walking out to my little office in the back yard to spend another day getting my ideas onto virtual paper.
Then I have the nightmare where I am like that Jack Nicholson character from “As Good As It Gets.”  When I have that nightmare, I snap back to reality and start tapping keys on the laptop furiously so as to avoid it.
I would love to sell enough books to write for a living but, really, I am just along for the ride and curious to see where this journey ends.  Goals are great things as long as you don’t limit yourself with them.  Dreams, on the other hand, have no limits.

There you have it, then! I’ve put The Reluctant on my Wishlist and as I enjoyed The Willing (because it’s so character-oriented), I’ll probably keep reading the  series… very slowly (if I think I have 20 books on my Kindle wishlish, 20 on my Smashwords library and 20 paper book… when on earth will I have the time to read them all? Sigh!).

Thank you, Splitter for playing along! Happy writing! 🙂

Musings on reviews

Someone on the Kindle Author and Readers forum on Goodreads asked “Should authors review each other?” which led to a three people discussion (I jumped it at some point, but apparently it was useless, and I got called an amateur) about the fact that apparently it’s unethical.

My post: uhm… just wondering if reviewing fellow author novels is really unethical? I mean, every writer should also be a reader, so he/she can appreciate also other people’s works, right?
I mean, whenever I read something that I like, I always review it on my blog (and here and on Amazon) – did it with Prue and other authors – what’s wrong with it?
I swapped manuscripts only once so we could each write a sort of endorsement for each other’s book (I have no idea if she used mine, I put hers on the back cover of my second book of the Immortals, Fire) and I admire Prue for having found two mainstream authors who did it for her.
So what’s the big deal? Just wondering… thanks for explaining your POVs to me…

OK, please note that in the rush to reply to the drama, I didn’t express myself very well – which probably prompted the “amateurish” comment – I did not swap manuscripts with Prue for endorsment, but with another author. I’m adding this note here, leaving the original post as it was – apologies for having come out as amateurish, next time I’ll think twice before posting in any forum.

Not that I’m going to swap manuscripts again – it was something I did because I had just published Air and had found someone on Six Sentence Sunday who suggested it – but that’s apparently the unethical thing to do, which leads to fake reviews and stuff.

Now, I’m obviously against fake reviews, but I’m sure there are plenty of genuine ones as well. So OK, the manuscript swap is unethical, or whatever. But the original question is “should authors review each other?” and I think the answer is “yes!”.

Because to be a good writer you must also be a reader, and what’s wrong with telling the author if you liked his/her work? You know my review policy is not to review what I didn’t like – you won’t even know I read it – but I do want the author to know if I enjoyed his/her work. What’s unethical about this? The book is out and anyone can review it, why not another author?

Unless we’re talking about those endorsements (like the one I got from my manuscript swap), but that’s different. I don’t think it’s a review. Actually it was mentioned as “writing each other’s book blurb” (and for me the book blurb is something else, but when I discovered it, it was too late). And if someone can pull it off like Prue, kudos, she had the balls even if she’s a lady to contact mainstream authors, and I bow to her. In my eyes she’s a professional writer, and she did the right thing. And no, I’m not going to ask her to read my books only because I loved hers, I think the offer should come spontaneously, but that’s shy me! 😉

By the way A Thousand Glass Flowers is due for Kindle release at the end of this week, and it’s on my ToBuy list. Hopefully I’ll even have a Kindle then – I plan on ordering mine soon after my birthday. So stay tuned for more stories of Eirie! 🙂

Oh, boy, this is so complicated to explain… I hope I’m making sense! I don’t like some of the discussions going on in the Goodreads forums (bickering between two or three in a group discussion sounds… amateurish! ;-)), but I guess it’s my natural dislike of forums themselves (and I even joined another one, yikes!), the reason why I don’t go to Kindle Boards and why I want to be a hermit! 😀 So I don’t know when I’ll actually be an interactive Goodreads author and will be able to find my readers there… or when and where I’ll be able to get reviews of my books by someone, anyone, really! 😦

Book review and…

To check the book blurb, click on the cover, I’ll let the BuyPage do the talk.

I guess this can be considered a paranormal romance, but instead of vampires or werewolves, we have gypsy mythology, which is refreshing (did I mention how tired I am of vampires – unless they have long dark hair and are called Jorick – and even more of werewolves?). So kudos to that. I don’t like first person narrators either, unless they possess Pearl’s British humor – OK, my way of saying I liked the voice of this particular book.

I take out one star (so that’s 4/5, if you really want to count them) because it’s a small publisher and it should have provided with copy-editing. I wouldn’t have mentioned the typos if it were an indie author, but as it’s one reason to look for a traditional publisher, they should at least provide something besides cover and packaging, shouldn’t they?

Anyway, recommended reading for paranormal romance readers, by an author I met though Six Sentence Sunday.

And… the author was unavailable for an interview, so in spite of the lack of “resounding YES” to yesterday’s post, considering also the fact that the above mentioned books also deals with souls (and reincarnation), I thought I’d share the blurb for First Sci-fi Baby… feel free to comment.

Title: Soul Stealers

Genre: sci-fi (romance) novella

Blurb: Planet Earth, one century from now. Population has dropped under two billion and mankind works for the well-being of the planet, backed up by computers and eco-friendly energy. But there are still people who feel greed, anger, envy and miss something they cannot have.

Beth is a virtual director specializing in 20th century movie stars whose latest muse is the hologram of Keanu Reeves. Until the soul stealers make her meet a flesh and blook man who looks exactly like her latest virtual star, but is even more damaged than she is. Will they overcome their blocks and differences to build a real relationship?

Good? Bad? Awful? So-so? Let me know, thank you! 🙂

Oh, and speaking of holograms… I won’t rewrite it, but it’s probably less sci-fi than expected. Ah, those Japanese…

(a special thanks to my friend the Japanese expert Massimo Soumaré for putting the link on Facebook with great serendipity! ;-))

Book review and author interview – Joleene Naylor

The book is Shades of Gray – and if you want to know what it’s about, go to the book page, haha! I’m not rewriting the blurb in my review. Ahem, well, where was I. Oh, yeah, the review. OK, first of all, I’m not a fan of vampires and I’m stuck to Ann Rice’s first 3 books (and I prefer the movie of Interview anyway, but I read also the Vampire Lestat and Queen of Darkness, then I had enough of the gore and quit). BUT Katelina’s “voice” is so strong and funny (and in third person, yay!) that I really rushed through this. The right amount of gore, sex and humor, so to speak. And I look forward to start the second book of the series and all the short stories I skipped so far. Maybe I’ll wait until the author makes a short stories collection, mmmh? I know I recognized the 5-year-old-vampire when I found him in the book, because I read the short story… anyway, I’m rambling, so I’d rather let the author speak and head for a couple of sites to leave my review…

Joleene was also kind enough to answer my usual nosy questions, so here she goes! (sorry the formatting isn’t prefect, but copying and pasting sometimes gets screwed…)

B: Where do you live and write from? Tell us a little about yourself.

J: We live in the middle of nowhere Missouri, and have for ten years now (ten years!?!?!) before that it was middle of nowhere Iowa – do you see a trend? I’m also married and support three cats, three turtles and a dog, none of which do any of the dishes or house keeping to earn their keep, though I keep trying to teach them.

B: Tee-hee! I’, single, but I hire somebody because I’m too lazy to clean the house myself (but I do the dish and the ironing)! 😉 When did you first become interested in becoming a writer? What was the deciding moment for you?

J: I’m not sure when I decided I *was* a writer, it was just always there as a normal part of life. My painted and wrote poetry, so it didn’t occur to me for a long time that being a writer was something different. Since we grew up  kind of isolated, there wasn’t much to do.  My brother and I did a lot of drawing and writing “games”. One of them was to make “books”. We’d drag out big piles of paper and crayons and write and illustrate a children’s book in a day or two. I still have some of those, somewhere.

B: Where do you find your inspiration?  Do you put yourself in your stories?

J: I can not tell a lie (okay, I can, but…) my main inspiration comes from anime. I’ve noticed that when I haven’t watched any for awhile I start to run kind of dry. I also get ideas from random conversations. I’m not above using other people’s suggestions 😉 As for putting myself in my stories, not really. I mean there are parts of me in every character because if you can’t understand your character, then you can’t write them. I did put myself in a book I wrote when I was a teenager, so I guess that it got it out of my system. I’m not interesting enough for more than one story and, besides, it exposes too much of yourself when you’re the main character, like giving everyone a magnifying glass and letting them see through your skin. 

B: I’ve watched many anime too… and read manga and comics and French BD. And I do tend to put myself in my stories because it’s like acting a part – how many lives can I have, especially on other worlds, past or future? Anyway… What do you love most (and then least) about what you do?

J: I love  seeing the story unfold and then come together. There’s something magical about that. The best part is when I learn something new about the characters. When I first write it, I am usually just as surprised as the readers will be. What I like the least is advertising, marketing, and all of that stuff. I’d much rather just write , put it up and then go back to work. I lose so much time on what little marketing I do do.

B: Don’t tell me, I HATE marketing, hugh! 😦 When and where do you write? Do you have a specific routine?

J: It used to be every day until I got into doing book covers/formatting etc and now it’s pretty much catch-as-catch-can. I prefer to be by myself, though, so it’s either before the hubby goes to work (and is sleeping) or after he’s gone to bed. I think better at night, though.

B: Do you have any other project on the pipeline?

J: I’m still toying around with the Vampire Morsel’s short stories, and am editing Ties of Blood, the third book in the Amaranthine series. I was hoping to have it out August first, but it may not make it. We’ll have to see.

B: Did you query agents/publishers before publishing? If yes, for how long?

J: I did query agents with Shades of Gray back in 2008/2009. No one seemed really keen on “more vampires”, and those that were wanted straight up paranormal romance, which this only sort of is. (it depends who you ask).Meanwhile I researched Indy publishing on the side and when it came time to submit to smaller presses or just do it myself, I decided to skip the small presses and go it alone, so I haven’t actually ever submitted directly to any of the publishers.

B: What was your overall experience with self-publishing so far?

J: I’ve been very happy with it. I use Smashwords, Amazon’s KDP and Create Space and haven’t had any real problems *knock wood*. As far as sales go, I’m not a “major” success. I don’t sell thousands of copies, but I don’t really care. As long as I have a few people who like it, that’s enough for me.

B: Anything else you’d like to add?

J: Self Publishing is like anything you do, you get out of it what you put in. Most successful indy authors are successful because they’ve worked their butts off to get there. Sure, there’s always the occasional “lucky break”, but those are few and far between. Write a quality story, edit it, edit it, edit it, and then edit it again. Put some effort into your cover and then advertise your finger to the bone and you’ll get there in time. Me? I hate the latter (and I don’t have time anymore, anyway) so I probably will never be huge. That’s the great thing about Indy, though. If I don’t become a super-book-star, it’s my own fault, no one else’s. I control how far it goes, or doesn’t go, and so do the rest of us. 

B: Words of wisdom! I won’t be huge either, because I write ADULT fantasy, and I don’t really care… Did you have some kind of editing done?

J: The first two books were edited by a friend of mine (who does a fantastic job!), and once I get this last round of editing done I am going to send the third book off to her, but I’m not sure she has time this year 😦  having her do it, though, has made a major difference because now when i do my own editing I try to think like her. WWCD? (What Would Carolyn Do) LOL!

B: Haha! Happened to me with an Italian beta-reader (lost to the language switch, sigh)! Did you have to do the blurb and everything yourself ?

J: Well, on the first book, sort of. I had another friend who really encouraged me to do indy, and he did a mock book cover and a mock manuscript layout. I kept the essence of his layout (though I changed the fonts and made a new image for the chapter headings because he’d used one that was for another project I was working on, and also made it fit CS’s standards) and though I completely redid the cover, I did keep the last paragraph of the blurb he wrote for the back. Since then I’ve done it all myself.

B: For how long have you tried to find an agent/publisher before self-publishing?

J: Oh, it was probably six or seven months or more of querying agents. I worked on the query pitch in the Absolute Write forums. they were very helpful, and it was really very educational. For one thing you learn really fast that no two people agree. What one person would say was “punchy and nice!” another would say was “cliche and doesn’t work”. I also learned a LOT about condensing. I’m naturally long winded, and the query letter word limit forced me to keep rewriting and shortening over and over again. That’s something that has really come in handy since.

Book review: Cinders

CINDERS by Michelle Davisdon Argyle

Don’t you love this cover? And the sentence? Since I stopped believing Prince Charming actually exists, I’ve become a little biased with fairy tales… but this fairy tale revisited, or better, fairy tale sequel was just great. The happily ever after is, well, a fairy tale. So I enjoyed this dark and adult tale that left me with a lump in my throat, i.e. very close to tears, which doesn’t happen very often to me lately.

I read in the blog tour about the symbols used in this tale, but I admit I didn’t notice them – too busy enjoying the story, maybe at a second read I’ll look for them.

The references to the fairy tale made me want to read the original to see what was made up and what was actually already there (like everybody else, I’ve read the children’s version of Cinderella). So now I’m hopping to Wikipedia and see if I can find the original texts. BTW this novel should be added to the Wikipedia entry! 🙂

Highly recommended to adults who still like dark fairy tales. Hope to interview the author soon, but I already mentioned her in previous posts.

Book review: Gumbo Justice by Holli Castillo

I won this book on the Blog Jog Day last May and I’m sorry it took me so long to read it, but I guess it was worth the wait. I devoured it in two days, and here’s my Amazon review:

I’m not a thriller reader, so this was my first look at anything written in both police procedural and legal drama. I admit I had problems remembering who was who with so many characters, but soon a few bounce out and the tale was so engrossing that I read it in two days (only because I started it as a bedtime reading and had to stop to get some sleep). I liked the protagonist (she smoked a lot, but maybe she has quit?) and look forward to read more of her adventure as an attorney in a family of cops.

Here’s my addition for the more selected readers of my blog – some writerly notes, mostly.

This is not for the faint of heart as there is violence and sex and other nasty things (it is a crime scene, after all), but at the right time and in the right way – not too graphic but enough to give the idea of life in pre-Katrina New Orleans. I think Holli Castillo managed very well the balance in this “awkward” writing matter (more on this in a future post).

I was also amazed by the number of smells the author could squeeze by the number of smells the author could squeeze in, guess I’m not that good with the “writing all senses” thing yet! I also love the short chapters (let’s say each is a new POV) and how the story rushes forward with both humor and drama, with it’s neat little “coda” that closes perfectly an excellent mystery…

Next week the author will answer a few questions (yes, she’s the Author of the Month, you guessed it!), so come back and check her. She’s definitely someone I’ll keep my eye on.

Book review – Cowgirl dreams by Heidi M.Thomas

I won this book on Blog Jog Day, so I must thank Carol Denbow for organizing that event. It allowed me to discover plenty of interesting blogs AND allowed me to win something – and trust me, that’s not something that happened often in my life!

Even if I hadn’t won it, I had already put Cowgirl Dreams on the to-buy list, as I was intrigued by this story inspired by the author’s grandmother – although if it were on the to-buy list, I wouldn’t have been able to read it now, i.e. at the right time (but I probably would have loved it anyway! ;-))

I’m not American and always had a preference for Indians against cowboys, but this is the story of a cowgirl. Add to that I have just visited Montana (a month ago), met a true Montana gentleman (his lands have been in his family since the late 1800s, and he had to give up some for a Cheyenne reservation) and watched wild mustangs, so it was almost like being on vacation again.

This story is engrossing, funny and tragic like real fife. I rooted for the 1902s cowgirl coming of age, who only wanted to ride and be a rodeo queen even if I’m a city girl who never mounted a horse in her life. I still could relate to her dream, held my breath at her decisions and mistakes and everything life in a tougher century (especially for women) brought her. I’ll admit tears came to my eyes ere and there as well.

I recommend this book to anyone (male or female), especially young people with a dream of any sort. Enjoy the happy ending of this reality-based fairy tale and Heidi M.Thomas’s great writing style – this lady can definitely tell a good story, I should take lessons from her! She was kind enough to answer some of my questions, so you’ll read her interview next week on this very same blog, so don’t forget to come back.

I thank her again for sending me her book, allowing me to explore and discover another world – another country, another time, another culture, another genre of book I would have never thought of, hadn’t I stumbled on her blog on that May day…

Book review: Strangers & Pilgrims by Vivienne Tuffnell

Viv is a blogger and I bought her book on Amazon. She’s also a fellow Lulu author, and we all need the support! 😉

As usual, my Amazon review first:

we’re all strangers & pilgrims, June 15, 2010

By Barb (Roma – Italia) – See all my reviews

This review is from: Strangers & Pilgrims (Paperback)

Six characters with different traumas/heartbreaks type the same sentence in a web search and end up accepted for a retreat at the House of the Wellspring, hosted by a mysterious Warden who never shows up – or does s/he? Six stories of self-healing through creating a relationship with another suffering human being in the era of Google and other web-crawlers.
I was very touched by all the stories (I have suffered from anxiety and panic attacks even if not at their level) and loved the way the author matched the “illnesses”. I won’t spoil the fun for whoever would like to read this book, that I recommend even if you’ve never been depressed, or heartbroken, before.

Now, to more writing related comments only for this blog (which has certainly less visits than Amazon, although I wonder why – can’t they see my greatness? ;-)).

I admit I was jarred at first for the second person narration to introduce the six characters, but by chapter 2 I was used to it and thought it was a very interesting stylistic choice.

I’ll be soon interviewing Viv for more on her book, her writing process and her way to publication, so stay tuned for more!

Happy writing!

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