Sunday, June 29, 2014

Blog Ring of Power--J.S. Hazzard

Today, J.S. Hazzard is sharing her words of wisdom with us as part of the Blog Ring of Power. You can find the previous parts of her interview at these links:

About You
The Writing Life
The Creative Life
About Your Current Work

Tell us about your route to success – how/when did you decide to self-publish? Did you query an agent first? How did you handle the editing, proofreading, cover design, etc.

I decided to self-publish fairly early on. I did query a bit initially, and had a surprising number of requests for a genre that many people insisted had no life left. However, as I learned about the various aspects of self-publishing, I realized I was an excellent candidate. Whereas it seems that many writers have a fear of public speaking, marketing, or both, I relish such things. My legal research background also gave me quite a boost in this regard. If I don’t know something, I know how to learn it and I love problem solving.

As for the editing and proof-reading, I’ve read Blood Leverage a total of 132 times. Literally. As an undergraduate English major and someone trained to write professionally for a living, I had a very clean manuscript before I let anyone read it. I’m also fortunate to have had a wonderful and exceptionally talented group of writing critique partners and beta readers who put Blood Leverage through the wringer for me more times than I can count—as well as a mother who taught English back in the days before people did the majority of their writing on their cell phones. 

What tools are must-haves for writers?

 The most important tools for any writer are their friends. The more people who critique your writing, the better it will be. You can also learn a tremendous amount from critiquing the work of others.

Do you have any advice for other writers? 

Reading through your first draft two or three times does not qualify as ‘editing’. If you’re still making changes when you read, then you need to read again. And again. And again, as needed. Remember, for every beta reader or critique partner you have, you get the benefit of their fresh eyes only once. Do not sacrifice your critique readers to a sloppy manuscript filled with typos and grammatical errors. Give your helpers a clean manuscript so that they can focus on and criticize your STORY.

What do you feel is the key to your success? 

Without a doubt, persistence and the determination to present as perfect a product as I am capable of. 

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers? 

Thank you! I hope Blood Leverage brings you a fraction of the joy it has brought me, and please stop by any of my social media sites and say hello!

What are your current / future project(s)? 

Blood Leverage is the first of three intended novels in the Bloodstone Chronicles. The second book, Blood Loyalty, is slated for release this autumn.

Is there anything else you’d like to share? 

For a limited time, I’m doing an incredible giveaway over at my website, . In honor of Blood Leverage’s release, I’ll be giving away thirty days of “Bloodstone Bling”—some truly spectacular garnet and sterling silver jewelry! Please stop by and check it out.

 Author Bio: I grew up in a tiny town in Western New York and now live in the suburbs of Buffalo with my husband and our little pit bull, Casanova. After years of term papers and legal briefs, I decided to attempt writing fiction mainly to see if I could do it. (It also sounded a lot more fun and possibly easier than practicing law.) Looking back, I'm pretty sure somebody must have slipped me special kool-aid, because there's nothing easy about the worlds of writing and publishing.

That said, releasing Blood Leverage has been a joy, and I'm so grateful for all the support I've received. The only thing better than writing something you love is having someone else love something you've written. I absolutely love discussing Blood Leverage with my readers, so if you liked my work or have a suggestion for me to improve, I'd love to hear from you! I do my best to personally answer each and every one of my emails, and I can be reached through .

Author Contact Information:
Facebook page:
Goodreads author page:
Amazon Author Page:
Smashwords Author Page:

Book Links:

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

An Interview with Kelly A. Harmon

I'm happy to be part of  Kelly A. Harmon's blog tour for her latest book, Stoned in Charmed City. Let's learn a little more about her:

Please tell us about yourself.

I play with words:  twisting them together to tell stories in a way which, I hope, entertains and amuses.

Please tell us about your latest work.

Assumpta Mary-Margaret O’Connor has a gift:  she can find things that people have lost.  Even though she needs the money badly, she turns down a gig to find some demons that archeologist Greg LaSpina released from a buried urn. When she finds herself demon-cursed, she’s got no choice but to help him. Then she’s offered a deal by the enemy: sleep with a very sexy demon and learn how to track the escaped evil—but the offer comes with a pretty steep price tag:  her immortal soul.

What drew you to writing urban fantasy?

I’m not certain. I usually write traditional fantasy or horror stories…but the character of Assumpta kept rolling around in my head.  Her story wanted to be told.  This novel took me to places I’ve never been before as a writer…using religion as a backdrop, for example—something I wouldn’t have done with my other stories—and writing sex scenes.   I’d never even tried to write one before, and hadn’t planned to include one in this story.  But one evening I was in a serious groove, typing scene after scene as the story unfolded in my mind, and suddenly the tale turned left:  just like that there was sex in the book.

How do you get the inspiration for your stories?

Inspiration comes from everything around me.  A lot of times it’s visual: I’ll see something unusual and it sparks an idea. More often, it’s dialogue.  I’ll hear a snippet of conversation and then off my brain wanders off to finish it up.  I can build an entire novel based on one conversation.

Of all the stories you’ve written, which one is your favorite and why?

I don’t have a favorite—that probably sounds ludicrous, but it’s true. I’ve liked each story very much as I was writing it, but once the telling is down, it’s over. I move on to the next project.

Do you write in any other genres? If so, which ones? If not, what would you like to try?

I write fantasy and horror as well as urban fantasy, but everything seems to lean toward the darker side. I think I’d like to try a historical romance at some point. I love reading them—they’re like decadent candy—but having to get the history right scares me a little:  I’d much rather make things up as I go along.

Who are your favorite authors and why do you admire them? 

There are so many to list! 

I like Dean Koontz a lot.  He’s one of those authors that could write down his grocery list and I’d read it. I’ve never read a book by him that I didn’t enjoy.  He tells a good story and has a flair for language, too. I like Carol Nelson Douglas’ early fantasy fiction.  When I was younger, I carried a dictionary around with me when I read her books. She never failed to teach me a new word. And, I can’t forget the king of the quest novels:  Terry Brooks.  He’s a master of intricately woven stories.

What other writing projects are you currently working on?

I’ve got a fantasy trilogy that’s begging to be completed.  I received a publication offer on the series in October, but the contract terms were so egregious I turned it down.  I think I’d like to indie publish the first book late this year or early next year. I’ve also got a dragon book waiting in the wings.  It’s nearly complete.

What’s one of the goals you hope to achieve with your writing?

I just want to entertain.  I initially tell myself the story, and if I’m pleased with it, I write it down.  I figure if I like it, someone else might, too.

What’s something people wouldn’t be able to guess about you just by looking at you?

I love heavy metal music—lots of my fight scenes are written while listening to Iron Maiden and Judas Priest.

Special Note: If you join Kelly's mailing list by filling out the form here, you'll be entered to win a free book each month until the end of the year!

Forty dollars. Two crisp twenties. All that stands between Assumpta Mary-Margaret O’Connor and homelessness.

For the price of forty dollars, she helps archeologist Greg LaSpina find something he's lost–and causes all Hell to break loose.


With demons tormenting their every step, Assumpta and Greg become both hunted and hunter in their search for a way to send the demons back to Hell. But one careless mistake could cost them their lives.

Wrestling with her faith, Assumpta considers an offer made by one very sexy demon: sleep with him, and learn how to rid the world of the escaped evil.

But the offer comes with a steep price: her immortal soul.

Kelly A. Harmon used to write truthful, honest stories about authors and thespians, senators and statesmen, movie stars and murderers. Now she writes lies, which is infinitely more satisfying, but lacks the convenience of doorstep delivery, especially on rainy days.

Where to Buy:


Barnes and Noble:



Twitter:  @kellyaharmon

Monday, June 23, 2014

Writing/Publishing Updates

It's been a while since I said anything about my writing projects, but I finally have some news. I finally finished the second draft of Season's Beginnings, the prequel and first book of my fantasy Season Avatars series. I'll let it rest for a couple of weeks before re-reading it. Hopefully there won't be too many changes before I feel it's ready for beta readers. Please let me know if you'd be interested.

My second announcement has to do with distribution. My haiku collection, Life at Seventeen Syllables a Day, is now available directly from Smashwords and should be coming soon to other retail stores. Additional links will be posted on my website when they're available.

Please check back next week for another Blog Ring of Power interview.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Summer Fun

Alex Cavanaugh suggested last week that I blog about something fun. Sometimes it seems that with work and taking care of my family and trying to write, I don't do a lot that's just fun. However, here are a few things my family and I have planned for this summer:

Three concerts: Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney, and Billy Joel. Additionally, our city hosts weekly free concerts in the evening, including one featuring a Beatles tribute band

Birthday parties for Alex's friends: I think there are at least three pool parties coming up in late June/early July, some of them on the same day.

Archery lessons for myself and my husband; Alex is still too young.

Will any of these events make it into my stories? Well, I have already written a story about a bouncy house, and archery might be useful for a future story. There may be other events coming up this summer that we haven't planned yet. We'll see what makes it to the blog.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Blog Ring of Power--Michael Anthony

Today on the Blog Ring of Power, I have Michael Anthony with me to share his words of wisdom. You can find the other parts of his interview via these links:

About You
The Writing Life
The Creative Process
About Your Current Work

Tell us about your route to success – how/when did you decide to self-publish? Did you query an agent first? How did you handle the editing, proofreading, cover design, etc.
My route to success was littered with potholes of my own creating. I broke rules that shouldn’t have been broken, and I made excuses for myself that shouldn’t have been made. I queried agents for a long long LONG time, and I wish I could get that time back.

Proofreading, editing, cover design, ebook formatting, marketing, web design, and patience are all things I’ve (arguably) become an expert on. I knew some of the things I had to do—like finding a cover designer and editor—but I had no idea I needed to know how to format an ebook. I handle all the legwork just like I handle writing a novel: one word at a time. I asked a lot of people for advice, did a tremendous amount of research, and asked questions when I was confused. I took my time and made sure I did everything right. It was difficult and time consuming, but it was in no way impossible.

What are the most important elements of good writing?
I think the ability to manipulate a reader’s emotions is the most important element in writing. I can speak for everyone else, but when I read a novel, I want to feel like I’m right there with the main character. I want to tremble when s/he’s scared, I want to smile when s/he’s happy, and I want to celebrate when s/he overcomes an obstacle. I can’t do that unless I’m emotionally vested in the character and what they’re going through.

What tools are must-haves for writers?
Agent Query Connect, Query Tracker, Track changes (during the editing process), and a CP who isn’t afraid to hurt your feelings. On the self-publishing side, a great editor (Cynthia Shepp) and cover designer (Annette Tremblay). Time is also an important tool for a writer. Take your time. Don’t rush or you’ll definitely miss something.

Do you have any advice for other writers?
I know this is cliché, but the best advice I can give is not to give up. If no one will give you a chance, take one. Sometimes, that’s the only way to succeed.

What do you feel is the key to your success?
I’m stubborn like a mule, driven like a Camaro, and I have dreams of grandeur so insane they’d make Kanye West gawk. I am surrounded by people who believe in me, and when I can’t find the strength to believe in myself, they set me straight.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Only a disclaimer about my novel—

*My Best Friend Death contains strong subject matter that may not be appropriate for some readers, including suicide, school violence, and teen alcohol and drug abuse.*

Michael Anthony grew up in the suburbs of Virginia. As the middle child, everything requiring electricity or batteries was either hogged by the oldest or begged for by the youngest. All too familiar with boredom spawned from idle thumbs, he found adventure in the plethora of novels, encyclopedias, and maps found on the bookshelf. It was during his journey through those shelves that he discovered The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer and The Giver by Lois Lowry.

From that day to this, Michael has had a love for great stories, fascinating characters, and travel. He hopes to see every corner of the world someday, and when he finishes down here, he has his eyes set on the moon. He is currently studying history at a local college while he chases his dream of becoming one of the greatest writers of his age.

Goodreads author page:

Damien Crown devotes his life to being his brother's superman. Like all heroes, he's locked in a deadly war with a formidable foe—his brother's depression. Instead of perishing in a climactic battle as comics suggests, he dies at the screech of tires and the blare of a car horn. But in those last precious moments, he regrets not taking off the cape and living his own life.
But those regrets don't last long when Death becomes his life-coach.
Given a new body and one more year to live, Damien seizes the opportunity to reinvent himself. Forbidden by Death from making contact with his old family, he knows the trek will be hard, but he's happy to leave behind the pressures of his old life.
Until his brother attempts suicide.
Now, the only way to save his brother is to break Death's rules. With a life any kid would kill for, Damien finds himself stuck between who he was, and who he wants to be. He can don his cape and die for his brother, or hang it up and finally live for himself.

To buy My Best Friend Death from Amazon, click here.

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Indie Writers Monthly Blog Tour

If you missed the previous stops on the Indie Writers Monthly Blog Tour, you can find them here:

Have a good weekend, everyone, and see you Monday!

Science of the Week, 6/13/14

I was on a business trip earlier this week and couldn't log in to Blogger/Google, so since I didn't have a pre-scheduled post for Wednesday, I wasn't able to put something up. Sorry about that. Admittedly, I wasn't sure what I was going to discuss anyway. Does anyone have any suggestions about a topic you'd like to see me blog about? It could be writing tips, something about one of my stories, or something else. Please let me know in the comments.

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

A computer has passed the Turing Test for the first time

A new way to make laser-like beams using 250x less power

Genes found in nature yield 1918-like virus with pandemic potential

What happens to "cool" kids?

When good people do bad things

Oh great: Mayo Clinic researchers discover new form of cancer

Charging portable electronics in 10 minutes

Dark side of the moon mystery solved (and Pink Floyd had nothing to do with it)

Exercise boosts diversity of gut bacteria

Did violence shape our faces?

NASA selects next sci-fi projects to fund

Bacteria explain why stress, fear trigger heart attacks

Monday, June 09, 2014

Blog Ring of Power--Sara Zook

This week on the Blog Ring of Power we have Sara Zook. She'll be discussing The Creative Life here. You can find the rest of her interview at these links:

About You
The Creative Process
About Your Current Work
Words of Wisdom

Her latest book, A Magic Within, will be out next week.

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 tend to write ideas down on a piece of paper and expand them into chapters on the computer.  I like to work at home in quiet (which doesn’t happen often with 3 little kids) or outside.
How do you balance writing with other aspects of your life? – Everyone is always surprised that I can work full-time, raise 3 kids who are sports and activities and still find time to write.  It’s not easy because I don’t want to neglect my family, but I somehow find time here and there to sit down and get a large amount written at one time instead of pieces here and there.

How much time per day do you spend on your writing? – It’s definitely not daily, although I wish it were.  Writing full-time is a future goal of mine.  When I do get a chance to sit down and write, I’d say it can be anywhere from 3-7 hours, not straight, always with interruptions, but I tend to devote a day to doing this once a week.

Other than your family, what has been your greatest source of support? – The bloggers.  I love how amazing they are.  They want to hear from you and promote you.  They encourage you (heckle you in a good way) to get that next book done.  They are truly a blessing.

How do you deal with rejection and/or negative reviews?- It’s always hard to read a negative review, but it happens to the best of them.  I take into consideration that everyone likes different things.  It’s what makes the world go round. 

Sara V. Zook is a paranormal/fantasy writer. She is the author of the Strange in Skin Trilogy, Clipped and Evanescent, Book 1 in The Sempiternal Series. She lives in Pennsylvania with her 3 small children and husband.


 Normalcy. I need to get back to a state of normalcy. What’s happened to me? Why am I here in this orphanage, and why am I forbidden to leave? Everyone is so very cruel here. I can’t eat. I can’t sleep. It’s the paranoia getting to me. It’s like someone’s always watching, always listening. There’s a general fear around here, and for some reason, it seems fueled by my arrival, but why are they afraid of me? I didn’t ask for this. I don’t even know how I got here. I need to go home. My parents must be worried sick. There has to be someone here who can help me, who can give me answers and lead me in the right direction so I can get out of here. There is this one boy, Lydic. Could he be my key to getting out? I can see it in his eyes he feels sorry for me. He seems to know more than he’s letting on. These people aren’t like anyone I’ve ever met before. They act like I have secrets, but they’re the ones not talking. I’ve never been alone like this, and I’ll do whatever it takes to figure out what’s going on and get out.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

IndieReCon Contests

Have you ever wished there was a convention specifically for indie writers? Apparently, there is one. It's called IndieReCon LIVE!, and it's taking place October 10--October 11 in Sandy, Utah. Even if you can't make it there in person, you can still participate in their contests. Click here for the rules and how to enter for the chance to earn a Howey. (After Hugh Howey, of course. They chose a great person to name their awards after, didn't they?) Most of the contests are free to enter, but some do require a small fee ($15 max) to enter.

I'm personally not sure yet if this is something I want to enter. The rules do allow books published in 2013 to be nominated, so I could enter Twinned Universes. Perhaps if the categories were broken down by genre instead of reader age group, I'd feel that this was a better fit for me. (To me, this con seemed skewed toward YA.) Still, some publicity might come out of it, and you can nominate other authors' works for some of the categories. The deadline for the Total Package contest is June 30th; for all the rest, it's July 31st. I still have time to mull this over.

Does this sound like something that would interest you? Why or why not? Please feel free to comment; it should be much easier to do so now.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Indie Writers Monthly--New Issue and Blog Tour

The Blog Ring of Power will resume next week, so today I have some time to tell you what's going on with Indie Writers Monthly. And do we have a lot going on in the next couple of months.

First, the June issue of Indie Writers Monthly (theme: June Bugs!) is out and should be free now through Friday. You can download it here. My contributions include a short story written especially for this issue and a review of Lindsay Buroker's blog. There are also two other short stories by Andrew and Briane, an article about bugs in science fiction by Pall Dilloway, and two articles on writing. Go check it out!

Speaking of our monthly issue, there's still time to submit a story to our annual special issue, which has a time travel theme. Up for grabs are two Amazon gift cards to the authors of the best stories, as picked by the writers of Indie Writers Monthly. For more details, click here.

Finally, Briane is conducting a blog tour on behalf of Indie Writers Monthly in June (although it actually started on Friday). He will be visiting a new blog every Friday. I don't have the links for the upcoming sites, but you can find Friday's guest post here. I'll add more information about the blog tour as it becomes available.

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