Dark Redemption by R Peter Ubtrent is the fifth book in the stunning Dark Pilgrim series. And still the author keeps up mesmerised and surprised as events in the galaxy continue to twist and turn in directions we could never have foreseen. The universe seems to be crumbling into chaos. The F’gat Ynos are slowly but surely destroying every planet they come across, intent on wiping out the human race. There is general chaos as the hyper gates normally allowing galactic travel are closed as a defencive measure. Only a few vessels are able to create their own pirate gate to travel through. Ailanthus, the Emperor, is still trying to unite the Imperium, the Noble Houses within which are being challenged by The Restoration, whose members are growing more and more desperate. Someone else is after the Imperial throne too. The Dei Glorium, Ailanthus’ intended spouse, has vengeance up her sleeve and possesses an illegal and devastating weapon, but her plan misfires. And Anolis, working with two bounty hunters and a Kroor, still wants to repay his brother’s death, brought about by Ailanthus’ actions in the past. The action doesn’t stop.

In contrast to the enormity of the crisis facing the galaxy, emotions on a personal level play an important part in this novel. Love and loyalty emerge strongly, although there is also deception, hatred and dishonesty. The characters, many of whom are now very familiar to us this far along in the series, continue to develop. Each is as complex as the universe they inhabit. Ubtrent has created yet another absorbing novel that it’s impossible to put down.

Visit Peter’s website at http://ubtrentbooks.com

As part of her virtual book tour for Go Publish Yourself, Katie Salidas is stopping by at Books Are Cool today, at least virtually! (And today is Katie’s daughter’s birthday too – happy birthday!)  I asked Katie some questions about her book, her writing and herself.

1.    What inspired you to write Go Publish Yourself?

It started as a collection of blog posts. I spent about 6 months writing on topics about self-editing, self-publishing, and marketing. The posts were very popular and the feedback I received was wonderful. It was then that my editor suggested I put everything together in a nice easy-to-read format. That’s when Go Publish Yourself took shape. It’s a handy dandy quick reference guide for all levels of self-publishers.

2.    Why did you feel there was a need for your take on the issue of self-publishing?

Through my own process of trial and error, I found that there was so much that I didn’t know. I wished that I had a book like this when I started. The books I had purchased were a little out dated and focused more on the print side of things. I thought that if I could touch on every subject in a quick and informative format it would be helpful. A nice quick reference guide that authors can turn to for answers rather than wading through big thick books or searching for hours on the internet.

3.    Go Publish Yourself has a great cover. Did you design it yourself?

No, I cannot take credit for that, but what I can take credit for is finding an awesome cover artist. He’s also listed in the book! Willsin Rowe of Coverage is my go to man for all things covers. He’s done not only this book, but many of my other covers as well.
4.    You also write paranormal fiction. Why that genre?

Oh I love vampires, werewolves, witches, shapeshifters, and all other things that go bump in the night. Well, almost all things. I don’t do zombies. They really creep me out! I know it sounds silly but they do. I can’t even write about them without getting night mares.
5.    Which character from your paranormal books are you most like?

I like to think there is a little of me in all of the characters I write. They are embellishments, exaggerations of traits I know or have.  Nicholas has my snarky attitude, of course, he says the things I won’t say out loud. Alyssa has the naivety I had in youth.  Rozaline had (RIP) my motherly nature. I could go on.
6.    I bet Halloween is fun at your house! Am I right?

Oh I love Halloween. It’s my favorite night of the year.  Halloween is the one night of the year where you can be something different. You get to play dress up again! I love it. And of course my kids have fun too. LoL!!
7.    Which authors or books are you reading at the moment?

I hate to say it, but since my baby boy was born I have not had a chance to read. By the time I get a few free moments of peace, I’m passed out and snoring. LoL. Hopefully when my baby boy is a little bigger and sleeps better I’ll be able to get a few moments to pick up my reading. I have so much to catch up on.
8.    When did you first realize you wanted to be an author, indie or otherwise?

I’ve been writing since I was a little girl. At the age of 14 I had written my first full-length novel, a novel that was subsequently lost during my move from Texas to Nevada. But that didn’t stop me for long.

I primarily work in Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Romance, but it was my experience in learning how to self-publish that really helped me to understand the behind the scenes business.
9.    What’s the one snippet of advice you would give anyone considering self-publishing?

If you’re going to self-publish, you need to take the time to do it right. One of the biggest reasons that self-publishing had a bad name to begin with is quality. Back before it became more mainstream, self-publishing was super expensive. Editing for example could cost thousands. Many authors couldn’t afford to do it right and self-publishing became synonymous with poor quality. It left a bad taste in many reader’s mouths. Today it is cheaper and much easier to do, but quality is still key. So if you’re interested in self-publishing, take your time, do your research, and put out the best quality product you can.

 

10.    What’s the one best thing and the one worst thing about self-publishing, in your experience?

The best thing is the freedom. I control every aspect of the process. I don’t have anyone else telling me what I can and cannot do. The down side is, I am accountable for the quality of my book. Not that I ever want to put out a bad quality book, but when a reader complains about it, I feel terrible because I could have done better.
11.    OK, enough of the serious stuff. What are your three favourite foods?

Oooh, I love food! I make a mean Beef and Broccoli! But I also love some BBQ ribs. Oooh and Gyros! I love those too. I could do this all day. I love love love food. It’s a reason I haven’t quite dropped all of the baby weight yet. Ha!
12.    And finally, please describe your perfect day away from the computer and writing!

Oh that’s a fun one. I think a perfect day would be one in which I take a real vacation with my family. I’d love to do a Disney theme park! Spend the day in the sun, riding rides, eating good food, taking goofy pictures with my kids, etc.. Yep, that would be perfect!

Finally, my opinion of Katie’s book?

It’s a very thorough and realistic look at the self-publishing process. Katie makes certain you realise that it’s a tough thing to do, that you’re very unlikely to become rich as an indie author and that writing is only half the battle. Marketing is the most difficult and most crucial part. As a freelance editor, I was glad to see her stance in support of getting your indie book properly edited! Katie emphasises the importance of quality in your finished product in terms of its presentation, and she’s quite right.

Katie shares her experience and common sense throughout the whole book. I love her attitude, and her ‘Quick and dirty tips’ that crop up regularly in the text. This is a very well written and helpful book and will benefit everyone who reads it. There was a need for a non-sensational, warts-and-all yet still encouraging book on the subject of self-publishing, and this is definitely it.

Visit Katie’s website at www.katiesalidas.com.

 

There are two approaches to writing. One is to write for the sake of writing – to let free those ideas and stories that are whirling around in your head. The other is more pragmatic – write to sell and make money. That might seem an unidealistic and mercenary way to go about writing, but there’s a limit to art for art’s sake. A little – or, if you’re lucky, a lot – of extra income is always welcome.

Let’s stay with this second approach. Write to sell. You need to know what’s hot, what’s topping the sales charts. Here are the current most downloaded books on Smashwords.

1. Mark Coker’s Smashwords Style Guide

2. Short Erotic Tales by Carl East

3. Smashwords Book Marketing Guide, Mark Coker again

4. 101 Degrees Fahrenheit by Eva Gale (erotica)

5. Zombie Nights by Tom Licttenburg  (sci-fi with a touch of paranormal)

6. Fryupdale by Mark Staniforth, fiction short story anthology

7. The Seduction of Gabriel Stewart by Eva Gale (erotica)

8. We Don’t Plummet Out of the Sky Anymore by M David Blake (sci-fi)

9. A Letter to Justin Beiber’s Hair by German Alcala (poetry)

10. The Mating by Nicky Charles (adult rated paranormal)

We can ignore the two Mark Coker books since they’re what every Smashwords author has to have. So let’s another two to the list. We now have.

11. Sentence of Marriage by Shayne Parkinson (historical romance)

12. A Bride for Tom by Ruth Ann Nordin (romance)

So what do we have? 3 erotica, 2 sci-fi, 1 paranormal, 1 general fiction, 2 romances, 1 poetry. Note: These books are all free apart from Justin Beiber’s Hair which is a relatively pricey $6.99 so that has done extremely well. Being free can skew results a little.

 

Erotica

I guess we’d better start with erotica then. This isn’t for everyone. It might be you don’t approve of it or it may be that it just gives you the giggles. Possibly you’d love to write it but are embarrassed about your children finding out! Anyway, readers love it. Readers love sex so if you want readers, well, it’s something to think about. Here are a couple of good places to start: http://writing.helium.com/how-to/14484-how-to-write-an-erotic-romance and http://www.writesex.net/

 

Science Fiction

Alternate realities, the ultimate in escapism, always make for popular reading. Personally I feel you have to be quite methodical and analytical to write sci-fi. You need to have your new universe all mapped out – its inhabitants, politics, morals and so forth. So this is quite a challenge to write but, if you’re successful, there will always be demand for your writing. My own favourite science-fiction writer is self-published R Peter Ubtrent with his amazing Dark Pilgrim series. Read some of these to get a feel for this genre at its best.

 

 

Paranormal

I was frankly surprised that there weren’t more of this type of book in the top ten. This genre is so hot at the moment, in particular paranormal romance. The romance element frequently veers towards the erotic. It looks like we’re all interested in going to bed with vampires or other demons! Vampires are the most popular supernatural characters you’ll come across, but shapeshifters, werewolves and ghosts aren’t far behind. These books generally feature a very strong heroine and have a happy-for-now, if not a happy-ever-after, ending.

Here is a brilliant article about writing paranormal romance.

 

Romance

These books will ever go out of fashion. Everyone loves reading a heartwarming tale of the girl and guy, who usually hate each other at first sight, finally getting together, after overcoming various huge obstacles along the way. The romance can be set in any time period and feature straight or gay love, and, since paranormal is a subgenre of it, we’re not limited to just writing about humans either. A growing trend is for what I call homme-rom – romance from the man’s point of view. (I’m based in France which explains the ‘homme’ element – it’s French for man.) Mainstream publishers tended to fight shy of this but now that we have indie authors self-publishing, there are more and more examples of this subgenre around. It’s as enjoyable for women to read as men. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the excellent Song in the Wrong Key by Simon Lipson or The Wake-Up Call by Jonas Ericsson.

So a few handy tips for what to write if you’re wanting to sell well.

The Vampire’s Quest by Damian Serbu injects originality into paranormal fiction. St Michel appears to vampire Xavier and sends him on a quest. Xavier’s emotionally turbulent lover and fellow vampire, Thomas, is uneasy about this, and rightly so. Xavier encounters his dying friend Anne who has supernatural powers. She is dying and beseeches Xavier to free her enslaved grandson. As Thomas says, Xavier is ‘the vampire that cared about the world and the people in it’. He will do anything for his friend, even though this particular action is against the vampire ethic. The ethic means vampires can feed off evil humans, but can’t otherwise interfere in human events. Transgressing vampires ace the ire and punishment of the Vampire Council if they disobey. Thomas fears for Xavier and so gets Anthony to help him, another vampire and friend. Can they keep Xavier from facing the terrifying consequences of his loyal actions.

Damian Serbu himself describes his writing as gay horror. There is darkness and violence in the novel, certainly, but it’s not too disturbing. This is writing that’s hard to categorise. This is a modern novel, although it’s set in the last century. The author’s love of history adds an extra dimension to it too. It’s brutal but also tender. I hope the gay element won’t put off any readers since the love between Xavier and Thomas is moving and powerful and always sensitively described. The relationship is strongly in the background but the focus in this book is on friendships – those between Xavier and Anne, between Anthony and Thomas – and also on the sibling love betwen Xavier and Catherine. Loyalty is tested. There are many layers in this absorbing and richly constructed book.

A fantastic cover too

This is such an incredibly good book! Risking Eternity follows cop Hayden Farrell as she begins to investigate the murder of a young prostitute whose blood-drained body is left outside a church. She’s being watched at the murder scene by a mysterious figure, whose thoughts about her we share. Is he the murderer? Certainly the murders seem personal to him, but he also appears to have some sort of tie to Hayden as well.

Hayden distrusts the supernatural. Her mother was a fake psychic who involved her in her deceptions. Hayden likes concrete facts and ends she can tie up. She prefers to live in the real world. While her friends are happy to watch handsome heroes and beautiful heroines making out in films, Hayden would rather be taking part in the action!

The brooding figure of vampire Valentin both scares and attracts her. But they need each other. Valentin can help Hayden solve the murders and she can help him wreak revenge on a killer from the past who has resurfaced. But need becomes exploitation…

This is a fascinating, dark paranormal romance. The characters are rounded and complex, flawed and believable. There is simmering sexual tension between Valentin and Hayden from the start, even though he’s adamant at first that she’s ‘not his type’. You simply can’t predict what will happen next in the story.The plot is original and ingenious with skillfully created suspense and a denouement that smacks you in the face.

This intelligent, atmospheric, sexy novella is the first in the new Timeshifter series from this amazingly talented writer. Do put this book on your ‘to read’ list. If not, you’re missing out on a very rare treat. I for one will be reading everything from Gwenan Haines, now that I have discovered her.

 

Fate’s Design by Lola James is an intricately woven paranormal romance that it’s hard to put down. Twins Megan and Morgan travel to Italy after Morgan wins a prize that brings them to fashion school in Bologna. The girls are very different personality wise, but very close. Later in the story a further link between them emerges. In Italy, Megan literally bumps into a mysterious, handsome stranger, Alexandros DiPiero, that she has seen in her dreams. Her visions, though, become increasingly nightmarish and feature threatening, frightening figures. Is this fate, or is someone somewhere pulling strings? The romance element of the story is very well handled. So too is the paranormal, with vampires, dhampirs (half-human, half-vampire) and guardians. The story takes many original and inspired turns and flits between locations in America and Italy. It is complex but never overly complicated.

Pararnormal romance is probably the hottest genre in fiction at the moment, and books like this illustrate why. There’s the fun, curiosity and escapism of the supernatural combined with human emotion and a cracking good plot. Lola James creates rounded, fascinating characters who grow and develop, and places them in a recognisable, modern world. There is clever dialogue, some steamy sex scenes and never a dull moment. Danger and evil lurk, but there is fun and a lighter touch too. James includes deep issues with her choice of of fate, destiny and predetermination as themes, but handles them in a sensitive and intriguing way. This is an ambitious book but extremely successful and definitely work reading.

Wizard by Paula Paul is a super story for young adults. Merlin the magician transports his younger sister Meghan to safety in eleventh century Armorika (France). Except he doesn’t – she ends up in twenty-first century America! At first Meghan struggles to find the words to describe her new surroundings – cars are monsters, the modern university building with electric lights is an enchanted castle (despite there being no bowmen to defend it) and every room she goes into could be a dungeon with a dragon in it. But order emerges out of chaos and Meghan is taken in by Ryan and his lecturer father, together with Ryan’s aunt, the new-age Alicia. She starts high school where she makes a big impact, not least because of her bungled spells. Meghan means well, but things don’t always go to plan.

Yes, this is another time travel book, but it has such a unique twist. Feisty Meghan, with her less than perfect magical abilities, is the perfect heroine. There are laugh aloud moments when her sixth century behaviour doesn’t quite fit into her new surroundings. But it’s not glib, and there’s a real message in the story about being a true friend and doing the right thing. The shallowness of false friendships because of only wanting to be cool is clearly illustrated. Meghan the outsider learns to value Tyler the outside for himself. Despite being confusing and flawed, modern life suits our heroine. Meghan’s closing words are: “Go back to my own century, I don’t think so!” I’m glad she’s staying because I hope Paula Paul will be creating some more adventures for her.

Welcome to Books Are Cool, the book related sister site to Blog in France. So yes, I’m taking part twice in my own blog hop! It wasn’t intentional. I needed to try out the linky tool when I was setting the blog hop up, since it’s my first go at organising one. So I signed this site up for it, intending to delete it later. Which I forgot to do!

Anyway, here is a list of non-fiction books about expat life which I have really enjoyed reading, and which I’m sure you will too.

1. A Summer in Gascony by Martin Calder

2. Perking the Pansies by Jack Scott Bodrun

3. French Fried by Chris Dolley

4. One Year in Wonderland by Christopher Combe

5. Big Backpack, Little World by Donna Morang

6. C’est La Folie by Michael Wright

7. Expat Women: Confessions by Andrea Martins

8. The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz

9. Two Lipsticks and a Lover by Helen Frith Powell

10. A Year in Provence, Toujours Provence and Encore Provence by Peter Mayle

11. Older Man, Younger Man by Joseph Dispenza (taking part in this blog hop – see the table below). Not explicitly an expat life book, but it’s the moving personal account by an expat of a certain difficult period in his life.

11. Coming very soon to Kindle – Heads Above Water by me – Stephanie Dagg!

And a couple of very enjoyable fictional expat stories.

1. Vantastic France by Steve Bichard (taking part in this blog hop – see the list below)

2. Sunshine Soup by Jo Parfitt

 

And the expat blog hop freebie? A copy of my children’s ebook Oh Grandad! from Smashwords. Comment below and I’ll send you the code to obtain a copy for free in your preferred format. (There are lots of free books for grabs too on my Smashwords page here.)

Please visit the other blogs in the blog hop, not forgetting Blog in France. More freebies up for grabs!


Embracing the Lemonade Life by Sandra Sookoo is a hugely enjoyable and inspiring story with lemonade-loving cancer survivor Carla as heroine, and ambitious city lawyer Jake as hero. Carla now lives each day as it comes as she runs Cute as a Button bed and breakfast, concentrating on being happy as often as she can, while Jake prefers things carefully mapped out and thought through. Carla escaped the city to find a quieter and friendlier way of life in Bridgewater, whereas Jake couldn’t wait to leave the town for more excitement and opportunities in Indianapolis. He’s only come back for a couple of days for his friend’s wedding. Or so he thinks. Thanks to Hamlet, a black and white guinea pig, Carla and Jake meet, but can such polar opposites ever realistically expect to get on? Surely they’re not even remotely compatible.

I read this book in one sitting. It’s a well-paced story that flies off the page, but it’s by no means an easy read. The author cuts to the chase with the theme of cancer that runs through the story. So often taboo as a subject, Sandra Sookoo gives it its human dimension, and we see the despair, courage and hope that go with this disease. There’s a lot of emotion in the book – plenty of smiles but lots of tears too. You can’t help but put yourself in Carla’s and Jake’s shoes and wonder how you’d cope with the situations they find themselves in. Likeable, rounded characters, a realistic small town setting and imaginative and sensitive writing make for a delightful, unusual and brave book.

This book describes itself as ‘a historical novel’. It entwines fact and fiction to create the story behind an attempt to assassinate Charles Lindbergh on a visit to Berlin. It’s been meticulously researched and the author enters into the spirit of the period and place he is portraying, namely 1930s Germany. For example, he uses the Germanic forms of names at their first appearance, and the German style of giving addresses to create a contemporary atmosphere. This is a nice touch, as is the list of translated words he offers and the very informative prologue that sets the scene superbly. The list of players is useful too. The author builds tension throughout the story and portrays tenderness and brutality equally convincingly.

However, the book is bitty. This arises largely from the switching between first and third person narrative which isn’t totally successful. Eighty-five chapters is a lot and the reader is jumping from one scene to another, sometimes too quickly. The author tends to write in short paragraphs too so there is a disjointed feel at times. It’s an ambitious and complicated novel which the author must be applauded for that and it’s obvious he has poured his heart and soul into his work. I feel this author’s forte is non-fiction although he is clearly imaginative. And I would like to see more character development.  There are a few typos but generally this is a well-planned and well-presented piece of writing from a promising author who is yet to find his preferred voice. It’s entertaining, educational and makes for very interesting, if slightly fidgety, reading.