Today’s Featured Author – Natasha D. Frazier

Please welcome author Natasha D. Frazier to my blog. Her book, Shattered Vows, the third in her Love, Lies & Consequences series, came out in January of this year.

Excerpt

Chloe exhaled when she heard his footsteps on the wooden stairwell. She didn’t realize that she’d been holding her breath ever since she felt his hands on her body. I have to stop doing that,she chastised herself. She knew he was feeling rejected. But how did he think he made her feel when that woman showed up at the coffee shop carrying his child?

She pulled on her dress and fidgeted with it until she slid the zipper into position. She slipped into her shoes and turned around in front of the mirror, giving her clothes, makeup and hair a once-over before meeting Rico downstairs.

Rico let out a low whistle as Chloe descended the stairs with her matching camel-colored clutch under her arm.

“I’m the luckiest man in the world to have you on my arm tonight. You look beautiful, sweetie,” Rico complimented as he took her hand when she descended to the last three steps. When she made it to the bottom, he lifted her hand and brushed her wedding band with his fingers before planting a kiss on her hand.

“Thank you.” Chloe blushed a little and returned the compliment. “You look nice, too.” She noticed that he was wearing her favorite cologne as well, but didn’t make mention of it. Rico placed her hand around his arm and escorted her to the car. Their drive to the Improv was filled with chatter from Rico about what they did on previous anniversaries. She didn’t add much to the conversation, only nodded and smiled mostly. She had to admit that those times were nice, but this one was much different. In her mind was the insurmountable obstacle in front of them.

Rico had purchased their tickets online so they walked straight past the ticket booth to the entrance, where they were greeted by a hostess and shown to their VIP table near the stage. Noting the dim lighting, soft R&B music and the newly renovated facility, Chloe remembered their first date at the Improv, where they saw the comedian Arnez J in standup. They laughed until their stomachs and throats were in pain. She was hoping she would get another whiff of that tonight, although she didn’t know who the comedian was going to be. She just knew that she could use a laugh right about now. And not just any laugh, but a magic laugh that would take away all of the pain that she was feeling and trying so hard to push aside. The type of laughter that would somehow wipe the slate clean for the two of them. She was sure there was no such thing, but she was ready for the magic she hoped the night would bring for her.

She ordered a Caesar salad and he ordered buffalo wings to enjoy before the show started. On cue, the show began when the waitress came to take away their empty plates. They were tickled a little by the warm-up acts but nothing like what she was waiting for. However, she was feeling more relaxed and her body didn’t stiffen as it did earlier when Rico pulled her chair closer to his and put his arm around her.

There were still a few residual laughs from the crowd as the host appeared onstage to announce the headliner for the night—Will the Thrill. Chloe didn’t recognize the comedian’s stage name, so she knew she hadn’t heard any of his jokes before. New material. Great.

Will the Thrill jumped straight into his routine after the round of applause subsided. His first joke was about dating and how he wasn’t ready to commit to his girlfriend by getting married.

“C’mon now men. Y’all know how much extra work it is to hide the side woman when you get married. Gotta put all these codes in your phone, use aliases and lie, lie, lie. Even when you get caught, stick to the lie. Ain’t that right my man?” he joked as he gestured toward Rico.

Her anticipation waned at those jokes. In fact, they weren’t funny at all. Bad choice in her mind. What began to tick her off was that Rico was doubled over in laughter . . . clearly, something he shouldn’t have been laughing at given the situation they were in.

“What in the hell is so funny, Rico?” she sneered, leaning to the side to look up at him wiping tears from his eyes.

“What?” Rico asked, clearly confused.

“So cheating is funny?”

“Sweetie, these are just jokes. C’mon now.”

“I’m glad you think ruining our marriage and our lives is funny. I’m getting out of here!” Chloe scooted away from the table, snatched her purse and walked away with Rico following close behind.

“Looks like someone got caught doing what I just said not to do!” the comedian joked to their retreating backs as they exited the room, causing an uproar in the crowd.

Rico grabbed her hand and she spun around. She yanked her hand back and folded her arms across her chest. The look she gave would have killed him if looks could kill. Infidelity was a sore spot with her and definitely not a laughing matter. Rico couldn’t understand why she took it so seriously. Everyone in the room, except her, knew that those were only jokes. There was no reason to get upset over nothing. But to Chloe it wasn’t nothing; it was the reason her life was turned upside down.

Book Blurb

Rico gambled with his marriage when he cheated on Chloe. Breaking his vows and risking everything for temporary pleasure, he lost his wife’s respect and trust.

Rico returns to God, searching for a quick fix to win Chloe’s heart back, but his heart is the one that is changed. He is a self-proclaimed changed man, willing to go the extra mile to restore his marriage, but he just may be too late.

Has Chloe given up on him? She has forgiven him before, but this is different. “I’m sorry” isn’t enough when vows have been shattered. With the law and the Word of the Lord on her side, she finally gathers enough courage to walk away.

But then tragedy strikes. Is it enough to make Chloe stay, or will she start a new chapter in her life?

About the Author 

Natasha accepted the call to write in 2011. Since then, Natasha has authored three devotional books. Her first book is The Life Your Spirit Craves, a 30-Day devotional and journal that encourages readers to seek, accept and pursue their God-given assignment.  Her second book, Not Without You: 365 Days in the Lord’s Presence, encourages readers to make devotion a part of their everyday life by seeking God every day. Not Without You has been nominated for the Henri Award. The Henri Award recognizes excellence in Christian literature. The Life Your Spirit Craves for Mommies is a 52 week devotional for mothers that encourages them to see God at work in their lives through their role as a mother. Both devotionals in The Life Your Spirit Craves series won the Readers’ Choice Award presented at the Christian Literary Awards. Natasha is also the author of the Love, Lies & Consequences Christian-fiction series that focuses on real and relevant issues in today’s society, such as pre-marital sex, adultery, blended families and more! Currently, the series contains three published titles:  Love, Lies & Consequences, Through Thick & Thin, and Shattered Vows.

Natasha resides in Missouri City, TX with her husband, Eddie Frazier, Jr. and their three children, Eden, Ethan, and Emilyn. Her greatest joy and commitment is to her family who she hopes to inspire above all else. One of her many mottos in life is: Faith removes limitations. Natasha and her family are members of Higher Dimension Church in Houston, TX. Natasha is also a member of the Houston Area Alumni Chapter of Jackson State University and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

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

You can purchase Shattered Vows on Amazon.

 

Getting book reviews

Last week, I wrote about whether book reviews were an important marketing strategy. As it turns out, a good, well-written book review can benefit your sales. When choosing between a book with numerous reviews and one with only a few or no reviews, many readers will pick the more “popular” choice.

So how do you go about getting those reviews?

1.) Ask for a review as part of the back matter of your book. It is simple to include “If you enjoyed this, please leave a review. Thanks!” to the end of your book. Amazon does a good job of asking readers to write a review before they exit the book on their Kindle.

2.) Join book reviewer groups on places such as Goodreads or Google+. Here you can find people who like to review books. Just make sure you follow any of the posted guidelines before you post looking for reviews.

3.) Contact book bloggers for reviews. When doing this, make sure they read your genre and be sure to follow any guidelines they provide. Beware that often the reviewer’s to-be-read list is long. You will also want to find out if they post only on their site or if they post on Amazon and other e-book retailers’ sites.

It sometimes helps to cultivate your relationship with reviewers before you ask for a review. This means get involved on their blog by asking and answering questions related to their posts. Think of these book bloggers as potential business partners.

4.) Approach top reviews on sites like Amazon. Often in their profile, it says if they review books and many provide an email address for author to contact them. Remember to be polite in your inquiry. You can also look for people who reviewed books similar to yours and contact them to see if they would like a free copy in exchange for a review.

5.) You can of course pay a company to find reviewers for you or to even review your book. It is one thing to pay a reviewer and quite another to pay for a positive or five-star review. And I think reviewers will not put as much credibility of a “bought” review. So this option should be used only if you have considered all the pros and cons.

6.) One of the best ways to get a lot of reviews is to giveaway many copies of your book. The more hands you get your book into, the more likely it will be read. An increase in the number of readers will hopefully increase your chance of reader reviews.

It is easy to offer a free copy. On Amazon, you can gift a copy of your book. On Smashwords, you can set up a Free Coupon, or you can use a site such as Instafreebie that allows you to send readers free copies of your e-book.

Reviews are obviously a benefit no matter when you received them, but if you can get reviews out BEFORE your book is released, it can only help the momentum of any book release promotions you do. This means you will need to start early to make sure the reviews coincide with your book release date

But no matter when you get a review, the important thing is to get reviews.

Throwing two pool parties

School is in its final month. The days are getting warmer. OK, we are in Texas so the days are getting HOT. The temperature is already in the 90s. It is time to think about cooling off in the pool. And pools mean it is party time!

My neighborhood kicks off every summer with a party at our pool. And for the past eight years, I have been in charge of it. Yes, this means I have it down to a science so it takes very little work.

Neighborhood Pool Party

This summer’s party will be June 3, so I have a few more weeks to work on this party. The key to our party is to keep everything simple. We started out with only serving ice cream sundaes but the past few years we added in hot dogs, popcorn and sodas.

The popcorn started as something for our Fall Festival, but since we have the machine, we might as well use it. Hot dogs also started out being served at the Fall Festival. It was a pretty easy meal. We just warmed them in a crock pot.

In addition to food, we do a few games. We have done cannon ball diving contests and the limbo but the kids’ favorite and one we repeat each party involves gummy worms and whipped cream. You place a gummy worm on a plate and top it with tons of whipped cream. The goal is for the kids to eat the gummy worm without using their hands. They love it!

Then at the end we give out water squirters, bubbles, chalk and other summer fun prizes to every kid.

This year in addition to planning the neighborhood party which usually has about 70 people (adults and kids), I am throwing a party for all the fifth-graders at my son’s elementary school.

Fifth-Grade Pool Party

It is a tradition at Jase’s school that the fifth graders get a party at a local pool. They are after all “graduating” from elementary school and moving on to middle school. The party is thrown during the school day on the last Friday of the school year.

Because the lady who was going to run the party backed out, I and two other parents stepped up to take care of it. I am the organized one, so I have taken the lead role. This event is more than just one school day at the pool. There is a lot of decorating and planning that goes into this. Thankfully, most parents enjoy helping out.

In order to build up to the big day, we decorate the fifth-grade halls in some sort of water theme. Rather than spend hours working on this, I am just taking items used in previous years and mixing them together to decorate the walls, doors and bulletin boards.

We also decorate the sidewalk with chalk from the school to the pool – which is a little less than half a mile away. This gives the kids something to look at while they walk! This is done the evening before the party. Again, if we get lots of help, this should go well. I have already bought 240 pieces of chalk and have requested parents to bring some with them.

Now the party is from 10 am to 1:30 p.m. We will serve the kids lunch. They voted for Chick-fila. And of course we will have snacks and snow cones. And we have to plan a few things to keep them busy. But really the pool should provide most the entertainment.

It felt like a big chore, but it is coming together well. (I won’t know how well it goes until this Friday!)

And now that I have done this party, maybe I will decide to be in charge of it in two years when Lexie is in fifth grade. But for now, I am just looking to be done with both these parties!

Today’s Featured Author – Tracee Lydia Garner

Today I welcome author Tracee Lydia Garner to my blog. Her latest book, Deadly Affections, came out in March. You can purchase Deadly Affections on Amazon.

Interview

Where were you born and where do you call home?

I was born in Virginia just outside of our Nations Capital. I love Virginia even though I love warmer temps than we get in the winter but I  love living in a place where we get a glimpse of all four seasons. Right now, I live just 40 minutes from where I was born in a growing suburb, Sterling, VA. Sterling is a mix of people and transient groups from all over and I’m just ten minutes from Dulles Airport.

What or who inspired you to start writing?

I started writing out of depression and the rejection from the opposite sex that EVERYONE who is anyone goes through. I used my writing to deal with my many emotions having a disability and being in college – at that time. It was poetry at first and later longer stories where I would paint the picture of the perfect hero.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

That’s a great question. I really only considered myself a “writer” in the last few years. I wonder if all authors experience this but when you release those first few books, I want to that for many, not all, but many budding artists, and for me, for sure, just more so dabbling in the art, finding your way, finding what you like, don’t like. Only in the last few years have I taken time to really map, write down and plan where I’m going with my career and to do that at some point you have to declare you are Writer – Hear Me Roar, like Katy Perry. LOL 🙂 I just think that unless when you were young you said I’m going to be a writer, which I didn’t, you kind of work your way to that.  I will also say that creative types really struggle with sticking with things for the long term. We have tendencies to dabble here and there so staying long haul is hard.

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

I think the emotion of my books is all me. I feel things deeply – so I’m told- I think if nothing else, I know I’m good at description which I get complimented on but I think there is a certain emotion to my writing of the relationships. I think because I’ve had a disability, the longing seems to come through. Not to get deeply personal or emotional but for me, as a child and later as an adult and still to this day, not being able to participate in some things can cause me such emotional grief. Most people don’t know this and at the end of the day everyone has something that they must bear,  but it’s that left out or left behind feeling – that happens to me weekly and I think that I channel this longing to participate in love or family, imprinting if you will onto my characters. Too many vampire movies. LOL

Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?

I have several projects started at any given time. I do work on just one thing at a time but that doesn’t mean years ago, I wasn’t all over the place, starting parts here and there, I have about 5 projects in various stages but my next project is wrapping up the Parker family series. Book two is currently out now with Deadly Affections and the third installment will be finished in just another month (I’m almost done) or so as I hope to release it in October. Next year, I hope to re-release two stories for rights that have reverted back to me after updating covers and editing of course, and I had never finished the conclusion so I’ll release that third installment with the set this time around.

Do you write full-time? If so, what is your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?

I do not write full time I have a full-time job in health and human services. My days are mostly working, I may take some time away, about 30 minutes to an hour a day to just write out some notes I’m thinking about or dictate using my phone. If I can dictate about 800 words in an hour, I’m happy. I then write mostly on nights and weekends. When I get home from work, I’m ready to go and I’m a night person so I try to write 2-4 hours a night. While most of my stories are pieces ripped from the headline, I joke that if nothing else, the stories from the people I see daily that don’t listen to  my instructions for their lives and then end up in crisis are enough fodder for my books. I think that my last two books – Anchored Hearts and it’s sequel Deadly Affections should be marketed to social workers as a way from the to release, there is definitely a social worker feel to the professions my heroines experience in these last few books.

Those new ideas fuel writers to write. There is something magical that happens when you get those infant ideas. They are so awesome and the discovery of the characters, writing them, digging into them, writing them, it’s just something you want to do over and over again.

How do you conceive your plot ideas?

Most of my ideas are ripped from the headlines. There are some news stories that I have been so obsessed with like missing person cases – Natalie Holloway, Elizabeth Smart and locally here in the DC area and more recent – Relisha Rudd. When I obsess about these things, I try to create the story around whatever snippet I’m given in the news – building the beginning and the ending of the news pieces that come on. They are in the news for a short time and then we as the viewer are left to wonder whatever happened to them (usually never receiving an update which annoys me to no end). The plot usually comes to fit that news piece and being a pantser I’m just along for the ride and while it’s a mess in the beginning, I keep working at it until it makes perfect sense.

Do you outline your books or just start writing?

I’m a pantser, so nope.

Please tell us about your current release.

Deadly Affections explores what happens to two foster children who part ways, grow up and the turns and twists their lives take after a devastating tragedy – the twenty-year-old mystery of her sister’s death in the foster family, brings Leedra Henderson back to Virginia to find out what happened to her sister. Dexter is all grown up, a doctor now, desiring to help Leedra find the answers she seeks but when someone doesn’t want past deeds brought to light, it gets harder and harder, not to mention more dangerous to uncover the truth.

What kind of research did you do for this book?

I looked up a lot of unsolved cases and murders of children -which was quite sad- that had not been solved, even some blogs of foster kids, which is all a theme in Deadly Affections and then I also researched the process you go through when you report that your child is missing – as my character, Dexter Parker has to do when his daughter is snatched on her way to school. The heroine in Deadly Affections used to work on a Mercy Ship and I found a blog of a nurse on a Mercy Ship where she documents her experience abroad and that was so interesting. More often than not, I think I’m a lazy writer – Not really- but I try to write as far as setting goes, what I know. Building a world seems daunting to me thus I’d likely never do it. So I use real locations, real street names all of which are usually in and around my Virginia/DC/Maryland area here. I do use real estate/house hunting websites and I use mapquest to find the distance and if I need I’ll look online to see if I can read the local paper for a state I want to use but haven’t actually been there or know anything about.

Which of your characters is your favorite? Do you dislike any of them?

I only have had twice when I disliked my character and it wasn’t really that I disliked them, I disliked their name. I had a character I didn’t intend to revisit, he was a secondary character in another book and I named him Vondell. That annoyed me to revisit with him. I hated that name. LOL Then there is a character I’m exploring now with the same name as one of my horrible bosses. I gave him a nickname real quick. My favorite characters, of course, are the heroines but also surprisingly, the children. The children are an integral part of my stories and it wasn’t even something I had intentionally thought about or knew that I was doing but thinking back, there is a child in all 7 of my stories. They just came and I get to do little funny, quirky things with them that I can’t do with the adults. One of  my first jobs was at a daycare and I loved that time there with the children.

If you could be one of the characters from any of your books, who would it be and why?

I think I’d want to be one of the children in my book – probably Anchored Hearts, I’d love to have a chef for a big brother which is what little Hannah has. Her brother owns a restaurant and sadly thinking about her 1. I want to eat and 2. I don’t want to have to do anything except let the adults do all the stuff and I just get to come in every now and then with comedic lines or need of comforting. Hannah has some very big themes in her young little world, she is left at a shelter for abused women by drug-addict mother and she is the product of an illicit affair with a married well-to-do Senator, so her plight isn’t easy throughout the book but of course it’s romance so all will turn out happily. Hannah will get to enjoy the cooking of her brother by the end from then on to years to come.

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

I write and do just about everything on my Mac desktop. I love that computer, it’s like my boyfriend. LOL I got it only about 3 years ago, and it was my VERY first Mac. I think Macs are for creative types. I don’t know why I didn’t have one before then. I will say the learning curve was not easy, however, and I learned it in the middle of writing a book and I was SO frustrated (and do not recommend that ever) but I got through and now I feel I am more design conscious because of using a mac as oppose to a PC. I’m sure the Apple people are happy about that even if its’ all in our Mac-user head.

What book are you reading right now?

Right now, I’m reading some of the Love Inspired: Suspense by Harlequin and also some of the Desire imprints which are really quite short which I get done in about two days. When I’m writing, I don’t want to read something too lengthy but I’ve learned I MUST still read, it’s so important. I also just finished Warning Signs by Katy Lee, it’s about a Deaf principal that’s being targeted by some kids into drugs. It was good and very interesting. I will be on a panel this year that discussed disability in the romance genre so I’ve been reading more novels that feature a character with a disability in preparation for my panel this July in Orlando.

Book Blurb

Displaying TraceeLydiaGarner_DeadlyAffections_HR copy .jpegHow far would you go to uncover the truth?

Psychologist Leedra Henderson has a hidden motive in abandoning everything to accept a new job at the Anchored Empowerment Center. She secretly hopes that the new position will help her to investigate her own past – and to finally uncover the real story behind a string of mysterious deaths at her childhood foster home.

Now a strong, independent woman, Leedra doesn’t need help: she wants to seek justice, and she will. Alone.

Can you really limit your involvement when love is on the ticket?

Dexter Parker needs his own answers about that time in the foster home so long ago. A grown man reeling from the fallout of a broken marriage, Dexter’s rational mind tells him never to try the risks of love again – but he knows he could fill in the blanks for Leedra, if only it doesn’t end up costing him his heart.

More urgently, Dexter needs to save the determined Leedra from the results of her detective work, before it all blows up in her face and costs both of them their lives.

Can the pair set aside their painful histories, avenge the lives that have been lost and – who knows – discover new love?

About the Author

Tracee Lydia Garner is a bestselling, award-winning author who writes stories full of complex heroes and heroines, relationships and families that experience tough but realistic life challenges in their quest for love. She also has penned her sixth book but first nonfiction project about life’s universal challenges and the take-aways we should learn from each one. A Virginia native, Tracee works in health and human service at a Virginia-based nonprofit organization by day.

You can find out more about Tracee by visiting her website, or connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

You can purchase Deadly Affections on Amazon.

How important are book reviews?

As an independent author, I often hear about how important book reviews are. But is this the real make-it-or-break-it item for authors?

Years ago before the Internet, many readers bought their books from brick-and-mortar book stores. They would find a book with an interesting cover, read the back blurb, and if it sounded intriguing, they would buy it. Unless the story was already a best-seller, reviews were probably not even considered but a friend’s recommendation might have been. When deciding between two books, readers are probably far more likely to pick the one recommended by a friend.

But nowadays we have the Internet and a mass of independently published books. Whether right or wrong, some readers have a poor perception of those books. Perhaps they think because they were not traditionally published, they are not as good. Of course, that is not true. There are many reasons people decide to self-publish.

This is where reviews can come in handy. A good, well-written review can do wonders for your sales. But so can word of mouth recommendations. In 2011, Smashwords creator Mark Coker did a survey asking readers to select the biggest deciding factor in choosing a book to read.

Twenty-nine percent of respondents said they selected books based on recommendations from readers on forums, message boards and blogs. This implies that it isn’t so much reviews on a book-buying website but the reviews of peers elsewhere that influence the purchase of a book.

This makes sense as the trustworthiness of online book reviews have been called into question. Some authors pay for top reviews (though paying for a review is not always bad) or the reviews obviously sound like a friend or family member posted them. Sometimes online reviews on places like Amazon are thoroughly unhelpful to other readers as all you get is an “I liked it.” quote.

That is the problem with reviews found at online book retailers. They can be written by anyone, including someone who doesn’t read or like your genre or someone who has a beef about something totally unrelated to your book. But when these point-of-sale reviews are detailed and positive, they can reap rewards in the additional sales.

Whether the reviews are on a blog/forum or at the point of sale, these reviews are a form of social proof that readers liked your book. How much other readers value these reviews depends on their trust of that reviewer. Perhaps they will believe a fellow reader on a forum or book-viewing website more than someone on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. It is hard to predict.

And while I believe reviews do matter and help sell books, you need to remember that book reviews are only one small piece of the book marketing puzzle.

Not sure how to get book reviews? I’ll address that next week.