Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Blog Shout Out - Dianne Harman

There's a name change to the Wednesday Blog feature, it will now be called Blog Shout Out, which is a bit clearer I'm sure you'll agree! This week we feature Dianne Harmen's blog, you can read all about it in her own words below.

If you have a blog that you would like featured then drop me a line and I'll take a look.


I started the website and blog about a year and a half ago. A mentor of mine told me that if I was going to be an author, I needed to have a website and blog, and so I began. While the majority of my blogs deal with the process of writing, marketing, and producing book, I also put the articles that I write for Huffington Post on it as well. I’ve found people really enjoy a break from the novel!

Below are two articles that recently appeared on my blog. One deals with book covers and the other with the miracle of hummingbirds which was recently in the Huffington Post.

It still amazes me that I’m an author of four published books because it all just happened. My husband and I were at a boutique hotel in Palm Springs, California for a wedding 2 ½ years ago. It was 107 degrees outside and the air-conditioning felt wonderful! Where it came from I’ll never know, but out of the blue I turned to my husband and said, wouldn’t it be interesting if someone put a feel-good drug in the air-conditioning and everyone felt good all the time. He looked at me and said, “There’s your book..” And Blue Coyote Motel was birthed, followed by Coyote in Provence.

At the time my husband was a California Senator and so Tea Party Teddy and Tea Party Teddy’s Legacy soon followed. I’ll be publishing Cornered Coyote within a few weeks and Dinner Party Diva and the Red Cedar Spa will follow that. I’ve never had so much fun!!! When knew at this stage of my life there would be a whole new career opening up? Not me!

Visit Dianne Harmen's blog here: http://dianneharman.com/blog/

A LEAP OF FAITH!

They’re Leaving the Nest — A Leap of Faith

Who doesn’t love springtime? No matter what our age, we feel a sense of renewal. The trees are heavy with fruit, the wisteria is brilliant on the patio, the garden is a riot of color, the butterflies are on the milkweed and the hummingbirds have laid their eggs.

Therein is the problem. This year, we have two hummingbird nests, one directly outside my office window on the second floor and one just beyond the side patio on the first floor. The nests are a work of art and the comings and goings of the mommas distract me when I should be writing, but how many times do you have a front row seat to watch a miracle taking place right in front of you?

I’ve been very concerned about one of the hummingbird mommas. I think I’m witnessing a bad hummingbird mother and I don’t think there’s a 12-step group for help or a place I can report her. I’ve never heard of the “Bad Hummingbird Mothers Self-Help Group!”

The silken nest outside my office window was the home a year ago for two eggs which later hatched and became beautiful hummingbirds. I watched by the hour as momma gathered nectar and fed her babies. I watched them grow and held my breath the first time they flapped their tiny little wings. I freely admit it; I cried when they left. I can only imagine what the world must look like to a baby hummingbird perched on the edge of its nest, read to spread its wings for its first flight. That momma watched them as they took their first tentative flight and then flew to where they were. Talk about a leap of faith! I wonder if momma hummingbird felt like I did, that those babies were just too young to be out in the world on their own.

I was surprised when I looked out the window about a month ago and noticed there were two perfect little hummingbird eggs in last year’s nest. I thought hummingbirds always constructed new nests each year, but when I went to the Internet — and who doesn’t go there when information is needed? — it said in some cases, the momma or her babies may return to the nest from the year before to lay their eggs. Who knew? However, this year I became concerned because I never saw momma on the nest. I know she had to be there or they wouldn’t have hatched. No doubt about it, momma from last year was a much better mother. I never saw this year’s momma feed her birds, but I know she had to or they wouldn’t have been able to fly away. And I was there when they flew away, she wasn’t.

The nest near our patio is a little more difficult to see because I have to look up, not out, to see it. That nest’s momma is a good one. Every time I’ve been there she’s been on the nest. While I can’t see directly into it without getting a ladder and I’m afraid it might disturb her, enough time has gone by that the eggs should be hatching any day now. The other afternoon, I took a friend out to see the nest and momma hummingbird was on the nest as usual. Momma always stays on the nest when just one person is under it, but this time she flew to an upper branch and sat, watching us. I feel certain she was protecting her soon-to-be babies. She’s a good momma.

I’d like to think we mommas of all species share something in common: We watch out for our hatchlings. I worried when our children first drove. Now I wonder if momma hummingbird worries when her babies are flying around. You know I’ll be eagerly looking out my office window next year to see if any of them return to the nest to lay their eggs. I hope it’s a good momma. I’m pretty disappointed with this year’s upstairs momma.

Ahh nature. What a miracle!


BOOK COVERS – ARE YOU GOING FOR ART OR SALES?

I’ve read and been told that the cover of a book is critical to the success of the book. I’ve always agreed with the statement. Where I erred was not making the distinction between aesthetics and marketing. I published Coyote in Provence several months ago and I loved the cover the graphic artist did. I thought it was beautiful and I still do. What I didn’t take into account was that it really said nothing about what was in the book.


The book did fine, but not what I thought it could do. Overall, the reviews were excellent and when I did a special promotion, it always sold well, but something was niggling at me. I decided maybe it needed another cover. Bingo! The man who did the cover captured the essence of the book. And here’s the interesting part. I took out an ad on Goodreads months ago. I switched my ad from Blue Coyote Motel to Coyote in Provence. Within one week I’ve received more clicks on Goodreads than I had the entire last few months. Plus, I’ve received several great reviews since it went up. Here’s one  as well as both the before and after covers.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Tuesday Tease - Acid Sky by Mark Anson

This week's Tuesday Tease is provided by Mark Anson from his sci-fi novel 'Acid Sky'. This is the prequel to 'Mercury Rising' a book that I enjoyed reading and I'd recommend for science fiction fans, you can read my review here. I have 'Acid Sky' waiting in my TBR list, maybe you will too after reading the excerpt below:

Click on image to purchase from Amazon

Acid Sky
by Mark Anson

Dawn over the second planet from the Sun.

Clare looked out over the wastes of cloud to the western horizon, where the sky lightened from black to a deep blue. Mercury was a brilliant star in the west, climbing up the sky in its futile attempt to outrun the Sun. Overhead, the night sky still sparkled with the brightest stars, but they were fading one by one, as the light crept upwards on the edge of the world. The tops of the upper cloud deck were silhouetted against the growing light on the horizon, but the world around the flying carrier was dark.

She stood in the flight operations centre, at the top of the air control tower, ten metres above the flight deck. The Langley was rising up out of the clouds after its night-time air mining operations. So far, only the control tower protruded, racing through the clouds like the tailfin of some vast animal. The streamlined fairing of the landing radar was next to emerge, turning in the darkness as it scanned the sky. Then, all around her, the huge area of the carrier surfaced through the cloud deck.

From this high vantage point, the enormous size of the Langley could truly be appreciated. Clare watched, transfixed, as the flight deck emerged, three hundred metres long, outlined in in a blaze of yellow lights down the edges, and white down the centreline. Then the wings, nearly two hundred metres across, marked out by red and green navigation lights at the wingtips, and with a smaller set of canard wings at the front. Finally, the large ventral fins and rudders, built on the underside to keep the deck area clear, burst free of the clouds, and the Langley climbed into the deep blue of the dawn sky.

In the centre of the flight deck, the spaceplane that had brought them here the day before rose slowly into view on the elevator, illuminated from below by the lines of deck lighting. Its giant fuel tanks were filled to their maximum capacity for the long climb to orbit, and held over 150 tonnes of cryogenic propellants, kept liquid under intense cold. A heavy-duty cable snaked up into a port in the belly of the spaceplane, keeping the craft supplied with power until it started its engines. As the elevator reached the deck surface, twenty-four giant steel pins, forced into place by hydraulic pressure, locked the elevator into position and took the load off the lifting rams.

Inside the control tower, the only light came from the various displays that showed the Langley’s attitude and position, the weather all round, and the trim of the huge craft. Another display showed the orbital situation of the space tugs circling high above the planet, and the curving line of the ascent trajectory that the spaceplane would take on its climb up to the Indianapolis, where it would transfer its passengers to the tug for their return journey to Earth.

Besides Clare, there were only five other people in the flight operations centre: the tower controller, three crewmembers manning various consoles, and Shaffer, who stood towards the front windows, watching the deck through binoculars. Clare was a little way back, by one of the side windows. The dark blue flight overalls that she was dressed in were a long way from the formality of last night, but Clare was much more at her ease. She had reported here at 05:30 as Shaffer had suggested, and one of the crewmembers had let her in and shown her where to stand, where she could see everything but not be in anyone’s sight line.

‘Launch window’s open, sir.’ The crewman monitoring the orbital situation display looked up from his monitor.

‘Roger. Let them know.’ Shaffer didn’t remove the binoculars from his eyes as he watched the spaceplane on the flight deck.

‘Orbital One Four Nine, Tower, launch window is open.’

‘One Four Nine, roger. Ready to start engines.’ Clare could hear Hartigan’s voice on the speakers.

‘One Four Nine, clear to start engines. Report when ready for disconnect.’

Clare imagined the scene on board the spaceplane, Hartigan watching the engine RPM come up as his copilot started them in turn. She could see a faint cough of flame from each engine as it ignited, before it was snatched away by the slipstream.

She glanced back to the western horizon. The dark blue of the sky had lightened in the last few minutes, and she could see the whole of the horizon clearly now, extending round the Langley.

‘One Four Nine, four good engines. On internal power, brakes on, ready to disconnect.’

‘One Four Nine, ready disconnect.’ The tower controller changed channel. ‘Deck Ops, Tower. Disconnect umbilical and close up.’

‘Deck Ops, disconnect and close, roger.’

Shaffer lowered his binoculars and looked down at the weather radar.

‘Come round to two six five.’

‘Two six five, roger.’ The tower controller spoke briefly to the control room, requesting a course change, and a few moments later Clare could see the nose of the Langley, silhouetted against the pale light of dawn, move a fraction to the left and steady out …

Click here to purchase Acid Sky from Amazon



About the Author

Mark Anson has had a lifelong interest in reading and writing science fiction thrillers and adventures, and spends considerable effort researching and creating the highly detailed and scientifically accurate settings and drawings for his novels.

'I think it's important to get accuracy and consistency in any fictional setting - whether it's a historical romance or a science fiction adventure set on a distant planet. To me, the background is as essential as the story itself, and I strive to make it as believable as possible.'

Mark lives with his wife in the depths of the Suffolk, England countryside with horses, cats and various other animals. He is currently working on the next novel in the series, which is set between the events of 'Acid Sky' and 'Below Mercury', and is set in space, beyond the orbit of Mars.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Guest Post - Research to be Real by Abby Vandiver

Research and Your Novel

It’s 4am. You slip quietly out of bed, not wanting to wake your better half. You check the digital clock – it’s three hours before you have to shower and go to work. You figure you can write a thousand words in those three hours. You’ve got the entire scene playing in your head, have since you woke up at two. You grab a cup of coffee, slide your feet across the floor in your fluffy house shoes, turn on the song that you know will inspire you really low so not to wake anyone, and sit in front of your computer. It’s still dark out, nothing is going to distract you. You stretch your fingers and place them on the keyboard . . .

“The howling wind blew through the dark alley . . .”

Wait, you think. I don’t know how that back alley should look, or where in the city it would be. So you pull up Google Earth and look for an area where there is a back alley that’ll fit into the scene. Then you zoom in to see how the alley looks, wanting to write as realistic of a description of the alley as you can. Maybe you can make it up you think. No, you decide, you do want my reader to be able to picture it, to feel like they are actually there. Maybe a car should be in the alley, you think. What kind of car? Light bulb! A green Karmann Ghia. Wait, did they make them in green? Let me Google that. 

And so it goes. Ending up that in those three hours that you rose early to write your thousand or so words, you’ve only got a paragraph because you needed to look up more in that scene than you realized.

The old adage goes, “Write what you know.” But the rule is “Show don’t tell.” You want to show the locale, the dialect of the people, the aromas and sights that fill the street so the feeling your reader gets is real. Even to write what you know, you may still have to do some research - look at old pictures, see, touch, feel what you want to write in the book, so that your reader can experience that sensation through your words. But there are times when you write that you venture out of your comfort zone, when don’t write about what you know. For instance, writing a historical novel. Research can get much more in depth and take up more of your writing time than you imagined. You are writing fiction, certainly. And fiction is a form of entertainment, but when you flub historical facts that people know, putting a telephone in 1867 Tennessee, you jerk your reader out of the story. It’s important to make a story feel real, and to make it believable. To do that you need to do research.

It used to be that authors went to the exotic places they wrote about, they shadowed that snarky detective that was to be their main character, and they cooked up the creations in their kitchens to determine the smell and tastes of the foods their characters were eating. And those authors less fortunate had to take to the library, search out travel books, and talk to their friend’s cousin who knew a sheriff once. Or just make it up as they went along, which surely sent potential readers scurrying in the other direction. But not today. The Internet is replete with everything you need to know to write, whether your book takes place in Paris in the year 1012, or in space in the year 2645. You can get a satellite image of street in Italy, follow it and see the sights, shops and the people there. I did it, and readers often asked me, “Have you have been to Italy? Your description seemed so real.”

In my new book, At the End of the Line that I coauthored with Kathryn Dionne under the pen name of Kathryn Longino, we wrote about the 50, 60, and 70s. It was about civil rights and politics during a time when we were too young to follow it. But no worry because with YouTube we were able to go back and watch the videos of what happened on the streets of Jackson, Mississippi, listen to Dr. King’s speech at the March on Washington, and see how the TV broadcast looked when it interrupted the soap opera As the World Turns when Walter Cronkite announced President Kennedy had been shot. Google maps afforded us to see the directions and routes our characters would take as they traveled within the pages of our book. And Wikipedia gave us an inside view of the events we wrote about, their catalysts and how the outcome reverberated in our society. We were able to bring our story to life by learning about the actual events that went into our story. These, I believe, are the things that will draw a reader in, and make him feel as if he were there. And that’s exactly how you want your reader to experience.

Researching your book before you start and supplementing your knowledge while writing will give your book a feel of authenticity, captivate your readers, and give your story depth. It is important that you do your research if you want to write a good story. And with the advent of the Internet and search engines (and, don’t forget there’s still a library in every neighborhood), there is no reason not to get the facts straight in your book. Take the time to do the necessary research for your book. You’ll be happier with the outcome and so will your reader.

Click image to purchase from Amazon
A wrong number, and a cry of desperation at the end of the line, sparks a long distance friendship between two women who’ve never met. Through fourteen years of trouble and heartache from a stagnant domestic life, the struggle for civil rights, and the stigma of interracial relationships, a bond forms between the two that changes both of their lives forever. 

It’s 1958, a time when women and Negroes are deemed second-class and are being second-guessed, from there arises the perfect storm for change, and the perfect time for an unlikely friendship.

Beatrice “Beanie” Peterson, forced to marry at fifteen and live with two sister wives, six children, and an abusive husband twenty years her senior, is looking for a way out.

Adeline “Liddie” Garrison, friend of Jack Kennedy, wife of a prominent Boston business man, and resident of Beacon Hill has already found her way in.



About the Authors:

Kathryn Longino is a pen name for the writing team of authors Abby L. Vandiver and Kathryn Dionne.

Born and raised in Ohio, Shondra C. Longino, who writes under the pen name Abby L. Vandiver, holds a bachelors in Economics, a masters in Public Administration and a Juris Doctor. These days, Ms. Longino enjoys writing and endeavors to devote all her extra time to it.

Her debut novel, In the Beginning, an Amazon #1 bestseller in its category, was written on a whim, put in a box for more than a decade, and finally pulled out, dusted off and published in 2013. Its stand-alone sequel, Irrefutable Proof, is also a bestseller and is available on Amazon.

Ms. Longino resides in Cleveland, Ohio and has four wonderful grandchildren, Gavin, Sydne September and Riley.

To learn more about Author Abby L. Vandiver, visit her website: www.abbylvandiver.com, or Twitter: @AbbyVandiver, Facebook: AbbyVandiver


Kathryn Dionne lives in Southern California with her husband, Jeff, and their two Shar Peis, Bogey and Gracie.

From an early age, Kathryn's love of treasure hunting sparked an interest in archaeology. As an amateur archaeologist, she's been fortunate enough to uncover some very unique artifacts in different parts of the globe. However, she's still searching for that very special scroll.

In addition to writing, she manages their five-acre property and their grove of Italian olive trees. Her husband has lovingly named their business; Saint Kathryn's Olive Oil.

In her spare time, she makes cookie jars and throws pottery in her studio. She also creates mosaics from discarded objects and sells them under the category of Found Art.

She is currently writing a new series called; Chasing Time, which she hopes to have published some time in 2014.

To learn more about Kathryn Dionne, please visit her website at: www.kathryndionne.com

Book Impressions - Trolls on Ice by Rosen Trevithick

This is the third in the Smelly Trolls series and I enjoyed the previous two books a lot and have been looking forward to reading this one. I'm pleased to say that it didn't disappoint. As I've mentioned before I'm not a child (by outward appearances at least!), nor do I have children, but it does appeal to my inner child. With the fun characters in the story this would be a fun book to read out to children as well as one older ones can read themselves.

It seems to me that being a troll is a harsh life, you are condemned for eating children, which on the face of it might seem wrong, although some compromise could be reached I think. For example, maybe the naughty ones could be left out for troll consumption, or special farms - free range naturally I'm not a savage.

Protecting us from the troll menace is a young lad called Rufus, he's a troll hunter. When he and his class go for a skiing trip into the mountains he discovers that the Trollymics are taking place. Trolls normally stick to their small family groups, but they come together for their big sporting event. With so many trolls in the same place a hotel full of children make an ideal target for trolls looking for a snack.

The writing is very funny and there's some great opportunity for silly voices. The social interaction between the children is excellent, it doesn't shy away from conflict, but does so in a way that is well handled. In the grand tradition of children's tales it is very silly, full of menace and the camaraderie of young friends. It's a lot of fun to read as a grown up, but would be even better shared with its intended audience.

It also ends with the ideal hook for the next story, so I'm looking forward to that.

Click on image to purchase from Amazon

Book 3 in the Smelly Trolls series.

Brawnulator Powerknees picks other people’s noses, smells like mutated tuna and eats small children. He is the strongest, fastest, most desirable man on the planet – to a troll.

When Rufus and his friends go on a skiing holiday to the Craggle Alps, they have no idea that the Winter Trollympics – the biggest sporting event of the troll calendar – is taking place nearby.

Sporting a wide variety of dangerous athletes, including Brawnulator, the Winter Trollympics is a hazardous place for children to be. But an avalanche blocks the railway line, leaving Rufus and his friends stranded amongst the hungry beasts.

A slippery, icy adventure packed with hideous trolls, winter sports and lots and lots of snotacular calamities.


Click here to purchase Trolls on Ice from Amazon (and it's a fun read)

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Film Review - The Paranormal Diaries Clophill

I enjoyed this film more than it deserved, mostly because of nostalgia. It's a low budget found footage horror film and on that front it's not anything special. The nostalgic feeling comes from the storyline which reminded me of an urban legend when I was a young boy. I used to live near some ancient monuments that apparently were used for Satanic rituals back in the early eighties, which is essentially what the film is about. The story even has the police sealing these areas off to prevent foolish young boys from trying to enter these areas. It scared the crap out of me when I discovered that the police actually did prevent kids from sneaking into these area at night.

Which is more than this film managed. It's a real slow burner and there's more build up here than anything of substance. For the most part it feels the same as the ghost hunting TV shows that haunt TV channels with nothing better to show. It has a few good moments, but not enough to lift it to anything resembling a decent horror.

I was interested enough to keep watching to the end to see what our intrepid TV crew uncovered. The ending is contrived and tries to leave you with a mystery, but by that point I no longer cared.

In March 1963 a black mass was held within the ruins of a church in the small English village of Clophill. Tombs were desecrated and animals sacrificed during the macabre ritual.

Fifty tears on, following numerous reports of strange apparitions since that infamous ceremony, an investigative film crew was assembled to interview eyewitnesses and set up camp within the church ruins. During that ling night ahead they hoped to capture some kind of paranormal presence. Nothing however could of prepared them for the terrifying scenes they were about to witness and the events that followed.

Official selection at UK's biggest horror film festival Frightfest 2013

Click here to purchase The Paranormal Diaries Clophill from Amazon (and you shouldn't bother)

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