How to help Indie Authors – A Primer

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How to help Indie Authors – A Primer

sjhigbee:

Those of us who love reading may need a bit of help to assist our favourite Indie authors to get some much-deserved publicity. So here are a few tips from an established, successful writer.

Originally posted on P.C. Zick:

Help an IndieHow to help Indie Authors – A Primer for family, friends, fans, and other Indie Writers

It’s not easy taking the route of Indie Author or any route as an author. The field is crowded, and it’s hard for readers to sift through it all. So in addition to writing, most of us Indies spend a great deal of time promoting our work. Most of us try not to annoy our friends and family, but it’s inevitable that many of them will see our promotional stuff. So as we move into the holiday season, I’d like to give some advice to anyone associated with an author. Also, there’s a little bit of advice for other authors as well. I wish you peace and relaxation during the coming season. Take the time to read a book, maybe even from an Indie Author in your life.

Besides buying the books of your…

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Review of The Secrets of Life and Death by Rebecca Alexander

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This is an ambitious genre mash-up – historical noir with a vampire theme entangled in a modern day murder investigation – does Alexander manage to pull it off?

secretsoflifeanddeath1585. When Edward Kelley and his master, Dr John Dee, discover a dark secret at the heart of the Countess Elizabeth Bathory’s illness, they fear the cure will prove more terrifying than death…

2013. When Jackdaw Hammond learns of a young women found dead on a train, her body covered in arcane symbols, she must finish what Kelley and Dee started, or die trying…

This book opens conventionally – with a university lecturer in some arcane studies called in to look at the symbols drawn all over the dead body of a teenage girl found on a train. But before this contemporary plot has a chance to get going, we are yanked back to 1585 where Edward Kelley and John Dee have travelled to Transylvanian forests on a mission to help a young Countess recover from a wasting disease. Their task is hampered by the fact they are Protestants travelling in a devout Catholic country – and they are further singled out by accusations of sorcery.

The book continues with a dual narrative – the modern day story being told in the viewpoint of Jack or Felix, the university lecturer, interspersed by the torrid time Edward Kelley and John Dee have in a particularly savage corner of Europe. There has been a fashion for dual narratives recently, and when done well, it isn’t hard to see why. The author can present the reader with two apparently unrelated plotlines that eventually come together in an interesting, hopefully memorable conclusion that creates a really satisfying read. My standout dual narrative read is Katherine Webb’s A Half-Forgotten Song, see my review here.

However, if the pacing isn’t absolutely nailed – or too many readers already know of your historical characters – then readers will skim either one or other of the plotlines. Himself nearly abandoned the book, complaining that he found the historical interlude dragged too much, while in other reviews I’ve read complaints about how slowly the contemporary plot develops.

I think there is certainly a potential problem if readers already know a fair amount about Elizabeth Bathory – the plot construction and pacing assumes readers don’t. However my own knowledge was sketchy and I am a sucker for well written historical adventures, anyhow. As for the contemporary plotline – Alexander’s pacing is more leisurely than a typical urban fantasy novel, and I suspect a number of readers picked it up thinking that was what they were getting – and this book is attempting to do something else. So to some extent, both narratives are slightly compromised by reader expectation not being fully met – which isn’t necessarily Alexander’s fault.

I enjoyed the historical adventure more than the contemporary strand until about halfway through when the pace picked up and the story developed a twist I hadn’t expected. At that stage, I sat back and went along for the ride, thoroughly enjoying the experience. I won’t claim it is a unique take on the vampire story – in many ways it goes right back to the roots of the legend, but if you are not thoroughly jaded by yet another adventure, this one does have a slightly unusual angle that certainly caught my interest. And sustained it sufficiently to go immediately looking for the sequel, The Secrets of Blood and Bone.

If you like enjoyable dual narratives and are up for vampires with an intriguing take on the whole blood imbibing subject, then give this ambitious debut novel a go – I think Alexander is One To Watch.
8/10

Waterstone’s, passing 30,000 and getting ready for the chicken dance!

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sjhigbee:

Sophie is a wonderful author I met at Bristolcon – and I thought you might like to hear about her upcoming new book release – as well as see the wonderful new cover…

Originally posted on Sophie E Tallis:

White Mountain full book jacketFirstly, I just had to showcase my gorgeous new cover…well I had to, look at it…it’s GORGEOUS!

Despite the exuberance, I’m in reflective mood tonight. I have a lot to be thankful for and a lot to be celebrating. Not only has my little blog passed 30,000 visitors, for which I am profoundly shocked and humbled (THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!) but my novel is due to be published in less than two weeks time…my excitement is palpable. SAM_5228

So, it’s November already, still can’t quite grasp how the year is flying past. Already the TV is full of Christmas advertisements, hoping to whip up the masses into our usual hysterical feeding frenzy. Need a new sofa, how about some solid oak furniture or ten frozen homogenised meals for £4? Lol, I admit, despite the cynical side of capitalism, I still LOVE Christmas and all the daft glitzy trappings that come…

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Review for Personal – Book 19 of the Jack Reacher series by Lee Child

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If you have never read a Jack Reacher book before, and your taste runs to taut, well constructed thrillers, then give this one a go. And – no – you really don’t have to read the first eighteen to enjoy this one…

personalJack Reader walks alone. Once a go-to hard man in the US military police, now he’s a drifter of no fixed abode. But the army tracks him down. Because someone has taken a long-range shot at the French president. Only one man could have done it. And Reacher is the one man who can find him. The trail takes Reacher across the Atlantic to Paris – and then to London. He must track down a killer with a treacherous vendetta. The stakes have never been higher… because this time it’s personal.

As with any long-running series, the quality can vary from book to book. While I haven’t read them all, I’ve read enough to know that this is my favourite. Reacher’s voice bounces off the page in a laconic, clipped first person viewpoint that ticks all my boxes. I also love the way Child unpacks the story. If you want a masterclass in how to put together a page-turner, complete with a dangerous, maladjusted protagonist most of us would cross the road before looking him in the eyes, then study this book.

There are also some lighter moments – admittedly of the grimmer variety. But then, if you want cute and fluffy, you don’t look for it in a Jack Reacher novel. There are a pleasing array of villains, ranging from the lethally dangerous to the almost comically incompetent – and everything inbetween.

Another really nice touch is that in this story, Reacher is paired with a relatively inexperienced agent. Who is partly there to keep tabs on him, and partly to learn from one of the best – and it happens to be a young, attractive woman. So do they end up in bed together? Hm. I’ll leave you to find out. But I very much enjoyed the tension in their relationship and the struggle Reacher has to trust her further than he can throw her… What was very refreshing in this particular genre, is that Reacher doesn’t spend all his time clocking her firm young flesh. And the dynamic between them is far more interesting than having a fresh, know-nothing young thing falling into the arms of the grizzled vet because he’s… well – grizzled and knows what he’s doing.

And as for the final denouement… Well. I didn’t see that coming! At all. Which then had me flipping back through the pages for the clues – which is when you know that you’ve got a doozy of the final twist. And really elevates this to one of the best in a classy series of excellent thrillers.
10/10

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sjhigbee:

An excellent suggestion! So… what books are you all seizing, folks? I’m currently holding THE SECRETS OF BLOOD AND BONE , the 2nd book in Rebecca Alexander’s riveting series – I’ll be blogging about it in due course…

Originally posted on thepickypagesproject:

SEize the book!! What book are you seizing today? Lol. I grabbed Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler.

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Review of Antiagon Fire – Book 7 of the Imager Portfolio by L.E. Modesitt, Jr

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The hard-won battles fought in Imager’s Battalion have earned the imager Quaeryt a promotion to commander, as well as an assignment to convince the stiff-necked Pharsi High Council in the nation of Khel to submit to Lord Bhayar’s rule. Joined by his pregnant wife, Vaelora, who is also Bhayar’s sister, Quaeryt leads an army and a handful of imagers, deep into the hostile lands once ruled by the tyrannical Rex Kharst.

antiagonfireAnd that’s part of the rather chatty blurb. I read the first three books in this series and thoroughly enjoyed them, then lost track of the subsequent books – until I noticed this one on the shelves. So I haven’t read Imager’s Battalion – if you have, then I’d skim-read the first chapter which effectively fills in the subsequent storyline. I’d like to say  it wasn’t rather clunky – but it was. However Modesitt’s normally smooth prose resumed once we dived into the main story.

I like the way Modesitt builds up the world by the constant dripfeed of small details as his main character, Quaeryt, tries to get through this adventure without getting himself killed. While keeping the inevitable death toll down… It’s always a challenge depicting a really powerful protagonist with awesome abilities without it becoming an anti-climax. After all, if you have the capability to collapse buildings and sink ships, then you’re not exactly vulnerable, are you? So why would the reader really care? Except – I did. I really wanted Quaeryt to succeed in his dream of a united continent where the downtrodden peasants who make up the majority of the population would have a chance of a fairer life. Where the law protected everyone – not just the rich and powerful. Where imagers would have a safe, stable retreat where they could hone their skills and live with others of their kind, rather than become powerful tools of tyrants, constantly under threat.

As well as his ideals and his guilt at the deaths he’s caused when unexpectedly finding himself serving in the army – the other attractive trait Quaeryt displays is his love for Vaelora. She has unique abilities of her own that haunt her, the gift of being able to see into the future. It often surfaces at times of stress or great danger as a warning, but Vaelora is terrified of confiding in Quaeryt in case she changes his actions or behaviour such that the future timeline she envisages doesn’t come about… It creates a fair amount of tension between them, despite their obvious affection for each other.

Modesitt is good at depicting a strong relationship without turning it overly sugary – the domestic conflict points and minor disagreements work nicely at highlighting their equality in a world where women are so often abused chattels. It makes the final climactic moments of the book far more meaningful, giving a memorable finish to this accomplished slice of adventure in the series.

Any grizzles? Hm. One that became increasingly annoying throughout the book… As the historical setting is late mediaeval, they travel everywhere on horses. We get details about the weather, the state of the roads, how comfortable and clean their lodgings – and next to nothing about the horses, apart from a couple of throwaway sentences on how fond Quaeryt has become of his loyal mare. Anyone who has ever travelled anywhere on a horse for any length of time will know their temper and pace varies from day to day. This sometimes depends on the weather – they are invariably a lot more skittish on a windy day, or when bad weather is approaching; they will be stiff and sore if the going underfoot is rough; travelling through woods tends to cause them to spook at shadows or unexpected noises; and each animal will have its foibles anyhow. Given how well Modesitt depicts his world through the little things, I found this omission a real shame – it wouldn’t have taken too much more to have added this layer on an otherwise convincing world. However, it isn’t a dealbreaker – I enjoyed too much about this accomplished addition to the Imager series.
8/10

Goodreads for promoting books … my experience

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sjhigbee:

I’ve heard mixed opinions about Goodreads – and as some of you are writers and many of you are readers – I thought you might like to hear Susan’s take. What do you think?

Originally posted on Books: Publishing, Reading, Writing:

My books have been listed on Goodreads since they were each published. Those books have been favourably rated and reviewed on the site by many members, both known and unknown to me. I have also been a member of the site and list books that I’m reading, have rated them all when I finish reading, and I’ve even written a few reviews. I’ve found several new-to-me authors listed on the site who I have then contacted and subsequently promoted on my Reading Recommendations blog. And I enter the Goodreads Giveaways all the time and have won a number of very good books over this past year or so.

My best experience with the site, though, has been in offering my own Goodreads Giveaways. My first contest was held in Sept., 2013, and since then I have run three more. A total number of 2998 Goodreads members in 26 countries…

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Review of The Hive Construct by Alexander Maskill

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This book caught my eye as it won The 2013 Terry Pratchett Prize, complete with a complimentary comment on the back cover by the great man, himself. So I was expecting something remarkable by this young writer.

hiveconstructSituated deep in the Sahara Desert, New Cairo is a city built on technology – from the huge, life-giving solar panels that keep it functioning in a radically changed, resource-scarce world, to the artificial implants that seem to have resolved all of mankind’s medical problems. But New Cairo is also a divided city – a vast metropolis dominated by a handful of omnipotent corporate dynasties. And when a powerful new computer virus begins to spread through the poorer districts, shutting down the implants that enable so many to survive, the city begins to turn on itself – to slide into the anarchy of violent class struggle. Hiding out in the chaos is Zola Ulora, a gifted hacker and fugitive from justice. Her fervent hope is that she can earn her life back by tracing the virus and destroying it before it destroys the city. Or before the city destroys itself…

It takes a great deal of technical skill to be able to immediately pull a reader into a technically complex world with a suitably layered, sympathetic character that allows your reader to fully bond with her. While the world was interesting, the pace was initially silted up by too many chunks of information on how it all worked. However, I persevered because the world was well constructed and entirely plausible, while

Maskill endeavoured to give a fully nuanced take on the situation unfolding.

As it all started kicking off, the pace picked up and provided plenty of unexpected twists I really didn’t see coming, although the themes are very familiar to science fiction fans. Maskill can certainly provide a plot with plenty going on. While I initially was concerned that the outcome was all too predictable, he was at pains to provide a rounded view of the struggle threatening to rip New Cairo apart. Although I would have liked to have spent a bit more time in Zola’s viewpoint. There was a reasonably large cast in a relatively short story and Maskill hasn’t yet acquired the knack of immediately writing a solid bonding moment with the reader and viewpoint character. The consequence was that I wasn’t as heavily invested in the story as I would have liked.

I’m conscious that I have sounded very critical – but this is by no means a bad book. The world certainly works and because of Maskill’s approach, there is an attempt to look at the crisis from both sides – this near future scenario is probably the hardest form of science fiction to write well and there is plenty in it for fans of the genre to enjoy. What this first book has demonstrated is Maskill’s undoubted talent. I look forward to following his writing career – he is certainly One To Watch.
7/10

The Blog-hop Challenge

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Thank you Sarah Letourneau for nominating me to contribute to this World Blog-hop. The challenge is to answer the five questions below and nominate two more people to take on the Blog-hop. Here goes…Bunny Hop

1. Include a quote.
I think it comes from the great Terry Pratchett – Writing is the most fun you can have with your clothes on… Yep. I’d agree with that.

2. Why do you create what you do?
Because it’s an addiction that really has me by the throat. I’m aware that I and my family pay a price. The hours I spend sitting at the computer pouring these words out (so far this year 277,800 and counting…) means I’m not doing other things. Some of those things aren’t crucial – let’s face it, who really cares whether the house gets dusted once a week? Or even a month? But I don’t keep up with friends as much as I should, and there are also times when I’m not the best daughter/mother/granny/sister/wife I could be – because those damn words keep swirling around in my head and if I don’t let them out, I stop being my usual sweet-natured, saintly self and instead turn into the snarling bitch from Hell…

3. How does your creative process work?
I used to just plunge in and start writing – whether it was a novel or a story, but I’m far more circumspect about doing that with a novel, these days. My favourite part of the whole business is writing the first draft, but if I’m too gung-ho then the re-writing is a massive effort of tidying up dead-ends, extra characters that didn’t go anywhere and pruning redundant plotlines. So these days, I will make some attempt to write a plot outline – and I make a strenuous attempt to have an ending planned. However inevitably in the middle of a chapter, about a third of the way in, the book will suddenly swerve off the main road speed off down a left turn. I’ve learnt to go with the flow – seven times out of ten it will work out.

The other three times it doesn’t and I have to stop, work back to where the turning went wrong and start again. As I’ve become more experienced and learnt my own writing rhythms, I can spot when it’s going wrong far more quickly and backtrack and sort it out fairly fast. I’m a bit of a conflict junkie, so there are times when I’ll get caught up in burying my long-suffering protagonist under a mound of knee-buckling problems to the extent that it simply doesn’t work. But while there are times I’ll break off from a book for a while, I’ve only a couple of times completely abandoned a novel without finishing it. The first one was when in chapter 3, my lantern-jawed hero was suddenly castrated in a tragic accident – which was when I realised my destiny didn’t lie in writing straight romantic fiction…

4. How does your work differ from others in your genre?
My writing voice is very strong – for good or for ill. I’m one of those Marmite writers readers either love or loathe. I write mostly science fiction and some fantasy. I’m particularly fascinated by the dynamics of family life and in what form it will survive when we are living on different planets, or family ships carrying cargo, as my current protagonist’s family do, for instance, in my Sunblinded trilogy.

And the collection of short stories I’m shortly self-publishing, entitled Picky Eaters, explores what happens when Granddad has to move in with his daughter after Sammy Jo and Billy Bob, his grandchildren, manage to upset the neighbours so they run him off his mountain dwelling. And Granddad is a crotchety dragon cursed with the gift of time-travelling…

5. What are you working on right now?
I’m writing Breathing Space, the last book in a trilogy I hope to be self-publishing next year. It charts the adventures of my Iberian merchanter’s daughter Jezell Campo, from when she is a wannabe trainee officer on her father’s ship, to the final book when she is on a mission to track down and kill a psychotic murderer threatening her family. The first two books, Running Out of Space and Dying for Space are completed bar the final edits and I hope to have the first draft of Breathing Space finished before Christmas.

I’m enjoying writing the book, although it has thrown me a few curved balls – it’s one of the addictions about the writing process, it never gets boring… While I have other books I’d like to be traditionally published, Jezell Campo is going to be my PI in a series of science fiction crime series I’ve planned out, which I’m really excited about. This is one project is one I’d like to keep under absolute control.

I’m also working on next term’s course notes Keep Writing on the Right Track. Each term has a particular teaching focus and next term we’ll be looking at those issues that can derail a writer. I do a lot of thinking and reading before I start writing the handouts – which will be at the beginning of next month at the latest. I hate running any project right up to the deadline as the sort of pressure never produces my best work.

My continual work in progress are the reviews and occasional other articles I produce for my blog – another passion. I’m an avid and enthusiastic reader and have become somewhat addicted to writing reviews sharing my excitement about a good book I’ve recently enjoyed. I don’t write negative reviews because these days I simply don’t bother to complete books I don’t like – Life is too short.

My nominations for blog-hopping are:
Mhairi Simpson, for her site Reality Refuge.
I met up with Mhairi back in 2011 at Fantasycon and we just… clicked. We poured out our passion for writing fantasy and science fiction, swapped life histories and discovered we had a lot more in common than the fact we’re both strong-minded blondes… Her blog reflects who she is – brave, articulate and with a tendency to run into situations at a full gallop. She writes fantasy, including several self published excellent short stories and edited the critically acclaimed anthology Tales of Eve – I reviewed it here – which include stories from the likes of Juliet E. McKenna and Adrian Tchaikovsky. She is also one of the most endlessly inventive people I’ve ever met and spending a week-end in her company makes me feel brand new and excited about writing all over again… If I could bottle her, I would.

C Miller. Another impressively talented YA Fantasy writer who regularly blogs. Check out her book Reave. She writes with a passion that sweeps you into her world. Her blog is enjoyable and well written, while she is enthusiastic and supportive of other writers – all in all a thoroughly deserving nominee, who I guarantee will answer the questions interestingly…

Review of The Shadow Pavilion – Book 4 of The Inspector Chen series by Liz Williams

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I first published this review back when a very select few were visiting my blog, so thought I’d recycle it as it has only been seen by a handful of visitors…

shadowpavilionA bit fed up with your urban fantasy detectives? Well, if you do fancy a change from the plethora of vampires and/or werewolves that frequent city streets righting wrongs – then look no further than the Inspector Chen books by Liz Williams.

Set in a near-futuristic city, Singapore Three, Inspector Chen is a Chinese police officer whose remit takes him into Heaven and Hell to investigate crimes. Having said that, the vivid characters surrounding him easily eclipse our self-effacing hero. Chen’s wife is a half-demon on the run from Hell and her pet protector is a badger whose lethal persistence are matched only by his bite and ability to turn himself into a teakettle. Williams even manages to make the Celestial Emperor, Mhara, an intriguing personality – which is a feat. Ineffable goodness, while very pleasant, is often rather boring, except in Williams’ hands…

Singapore Three, Heaven and Hell are described with panache in Williams’ vivid prose. This particular story follows the adventures of a Bollywood director who summons up a Tiger demoness to star in one of his films. However, when he tries to send her back, a trail of destruction is unleashed that pulls in Chen’s partner and the badger. And if that wasn’t enough, the fabled Shadow Pavilion houses a formidable assassin, Lord Lady Seijin, contracted to kill an extremely important personage. If Seijin succeeds, the fragile stability of Heaven, Hell and Earth will dissolve into chaos…

Williams’ lush prose whips this story along at a cracking pace. Now that I’ve read previous Inspector Chen novels, know the characters and fully appreciate the world she has created, I was able to relax and thoroughly enjoy the ride. But – and it’s a major But – I didn’t start this series with the first book and I nearly didn’t bother finishing it. This world is so very different with its richly textured Eastern origins, that I was frankly floundering until I read the first novel, Snake Agent. So do, please, read these books in order, or you won’t get the best out of Williams’ entertaining, sophisticated writing.
8/10