November 2016 – Andy Peloquin

Andy Peloquin

I am an artist – words are my palette

Month: November 2016 (Page 1 of 2)

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Book Review: DCs Dead by Michael Fisher

It’s Book Review Wednesday, and I’m going to stray a bit from my usual haunt (fantasy) to head way out into the left field of horror. This isn’t your typical zombie book, but it’s well worth the read.

DC’s Dead

A small cabin in the mountains of Virginia, once a refuge from the hectic rush of city life, may now be the only refuge for life for these self-labeled DC Freaks.

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Not your mama’s Cabin in the Woods.

My Review: 4.5 Stars

A group of six DC locals finds themselves in a zombie apocalypse, but how many of them can survive long enough to reach safety? Is there such a thing? The undead cannot be stopped, cannot be avoided. But zombies are not the only threats to survive!

The fast-paced story will have you on the edge of your seat. Prepare to devour this book in a single sitting—you will not want to put it down!

A zombie horror story that will sink its undead fangs into your imagination!

Here’s a Taste:

The reporter continued to speak for a bit about the fallen soldiers buried in Arlington when the camera picked up some activity near the graves.

The President is due to speak in a few moments.  Wait a minute!  There appears to be some sort of commotion going on down there, some sort of a fight.”   The microphone was picking up the sounds of people screaming while it appeared that the mourners were being attacked.

“Who the fuck would attack a Memorial Day celebration?”  Fish asked, looking confused as he took another drag from his menthol.

“I have no idea,” Bobby said, as he popped the top on yet another Mountain Dew and drank deeply, wiping any stray droplets from his dark goatee with the back of his hand.

The chaos at Arlington continued to escalate, while the reporter was trying to encourage the cameraman to get the best shots possible without putting himself in any danger.  A hero without concern for himself, he was not.  The mic started picking up an arrhythmic slapping sound, like someone beating a tenderloin chop against a sidewalk.

“What is that?  No, it cant be.”

Carl Mackenzie, the reporter, looks around confusedly, a look of denial mixed with absolute horror as realization hit.  Pointing behind the camera, the reporter started visibly shivering.  The cameraman rapidly panned around, focusing the camera and microphone on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  It sounded like the slapping noise was coming from inside the Tomb, the sound of many hands beating on stone.  The camera turned back to the running crowd, zooming in on the details, FCC be damned.

The screen filled with the decomposing features of a large man in a rotten US Marine Corps dress uniform, taking a large bite from a matronly woman’s throat. Bright red arterial blood sprayed across his worm-eaten features.  The camera hit the ground, skidding until it stopped at a skewed angle and pointing at the fleeing cameraman.  He had only gotten a few yards when he was taken down by a group of what appeared to be Green Berets, their ragged dress uniforms hanging from their emaciated frames, the berets staying in place, stitched on by the undertaker.  The Presidential motorcade could be seen speeding off in the distance. The audio switched back to the anchor in the studio.

Let’s see if Bob Thompson at the Kennedy Memorial can shed any more light on the situation.  Bob, what’s going on over at there?”

The picture changed to yet another skewed view, this time of the memorial built to honor the nation’s youngest President who was struck down in his prime.  The screen picked up shuffling figures in uniforms and formal wear alike, slouching along but paying the camera no mind.  A zombie clothed in the dress uniform of the US Air Force stumbled over the uneven stonework around the Eternal Flame at the center of the Memorial.  It fell face first onto the metal gas jet that was the Eternal Flame. The rotting flesh extinguished the fire.

About the Author:

Michael Fisher, Fish to his friends and family, has worn many hats in his long life. He’s done a little of everything, including US Navy Hospital Corpsman, club DJ, security specialist, psychiatric technician, painter, and currently, father, Mason, author and tattooer, not necessarily in that order. He has a love of ugly Hawaian shirts. He also bears a passing resemblance to Walter Sobchak in The Big Lebowski.

Michael is on staff at J. Ellington Ashton Press as an author, editor and also designs book covers under the name Meister Arthur Dunkel. He is also a member of the Horror Writers Association.

Find the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/DCs-Dead-Michael-Fisher-ebook/dp/B00N738A68/

Read Fish’s thoughts on his website: epicfishtales.com,

Connect with him on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MichaelFisherAuthor/

 

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The Danger of Stock Images for Book Covers

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but that’s not entirely true! A book cover gives you an idea of what’s inside the book, what the overall feel is, and even what to expect. After all, it’s rare to find a high quality book cover on a poorly-written book, and I’ve found very few books with crappy covers but amazing stories inside. (I’ve been wrong perhaps once or twice…)

A lot of cover artists use stock images to create beautiful covers. While using stock images is a good way to find a wide assortment of graphics, it’s important to be sure the image isn’t being used by another cover. It makes the covers look (dare I say?) “tacky”.

I’m going to bring out an example I ran across a few months ago while writing book reviews. Two authors (both of whom have excellent novels) sent me their books to review, and as I was posting the covers, I noticed something in common:

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Can you spot the ways these covers are the same? Whoever designed these covers used the EXACT same image of the same model!

For most people, this wouldn’t be an issue, as the two books are only barely in similar genres (fantasy). But for some readers, it is actually a bit irksome to find details like this.

My advice: be careful if your cover artist uses stock images. It’s nearly impossible to do a Google Search to see if other covers use the same image, so you have no way of knowing until it’s too late. Original art is always the better option, even if it means you end up spending a bit more.

 

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9 Tips for Email Marketing

Marketing is all about creating a message that will resonate with people, and finding the most effective methods to spread that message. For some, social media presents a way to connect and communicate with people on a personal level, while others prefer the mass approach of TV ads and billboards.

Of all the marketing methods, email marketing has proven to be the most effective. Email marketing gives you direct access to your customers via their email inbox. If you want to increase engagement with their clients, I can’t recommend email marketing enough. It cuts through all the noise of social media and is far more targeted than mass advertising.

If you’ve got a book launch, freebie, or giveaway on the horizon, it’s time to start thinking about using your email list to spread the word. Below are a few tips to help you to make the most of your email subscribers and reach them with the message as effectively as possible:

Plan it Well

Before you open that “Compose Email” window, think about what you want to say. What is the most effective way to tell your email list what you want them to know? How can you say it in as few words as possible, but make those words count?

You might consider sitting down with a professional copywriter (freelance) and working together to draft a well-written, cohesive email. The more you can say in fewer words, the better! It takes time to plan what you’re going to send out in each email, but I believe it’s worth the investment.

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Focus on One Thing

If there’s one thing guaranteed to make people click away from your email, it’s an overload of information!

When we open emails, we want to get to the meat of the content as quickly as possible. We don’t want to have to read through paragraphs, skip past links, wait for pictures to load, etc.

When you write emails, focus on ONE thing: update, information, link, subscribe button, etc. The whole email should revolve around a single bit of information you want to share. You can send out multiple emails to give your customers more information on your event, but make sure that each email focuses on just one thing. It will increase the chance people will actually open and read those emails!

Bonus: Keep it short and sweet! 2-5 paragraphs, an image, and a link. That’s all you need!

Make it Personal

Who wants to read an email addressed to “To Whom it May Concern”? Not me, that’s for sure!

We all like to see our names at the top of the email, so we know for sure the email is actually directed to us and not some random name on a list.

Your email service (like MailChimp) will automatically input the customer’s name into the heading of the email, but you should take steps to personalize it more. Send out your event marketing email only to the people who would want to attend, and track your customer data so you can know who responds to which emails. It takes a lot of work, but it’s 100% worth it!

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One Call to Action

Just as your email should focus on a single piece of information, so you should only include ONE call to action!

A “call to action” refers to the thing you want people to do when they read your email. If you have a handful of links in your email (“Click here to find out more”, “Sign up now”, “Register in advance for a discount”, etc.), it’s far less likely that your readers will do even ONE of those things. But if your entire email is structured around that single call to action, you have a better chance your readers will actually click on that link or sign up for that event.

Make it Mobile-Friendly

Did you know a staggering 67.2% of people use their mobile phone to check their email? Add to that the 42.3% who use a tablet, and you have A LOT of people using the mobile version of their email provider (Gmail, Apple Mail, etc.).

The display of your email will look different on your customers’ mobile phone than it will on their PC. For this reason, you need to use a template that automatically scales for mobile devices. No one wants to move their screen side to side or zoom in and out to read your email! A mobile-friendly template and email layout will be much more appealing, not to mention easier to read.mobile-phone-426559_1920

 

Keep it Simple

This goes hand in hand with the “focus on one thing” point, but I believe it bears repeating!

The simpler you make your email, the easier it will be for your readers to get what you’re trying to tell them. Make sure the content is concise, clear, and easily understood, with something to “hook” the reader and get them interested in what you’re saying. Tell them what you want them to know, add the call to action, and END THE EMAIL!

Test it Out

One big mistake many email marketers make is failing to test their marketing campaigns. A/B testing is a good way to find out what your customers respond to, and it can give you invaluable data on the best way to use your marketing list.

How can testing help you? You may find that your readers respond to certain email subject lines more effectively than others, or that they preferred a certain email layout. Some calls to action will work better than others, or readers may respond better to a certain type of content.

The more you test and analyze your emails, the more effective you can be the next time you send out an email. Test, track, and analyze: it’s the key to success!

Send it at the Right Time

The timing of your email can make a huge difference! Send an email too soon, and your event will slip your clients’ minds. Send it too late, and they may not be able to shuffle their schedule to attend.

Send the first email a month or two in advance. Giving people advanced warning will get them thinking about the launch/giveaway/event to incorporate it into their schedule. The closer you get to the date of the event, the more emails you can send—each one focusing on a different aspect of the event, of course.

Resend to Unopened

Sometimes people fail to open your email not because they dislike your content, but because they get too busy, forget that they want to read your email, and delete it. You can use your mailer service (Aweber or Mailchimp) to find out who didn’t open the email, then re-send the email (if it’s very important). They may just need a reminder!

 

Yes, email marketing can be the most effective way to reach clients, but only if you use it right. The advice above can help you to take your event marketing strategy to the next level and give you a better chance of spreading the word of your event the RIGHT way.

 

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How to Write a Good Book Review

Book reviews are an author’s lifeblood! They tell people what to expect when reading your book, and gives them an idea of just how much/little other readers enjoyed the story. They may not “make or break” your success, but they certainly play a vital role in it.

Which means people who write reviews have a lot more “power” than they’d expect. Your feedback could enhance the author’s sales, warn potential readers to stay away from a bad product, or share something in the book that spoke to you. If you’re going to write a review, write it right!

I sat down with a couple of my fellow authors and book reviewers to discuss the art of writing a good book review. I asked questions like:

  • What do you include in a good book review?
  • How much detail is too much?
  • How can you give enough detail while avoiding spoilers?
  • Can you review as JUST a reader, or does your author side come out?

Here is what we discovered:

The Panelists

Arial Burnz – Arial Burnz is the USA Today bestselling author of HOT Scottish Vampires. She has been both traditionally and self-published, a cover designer and an editor, so she’s a real geek about the publishing industry! As an avid reader herself, she has left many reviews of the books she’s read over the last 40 years.

To join Arial VIP Club and get weekly book-related freebies, visit http://arialburnz.com/vipclub.

Wendy Van Camp — Wendy Van Camp is the author and poet behind No Wasted Ink (http://nowastedink.com), a blog about the craft of writing that features author interviews, sci-fi and fantasy book reviews and scifaiku poetry. Wendy’s short stories and poems have appeared in literary and science fiction magazines such as “Shadows Express”, “Luna Station Quarterly”, “Altered Reality Magazine”, and “Far Horizons”. Her first Amazon ebook is a regency romance entitled, “The Curate’s Brother: A Jane Austen Variation of Persuasion”. (https://www.amazon.com/author/wendyvancamp)

Blog: http://nowastedink.com
Twitter: http://twitter.com/wvancamp
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/indigoskye
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/nowastedink
Google+: google.com/+WendyVanCamp
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/wendyvancamp

 

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Book Review: Life is a Roller Derby Run by a Sphinx by Allison Hawn

Today I have a real treat for you, a book I found to be ABSOLUTELY hilarious! It’s a collection of real life stories that will have you thinking, “How the hell does so many weird things happen to one person?”

Life is a Roller Derby Run by a Sphinx

Some people refurbish classic cars, others make quaint quilts, and a few still gather together to play Dungeons and Dragons in basements.

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Author Allison Hawn doesn’t have time for these pursuits. Instead, she spends her days dodging every weird, dangerous and surreal happening that the universe can fling in her direction. Follow Allison on her “bizarre magnet” life as she narrowly escapes the clutches of a giant territorial raccoon, barely avoids death by “burrito bomb” and pulls off the chocolate heist of the century. Find a hilarious escape from your reality by stepping into hers.

My Review: 5 Stars

OH MY GOD!! I haven’t laughed this hard since the last time I read Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or Terry Pratchett. Who knew non-fiction stories could be so hilarious.

With every new story, I found myself wondering what the author had done in a former life to deserve so much random weirdness around her. I blasted through this entire book in one sitting—and was incredibly sad to reach the end of the collection of stories. SO MUCH FUN!

Here’s a Taste:

Some children are lovely little gifts from heaven. Other kids are more like trials sent to test parents’ perseverance, cunning and ability to get crayon off of a variety of surfaces.

I was more of the latter; I pretended to be a dinosaur during church, thought I was a Power Ranger and World Wrestling Federation wrestler all rolled into one (that poor furniture) and built very elaborate spaceships from everyday items and sometimes essential machine parts.

Not only was I handful, I was a rather clever one. I had learned to read at an early age and by the time I turned four I already had most of the Nancy DrewThe Boxcar Children and The Hardy Boys under my literary belt. Add in the fact that I watched as many episodes of Murder, She Wroteand Matlock as I could find, and I was a regular criminal mastermind in the making. I gobbled up mystery stories faster than the newest Lone Ranger movie bombed and was forgotten.

Of course, with my rambunctious little brain, I began to wonder if I could pull of a caper that not even Nancy Drew or Jessica Fletcher could solve!

I plotted, I planned, I drew schematics, I built models of vaults and banks out of Legos.

Now keep in mind, at four years old you really don’t have to have an exact goal in mind. I wasn’t out to steal the Hope Diamond or ransack a museum for priceless art. I was just plotting crime in general.

My parents, knowing I lacked the income and resources to pull off a liquor store robbery, much less a fantastical heist, weren’t too concerned about my little ‘flights of fancy’ into the heinous world of crime.

I knew that my plans could succeed, as a Brain without a Pinky could, if only I had a goal to focus them on.

Then came the day my mother made her wonderfully delicious peanut-butter-chocolate-chip cookies. These cookies are melt-in-your-mouth good. If we could give these cookies out to every world leader simultaneously, there would be World Peace, because it’s impossible to feel aggressive or angry while eating one.

She baked an entire batch in the afternoon, and I had been granted one cookie. The rest, she informed me, would have to wait until after dinner. I tried to reason with her, dinner was a full two hours away. My pleas went unanswered. I watched sorrowfully as my mom put every remaining cookie into the giant strawberry shaped cookie jar far back on the kitchen counter and wandered off to do something else.

I stood in the kitchen staring daggers at that cookie jar, reveling in how unfair the situation was. I could still smell the cookies, and still had the taste of peanut butter and chocolate in my mouth.

Suddenly, it hit me like a Mac truck hits a sleeping armadillo, this is what I had been scheming for! This was my crime of the century! Well… at least crime of the day… let’s be real here.

I ran back to my room digging through my catapult designs, ideas for a mind-control laser and blueprints of someone else’s house that I had found while playing outside one day. None of it seemed to help my cookie situation.

I snuck back towards the kitchen to do some reconnaissance. Crawling, army-style on my belly, I crept down the hallway, listening intently for any adults. No one was about. I stood up and wandered towards the kitchen counter, realizing that I was far shorter than it was and the cookie jar was all the way back on the counter near the wall.nMy thoughts turned to the kitchen chairs, which could be drug over, but I needed to determine where my mom was first, in case the noise would alert her.

I found my mom in the living room folding clothing. I nonchalantly wandered in, “Hi mom, you don’t have any reason to go to the kitchen anytime soon do you?”

My mother’s eyes narrowed, “Why?”

“No reason,” I said as I darted away, congratulating myself on not making her suspicious at all.

About the Author:

Allison Hawn was born in Idaho and has spent her life obtaining adventures. The daughter of a musician, she was
brought up all over the United States with occasional dalliances into foreign lands. She holds a degree in psychology from Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho, where she also had a weekly humor column with a small time newspaper “The Crusader.” She is also the author of two collections of short, bizarre, humorous stories titled “Life is a
Circus Run by a Platypus” and “Life is a Pirate Ship Run by a Velociraptor.” She currently resides in Spokane, Washington, where she works with the homeless, domestic violence victims, and other disenfranchised populations as a case manager, but calls a myriad of locations home.

Read her thoughts on her website: http://circusplatypus.blogspot.com/

Find the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Life-Roller-Derby-Run-Sphinx-ebook/dp/B01KYZNDHC

Connect on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/platypusringmaster

Tweet at her: https://twitter.com/AllisonHawn

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Awesome Resources for Creative Writing: Facebook Live

Facebook is your worst enemy when it comes to creative writing, but it’s great for promoting yourself as a writer!

If you’re looking for new ways to make your social media platform work for you, it’s vital that you stay up to date. That means not only understanding the newest changes to the algorithms, but also the new tools provided.

Facebook released the Live video streaming in 2015, and it has already become one of the most popular tools for savvy social media users—not just marketers, but people and companies looking to build a brand. Facebook Live videos allow you to reach your followers and fans instantly, and interact with you in a whole new way. Facebook Live can be a valuable asset in increasing social media engagement. We’ve come up with a few ways you can use Facebook Live videos for your business:

Promote an Event

Writing clever copy for an ad, marketing campaign, or email is a great way to pique your customers’ interest, but it’s not the only way. Why not talk to them IN PERSON?

With Facebook Live, you can set up an event and talk to people about the event yourself. You can give them the most important details, let them know about the incentives you’re offering, and answer any questions they may have. It’s much more fun to receive the notification of the event in person, via Live video, than in an email. You can still use emails to follow up after the video and provide further information, but the Live video allows you to give the first details in person.

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Answer Questions

If your customers have questions, it’s up to you to answer them. Thanks to Facebook Live, it’s easier than ever! For example, if one of your readers has questions about your book, you can give them answers personally.

Or, why not use it to answer questions about your upcoming release? You can get on Facebook Live and talk to people directly about the even. It’s a way to provide your followers and fans with INSTANT access to answers.

Introduce a New Book

If you’re rolling out a new book or series, consider hosting a Facebook Live session to roll it out in style. You can make it a whole product launch video, complete with someone (beta reader, editor, ARC reader, etc.) giving their feedback on the book. It’s a much more interactive, personalized way to launch a novel via social media.

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Share Content

Facebook users respond to other people, not necessarily products. They want to hear from YOU, the person behind the company, brand, or event. Help them get to know you, and you’ll have much better engagement.

Share content you find interesting, or that has helped you. Perhaps you’re doing research for a new book or trying to figure out a new story. When you find content that provides value, share it with your followers. Help people get to know YOU, and they’re far more likely to connect with your brand and message.

Go Behind the Scenes

Attending a conference or participating in a book reading? Set up a Facebook Live video and use your smartphone to take your viewers back-stage, into the producers’ rooms, or even to interact with your fellow authors or performers. This “behind the scenes” insight can make your social media followers feel like they are getting exclusive access to something that no one else is. That right there is adding value and capitalizing on people’s desire to feel special and exclusive.

You can use Facebook Live to show the team preparing the event or doing the planning of the event itself. Your social media followers can be a valuable resource to help you plan the event, as they can provide input in the early stages.

Interview People

You’d be amazed by how many people in your circle or team have interesting things to say!

Set up a weekly or monthly Facebook Live interview with fellow authors, your favorite reviewers, or editors. Heck, even step outside your circle and interview people who are important in your niche. Give these people a chance to share their insight, advice, and thoughts. It will provide value to the people who follow your brand, and will increase customer engagement.

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Broadcast Events

Not everyone will be able to attend your event, but that doesn’t mean they have to miss out on everything. Facebook Live allows you to broadcast your event as it’s happening, so your followers and fans can still be part of what’s going on even if they’re not there in person.

Set up a Facebook Live video stream at the best part of your events: the book launch, reading, etc. This gives your followers a chance to follow along and participate even if they can’t attend personally. It’s a way to provide value and keep fans engaged no matter what.

 

Facebook Live can be an invaluable tool for not just reaching more fans, but for keeping your current fans as close and engaged as possible. After all, Facebook users don’t want just regular content or ads. They want to get to know PEOPLE, as that’s what the platform is about. Using Facebook Live will help you to engage with your fans and followers, and it will encourage them to continue commenting, posting, Liking, and sharing what you have to say.

 

 

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Politics in Speculative Fiction: How to Make it Work

It’s amazing how much of a role politics plays in our lives! Everything we do is affected by politics—local, state, federal, or international—to a certain degree. It makes sense that our fictional characters should be equally affected.

When it comes to politics, I’m not ashamed to admit my lack of expertise. However, when I realized that politics play a large role in not just modern fiction, but fantasy and sci-fi as well, I knew I had to get a better understanding of it. I sat down with a few of my more politically-savvy friends to talk about politics in speculative fiction and how to make it work.

P.S.: Check out this awesome article on Fantasy Faction about different types of governments to use in speculative fiction.

About the Panelists:

Alycia Christine Sears

Alycia Christine is an award-winning artist and author of six books. Her fiction has received wide praise for its unique characters and vivid storytelling. Her award-winning art photography has been featured in Times Square. Whether writing speculative fiction, poignant nonfiction, or shooting vivid photography, her goal is to share the dramatic beauty and blessing found in every aspect of life—even the painful parts. When she isn’t writing or shooting photos, Alycia enjoys long walks with her husband, drinking copious amounts of tea, and coaxing her skittish cat out from under the living room furniture. Don’t miss her latest book DREAMDRIFTER, the captivating sequel to SKINSHIFTER.

Find her at http://alyciachristine.com/.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Alycia-Christine-102673903123325/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AlyciaCZS

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/alyciaczs/

Michael Baker

A few things about me. My name is Michael and I’m 25 years old, live in the United Kingdom, and basically just a friendly guy (just ask my parole officer), who loves gaming and writing, and talking about random stuff in general. I’ll be posting loads of stuff about games I love, books I like, films I like, some news updates which I feel matter to me too.

Blog: https://thousandscarsblog.wordpress.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Thethousandscar

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thousandscar/

Aaron Smith

Aaron Smith is an author and attorney living in San Diego, CA with his lovely wife and two pitbulls. He’s decided to put the voices in his head to work. His fiction has been featured at LibertyIsland.com, Microhorror.com and he has provided social and media analysis for PJLifestyles.com. Aaron is currently working on an urban fantasy novel, Identity, and a horror/adventure graphic novel, Inner Demons.

Twitter: @AaronCSmith1

Facebook: @aaronsmithauthor

Amanda Langlinais Pepper

Award-winning screenwriter, produced playwright, and author. Her latest novel CHANGERS: MANIFESTING DESTINY, first in a new YA fantasy trilogy, is now available from Evernight Teen.

M holds a Master of Arts in Writing, Literature and Publishing and a Bachelor of Science in Radio-Television-Film. She has a love of Shakespeare, having both performed and taught his work, and has also interned on Hollywood film sets. M worked for Houghton Mifflin and Pearson before deciding to devote her full time to writing (and occasionally parenting). She lives in Livermore, California with her family, cat, and hamster.

Find out more about her and her books at http://PepperWords.com.

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/mpepperlanglinais

Twitter: http://twitter.com/sh8kspeare

Josh Rutherford

Joshua Rutherford is a Fantasy and Sci-Fi writer who resides in San Diego, CA. His debut novel, the epic fantasy tale SONS OF CHENIA, came out in December 2014. His second novel, MIDNIGHT, a feminist fantasy project, will be released in early 2017.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SonsofChenia/

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0692346163

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AuthorJKR

 

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Book Review: The Prince’s Son by Deborah Jay

It’s Book Review Wednesday, and today I’m going back to my roots with epic fantasy. It’s not a book I expected to enjoy, but one I was glad I kept reading by the time I finished!

The Prince’s Son

Nessa Haddo has been raised to pursue what every young noblewoman needs: a suitable husband. Unfortunately for her, as a younger twin, her prospects are limited. Things start to look up when she lays eyes on the handsome foreign envoy sent to escort her sister to an arranged marriage, but her romantic fantasies quickly entangle her in events beyond her darkest nightmares.

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Compared to his last mission, ex-spy Rustam Chalice’s new assignment sounds simple: wrangle an unwieldy bridal caravan across a mountain range populated by bandits, trolls, werecats, and worse, try to cajole a traumatized princess out of her self-imposed isolation, and arrive on time for the politically sensitive wedding. What could possibly go wrong?

Meanwhile, Lady Risada—the woman who haunts Rustam’s dreams—is struggling to adjust to a normal life. All her carefully honed assassin’s instincts scream warnings of foul play, yet she can find nothing obviously amiss.

And deep in the halls of a mountain clan, an old enemy plucks his victims’ strings with expert malice.

My Review: 4 Stars

This book started out a tad slow for my tastes. It was the classic romance-heavy fantasy story at the beginning: two people pining for their impossible love, a girl envious of her sister’s happily ever after, and romance out the wazoo.

The story picked up at about the 20% mark, and it kept up a steady pace all the way to the end. The characters were well-written and fleshed out, and the book was beautifully free of grammar mistakes, punctuation errors, and typos (a personal pet peeve of mine).

I give it four stars because the story was a bit more focused on the romantic side of things than I’d like. A lot of the characters are defined by their feelings for others, rather than having the romance be a subplot in a larger story.

But overall, it was a well-crafted fantasy tale I’d recommend for any fantasy readers.

Here’s a Taste:

Small tapping sounds drew Risada’s attention back to the stairwell. About two thirds of the way up, the crouched figure was driving something into the wall. Without fully straightening, he moved across to the spindle opposite and wrapped something around it before tugging it taught.

“You promised no one would get hurt!” Bel protested. “If they trip over that they might break their necks!”

“That, my sweet Bel, is the idea.”

Risada’s maid took a step back, and although she faced away from the corner where her employer hid, her horrified comprehension radiated from her stiffened back all the way down to her shaking knees.

“And now, dear Bel, it’s time for your reward.”

Bel turned and fled, straight towards the entrance beside Risada’s hiding place. Risada caught the glint of steel in the assassin’s hand and barely stopping to think, thrust out a foot and tripped the running girl. A hefty dagger whistled through the space where Bel’s torso had been a moment before. Bel squealed and scrabbled along the ground, stumbling to her feet as she vanished around the corner.

Risada peeked around the shoulder of the statue shielding her and her eyes met those of the man on the stair. He shrugged. “Oh well, this wasn’t how it was supposed to happen, but I suppose it will do as well.”

Lowering her estimation of her opponent’s professionalism for wasting time on speech, Risada slipped her small dagger from its concealed sheath beneath her breast, and assessed the situation. Screaming for help would do nothing. As Bel had stated earlier, the guards were all outside at this time of night, and the bedrooms were towards the back of the house, so too far away for anyone to hear. Bel had vanished, but whether she would raise the alarm was doubtful; she would probably think only of herself. Risada’s sole weapon was her small dagger, and she was hardly in peak physical shape for this sort of work.

On the other hand, as she watched the cocky son-of-a-whore swaggering down the staircase towards her, she realised she still possessed an element of surprise. He clearly had no idea she, like him, was a trained assassin.

“Please,” she added a small quaver to her entreaty. “You don’t have to do this.”

“Oh, but I do. My employer would be so put out with me if I didn’t tidy up after myself, and although it would have been neater if you’d just tripped the way you were meant to, at least now I don’t have to leave the outcome to chance. And with any fortune your husband will find my wire instead; that way I get both of you at once.”

The over-long speech was clearly designed to intimidate Risada into staying put while his long strides ate up the tiled floor space between them, and Risada obliged. She had the best cover she could, given the circumstances, and was also between the villain and the large dagger he’d thrown at Bel. Risada was under no illusion that would be his only weapon, but it was probably his favourite.

Keeping the hand clutching her own dagger hidden behind the stone figure, she allowed her eyes to widen, imitating fear. “We can pay you. Twice what your employer offered. Three times!”

The spy shook his head. “This isn’t about money; it’s about honour and revenge. You—”

Mid-sentence, he lunged. Anticipating the tactic, Risada’s reactions carried her around the statue and out of range of the stiletto that spiked the air where she’d stood.

Still not realising his mistake, her adversary wagged his head and tutted. “If you hold still, I’ll make it quick.” He slithered a foot smoothly in her direction, shifting his weight with such subtlety his movements were almost imperceptible. “I—”

Making the fatal error of repeating his pattern, Risada sidestepped his lunge with ease, despite her compromised balance. In fact, in the thrill of the moment, she barely noticed her cumbersome bulk, her muscles reacting with the smooth skill of years of training, adjusting her posture as though she simply stood on uneven ground.

Her erstwhile foe crashed to one knee before keeling over to slide down the front of the stone statue, leaving a gory trail in his wake. His fingers fumbled with the tiny jewelled hilt sticking out of his ribcage, the blade sheathed with precision between the fourth and fifth rib with its tip penetrating his heart. He had the good grace to laugh, tiny red flecks bubbling at the corners of his mouth. “Always knew over-confidence would get me in the end. Who would have thought you, of all people, would be a player? He coughed, scarlet spittle staining his skin. “Goddess, you’re fast enough to be Dart. But you can’t…”

A dawning look of comprehension crossed his face even as his eyes began to glaze.

Risada said nothing to confirm his guess; she didn’t need to.

About the Author:

Deborah Jay writes fast-paced fantasy adventures featuring quirky characters and multi-layered plots – just what she likes to read.

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Living mostly on the UK South coast, she has already invested in her ultimate retirement plan – a farmhouse in the majestic, mystery-filled Scottish Highlands where she retreats to write when she can find time. Her taste for the good things in life is kept in check by the expense of keeping too many dressage horses, and her complete inability to cook.

Jay’s debut novel, epic fantasy THE PRINCE’S MAN, won a UK Arts Board award, and was an Amazon Hot 100 New Release. THE PRINCE’S SON is second in the series, but can be read as a standalone story.

Find the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01M1NKYVB

Read her thoughts on her website: http://deborahjayauthor.com/

Tweet at her: https://twitter.com/DeborahJay2

Stalk her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DeborahJay

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Awesome Resources for Creative Writing: Grammar Check

On this week’s Creative Writing Resources post, I want to share a tool that was brought to my attention. While it’s something I haven’t personally used (I have PERFECT grammar, after all) yet, it’s definitely something that could come in handy.

Grammar Check is a free grammar and checker that you can use to search your writing (web copy, marketing content, or novel) for errors. It works best with small chunks of text at a time, and (it seems) you have to pay a fee for a deeper check—which is done via Grammarly, not through Grammar Check itself. However, even the free check is good enough to help you clean up some of your more common grammar, punctuation, and spelling mistakes.

The checker catches:

  • Spelling mistakes
  • Style mistakes
  • Punctuation mistakes
  • Grammar mistakes

It also makes suggestions on how you can clean up your writing.

To test it out, I snatched a paragraph from the excerpt of Anaerfell I posted last week. (Apologies to Joshua Robertson for using his work as a crash dummy):

Original text:

“Erzebeth convulsed. Her fur and skin shedding away while she wheeled about on the ground in agony. The bones readjusted and organs reset from beast to human. Where a beast had stood was now the naked figure of Erzebeth. Cuts and scratches patterned her body, but none were fatal.”

The free check only found the name Erzebeth as mistakes, but the Deep Check found a few more issues:

errors

Not bad!

In addition to the Grammar Check, the site has a number of handy infographics to educate you on writing-related topics.

For more advanced writers, the tools may not be useful. However, if you’re a writer just learning the art of painting pictures with words, you’d do well to check out the site.

 

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Book Review: Anaerfell by Joshua Robertson

For Book Review Wednesday, I’m taking you to the world of dark fantasy.

Anaerfell

Drast, cunning but reckless, is on the hunt for admiration. Tyran, calculating but tactless, is in search of affection. Bound by a friendship thicker than blood, the two brothers have been hardened by their father’s ambitions.

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Drast and Tyran are forced to set aside their own hopes and dreams during their struggle to fulfill their father’s desire for immortality. The two will face skin-switchers and dragons, ultimately leading to a final clash with Wolos, God of the Dead.

My Review: 4 Stars

Let’s start off with the good:

When I read this, I kept thinking back to the Drizzt Do’Urden stories set in the Underdark. It had that same tones of political intrigue, backstabbing, and darkness that I enjoyed about the tales of Menzoberranzan. I half-expected to hear someone cursing “Lolth!”

The magic system of the world was well-developed, and the characters were pretty well-written. They were perhaps a bit “grimmer” than I was expecting, and sometimes it felt like they went dark just to see how far the author could push it. But all in all, it sold the tone of the darkness very well.

I had to dock a star for two reasons:

  1. The story didn’t hook me. It’s the way things are with stories—they can be hit or miss. I found myself sort of “slogging” through the book. It had plenty of action scenes, but it didn’t really draw me in or make me care for the characters.
  2. There were a number of grammatical and punctuation errors, and A LOT of misused words.

All in all, a solid effort, one that I’d recommend for anyone who enjoys very dark fantasy.

Here’s a Taste:

Erzebeth convulsed. Her fur and skin shedding away while she wheeled about on the ground in agony. The bones readjusted and organs reset from beast to human. Where a beast had stood was now the naked figure of Erzebeth. Cuts and scratches patterned her body, but none were fatal.

Tyran had no place for modesty. The Vucari woman, within the privacy of the ice dome, struggled to her feet. Again, her dark eyes met his own, filled with compassion.

“You need to be put down, young Red.” Her voice was calm as her feet crossed in front of one another, closing the distance between them. “Your power is greater than any I have seen before, even from the Anshedar.”

“What?” Tyran said, forehead wrinkled with confusion. He had never heard of the race before, whether beast or otherwise.

“You are like a rabid dog, young Red. You are the perfect companion, loyal, and possibly even loving somewhere deep inside,” Erzebeth bit her lip. Her breasts, barely covered by her dark hair, touched the front of his chest. She halted her feet. “But, you are tainted by a disease that is stronger than the goodness in you. You cannot be left to live in this world, or you will corrupt every living thing around you.”

Tyran tilted his chin, lips parting. His free hand touched her pale skin, as whitish as the ice fortress that veiled this moment.

“You would taint me, young Red.” She stepped up on her tiptoes. “As with the rabid dog, you need to be put down.”

He grabbed her by the back of the neck, and pulled her to him. He kissed her with more force than he had ever kissed any woman.

This woman was not Isolde. This woman was battle hardened, and a warrior. She was not plain.

She grabbed his shoulders and returned the embrace, her tongue touching his lips. Her body was far warmer than his own, as if it were heated by the darkness.

He did not know what he was doing in this moment. It may have likely been the first time that his mind was clear from thought, acting without thinking. Though, in time, he may consider that when his death was nigh, he found that this was something he wanted to do before death found him.

The crashing against the ice pulled him from the moment. Tyran pulled back, moving the Vucari’s hair from her cheek. “You won’t kill me, Erzebeth.”

“No,” she breathed. Her hands fell to his chest. “But, it still needs to be done.”

About the Author:

Joshua Robertson was born in Kingman, Kansas on May 23, 1984. A graduate of Norwich High School, Robertson attended Wichita State University where he received his Masters in Social Work with minors in Psychology and Sociology. His bestselling novel, Melkorka, the first in The Kaelandur Series, was released in 2015. Known most for his Thrice Nine Legends Saga, Robertson enjoys and ever-expanding and extremely loyal following of readers. He counts R.A. Salvatore and J.R.R. Tolkien among his literary influences.

Find the book on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Anaerfell-Joshua-Robertson-ebook/dp/B0164VAUNA/

Visit the Anaerfell Website: https://www.crimsonedgepress.com/

 

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