Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Jeff Beesler - Speculative Fiction Writer


This week's Speculative Fiction Writer is long-time blogging friend and talented writer, Jeff Beesler. He's just released his fourth novel, Interstellar Dad. Read on for an excerpt and a chance to win an eBook copy.


Hi, Ellie! Thanks for having me! I can’t believe how fast this first month of 2014 has gone. Of course, time would fly when you’re busy getting a book published like I have. I have this goal to get three books published this year, not counting audio book and print editions. With the release of Interstellar Dad, my latest science fiction tale, I’m already a third of the way there in accomplishing my goal.

Essentially, Interstellar Dad is about a guy named Andrew Skyes who desperately wants to be a dad, but can’t have any of his own due to infertility. Because of this, his wife divorces him, and his performance at his job tanks. It doesn’t help that his jeep’s tire deflates and he has to seek help from a tow truck driver named Tucker. Fortunately, there may be a way for Andrew to still have children of his own. Such help may just have to come from an alien race known as the Ph’mleez. What follows next is an excerpt from the book, near the end of chapter 7.


Excerpt:

“Fine,” Junos said. “Go ahead and shoot. We won’t stop you.”

“Junos, that is enough! The longer we antagonize them, the more likely something will go wrong,” Univa said. Then to Tucker, she added, “I need you to put that piece of equipment down. Some of it is highly sensitive, given the nature of our mission. If you were to accidentally set it off, it would not end well.”

Univa had no sooner uttered those words than Tucker’s pinky finger pressed down on a button I wasn’t sure he knew was there. The silver glint of the frame became immersed in a greenish glow. Electric sparks rose from the metal baton and shot out in every direction. The alien women immediately took cover. I heard Univa shout Junos’s name, as well as reprimand the head of security with more of those clicks and clacks that made up their dialect.

Tucker grinned at this, apparently unconcerned for the fact that the blaster or whatever it was in his hand had the power to vaporize him. His smile melted into dread, however, as he suddenly threw down the device and cried out in agony.

“Ouch! That got hot in a hurry!” he said, kissing his fingers as if his lips were burn ointment.

I was about to say something to him, but then the device emitted a strange, one-note hum that grew louder the longer it went on. Whatever that thing was, the sound it made gave me the impression that it was powering up. Something told me I didn’t want to ever find out what this contraption did.

“This is what you get for meddling in our affairs, Earth men,” said Junos. “Next time curiosity pecks at your feeble little brains, you may actually want to avoid feeding it.”

“Not our fault you crash-landed on our planet!” Tucker shouted. Even at the top of his lungs, he almost failed to be heard over the screech of the apparatus he had foolishly activated.

Whatever words he uttered next went unheard as the machine let loose with an energy discharge. Unfortunately, with his lack of knowledge about alien technology, he hadn’t realized he had been holding it where the thing would discharge towards him. A burst of radiation shot forth from the metal baton and struck him in the belly, knocking him to the ground. The scream he gave could not break out beyond the scope of the metal baton’s humming, but the way his eyes were shut and his mouth hung open indicated that he had indeed wailed.

For about a minute or two, the same glow from the device enveloped him, preventing me from stepping towards him and offering any assistance. I could only stand by and watch as his body went limp, the energy too much for his body to handle.

But in keeping my attention solely on him, I neglected to watch the metal baton. It wasn’t until I caught a flicker of green energy that I realized my mistake. By the time I turned toward the source, I got a full blast of energy right to my stomach. Suddenly I felt what was left of my lunch swirling around, an unexplainable nausea overtaking me as the room began to spin. In the background, I could hear Univa reprimanding the whole lot of her crew for having let things come to this. The murmur of chatter and arguments disappeared beyond a solid layer of blackness.


So what do you suppose happened to Andrew and Tucker? You’ll have to pick up a copy of Interstellar Dad to find out. Links are available below…unless you happen to be randomly chosen to win a copy of Interstellar Dad by leaving a comment here! I’ll choose the lucky winner sometime on Friday. Good luck!

Book Links: Amazon / AmazonUKSmashwords

Thank you, Jeff. Interstellar Dad looks like another enthralling read. As with Optical Osmosis, I adore the cover. That's it for this week. Can you believe it's the end of January already? 

Monday, 27 January 2014

If You Could Read My Mind

If you could read my mind, you'd probably want to find the nearest exit as fast as possible. Dark fiction authors tend to have macabre and twisted minds. But in the short time you dared to stay, you'd find out that the biggest creative influence in my life is music. Songs or television/movie sundtracks have a powerful way of drawing me in and refueling my creativity when I'm at a low ebb. Many songs have inspired stories.

There are songs that have an almost poetic quality to them. Take Gordon Lightfoot's If You Could Read Mind. How many stories could his most memorable song inspire? How many has it inspired?


Others songs have induced a morbid fascination, such as David Bowie's cover of Jacques Brel's My Death. His performance inspired the title story of my dark fiction short story collection, Passing Time.


There are soundtracks that equally inspire. When I'm deep in my writing cave, I have the Cinemix channel or a YouTube video playing in the background. So many to choose from. One of my favourites is music from one of the greatest television series ever made, Battlestar Galactica. Listening to any part of its five-season soundtrack gets me writing.


I could go on listing songs or music. Instead, I'll let you escape my mind; I know how busy you all are. However if you're interested in learning how music and writing can collaborate to create something truly unique, visit Samantha Redstreake Geary's blog and The Tree of Life project.

Does music inspire you? Have you written any stories inspired by song lyrics? Do your stories or books have soundtracks? As always, I'd love to know your answers.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Cherie Reich's Reborn Cover Reveal & Excerpt

Today I'm thrilled to reveal the cover for book one of The Fate Challenges by Cherie Reich, Reborn. Cherie is both a stunning writer and awesome friend. I'm eagerly awaiting Reborn's release on May 23rd.



To save a kingdom, a prophetess must challenge Fate.


On the day of Yssa’s death and rebirth, the god Apenth chose her as the Phoenix Prophetess.

Sea serpents and gods endanger the young prophetess’s journey and sour the omens. Yssa is cursed instead of blessed, and her duties at the Temple of Apenth prove it. She spends her days reading dusty scrolls, which does nothing to help her forget Tym, the boy back home. But the annoying yet gorgeous ferryman’s son Liam proves to be a distraction she can’t predict, even though he rarely leaves her alone for two sand grains.

Her boring temple life screeches to a halt when visions of her parents’ murders consume her. Yssa races across an ocean to stop the future. If she can’t change Fate, she’ll refuse to be the Phoenix Prophetess any longer. Fate, however, has other plans for her and the kingdom.

Yssa must either accept her destiny or fight to change Fate.


Reborn, book one of The Fate Challenges, by Cherie Reich will be released on May 23, 2014. For more information about Cherie Reich and her work, please visit her website or blog. The cover art is created by Laura Sava. To add on Goodreads, click here. If you’d like to be notified when Reborn releases, please sign up for her newsletter here.



Here’s an excerpt from the prologue of Reborn:

He couldn’t forget the council’s words or how they’d cursed his fifth Phoenix Prophetess. But visions of the Kingdom of Amora in flames flashed through his mind. He could taste the ashes, like burnt charcoal, and hear her people’s screams. The prophecy of the kingdom’s destruction leaked sour bile into his mouth. The other gods, including Kisa, the Queen of the Gods, might be willing to turn their backs on their loyal people for Fate, but he wasn’t.

There was also this infant in front of him. She reminded him of his daughter. His mortal family resided in the Underworld, but he couldn’t let this child.

“I have to save her.”

“Think of the consequences, my son.”

He had. They both knew the gods would find a way to curse him and this innocent child, but the price was worth saving the kingdom.

Ignoring his mother’s shrieks, Apenth leaned over the lifeless baby again. His lips pressed against her ashen forehead, so cold to the touch. Postera clawed at his arms, but he shoved away her hands. Nothing would stop him from completing Amora’s prophecy, protecting the city named after his love.

“You are mine, little one.” His hand pressed over her heart. Electric heat flowed from his glowing fingertips. They tingled, nearly burning his flesh, but his hand remained steady. Luminosity brightened around the child and him, further blocking out Postera’s pleas. The room filled with the blinding white light.

“Live.” He commanded, pleaded.

“No!” Postera screamed as the child’s life-thread ripped from his mother’s hand and joined the pulsing jewel on her belt. The piece sizzled, reattaching to the gemstone, and transformed to blood red.

The light imploded into the child. Her flesh glowed for a moment before the room’s shadows returned. A tiny strawberry-colored birthmark in the shape of a phoenix blossomed upon the flesh over her heart. The baby’s lungs filled with air, and a cry broke from her lips.

The Phoenix Prophetess was reborn.


Thank you, Cherie. What a beautiful cover and intriguing excerpt. That's it for this week. I'll be back on Monday. Happy reading and writing, my friends.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Speculative Fiction Writer Catherine Stine as Kitsy Clare

I have an unusual Speculative Fiction Writer post this week, because my guest is showing us how as writers we can publish successfully in more than one genre.

Young Adult science fiction writer, Catherine Stine is publishing a book this February under her pen name Kitsy Clare. Today I'm helping to reveal the stunning cover and to tell you more about her new, very different novel.



THE BLURB:
For Sienna, love and art are perilous games. Is she ready to take that gamble?
Sienna is a beautiful, talented artist poised on the precipice of soaring into the glamorous, yet cutthroat Manhattan art scene.
Dave Hightower is a hooked-up, handsome heir to the hippest gallery in NYC, Gallery Hightower.
Erik is the live drawing model with his sizzling green eyes fixed only on Sienna.
Three’s a crowd, so Sienna must make a choice: date Dave and ride the fast track to landing a show at Gallery Hightower and hobnobbing with the art glitterati, or follow her heart and take a chance with Erik, the stunning male model who’s stealing her heart. But Erik has some worrisome secrets, and who in their right mind would make live modeling their career?
Dare Sienna throw away her chances of hitting it big to follow her heart?

BOOK DETAILS:
Published on February 20th by Inkspell Publishing
Genre: Chik-lit, Romance, Teen Drama/Angst, YA

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
When Kitsy Clare isn’t creating stories on her favorite Mac Air, she teaches speculative fiction and creative writing workshops. She also loves to draw, travel, read spicy romance, sci-fi and all kinds of thrillers. She divides her time between New York City and her studio in the Catskills, where she enjoys the sounds of birds, bullfrogs and the random coyote. 
Kitsy Clare is the pen name for her new adult romance. She also writes young adult fiction using her real name, Catherine Stine. Her YA futuristic thriller, Fireseed One won finalist spots in both YA and Science Fiction in the 2013 USA Book News International Book Awards. It was also granted an Indie Reader Approved notable stamp. Her YA Refugees, earned a New York Public Library Best Book. Ruby’s Fire, the new companion novel to Fireseed One, is receiving high praise from reviewers. She’s a member of SFWA, SCBWI and CBIG. Find her on her website and blog.

What do you think of the cover? Do you publish in more than one genre or under a pen name? I'm wishing Catherine every success as Kitsy Clare. That's it for this week. Until Monday, happy reading and writing.

Monday, 20 January 2014

What Works Online Marketing Symposium

Today I'm taking part in the What Works Online Marketing Symposium hosted by Arlee Bird, Yolanda Renee, Jeremy Hawkins, and Alex J. Cavanaugh. 



In their words, 'Do you ever wonder why some books become bestsellers while others can barely be given away? Why some businesses succeed and others fail? How does a blog post or a YouTube video manage to go viral? Is it a matter of luck or is there some magic formula for success?' 

Those taking part in the symposium are going to tell about a marketing idea that they used and what worked or didn't work. It could describe a campaign that succeeded in a big or small way or one that failed drastically. Anything that involved promotion!


I'm going to share my experience of releasing two books in very different ways.


The Good

In March 2013 I released my first self-published book, Passing Time: Nine Short Tales of the Strange and Macabre. I knew for my first release I wanted to make a big splash - I wanted it to be everywhere. Over 20 blogging friend helped me with the cover reveal. Several bloggers also helped with the release day, and ten helped with a two-week blog tour. I ran a competition for those who commented. As I wanted to keep costs to a minimum, I organised all of this myself. It was a lot of work. I had to be meticulous with dates and what I'd sent to whom and when.

The result was that on Passing Time's release day, and over the next two weeks, it was high up the Amazon rankings. For a few days it sat alongside a Stephen King short story collection. Taking part in a blog tour over two weeks kept it in the spotlight. By the end of the first month of publication I'd sold over 83 copies and received three great reviews. For me, it was a resounding success. 


The Not-so-good

My second release, Taking Time and Other Science Fiction Stories, was a different story. Despite personal issues that were physically and emotionally draining, I was determined to push ahead with my second release in July as planned. So, I went for a soft release option. A small cover reveal and release day announcement. No blog tour. 

The result was that while Taking Time did briefly making the Top 100 Science Fiction list, it dropped out within a day. The sales weren't there. At the time, I didn't care. I'd suffered a devastating bereavement on the very day it was published. However, several of my blogging friends stepped up and helped get the news out there despite me not being around. For that, I'm eternally grateful. 

In hindsight, I should have pushed back the release.


What did I learn?

Never release a book when you are under extreme emotional and physical stress. You might think you can find the time needed you promote your book. You won't.

Cover reveals, release day blitzes, and blog tours work.

If you can afford it, hire a professional book tour host to organize your promotion activities. Organizing and running blog tours takes a lot of time. And in comparison to other types of promotion, this is not an expensive option.

The longer the blog tour, the greater the book exposure. But don't over do it. One stop per day.

Keep your posts short and to the point.

Make sure each blog tour stop has unique content. Only repeat the book and contact information.

For one-week or two-week tours, blog Monday to Friday. Avoid the weekend and bank holidays, when web traffic is low.

For longer blog tours, visit a maximum of three blogs per week to avoid burn-out.

Don't forget your long-term blogging friends. Let them know about your release plans as far in advance as possible.

Run a giveaway with daily and/or weekly prizes. Be inventive with what you offer - book vouchers and swag are popular.

Always visit those generous enough to give you space on their blog. Make sure you respond to comments.

Finally, thank the hosts personally.


So, those were my experiences and what I've learned as a result. What about you?

Don't forget to call back on Wednesday, when this week's Speculative Fiction Writer is Fireseed One author, Catherine Stine.

Monday, 13 January 2014

The Facebook Game

Facebook. Love it or hate it, it's the biggest social media platform on the planet. It used to be fun and easy to use. A place to post updates about your personal and/or writing life. A way of maintaining a dialogue with family, friends, and readers, depending on how open you chose to make your account. In addition, author and book pages were a key part of communicating with your readers.

Then came strange algorithms that worked out how important your posts were in relationship to the millions of other status updates, and not long after promoted posts. Pages have become complicated and costly. If you want to be sure your readers or followers see a page update, you have to pay. Otherwise only a handful (and I mean a handful) will see it. Even if you do pay, there's no guarantee enough of the right people will see it. And this pay to promote posts option doesn't just apply to pages - there's also a promote post option for main account status updates.

All of this was making me seriously doubt why I even had an author page and book pages. I tried paying to promote a few posts and they appeared to make no difference to my sales or number of followers The money I paid was used up within a few hours - the window of opportunity to see a page update was ridiculously small. It just didn't seem worth the money. So, I decided to keep my pages as nothing more than window dressing that readers could visit via an eBook or website link.

Then came something even more irritating - the ticker list.




This gem applies to your main account. Facebook says it's a real time feed of your friends' activities. Here's how it actually works: the less status updates you like for a particular person, the less likely they'll end up in your news feed. In other words, stop liking enough of someone's updates and they'll stop showing up at all. How many likes are enough to keep them in your news feed is unclear. But wait a moment. There's a handy ticker list on the top right hand side of your Facebook page, which lists all the status updates you are now not getting. Confused? You now have a news feed and a separate smaller list to check.

I tested my assessment to make sure I was reading the situation correctly. I stopped liking and commenting on two friends status updates. Within a few days they'd vanished from my news feed and now only appear in my ticker list. 

What does this mean? If you don't want to miss status updates you either need to be constantly checking your news feed and ticker list and liking everything, or checking friends individual pages. Also, if you want your status updates to at least appear in another friends ticker list, you need to like your own updates to ensure they are more visible. Worse, if you're using an app to view Facebook, the ticker list simply isn't there. For those of you who predominately use an app to view Facebook, you will no longer be able to see all your friends status updates.

Seriously? Do I have time to worry about such things? Do any of us? Am I cynical in thinking that the ticker list is one step on the ladder to making all posts invisible unless paid for? I'd much rather pay a monthly subscription fee than this nonsense.

The easy answer would be to close my Facebook account. I don't want to do that for two reasons: I enjoy the social aspect of the site and it's my main point of contact for my writing group, Untethered Realms. Instead I'm refusing to let Facebook suck up my time in an endless game of 'how visible are my status updates?'. I will post as and when, as I've always done. When I have the time I will read my news feed and like and/or comment. Will I worry that I'm losing important updates or that no one is seeing mine? No. Life is too short for such unnecessary worry. And there are successful authors out there who don't use Facebook. It's not the end of the world.

What do you think? Did you know about the ticker list? How important is Facebook to you both personally and as a writer? Will the latest changes influence how you use Facebook?

As always, I'd love to read your input. 

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Christine Rains - Speculative Fiction Writer



Today I'm thrilled to be interviewing The 13th Floor writer Christine Rains. She's also a fellow Untethered Realms member. Over to you, Christine.





Q: Which three words best describe you?

A: Geeky, creative, loyal.

Q: If I came to your home and looked at your bookshelves, what would I find?

A: You'd be there quite a while! I have several books stretching across the genres. Paranormal romance, horror, fantasy, science-fiction, and contemporary. I have all my textbooks from university: psychology, sociology, and philosophy. Plus my husband has two bookshelves full of gaming books.

Q: What are your top five cheesy movies?

A: In no particular order: Tremors, Con Air, Ghostbusters, From Dusk till Dawn, and The Fifth Element. (My husband and I debated quite a while about the definition of cheese. Some films he thought were cheesy are classics in my mind!)

Q: If you could go anywhere in the world this year, where would you go?

A: The United Kingdom. Are you offering me a ticket? :)

Q: What is your greatest achievement?

A: My son. (Does that qualify as a cheesy answer?!)

Q: Are any of your characters demanding another story?

A: Yes. A few of my 13th Floor residents want another. I also have a witch from a paranormal romance trilogy I wrote that is angry I haven't rewritten her story yet.

Q: Are you a plotter, pantser, or something in between?

A: Pantser. And I love it! All my note-making comes after the first draft is done.

Q: What is your next big project?

A: Right now I'm working on revising two novels: a paranormal romance (a demon-run funeral home for supernaturals) and a superhero story (big villain comes to small city where the heroes try to gain fame by taking her on). I plan to start querying this year. Yikes!

Thanks so much, Ellie! This was a lot of fun.


Blurb:

Six supernatural tenants
Living in a haunted apartment building
On a floor that doesn't exist.

Six novellas telling their tales.

A retired demon acquires a price on his head. 
A werewolf is hunted by her pack.
A modern day dragonslayer misses his target.
A harpy challenges Zeus for the soul of the man she loves.
A vampire is obsessed with a young woman he can't find. 
A banshee falls in love with someone who's death she has seen in a vision.
And a sweet ghost must battle a primal monster to save them all. 

All the stories take place at the same time intertwining their lives together on the 13th Floor.

Includes “The Shadow,” a bonus short story.


Purchase links: Amazon / B&N / Kobo / Smashwords


Author Bio:

Christine Rains is a writer, blogger, and geek mom. She has four degrees which help nothing with motherhood, but make her a great Jeopardy player. When she's not writing or reading, she having adventures with her son or watching cheesy movies on Syfy Channel. She's a member of Untethered Realms and S.C.I.F.I. The 13th Floor series is her first self-published series. She has eight novellas and twenty-one short stories published.



Thank you, Christine. Your cheesy films are all classics in my opinion, especially Tremors. Ticket to the UK? As soon as I make my first six-figure book sale, I'll order a private jet for you. Would be wonderful to meet in real life.

That's it for this week. Hope you have a great rest of the week. Happy reading and writing.

Monday, 6 January 2014

What's Your 2013 Bookgasm?

Every year I select a book that gave me a bookgasm. The book that was so satisfying, so hot, I could read it again and again and again... The book I wanted to take to bed with me every night. Okay. Maybe I'm getting a bit carried away with this bookgasm thing. Control yourself, Ellie.

In 2013 there were two books vying for the Bookgasm Award: Wool by Hugh Howey and The Charge by Sharon Bayliss. It was a tough choice - the first in a post-apocalyptic trilogy that's earned the author over 500,000 Kindle sales and a six-figure print-only contract, thus breaking new ground in the literary world, or a science fiction, alternate history book set in the aptly named Texas Empire.

In truth both books gave me a bookgasm, and I could write a long list of reasons for each. But why do that, when you can go read them for yourself? Why take away the pleasure of discovering two exceptional works of fiction?

Both books were unique. Both were books I couldn't put down. Still, there has to be a winner. One of them has to be worthy of the ultimate luxury - 800-thread Egyptian sheets. Drum roll please. The winner of the 2013 Bookgasm Award goes to:


Why? Because there are two more installments you won't be able to resist reading. Sharon Bayliss - we need a sequel. Yesterday!

What about you? What was your 2013 Bookgasm?


Other News:

Write 1 Sub 1 returns for it's fourth year. Can you believe it? If you've never heard of W1S1, here's a link to the site. In short, participants aim to write and submit one story a week (or one a month) during 2014. It's an exciting challenge, and has an awesome team behind it.

Back in early December, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by one of W1S1's founders, Milo James Fowler. You can read the interview here.

David Powers King treated us to 'An Adventurous LEGO Recap of 2013's Knights of the Cosmic Table'. What a merry a gathering it was. Beam on over to find out what I and my fellow Knights got up to in Lego form.

Finally, are you taking part in Start the Year off Write? I discovered Sharon Abercrombie's genius idea to start the year off the way writers should, by writing, yesterday. There are 21 days of 21 writing exercises for picture book writers, middle grade writers and young adult writers. For every challenge you complete, you stand a chance of winning some awesome literary prizes. Don't worry, you have until January 31st to complete each entry.

That's it for today. Don't forget to call back this Wednesday, when 2014's first Speculative Fiction Writer is 13th Floor author Christine Rains.