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We all struggle between two competing natures, the logical and the spiritual. Where we lie between those two points largely defines who we are. That dualism is at the heart of my book.

Gareth Frank – 19 May 2019

The Back Flap

The Moment Between, a psychological thriller published by Three Women Press, brings death to life through the story of Doctor Hackett Metzger, a neurologist who struggles with grief four years after losing his wife when he becomes involved in a medical study of near-death experiences and meets a woman with a dangerous past. Hackett is reluctantly involved in the study because he doesn’t want to be reminded of his wife’s death and he doesn’t believe in the afterlife. His life and research are about to collide.

The Moment Between is not a fantasy or a ghost story. Instead, it uses fiction to explore the very real phenomena of near-death experiences in a way that forces the reader to challenge their own assumptions about the possibilities of what awaits us all in that moment between life and death.

About the book

What is the book about?

The Moment Between is a finely researched novel that combines a compelling picture of the transition between life and death wrapped in fast-paced suspense. After four years of mourning, Doctor Hackett Metzger is determined to stop letting his wife’s death control his life. He is finally beginning to live again, but his recovery leads to an unexpected fight for his own survival and startling revelations about what happens to all of us in The Moment Between.

Hackett, a brilliant neurologist, is a skeptic. He doesn’t believe he will one day be reunited with Jean, or dwell with God in heaven. What he does believe is that he should have seen the warning signs of her heart attack; he should have saved her. He also cannot accept the possibility that his clinical study of near-death experiences could prove the existence of a conscious afterlife. When Hackett falls for the mother of a patient, grief finally begins to fade. But he has no idea his new love is hiding her dangerous past. Will Hackett’s broken spirit endure another heartbreak? And, will he survive the treachery around him?

As life and research collide, the good doctor discovers that the secrets of love and death just may be part of the same fabric.

When did you start writing the book?

I began writing seriously about seven years ago, after I retired, and started The Moment Between almost four years later.

How long did it take you to write it?

 It took me about two years to write and another year or so to publish the book.

Where did you get the idea from?

Steven King once said:  “(The writer’s) job isn’t to find ideas but to recognize them when they show up.”

For me, the idea for my novel showed up in the mail. I received a Christmas card that mentioned the death of a friend’s brother and alluded to his wife being the murderer. A bizarre Christmas card, indeed. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. When I called my friend and asked what had happened, I found out that, as they say, fact was stranger than fiction. I used the woman in question to create one of my characters. Some people think I created a monster. The truth is, real monsters are often real people. That was the genesis of my storyline.

The theme of my book grew out of my fascination with near-death experiences, and what they tell us about the conscious mind. Polling has shown that about 70 percent of Americans believe in some sort of afterlife. We all struggle between two competing natures, the logical and the spiritual. Where we lie between those two points largely defines who we are. That dualism is at the heart of my book.

Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?

Anyone who has written a novel and says that they didn’t struggle at some point is either lying or incredibly gifted. Even finding the right idea can be a struggle. I felt like I was beating my head against the wall when I was searching for ideas for this book. Luckily, as I said previously, the idea found me.

Perhaps the easiest part of writing is the initial draft. I let my imagination go and worry about the details later. As you might expect, that evolved into more of a struggle once I was shaping the story into a final draft. It is a painstaking process of looking for holes in the storyline, trying to make the characters really come to life, and trying to make the ending fit just right.

What came easily?

Once I have the idea for a story, I usually find one or two characters that I think are a good fit. These characters go a long way towards filling out how I want the story to develop. I genuinely enjoy that burst of creativity that fuels the initial months of writing a novel.

Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?

Sarah, one of the two main characters was definitely based on a real character, though I didn’t know her personally. I think most writers use real people in whole or in part to form characters. I am no different, but Sarah is the only character in The Moment Between for whom a real person is the model. For others, I try to think about how people I know react to situations and use that to breathe more life and realism into the book. In my other writing, I have on occasion quite literally based characters on people I know.

We all know how important it is for writers to read. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?

When I read a really good book, I am usually awestruck by the author’s talent and don’t see how I could possibly do what they do. I don’t consciously emulate other writers, but there are countless times when I am reading, and a passage will trigger the recognition that I am missing something in whatever piece I am writing at the time. For example, when I was writing my current novel, I was reading Frederick Backman’s Beartown. His portrait of the town’s hockey coach was so intricate yet so precise that it made me reevaluate my main character. That’s not to say I emulated Backman’s writing style, but he definitely changed the book. Similarly, authors like Chris Cleave (Incendiary and Little Bee) and Audrey Niffenegger (Her Fearful Symmetry) helped me look at suspense in a new way and freed me from popular expectations of the genre.

Do you have a target reader?

Over and over, people in the book industry state that women readers far outnumber men so target women readers. I was looking for a sweet spot that didn’t adhere to stereotypical books for either genre. Perhaps that is why The Moment Between bends genres. I like to say it is a thinking person’s thriller because it melds medicine, neuroscience, physics, and even a little romance into a book with well-paced suspense. My target audience is adults who like suspense, but don’t need invincible heroes and a ton of murderous gore. One of the things that I have been most happy with so far is that I have received equal praise from both men and women.

About Writing

Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?

When I am not distracted by book marketing, I have a pretty active writing schedule. I generally write five days per week, anywhere from two to eight hours a day. I focus on writing novels, but love short stories as well and tend to fit them in when I am stuck on something or waiting on an editor. I have an organic process and tend to just start writing after I settle on an idea. I write the initial scenes just to see how the concept develops and characters grow.

Do you outline? If so, do you do so extensively or just chapter headings and a couple of sentences?

Most authors that I know use outlines as a secondary process. I don’t understand how a writer can develop a full outline before they start writing the scenes. I just can’t think through that much detail at one time. I usually use an outline when I am closing in on the complete first draft. At that point, it helps me see the holes in the story, the places that need to be re-ordered, and the parts that just don’t work. My outlines generally consist of one or two sentences per scene. That’s enough to remind me of the details.

Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?

There is no such thing as too much editing. I edit as I finish paragraphs, as I complete pages, as I dispatch chapters and as I conclude drafts. My editor once described me as a very careful writer. I don’t know any other way.

Did you hire a professional editor?

Before I even submitted my book to agents, I worked with a professional editor. It served an invaluable function in my writing education. Many new writers think of line editing and proofreading when they think of editing. Developmental editing is much more crucial and requires much more skill.

Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, what gets the fingers tapping?

I love music, but find it distracting when I write. I generally listen to rock, but I have broader interests. Recently, I discovered Emi Sunshine, a child with an old-time country voice. I love old rhythm and blues artists like James Brown, LaVern Baker, and Sam and Dave. The blues can’t be beaten. I even like a little funk now and again.

About Publishing

Did you submit your work to Agents?

Yes. It can be a frustrating experience. Agents have a difficult job, and anyone that has to weed out 99 percent of what they review is going to miss some things worth publishing. That’s my excuse for now.

What made you decide to go Indie, whether self-publishing or with an indie publisher?  Was it a particular event or a gradual process?

I spent a lot of time looking for agents. I really felt I had exhausted that route, so I turned to small presses. Luckily, I found Three Women Press.

Did you get your book cover professionally done or did you do it yourself?

I had a good idea of what I wanted, but I couldn’t possibly have pulled it off myself. Book covers are incredibly important, and there are way too many bad covers in the indie world.

Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?

My publisher doesn’t have the resources to support a complete marketing strategy, but I am grateful for the help I have received in preparing marketing materials, referrals for my book tour, and some initial media outreach. I am now working to broaden my reach with additional post-publication reviews/interviews, and a strategy for discount sales and limited giveaways. Then there is the never-ending process of building an online platform.

Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?

Be prepared to weather disappointment and work really hard. You can never put in too much time to make your book perfect. Seek help from editors, but don’t trust them to clean up everything. It is your book. The disappointing thing for many writers is that all the labor going into writing a novel is not enough. Every step of finding a publisher and marketing your book can be an arduous process. Persevere, persevere and then persevere some more.

On top of that, be careful of what you spend your money on. There is a vast industry that preys on writers. Some of the people and companies are hard-working and well-intentioned. Some just want your money. The bottom line is that we all need a little help now and again, but very few writers make money through publishing, so be careful not to put yourself too far into the hole.

About You 

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Hackettstown, NJ, a small town in the northwest corner of the state. Not coincidentally, my main character is Hackett Metzger. I had a wonderful free-range childhood where my parents gave me the perfect mix of freedom and support.

Where do you live now?

I am a stone’s throw from Washington, DC in Cheverly, Maryland. It is a very different place from small-town America where I grew up, but it is another great place with close community, diversity, and cultural access to Washington.

What would you like readers to know about you?

I am a retired union organizer who has incredible memories of a wonderful career and the great fortune of a pension, something that is, unfortunately, becoming a rarity in America. My pension has allowed me the luxury of embarking on a second career as a writer. I am eternally grateful.

What are you working on now?

I like to think of each new writing project as part of my evolution as an author. I try to grow and do something different with each novel or story. My new novel affords me the opportunity to write song lyrics for the first time in my life, never having written any kind of poetry before. I am also dabbling in magical realism for the first time.

The working title is Torn Skin, a name taken from a song written by the main character, Jonny Pirpal, a punk rockin, freight train hoppin loner who attained rock and roll fame in the nineties, only to lose everything in a single tragic day. Syeira (pronounced sigh-ear-ah), a mystic who quite literally saves lives by being in the right place at the right time, has also become a loner though for very different reasons. They struggle to understand each other as Jonny’s past is catching up with him.

End of Interview:

Get your copy of The Moment Between from Amazon US or Amazon UK.

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Besides having an overactive imagination, I usually take my stories from the people in my life. What’s happening in the world. Besides crazy cat videos, an idea gets stuck in my head and from that seed I make a story around it. 

Jill Brock – 13 May 2019

The Back Flap

Owner of O So Sweet Bakery, Odessa Wilkes should focus on her upcoming wedding. Instead, she is wondering why a dead woman called her looking for her fiancé. No one will give her an answer, including the man she’s about to marry. Everyone is lying. Between a dictatorial wedding planner, an anxiety-induced rash and deadly warnings, Odessa only has her best friend, P.I. in training, Maggie Swift to help her make it to her wedding – alive.

About the book

What is the book about?

This is the fifth book in my Maggie and Odessa Mystery series. The books are about these two very diverse women who keep a lifelong friendship as they grow and change and laugh while they do it. The latest book has to do with Odessa’s upcoming marriage to her live-in boyfriend, Lee. As with most things with Odessa nothing is ever easy. Lee’s past comes back in the form of a dead body and Odessa has to deal with it. With Maggie by her side, she tries to keep Lee alive and out of jail so he can make it to the altar. It’s also about the lies we tell others to protect them from harm or hurt. A white lie or what Odessa calls a candy-coated lie.

When did you start writing the book?

The outline began in 2017 and I wrote it the first few drafts in the early part 2018. I completed the later drafts by the end of that year after a month break. I let my books sit for a month or two before I go back to them. It gives me a fresh perspective.

How long did it take you to write it?

Off and on it usually takes me nine months to a year of intense writing to get from beginning to the end.

Where did you get the idea from?

Besides having an overactive imagination, I usually take my stories from the people in my life. What’s happening in the world. Besides crazy cat videos, an idea gets stuck in my head and from that seed I make a story around it.

Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?

Sometimes, I struggle when I write about a subject, I’m not familiar with and have to research. Depending on access, getting information and a sense of the subject can frustrate me. One aspect of the book as to do with pharmaceutical companies. That was tedious but necessary. Though I will never look at one of the drug commercials the same again.

What came easily?

The initial story idea. I always think of what if. What happens next? Because my books are serials, I know my characters and that helps. So, I put them into situations that makes those what if situations into a story.

Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?

I based my first book Pennywise on my time working in a restaurant, my family and friends. When some of them recognized themselves, I had a lot of explaining to do. It’s all good now. They kind of expect that from me and don’t take it personally.

We all know how important it is for writers to read. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?

I loved mysteries, especially as a kid growing up. I’m not talking about Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys. I love John D. MacDonald, Dennis Lehane, Michael Connelly, John Sanford and Walter Mosley. Later, I fell in love with reading humorous mysteries like Janet Evanovich’s  Stephanie Plum series.

Do you have a target reader?

I would say women of diverse backgrounds, who look beyond the traditional books for something different.

About Writing

Do you have a writing process? If so, can you please describe it?

It took a while to treat my writing as a job. Once I did, I gave myself a schedule. I worked the weekdays only. During a project, I write between five to six hours a day. Usually, 2–3 hours in the morning, a break for lunch and a couple hours in the afternoon. I stop before 5:00 P.M.

When I begin a project, I usually start with a sliver of an idea. Then my mind goes wild with situations I can put my characters. After a while, I come away with a theme I want to book to follow.

Do you outline? If so, do you do so extensively or just chapter headings and a couple of sentences?

At the beginning, I never did outlines, but found if I didn’t, I would write War and Peace every time I sat down to write. Over time, I’ve gotten more detail with my outlines. They keep me on track and on a theme.

Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?

I always expect to do five to six drafts before I send it to an editor. My first go around is always about plotting, if it’s working or not. Then I look at my characters and so forth.

Did you hire a professional editor?

I use a professional editor. I recommend anyone, who plans to publish to spend money on a good editor. I’ve had a few bad editors who cared only about the money. I paid the price for that with bad reviews. So spend the money, you won’t be sorry.

Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, what gets the fingers tapping?

I love instrumental jazz, like Charlie Parker, Max Roach and Thelonious Monk. It helps when I’m doing my first drafts of the story. It helps me focus. Later, I switch to classical R&B, Sam Cooke, Marvelettes and The Chi-Lites. When I can’t write anymore, I get up and dance.

About Publishing

Did you submit your work to Agents?

In the beginning, I did religiously. Though they liked the work, they couldn’t quite put it in a genre they were used to. I was an African American female writer, writing a cozy mystery with a heavy dash of humor. I didn’t fit. I’m not sure I fit now.

What made you decide to go Indie, whether self-publishing or with an indie publisher? Was it a particular event or a gradual process?

I saved my rejection letters and one day I said to myself, this is a story I wanted to read. No one was writing it or publishing it. So, I took the leap to self-publish.

Did you get your book cover professionally done or did you do it yourself?

I love book covers. They always remind of a time when I would spend hours in a bookstore looking for my next book. A cover would always pull me in, like an invitation to an adventure.

I had a background in graphic design, so doing my book covers was a no brainer. I try to always think of what would bring a reader to it. I try to relate to the story, the theme and the trends. Then I do several versions of the book and test it out with readers or family and friends.

Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?

This part of being an author always makes my stomach clench. It’s a learning process. Some people are great at it. I admire the salesmen in them. It’s hard, because I’m a bit of an introvert.

Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?

Respect it for the job it is. It requires time, effort and a thickening of your skin. You’ll find that the effort you put into it will be rewarded. However, it’s not all about writing your masterpiece. Unless you are writing for yourself, get out there and make it known to the world. That’s your other job, salesman.

About You

What I want the readers to know most about me, is that I had no plans to become a writer. My literary journal began because, though I love reading my favorite authors, I couldn’t find the books that spoke to what I wanted to read. There was not enough diversity of characters that went beyond the universally recognized protagonist readers saw in ninety-nine percent of the published books out there. I think there are a lot of unwritten stories not being told and somewhere out there; I hope someone is writing it.

End of Interview:

Get your copy of A Candy Coated Lie from Amazon US or Amazon UK.

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Basically, my writing style can be summed-up as a collection of extremely bad habits finely-tuned to an almost professional-level. 

Lauren Alexis Wood – 7 May 2019

The Back Flap

Scary Stories To Laugh At In The Dark pays homage to Alvin Schwartz’s classic ‘Scary Stories to Tell In The Dark’… except with a humorous twist. Because the dark is scary! Also…. some people might be familiar with laughing in the dark for another reason so this is just adding to the laughs!

About the book

What is the book about?

The book is a collection of hilarious short stories you can read in the dark if you want. Like if your electricity gets shut off. Or you’re in some kind of fucked-up exile. Maybe you’re just lying around versus doing anything else. Or maybe you just prefer darkness. This book is for everyone.

When did you start writing the book?

The book is a collection of blog posts I wrote over time and if you’re asking me when the first blog post was written I have seriously no idea.

How long did it take you to write it?

4,000 years. I’m being sarcastic.

Where did you get the idea from?

Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark was one of my absolute favorite books growing up and so this is my version.

Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?

The stories contained within were inspired by my various interactions with some difficult people so I would say that was where the majority of the struggle will always be.

What came easily?

The writing.

Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?

The protagonist in each of these fictional stories is me. That protagonist is simply trying to earn a living and provide for herself and yet just keeps running into some real jams.

We all know how important it is for writers to read. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?

I admittedly have a very unique style. Also, I actually read a lot of academic and scientific stuff versus creative fiction because I am a total dork. As far as influences go, I am a fan of Michael Crichton, Edgar Allen Poe, Dan Simmons, Dean Kootz, and the Perry Bible Fellowship which is an extremely twisted comic (like you find in the newspaper, not the comic book kind).

Do you have a target reader?

People who can see the humor in the individual stories as well as the book as a whole because trying to explain it is just not going to happen.

About Writing

Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?

Basically, my writing style can be summed-up as a collection of extremely bad habits finely-tuned to an almost professional-level. I procrastinate, then, sit down and pull whatever I need to write completely out of my ass. Preferably while having a few beers, however, I’m one of those psycho health and fitness people so I have to do all that in moderation.

Do you outline? If so, do you do so extensively or just chapter headings and a couple of sentences?

Honestly, no.

Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?

Every time I write, I make a competition with myself to see if I can write the entire piece with no errors whatsoever and over time I’ve gotten pretty efficient at that.

Did you hire a professional editor?

No.

Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, what gets the fingers tapping?

My Spotify Playlists are ridiculous but they sometimes make for fantastic writing.

About Publishing

Did you submit your work to Agents?

No.

What made you decide to go Indie, whether self-publishing or with an indie publisher? Was it a particular event or a gradual process?

I own an indie publishing company where not one person ever listens to me so I have absolutely no expectations whatsoever of convincing anyone else. I simply went the self-publish route and if people like the book, awesome, if not, no big deal.

Did you get your book cover professionally done or did you do it yourself?

Did it myself.

Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?

Super winging it.

Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?

Actually, I wrote an article specifically about that.

About You

Where did you grow up?

Basically Davenport, IA

Where do you live now?

If you can believe it, I am back in Davenport, IA

What would you like readers to know about you?

I have struggled with eating disorders in addition to some other health concerns for the majority of my life. I also feel a lot of empathy for other people’s situations versus my own issues. In fact, I like to call myself The Great Minimizer. I really appreciate readers who can understand how messed up what I just said was and can still find the humor like I do.

What are you working on now?

Getting this book out there and participating in my local comedy scene.

End of Interview:

Get your copy of Scary Stories to Laugh at in the Dark from Amazon US or Amazon UK.

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Eventually, a story began to emerge in my mind. A story that I hope will bring our two cultures closer together.

JDeVereS – 1 May 2019

The Back Flap

Warder Garith De’ Graoin and Doctor Lan De Tian lead a team of “Misfits” on a quest to save their universe from a plague that is sweeping through an entire civilization. Utilizing the power of bonded mind stones, they shape the energies of the universe to reach across time and space seeking out the enemy.

As the most elite team of Warders in the Elfkin Federation… they are assigned the responsibility to enter an alternate universe… find the weakness in the aggressor’s system and stop the plague. Unfortunately, the enemy they face possesses genetic mutations that make them the equivalent of ‘minor gods’.

Tragically, this team knows that the reason their universe is under attack is the result of their Federation meddling in the affairs of the alternate universe. To win… they must save ‘the Mother’, defeat a minor god, and restore order to the alternate universe.

What can this tiny team of 7 multi-racial Elfkins do against an entire Empire?

WIN! They either win or two civilizations will devolve into primal chaos.

From their tiny resort camp on the third planet from a minor sun… they must embark on a journey that does not understand the concept of time as a linear progression. They must win a battle using the curvature of time and the energies of two universal sources.

In this battle there is no safe place to hide… your dreams, your future, your past… even the shadows of the night are all susceptible to attack.

About the book

When did you start writing the book?

I started writing this novel in 2016 while traveling back and forth from China.  My wife is from the Guangxi province in China and the cultural transitions spurred my creativity!

How long did it take you to write it?

As I was frequently in a travel mode between the USA and China – it took me nearly 2 years to complete this book.  The creation of this novel required embracing new universal concepts, following the latest scientific trends/discoveries, while researching various periods in the development of this planet.

Where did you get the idea from?

During my travels between the USA and China, I developed a great appreciation for both cultures.  While visiting the many natural wonders in the Chinese province of Guangxi and the similar wonders in the USA, I began to meld them with my love for science fiction and fantasy!

Overtime, I began to mix the rich cultural fantasies of Chinese legends with epic sagas from around the world.  Viola!

Eventually, a story began to emerge in my mind.  A story that I hope will bring our two cultures closer together.

Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?

Sigh! I’m a “guy”!  I would have many sleepless nights while I waited for my female leads to help me understand their feelings… how they would react in the situations portrayed in the novel!  But – like my wife – they always came through for me!

What came easily?

Amazingly, the ‘bad guys”! I have no patience with close minded people!  Small thinkers!  Small hearts!  The “bad guys” in this novel are all those closed-minded souls who believe there is only one way to live… one way to believe… one way to love!

Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?

The characters are entirely fictious… but – the essence of their being reflects the many open and closed minds/souls I have encountered in my lifetime!

On my blog, one of my repetitive themes is that all fiction is +98% non-fiction.  As writers, we can create a new setting… add pointed ears… shape-shifting… et cetera.  But in the end – we are writing about real human emotions, real human interactions… we are seeking to capture the essence of the human soul/spirit.  We are amazing creatures with an incredible capacity for love… but we can also be small and petty.  I try to stress the great potential held inside each person!  In the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life, we lose track of the many heroes and heroines that touch our lives on a constant basis.

We all know how important it is for writers to read. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?

Lord! Shakespeare, Dickens, Verne, Andre Norton (Alice Mary North), Ursula K. Le Quin, Heinlein, Tolkien, Asimov, the late great Robert Jordan… heck… the list is endless.  What I looked for as a teenager and an adult has been pretty constant…

Show me!  Don’t lecture me! Give me a story… an adventure that lifts my soul… opens my heart… helps me to grow… while entertaining me!

Do you have a target reader?

Everyone with a soul and a desire to see all people live in peace and support one another!

About Writing

Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?

May sound crazy – but – I start a story and wait for the characters to visit me in my dreams! Frequently, I awake in the middle of the night with one of the characters “patiently” explaining to me that I got it wrong!  They would never react this way in a given situation!  They helped me understand what they were feeling and how they reacted!

The characters told me the story and I simply recorded their actions!

Okay, maybe there is a little bit of me added into the mix!  ?

Do you outline? If so, do you do so extensively or just chapter headings and a couple of sentences?

I typically storyboard with extensive notes.  However, the great tool I have for writing is dialogues with family and friends

Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?

Thanks to the many applications/tools available to writers in this day and age, I edit as I go… then I seek independent objective reviews… then I run spelling and grammar checkers again and again.  Then I set it aside for a few days and read it all again.

Did you hire a professional editor?

I am fortunate enough to have family and friends who are not only avid readers but also skilled editors.  They have repeatedly saved me from many character errors (e.g. red hair on one character that suddenly appears blue in a subsequent chapter).

Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, what gets the fingers tapping?

Typically, I work in silence… but when I do listen to music it can be totally eclectic!  “oldies”, classical, Country western… I also love a lot of the newer romantic singers of China.  I find their love ballads very soothing!

About Publishing

Did you submit your work to Agents?

The literary world is changing… I want to remain flexible.  If I can find an agent that truly believes in my work I would certainly team with them.  But presently, I’m am following my instincts and working alone.

What made you decide to go Indie, whether self-publishing or with an indie publisher? Was it a particular event or a gradual process?

The answer to this question is pretty much the same as the last question.  I read many peoples thoughts on “traditional” versus “Indie” but because I have a strong background in managing “IT” systems I made the decision to go “Indie”.  There are several e-book publishers out there that really work to help the “Indie” artist.

Did you get your book cover professionally done or did you do it yourself?

I’ve won several awards for my computer art and photography over the years.  Many of these images are gradually being added to my website.  In this case, “Hues of Creation” (the cover art for this novel) was a “blue ribbon” winner.

Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?

There are numerous venues available to “indie” writers… many are relatively inexpensive.  For a minimal fee they will handle “the heavy lifting” and help a new author “spread the word”!  This is another recurring theme on my website.

I try to share my experiences in publishing so that other writers can avoid my mistakes and focus on methods that I know lead to success!

I am still on a steep learning curve, but I’ve learned so-o-o much!  I frequently speak about the culture shock I experienced in transitioning from artist-oriented writer – to business-oriented marketing.  Fortunately, I have an extensive background in both arenas – so I was able to make the mental transition.

Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?

As a writer, you already have a key ingredient necessary to develop your marketing skills.  YOU UNDERSTAND WORDS AND THEIR IMPACT ON PEOPLE!

Build a website blog… go to seminars… interface with colleagues and other literary professionals!

But – FIRST AND FOREMOST – WRITE A GREAT NOVEL!

Put your heart into it – give it due diligence – polish it!  Then move on to the next novel!

If you are a true writer – you must write!

About You

Where did you grow up?

Most of my formative years were spent in the hills, valleys and on the beaches of Sonoma and Napa Counties in California.

Where do you live now?

I presently live in San Diego County, California

What would you like readers to know about you?

One take-away?  I care about people, I care about Nature, I care about “fair”!  I am constantly told that “life is not fair”.  But as a trained leader – I know it is the responsibility of every leader, every person who holds any amount of wealth or power, to make life as fair as possible.

So, my one take away?  “Do onto others as you would have them do unto you!”  Follow the “golden rule”!

End of Interview:

For more from JDeVereS visit his blog.

Get your copy of The Elfkin Journals: Blending of the Races from Amazon US or Amazon UK.

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Reading as a pastime is not dying. No, I don’t believe that. The industry wouldn’t be flourishing if that was the case. I simply believe the way of reading is changing. 

Iona Caldwell – 29 April 2019

About Reviewing

How did you get started?

I have always been an avid reader with an incredibly fast reading speed. I love books and find I can’t keep enough on my kindle, bookshelf or audio readers to keep this overwhelming appetite to read quenched. I started doing it as more of a hobby when I began writing my first novella. I wanted to find a way to show authors their work is appreciated and help to bring them exposure, especially when so many of us book bloggers are becoming inundated with so many requests.

How do you review a book? Is it a read first, and then make notes, or do you make notes as you go along?

I read it completely through. Taking notes during the process confuses me and causes me to lose what I’ve read. I don’t really take notes at all as I’m able to sift through information while I’m blogging. It may sound strange but the way my memory works, I can usually store what I need in my mind.

What are you looking for?

I am an author of the occult, horror, suspense, and supernatural thriller. Rarely will I read anything outside of these genres because I find it is very hard to find people to read and review them. As a storyteller focusing on the journey and depth of world and character, I look for these things in the books I read. In today’s author market, I find it sad at how many “cookie cutter” or “flat” characters I encounter. They all seem to be perfect or they’re not seen as real. This is very disheartening as it is a horrendous flaw that makes a character beautiful or more evil. When reading, I want to step out of the real world into the world of the novel. This is something I don’t see enough of. It seems like dialogue replaces details like smell, hear, scent, taste and touch. If I don’t feel immersed in the world, I usually don’t finish the novel.

If a book has a great plot, great characters, but the grammar is less than perfect, how do you deal with that?

I’m usually able to overlook some grammatical or technical areas in favor of a strong story. Imperfections are going to happen as we are all human. It bugs me when reviewers are so quick to pick the story apart based on technicality. Now, if it becomes a case of obvious neglect, I will bring it up in my review. Especially with so many ways to meet beta readers who are willing to help with plot holes, grammar, spelling, etc. Editors are expensive, I understand that but there is no excuse with so many other ways to make things right. Otherwise, I appreciate the story if it is strong enough.

How long does it take you to get through, say, an eighty thousand-word book?

This often depends on how interesting the story is. I’m usually able to get through any book I latch onto in less than a week. Two max. However, if the story seems to drag or the inciting incident takes a while to get to, I usually take longer. Despite that, I will always try to complete a book through to the end. Though it does happen, I don’t usually DNF a book.

How did you come up with your rating system, and could you explain more about the rating system?

My system is the basic five star including a cover rating as the cover is usually what attracts me to a book in the first place. I didn’t really do anything too convoluted.

What advice could you give to authors looking to get their books reviewed?

First, remember reviewers are human. We all have innate attachments to certain tropes, themes, characters, details, etc. Try as we might, our reviews will include some personal bias. By no means should you allow what we say to change the story you want to tell unless it is to help you better yourself. Second, the story is yours. Only you understand the characters, the world, the story the most. We are only looking at the tip of the iceberg. Do not write to appease us. You simply can’t do it. We all have our tastes. Third, when querying us, read our review policies. So many authors don’t do this and send us review requests anyway. It is very hurtful as we do this because we love it. We aren’t under a contract binding us to review your work. Last, be understanding. Some of us are authors ourselves, have families, jobs, emergencies, etc. We can’t by any means devote time to every request we get. The industry is bustling and needing all the time we can give. If we turn you down, it’s not personal, we just won’t be able to do it for one reason or another.

Do you get readers emailing you and thanking you for a review?

I usually get them on the posts themselves or via twitter comments. I would like to get emails thanking me for it at times but it’s not really expected. Just as reviewers are inundated, so too, are authors. They can’t email everyone unless they’re on their street team.

My advice to authors on getting a ‘bad’ review (hasten to add that might mean a perfectly honest, well written, fair review – just bad from the author’s point of view) is to take what you can from it and move on. Under no circumstances to ‘argue’ with the reviewer – would you agree with that?

I’ve seen this a few times, including personal experience. The author gets irate and emails the blogger, complaining to us as to why we write what we did. I don’t agree with this behavior. What I do respect and am more than willing to do is to further speak with the author as to why I wrote what I did. I want to help them build themselves to be better which is why my reviews are usually based on things like story, plot and character. I don’t post things like “Didn’t like it” or “it was good.” These don’t help the author understand and are more hurtful than reviewers realize. I do agree the author needs to learn from the review and move on. In the end, it’s their story. Many authors in the industry don’t even read their reviews because they write what they want to tell and move onto the next project.

About Reading

We talk a lot about writing here on the blog, and possibly not enough about reading, which is after all why we’re all here. Why do you think people love reading? We’re seeing lots of statistics that say reading as a pastime is dying – do you think that’s the case?

Reading as a pastime is not dying. No, I don’t believe that. The industry wouldn’t be flourishing if that was the case. I simply believe the way of reading is changing. With a busy society with so many of us sitting on the struggle-bus just to survive, I see more of us (myself included at times) relying on audio versions of books. I personally love reading because it has always been a dear friend. Whenever I would hurt, a good book always healed the pain. It is a very personal experience for me. Books do what movies can’t. They paint a vibrant picture and allows our minds to build the worlds around us. Words are ever-lasting, something film simply isn’t. Stories have been told with words for centuries. Often times, you hear this as well, “The book was better.” Why do we think that is? It’s most likely because the movie is made without the author’s input or adapted with edits so different it strips the story. The most recent case of this is Stephen King’s Pet Sematary. The movie was beautiful but it felt hollow with little of the King feel to it.

About Writing

What are the most common mistakes that you see authors making?

The biggest and most fatal things I’m seeing in the industry is what I’ve called “cookie cutter” plots and “perfect” characters. I stopped reading romance and fantasy of any kind because of these two things alone. There is only so much a reader can take before the same story keeps getting repeated over and over. While I understand there are only so many ways a story can be told, I believe today’s authors are falling into the “write to sell” trap. They write stories everyone is reading and writing with hopes of “best-seller” status and movie deals. As a reader, I plead with the authors to stop doing this. It is very disheartening and hurts you as a professional in the long run. Not every character has to be flawless, not every woman has to need a bad boy, alpha male to save. Ask yourself how you can change this and make your story truly stand out.

We’re told that the first page, paragraph, chapter, is absolutely key in making or breaking a book. Agents typically request only the first five pages of a novel; what do you think about that? If a book hasn’t grabbed you by the first five pages, do you put it down?

I’m not usually one to abide by that rule but my publisher is an advocate for it. I think it also has to do with personal preference. As an author myself, I realize there are readers who might think the beginning of my novella is slow, but here is why that’s important, it is because of how I choose to write as an author. This being the case, I give the book a chance to its completion in most cases. I think judging the entire plot on the basis of the first five pages is simply ludicrous as far as bloggers are concerned. Agents are bombarded by constant queries, they must be selective but bloggers have a bit more leeway, especially if we aren’t professionally reviewing. Now, if the book’s characters have done nothing but chatter about the boy they like for five chapters and haven’t enacted the exciting incident, I might struggle to read through. It certainly needs to pick up after that, then it becomes a matter of throat-clearing and info dumps. For goodness sakes, I will ask authors not to make everything action-action-action. It strangles character development and story growth. There is a reason Stephen King builds his worlds like he does. H.P. Lovecraft did it too as did Edgar Allan Poe and Mary Shelley. There is nothing wrong with build but build with strategy.

Is there anything you will not review?

For previously mentioned reasons, I will not review romance. Absolutely none. I’m so sick of the same plot over and over. My review policy is selective and it is because of the reasons I listed. All of the genres I will, might or will not review can be found within my policy.

About Publishing

What do you think of the oft-quoted comment that the “slush-pile has moved online”?

I think it has some truth to it. As I’ve said, the supposed secret to getting an author’s work seen lies in reviews but here is where that becomes fatal – book bloggers can’t keep up with or struggle to meet demand. There are only so many of us and many of us blog for a hobby. Some of us have begun doing “TBR” Cleaning. With self and Indie publishing taking over the market, book bloggers are in demand now more than ever. Me personally, I make the author query me before I’ll even ask for the file. Many of them are turned down because I simply can’t reach them all though I do read every query and respond in as timely a manner as I can.

Do you think attitudes are changing with respect to indie or self-published titles?

I think the attitude is a bit fluctuated. The reason is because there are many indie and self-published books that are being rushed out without any sort of beta reading or anything. I think this will ultimately harm the industry and the author’s reputation. Indie or self-published titles should be treated no less than a traditionally published title. I for one love to promote indie authors and applaud them for their bravery. I am not indie published but I have been told some stories. However, I would say that it is struggling because many don’t know what they’re doing. This being said, many treat this profession as nothing more than a hobby, which is not what publishing is meant to be. I have heard stories where when an indie is asked if they are indie, the reader responds with “So, just anyone can publish now, huh?” This is a bad, bad thing for the industry. What it does is hurt those who are truly trying to make a name for themselves, buried beneath those who shove titles out like bullets. Not saying that those who publish this way are bad authors, not at all, but there are some who do not see this as a business and it reflects on the industry as a whole.

Do you have any ideas or comments on how the industry can ‘filter’ good from bad, aside from reviews?

I think business ethics is a great way to decipher who really loves their craft and who is doing it as another cash cow. I have heard many give sour grapes when someone says “Don’t write to make money.” This statement is true. This industry is not how it was when King, Rowling, or Meyer published. It is saturated, competitive and can be hurtful. You can often tell the difference when looking at cover care, description, character plot and if the author has made the effort to market themselves and not their book. As it grows, I believe the industry will weed out those who don’t need to be in it as any industry would. It requires work and those who aren’t willing to do it will ultimately fall by the wayside. It’s the same with any industry. Brands who did not survive were consumed by those who did. It’s the nature of the marketing beast. Ignore the ever-changing flow and in the end, those who stand will have conquered the waves.

End of Interview:

To read Iona’s reviews, visit her site, The Antlered Crown.

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This is the kind of story I write because this is the kind of story that writes me, yes, it writes me–the characters show up and I dictate their story. It is this way for many fiction authors for which writing is a serious affair, a spiritual affair, a fascinating experience.

Virginia Arthur – 25 April 2019

The Back Flap

A consequence of getting older is current experiences inevitably get threaded to memories as Maybelline Emmons learns when she embarks on what she thinks will be a simple road trip to find a tree. She experiences something so confounding, painful, transformational–none of which she signed on for; her evenings drinking Pinot, watching her hummingbirds…this was always enough.

This passionate yet comic story revolves around efforts to save an old-growth tree but things go off the rails in a compelling, edge-of-your-seat way. Per Virginia Arthur’s two previous novels, Treed will curl the tendrils of your heart and blow your leaves off.

About the book

What is the book about?

It’s eco-fiction. A restless lonely aging widow takes a road trip to Santa Rosa, CA to find an old friend that happens to be a tree. She has no expectation the tree will still be there. She finds a lot more than she ever could have imagined…

The story is multi-dimensional and multi-generational (with tension between the generations) so each reader’s experience will be different. For some that have emailed me, it’s been about managing grief and despair in the face of growing older, facing death.  For others, it’s about protecting the little we have left, taking a stand, and some readers just find it damn funny. This is the kind of story I write because this is the kind of story that writes me, yes, it writes me–the characters show up and I dictate their story. It is this way for many fiction authors for which writing is a serious affair, a spiritual affair, a fascinating experience.

When did you start writing the book?

Fall 2017

How long did it take you to write it?

A year

Where did you get the idea from?

I think all fiction writers consciously or unconsciously include a little bit of themselves in the story (they can’t help it). I cannot deny that I am in the story, have aspects of all the characters, and I believe the reader also has aspects of all the characters. The basis  for the tension, the struggle, goes back to my childhood. It was a big deal when my parents announced to us we were moving to a new house, a new neighborhood. We were part of the new experiment called the American Dream and this version required complete destruction of the land. Ours was a new street surrounded by vast wildness, an old abandoned farm. It was bliss for the little pod of kids on our new street. We would leave in the morning, return at dark. Explore every and anything in the landscape be it wild orchids, ponds, orchards, wildflower meadows, giant old oaks, the amazing abandoned white farmhouse with the grand white pillars.  What nobody told us was that ours was the first street of what would become a massive mini-city, classic sprawl. My entire childhood was spent watching this paradise get destroyed and God Bless my mother and father who tried to care for all the wildlife that poured into the one part of the land not getting destroyed, our street. By default, our house became a wildlife rehab center at a time when this concept did not exist. We took care of everything from frogs and toads, snakes, to raccoons, foxes, birds…we were always caring for some refugee of the slaughter until one year, we weren’t because there was nothing left.  By the time I was 18, it was a suburban hell and I couldn’t wait to get the hell out of it.  I was heartbroken and enraged. James Watt was Secretary of the Interior then too. I remember some knock-down, drag-outs with my parents who thought they were doing right by their kids, moving us to this new suburban “paradise” but in the end, both my father and mother admitted to me they never anticipated the level of destruction we all witnessed over that time. Treed is dedicated to my mother who bought a sugar maple that we planted in the stark front yard, and as if to put the nail in the coffin of that experience, the past, when she sold the house after we all graduated from high school and left, the new owners stupidly, pointlessly, cut that beautiful little maple tree down. There is no redemption for a place like that. Get out. Leave. So we all did.

When I started writing my first what turned out to be eco-novel, Birdbrain, the anger and rage just poured out of me that this was my experience growing up, watching the land around us get destroyed. My contempt for the human species, the human primate, was born early in me while the adults around me called it “progress.”  A nuclear bomb taking a decade to go off and destroy everything around it is progress? For who? This also coincided with the passing of the United State’s major environmental laws, an astounding achievement and shuttled in by of all people, Richard Nixon. I am a product of that time and I threw myself into the new so-called “American environmental movement”, completed two degrees in field biology/botany (B.S., M.S.). Maybe I am still resolving my anger from childhood but to this day, I still try to save places and in California at least, we lose most of the time because there is nothing democratic about land use decisions in California where a small number of people have tremendous power, too much power, to vote in developments of any size, in any place…often these people are put into these positions on purpose, with intent to vote the developments in. It is very corrupt. The CA Board of Supervisors type of government has to be replaced by something else, a form of governing that would be truly democratic, like community councils but the idea of letting people actually vote on developments terrifies the powers that be in CA so it is highly unlikely the BOS type of government will ever be abolished in CA.

I have never been able to understand and in fact, am intrigued by how the human primate can psychologically cleave itself off from nature. I offer one of many examples. I once worked in a store that pegged itself a “nature store” in that everything it sold had a nature theme but most of the stuff came from China. One day a woman asked me if we had any cards with frogs on them. We did. As I was showing her the cards, I mentioned that amphibians are going extinct globally to which she replied, with a wave of her hand, “I don’t really care about all that. My husband just likes things with frogs on it.” Wow. That just blew my mind. So frogs are appealing on some level, as ornament, decoration, but if the real thing is going extinct, you don’t care? What is that? Truly, someone explain this to me because I don’t get it. I think about this a lot.

We are in nature every day and I want my stories to reflect this in a way that goes beyond just the setting, be it the spider on my keyboard, the lint ball I bend down to pick up that turns out to be a dead butterfly, the tree I never noticed until it flowered, the conversation between two wrens going on just off my deck. We are surrounded by this every minute of every day but it’s left out of our stories. Maybe because the human primate is narcissistic and has to be? When you have only so much time and you know it, this is bound to make you selfish. Maybe we cannot help it due to our life spans and the knowledge of our own deaths which likely dooms us as a species.

Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?

Joni and Maybelline.  Joni was raised in an activist family in SF, has been an activist her whole young life while Maybelline, a boomer, has lived a comfortable, in the opinion of Joni anyway, oblivious life…Neither one of them gets it completely right about the other. I struggled with building this transformation into the story so it evolves on its own terms, in its own time. I think I got it right.

What came easily?

I am unfortunately very familiar with loss and grief, so this is easily accessed from a permanent well deep in my soul; and now I am familiar with the bizarre experience of being an aging woman. Inside my head, I am still a young woman but this isn’t what the world sees and this is very strange. All these experiences are woven into the main character, Maybelline.

The theme of saving the tree, the regulatory rigmarole of trying to save a place.  I have been through it so many times, again, most of the time we lose, ‘we’ being the community and in fact, while I was writing Treed, I was recruited to help save a grove of old-growth oaks from a Dollar General store. Mostly, we were trying to save the grove from our own Board of Supervisor who chastised us all publicly for having the audacity to try and save a grove of oaks he played in as a kid. You see, the person that owned the grove was a friend of his so of course, he had to vote to destroy something supposedly protected by a COUNTY ORDINANCE.  Like I said, the BOS form of government is corrupt and by the way, we lost. He voted to put that horrible box on top of an old-growth oak woodland, our tax dollars at work. While I had complete power as the author of this book that is about saving a tree, I had next to none in the real world, during the so-called “democratic process”. In one sense, uncanny, but in the other, in greedy California, entirely predictable. Some place is always being trashed in California. The battles to save it are endless and exhausting.

Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?

All my characters are based on myself, consciously, unconsciously, my own life experiences, and people I have met, including Tamara and Terrence, not real names. I met them when I was living in San Diego. The apartment building in the story was based on the sea of apartment buildings in El Cajon, California, an area where many non-empowered low-income people live. I met ‘Tamara and Terrence’ when I attended a public hearing to save an empty lot next to their apartment building. The community wanted to make it into a park.     Of course, they lost. There is a parking lot there now.

We all know how important it is for writers to read. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?

I read the classics (re-reading Sinclair Lewis right now) and just list what we were all reading in the 70’s: Carlos Castaneda (especially living a suburban hell in Ohio; boy did his writings influence me speaking of wanting to get the hell out), Rachel Carson, Thoreau, Emerson, Williams Carlos Williams, Theodore Roethke, Walt Whitman, and probably the biggest influence at the time, Ed Abbey. In fact, I was banned from reading Ed Abbey by my parents who said when I read “that guy”, I got out of hand, angry. Indeed, living in what was becoming a suburban hell while the American conservation movement was getting off the ground? For me, reading Abbey was like putting gasoline on an already very hot fire.

Do you have a target reader?

I think aspects of my writing may appeal to just about anyone but my target reader is the person that loves the earth, is aware of what we are doing to it, and is heartbroken by it. To stem the despair, this is why I put some ‘wacky’ in my stories because it can really get to you.

About Writing.

Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?

If having an idea then being seized by it to the point of marginal insanity is a writing process than this would be mine. I actually have to turn it off, not think about my writing, ideas, so I can earn a real living, function. I easily default into that insane writer, you know the one that hasn’t bathed in a few days with the pizza boxes around her, beer bottles, “two for a dollar” candy bags from the 7-11? I have to watch it, actually. Until I make it on to the New York Times best seller list (ha ha), I still have to get up in the morning and go do something that makes me money.

Do you outline? If so, do you do so extensively or just chapter headings and a couple of sentences?

No.

Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?

Both.

Did you hire a professional editor?

So far I have been successful victimizing a few friends into reading my drafts as long as alcohol is involved.

Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, what gets the fingers tapping?

Depends on where in the process I am and how many beers into it I am.

About Publishing

Did you submit your work to Agents?

Casually with no expectations of ever hearing back.

What made you decide to go Indie, whether self-publishing or with an indie publisher? Was it a particular event or a gradual process?

The stupid submission process. I was spending a lot of time and money preparing the submission packages then getting rejected or not even hearing back. “Please submit the first two chapters of your book using 12 pt font and 1 inch margins. Place your name on the last page only. Make sure it is not spaced any more than 1.5 line spacing. The title page must be 14 pt font and double spaced, do not…Please include a self-addressed stamped envelope. Make sure the envelope is no bigger than blah, blah, blah, blah.” Forget it. Publishing as an Indie is heaven. It’s the marketing that’s a bitch.

Did you get your book cover professionally done or did you do it yourself?

I use an aggregator service that provided professional services including preparing the cover.

Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?

Winging it. Appropriate considering the first novel was Birdbrain.

Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?

Nothing nobody hasn’t already said: show some damn courage, put your ego aside, settle down, slow down, and get someone you trust to read your book then suck it up and listen to their honest assessment and make the needed edits/changes so your story works. Set aside at least $1000 for initial release marketing (yes, $1000). Half-assed marketing doesn’t really work and if you hate doing the marketing (like I do) plan on hiring someone with your thousand dollars to get the momentum going. After that’s over, run an ad or tweet every now and then to keep the book in the public eye.

About You

Where did you grow up?

Pretty much covered that one.

Where do you live now?

Pretty much covered that one too.

What would you like readers to know about you?

I write from the very depths of my soul and sometimes it hurts.

What are you working on now?

A book of short stories I hope to release Fall 2019.  After this, I have a lot of other ideas.  If someone wants to give me a lot of money to flush them out, get in touch. I’m sure we can work something out. Thank you too for this interview.

End of Interview:

Get your copy of Treed from Amazon US or Amazon UK.

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My favorite bit of reader feedback was being asked if we had goosebumps when writing a certain set of scenes mid-novel. I love actually frightening readers with what we’re doing.

Amanda K. King – 19 April 2019

The Back Flap

Under the dirty streets of Ismae’s greatest port city, an old nightmare waits for Sylandair and Aliara, one that is stealing Dockhaven’s children, one that only they can end.

When the pair escaped their owner and abuser years ago, they left him behind in a ball of blue flame, but as more children disappear near the city’s desalinization plant, they believe he may not be dead. When they embark on an underground search for him with their less-than-reliable puka scout Schmalch, what they find is beyond any expectation. It will lead them into a twisting world of inheritances, experimentation and memories they never wanted to exhume.

Things They Buried is the first full length novel of Ismae, a planet where bodies can be re-crafted at the genetic level while photography remains a luxury available only to the rich. It is a world where science sometimes appears as magic and history as myth, where monsters make themselves and heroes are wholly unintentional.

This novel contains adult themes and violence.

About the book

What is the book about?

Amanda: The plot of Things They Buried follows Sylandair and Aliara, who believe reports of their former owner and abuser’s death is a lie. When they set out to prove their theory, they find his misdeeds extend far beyond their expectations, including genetic experimentation and a rash of disappearing children.

We did a lot of character development and world building in this story as it’s the first in a “continuing adventures of” series. We both love adventure stories, but we wanted to write one with characters who were fully realized people. Over the course of the novel, they must come to terms with what’s happened to them in the past as well as what they’ve stumbled into.

It’s not just about characters—the novel’s filled with action, monsters, and scares, too. My favorite bit of reader feedback was being asked if we had goosebumps when writing a certain set of scenes mid-novel. I love actually frightening readers with what we’re doing.

When did you start writing the book?

Amanda: We started building the characters and the world of Ismae way back in 2004, but we didn’t start turning them into a book until 2015.

Michael: The benefit we reap from such a long worldbuilding period is we have reams of material to pull from and we can pretty much identify a continuity issue in short order.

How long did it take you to write it?

Amanda: Four years from first words on paper to publication. There were long stretches where neither of us were working on it, though. For a while I don’t think we were sure if we were going to bother to publish or just keep writing stories for fun.

Where did you get the idea from?

Amanda: It kind of unraveled as we started writing. Sylandair, Aliara, Schmalch, and Haus were all previously created in one form or another and already had their backgrounds sketched before we began. Once we had a seed idea it unfolded nicely.

Michael: At least two scenes in the book were written before we had a solid plot and were inspired by a dream one of us had.

Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?

Michael: There were challenges throughout. Though both of us have experience as writers this was the first time either of us set out to complete a novel. Each of us had started this or that when we were younger, but this book came about at a time in our lives when we decided that finishing a creative project of this scale was paramount. If I had to pick a specific section or scene, I would say that part one was exceedingly challenging. We learned a lot about plotting, dialog, and action just from writing that one-hundred or so pages over and over.

What came easily?

Amanda: We really knew the characters long before the first word was written. It’s easier to know what happens next when you know how your character will react to a situation given their personality and background.

Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?

Amanda: I don’t think authors can help but put some parts of the people they know into their characters. Mostly it’s behaviors and little incidents, which lend an authenticity that might not be there if we were just making everything up based on our own experiences.

We all know how important it is for writers to read. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?

Michael: That’s a difficult one to distill down to a short list. Books and fiction have been a huge part of my life for over forty years now. My first jobs were as a bookseller. Stocking shelves you read back cover and inner flap copy just to know what it is you’re selling and then you end up buying things you would have never guessed you’d be interested in.

Above all I would suggest you read every night, no matter what strikes your fancy. And be sure to read non-fiction as research, don’t count on anything you learn from fiction authors when you are wanting authenticity.

When we began writing we knew that we wanted to focus on two things: Characters who had lives before this story and gave readers the sense that there was more to them than the typical science-fantasy stereotypes, and a self-contained adventure instead of the first installment of an epic that would change the face of Ismae. Given those criteria we leaned heavily on where authors like Fritz Leiber, Ursula K. Le Guin, Ian M. Banks, H. Rider Haggard, Leigh Brackett, Rex Stout, Raymond Chandler, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert E. Howard, Michael Moorcock, Stephen King, Mary Shelly, Philip K. Dick, and so many others inspired those things in us.

We’re planning a monthly blog entry on Ismae.com about the authors that inspire us and may have been missed by many people who are new to sci-fi / fantasy.

Do you have a target reader?

Amanda: My brother-in-law, Jeffrey. Mostly Michael and I write to entertain one another, but no one is a bigger cheerleader about the Ismae stories than Jeffrey. We did create personas before starting any marketing on the book, but when writing, I like to stick with the axiom of “write the book you want to read.” If I’m not interested, my writing comes to a screeching halt.

About Writing

Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?

Amanda: We have to have a process, or we’d never get anything done. (It’s probably worth mentioning that I used to be a project manager, so I love processes.)

We begin with some nugget of an idea, generally a conversation. Once we have that, we brainstorm where the story’s going and develop a rough outline.

I write a rough draft, which involves more brainstorming and outlining in greater and greater detail. That draft goes to Michael, and usually results in a few structural changes. We review that draft together then send it to our editor for a content review.

When it comes back, we review and discuss, then I do another pass based on our notes. Michael edits again then we read the manuscript out loud to one another. It’s a great way to pick up issues that are easily missed when reading alone. After that, back to the editor for a line edit, a few tweaks, and it goes into design.

Do you outline? If so, do you do so extensively or just chapter headings and a couple of sentences?

Amanda: We outline in bursts. We start with a general outline of where the story’s going them break down each act in more detail and each section within that act in even greater detail. Kind of a cascading outline.

Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?

Amanda: When rough-drafting, I start the day by editing what I did the previous day. It allows me to clean up any sloppy work or fill in blanks and prepares me for what comes next.

Did you hire a professional editor? (May skip if being published by a small press rather than self-publishing)

Amanda: Yes, definitely. It’s too easy to overlook your own errors. Editors make a huge impact on the story structure and, of course, readability. We’ve worked with a couple different ones. Both have been extremely helpful.

Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, what gets the fingers tapping?

Amanda: Mostly I prefer silence, but we live in the city and that’s not always possible, so I go for ambient music. I can’t listen to anything with words—too distracting.

Michael: Almost always. What I listen to depends on my mood and the mood I am trying to capture in the scene I am working on. I have eclectic tastes where music is concerned. For example: I am listening to T. Rex’s Prophets, Seers, and Sages the Angels of the Ages as I write this. Most days lately I shuffle a large playlist I have of things like Brian Eno, Tangerine Dream, Popol Vuh, Amon Duul, CAN, David Sylvian, instrumental soundtrack music and the like when I’m writing.

About Publishing

Did you submit your work to Agents?

Amanda: We decided that wasn’t a path we wanted to pursue right now. Indie publishing is so accessible, we wanted to put Things They Buried out there and see where it went. So far, we’ve been pleased with the results. We may start looking for agents after we have a few books published, but for now, it’s all on us.

What made you decide to go Indie, whether self-publishing or with an indie publisher?

Michael: Above all it was independence. Ismae is our creation, being a multi-million seller is not the goal. Sharing with readers who enjoy the stories we tell and having enough to continue is what really matters. I never want to write based on the current trend unless it happens to dovetail with what we are doing. Because this is a world setting that Amanda and I are creating, the last thing I want is some asshole to come in and tell me, “Well, you signed the contract and what you need to be writing is…” I’d much rather make a modest living and have a life I love than any pile of money that makes me a thrall to that world.

Was it a particular event or a gradual process?

Michael: I have had this attitude about letting “suits” into creative pursuits my entire adult life. It hasn’t helped me make money, but I’ve survived, and I doubt I’m going to change my attitudes much at this point.

Did you get your book cover professionally done or did you do it yourself?

Michael: Both. The painting was created for us by our old and very talented friend, Michael Fee (michaelbfee.com). He’s another Irvingtonian, who’s shown his work in galleries across the U.S. One of Amanda’s previous careers was as a graphic designer and she is quite talented, but that is a thankless job in most organizations these days. She did the cover and text layout for all of it. It took a few people who were not me giving her feedback to get her to run with this cover. I love the design and will be arguing for sticking with the style for The Long Game serials at the very least.

Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?

Amanda: My background runs from writing and editing to marketing and design, so we absolutely have a marketing plan. We did a lot of research and reading before we decided to indie publish, and the plan’s been based on that plus my experience. There’s been some experimenting to see what does and doesn’t work for us. We’ll take those lessons and make The Long Game’s marketing plan even more effective.

Michael: It’s a great thing to have a collaborator that can manage this for you. I’m comfortable winging it when face-to-face with folks, but I freeze up when I look beyond a few steps ahead in the process. You’ll probably see me at a con table, but the big marketing picture is all Amanda.

Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?

Amanda: Make a budget and stick to it. Do your research and decide where you want that money spent (definitely toward an editor). Money can disappear into the indie publishing void in minutes, and positive return isn’t guaranteed.

Michael: Be ready for a long journey and sure to take in the sights along the way. Also, other indie authors are your allies and more often than not are happy to share what they’ve learned.

About You

Where did you grow up?

Amanda: In rural Indiana. My closest neighbors were cows.

Michael: I am originally from western New York, Chautauqua and Monroe counties—a beautiful area to grow up in. As a teen, I was fortunate enough to live in a SUNY school town. Having a college next door to your high school opens the world up quite a bit. I probably would have ended up a member of the street-sign-shooting sect were it not for having that academic world to influence me.

Where do you live now?

Amanda: We live in Irvington, an east-side neighborhood in Indianapolis, Indiana. I can’t say enough good things about our neighborhood—it’s like living in our own small town, but with all the conveniences of a city. Everyone we’ve talked in Irvington to has been incredibly supportive. Our local bookshop, Irvington Vinyl and Books, even carries our novels.

Michael: Soon after I arrived in Indianapolis thirty years ago, I was working at a Waldenbooks and taking a bus to work every day. The route took me right through Irvington and one day I decided that this neighborhood was too interesting not to get off the bus and have a look around. I’ve hung-out, worked, and lived in this town-within-a-town ever since.

What would you like readers to know about you?

Amanda: I want my readers to know more about my writing than about me. I love it when someone enjoys our work. The best is when they start telling me things about our books, details that not every reader has picked up. I love seeing someone that excited about our work.

Michael: Like Amanda; I’d rather they know more about Ismae and its residents. Anyone who is interested in my mundane life can follow my personal feed on Facebook, I’m pretty easy to find.

What are you working on now?

Amanda: We’re in the midst of writing a six-part serial called The Long Game that follows up on plots started during Things They Buried. Each of the short novels will be its own stand-alone adventure, but all are tied together with an overarching storyline. Readers will be able to enjoy them separately or as one piece. We’re targeting late 2019 for release of the first installment.

Michael: In addition, we have somewhere around a half dozen manuscripts in varying states. We should be able to keep ourselves busy for at least a few years with no new ideas, though I highly doubt that will stop either of us from coming up with more plot lines.

End of Interview:

For more about Amanda, Michael, and their series visit their website and like their Facebook page.

Get your copy of Things They Buried from Amazon US or Amazon UK.

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Writers need to note that the way they interact with the world and describe it may not always be the case for their readers. And — reviewers are not some almighty being. Yes, they may influence but they don’t command people to read this book or that book. A review is a review. Bad or not, it gets the poet’s name out there.

Berry’s Poetry Book Reviews – 16 Apris 2019

About Reviewing

How did you get started?

I started this project in 2018  after delving into the online poetry community and seeing that there was an incredible need for poetry book reviews. Poetry is finding its place in the digital age but reviews are still so helpful for readers to discover modern poets.

How do you review a book? Is it a read first, and then make notes, or do you make notes as you go along?

I make notes as I go through the book and then will pour through it again to let the poetry really saturate my mind.

What are you looking for?

Creative use of language, the main themes — how well the text can engage the reader.

If a book has a great plot, great characters, but the grammar is less than perfect, how do you deal with that?

Well, in the poetry world the rules of prose are exploded and expanded upon so I don’t really look for that. Obviously, there are traditional poetry forms. It is exciting to see how modern poets take those forms and make them their own, but on that same note it is exciting to see new forms of poetry emerge as well. That may be the best part of this project. I am exposed to so many styles that I, as a reader, may never have stumbled upon.

How long does it take you to get through, say, an eighty thousand-word book?

That entirely depends upon the subject matter.

How did you come up with your rating system, and could you explain more about the rating system?

I don’t have a specific rating system. I simply try to provide an honest explanation of the poetry submitted to me. Does it inspire emotion? Do the poems draw me in? Are there particular pieces I go back to over and over? In short, I suppose I am testing the magnetism of the poetry.

What advice could you give to authors looking to get their books reviewed?

Don’t give up when looking for reviewers! Always ask! The worst thing a reviewer can say to a review request is ‘no.’

Do you get readers emailing you and thanking you for a review?

I have on occasion and it is very sweet, but by no means mandatory. The reviews I provide are free of charge — the poets don’t owe me a thing.

My advice to authors on getting a ‘bad’ review (hasten to add that might mean a perfectly honest, well written, fair review – just bad from the author’s point of view) is to take what you can from it and move on. Under no circumstances to ‘argue’ with the reviewer – would you agree with that?

I would.  I absolutely understand that a written work is essentially a child writers have created and feel extremely protective over, but children have to be set free from their parents at some point. Writers need to note that the way they interact with the world and describe it may not always be the case for their readers. And — reviewers are not some almighty being. Yes, they may influence but they don’t command people to read this book or that book. A review is a review. Bad or not, it gets the poet’s name out there.

About Reading

We talk a lot about writing here on the blog, and possibly not enough about reading, which is after all why we’re all here. Why do you think people love reading? We’re seeing lots of statistics that say reading as a pastime is dying – do you think that’s the case?

When I was a kid I ONLY read fantasy and mythology (devoured it really) because I saw it as an escape from a mundane life. Now as I’ve gotten older, I am turning into someone who solely reads non-fiction and poetry, because the real world is so much more fascinating than I ever gave it credit for when I was younger. Who needs non-existent dragons and wizards when you can read Carl Safina’s fascinating work about the animal kingdom or about Lucy Parsons in Jacqueline Jones’ Goddess of Anarchy?

I do believe that reading as a pastime is dying for many reasons, which is why I am so happy poetry is making a resurgence in the digital age. You can find many arguments for and against the quality of Rupi Kaur’s poems but no one can deny the massive impact her ability to combine poetry with social media has had on the public.

About Writing

What are the most common mistakes that you see authors making?

Having too little confidence in themselves.

We’re told that the first page, paragraph, chapter, is absolutely key in making or breaking a book. Agents typically request only the first five pages of a novel; what do you think about that? If a book hasn’t grabbed you by the first five pages, do you put it down?

That would make sense to me. And poetry has to grab you almost immediately. I try my best to give every book a fair shot. If it is a chapter book I will try to make it to the end of it before putting it on the chopping block. Of course, with the books submitted to me for review I make sure to read every poem.

Is there anything you will not review?

Poetry is the only type of work I am reviewing.

About Publishing

What do you think of the oft-quoted comment that the “slush-pile has moved online”?

The slush-pile goes everywhere we go.

Do you think attitudes are changing with respect to indie or self-published titles?

Yes. I think they are gaining more respect — especially if they are well executed. I believe that shows a special dedication by the author.

Do you have any ideas or comments on how the industry can ‘filter’ good from bad, aside from reviews?

I really wouldn’t know how. Judging a book by its cover has always been a method, but you may have an incredibly skilled artist creating a cover that disguises less than appealing contents. That’s the point of reviewers. They are the ones who will dig in and do the dirty work for the readers.

End of Interview:

Read Laura’s reviews at Berry’s Poetry Book Reviews.

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I loved the idea that anything was possible in these worlds. Animals could talk, children could fly and inanimate objects could have feelings. 

A Mon – 13 April 2019

The Back Flap

The Little Book of Magical Tales is about adventure, friendship and compassion. It unravels a magical world where good things happen to the brave, loyal and kind. The five compelling stories in this book are filled with endearing characters like the two little fishes – Tuton and Futon, Ronnie and his friend Thomas, Santa, the princess and the moon. Life happens to them all just the way it happens to all of us. When Tuton and Futon play pranks on each other something goes terribly wrong. Ronnie is sad because it is raining outside and there is nothing good on TV. The princess is having an unhappy birthday. The moon is in trouble for making fun of the old lady. And Santa has lost his sleigh right before Christmas!

With its primary focus on teaching children basics of problem solving, everyone in the book finds a way out of the mess in their own way. It encourages children to never give up, no matter what life throws at them — an essential lesson to live by today. With picturesque narrative, life-like illustrations and life-lessons, this book is packed with fantastic adventure and learning for any child who loves to read.

About the book

What is the book about?

The Little Book of Magical Tales is a compilation of 5 short stories for children. The stories happen in a magical world which is much like ours.

When did you start writing the book?

I started writing the book about two years back.

How long did it take you to write it?

It took a while (almost a year) to figure out the best stories to put in this book. Then I decided to illustrate the stories myself. This needed some further research and practice.

Where did you get the idea from?

As a children’s writer I am heavily influenced by the kind of books I read as a child. They were mostly fantasy stories of imaginary worlds. They fueled my imagination. I loved the idea that anything was possible in these worlds. Animals could talk, children could fly and inanimate objects could have feelings. I wanted to write a book that brings more children to experience this magic.

Were there any parts of the book where you struggled?

I wanted to write a book that is entertaining as well as rich with life lessons. Children today face a much more competitive environment. They are exposed to more knowledge thanks to the internet. They are way smarter than what we used to be when we were their age. They need education that is relevant. While writing this book I was constantly struggling with how I could best combine thrill with valuable lesson that addresses the challenges that kids face today.

What came easily?

Thanks to all the magical tales I read as a child I have a very fertile imagination. What came easy were the characters. It was almost like they were just there, waiting to be written about.

Are your characters entirely fictitious or have you borrowed from real world people you know?

Some of my characters are fictitious. Some were borrowed. Ronnie is based on my four-year-old nephew who loves to draw.

We all know how important it is for writers to read. Are there any particular authors that have influenced how you write and, if so, how have they influenced you?

There are several authors I admire, and they have influenced my thought and writing a lot. L Frank Baum and his The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was among the first books I read as a child. Alexander Raskin’s When Daddy Was a Little Boy was amongst my absolute favorites as a child. I love the way these authors portray their characters realistically, even though they are writing for children. I have tried to do the same in my book. I mean, there is no point in talking down to children.

Do you have a target reader?

Children between 5-8 years of age will enjoy the book. It’s a great book to enjoy before bedtime or as a summer vacation reading project.

About Writing

Do you have a writing process? If so can you please describe it?

I think of the characters first. Then I let them play out the story. My characters are like real people in my head even though they might look like a fish on the paper.

Do you outline? If so, do you do so extensively or just chapter headings and a couple of sentences?

I always have a story outline planned before I start typing. Sometimes the stories may not be fully formed. They take shape as I write but I always have an idea before I start the project.

Do you edit as you go or wait until you’ve finished?

I have an internal editor that is extremely critical of my writing. If I don’t switch it off it keeps nagging me. This is a hindrance to the work. I used to have massive writer’s blocks before but now I just type. Once I am done with the manuscript, I let it out and start editing.

Did you hire a professional editor?

No. I have been a professional editor for the past seven years. I just used those skills to edit my book. I did get a friend to proof-read the manuscript though.

Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, what gets the fingers tapping?

Not music exactly but I do use nature sounds to boost my concentration. There are a few websites that can play sounds of waves or rain in a loop. That really helps to calm the nerves and focus.

About Publishing

Did you submit your work to Agents?

No, I used Amazon’s self-publishing platform to publish my book. It provides great quality paperbacks on demand. My book is also available on Kindle. However, marketing the book is proving to be a major challenge. So, submitting to an Agent might be a good idea, I don’t know.

What made you decide to go Indie, whether self-publishing or with an indie publisher? Was it a particular event or a gradual process?

This is my first book and I had little idea of what it’s like to publish a book. Self-publishing has given me a good learning base.

Did you get your book cover professionally done or did you do it yourself?

I designed the cover myself. I use a free online tool to put it together.

Do you have a marketing plan for the book or are you just winging it?

Marketing the book is the biggest roadblock I am facing as a self-publisher. As of now, I am just winging it. There are thousands of blogs out there on best ways to market a book. Some of their tips and tricks work. Others don’t. I would love some honest reviews on my Amazon page as well as on Goodreads.

Any advice that you would like to give to other newbies considering becoming Indie authors?

The biggest challenge an author faces is successfully putting together a manuscript. If you are over that, everything else will fall in place. Have faith in your work.

About You

Where did you grow up?

India

Where do you live now?

Seattle, Washington

What would you like readers to know about you?

I believe in magic.

What are you working on now?

A picture book, about a little orca and his journey to get reunited with his mother.

End of Interview:

Get your copy of The Little Book of Magical Tales from Amazon US or Amazon UK.

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About Reviewing

How did you get started?

I have always been a very passionate reader. Reading was a way for me to escape my reality. A local author friend of mine thought I would be perfect for reviewing books. I found a great company called Candid Book Reviews that was actively looking for reviewers to join their team. Through Candid Book Reviews they introduced me to many creative and talented authors who I am blessed to still read and review for today.

How do you review a book? Is it a read first, and then make notes, or do you make notes as you go along?

Many of the books I read are on my Kindle or hard copies that the authors send me. If it is a Kindle book then I usually use the highlight feature as I go. That makes it easier to go back when you are reviewing it. If it is a hard copy, I make notes as I go.

What are you looking for?

I am looking to help promote Indie Authors any way that I can by providing them an honest review on multiple social media sites. All I ask in return is for their book (mobi, pdf or hard copy) and their friendship. I pride myself in having a friendship with the authors. We communicate heavily on my HeidiLynn’s BookReviews Facebook page.  I have 2,303 followers made up of authors, personal assistants, book boggers/reviewers, and fans of my reviews.  Along with book reviews on my site I can add book covers, synopsis of the book, buy links, and author bio and pictures. This can also be cross posted to my Facebook page for more viewers to see it.

If a book has a great plot, great characters, but the grammar is less than perfect, how do you deal with that?

If I find the grammar, spelling or formatting of the ebook is off I will let the author know upfront before I post my review. This way if it is a ARC copy they can fix the issue before the book goes live. However, if the formatting and spelling are really bad I will have to bring it up in the review.

How long does it take you to get through, say, an eighty thousand-word book?

Depending how good the book is I would say 3-4 hours.

How did you come up with your rating system, and could you explain more about the rating system?

I won’t review anything that is below a 3 star for an author. I don’t think it is fair to the to bash the author on the social media sites. They work hard for their craft. If I feel like I can’t read the book or It does not deserve higher than a 3 star I will contact them. I will let them know my reasoning behind it and obviously apologize.

You will usually get a 5 star from me if you write something close to your heart and it shows in your writing, books that grab your attention from start to finish, and books that leave a permanent etching in your memory.

What advice could you give to authors looking to get their books reviewed?

Do your homework on the reviewer before messaging them. Make sure they review what genre you write before approaching them. Please introduce yourselves to us reviewers telling us about yourself, your book synopsis, how you learned abut us, etc.

I would say go on Facebook and start a street team of ARC (Advanced Reader Copies) reviewers. Build a relationship with your readers and get to know them. They are your fans and look up to you.

Try going on NetGalley that is an amazing resource for authors and reviewers. I have found some extremely talented authors there.

Do you get readers emailing you and thanking you for a review?

Few of my readers have commented on my reviews.  However, I have gotten much more positive feedback from authors thanking me for my review. Many have said I had made their day, that they have cried, that my reviews were very thorough. I have a section on my website of that authors reviewed my service.  This feedback is priceless and is why I love doing what I am doing. Giving back to the authors that let me escape to new worlds without leaving my couch!

My advice to authors on getting a ‘bad’ review (hasten to add that might mean a perfectly honest, well written, fair review – just bad from the author’s point of view) is to take what you can from it and move on. Under no circumstances to ‘argue’ with the reviewer – would you agree with that?

Yes, I agree with that. The author wants an honest review and I am going to give you what you asked for. I won’t lie in a review.

About Reading

We talk a lot about writing here on the blog, and possibly not enough about reading, which is after all why we’re all here. Why do you think people love reading? We’re seeing lots of statistics that say reading as a pastime is dying – do you think that’s the case?

For me reading is an escape from reality into a new world for a while. I don’t think that is true that reading is dying. Even my young nieces and nephews are always with a book in their hand.

About Writing

We’re told that the first page, paragraph, chapter, is absolutely key in making or breaking a book. Agents typically request only the first five pages of a novel; what do you think about that? If a book hasn’t grabbed you by the first five pages, do you put it down?

A really good book would grasp my attention and pull me in by the end of the first page. If it doesn’t capture my interest by the third chapter then we might have a problem.

Is there anything you will not review?

YES. I will not read Paranormal, Sci-Fi Fantasy, MC, Shape-Shifters, Political, Historical, Time Travel

End of Interview:

To see HeidiLynn’s reviews, visit HeidiLynn’s Book Reviews.

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