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.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Memoirs of a Geisha

When Memoirs of a Geisha (the movie) was prepping to debut, I heard it was based on a book by Arthur Golden (1997).  Naturally, me being me of course, I wanted to read it before I saw the movie.  I found the book easily enough and was instantly engaged.

The story is about a young girl from Yoroido--Chiyo--who, with her sister, are sold to the geisha province of Kyoto after the death of their mother.  Separated from her sister, Satsu, Chiyo is sold to a geisha house as a maid then eventually given the opportunity to be sent to school to be trained as a geisha.  In an attempt to runaway with her sister, who she finds in the "red light district", she falls from a roof and is returned to the geisha house injured, where, as punishment, she will remain a slave forever, never to be a geisha.  However, Hatsumomo, the current highest paid geisha in the region, a geisha in the house Chiyo serves, is wrecking havoc left and right for the other houses.  At her current rate, it is Hatsumomo who stands the best chance of being adopted by the mistress and taking over the geisha house, which no other house wants to see happen.  Mameha, Hatsumomo's fiercest rival, plots to make little Chiyo the new belle of the ball and unseat Hatsumomo from her reign.

Golden weaves a tale of majesty and wonder in a world that otherwise may never have been explored.  Brimming with historic accuracy, we are transported to pre-World War II Japan, where becoming a geisha is one of the highest and respected professions a young girl can achieve.  Little Chiyo becomes Sayuri, and strives to become the most famous geisha in the world.  But the war, and her love for a man--as geishas are not meant to love, prevents her from following her heart and achieving the destiny that she knows is hers.

The movie is as gratifying as the book, while there are of course significant differences in the storyline.  (Again, as I say nearly every month, movies and books are different mediums and have to be judged individually.)  The visual mastery of the film is transcendent and epic.  The culture is portrayed beautifully, weaving a world of majesty and wonder in a way I have never seen before.  I was captivated from the first scene, and have remained so ever since.  The acting is brilliant, and you love to hate Hatsumomo--although, I did feel some empathy for her toward the end.

I know that if you sit down with this book, then turn down the lights and watch this movie, you're absolutely going to love both.  However, I have to admit I love the movie a little more than the book.  The novel can drag in places in a way the movie does not, and it may have helped the story if the book was written as an actual memoir.  Those points notwithstanding, both mediums are an absolute masterpiece.

5/5 suns: the movie makes up for some of the lull in the book.  Great date or girls night DVD.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Soapbox Spotlight: Erin Zarro

Thank you for visiting!  Today's Spotlight is with Erin Zarro, a fantasy writer and poet currently residing in Michigan.  She is here to tell us about her latest work, Fey Touched (note: this novel has adult content and is recommended for readers 18 and older.)

Tell us about yourself.

I am a novelist and poet living in Michigan.  I've been writing since I could hold a pen, and I taught myself how to type when I was 7.  I have a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and an unofficial minor in Photography (my second love).  I am married to a wonderful man who is my soulmate, and we have a kitty daughter named Hailey, who I'm sure is part-vampire. To pay the bills, I am the office manager for a small marketing firm.  But my true love in life is writing.

What first attracted you to this genre?

I've always loved fantasy, ever since I read Wizard's First Rule by Terry Goodkind.  And I started reading sci-fi around 2006 or so and found it awesome...but kinda tough to understand (well, hard sci-fi anyways).  When I was kicking around the idea of self-publishing with Turtleduck Press, I knew I needed something a bit unusual, so I thought if I combined fantasy and sci-fi, I'd have something both fun to write and cool to read.  I took a bit of each and created a story that I believe is totally unique.

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

Well, it depends on which first book we're talking about. If we're talking about the very beginning, I don't actually remember, except that it featured unicorns.  When I came back to it in 2001, I was unemployed.   It was my first serious foray into novel writing.  It was called The Dreaming Eye and it was inspired by real life events.  And the question that started it: if you could relive your life, what would you do differently?  What would stay the same?

What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general?

Revising.  First drafts are pure fun to write, and that's where I discover the story.  After that, I usually have to do a lot of revising (and possibly rewriting) to make things work.  Sometimes I'll rip out whole chapters or rewrite chapters.  It's difficult, but the end result is always worth it.

Did writing this new book teach you anything and what was it?

Yes.  That I can not only write to a deadline, but the revisions don't have to take years.  I'm a very slow writer, and everything I've ever written has taken at least a few years start to finish.  Except Fey Touched.  That was quite the revelation for me.

What is your greatest strength as a writer?

I believe it's a tie between my villains (who I've been told are scary as hell) and my plots.  I'm pretty good about twisting the screws tighter and tighter on my poor characters.

Have you ever had writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?

All the time!  But usually, something has gone off the rails and I need to regroup and figure out what happened and how to fix it.  I usually ponder it and brainstorm until I think of something.  If I'm really stuck, I freewrite about the problem and possible solutions.  Sometimes I just need time away.  It just depends on the book and what else is going on in my life at the same time.

Can you tell us a little more about Fey Touched? 

Two sisters.

Asha is the Queen of the Fey, genetically engineered immortal humans who feed on human souls to survive. But she's running from her people. When she is found by her enemy, one of the Hunters of the Fey, she expects to die. Yet he's oddly intrigued by her, and Asha finds herself falling in love with him, hoping she can find safety and the home she's been seeking. Then she's kidnapped, and everything changes.

Fallon is a Hunter. She's looking for her long-lost sister, using an addictive drug to search through the stream of time. Her addiction leaves her dangerously exposed to her enemies but, consumed by her search, she doesn't care...until her fellow Hunters start dying from a mysterious illness. She is torn between duty and desire, and must find an answer before they all die.

What Fallon doesn't know is that Asha might just be the key to saving them all, if only she can find her.

And time is running out.

PLEASE NOTE: this book contains explicit language, explicit sex, and graphic violence. It isn't suitable for those under 18.

Wow!  So, how did you come up with the title?

The title (and series title, as they are the same) came from the Hunters in my book.  They're called Fey Touched because they hunt Fey (in my world, they're genetically engineered humans who are immortal and must feed on human souls to survive) who turn into killing machines.  They have some of the Fey genes in them so they can hunt them better.

How did you develop your plot and characters?

This was completely different from any other book I've ever written, as a lot of the basic things came from my first finished novel, The Sacrifice (back in 2003, for National Novel Writing Month).   But back then, I used vampires and vampire slayers.  I always knew I wanted to update it somehow, and the idea hit me one day last October.  Scientific Fey and Fey Hunters. I usually do a loose outline before starting, but with this one, I didn't write anything down at all.  (In fact, it was almost a superstitious thing – if I write this down, I'll lose the spark.  Luckily, I have a really good memory).  As for the plot, I more or less drew it out of thin air as I was writing it.  I knew some basic things and kept making things worse and worse for my characters.  The characters, with a few exceptions, where from The Sacrifice.

What do you love about independent publishing?

The freedom!  I can set my own deadlines, choose my own cover, and do my own editing.  There's no one controlling it but me, and that's a good feeling.

Thanks for joining us, Erin!

You can find Erin at the following links:

Twitter: @ekendall
Turtleduck Press (a writer's alliance I'm a part of...we strive to bring less commercial but quality works to the world):

You can find Erin's book on Amazon.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Soapbox Spotlight: Joyce Strand

Thank you for joining me for another installment of Soapbox Spotlight!  Today's Spotlight is with mystery author Joyce Strand.  She has written two mystery novels already, and has a lot in common with me in that she was raised in Williamsport, PA (where I went to Lycoming College) and finished her education at George Washington University (near where I grew up in Washington DC).  See what she has to say about her writing experience and her latest novel, Open Meetings.

Tell us a little about yourself, Joyce.

Like my main character, I headed corporate communications at Silicon Valley high-tech and biotech companies for more than 25 years. Currently, I live in Southern California and do what my two cats tell me. I also love eating fine pastas and drinking California red wines. And attending Broadway musicals. I have written and published two Jillian Hillcrest mysteries, and am working on a third in the series.

Can you tell us about your main character?

Jillian Hillcrest is head of corporate communications at a small biotechnology company in Silicon Valley, named Harmonia Therapeutics. Her routine of writing press releases, speaking at conferences, and arranging interviews--all change due to the intrusion of murder. With the help of a determined homicide inspector, her ex-husband--whose attentiveness to her suggests he wants to amend the “ex”-- and a retired intrusive neighbor, Jillian connects disparate pieces of the puzzles to help solve the crimes.

More on Jillian:  Prior to joining Harmonia, she also did PR for almost 10 years at a high tech company. She grew up with her mother in a small town in Pennsylvania, although they moved to California when she was in high school, and her mother now lives in southern California. She never got to know her father, as he was killed in the Vietnam War. She got married right after graduation from Cal to Chad Bradbury, who is a marketing executive at a biotech company in Alameda. They divorced after 10 years of marriage, and, quite frankly, are not sure why. They enjoy each other’s company, and go together to fine restaurants, plays, and trips to the wine country.

Jillian has her own website, Facebook page, and blog.  She tries to keep her fans up to date on her activities, and frequently offers clues to readers to win a free book.

Wow, that's a clever idea!  What do you love about independent publishing?

Control and pace. I choose the cover, the type face, the editor, the distribution.  And I do the marketing. I don’t need to wait to find an agent, and then wait for the agent to land a publisher, and then wait for the publisher to decide whether to publish, and then wait for the publisher to find the optimal time for them to publish. I hasten to add, however, that as my own publisher I am very demanding and require a well-edited book with an excellent cover and inside design.  I do spend a lot of time editing and improving.

On the other hand, the problem with independent publishing is that I am in control, and I have to choose the cover designer, the type face, the editor, the distribution – and I have to pay for everything.  Then I have to spend hours and hours marketing.  

Yeah, all that control can definitely be a downer!  How much of the book is based on real events?

All the Jillian Hillcrest mysteries are inspired by actual California cases, although most of the books are fiction. The first mystery, On Message, is motivated by an infamous San Diego case involving embezzlement and murder of a retired biotech executive turned angel investor.  Open Meetings is inspired by a San Francisco-area case involving a network of criminal ex- and current police.
In addition, the back story of public relations and a corporate PR executive’s activities are based on my own experiences. Of course, I never encountered any murder cases, nor did I ever walk in on my CEO and CFO in bed together, but I did perform many of the described functions and intend that the reader comprehends the routine of a PR pro and how the murders and crimes intrude on that routine.

How important do you think villains are in a story?

Without villains, there could be no heroes. Whether the villain is a tornado, a serial killer, a mother-in-law, or a bank robber, we need villains to set up the predicaments that our protagonists overcome.  So villains are crucial to a plot.  Books would be very boring without villains, I think.

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

Book:  James Clavell’s SHOGUN because the author made me feel like I was in feudal Japan, watching the chess-like moves of the rise of the Shogun, and feeling the reactions of the characters. 
Musical:  Les Miserables or Wicked – both have superb music, compelling plots, and deliver a message while entertaining.
Food: Roast duck or duck confit or Peking duck and pasta, especially penne Bolognese
Musician:  Wynton Marsalis – he can play either jazz or classical trumpet and reach out to me, and make it seem so easy.

How long have you been writing?

I think I have always been writing. In school, I asked for essay questions over multiple choice. I chose to do projects that involved writing papers and reports.  In college, I asked to do an independent study that involved a comparison of Camus and Sartre resulting in a 150 page essay with my own existential poems initiating each chapter. I wrote a doctoral dissertation, which is simply a non-fiction book – I loved writing it. Then when I started my career, writing was a core skill so I fell easily into the art of marketing and public relations.  Throughout my career I wrote hundreds of press releases and background documents; and published dozens of ghost-written articles.  So, when it came time to write a novel, I had a core skill to draw from, although I freely admit that writing fiction is different than drafting marketing documents.

What first attracted you to this genre?

I have been reading mystery stories, such as Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, since I was a child. I grew up in a small town where there was little else to do than reading. Fortunately we had a great library. My parents refused to buy a television.  There was one movie theater.  In the summer my friends and I would go on bicycle hikes; in the winter the town flooded a field so we could ice skate.  In between I would read.  Mysteries were my favorite from the beginning.  I still love them, and currently have 20 loaded on my Kindle just waiting for me.

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

I would have to say that I consider my first book to be my doctoral dissertation, which was a discussion of the transition of Brazil from a military dictatorship to a democracy. However, in my current mystery genre, my first book was On Message – the first Jillian Hillcrest mystery.  I wrote it because I was out of work, and could not find a job – after more than 25 years as a public relations professional.  My husband recommended it, and given that I had always enjoyed reading mysteries, and I find writing therapeutic, I decided it was a great idea!

That seems to be a common theme with authors on their first book.  What do you look for in a cover?

A good cover reflects the subject of the book and the genre.  That is, a serious mystery should be somber; a humorous mystery can be whimsical.  Perhaps more important, the title and author names should be prominent and should standout so that a reader notices them among a group of other books.

What’s your writing process?

First, I determine the plot – which means that I decide on the crime, which I pull from current California cases. Since I write a series, I have fleshed out the main characters, although each book has different villains and victims, so I also outline their characteristics before starting. Then I determine the beginning and the end of the book.  Third, I sit down and start to write a first draft.  I let the characters lead me to bridge the scenes. 

Writing the first draft usually takes me four to six months. When I finish, I let the manuscript sit for at least a week.  Then I edit it – multiple times.  This process can take an additional month.  When I am satisfied that I have a reasonably good first draft, I turn it over to 2-3 readers.  Then I write Draft 2 based on their input.  For the second novel, I cut almost 15,000 words at this point.

When I have a second draft that I like, I send it to another group of readers – this leads to Draft 3.  I edit this draft, and then send Draft 4 to a professional editor.  Of course, this means lots of changes and Draft 5 becomes the close-to-final, but still requires changes, as I finalize the mystery. I agonize for several weeks or months before I agree with myself that the book is ready for publication.

Multiple drafts is definitely the mark of a brilliant writer.  Congratulations on your latest work, and thanks for joining us today!

Thanks for having me, Raynetta!

You can find Joyce at the following links:

Blog: http://StrandsSimplyTips.blogspot
Book Trailer:

You can find Joyce's books at the following links:

On Message

Open Meetings

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Soapbox Spotlight: Melissa Love

Thanks for joining me in welcoming another Soapbox Spotlight author today!  Melissa Love is an up and coming author from Detroit, Michigan. Her first urban fiction novel Sinful Traits was published in 2010. Since then, she has been using her creative storytelling to create more jaw-dropping stories with a unique twist.  She is a member of the Motown Literary Network that promote up-and-coming authors.  Today, she is talking to us about her latest novel, Holy Suspicion.

What made you want to be a writer?

My co-workers and I used to read books and talk about them. I remember while reading some of these books that I could write and be as creative as the story. So in 2000, I had my first book published.

How did you come up with the title for your latest book?

The title was pretty easy. I knew I wanted to [write about an] affair, and I wanted to talk about secrets.

Can you tell us about your main character?

My main character is Carter, and I wrote the book from his view point.

How did you develop your plot and characters?

My plot was to have the wife hiding a secret affair, and my main character trying to put the pieces together on who she was having an affair with.

What do you look for in a cover?

I make sure the cover(s) try to fit [the] story that I am writing.

What do you love about independent publishing?

I love the fact that my stories stay true to the way [I wrote them]. I have the freedom to determine my pricing, and I am able to order my book with no problem when I have events to do.

How do you come up with new novel ideas?

Sometimes I watch TV shows, or my co-workers have discussion at work then an idea comes to me.

What was the hardest part about writing this book?

The hardest part I had to face was giving off  little hints into Keisha’s (the wife) [life], without letting the real secret out. I wanted the readers to find out at the same time Carter did.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Yes; it's all about hiding secrets and knowing that sooner or later your secret will be exposed.

How much of this book is based on real events?

I say about a good percent of women and men cheat, [but it's] not [based on any event in my life].
Do you have to travel much concerning your book?

Thanks to the internet, I can do blog and author tours. So far I have done a book signing, and participate in my home town Authors groups where I bring my book(s).

What projects can we expect from you in the future?

I will be writing more books and uncovering more secrets.

Wow!  Well, thanks for joining me today, Melissa.

Thanks for having me, Ray!

Melissa is giving away a Bath & Body Works scented basket with an ebook copy of her latest release Holy Suspicion!  Comment on this post for a chance to win!

You can find Melissa at the following links:

Twitter: @lisasecrets29

You can find Melissa's books at the following links:


Barnes & Noble:

Monday, September 10, 2012

How to Create a Book Trailer

 It used to be unconventional for a novel to have a trailer, but now, you see trailers for books everywhere.  It's the new cool thing.  Book trailers are very similar to the previews you watch for movies--in a world overrun with technology, readers need just as much visual stimulation for books as other entertainment mediums.  It's no wonder that authors have taken to using book trailers as their latest marketing strategy.  And not without some modicum of success either.

I knew I wanted--no, needed--a book trailer the moment I started researching them on Youtube.  I saw some really bad ones, and then some really good ones.  I started realizing the difference between the two: (1) good trailers are relatively short--a minute to a minute-thirty seconds--and relay the main idea of the book quickly; (2) good trailers leave enough to the imagination to be intriguing and keep the reader (or non-reader) interested in the project; and (3) good trailers have pronounced (aka "flashy") content with theme-appropriate music.  A good book trailer can draw an audience that typically doesn't read, and can pique the avid reader's interest much more quickly.

I researched companies who created book trailers, but most of the companies and freelancers that specialized in such things wanted anywhere from $300 to $1200 to put one together.  (The average, I found, was about $800.)  Of course, they promised a slew of promotion with the contract as well, but most of the sites they advertised were not reader-friendly.  In short, it became clear what I needed to do.  I would have to create one myself.

I found my laptop already had installed a program called Windows Movie Maker.  Super user-friendly, this Windows program proved to be as simple to operate as Microsoft Word.  With pictures or video inserted in my starter pane, I could add effects to still shots, slow down or speed up video, as well as cut, elongate, or edit content.  I could even add music!  (For the faint of heart, Movie Maker tutorials are available online.)

I found free stock pictures at a variety of places; my primary source, however, was WikiCommons.  They can be a little difficult to navigate (as their sort headers are relatively abstract and unconventional), but perseverance proves paramount here.  You can find almost anything.  For music, Free Stock Music was immeasurably useful.  I also found free sound effects at AudioMicro.  These music sites only require an email address for signup, and, at the time of this post, do not require fees for membership, or payment or donations to acquire downloads.

Once I had what I needed, I put together a storyboard for my trailer, inserted the appropriate pictures, captions and music, and voila!  With some rather insignificant tweaking, I was able to make the words and images move and appear in the way I wanted (thanks to the tutorials), and the finished project is below.

Consequently, I posted to Youtube, Goodreads, my website, and any other place where my trailer was welcome.  I began including the Youtube link when I do author features on other blogs.  The view count on my Youtube page is rising daily.  Who knows how many sales those views will amount to?  But with a trailer created on about a day's work and no pocket money, those sales will be well-earned.

Friday, September 7, 2012

RJS Book Review: Scars from a Memoir

RJS Book Review
When I first interviewed Marni Mann in May about her debut effort, Memoirs Aren't Fairytales: a Story of Addiction, I knew that the book had to be something special.  Memoirs is the story of Nicole, a heroine addict on the streets of Boston.  Her story is dark, violent and raw.  I knew Marni was on to something; she was talking about pains and traumas no one else would touch.  And her following was fierce.  It was the impact I wanted to have on others with The Grim, exploring topics from which others shy away.  I kept meaning to see what all the fuss was about, but, admittedly, I never got around to it.

Then, I was offered an incredible opportunity: Marni forwarded me a copy of her sequel, Scars from a Memoir.  I have never been so honored in my life, and the book, rest assured, did not disappoint in the slightest.  Scars picks up with Nicole now walking through sobriety, trying to forgive herself for the depths to which she stooped during her addiction.  She is rebuilding relationships, starting new ones and trying to find her place in the world.  But the shadows of her past haunt her at every turn, and she questions if she is strong enough to resist that old familiar tug.

I usually give myself six weeks to read a book for review; with the other things I have going on, I struggle with finding time to read leisurely.  Let me assure you: Scars of a Memoir turned my entire schedule upside down.  I got angry when I was interrupted or had to stop reading.  I will admit, I still haven't read Memoirs yet, but the reassurance with this book was I didn't need to.  I was just as invested in Nicole's journey in the sequel, even with knowing only traces of what she had come from.  I cried, twice, and I hated Marni, for gripping me so completely!  And the twist ending was definitely the second reason for my tears.  After everything, just when you're letting your guard down...

But this is what we love, isn't it, about reading?  Getting lost in a story and taken to a place we've never been, even when those places have danger lurking around every corner...
I was moved, I was saddened, I was redeemed.  And I thank you, Marni, for allowing me to go on this journey. With work like this, I'm sure your success will be limitless.
5/5 suns: You can't get Memoirs or Scars fast enough.  Must reads!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Soapbox Spotlight: Greg Kuhn

Today's Soapbox Spotlight is a guest blog with our first non-fiction guest.  Author Greg Kuhn is a professional educator and a futurist, specializing in framing new paradigms for 21st Century living. For the lastfifteen years, he has written primarily with his father, Dr. Clifford Kuhn,M.D., about health, wellness, and productivity.  Greg Kuhn lives in Louisville, KY with his wonderful wife and four fantastic sons (one by marriage) whom he couldn’t have published this book without.

Why Being in the Moment is Essential if You Want to Lose Unwanted Weight (and Can Help Writers Too)

Are you like many Americans?  Very concerned about your weight, yet seemingly unable to lose it for good?  If so, you might be surprised to learn that the problem is not you; you have the desire, the willingness, and good plans to follow.  The culprit is, in fact, the modern diet and weight loss industry’s continued reliance on old, outdated, and inaccurate science.  Science which has actually been replaced, right under our noses, by an amazingly precise one: quantum physics. 

And quantum physics holds the answers for how to finally lose your unwanted weight.  While radically different from the old science, quantum physics is verifiable, reliable, and immensely more accurate.  This new science offers you opportunities to change your body more simply and completely than you ever imagined, even without changing your current diet and exercise regimen.
For example, one of the simple ways you can engage the power of quantum physics to lose unwanted weight (as well as improve your life, generally) is to be fully invested in the present moment.  Quantum physics tells us that the past and the future are, literally, illusions.  When our focus is on the past and/or the future, the two most dangerous illusions confronting any person, we are disengaging our energy from the only time we can effectively improve our lives – right now.

Thoughtfully consider this: isn’t virtually every fear you have really about your “future” and, conversely, isn’t every resentment you hold really about your “past”?  In this present moment, you may notice, you have nothing to fear (unless you’re currently being chased by an angry dog and, if you are, how are you reading this blog?) and nothing to resent. 

Let me describe why living in the present moment is an extremely powerful method for finally losing unwanted weight.  Quantum physics describes the “past” as simply a collection of remembered “right now’s” and expending energy upon that collection gives it great (and, in terms of losing weight, problematic) power.  And, of course, the future is an illusion simply because it will never occur - when it gets here it will always be “right now”! 

The biggest problem with not being focused upon the present moment is that you can’t ever do anything productive to help you achieve your ideal body in the past or the future.  This may sound silly, but try it right now; do something, right now, “yesterday”.  And then do something, right now, “tomorrow”.  Definitely impossible requests, correct?  “Right now” is the one and only time you can ever take any action regarding your weight loss (or anything else, for that matter). 

Read Why Quantum Physicists Don’t Get Fat to discover exactly how to use the power of living in the present moment to finally lose your unwanted weight, as well as reveal scores of other secrets quantum physics has to empower you to achieve your ideal body.

That was amazingly insightful!  Thanks for stopping by, Greg!

You can find out more about Greg at the following links:

You can buy Greg's book here: