Thursday, March 29, 2012

Interview with Debut Author Aimee Agresti!

Hi everyone! I hope you're enjoying the spring season--one of my favorite times of year because it means beautiful beach weather here in California...and soaking up some sun with books like Illuminate by debut author Aimee Agresti. If you're in colder parts of the world right now, I'm sending lots of light and warm wishes your way, along with a chance to win some Illuminate goodies below!

And, speaking of goodies, I'm thrilled to announce the winner of the Riley Bloom book signed by Alyson Noel is...YoungAuthor67! Congrats!

I've had my eye on Illuminate since back in January when I added it to my list of "Books to Look Forward to in 2012." The cover of this book is stunning and so are the pages that follow!

Check out the Illuminate trailer here:

I had the chance to interview the author, Aimee Agresti, who's a former US Weekly reporter and has met everyone from George Clooney to New Kids on the Block (I have serious career envy right now!).

1. Before you became an author, you were a writer for US Weekly. What inspired you to make the transition from writing for magazines to writing novels? And can you share a favorite celebrity story you worked on during your US Weekly days?

Hi! Thanks for having me! I absolutely loved my time at Us Weekly—what’s not to love, right?! It was a fabulous place full of wonderful people, and I do miss it. But I always, always dreamed of writing novels and even during my magazine days, I was always writing short stories on the side. Though none of them were ever published, I know all of that work made me a stronger writer.

But, yes, there were all sorts of fun celeb-filled times at Us! Let’s see, one of my favorite moments had to be when the New Kids on the Block came to have lunch at the office! I LOVED them when I was a kid so it was kind of like living out my childhood fantasy to get to meet them! And I’m happy to report they were all incredibly nice. I took a picture with them and sent it off to my friends who had been equally obsessed with them and we reminisced!

2. One of the reasons I love Illuminate is that it’s essentially a story about a shy, outcast girl learning to believe in her herself—a journey I think a lot of teen girls (and adults!) can relate to. If you could go back in time and give advice to your teen self, what would you say?

That’s such a great question and you’re exactly right, the book really is about a girl learning to have confidence! So I would definitely want to tell the teen me to believe in herself. I’d tell her to stand tall and not be scared to speak up, that she’s got plenty to say!

3. If you could spend a day with one of your characters from Illuminate, who would it be and what would you do?

Well, of course, I’d love to hang out with Haven, I know we’d hit it off and be great pals. Maybe we'd hit some of the sights in Chicago--I'm sure she'd want to take pictures! But, who could resist spending time with Lucian?! He’s so alluring and yet so tortured, torn between these two worlds. And he's so trapped at the hotel, it would be nice to break him out of there!

4. If you were sent to live and work at a swanky and stylish hotel like Haven is, what three things would you take with you?

That’s so much fun! Hmmm, I suppose I’d need to look the part, right? So I’d take a cute outfit and an angel wing necklace in Haven’s honor, and then, of course, a good book to break into when I had downtime on the job. I always have to have a good book with me everywhere!

5. Can you tell us about your journey to publication? Any advice for aspiring authors?

The best advice I ever got was just to keep writing—write, write, write! And to not give up, knock on as many doors as you need to, one will eventually open. I wrote a bunch of short stories before this, and even a whole adult novel, and nothing quite clicked and then with ILLUMINATE, it did and it’s been such a thrill. If you keep at it, you’ll get where you want to be!

6. What projects can we look forward to from you in the future?

I’m polishing up the sequel to ILLUMINATE right now. After that it’ll be on to Book Three in the Gilded Wings trilogy. You can keep tabs on it all at!

Aimee is graciously donating some signed bookmarks and a super cute, Illuminate mock hotel key card to one random commenter. Comment below within one week for your chance to win! Please be sure to leave your email address. The winner will be announced here on 04.29.12. Best of luck!



Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Do Book Bargains Increase Readership?

I love free and 99 cent books. I snap them up whenever I can. I’ve listed a few later in this post, but if you know of others, please add them to the comments. We’ll all benefit.

But in addition to the excitement of snapping up a bargain and adding to the stacks of books on my bedside table and the lines of books on my Kindle shelves, I love what free and 99 cent books can do for my circulation as an author.

New authors breaking into print have to build their readership. How better to do that than by offering a book at a low price? Readers can sample your work and, if they like it, spread the word. Everyone knows the stories about Amanda Hocking and other authors who made names for themselves with bargain books.

Yet, not all authors agree that selling books at low prices or giving them away is beneficial. One author I spoke to was upset that her publisher put her book in the Amazon KDP Select program. During the free days, people downloaded the book more than 40,000 times. This author considered all of those lost sales.

But were they really? How many of those buyers would have bought the book at its regular price? Perhaps if this particular author were a New York Times bestseller, many of those purchasers would have snatched it up for $8.99 or higher. But this was a first-time, unknown author from a small publisher with limited funds for publicity.

The book moved into the top 10 on Amazon and stayed there for weeks after the novel went back up to full price. And when the author’s next book came out, sales were triple what they had been for the first one. Was the freebie worth it? That particular author still does not think so. She continues to dwell on what she might have made from those downloads.

Other people say that selling books at such low prices or giving them away devalues the product. Authors work hard at their writing and should be fairly compensated. I agree that all artists deserve to be paid for their creations, but isn’t a wider readership what we all crave? Many food manufacturers give away free samples. Their aim is to gain loyal customers. Why can’t authors use the same marketing strategies to build a readership.

One other problem is that low prices often invite negative reviews. Several traditionally published authors have been slammed on Good Reads or other similar sites because readers often assume 99-cent books are self-published, so they expect them to be poorly edited. Thus, some purchasers go in expecting to find things wrong with bargain books. One author, who received mostly 5-star reviews when her book was for sale at the regular price, received several scathing reviews when her publisher put her book on sale for 99 cents.

How have low prices and/or freebies helped your bottom line as an author? Did you find that price affected your reviews? Do you have any promotional tips for getting your books noticed when they’re at rock bottom prices? If you’re a reader rather than an author, what’s your opinion of bargain books? Do you find most are poorly written or have you found some gems?

Here’s one of my favorite 99-cent bargains (on sale until April 8, 2012). Regular price: $8.99. With stories by big name authors such as Maria V. Snyder, Candace Havens, Linda Joy Singleton, Shannon Delany, and others, you can’t go wrong.
To celebrate the launch of the print version of Spirited, Leap Books has the $8.99 ebook version on sale for $.99 at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. All proceeds from the anthology will be donated to charity. Read more about that charity, 826 National, here.

Here are some Amazon lists of other favorite 99-cent YA reads compiled by a YA reader, a Book Lover, and a Teen Reader.

For some terrific YA books selling for $2.99 and under, check out this list.

And for some great insights into the question of bargain books, see Arthur Slade’s blog.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Good News and Giveaways!

Happy Monday all! I just had to take a moment and write a quick post about some of the fabulous giveaways going on now, and starting this week.

First, Heather McCorkle and I are hosting a Mega Fan Giveaway for readers of our books - And the grand prize is a NOOK!!! Click here or here for complete details.

Then, and I am so freakin excited for this one, there is the YA Scavenger Hunt. 60 authors are participating....SIXTY! There are giveaways a-plenty and grand prizes with TWENTY SIGNED BOOKS!!! So amazing.

The contest runs from Thursday 3/29 through Sunday, April 2. AMAZING. Click here for the complete deets.

And finally, I have some squee-worthy news to share tomorrow on my blog. And yes, I have a little giveaway for that too.

So much goodness, so little time.

What good news do you have this Monday??

Sunday, March 25, 2012

GEEKALEGAL: Pining on Pinning PINTEREST Copyright Issues.

What fun its been while recovering from a medical problem to delve through the myriad of blogs, articles and even Pinterest's own redo of its policies and terms over the last few weeks. I have to say, this is a social media that has peeked interest from a lot of authors, creators, lawyers and yes, even scammers!

Wait a minute- scammers? We'll get to them later. 

As authors, we are always upset when we find out words have been copied right? Yet many of us have merrily gone to Pinterest and set up accounts, pulling images from anywhere on the web to create our own boards, sometimes without much thought to the copyright. Pinterest has set it up to make it easy for us to do this, encouraged us to do this and then tells the rest of the world to take what we've done and run with these images too! Yikes. So what if the image is copyrighted? So what if there is no way to tell if the image belongs to someone or not? We have fair use, right? Ummm... not really.

Pinterest's terms of use say you need to make sure you have the right to use the image. Unless it is a thumbnail image you can't fall under the Perfect 10 v. Google case, and so you're left with copying the entire image and yes, you might have a problem. Sure you can give attribution but you still need to get permission. Attribution and permission are not the same. Some image creators might be ok with just the attribution but not all. The most noted case on these issues, Kelly v. Arribba Soft Corp is likely to play a part in any legal evaluation, so we'll be watching that for sure.

Pinterest is not able to say its fair use. One attorney tried to say that they could wiggle out until they started to run adds, but what she neglected is that the site is already selling your information to the marketing groups (those folks who love to know where females ages 22-32 are going for shoes, dresses, coats, etc) which is an economic purpose and throws Pinterest into the commercial role ab initio. Maybe they are not, by their 'new' terms which go into effect in April, giving your personal information out, (call me skeptical on that one) but the rest of your information is going out there, it is how they are making oodles of money. This is not a charity site after all.

So should you be worried? Depends on what you are doing, who you are and where you are getting your images. Forget P's arguments that the copyright holder can put flags on their sites to tell you it's forbidden, yada yada- not the copyright holder's duty. It is infringement when someone takes a work and duplicates it without the copyright holder's permission. Period. We don't want someone doing that to our works do we? So if you go and take photos from a photographer's site, unless you get permission or there is permission granted, you are stealing those from them. Even if personal. Now if in a publication, that is another story. It could be that they are available. Amazon is making links available because that is free advertising. So just be wise about what you do.

If I were a boutique plaintiff firm that likes to sue for notoriety and/or $, and had the funds, would P be a good target? According to the press they have some big investors, and we have to figure they are raking in the bucks from selling info on what everyone is doing in the network to the numerati, that is where the internet buckeroos are made these days. So yeah, I think it would be worth it, but I doubt I'd stop there. I'd go online and find some folks that are recognizable names, Maybe published authors with houses behind them. Make it splashy and get some notoriety going so that there's pressure to settle.

Pinterest is out to make money. It is a lovely idea mind you, and if I had time I'd be playing with it myself. But keep in mind that it is there because it is a good way to generate information to sell to advertisers, quite brilliantly. Every time someone goes to a store or site on the web and pins a shoe from there it registers that information, and every time that shoe is pinned by someone to their site, that information (along with the generic statistics of age, location, sex) is gathered. Maybe no 'personal' information is taken like your name, and address, but there is a certain level of generic privacy that is long gone. 

And those scammers? They've found a new way of getting to folks Click on a picture to pin it, and you may be linking to a survey scam or some other type of phishing problem. If you seem to have problems with a picture or photo, best bet is to delete it and let it go.  Don't click on anything that pops up, it may be a problem for a reason!

Just treat those pictures with the same respect as if they are parts of books, and all will be well. Some don't mind at all if you use their images, and  by being respectful and using only those in public domain or that say are available, you eliminate any risk.  People have asked me "Can I be sued?" The answer is yes. Right along with Pinterest. This is too wel publicized an issue for there to be innocent bystanders, and unfortunately authors would be good targets, since we would be expected to know about copyright.  

Also keep in mind that this site is not the same as your FB or Twitter pages, those can be defended under Fair Use but a web site with its sole focus to be the taking of others images to share and distribute to other people around the world, having a commercial use (something some legal authors have missed by thinking it has to be blatant advertising when it is clear that P's using the information, even in its latest service agreement), I just don't know that it would be safe to go into those waters.  Until there is some sort of judicial pronouncement, I'm erring on the side of use only images that you know you can use and have fun!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

It Takes "Class" To Be A Writer

New authors do it. Established authors do it. Even award winning authors you adore do it. So let's do it .... let's take a class.

The fallacy of this business is that - unlike other professions - people assume we  create novels out of thin air. It's intuitive, right? No craft involved.  If you've read a book, you can write one?

Not so easy.

We all know the drill by now.
Step one: Sign up for a conference.
Step two: sit in a room with hundreds of other people hoping to be noticed.
Step three: hear for the umpteenth time the same questions we heard at the last conference:
   a. "How do I write a query?"
   b. "What's unsolicited mean?"
   c. "What's a dialogue tag?"
   d. (fill this list with the other ubiquitous newbie questions we hear ad naseum)
Step four: get the editor's address for the limited submission window
Step five: editor gets slammed with hundreds of submissions, most not right for the list
Step six: get a rejection letter
Step seven: sign up for another conference and repeat.

Insane. And I was on that train for a while -- a long while.  And it got as old as the cold cut sandwiches. So why not do something different? Why not spend time taking a class from the people who a: are responsible for acquiring work and/or b: are there to help you clean it up so someone else will?  Even if you self-publish, the hands on touch will help your novel rise above the fray of people who think one draft means ready to sell.

Small classes = equal better networking and lifelong relationships.

How about that cost? Okay - sometimes that's a deal breaker. But let me break it down for you:

I've gone to the SCBWI LA conference several times. There are close to 1,000 people at the event. It's energetic and fun. But with that many people it's not intimate and there's little time interact with the faculty because they're constantly surrounded by all the hundreds of other hopefuls.  I pulled up the cost of attending the 2012 conference:

$460 conference tuition (for three days)
$100 manuscript consultation (if experience holds, 10-15 minutes)
$200 post conference intensive (Monday programming)
$925 (four nights hotel plus tax)
$100 (food - estimate at $25 a day)
$50   airport transfers
-------Total cost (not including airfare): $1835 ($1935 if you aren't a member)

Same days at a Highlights Workshop (not including airfare):
$795-995  includes conference tuition, all gourmet meals, lodging, private driver to pick you up at the airport. (a bit more for a 7 day class but still all inclusive)

You'll take class with 5-10 writers,  have face-time (and often multiple critiques) with editors who can put your name with your face, and have access to a freezer filled with ice cream available 24-7 for those late night munchies runs.  (And note - the executive chef's dishes are insane - you'll be stuffed.)

For grins I'll include the cost of a state conference filled with faculty that acquires mostly for the adult regional market and a single YA editor from Randomhouse (but 100 people in the room):

$200 conference tuition
$  50 manuscript consultation
$  50 post conference workshop
$250 (two nights hotel)
-------Total cost (not including airfare): $550

I was one of 4 children's authors in the room. The only one of which was published commercially, and 75 adult writers threw their "first page YA attempt" into the editor's pile hoping to get "discovered". Needless to say, my manuscript was buried and the editor ran out of time before she got to it. Although I did get to know the editor once she discovered I publish kidlit, I got no critique or feedback because it wasn't built into the session.
What we often neglect is the cost of educating ourselves.  Cutting through the "mud" by working with the same people who are in the position of acquiring a work, or sending out a rejection letter. Why take a workshop taught by someone who has sold a single book, is now considered an expert, but is still figuring the system out themselves?  How much is it worth to you to create a polished, cutting edge work?

Time to get "class" and rise above the maddening crowd. Here's some of my favorite picks taught by people I know or have worked with in the business.

Creating an Authentic Cultural Voice

Putting imagination, experience, empathy, and research to work for you
April 26 – April 29, 2012
Editors Alvina Ling (Little Brown), Stacy Whitman (Tu) and National Book Award winner Kathy Erskine (OH MY!). All guests of workshop leaders Mitali Perkins and Donna Jo Napoli.

The demographics of our readers are changing. Fully 50%+ of all children born in the US today are children of color. So to build readership (and sales) readers need to see themselves in ways that depict them as relevant in our books. But to do that, you have to know how to master the nuances (and that means not assuming it's all about the negatives, the stereotypes or the assumptions not born of actual interaction and observation).  (Little Brown IS the house that acquired a certain "Vampire" series now at a screen near you.)  I signed up for this one. Want to join me?

Kids’ Book Revision Retreat and Critique Group Recharge

May 29 – June 3, 2012  (A full 7 days of writing and revision so a little bit more in price)

Editors Harold Underdown (author of the Complete Idiot's Guide to Children's Publishing), and CEO of Move Books, Eileen Robinson (formerly with Scholastic Books) are bringing in some special guests to help you polish your work: Editor Cheryl Klein (Arthur Levine/Scholastic) and author Sandy Asher.

Young Adult Boot Camp

What Young-Adult Readers Expect from You!
June 7 – June 10, 2012
Workshop leader, Rich Wallace.  What can I say - the man's a genius.  I took his workshop last year.
Post comments if you want tips. Get thee to a class right now. It's worth it and you'll be thanking yourself later. Happy writing!.........HC Lawrence (who - yes - put the cost on a Lady Visa and MasterCard to go to a writing workshop several years ago and made it back in book sales.)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Inspiration Comes From Everywhere: Flower Power

Blog posts with a theme are a must for me so my new series is all about inspiration. Since I can’t write without my muse, I never leave home without her. I find my motivation everywhere. My trusty black book and iPhone camera are always at the ready.

One of my favorite inspirations comes from flowers. No mater how down I feel, the beauty of nature always makes me smile. I’m a sucker for anything brightly colored and showy. I love to garden so my inspiration is right out my front door.  When I feel a patch of writers block coming on, I cut a few roses and take them back to my office. The scent alone makes my fingers fly.

I love to take little field trips to get my creative juices flowing. Most of the time inspiration comes easily. But sometimes things can get a bit out of hand. Like the day I set out to attend an orchid show.  They are one of my favorite flowers and what better way to chase away my writers block then to be surrounded by hundreds of my preferred flower. I made the unfortunate decision of dragging my best friend along.  Not only was she not much of a nature lover, she had a date the same night she was nervous about.

“Look Cynthia, isn’t that the most amazing orchid you’ve ever seen?”

She shrugged her shoulders. “You seen one flower you’ve seen them all. Hey, do you think I should wear my blue spandex mini or my little black cocktail dress?”

I figured if I played along I could get back to my flower viewing. “How much do you like the guy?”

“He’s got real marriage potential.”

“Then I say wear the black dress. The blue one makes you look like a hooker.”

“And that’s a bad thing?”

 I stopped in front of the beautiful pinkish-purple blooms of a Cattleya orchid. One of my absolute favorites but my muse had left.  Note to self, better to seek inspiration without marriage obsessed girlfriends.


Monday, March 19, 2012

Publishing on Kindle

Greetings All!
I am planning on putting up one of my books on Kindle soon. I have a cover for it and I have been looking at the new simplified formatting on the Kindle site. I thought it might be useful for those of you interested if I went through the steps of putting up a book on Kindle, Nook or Smashwords. Although it’s mostly about Kindle.

Step 1: Write the book. I know this seems like a duh comment but you’d be surprised how often I hear someone “wanting” to publish a book but hasn’t written a single word yet.

Step 2: Revise said book. Edit the book. Three times at a minimum. Have a professional editor go over the book, this does cost but it’s worth it in the long run. So many books are not edited or edited so poorly it becomes annoying to read them. Don’t do this to your readers! A typo or two sometimes can’t be avoided but edit it before you publish it. What if you publish it and then find errors? Simple, unpublish it and put up a new version. I had to do with AINE the first time I published it. I found errors and the cover wasn’t well done. I had it edited and redid the cover and it’s so much better now.  If you choose to edit it yourself make sure you use your computer to read the book out loud. This way your ear will catch awkward phrases or missed words that your eye might miss.

Step 3: Format your book according to the site. Each site has their own formatting guide. For example if you decide to use Smashwords, they have their own style guide. It’s located here:

You must register with each site, but it’s free to register.

Step 4: Once your book is formatted you need a cover that looks professional.  Here are some cover design sites:
I found this great site with a list of cover designers:

The prices range from inexpensive $25.00 to $30.00 on up depending on the designer.

Step 5: Once your book is formatted properly either because you did it yourself or had a book formatter do it, it’s time to upload it to the site in question. Follow the directions to the letter otherwise your book will not look right once it’s published. Usually you upload your book and your cover at the same time, sometimes in one file. Depending on the site, most of them want word in doc format but if you do Createspace, they only want PDF.
Once it’s uploaded, check to make sure it looks right. If it does, you’re good to go! If it looks funky in any way, check your formatting.

Step 6: Make a book trailer. You can do an easy one using Animoto, their site is:
If you have a PC you can use Windows Movie Maker to make a book trailer. Mac users have iMovie.Make sure any images you use are royalty free. Sites you can find royalty free images include:

If you want to use music for your trailer either compose your own or check out some royalty free music sites online. You can also check out video stock footage online.

Step 7: Promote the heck out of your book on your social media sites. If you don’t have a Facebook fan page, it’s time to get one. Mine is here:!/pages/Witch-Hunter/142372955812353 You also need a Twitter account but don’t make the mistake of just promoting your book, interact with people you like, comment on other posts. Get your other writing friends to promote your book on their sites/blogs. And don’t forget to ask for reviews, a good review will help sales!

Have fun formatting your book!

Take Care, Until Next Time,

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Handling Critique

You said what? Boring? You want me to re-write? Do you have any idea how long I spent on this scene?

Yes, admit it. Some of us have reacted in a similar lackluster way toward someone who has critiqued our work in progress. Whether it is your parents, your significant other, a classmate, workmate, your editor. Let me try and simplify things: if you cannot handle critiquing, input, advice, suggestions, or constructive criticism of any sort—don’t write. In fact, your inability to be taught will follow you in life and you will complain, fuss, and &@!$ at any type of support given to you.

Rule: If you want to be a good writer, darn good writer, or an excellent writer…listen to others, especially those more seasoned than you.

If dealing in a specific genre, editors and publishers have tons of experience in your field and only want you to get better. That’s their job, to help you. I hired a freelance editor, Susanne Lakin, to help me in my early start. By printing out her editing, I created a notebook with her suggestions and corrections. Before you know it, tada!—a study guide. I thank God for her. She is awesome. After contracting with MuseItUp Publishing, I was blessed again with a fantastic staff that critiqued me from the owner, Lea Schizas to the cover artist, Delilah K. Stephens. My God, you are being worked over around every corner! And I am better for it.

Be willing to take instruction. Gather several views of input and compare all of them as you move through your story. You may find similarities in what they saw, or insight to things you were totally blind to.

Now, there is another side to this. Don’t give your story to someone who has no idea of what you are writing about. If they don’t read, if they are jealous, if they have no concept of writing anything, avoid them. I would not ask advice from a vacuum salesperson on how to fix my roof. Duh. At times, these people may have some good advice, but make sure it is not a ton of notes pertaining to their preference instead of an honest, constructive critique. If they want a story to go their way, have them write it!

The bottom line is this: be open and humble to listen to others. I’ve had one word said to me by someone unexpected who dropped by my office, and it set the tone for a positive day. Despite your humbleness, also remember it is your story. You may be adamant in having a scene go a certain way, but with another set of eyes, perhaps you can still have the same destiny taken on another route. Take care.

Nick G. Giannaras

Saturday, March 17, 2012

New Release!

It's been a really long week around here, but there was one high point. Jet Black, book 3 in my young adult urban fantasy series The Dark Lines, released from Featherweight Press!

I've been waiting for this one to come out. The book was originally scheduled for release in January, but a publisher change led to it being pushed back to this month. I'm hoping readers will be looking forward to finding out what happens next to Topher James and his half-brother Blake Walker in their fight against the force of darkness that is trying to destroy them and their friends. Here's the blurb and a short excerpt:

With the help of their new friend Misty, Topher James and his friends must fight a force of darkness. But is Misty really on their side?

When Topher James and Blake Walker receive an email from a girl named Misty saying that "something dark" has taken her sister, they know they will have to once again fight the force of darkness they've fought before. The nightmares Topher's girlfriend Callie Monroe is having confirm that, and also warn against becoming involved with Misty. But something about Misty sucks Topher in, and he's unable to resist her.

Alienated from Callie and his friends because of Misty, Topher still intends to fight the darkness. But it---and Misty---have other plans, and only Faith Carlisle can make Topher see the light before it's too late.

“I’ll see you later.” I wasn’t staying to hear any more of Blake’s crap. That was what I got for trying to make him feel better.

“Topher, please don’t go,” Faith said. “You’re too angry to drive safely, for one thing.”

“Of course I’m angry!” I shouted. She flinched, and this time I didn’t care. “Misty’s my friend, and I’m sick of all of you trying to turn me against her.”

“I was wrong.” Blake sounded almost surprised. “The darkness told me it would turn one of us against the others. I thought it meant me. But it didn’t, did it, Topher?”

As soon as he said it, his eyes widened. He knew he’d gone too far. And it was too late for him to take it back.

“Nice, Blake,” I snapped. “Not only is Misty working with the darkness, now I am too? I’m glad you trust me so much. Don’t bother trying to contact me. If you can’t trust me, I don’t need your help. I’ll deal with the dark presence myself.”

I stormed to the car, got in, and took off, leaving a trail of rubber behind.

I had no idea where I was going, just that I had to get away from Blake and Faith. They had to have been talking behind my back, planning to drop this bomb on me. I wanted to know how long they’d been plotting. And how long ago they’d decided to stop trusting me.

I was too angry to be hurt by their betrayal. They would see when I fought the darkness and won. They would see that they should have trusted me all along.

Consciously, I might not have had a destination in mind, but somewhere inside I knew just where to go. A while later, I stopped in front of the alley. Misty was there, standing against one of the buildings like she’d been waiting for me. She smiled when I left the car. A look of concern quickly replaced the smile when I walked over to her. “Topher, what’s wrong?”

“Come for a ride with me.” I held out my hand.

She took it. A chill went through me despite the warmth of the day. I ignored it and we went to the car.

As I drove away, Misty asked again, “What’s wrong?”

“Do you ever have the feeling there’s no one you can trust?” I muttered.

“All the time.” She rested her hand on my arm. “Tell me about it.”

I told her everything. Callie breaking up with me, what Blake and the others had said about me. I stopped short of telling her what Blake had accused her of, though. She wanted to help me, and I refused to repay that by hurting her. As I talked, I drove aimlessly through the city, not really paying attention to where we were until I came to a hill that overlooked the bay. I stopped there, not because of the view but because I was too upset to drive anymore.

I put the car in park and let go of the steering wheel. I was suddenly tired, so tired I wanted to close my eyes and sleep right there. I didn’t, only because Misty was with me and she wanted to help me. “I thought they were my friends,” I said. “I thought I could trust them. Now it turns out they’ve been saying all this stuff behind my back. How can they treat me this way?”

“I understand,” Misty said softly. She took my hand. “I know exactly what it’s like, Topher. Don’t worry about them. They aren’t worth it. I’m your friend. If you can’t trust them, trust me.”

She leaned a little closer to me. Without thinking, I turned to her and kissed her. What she’d said was true. She was my friend. I could trust her.

As I kissed her, I felt the darkness in her. The darkness Blake had told me about. Maybe he’d been right about her, but I didn’t care.

She was all I had now.

Jet Black is available from Featherweight Press.
Books one and two in the series, The Black Bridge and When Darkness Falls, are available from Jupiter Gardens Press.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Reckless An American Hero

Since most YAers are animal lovers, I'd like to share an email that was sent to me. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

The true "War Horse"

This is the story of "Reckless," the mare.

"This horse was a pack horse during the Korean war, and she
carried recoil-less rifles, ammunition and supplies to
Marines. Nothing too unusual about that, lots of animals
got pressed into doing pack chores in many wars.

But this horse did something more. During the battle for
a location called Outpost Vegas, this mare made 51 trips
up and down the hill. On the way up she carried
ammunition, and on the way down she carried wounded

What was so amazing? Well, she made every one of those
trips without anyone leading her.

One can imagine a horse carrying a wounded soldier, being
smacked on the rump at the top of the hill, and heading
back to the "safety" of the rear. But to imagine the same
horse, loaded with ammunition, and trudging back to the
battle where artillery is going off, without anyone
leading her is unbelievable. To know that she would make
50 of those trips is unheard of. How many horses would
even make it back to the barn once, let alone return to
the soldiers in the field even a single time?

Here is a clip of her story and photos to prove where she
was and what she did.

Reckless was retired at the Marine Corps Base in Camp
Pendleton where a General issued the following order:
"She was never to carry any more weight on her back except
her own blankets." She died in 1968 at the age of 20.

P.S. How bad was the battle for Outpost Vegas? Artillery
rounds fell at the rate of 500 per hour, and only two men
made it out alive without wounds. Just two. And also a
horse, and she was wounded twice."

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Luck o' the Irish

Couldn't resist this pic as it reminded me so much of my heroine Annie in "Angel in the Mist." Annie heads from Ireland to America during the potato famine. And she becomes an angel, in more ways than one.

I've been taking a class where we're learning literary devices. So a new and (hopefully) improved version of one of the paragraphs from "Angel in the Mist" now includes epistrophe:

"Annie comforted herself that the money she'd earn could keep her family alive. The shriveled, blackened potatoes could not. Her da, curled on a pallet, choking his lungs out could not. Her ma lying cold under the sod could not. Her younger brothers, smudged with coal dust, backs bent like old men’s, could not. But she could. She, Annie, could be their savior."

Can you find the epistrophe? If you guessed it was the repeated phrasing "could not" at the end of the sentences, you're right. It's also called "antistrophe."

I also discovered I'd also included pleonasm, a redundancy used for emphasis. Both words in "She, Annie" aren't strictly necessary, but I used them for effect. There are a few other devices in that paragraph. Can you identify them?

I also enjoyed learning other devices, some of which I use instinctively. One I found fascinating is chiasmus (ky-AZ-mus). The names of most of these literary devices come from the Greek, and this is no exception. It comes from the letter "chi," which looks like an "X." Just as the two arms of the "X" are crossed, so, too, are the words in chiasmus.

For example, "the first shall be last, and the last shall be first." (Matthew 20:16)

Another fun device is litotes (lie-TOE-teez). It's using a double negative in place of a positive. For example, his political views were not uncontested by the crowd. It would be simpler to write that people contested his views, but written the former way, it has a subtle, and different, shade of meaning.

What rhetorical devices do you use in your writing? If you aren't sure what a rhetorical device is, you can check out this website: Virtual Salt. If you haven't used any, try a few to perk up your writing.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Where Am I?

Setting isn't coincidence. The other day in the midst of my promo whirl, I was asked (in an interview) why I chose that particular setting for my novel. Of course, I 'knew'why I'd chosen it, but still the question made me stop and think.

The novel is my YA 'Dead, Actually' and it's set on the Gold Coast, Australia. Situated on the south-eastern corner of the state of Queensland known for its sunshine, beaches and tropical fruit, to name just a teeny few of its glorious attractions, the Gold Coast is one of the most beautiful places on earth. It's both glitzy and glamorous, and tacky and tawdry - the perfect place for my characters who are all sparkly on the outside but who all harbour their dark secrets.

In this case the setting echoed the story.

I believe the choice of setting in a story is, if not crucial to its success, then at least very, very important, and I spend as much time thinking about that as I do character. It is an integral part of the story, sometimes so powerfully so that it becomes almost another character. Would Harry Potter have been as compelling if JK Rowling hadn't also created Hogwarts? In Lauren Kate's novel, 'Fallen', the Sword and Cross School was eerie and disturbing - and added greatly to the dark mood of the story. And it's a no-brainer that Louis Sacher's 'Holes' couldn't have succeeded as well as it did without that setting which was indeed part of the plot.

I've used setting in many ways and quite often as a foil for the heroine. In Princesses Don't Sweat, my uptown, spoiled NY princess was dumped in the harsh, unforgiving Australian Outback. The premise was comedic in nature, but the deeper story was that, with her life seemingly spinning out of control, she had to find herself. So again, the choice of setting was very deliberate, and in this case metaphorical. I employed a similar mindset when I sent my Californian Beach girl off to the snowfields in My Life as a Snow Bunny. For me, putting a character who is suffering some inner turmoil into an unfamiliar setting helps me tell the story, and is a subtle way of adding richness and depth.

What do you think? Agree? Not? Is setting as important to you as it is to me? And as a reader, does setting matter to you? Do you have favourite destinations?