Cover Power

Today's guest post is brought to you by Justin C. Trout, author of "Enaya: Solace of Time"

Enaya: Solace of Time

Most people judge a book by its cover even after being warned not to. I’ve done it. I’ve picked up a book and decided against it. Although there are great books with bad covers, it’s hard to look past something that you see. It’s almost like love at first sight. With that said, the cover has to be important. It’s the first thing that people see. It’s the first thing that attracts the people to it and chances are, people might like it depending on how your cover looks. The cover is very important and needs to be carefully thought out. I recommend going through Deranged Doctor Design if you are self­publishing. They did my cover and I was in love the first time I saw it. Not because it looked good, but because it revolved around my story. On the back cover you see the futuristic city and airships heading toward a castle between the letter M and E in the word TIME. That’s important because it is a pivotal point in the book. It’s that scene that they captured that will hook people in the novel. I also have seen book covers that have nothing to do with the actual book. If your book is about a chief who falls in love with a serial killer, then you don’t need a cover that shows a avalance swallowing a town filled with robots. I’ve not seen a cover that outrageous, but you get the point. The cover has to stick. You also pull in interested people. People might not read the genre you write, but your cover could get them interested. You can also tell what a book is about by it’s cover. I can look at a cover with a submarine on it and a torpedo and I can assume what the book is about. I could see a cover with a mouse sneaking cheese into a base board and I have an idea what the book might be about. People need to see the cover and immediately have an association to what the book could potentially be about. So the book cover process is important. Deranged Doctor Design sent me the cover and I approved it. That’s what made it great. They didn’t just assign the book a cover, I got to choose if it was what was necessary or not. I think author’s deserve this freedom as well, especially if you are paying the book cover business to do it.

About the Author:

Justin Trout

Justin C. Trout was born in Richlands, V.A. Justin spent a majority of his childhood writing stories. When he was in kindergarten, he shared his first “dinosaur” story with his classmates. With a passion to draw and share his stories, Justin began writing novels when he was only 12 years old. It was at this age that the Enaya series was born. He wrote a majority of the first drafts while he attended Lebanon High School. As he got older, Justin worked several odd jobs such as fast food, cashier, work study and retail. Justin decided to go back to college to obtain his degree where he could work in the mental health profession. It was in college when he decided to pursue publishing. Obtaining a master’s in education with specialization in counseling from Lindsey Wilson College, Justin is a children’s therapeutic day treatment counselor and an avid writer. He has also appeared in a number of short films and recently wrote and directed his first indie film, "Fade Out". "Enaya: Solace of Time" is book 1 in an 8 part series.

Author links:

Dealing with Bad Reviews

Today's guest post is brought to you by Sabrina Benulis

Angelus

Every author dreads them, and every author gets at least one in their writing career. The good ones have the ability to give our creativity an enormous boost, and they bad ones can dry it up entirely. Either kind can elicit every emotion in the book: elation, surprise, anger, indignation. Sometimes they're fair, and sometimes they're frustratingly biased. That's right. I'm talking about reviews.

Bad reviews in particular will be my focus for today. No one needs tips and insight on managing good ones. If you get a good review for your work, by now you already know you'll be walking on clouds and feeling entitled to gifts and candy.

But the bad reviews? They're another animal. Some authors can't handle them at all. So here's some information on how to maintain a reasonable perspective throughout this potential minefield. You might be surprised what you learn.

1. Bad Amazon.com reviews - These are unfortunately the worst. And they do happen. I say they're the worst because out of all reviews, people actually pay attention to them most and they sometimes affect the sales of your book. A troll posting a nasty review (or series of reviews) has the ability to sink your little career ship like a stone if they're dedicated. There is very little authors can do about it. Honestly, this is partly the fault of Amazon.com themselves, who have admitted in recent years the fraud that goes on in their reviewing process. This ranges everywhere from other authors making fake profiles to sabotage other authors, to publishing companies hiring ghost profilers existing solely to give people fake bad reviews. You know--just because money talks.

So let's say you get a one star review of your work on Amazon.com. What can you do? The best tactic is to encourage fans who enjoy your book to post their own thoughts and opinions about your novel to balance out the nastiness. You can do this by asking nicely, but it's much more fair to give them something fun in exchange, whether it's to mail a bookmark or allow them to enter a giveaway for your novels.

Eventually, the truth will win out. That awful review will become buried as it deserves in the pile of better reviews now sitting on top of it, and you will be freer to sleep easy at night. And with an unstained conscience to boot.

2. Goodreads.com bullying - Another unfortunate reality, this problem exists solely because Goodreads is also a social media platform, and thus even people who haven't taken so much as a real glance at your book can give it a star rating. For every five decent users on Goodreads.com, you will encounter someone who gets kicks out of making you cry.

The internet works as an anonymous screen for people, so you'll have to expect that there will be some who say the most awful things simply because they can. Some authors have had nightmarish scenarios with Goodreads.com because they interact within its community too much, making them vulnerable. Like Amazon.com there is very little you can do about this insanity, except to understand  that many people who visit Goodreads.com are aware it has a share of internet trolls, and they will ignore a very nasty review accordingly.

3. Whatever you do, DON'T RESPOND TO A NEGATIVE REVIEW. This never turns out well for you, the author. Novels are an art form like any other, and some people will not like your book because they just don't. You'll have to take this in stride and resist the temptation to shoot back to justify yourself. Authors who have done so--and there are many examples out there--make fools of themselves and come off as egotistical, narcissistic, and overbearing. Believe it or not, this is also the rule for a good review. Thanking every reviewer who has given you four or five stars makes you seem like a vulture perched on the reader's shoulder and breathing down their neck. It's understood that authors maintain a reasonable distance from both kind of reviews and manage them with dignity.

4. As I said, some people are picky with their art. But it can still be hard not to take some reviews personally. You, the author, have slaved for years over your novel and many people will not understand that or care. That's life. Especially the life of an artist with something to say. It's important to remember that some of the most avant-garde and imaginative authors of their time were torn to pieces over their novels--only to have them become classics of literature. What's good and what's bad is often in the eye of the beholder, subject to popular culture at the time, and even influenced by the peer pressure reviewers will feel to follow the general crowd in its opinion of your work.

5. Use social media wisely. If you're that author who likes to talk politics and religion, expect people to take shots at you because they just don't like you or your opinions. Also--and this applies especially to Twitter users--resist the urge to not only respond to a negative review, but also to passive-aggressively support subtweets attacking a reviewer for their possible negative opinions about you. That will make YOU a bully. And the whole 'eye for an eye' philosophy will follow your career into its grave.

6. NEVER STOP WRITING. Just don't. It's entirely in your power to write until your fingers fall off. For every success, you will encounter an eventual failure. For every failure, you will eventually meet with success. People tend to think that creating a book people love is often due to chance and amazing talent. It's not. It's due to persistence. The more you write, the more people will become exposed to the ideas in your head and the worlds and characters you're creating. And there are people out there who will love them. With a billion or so human beings walking around on this planet, that's an inevitable fact.

7. Focus on the positive. You have fans, even if it's just one. You live in a time where you can at the very least self-publish as many books as you please, into infinity. You have the technology of a computer or tablet, not a typewriter or feather pen. The world is actually your oyster. In terms of possibility for writers, there is no time thus far that has been better than now. Take advantage of it. Bombard people with your amazing novels. Smile when others enjoy them and take notice of your talent. And if someone tries to make you frown, remember that in the end, it's about you: your dreams, your future.

And no one can take either away.

About the Author

Sabrina Benulis lives in the Pocono mountains of PA with her husband, daughter, and a spoiled but sweet cockatiel. When she isn't writing or cooking up another story to tell, she's learning to be super Mom.  Her third book in The Books of Raziel series, Angelus, is released on February 9, 2016.

Most all Authors are Writers, but Not all Writers are Authors

Today's guest post is brought to you by J. Frank James

Dead Money Run.jpg

I hope I have not confused you as a reader. My point is that to be writer you generally first have to create something to write. This is not true of say a journalist or a technical writer. As a journalist, the person simply writes about the news in a factual manner. It generally is free of opinions unless it is meant to be an editorial and in that case the writer is free to express an opinion. While such professionals are often referred to as authors, they are merely report events that have taken place and the purpose of the written piece is to inform the reader as opposed to entertain.

There are several types of authors.

On the other hand, there is the historical novelist who draws his or her books base from events as they occurred in the past. Then having completed an extensive amount of research creates a manuscript tracking the historical events with the author adding his or her twist on the facts. A good example of a writer specializing in this genre of style is James A. Michener and his books about the events taking place in the early west.

The next type of author would be someone who fancied themselves as a writer of poems. Robert Frost would be a good example.

Finally there is the author of fiction. I would liken this type of writer to a freestyle skier or hot air balloonist. They are free to go where they like and the only important thing is that they arrive safely at the end. A writer of fiction does not have to have always the need to make a point. I can be nonsensical. An example of this would be the novel by Ian Fleming entitled "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang". The book is absolute nonsense, but it is meant to be just fun. Furthermore, it came from a man who gave us James Bond.

I enjoy writing fiction for the simple reason it does not place any restrictions on where I can go with my characters and vice versa. By that I mean my characters are free to take over the book. I can tell you how many times I would reach a point and not know what to do next when all of a sudden several of the characters in the book start to flex their muscles and the next thing I know I am off on a tangent to a place I had not thought of going in the book. When this happens, don’t panic. You are in good hands.

Finally, don’t fear your sense of creativity. The Harry Potter novels are a good example of that. If you feel it, write about it. When you do you will feel better about it in the morning. 

About the Author:

J. Frank James

J. Frank James has a passion for writing, and he certainly has the knowledge and experience to write realistic crime thrillers, thanks to his extensive background in law. Jim attended law school, where he was a member of the law review. He even went on to pass the state bar and started his own law practice that specialized in complex litigation. Jim's experience in law helps lend credibility to his crime fiction books. He has also traveled extensively and gains inspiration for his crime thrillers from his travels. From observing other cultures and gaining new experiences, Jim is able to infuse new life into his books and develop believable characters that readers can identify with.

J. Frank James writes crime thriller novels that are gripping and suspenseful. In 2013, he began publishing The Lou Malloy Crime Series, which is expected to span 20 books. The series follows Lou Malloy, a hardened criminal who did 15 years in prison for the theft of $15 million, and his partner Hilary Kelly, a private investigator. The titles include "The Run Begins", "Dead Money Run", "Only Two Cats", "Blue Cat in Paradise", "Rainbow Games", "Two Birds To Kill", "Last Flamingo", and "Finders, Keepers".  J. Frank James creates all of his own book covers. To learn more, go to http://www.jfrankjamesbooks.com/  

Connect with J. Frank James on Twitter, Goodreads, and Facebook.

Author Interview with Mike Baldwin

Dream Killer

Good Morning! Today's author interview is Mike Baldwin, an author who is a former sportswriter who now writes mysteries

Why do you feature female lead characters?

Mike: I enjoy writing dynamic women. Plus, it’s a literary no-brainer to sprinkle in a little romance to encourage romance novel readers to try a mystery. In "Dream Killer", the star is Veronica Townsend, a highly successful sports agent in a male dominated profession.

What is the intended audience for your book?

Mike: Anyone age 15 to 90 who enjoys a fast-paced mystery packed with fun characters, a story full of twists and turns. Like any good whodunit, can you figure out who did it?

Why do you specialize in mysteries?

Mike: I’ve always loved a well-written mystery that takes readers on a spellbinding journey. As a kid, I was an Agatha Christie addict. . . Many popular TV shows actually are mysteries, shows like “Major Crimes,” “Law & Order” and “Cold Case.” I contend many mystery fans enjoy a captivating plot to discover the why (motive) as much as the (who).

What makes "Dream Killer" stand out from the crowd?

Mike: The final 50 pages is a shocking conclusion that compels the reader to examine a “social” issue far too often swept under the carpet.

What is a fun fact about your books?

Mike: Readers experience diverse settings. "Dream Killer" is set in Burlington, a farm community in southeastern Kansas. My next novel is set on a college campus in Wichita Falls, Texas. My fall/winter is a classic whodunit. An NFL owner is murdered a few weeks after his team wins the Super Bowl, a story that’s set in Hollywood and Watts.

What are your all-time favorite books?

Mike: Four of my favorites:

  1. "To Kill a Mockingbird"
  2. "The Green Mile"
  3. "The Help",
  4. And the book that got me hooked on mysteries, Agatha Christie’s classic “Then There Were None.”

I admire John Grisham’s storytelling talent. Because I favor female lead characters my favorite Grisham novel is "The Pelican Brief".

If inspiration strikes you in an inconvenient place like driving a car or eating with friends at a restaurant, what do you do?

Mike: Write it down! ASAP! A note is invaluable to “jog your memory.” I’ve been known to pull off the road and spend thirty minutes scribbling down notes in an empty parking lot.

What are your current/future projects?

Mike: I’m marketing "Dream Killer" and I’m also writing a thriller, "Slam Dunk". (Spoiler alert) If you go read my blog at (mikebaldwinbooks.com), the novel I plan to self-publish in April is a twenty-year-old manuscript I recently found in the back of my closet.

The manuscript you found was 20 years old?

Mike: It was the equivalent of the best Christmas gift an author can ever receive! That manuscript in my closet represented a dream I’ve had for twenty years, a dream finally fulfilled when I self-published two novels in 2015.

Did you have any regrets after you discovered that manuscript buried in your closet?

Mike: No! I recently told a New York literary agent that I wouldn’t trade my sportswriting career to have written thirty novels the past twenty years. My first career was truly amazing. I interacted with sports legends and witnessed memorable games that became instant classics...But now I begin my second journey. It’s difficult to describe the joy to finally have time to do something I’ve always dreamed about — write mysteries that feature female lead characters.

If you could give readers all over the world one message, what would it be?

Mike: If your dreams don’t scare you...they’re not big enough!

What is the methodology for your initial “rough draft outline?

Mike: I view a novel as a movie script. Each chapter represents a scene. Write 30 to 40 scenes — thirty to forty chapters — and you’ve written a novel. As any author will tell you, that’s much more difficult than it sounds. The challenge is to make your next novel even better, but the actual fun is in the journey before you type those magical two words: THE END.

What is your writing process?

Mike: Symbolically, I “skip to the end” to find out “what happens.” After I’ve written a “rough draft” outline, I write the first five or six chapters, then I write the final three or four chapters before I write one word of the “middle” chapters. Some authors say they can’t write the ending until they build to a dramatic climax. Maybe I’m different but I don’t feel good about the plot until I’ve written a knock-your-socks-off ending.

What is the most gratifying aspect of being an author?

Mike: It’s an adrenaline rush when a character literally “comes to life.” Sometimes the character takes the story in a different direction than you envisioned in your original outline.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve heard for self-published authors?

Mike:

  1. Make sure it’s publishing house quality edited
  2. It’s mandatory to market on social media. How much time do you devote to marketing? That’s the million dollar question.
  3. The BEST ADVICE is: Start writing your next novel!

About the Author

Mike Baldwin

A former sportswriter, Mike Baldwin has transitioned to becoming a full-time novelist who specializes in mysteries that feature female lead characters. Mike writes classic whodunits that appeal to mystery fans of all ages.

Whether it’s a suspense-filled novel that keeps him up all night, or TV shows like “Major Crimes,” “Law & Order,” and “Cold Case,” Mike loves fast-paced stories packed with twists and turns that keep the reader guessing until the surprise ending.

Mike’s unique writing style is he uses multiple points-of-view to provide depth that allows the reader to see the plot form different perspectives. His goal is take readers to new places, whether it’s a rural setting in his current novel "Dream Killer" or Hollywood and Watts in his upcoming fall/winter project.

Regardless of the setting, Mike believes it’s essential that readers become emotionally invested in the characters, although the primary goal is to simply write a fun, thought-provoking mystery sprinkled with occasional humor and a dash of romance.

During his newspaper career, Mike covered Super Bowls and Final Fours, and interviewed countless Hall of Fame athletes and coaches. He was blessed to attend games in 80 of the 90 NFL stadiums, NBA arenas and Major League Baseball stadiums, plus visit more than fifty college campuses.

The highlight was when he was a beat writer who covered the Dallas Cowboys for The Oklahoman, the Oklahoma City newspaper. For seven years, Mike wrote daily stories during the Barry Switzer era when the Cowboys were led by future NFL Hall of Famers Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin and Deion Sanders.

Mike was humbled and honored last year when he was voted into the Oklahoma Christian University Sports Hall of Fame.

Author Interview with Jaci Wheeler

United

Hello Everyone!  Today I have something fun in the form of an interview with Jaci Wheeler.

MTG: Tell us something about the book that is not in the summary.  (About the book, character you particularly enjoyed writing etc.)

Jaci: Wes was my favorite Character to write. I have two kids who have autism and are non-verbal. I wrote Wes as an older version of my son, and it was my way of giving him a voice.

MTG: How did you come up with “United”?

Jaci: It was so random. One day my husband and I were having a conversation based on politics and I went off on a little rant about “if I was president this is how the country would be run…” That sparked the idea and I just went with it.

MTG: Where do you find inspiration for your writing?

Jaci: I find it all around me. Obviously through my kids, they inspire most of what I do. I also take in new experiences when I’m writing. I like to expand my senses so I go to new places and try new foods. I like to be open to inspiration whenever it may strike.

MTG: Where do you usually find yourself writing?

Jaci: I always want to write in the middle of the night right when I get comfy in bed and am ready to fall asleep. Something always comes to me and I usually get up, sneak in the kitchen and just start writing. The house is still and quiet and nothing is going to distract me and I can go for hours.

MTG: What has been the biggest reward to your writing so far?

Jaci: The friendships that I’ve made. I try to do a few book signings every couple of months and I’ve made some amazing friends with both readers and other authors alike. I met an author at my first book signing who introduced me to my now publisher and she is now one of my closest and cherished friends.

MTG: What do you think is the most important aspect of making a dystopian novel believable?

Jaci: I really feel like you need a believable base to start. If your world is too farfetched it’s just too hard to believe. You need some new twists obviously, but I think a believable starting point is always best.

MTG: Do you have a favorite book(s) and why?  I know it’s often impossible to narrow it down to one, so just pick one (or a few) that is a new favorite or consistent “go-to”.

Jaci: The first book that ever really spoke to me was "The Giver" by Lois Lowry. I was in 8th grade and didn’t like reading at all. "The Giver" was the first book I could connect to and that could engage me. I read it every few years and it still is just as strong now. My favorite somewhat current book is "The Brightside" by Kim Holden. That lady is a rockstar and I’m a huge geeked out fan of hers.

MTG: What books are you reading now?

Jaci: I’m a reader first. I love to read and do so every night before bed. I just finished "Honor" by J.L. Drake this weekend, and "Never Never 3" by Colleen Hover and Tarynn Fisher last night.

MTG: Give us three “Good to Know” facts.  Be creative: first job, likes/dislikes, hobbies, favorite way to unwind – whatever comes to mind. 

Jaci:

  1. I abhor leaf blowers. They seriously piss me off. What is the point, it’s not like they do anything but blow stuff around and make a ton of noise, not to mention take forever!
  2. I’m a horrible candy addict. I have at least 3 candy drawers in my house chalk full, always a stash in my purse and I take a different type with me for every book signing.
  3. I’m not quite 5 feet tall and usually the smallest person in the room, yet I hate to wear heels because they make me feel like I’m much too tall. It’s such an awkward feeling for me so I just rock the shortness.

MTG: Do you have any upcoming projects?

Jaci: Yes! Too many! ;) At the moment I’m working on a spinoff of United that is 3 maybe 4 books long. The 2nd book in that series is very close to my heart and is going to be a bit different than anything else I’ve seen.

About the Author

Jaci Wheeler lives in the Central Valley of California with her husband and two precious kids. Her love of literature began in Jr. High when she was introduced to Lowis Lowry’s books. Since then she has had a passion for writing Young Adult books, and creating strong female leads. When she’s not writing she is advocating for Autism Awareness and involved in the deaf community. Her favorite things to do are play with her children, craft with her friends, sleep while her husband watches movies and indulge in her favorite addictions: Coffee, candy and shoes.  Her first book "United" was just released with at least two more planned in the series.

Website: www.jaciwheeler.com

Email: jaciwheeler1@yahoo.com

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Thoughts on Writing by R.P. Channing

Thirst

Why book covers are so important

I think the importance of book covers depends on the author / genre. A great cover is fine, and does tend to push up sales if it’s designed correctly for the correct market, but ultimately what gets a book well known is its inner content. A more established author probably has less to worry about, especially if the book is part of a series and the series has a good following.

A lesser-known author has to pay particular care to the cover. He / she is known by nobody, and often the cover is the only thing that might get a potential reader interested.

Photos in the book

I used photos in this book because I was having fun. I got wrapped into the world of the story and I thought photos might make everything a little more real. Some of the characters have photos in there, some of these scenes have photos.  I’m not the first person to do this.

How to Make Your Characters Believable

Well, a character might be believable to one person, and unbelievable to another. I guess it comes down to personal experiences. If I were to write my own experiences as a teenager in a book, probably very few people would believe it. I think the trick is making the character believable to “as many people as possible.”

Finding Your Voice: Writing in First Person (or Third) etc.

I think this is determined more by the genre than the author’s style. I think an author should be able to write in any person and in any tense. Young Adult stories mostly follow first person these days (thanks, "The Hunger Games" and "Twilight".)

People expect certain things in a genre when they crack open the book. Trying to break those expectations right on the first page is not a good idea, especially when you’re new to the scene.

How to Write by the Seat of Your Pants: Outline or No?

I’ve done both. Although, no matter how much I outline, it all usually changes by the time my fingers hit the keyboard. I guess the first draft is technically “the outline” for me. I just can’t sit down and plot events and characters and everything before I’ve written the scene. It gives me a headache, and it takes the fun out of writing.

Usually I “get to know” the characters as I write about them.  Once the first draft is done, I then usually have a fair amount of fixing up to do.

How to Research Your Story Before Writing Your Book

It’s kind of like outlining for me. I start, and then I see where I end up. I will research halfway, toward the end, at the beginning, whenever I need to. The only I time I research before even starting the book is when I’m out of ideas completely. 

About the Author

R P Channing started writing three years ago, but never published anything even after churning out over a million words of fiction. "Thirst: Blood of my Blood" is the first book he dared to publish. When asked why, he said, “Because it’s the first thing I wrote that my wife actually enjoyed reading.” When not hammering away (most literally) at his keyboard, he can be found buried in a book, reading anything from romance to horror to young adult to non-fiction to comedy. If it has words in it, I’ll take it.

 

An Excerpt from "Night Runner"

Night-Runner-US.jpg

Chapter 1: The Visitor

My name is Daniel Zachariah Thomson. Everyone calls me Zack. I live in the Nicholls Ward of the Peterborough Civic Hospital, and this is the story of how I died, twice.

I know what you’re thinking: The Nicholls Ward—isn’t that the loony bin? The nuthouse? Where they put people who torture squirrels or think they’re Julius Caesar? That explains it. Only a loo-loo would think he could die two times and still be around to talk about it. Well, the truth is a funny thing. It can be its clumsy self and it doesn’t matter what anyone believes. I guess it’s like way back in the Middle Ages when everyone and his dog thought the world was flat. That you could sail too far from home and your ship would drop right off into space. The whole planet was wrong on that one, and it didn’t change the truth one pinch. My story is sort of like that. Read it and see for yourself. I’m not crazy. I’m here for different reasons.

The other people on the ward aren’t all crazy, either. My neighbours all have mental disorders, that’s true, but these are never as bad as you might think. Certainly not like the villains in Hollywood movies who turn their victims into wax dummies or serve them up for dinner. Most of the patients in the Nicholls Ward are older people. They need help just to eat. I don’t expect to see them appearing in a horror movie anytime soon. They’re all pretty harmless.

But I’m different. I stay up all night, for one thing. That’s when my whole life happens—when the others have all taken their happy pills and are snoozing away. I do ordinary stuff, like read, or lift weights. And I run every night, usually outside, but I love movies, so if there’s a good one on TV, I’ll hop on the treadmill instead and watch it in the fitness room. I love video games, too. There’s a big-screen TV in the common room. It takes up half a wall. When you wire up a game, the characters are almost as big as you are.

On good nights, my friend Charlie comes to visit. He’s my major contact with the outside world, and because of this, and the fact that my schedule is a bit off, the hospital staff usually let him stay after visiting hours have ended, so long as the two of us aren’t making too much trouble. Chaos is one of Charlie’s specialties. I’m sure he could have a room of his own here. He’d fit right in.

----------

Life in a mental ward is pretty routine. Meals, naps, TV time, medication and lights out—it all takes place according to a carefully crafted schedule. It helps keep everyone stable. I have a little more leeway than the others because I’m the only one awake after ten o’clock, but even my nights follow a regular pattern. You can’t exactly set a clock by it, but it never changes very much, either—dinner, free time, exercise, breakfast, reading, sleeping. But all this changed the night a strange old man crashed his motorcycle through the front doors of the lobby and destroyed our big-screen television.

I was in the fitness room when it happened. It was about three in the morning. One of my all-time favourites, Terminator, had just ended, but my eyes were still glued to the small television hanging from the ceiling. A woman with hair so perfect it must have been made of plastic was telling me all about the wonders of Miracle Glow hair care products. The way she carried on, this stuff was our ticket to world peace. While she yammered away, interviewing other people whose lives were now fairy tales thanks to Miracle Glow, I pounded the treadmill. My shoes were practically melting. It was a night like any other. Until I heard a noise like an asteroid hitting the building. I felt it, too. A tremor that came right up through the floor. A second crash quickly followed, and the wail of a police siren.

In a flash I was out in the hall, past the reception counter and into the lobby. The whole time I was thinking, He’s really done it this time. Charlie, that is. But when I saw the devastation, I knew right away it had to be somebody else. Not even Charlie could have managed this. The lobby was a total disaster. There was glass everywhere. The outside doors were blown right off their hinges.

The common room was even worse. The ping-pong table was tipped over and furniture was scattered all over. Actually, this was partly my fault. Well, our fault, Charlie’s and mine. As soon as everyone had gone to bed we’d set it up that way so we could have a ping-pong fight. Charlie had wanted to celebrate the end of the school year, and so we’d spent a good hour pelting one another with ping-pong balls. Forts of overturned furniture were still set up all around the room. And we’d forgotten to put the ping-pong table back. I could see tire marks on the floor where the driver had swerved to miss it. The black streaks led straight to the wall where the TV used to hang. It was on the floor now in about a million pieces. I could tell right away that no amount of Krazy Glue was going to bring it back from the dead.

Right in the middle of the floor was the driver. He looked about seventy, with long black hair streaked with white and grey. It stuck out in all directions, as if he’d just been attacked by a tornado. He was on his hands and knees. His long overcoat looked too tight, and his mismatched gloves had the fingers cut out of them. Not the best for crawling across broken bits of TV. Sitting against the wall where the television used to be was his motorcycle, though I’m guessing it wasn’t actually his since it said “Peterborough Police” on it. The siren was still wailing and the red and blue lights were flashing all over the white walls.

The old man looked up at me with milky blue eyes. He seemed dazed. Like he was trying to bring me into focus but couldn’t quite manage it. He looked like a homeless person, or an undercover police officer dressed like a homeless person, in which case, his costume was perfect. On the ground in front of him was an old top hat smushed flat as a pancake, and it looked as though there were about ten layers of clothing sandwiched underneath his coat. That explained why he wasn’t in pieces like the television. The padding must have saved him.

I glanced over my shoulder at the reception counter, where Nurse Ophelia, Nurse Roberta and the other overnight staff normally hung out. You could usually spot at least one security guard. Someone had to be there in case the police showed up with a new patient, which often happened just after the bars closed. No one was in sight now.

I made my way over to the old man as quickly as I could. I was worried he might try to get up and fall back into the sea of glass. Down the hall just ahead of me, a door opened and someone stuck his head out. It was Jacob, my red-haired neighbour. I waved for him to come over and give me a hand. He started up the corridor, then turned around. He did this a couple of times, turning back and then turning away again. His hands were over his ears and he was muttering something to himself, so I just let him pace in front of his room and turned my attention back to the old man. His head was shaking back and forth like he was dizzy, and he was mumbling to himself too, so I put my ear closer to his mouth.

“Hurry . . . hurry up . . .” he was saying. I couldn’t tell if he was talking to me or to himself. I asked him if he was okay, but he didn’t answer. He just shook his head one more time and grunted. Then he took hold of my arm. His grip was strong, which surprised me. I wondered for a second if his fingers were going to punch right through my scrubs. As he stood up, bits of glass fell from his overcoat. I noticed a small cut on his forehead and another across the bridge of his nose. Blood dribbled down his face and into the stubble on his chin, which was grey and black and white, just like his hair. He looked pretty gory, but I couldn’t help myself. I just kept staring, I guess because I felt sorry for him. All the Miracle Glow in the world wasn’t going to turn his life into a fairy tale. He smelled like the inside of a wine barrel. And, cuts or no cuts, unless he had a good explanation for all the remodelling he’d just done, when Nurse Roberta showed up, he was in for it.

The old man shook his head a few more times, then he looked me over again. It was like he was waking up or something. His eyes came into focus. He stared at my face for a second, then sort of nodded. A smile spread up one cheek. It made his eyes go wrinkly. He clenched his fists, leaned back and turned his head to the ceiling like he owed the man upstairs a miracle-sized favour.

“Thank heavens, boy!” he said. “Finally . . . I’ve found you.”

A big thank you from the author for sharing this excerpt!  For more on "Night Runner" check out the links below.  For more on the author Max Turner and the other books in the series, check him out on his website, Facebook or Twitter.

Max Turner is an author of urban fantasy, and a science and phys-ed teacher. He lives in Ottawa with his wife and three kids. He is a lover of games, history, art, music, sports and all things creative. His first book, "Night Runner", was a Red Maple Honour Book and was shortlisted for a Sunburst Award. The sequel, "End of Days", was shortlisted for an Ottawa Book Award. The third book in the series, "New Order", hit store shelves in 2015.

Night Runner: Amazon / Barnes and Noble / Kobo / Goodreads

Max Turner: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads

 

How to Avoid the Slush Pile

Today's guest post was brought to you by Lola Smirnova

One of the hardest things to take as a writer is that you often rarely get to find out the reasons why your work has ended up in the slush pile; frustrating though it is, what I’ll try to do in this piece is lift the lid a little on the publishing world and give you some helpful pointers to avoid the dreaded slush pile!

If you’re serious about getting published these practical tips will help you to improve your manuscript in several areas; it’s these little things that can tip the balance in your favour when you’re operating in a fiercely competitive market like writing.

Proper formatting is absolutely essential

It might seem picky, but it’s true; proper formatting is a must.  Publishers read so many manuscripts so you must ensure that yours is easy on the eye to read and not a painful, eye twitching experience for the reader.

Some publishers will state what their formatting preference is and if they do it’s essential that you stick to these rigidly; if you don’t you may get rejected on this basis.  If no preferences are stated stick to the standard format: double spaced, 12pt, 1” to 1.25” margins on all sides and page numbers.

Typos and grammar

Do you best to get these right; to be honest, they aren’t necessarily something that would pass or fail a manuscript, but this definitely falls into the category of “don’t annoy the publisher unnecessarily”.  Make it easy for them to read your work and to like you!

Avoid clichés

Clichés harm your credibility as a writer; plain and simple.  They give the publisher the impression that you have limited vocabulary and imagination so avoid trotting these tired old descriptions and metaphors out.  A really good rule of thumb is that you should only use a cliché if one of your characters is being directly quoted.  Don’t shortcut characterisation or emotion by using these; think of a better way!

Use ambiguity carefully

This can be really difficult to get right; you need to constantly remind yourself that the reader doesn’t know your characters, your story and your message as well as you (yet, hopefully!).  Something which seems obvious to you may not the reader and they don’t have your insight into the character or story.  All areas of ambiguity should be answered at some point; they should make sense by the end of the story.

Avoid grand gestures, or at least use them sparingly

It’s always tempting to use sweeping statements and elaborate metaphors under the guise of being poetic and dramatic, but in truth they can damage a passage by coming across as grandiose or pretentious.  You should avoid overly melodramatic prose as it can come across as vague and, worse, like you’re showing off your vocabulary.  You don’t want to be the “author that ate a thesaurus”.  By including unique and precise details, you can remedy the use of such sweeping, grand statements and metaphors however.

Craved

About the Author:

Lola Smirnova is an author from Ukraine. Her novels are inspired by real-life events. They are meant for the open-minded readers who are not afraid of a little blood, sweat and semen.

Lola’s debut novel "Twisted" was released in 2014. The book placed as Honorable Mention in the General Fiction Category of The 2014 London Book Festival’s Annual Competition.  Lola released "Craved", the highly anticipated sequel to "Twisted", in August 2015.

Lola has fascinating stories to share about the experiences of women in the global sex industry. Her thrilling tales will surely shock and surprise you, with both the storyline and literary value.

Lola lives in South Africa, and is currently working on the third book in her trilogy. To learn more, go to http://lolasmirnova.com/

Readers can connect with Lola Smirnova on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Synopsis:

Having been to hell and back, the eager sisters from Ukraine - Natalia, Lena and Julia - decide to retire from selling sex and walk the straight and narrow path back home. But when an old friend calls them with an opportunity to make buckets of ‘easy’ money in South Africa, they find it impossible to refuse. 

Return to the nightlife of the entertainment business brings along all the old familiar temptations - alcohol, drugs, and prostitution. 

Can the girls resist their vices and stay together? Or will this industry destroy their sanity and their family? 

Inspired by real life events, "Craved" is a fascinating story of addiction, survival and the art of making a living in the sex trade.

Turning a Negative into a Positive – the Inspiration Behind Roman Mask

It was an October night, and I was returning home from a night out with a few friends in my local pub in London, when something happened that changed my life dramatically.  The nights were closing in, so it was already dark by the time I left the pub, but I was in a good mood.   I’d recently returned from a trip to Pompeii , so I’d been telling everyone of my excitement at walking through the Roman streets, marvelling at the murals and depictions on the well preserved houses, and laughing about the seedier aspects of the ancient city – the brothels and street graffiti that had also survived the great volcanic eruption of AD 79.

It was probably because I was so preoccupied with these thoughts, that I didn’t see the guy who came out of an alcove and wrapped an arm around my neck.  My first thought was, ‘Am I being mugged?  Who’s going to mug me??’ – I’m a big guy, over six feet tall and I keep myself in pretty good shape, so I’d always thought the chance of this happening in London were pretty remote.  But I was wrong.

When the second guy came out from behind a car, then the third from behind a bush I knew I was in trouble.  This was no ordinary street robbery; these guys were out for blood, and the three of them surrounded me and between them punched, kicked, and smashed me to the ground, beating me to an inch of my life.

Afterwards, as I tried to hobble home – one of them had crushed my foot, to prevent me from getting up – another passer-by saw me covered in blood and called an ambulance.  I was lucky, I got to live another day.  And within a few weeks, my bruises healed, and I began to walk without a limp, all physical signs of my encounter disappeared.  But that was just the start of my nightmare.

I was completely unprepared for the mental-trauma that such an incident inflicts on you.  That winter was torture for me.  After any night out, I was terrified to go home; I found I was scared of the dark, constantly thinking that people would jump out of the shadows at me.  I’d never previously been a heavy drinker, but over that winter I found I needed to drink a lot just to give me the courage to walk home.  I could have called a taxi, but then people would wonder why I was taking a cab for such a small journey – this became another all-encompassing fear:  that others would find out about my terror.   This might seem irrational, but at the time, that fear was almost as great as being mugged again.

Those first six months were very difficult, but then as the nights started getting lighter, an idea came to me.  After visiting Pompeii I’d been searching for a character to be a lead in a novel set in ancient Rome – someone who fully embraced the entirety of Rome, its seedier aspects as much as its magnificence.  Why not put my experiences to good use, rather than having it a weight bearing me down, let it be something that produces something positive.  At the time, the news on the television was full of stories of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress and it made me think how soldiers dealt with such issues in the ancient world.  My experiences had shown me the power that traumatic events can play on the mind, and I quite simply didn’t believe anyone who claimed that in the ancient world such a thing was not a concern because life was different back then.   The human mind was biologically exactly the same then as it is now, and just as fallible to conditions we now diagnose and understand the importance of.

So I came up with the character Cassius, a great soldier, but someone who’d been affected by a terrible battle a few years before in the forests of Germany.   I knew from my own experiences how easy it was to fall into a trap of blaming yourself for your own perceived weakness, and I knew how living a lie to hide that same weakness can become a part of life.  I then started my novel in Rome so I could show Cassius being seduced by the many vices of that ancient city – something that is all too easy under such circumstances.  I then returned Cassius to Germany where he learns to understand and come to terms with his fears, just as I did whilst writing my novel.  The novel culminates in the Teutoburg forest and one of the most dramatic and historically significant battles of the ancient world.  Cassius needs to draw on all his courage and strength in the midst of that terrible event.

I’m now pleased that I encountered those three men, that fateful night in October.  It was a terrible experience, but it gave me something so much more – I wouldn’t change it for anything.

About the Book: 

Roman Mask

It is Rome AD 9 and Augustus Caesar rules Imperial Rome at the height of its power, as the Roman Empire stretches across the known world. Cassius, son of one of her most powerful families, is the personification of Rome's imperial strength: wealthy, popular, a war hero with a decorated military career - none of Rome's fashionable parties are complete without him - except, he hides a secret. After his nerve is broken in Germany, the thought of genuine armed combat is enough to send him into a cold sweat of fear and shame. But this doesn't dissuade him from living off a false reputation so he can continue a life of casual affairs, wine, and parties, as he is seduced by the many vices of Rome. However his scandalous life is soon upset by a summons from the Emperor's wife. It ends his happy decadent life and returns him to Germany to assist the Roman legions in their greatest ever trial, and the events that will resound down in history, in the dark forests of the Teutoburg... 

You can find Thomas' book at the following vendors:

Author Interview with Nic Weissman

The Orb of Wrath

Hello Everyone!

MTG: Tell us something about the book that is not in the summary.  (About the book, character you particularly enjoyed writing etc.)

Nic: I really like all the five main characters. They all have their story, their background. I couldn’t easily pick up one among them. Maybe Thost, the former Count of Borydos, is a bit more close to my heart these days. Writing about Kurbus the gnome and about Maroq the salesman was a lot of fun. They will comeback in the second book.

MTG: How did you come up with “The Orb of Wrath”?

Nic:  It all started with the world. Many years back I spent a lot of time creating a very detailed fantasy world. I included details for more than 700 different cities. Different countries, culture, history, etc. Over the years I thought many times that I should build a story in that setting. And finally I decided to do it.

MTG: Where do you find inspiration for your writing? 

Nic:  I got this question before and I don’t have a good answer. I have no idea. I try to start with the world, as said and then characters and situations just come to my mind after I try to place myself in that fantasy landscape.

MTG: Where do you usually find yourself writing?

Nic: Mostly home. However, the daydreaming process that takes you to imagine the next scene or a new character can happen anywhere. The shower in the morning is a good example. According to new neuroscience the best moment to come out with a solution is when you are distracted and not actively thinking about the issue. The challenge is to capture those ideas and not let them fade.

MTG: What has been the biggest reward to your writing so far?

Nic:  When I got the first print version of my first novel right after publishing in my hand… that was an incredible feeling.

MTG: What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Nic:  Self-publishing is a new paradigm; a miracle, even. Any aspiring writer today can (for sure) become a published writer. It was not like that in the past. If you are passionate about writing, just go for it. But you need to know that writing a great book is only half of the work; marketing it is a full time job by itself. So, spend some time beforehand on how you will tackle that piece of the challenge.

MTG: Do you have a favorite book(s) and why?  I know it’s often impossible to narrow it down to one, so just pick one (or a few) that is a new favorite or consistent “go-to”.

Nic:  If we talk about this genre (fantasy) it is very easy to pick up just one: "The Lord of the Rings". Not very original, eh? By many metrics one of the very best books of the whole XX century and I could almost say the founder of the genre. A gigantic piece of work for many many reasons. The amazing world building skills are still unparalleled; that combined with the genius of one of the best narrators ever. 

MTG: What books are you reading now?

Nic: "Escape from Witchwood Hollow" by Jordan Elizabeth

MTG: Give us three “Good to Know” facts.  Be creative: first job, likes/dislikes, hobbies, favorite way to unwind – whatever comes to mind. 

Nic:

  1. My first job was in a shipbuilding company. What I designed then is still operational today somewhere in the Mexican Gulf.
  2. I hate cheese in my food (I know I am a weirdo in the States for this). I love pasta and I hate pasta with cheese. I do like cheese alone or with bread. My favorite cheese: camembert.
  3. I am surprised how bad is the performance of highway construction in the States (how long it takes, how expensive it is and how inefficient and old the building techniques are). I am astonished about how efficient, convenient and cheap are all the Oil change shops in the States. Fantastic in every possible way.

 MTG: Do you have any upcoming projects?

Nic: I am just finishing the sequel of The Orb. Title will likely be "The White Lady". It will be out before xmas.

About the Author:

Nic Weissman is an Amazon Bestseller and a fast growing name in Fantasy fiction landscape. His debut novel "The Orb of Wrath" is collecting great reviews and is available through multiple channels both in ebook and paperback, both in English and Spanish. The novel has been already referred by multiple bloggers like Jack Moreno. Nic is the creator of the saga The Merchant's Destiny and The World of Oris.

Nic was born in 1974 in mystical place where the sea ends. Over the past 16 years, he has lived in 14 different addresses across 3 different continents. He has travelled to 30 countries and speaks 4 languages. As you can imagine, Nic loves travelling. 

You can follow Nic through several Social Media channels like Facebook, Slideshare.net, Tumblr, Twitter, Google+, and Linkedin among others. Nic writes under a pen name for professional reasons.

Website: www.nicweissman.com

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/nicweissmanpage

Twitter: @NicWeissman

Email: contact@nicweissman.com