Books I & II of The Lova Chronicles is available now!

The Lova Chronicles kicked off with The Earthen Shroud in August 2013!

Want Your Book to Read Like a Movie?

Check out my book trailer and see how I did it!

Author Book Signing

I've only done this once, but I had the time of my life! You can too; see how.

Food-Inspired Art

Check out my guest post on Notebook Blogairy about how food inspires my writing.

Pages From My Diary

I started a new blog series: awesome, intimate, legendary.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Soapbox Spotlight: Darlene Jones

Today's edition of Soapbox Spotlight is with author Darlene Jones.  She has written a sci-fi series that is quickly gaining popularity with its second installment,  Empowered, about which she's here to talk to us today.

Awesome author photo!  So why don't you tell us a little about yourself, Darlene?

A long time ago, I lived in Mali. Every single day, I wished I could wave a magic wand to relieve the heart wrenching poverty. My experiences there led to the writing of EMBATTLED, which reflects my desire to wave that wand and make the world a better place—if only wishes could come true.

Initially, I intended to write “a” novel. The story and characters took over and the ending demanded another. Empowered is that “other.” I've always believed we can't be the only beings existing in the vastness of the universe; there must be others “out there somewhere”, and I'd like to believe they're not all that different from us. Those beliefs are reflected in my writing. My novels stay, for the most part, within the realities of our world, but I've found that I love the magic the sci-fi element of other beings could bring to a story.
Have you developed a specific writing style?

Yes, and over time I’ve discovered that I have to be aware of certain “mannerisms” in my writing. Just as we have favorite expressions that we use over and over again without realizing it when we speak, I do the same when I write. That’s why a writing partner or a critiquing group are so important. They are there to point those things out to you.

What is your greatest strength as a writer?

One word – determination.  You have to be determined to get a book done then to get all the rewrites and edits done, and then to get it published and do the marketing, which I often feel is more work and time consuming than the writing.

I certainly agree with you on that!  Have you ever had writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?

Yes.  When I just don’t know where to go with a story, I leave it alone for a month or more. Then when I find myself thinking about it and jotting down ideas (usually on yellow stickies) I go back to the computer.

You sound like a fellow "pantser"!  Tell us about your latest work. 

Empowered is the second book in my series, but they can all be read as a stand-alone. In this book, Jasmine is convinced that she is invincible and that she has a special mission on Earth. Visions she experienced as a child told her so. They also told her she would find a soulmate. Problem is, her supposed soulmate thinks she’s a nut case.  And those visions she believes in so strongly lead to danger as well as love.

Does the writing get easier with each new book?

Definitely.  You learn as you write. With my first book, I just wrote; with this one I used an outline, and that made a world of difference in terms of the ease of telling the story.  Also, with practice you avoid errors and have a smoother draft the first time around, and that equals fewer rewrites.

How did you come up with the title?

That was tough. Trying to capture the essence of your story in just a few words is so hard. The heroine in the first book is named Em and as she recurs throughout the series, I chose to use “Em” for the title – hence Embattled and Empowered.

How did you develop your plot and characters?

I start with basic ideas – I actually play around with those ideas in my head for a long time (trying to combat insomnia – it doesn’t work – just keeps me wider awake). Then, as I write, more ideas pop into my head. I find the characters often take over and take on personalities of their own. They really do become “real” as I work with them.

I get that feeling about my characters, too.  What do you look for in a cover?

Something relatively simple, but that will still attract a reader’s attention. I want the reader to see the cover and be curious about the story.

What do you love about independent publishing?

That I can do it my way on my timeline!

What are some of the best tools available today for writers, especially those just starting out?

The Internet. There is so much information out there and so many people willing to help. It’s people like you who really are the backbone of the publishing industry now. We couldn’t market without you and what good would our books be hibernating in a file on our computers.

Aww, thanks, Darlene!  It was my pleasure.

And thank you, Raynetta, for having me!

You can find Darlene at the following sites:

And you can find her books here:



Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Soapbox Spotlight: Sarka-Jonae Miller

Welcome to another Wednesday edition of Soapbox Spotlight!  Today, we're talking with Sarka Jonae-Miller.  She began her career writing health and fitness articles and has published more than 4,000 articles on martial arts, nutrition, and healthy lifestyle.  She's here today to discuss her debut novel, Between Boyfriends.

So Sarka, tell us a little about yourself. 

I am a novelist and a health writer, mainly for websites. I have over 4,000 articles published on topics such as fitness, sports, martial arts, yoga, nutrition and natural health. I have also written about travel, beauty, spirituality, education, home and lifestyle. My articles have appeared on websites like and, as well as in the "Post-Standard" newspaper, the Washington Home & Garden online magazine, and "Modern Witch" magazine.

I am a graduate of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. After graduation, I worked as a personal fitness trainer and massage therapist. I used some of my experiences as a massage therapist to write Between Boyfriends.

Do you have to travel much concerning your books?
I am an avid traveler. I've been to Costa Rica, Canada, England, Mexico, and Paradise Island. I have also been to France and Thailand, and did research in both countries for novels I currently writing. I live in San Diego with a menagerie, including two cats, two dogs and a horse.  

Who is your favorite author and why?
As odd as it may sound for a chick lit writer to have a favorite author who writes fantasy novels, that is indeed the case with me. Terry Brooks, author of the Sword of Shannara series, is my favorite writer, though I love Sophie Kinsella, Janet Evanovich, James Redfield and Laurel K. Hamiliton, just to name a few other authors I adore. I read a lot and from different genres, but when I was a teenager I stumbled upon Terry Brooks' books and just fell in love. I read the original seven Sword of Shannara books back to back. They sparked my imagination and rekindled my belief in magic.

What are some of your favorites?
My all-time favorite musician, dancer, performer and humanitarian is Michael Jackson. I have been in love with him since I was 2 years old. I dedicated Between Boyfriends to him. Michael was the sweetest, most caring, gentle and hard working person that I have ever known, or should say known of since I never met him personally. His message was to "Heal the World" and in some small way I also hope to make the world a better place.

With that said, I also love chocolate soy ice cream, soy mochas and about anything that is chocolate and vegan. My favorite color is pink. My favorite flower is a pink rose, and my favorite movie is "The Wedding Singer." Don't ask me why.

My son and I are big Michael Jackson fans too!  Let's talk about rejection now.  How do you deal with rejection letters?

I look to see if there is anything I can learn. I really appreciate when agents or publishers write a personalized rejection letter, even if it is short because they usually include some advice. I did a major rewrite of Between Boyfriends after getting some awesome criticism from an agent years ago. It made my book so much better.

Once I have learned all I can, I recycle the letter. I imagine it being transformed into something more positive. Educational or no, rejection letters still suck.

If your book became a movie, who do you see playing your main character?

If she were just a little younger, I would want Bridget Regan to play Jan. I went to high school with Bridget. I was one year ahead, but we were part of the same swing dancing group. Bridget is an amazing actress. She can do funny and cute. She can be tough and strong. She can be sad and vulnerable. She can do everything that I would want an actress to do to play a complicated character like Jan. I don't really have a second choice, but I think it would be fun to find an unknown actress that no one associates with any other role. Plus, I like the idea of helping an up-and-coming actress.

Are you reading any interesting books at the moment?

I am reading the student workbook from "A Course in Miracles." I read a lot of personal development and spiritual books. I was fortunate enough to meet Marianne Williamson at the San Francisco airport when I was stopping over for the night on my way to Thailand. She gave me a ride home. I had heard about her and the course before but never read the books. I love the course. It really helps you see everything from a positive place. I definitely still have a lot of work to do in that area.

Are there any new writers that have sparked your interest and why?

I recently read Sleeping With Paris by Juliette Sobanet and hope to read her new book Kissed in Paris soon. Juliette is such a funny writer. One of the books I am writing now takes place partly in Paris so I was really excited to read her book, which is mainly set in Paris. I happened to "meet" her on Facebook soon after I read her book and found out she was from Encinitas, CA, the city I grew up in. Just after we "met" I found out she was moving from the East Coast back to San Diego where I live now. I guess I just love little coincidences like that so now not only am I excited to read more of her work, but I am really rooting for her. It also helps that she speaks French, which I am learning, and she likes Michael Jackson, too.

I also recently discovered Wendy Nelson Tokunaga, Nancy Scrofano, Jennifer Coburn (who lives in San Diego too) and Brea Brown. I like to read a mix of new Indie authors and new stuff published by established authors. It's a lot of fun to discover authors before they make it big, or in some cases before they become huge.

I think that's one of the best parts of being an indie author: you get to meet really great people in your same field and collaborate.  Then, as you said, we tend to want everything wonderful for everyone in the indie author community.  I love that.

What is your greatest strength as a writer?

The thing most writers complain about being the hardest for them to write is dialogue. For me, dialogue is the easiest part. Sometimes when reading other books, I find myself skimming the pages to get to the dialogue. I like to talk a lot. Maybe that's why. I would say that being able to write realistic and interesting dialogue is my greatest strength. Most people tell me that they loved my characters' dialogue, including their internal dialogue. The other thing I hear most is that I am really good with character development. No one ever praises my deep metaphors, foreshadowing or poetic prose, and that is because there are somethings that I am not good at writing and frankly do not enjoy at all. Sometimes it is nice to read a book that is entertaining with a few important lessons sprinkled throughout the story. I don't want to have to work hard to understand the author's point. I would rather work hard on improving myself once I get the message.

What inspires you to write and why?

Reading great books inspires me to write. Getting good feedback also sends me straight to the keyboard. I respond very well to praise. Some people are motivated by money or titles. I thrive on recognition.

I can certainly understand that!  Can you tell us about your main character?

Jan is complicated. She is pretty, sweet, fun and loving, yet this is not what most people see. Jan is very insecure. She buys all these beautiful clothes ,but is too afraid of the attention to wear them and instead dresses in basic safe clothes. She can be really rude to her friends because she feels like it gives her power and protects her from being hurt. But she is completely different with men. She desperately wants a man to love her and feels like the only way to keep a guy is to be accommodating and practically perfect. If she meets his every need, then he won't leave her, she thinks. She gives her love and kindness to the wrong people and treats the people who care about her poorly. Between Boyfriends is about her realizing some of these truths about herself and how she behaves, how she treats others and how she treats herself. Jan may be rude sometimes, but she wants to change. Some people just don't know how to be vulnerable or discerning about who they let into their life. The book is about her waking up.
The book sounds awesome, Sarka!  Thanks for joining us today!
Thanks for having me, Raynetta!
You can find Sarka at the following places:
Twitter:!/boyfriendsnovel, @boyfriendsnovel
You can purchase Sarka's novel at the following places:

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Pressures of Indie Authorship

After five years of writing, six months of editing, and more than a year of promotion, The Grim finally launched to raving reviews and tons of reader interest.  It seemed as though years of hard work was finally paying off.  Except--no one told me the hard part wasn't over.  I still had to promote my work, and I must admit: maybe I'm drowning under the pressure...?

Now, let's be clear: I love what I do.  Becoming an indie author has been a dream of mine since I was little, and seeing The Grim in print on my bookshelf sparkling like a marquee in downtown Harlem is that dream realized.  However, in addition to being a (hopefully successful) independent author, I am also a single mother with a day job.  Let's just say trying to find a balance has not been easy.

The scheduling alone is a monster!  I have interviews and blogs to write for my current blog tour, and Soapbox Spotlight submissions which have been flooding my inbox ever since I began the feature during Launch Week.  In addition, I've also agreed to review a few authors' books, I've had two back-to-back appearances, plus I need to find time to sit down and write the two new novels I'm working on:  The Devil & I, a romance novel, and The Lova Chronicles, a series YA-style that still needs to be fleshed out in certain places.  And that's just my author schedule.  We haven't even begun to discuss field trips, laundry, cooking dinner, cleaning, relationship issues, Bible study lectures with content I must both read and write, yoga, and the occasional bout with congestive heart failure (I was diagnosed in January 2010.  I'll tell you more about that later).

And did I mention I have a day job?

How do you find the time to even manage your time?  I've taken to using my Blackberry to schedule everything, even return phone calls, because I'm terrified if I ask my brain to do anything that isn't creative or second nature, it's liable to forget about it.  The problem is I always feel like I'm running against the clock, and I don't ever really get a chance to just enjoy this--all the hype and chaos that comes with maintaining an audience tends to take precedence to the joy that is supposed to come from realizing a dream.  And I don't even have the time to share that with the people closest to me.

I guess I'm going to have to take a deep breath and find a way to make my life work, to meld things together in such a way that I don't feel swamped, overwhelmed, or overworked.  And while all this sounds so good to me right now, it is definitely going to be easier said than done.  Consider the comment section below a suggestion box: I'm open to whatever you have.  In case you can't see it, there's a big HELP sign plastered on my forehead...

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Soapbox Spotlight: Marni Mann

I'm pleased to introduce you to Marni Mann on this week's edition of Soapbox Spotlight.  Marni has written an incredible book called Memoirs Aren't Fairytales: a Story of Addiction about a young woman's struggle with drugs.  The book sounds absolutely incredible so without further ado, I'll let Marni take it from here.

Tell us about yourself, Marni.

A New Englander at heart, Marni Mann, now a Floridian, is inspired by the sandy beaches and hot pink sunsets of Sarasota. A writer of literary fiction, she taps a mainstream appeal and shakes worldwide taboos, taking her readers on a dark, harrowing, and gritty journey. When she’s not nose deep in her laptop, she’s scouring for chocolate, traveling, reading, or walking her four-legged children. Her debut novel, Memoirs Aren’t Fairytales, was published by Booktrope in December 2011. The sequel, Scars from a Memoir, will be released summer 2012.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing since I was able to hold a pen and could produce something that didn’t resemble a bunch of squiggles. It’s my form of expression. It’s when I drop my inhibitions, reveal the darkness that lives inside, and turn completely vulnerable.

What genre of books do you read, or do you stick with the genre you write in?

Literary fiction, the genre I write, is my favorite to read. Honestly, though, I’ll read anything. I recently finished the Fifty Shades of Grey Trilogy and just started Hunger Games. Before Fifty, I read Joe Vampire by Steven Luna. My taste is really all over the place.

What inspired you to write your first book, and what was it?

I have addicts in my life and a particular situation occurred. It flattened me. I’d seen the different places addiction could take someone, emotionally and physically, and I held their hand through those times. But this situation was too much for even me. I had questions, there were no answers, and no clarity in sight. My pain turned into a novel: Memoirs Aren’t Fairytales.

Can you share a little of it with us?

Leaving behind a nightmarish college experience, nineteen-year-old Nicole and her best friend Eric escape their home of Bangor, Maine to start a new life in Boston. Fragile and scared, Nicole desperately seeks a new beginning to help erase her past. But there is something besides freedom waiting for her in the shadows—a drug that will make every day a nightmare.


With one taste, the love that once flowed through Nicole's veins turns into cravings. Tracks mark the passing of time, and heroin's grip gets tighter. It holds her hand through deaths and prostitution, but her addiction keeps her in the darkness. When her family tries to strike a match to help light her way, Nicole must choose between a life she can hardly remember, or a love for heroin she'll never forget.

Coke gave me energy. Ecstasy made me dance and want to be touched. Shrooms made me hallucinate. But heroin. Shit. Heroin was kind. It didn’t trip me out like acid or bring me into a dark hole like PCP. It showed me the quietness of the waves.

Wow!  This book sounds amazing!  How did you come up with the title?

The line, "memoirs aren’t fairytales", appears in my novel, and as soon as I wrote it I knew it had to be the title. It fits the story perfectly; it’s confusing, intriguing, and catchy. The novel is very much written like a memoir, and I don’t believe memoirs have happy endings like fairytales.

What was the hardest part about writing this book?

My protagonist, Nicole Brown, has some deep scars that are both emotional and physical. For a young girl, she’s witnessed and experienced more than most do in a lifetime. It took me 2.5 years to write this book and during that time, I carried her scars. They kept me awake at night. They appeared in my dreams. They haunted me. It wasn’t easy.

I totally understand that feeling!  It was that way with me with my main character in The Grim.  Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

The underlying message is addiction isn’t a choice; it’s a disease. I know I can’t change the world’s perception and make everyone believe addiction is a disease. I know I can’t convince every teenager not to try drugs. But if I can change one opinion or stop a young adult from heading towards that downward spiral, my novel is a success.

What are your current writing projects now?

I just finished the sequel titled, Scars From A Memoir. I hope to have it released this summer. Following the sequel’s release is a young adult (YA) version of Memoirs Aren’t Fairytales.
If your book became a movie, who do you see playing your main characters?

Mila Kunis or Natalie Portman would be perfect for Nicole’s role. They excel at dark storylines, they aren’t afraid to get dirty, and they clean up well.

They were both incredible in Black Swan.  What do you do to unwind and relax?

I travel, read, take really long showers, go to the spa, sleep, and make frequent trips to the chiropractor because my writing posture is breaking my back.

I heard that!  Thanks for being with us Marni!

You can find Marni at these great sites:

Twitter: @MarniMann

You can find her incredible book at:

Monday, May 14, 2012

My First Book Signing

May 12, 2012 was my first book signing!  Man, what a great feeling!  It was held at Otto's Booklover's Paradise in Williamsport, PA, right up the street from where I pledged Alpha Rho Omega at Lycoming College.  Since the signing was set up to coordinate with Alumni Weekend at the school, many of my sorority sisters came out to support me.  The day was filled with laughter and fun, and I greatly enjoyed the fellowship with my sisterhood.

The signing wasn't like anything I've seen on TV, nor was it like anything I read about while trying to prepare for it.  I was not huddled in a corner looking lonely and lost, nor was I at a huge table with giant placards with my name on a marquee.  The people who came by to visit with me were very inquisitive and sat down with me and talked about the book intimately.  I really feel as though I got a chance to meet people.  What an amazing and humbling experience!

There a couple things that I think I did right:

1.  I coordinated my book signing event with another event with which I was affiliated.  I scheduled my signing to coincide with Alumni Weekend at my alma mater, garnering support from groups and factions I participate in.

2.  I made eye contact and attempted to strike up conversation with everyone who passed by.  This generated interest from store visitors that weren't there for the author signing.

3.  I kept a smile on my face and fun energy around me.  When others heard me laughing and joking with other store visitors, they felt more open in talking with me.  Also, I had my cousin/assistant with me for the signing; when no one was in the store, I had her to talk to so that I avoided the "lonely and lost" issue.

Now, there are definitely some things I did wrong:

1.  I did not educate myself enough on how the business side of book signings work, so I may have come off belligerent and unappreciative to the book store owner.  I made sure to send a follow-up email to the owner thanking her for her support and her willingness to participate in a signing with me after the event was over.

2.  I did not have any promotional materials to hand out at the event.  I should have at least offered my business cards or some bookmarks, but alas, was inadequately prepared.

3.  My signing table was placed in a section of the store that had nothing to do with my book's genre.  I was between the cookbooks and the New York Times' best sellers.  While I may be aspiring toward the goals those authors have achieved, my placement by them deterred some readers who were in the store specifically for a book whose movie had just premiered.  Or the older generation who came in just for the Pioneer Woman's new cookbook.  (I did help one reader find said cookbook, to which she replied I had a "good energy", but did not garner a sale for The Grim.)

Some writing bloggers say a successful book signing is showing up and selling one book.  Well, I sold 17; not bad--especially for my first time out.  And I owe those successes to a well-coordinated event, a little humility, great friends, and "good energy".  Special thanks to everyone who participated; the next one will be even better!

 My First Book Signing

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Soapbox Spotlight: Ryan Nelson

I am so pleased to offer you another Soapbox Spotlight!  Today, I'm talking to Ryan T. Nelson, author of The Shadow Walkers series, of which Book One: The Shadows Birth has already been published for Amazon's Kindle.  A second title is anticipated soon.  Ryan is here to talk to us about writing, family, and his aspirations.

Love your author photo!  Tell us a little about yourself, Ryan. 

I am a 28-year old husband, and father first. After that, I am a student, writer, mechanic, motorcyclist and comic book fan. My family is very important to me, and my kids are some of the biggest joys in my life. And occasionally the biggest pains in my butt, but it happens.

How, if at all, has your upbringing influenced your writing?

My mother read The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien to my brother and I when I was very young. I think [I was] four or five, but I can’t remember for sure. I do remember sitting on the living room floor and listening to her speak of Gollum and of Smaug the great Dragon, the Lake Men and the Elves and Dwarves, and I remember being fascinated with the entire idea of having a thought or an idea in your head and being able to translate it onto paper in such a ways as to make it something others would want to read. I started reading myself from there and never looked back.

What first attracted you to fantasy?

I always enjoyed the works of David Eddings, Terry Goodkind, Terry Brooks, Tolkien, Piers Anthony. I enjoy other genres as well, but I think the joy I find with fantasy is that there’s little requirement to strictly follow certain rules. In modern settings you are somewhat restricted by the technology of the era and so on. With fantasy, your imagination can be allowed to stretch as far as you can reach and create worlds the likes of which none have ever seen before.

Tell us about your latest work.

My most completed current work is Book Two of The Shadow Walkers Let Her Cry. The second book in the series puts Rhyven, Jade and Keyola against a series of difficult and dangerous situations where they must rely on each other to survive. And as Obsidian readies for War, magic spins out of control and a poison threatens to create a magical backlash that may kill hundreds of thousands. I may very well be that their growing friendship will be the only thing that can save them.

Can you share a little of it with us?

Rhyven Donough wants one thing in life. Revenge. After his home was destroyed, he vows to find and kill the man responsible. Thrust into a prophecy he doesn't care about, he is expected by some to deliver the world from a great evil.

Jade has been alone for most of her life, traveling from city to town, working when and where she could and helping those that need it along the way. Trained at an early age in the arts of the Assassin, she is a formidable opponent.

Keyola is searching for the rarest of ingredients to put together a counter spell for one of his own spells gone horribly astray. How was he to know that adding rabbit fur to that particular transformation spell would have such... interesting consequences?

So what does a boy seeking blood, a skilled Assassin and a Mage with a unique cosmetic issue have in common?

They're about to be set on a path that will lead, either to the world's salvation, or its utter destruction. A path thousands of years in the making.

They just don't know it.

Wow!  That sounds amazing!  Can you tell us about your main character? 

I say Rhyven is the hero of the story, but he’s less a hero by choice and more by default. He just so happens to have a personal vendetta against the ‘villain’ of the story so by definition his desire to destroy Obsidian makes him the hero. It will be up to the friends he makes later in the series to prevent him from sliding too far into the pitfalls that could make him a worse evil than Obsidian ever was.

What projects can we expect from you in the future?

Well, at my last check I had roughly 31 novels planned out where I actually had titles to go with them.  But I have a 7-book sci-fi series, an 8-book modern day detective series, an Urban Fantasy Trilogy and numerous other stories. The most likely to be completed and published first would be a Vampires & Werewolves kinda story written in first person from the perspective of a 323-year old vampire that has the potential to possibly destroy everything the Clans and Packs have worked for for centuries. This one is titled The Fifth Clan.

I have such a love for vampires!  I'll have to keep my eye out for that!  What do you believe contributes to making a writer successful?

I think that depends on what you define a success. For example, my biggest goal was to get my work published. That has been done, [so] by that definition, I am a successful writer. Others might think that success is measured by being able to quit your day job and make a living based simply off of the income from your writing. I guess that’s my next goal as a writer. I think success can really only be determined by the individuals views on what they wish to achieve as a writer.

Do you have any upcoming appearances that you would like to share with us?

No appearances myself but the first print version of the novel will be on display at this years MTV Movie Awards Celebrity Gifting Suite. Photos will be up on my Facebook page as soon as possible after the event.

What a thrilling opportunity!  How did you develop your plot and characters?

In pieces to be honest. The original idea came to me as nothing more than a character that could walk through shadows like doorways. This obviously has evolved into a very different view of the Shadow Walker in their powers and abilities. As I write, I keep notebooks for all the different possibilities and ideas that come to me. Some have made it into the stories while others have not.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Other authors say to write: just set aside time and WRITE. Others say to read: the more you read, the better your writing can be. If I could give one piece of advice to another writer, I would tell them find someone smarter than they are to edit their work. As the creator, it’s too easy to miss or overlook grammar mistakes and typos because you’re too close to the work.

I totally agree, Ryan.  As a matter of fact, I wrote a blog on it!  How do you come up with new novel ideas? 

Through flashes of inspiration. I don’t think that I have ever sat down and tried to come up with a new story idea. I hear a line from a song, or I see something on the street or a random thought pops into my head before I fall to sleep and I latch onto it and think “oh, that’s a good idea for a story.” ‘Meet Me’ was inspired by the opening line of ‘Stellar’ by Incubus. ‘Shining Stars’ was inspired by ‘Through the Glass’ by Stone Sour. My ‘Shards’ series was originally inspired looking at a Pyramid Collection catalogue and reading about a lead crystal figurine. So I guess I don’t come up with new ideas; new ideas find me.

 Well, thanks so much for being here today with us, Ryan, and sharing your projects with us!

My pleasure, Raynetta, and thanks for having me!

You can find Ryan at the following places:

You can purchase The Shadows Birth online at Amazon.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Soapbox Spotlight: Mathew Harmon

This is our final installment of the Launch Week edition of Soapbox Spotlight.  Thank you so much for being with us this week!  Our special guest today is Mathew Harmon, an aspiring indie author, to talk about his upcoming novel Unfortunate Destiny.

Nice to meet you Matt!  Tell us about yourself.
Well, I’m 34 years old, and currently serve in the United States Navy as a yeomen (administrative assistant).  I’ve lived all over the west coast, but I spend the most time in a little town in Oregon called Albany; maybe about 50,000 people or so in it.  It’s a nice little place…in the summer.  Most of the time it’s grey and rainy though.  To me, it’s definitely a place to visit and not live, unless you like the rain.  I really didn’t start writing until high school, and only a little bit at that.  I took creative writing assignments and essay’s more seriously and put a lot of effort into them, but it took a unique high school class senior year for me to realize I actually liked writing.  It was called Senior Project and was an only slightly supervised class that less us be on our own.  The assignment was simple:  pick a project and see it to completion at the end of the semester.  So I choose to write a novel, and though I only finished 80 to 90 pages, it was the start of the novel I eventually finished titled Unfortunate Destiny

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Personally, my interest in writing began with an interest in reading.  I’ll never forget the first time I realized reading was fun.  One day in the summer, at the age of thirteen, I complained to my dad about being bored.  He had a look in his eye that said I might have gotten some chores to occupy my time, but instead he handed me his copy of The Hobbit and told me I couldn’t watch TV or play Nintendo until I finished it.  Sure enough, I fell in love with reading after that, and I eventually began to tell myself that I should write my own material, and found I really loved it when I took my own advice.

What inspires you to write and why?
Inspiration comes from everyday life for me.  You might catch a bit of overheard conversation here or there, or look out your window and see a bird landing on a tree branch.  It might sound cheesy, but I think the littlest, most inane things that happen every day can be inspirational.

What first attracted you to the [sci-fi/fantasy] genre?
Fantasy novels are primarily what I tend to read leisurely.  It’s about the only thing I like to write, although I have ideas for venturing outside the world of swords and sorcery, and do occasionally dabble in other types of stories.

Who or what influenced your writing once you began? 
J. R. R. Tolkien‘s works are probably my most influential fantasy pieces.  If only one person loves my books as much as I love Tolkien’s, then all my hard work and effort were worth it.  If that one person keeps coming back to my works as I do to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, then I can truly call myself a successful author.

What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general?
I write short stories, and it mostly seems an easier process than writing a novel.  I think writing novels is a fun but difficult challenge in entwining different characters and ideas into a smooth and well written work of fiction.

Can you tell us about your main character?
There are only so many stories to be told in the world, am I right?  That being said, Jovost is a seventeen year old man-child, somewhere stuck in the middle of both of those phases of life, who lived in a sheltered world all his life.  The inevitable danger that befalls all main characters who once lived peaceful lives forces him into an unknown world alone, at first, and gaining friends along the way to help him.  Though he doesn’t know it until later, they all help him in ways he doesn’t recognize at first. 

How important do you think villains are in a story?
Often times the villain is like a twisted sort of hero, in the end.  If not for the villain, Jovost would not have left his sheltered life in the Monastery he grew up in.  He would not, in the later novels, find out about his heritage and how his life will turn out to be, if he was not forced to find these things out.  Thank the villain, my friend, for if not for them, who would shape our heroes into what they become as opposed to their humble and meek beginnings?

What do you love about independent publishing?
It seems to be that independent publishing is just that--independent.  It might be a simple statement, but here’s what I mean.  Sometimes, the major publishing companies can stem the ideas of the big authors and not allow certain novels into their publishing line, because it ‘doesn’t fit the mold’.  In that way, publishing a novel independently can more readily assure that your novel will remain more untouched and truer to the original vision you had for it.

What do you do to unwind and relax?
Some people like to criticize video games, but it really is a new platform for telling stories, and more interactive ones at that, though they can’t take anything away from the imagination inducing experience that reading a novel can give you.  That and indulging in the moving story, in the form of movies and TV are what I’ve been doing to unwind from my long days aboard the USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

What are some of your favorites (foods, color, musicians)?
My favorite color is green, don’t know what that says about me, but there you go.  Who doesn’t love pizza?  If I was on the proverbial desert island and could only eat one thing for the rest of my life, provided I could put different toppings on it, I think pizza would be the go-to food.  As far as music is concerned, I’m a diverse kinda guy.  You have different styles for different moods; some people might not like heavy metal, but it’s nice to put on when you’re angry and don’t want to take it out on anyone.

Can you share a little of Unfortunate Destiny with us (blurb)?
Please bear with me, with this small excerpt of Unfortunate Destiny.  Though I have done a few rounds of editing and re-writing on the entire novel, you will still find some spelling and grammar issues; my apologies.

…Captain Jahymes should be just up ahead, guarding the newborn prince’s chambers, or perhaps over his majesties chamber itself.  A kindly man with the best stories, [Marina] had often been saved by a falsehood or two, if it meant saving the hide of his favorite chamber maid.  She felt something like the daughter he never had, and like he was a second father she could confide in; often enough, he had helped her with some problem or another, if she had not felt up to asking her real father.
A strange thing, as [Marina] drew closer to the chamber doors of the King and the Prince. Neither [door] was guarded, and a sliver of open air stood between the hallway and the King’s chamber; just what exactly would keep the diligent, old Jahymes from not posting duty as he always had? It was puzzling, and just who had been careless enough to leave the door open? Yet, at the same time, she stared at the gap with a strong temptation starting to bubble within her; a sickening feeling came up in her stomach, one in which comprised equal parts of excitement and fear. In the end, the cunning thing called temptation had wrapped its arm around her, pulled her from the street of normality into the black alley of blasphemous thoughts; a place that Santos could not forgive one treading for too long, or for willingly going back more than a few times. He knew those unfit for His kingdom, on the Beyonder Plain, and he would cast away those he knew to be unworthy.
Despite admonishing herself, Marina soon came to be listening at the strange conversation she started to here; she didn’t at all like the sound of the voices coming forth, now that she was paying attention to the tones.  These coldly strange voices were far too low and…and there was a strange quality to them, despite the chill every portion of word brought on. A raspy, scratching quality to them, they didn’t seem at all to be Welsian in the least, though she could understand them, as they spoke the King’s Word.
“Well then, doesss the child prove strong; will he prove a proper connection?” one voice asked, not as deep; to say this voice was not threatening wouldn’t have been true, and yet sounded peace-loving, compared to the thin, deathly quality about the next voice.
“The young one will bleed mossssst ssuficcently Lord Dolsssta, yes; the next eve will be a gloriousss day for ussss; finally will I be finisssshed with hiding thingsss longer.” Marina did not like this voice in the least. Both would likely strike her dead, should they have discovered the young maid standing there; she’d thrown her ear onto a conversation where it wasn’t meant to be cast. The second voice sounded of pure evil though; the black of night up against the relatively tame darkness of a shadow.
The first voice, the Shadow she named it, spoke again to the other, which she thought to name the Darkness.
“The King iss firmly under your control then, Delsssta du’ prajadi? I do not want room for error! Too long hasss our Lord Assssai lain without our reach; no longer! The Blood Moon will cassst uss back to our old glory again!”
She wasn’t sure, but she thought she heard the Darkness gurgling in response. The darkness seemed to be here, in the castle, though the Shadow seemed elsewhere. Was this magical talking, like she had heard the royal seers could do? She had heard prajadi before, and she thought she heard the men saying it talk of such things like an evil variation of a Brother of Santos. She had seen only the healing magics they could perform, had never seen such things like magic or the white, blinding energy of Santos himself, that He bestowed on those who practiced His faith enough to have a tiny measure of Him flow through their bodies, and into their hands for healing, amongst other things. She was a common maid, so what did she know of such things; what would she have ever encountered of such things, until now, it seemed?
                The Darkness finally stopped gurgling, could this have been some sort of laughter on its—surely these things must have been the much spoken of, and little seen Asailian folk; half snake, half Man? Again, she thought she would never see one in her life time, though now she listened to two speak about her, and her kind as if refuse to be burned sometime, lest it pile up too high and make erroneous amounts of stink. Before she heard anything else, she padded off as quickly as she could, towards Mistress Kaitlin’s chambers, mindful to make as little noise as possible.
“Jovolin dances to my tune like a well made marionette my Lord, all is well. Tomorrow eve, the young Gralias prince will have his bloodshed, under the Blood Moon, that the ancient blood mixes with our own. I will have sufficient power, then, to bear the strain of the spells necessary to bring Asai back over us. He will rule dominantly amongst the Gods, as he will be the sole celestial force; none can ever free the other Gods again, Asai will rule all; we will ride the windsss again, with none of the othersss to bother us again. We will have Chemlaka unto ourselves again, assss we have alwaysss meant to! I bid you an excellent evenin…,” Delsta paused then, thinking he heard slippers upon the polished stone used in the hallway, yet he couldn’t have been sure; continued on, as he could not anger his king, Dolsta va’ Vaja, “…ahh sorry Lord, I was momentarily distracted. I shall bid you well my Lord; until we speak tomorrow evening, as something closer to Gods then mere mortals, as we now remain. Until that prominent evening!”…

Wow, that sounds exciting!  I can’t wait to check that out!  Well, thanks for joining us today, Mathew, and we hope you’re enjoying the party!
Thanks for having me, Ray, and congratulations on your new release!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Soapbox Spotlight: Alexia Purdy

Thank you so much for being with us on another installment of the Launch Week edition of Soapbox Spotlight.  Our next special guest visitor, Alexia Purdy, is an incredible paranormal suspense YA author (that's Young Adult for you lamens).  She is now based out of Las Vegas and is here to talk to us about her latest release, Reign of Blood.

Do you want to tell us about yourself?

Well, I’m an author/poet, and I live in Las Vegas NV.  My debut novel, Ever Shade (A Dark Faerie Tale), just released Feb 29th.  I’m pretty excited about it. It’s been a long road.  Reign of Blood, an entirely different series based on a post-apocalyptic Las Vegas and a vampire hunter named April, just released on April 29th. I have been writing since I can remember, lots of short stories and poems scattered about my house.  Writing is my escape and my love.  I have four kids that keep me quite busy. I love them to death, and they keep me grounded. I am also a registered nurse and have been doing that for 11 years now. I love the freedom writing gives me, and I’m enjoying the journey.

Wow!  You've got your hands full!  What inspires you to write and why?

Words are amazing; put them one way, and you can evoke emotion, leave someone breathless. Another way, you can cause terror and nightmarish landscapes. Yet another, love and inspiration. I am a wordsmith: these are my crafts and designs for the world to enjoy. This alone makes me want to write more and more. I have a huge imagination and to put it down on paper is the only high for me.

What first attracted you to this genre?

I love the YA genre because it’s fun, fresh, and doesn’t have to be super serious. I love it!  [There are] so many amazing writers out there in this genre.  It’s definitely not one to miss for any age.

What inspired you to write your first book, and what was it?

Ever Shade was my first full length novel.  I had always wanted to be a writer, and the idea for this book came to me from a dream I had that I thought would make an awesome story. I made myself write it down and kept going, determined to write a novel. I hope I did it justice; my dream world is quite vast.

What was the hardest part about writing this book?

Sitting down and typing it! I am not a patient person; I hate typing and it gets tedious. Music helps relax me while I write--otherwise, I’d never get it done.

How much of the book is based on real events?

Reign of Blood is based on real Las Vegas.  It is a post-apocalyptic story so the rest is made up.  I do try to stay true to the landmarks and the infamous Strip. It is a bit harder than what I did with Ever Shade, which was completely fictional.

What are your current writing projects now?

I just wrapped up the release of Reign of Blood on April 29th. Then I will get going on Book 3 of my Dark Faerie Tale series called Ever Winter, due out sometime in 2013.  I am also working on a super project with some of my fellow authors at my publishing group Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly.  It will be phenomenal.

Sounds incredible!  I'm going to have to keep my eye out for that.  What do you think are some of the best tools available today for writers, especially those just starting out?

Of course the internet, you can do almost everything on there. Sell your book, promote, make connections, advertise…you name it. I take full advantage of it. You can never be too connected. I meet new people every day.  It is important to talk with them, share your life. This is what pulls in those potential readers; yep, they want to know you too, not just your writing.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Read a lot, write a lot and support each other.  We can’t do this alone; we are not islands.

What do you do to unwind and relax?

I read, listen to music, watch YouTube and play with my kids OUTSIDE! I love nature, not a huge outdoorsy type but I do like to immerse myself in it’s amazing beauty; it’s a serenity I crave.

What are some of your favorites (foods, color, musicians)?

I love Italian and Mexican food. My favorite color is yellow, and my favorite musician is Lisa Hannigan--at the moment anyway; it changes often.

I love Italian and yellow is my favorite color, too!  Wow, it's been wonderful getting to know you, Alexia!  Congratulations on all your success, and thanks for stopping by the party.

Thanks for having me, Raynetta!

Alexia is giving away a free e-book copy of her new release, Reign of Blood!  Winner will be chosen at 9am EST on May 5 from the giveaway entries received on May 1-May 4.  The winner will have 48 hours to respond to correspondence and win their prize.  Good luck!

You can find and interact with Alexia at the following links:
Twitter:!/AlexiaPurdy @AlexiaPurdy
Ever Shade (A Dark Faerie Tale) Facebook Fan page:
Reign of Blood Series Facebook Fan Page:

These are Alexia's incredible books!  You can purchase them at Barnes & Noble and Amazon!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Soapbox Spotlight: J. Mahogany

Welcome back to another Launch Week installment of Soapbox Spotlight!  I'm so proud to introduce you to this next author; she's my best friend of thirteen years, J. Mahogany!  Her first work is Barely Breathing, a prose compilation we authored together.  She's here to talk to us about poetry, prose compilations, and what she loves about writing.

So, tell us a little about yourself.
I am from Inglewood, CA, but grew up all across America.  I am what some people call an "Army Brat".  Both my parents were in the Army.  Growing up in so many places allowed me to be introduced to many cultures and people.  It is because of that upbringing that I have such a diverse group of friends, most of whom I consider extended family.  I have always loved losing myself inside of a new book.  I have a colorful history of experiences that inspire me to write most of my work.  I am a child at heart and will never change that part of me for anything in the world.  It keeps me from being hardened by some of the tragic experiences I have had to deal with in my life.  It also keeps those around me laughing and remembering to appreciate even the little things in life.

You are also a member of our honored military.  Let me, on behalf of our readership, give you the deepest thanks for your service.  We are so blessed as a country that you take those risks out there.

How long have you been writing? 
Since I can remember.  Writing has been my method of "breathing".  It started as just journaling when I was 8 or 9 and continued into poetry and prose as I got older.

Your genre is prose; have you ever considered writing anything else?
I have written a few children's stories that I read to my friends’ and neighbor’s children.  They are mainly about teaching children life lessons in a creative and fun way.

How would you describe the pieces you write?
[They are] my life experiences.  I am very imaginative, but most pieces I write stem from a memory or something I have heard from someone else that inspired me to write about it.

Do you feel you've evolved as a writer?  What caused the change?
I am the worst critic of my work!  But, yes, I can definitely see the changes of my writer's voice through the years. [It’s much more] emotional and mature.  [A lot] of my growth in writing stems from life experiences that were very painful.  If I could describe it, it would be as if I died emotionally and resurrected as a new being.  When I am at my lowest, that is when I find the words that surface like a butterfly from a cocoon.  Still, when I read others’ work, such as yours, it makes me want to burn my notebooks and be shameful to want to call myself a writer!

That’s ridiculous; you’re brilliant!  Can you tell us more about what inspires you to write?
Life.  Memories.  Pain.

What do you love about independent authorship?
Creative control gives you the freedom to write from your heart.  I love being challenged and given a topic to write about, but being an independent author puts no restrictions on what I want to say or how I should say it.

Do you have any new projects planned?
Always!  I have so many projects....I just tend to procrastinate.  I have three novels I would like to one day finish as well as two compilations of prose that I have yet to edit, one of them with you that we’re hoping to get out next year.

Yes!  Above Broken Dreams is the name of the project, and I think it’s going to be incredible.  Oh, and let's not forget about the joint venture novel, Riding Past Dawn.  I’m so looking forward to finishing those with you.
It’s going to be really fun working together again!

What do you see ahead for yourself in your writing career?
A solo project of my own prose is the long term goal.  But I feel that I have a bit more growing to do as a writer before I make that leap.

What do you do for fun?
I love listening to music; it is so soothing.  I love to travel the world (which as we speak I am in the Middle East), and I absolutely love playing with my dogs, a.k.a. my babies.

Can you tell our audience about some of your favorite things?
My favorite country is Australia.  The people are so friendly, and the country itself is so beautiful.  My favorite city is Point Reyes, Calif.  It is in northern California on the coast and is the perfect setting for a relaxing vacation or to find peace of mind.  I love Italian food - well, I love all food, but that is my favorite.  I love too many artists to pick any favorites, but what stays in constant play on my iPod is Jill Scott, Eric Benet, Maxwell, Ledisi, Fred Hammond, Alicia Keys, Jasmine Sullivan, Rihanna and Melanie Fiona.  My absolute favorite author is Paulo Coehlo.  His books really make you reflect on life and yourself.  And many have a religious theme to them.  When I read his books I feel my spirit growing.

Wow, those are some amazing favorites!  Do you have any poetry you'd like to share with us today?

Sure!  This is titled "Lighthouse".

Nestled deep behind my strong demeanor
You will find a heart that bleeds deeply for you.
A trail of tears will lead yo to a woman
Who has become weakened by your existence.
I am intimately connected to you.
I dream of you; I crave you.

Locked away behind my poised expression
I dance for you.
I celebrate your existence in my world;
I cherish you.
You are - everything to me.
That is what my heart would say if it could speak.

Even when the shadows engulf your light
I see you.  I seek you.
Your love is a beacon to my ship
Where I long to moor at your pier and embrace you.
I whisper your name to the ocean
In hopes of navigating my sail back to you.

You are...home.
My safe haven.
You are my buried treasure that I seek diligently to find.
Have I lost you forever?
Has my bearing lost its course?
Never.  A sailor never loses sight or faith amongst the arduous seas
In hopes of returning to their beloved.
I pray you will always be my beacon home.

Amazing, as usual!  Well, Besti, it has been an absolute honor to have you stop by the party and talk with us today.  Keep us posted about all your upcoming projects.
I certainly will, and thanks for having me.  It’s been great catching up with you, and congrats on The Grim!  What a read!

Thanks so much!