Hopepunk by Branwen Oshea – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Branwen OShea will be awarding $30 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

You describe your series as hopepunk sci-fi. What does that mean to you?

Hopepunk is a new genre, so for those not familiar with the term, it’s often described as a rebellion against the book world’s social/political norms (the punk part), but a rebellion of hope and love, rather than the desperate violence that often characterizes grimdark. Of course, hopepunk contains violence, but it’s wielded in a manner that holds that people can be good and humanity is worth saving. I can’t remember who said it, but someone once described it as a story where characters face horrible situations but refuse to lose their humanity no matter what happens. I really resonate with that.

I finished the draft of The Calling long before the term “hopepunk” was coined, so I’d say it’s more the way I naturally live and write than a genre choice. When I was writing it, YA multiple POV novels (like Six of Crows) had not yet hit the lists and I was told no one would ever read mine because of the POV and genre choices I had made. But, it took me so long to write it, lol, that the readers’ interests changed by the time it was published.

The Calling (book one) starts out appearing dystopian, where humans are surviving a new ice age by sheltering underground. Their world has grown dark and controlled, and the mysterious Sickness has killed so many teens that extinction is looking inevitable. This starting point was a clear choice, as I wanted to show a world that looked bleak and troubled. However, it is juxtaposed against the star beings, who live on the ice age surface and live in harmony with each other and the planet. As usual, humans attempt their typical “this is our land” but are met with a new type of resistance. The Chasm (book two) deepens that resistance with a new threat that meets the humans’ violence and attempts at control head-on with equal violence. The series explores what it would take for us as a collective to change their basic beliefs about violence, ownership, connection to nature, seeing other species as equals, etc., but in a way that presents all sides of the issues and hopefully challenges us all to look at the situation a bit differently.

I know for myself, writing all the different points of view has definitely challenged my own beliefs.

As for the science fiction part, I once heard someone define science fiction as stories where science is used to solve the story’s main issue. To me, the genre does much more. It has often predicted scientific discoveries and new technology and exposed possible risks to society of such discoveries. Science fiction often challenges social and political beliefs through the use of aliens, humans colonizing other planets, or other worlds with unique social, political, and economic systems. I also think science fiction can expand what we consider to be possible, both in science and societies. It’s the mind-expanding nature of sci-fi that has always drawn me in as both a reader and an author.

They thought the biggest problem they faced was each other.

After Bleu, Rana, and their new friends narrowly prevent war between the star beings and humans, they hope the upcoming negotiation will secure the peace. Newly emerged from their subterranean haven, the Northern Haven humans are clearly not suited to Earth’s ice age, and require assistance from the enlightened star beings to survive long term on the Surface. But Commander Savas doesn’t trust the suspiciously kind star beings and their unexplainable abilities. When both sides reluctantly negotiate a joint mission to find the other Havens, Bleu must somehow cooperate with the manipulative commander to keep his friends safe.

As their team confronts unexpected dangers, Bleu and his teammates begin to suspect the star beings don’t know as much about the Surface as they claimed, while Rana is torn between remaining true to her nonviolent ways or becoming more human to survive. When an unnatural predator attacks, even the nearly all-knowing Kalakanya can’t explain it. Now the team must pull together or their new discovery will pull them apart, limb by limb.

Enjoy an Excerpt

As the sun descended behind the mountain and darkness crept across the frozen field, a strange dread seeped into Bleu’s bones. It felt like a warning, an alarm that danger lurked nearby.

He had known safety in Rana’s village, and he’d lost the spatial anxiety caused by the wide-open spaces of the Surface that differed so much from the cozy walls and tunnels of home. No, this unease wasn’t spatial anxiety to the openness of the sky and horizon.

This was different, and perhaps a bit similar to what Kahali feared. Bleu had never faced the possibility of other humans with guns. His team sat out in the open, exposed. The meager light from the cooking fire did nothing against the shroud of blackness surrounding them. No safe walls protected them from physical attacks or bullets. And then, there were the unknown predators of the region.

His earlier excitement of finding the footprints evaporated, leaving behind a gnawing awareness of their vulnerability. The darkness beyond the campfire could be punctured any moment by monstrous claws or gunfire. Childhood tales of the evil Undescended crowded his mind with images so ludicrously terrible that he wanted to laugh at himself.

Instead, he checked that they were all armed and sent Savas and Neviah to make sure the helicopters were locked. Animal calls and crunching footsteps drifted down the mountains as if something were encircling them. Even the confident star beings kept glancing out into the night. They should be comfortable in such wilderness, right?

About the Author: As a young girl, Branwen wanted to become an ambassador for aliens. Since the aliens never hired her, she now writes about them.

Branwen OShea has a Bachelors in Biology from Colgate University, a Bachelors in Psychology, and a Masters in Social Work. She lives in Connecticut with her family and a menagerie of pets, and enjoys hiking, meditating, and star-gazing. Her published works include Silence of the Song Trees, The Calling, The Cords That Bind, and The Chasm.

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Buy The Calling (Book 1), The Cords the Bind (Book 1.1), and The Chasm (Book 2) on Amazon.

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Momma Llama’s ABC Book of Latin America by Momma Llama & Friends – Spotlight and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Momma Llama & Friends will be awarding a $10 Amazon or B/N GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Momma Llama’s ABC Book of Latin America is both fun and educational. This multicultural adventure includes people, places, and things from Central and South America – from Mexico to Argentina. The charming illustrations will make you and your child smile. Additionally, each page names the country or region of the subject; parents might learn something too.

 

 

About the Author:

Momma Llama envisions a world in which Mom becomes the star and the hero of each fun-filled adventure, giving a new perspective to the way children learn and play.

Each story showcases Momma Llama, a hard-working independent, and adventurous mother, promoting ideas such as teamwork, determination, respect, and the idea that Moms give more than we realize.

Momma Llama aspires to unify the diverse cultures of the Americas by promoting multiculturalism in a fresh new way.

There’s always something new in Momma Llama’s magical world, so join us for more adventures.

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Sophia Freeman Series by T.X. Troan – Spotlight and Giveaway

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EARTH AWAKENED … SEED PLANTED … PATH REVEALED.

What begins as a special trip for eleven-year-old Sophia Freeman and her father, leaves her trapped on a mysterious island with a tree boy and fantastical creatures. Later, she learns she is dying from an eternal curse and the only way to prolong her life is to drink the island’s sacred water. Can Sophia and her companions reach the fountain and defeat the guardian before time runs out?

THEY MUST RISK IT ALL TO REGAIN THEIR FREEDOM … OR BE SEALED AWAY FOREVER.

Sophia Freeman and her best friend, Tim Charnal, must beat all contestants in a three-round Beyond Event organized by the mighty arbiters to free him from the penalty of murder and gain the islanders’ trust. Entering the hologram and surviving environments filled with everything from hammer-throwing cave giants to a slimy tentacled sea monster, they will need all their courage, wits, and skills. But how are they going to win when magic is forbidden?

EVIL RISING … ISLANDERS MISSING … AND FRIENDS BETRAYING.

With the increase in deaths of Pandilone Islanders, the arbiters devise a strategy to free the god demon within five days to lift the Eternal Curse. All goes as planned until iron-masked creatures kidnap magic users, weakening the army. To gain reinforcements, Sophia Freeman, Tim Charnal, and rescued Allen Chan must gather all six items to cast the Dream Spell, connecting them with Sophia’s father and his air force. But how can the trio succeed in time while surrounded by enemies and traitors aiming to stop them at any cost?





Enjoy an Excerpt from SOPHIA FREEMAN AND THE MYSTERIOUS FOUNTAIN (book 1 )

“So, what’s on your agenda today, my dear?” Grandma asked.

“Dad and I are going to explore his new island after this, “she replied, sitting on the edge of her seat.

“Oh, yes, your father told me about that on the phone last night,” said Grandpa, then gave Sophia a serious look. “My girl, do you know why all the previous owners vanished?”

Sophia shook her head slightly, but kept watching him without blinking.

“Rumors say the place possesses some sort of magical energy. As dusk arrives, the island comes to life: boulders begin to quake, monstrous trees uproot themselves, and mysterious creatures crawl out of their homes. They will do anything to protect their island … especially from humans.”

Sophia’s eyes widened and her hands began to sweat.

“Joe, that’s enough!” Dad ordered. “You’re scaring her.”

“That was very mean of you, Joe,” Grandma added.

Grandpa chuckled. “Well, it looks like I haven’t loss my touch. You’re still that innocent girl that I used to know.”

Sophia sighed with relief. He must have been teasing.

When she was a lot younger, Grandpa used to tell her ghost stories and it would frighten her every time. The all-time best story was about an invisible spirit that watches us from behind since the day we were born. It would one day transfer our soul to a magical place when we are ready to go. He told the little girl it was time for him to go and would never return. She burst into tears and tried to convince him it wasn’t time yet. She stayed with him that whole night and never let him out of her sight.

About the Author:

Thuan Doan was born in Indonesia, and grew up in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada.

Thuan has been fascinated by art from a young age, especially fantasy. He would wake up hours before school, sit outside the classroom, and scribble in his sketch book.

After college, he worked on a series of jobs, including: an advergaming association as a storyboard/concept artist, gaming company as lead concept artist, and graphic designer for various clients.

Thuan conceived his first middle-grade fantasy novel, Sophia Freeman and the Mysterious Fountain, during a trip to Gabriola Island, British Columbia in the summer of 2013. Then he took his work and settled in a small town of Enderby, where it’s peaceful and quiet. 4 years later, the story is complete. While book 1, 2 and 3 are being shared with the world, he’s writing and illustrating book 4 of the Sophia Freeman series.

Thuan is writing under a pen name of T.X. Troan. “X” stands for Xu, his grandmother’s name who passed away. And “Troan” is a combination of his parents’ names.

“No matter how this turns out, I want my family to be a part of this wonderful journey.”

T.X. Troan married Sarah, his original fan and longtime love, in 2016. They live in Enderby with their pack dogs and school of fish!

AWARDS

★ Entrada Publishing Incipere Award, 2020
★ Readers’ Favorite 5 star Badge, 2019, 2021 and 2022
★ Literary Titan Badge, 2020

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Juche by Adria Carmichael – Q&A and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. One randomly chosen winner via rafflecopter will win a $50 Amazon/BN.com gift card. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

What is your favorite meal?

It’s a tie between falafel rolls and fried plantain tacos.

What are you passionate about these days?

Learning languages. Currently trying to learn Arabic, which is quite a challenge. In the future would like to learn Mandarin Chinese as well. And maybe Greek. I’m mostly interested in languages that don’t use the Latin alphabet.

If you had to do your journey to getting published all over again, what would you do differently?

I would choose a different name for my series since few people know about the concept of “Juche” in North Korea. I probably would change anything storywise, but it has been a challenge promoting a series that is not quite YA, not quite Dystopian, and not quite Historical Fiction, so for my next project, I will choose a clear genre before I start working on the project. Will make life easier.

Ebook or print? And why?

I like both, but for convenience, I’m leaning more toward ebooks. Although lately I have almost exclusively only listened to audiobooks, because even if you’re super tired after a long day, you can still close your eyes and listen to a story. It’s very relaxing.

What is your favorite scene in this book?

I can’t point to a specific scene without giving away any spoilers, but my favorite parts of the book are when the protagonist, Areum, rekindles with some members of her family that she has hated for so long.

Just when Areum – daughter of a privileged family in the totalitarian state of Choson (North Korea) – thought she was free from her personal prison, her world collapses around her as her family is taken away in the middle of the night to a hell-like camp in the mountains where people who have strayed from the righteous path are brutally re-educated through blood, sweat, tears, and starvation.

There she has to fight for survival together with the family she hates and is forced to re-evaluate every aspect of her life until then: her deep resentment toward her twin sister; her view of her father in the face of mounting evidence that he is a traitor with the blood of millions of fellow countrymen on his hands; and even her love and affection for the Great General – the eternal savior and protector of Choson, whom she had always considered her true father.

Note from the author:

Have you ever wondered what the world looks like when seen through an indoctrinated mind?

This is a topic that has intrigued me for as long as I can remember, so when I came up with the idea to write a book many years ago, I decided to create it from the viewpoint of a victim of indoctrination… which in the end became Areum (the protagonist of the story).

What I try to explore in this story is how deep the indoctrination of a 14-year old girl can run and how much “reality” it can be exposed to before breaking… if it will break at all. As a comparison, the defectors from North Korea who arrive in South Korea are isolated for three months in a de-programming facility called Hanawon before they are allowed to join society where they go through this process in a more controlled (and less brutal) way than Areum.

I hope you will enjoy this slightly different take on the dystopian genre!

:

Enjoy an Excerpt

My father’s words echo in my head.

“Hamhung”

“Hamhung”

I’m standing in a long wide street. There are tall houses on both sides of me.

Where am I?

I don’t recognize anything, but still, everything looks familiar.

Then I notice there is something on the ground around me. I try to focus, but my vision is blurry. There is something there. Some kind of objects.

Or…

Now the focus is getting clearer. They are bodies! They are everywhere. I jump in panic. I want to run away, but my feet are stuck to the ground.

I’m standing in a sea of sun-scorched, dried up corpses – as far as the eye can reach. Then I feel it. The stench of their decay stings my nose. I feel nauseous. I look down at the corpse closest to me. A man. He looks so strange. Like all his muscles and fat has been removed, and his skin tightly wrapped around his bare bones. All the corpses look the same.

All of a sudden, there is a movement in the corner of my eye. I turn my head.

Paralyzed with fear I watch one of the corpses rising until he stands before me a bit further down the street of death. He doesn’t move, just looks at me with his dead silvery eyes. My blood is freezing to ice inside my veins. I look closer, squinting against the distant sun. The features of the man look strangely familiar. Then I suddenly see it. I gasp, and a flash of ice rushes down my spine.

About the Author Adria Carmichael is a writer of dystopian fiction with a twist. When she is not devouring dystopian and post-apocalyptic content in any format – books, movies, TV-series and PlayStation games – she is crafting the epic and highly-addictive Juche saga, her 2020 debut novel series that takes place in the brutal, totalitarian nation of Choson. When the limit of doom and gloom is reached, a 10K run on a sunny day or binging a silly sitcom on a rainy day is her go-to way to unwind.

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Buy Juche 1 – The Demon of Yodok (only $0.99!), Juche 2 – The Weeping Masses, Juche 3 – The Storm of Storms, and Juche 4 – Freedom or Death at Amazon or buy the Juche 1-4 Box Set for only $0.99.

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Advice for Writers by Marie McGrath – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Marie McGrath will be awarding a $10 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Advice for Writers

I am surprising myself by picking the topic of advice for writers, because inside I still wonder what makes me qualified to give such advice. But, these are a few things I wish I could have heard and really listened to when I was beginning to write. The first, is READ. Read everything, but most importantly read within the genre you wish to be a writer. Don’t just read one or two books and call it quits, but read hundreds. The more you read, the more themes you discover and the more you internalize plot structure within that genre. Books do better when these nods to the genre/structure are taken into account. Readers expect a romance to have a happy ending. If you deprive them of one, they won’t be happy. Secondly, it is important to get more eyes than just yours on the book. You are entitled to your literary voice, but it is so hard to catch things and get better in the beginning unless other people are reading it and giving you feedback. It doesn’t mean you have to take everything they say and do it exactly how they say it, but it is beneficial when you are finding your voice and strengths as a writer. Thirdly, write what you would want to read. Passion in writing for me is so important. I believe that if you aren’t enjoying your story, then others won’t either. Will everyone love your book? No. That’s an unlikely goal, but they really won’t enjoy it if you don’t either. So don’t just write a book to appease others, make sure you are excited about it and that energy will translate into the story.

Falling in love with a senior was risky … especially when he was your best friend’s brother.

Allie Duncan started sophomore year with two aspirations, make her school’s volleyball team and keep her crush on Hunter Baylor, her best friend’s brother, a secret. If Mia found out, she would feel betrayed. The crush was useless anyway. Hunter was a star basketball player and she was a nobody. Or so she thought until his attention was piqued after Allie went on the Baylors’ summer vacation. When Hunter goes to homecoming with Allie’s sophomore rival, she’s devastated and her confidence is destroyed, especially after his date tells her the Baylors pity her. Hunter tries to make it up to Allie, which leads to a kiss, leaving Allie confused.

Can she push this crush out of her heart to save her friendship? Or is Hunter worth the risk?

Enjoy an Excerpt

“You came out to the shore without Mia? That’s dangerous in the dark.”

“So did you.”

“And?”

“And what? I’m some defenseless girl who needs a chaperone?”

“That’s not what I meant.”

I retreated to my flip flops and plopped into the sand. I kept my gaze on Hunter’s back as he stared into the water. Of all the places on the beach, he had to stand at this one? This was my escape from my feelings, and I hated that the other part of me was secretly excited that we were here … alone. What did I expect to happen? I was his sister’s best friend. Some useless sophomore. This was just a convenient spot, directly in front of the house.

I stood and slipped my feet back into my flip flops. “I’m heading back. Have a goodnight.”

“Duncan, wait. I didn’t mean to crash your walk and then insult you.”

“No harm done, Hunter. I should head back anyway.”

“I can walk with you.”

I waved the flashlight, sending it haphazardly across his chest. “I’ll be fine. Enjoy the view.” I turned to walk back.

I would be lucky if I could sleep picturing what could have happened on that beach. What I wished would happen. If only we were different people, and it wasn’t forbidden.

About the Author Marie McGrath lives in a small rural town in Maryland. She hopes to inspire others with her stories. Her favorite genres to read are YA Romance and Contemporary Fiction. She loves the color turquoise, tigers, and listening to music.

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Research by Paul Briggs – Guest Post and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. One randomly chosen winner via rafflecopter will win a $50 Amazon/BN.com gift card. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Research

Whatever sort of fiction you’re writing, chances are you’re going to need to do some research.
The good news is that Wikipedia has gotten better over the years — more accurate, more informative, and so on. The bad news is, it’s still not good enough. This is especially true if you’re looking for not just raw information, but an understanding of the subject. The best source of information, of course, is somebody you know who has some experience in whatever it is, but what if you don’t happen to know anybody like that, or they don’t have time for an interview?

When researching Locksmith’s Journeys, I basically had to learn how airplanes stay up, as well what sort of controls even the simplest airplane must have (elevator, rudder, ailerons) and how to use them. I had to learn these things, because Lachlan Smith was learning these things. This meant not just visiting Web sites, but also taking the old-fashioned approach of walking to the nearest public library and checking out some relevant books.

Another good source of information on almost any subject is instructional videos on YouTube. These videos are invaluable for giving you a sense of what it’s like to, say, fly a plane or fire a gun.
(Researching guns could almost be another blog post itself. Not only do firearms enthusiasts have a reputation for taking it personally if you write about a given make or model of gun and get the details wrong, but knowing those details can suggest lots of ideas for action. For example — also while researching Locksmith’s Journeys — I found that the particular handgun I had in mind for a particular scene has multiple safety mechanisms, which means it’s not likely to go off if you drop it on the ground. But all those safeties are built into the trigger, so if you pull that trigger, those safeties won’t save you from doing anything irreversible. Whether you’re writing a novel or handling a Glock, that’s good to know.)

If you’re really looking for the motherlode of detailed and accurate historical data, I recommend JSTOR. This massive digital library of academic articles starts where Wikipedia ends. It used to be only available to professional scholars, but during the pandemic they changed their policy to give everyone free access to a certain number of articles a month.

Finally, many experts have written reference books for writers. One which I consulted while writing Locksmith’s War was 10 B.S. Medical Tropes that Need to Die Today and What to Do Instead by Samantha Keel. This book confirmed my decision that a character who’d taken a nasty blow to the head should not be up and about a couple days later without at least some form of impairment. (Really he should have been dead or comatose, but there are limits to my commitment to realism where an interesting character is concerned.)

For Lachlan Smith, learning the secret of the apocalypse was the easy part.

Ever since Locksmith found the portal to the future, he has been wondering who or what was responsible for the empty, uninhabited world he found.

Now he knows—and now he has to fight them.

He thought he had fifteen years in which to prevent the extinction of the human species.

Now, he has only hours.

When the portal is stolen by a cabal of dangerous fanatics, his mother and many of his friends are trapped on the other side. Now the enemy is after him, and the only way to thwart their genocidal plan is to retake the portal and hold it—at both ends.

With very little time left, a handful of allies who don’t trust each other, almost no chance of success and the survival of humanity itself at stake… Locksmith is going to war.

Enjoy an Excerpt

Rikki’s first plan of escape

Rikki’s first plan of escape was simple — wait for somebody to open the door, then pounce on them, beat them up and start running. She couldn’t act on this plan until the drug wore off.

She was still feeling jittery from the drug when the lights went out, leaving her in something very close to pitch darkness. The tags on her ears glowed in the dark. The lights stayed off for a fair stretch of time — it might have been an hour. Before long, even with the drug out of her system her pupils had dilated to the point where the light that leaked in under the doorway looked like a line of yellow-white fire, dimly illuminating the room.

Then she heard the footsteps out the in the hall. Someone was headed this way. Rikki pointed herself at the doorway and got herself into a sprinter’s crouch like she’d seen Lock do.

The footsteps stopped in front of the door to her cell. She could see the shadows of somebody’s feet. Just one person. Good. Heavier than average, from the sound of the footsteps, but still better than trying to tackle two or more people at once. Her leg muscles were ready to launch her at the enemy. She got her fists into position. A few good blows to the solar plexus and kidneys…

About the Author:In addition to writing books, Paul Briggs has worked as a newspaper editor, court reporter’s assistant, and audio transcriber. In his spare time (when he has any) he sometimes performs in community theater, most recently taking on the roles of Bottom, Petruchio, Macbeth, Rosalind, and Richard III in a Shakespeare compilation. An Eastern Shore native who grew up in Chestertown, Maryland, Paul earned a BA in English from Washington College and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland – College Park.

He is the author of several short plays, including the award-winning The Worst Super Power Ever and The Picture of Health. He is also writing the sequel to his 2018 science fiction novel Altered Seasons: Monsoonrise, which vividly imagines the dislocations that follow when the Arctic Sea ice finally melts and the Chesapeake Bay is drowned by the effects of climate change.

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Finding Covers: Premades and Commissioned by L.T. Getty – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. L.T. Getty will be awarding a $20 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Finding Covers: Premades and Commissioned
I just want to give a preamble that I’ve been published through Champagne Books and we don’t get a final say in our covers, but we do get to give style sheets and advised the artists what our heroes and heroines look like, time period etc. Even though this article might not be completely relevant to those seeking traditional publishers, I think if you are going through a publishing house and they ask for what you imagine for the cover, it’s a lot easier if you have a small portfolio of covers you think look great, ones you don’t like, as well as the style of your novel. And just remember: Every author on the planet eventually gets the cover They Hate. Just don’t be a jerk about it.

The point of any book cover is to sell your books. I think most authors are trying to build their brand, and while we’ve all been snookered by bad advertising and are all told from a young age don’t judge a book by its cover, often times that cover is what gives a general idea of what a story is about in a short amount of time.

You may know more than me and be able to design your own or work with someone who can make beautiful and appropriate covers, but we’re going to assume that the average person here doesn’t know where to start.

Finding the cover to The Mermaid and the Unicorns was a fluke. I guess I’m basic because I have an Etsy account, and I think I was either liking other premade covers for other projects or looking for stock images when I stumbled across the cover that I thought was appropriate. I asked friends and took the plunge, and let’s just say I’m very happy with the purchase.

My one niece wants an illustrated-style variant, but that’s another conversation.

Here’s how it originally looked when I stumbled across the original, or shall I say, Immortal Princess?

I had to ditch the pretty design in the corners for the print book final, mostly because of the formatting requirements. Only twenty print copies with those misaligned covers exist.

But let’s pretend that this perfect cover sold minutes before I took the plunge and is no longer available. Where would I find a cover?

The first thing I would do is look at books with cover art I like, even if you think it’s not necessarily for the project I currently have in mind. Build a portfolio because, I have more than one project in me, aaaand if I happen to stumble across something that is close, but say a little off (I wrote a series that has a Pegasus, not a unicorn) wouldn’t it just be awful if I were to follow that artist, and if they say stuff on Facebook along the lines of, “So what is everyone writing now?” and I tell them how much I love winged horses – maybe that’ll inspire something. Could be the wrong genre, say more adult than middle grade, or they make the best cover and it’s out of your price range or someone beats you to it.

There’ll be other covers. Chill.

Don’t worry about price ranges at this time, just find covers you like and figure out who the artists are. Odds are, the more spectacular the cover the higher the price, and I’m not going to tell you what your budget ought to be, but be honest. If your budget is $200, there’s no shame in going to a Facebook group that does say, Paranormal Romance and saying what your budget is, and things you like: The hero is a blond vampire, you wouldn’t mind a motorcycle, hate the color yellow, etc. Generally speaking though, if you are purchasing multiple covers at once, say a trilogy, the artist usually offers a three-set at a deal as opposed to selling each individual cover that looks like it could be a set. Talk to them ahead of time if you are doing a series and you want the same model. This isn’t always possible, but sticking with the same artist, asking for a similar feel may be your other better option. I promise not to discuss variants, but: there’s zero shame in taking say, 6 years to produce a trilogy, having the original covers, and then switching the series as a whole to a more unified look once the original is done. I know, I want matchy-matchy covers for my bookshelf too, but I think that’s more realistic if you don’t know when Book 2 is coming out (or “Aaaah it’s four books”). Those of us who read Indie get it. My preference isn’t to use the same models on every cover and obscure their faces, but that’s another conversation yet again.

Premade covers will generally run you less money than commissioned works. Just because a cover is premade, doesn’t mean that it’s set in stone. If you really like an image, but pretend there’s a dragon or a wolf there that doesn’t belong in your story – contact the artist. Just be advised that if you delay and ask questions, someone else might snap up the picture. Font choices for the title and the name can be changed, and you can request to see different font styles, and this is where I would commission a friend or two to compare and contrast, not only at full size but as a tiny little thumbnail too. Before I purchased Immortal Princess, I advised I would like a wrap and we communicated and she asked if there was anything else I’d like. Because I self-published, I own the rights to the image and can use the picture as I see fit. She said to get back to her when I was ready with a final spine width, and she custom made everything for that specific format.

This cost a little extra ($40) but we reused the background for the back wrap and I just had to send her the text I wanted. She asked me what I liked, what I didn’t, and I wanted to keep it simple and clean. If I were to ask her for a more custom background image, say, “Hey, I saw this image. Can you do a more mermaid style?” You can’t see her shop but that was an option, but I decided that the background was stunning, so I was okay using it again.

When you are going in with commissions, I think it’s good to provide as many visual ideas of what you like and don’t like. Now, if you go in with Art Nouveau in mind but are going in with someone who does gritty realism, don’t expect them to be able to do what someone else does.

I have art, I just need to slap on some font

Okay, you might be able to do this, and to be fair this is probably the easiest thing you can do by yourself. Actually, let’s take a minute: I Can Do This. I’m not professional and a professional will laugh at me, but I can tinker and look somewhat professional enough to fool most people. Depending on your background and how much you have goofed around with various programs, maybe you can too. I think if you go through all the trouble of having a professional grade novel, you should spend the $$ on a graphic artist who knows how to stage font. Why is this important?

Because if you are using the internet at all for sales, a graphic artist who isn’t doing a slap job is going to make your title visible when people are browsing through titles. Believe me, it’s all good and well that most people think I have a beautiful cover, but they need to know the title and the author name if they have a chance of finding it. Go ahead and search for “Mermaid and Unicorns Book”. I don’t even show up on the first page unless they get the entire first title, “The Mermaid and the Unicorns”.

I’m not going to tell you this picture makes a great thumbnail or hey that looks crowded, for all I know you sell most of your books in person at conferences so you’re not worried about how funny it looks scrunched when it’s reduced to 8% of its original size on a website. All I’m saying is that what would spend me probably a good solid evening and some tears going over font choices a graphic artist who does this regularly could probably whip up and make look pretty for a relatively low cost. My time is worth something to me, so I’ll usually pony up the money so I can spend my time wisely, like avoiding getting back to my editor.

I don’t want photo manipulations, I want an artist. Like, traditional paint or a more comic style. Where do I find them?

Okay, this is going to sound like it’s very specific but hear me out:
Your Local Comic Con.

Now before you say, “But I don’t write science-fiction and fantasy” don’t worry, there’s plenty of comics for every genre. The thing though, is that if I were to go to a large publisher artist who does beautiful illustrations, they’re probably well out of my price range.

The guy who is selling fan art at the forgotten part of the con though, unless he’s making a lot of $$, ask. It never hurts to ask. Odds are they’re selling fan art because it makes them more money than their original work. But if you’re looking through their portfolio, and you see the original stuff is in the style you like, ask. You may need to hire this person to do the line art, another person to color (digital or traditional) and another person to do the title font, or you may get it all wrapped into one.

Can I use my own photos for the artist to use?

Talk to the artist. I have never done this but I’ve seen it done. This would probably be a commission, not a premade though.

Alright, this has gone on long enough so I’ll stop. If it’s not considered spam, how about I leave links to some Facebook groups in the comments below? Also, post some of your favourite covers and give love to the artists.

Daphne’s a typical mermaid, and at least according to her, that’s a problem. She’s courageous and has a beautiful singing voice, but lacks the power of an elemental, the ability to command water with the sound of her voice. Jealous of her best friend, she makes a deal with a sea-witch, only to be betrayed, in place of her beautiful tail and flukes Daphne’s left beached with a pair of human legs. The spell keeping Daphne looking human will become permanent, unless Daphne can hunt down and bring the scheming Lorelei a unicorn horn before the next full moon.

Unable to reach her friends and family for help, Daphne doesn’t know how to walk, much less where to find a unicorn or how to catch one. Even if she’s successful, Daphne’s still not sure if she can trust Lorelei and her pint-sized kraken to keep their end of the bargain and let her return to the sea.

Enjoy an Excerpt

“You’ll see lots as you travel from place to place,” Daphne told the small dolphin. “Come, your mother won’t forgive me if I let you roam from the pod.”

Why hurry? Echor asked as he swam, spinning around different plants and sponges that grew along the rocks, before focusing in on a vibrant snail. It was not a very old reef, though it was well inhabited by many vividly-colored, small fish. The young dolphin seemed to take pleasure in disturbing them and watching them scurry into their small hiding crevices and among the anemones. You’re so lucky that you get to stay in your town all the time. This part of the sea is so beautiful!

“I think it would be neat to see so much of the ocean,” Daphne said, thinking of her small town of Thranda. Unlike the dolphins, who often travelled long distances in a single day, most merfolk lived in towns unless they left their communities to hunt or travel to another community. She had known members of his family since she was a little mermaid, and only got to see them a few times a year when they passed through her home to feed in a nearby bay. She heard a series of warnings behind her—the other dolphins had detected something with their echolocation. Unless it was something exceptionally large, they should have been safe within the pod, but Echor was very young. “Echor, let’s return to your family.” The young dolphin had wandered off while Daphne had turned her head, chasing a seal that had left her bob, trying to swim away from Echor.

“Echor!” Daphne called, swimming after him. She caught up to him, then looked over her shoulder as she heard a familiar sound. An orca! Daphne suppressed a shudder. It was large, but far enough away for her to find a hiding space. Still, killer whales almost always travelled in groups. The killer whale dove when he spotted her. She knew the others would want to help, but they were no match for an orca. He swam quickly towards her and Echor. Daphne knew she would be hard pressed to out-swim the large creature.

Hide! the orca told her.

Daphne then saw the immense shadow and wooden keel of a ship following the orca. The killer whale dove deep, though the water was too clear and shallow to truly hide his massive form. A harpoon followed him, missed, and was quickly pulled back to the surface by a rope. Another harpoon plunged into the water, and then another. The rough waters churned green and grey in the ship’s wake, and Echor’s warning chatter only told her that there was another human vessel. It came from Daphne’s left, and it dragged a net behind it.

About the Author: L.T. Getty is a rural paramedic from Manitoba. She enjoys writing science fiction and fantasy and generally being creative.

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The Virus of Beauty series by C.B. Lyall – Q&A and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. One randomly chosen winner via rafflecopter will win a $50 Amazon/BN.com gift card. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

If you could have one paranormal ability, what would it be?

The ability to teleport. I’d no longer have to use airplane to visit my family in England or for vacation. We waste so much time getting from one place to another. I think it would be amazing to take seconds rather than hours to travel.

What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to learn about you?

I’ve parachuted. When I was 21 years old. A friend and I went to a small airfield in Sunderland, UK. Being the only female on the jump I had to go first. We jumped solo on static lines. It is the most frightening experience I’ve had. I blacked out after I jump. The chute opening revived me. Needless to say, I only jumped the once.

When writing descriptions of your hero/ine, what feature do you start with?

Height usually, although this is the first time, I’ve thought about it. At school I was taller than average. And having lived in India and Hong Kong I became aware of other people’s height a lot. My youngest son grew to be above 6 feet and was made very conscious of his height when we traveled around India and Asia. Strangers would want to include him in their family photographs!

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I like the “Save The Cat” method, which definitely makes me a plotter. Writing a series, I think you must be. That doesn’t mean I know everything about the story when I sit down to write a first draft, but I know where I want to start and how the book will end.

Did you learn anything from writing this book? If so, what?

First, I learned that I could write a novel length manuscript. That is a big deal in itself. A lot of would-be authors start and never finish that first book. I also learned about the process of writing. Giving yourself permission to write without editing that first draft, then being patient about the number of revisions required before a manuscript is ready for publication.

The Virus of Beauty – Book 1

Ugliness is power, and the Virus of Beauty is spreading causing panic throughout the witch population.

Wilf Gilvary is a teenage wizard who is terrified of using magic. When his father dies under mysterious circumstances, the same day the Mages Crystal shatters, Wilf is plunged into the middle of a political struggle between the witches and wizards in the Magical Realm. He’d rather play soccer than practice magic, but he’s forced to make a choice between the life of a normal Hong Kong teen and one of wizardry after a powerful virus begins to decimate the witch community. The cure is spellbound in a journal Wilf inherited from his father and when his friend Katryna contracts the virus, Wilf understands that he must overcome his fear of magic to unlock the journal’s secrets – but will it be too late to save her?

The Veil of Corruption – The Virus of Beauty Book 2

Witches and magic are taking over Wilf’s life.

After being thrust into a long-standing conflict between the witches and wizards that has destabilized the Magical Realm and finding the antidote for the Virus of Beauty, Wilf would like to return to his normal soccer playing teenage life. But he can’t rest until his stepsister, Myra, is caught and brought to justice. It’s been three days since Myra took to the skies above Hong Kong and disappeared. Now Wilf is accused of corrupting the Veil, a defensive barrier between the witch and wizard cities. As the spell expands throughout the magical realm it is attacking witches and wizards. But Wilf would rather embrace his witch friend, Katryna, than his wizard powers. When evil forces have other plans and they kidnap Katryna, Wilf realizes that he’d do anything to save her and the Magical Realm, even if it means risking his own life by connecting to the primary source of all magic.

The Vassal of Magic – The Virus of Beauty Book 3

Wilf Gilvary is a slave to the magic he hates.

Yet his powers seem a solution for saving the Magical Realm and Katryna, the girl he loves. If only he could figure out how to tap his magic’s full potential.

As factions of witches and wizards vie for control of the Magical Realm, Wilf embarks on a harrowing journey that plunges him into the realm’s ancient secrets. At first, Wilf begins to doubt everything. His affection for Katryna might be the remnants of a broken love spell. And he still struggles to control his magic.

But Wilf risks his life to learn more about his powers and his destiny. It leaves him facing an impossible choice: forever abandon his dreams of life as a Normal in Hong Kong, or allow magic and the Magical Realm to perish from the world.

Enjoy an Excerpt from The Virus of Beauty

“Wilf, is that you?” Reginald’s shout was followed by a creaking sound from the basement stairs.

Wilf bolted for the front door. His shoes crunched on the broken glass. He jerked open the door and the bell gave a traitorous jingle. He shot out of the store and back into their living quarters. He barged into the kitchen.

“What happened?” Myra asked, putting down the bread knife.

He threw himself onto a chair, poured cornflakes and milk into a bowl, and shoveled a spoonful into his mouth.

“Wilf,” Myra said, taking on the adult tone she’d started using two years ago, when she’d turned eighteen. “I take it you didn’t find your card in the store.”

“It wasn’t me,” he mumbled through his mouthful of cereal. “But I’ll be blamed. Tell him I was here, having breakfast.”

“Why am I covering for you again?” She folded her arms and tried to look more imposing than her five-foot, two-inch height would allow.

Wilf’s spoon leaped from his hand and splashed into the bowl with the first heavy footstep on the stairs. The faucet stopped dripping and the clock held its next tick. The small kitchen in the Gilvarys’ Hong Kong apartment held its breath.

The kitchen door flew open, and revealed his father, shaking with rage. After a moment, Reginald thrust his hands into his pants pockets.

“You’ve shattered the Mages Crystal.” His lips formed a thin line on his angular face. “It’s been in our family for generations.

About the Author Carolyn Lyall was born in Stockton-On-Tees, United Kingdom. As a child Carolyn growing up in Northern England in the sixties Carolyn loved sports, reading and amateur dramatics. She joined a renaissance group, practiced the broadsword and dreamed of visiting other worlds. Her
passion for what could be drove her forward when faced with everyday struggles. Her first memorable skirmish with gender inequality came at nine-years old when she was told that only boys were allowed to play soccer. In response, she simply refused to do any classwork until
they changed their old-fashioned policies. She won that battle.

At the age of 18, she took a role as typist for a nursing school in Middlesbrough. She then moved to London and enrolled in night school. She was quickly recognized for her ability to fit in anywhere and for not being afraid to push back on the predominantly male leadership. She
eventually became a project manager in software development and micro-computers, bridging the gap between computer programmers and management.

Her dream to travel was finally realized in 1990 when she moved to New York City, USA with her husband and the first of three sons. This was the steppingstone to a lifelong adventure that has taken her and her family to India, Belgium and Hong Kong.

Raising her family in multiple countries around the world, she saw that each move, while a shock, was an opportunity for her sons to redefine themselves against new challenges and different cultural norms. Now, that her sons have left home, Carolyn has used her passion for
the fantastic to create a world where every day gender inequalities are at the forefront of a world ending conflict. She shares this story through the eyes of a young man who is suddenly thrust into this new world along with all of his own woes and prejudices. The introduction to this world is in Carolyn’s debut YA fantasy novel, “The Virus of Beauty,” which wasreleased July 31, 2019 under C B Lyall.

Carolyn has published two short stories in an annual anthology by 25 Servings of Soop. She wrote a number of articles for the American Women’s Associates Magazine. Fueled by her love of the works of Terry Pratchett, Sarah J Maas, Cassandra Clare, Brandon Sanderson and others, Carolyn has completed a number of writing courses, which included a Master Fantasy/Science Fiction writers course with Gotham Writers’ Workshop, a YA Voice class and Advance Novel Writing course at Sarah Lawrence College’s Writing Institute.

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MacKenzie’s Last Run by Gayle Rosengren – Spotlight and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Gayle Rosengren will be awarding a $100 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Thirteen-year-old MacKenzie (Mac) Lawrence secretly blames himself for his father’s death. In his grief and guilt, he has pulled away from everyone, even his twin sister Tessa. When their mother announces her plans to remarry barely 18 months after Dad’s death, Mac is furious and runs away in an attempt to force her to break off the engagement.

Unfortunately, nothing goes as Mac plans. He ends up seriously injured, miles from home, unable to reach out for help, while clues he inadvertently left behind suggest he’s been kidnapped—possibly by Mom’s fiancé—and set his twin sister Tessa on a desperate search to find him. But she’d better hurry, because the clock is ticking, and Mac is running out of time.

Enjoy an Excerpt

“We’re not keeping anything from you, Mrs. Lawrence,” Sergeant Hernandez said. “I promise. It’s just that Officer Borkowski has been concerned by some of the unusual circumstances surrounding MacKenzie’s disappearance.”

Mom’s forehead puckered. “Unusual circumstances?”

The sergeant nodded. “The fact that MacKenzie didn’t take any money with him, for example. That’s very unusual for a runaway. And he didn’t take his bike either. Again, this isn’t the norm. Taken together with the bloodstains on the carpet, well, there’s another possible explanation that we can’t entirely rule out.”

The back of Tessa’s neck prickled. What was Sergeant Hernandez getting at? She looked at her mother, who was frowning at the police woman, twisting her hands together. “I still don’t understand. What are you trying to say?”

Beside her, Simon’s eyebrows snapped together. “Surely you’re not suggesting what I think you are.” He pulled Mom closer.

Tessa’s throat tightened.

“What is it?” Mom’s eyes were huge green pools of panic.

“We need to investigate the possibility that your son may not have run away,” Sergeant Hernandez said. “Someone may have taken him.”

Mom shook her head like Tessa did to get water out of her ears after a dive. Her mouth sagged open and she slumped against Simon. “No.”

Tessa’s heart cannonballed into her stomach. They thought someone took Mac. They thought someone broke into his room and took him! But that was crazy. Why would anyone want to kidnap Mac?

About the Author As a girl, books were among Gayle’s best friends and inspired her dream of writing for children someday. It was a dream that only grew stronger over the years. Gayle majored in Creative Writing in college. Her first book, What the Moon Said (Putnam 2014) was a Jr. Library Guild selection and CCBC title, and her second, Cold War on Maplewood Street (Putnam 2015) won the Tofte-Wright Award for Children’s Literature. She has worked as an advertising copywriter, a pre-school teacher, a youth services assistant in her local public library; and a research assistant in the American Girl library. Gayle is a lover of stories whether she’s writing them or reading them.

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Five Things YA Fantasy Should Have by Christine Potter – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Christine Potter will be awarding $50 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Five Things YA Fantasy Should Have

All of this, of course, IMHO. Which is a quirky one indeed.

Thing the first: Real characters, not too noble. My two lead gals, Bean and Gracie, are like that. Humans of all ages are works in progress, and we screw up a lot. I get bored with characters who get it right all the time. I like characters who worry about stupid stuff, who obey the rules too much or not enough, and overthink things. I like characters who feel all the feels—not just crazy-in-love and seething-with-anger, but bored, hangry, or just vaguely Done With It. I really love awkward characters. So here is my pronouncement: all YA fantasy characters should be just a little awkward.

Thing the second: YA Fantasy HAS to be funny, especially when it’s being serious. If you are writing fantasy, you are writing great, big plots. Time-travel absolutely qualifies. But there’s a c’mon-really aspect to all fantasy, and the only way around it is laughter. Somebody’s gotta turn up in his underwear. Somebody’s gotta hog all the pizza an hour after a terrifying encounter in the 19th century. Or crack up at a really, really inappropriate time. Because life.

Thing the third: Fantasy characters have to have passions. Life is useless unless you’re living it with energy. So my characters are young musicians and artists—or aspiring actors. My characters are fascinated with the weather and have five apps on their phones. Or know how to upcycle thrift store clothes. They are deeply into making the world’s best French toast. They collect scratchy vinyl records.

Thing the fourth: Readers know that there’s going to be a happy ending. But a good fantasy plot has to have more than just twists. It has to have moments where you stop and read back over the last paragraph because what just happened?? I also like having a seemingly minor character have a huge effect on the outcome of the book. I love having a totally “normal” scene suddenly turn unpredictably bizarre. The little guy who says “Bizarre” on the cover of all the Bean books? He’s got reasons for that word.

Thing the fifth: All this stuff has to happen somewhere cool. The world of fantasy has to be complete—all the colors, all the tastes, what the sun looks like on buildings and water, what the air smells like before snow. The Bean books are set in the Hudson River Valley because it’s a place cool enough to talk about in that kind of detail. There are tall trees, and old houses, and yes, the always-gorgeous Hudson. I’m not saying all fantasy books need The Hudson River, but you know…

And a couple of minor things: I don’t see big violence as necessary to any story telling. There’s not much shooting in my books, which is not to say there is none. Folks mix it up with fists mostly when it comes to that—fists, and a couple of well-placed knees. But a little of that stuff goes a long way. And I also think you can write a story as suspenseful and scary as a dystopia about a world that’s pretty darn great.

Say you’re Gracie Ingraham, nerdy but happy high school senior. But you’re also a time-traveler from 1962 who got a bit lost and has been living in the 2000’s since 2018. That would be plenty without it now being 2020. Covid has just shut down the world. Your pandemic pod? Your BFF Zoey—and your ex-boyfriend, Dylan.

Dylan still lives to spin weird vinyl LP’s with your sort-of, kind-of Dad, Amp. So your quarantine hobby is going to have to be Being Mature About Stuff.

But then your time traveling kicks into high gear again. And your long-lost brother and mom mix it up with a creepy, pyromaniacal force that is most likely demonic. How can love save the day when you can’t even go downtown without wearing a mask?

Enjoy an Excerpt

We’d arrived at the first of the big, fancy gravesites: nineteenth century family plots, with tall, marble obelisks and statues of weeping angels. Some of them have creepy stone and marble mausoleums. Mausoleums are tombs the size of tiny houses with windows and even gates and front porches sometimes. You could go inside one if someone unlocked the door.

Some kids had obviously partied out by the mausoleums the night before. They’d left a White Claw can one at of the sad angels’ feet. A few more cans were tossed on the ground and on the stone stairs to one of the bigger tombs. There were beer cans, too.

Zoey shook her head. “Some people are still getting out at night.”

“They could have at least recycled!”

“Alas!”

See, Zoey, Dylan, and me… We’re the kind teachers and parents don’t worry about. We always recycle. We don’t break quarantine. We wouldn’t have gone to a midnight graveyard party before quarantine … well … not without seriously good reason.

Not that Zoey wouldn’t snag a White Claw. And I did sneak out on one serious midnight date when Dylan and I were first together. But I also had to zap a demon that evening. Which was the last time anything interesting happened to me… Up until the very next minute, that is.

‘Cause then it wasn’t a pretty April day anymore. It was very cold and very dark. Zoey and I were still in the cemetery, but we weren’t by ourselves anymore.

About the Author:Christine Potter is a writer and poet who lives in a (for-real) haunted house in New York’s Hudson River Valley, not that far from Sleepy Hollow. She is the author of Evernight Teen’s Bean Books, a five book series that travels through time—and two generations of characters. Christine is has also been a teacher, a bell ringer in the towers of old churches, a DJ, and a singer of all kinds of music. Her poetry has appeared in literary magazines like Rattle and Kestrel, featured on ABC Radio News, and sold in gum ball machines. She lives with her organist husband Ken and two indulged kitties.

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