Today’s Featured Author: Susan Leigh Noble

For the first time in the three years that I have been hosting authors on my site, I finally had one not return their information in time. So today, I decided I would be the featured author and share an excerpt from Destiny, the third book in my The Elemental trilogy.  If you are an author and interested in being featured, please contact me.

Excerpt

Selda delighted in just holding the scepter in her hand. She caressed it as one might caress a lover. She couldn’t believe she was finally holding the instrument that would restore her magic. Movement outside the window caused her to turn. It was the red dragon, Kset, gorging on a horse. She shuddered at the sight. The abandoned farm was not her choice of places to stay, though it did provide food for the dragon. She had been all for letting him go, but Slade seemed attached to the creature. She glanced at her brother and then back at the scepter.

“How do we use it?” she asked her voice breathless.

Slade held out his hand, and she reluctantly gave up the scepter. “I don’t know,” he said turning it over in his hand. “I guess we should give it a try.”

“How?”

“Well it reveals magic. I have an amulet made by a Learner. The amulet was designed to track the wearer. We can test it on that.” He looked at her. “Of course we still need the sword.”

“We will need to find out where Val is.”

“I can use the spell Ben Dar used to track Lina.”

“We don’t need her. We need Val.”

“From what you have said, I figure they will be together,” he said as he opened his book and flipped a few pages.

Selda reached into the bag at Slade’s feet. She pulled out the book she had given to him. She opened it to a marked page. “Use this one.”

Slade read it and smiled. “Perfect.”

Selda quickly fetched a bowl and filled it with water from the pitcher on the counter. Slade leaned over the bowl, murmuring the spell softly. Selda watched him with a mixture of appreciation that he was helping her and a bit of indignation at the fact he could do magic while she couldn’t. That fact burned inside her as she watched the colors swirl in the water. A picture began to form. Selda took in the campsite that was clearly in the process of being broken down. She saw Val carrying a pack over to the black dragon. He fitted it on the beast’s back and then turned and took something from Lina. The two shared a smile. Selda pushed the bowl away. Water splashed onto the table as the image disappeared.

Slade looked at her with an amused smile on his face. “They aren’t in Harmony anymore,” he said. “Or Zena for that matter with all those trees in the background.”

Selda began to pace. “Where do you think they are?”

“They could be in Carna still looking for me.” But before she could say anything, he shook his head. “No,” he said, waving his hand to dismiss what he had just suggested. “Didn’t look like Carna. The trees were not quite right.”

“That would then put them in Altron. Where would they be going?”

Slade shrugged. “At least they will be closer to us when we are ready to get his sword. But enough of this. Let’s try the scepter.”

He walked over to his pack and fished out a tarnished silver amulet. A yellow stone set in the center of a delicate looking design. It hung from a simple silver chain. Slade set it on the table beside the bowl. He picked up the scepter and waved it above the amulet. Nothing happened. Slade lightly tapped the scepter to the amulet. Again, nothing happened.

Slade picked up the amulet. “I feel its power. But the scepter made no indication of it.”

“Try releasing its power.”

Slade looked at her. “I don’t want to destroy it.”

Selda laughed. “I know you like the amulet, but we need to make sure the scepter works.”

Slade waved the scepter over the amulet in his hand. His face was tight with concentration as he again tapped the scepter to the amulet.

“Maybe there are some words you need to speak to invoke the scepter’s power,” she suggested.

Slade sat down the amulet and scepter. He picked up the book that had led them to the scepter. “Nothing in here about how to use it.” He looked around the room. “Perhaps we should try it on something else.”

Selda sighed. “Like what?”

“I don’t know. Something else magical.”

“Create something,” she suggested as she picked up the scepter. “Or use it on the dragon; it’s a creature of magic.” Slade’s outraged look caused her to laugh.

“We are not using the scepter on the dragon,” he said as he opened his spell book. “If you want to try it on a creature of magic, I can do that.” He flipped through the pages, stopping on one.  “Here we go.”

As Slade began to work, Selda turned the scepter over in her hands, wishing she knew how it worked and wishing she already had her powers back so she could hunt down Lina. She would make her pay for everything. But not before she took The Elemental’s powers.

Book Description

DestinyFINALDestroying Quietus should have stopped the destruction to the Land. But it hadn’t. Slowly, the barren areas continue to grow destroying everything in their path. None of Lina’s Elemental powers can repair the damage while the Land remains contaminated by magic.

But there is an ancient scepter created by a Learner that they believe will lift this magical barrier. Before Lina can claim it, the scepter is stolen.  Now Lina and Val must race to find the scepter and end the destruction to the Land once and for all.

You can purchase Destiny for $.2.99 at AmazonSmashwords or anywhere e-books are sold.

Formatting your self-published novel – DIY or hire someone?

CIMG1036You have written your novel and now are ready to publish it as an e-book. But your file needs to be submitted in the proper format as required by the publisher. So do you do it yourself or hire someone to do it for you?

Well, that really depends on how computer savvy you are. I have done the formatting for all my books with no problems. I know of other authors who would never want the headache of formatting their book and hire someone to do it.

Option 1 – Do it yourself

You can follow the step-by-step instructions offered by Smashwords to prepare your manuscript.

Amazon too offers a simplified formatting guide.

Advantage – It is free. If you are relatively proficient at MS Word, it is not difficult to follow the Smashwords guide. Amazon’s is a little more complex.

Disadvantage – if you aren’t proficient in MS Word, or you don’t own/use MS Word you could produce an improperly formatted book that will prevent or delay the publishing of your book. Also depending on your level of proficiency, it can take a while to follow all the formatting steps.

Option 2 – Hire someone

As I said, some authors would rather leave the formatting to the professionals. Just remember that when you hire someone to format your book that is all they are doing. They are not proofing the content.

Smashwords offers a list of formatters (as well as cover designers).

Advantages – Hiring someone who knows what they are doing can take less time and relieve you of having to worry about the formatting being done correctly.

Disadvantage – It cost money. The average rate can vary from $30 to $100 depending on the complexity or condition of your current file. It also can take longer depending on the turnaround time of the person doing the formatting.

In most cases, you will need to do several versions of your book. You will not want to use the same formatted version for all the publishers, especially as Smashwords requires a specific notice as part of the front matter that you will want to remove for submission to Amazon and other providers.

The most important thing is that you follow the guidelines provided by Amazon, Smashwords, or whatever other e-book publishers you are using so that your book not only meets their requirements but looks professional.

If you have children, you need a will (and life insurance)

gravestoneMost people don’t like to think about death or dying – especially when it is their own life they are considering. And this fear of thinking about it causes many to ignore the subject all together, falsely believing that it won’t happen to them. Or perhaps they have decided that they don’t care what happens after they die. I mean they are already gone, right?

When my friend, Trish, was first diagnosed with cancer, she professed to not caring about the bills or the money she spent on her family. Her theory was that you can’t take it with you. And while that is true…you are leaving behind love ones who will have to pick up the pieces. They will still have bills to pay.

Trish lost her battle with cancer at the end of August. She was the main bread winner of the family. She did not have a will or life insurance. Now her husband is struggling with paying off her medical expenses and adjusting to life without her income. A life insurance policy would have provided the family some relief.

In Trish’s case, the lack of a will was not as important even though it might have made a few things easier on her husband. But now he is the sole provider for their two kids. It is even more important that he have a will to provide for his children if he should pass away before they reach adulthood.

My husband is an attorney and while he doesn’t specialize in wills and trusts, he make a point to emphasize to parents that they need a will. It is the ONLY way to have a voice in what happens to your children after you die.

You may think it is obvious that your brother will take care of your kids or that your mom is young enough to do so. It may never enter into your mind that your mom and brother may argue over who is best to care for your children. Without a will, it will be up to the state to decide who will have custody of your children.

But with a will, YOU get to say who you would like to raise your kids. You can ensure that the family member or friend you want to raise your child is the one that gets to do so. You don’t want to leave it up to the courts to decide what is best for your family.

(There are other benefits of having a will such as giving instructions regarding medical decisions in case you are not medically able to express your wishes, providing for the education of children or grandchildren and avoiding tax consequence for your heirs.)

As for life insurance that money can help pay off your expenses and for your funeral instead of leaving your loved ones with bills. In the case of Trish, a life insurance policy would have done that as well as provide the family more time to transition their lives to a single, one income family.

So I urge all of you to review your life insurance policies and update your wills. And if you don’t have a will – and especially if you have kids – I urge you to get one.

Today’s Featured Author: David Mark Hebden

Today I welcome author David Mark Hebden to my blog.

Interview

Welcome, David. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.

First, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to share a little about myself with you.

My name is David Mark Hebden, but I have used several aliases.  I’m a fiction writer, author, and eBook self-publisher.  I currently have 7 books published with Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

Where were you born and where do you call home?

I was born in a small Pennsylvania town, lived in Ohio on the shores of Lake Erie for awhile but moved with my family to Southern California when I was 9 years old and that’s where I grew up and attended school.  I come from a middle class, blue collar, Catholic family, but I wouldn’t consider myself a religious person.

Including the United States, I’ve lived and worked on four continents.  I’m presently living in Bangkok, Thailand.  So I guess you could say Southeast Asia is where I call home at the moment.

When did you begin writing? 

I got the writing bug as a child living in Ohio.  My best friend and I wrote and printed a weekly newsletter on a printing press his parents had in their attic. I explained more about that experience and the reason for it in my latest book titled, A Life in Disguise.

Can you tell us a little more about your most recent release? 

Here is the book blurb.

life2When a terrorist bomb shatters a Thai marketplace, Michael Orly flashes to other times he’s fled debris and gunshots while serving with Special Forces and as an undercover operative for NSA.

In this autobiographical novel, the author uses character Michael Orly to explore his own past from a young recruit slipping deeper and deeper into the ranks of the highly trained in the tortuous jungles of Panama to his current hoped-for retirement in Thailand.

His life has been under wraps and chained to government agencies throughout his life. He recalls his days in South Vietnam during the TET Offensive; as the youngest Special Forces team sergeant leading a small group of professional soldiers in an isolated camp at Ben Soi, including several hundred Cambodian and Vietnamese soldiers; in undercover assignments ensconced as a police officer to root out U.S. drug lords; infiltrating outlaw biker gangs; and in covert operations during the Yom Kipper War gathering intelligence on Russian military in Syria.

The author explores his life in retrospect, cloaked in disguises, fractured by PTSD, preserved by equal parts loyalty and deceit and, just maybe, protected by talisman’s found along the way. But such a life never ends on a beach, lounging in the sun … when the agency calls, his Life in Disguise begins yet again.

Obviously you put a lot of yourself into this book. Are the rest of the characters based on real people? 

I believe most writers put at least part of themselves into what they write and I’m no different.  I base many of the  characters in my books on real people I have worked alongside or met through my travels.

Do you outline your books or just start writing?

Normally, I will complete an outline that includes characters names and descriptions prior to writing a book which I would suggest doing.  Most likely the storyline will change as you write it and you can always add new characters as the story unfolds.

How do you conceive your plot ideas? 

Prior to writing my first book, I had difficulty trying to figure out a storyline.  My sister’s husband, an Ivy League educated man, suggested I do a major “Mind Dump.”  Naturally I asked, “What exactly is a Mind Dump and how do I accomplish it?”  A Mind Dump is putting everything you have in your brain down on paper or completely clearing out your mind.  To make a long story short, I successfully did it.  It took me quite awhile to complete the Mind Dump process and I actually did it like writing a book with chapters and headings like; The Crocodile Diary, Broken Puzzle, A Life So Far, Falling Through Cracks, Carnival of Errors, From Patriotism to Prevarication, etc., etc.  Once I finished cleaning house, I suddenly started having amazing new ideas for storylines and eventually completed 8 new books that I’ve been successful in publishing 7 of them so far.  So, if you come up against that brick wall, try a Mind Dump.

How much of yourself, your personality or your experiences, is in your books?

I have lived and worked within the military, intelligence, and law enforcement communities.  I can remember college writing professors telling me to write about things I know best including life experiences.  I’ve always tried to do that, but discovered the real challenge is delving into areas I have absolutely no knowledge of and then successfully include them in my books.

Would you want to jump into one of your books and want to live in that world? If so, which one?

Hell yes I would!  Especially my book, Plausible Deniability.  It’s about a young Viral Immunologist living in Paris who gets mixed up with former Nazi’s and members of the secret Vril Society.  I have a love affair with Paris and remember feeling quite at home when visiting the city and wandering the streets.  I hope to someday call Paris my home.

Do you have any suggestions for aspiring writers?

Locate a really good editor and copy-editor who you not only work well with but trust with your writing projects.  Create a catchy title and book cover image.  Writing and selling books is extremely competitive, so explore every avenue to get your project in front of the reading public.  If nothing else, remember that a well written, professional looking book always reflects well on the author because you never know who might be reading it.

Thank you so much for being here, David. 

Thank you for your time, I understand how precious it can be.

******

You can purchase A Life in Disguise or any of David’s other books on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

 

 

 

 

 

World building: Don’t rename ordinary items and other tips

I have written before about the fun of building your own world. It is one of the reasons that I enjoy writing fantasy. But building a new world with religions, governments, cultures and history can be a daunting task.

Developing your world BEFORE you begin writing is essential if you want to keep the details of your fictitious world consistent and logical throughout your novel. You want your characters to LIVE in this world so make it real and believable.

Now there is a whole bunch of world building details that you will develop that will never enter your novel. Don’t get hung up on the small details of your world. For as much as you want to make everything your own, you don’t need to spend your time recreating the wheel so to speak.

Here are some world building tips:

  • Language – You don’t necessarily need to create your own. I know Tolkien did but he was a trained professional in the art of linguistics. You throw in too many words from a made-up language, and you could easily confuse and possibly lose your readers.
  • Spelling - Avoid too many obscure spellings. Just because your story takes place in a different world doesn’t mean you need to name all the people and places with obscure, hard to pronounce (or remember) names.
  • Apostrophes – Another common mistake when creating a new world is to have lots of words with apostrophes in an effort to make the words look different or unique. Remember that in most languages, an apostrophe is merely a sign that something has been omitted. Use them with caution.
  • baby bunny 17Animals – If you are creating a whole other creature that does not exist on Earth that is fine but too many authors simply rename animals. If you are writing about small, big-eared, short-tailed, fluffy animals, then go ahead and refer to them as rabbits instead of some made-up name. The same goes for horses. If your characters travel by horse-back, you don’t need to rename the horse unless it perhaps has razor-sharp fangs and two heads. Reinventing the entire animal kingdom would be annoying especially if the animals exist for no other purpose than to be described in passing. If they are important to your story, then by all means create your own creatures.
  • Units of Measure – You don’t have to necessarily worry about creating new ways of measuring things. Yes, meters and kilograms maybe be more recent inventions but there is nothing wrong with using “steps” or “feet” as measurement. In ancient times, using steps or the length of a forearm were common practices.

It is easier on you and your readers if you don’t recreate everything. If you are not careful, it will seem like your book is written in a foreign language and leave your reader struggling to understand what is going on. And not recreating everything will save you as a writer time too.