Friday, January 31, 2014

Science of the Week, 1/31/14

Here are some of the most interesting science articles I read this week:

New quantum dots herald era of electronics operating on single-atom level

River of hydrogen seen flowing through space

Swiss cheese crystal, or high-tech sponge?

Making stem cells grow human hair

Coming soon: technology for safer driving

Time also featured articles on the Neanderthal in all of us and how old teeth showed a link between two ancient plagues.

The February 2014 issue of Scientific American features articles on problems measuring the radius of the proton, the use of video games in education, and the surprising cunning of chickens. I don't have links, since I still read the paper version of the magazine.

Enjoy the weekend, and I'll see you Monday.









Thursday, January 30, 2014

This and That Thursday: Books with Places You'd Never Want to Live

Every Thursday, Terri Bruce discusses two books with something in common as part of This and That Thursday. Come join the fun! Of course, this week, as we visit places where you'd never want to live, it may not be so much fun.

This week, I'm picking The Speed of Winter and Wither as books with settings where I'd never want to live. Both books are science fiction, but take place on different worlds. The Speed of Winter is the first in a five-book series exploring the fates of four spaceships sent forth on missions to colonize various planets. However, in this book, it turns out that the planet this ship is sent to is too cold to be habitable. (If I recall correctly, some of the colonists attempt to terraform or grow plants, but none of their efforts succeed.) With no way to return to Earth, the colonists' lives lack purpose. Even a child can't bring hope to these people; in fact, she makes the situation even worse. This novella was such a depressing read I don't want to read the rest of the series.

I thought The Speed of Winter did a decent job of world-building, but I wouldn't say the same for Wither. In Wither, there are actually two main disasters, and I'm not sure if they're related. (If it says in the book, I don't recall it.) All of the continents except for North America have been destroyed, along with the ice caps. Yet people still lead fairly normal lives in Florida, and the rich have no problems getting whatever they want. (With the world this messed up, production and transportation should be messed up too.) As if that's not enough, genetic engineering gone awry a few generations back causes women to die at twenty and men at twenty-five. They don't actually wither; instead, they seem to develop something similar to tuberculosis. Because lifespans are so short, teenage girls are pressed into becoming mothers. They can be kidnapped and sold as wives to rich men, who marry several women at once. (However, those that aren't bought are immediately killed, which doesn't make sense from a business perspective: why not sell them to brothels or other rich men?) Yep, this setting is an anti-tourist trap, and again I didn't bother reading the rest of the series.

Do you like reading about dystopias? Why or why not? What makes a fictional world someplace you'd never want to visit?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A New Netbook

Since I'm a slow writer with little writing time, I need to make the most of what time I can scrounge from my day. Sometimes I even write in the car while my husband drives, but even with a laptop, this can be cumbersome. I therefore recently decided to invest in a netbook as well. It arrived Monday at work, and since I was home with my son yesterday (who had another snow day due to the cold),I got to set it up, and Alex got to use it to drool over his Amazon wish list. Here are my old laptop and new netbook side by side. The netbook is small enough to fit into my purse and has a touchscreen. The battery life seems longer than the one on my laptop. It's a little tricky using the keyboard, since it's smaller than a normal one. The netbook has Skydrive, but I'm not sure I can get that to work on the laptop. I may have to transfer files between them with Dropbox or a flash drive. Today will be my test run of using it at work on my lunch hour.

Does anyone else have a netbook? If so, how do you like it? Do you have any tips for using it?

Monday, January 27, 2014

Blog Ring of Power--Terri Bruce

This week on the Blog Ring of Power, we're featuring our own hard-working leader, Terri Bruce, as she re-releases Hereafter. We're also making a change to our schedule and posting all parts of the interview on a single day. Hopefully this will make it easier for you to read the complete interview. This part discusses Terri's Creative Process; I'll post the links to the other sections at the end of the interview.

Was writing the second book easier, harder, or the same as writing the first one?



About the same because there were new and different challenges. Because the reader is familiar with the characters, the story has to dive into the action faster; at the same time, there are readers who might pick this book up first, without having read the previous one, so I had to include enough background information that they wouldn’t be confused, without boring the pants off the readers who do know the story to date.

In what ways, if any, was having experience under your belt a help the second time around? In what ways, if any, was it a hindrance?

I got a lot more adamant about my rights and what I’m worth as an author. Having experience—and having many positive reviews of my work—gave me confidence. First-Time-Terri would have let Thereafter go to print with errors in it or would have signed any of the three contracts that Second-Time-Terri rejected because First-Time-Terri would have felt powerless to do otherwise and/or because she would have thought it was the best she could do. She wouldn’t have had (and didn’t have) the confidence to fly without a net (self-publish).

In what ways has your writing grown or changed since you first started writing?

I hope I’ve improved steadily (and continue to improve) in all dimensions of my writing, but I’ve specifically noticed I’m getting a better sense of when a scene is sort of useless—when it doesn’t move the story forward. I just chopped the entire opening scene of a science fantasy work in progress for that very reason—it was all stage setting, but nothing actually happened. LOL—and I really liked that scene, too!

What’s something you haven’t yet tried as an author, but really want to?


I’ve had a historical fiction banging around in the back of my head for a while, but haven’t had the courage to attempt it. You have to get all the details right with historical fiction and I don’t know if I’m that exact a writer.

What’s something you learned about writing or being an author that you didn’t know when you published your first book?

How many friends I have. How wonderfully supportive the bookish community (writers and readers) is. It’s been truly amazing seeing how many awesome people there are in the world.



Terri Bruce has been making up adventure stories for as long as she can remember and won her first writing award when she was twelve. Like Anne Shirley, she prefers to make people cry rather than laugh, but is happy if she can do either. She produces fantasy and adventure stories from a haunted house in New England where she lives with her husband and three cats. Her second novel, Thereafter (Afterlife #2), will be released May 1, 2014.

Blog:
Facebook page:
Goodreads author page:
Twitter:
Amazon Author Page:
Smashwords Author Page:

Thirty-six-year-old Irene Dunphy didn't plan on dying any time soon, but that’s exactly what happens when she makes the mistake of getting behind the wheel after a night bar-hopping with friends. She finds herself stranded on earth as a ghost, where the food has no taste, the alcohol doesn’t get you drunk, and the sex...well, let’s just say “don’t bother.” To make matters worse, the only person who can see her—courtesy of a book he found in his school library—is a fourteen-year-old boy genius obsessed with the afterlife.

Unfortunately, what waits in the Great Beyond isn’t much better. Stuck between the boring life of a ghost in this world and the terrifying prospect of three-headed hell hounds, final judgment, and eternal torment in the next, Irene sets out to find a third option—preferably one that involves not being dead anymore. Can she wipe the slate clean and get a second chance before it’s too late?


Goodreads:
Amazon:
BarnesandNoble:
Smashwords:
Other: Hereafter is not yet up on Book Depository, iTunes, Kobo, Blio, and Overdrive, but it will be soon.
Hereafter is available in paperback and all ebook formats.


For the rest of Terri's interview, please check out these links:

About You
The Writing Life
About Your Current Work
Words of Wisdom





Friday, January 24, 2014

Science of the Week, 1/24/14

Here are some of the most interesting science news articles I read this week:

Engineer converts yeast cells into "sweet crude" biofuel

Quantum physics could make secure, single-use computer memories possible

Ladies and gentlemen, boot your robots!

Programming drones to fly like birds

First planet found around solar twin in star cluster

Scientists discover new pathway for artificial photosynthesis

Unfortunately, some of the links I wanted to post expired prematurely. However, did you hear about the ghost rock on Mars? Of course, a couple of spots on Mars may have been habitable at some point. Sounds like a good premise for a story....

Have a good weekend, and I'll see you on Monday with a special Blog Ring of Power interview.







Thursday, January 23, 2014

This and That Thursday--Strong Heroines

Once again I'm participating in Terri Bruce's This and That Thursday meme. This week, the topic is strong heroines.

Although in recent years urban fantasy has become swamped with snarky badass women, I prefer reading about women who are strong in terms of intellect, principle, and will, not just firepower. So, after a lot of thought, I choose Hermonine from the Harry Potter series and Cassie Scot from Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective, and Secrets and Lies.

Hermonine probably needs no introduction. She's more intelligent and hard-working than either Harry Potter or Ron. (Personally, I think she should have been in Ravenclaw, but I think Rowling put her into Gryffindor so she could help Harry.) As a witch born to Muggle parents, she is familiar with our world and the wizarding world. She stands up for others who have no rights, such as the house elves. She's my favorite character from the series, the one I identify with, and even though she does get a lot of screen time, I would have loved for her to be the star.

In contrast to Hermonine, Cassie has no magic of her own despite being born into a magical family. But she doesn't let that slow her down. Rather than sit around and let her parents support her (since they can literally make money) or agree to marry someone she's attracted to so he can protect her, she seeks employment in the real world. She starts her own business, using common sense and training to solve crimes, but she's willing to work menial jobs to support herself when she needs to. Like Hermonine, Cassie stands up for others, such as her friends and other women in the magical community.

Who are your favorite strong heroines, and why?

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Promise and Pitfalls of Price-Pulsing--Online Marketing Symposium

I apologize to Tracy Jorgesen for double-posting on the day of her BRoP interview, but I couldn't resist joining the online marketing symposium hosted by Arlee Bird, Yolanda Renee, Jeremy Hawkins, and Alex J. Cavanaugh. Even if you're here for the symposium, please scroll down to Tracy's interview and read that too.

I typically price my work at $0.99 for short stories, $2.99 for novellas, and $4.99 for novels. However, about every three months, I drop the price of my SF novella Lyon's Legacy from $2.99 to $0.99 for a month. This is called price-pulsing, and you can read more about this technique on Lindsay Buroker's blog. By itself, dropping the price isn't enough to generate sales; readers still need to learn about your bargain book. So whenever I drop the price of Lyon's Legacy, I also list it on bargain book sites and take out paid ads in e-mail lists. I currently have Lyon's Legacy on sale this month, and some of the places I'm listed with this month include The Fussy Librarian, Book Gorilla, and Ereader News Today. (Please note some of these sites have requirements, such as a minimum number of good reviews, before they accept your listing.).

So, do price-pulsing and ads work? Well, yes, and no. I do get the vast majority of my sales after lowering the price and advertising. In fact, both Book Gorilla and Ereader News Today have helped me sell enough copies to make the Time Travel bestseller lists on Amazon. Last Friday, Lyon's Legacy peaked at #3 on that list, as you can see in my screenshot. Even though Twinned Universes (the sequel) wasn't on sale, I also sold a couple of copies of it, and it briefly reached #93 on the same list. However, once the ad is over, sales and visibility quickly drop off. Furthermore, despite reaching bestseller status, I haven't sold enough books to cover the costs of the ads. This is the key factor in making me wonder if I should continue price-pulsing and advertising Lyon's Legacy. I have one more ad scheduled to run on BookGorilla by the end of the month, so we'll see how well it works to advertise the book twice in the same month.

The long-term key to marketing, of course, is to get the next book out, and I plan to publish two more novels this year. One will be part of the SF Catalyst Chronicles series (which includes Lyon's Legacy and Twinned Universes), and the other will be the start of a new fantasy series. Hopefully as I continue to put out more books, my readership will increase. Having more books out will also give me more opportunities to play with pricing and maybe even permafree books. (I don't want to put Twinned Universes on sale until I have the next book in that series out.) I may eventually make Lyon's Legacy free once the series is complete, but that won't be for a couple of years. Until then, this month may be the last time I offer it at $0.99 for a while (but I'm not sure yet). Something I may do the next time I price-pulse is reduce the time the book is on sale and try to schedule all the ads for the same day for maximum velocity.

Do you have any questions about price-pulsing? Have you tried it yourself? If so, what did you think? Please share your thoughts in the comments. If you have issues with Google, feel free to e-mail me as well. Also, be sure to check the linkys on the host blogs to find more posts in this symposium!

Blog Ring of Power Interview: Tracy Jorgesen

Today I have with me Tracy Jorgesen, who's going to tell us about her writing life. Here's the complete schedule for her interview:

About You--Emily--1/17
The Creative Process--Vicki--1/21
About Your Current Work--Terri--1/22
Words of Wisdom--Theresa--1/23


What is your writing process? Do you follow a regular routine? Do you use pen and paper or computer? Work at home or at the library/Starbucks, etc. 

I find I have to start with free-writing to really get into the writing mood. I wish I could be more regular about it, but I have three jobs, two kids, and a partridge in a pear tree. Err, I mean a house to clean. But I sit at my computer, free write, set a word goal and then reward myself with a twix if I reach it. I usually have a chat window open to keep my mind flowing and a browser window open for research as it comes up.
  
How do you balance writing with other aspects of your life? 

Hahahahaha. I don’t. But I’m working on that. 

When do you write? 

Naptime.
  
How much time per day do you spend on your writing? 

Not enough. It’s so inconsistent. If I’m doing a first draft then I try to dedicate at least two hours per writing session so I can make real progress and get into it before I have to stop.

What has been the most surprising reaction to something you’ve written? 

When my husband read my first chapter once, I heard him actually laugh out loud. I didn’t realize I was funny enough for that.
  
Other than your family, what has been your greatest source of support? 

Agent Query Connect. Hands down, the best. 

How do you deal with rejection and/or negative reviews?

I cry, eat chocolate, and then send out more queries. Haven’t had any negative reviews yet only harsh critiques. And I handle those by telling myself I’m the worst author every, why did I ever start writing, etc. Of course eventually I have to pick myself back up and say, no, you accomplished this, and this, and this. You can do this. You can make this better. Use this critique to get better.


Blog: http://tracynjorgensen.blogspot.com
Twitter: @TansyRagwort
Amazon Author Page:
Smashwords Author Page:

Even in a world without names, where neighborhoods are built on giant pillars and magic lurks in dark corners of humanity, usual people meet in typical ways—at work or by hiring a matchmaker. Boys do not meet girls sitting on their own headstones, or while running from giant cougar-like creatures. However, the Girl with Brown Eyes is not a usual girl. And the Boy, still with no title, is about to find that out for himself.
The Boy has no idea why mutant beasts keep attacking him. It’s possible he spends too much time strolling through cemeteries. But, maybe these attacks aren’t random at all. Perhaps they are attempted murder, though nobody believes his claims. Yet. That all changes when the Boy plummets off his home pillar while being pursued by a flying monstrosity. The Girl with Brown Eyes is there – if not to save his life, then to at least verify his tale.
Now, unsure if she’s trustworthy or even where she came from, the Boy must make his way back up the pillars and discover who his assailant is . . . lest they learn the dangerous secret of the impending demise of the Girl with Brown Eyes.

Coming soon. To get ONE email and no spam to be notified when that is then use this link: http://immortalinkpublishing.com/notify.php?book=25

Is your book in print, ebook or both? Ebook or Print on Demand

Thursday, January 16, 2014

This and That Thursday: Epic Fantasy

Today for Terri Bruce's This and That Thursday meme, the topic is epic fantasy. Although epic fantasy seems to be making a comeback today among indie writers, I'm going to discuss two older books, The Book of the Dun Cow and Watership Down. It's been a long time since I've read these books, so bear with me if I'm fuzzy on the details. If you're not familiar with these books, both of them feature animals as characters.

The Book of the Dun Cow is set in a farmyard. Some of the main characters include a rooster and his main wife, a dog, and of course, the dun cow. (If I remember correctly, the cow is almost like a spiritual or religious figure for the animals). Although the setting may be small, the stakes are epic, as the animals must prevent an evil creature from escaping his prison. There are fights and moving sacrifices, and the heart of this story is the relationship between the rooster and the dog. I always thought this was a standalone novel; however, two more books in this series came out last year.

Watership Down is more quest-like, as a group of rabbits set out to establish a new home. Although they encounter other types of animals, the focus is on the rabbits. The setting and culture of the rabbits is richly established. They not only have their own language but their own stories, which are related at key points in the book. I remember Fivver is one of the most important characters in the story, but I can't remember the other characters' names. The stakes in this book are more about survival than good and evil, but the rabbits must also find ways to protect themselves from their enemies--and even other rabbits.

Which epic fantasies have you loved? If you want to discuss them, feel free to do so here, or post about it on your own blog and sign up on the linky list at Terri's blog.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Shrimp and a Grandmother's Tale: Group Blog Posts

I'm going to keep this post short and sweet, since I have two group blog posts up today. Over on Scene 13, I discuss what's new in my life. Over on one of the things that is new with me (Indie Writers Monthly), I talk about why I self-publish. Go read both posts!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Blog Ring of Power--Kelly Oram

Today's guest is Kelly Oram, who's here to tell us about her current work, Ungifted. The schedule for her full interview is below:

About Me - Wednesday, January 8th @ www.terribruce.net
The Writing Life - Thursday, January 9th @ www.twfendley.com
The Creative Process - Friday, January 10th @ www.emilylabonte.BlogSpot.com
Words of Wisdom - Tuesday, January 14th @ www.vickilempweavil.com

Tell us about your new book and when it is out? Where can people purchase it? 

My next release is called Ungifted. It releases February 25th, 2014. It will be available on both Amazon and Barnes and Noble online. It’s the second book in my Supernaturals series. It’s about a human girl who discovers that the supernatural exist when someone tries to kill her. Then she learns that there’s something special about her and she has to figure out what it is, and who would want her dead because of it.

Is there anything new, unusual, or interesting about your book? How is it different from other books on the same subject? 

This book is about a girl that can’t be touched by any kind of supernatural magic. Werewolves and vampires can’t turn her, and magic has no effect on her. I’m not sure if I’ve seen that done before, but it sounded cool to me. 

What was the hardest part of writing this book? 

Getting the relationship between two of the main characters Grace and Ethan just right. They had to really hate each other, and be kind of jerks to each other while still being likable characters. They have a complicated history and an even more complicated connection. Having to balance them to get the type of relationship I wanted them to have was really difficult.

What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?

Any scene that has Russ in it. He’s one of the main characters from book one, and he has a special place in my heart. I love writing him! He’s just so fun. He gets a pedicure and then kicks some evil witch butt with his bad-a warlock skills all in one scene. The guy rocks my world. I’m just saying…

If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in this book?

I did change things. Many times. I think I’m good with it now. But ask me that again while I’m trying to finish book four and I think of something brilliant that would totally work only if… and I’m sure I’ll wish I could change things then.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? 

Eh, not really. I leave that to my book V is for Virgin. With this series I really just wanted to have fun, and I hope my readers get that message loud and clear.
   
Tell us about your book’s cover – where did the design come from and what was the design process like?

My cover comes from my super, fantastic, brilliant, creative, artistic genius of a husband. He does all of my covers for me. I basically tell him what I have in mind and he comes back to me with that same concept but, like, five million times better than I’d imagined it.


Kelly Oram wrote her first novel at age fifteen–a fan fiction about her favorite music group, The Backstreet Boys, for which family and friends still tease her. She's obsessed with reading, talks way too much, and loves to eat frosting by the spoonful. She lives outside of Phoenix, Arizona with her husband and four children.

Blog: http://www.kellyoram.com/
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kelly-Oram/167476866620455
Goodreads author page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3203095.Kelly_Oram
Twitter: https://twitter.com/kellyoram
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Kelly-Oram/e/B003UPV4RA/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1387566560&sr=1-2-ent
Other: google plus : https://plus.google.com/u/0/+KellyOram/posts

Even though her father is running for President of the United States, Grace St. Claire is as normal a girl as they come. She’s clumsy, shy, and an outcast among her peers. She even manages to nearly die in a freak accident in front of the entire school. But when Grace survives a vampire attack she quickly learns that she is anything but ordinary.

There’s something about human Grace that has all the supernaturals around her going crazy. Her best friend’s brother suddenly wants to date her. Her worst enemy has sworn to protect her even against her wishes. Someone with very powerful magic wants her dead, and the vampire that attacked her has developed an obsession with making her his eternal mate.

In order to survive—and not as Count Dracula’s undead bride—Grace dives head first into the terrifying world of the supernatural. She teams up with a charming but mysterious warlock who strolled into town causing trouble and spouting stories of a Prophesy and Chosen One that looks exactly like Grace. Together they must figure out why Grace is different, who wants her dead, how she’s connected to the Chosen One, and who they can really trust.


Goodreads: UNGIFTED LINK: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18740852-ungifted

Here are the links to the first book in this series…

Goodreads: CHAMELEON LINK: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16047646-chameleon
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Chameleon-Supernaturals-Kelly-Oram-ebook/dp/B00DJVQ6AU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1387566918&sr=8-1&keywords=chameleon+kelly+oram
BarnesandNoble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/chameleon-kelly-oram/1115799171?ean=2940016537177

Thursday, January 09, 2014

This and That Thursday: Books Set in an Alternate Universe

Terri Bruce, the ringleader of the Blog Ring of Power, recently started a new blog meme called This and That Thursday. Each week, bloggers discuss two books with a common theme, comparing and contrasting how the books handle the theme. This week, the theme is Books Set in an Alternate Universe/Timeline. I can't resist picking one of my own books, Twinned Universes, and one written by a friend of mine, With Strings Attached by Aviva Rothschild. Both books were directly or indirectly inspired by the Beatles, and of course, both books involve alternate universes. However, the journey to the other universe is handled differently in the two books.

Twinned Universes takes a science fictional approach to alternate universes. The two universes are connected by a wormhole, and they're very similar to each other. Time flows at identical rates in both universes. In fact, traveling through the wormhole (via the spaceship Sagan) is a type of time travel, taking the characters nearly a century back in time so they can meet a famous rock musician. The characters are well informed about the nature of the alternate universe and the consequences of altering the timeline.

In contrast, With Strings Attached draws on both science fiction and fantasy elements. Aliens effect the transfer of characters from one universe to another without the heroes' conscious knowledge, and computers are involved in monitoring the protagonists. However, the four heroes are transported from Earth to a world where magic works and are dropped into a society unlike anything they've experienced. Part of the fun is watching them not just survive, but learn to thrive on this new world. Their actions do cause great changes in their new world but not back home. The universes are not connected, and time flows at different rates in them.

What books have you read that deal with alternate universes? If you'd like to discuss them in your own blog post, sign up in the linky on Terri's blog. Please feel free to check out the themes for upcoming This and That Thursdays as well.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

The Indie Life: Indie Resolutions and Indie Writers Monthly

Welcome to the first Indie Life edition of 2014! Even if you've already given up on your diet, here are two resolutions you might want to make this year:

1. Don't worry about what people in the traditional publishing industry have to say about bookstores, self-publishing, or reading. A lot of the things they're talking about have minimal impact on us. We're not dependent on brick and mortar stores (though I still appreciate them), and how can anyone track what's going on in publishing if you're just looking at IBSNs? For a good analysis of the industry, read The Passive Voice--and don't forget the comments!

2. Put developing craft ahead of promotion. Yes, discounting and running ads do increase sales--in fact, it seems like most of my sales are in conjunction with ads--but in the long run, the best promotion is writing another book. Tell stories people want to read, something that will engage them. The type of story that engages someone will vary from reader to reader, but when someone really gets your work, they'll promote you to other readers.

I'm pleased to announce this month that several other indie SF/fantasy writers and I have started our own group to support each other. We're Indie Writers Monthly, and come check out our blog! We're also on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads.

Are you part of an indie writers group? If so, what are the best and worst things about it? What resolutions do you have for your indie life this year?

Monday, January 06, 2014

Blog Ring of Power: Theresa Crater

We're kicking off the Blog Ring of Power this year with Theresa Crater. This part of the interview focuses on her latest work, paranormal mystery The Star Family. Please check out the links below for the other parts of her interview:

About You--Terri Bruce--1/1
The Writing Life--T.W. Fendley--1/2
The Creative Process--Emily LaBonte--1/3
Words of Wisdom--Vicki Lemp Weavil

Tell us about your new book and when it is out? Where can people purchase it?

The Star Family has just been released. Jane Frey inherits a Gothic mansion filled with unexpected treasures. A prophecy claims it hides an important artifact – the key to an energy grid laid down by the Founding Fathers themselves. Whoever controls this grid controls the very centers of world power. Except Jane has no idea what they’re looking for.

Is there anything new, unusual, or interesting about your book? How is it different from other books on the same subject?

While my husband was being interviewed at a book fair, I picked up a copy of William Blake’s Sexual Path to Spiritual Vision. I mean, wouldn’t you? In the introduction, I discovered that his mother was raised in the same tiny Protestant church I was raised in—the Moravians. OK, sex and the Moravians? I didn’t think so. Reading further, I discovered that in the 18th century, my ancestors were mystics and taught sacred sexuality. I imagined my grandfather’s outrage on learning this. I had to know more. Lucky for me, Craig Atwood, who now teaches at Moravian College, had already done a lot of research about this period. Who knew my ancestors were so colorful?

The modernist writer H.D. wrote two novels that hint about this history, The Gift and The Mystery. She hints while I come out and have my character discover this controversial time in no uncertain terms.

What was the hardest part of writing this book?

Imagining the reaction of some Moravians. I was afraid they’d think I was making light of our heritage or trying to make us look bad.

Did you learn anything from writing this book and what was it?

I learned that my ancestors were connected to the Rosicrucians. I learned that Comenius, while he was bishop of our church in the 1600s was head of the Rosicrucian order at the same time. Also that the German Protestant movements and the Freemasons and Rosicrucians tried to overthrow the Hapsburgs. They would have been successful if James I of England had thrown in with them. This is all pretty astonishing when you grow up in the South during a conservative time.

Tell us about your book’s cover – where did the design come from and what was the design process like?

Earthly Charms did the cover and my press let me work directly with them on the design. I searched for likely images and filled out her form. She did five draft designs for me and I got to pick the one I liked, then tweak it even more. The image is of Charles Bridge in Prague, where part of the book takes place. We added an Advent Star, which is an important part of the plot.


Theresa Crater brings ancient temples, lost civilizations and secret societies back to life in her paranormal mysteries. In The Star Family, a Gothic mansion reveals a secret spiritual group and a 400-year-old ritual that must be completed to save the day. The shadow government search for ancient Atlantean weapons in the fabled Hall of Records in Under the Stone Paw and fight to control ancient crystals sunk beneath the sea in Beneath the Hallowed Hill. Her short stories explore ancient myth brought into the present day. The most recent include “Bringing the Waters” and “The Judgment of Osiris.” Theresa has also published poetry and a baker’s dozen of literary criticism. Currently, she teaches writing and British lit in Denver. Visit her at http://theresacrater.com.


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A secret spiritual group
A recurring dream
A 400-year-old ritual that must be
completed before it is too late

Jane Frey inherits a Gothic mansion filled with unexpected treasures. A prophecy claims it hides an important artifact – the key to an energy grid laid down by the Founding Fathers themselves. Whoever controls this grid controls the very centers of world power. Except Jane has no idea what they’re looking for.

“The Star Family . . . explores the esoteric aspects of a progressive Protestant sect called the Moravian Brethren and weaves their history into a fascinating piece of speculative fiction. What if the Moravians had continued to observe some of their controversial practices in secret? What if their rites and music have played a role in withstanding the malignant forces that threaten to overwhelm modern society? What if one woman who discovers her true ancestry could oppose dominion of darkness through music and erotic spirituality? What if a town in North Carolina holds the key to bringing harmony to the world? Readers who enjoyed The Historian and The DaVinci Code will enjoy The Star Family.”   
Dr. Craig Atwood, Moravian College
Director of the Center for Moravian Studies

Buy/Book Links: 

Amazon: 
Barnes and Noble:

Smashwords: 
Other: Kobo

Friday, January 03, 2014

Science of the Week, 1/3/14

Here are a few science news articles to start off the year:

New technology to study stem cells

How emotions are mapped in the body

Global temperatures to rise at least 4ÂșC by 2100

Hubble reveals cloudy weather on alien world

Animal cells can communicate by reaching out and touching

Molecule discovered that protects the brain from marijuana

Not much to report this week, but hopefully next week I'll be done with the January issue of Scientific American.

Have a good weekend, and stop by on Monday for the first Blog Ring of Power Interview for the year!








Thursday, January 02, 2014

Rafflecopter Winners

Thanks to everyone who entered our Rafflecopter giveaway last month and to all the generous authors who donated prizes! Here's the list of winners:
 
T.J. Loveless - $25 Gift Card: Carolsue Anderson, Going Through Hell Paperback: Shannon Aleene
 
Sandra Ulbrich Almazan - Twinned Universes ebook: Steve Webber
Beth Barany - Henrietta the Dragonslayer ebook: Coleen Burright 
 
Bonnie Milani - Home World & Trades ebooks: Krizia Almiranez
 
Ellen Larson - In Retrospect hard cover: April Davis Woods
Michelle Hauck - Kindar's Cure ebook: Kami Bryant
Tracy Lane - Entwined Courage ebook: Debra Martin
Heidi Vlach - Render ebook #1: Leann McKenzie, Render ebook #2: Coleen Burright, Render ebook #3: Sherry Fundin
A.W. Exley - Nefertiti's Heart ebook: Aria Glazki
E.B. Black - Medusa's Desire ebook: Aria Glazki
Kate Evangelista - Taste, Reaping Me Softly, Unreap My Heart ebooks: Doreen Hayes, Romancing the BookWorm ebook: Leann McKenzie
Kristi Petersen Schoonover - Skeletons in the Swimming Hole paperback #1: Nancy Allis, Skeletons in the Swimming Hole paperback #2: Alan Saxton, Bad Apple paperback #1: Suzinski Suzy, Bad Apple paperback #2: Heather Wright Dingman
Gail Z. Martin - Ice Forged paperback: Julie Ryan
Lori Sjoberg - Grave Intentions ebook: Stacy Povin
Terri Bruce - $20 Amazon Gift Card: Marlene Moss & $2- Amazon Gift Card + signed copy of Hereafter second edition: Laurie Cavanaugh

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Reading Report for 2013 and Goals for 2014

Happy New Year! I wish all of you the best for 2014.

As has become tradition on this blog, I start the new year by looking back at my reading. I track my books through Goodreads; you can find the list of books I read here. My original goal was to read 175 books, since I read 174 books in 2012. (I track everything from short stories to omnibus editions; if it's listed on Goodreads, I track it.) I then increased my goal to 200. How many did I wind up reading? 230. Yeah, that's a lot, but keep in mind books are my main source of entertainment. (I don't watch TV.) Once again, I have to thank my Kindle for making all that reading possible. I know at least ten of these books were in paper, but I'm not sure if any others were paper. Obviously, the vast majority of my reading is on the Kindle now; I prefer it to paper, even when I'm at home and have lots of paper books to read.

I simplified my genre breakdown this year to four categories:

Fantasy: 95
Science Fiction: 52
Non-Fiction: 67
Other Fiction (everything else besides SF/fantasy): 16

Every category except Other Fiction is up from 2012.

Recommended Reads:

Fantasy: Brood of Bones and the sequels, The Curse of Chalion, All the Paths of Shadow, Vessel, Books I and II
Science Fiction: Khe
Other Fiction: Just Exactly How Life Looks
Non-Fiction: A People's History of the World

I had to break up my "To Read" Collection on my Kindle because it was so big I couldn't find specific books. Now I have four to-read collections:

Fantasy: 227
Science Fiction: 198
Non-Fiction: 197
Other Fiction: 45

That's not including the nearly fifty paper books I have to read. The stack (see picture) is taller than my son. (Note: son not shown.)

Even though I don't read every sample I download or finish every free book, it's obvious I'm never going to conquer my To-Read pile. I'm downloading more books every day. Ah well, I wonder if I'll catch up when I retire.

As for goals for this year, I'll finish up a year-long poetry project in March, so it will be available (if I don't lose my courage) by April. I also want to publish Season's Beginning, the first book in my fantasy Season Avatars series, by May and the next installment of the Catalyst Chronicles by the end of year. Since these stories are still in draft form, there's a lot of work ahead of me. I'm going to try tracking my writing/editing for a while to see if that helps me be more productive.

Anyway, if the snow isn't too bad, we're off to the Field Museum today, so I'd better stop blogging and get some writing done. Enjoy the rest of your day, and remember, you don't have to accomplish all of your goals today; baby steps will get you there too.


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