Thrall by Jennifer Quintenz is a zesty and very enjoyable YA paranormal novel. The opening seems a little conventional. We meet teenager Braedyn, bright and gutsy but a bit of a social misfit, against the usual background of American high school with the moody beauties and aloof good looking guys. However, suddenly a handsome new neighbour, Lucas, arrives on the scene and sticks up for her at school. Up to now there’d always been just Dad and Braedyn. He’s never talked much about her mother, whom Braedyn never knew, despite her thousands of questions. But suddenly circumstances change and Dad is forced to tell Braedyn the truth. This is where the author stops teasing us and shows what an original novel she’s created. Suddenly Braedyn learns that there are humans and hunters and guards and Lilitu, demons, in the world, and she’s very, very involved in all this. The crucial question for her now is can a demon ever turn out good? Can a demon ever become human? She has to find out.

This is very much a character-driven story with plenty of action and fast-paced, authentic dialogue. Braedyn, like her friends, and enemies, is a typical modern kid, a little more complicated than most, but ready and able to face up to massive challenges. She develops throughout the novel, as do all the other main figures. Dad, Murphy, moves from shadowy parent to a strong leader, and Lucas becomes way more than the boy next door. Events twist and turn and keep us all guessing in this well thought-out story. And good news – it’s only  the start of a series!

Green Eyed Temptation (Halos and Horns) by Lori Leger is a modern romance with a lot of punchiness to it. It may be a classic love triangle, here one girl, Angelique Baptiste who is taking a break from bedding guys while she tries to sort her life out, and two men, both tough and attractive. There’s police colleague Mike Harper and ex-Seal Liam Nash, the latter with a whole host of skeletons in his cupboard that he’s finally laid to rest. However, he ran out on Angelique a year ago and is one of the reasons she’s had to get counselling from a therapist and take drastic measures to get her emotional life back on track. A gritty, heart-rending subplot make this book much more than a simple romance. There are guts to this story and it quickly becomes absorbing.

The book is a spin-off from the author’s hugely successful ‘La Fleur de Love’ series and uses characters who have appeared in previous stories. This is a strategy Lori Leger uses to great effect as it is intriguing for readers. It also lends a sense of familiarity as you read. There are plenty of interesting secondary characters, such as Tanner Collins, whom you hope you’ll come across again. And soon. The author’s style is conversational and easy, with a humorous touch. For example, she gives us two endings – a sweet one, and a decidedly hotter one too! She creates sensual situations as skilfully as she builds tension and intrigue and is a polished, accomplished author.

Stone Kisses by Tessa Stokes is a gentle yet very sensual paranormal romance. Stella makes a trip to the garden centre, and takes a fancy to not only to a stone statue of the handsome Mercury but also to the assistant there, Justin. However, Mercury is well out of her price range but Justin sees how struck she is with the statue and so delivers it to her. An act of incredible kindness? Yes, and no. There’s an ulterior motive and a bet which involves Greek and Roman gods winning the hearts of mortals. Stella is caught up in this, but not detrimentally. She loves both the men who enter her life, even though one is a garden ornament. Little by little he becomes more than that, and the fun and adventure really begins. Mercury goes missing and it’s surprisingly tricky to find a large, lost statue.

This is a quirky and very imaginative story. Tessa Stokes has a rather understated style, so the whole story appears more simple than it is. It develops slowly but surely and the reader is pulled into this modern fantasy. We gradually learn more about our sympathetic characters and become very involved in their lives, mortal and immortal. There’s plenty of fun at the heart of this story, but there’s sadness, seriousness and real tension too at times. It’s entertaining, unique and far from predictable thanks to the author’s bright creativity. A highly enjoyable novella.

This wonderful new age of indie authors means that there are many first-time book writers out there who aren’t sure what they should do once they’ve finished creating their work of fiction or non-fiction.

Here’s a suggested course of action consisting of 5 steps. I’m assuming you’ve reached the stage where you’re happy with what you’ve written and, as far as you’ve concerned, you’ve done as much work on it as you can.

1. Take a break for a few days, and then read your MS through one last time, no matter how many times you’ve already checked it. (MS = manuscript, i.e. the unpublished work in whatever format.) You’ll almost certainly spot some silly mistakes, typos, inconsistencies etc that you’ve missed up to now. Correct them, but don’t start tinkering unnecessarily with other parts of the text. You have to stop the writing part some time.

2. At the same time, get a friend or family member to read the MS through. Ask them specifically to make a note of any errors they find. Don’t ask for general comments – those aren’t necessarily helpful!

3. Get the book edited. This can be the tricky part. OK, it’s not obligatory but it is EXTREMELY helpful. Search online for a freelance editor and do shop around to make sure you’re getting a good deal.

Book editors are professionals who are trained to be good with words. They will polish your book to bring out its full potential. But how do they do that?

To start with, you can expect the editor you’ve chosen to read through the first few thousand words, free of charge. This will give him or her an idea of your standard of writing and how much work they will be having to do to polish up your book. They’ll report back, and may suggest you deal with some of the issues yourself to save paying them to do that. For example, we all have our favourite words and phrases – just, however, could only, in no time at all etc. An editor will quickly spot yours, and may ask you to work through and replace these. At this stage they’ll be able to give you an estimate of what their fees will be to work on your book. I charge per 1,000 words; other editors charge on an hourly basis.

Once you’ve had the editor’s feedback and quote and given the go-ahead, you may receive queries from the editor. For example, possibly you’ve given your hero blond hair in some places, and black in others. The editor will want to know which is your preferred colour. He or she might spot a hitch in the time frame of the story’s action, or pick up a subplot that doesn’t go anywhere, and ask what you want to do about these. Do respond to queries as promptly as you can so your editor can complete the project quickly and efficiently.

Editors should only be looking to do a minimal edit anyway on indie books if they’re tuned in to this market. Remember, you’re only after a polish. You don’t want someone else totally rewriting your book to suit themself, which is something that can happen. An editor’s job is to fine-tune what’s there. They will certainly rephrase and reorganise parts of your text to make it clearer for the reader, or to avoid repetitions, or to correct inaccuracies, but that’s as far as it should go. And let’s face it. Indie authors don’t have much money. You can’t afford to pay for major surgery. A lot of freelance editors work mainly with publishing houses that have a vast budget and can pay a generous fee. Indies can’t. It’s a fact that you’re probably not going to be earning a great deal of money from your ebooks, at least initially. It’s a hugely competitive market out there, with lots of free and very cheap books around at the moment. This is a good advertising ploy but it’s unsustainable. We’ll see ebook prices rise, and with it author income, but for the short term, readers aren’t willing to pay a lot for an ebook. You can’t afford to pay a ridiculous sum for editing.

4. Once you have your edited text back, it’s time to publish electronically. Formatting for Smashwords and Kindle is actually quite straightforward. You can do it yourself if you’re prepared to put the effort in the first time around and follow the instructions on the relevant publishing platforms to get it right. It’s a matter of a few hours’ work. Once you’ve done one book, it becomes quick and easy to do the rest. But ebook editors will take care of this part of the process if you ask them. They shouldn’t charge much for this.

5. Work on your author platform. What’s this? At its most basic, it’s a website, blog, Twitter account and Facebook page. It can be as huge and complex as you like! But that’s for another day.

As for my own editing services, I’ve done a lot of research and I’ve matched the lowest going rates out there. More expensive editors will say you pay for what you get, implying cheaper editors aren’t as experienced. Well, I’ve had 25 years’ experience, and I’m also a published author both of print books and ebooks. Knowing the ebook markets from both sides is a huge advantage. Cheaper editors are simply being more realistic, since they’re more in tune with the world of indie authoring.

 

Into the Hourglass by Kelly Marino is one of those unexpected gems it’s a thrill to discover. It’s a fabulous story in the paranormal genre and fortunately just the first of a trilogy. It’s feisty, bright, organized Franny’s nineteenth birthday and she gets a present she didn’t foresee from her parents – the news that she’s not their child. That explains some of her strange qualities, and also the reason that she faints and enters into another realm with two strangers, a young man, Mike, and a young pregnant woman, Abigail, who is not what she seems at all. Oh yes, and it’s 1693 too. That’s a lot to handle but Franny is made of stern stuff – very stern, immortal stuff and is well able to join in the fight against Yorvik, a merciless killer with a long-lived, anti-immortal grudge, and do her bit to ensure humanity remains a viable species.

It’s a book that’s gritty and gripping, tender and terrifying, romantic and horrific, but above all fresh and incredibly well written. It’s all so plausible and persuasive, paranormal as it is. Marino has an amazing way with words and creates some truly exciting situations and likeable characters. Franny has enough attitude to make her interesting but not obnoxious, and although she’s courageous, she’s scared too and makes mistakes. She’s a good person. There’s a lot of goodness in this book, which is a refreshing change. It’s not soppy, it’s an affirmation of what’s good about humans to make them worth protecting, even if history may have to change a little. I can’t wait for the next book in the series.

Find it here on Smashwords.

I’ve come across a few articles recently huffing and puffing about the awfulness of the concept of paying for book reviews. I can’t understand why some people get so worked up about it. What is so morally wrong about an author paying an experienced book reviewer to review their book and post the review in the relevant places, such as their own book blog if they have one and on Amazon, Goodreads, and so on? You’re not buying their opinion – just their time and expertise. You’re paying for a service, in the same way that you might pay an editor to edit your book, or an architect to design you a house.

Relying on friends, relatives and the general public to turn out reviews is usually very disappointing. It takes a very committed person to regularly turn in reviews voluntarily. Even if readers enjoy your book and thoroughly intend to write a review of it. often as not life gets in the way and then they forget.  And on top of that they may not be very good at reviewing. Book reviewing is quite a skill and not everyone can write interestingly about something they’ve read. The secret is to give a brief synopsis but without revealing too much of the story, and then to express a considered opinion of the book’s and the author’s merits. You need to touch on characterization, plot, language, pace and so on, not simply trot out a few sentences about what happens to the heroine.

Book reviews are considered very good publicity and no one complains about authors paying for advertising space on relevant websites or in magazines. That’s not seen as somehow underhand or disreputable. I think there’s a slight case of double standards going on out there.

If you’re prepared to pay for a timely, professional book review then that’s your choice and, in my opinion, it’s a very wise one.

A visit to the zoo today has inspired this post!

So … what kind of writing animal are you?

Panda – you’re a showy writer and refuse to be hurried, but don’t let time run out on you.

Meerkat – you’re too busy studying the market and watching everyone else to actually sit down and write!

Koala – you’re too spaced out to write, man.

Albino wallaby – you write because you’re unique. You have something really different to say.

Rhino – you charge into writing without thinking and so  you’re always rewriting and revising and never quite getting there.

Orang Utan – you’re too laid back to write, man.

Alligator – you’re snappy and aggressive and you’re gonna destroy the opposition.

Porcupine – you’re too prickly to take advice or criticism about your writing from anyone.

Exotic bird – you’re only writing a book to show off to friends and family.

Penguin – you write because it’s the in-thing to do. You want to be like everyone else.

Snake – you’re inscrutable so no one knows why you write.

Giraffe – you write because you love it and it makes you feel great. You feel ten feet tall – if not more!

Or are you another writing animal altogether?

 

Pure Healing by Aja James is a paranormal romance. It is initially very slightly confusing in that the book starts with Sophia, the Queen of the Pure Ones, as narrator but she soon becomes a secondary figure in the rest of the book as the relationship between Rain, the healer, and Valerius, an immortal Protector. There has been sexual tension between them for over a decade but finally Valerius asks to become her consort and help regenerate her powers by allowing her to feed on his blood and his body. But he is not to fall in love with her. Valerius suffered brutality in his youth and is full of self-doubt and handicapped by his resulting fear of intimacy. Rain also is constrained by her past and who she is but somehow between them they achieve fulfillment. The counter-plot runs alongside centred on Sophia, a student at Harvard, who makes friends with the mysterious Ere, a teaching assistant, but you have to wonder if there’s more to him than meets the eye. And in the background is an impending war between vampires and the Pure Ones. Vicious attacks by vampire assassins are taking place all too often.

This is a very intense, gritty book that really grips you. The author creates an intriguing yet overtly dangerous world. As with all series starters, there is quite a lot of groundwork to cover to set the scene for all the action that is to come, in this book and later ones. However, Aja James keeps the pace moving and keeps our appetites whetted. Plenty of questions are raised and issues touched on that are still to be resolved. In summary, you’ll be hooked!

 

I’ve blogged about blovels before since I think they’re intriguing and, let’s face it, a brilliant idea! Serving up a novel in chunks was good enough for Charles Dickens so I think it should be good enough for the rest of us.

I was interested to stumble across a few vaguely official definitions of a blovel. One at http://friendfeed.com/blovelspot suggests 40 or so chapters of 1,000 characters each. That seems too short to me. Elsewhere 40 or so chapters of 500-1000 words are suggested which I would tend to agree with, which would give you a decent sized novella at the end of it. You post a chapter at a time, at least one a week, but no more than one a day.

Other important aspects to take into account are:

Structure: have a beginning (approx first 10 chapters), a crisis (chapters 11-30) and a resolution (31-40).

Narrator: go for the first person, but you can hop between characters to give their viewpoints of a situation.

Try and end each chapter with a cliffhanger.

So, are you inspired? Here are some blovels currently out there that are worth a look.

1. Something Fishy by Rorie Stevens

Entertaining mystery-romance, with some fishing thrown in. But you don’t need to be an angler to enjoy this well written story.

2. Land of Kuro by Mykall: Asian dystopian fantasy

3. Broken Vow: Widowmaker’s Return by R A Evans: the author’s first go at fantasy

4. Hourglass by I’m not sure! Science-fiction

5. Before The Dead (B4TD) is: “a novel project between two authors (B and K). We are going to try to bring to you a story of adventure, terror, and horror. We hope to update every month or so.”

6. The Ladiez and their Confessions by Quiyada: Follow India, Sasha, Hillary and Jazmine, “unedited and uncensored”.

 

Out of the Ashes by Lori Dillon is a wonderful combination of romance and history with a dash of the paranormal for good measure. It’s one of those books you can’t put down. It’s a simple yet clever story of love through time. Due to Marsha and Hershel, two bungling yet likeable angels who enjoy bingo, Male 2028 and Female 5293 don’t get to enjoy the loving life together they’re meant to have. Their first reincarnations are as Dacian the gladiator and Sabina the well-born politician’s niece in Pompeii in AD79. Ironically the erupting volcano both frees the pair of them from their restricted lifestyles, yet entombs them in each other’s arms. Nothing daunted,  the angels try again but there are other slip-ups. They have a final chance in war torn Italy in 1943 with Serafina the archaeologist, and David Corbin, working for the Allies. Surely they’ll get it right this time, won’t they? Shadows of the past play a helping hand.

This is a delightfully fresh yet poignant tale. The characters are so real and alive. Nothing seems contrived. The action unfolds at a good pace, with pauses at the sadder moments. Division becomes a strong motif in the book. People are divided from each other by social class, nationality, circumstance and politics. The world is divided by wars. Yet there is a way the divisions can be overcome, but it’s not easy, even if Senior Guardian Angel Smithers is on the case!