Monday, October 16, 2017

Strong Women in Fiction Giveaway Hop

My blogger buddy Terri Bruce is co-hosting a giveaway hop next month. It's called Strong Women in Fiction, and it's intended to show all the many ways in which women can be strong. It's open to bloggers and authors of all genders, but the prize or prizes for the giveaway should relate to the theme. For more information about how it'll work, check out this post. You can sign up until October 29 and have to have your post up November 1st. (Looks like I'll be double-posting that day for IWSG.) Contact Terri if you have further questions.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Indie Author Day

This Saturday is Indie Author Day. I'll be part of an event at the Schaumburg Township District Library along with twenty-three other authors. It's from 11:00-1:00. I'll have books for sale, free chocolate and bookmarks, and possibly a giveaway of some sort for people who sign up for my mailing list. If you're in the area, I hope you stop in. Since I'm sure most of you aren't near the Chicago suburbs, consider supporting me or another indie author with an online purchase. Happy reading!

Monday, October 09, 2017

Season Avatars Series--Releases and a Sale!

There's so much exciting publishing news for the fantasy Season Avatars series today that I feel I ought to do something special to celebrate. I had considered taking today off work (I still have weeks left of vacation), but since I was out Thursday afternoon and Friday with a cold, I need to catch up. As long as I get to do something with my family, that's celebration enough for me.

Anyway, time for all of the announcements:

Summon the Seasons officially went live this morning to conclude the series.

Kay might be the youngest, smallest, and least confident Season Avatar, but her weather magic makes her the most powerful of her group. Now that she also can contact the souls of dead Avatars, her quartet has a chance to end Chaos Season permanently. All Kay and her sister Avatars need are three more bones.

To obtain them, Kay’s quartet must travel across Challen, evading the King’s Watch and Selathens who want to protect their demigoddess, Salth, creator of Chaos Season. Kay’s deepest beliefs about her God and her longtime rival, Dorian, will be challenged during the trip. If she loses her faith and newfound courage, she will fail, and the rest of the Season Avatars with her.


I don't have an extensive blog tour planned, but I have a guest post up on Catherine Lundoff's blog about making a Victorian-like setting more feminist. An additional posts is pending for Alex J. Cavanaugh, but I missed the date for Pat Dilloway's post. Sorry again, Pat! That was completely my fault.


Young Seasons: A Season Avatars Short Story Collection is out of Kindle Select and headed for wide distribution. It's already live on Apple and Kobo and should be headed to Barnes and Noble very soon.

The country of Challen depends on its Season Avatars to tame a recurring storm that mixes up the seasons. A quartet of magic-users, each with a different type of magic, reincarnate with skills and memories from previous lives but face new challenges whenever they’re reborn. Now, a child faces a healing task that would daunt someone much older. A fourteen-year-old is pursued by enemies in her sleep. An animal lover must protect her kitten from her disapproving family. An impatient farm girl tries to get the attention of her true love, only to have the wrong person respond. Before Gwen, Kay, Ysabel, and Jenna can come together as Season Avatars, first they must survive independently as Young Seasons.

A short story collection set between Seasons' Beginnings and Scattered Seasons. Includes an excerpt from Scattered Seasons.


Speaking of Scattered Seasons, it's on sale through next Monday for $0.99. (It's on sale at other sellers besides Amazon, though it may take a couple of days for the price change to become effective.)

Lady Gwendolyn lo Havil is an Ava Spring, born to heal others and lead the Season Avatars of her generation. Season Avatars with divine magic must work in groups of four to save the country of Challen from Chaos Season, times when all of the seasons appear at once. When the current Ava Spring dies in a riding accident, Gwen must find the other three Season Avatars she will link with. But two of them are missing, and with Gwen's own magic crippled by a cursed pottery shard, she will have to use all of her skills to find the Avatars scattered across the country of Challen. During her journey, she meets a stranger who claims to know the shard's origin. Is he truly an ally of the Season Avatars, or is he trying to stop them from uniting?

 Part of the reason I chose today to release Summon the Seasons is that it's John Lennon's birthday. I consider John my "patron muse," and the Beatles inspired the "Fem Four" of the Season Avatars series. So there's only one way to go out, and that's with a Twist and Shout!

 

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

IWSG: Keeping It Personal

This month's Insecure Writer's Support Group post is hosted by Olga Godim, Chemist Ken, Jennifer Hawes, and Tamara Narayan. If you're not familiar with the IWSG, check them out on their website and Facebook.

This month, we've been posed the following question: Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose?

It's hard to answer this question because there are different levels of personal information. To some extent, all of my characters, from the heroines to the villains, come out of my personal experience. Some of them, such as Joanna in Lyon's Legacy and Gwen in the Season Avatars series, draw more on my background or personal preferences. I've used other characters to vent emotions. Something deeply personal? Not telling.

How much of your characters are you? Feel feel to share in the comments. 

P.S. Young Seasons: A Season Avatars Short Story Collection will be free on Amazon from now through Friday as it ends its time in Kindle Unlimited. This weekend I plan to put it in wide distribution, but if you'd like a Kindle copy, go ahead and download it now.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Update on Stop Hate Project Donation

Back in mid-August, I pledged to donate at least $25 or my September royalties to the Stop Hate Project. Unfortunately, I was so busy getting Summon the Seasons ready for release next week that I didn't do much promotion of my pledge besides than a single announcement on Facebook and my newsletter. Although I ran a free book promotion toward the end of the month, I haven't seen any sales come through from that yet. So my sales for September are $0 on CreateSpace and ACX, less than a dollar on Amazon, and about $2 through Draft2Digitial. (It's pretty rare for me to earn more through D2D than on Amazon.) I've accordingly donated $25 as promised. (I'm not posting any screen shots to protect my account information.) Perhaps next time I decide to donate royalties to a cause, I should do better promotion.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Guest Post--Nick Wilford

Thanks for having me over as part of my blog tour today, Sandra. Today, one of the young characters from my book would like to take you on a tour around his hometown.
*
Hi! Mallinger here, but you can call me Mal. I’d like to show you around a bit of my hometown, Fusterbury. It’s a big place, lots of people live here, but we all get along and rub along OK. Let’s start off with my lovely home. Some great work on the mud walls there – when it comes to repairs, we all have to muck in and do our bit. I’ve got a nice pile of straw just over at the side there, really comfy. It’s a bit cramped in here, with me, my dad, and three brothers and four sisters. But it used to be four brothers and six sisters. And my mum. She died when my littlest sister was born. Yeah, we’ve got a problem with this disease we’ve got here, can’t seem to get rid of it. But it makes us appreciate the time we get together even more. Looks like the kids are playing a nice game of noughts and crosses with sticks and leaves. Let’s go and have a walk around outside.
So I’ve got all my neighbours here. They all live in pretty similar huts, but we like to think ours is the best. Just a little joke, though. We all help each other where we can. Lots of kids running around today, looks like the rain’s off for a bit. Everyone has big families here, means there’s a better chance of the family name carrying on. There’s a few kids making a big castle out of the mud. Looks great! Come on, let’s see some more of the town. Watch out for the river. I know it’s a bit brown, but it’s where we get our water. We try to boil as much of it as we can.
Just a few streets up this way, we’ve got the town square. A good few shops round here, we can get our clothes patched up and there’s a cobbler’s too. It helps if you’ve got something to trade, like a good juicy rat. There’s also a medicine man who deals in these creams, they relieve some of the physical symptoms of the disease but we all know they don’t do anything to cure it. Oh well, whatever helps. Then of course, we’ve got the centrepiece of the city – the Monument of the Dead. It’s not morbid or grim or anything, it’s our way of keeping a part of our loved ones here with us when they pass on. A bit of them gets added to the pile, sometimes just a finger bone or a whole skull. It’s a big pile, so we often have to shore it up if we get a landslip somewhere.
Apart from that, we’ve got outlying villages in the countryside, dotted all around. They might have their own monuments, but I haven’t visited. Everything I need is right here. We haven’t got much, I know, but we’ve got each other. That’s what counts.
Title: Black & White
Author: Nick Wilford
Genre: YA dystopian Series #: 1 of 3
Release date: 18th September 2017
Publisher: Superstar Peanut Publishing
Blurb:
What is the price paid for the creation of a perfect society?

In Whitopolis, a gleamingly white city of the future where illness has been eradicated, shock waves run through the populace when a bedraggled, dirt-stricken boy materialises in the main street. Led by government propaganda, most citizens shun him as a demon, except for Wellesbury Noon – a high school student the same age as the boy.

Upon befriending the boy, Wellesbury feels a connection that he can’t explain – as well as discovering that his new friend comes from a land that is stricken by disease and only has two weeks to live. Why do he and a girl named Ezmerelda Dontible appear to be the only ones who want to help?

As they dig deeper, everything they know is turned on its head – and a race to save one boy becomes a struggle to redeem humanity.

Purchase Links:
Meet the author:
Nick Wilford is a writer and stay-at-home dad. Once a journalist, he now makes use of those early morning times when the house is quiet to explore the realms of fiction, with a little freelance editing and formatting thrown in. When not working he can usually be found spending time with his family or cleaning something. He has four short stories published in Writer’s Muse magazine. Nick is also the editor of Overcoming Adversity: An Anthology for Andrew. Visit him at his blog or connect with him on Twitter, GoodreadsFacebook, or Amazon.
Enter the giveaway for a chance to win a copy of my collection A Change of Mind and Other Stories or a $10 giftcard! a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, September 25, 2017

Proof Copy--Before and After

Last Saturday, I received the proof copy of Summon the Seasons:


This is what it looked like about a week later: 



The good thing about being an indie writer is that you can make changes all the way up to the deadline. The bad thing about being an indie writer is that you can make changes all the way up to the deadline. While I did find a few typos, missing words, and other issues that really need to be fixed, the majority of the changes amount to a second line edit. (The Post-It notes on the side of the book aren't things to change, but possible pull quotes to use in promotion. The note color is irrelevant.) Unfortunately, there are some formatting issues with the front matter to fix as well.

I'm confident I can make the edits by October 5th, when Amazon needs the final version for the eBook. Those preorders should be fine. (Let's hope I'm not jinxing myself here.)  I'm debating if I want to order a second physical proof or review it online and try to get physical books for an event on October 14th. The risk there is that the books might not be formatted properly--after all, I went through multiple rounds of online reviews before I thought I had the front matter set up correctly. In the long run, however, it's probably better to do it right than do it fast.

What's your proofing process? Feel free to share it in the comments.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

A Natural History of Unicorns

Do you like your fantastic creatures mysterious, or are you more interested in figuring out where they came from? If you favor the latter approach, then you'll like Chris Laver's The Natural History of Unicorns. Obviously, this is nonfiction.

The unicorn myth is over two thousand years old, and Lavers traces the origin of the story back to Greece, particularly to a writer named Ctesais. Lavers speculates what animal (or animals) could have inspired Ctesais's description, then describes how the myth grew over time. Unicorns snuck into the Bible during translation and had a symbolic link with Christ. (If you've read Diana Peterfreund's Killer Unicorn stories, you'll encounter some of the names she used for various types of unicorns as you read this book.) Although today we realize the traditional shape of a unicorn's horn resembles a narwhal's, other bones, such as mammoth or mastodon, were also claimed to be unicorn horn. Lavers explains where these artifacts came from. Unicorns also influenced European exploration of Africa in the 19th and early 20th century, ultimately introducing the okapi to the rest of the world. The book concludes with examples of tribes that perform surgery on infant animals to produce real one-horned creatures--with surprising results.

The Kindle version of this book unfortunately lacks illustrations, but it was still an interesting read.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Great Courses: How Great Science Fiction Works

Although listening to audiobooks feels much slower than reading, I like listening to lectures through my Audible account. I just started listening to How Great Science Fiction Works, narrated by Gary K. Wolfe. It's about 12.5 hours long, broken up into roughly-30-minute lectures. The first two lectures discussed Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Amazing Stories, with particular attention given to early contributors such as Welles, Verne, and Poe.) I'm about halfway through Lecture 3 (comparing science fiction with historical fiction, along with the topic of time travel) as I write this. According to one reviewer, this series is more of a history of the science fiction genre, not a how-to course on writing great science fiction. Nevertheless, it should be a interesting listen, though it'll probably take me a few months to complete the course.

Have you ever listened to one of the Great Courses? If so, which one (or ones)? Feel free to share in the comments.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Alien Mind by V.L Jennings

One of my former blogging buddies had her YA science fiction book re-released recently. Here's some information about it:
When a group of aliens called the Aruk abduct Young Rivinaig and several other children, they are thrown into the adventure of a lifetime

The Aunantet, a benevolent race of aliens, rescue the children and adopt them into their culture and raised them as if they belong. The children's new families teach them how to harness the full capacity of their minds, enabling them to defy the laws of physics and develop special mental abilities

The past returns to haunt them as the Aruk plot revenge and regain control of their former captives. The fate of the entire galaxy depends on whether the children can maintain their freedom.

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36130453-the-alien-mind

Buy Links:

E-book: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0755Q6D2V
Will be priced at .99 on Amazon till January 1! Normal retail price is 2.99
Audio Book: (coming soon)

When V.L. Jennings isn't traveling to other worlds through her imagination, she calls Dillon, South Carolina her home. She is the author of science fiction novels "The Alien Mind" (recipient of the Readers Favorite Five Star Review Award), and "Visionary From The Stars".

But what motivates Virginia to create, to illustrate, to prognosticate? Virginia is a speculator, the kind of person who always debates the "what if?" of where stories both true and fantastical are leading themselves to, which explains her love of post-apocalyptic fare such as "The Walking Dead." Through her writing, she enjoys trying to figure out what our human potential is, and where our innate desire for a better world could lead us.

Overall, Virginia is just about as real as a person can get. Yes, even authors love to sing along with their favorite local radio station while driving, and Virginia is no exception to this rule. She enjoys watching Doctor Who or Star Trek with her family over dinner, and also watching the latest sci-fi and action movies with her husband. On the weekends, you may even find Virginia and her family at the local comic book store, hunting down more comics to add to their collections.

V.L. Jennings spends her free time writing flash fiction on her blog and working towards her degree in Electronics Engineering. You can find out more about V.L. Jennings as well as join her newsletter at:

www.virginialorijennings.com

Monday, September 11, 2017

Signups for Summon the Seasons Blog Tour

With Summon the Seasons going live in less than a month, I'd love some help in promoting it. If you're willing to host me on a blog tour next month, please fill out this Google form. Thanks, and remember I'm always willing to promote other SF/fantasy books and authors in return.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

IWSG: Writing Surprises




This month’s Insecure Writers’ Support Group post is hosted by Tyrean Martinson,
Tara Tyler, RaimeyGallant,  and  BeverlyStowe McClure. Our question is Have you ever surprised yourself with your writing? (For example, by trying a new genre you didn't think you'd be comfortable in?)

If you’re under eighteen, you’d better stop reading, since the first example that comes to mind involves a sex scene. Specifically, the first one I ever wrote was between two women. It hasn’t been published, but I don’t want to give out details about the characters for fear of spoilers. For me, the point of the scene was tracing the characters’ emotions, not body parts. 



Another way I’ve surprised myself with writing is with cursing. The main characters of Lyon’s Legacy and Twinned Universes swear a lot. I personally seldom swear. However, when I wrote those stories, I dropped a ton of f-bombs without batting an eye. I guess that proves authors and characters don’t always think alike. 

How has your writing surprised you? Feel free to share in the comments.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Exciting Escapade in Elgin

I wasn't able to get this post uploaded for Monday since we were traveling. Hopefully no one minds I'm posting a day later than I normally do.



My husband has been interested in escape rooms since they first became popular. For his birthday this year, I not only gave him a Kickstarter tabletop escape room game but also booked an experience at Escapade 360 in Elgin, IL. We played it last week. 

When I reserved the room, there was only one scenario available—a Sherlock Holmes-themed one. When we arrived, the couple who run Escapade 360 told us there were so many puzzles in that room it would be difficult for a couple to complete them all in the hour. Luckily, they had a second room available that might be a better match for us. It’s set in Leonardo da Vinci’s studio, and you have to find his hidden masterpiece before thieves come to steal it. We had the opportunity to switch, so we did.

I’m not going to give out spoilers for the room. I will say it was smaller than I expected, so it would feel crowded with a full group of eight people. The doors aren’t locked due to regulations, but there’s no time to leave either. There’s a monitor in the room where you can track your remaining time and get occasional hints. We probably got more hints than you normally would, but given it was our first time and it was late in the evening, I didn’t mind. It was still an intellectually stimulating experience. There were a variety of different puzzles to solve, and some of the ways to interact with the items were surprising. Ultimately, we managed to escape with eight minutes left. The owners were super-friendly and helpful. After we finished, we discussed specific aspects of the room before getting our picture taken.

As a writer, I find the escape room concept fascinating. You start anew with the same goal, setting, and obstacles each time, but the outcome depends on the teamwork of the characters. Eugene and I have known each other for 27 years. We have respect for each other’s abilities and are used to working together as a team. There was one point in the hour where we had different ideas on what to do with a particular object in the room. Thanks to a hint, we resolved that quickly and without fuss. If we’d been with other people, I’m sure the dynamic would have been different--and not in a helpful way. With bigger groups who don’t know each other well, I can imagine much more time is wasted on arguments or persuasion. Still, I’d like to go back with a few more friends and tackle the Sherlock room. The game’s afoot!



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