Today’s Featured Author: Rebecca Burns

Today, please welcome author Rebecca Burns to my blog. Here is an excerpt from The Settling Earth, her collection of short stories.

Excerpt

A PICKLED EGG

Sarah woke to a fierce north wind. She lay in the creaky marital bed, listening to the wind whip about the little wooden house and, watching the pasted wallpaper billow and bulge as warm air wove between the slats, decided to bake a pie. The bed was deep and comfortable-they had taken an extra trip up to Christchurch to fetch the iron frame, William had insisted upon it. He’d stuck out his chin, a jutting corner of stubbornness. Of course, the bed had made it down to the station-somehow it hadn’t dared break. As a rare indulgence, William had ordered a feather mattress from Wellington, and it now lay on the frame like a delicate fruit topping on a sponge base. Sarah pondered. Maybe a fruit pie would be too light after William’s long trip.  Mutton would be more satisfying.

Her grandmother’s carriage clock ticked on the dresser and Sarah turned her gaze from the wallpaper to its opal face. She felt a faint pang when she saw it was a quarter past nine in the morning. She had gone to bed early the night before, but these days she felt so tired. Her limbs and thighs ached as she wriggled beneath the bedspread. Perhaps it’s the weather, she reasoned. It had been oppressive recently; the air hung about the house and garden with a stifling heaviness. Yet it was dry, almost unbearably dry, and the heat accompanying the wind felt like blotting paper on the skin, drawing out all moisture. It had turned the dogs crazy-even Bessie, her favourite. The shaggy black-coated animal had lain panting beside her pen and then, in a thrash of foaming energy, had run off, barking and growling. Sarah hadn’t seen her for days. And hadn’t she changed her own clothes three times yesterday? Finally she’d removed her corset altogether and sat around the house in a white linen underdress. Sarah nodded to herself and stroked her stomach absently. Perhaps a mutton pie could be baked and left to cool. Hans had slaughtered a wether only yesterday. William might like a cold mutton pie, served with a pickled egg.

But were there any eggs left? Sarah frowned and shook her head, trying to clear the fog in her mind. She could almost see the little cupboard in the kitchen where jars of jams and preserves were neatly stacked, but when she tried to focus on the row of pickled eggs, a cloud obscured her view. It was quite maddening. A shapeless grey mass drifted in front of the labels on the jars. In fact, not just in front of the jars. This baggy grey haze seemed to be there all the time these days. Sometimes, if Sarah tried to remember something important William had said-like when he would leave for town or what shirts he needed her to darn-she could see his mouth and lips move, but the grey cloud would obscure his tongue and suck up all the instructions. It seemed malevolent.

But hadn’t she pickled a dozen eggs just last week after wrestling them from the defensive hens as they strutted about in the backyard? She could distinctly remember standing by the fence, watching intently for her moment before shooing away the birds (especially that arrogant speckled one who always seemed to know how to frighten her) and braving the pen where warm brown eggs waited for her. She was sure she had bundled them into her apron, deliberately avoiding the baleful gaze of the birds. Well, hadn’t she fed them and kept them clean? Hadn’t she protected them from rats and hawks that pecked, pecked, pecked the chicks until their soft yellow bodies fell to the earth? Eggs are eggs, she reasoned, and these eggs are my payment. Still, she hadn’t looked back at the hens once she’d left their pen, and she was sure they were still cross with her a week later.

But the fact remained that she had collected a dozen eggs. Hadn’t she? She remembered the pent up energy balling in her stomach that day when William had gone away again, and Hans had been on the prowl. Remembering, Sarah sat up a little in bed. She recalled that William had risen early and flapped around the bedroom in his nightshirt, muttering about saddling his horse ready for the trip. She had watched him sleepily, sensing that she should get up and make him breakfast-indeed, that William expected her to-but somehow, she just couldn’t. Instead, the vivacity that should have gone to her legs gathered at her centre in a tense, tight knot. It gnawed all day, prompting indigestion that would not shift even after drinking a large glass of warm milk. She had been restless and strolled around house, moving from bedroom to parlour, parlour to kitchen, kitchen to scullery. And, when Hans slid into the kitchen, his eyes wandering over her dress and mumbling something unintelligible, Sarah finally burst into movement. She had hurried out of the way, shrugging off Hans’s fingers on her arm, and bustled into the yard. She gazed out at the run, spying the white merino sheep grazing on the horizon. The Southern Alps were pale and blue in the distance, and she lifted up her hands, cupping their silhouettes in her palms. She felt a sudden desire to run along the burnished flats in her bare feet, feeling the rough grass push between her toes, running to the bottom of the hills where jagged grey rocks marked the beginning of the trail. Would the rocks be sharp against her skin? Would they cut her if she scrambled up the mountain? Would they tear her clothes to pieces? She stared at the unreadable hills in the distance, feeling a trickle of perspiration prick her skin. Her clothes felt tight on her body.

Book Blurb

The Settling EarthMarriage transplants Sarah thousands of miles from home; a failed love affair forces Phoebe to make drastic choices in a new environment; a sudden, shocking discovery brings Mrs Ellis to reconsider her life as an emigrant – The Settling Earth is a collection of ten, interlinked stories, focusing on the British settler experience in colonial New Zealand, and the settlers’ attempts to make sense of life in a strange new land.

Sacrifices, conflict, a growing love for the landscape, a recognition of the succour offered by New Zealand to Maori and settler communities – these are themes explored in the book. The final story in the collection, written by Shelly Davies of the Ngātiwai tribe, adds a Maori perspective to the experience of British settlement in their land.

About the Author

Rebecca BurnsRebecca Burns is an award-winning writer of short stories, over thirty of which have been published online or in print. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2011, winner of the Fowey Festival of Words and Music Short Story Competition in 2013 (and runner-up in 2014), and has been profiled as part of the University of Leicester’s “Grassroutes Project”-a project that showcases the 50 best transcultural writers in the county.

The Settling Earth is her second collection of short stories. Her debut collection, Catching the Barramundi, was published in 2012-also by Odyssey Books-and was longlisted for the Edge Hill Award in 2013.

You can find out more about Rebecca on her website or follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

You can buy The Settling Earth on Amazon UK & Amazon US.

Preparing for an e-book release

CIMG1036So you have written an awesome story, edited it until it shines and formatted it for publication as an e-book. The cover has been designed and the engaging book blurb has been written. You are ready to release your book to the world. So what do you do now? How do you let everyone know about your masterpiece?

This is where planning your e-book launch comes in to play. How much you plan can depend on your own style as well as your time constraints or even how large of a fan base you have.

Many publishing houses plan their book launches months in advance. I haven’t done that with my books. My first two books were released within months of each other because they were already written when I decided to self-publish. So besides my short story, the only book I have released with any sort of real planning was the third book in my trilogy. I published it a few weeks after it was completed with only a little planning.

Soon I will be releasing my next book – The Heir to Alexandria – which I am still editing. So now is the time to plan out my e-book launch. I am hoping to release it mid-January. I have yet to pick an actual date since I am still in the editing process and don’t know how that will go with the holidays upon us.

Here are some things you can do to prepare for an e-book launch. You don’t necessarily need to do all of them. But select those that interest you and plan for them. The more planning you do in advance, the better reception your book will have when released.

Promote on your blog – Announce your release date, reveal your cover or even just write about your upcoming release. All of these can help build anticipation of your new book.

Plan a cover reveal – Some authors go beyond revealing their cover on their own blog. They build anticipation by revealing the new cover on other blogs as well. Several book promoters offer cover reveal packages. For some thoughts on whether a cover reveal is worth it, check out this blog.

Set up a New Release Blog Tour As soon as you have your release date, start lining up appearances on other blogs. Again, you can hire a company to schedule these for you or do it yourself. The goal is to spread the word of your book release by appearing on as many blogs as possible on the week of your release.

Giveaways – This can be used in addition to a new release book tour. You can raffle off a copy or several copies of your book.

E-mail subscriber list/Press release – If you have developed a list of blog followers or fans, you can e-mail them about your new release, perhaps offering them a discounted price. Keep this exclusive to those people. In addition to your e-mail list, you can also write a press release to submit to various new organizations.

Reviews – If you can, try and get some early copies out to reviewers. These really should be done at least 6 weeks before your release – sooner if possible so reviewers have adequate time. Ask for a short review on Amazon or Goodreads and for them to post it on their own blog/website.

Promote on Twitter, Facebook & other websites – You can start building excitement by Tweeting about your upcoming book or perhaps post a few excerpts on your own site or Facebook. There are many other sites that list new releases. This website lists 16 sites though I have not checked them all out.

The main thing is that you need to do SOMETHING. You can’t hope to publish a book with no fanfare and expect it to hit the charts. (Well, you certainly can hope or plan to do that but I think you will be very disappointed.) There are hundreds of books published each day. You need to connect yours to the readers out there who will love your book. And the time to start doing that is BEFORE it is published.

 

New Release: The Perfect Present

Just in time for the holidays….check out this anthology of Christmas tales by some talented young writers.

The_Perfect_Present-3Operation: Santa is Real

Max and Mickey are twins who share everything! A love of sno cones, video games, and Christmas…especially Santa Claus. But Max no longer believes in Santa and Mickey is on a mission to convince her brother that Santa is real. But when her plan backfires, Mickey may find herself on Santa’s naughty list. And when all is said and done, the M and M twins will learn what really matters when it comes to celebrating the season.

Friending the Grinch

Jasmine can’t seem to find her Christmas spirit. A new girl named Jayla has stolen her joy, and some of her friends. Between her conniving and lying, Jayla is ruining Jasmine’s life. But Jasmine is the only one that can see Jayla for the Grinch that she is. Everyone else is fooled by her sob story of a tough life. Can Jasmine get her family and friends to see the truth? Or will Jayla help her discover a few things about herself?

The Littlest Elf

Kylie is small. The tiniest elf in Santa’s workshop and she can’t seem to do anything right. After nearly ruining Christmas, she finds herself wondering if she will ever be good enough to work for Santa. Following a world-wind adventure, she finds that she was closer to the answer than she thought. Join Kylie as she discovers the real meaning of Christmas!

About the Authors

Morgan Billingsley is a seventh grader, who loves writing, acting, swimming and volleyball. She enjoys helping out and making people laugh. Everyone who knows her, applauds her nurturing heart. Morgan can often be found assisting her mother, ReShonda Tate Billingsley at book signings. She is active in her school organizations and serves as secretary for her Teen group in Jack and Jill of America, Inc. Follow her on Instagram @c_momo_b

Ten year old, Jackie Lee is a lover of the letters and the arts. She has starred in three theatrical productions produced by Cherie Garland. She portrayed Crystal in “The Christmas Present,” Glenda The Good Witch in “The Wiz” and the Ballerina in “One Night With a King.” Jackie’s love of arts also extends to church. She participates in the praise dance ministry at her church. She utilizes her musical talents as a clarinet player in her local elementary school band. Jackie can often be found at various literary events assisting her mother and guest authors. She also enjoys journaling and making sketches in her notebooks. She resides in Virginia with her parents and siblings. You can follow her at @leewriterjackie on Twitter.

Ten year old, Gabrielle Simone attends Pulaski Academy College Preparatory School, where her teachers describe her as hardworking and passionate about learning. She is the student council representative for fifth grade, plays both basketball and soccer and has a personality bigger than life. The confident young writer is also the daughter of young adult author Celia Anderson. Having grown up tagging alongside her mom at book signings and lectures, it’s no surprise that she has become interested in the art. Gabrielle says that one day she would like to attend Stanford University in California, but that may change as she grows older. Currently she resides with her mother in Little Rock, Arkansas, enjoys playing dress up, singing and playing with her American Girl Dolls. She lists both her mother and maternal grandmother, whom she affectionately calls FeFe, as the people who have influenced her the most.

You can purchase The Perfect Gift on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and the Kobo store.

A Day at the Spa

In October, a friend bought me a spa package as a thank-you for all I had done for him and his family. Now, I don’t usually go to in for a facial, pedicure or massage, let along spend the whole day at a spa, but I was willing to give it a try. It just took me until now to find a day to devote to relaxing – and what better time than during the busy holiday season.

Here is the spa package description from the brochure.

Spa Heaven package

Always a good time for this! Our most sold and loved package! Everything in the Deluxe Version! We start with our 80 minute relaxing Swedish massage. Then experience our famous Deluxe Facial. Followed by the moisturizing, pampering Deluxe Pedicure. Choose between a Shellac or Deluxe manicure. Enjoy a delicious lunch. 

So last Friday, I went for my day of pampering. I arrived a little before 9 am to sign some papers and pick out my lunch. I went with a Chopped BBQ Chicken salad. It was quite good.

My first stop was for the facial. I have done home ones but don’t recall ever having a professional one. The lady was very nice and walked me through everything. The deluxe facial included several masks and scrubs as well as steam and included treatment for both hands and feet. It was very relaxing.

Before coming, I had wondered what I would do during my five-hour spa treatment. I mean you are sitting there trying to relax but I am not used to doing that. My mind is always on overdrive – or so it seems. So during the treatments, I thought a little about a new job venture that I am considering (more on this in another blog if I go through with it) as well as my next books since the current one is almost ready for release. I was never bored and even got to read a little of the book I brought with me during the pedicure. But I am jumping ahead…

messageAfter the facial, I was escorted upstairs for my massage. I have had a few professional massages but only one other full-body massage. My neighbor who is a professional masseuse “paid” me for designing her business card with a 60-minute massage. I will say that this was nice but probably my least favorite treatment.

Then it was back into my street clothes and downstairs for lunch. (I had a wrap and a robe for the first two treatments.) Lunch was served in a private room. A bell was provided in case you need something or to alert them when you were done. Other than that, they left you alone to enjoy your food.

P1040120After lunch, it was time for the pedicure. After selecting my bright pink sparkly polish, I got to relax and read my book. Now I use to go out with some friends for pedicures so this treatment was something I was more familiar with. I decided to do the Shellac on my nails (verses the deluxe manicure). She said it would last at least four weeks verses the two weeks that you get with regular polish. I picked a sparkly gold color for the holidays. It is so pretty.

And that completed my day of pampering. It was nice, and I enjoyed it. But at the prices they charge, I am not sure I would do the whole package again if I had to pay for it myself. I could get away with just the deluxe facial – so relaxing!

Today’s Featured Author: Judy Strick

Today I welcome author Judy Strick to my blog. Her book, Kingdom Come, CA, was released earlier this year.

Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I started my professional life as an artist, first studio, then commercial. I had never dreamed of being a writer, but I wanted to illustrate children’s books, so I started writing stories to have samples of my work, which led to screenwriting, which ultimately turned to fiction, and that was if for me. I’m hopelessly addicted to the telling of tales in the format of a book.

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

I think, especially in fiction, one’s personality is there- in the choice of words, in the voice of the storyteller, in the subjects one chooses to explore. I start out with no plan whatsoever of self-  revelation; and yet I can’t avoid it. It creeps in, unbidden, and before I know it, I’ve tapped into some facet of myself I had no intention of disclosing. Words, like dreams, are metaphors.

What fuels you as an author to continue to write?

I love the process, finding myself at a level of consciousness where the story begins to write itself- the closest thing to a dream state I think. I love to dream. For me the real payoff is the problem solving, which is perhaps the real payoff in any creative endeavor. The Ah Hah! Moment- as good as sex.

Do you outline your books or just start writing?

I’m incapable of following a market-shopping list much less an outline. I start with a spark- a name, a title, a setting, and I follow the story- often winding up in places I never expected to be, with characters I wind up knowing intimately, and usually loving- even my bad guys, even my locales.

Please tell us about your current release.

Kingdom Come, CA is hard to pigeonhole. It’s character driven, with a strong plot- a hybrid creature; a psychological thriller, with a hint of the supernatural. The tale unfolds in a tiny mountain town in California, a town with a colorful and motley cast of characters including a dead cowboy movie star and a preternaturally smart dog named Tonto. It’s the story of  the unexpected and healing love that develops between two unlikely friends: Finn, a six year old schizophrenic boy, and Ruby, a forty year old reclusive surrealist artist. It’s a book about a secrets and the price paid therein. It’s about love and trust, and it’s also a story that questions the definitions of reality

Did the story turn out the way you planned from the beginning? If not, what change happened that you didn’t expect?

Everything about this book changed as it went along, except for the first chapter, which has remained, as-is, from the first draft. I had begun the book as an exploration of the way our body affects who we are. My original character had scars that altered her existence and isolated her, kept her dressed in a burka hiding from the world. The setting was original in Van Nuys ca., not the remote fictional village of Kingdom Come. The characters came of their own accord – Charley Waunder- the sexy town sheriff, Evangeline an herbalist guru; an agoraphobic mother and a father who became a Hassidic Jew. The McCord family  arrived of their own accord as Ruby’s unwelcome neighbors,  Finn the boy was not on my radar in the beginning, nor was Tonto, the dog. And Ruby is not a character who would ever dream of wearing a Burka. I can only liken the evolution of the story to a bag with a few dried kernels of corn that, when heated fills the available space with popcorn.

 Is there a specific place in the house (or out of the house) that you like to write?

I have an office in my back yard. It used to be my studio. It’s surrounded by trees, and it always makes me think of the dream playhouse I had longed for as a child. My 2.5 dogs always hang out with me when I’m writing. It’s very lovely to be working around dogs and trees.

Book Blurb

KingdomComeCA_HiRezCoverIn this compelling psychological thriller reminiscent of The Picture of Dorian Gray, reclusive artist Ruby Wellman retreats to rural Kingdom Come, California, a small town, 21st century Brigadoon. Ruby, who still suffers from the effects of a childhood tragedy, quietly focuses on her surrealist paintings and keeps locals at arm’s length. When six-year-old Finn McCord moves in next door with his contentious parents, Ruby is pulled into the boy’s disturbed and dysfunctional world. Finn talks only to animals and imaginary friends. Ruby, who communicates through her paintings which nobody sees, immediately identifies with the boy and sees parallels to her buried past. As the boy’s visions become more vivid and he further withdraws from the world, Ruby’s paintings and Finn’s dreams collide in an unexpected explosion that both heals and reveals old secrets and wounds.

In Kingdom Come, CA, author Judy Strick paints a compelling world of engaging characters placed in a rural setting, Readers will find a deeply satisfying work of literary fiction that leaves them questioning everything from their own responses and interactions to the very way they define reality. Ruby and Finn are joined by a cast of colorful supporting characters: from Ruby’s divorced and broken parents to the worldly and sophisticated Hannah and Mischa McCord. They are a curious addition to an eclectic collection of Kingdom Comers that includes an herbalist guru, a ruggedly handsome jack-of-all-trades part-time sheriff; a dead ‘40s cowboy movie star, a dog named Tonto, and the Wizard, Finn’s new best friend. Strick populates her novel with rich, engaging personalities, developing them fully to beautifully capture the complexities of the human condition. The world that she creates may delve into the mystical, but it is securely affixed to a reality that is made all the more familiar by the three-dimensional characters who inhabit it.

About the Author 

JudyStrickJudy Strick is a native of Southern California. She holds an MFA from Otis Art Institute, and in a former lifetime was a fine artist and then a toy designer. She studied screenwriting at AFI and fiction writing at UCLA, and has spent the last 10 years honing her novelistic skills. Kingdom Come, CA is her debut novel. She lives in Los Angeles with her 2.5 dogs.

You can find out more about Judy on her website. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Kingdom Come, CA can be purchased on Amazon.

Book promoting during the holidays

I was searching for a topic to write about today when I came across this blog about promoting your book during the holidays and thought it was a great topic.

This author’s blog from last week was about promoting your book as a gift for others to give. She does a good job of describing the pitfalls of having someone buy your book as a gift. But as I read her blog, I was thinking that my books are only in e-book format. I would not expect someone to give my book as a gift. Yes, you can email someone a gift certificate for an ebook from Amazon or Barnes and Noble but it isn’t anything you can actually put under the tree.

I typically have not done much promoting of my e-books before Christmas. I usually wait until AFTER to offer my e-books at a discounted price. Millions of people will receive an e-book reader or tablet this holiday season and will be looking for fill it with books. And don’t forget all those people with gift cards.

Last year, I offered two books for free and reduced the price of my trilogy. I don’t think I received a lot of sales due to these promotions. Some of this could be the timing. After Christmas is a hectic time and there are many other authors out there hawking their own books. Does this mean I won’t be offering a discount again this year? Nope. I certainly will. (If you are interested in checking out my books, come back on Christmas Day to see which ones I put on sale!)

Other holiday sales hints

Here are a few other holiday sales ideas…

  • From author Kristen James – write a Christmas novella. She said she has written a few and published them in November. They are among her best sellers and do well each holiday season. If you write a series, perhaps you can take some of your characters and write them their own holiday story. (This won’t work for me but I like the idea.)
  • Bundle your books in a box set and offer them for less than they would be individually. Or perhaps get a few indie authors together and offer some of your books as a bundle,

No matter what option you do, I don’t think any indie author should take the holiday season off from promoting their books.