Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Sneak Peak at "A Different Kind"

Stephen Groeneveld
I've been dropping little hints here and there about my next novel (Note the new starry sky blog header). Now that I'm on to my revisions stage of the process I thought I'd take a moment to share with all of you what I've been working on.

I've had a few people asking me if there will be another book in the "Into the Deep" series, the answer to that is...probably, but what I have coming out next is unrelated to my previous two novels.

The next book will be called "A Different Kind" and I'm labeling it a YA SciFi Romance. I was really hesitant to call it Science Fiction, but considering the story revolves around an alien abduction that is technically what it is. At the same time though it's set in the real world, and like with "Into the Deep" I really wanted to ground my supernatural elements in a story filled with characters and a setting that are completely normal.

moominsean
"Once again, great job on giving me a story that felt contemporary with realistic issues that were only better highlighted by the paranormal elements." - Beta Reader

As with "Into the Deep" this is another Young Adult novel. However, my main character in "A Different Kind" is very different from "Into the Deep's" Ivy. Payton is a little older, more confident, and she has a very different journey to take than Ivy did.

"I also really love how you always spend just as much time on the friendships as you do the romantic relationships." - Beta Reader

Below is a blurb about "A Different Kind". To see more inspiration art for this novel follow my Pinterest board for it, and check out this post at The Writer Diaries to find out what song inspired a few scenes in this book. The cover reveal will be coming soon!

Back Blurb:


Payton Carlson’s life is perfect, until the night she’s abducted by aliens. Now she’s plagued by pieces of memories from a night that feels as hazy as a dream, and that’s not the only strange thing that’s been happening. When Payton’s neighbor, Logan Reed, who spends every night sitting on his roof staring at the stars, starts to pay extra attention to her, Payton starts to wonder if he knows more about the night she can’t remember than she does. Suddenly finding a date to the Homecoming dance and cheering at the football games aren’t as important as they used to be - especially when the aliens return for a second time.
 

 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Tips for Choosing Character Names and 7 Names to Avoid!

Some writers don’t put a lot of stock into names; they just pick something that comes to mind, something that sounds good. For me, names are incredibly important. I scrutinize over every name as if I were naming my children and not just fictional characters in a book. I look at how many syllables are in a name, at how a name makes me feel, what it makes me think of. Does it remind me of someone I know, of something or some place? Does it sound girly, or masculine, or androgynous, and does that fit the character I want to give it to?

I also look at the names of my other characters in a story. Do I have multiple characters with names that start with the same letter? Will this be confusing for my reader or are they different enough in sound and syllable? In the end I pick my names looking at my book as a whole and not just on an individual character basis.

I also don’t stop with first names. I give all of my characters last names and sometimes middle names, even if I don’t end up using them in the story. Part of this is just to be prepared in case I need to use a last name at some point, but it also makes the characters feel more real. Picking their last names helps me give my characters an identity. It makes me wonder about the heritage connected with their last name, about their family and the place this character came from. I think it helps me write a more well-rounded character.

Emily Rose

Some basic rules of thumb I like to follow are:

1. Don’t use similar sounding names for multiple characters. I try to start every (main) character’s name with a different letter to help avoid confusion.

2. Make sure your reader can pronounce the names. Names with different spelling can be fun, but don’t overdo it.

3. Check your name’s origin; does it match your character? Knowing the origin of your character’s name (both first and last) will also help you know the background of your character.

4. Stay away from names that have already been done to death by other authors.


Some names I would avoid include…

1. “Kat” - Katherine, Catherine, Katy, Cat, Katniss, Katsa – The Kitty-Cat sounding names have been around for a long time. You’ll find this character name in The Taming of the Shrew, and Wuthering Heights, but it’s in A LOT of newer stories as well.
-Other Books with “Kat” Characters: East of Eden, Graceling, Halfway to the Grave, Hunger Games, Obsidian, Original Sin, The Vampire Diaries

2. “Damon” – Damon sounds like the ultimate bad boy name, and it’s been popping up in all sorts of forms lately. So avoid all Damon’s, Damen’s, Damian’s, and Daemon’s. This devilish sounding name has been done to death.
-Other Books with “Damon” Characters: Evermore, Marked, Obsidian, The Vampire Diaries

3. “Ari” – This is another name that’s been popular in YA lately. Whether it’s Ariana, Aria or just Ari, this name is everywhere.
-Other Books with “Ari” Characters: Gravity, Paranormalcy, Smokeless Fire, Under the Never Sky, Unwind

4. “Claire” – Claire sounds sweet and innocent. I would expect a character named Claire to be pure, maybe the girl next door. The thing is it’s become the go-to name for this type of character, so I’d avoid this name as well.
-Other Books with “Claire” Characters: City of Bones, Glass Houses, The Time Traveler’s Wife, Unearthly

5. “Will” – Whether It’s William, Will, or Willow, this name gets around as well. Often Will is a secondary character, but this name is still too popular to ignore.
-Other Books with “Will” Characters: Angelfire, Clockwork Angel, Divergent, Slammed, Willow

6. “Lucas” - Again many Luce’s, Lucian’s, Lucas’ are secondary characters, but there’s enough of them out there that you might want to think twice before using this name.
-Other Books with “Lucas” Characters: Evernight, Fallen, Harry Potter, Starcrossed

7. “Jack” – This name was once more popular than it is now, but is still one to take note of. You’ll see a lot more Jack’s in detective or mystery novels than in YA, but the name is still out there, and probably more so than any other name on this list.
-Other Books with “Jack” Characters: All the Rage, Bloodlist, The Hunt for Red October, Killing Floor, The Talisman


Are there other names you think should be on this list? Do you get annoyed seeing the same name over and over again, or are there certain ones you love regardless of how many books they pop up in?







Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Review for Origin by Jennifer Armentrout

Enthralling, Action Packed, and Emotional

5 Stars.
This series has sucked me in and I’ve loved each book more than the last. Origin was no exception. I was really curious about how this story was going to play out after Katie was caught by Daedalus at the end of Opal. With her locked up and Daemon on the outside I was nervous that there’d be good a good chunk in the beginning of the novel where they’d be apart, but I was glad to see that Armentrout quickly brought them back together.

Their reunion and time spent together behind the Daedalus walls is heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. This is the steamiest, but also the darkest of the books so far. All of the characters are pushed to do things they never thought they would, but it’s the struggles they go through that make the good moments they have together so much more meaningful. Katy and Daemon really are just rats in a maze at Daedalus and they’re not Daedalus’ only experiment. Armentout has left bits and pieces along the way through the first three books on what Daedalus is really up to, but it’s in this book that we start to see their master plan. You really see how twisted Daedalus is and how the things they do could break anyone. And, when Katy and Damon do escape it’s not without a few scars – figuratively as well as literally. Still, they’re strongest when they’re together and despite everything they go through there’s still hope for them in the future.

Obsidian, Onyx and Opal are all set in Katy’s small town and for the most part the things that happen in those books stay within that small town. The events of Origin however have far reaching affects that are going to bring big changes in the final installment in this series. The events of Origin are not just going to affect Katie and Damon, but the entire world. This ends with an even bigger cliffhanger than Opal did and it sets up a completely different kind of war. I cannot wait for the last installment in the Lux series.

Read my Review for Obsidian
Read my Review for Onyx (Lux #2)
Read my Review of Opal (Lux #3)







Sunday, December 1, 2013

Holiday Giveaway! Paperback Books and Amazon Gift Card!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of my readers. With the season in mind I'm hosting a giveaway to win a SIGNED paperback copy of INTO THE DEEP, SIGNED paperback copy of HIDDEN BENEATH, and a $10 Amazon Giftcard! Enter from December 1st to December 10th to win!

One winner will be chosen at random and contacted within 48hours after the end of the contest.

About the Books:  

INTO THE DEEP: After almost drowning, Ivy finds herself with an ability she doesn’t want, an ability to uncover secrets which quickly begins to redefine what she thinks about the people around her as well as herself. Because of this ability, Ivy becomes the one thing that stands between an angry teen and the death of every student on campus. The only problem is she doesn’t know who wants everyone dead.

HIDDEN BENEATH: Two years after an accident left Ivy with the ability to read minds she’s finally put her past behind her. Now, the summer after her senior year of high school Ivy is looking forward to going away to college and enjoying the rest of her vacation with her best friend Charlie and boyfriend Aden. The life altering events of her junior year of high school that made her realize things aren’t always as they appear have been pushed to the back of Ivy’s mind, and so has the memory of the one person who helped her though them – that is until he shows up on her door step a month before she leaves for L.A. asking for her help.  





a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Review for The Time Zombies became the Least of My Worries by Jen Naumann

A Fun and Funny Read

5 Stars. This is the second book in the Boring Life Series. I loved the first book in this series, but it left me feeling a little wanting. This book however picked up right where it needed to and filled in all of those lingering questions. This series has been one of the most fun reads I’ve read in a while. Jen Naumann has created a group of characters that are both fun and witty and at the same time very real.

As usual Emma’s wit and honesty made her an enjoyable character to read about. She still cracked jokes to ease her discomfort, but she’s grown up a lot by the start of this book. It was nice getting to see Emma shine and take charge. Her relationship with Finn was also fun to read about. The two of them are navigating their way through a serious relationship in the midst of all of this chaos and it was interesting watching them trying to be adults and lead this group of misfits, and yet they’re still very much teenagers.

It was also nice getting to see things through Finn’s eyes. The narration is split between Finn and Emma giving you a more rounded view of the story than we got in the first book, and I really enjoyed being in Finn's head. His concern for Emma is endearing and her push for independence shows character growth on her part. She’s not the same girl that developed amnesia when things got too tough. I also liked seeing how the two of them interpreted the same situation differently and it was easy to understand why they fought about certain things and why each of them felt the way they did at certain parts.

This book made me laugh, but it had its sad moments too. Emma and Finn lose some of the people that were closest to them and while I was sad to see some of them go Jen does a good job making their deaths feel necessary and meaningful. Like the first book, this is not your typical zombie storyline. It’s full of surprises. We also find out more about how aliens have played a role in this disaster and meet a few new faces who stir things up for Emma and her friends.

Another thing I loved about this book was that it ended on a happy note. Emma and Finn have lost a lot along this journey, but there is hope for the world to recover from this tragedy.

If you looking for a fun read this series will have you laughing all the way through. I couldn’t put it down and it was a nice break from some of the darker more serious stories I’ve been reading lately.







Read my Review for The Day Zombies Ruined My Perfectly Boring Life (Boring Life #1)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Cover Art: Tips for using Stock Photos

Stock photos seem to be a go to when it comes to designing a book cover. For those of us who aren't talented in the world of photography, stock photos allow us to have quality images at a reasonable price. However, with more and more self-published authors and indie publishers using stock photos in their cover art designs problems arise with the same image making it to the cover of multiple books. So, here are some tips to keep your stock photo cover looking original.

1. Do know what stock images have already been used on covers, and try not to use them. Look through other book covers, especially of those in your genre to see what images have already been used and how they’ve been used. Scan through books on Goodreads and Amazon, and be especially aware of images that have been used more than once already. Check out this Goodreads list to help: https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/5051.Cover_Couples?page=1

2. Just because a book is popular does not mean you can ignore rule #1. After Samantha Young hit it big with Penguin, the cover to “On Dublin Street” was being copied over and over again (granted there are many books out there published with this image before On Dublin Street came out, but I noticed a boom in the use of this image after it was released), and it was obvious that authors were trying to cash in on the popularity of that image. But, people will know the difference between your book and the best seller you’re trying to replicate. You don’t want to trick people into buying your book.




3. Stay away from images that are already specific to a certain genre. For example, don't go on a stock photo site and search for an image for your new vampire novel with the search term "vampire". The images you'll find will already be specific to that genre of book making it more likely that someone will recognize it (if the image is used again) because it will most likely be used again in the same genre.





4. Do try and change the image you choose in a way that makes it new and original. Copies are going to happen, especially with millions of books being published every year. The more you can do to change elements of your cover the less likely it will be compared to another book.




These two novels use the same image, but each has a completely different feel.




These two could easily be confused for the same book



5. Don’t be upset if someone uses the same image as you later on. While it may make you feel a little less special it doesn’t mean people are going to stop buying your book. Look at Jennifer Armentrout’s Lux series and Shelly Crane’s significance series. Both feature cover art of the same couple (as a number of other books have as well), both have been fairly popular series’ and neither one has really caused any problems for the other.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Review for Lord of Misrule (Morganville Vampires #5) by Rachel Caine

Felt like Filler

3.5 Stars. What made Lord of Misrule really interesting was getting to see Morganville flipped upside-down. In this book Monica is no longer at the top, she’s at the bottom and everything is backwards from how it was in the first book – but the town is just as scary, if not more so.

Although all of the Morganville Vampire books are told from Claire’s perspective in Lord of Misrule it sometimes felt like Claire was disconnected from the central fight, as if the main character was really Shane or Amelie.

The pace certainly picked back up in this book compared to Feast of Fools, and there wasn’t an overwhelming amount of back story like I felt there was in the last book, but there were still annoying inconsistencies. Also this book felt like Claire was in a constant race. It didn’t really have a rising action, climax, or falling action. It was just kind of constant action. More than half way through I’d only barely seen the bad guy because Claire did so much running around. I did really enjoy how Claire’s relationship with Shane grew, but the overall story didn’t feel as together as the other books.

One thing that was a little frustrating with this book was that a good three or four chapters passed in the beginning where we hear nothing from Shane. He’s not really gone that long, but Caine spends a lot of time taking you through everything that Claire does and sometimes I wished she would have skipped ahead. It also felt like Claire wasn’t as worried about Shane as she was about everyone else. But their relationship does progress in this book with Shane finally saying I love you, and I really enjoyed that.

As for the other characters, I felt like Claire’s parents didn’t really have a point to being in this book and wondered why they even moved to Morganville in Feast of Fools. It felt like Claire pretty much ignored them and they didn’t really do anything to move the plot forward. I did like Oliver in this book. He’s been a complex character from the very beginning and it was nice to have him once again (at least kind of) on the good guy’s side. And, of course I loved Gramma Day.

Looking at this series as a whole this book felt like filler, but I will still continue on with book six. As usual Lord of Misrule ends in a cliffhanger, and this time it’s a big one. It’s not a happy ending, the good guys don’t win, and you’re left wondering if Myrinn has betrayed everyone (again). It’s really rather heartbreaking, but just the kind of thing to make me need that next book all that much more.

Read my review of Glass Houses (Morganville Vampires Book 1)
Read my review of The Dead Girls Dance (Morganville Vampires Book 2)
Read my review of Midnight Alley (Morganville Vampires Book 3)
Read my review of Feast of Fools (Morganville Vampires Book 4)





Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Writer's Digest Feedback for Into the Deep


Sadly, Into the Deep did not win any awards in the Writer's Digest Self-Published Book Awards, however it did receive some wonderful feedback from the Judges. I wanted to take a minute to share this with all of my readers, and to remind everyone that there are some wonderful self-published books out there. My budget for Into the Deep was practically nonexistent. I didn't have extensive developmental editing, I had beta readers, I didn't have thousands of dollars to spend on cover art or formatting, I had zero dollars (with the exception of paying my editor). I did have great friends and an amazing editor, Victoria Shockley. That "outstanding" score in grammar is all her. And, even though I'm not going home with a prize I still feel very honored and validated in my craft to have received the feedback I did from the professionals at Writer's Digest.

[Note: If you have not read Into the Deep yet the commentary below does contain spoilers]

Books are evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning “needs improvement” and 5 meaning “outstanding”. This scale is strictly to provide a point of reference, it is not a cumulative score and does not reflect ranking.


Structure and Organization: 5

Grammar: 5

Production Quality and Cover Design: 4

Plot (if applicable): 5

Character Development (if applicable): 5


Judges Commentary*:

I really enjoyed your story.  I got so caught up in it that I didn't notice any mistakes in grammar.  You did a great job of characterization and through Ivy's ability to read thoughts, I think your reader will analyze, then try to understand the types of teenagers and the problems that you describe.  The fact of putting a time limit on the bomb helped increase the tension as the deadline grew near.  Your subplots of the various parents' problems impacting the teens' personalities added a deeper dimension to the story.   I liked Ivy's perceptions of so many of the characters changing when she learned more about their lives and by the end her three shallow friends being redeemed by clearing the crowd from the bombsite.   I didn't realize until the end that this was the first book of the series.  In retrospect, that made your climax even more interesting.  The reader expected Ivy to lose her psychic ability when hitting her head for the second time.  A surprise ending is always good.  I think I remember your foreshadowing Eric being picked on in the beginning of the story, but I couldn't find it again to make sure.  Great if you were able to slip that it so inconspicuously.  Your voice sounded perfect for your target reader and your minimalist sex scenes were great.  I'm glad you had a lot of dialogue to make up for the necessary blocks of text where Ivy was alone with her own thoughts.  The text never felt heavy.  Great subplot conflict with Ivy and Tiana's jealousies.  A good read, well thought out and written for your target reader.  You are a very talented writer, good enough for the major publishers with sales/marketing staff to support your efforts.   It's a tough business; don't give up.  Good luck.

Read more about Into the Deep on Amazon 

Read more about  Into the Deep on Goodreads

Thursday, October 17, 2013

KDP Free Days, My Second Time Around

Earlier this month I did a free promotion with Into the Deep, so I thought I'd share with everyone how it went.

A year ago, when I first released Into the Deep, my debut YA Paranormal Romance, I immediately signed up for Amazon's KDP Free day promotion, and was very happy with the results. Now, a year later I signed up with Into the Deep again and did more than twice the "sales" of my first run. So, here's a look at what's changed and what I did the same.



The Numbers:

2012 Promotion: Gave away 3,000+ copies of Into the Deep
2013 Promotion: Gave away 6,000+ copies of Into the Deep

2012 Promotion: Rose into the top 200 Free in Kindle Store
2013 Promotion: Broke into the top 100 Free in Kindle Store rising to #78 and #2 under Teen and Young Adult

Subsequent paid sales, after my free promotion ended, in 2013 were also more than double what they were in 2012


Things I did the same this year as last year:
  • I ran my promotion for the same book, Into the Deep.
  • I broke my promotion up using three of my free days, saving two for later.
  • I ran my promotion in the same month, September.
  • I ran my promotion on the same days of the week: Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

Things I did differently:
  • This year I ran my promotion at the end of the month into the first of October, whereas last year I ran my promotion at the beginning of September. (Possibly, the end of the month may be a better time for doing a promotion.)
  • This year I had two books out, Into the Deep and it's sequel Hidden Beneath. When I put Into the Deep up for free, paid sales on Hidden Beneath went up as well.
  • Into the Deep only had a handful of reviews last year whereas this year it had nearly two dozen before the start of the promotion.
  • I created a new cover for Into the Deep before my 2013 promotion, one that I feel looked a little more professional than my 2012 cover. 

Overall I think the things that added most to this promotion being a bigger success than the last one are first that I've been around a little longer. I had a bigger platform to tap into this time to get word out about my promotion. Second, having more reviews on my book helped give it credibility and finally having two books out not only gave me credibility as an author, but since the books were in a series the promotion of one fueled the promotion of the other.

Hopefully you all found this helpful.
For more information on Amazon's KDP program read about my first experience with Amazon in The Pros and Cons of Amazon and KDP

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Why We Love Zombies

Sam Javanrouh
Reasons we love Zombie stories:

Zombies have traditionally been at the bottom of the horror monster totem pole, but lately their popularity has been booming, with recent books turned films like “Warm Bodies” and “World War Z”, and the hit show “The Walking Dead” based on the comic by the same name, zombies are everywhere. So what is it about these B-movie kings that we love so much?


They’re still monsters. Zombies haven’t been quite as romanticized as vampires (With the possible exception of Isaac Marion’s Warm Bodies). They’re not misunderstood; they’re evil, mindless, soulless ghouls. Zombies are almost always the bad guy. They’re not sexy, seductive, or mysterious; they’re monsters through and through. Zombies decay, and smell, and bare their teeth and bones and we can all get behind bashing them in the head.

We all think we would survive. The thing about a zombie apocalypse is no one ever imagines being one of the first people to go. No, our daydreams jump ahead to when 90% of the population is already a member of the walking dead and we think about what it would be like to live in a deserted, albeit zombie-infested, world. There’s an interesting fantasy element to thinking about living in the remains of human civilization. I mean who doesn’t want to loot the mall?

Zombies represent “other people”. They’re not us. Zombies represent all the bad things we think about civilization and how we separate ourselves from that. Zombies are the mass of angry shoppers on Black Friday, the lane of slow drivers on the highway, the group of teenagers egging your car. They are the friends who’ve stabbed you in the back, the co-workers who make your life miserable; they are all the people that you wish you didn’t have to deal with in your life and then suddenly as zombies its okay for you to shoot them in the head.

Guns are cool. You kill vampires with sticks, witches with buckets of water, ghosts with religious chants, but with zombies you get to pull out a semi-automatic and blast away. Guns are not toys, they’re dangerous weapons. But, something about the idea of shooting one is just fun, and in a zombie apocalypse every day is target practice.

Everyone loves blood and gore. Vampires bite your neck and suck your blood, but zombies literally tear you limb from limb. A werewolf might maul you but zombies rip out your guts, crack your skull open and eat your brain. Zombies are by far the most gruesome of the classic monsters. And there’s something about blood and gore that we just can’t get enough of.

Not all zombies are the same, some are slow meandering corpses, others are scary fast, but what they all have in common is that they’re terrifying in all aspects. They look disgusting, represent probably the worst kind of existence one could face for an afterlife, and they just keep coming. Zombies are inescapable and they often win. People like to be scared, and zombies are possibly the best monsters to scare us. That’s why we love them. 

If you liked this post check out “Why we Love Vampires” and "Why we Love the Supernatural"

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Review for Feast of Fools (Morganville Vampires #4) by Rachel Caine

Slower Pace, but Same Loveable Characters

3.75 Stars. While I’m loving this series and plan to continue with it, this book didn’t have quite the fast pace that the first three did. The way these stories create this never ending link makes them feel like a TV show where each episode always ends in “To Be Continued,” and the first few pages that explain “The Story So Far,” only reiterate this feeling.

On that same note this book has so much backstory. I feel like the author took too much time reminding us of things that happened in the first three books. It really slowed down the pace and made this book drag some in the middle.

Also there were lots of annoying inconsistencies. For example Monica had black hair in the first book, but in this one it says she’s blond. I would have sworn Eve and Michael already had sex in an earlier book, or at least that was eluded to, but in this book it’s suggested that they do it for the first time. And, I’d swear Myrin had brown hair in the last book, but it’s black in this one. These weren’t big things, but they were distracting.

On the plus side I did really like Claire and Shane and seeing more of their relationship. They had some new challenges in this book, as did Eve and Michael and all of it was really enjoyable to read. Despite any pet-peeves I may have had with the plot of this book, the characters continue to be well rounded and likeable.

I also liked that Claire’s parents are finally a little less clueless by the end, but I wished she had visited them just once during the course of the story. They were still annoyingly overprotective, but they did feel more real in this book than the ones preceding it. I liked Myrin, and Claire’s relationship with him. They make a really interesting pair. But, one thing I didn’t like was how little of a plan they’d had for the party, it felt rushed and thrown together. Also, Miranda and Jason felt a little underdeveloped, as if their only purpose was to move the plot forward.

One thing I was really excited to see was the book that caused so much drama in Glass Houses came back into play. One of the things I’ve loved about these books is how little threads of plot manage to be woven through the entire series.

The end of this book, while leaving yet another cliff hanger, did leave all of the characters in a really interesting position. There is a divide of power that seems likely to split the entire town in half, and I’m interested to see how this affects all of Morganville in the next book.

While this hasn’t been my favorite book of this series, I truly enjoy the series as a whole and plan to continue with it.


Read my review of Glass Houses (Morganville Vampires Book 1)
Read my review of The Dead Girls Dance (Morganville Vampires Book 2)
Read my review of Midnight Alley (Morganville Vampires Book 3)

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Get INTO THE DEEP for FREE!

Into the Deep (Into the Deep 1) will be FREE for three days starting tomorrow. On September 29th, 30th, and October 1st you can download your copy for free on Amazon.

Amazon US
Amazon UK

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Good and Bad Messages of Disney Princesses

What lessons are your novels teaching and can they be interpreted differently?

I’ve seen a number of blog posts lately that have been a little hard on the Disney movies we all grew up with, particularly the Disney Princesses. So I thought I’d take a minute to look at the ways different people interpret messages in a story differently. In every book we write, whether we intend to or not, we end up saying something, we include symbolism and meaning behind (hopefully) every page. Sometimes though the way we intend a message to be taken is interpreted another way. So here are the good and bad interpretations of some famous Disney princesses. Hopefully in understanding how these opposing viewpoints can be found in the same stories we can better appraise our own work and make our messages clearer.

Snow White

Bad Messages:
If something bad happens just wait around for a man to come along and save you. - Snow white’s stepmother tries to have her killed because she’s prettier than her. So, she hides away in a cabin in the woods, cooking and cleaning for dwarves until the handsome prince comes along to make everything better. 

Good Messages:
Other than the overarching theme of good conquering evil, I feel like this story has a strong message about friendship. When Snow White stumbles upon the Seven Dwarfs they take her in and look after her and she does the same for them. She doesn’t need to be in some big castle to be happy she just needs to be surrounded by good people.

What Would Make the Good Message Clearer:
The majority of this movie is Snow White escaping from, or hiding from her evil stepmother. She never really does anything to help save herself. If we had gotten to see more of Show White’s strengths, skills and personality, she might not have seemed so two-dimensional. By giving Snow White better character development and depth she wouldn’t have seemed like such a bystander in the story.
How to Apply to Your Writing:
The damsel in distress bit is overdone. Not that you can’t have a female character being saved by a male character, just that there should be more to who the female character is than “the girl that gets saved”. Give your characters dimensions. Furthermore readers like to see main character be active in the movement of the plot and resolution to conflict. If you have a female lead and the story ends without her even having a part in saving the day, your readers may feel cheated.


Cinderella

Bad Messages:
Makeovers and money fix everything. – Cinderella is basically treated like a slave by her ugly stepmother and sisters until one day her fairy god mother dresses her up and sends her to the ball where she meets the handsome prince who then rescues her from her miserable life.

Good Messages:
Some argue that Cinderella’s meeting with her fairy Godmother, who dresses her up and prepares her for the ball, symbolizes that to get the guy all you have to do is dress pretty. I however would argue that Cinderella teaches that beauty is fleeting. After all at the stroke of midnight everything Cinderella’s fairy Godmother changed turned back (except for the glass slippers of course). Cinderella’s luxuries were temporary, and at the end of the story, when the prince comes to find Cinderella, he still loves her even without the pretty dress and pumpkin coach. Cinderella is ultimately a good person. She’s treated horrible by her stepmother and step-sisters, but she doesn’t seem to resent them for it. She doesn’t plot against them or hate them, and at the end of the story it’s the fact that she’s a good person that lands her the prince.
What Would Make the Good Message Clearer:
Giving the prince more than five minutes of dance time to get to know Cinderella before she runs out of the ball might make it easier for critics out there to believe that he went looking for the mystery girl in the glass slippers because of who she was on the inside and not just how gorgeous she was in that blue dress.

How to Apply to Your Writing:
Insta-love relationships are cheap. Your readers want to see your characters get to know each other, and they want to understand why your prince is so in love with your Cinderella. Otherwise their emotions come off as lust rather than love and the attraction seems vain.




Ariel


Bad Messages:

It’s okay to run away from home, drastically change your body, and trade your best talent for a guy. - Ariel is so unhappy with her life as a mermaid princess that she trades her beautiful voice to become human so she can be with a guy she met once.

Good Messages:
The Little Mermaid has a wonderful sense of adventure. She wants to see the world and experience new things. Does she make some bad decisions, absolutely, but learning from your mistakes is part of growing up, and so is learning to appreciate who you are. There is a message of “be careful what you wish for” here, as things don’t turn out perfectly with the contract Ariel signs. After all she does ironically give away the one thing Prince Eric remembers of her from when she saved him in the storm – her voice. This nearly allows Ursula to steal him away from her. I also think it’s important to note that the thing the prince fell in love with Ariel for was not her looks but her voice, this was something Ariel had to learn to appreciate about herself instead of taking it for granted. She had to learn to value her talent and that it was important to be more than just a pretty face. Also I would like to point out that at the end it's Ariel's father that turns her back into a human allowing her to marry Eric. I think there is a message here about accepting your children for who they are and that this shows that Ariel should have gone to her father in the first place. She may end up leaving her family in the end, but there is still a positive message about being honest with your parents even though this was something Ariel had to learn.

What Would Make the Good Message Clearer:
I think what most people are upset about in this story is that in the end Ariel gets everything she wants without any lasting consequences. That can leave people wondering if she really learned her lesson. The original Hans Christian Andersen tale has a much sadder ending, and the Disney version loses a lot of what the story is about by changing it. In the Hans Christian Andersen tale the little mermaid truly has to make a sacrifice for the greater good and the ending isn’t a happy one, but the overall feel of the story is more complete. 

How to Apply to Your Writing:
Actions have consequences. Happily ever after may work for Disney, but your reader is going to feel cheated if your character makes a poor decision with no real consequences. They’re also going to feel cheated if things work out too easily for everyone in the end. It’s not always fun to write a sad ending, but sometimes that’s what necessary to make a great story.


Belle

Bad Messages:
It doesn’t matter if a guy kidnaps you and is abusive to you; you can change him just by loving him. – Belle is kidnapped by a hideous monster who is horrible to her, but just by loving him she’s able to change him into a decent person.

Good Messages:
Belle has a lot of good qualities. She’s smart, likes to read, and rejects Gaston’s cheesy advances. She gets some slack for staying in what some call an “abusive relationship” with the Beast, but they seem to forget that she does so in order to save her father. She sacrifices her own freedom so he can leave. Furthermore, the Beast does set her free, and she leaves. He does actually change and become a better person. It’s only then that Belle returns to the Beast knowing that he has the ability to be a good person. Belle shows the Beast kindness, I think this story is more about being kind to all people, even if they appear ugly or seem mean, than it is about trying to change people. It may be a little idealistic to say that there’s good in all people and they can be good if given the chance, but that’s still a positive message.
What Would Make the Good Message Clearer:
In the beginning of this story the Beast becomes the literal monster he already is. He’s not just misunderstood he actually has a dark heart. He didn’t become this grumpy recluse because he looked scary. He became a mean, violent animal because he was this stuck up, vain, rich guy. Had The Beast been turned into this creature by mistake somehow, or if it had been a curse unjustly put upon him, it might have been easier for the viewers to see the good in the Beast that Belle does.

How to Apply to Your Writing:

Romances today often include a rugged and crass bad boy to play opposite the female lead, but writers be careful not to make your bad boy too bad. There is a fine line between rebellious and misunderstood, and abusive. You want your readers to understand why he’s “bad” and to know that deep down there already is something good about him. And, if your bad boy does display some negative traits make sure your female love interest reacts appropriately, and that she doesn’t interpret abusive behavior as love.

Jasmine

Bad Messages:
You can get anything you want by using your sexuality, and seducing men. – Jasmine, locked away behind the palace walls and forced to get married uses her looks to distract people and turn things in her favor.

Good Messages:
Jasmine is often criticized for being too sexy, but she has a lot of good qualities too. Jasmine is strong willed and free-spirited. She fights to make her own choices refusing to marry someone just because she’s told she should. She’s unimpressed by Aladdin’s wished riches and shows us that you should be with someone because you love them and not because of what they can give you. She’s often been criticized for being shallow, but I’d argue against this point remembering the scene where she nearly has her hand chopped off after giving a child an apple. It seems obvious to me that while Jasmine was pretty and knew it, that wasn’t what was most important to her.
What Would Make the Good Message Clearer:
This was a tough one for me, maybe because it’s one of my favorite Disney movies, but in the end I simply have to disagree with the criticisms of Jasmine and give Disney two-thumbs up. Jasmine to me was like Shakespeare’s Portia, beautiful and sought after but also independent and strong. And, while I think you could still argue that maybe some of her sexiness (like when she kisses Jafar to distract him) could give young girls bad ideas about how to get what they want in life, I think overall this storyline was great.

How to Apply to Your Writing:
A sexy lead character is great, and having a character using her looks to her advantage can be an interesting element to a plot, but be careful not to overdo it or your character could end up coming across as shallow, or slutty.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

New Covers for Into the Deep and Hidden Beneath!

Both Into the Deep, and Hidden Beneath are going to be unavailable for purchase for a few days, but when they return they are going to have brand new covers! Check them out below!
 
 

Get you copy after 9/12/13 at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Review for Mind Static by Jen Naumann


Full of Twists and Turns - Who do you trust when everyone's memories could be altered, even your own?

5 Stars. This book kept me guessing from beginning to end. It’s filled with fun dialogue, and lots of laughs. I fell in love with the characters on the very first page, by the end of the second chapter I was getting sucked it, and once Key’s birthday party got into full swing I was hooked.

Keyana is not the typical innocent, na├»ve female lead, she’s got more guts than that. She makes some bad decisions, she’s swayed by outside influences, but in the end she learns from her mistakes and does the right thing. She felt like a very realistic teenager. There were a few times when I wanted to yell at Key to be more suspicious about someone or to pay more attention to things that were going on, but I could understand why she made the decisions she did – some partly because there were people influencing her with mind control.

Because of the nature of mind control in this book there are things we learn as a reader that Keyanna is forced to forget and that led to a few frustrating moments where Key wouldn’t realize something as soon as I liked, but as the story went on and I understood more about this skill it all came together.

Key quickly smartens up as the book goes on. Eventually she’s able to put her relationships and trivial things on hold and focus on what’s important. She starts to put the pieces together and look into all the things I at one point was frustrated with her for not seeing.

This book had lots of surprises, there were more than a few times when I found myself saying “I didn’t see that coming,” It was like every time I thought I knew who the good guys were and who the bad guys were something happened that made me question everything, and I really enjoyed that. This was one of those books that I just had to keep reading because I could never figure out what was coming next.

There is a little bit of a love triangle in this book, but it was really different than any love triangle I’d read before. It felt more realistic, instead of rooting for one "team" or the other there were moments where I just felt bad for everyone involved. You can see how a love triangle could really hurt people instead of just being a competition. Lock and Key were steamy hot, but there wasn’t a lot of substance to them. Lock was rather eager to get with Key, and for a long time Jen has you wondering how he really feels about her, and how she really feels about him. I loved Key and Dallas; they were just so cute that even when I was wondering if Dallas was one of the bad guys I wanted them to just kiss already. At times you feel really bad for these two guys Key’s interested in, but then you find out that everyone is keeping secrets from her – including the both of them.

Key’s best friend, Nora was a fun character as well. Nora is a little impulsive, a little selfish, but she’s also a bright, fun character. She had this bubbly, bigger than life personality, and even though she got Key into some trouble she was wonderful to read about. Key’s mind control is a really dangerous skill, and you see how in the beginning Key has to be careful what she wishes for. Nora pushes her to have this house party, and things gets completely out of control, but every time something new went wrong I was excited to see what would happen next.

One thing I didn’t understand was when Key got Dominic’s amulet why she didn’t use it against him. I had this “yes!” moment when she stole it from Lock and used it on him, but I didn’t understand why she didn’t try to use it against Dominic. At the very end all the questions I had got wrapped up nicely, but this was one that I just couldn’t get out of my mind.

The ending was epic. There were clues along the way that let me know something was up, but I did not expect what happened to happen. It was a great twist. Jen wraps up this story perfectly, all the loose ends get tied up and then at the very end – boom, she sets it up for a whole new story to begin. I really hope she continues this series.

I highly recommend this one!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Ten Ways to get Books for FREE (That are Legal)

Get More Free/Cheap Books – Read more than your budget allows?



Nate Bolt
Every now and then I scroll through questions on Yahoo Answers to try and share my wisdom with the world, and there’s one question that people (specifically teenagers) seem to constantly be asking. How can I get books for free?

Often times these questions are greeted with snotty responses about how you should pay for your books, or if a person is looking for a website to download books from, then someone will reply with a not so friendly reminder that pirating is illegal and that they should buy their books. And, while I agree with all of this I feel that this doesn’t really help people who are truly interested in reading, but maybe don’t have the funds to keep up with a voracious reading appetite. So, this post is all about how to get books for FREE, and how to do so LEGALLY.
Readers should never use an illegal pirating site to acquire a book, and while the following suggestions may not provide a way for you to get a specific book you have your eye on, they will help keep you busy reading while you’re saving up for that special book.

1.   Even if you don’t have a Kindle or some kind of E-reader, download the free Kindle App. I’ve known people to use this app to read on their smart phone, but even if you don’t have one of those you can use it to read right on your laptop. Amazon offers up thousands of free books every day in every genre. Books will be available to download for free for anywhere from 1-5 days. Use sites like Pixel of Ink to help you know when a title you might like will be available for free. 
Kindle App for Android
http://www.pixelofink.com/
http://bargainebookhunter.com/
http://kindlebookpromos.luckycinda.com/
http://storyfinds.com/


2.   Enter Goodreads and Librarything giveaways. Authors and Publishers on Goodreads are giving away paperback copies of their books every day, many signed copies, and Librarything hosts giveaways for paperback and e-books. All you have to do is enter. You can also use both the Goodreads and Librarything forums to find information on when Authors and Publishers may be having sales on their books.
http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway
http://www.librarything.com/more/freebooks

3.   Search the web and follow book bloggers who blog about books in your preferred genre. Authors and Publishers, or sometimes just the bloggers themselves will use blogs to hold contests and give away free copies of books, gift cards, and other prizes. Again all you have to do is enter.

4.   Sometimes all it takes to get a free copy of a book is to show your love. Contact the Author or Publisher by e-mailing them or their publisher and letting them know that you’re really excited about the release of their next book. Even feel free to be bold enough to ask for a free copy. I’ve given out both paperback and electronic editions of my books simply because someone sent me an e-mail saying they’d love to read it. Just make sure to be polite and understanding if the Author or Publisher doesn’t want to send you a copy.

5.   Become a book blogger and start a free blog with sites like blogger and wordpress. If excited fans can get books for free then just think about the books you could get in exchange for a review. As a reader seeking free books you have to contact the author/publisher yourself, and you can still do this as a blogger, but just by having a blog with followers some authors/publishers will contact you requesting reviews.
http://blogger.com
http:/wordpress.com

6.   If you prefer paperbacks over the electronic versions odds are you have a few lying around your house that you’ve already read. Swap your books with people. The following sites will help connect you with others who may have books you’d like to read, and they’re willing to trade.
http://www.paperbackswap.com/index.php
http://bookmooch.com/
http://www.titletrader.com/
http://www.zunafish.com/

7.   Download public domain books. If you’re looking to read the classics (Pride and Prejudice, Les Miserables, Dracula) you might find that many of the titles you’re looking for are listed under public domain and can be found on the web. Check out the following sites to help.
http://www.wowio.com/
http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Main_Page
http://www.bibliomania.com/

8.   Check out the “Free” Section on Craigslist where people are giving away all kinds of things, including books.

9.   If you’re really just psyched to read, check out sites like Wattpad, Scribd and Fictionpress where anyone can upload a story. These armature works can sometimes be a little rough, but there are always great stories to be found and authors are always looking for feedback.
http://www.wattpad.com
http://www.scribd.com/
http://www.fictionpress.com

10.  And of course there’s always the public library, or even a nearby bookstore, where if you can’t afford to rent/buy the book you want you can still pull up a comfy chair and read it there.

Whatever you do don’t use pirated sites to download illegal copies of books. Not only is this illegal, and may put your computer at risk of viruses, but it also seriously hurts the writing and publishing community, especially indi authors.

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy The Piracy Plague, Why it Hurts (Not Helps Authors)