Friday, April 18, 2014

Indie Author Conference

Have you written a book, or want to? Are you confused about the options out there to publish? Traditional? Indie (self-publishing)?

Over the last few years, amazing opportunities have opened up for authors. No longer do writers have to go through gatekeepers (agents, acquisitions editors, editors, publishers). Authors are free to publish their books themselves through the Kindle program.

While it's great that Amazon has paved the way for authors to take control of their own publishing careers, it's also made it possible for a glut of sub-par books to be published--books that haven't been edited or gone through a process to make sure they are ready for publication. There's a lot to consider before hitting that publish button on Kindle. Things like: cover, price, back cover blurb, typesetting, and most importantly, making sure the story is ready for the world (the characters feel real, the story arc makes sense, there's some growth for the characters the characters have goals, the dialogue is natural, the scenes are structured properly, there's enough conflict, etc).

Seems like that's a lot to consider, right? It is. But there's help. There's going to be a amazing conference targeted to indie authors on June 7, 2014 in Provo, UT.

If you are serious about getting into the indie market as a published author, you should make plans to attend this conference. You can find out more at Indie Author Hub.

This conference will be awesome! Lots of great classes and tons of knowledgeable people who can teach you the ropes so you can avoid common mistakes.

Go sign up. Today!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Guest Post by Donna Cook

Please welcome Donna Cook to my blog. 

Author Donna Cook
Donna Cook is an Arizona native transplanted to Boise, Idaho, where she is delighting in the change of scenery. When she’s not writing she spends her time chasing the kids, exploring delicious eateries downtown, and dancing with her talented husband. Her fantasy adventure, Gift of the Phoenix has won several awards, including Semifinalist in the Kindle Book Review Book of the Year Awards, and Notable Read in the Shelf Unbound/Half Price Books Indie Book of the Year competition. It was also nominated for the Whitney Award, which recognizes LDS writers. She’s currently working on the sequel to Gift of the Phoenix.

Donna says:

I graduated from college with a degree in creative writing, then didn’t write a thing for 10 years. There were a couple reasons for that.

First, in spite of a lifelong dream to become an author, college sucked all the joy out of writing. The emphasis (or so it seemed to the younger version of myself) was on literary writing. “Genre” was practically a dirty word. The more our stories delivered fluffed up metaphors and self-importance the better. Bonus points for dark, dark angst.

This isn’t to say I don’t like literary writing. I do like it, and I still write this way sometimes (minus the angst and ego, I hope). This also isn’t to say it wasn’t a good program or that I didn’t learn a lot. It was and I did. In fact, I chose my college specifically because of its writing program. But college was my first exposure to literary elitism, which didn’t resonate with me. I was still too immature and insecure to say, “Forget that, I’ll write what I want to write.”

Instead, I clammed up.

The second reason I didn’t write for a decade had nothing to do with the program. They say that in high school you think you know everything, but by the time you graduate college you realize just how much you don’t know.

That was certainly true for me. I did (and still do) want to write stories that speak to the human condition. That reflect the complexities of our lives. That exude the kind of wisdom that only comes from experience.

I decided I needed to live life and get some experience.

If only I knew to be careful what you wish for. (But that’s a topic for another post.)

Fast forward 10 years and you find a mother of three young children and a writer in hibernation. What woke the bear from a long winter’s nap?

The Harry Potter craze was in full force. J.K. Rowling had released four books and two movies. Since I’m late to pretty much any trend, I was just now picking up on things. I started to wonder what this Harry Potter kid was all about.

So I watched the first movie. Then I watched the second. Then I devoured all four books.

It was my first true exposure to the fantasy genre and it lit me up. I remembered how fun stories could be. For the first time in years, I longed to tell a story of my own. I saw this magical world of Harry Potter and I wanted to play, too.

So I did. I started gathering ideas in a notebook. I listed everything that excited me, no matter how small. My love of lighthouses inspired the magical Rock of Light. Dolphins worked their way into the story. Cool boxes, the sea, mazes, they all fed my imagination and transformed into something new. The entire story centered around the myth of the Phoenix, something that has always fascinated me.

I finally had the self-confidence to tell the story I wanted to tell. And I was loving it.

In a way, I’m like the Phoenix: my dream of being a writer was reborn from the ashes. I suspect the Phoenix is something a lot of us can relate to. How many of us have been knocked on our backs just to get back up again? I think we all know what that’s like.

gift of phoenix tour

Gift of the PhoenixGift of the Phoenix When three strangers are brought together by the discovery of a common enemy, they must fight to keep the magic of the Phoenix out of dangerous hands before their world is destroyed forever. The Three must learn to unite in spite of what separates them, and unlock the magic of three stones that seem to harm as much as they help. But uniting will not be easy for Nicolai, the simple peasant with a powerful secret; Marcellus, the warrior prince who’s no longer heir to the throne; and Corren, a gifted wizard whose ambitions threaten to ruin them all. Full of magic, mystery, and a touch of romance, Gift of the Phoenix is an epic fantasy that takes the reader deep into the heart of a wondrous world and the three men destined to defend it.

Praise for Gift of the Phoenix “An incredibly impressive book that grips you from the very start. There is plenty of action in the story, some wonderful characters and magical, atmospheric settings. Donna has created a fascinating realm in this story which, even if you don’t consider yourself a fantasy fan, you’ll definitely enjoy.” – Excerpt of Stephanie Dagg’s review at Books Are Cool. “As an avid reader of fantasy, I often encounter boring or overused plotlines—this was neither! With a fresh new take on fantasy adventure, Cook constructs an enchanting world of magic, kingdoms, rebirth, and death.” – Excerpt a review by Artemis at Fantasy Book Lovers Unite “Gift of the Phoenix reminds me of a mix of Paolin’s Eragon and Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, but stands on its own as a unique fantasy-adventure. Cook creates a magic system that is intricate and unique, which can be hard to do in a genre littered with magic. The story is very complex, and yet very easy to follow… layers upon layers of intertwined plots that all culminate to a fantastic ending. I would recommend this book to anyone of any age.” – Excerpt of a review by Will Wortner at Zero2Fiction

Awards Gift of the Phoenix has won several awards, including Semifinalist in the Kindle Book Review Book of the Year Awards, and Notable Read in the Shelf Unbound/Half Price Books Indie Book of the Year competition

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Fortune Cafe: Review

Fortune Cafe Tour

  Fortune Cafe

The Fortune Café
a novel in three parts

MIS-FORTUNE: Emma, a waitress at The Fortune Café will do anything to avoid opening a fortune cookie. Each fortune is rumored to somehow magically come true. Being a girl grounded in reality, she doesn’t have time for that kind of nonsense. But when trying to prevent a food fight at the café, Emma accidently cracks open a fortune cookie: “Look around, love is trying to catch you.” If there is one thing that Harrison, her former best friend in high school is good at, it’s catching her unaware.

LOVE, NOT LUCK: Lucy has always been lucky . . . until her parents meet her fiancé’s parents at a disastrous lunch at The Fortune Café, and she breaks her lucky jade necklace. Even worse, her fortune cookie reveals that “True love is for the brave, not the lucky.” How is she supposed to read that? She’s always considered it lucky how she met her fiancé. But after breaking her necklace, Lucy’s luck takes a dive. And when her fiancé dumps her, the only person she can turn to is Carter, the unluckiest guy she knows.  

TAKEOUT: Stella is content in her new life of taking over her mom’s jewelry shop. No more boyfriend to worry about, and as long as she stays busy, she doesn’t have to dwell on her non-existent love life. When Evan comes into the shop with his young daughter, Stella is charmed. But she is reluctant to complicate her straightforward life, so when she reads her fortune after ordering takeout from The Fortune Café, she completely ignores it. After all, how can a fortune as vague as “Do the thing you fear and love is certain,” apply to her?

My Thoughts:

I really enjoyed this novel in three parts. It was fun, kept me turning pages, and I felt like each story was complete. I liked how they all naturally intertwined. I even stayed up late to finish this novel because I wanted to know what happened next. The idea of the fortunes coming true was a really fin twist. And my hometown of Santa Barbara was mentioned. I also liked the setting descriptions and felt like I was right there, walking along the beach or sitting in the restaurant or shopping on the boardwalk. And I could almost smell the ocean breeze.

What I enjoyed most was the characterization. I felt like the characters were real people with real issues. I worried about them, wondered about them, and cheered for them. I was especially touched by Emma and her concern for her mother and the way she wanted to care for and protect her mom. I also really liked Evan, especially how he interacted with his daughter.

Each of the three parts are written by individual authors, so the writing style is different in each story, but the whole book was cohesive and smooth. A great read!

If you want a fun romance written in a unique way, you'll enjoy this book. I recommend it!

4 stars

About the Authors JulieW

Julie Wright started her first book when she was fifteen. She’s written over a dozen books since then, is a Whitney Award winner, and feels she’s finally getting the hang of this writing gig. She enjoys speaking to writing groups, youth groups, and schools. She loves reading, eating writing, hiking, playing on the beach with her kids, and snuggling with her husband to watch movies. Julie’s favorite thing to do is watch her husband make dinner. She hates mayonnaise, but has a healthy respect for ice cream.
MelanieJMelanie Bennett Jacobson is an avid reader, amateur cook, and champion shopper. She consumes astonishing amounts of chocolate, chick flicks, and romance novels. After meeting her husband online, she is now living happily married in Southern California with her growing family and a series of doomed houseplants. Melanie is a former English teacher and a sometime blogger who loves to laugh and make others laugh. In her down time (ha!), she writes romantic comedies and pines after beautiful shoes.
HeatherMHeather B. Moore is a USA Today bestselling author. She writes historical thrillers under the pen name H.B. Moore, her latest is Finding Sheba. Under Heather B. Moore she writes romance and women’s fiction. She’s the co-author of The Newport Ladies Book Club series. Other women’s novels include Heart of the Ocean, The Fortune Café, the Aliso Creek Series, and the Amazon bestselling Timeless Romance Anthology Series.

Blog Tour Giveaway
$25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Ends 4/30/14 Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader and sponsored by the authors. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Behavior Problem?

After months of testing and discussion and eventually going to mediation with the school district, my youngest son moved from his neighborhood elementary school where he was not getting any services, to another school where he is now getting services. Apparently, in large school districts, such as the one we are in, the district can pool resources and assign certain services to certain schools. We had wanted to keep him in our neighborhood school so he could interact with neighbors and kids he goes to church with, but our neighborhood school does not offer any of the services he needs.

He moved to the new school about 6 weeks ago. Everyone at the new school is awesome and they've been patient as he's adjusted to his new surroundings, new schedule, and new people. Things seem to be going well. He's had a few instances where he didn't want to come in from recess or stayed in the bathroom too long, but we've been moving in a good direction.

He spends half his time in a general education classroom with peers without disabilities and spends the other half in a classroom where he gets individualized instruction and more intensive help. It seems to be working well.

His general education teachers are wonderful. Every day they send home a homework folder with what all the general education kids are doing as well as what my son's specific assignment is. Sometimes, they write notes on this paper (when he forgot to return a library book, when he wouldn't write his spelling test, etc). Monday, I glanced at the homework sheet and was upset to see the words, "hid" and "bit." I imagined him hiding in the bathroom or classroom and then biting some other student. I immediately talked to him about it and told him that wasn't okay. He just gave me a strange look, but I hoped he got the message. I want him to be able to attend his general education class and know that certain behaviors may prevent that. I thought about it and worried about it all night, especially because he'd never bitten anyone and hadn't ever exhibited that behavior at school.

Tuesday, I looked more closely at his homework paper, including the spelling words list. Guess what words are on the list? Yep. Hid and bit. Those were the spelling words his teachers wanted him to learn for the week, they were not a comment on his behavior. No wonder he gave me a strange look when I talked to him about it. He probably thought I was crazy (he may be right).

I had to sit down and laugh. I had been all worried about a behavior that didn't even exist because I hadn't looked closely enough at his homework paper.

Maybe I'm a little paranoid because I'm so hopeful he'll be able to spend time with his non-disabled peers. I'm just glad it was his spelling words, and next time, I'll take the time to actually understand his homework paper.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Imperfect Love, Chapter 1, Part 3

Lauren sat at one of the staff lunch tables looking forward to some quiet time while she considered different ways she could tell Paul the amazing news. She could write a poem or send him on a treasure hunt or give him a box with baby formula inside. She needed something creative.

"Mind if I sit with you?" JoAnn, one of the math teachers, asked.

Lauren mentally rolled her eyes. Everyone knew that JoAnn was a talker and shared intimate details of people’s personal lives. The last person Lauren wanted to sit with was JoAnn, but she didn’t want to be rude. Lauren motioned with her hand, convinced she’d regret it. "Sure."

JoAnn flopped onto the chair, making a loud creak. "I’m on a diet. Doctor said I need to lose 90 pounds. I don’t agree, but my husband made me promise to eat this rabbit food." She started poking her small salad. "You’re lucky to be so tiny. I bet you’ve never worried about having to lose weight."

"Running helps me stay in shape." She probably wouldn’t be able to do much running in the coming months, though. The corners of her mouth lifted.

"Exercise? Yeah, the doctor said I needed to do that, too. I think he’s trying to kill me instead of make me healthy. Besides, it’s common knowledge that menopause makes you gain weight." She looked at Lauren.

"But you’ve got years before you have to worry about that. Are you going to start having your family soon? I mean, it’s none of my business, you see, but time keeps marching on. I had my babies back in my twenties. Course, they’re all grown now. I keep hoping they’ll make me a grandma soon. Kids these days don’t like to get married or have kids ‘til they’re older." JoAnn finally stopped talking and took a bite of her salad.
Lauren hoped they could enjoy the rest of the lunch period in silence.

Several minutes later, JoAnn began again. "Did you hear about Mr. Thompson?" JoAnn leaned in closer. "His classroom computer was loaded with porn." JoAnn nodded. "Yep. He had all sorts of disgusting things on it. I hear he’s going to be fired. And that new secretary in the front office—she has a stalker who keeps coming by the school. I heard he’s left her flowers and candy and notes even after she told him to get lost."

Lauren didn’t know Mr. Thompson well, but she was uncomfortable being involved in a conversation with such serious accusations. Besides, she didn’t want to be associated with any disparaging remarks about her coworkers. She preferred to mind her own business and didn’t want to be pulled into anyone else’s. "How were your classes today?"

"The same as they always are."

Before JoAnn could launch into any other gossip, Lauren said, "We’re beginning our study of the Holocaust."

"Oh. I’m glad I only have to teach numbers. I’d never be able to teach kids about why a madman killed so many people. Numbers I understand. People? Not so much."

"And numbers make my head implode." Lauren smiled.

"You know what else I heard about—"

"I’d love to stay and chat, but I need to prepare for my next class." Lauren stood. "It was good talking to you, JoAnn."

"You too. We should do it more often." JoAnn had a spot of ranch salad dressing on her chin, but Lauren was too embarrassed to tell her.

"Have a good day," Lauren said as she left.

Since the lunch period was almost over, Lauren would have to wait until after school to think of a special way to tell Paul.

Thank you for reading the first chapter of Imperfect Love. I hope you enjoyed it. You can purchase Imperfect Love here.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Imperfect Love, Chapter 1, Part 2

Lauren drove into the crowded faculty lot and parked under the bare limbs of a large tree. She grabbed her jacket and exited into the cool weather. It was a typical March day in Denver. Billowy gray clouds lined the sky while traces of snow from last week’s storm lingered around the school grounds. She made her way to her classroom, trying to hide the smile that tickled her lips. A new life is growing inside me. She wanted to sing it out and tell everyone she saw, but she needed to wait to tell Paul first, even if it felt like she’d burst.

Lauren sat at her desk, drumming her fingers while eighth graders filed in and took their seats.

"Hey, Mrs. Wilson, you look happy today," Briana said, tucking her long black hair behind her ears.

"I do?"

"Definitely." Katie grinned, exposing her braces.

"It’s a beautiful day, how could I not be happy?" she said, hoping to avert any more comments. The last thing she wanted to do was blurt out that she was pregnant. She needed to keep her excitement under control until she told Paul. Then she’d shout it to the world.

"Looks like it might snow," Katie said, watching her.

"Yes, yes it does. I love a big snow storm, though, don’t you?"

"Seems like you’re extra happy. Even your eyes are happy." Lexi smiled.

Not liking the direction of the conversation, Lauren stood and walked to the front of the class. The bell rang, and Charlie rushed inside, his strawberry blond hair windswept.

"You’re late again, Mr. Newton."

"I know. I’m sorry, Mrs. Wilson. But—"

"I don’t want to hear any excuses." Lauren suppressed her smirk. Charlie was the best excuse maker she’d had since she started teaching. "Like how Ellie was so hot this morning, and you had no other choice but to talk to her, because she was practicing mind control over you. Or that your mom’s car broke down on the other side of town after you made breakfast at the homeless shelter, so you had to jog to school. Or how your locker combination didn’t work, so you had to find the janitor, who was where? Oh, yes, he was out helping get a small kitten down from a very tall tree." She arched an eyebrow, anticipating his response.

"All true."

"Charlie, Charlie, Charlie." Lauren shook her head. She had to give him credit for his creativity.

He broke out into a crooked grin. "May I just say how stunning you look this morning, Mrs. Wilson?"

"No, you may not."

He tried again. "May I say you look radiant, Mrs. Wilson?"

Lauren felt the warmth reach her cheeks. Could her students tell she had a glorious secret—a secret that would change her life? "Uh, no. Please take your seat so we can get started."

Charlie sauntered to the back row and slid into his desk. He gave Lauren a slight nod.

She glanced around the classroom, trying to keep her focus on the students and the new unit she was about to introduce. "Good morning. Our next unit of study for this year will be on memoir."

"So, like, we’ll be reading people’s diaries?" Charlie laughed. "I wonder if they’ll be as lame as my sister’s."

Other students started laughing. Lauren shot Charlie a look to let him know he shouldn’t say anything else. "Memoirs are written accounts of people’s memories of events or people or situations. It’s their personal recollections and their perspective on what happened. Group one will be reading The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, and group two will be reading Night by Elie Wiesel. Group three will read Because of Romek by David Faber. All of these memoirs are accounts of the Holocaust."

"Hitler was a maniac," Jeff said under a mass of bushy, dark hair.

Lauren nodded. "He did some terrible things. But we need a deeper understanding of what happened. We’ll study the events as well as the use of persuasive speech and propaganda. You will be required to do a project related to the Holocaust that you can present to the class."

Sara raised her hand.

"Why did he hate Jews so much?" Her deep brown eyes searched Lauren’s. "Why did people in my family have to die?"

Taken aback by the sudden lump in her throat, Lauren drew in a breath. She’d only been teaching a few years, and she’d never had a student directly affected by the Holocaust. "He wanted to create a super race and he blamed Jews for Germany’s problems. He decided to exterminate them along with others that he decided weren’t fit to live, including the handicapped."

"He was crazy," Charlie said, tipping back on his chair.

"Maybe," Lauren said. "For some reason, he believed he had the right to decide who should live and who should die. And people allowed him to gain that power."

"I went to the Holocaust museum with my family last summer. It was really hard to see some of the things in there," Sara said. "Why did he think it was okay to kill millions of people like my family?"

Lauren pursed her lips while images of children being executed danced across her mind. How could anyone kill innocent kids? She touched her stomach, and an urgency to protect her baby coursed through her.

"Mrs. Wilson?" Briana said.

Lauren looked up, suddenly aware that she’d slipped into her own thoughts. "Oh." She tried to recall the last thing someone had said.

Seeming to sense her confusion, Sara said, "Why did Hitler think he could kill so many people?"

Forcing herself to concentrate on Sara, Lauren answered, "Why does anyone think he or she can kill someone else? What gives anyone that right?"

"My father said that Hitler didn’t even see the Jews as real people," Sara said, tugging on the long brown braid that fell over her shoulder.

"Perhaps that’s how he justified his actions to himself. But"—Lauren raised up her hands—"we’re getting ahead of ourselves. We’ll be spending the next few weeks on the Holocaust. Today, I’m going to hand out the books and I want you to start thinking about what kind of a project you’d like to present."

After the bell rang, Lauren sat in her chair, pondering the Holocaust and her emotional reaction. While it was impossible to grasp how someone could be so cruel and could so easily kill other human beings, she’d taught this unit before without being so disturbed. Did the knowledge that she’d finally be a mother amplify her senses and make her hypersensitive?

Stay tuned for the next installment.

You can purchase Imperfect Love here.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Imperfect Love, Chapter 1, Part 1

A plus sign.

Lauren Wilson blinked the hopeful tears back. Was she seeing it right? She flicked on the bathroom light for a better look and scrutinized the pregnancy test wand.

Definitely a plus sign.

She leaned against the wall. A baby.

Some moments are milestones, and some milestones are moments. Lauren gazed at the wand again. This is definitely both.

After trying for over two years—well, she seemed to be more intent on conceiving than her husband, Paul, but that didn’t matter now. The wondering, hoping, then crying, month after month, didn’t matter. Nothing mattered now. She was pregnant. Excitement bubbled up inside her. She’d finally have a baby and the happily-ever-after she’d dreamed about since she was a little girl.

Lauren rested her hand across her stomach, her fingers tingling. After all this time, it was finally her turn.


She rushed into the bedroom to find her cell phone and call Paul with the news. Her anxious fingers stumbled over the keypad, searching for his speed dial number. What if he’s in a meeting? What if he can’t take the call? I don’t want to leave this on his voicemail. 

She ended the call before it could go through and sat on the bed. This wasn’t something she wanted to tell him over the phone. It was too momentous. Too amazing. Too wonderful.

A photo caught her eye. She handled the delicate metal frame, memories of her wedding flooding her mind. What a perfect day it had been at the church on Third Avenue in Durango, her hometown. It was such a beautiful beginning to their life together, and now they’d move to the next step—adding a baby to their family.

Ideas of how to tell Paul swirled around her head. She wanted to make it special for him, so she decided to take some time to come up with just the right way to let him know he was going to be a daddy. Daddy. The word felt sweet and satisfying on her tongue.

Lauren glanced at the clock on the light green wall opposite the bed. Seven thirty. She’d have to hurry—she didn’t want to be late for her first class.

Her hands stroked her stomach. I’m going to have a baby. I can’t wait to tell Paul. He’ll be as thrilled as I am.

Stay tuned for the next installment.

You can purchase Imperfect Love here.