How can I support awesome #indieauthors?

background image courtesy of Unsplash.com

background image courtesy of Unsplash.com

How about a review or two (or three)?

Amazon recently changed its review policy so that fake reviews, or reviews in which someone raves about a book they’ve never read or product they’ve never used, more difficult to post. It is a policy designed to protect the reader / buyer (a good thing!) however, one of the side effects of their more stringent rules is it is now more difficult for independent authors increase their book’s exposure.

Why is that? 

Reviews matter, not just to other potential readers, but to marketing services and other press. Many sites won’t let an author even pay for an ad unless a book has achieved a certain quantity of ratings with an average star rating of 3.5 or higher. So tougher rules and more hoops potential reviewers have to go through mean greater difficulty for authors to gain the necessary number of reviews needed to play in the market’s big leagues.

The Fair & Foul received a few new positive reviews recently (thank you!) and knowing how very difficult it can be to gain these, I thought I would express my gratitude for those who have given me a chance by paying it forward and sharing some reviews of a few books I’ve read recently that might not be on your radar.

So without further ado

Descent (A Stone Mountain Mystery #1)Descent by Kristina Stanley (genre: mystery)

In Descent, author Kristina Stanley introduces readers to Kalin, HR manager at Stone Mountain Sky resort as well as several other individuals who either support or participate on an aspiring Olympic racing ski team. Before long Kalin finds herself promoted to Director and is placed in charge of human resources as well as security, a role that forces her to utilize her people reading skills to solve a different sort of problem. If that weren’t challenge enough, her boss expects results immediately. Specifically, the name of the person responsible for the death of one of the competitive skiers.

Told through several points of views, nearly every character is given a potential motive for the crime with clues scattered throughout. I found myself rooting for Kalin, not only to solve the mystery but also to succeed professionally as a director (the fact she has two different colored eyes like I do was a bonus). It is obvious that Ms. Stanley is very familiar with life at a resort her tale not only entertained me but also educated me on the world of competitive skiing.

This cozy mystery also includes romance, overly confident exes, small town gossip, animal lovers, and the great outdoors. Those who require high-speed chases, cloaks, daggers, or other gun play in their mysteries may be disappointed. As I am not one of those people, I found the book to be engaging and have since read the sequel, which I also recommend.

Oak and Mist (The Ambeth Chronicles, #1)Oak and Mist by Helen Jones (genre: YA fantasy)

I knew going into this story that it was about a young girl who enters a fairy-like realm, however, what I didn’t expect was the author’s style of writing which was as delicate and beautiful as the magical world she’d created.

Helen Jones has written a modern YA fantasy adventure and yet reads like a something you might expect from David and Leigh Eddings. There are all the elements I’ve grown to expect in the genre, which may or may not be a good thing depending on taste: a love triangle, cunning dark creatures, altruistic beings of the light, prophecy, lost heirs, and hidden artifacts of power, but the beautiful prose makes is what really sets it apart from other recent additions to the genre.

There were certain plot elements that confounded me such as the point of a family heirloom that burns the owner when danger is near but can be rendered useless with a simple touch or exactly how the artifacts of power are expected to work, but I am confident that these questions will be answered in later books. All in all, this is a very promising start to the series.

UnHappeningsUnhappenings by Edward Aubry (genre: Science Fiction)

I picked up this book before going on vacation, which proved to be great timing on my part as I wasn’t able to put it down.

The protagonist, Nigel Walden, is a fairly average guy, except for one small problem: things keep unhappening to him. It is a term he uses to describe the phenomena in which his memories don’t line up with the memories of those around him. He copes as best he can, accepting that he simply can’t form attachments with anyone or anything until the day he meets a woman asking for his help who not only knows all about his condition asking but seems to know more than she is telling about his future.

The author uses extremely short chapters to tell the story, which can be a bit of a distraction but does serve to keep the pages turning and the plot twists as Nigel learns more about the cause behind his affliction.

This is science fiction in the same vein as The Butterfly Effect  or the show Timeless and is a story as much about fate as it is about unforeseen consequences.


Update from last week: For those who read my post from last week, Hurricane Matthew did stop by for a visit, bringing with it several inches of rain as well as strong gusts. We experienced mild damage and had swamp-like conditions temporarily develop in the yard, but were otherwise unharmed. Thank you to all who reached out to express your concern. I am truly touched. My thoughts, however, remain with those who were not as fortunate as I was.

Good tidings to you

There are good weekends and then there are gooooooooooood weekends.

Last week, my sister (I’ll call her Lucinda, which is a nice enough name, or Lucy for short) announced out of the blue that my boys were invited to spend the night on Friday. Lucy said the invitation was because my niece (Xena sounds right) was going off on an adventure, but my nephew, Casimir (sure, why not) was not, and she wanted Casimir to get to do something special too.

I had their bag’s packed before breakfast.

Merry Christmas from the Death Star

Merry Christmas from the Death Star (image courtesy of Flickr)

Suddenly Lamont and I found ourselves curfew-less on the night of the Star Wars premiere. It was just too bad that the shows were sold out. Or so I thought. While discussing my little bit of unexpected good fortune at work, a co-worker mentioned that I should, at least, look into a theater a little further from home than I usually go to. Tickets offered there were slightly more expensive than closer theaters, but you are able to select your seat in advance. I logged in. And lo, what to my wondering eyes did appear, but two unclaimed seats for the much-hyped premiere.

I called Lamont. Lamont is not really a Star Wars fan (I guess, no one is perfect), but knowing that we wouldn’t be forced to sit in the front row and knowing how much I wanted to go he chose not to fight an unwinnable fight agreed to go with me (he’s a good man). Click. Click. The tickets were mine ours.

For those of you who did not stumble upon your own golden tickets, rest assured, I am not offering any spoilers. The Star Wars portion of my story ends here.

Books are like an author’s children. I’ve been promoting the second for awhile now, but every so often I feel compelled to do something special for the first. I’d experienced an unexpected gift, so I decided to pay it forward. I offered my first novel, An Uncertain Faith, for free Saturday and Sunday – no strings attached. It was my way of playing Secret Santa.

I expected 25-50 downloads. And that, I thought, was a generous estimate. I hadn’t had time to advertise and with many of my blogging friends going offline for the rest of the year, who was left to help me promote it? Therefore, I practically spit out my coffee Saturday morning when I saw I’d already reached 30 downloads before 9 am.

I picked the boys up from Lucy’s. We discussed exactly why sneaking out of bed and dumping cups of water on the floor for no apparent reason at all wasn’t just a rule for our house (please Lucy, invite them back. They’ll be good. They promise!). I drank more coffee. I went to the gym and to the grocery store. I spent an hour hunting down the elusive graham cracker beast (is it considered cookie, cracker, or baking supply?) along with other Christmas dinner related supplies. It was a regular day. I checked my report again. And then it wasn’t. At some point, I’d shot well past 50 downloads and well past 100 too. My brain, heart, and lungs stopped functioning (luckily not all at once).

I was, if only for a fleeting moment, ranked #1.

Best Seller

Okay, so if you want to be picky, I was number one for free e-book downloads in the category of women’s literature that also happens feature mystery and female sleuths, but I also cracked the top 100 for free e-books overall and even made it to #1 in a similar category in the UK. But that’s beside the point. As of this weekend, I am (or at least I was) an internationally bestselling author (sort of).

I can only assume that my Robotic Overlords have chosen to reward my declaration of fealty with higher placement in the search algorithm (all hail). Either that or I just experienced the writer’s version of a Christmas miracle. In either event, I can only now wish good tidings to you and all of your friends as I try to think of a way to pay this particular gift forward in 2016.

Cheers!

Things that gave me courage to come out as a writer – Featuring Kristin Garrett

As my launch day inched closer, several people commented, “you must be so excited,” which I was, but I was also terrified. It is one thing to spend the last several months (or years) toiling away on a novel in one’s spare time, but it is quite another to actually let other people read it, and strangers at that. Releasing a second novel isn’t any easier than the first. If anything it can be even more nerve inducing. What if the first was a fluke? People now have expectations. What if I can’t meet them?

The easy way to get around this fear is to simply hide behind a pen name and never tell anyone you actually published a novel. This will also ensure you receive minimal bad reviews, mostly because your novel isn’t read. The better way, though, is to take advantage of the writing community.  I have been blogging for two years now (I know – where does the time go?), and have met some of the most spectacularly supportive fellow writers. They have played and integral part in promoting my work, and I am thrilled to now be in a position to return the favor.

One of those writers is Kristin Elise Garrett, whose novel, She Hopped Over the Wall, also launched this week. When I first ‘met’ Kristin, I did what every sensible person would do, I reviewed her About Me page, and was struck by her words, “I think it is a brave thing for one to put themselves out there with their thoughts, feelings, imagination, and everything else that comes along with good writing.  It can be an emotional, financial, and professional risk.” Brave indeed. Knowing how difficult it had been for me, I just had to ask what gave her the courage to take that risk.

Coming Out...as a writer.

Things that gave me courage to come out as a writer – by Kristin Garrett

  • I stopped caring what everybody thought. If you want to be good at anything you have to ignore unconstructive criticism. There will always be a fly buzzing in your ear telling you that you’re not good enough. Most of those people are just jealous or they would be reading a writer who is good enough (which is you). Sometimes these people will even be your friends, family, coworkers, whatever. Personally I don’t give bad reviews. If something sucks I quit reading and move on. I don’t have time to be moaning about everyone else’s writing because I’m too busy writing my own work.
  • I learned you cannot please everyone so just please yourself. Who cares if no one reads you? I found some lovely bloggers whose books I enjoyed more than some best-selling novels. Not everyone is going to like what you write. When you start writing for other people, writing for fame, or writing for stats, that’s when you become miserable. Nothing will ever be enough.
  • I can do whatever I want. My blog has no theme. One day it’s dramatic fiction, another day it’s satirical humor, what I ate last weekend, it’s mine and I can do whatever I want.
  • There has to be more to life than paying bills and dying. I don’t know where that phrase came from but I saw it on Pinterest and it’s true. I like my day job and I like my life but the only thing that really invigorates me is writing. It doesn’t mean I need to quit the rest of my life to “become a full-time writer.” I just wrote a novel in two months and I work 50+ hours a week. I can do both. If it ever comes to someone paying me then I’m not going to say no…
  • It could be my calling. It would be bold of me to say it is my calling. But I don’t know until I try. I could be missing out on the best that life has to offer if I don’t put finger to keyboard. I seldom know what I’m writing in advance. It’s like real life; you make plans, you walk outside, your favorite restaurant is closed, you go to another, you plan on the park but it rains, etc. When I write, my characters do something unexpected and then I change course. Those rascals.
  • I stopped thinking of it as a job. It doesn’t have to be perfect. I have a day job that I get paid for. No one is going to fire me because of a faulty plot.
  • Nobody is going to die if your writing is terrible. Unless it’s a character that has reached an unfortunate turn for the worst.

Follow Kristin’s adventure at https://pursuitofanewadventure.wordpress.com/ or on Twitter @kristins_blog

It’s the final countdown

If you are reading this, it means that the world has escaped yet another doomsday prediction. Hurrah for us!

This also means I owe you a post, but, unfortunately, my draft folder is woefully slim this week. Perhaps I can interest you in a sampling of some of my favorites from the vault:

You had a week to prepare. What could you possibly be doing other than crafting new amusing anecdotal stories for our reading pleasure?

Funny you should ask.

5 star review

That’s right. I have been querying reviewers and am happy to report that advanced copies of The Fair & Foul received 5-star reviews from Readers’ Favorite.

So that’s great for you, but when can us regular readers get our hands on it?

Patience.

You know full well that we as a society have evolved beyond patience. We demand an update.

I would love to give you firm dates, but I am finalizing formatting.

You’ve been saying that for months now.

Formatting is nothing to take lightly. I put an excerpt up. Isn’t that enough?

Which you only announced on Facebook. What are you, some kind of cruel tease? We want dates, woman. Dates!

Enter Amazon: Hmm Allie, I really think you need to give yourself a deadline.

I’d love to, but I want to make sure it is perfect.

Have you ever heard the phrase, sometimes you have to shoot the engineer and go to market anyway?

Just what are you implying…

Kindle Accountability

Failure to comply will result in probation from pre-order program for one year.

What is that?!? Did you just issue an ultimatum?

Amazon drops mic and exits without looking back.

Chirp. Chirp.

You were saying?

Right…

Available for pre-order now

Available for pre-order now

The final proof is in the mail for the paperback version (I swear!) Once I have proven to myself that typos are minimized, the cover is wrapped correctly and no extra pages have been added (which could be as early as next week), I will be announcing the official launch date for my book. One thing is certain – it will be released before November 4th. It’s the final countdown!


I’ll happily accept any help offered as part of this book launch. Please let me know what you might need from me (in addition to the firm official launch date). Tell your friends. Reblog all you want. If you do, please also feel free to shamelessly plug your own links to your sites, services, books, or artisanally crafted hand goods in the comments below.

I can always rely on the kindness of strangers

A long time ago in a galaxy far far away, a thirty second movie trailer went live. I was riding in the passenger seat coming back from our Thanksgiving visit when I saw the news. My initial reaction was OMG! Why is there no WiFi on the highway! Yes, I could use my data plan to stream it anyway, but I am a wee bit cheap, and I only had to be patient for a few hours.

By the time I arrived home, there was practically nothing else in my news feed. Star Wars! Han Solo was back, or at least would be next year! I was giddy. And then it hit me, my book’s re-release had gone live the same day and there was no way I could compete with that juggernaut. Have you ever hosted a party and no one show? It felt kinda like that.

I logged on to my stats. Yep, they looked pretty much as one might expect in those circumstances. I opened up my WordPress Reader and there it was, the Star Wars Trailer embedded in a post. I viewed it and my disappointment was made a little less disappointing. At least my news hadn’t gotten drowned out by something less worthwhile, like, I don’t know… a relatively unknown magazine’s decision to gain notoriety through cheap shock tactics.

A funny thing happened then. The author of that article, a fellow indie author named Michelle Prolux noticed my visit and re-blogged my post announcing my book launch. Suddenly it was like a dam opening. For those unfamiliar with her work, Michelle has written a YA Science Fiction/Romance novel called Imminent Danger And How to Fly Straight into It and is the final days of an IndieGoGo campaign to fund her marketing efforts (she, like me, is in the process of re-releasing her work via new publishing channels). Considering the book is one of the perks of contributing, I would urge you to check out her campaign.

While I don’t necessarily believe in Karma, per say, I do completely believe that if you do kindness, others will do kindness to you. I love the idea of paying it forward. So when the opportunity to help in another indie author’s cover reveal popped up, I knew I had to jump on it. Now it is my turn to help another indie author’s big launch.

Stones and Bones Cover

Cover design by Ravven (www.ravven.com)

I would like to introduce you to Jessica Minyard, author of the soon to be released (Feb 2015) YA Fantasy novel, Stones and Finger Bones.

Jessica describes herself as liking to sing loudly and dance on occasion without being particularly talented at either. Her interests include reading, writing, procrastinating, animal advocacy, musicals, accessories, memes, Harry Potter, and sweet tea.

Based on this, she and I have a number of things in common. I look forward to her novel’s release and am so happy that I was given the opportunity to be one of the first to see its cover.

Stone and Finger Bones Synopsis:
Aurelia Barone, Jewel of Starry Stone, harbors no illusions about the purpose of her life as heir to the throne. But after two failed betrothals, she starts to feel like nothing more than a pawn being moved aimlessly about a game board.
 
Until the night she loses everything.
 
Kidnapped by a wise-cracking mercenary with more than one identity, Aurelia embarks on a mission across land and sea to avenge her father’s death.
 
But an evil is rising from the ashes of memory. Insidious magic is stirring. The dregs of a once-powerful nation are thirsty for blood and revenge.
 
They seek to harness Aurelia. To tempt her. To manipulate her.
 
And if necessary, to destroy her.