What I Would Tell a New Author by K.A. Gandy – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. K. A. Gandy will be awarding a $20 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.

What I Would Tell a New Author

What would I tell a new author . . . Man, so many small things!

If you haven’t finished the book yet . . . Don’t worry about the rest right now. Until you have a manuscript, complete, everything else is imaginary. The book has to be the foundation of all the rest. One good, strong book can do a lot. So, don’t stress about being a social media queen, having a ten-thousand-reader newsletter, or knowing every hot marketing tip. First, you need to focus on writing the very best book you can.

How do you do that? By reading, a lot. Some people pick up craft books, some people pick up best sellers, and some people just read for the sheer joy of it. None of those people are wrong; do what feels natural to YOU. Absorb well-written words, look for advice on the things you struggle with. But know in the end, you’re going to hire a high-quality, friendly editor to help you take your manuscript to the next level. Your job is to get the bones right. A story that captures imaginations, that sucks you in so thoroughly, people feel like they’re living it.

Focus on that, and you can learn the rest.

If you’re getting ready to publish your first novel . . . Deep breaths! You probably won’t get it all done, that’s just a fact of life. As an author and indie publisher, the list literally has no bottom, because there is always something more you “could” do. Your job is no longer to be an artiste, it’s now to be a shrewd business person. Publishing hat is different than writing hat. So, how do you know what to focus on, and what to cut? I’m so glad you asked.

What is your goal for this book? Have you actually sat down and thought about what you want from the publication of this novel? Because if you haven’t, you need to stop right now and think about it. What you want drives what you need to do to get there.

Okay, I’m going to assume you took me seriously and decided what you want. If it’s to indie publish, well, read on! If it’s to find an agent and trad pub, there are tons of resources online from people more knowledgeable than I.

First things first, you need the highest quality book you can reasonably afford to produce. Don’t go into debt. Don’t not put gas in your car that you need to get to your day job. But, set a reasonable budget range, and then shop for editors. Ask for some sample pages and see if you click with anyone. My editor gets my sense of humor, she enjoys my “heat” level, and she knows her grammar like the back of her hand. There’s more to a good editor match than just their ability to follow the Chicago Manual of Style; they have to get you. Otherwise, you’ll spend the whole novel trying to put your voice back into it, when they try to edit it in a way that doesn’t fit your nuances. This isn’t a flaw in either of you; it’s a mismatch.

Once the editor has been found and is working, it’s time to think about covers. Some people would put this first, and you absolutely can. But I think they can run well simultaneously, and either professional (cover artist or editor) could have the longer lead time. What genre of book have you written? Write it down. What niche does it fit inside of that broad genre? If you’re not sure, go open up Amazon, and go into the kindle store. Open up the categories, find your genre, and then start digging down. And down, and down, and down, until you can’t go farther and still say an unequivocal, “Yes,” this fits my book.” Now, what do the covers look like for those books? Yours needs to look like it belongs among them. Not identical, not so far out into left field that you can’t tell what the heck it is, but like it belongs. Your book needs to be one of the cool kids. If it’s a thriller, I should be able to tell at a hundred yards. Romance? Mystery? Those genres all have genre expectations that guide the right readers to you. Study this until you know what to tell your designer, and then find someone who already designs books in your genre.

Once you have a well-edited, well-covered book, the rest is up to you. Don’t rush it, but don’t be afraid to take the leap. You’ve worked too hard to keep your work in a drawer. You need some form of marketing plan, but how extensive it is depends on your goal. Are you going to work with local bookstores, or online advertising? Are you a social media maven? Use that skill! Whatever’s in your personal tool box, that’s where you start.

The end, well . . . I don’t believe we ever get there. Because once you start writing, you’re probably not going to want to stop.

On the run from the men who murdered her parents, there’s only one way to save herself. Marriage to a genetically-matched stranger.

Demy has been on the run since she was thirteen years old. Mysterious men in black cloaks have been chasing her, and so far she’s evaded them. Something, though, has changed since she turned eighteen. Their attempts to capture her have gotten closer and closer, until she’s only got one option left: turning herself over to the NLC, for the compulsory marriage program.

She doesn’t want to get married, but with her would-be captors on her heels, she’s got no choice but to hope the NLC’s strict security protocols will be a safe haven. Marriage is a small price to pay for her life, after all. And maybe, just maybe, she’ll finally have the space to discover why she’s being hunted.

Marked is a new entry point in the Populations Crumble world, but many familiar characters will be present from the original trilogy.

Enjoy an Excerpt

The man in black found me yesterday. I was able to slip away for the night, but he’s getting closer. It’s awful timing, him cropping up right now—as I’m only two blocks from the bus stop—but I just caught a glimpse of his hood again. For the last five years, whenever one of them catches my trail, I lie low until they lose my tracks, and then hop the next bus or train out of town and hit the farthest tri-state I can afford the fare to.

Simple. Clean. Safe.

Unfortunately, that’s not an option right now. I have to be at the bus stop at three p.m. The shuttle only comes once a quarter, and I’m not going to make it another three months. I look down at my banged-up watch and see there are only fifteen minutes left. Making a split-second decision, I take a hard left into the alley in front of me, and duck into the side entrance of a smoke-filled bar. As soon as the door shuts behind me, I dash into the bathroom—a single stall, thankfully—and slide the bolt home.

I don’t know what’s changed since I turned eighteen, but I haven’t made it a full month since without one of them finding me, and it’s freaking frustrating. What’s changed? I honestly don’t know. But after five months, I’m out of cash and out of options. I can’t keep a job long enough to build up my cash cushion without getting busted again.

Which is why I finally pulled my last-resort card and contacted the NLC about getting matched.

Yes, I technically have six months left before the deadline to meet my genetic match and start popping out babies, but I don’t have six more months of running in me. And I refuse to be caught.

About the Author:K. A. Gandy was born and raised in Jacksonville, Florida, and is married with two kids. She has worked as a restaurant hostess, library book shelver, ranch hand, tour guide, Realtor, tech whiz, landlord, and small business consultant, all in addition to pursuing her passion of writing. She likes to write late in the evenings and thinks drinking hot tea and baking great cookies fuels hopes and dreams. If you would like to find more of her works, you can sign up for her newsletter. at . You can also get updates on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/KAGandyAuthor. I’ve also recently started a facebook group for readers, who enjoy YA Dystopian books, and am available by email at kagandyauthor@gmail.com as well, if you’d ever like to drop me a line directly!

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What I Hope Readers Get Out of the Book by Talia Aikens-Nunez – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Talia Aikens-Nunez will be awarding a $25 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.

What I Hope Readers Get Out of the Book

I hope readers gain an understanding and appreciation for what the Men of the 65th did for our country. They endured fighting with their summer uniforms in temperatures below zero, they endured commanders questioning their “manhood”, and they endured unequal treatment.

There are parts of American history that are dark. The book discusses the military’s segregation practices. It also details differences in treatment between this segregated mostly Puerto Rican unit and all white units in the Army.

And, there are parts of American history that show the enduring spirit of the people that fight for this country. The book goes into that as well. It explains the integral role that the Men of the 65th had in what many call the greatest evacuation movement by sea. In the Korean War during that movement, the Men of the 65th maintained cover for other soldiers and Marines who were trapped by enemy soldiers, North Koreans and Chinese. The motto of the 65th Infantry Regiment is Honor et Fidelitas which is Latin for “Honor and Fidelity.” The men exemplified this in the numerous battles they fought in the Korean War and the number of medals they were awarded.

Even though people call the Korean War ‘the forgotten war’ these men that fought for this country must not be forgotten. I hope that this part of American history gets incorporated into US history class in high school. Students should learn about their contributions and understand what the Men of the 65th did for our country.

Honor and Fidelity. That is the motto of the 65th Infantry Regiment, also known as the Borinqueneers, the only Puerto Rican unit in the United States Army.

Since the regiment’s creation in 1899, the men of the 65th have proudly served the US through multiple wars, despite facing racial discrimination. Their courage, loyalty, and patriotism earned them hundreds of accolades, including the Congressional Gold Medal in 2014.

But the honor and fidelity of the men of the 65th came into question in 1952, in the midst of the Korean War, when ninety-one Borinqueneers were arrested and tried for desertion and disobeying orders. How could this happen in one of the most distinguished and decorated units of the Army?

In this telling of one of the forgotten stories of the Korean War, author Talia Aikens-Nuñez guides us through the history of the Borinqueneers and the challenges they faced leading up to what was the largest court martial in the entire war. Rediscover the bravery of the men of the 65th through Aikens-Nuñez’s thorough writing and the soldiers’ firsthand accounts of the Korean War.

Enjy an Ecxerpt

The US public was shocked to discover that during the war, 162 soldiers of the 65th Infantry Regiment had been court-martialed and ninety-one of those soldiers found guilty of disobeying orders and desertion.

The US military kept the courts-martial quiet. But the soldiers of the 65th sent letters to their families describing what was happening, which led to public outcry and confusion from the press. How could one of the most distinguished regiments of the Korean War, whose soldiers had only months before been praised by General Douglas MacArthur for their “brilliant record of heroism,” become involved in the largest mass court-martial of the Korean War?

Did the Borinqueneers lose their bravery and heroism in such a short time? Or were they victims of discrimination in a prejudiced and segregated system? Were they betrayed by the country they risked their lives for?

This is the story of one of the bravest and most decorated regiments in the history of the US military. It is a forgotten story in a forgotten war. But it is a story of patriotism, loyalty, and bravery in the face of danger and discrimination, and it is one that deserves to be told.

About the Author:Talia Aikens-Nuñez is passionate about sharing with young readers the little known stories, accomplishments, and contributions of people of color from all throughout history. Aikens-Nuñez is the author of Small Nap, Little Dream, a bilingual Spanish/English picture book. She and her husband live in Connecticut with their two children.

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Where the Inspiration from the Book Came From by Tarky Lee – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Tarky Lee will be awarding a $15 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.

Where the Inspiration from the Book Came From

Seven years ago, I changed my fate. Switching careers from corporate public relations to becomnig a professional childcare provider was the best decision I ever made. Working with kids again saved my soul. One night I read Shel Silversein’s book The Giving Tree to a kiddo before bed. When I closed the book, she looked at me with such heaviness and said, “That’s a very sad story about the tree. I am too sad to sleep now.” I felt deeply there was more story for the tree.

Sitting there with her tender young spirit in my arms, I asked her, “What do you think happens to the tree now?” We imagined a little girl finding the tree stump and loving her so much that she found it in herself to grow back. I tucked her in and felt an idea be born. Over the next year, I wrote a story that stands on its own as a new chapter of life through the simple metaphor of a tree.

Generations of people grew up with Shel Silverstein’s books. His works felt like the first time an adult was honest about the strange and confusing experience of being a human. His works have inspired much of my own artistic expression and freedom. My hope is that we learn from both the stories of our past and are brave enough to create new tales for our future. The story of this tree belongs to us all. The Giving Back Tree is here to remind us, we can grow back.

Generations of people grew up with Shel Silverstein’s books. His works felt like the first time an adult was honest about the strange and confusing experience of being a human. His art has inspired much of my own artistic expression and freedom. The book The Missing Piece still offers me comforting reminders that I am whole and never need to fit into anyone else to be loved. Some of Silverstein’s other works are complex and evoke mixed emotions, like The Giving Tree.

Growing up I read the book many times, but not always with the warmest feeling, as the taking boy reminded me of the selfishness of boys at school. I heard parents tell me, they felt that the tree was a metaphor for being a parent, constantly giving. Then one night, as a nanny, I read The Giving Tree to a kiddo before bed. When I closed the book, she looked at me with heaviness and said, “That’s a very sad story about the tree. I am too sad to sleep now.” I felt deeply there was more story for the tree.

Yes, everything can be taken from us in life, but powerfully and boldly, life continues to grow. Even in the hardest of conditions, nature finds a way around obstacles. It was with this central idea that The Giving Back Tree was born. A story of a little girl who finds the lone and forgotten stump, and chooses to love her unconditionally. Sometimes loving others in hard places can feel this way, and this book beautifully illustrates a simple message: we CAN grow back.

The Giving Tree is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

About the Author Tarky Lee is an Oakland, California based queer artist, writer, activist, and professional child care provider. She believes the stories we tell ourselves and others have the power to reshape our lives and heal our hearts. This is her first illustrated publication. She looks forward to sharing many more of her books, ideas, and art with the world.

Tarky is a name given to the author by a powerful spirit she nannied named Alaska. Lee is the author’s middle name. The pen name Tarky Lee is a dedication to the child that lives in us all.

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Ideal Writing Space by L.V. Clark – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. L.V. Clark will be awarding a $15 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.

Ideal Writing Space

I know this sounds ridiculous, but my ideal writing space is a gym. I love it when weights are slamming, I’m sweating, and music is banging. For some reason, that is where I feel most inspired. I think it’s because I’ve always enjoyed refining my craft as a personal trainer and strength coach. There is real creative energy for me in the gym.

My mind is clearest when I’m lifting heavy weights that push out all the other thoughts in my head. It’s like magic: the second my hands touch a barbell, dumbbell, kettle bell, or pulley attachment, the noise turns off and the creative juices flow.

I’ll get ideas in between sets or the music I’m listening to will spark a scene in my brain. I have to keep a notepad or my phone with me at all times in case I get the spark. I like to work out early before the gym gets busy and that helps the most. But if I’m really lucky and the gym is empty, I not only get a ton of ideas, but I can act them out in the mirrors for better effect. One time, a regular gym goer that I knew only because we worked out at the same time, walked in on me planning out an argument for the book and we had a real good laugh. I had to explain that I was writing a book and two characters were fighting. He laughed and told me my secret was safe with him.

Alviton was a strong, prospering country, full of light. The people worked side by side with the Fae, creatures blessed with magic. But that was before the war. Massive genocide and fear of the Fae touched everyone as brother turned against brother. Years later, and still reeling from the war, the new generation has clawed and connived to remove the stains left by their predecessors.

Sheltered from this reality, Nydia lives her life relatively happy and ignorant, surrounded by smoke and mirrors. But eventually glass shatters and smoke settles. As she struggles to unveil the truth about herself and the people around her, danger lies on the horizon, threatening to extinguish the small flicker of light in this dark and twisted country.

Enjoy an Excerpt

“Magic is as real as you and me. It flows, like life, throughout everything, though humans don’t necessarily have access to it, though I hope to figure out a way,” he mused.

“Well, have you ever heard of a human using them to share visions like this?” I asked.

“Heh,” he lugged over two large blue and red books, “I haven’t even read of the Fae doing something like that. So, you’ve actually given me something else to be looking into.”

I wrung out my hands, feeling anxiously defeated. “So, tell me more about yourself Brian. You’re obviously different from most people in our kingdom,” he asked, not really looking up from his desk. “Well, I’m a merchant. I’m married to a designer named Lillian. I grew up in Valicitor,” I started.

“Ah, Valicitor? That’s interesting.”

He looked at the map again. “You wouldn’t happen to be related to the new governor of that city, Kale Valen?”

A mix between pride and shame that I couldn’t quite pin shadowed over me. “Yes, he’s my brother.”

“No kidding? Heh,” he crossed his arms and propped against the table.

“Please tell me how a man like Governor Valen and you get along?”

I looked at the ground, conflicted. “It’s okay. It must be hard, but rest assured my family and I are doing everything in our power to stop the branding, isolating, selling, and abusing our citizens because they lack a piece of paper stating their lineage. Such an outdated practice that has only been proliferated by greed and selfishness.”

A ray of light shone through the shadows of my mind. “You are?”

About the Author: Clark has had this story in their head for over a decade, and they finally got it on paper. Clark used their other hobbies—weight lifting and crocheting—to help develop ideas and work through any blocks. They grew up in the south of the United States with their large family. Clark is happily married with two sweet dogs and an apathetic ball python.

I hope you enjoy this book as much as I enjoyed writing it. Expect more to the story!

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The Lost Journals of Bun Wiper by S.M. Morgan – Spotlight and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. S.M. Morgan will be awarding a Kindle Paperwhite, a signed Hardback cover of the book and a featured character spot in our next Bud Wiper story to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

“Help!! My head is being lowered into the swirling vortex of a toilet!”

My name is Teddy, and I’m in the 6th grade. It’s my first day at a different school, and so far, the only person I know is Zane, the school bully. I was just your everyday kid trying to stay off everyone’s radar, but when I met my new best friend, Bud Wiper, everything changed.

Bud is a 6th grade millionaire from 60 years ago.

Yep, that’s right, Bud Wiper is a treasure hunter from the 1940’s who left behind his journal full of life and adventure, and even though we’ve never met, I think he might be the only thing that gets me through the 6th grade alive.

The Lost Journals of Bud Wiper is a fantastic story of bravery and friendship, perfect for kids, middle school students, and adults.

Enjoy an Excerpt

Leo jumped out of his car and stood in front of Ramsey. “ This not good, mister. Not good. Tell him, perdoon stary, do it now, or they will surely kill us.”

Give them the book Ramsey,” I said, motioning toward the guard.

on his face and then repeated what Leo had told him to say, “Perdoon Stary.” It sounded— strange hearing it from Ramsey with his American accent.

The guards busted out laughing hysterically. Ramsey turned to Leo. “ What did you make me say? ”

“Old fart,” came a voice in a thick Russian accent.

I turned to see a man that looked like he was in charge step forward. He wore a large rounded bill military cap with a red band and golden emblem around the center. “ Nothing in Russia is private. Now give me the book.”

About the Author:

S.M. Morgan is the author of The Lost Journals of Bud Wiper — A Middle Grade Adventure. He lives in East Texas with his wife, daughter, and son, and when not writing potty humor for kids, he is trying to get alone to read more mystery adventure stories.

When the real world calls him to be social, he can be found canoeing with his family or trying to convince his wife to watch action movies.

Amazon Author Page | Goodreads | https://budwiper.com


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What Keeps Me Going With Writing by Ben Gartner – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Ben Gartner will be awarding a $25 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.

What Keeps Me Going With Writing

I’ve said this before, but I need a reminder too: Have fun! For me, as soon as I lose sight of that goal with my writing, it becomes a chore and the story and characters suffer. My writing is worse when I’m only putting down words that please someone else or I’m doing it solely to meet some expectation for achievement I’ve placed on myself. That nagging voice that I “should” be writing does me no good! But the excited, carefree kid egging me to get back into the world – that’s the one that works.

I have to remind myself that I started writing again without the intention of putting the work out into the world or quitting my day job (sure it’s a dream, but I’m pragmatic). Okay, yes, maybe there was a little part of me that knew I would eventually want to try and put it out there, but I didn’t listen to that voice when my reinvigorated love of writing came back to me. I intentionally suppressed that desire because it was a joy-killer. I was writing for me and for my kids, period. Full stop. I was writing to please myself, and please them. And I like to think that I succeeded at that. And only after that was accomplished did I realize that we had something others might enjoy too. And they did! This is pure bonus on top of the joy I’d already given myself.

I should also be clear that “have fun” does not mean you can’t or shouldn’t also do something worthwhile and meaningful. In fact, the motivation very much encompasses that goal as well. To have an impact IS fun. To teach IS rewarding. It is exciting to think that your words might stick with some young reader you’ve never met. That is an awesome responsibility one should wield very carefully.

Writing is a game of temporal and geographic telepathy. Influencing someone through words has a powerful potential. And maybe the person you may influence the most with your writing is yourself. And isn’t improving and growing as a person FUN? As many of the writing craft books will tell you, Stasis = Death.

So, don’t forget, Ben: Have fun. Get back in there, open up that writing software, and lose yourself in the adventure. Let the time fly by while you are blissfully unaware, fingers flying across the keyboard. If you ever lose that sense of excitement, you might as well put down the pen and find something else that brings you joy.

Until then, write on!

“I’m pretty sure I’m about to die in space. And I just turned twelve and a half.”

Blast off with the four winners of the StellarKid Project on a trip to the International Space Station and then to the Gateway outpost orbiting the Moon! It’s a dream come true until space junk collides with the ISS, turning their epic trip into a nightmare of survival. Alone aboard the Aether starship, the kids have to work as a team to save the adults before the ISS is destroyed. Suit up, cadet, and launch into adventure with One Giant Leap!

Enjoy an Excerpt

I’m pretty sure I’m about to die in space. And I just turned twelve and a half.

The frayed end of my tether whips around like a lasso as I flip front over back and sideways.

I see the long blue smear of Earth hurtling past. The silver hull of my ship, the Aether, whizzes by in a blur before I gasp at the once-glorious International Space Station. Now, just wreckage. The ISS spits pieces that twinkle in the sunlight. Sparks sizzle and blink against the black backdrop of the endless universe.

My spin continues until all I can see is the void of deep space, punctured by bright pinpricks of gaseous stars millions of light-years away.

The horizon of Earth again, with its clouds and land and water. Home.

The shiny tube of my ship, the Aether. It’s. So. Close. And yet, it can’t save me.

The ISS, Earth, the Aether, and here we go again on this terrible merry-go-round— You get the picture. It’s not good. I close my eyes.

I’m tumbling, and I think I’m squirting oxygen from my life-support backpack, which isn’t helping my somersaults. My suit is losing pressure. At least that’s what I guess is causing the fuzz in my brain. It’s hard to think. My vision is narrowing, dimming, like I’m about to wink away.

And the thing that I think is actually going to kill me? Water is leaking from somewhere inside my suit. Quickly it builds up and clings to my face like a wet rag. It’s a film over my eyes, it plugs my nose, and it slides into my mouth like alien slime whenever I try to cough. I shake my head violently to jiggle the liquid free, so hard that a nerve cries out in my neck. The head-whip kinda works, and I’m able to suck in a tiny breath. I choke down some water and, though the idea sounds ludicrous, I think, Am I going to drown . . . in space?

At this point, you might be asking, “What is a twelve-year-old doing in space?”

And I’d say, “That’s what you’re worried about? Not that I’m going to die?!”

It’s cool. Let me answer both questions. Why I’m one of the first kids in space, and how I ended up in this mess, adrift from my craft and about to become a permanent orbiting satellite. If I don’t plunge into the atmosphere and burn up first.

I’ll pause my death scene to explain a bit about how I got here. Because that’s a thing, right? Aren’t you curious how I got into this impossible quagmire? It’s a pretty amazing story. And 100 percent true.

The books I tend to enjoy reading are about kids being brave, or learning how to be, and I’d like to tell you this is one of those. But I’m not feeling it right now.

To be fair, in those books the kids are fighting fantasy monsters that disappear into dust when you stab them, or they’re in a simulation, or a video game, or you kind of know everything’s going to be all right, right? It’s fake danger.

This story is different. This one’s real. I honestly don’t know how I’m going to survive this. Adrift in space with my oxygen running low, all alone, spinning uncontrollably, a water leak in my suit threatening to drown me.

It all started innocently enough when a harmless package arrived in the mail . . .

About the AuthorBen Gartner is the award-winning author of adventure books for middle graders. His stories take readers for a thrilling ride, maybe even teaching them something on the journey. Ben can be found living and writing near the mountains with his wife and two boys.

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The Warlock’s Curse by C.B.Oresky – Q&A and Giveaway

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

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

I can see into peoples’ hearts, whether they are rigid like stone or soaring like an ecstatic gull in a clear blue sky. I can see peoples’ auras: black, grey, golden, or white. What’s next on my bucket list? My cup would overflow if I could speak telepathically with animals.

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

I will whisper my most treasured secret: I have and always have been a Buddhist monk. I don’t wear orange robes, I have not shaved my head, but I made a vow, a sacred promise. And I will tell you meditation is hard, stopping thoughts is hard, sitting still for hours on end is hard…but, with patience and perseverance, a beautiful light fills me, and the magic begins.

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

When writing descriptions of any character I like to describe his or her face first: the shape of the face and nose, the color of the eyes and hair. I then usually move on to depicting height, weight, and clothing. This is followed by the magical things they say and do.

What part of the writing process do you dread?

This may seem strange, but I absolutely abhor those pesky semicolons, colons, commas, quotation marks… In other words, I dread all punctuation, with the exception of the noble period or elegant question mark at the end of a sentence. And I received an absolute F (as in failure) at reading the very commandments carved in stone, the bible of writing: The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. My hatred of punctuation was part of my rationale for hiring my writing coach, a short man with a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality, who spoke incessantly, helped greatly, or ranted loudly. Even in the end, my meticulous editor, a woman with a heart of gold and a magical wand, changed quite a few of my crazy coach’s punctation proposals.

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

Writing is a hard, hard, very hard, often lonely process. Everyday I had to look directly into my characters eyes and ask them what are you going to do now? Sometimes they’d answer quickly with big smiles on their faces, other times they’d turn their backs on me, not saying anything at all.

Also, the process does not end with writing the book. An endless train of tasks appeared chugging around the bend: write and submit query letters, respond to all emails and requests, put on your most holy robes, drop to your knees, and pray. Then, if a publisher loves the book there’s the wonder of the editorial process, where a big-hearted, believing editor that hardly ever sleeps and has a sharp tongue cajoled me into revising the manuscript even more. With ears wide open, I listened and altered, because she knew what was right…and it made all the difference in the world.

Clara and Angelica Grace have never met ghosts. They’ve never sailed on a tall ship, ridden wild unicorns, or fought with magical weapons. Instead, the teenage twins have a wretched existence, ignored by their troubled parents in a rundown home and tormented by the town’s snobs.

Everything turns topsy-turvy all of a sudden when discovery of an ancestor’s hidden journal with an odd key to an unknown door leads them into an entirely different realm.

The girls go on a thrilling oceanic voyage to search for mysterious whales, train with a seasoned warrior, and are befriended by a wise Master. But all is not a bouquet of lovely lilies…they are hunted by a cunning warlock and must rid themselves of The Warlock’s Curse.

Enjoy an Excerpt

The whales’ frenzied song grew even louder—the electrical atmosphere intensified.

“Now what’s happening? We’re dissolving!” Clara yelled, watching her little hands disappear and then reappear again.

Angelica observed different parts of the ship, their cats, their bodies, and the monkey crew all vanishing momentarily. She drew a sharp breath. She was about to say something when the ethereal whale swimming directly before them opened its massive mouth, saltwater pouring down its yawning maw that seemed miles and miles deep.

“This is madness!” Clara shrieked, staring down the vast gaping throat of the beast. “Even a hurricane would be much better than this.

We’re going to die, for sure!” Angelica lost her composure. “Turn the ship!” she demanded. “I don’t wanna die!”

“Impossible!” Claudius cried. “We must go!” “I’m gonna be sick!” Clara cried, her face pasty. She clasped her sister’s scrawny hand in horror. What lay before them was far worse than that scary roller coaster Angelica had once convinced her to try at their town fair.

Catapulted forward by the hurrying tide, Claudius’s ship now sailed upon the phantasm of a massive whale. The sleek vessel hung momentarily on the edge of the watery precipice of white light, then slipped straight down the monster’s wide-open chasm…

About the Author:

Fascinated by the works of Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, C.B. Oresky began writing her own fantasy novel, The Warlock’s Curse, after dreaming of being whisked off to an alien realm. Besides her debut novel, she has seen four of her short stories published in a small, national literary press: Conceit Magazine. When she’s not writing, she can be found wandering through the woods, dancing flamenco, or planting flowers in her garden. She currently lives in a small town in Connecticut with her bodybuilder husband, their exceptionally naughty Scottish terrier and Siamese cat, ten chickens, Mr. Tiggy the hedgehog, and a yard filled with majestic flowers.

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The Breaks Between You and Me by Taiya Collier – Spotlight and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Taiya Collier will be awarding “bookish” sweatshirt and sticker pack (US ONLY) to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Somewhere out in the hills of Montana, 17-year-old Harper Cassidy has a home. Really, she does! And so does her sister, Lil. But since all they’ve ever done is skip across the Pacific Northwest from town to town, following her mom’s every desire from Montana to California, it’s been getting harder and harder to feel rooted anywhere.

Until tragedy strikes. And, before she knows it, Harper is… free. Free to go home to Montana and return to a stability she never had. Only, there are several problems standing in her way.

First, she has to create a stable life for her and her seven-year-old sister. Second, she has to do it alone. And third, worst of all, she has to keep her mother’s absence a secret from the people she grew up with: her grandfather, her aunt, and him, the boy.

Andy Madden is Harper’s best friend, and the answer to her aching loneliness, but he is also the threat to containing the secret that her life depends on. A secret that seems just a little too heavy for any one person to keep.

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Younger me goes wild running across these floors. In the kitchen I’m making jam with Mom. On the living room’s stained couch, there’s me, my scraped-up arm, and you, busy patching up scrapes with Spiderman Band-Aids with an ironic amount of doctor formality. On the four-seater table a couple steps away, are the piles of magazines I would bury myself in because I liked the feeling of losing myself in vivid, exaggerated, and bold colors and shapes and silhouettes. Younger, nostalgia-bound me runs across the dusty dirty floors of this house boundless and uncatchable and she laughs and giggles loud enough that it can no longer be considered music.

About the Author At just eighteen years old, Taiya Collier is already making a name for herself as an author. The Austin-native has set her sights on creating age inclusivity within young adult fiction and shattering the notion that writing about teen life can only be done by middle-aged writers who lack true understanding of the experience. She’s published four books so far, each filled with riveting storylines sure to enthrall readers from start to finish! By inspiring other teens towards authorship, she hopes to build up a new generation of YA novelists capable of capturing accurate accounts of today’s youth culture. Taiya is currently attending college full time while continuing to write as often as she can. Her recent works explore themes of identity, strength, growth, and resilience in young adulthood—all of which are important aspects of her journey as a writer. In addition to writing her own stories, Taiya is also involved in various literary events and speaking engagements throughout the year. As an advocate for literary inclusion, she uses these opportunities to spread awareness about the importance of diverse representation on all platforms.

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Things That Will Make Me Hate a Character by Dana Hammer – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Dana Hammer 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.

Things That Will Make Me Hate a Character

Sometimes, when I’m reading a book, I wind up hating a character I’m supposed to love. This doesn’t mean I hate the book, or that I’ll stop reading it, but it does mean that I will now actively root for this character to suffer and fail. Here are the things —

1) Refusing to use swear words
Unless it’s a children’s book, or this is a person who has been raised in a religious cult, I don’t want my likeable characters to clutch their pearls whenever a “bad word” is uttered. I’m fine with it if it’s a villain (think Annie Wilkes) but if I’m supposed to like the person, I don’t want any irrational prudes.

2) Refusing to read the letter
We’ve all encountered this. The heroine receives a letter from her ex-boyfriend, or her estranged mother, or a mysterious man in a parking lot and SHE DOESN’T OPEN IT. The reasons are always stupid. “It would be too painful.” “I don’t want to hear what she has to say. NOTHING can excuse her behavior.” “It’s probably a scam.” Then she stashes the letter away until a convenient time, when the plot starts to lag, and suddenly she gets the urge to open it. I get that it’s a plot device, and an easy one to use. But I hate any character who’s so dull-minded that they aren’t even a little bit curious about a letter from a former lover.

3) Nursing a terrible, secret guilt that only proves to us how noble and awesome she is.
We read the book, knowing that our heroine is deeply troubled because of something that happened in her past. Something that makes her believe she is unworthy of love, because of how horrible it is. Then, after many chapters of cryptic allusions and hand-wringing we finally discover the truth. She was working in a soup kitchen, feeding the homeless. She gave a piece of candy to a little boy with big sad eyes — and he choked to death! IF ONLY SHE HADN’T GIVEN THE POOR CHILD A PIECE OF CANDY! HOW CAN SHE LIVE WITH HERSELF?

4) Couples who want to be together, but can’t, because…oh, wait, there’s no reason they can’t be together.
This one annoys me. There are lots of reasons why people can’t be in a romantic relationship —they live too far apart, they’re already married, he’s a firefighter and she’s an arsonist. It’s not hard to come up with a reason for people who want each other to be kept apart. But sometimes, the couple just…can’t get their shit together. And that’s not a valid reason, and I will hate them both for their invalid dithering.

5) Kids who only talk about homework and school.
If I’m reading a book, and a child in it talks in tired childhood cliches, I’m done with that child. In any given book, a child may use ONE of these phrases ONCE: homework, soccer practice, late for school, school dance, sleepover, study. (Exception: it’s a kid’s book, and soccer or the school dance is integral to the story.)

6) Writers who are confused by bare feet indoors.
“She walked down the stairs, bare feet padding on the carpet.” “She was cooking in the kitchen, barefoot.” “Her bare feet were propped up on the couch.”

If you’re indoors, you’re supposed to be barefoot. Or at least, it shouldn’t be so abnormal that the writer feels the need to point it out. If the character is barefoot outside, in a snowstorm, OK, that’s weird, and you should address that. But the fact that anyone feels the need to point out that a character isn’t wearing shoes in her own damn house is bizarre and grating.

I guess this isn’t something that will make me hate a character. More just a thing that will annoy me when I read it.

6) Modern characters who unironically call each other “Dear” and “Darling” or “Dearest”.

No one has called anyone “Darling” since 1942.

7) Characters in historical fiction who are waaaay too modern.

This one is super weird. You’ll be reading this book that’s set in 1662, in a rural village in England, and the main character is all “Wait, I can’t be an atheist-feminist-anti-racist-college professor? I’m so confused by this society.” She somehow holds all the currently correct views on things. She is perfectly accepting of gay people, and people from other countries, and people of all religions or lack thereof, and she doesn’t understand why other people aren’t like her. Even though it’s 1662.

I understand that you want the character to be relatable to a modern audience. She doesn’t need to be a total ignorant racist who only likes getting beaten by her husband, but she should have some grounding in her time and place. Unless it’s a time travel novel. Even then, she shouldn’t be totally perplexed by the realities of the past. We all know that the past sucked, and if we were to be sent back into it, we’d have to alter our expectations somewhat.

Anyway, these are a few things that make me frustrated with characters. I’ll still read the book, if it’s good, but I will actively root for these characters to have a terrible end.

Fanny Fitzpatrick has the coolest best friend ever. Athena is smart, and pretty, and brave, and kind. Fanny loves her friend, but sometimes, she feels a little jealous of how perfect Athena is.

But even “perfect” girls make mistakes, and Athena makes a big one when she accidentally turns the school bully into a cockroach. He was picking on their friend Gemma and Athena lost her temper and her magic powers just slipped out right in front of Fanny.

Now Fanny knows that Athena isn’t an ordinary girl – she’s the reincarnation of a Greek goddess, powers and all – and now she needs Fanny and Gemma’s help to hunt down the bully-turned-cockroach and turn him back into a human boy.

Fanny doesn’t want to spend all her time looking for a cockroach. She’s got the Junior Miss Super Pretty Pageant to prepare for, if she can get over her stage fright. Besides, Athena’s Dad, Zeus, has forbidden the girls from meddling with any more cockroaches or magic, and Zeus is a god you don’t want to mess with.

Fanny has to make a choice. Should she pursue her pageant dreams, or risk Zeus’ wrath to find the cockroach-boy? What’s the right thing to do? And how do you hunt down a cockroach anyway?

Enjoy an Excerpt

Normally, when I arrive at school, I’m tired and cold and grumpy, but not today! Because today I’ve got the World’s Coolest Necklace, and everyone’s gonna notice it and give me compliments. It’s a “statement” necklace, and I got it at an old lady’s estate sale yesterday. I was shopping with my best friend, Athena, when I saw it. It was sitting on a dresser, with a bunch of other jewellery, but this necklace was the only one that caught my eye. It’s a large octopus, with jewel-covered tentacles, and two pearls for eyes. I tried it on, and it looked like the tentacles were reaching around my neck, trying to choke me. I’d never seen anything so cool in my life. It was $20, which was more than I had, but luckily Athena was there, and she bought it for me. Athena always has lots of money, because she’s a rich kid, but that’s NOT why I’m friends with her.

Anyway, she saw how sad I was that I couldn’t afford the necklace and she just bought it for me, probably because she has excellent taste and could see what a great investment it would be. She said it was “quirky” and “an interesting piece,” which I happen to know is code for “high fashion”.

My mom said it was “tacky garbage” but she doesn’t know about fashion. She mostly wears gym clothes, even when she’s not at the gym, and she never wears jewelry, except her wedding ring.

About the Author:Dana Hammer is a novelist, screenwriter and playwright. She has won over forty awards and honors for her writing, few of which generated income, all of which were deeply appreciated. She is not a cannibal, but she is the author of A Cannibals Guide to Fasting. Dana is also the author of middle grade fantasy My Best Friend Athena which was inspired by a desire to write something her 9 year old daughter could read.

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Five Must-Haves for Children’s Books by Monique Roy – Guest Blog and Giveaway

This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Monique Roy will be awarding a free hard copy of Laurel’s Marvelous Kingdom to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Five Must-Haves for Children’s Books

To write a successful children’s book, follow these five must-have features for your story.

1. Books Run Between 22-35 pages.
Illustrated children’s books should not ever be 40 pages long unless it is a compilation of stories in one volume or a novel-like book for young readers, like a chapter book. If a story needs more pages than the norm, it’s time to consider serious editing. You want to be rich without the fluff, compelling without becoming excessive. Most illustrated storybooks are 32 pages.

2. The artwork is designed for the book specifically.
Storybooks need well-designed covers, sometimes even using unoriginal work. If you want your story to have longevity and not end up out of print within a year (or slammed in Customer Comments and Reviews), present the story professionally.

All of the artwork (and perhaps the cover art) should convey the same thought that went into the writing of the project. The images should be a serious aspect of the story, not simply the throw-in artsy stuff that goes above or below the words.

3. We know the protagonist early in the story.
Your time and space in an illustrated story are brief. Get to the meat of the story, as in this kind of story, every page – or better, every moment – needs to be intentional. Beginning a story is one of the most daunting things to do as a writer because you set up everything within a concise space.

4. The purpose of the story is established on page 3.
Make sure your story is clearly outlined and plotted like any other story, meaning it should have a clear beginning, middle, and end, as well as a meaningful message. If the story’s point isn’t established by the third page, then the book lacks focus. It might even need a sense of progression, which means it isn’t a well-developed story.

5. Plot needs to be well-thought-out and exciting.
Every story should have action, things that the protagonist does, and that have some influence on their world. Make sure that it is not a series of events that happen to your protagonist. but a series of events that the protagonist causes, either intentionally or unintentionally. This is how you create a plot, but it’s also how you establish a strong character who will come alive in the reader’s mind. A mishap may well be something that happens or fails to happen for the protagonist, but that is not the same thing as the plot. The plot is what your character chooses to do next due to a mishap.

One stormy night, a wicked witch kidnaps the kingdom’s two princesses in an attempt to turn them against each other. Now, Prince Falcon must save the princesses before one of them turns evil.

Enjoy an Excerpt

One night, when the wicked witch of the land snatches up Princess Astrid, her sister, Princess Laurel realizes it will take more than her superpowers to make trees, plants, and flowers grow to rescue her sister. With the help of childhood friend, Prince Falcon, Laurel rides deep into the dark forest in search of her sister, and where it’s believed the witch lives. Then, on a stormy night, the witch kidnaps Laurel and flies her on her broom to her creepy den. It’s there that Laurel discovers her sister’s jealousy of her powers. Astrid receives some sisterly love and learns that everyone is unique and to embrace her natural gifts. Meanwhile, Prince Falcon meets a wise pink rabbit to help him on his journey to find the princesses.

This fairy tale story will enliven the imagination of children with a little witchy fun in between. The story teaches children about what makes us unique, appreciating your special characteristics, and doing what you love.

About the Author:Monique’s passion for writing began as a young girl while penning stories in a journal. Now she looks forward to deepening her passion by creating many unique stories that do nothing less than intrigue her readers.

Monique holds a degree in journalism from Southern Methodist University in Dallas and is the author of a middle-grade book Once Upon a Time in Venice, historical fiction novel Across Great Divides, and historical fiction novel A Savage Kultur.

Monique was born in Cape Town, South Africa, and her grandparents were European Jews who fled their home as Hitler rose to power. It’s their story that inspired her to write Across Great Divides, her first historical novel.

She resides in Dallas, Texas, with her husband and son. She also works as a freelance writer.

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