Sunday, August 26, 2012

Drool-worthy Covers: What's Your Favorite?

I love a good, intriguing cover that makes my pulse quicken, that makes my clicking finger twitch for the buy button. Paranormal covers are some of the most beautiful I've seen. They're often vibrant and have that ethereal quality I find so mesmerizing.

Here are some of the covers I've seen around the internet. All are from books by indie authors. Do you see your favorite?

Looking Through Lace by Ruth Nestvold

Covers are, arguably, what entice readers to actually stop and check whether or not the book is something they'd like to read. Nothing says, "Run far, far away" like a hastily put-together cover in Paint, with some flat font thrown in.

Sterling by Dannika Dark

Zan by Dalya Moon

Talon of the Unnamed Goddess
by C.R. Daems and J.R. Tomlin

Do you see the difference between the cover for a fantasy novel like Talon of the Unnamed Goddess and a paranormal romance like Sterling? Covers can be a shortcut way to tell your readers what they can expect from a novel. And as readers, we can infer the author's message (hopefully) in a glance.

Foxblood: A Brush with the Moon
by R. Lyon

Water by Shauna Granger

Shauna Granger's Elemental Series covers are simply breathtaking. Another of my favorites is author H.M. Ward.

Satan's Stone by H.M. Ward

I love staring at covers, trying to figure out what the author was trying to convey. 

Parallel Spirits by T.S. Welti

A good cover can also be helpful when Hollywood comes knocking, as they did for author Lisa Grace.

Angel in the Shadows by Lisa Grace

Pursuit by J.R. Leckman

I'm sure you'll agree these are rather breathtaking! There are so, so many more I'd love to list, but there's only so much scrolling a finger can take.

What do you think? Which one's your favorite?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

From Fighting Fire to Writing Books by Jimmy Gordon

(c) amagill
When folks ask how I got into writing I like to tell them I just fell into it, literally. It was winter, Christmas time really and we had just had a very heavy snow. My wife was not my wife yet. In fact, I'm not even sure if we were engaged. She is a Michigan girl living in Chicago; her family still resides on the lower peninsula in a suburb of Detroit. I was on shift with the fire department and unable to leave with her for the visit. I planned to take the train out.

I mentioned the heavy snow and the whole Christmas deal, a dangerous match that day. It was slippery and I was laden with an unusual amount of items, not just clothing but gifts as well. Being the young macho firefighter I thought I was, I skipped on a cart or anything else to ease the burden. I basically shoved it all into a duffle and tossed the thing over my shoulder.

Big mistake!

I needed to make a transfer from the local rail to regional rail at Ogilvie Station in downtown Chicago. My first step off the car was the near killer. My right leg slipped, I fell, and just prior to that missed step was the last time I was able to stand for the next eight months. The workers at the train station had to call an ambulance to get me to the hospital. I was set up for surgery the next day. I would be convalescing for quite some time.

A week or so after the procedure to patch the knee up, my then wife-to-be took my butt to the firehouse just to say hello. I hobbled in on my crutches. During the visit, my shift mates asked me how I planned to occupy myself during my time away. As if physical therapy wasn't enough? Though I had always been a very active or avid reader, the thought of writing something beyond a fire department run report had never entered my mind. In fact, in high school I was the kid in the back of the class avoiding the teacher’s gaze. I did my homework on the bus rides to and from school. My book reports and term papers were all completed in study hall. I cringed when I came across test answers in essay rather than in multiple choice. It took me ten years to get through junior college.

Regardless, for some unknown reason, "I might write a book" popped out. Then the laughing began along with the taunts, and for good reason. During that time my only need for writing was professional and even then it was penning run reports. I wrote in all capital letters. As for punctuation, I would occasionally throw a period in for good measure. I didn't even own a computer at the time.

But my future wife did, and we were living together. I saw the comments from my fellows as a challenge, one which I accepted. We returned home and we fired up the computer. My soon-to-be wife taught me how to use the word program and the rest is history. I typed out my first book, used lower case and upper case letters and even made a point to add proper punctuation.

But the story continues.

I returned to the firehouse with that first novel under my belt. I knew very little about the publishing world, nothing really. I used my new-found computer skills to search the Internet. My search was basic: How to publish your first book. Naturally, one of the paid services popped up at the top of the list. I clicked and ended up working with an outfit called 1stBooks Library. They are now called something else. My experience there is another story for another time.

I continued writing, but honestly, the whole deal was really just a hobby. My gig in the fire service was top dog. I was enthralled with the new relationship in my life. I wrote a bit here and there when I had a little extra time but that was about it, almost forgotten after that first book. Then, the next mishap where my health is concerned, a fresh injury.

This was a back injury I sustained while extracting the victim of heart attack from a very tricky location. Did I mention I was a paramedic as well as a firefighter? If not, well, now I have. Anyway, to this day I’m not exactly sure what happened or what I did wrong but suddenly my right leg collapsed. I was able to walk but barely. I was sent off to the fire department's medical doctor. After a detailed examination including an MRI the Doctor found a herniated disk in my lower back. I spent the next year in therapy, surgery and then more therapy.

During that time away I wrote two books. I started to educate myself about the in's and out's of the world of literature. I built new relationships, some friendly and some professional. I started submitting to agents and publishers hoping to skip on the paid publishing. If you recall I said earlier that was another story and not really a good one.

The day finally came when the therapy was over and I had healed up from the back surgery. I'm no medical doctor so I'm not sure how these ratings are set but I was informed that I was living along a border. I could give returning a shot or I could pension off and retire. And with the writing moving along I had considered that pension. But, the fire service was still number one in my mind. I was feeling good, strong and able. I chose to return to duty.

Three months later a semi truck rolled over into a gas station. I was working with a tool used for extrication and felt a series of pops in my back. Then that old sensation or lack of sensation in right leg returned. That was it, I was done. I no longer had a choice and had to leave the service behind. I had herniations on three disks and inflamed scar tissue left by the previous injury.

So, I continued to write and during the time I've been out of the fire service. I've managed to secure a couple contracts with independent publishers. I'm now writing paranormal stories for middle school aged children and adventure stories for adults. I’m on the board of directors for the Chicago Writer’s Association. I’m a mentor in a teen writer’s program, I’m a panelist for Clive Cussler’s Adventure Writer’s Competition and finally, I was an instrumental part of getting my home town’s annual book festival going.

And where does this leave us? If I can make my way through these turbulent times as a writer, then anyone can. An acquaintance of mine, a fellow named Joe Konrath sums it up the best, what do you call a writer who has never given up?


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Review: Neiko's Five Land Adventure by A.K. Taylor

Neiko's Five Land Adventure by A.K. Taylor

Review by Gabryyl Pierce

4 of 5 stars

Amanda Taylor was 16 when she started writing this fun fantasy that tweens will enjoy. The start was a bit confusing but overall the story contained plenty of action and imagination.

Featuring a strong female protagonist (the Real World Amanda Hawk who becomes the Fantasy World Captain Neiko Kidd) who fights enemies from other lands and even another world, “Neiko's Five Land Adventure" is full of plot twists that will keep you riveted throughout.

Buy Links:

My Book Orders

About the Author

A.K. Taylor is a YA fantasy/science fiction adventure writer who has been writing since age 16. Taylor also draws her characters and designs her covers and illustrations which she also began at 16. Taylor has also written a nonfiction piece about self promotion.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

How an MBA Degree Could Help Self-Publishers by Amanda Watson

(c) Shiladsen on Flickr Commons

The Business Side of Things—Things an MBA Degree Can Teach Self-Publishers

The world of self-publishing has been growing for some time now. With the growth of the e-book industry on online publishing forums, more and more authors are seeking self-publishing or independent publishes avenues. This is an exciting trend for authors. With self-publishing comes full creative control. But, of course, with full creative control, come full business control as well. While self-publishing can be a wonderful and exciting option for many different types of authors, some aspects of the "big" publishers' world will have to play a role in personal publishing. While there are many tools and resources for self-publishing success online and elsewhere, authors can benefit from some business know-how throughout the process. For help with the business-related areas of self-publishing, look to these aspects of an MBA degree education. Of course, not all self-publishers should obtain an MBA degree, but knowledge of some of the basics of a business education can be extremely useful.

Profitable Business Model
One of the most fundamental elements of an MBA education is the idea of a business model. Students take the time to learn what a business model is and how to develop a strong business model for every venture in order to be profitable. The concept of a business model can play a very important role in the world of self-publishing. Self-publishing authors should create for themselves a model of what their "business" will look like, where money will go in, and how it will profit. In most cases, authors are looking for financial success in some way or another as well as monetary success with their self-published work. Creating a business model to better structure your efforts as a self-publisher is important. This model should describe the rationale for how an author will create, deliver, and capture value through their work both economically and socially. The goal of this model is to define how a self-publisher is going to deliver to customers, entice customers to pay, and then convert that payment into a profit. This basic outline can play a very important role in the overall structure and success of a self-publishing venture.

Self-Promotion and Marketing
One of the areas that self-publishers can possibly gain the most help from in the business education world is marketing and promotion. The MBA degree delves closely into the general concept of marketing and more specific strategies for marketing success. Because self-publishers are not backed by a major "label" name that can drive their published works to the public eye, authors must do the promotions themselves. This can be extremely difficult as a little-known author without big platforms for public recognition. Take the time to build a marketing plan. Self-publishing means self-promotion. As a self-publishing author, you will have to create strategies for marketing your work to a targeted and broad audience. Specific knowledge in the areas of business administration and business can be extremely useful.

The Finances
As writers and authors the financial aspect of much of the publishing business is not only foreign to us, but is also somewhat undesirable. While of course we would like to earn a profit from our hard work, we also don't want to feel that we are writing for the sake of money. Thinking about the financial aspects of self-publishing can be not only disheartening, but also very confusing. Within an MBA program students spend a significant amount of time learning about finances, accounting, and economics. These courses can aid self-publishers in gaining a better understanding of the financial aspects of publishing and, in turn, gain more control of those aspects. Creating a careful financial plan is very important to finding long term success as a self-publishing individual.

Oscar Leeper and Ryan Black, two MBA students of Portland State University, used their business education to work with independent publisher, Bonanza Publishing, to create a more successful enterprise. Their final capstone project was focused around consulting with the small publisher to create a successful marketing plan for Steber and his over 30 independently published books. Take a look at Leeper and Black's project to get a stronger idea of how MBA knowledge can benefit independent and self-publishers.

Amanda Watson is an experienced freelancer blogger who covers web-based businesses and higher education. She writes about the latest online mba news and current trends among online entrepreneurs. You can reach Amanda at

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Of Demonology by Kirsten Weiss

Do you spend much time thinking about demons? No? Well neither did I, until I tried to write about them in The Alchemical Detective

You’d think writing a demonic character would be simple. Demons are bad. End of story. But when I started researching demonology, I ran into some very different ways of looking at demons, and the obvious interpretation grew less and less appealing.

In modern Goetia, a branch of magic that evokes angels and demons, demons are projections of our own dark sides. Demons can be either positive or negative forces, depending on your degree of control, and how you choose to apply it. If you can master your personal demons, then you can make magic happen. Since I wanted to show some psychological growth in my metaphysical detective, Riga Hayworth, this seemed like a neat plot device to me.

But an acquaintance who’s a demon hunter strongly disagrees with this interpretation. In her experience, demons are tangible entities, capable of real violence. She doesn’t think they came from hell any more than from inner worlds – she believes they might originate in another dimension. Does that make these entities demonic, or something else? Writing about this sort of demon would certainly raise the drama (and carnage) in The Alchemical Detective, but it didn’t really fit the Renaissance magic that flows through the Riga Hayworth series.

So in the end, I split the difference. Riga has to master certain inner issues in order to control the demons she encounters, but these demons are of the more violent, tooth and claw variety. I’m not sure if that will please everyone or no one (or if anyone will care), but it combines the psychological aspect of demonology with its creepy factor. And if you’re going to read about demons, you want to be at least a little creeped out? Don’t you?

About the Author:

Kirsten Weiss is the author of two paranormal mysteries available on the Kindle: the urban fantasy, The Metaphysical Detective, and The Alchemical Detective. She is hard at work on the sequel, The Shamanic Detective.

Kirsten worked overseas for nearly fourteen years, in the fringes of the former USSR and deep in the Afghan war zone. Her experiences abroad not only gave her glimpses into the darker side of human nature, but also sparked an interest in the effects of mysticism and mythology, and how both are woven into our daily lives.

Now based in San Mateo, CA, she writes paranormal mysteries, blending her experiences and imagination to create a vivid world of magic and mayhem.

Kirsten has never met a dessert she didn’t like, and her guilty pleasures are watching Ghost Whisperer reruns and drinking good wine.

Read a sample chapter or check out her blog at You can follow her on Twitter at, and view her world boards on Pinterest

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Victimization of Indie Authors and How to Protect Yourself

(c) Zach Frailey
Being an indie author is great: You get to write what you want, defy trends, and set your own goals. The downside is that you must remain ahead of the curve at all times, regarding what the publishing industry is doing. Although writing is an art form, publishing is a business through and through. Let your guard down, and you are apt to be taken advantage of.

The latest buzzworthy news in the world of books has been the acquisition of the company Author Solutions by Pearson (Pearson is best known for its textbooks, but is also the owner of Penguin--a traditional publisher you've likely heard of). Why is this buzzworthy? Because Author Solutions has a reputation for being predatory toward authors. Among other issues, it has a seriously wonky royalty payment system (as reported by Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware here) and a vast number of dissatisfied customers. 

The main thing to remember is that ASI makes most of its revenue off of authors, not off of readers buying their books. They exist because there are self-publishers who are daunted by all it takes to publish a book, and are willing to shove money at someone to take care of it for them. 

Jane Friedman thinks this is an extremely unwise decision. She says, in her blog post on the topic, "... the self-publishing authors making big bucks are folks primarily using Amazon KDP or related 'free' services." In other words, don't fork out your money to companies like ASI, who are betting on you being too overwhelmed and confused to resist their sales tactics. Stories abound of authors who've emptied their savings account to get their book published, only to have it sell a few measly copies to friends and family. 

So, what can you do to be competitive in a publishing world that's just getting more and more confusing? How do you make sure you know what you're doing so you don't become a victim of less-than-well-meaning companies? Be honest, and ruthless, with yourself. Evaluate the competition at the top of the charts and see where you rank in relation to them. 

Porter Anderson, in his excellent post on the issue of ASI and Pearson, states, "One of the thorniest elements of all this may be that authors actually work against themselves in their representations of their own work." Indeed. We're not doing ourselves any favors when readers visit our websites and see broken links, drunken pictures of us at Friday's party, or invective about readers/reviewers/the general public who just don't live up to our expectations. Visit websites of traditionally published authors whose work you respect and admire. Do you see them doing any of the above? 

Here are 3 tips to help you establish a professional platform:

1. Evaluate your website. Is it easy to read? Easy to navigate? Have a few people not related to you visit it and give you their honest opinions (and be prepared to take their advice without getting offended).

2. Read your bio. Is it professional? Or does it make mention of your pets/kids/spouse/drinking habits? 

3. Analyze your social media content. If your posts/tweets are primarily hard selling your books or other items, or are political/religious in nature, rethink how you're presenting yourself to the world. Would you be comfortable sitting down with a reader and talking to them in the same manner you're tweeting? If the answer is no, you likely need to revamp your social media outlets.

Some final thoughts: subscribe to publishing industry blogs such as that of Jane Friendman or Bob Mayer. These experts keep up with the hard stuff and then give it to you straight. Often times, their comments sections are great places to meet other authors who might be willing to help you out by taking a look at your website or reading your bio, in case you don't know who to turn to. 

Always remember: You're doing the indie thing, but you don't have to do it alone. Inform yourself and don't be a victim.

About Adriana Ryan

Adriana Ryan writes captivating fiction in beautiful Charleston, SC. She is currently at work on an urban fantasy series. A huge fan of spooky stuff and shoes, she enjoys alternately hitting up the outlet malls and historic graveyards. Visit Adriana at her website, or say hello on Facebook or Twitter.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Putting Your Test Readers to the Test by Donna Ansari

Many years ago, before I had even thought of writing a book, I was part of a writing circle. I’m sure you all know what that is, but in case you don’t, it’s when a group of people read each other’s writing and critique it. Let me just say that I did not thrive in that sort of environment. If anything, it made me even more insecure about my writing, and I was almost left with a desire to abandon it entirely.

So after I finished the second draft of my first book, New Blood, the idea of getting test readers was truly scary to me. After all, the only two people who had read it before that were my best friend and my husband, and while I thought they genuinely liked it, it also occurred to me that they could simply be lying to be kind.

Then, when I was looking through my e-mail contacts to decide who exactly I should ask to be test readers, it occurred to me why I had such a big problem with the writer’s circle. No one else in it was at all interested in my genre of paranormal/urban fantasy. In that same vein, if someone asked me to read and give feedback on a science fiction book set in outer space or anything having to do with aliens, I would probably not be able to give very good feedback either. It’s just not that interesting to me, no matter how good a writer you are.

The lesson I learned here was that if you are going to get test readers (and you really should), make sure that they are people who are interested in your genre. If you hate stories about vampires living in New York City, then my series, Vampire in the City, is just not for you. And as a writer, I have to come to terms that it’s not anything against me personally, just like I don’t have anything against people who write about aliens in outer space.

After some time, I had finally gotten up the courage and sent my story to about a half dozen people who I knew liked reading paranormal/urban fantasy books. But I still made a very big mistake. In the e-mail accompanying the file, I simply said something along the lines of: “Here it is. Read it and tell me what you think.”  

Some very kind individuals carefully went through and let me know exactly what worked for them and what didn’t, which characters they loved, and which characters they wanted to see killed off, and what parts required further explanation or were best left out entirely. But some others just wrote back the very unhelpful phrase, “I liked it.”

This is why, when I was finishing up the second draft of Wild Blood, I actually sent along a detailed questionnaire to my test readers. I included questions like Did the novel leave any unanswered questions? If so, which ones? and Was anything in the book unclear? Needless to say, the responses from the test readers were almost infinitely more helpful. And of course, my suggested questions are just that. Feel free to get as detailed as possible in your questionnaires.

So as you are on the hunt for your test readers, make sure you only ask people who you know enjoy reading the genre you write. This means that you shouldn’t put out an open request on Facebook or to everyone in your e-mail contacts list; instead, choose them carefully. After all, they will be the ones helping you decide on the final touches to your novel. And don’t leave them floundering around with no guidelines whatsoever. If you are looking for feedback on something in particular, ask.

If you follow these guidelines, you will find the comments and suggestions you get back from your test readers to be much more helpful!

Donna Ansari was born in New York City and has lived there for most of her life. Donna graduated from Pace University with a BA in Literature and Communications. Since then, she has been working as an editor, primarily in the field of medical education.

Donna lives in Queens with her husband, son, and large black cat. She is not currently aware of any vampires in her neighborhood.

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