What’s this Kindle Worlds Thing?

I’ve never been a huge fan of fan fiction. I like to come up with my own story, thanks so much. But when I was invited to write in an author’s soon-to-be-formed Kindle World, I suddenly had a different thought.

Or twelve. You know me, I rarely think about only one thing at a time. And one thought leads to another and before you know it COOKIES!

Now, back to this Kindle Worlds thing.

Amazon Gets Bigger

I first noticed Kindle Worlds when an author I like (paranormal romance) released a new book in “The Runes Universe.”

Now, I’ve also read a couple books from The Runes series, and I found them good, but a little too shallow and predictable for me. They are young adult paranormal romances, after all, and they are a huge hit with the teenage girls they’re written for.

But I haven’t been a teenage girl for a few years. (Stop rolling your eyes, Darrin!)

What Amazon has done is ask some indie authors (don’t ask me how they decide but I’m guessing it has something to do with sales) to turn their fictional worlds into a place where anyone can contribute stories. The original characters can be used by these new authors, but they should not be the major players.

Furthermore, this universe is suddenly a sandbox that only Amazon (specifically Kindle Direct Publishing) has rights to play in. If you submit a story into the universe, you relinquish rights to it forever.

Most authors just shuddered. But I’m not worried about this at all. I’ll still own the characters, and if I fall in love with them, I only have to move them to a different setting and I can write about them for eternity.

The benefits of publishing in these Kindle Worlds during a targeted release blitz:

  1. A $250 bonus (to help offset cover design and editing costs-paid AFTER publishing)
  2. Amazon’s marketing power during the release
  3. Mention in the back of other books in the release linking you to the readers of many authors

For someone who hates to market, this really called to me.

Not Really Fan Fiction

This is how dictionary.com defines fan fiction:

a fictional account written by a fan of a show, movie, book, or video game to explore themes and ideas that will not or cannot be explored via the originating medium; also written fan fiction , also called fanfic

And I have to admit, I’m not necessarily a huge fan of the series of books that is the springboard for the Kindle World I’m planning to write for. That’s the biggest reason I don’t see this as fan fiction.

After all, all that happens is I put my characters into the town of Sweet Grove, Texas. The books need to be a sweet romance and since the world is called “First Street Church Romances,”  they’re probably going to explore inspirational themes or have Christian worldviews.

All of which is what I want to do anyway.

Am I deluding myself? Will people see this as fanfic?

Weighing the Pros and Cons

As always when I’m presented with a new writing opportunity, I pulled out my notebook and began scrawling out my thoughts.

Here’s an excerpt: “These are novellas-20,000 to 40,000 words-of sweet romance with some Christian influence. This could be a way to build my brand IF I’m going to write mostly inspirational romances after this.”

And with the power of Amazon behind each launch, I’ll pick up new readers. There will be people who buy everything they see, thinking it’s going to be a series they love.

Plus the author who originally invented Sweet Grove is a marketing professional, and she intends to push all the books with her considerable platform and influence.

When 100 writers jumped in with both feet at the idea, you know it’s a good one.

My lists were incredibly short:

Pros: inspirational; wide market range; connection at Amazon; free promo from Melissa Storm

Cons: romance; edit & cover costs; another distraction from “real” writing

But why isn’t this “real” writing? I have some sort of chip on my shoulder about inspirational romances which makes no sense. For a decade or more, that is ALL that I read.

Only now, I’m back to reading mostly fantasy. Romances are too predictable to me, so I don’t enjoy reading them as much anymore.

But there are millions of people who DO enjoy reading them. And they would read the ones I wrote because Amazon would make sure they knew about them.

So, what do you think I should do? Is it worth my time and effort to publish in a Kindle World?

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Get anything you want – in the mail

Thanks to Amazon and other online vendors, a person never needs to leave their house to be supplied with anything they want. Everything they want—as long as they have a credit card limit high enough—will come to them in the mail.

Or be delivered by another parcel service.

The other day, the UPS man rang the bell at my door. I can see the porch from my office, and I noticed he wasn’t ringing and running like he usually does. Interesting.

When I opened the door, he held out the little electronic keypad thing-a-ma-jig they use these days.

“I need your signature today,” he says.

“I don’t even know what’s in the package.” I said this before I saw it was addressed to my husband. I hadn’t ordered anything I needed to sign for.

“It contains alcohol,” he informs me. Alcohol? We don’t even drink alcohol?

Or is there something my husband isn’t telling me???

“Signature required by law.”

Well who I am to break the law?

by_law

After he verified my name (since no one can sign those digital do-dads with any legibility), he handed me the package.

After checking that the box was from Alex in Laguna, California. And it was indeed addressed to my husband, I sent a text to The Man at work.

He didn’t know what it was either. Even after I sent him a picture of the label.

Things I Get all the Time

I get packages on a pretty regular basis. Mostly because it’s so easy to order anything I want and have it delivered.

Why leave the sanctuary of my home to purchase items if they will come to me? For just a few dollars more.

Amazon supplies me with:amazon-package

  • Books
  • Home decor
  • Gifts
  • Furniture
  • Shoes
  • And pretty much anything I can imagine.

But I also have become adept at clothes shopping. Who wants to go to the mall by themselves? Not me.

Why try on clothes in a cramped changing room when you can do it in the comfort of your own bedroom?

Right. Return fees.

It’s pretty amazing how many companies run specials that include free returns.

Of course, when I’m ordering my bras from Victoria’s Secret, I know the style and size I like. There’s not much risk of having to return them. Unless they are damaged.

It’s not that I don’t like shopping. I on’t want to go by myself. And why fight the crowds on the weekend when all my friends are finally off work and available to hit the stores with me?

Services I’m Trying Out

Recently, I’ve become part of the crowd that uses repeat delivery services.

I began this years ago with Gevalia coffee. Delicious stuff. In fact, I should probably look into starting that up again. I canceled it before we moved because I had a year’s worth of coffee stockpiled in my freezer.

Last year, my insurance finally came up with a mail-order prescription service that wasn’t a pain in the patooty. They ship me a 90-day supply of my daily medications automatically and charge my co-pay to my credit card.

So I get three months of meds for what I used to pay each month at the drugstore.

Save money? I’m in. Added convenience? I’m doubly pleased with myself.

auto_delivery

What other things is the delivery man setting on my porch on a regular schedule? Well:

  • Cat food (from PetCo delivered every six weeks)
  • Shakeology -my healthy breakfast-delivered every two months

And I recently signed up for Stitch Fix. This is a service that sends you five clothing items (you choose the frequency). You keep only what you want. They send you an addressed, postage-paid envelope for the returns.

Yes there’s a fee for the delivery even if you keep nothing.

But nothing is free in this world.

I’m looking forward to having my own personal stylist and seeing what sort of outfits she/he puts together for me each month. Actually, I signed up for an every two month delivery for this, too.

The end of the story

Oh, the package that started this story? You want to know what it was and who it was from?

Well no good gossip here.

It was a bottle of wine with the option of signing up for a wine-of-the-month club. (See? Here’s another thing you can get via mail.)

The sender happened to be one of the owners of a company who did work for us recently. They were thanking us for our business.

We could have used a Home Depot gift card rather than the wine. But what do you expect from a guy who lives in California?

What sort of things have you gotten in the mail (or in a package delivered to your door)?

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What Would Wonder Woman Do is actually a book

You can learn all sorts of things typing something as simple as a phrase into the Google searchbar. That’s what a did last week while struggling to come up with another post for my Wonder Woman Does Thursday feature.

I simply typed “What would Wonder Woman do” into the search bar. (I was happy to see my original blog introducing this series on the first page of suggestions.) And I found out not only is there a book with this title, but also a Facebook personal blog.

Wow.

Perhaps I should have done the search BEFORE I claimed the catch phrase for a series on my blog.

What if it was trademarked?

Anyhow, you can check out the Facebook blog here.

Read on to learn about the book: WHAT WOULD WONDER WOMAN DO? AN AMAZON’S GUIDE TO THE WORKING WORLD

Doesn't it look like a fun read?
Doesn’t it look like a fun read?

Here’s the description from Amazon: Beyond saving the planet, let’s not forget that Wonder Woman also holds down a full-time job. In this hilarious and empowering handbook, the most popular female comic book character unveils her secrets for being a super hero in the office and finding your inner Wonder Woman. Ace a job interview, combat a tyrannical supervisor, move up the corporate ladder, handle office romance, and more. Pairing original comic book art with wry text, this colorful hardcover is perfect for the working girl looking to unleash her inner superpowers onto the daily grind.

Reviews suggest this is a perfect gift for someone who loves Wonder Woman. Or even as a gag gift for someone at your office.

Feel free to add it to my wish list. I’d be happy to have a few chuckles along with Wonder Woman.

And who knows, it might even give me more blog ideas.

What is the strangest thing you discovered while doing a Google search?

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The Storyspinner

Magical realms call to me. You know it. You’ve seen what I like to read – and write. It’s no surprise that Becky Wallace’s The Storyspinner has been on my Goodreads to be read list for many months.

In fact, each time I see the cover and read the blurb, I want to open the book. This is why I’m thankful for Amazon wish lists (note to self: add that to your 365 days of gratitude list).

I added the book to my wish list. One of my children purchased the book for me at Christmas. Of course, the pile of books I hauled in that day (which doesn’t include the electronic versions) will take a few months to devour.

(On a side note: I love the title to this book. As a spinner of stories, it set my imagination on fire. Kudos to the author for writing a story worthy of such a compelling title.)

I should have started with The Storyspinner. It is an epic fantasy (even by the definition given be fantasy faction) and I loved it anyway.

Yes, you read that right.

Usually, epic fantasy doesn’t float my book boat. There are too many characters that I don’t like, but I have to be in their heads for the sake of the story sprawl. The author generally kills off the ones I do like (yes, George R.R. Martin, I’m looking at you). And there’s too much description bogging down the pace.

Why am I giving five stars to this book that is the first in a new young adult epic fantasy series then?

The Blurb

StorySpinner CoverIn a world where dukes plot their way to the throne, a Performer’s life can get tricky. And in Johanna Von Arlo’s case, it can be fatal. Expelled from her troupe after her father’s death, Johanna is forced to work for the handsome Lord Rafael DeSilva. Too bad they don’t get along. But while Johanna’s father’s death was deemed an accident, the Keepers aren’t so sure.

The Keepers, a race of people with magical abilities, are on a quest to find the princess—the same princess who is supposed to be dead and whose throne the dukes are fighting over. But they aren’t the only ones looking for her. And in the wake of their search, murdered girls keep turning up—girls who look exactly like the princess, and exactly like Johanna.

With dukes, Keepers, and a killer all after the princess, Johanna finds herself caught up in political machinations for the throne, threats on her life, and an unexpected romance that could change everything.

My Review

This book has the main ingredients any fantasy novel needs to grab my interest: an interesting magical system and a strong heroine (or hero, preferably both).

The books starts off with only a few pages from Johanna’s normal world. We get to meet her father and see inside her idyllic family life. By the end of the prologue, all that changes.

I’m intrigued by The Keepers. The small glimpse we get inside their government makes me think of wizards only more political. The magic they wield is elemental magic, but accessed in a unique way. In fact, much about the magic was left to my imagination (which I prefer), but it will be interesting to learn more about its origin and adaptation as the series continues.

There is romance – two of them even. I’m usually not a fan of the “hate each other at first sight” trope, however, Wallace uses it effectively. The first meeting between Rafael and Johanna can’t help but create some animosity. It took me longer to understand and accept Rafi’s negative responses, but in retrospect I see this as well-written by the author.

Action piles on top of action. There are sword fights, magical fights, and tension on every page.

If you like the bard character in medieval literature, you’ll enjoy this story since that’s Johanna’s performing strength. Although some stereotypical Gypsy performer elements were present, there was a new element infused into it that made those characters more than that.

I’m interested to see where the author will go with the idea of The Keepers being considered deities among some of the people. I like that the “good guys” are appalled by this idea, while the “bad guys” use that reverence. They twist it into fear and use it to enslave people.

Johanna didn’t act like a typical teenager. She’s older and thrust into a position of responsibility, which explains part of it. Most of the time I forgot I was reading about a sixteen-year-old.

Still, all the characters were well-drawn and pulled me further into the story. I enjoyed jumping between the different perspectives, not finding any of them tedious to read.

My Recommendation

There are a few thematic elements and scenes of violence that might be difficult for younger readers. I would suggest this book for mature teens only (I won’t put an age because some are more mature at thirteen than others at eighteen).

This novel is perfect for a fantasy lover (like myself), someone who enjoys action and adventure and even those who like historical fiction. Yes, this is set in a different world, but it has many elements associated with the medieval time frame. Apparently, that’s a requisite for epic fantasy (see this post).

The romantic elements are present but not overwhelming. The adult romance toes the line of becoming too descriptive, but it isn’t a book that needs disclaimers about sex.

Upon finishing, I raced to Amazon to purchase the sequel. Sadly, it isn’t available until March 22.

And, yes, it’s on my Amazon wish list.

Because sometimes those wishes are granted.

Rick Riordan brings The Sword of Summer to life

Rick Riordan writes middle grade and young adult adventure books in a way that makes me drool (as I’m rapidly turning pages to discover what happens next). His newest series, Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, delivers nothing less.

When a book begins with the main character’s death, you know something interesting has got to happen next. Otherwise, the story would be over. Epic fail.

Will he be resurrected? I know it isn’t all a dream because Riordan is too skilled to fall into that trap. Is it all going to happen in the afterlife?

All in all, it earns a solid 4.5 stars from me. Yes, I am surprised that it didn’t make five stars -it’s the amazing Rick Riordan-but I’ll explain my reasons during this review.

My Summary

Magnus Chase (if you recognize the surname here from another series, you’re not wrong) has been living on the streets since his mother’s murder. Apparently, this is a relatively safe thing for a boy to do in Boston. Or maybe just because two other homeless guys are watching out for him.

The story opens with his relatives looking for him. What? He had relatives and they just let him live on the streets? You’ll understand the reasoning before too long.

Magnus has an important destiny in the scheme of the Norse doomsday, Ragnarok. This brings a fire giant, slinging meteors, into downtown Boston. There’s a showdown. Magnus goes over the bridge and wakes up in Valhalla.

If you’re not current with your Norse mythology, never fear. Riordan does a great job weaving the information you need to understand what’s happening into the story.

Magnus makes a few friends. Gets his Valkyrie fired. Is the subject of a dire prophecy. Dies a few more times in practice battles. And sneaks away from Valhalla to embark on a quest to regain the Sword of Summer and stop the end of the Nine Worlds from happening.

My Review

Magnus is an engaging character with an interesting background. Meeting him on the streets made me consider the ugly fact that there are plenty of homeless children living in similar situations. For real. Hopefully, none of them are being hunted by fire giants.

Even though Riordan explains the familial situation, I still have a hard time accepting that Magnus would have been abandoned. His family is searching for him now, but why didn’t they do it two years ago? Why are they assuming he’s still alive? And when we find out WHO he’s related to, it seems even more unlikely (although we don’t really know the time relationship between this story and the two series featuring Percy Jackson).

I admired Magnus for holding onto his sense of humor (since that is how many of us cope with difficult situations). His flippancy was a nice change from the constant sarcasm Percy Jackson uses. In other ways, though, they are similar: reluctant heroes who don’t know their fathers.

I wasn’t put off by the contradictory depictions of Odin, Loki and Thor shown here (and I’m a huge Avengers fan). It’s a different universe, folks. Of course they are going to be different. Only a lazy author would make them carbon copies of something he’d seen in the movies.

The biggest issue I had with accepting this story world is a single question: where are the Greek and Roman gods?

Case in point: Magnus must go out and barter with a sea goddess. They only mention her husband the sea god in passing, but it isn’t Poseidon. How many deities are willing to share their realms with other deities? Shouldn’t there be a scuffle about territory?

There’s no attempt to answer this burning question. It’s like those individuals don’t exist. But we know they do. The presence of Annabeth Chase brings their existence front and center. Maybe this is when they’re all amassing in Greece to face down the giants and Gaia. And yet…wouldn’t their absence be cause for even more turmoil in their domains?

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed the book. I just wish Riordan would have set it in a different universe. He could have used our contemporary world and made that work fine. But by bringing Annabeth into the story (even in a minor way), he reminded me that there is plenty of turmoil in this world already, but it isn’t even alluded to by the Norse deities or the human world.

My Recommendation

If you love Riordan’s writing (like I do), you won’t be disappointed. He delivers another page-turner with non-stock characters.

If you’ve read all his other books (like I have, with the exception of the Red Pyramid series), parts of this book will bring a sense of deja vu. Haven’t we been here before? And yet, how could that be true when we’re entering the Norse mythology of Nine Worlds?

You will laugh. You might even tear up. If you want a fast-paced book with likable characters and as much humor as action, this is a book you’ll want to read.

If you have read this book, what were your thoughts? Do you think I’m overreacting about questioning where the Greek and Roman (and perhaps Egyptian) deities are hiding?

The Vanished Knight by M. Gerrick – 3.8 of 5 Stars

In the interest of promoting independently published authors, I often agree to review new releases. In the case of The Vanished Knight by M. Gerrick, I agreed to review the first book in her series The War of Six Crowns in exchange for a free eBook copy.

For those of you new to book publishing in the Amazon paradigm, the goal is to build chatter about your existing titles so that when a new title is released, people are excited to snap it up. I admire the indie authors who willingly put themselves out there with minimal support because they believe in the story they have to tell.

I read this book between July 6th and 9th but waited to post the review on my blog until today. Why? Because today, the second book in the series, The Heir’s Choice, releases on Kindle today. Get your copy by clicking here.

Story Summary

The Vanished Knight CoverCallan, orphaned at the age of eleven, is a foster child with a strange entity living within her. (Don’t get too intrigued by this entity because we learn NOTHING about its origin or real purpose in this book.) She also is plagued by strange dreams of knights and murder.

She lands into a new foster home, where her wealthy “brother” is less than pleased to have a new sister. Apparently, he had a sister who died (but there are mere hints about how and when) and his parents should have sought his permission before trying to replace her with this mousy girl.

They head off to an elite boarding school that is situated near a supposedly haunted castle. Callan likes to blend in, hide in plain sight, in order to cope with new situations. Unfortunately, several things happen the first day of school to prevent that.

In what should have been a pleasure trip, Callan falls into the hands of kidnappers from an alternate world. She is rescued by a boy from school, who apparently is a knight in the other realm.

Soon she discovers that her family might not be as dead as she always believed. This world is on the edge of war (as the title of the series suggests), and Callan appears to be caught between two powerful races who despise and distrust one another.

My Review

Does my summary end abruptly? So does the book. This is one of the reasons I give this book a 3.8 out of five stars on my rating scale.

The author created a winning character with Callan. The girl is compelling and sympathetic. Although she seems too passive at first, readers quickly realize the reasoning for this. Just enough of her history is given to us to help us understand her while yearning to find out more.

The three male characters aren’t nearly as compelling. Although Darrion comes across like a jerk, his strong personality fits his station and background. Due to the sparks that fly between him and Callan, I imagine there will be a romance between the two of them in later books.

Of course, Gawain already fancies himself in love with Callan. His easy-going personality makes him quite likable, but he’s not as well-rounded as he should be if he’s going to be a major player in the story.

The foster brother, James, is my least favorite character in the story (even above Callan’s kidnapper and the unhelpful museum curator). He has zero redeeming qualities. When bad things happen to him, I feel no sympathy. He’s simply a spoiled rich kid who feel entitled to whatever he wants (and that is not relatable to me or any of the young adults I know).

Apparently, he will play an important role in future stories because the sample chapter of the second book features him. His part in this story was minor, and his journey into the alternate world didn’t feel like natural story progression (another strike against this book and why it didn’t quite earn four stars).

Too much time is spent in our world since the actual “story” takes place in Nordaine. Even the title speaks to events happening in this other reality. Most of the events at the boarding school, which took up chapters, could have fit easily into two or three scenes. I did like the arrival scene, but most of the other byplay didn’t add to the depth of story or characters.

What was the problem in this story? Callan has an entity (still a mystery at the end of the book) that keeps her from developing close relationships, but she wants those. In the end, she discovers she might have family alive and well in the alternate world. I’ve read the book, contemplated what it was “really” about, and I’m still coming up blank (thus the lowered rating).

The beginning was confusing, jumping between three perspectives, dreams and reality, this world and that world. I feel like some young adult readers would have closed the book before things started happening.

All this book offers are more questions. Who are Callan’s parents? Why did someone want to kidnap her? What is the entity? Why does the book promise me a vanished knight when that is an underlying issue but not the heart of Callan’s story?

Because this is Callan’s story. Sure, it might also be a little bit of Darrion’s story, but that felt like an introduction to the magical otherworld more than something important. It hints that James has a story, but most readers will be happy when very little time is spent with the rich brat.

In short, this is one of those first books that irritates me. It doesn’t have it’s own story. It is nothing more than set-up for the rest of the series. It says, “Here are the characters. This is what’s going on that’s about to change everything. And we’ll get to that in the next installment.”

A Recommendation

I clicked over to pre-order the second book as soon as I finished this novel. Do you need more of a recommendation than that?

My biggest recommendation is to WAIT to read this until the second book is available. Lucky for you, that’s today. Your appetite will just be whetted for this universe Gerrick creates and this novel will end.

Overall, I believe this book will entertain lovers of all fantasy genres. I had a hard time putting it down after the first three of four confusing chapters. The medieval setting of the alternate universe will captivate those who love historical fiction from that era.

Love knights? You’ll meet some good and bad ones here. Think elves are out of this world? Right again. But they belong to the alternate reality created by Gerrick in this novel.

The scope isn’t quite epic because the cast isn’t too huge to keep straight. Maybe this is why I enjoyed the book (even though this review may give a conflicted recounting).

Pick up your copy of this book and it’s sequel today.

Clay’s Hope a Companion to Hope(less) by Melissa Haag

I’ve read the entire Judgment of Six series (four books) without coming up for air. Well, except when I had to wait for a new book to be released.

I’m still waiting for Isabelle’s story – and to find out how the six special human girls are going to stop the bad guys. I’m sure their werewolf boyfriends will be involved somehow.

Clay’s Hope tells the same story as Hope(less). I wasn’t sure how I would feel about revisiting the first installment of the Six series – even though it has been my favorite one of the books.

And most of that has to do with Clay – his persistence to win Gabby at any cost. And then to protect her even before she admits she’s falling in love with him.

What I enjoyed

Romance packs a punch when both parties involved offer their perspective. One thing I feel is lacking in the Judgment of Six series is the man’s point of view. Getting inside the guy’s head adds tension and ups the intensity of the passion.

In fact, I liked imagining Gabby’s responses as I read Clay’s story. It was easier for me to do this than it had been to guess at Clay’s feelings while reading Gabby’s story.

Most of what Gabby assumed Clay was thinking and feeling was totally off base. That made me smile more times than I can count.

Clay wears his wolf skin for much of the book. It was interesting to get inside that head. After all, he wasn’t a pet, but Rachel treated him like one. And he didn’t care for that. I wouldn’t either.

I didn’t feel as much sexual tension in this book, which is good since it is marketed as a Young Adult Urban Fantasy. Gabby and Clay have the chastest relationship in this series, so I would recommend it to younger readers.

I’ve had a crush on Clay since reading the first book. He is the epitome of the strong, silent type of man, and it was interesting to really get to know him.

By the way, he isn’t as easy going as you might have first suspected.

It was good to see how he pursued Gabby in those hours when he wore his human skin and worked at the auto shop, went shopping, fixed things and cooked for her. He wanted to be the man she needed – and that’s very romantic.

What I wasn’t so keen about

I know Ms. Haag wants to tell all the boys’ stories using these companion books. I think they are slated to be novellas. I wasn’t all that thrilled to revisit the same story – even though it was from a different perspective.

Romances are best when we see both sides. For that reason, I think she should have sprinkled alternating chapters from the man’s perspective in the Judgment books. When she repeats the story line, I feel like I’m paying for the same story twice (of course, when the companion only costs 99 cents, that’s not a huge burden).

I laughed out loud and devoured this book in mere hours. I truly enjoyed it. It would have been even better if I could have read it alongside Gabby’s story.

My recommendation

If you have read Hope(less), don’t reread it before picking up Clay’s story. I almost did this, and after reading Clay’s Hope in a single day, I’m glad I viewed it through fresh eyes.

I know this sounds like I’m contradicting what I said earlier. The original story would have been more intense if both viewpoints were included. To understand what’s happening in the overall story, you only need to read either Clay’s Hope or Hope(less).

If you are crushing on Clay (like me), you should definitely read this story. It will give you a clearer picture of who he was. However, if you like the mystery man you got to know in Hope(less), he will be replaced by the real Clay after you read this story.

Consider yourself warned.

Road to Self-Published – Using CreateSpace

roadto selfpublished

If you’re new to this whole “Be your own Publisher” reality, I’m right there with you. Even though the CreateSpace environment is user-friendly, it isn’t self-explanatory. Choosing the correct categories, perfect metadata fields and pricing your book require some research.

To this end, doing a Google search will garner millions of page results, but won’t filter the useless tripe from things that will actually help you. (Yes, I did test this out so you don’t have to.)

My Resources

I’m sure you’ve already spent time browsing Amazon in your book’s category. You can get an idea about the best pricing structure here. You can also determine which BISAC category is the best fit for your book (more on that later).

Before you get too far in the process, you should read a few books on self-publishing that address pricing and categories. I suggest:

Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran – The most important information I gleaned from this book is all the specifics about getting the manuscript ready to publish. He offers specs for covers that I sent directly to my designer. The whole process feels doable once I read this book.

How to Market a Book by Joanna Penn – Penn breaks down marketing into digestible chunks. She address the importance of key words and categories. If you don’t know what meta-data is (and I didn’t), this book will help.

Working with CreateSpace

It will take a few hours to shuffle through the four sections for your new publishing project at createspace.com.  I recommend setting up the account before you’re ready to upload a file.

Inside your profile, there are links to information about every aspect of the process. Take some time to explore this. It might save you time when you return to “get serious” creating your book’s profile.

Setup

The Setup of your new book requires four steps: 1) title information, 2) ISBN, 3) interior and 4) cover.

To complete the title information, you will enter the title and subtitle of your book. This information can be changed later, so don’t sweat it if you aren’t settled on your title when you first start the process.

Enter your name as the primary author. You can also add co-authors, editors, cover artists or anyone else who deserves acknowledgement on this project. (The names you add here will appear on the product information screen.)

On the ISBN page, you select one option for your International Standard Book Number. I allowed CreateSpace to assign my number for this project. One reason you wouldn’t want to do this is if you were planning to sell to retailers NOT listed as approved by CreateSpace.

You can purchase an ISBN that could be used on all distribution channels. The cost can be as little as $29 or as much as $129. Check out the Publisher Services site for more information and details.

Before you spend tons of time formatting your interior, I suggest downloading the sample templates provided by CreateSpace. These are based on the physical size of your book (if you are having a print book made). I didn’t do this on my first round and it caused quite a few layout issues.

You can upload .rtf, .pdf, .doc or .docx files for this step. I used their MS Word template and found making changes during the review process was much easier using this type of file. (You won’t be able to make any changes to the document online. Save it to your data storage location so you can update it and then resubmit when it’s fixed).

I didn’t use their cover creator since I hired a professional designer. I did download the PDF describing the dimensions and resolutions, though, and forwarded it to my cover artist. He used the information to make sure the cover looked perfect on the print book.

Review and Distribute

Once you have set everything up, you submit the file for review by the CreateSpace team. The website says it might take as much as 24 hours for your files to be approved. I had the approval in about two hours.

You’ll return to your account and they will tell you any problems they found with your files. You can fix them or decide to order a proof and view them for yourself. Until you approve the proof, your book won’t be available to the public.

Using the Distribute section, you determine what channels you would like to sell your book through, the price, the cover finish for your print book and the description that will appear on the sales page.

The description page needs special attention. The BISAC category you choose will determine the Amazon selling charts. Another thing to pay close attention to is the search key words. In Joanna Penn’s book, she describes the best methods for determining these.

There’s so much more to self-publishing than I had ever suspected. I’m glad for the number of successful indie authors willing to share their expertise and experiences.

Additional Resource: Book Publishing Guide

Perhaps you noticed I’ve changed my posting days. I’ve decided to post on Mondays and Thursdays so the content doesn’t barrel at you at the first of the week and the last of the week. I have mixed data about which days get the most views and shares, so I might experiment with Tuesday and Friday postings if I see a drop in activity.
Do you have a preference?

One Good thing about Moving

Moving isn’t all bad news. In fact, there are a few things I’ve enjoyed about the whole “getting a new house” ordeal.

            In a word: shopping.

Not the usual kind – groceries to keep us fed or toilet paper to…you know. I’m talking about decorating a new living space from the ground up.

Maybe not the ground. I’m not buying floor covering. Unless bath mats count. No? I didn’t think so.

            Online Stores

I am a reason that Amazon is super successful. They should pay me for my dedication to searching their store and making purchases.

As an introvert, the idea of strangers pushing past me while I’m checking out towels and window coverings at Target holds zero appeal. Especially when I’ve had success shopping from the Brylane Home catalog for such things.

In this case: beautiful teal and nautical blue cotton towel sets for the master bath. And an eight-piece comforter set for the master bedroom. Don’t forget a new comforter and sheets for the “guest” bedroom.

All of this spurred me toward a smiley face. Even when the total surpassed $200. It’s only money, right?

Blinds for the windows in the bedrooms and living room are essential. After all, our nearest neighbor is twenty feet away (thankfully, there are no windows into bedrooms on that side of the house).

After comparing several sites, I ordered samples from justblinds.com. A few days later, they arrived. I held the three inch ultra-mini blinds up to the window. How much light would they block? How transparent could they be under the right circumstances?

Heading to my computer, I placed my order. Another $450 on the Discover card. Think about all the cash back I’m earning for using this account to decorate my new home!

            Online “Window” Shopping

Some things need to be seen in order to invest in them. Namely: furniture.

The World Wide Web offers a unique opportunity to narrow the field, however.

In my new home, I’ll need a new dining set, living room seating and a desk for my office. (Yes! I’m going to have a real writing haven in this new place.)

Surfing the net, I found a general idea for the dining room. I know I want a counter-height table. Most of them are square, with legs at the corners only. This also appeals to me. Now if I can find a color and chair styles to suit me…

Couches, chairs and sectionals require in-person shopping. Seriously. Do people actually buy furniture without sitting in it to see if the cushions act like hungry beasts or solid rocks?

I’m still debating about the leather issue. Leather makes me hot. It doesn’t breathe. I envision myself slicked up in the summer by my own perspiration, sliding onto the floor like some sort of cartoon character.

No thank you. I like the way leather looks, though. I haven’t been completely impressed with the durability of microfiber fabric. (And I’m not talking about the claw marks. That will be handled before a certain feline is admitted to the new house.)

I’ve had the most fun frustration searching online for a desk. I know exactly what I want. If you think this is a plus, you haven’t been shopping with me.

When I say I know EXACTLY what I want, I mean I have a picture in my head that I expect to find replicated in real life.

            Now you see the issue.

 

Lovely, right? Only $1,768 and this desk could be yours.

Isn’t there a huge market for computer desks with keyboard trays and a set of drawers connected to a five-foot work surface to run perpendicular to it? They call them L-shaped workstations or desks.

The selection of styles and sellers boggles even the Google search engine.

Sadly, my mental image has yet to find its perfect match. Sigh

This means I will end up settling. Because I refuse to pay $1,300 for the set-up. We all realize my annual income since becoming a professional writer has been in the – $600 range. This year – even with a contract – it looks like it will be closer to -$2,000.

I can’t justify decking my office out with solid maple furnishings.

Should I settle for a $250 flim-flam setup courtesy of Staples? That remains to be seen.

            Beating the Pavement

Eventually, the search heads for the street. The number of furniture stores pales when compared to the frequency of drive-thru coffee klatches.

No, that doesn’t mean it is easy to narrow down the search. Or maybe it is. If you just choose the place nearest to the Barnes and Noble bookstore where you worked while leaving your house empty for an inspector.

I love shopping. Especially when I know what I want and I have the money in hand to purchase it.

What is your experience with online shopping? Share your nightmare stories – or amazing finds – in the comments so we all can be warned.

Eye of the Soul

Fantasy novels entice me. As you know, I’ve learned that novels of epic scope aren’t really my cup of coffee. Novels with an epic premise or story? That would be Eye of the Soul by Terri Rochenski.

I was introduced to the writing of Rochenski through an anthology I bought to support one of my writer friends. You can check it out here. Since that time, I’ve been following the publisher, J. Taylor Publishing, on Facebook.

When they posted that the first book in a series would be FREE to celebrate the release of the second book in the series, you know what happened. I clicked the link. Amazon offered its wonderful “Buy now with 1-click” option and another book added itself to the ever-expanding queue.

Not every book in that queue will be read by me. Several I snagged for FREE weren’t worth the price I paid for them.

Not so with Eye of the Soul.

The Blurb

Copied from Goodreads:

“Escape.

That should be Hyla’s first thought as her people are chained and imprisoned for no imaginable reason. Instead, Hyla finds herself traveling through a land void of Natives, with human soldiers pillaging in desperate pursuit of her, and in search of the mystical Pool of Souls—home to the one man who can save her people.

Or so she believes.

Led by her faith in the deity Fadir, Hyla is met along her journey by Jadon—a human male and fierce King’s warrior, and his childhood best friend Conlin—one of the few Natives aware of his Fadir-given Talents. Protected by Jadon, guided by Conlin, and with an unfailing belief in the purpose of her pilgrimage, Hyla carries on.

Like her, though, another searches for the Pool, and should he gain access first, everyone she loves, and everything she knows, could be lost.

Forever.”

My Review

The novel opens with the capture of Natives by an ambitious High Priest. The Natives appear as elves in my mind – fair skin, pointed ears, (supposed) mystical abilities. I liked that Rochenski uses a different name for them, leaving her plenty of space to conform them to the story she’s telling.

Hyla, a nineteen-year-old orphan, is away collecting roots and herbs for the healers when the attack comes. Right away, we see she is fearful, which makes the reader wonder why. That backstory is sprinkled in at all the right moments.

Through a number of narrators, the story unfolds. A High Priest with a vendetta against the deity of the Natives emerges as the villain. We want to hate him; his despicable misuse of power and authority begs it. Yet, we see he has a secret past – a motivation not unlike that of Mr. Freeze (of Batman fame).

Jadon and Conlin enter the story as childhood friends who share the spotlight as the male heroes in the story. They are like night and day, but their camaraderie and realistic interactions pull the reader further in to this fictional realm.

Hyla’s Talent (mystical power) is the only one that isn’t dormant as the story opens. And she resents it because it shows her the true intentions behind every word and deed. It’s a curse, and she doesn’t understand why the king and others want to use it. How can it help win a war?

In a dream, she is called to the Pool of Souls. When the High Priest discovers its location, he sends his own combined group of soldiers and gifted (but unawakened – so he believes) Natives.

Conflict unfolds and the course is clear. Who will make it to the Pool? What does the Pool actually do? Will Hyla accept her calling? And, will she choose Conlin or Jadon?

The characters are well-formed and realistic.  Although the motivations of some of them are unclear or questionable, most of them acted and reacted consistently. Intrigue surrounds the powers of a few “non-Native” people in the story: where did their powers come from? Why do humans have these “gifts”?

The problem is straight-forward and the plot un-convoluted. We know the goals of the characters and, except where they are keeping a secret, we understand what motivates them. This is by no means a simple story, it is just easy to follow. Rather than shrouding information, the author shares it – to the end that it creates more questions and adds tension.

My Recommendation

This story gets a solid 4.5 out of 5 stars from me. It took me awhile to decide I liked Hyla – needed to understand what made her so mistrustful. Although Jadon is likeable, he seems rather stereotypical. If it weren’t for his friendship and interaction with Conlin, I might have written him off as an egotistical, womanizing jerk.

Give these characters the chance to grow on you, and you won’t be disappointed. Nothing about the story line or premise (racial discrimination, anti-religion and revolutionary tendencies) disappoints.

This is the first book in a series. I’m delighted to meet these characters again. I’m also thrilled that Rochenski handled the story in the proper way: one problem for this book is tackled and resolved, while the larger series problem is clear but still hangs overhead at the end of the book.

The epilogue introduces a new twist and creates immediate anxiety because it pushes one of the heroes into the line of fire. This is a great way to encourage readers to put down book one with the left hand and pick up book two with the right. It was added to my Amazon wish list with a single click, and you’ll see it on my Goodreads “TBR” list, as well.

If you like magic, sword fighting and quests, this is a book you’ll want to read. Whether you’re looking for a great story or a deep story, Eye of the Soul grants your wish.

Have you read this book? What did you think?