Caleo & Dome – both free on Amazon today

Feb 5th

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Every High School has their social outcasts. The band nerds, the math geeks, the chess club, the girl that chews her hair, but at Butler High, even the creepy nose picker in the chess club is more popular than Caleo Anima. No matter what he did, his pale skin, snow white hair, and piercing blue eyes always made him an easy target. He used to think that the only way things could get worse would be if someone found out that he was gay, but that isn’t even the tip of the iceberg of problems after a mysterious stranger shows up and changes Caleo’s life forever.

Hidden amongst our society, a secret and magical race of people known as ‘Leeches’, have been engaging in civil war for decades. Both sides are desperately searching for a weapon with unlimited power that will give them the advantage they need to rule their world. This wouldn’t mean anything to Caleo, except for one problem…He is that weapon!

Forget making it through High School. Caleo has bigger problems! As the search for him goes on, the world is quickly crumbling around him. He’s now fighting for his life and the life of what little family he has left. With the help of new friends, he has little time to try and master his newly found powers as he tries to figure out who he can trust, who is trying to use him, and who just wants him dead. One wrong step and being the awkward pale outcast will be the least of his worries.


Click here to claim your free copy on Amazon today only!


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What if you knew the exact date and time the world will end, what would you do?Sam Tucker was faced with that dilemma when he began getting visions of the Earth’s demise. Luckily for him, he was able to save his family and as many people as he could before the tragic event occurred, and he did so with the help of unknown visitors. With Earth now destroyed, Sam, his family, and thousands of other lucky survivors must live the rest of their lives on a faraway planet in a Dome that simulates life on Earth. But Sam’s mind can’t seem to rest as a few questions arise. Why did the aliens save them? How did they know about Earth’s sure fate? And exactly what are they hiding?

Emma Tucker begged for an escape from her boring life but never in a million years did she think it would come at the destruction of Earth. Living on a new planet and finding it difficult to get rid of her rebellious habits, Emma finds herself making friends with a member of the alien race and it soon develops into an unexplainable love; a love that is more dangerous than she could ever imagine. While her father is searching for his own truths, she has no idea that she is stumbling on a truth of her own.

Told from the point of view of both Sam and Emma, author Nova Sparks takes readers on a journey to discover love, fate, faith, truth, and the mystery of the DOME!


Click here to claim your Free copy on Amazon today only!

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Disciple: A Guest Post by L. Blankenship

I’m excited to have a guest blogger today. L. Blankenship is the author of Disciple Half-Omnibus, which collects the first three parts of Disciple into one meaty book. If you haven’t read Part I yet, you can try it for free. 

 And don’t forget to scroll way down at the bottom of this post to enter for a chance to win a free copy of her forthcoming book! And now on to the guest blog…

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DISCIPLE, PART IV arrives on March 1st!
 

I’ve been self-publishing for over a year now. A year and three months, to be more exact. I’m still waiting for the Fun Police to kick in my door and stop me.

Because while self-pubbing has been stressful and frightening and at times soul-crushing, it still feels like I’m getting away with something I shouldn’t be able to. I’m part of a group of writers who say a manuscript should be submitted around “until hell won’t have it!” so at first I joked that by self-pubbing I was catapulting my story straight over hell’s walls and they had no option about having it… bypassing publishing’s infamous gatekeepers and all.

 The joke wore off as it became obvious that my manuscript was probably sitting on a sidewalk inside hell’s walls, being stepped over and ignored.

 Nobody came to stop me, though.

 So I loaded up my second manuscript and fired that over the walls too. Then the third one. Each time, I went through the same ritual of betas, revision, and hiring a freelance editor. I plotted long-range character arcs and pondered the changes in narrative voice. I hired cover artists and squeed over what they sent me.

I was sure that would alert the Fun Police, but they still didn’t serve me a cease and desist order.

 Self-publishing is not a bed of roses unless you mean a bed of rosebushes rather than one of flower petals. I came into this with 15 years’ experience as a graphic designer, prepress technician, proofreader, and a small-press publisher in the tabletop gaming industry — and I still have my share of thorn scratches.

 Each of those is from the silence that follows a promotional post. An offer of free review copies that went unanswered. A Sunday that I went around to my sales sites to collect the “weekly eggs” as I call those strings of zeros.

 This is why writers need thick skins. The bed of thorns.

 I do catch the scent of roses, though. I still squee when my artist sends me sketches for my next book cover. When someone posts that they liked my sample, it’s a welcome ray of sunshine. Every time I go looking for zeros and find numbers instead, it plasters a smile on my face.

 I’m going to keep doing this until the Fun Police kick in my door and haul me away.

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Be a Maker

A guest blog written by Jonathan Kahn

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Before we get started, I have a riddle for you. What is both hand-made and fabricated by a machine? Read on for the answer.

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Did the holidays run roughshod over you… again? Do your Christmas memories consist of old specials on TV, bad traffic, and all-out panic? Year upon year, do you vow to start your Christmas shopping in August, only to find yourself staring at end-caps of pre-wrapped $9.99 gifts at 11:30 on Christmas Eve? Don’t be afraid to admit it; there will be no judgment here. In fact, this was me only a few years ago.

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I have mixed feelings about the commercial nature of Christmas. I like the way malls, stores and even cities decorate for Christmas, and I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t if not for the commercial appeal. But I very strongly dislike the way everyone is urged to buy gifts. The operative word in the last sentence is buy. I do like giving gifts, and I would love it if the gifts people gave each other showed thought and effort.

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Ideally, gifts that are made do this quite nicely. We all know someone who is skilled at carpentry or pottery – making tangible things with their hands. If you’re not one of those people, you’re in the right place – I’m not one, either. But I am good at other things. A few years ago I recorded a couple of classical piano pieces, put them up on Facebook, and burned a few CDs. That was my gift to family and friends. It may sound cheesy, but it was something I made with my own hands.

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This year, I published a collection of short stories. Yes, self-publishing is frowned upon in some elite circles. But like my classical piano recording, my little book is something that I made. It may not be a custom-built spice rack for the foodie in my life, but it’s not another $9.99 set of monogrammed handkerchiefs given in haste to someone who never wears a suit, either.

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Technology gets blamed a lot for making humans more isolated, but it’s really just an enabler (for good and bad behaviors). Technology enabled my two projects, by making them economically feasible for a guy who normally wouldn’t be able to afford them. Recording software meant I didn’t have to buy expensive studio and mastering time. On-demand publishing and e-publishing meant I didn’t have to commit to printing a thousand copies of my book.

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So now that we’re just past Christmas, turn that annual get-started-by-August vow into a plan for making your gifts next year. Stick by Robin’s blog, and you’ll surely get a few cool ideas. Oh, and in case you’re interested, my book is called Vanity Plate Tales. It’s available here.
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Do you make your own gifts? What do you make? If you don’t, what kinds of gifts would you like to make for your loved ones in 2014? Let us know in the comments.

Start now. You’ve got plenty of time until Christmas. 🙂

The artwork in this post is courtesy of Marcus McAllister. Visit him by clicking here or on any of the pieces above. You can find Jonathan Kahn on Facebook.

Worse Than it Looks, a post by Tom Janikowski

I recently made the acquaintance of Tom Janikowski and it has been a distinct pleasure. What I love about him the most was best expressed by a recent visitor to his website:
 
“He is deranged.” – Penny Watson
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His newly released collection of poetry, Worse Than It Looks, is exactly the kind of gritty midwestern darkness in which I revel. This collection was drawn from his experiences working with people who have made bad choices – addicts, convicts, users, and the like. Written over the span of two years on the streets of the Quad Cities of Illinois and Iowa, the poems include many that appeared at his collaborative poetry site, “the lost beat,” where he writes with his cousin, the poet Denise Janikowski-Krewal. Worse Than It Looks available in both paperback and epub formats. I opted for a paperback and my copy is winging its way to me as we speak. I just hope the UPS truck isn’t highjacked by a drug-crazed maniac during its journey, because I WANT THAT BOOK.

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Because Tom is freaking terrific, he agreed to a guest post on my blog. I cannot thank him enough. And now, I shall let Tom speak:
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The American Shakespeare – Mr. William Faulkner – once said “don’t be a writer, be writing.” Truthfully, I do not know if he said it once, twice, or a hundred times, but I have tried to follow his advice. I have been writing since about the age of eight or nine, but I have always seen myself as one who is just about the business of writing – it is only what I do and not who I am. I hear from a lot of folks who say things like “I am a writer – that’s just who I am,” and I used to think that perhaps I was less of a writer because I defined myself differently, but I have grown out of that. It only took me forty years to do so.

I write, I write, and then I write some more. Sometimes I take breaks and don’t write for a bit, but then I start writing again. I have a very simple process, I suppose you might say. I like to drink lots of coffee and put words together so as to give shape to the world that I take in throughout the day and though all the days past. Like most writers, I read a lot, and sometimes I find myself crafting something that comes out a bit more like something that I have read than I would have expected. There you have it.

My absolute rule is that I never write less than 1,000 words at a sitting, and I try to sit down as often as I can. My exception to this is when I get something of an itchy feeling in my brain and I know in my gut that I cannot work on fiction at a given moment. At those times I allow myself to sit down and write poetry. That usually seems to work like a dose of extra-strength caustic drain cleaner. All the crap gets flushed out, the pipes get cleaned, and the waters start to flow again. Most of the time this works.

I love to write flash fiction and “prosetry” on a regular basis, as it keeps me from getting overly flowery with my language. I love economy of expression, especially when it can be hard, gritty and abrasive without being explicit, vulgar, or cheap. I had a professor during my undergraduate work in philosophy who was absolute death on non-essentials, and he left a mark on me. Give it to me straight. Tell me what is going on. If I rely upon symbolism, I try to make it powerful, or at the very least succinct. Sometimes it works.

When I get on a roll and start writing like mad, I try to make hay while the sun shines, as the old saying goes. I wrote a 70,000 word novella last year in just a few days this way. I was taking prednisone for a bronchial infection at the time, and it gave me loads of energy, kept me awake at nights, and got me up early in the mornings. The result was a rather cohesive (albeit strange) story. My agent is still trying to find a home for that little devil.

During these writing benders I like to eat apples in the mornings and stale pretzels in the evenings. When I am done, I cap the session with a very dry martini and try to sleep. I will take walks with my dogs to clear my head and I listen to Hoagy Carmichael and Smashing Pumpkins to get me ready for the next session.

How is that for creative method?

I find myself silently muttering about interesting things that I see taking place, and this is usually where the writing really begins. I might see a really dirty car pull up, the door open, and an angry man get out, shouting at his companion something about a sandwich. I might start saying “gimme’ my damn sammich…damn sammich…gimme gimme damn sammich…” over and over to myself as I listen to similar words coming out of his mouth. I then start to make up a story about why it was that someone else had his sandwich. What kind of sandwich? Was it partially eaten? Was it rancid? Was it stolen? What kind of bread was it on? You know the sort of internal dialogue – I assume that this is the same sort of thing that all writers do.

The most underestimated tool in my writing toolbox is my attention to synchronicity. I try to watch for examples of the universal unconscious mind or whatever you might want to call it, and I am making an effort to do even more of this, as I am convinced that I currently miss a lot of answers. Invariably I will be writing about something – cream cheese, for instance – and, without fail, all sorts of references to cream cheese start popping up in the world around me. Often these are in the most unlikely situations, and they tend to answer a lot of questions that I am facing in writing a given story.

What does it mean to write? It means, I firmly believe, to give some shape to what we experience – whether or not it is in the physical world. When Kurt Vonnegut said that in writing we are continually jumping off of cliffs and growing wings on the way down, I don’t think he could have been closer to the truth. Jump, and you jump into the world of what is. Grow your wings, and you might just make some sense out of it all.

Geronimo.
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Tom Janikowski was born in 1968 in Cudahy, Wisconsin, the grandson of Pomeranian and Carpathian immigrants who left Poland in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Janikowski studied English and philosophy at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee and eventually at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point, where he studied fiction under author Larry Watson (Let Him Go, Montana 1948, Orchard) and poetry under William L.M.H. Clark. Graduating in 1994 with a philosophy degree, Janikowski’s professional writing for a long time consisted of strictly non-fiction endeavors, including book reviews for GP Light, the English supplement to Gwiazda Polarna – the nation’s largest Polish-language newspaper.
 
After lengthy forays into songwriting, bartending, and the self-publishing of poetry chapbooks, Janikowski continued his studies and earned a Master’s Degree in 2002. Despite this setback, he is still able to write in complete sentences and in the past several years has focused almost exclusively on writing fiction. His flashes and short stories have appeared online and in print on both sides of the Atlantic. Now represented by Monika Luukkonen of Oulu, Finland, he has begun working in longer forms and his forthcoming Crawford County Sketchbook (due out late in 2014 from Red Hen Press of Pasadena, CA) is a collection of tales set in a rural county somewhere in the deep South.
 
Janikowski has been greatly influenced by “Lost Generation” authors such as William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, but he also admits long-standing love affairs with the writing of Kurt Vonnegut and John Updike. Formerly a resident of Upstate New York and a frequenter of several speakeasies inthe Catskills, he currently works, posts at http://www.martinipen.com, and mixes cocktails in Davenport, Iowa, where he lives with Shelly, his best friend and beloved wife of 15 years.
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As always, you can find a list of featured writers and artists on my website, Ink & Alchemy. If you enjoyed this post, pop over and give Tom a little cyber snuzzle. You can find him all over the web:

Alter ego, you so crazy.

I recently had a creative writing revelation. I realized that my notion of being a writer was strongly linked with accurately expressing myself. I’ve been writing fiction, but at the same time I’ve been wrestling with a burdensome responsibility to somehow use that fiction to put my truth on paper. What audacity and hubris! My truth isn’t necessarily important or enlightening, except maybe to me. And what a terrible way to approach creative writing. Memoir, sure. But, creative writing?

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I’m not even sure where this idea came from and I wasn’t aware of being a slave to it until this past week. It is betrayer to my creative life.

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As you may know, we’re currently in the throes of annual NaNoWriMo craziness, which requires truckloads of creativity.  I sat at my computer laboring over my novel, honestly intending and trying to be creative, when the lightning bolt hit.  I’m my own worst enemy.  I travel the same well-worn ruts over and over again, trapped by my own experiences and perspective.

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An insidious voice, quieter than a whisper, is constantly censoring and evaluating my thoughts. I’m changing that today. There is freedom is releasing myself from these constraints, but for me the execution is difficult. I am me, after all, and it’s hard to get away from that.

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So I’ve come up with a strategy.

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Today, instead of trying to express myself, I’m going to do the exact opposite. I’m going to imagine myself as someone else – an alter ego, of sorts – and write that way. Unencumbered. The concept seems simple, but for me it’s ground breaking. This other broad can be as wild and weird as she wants to be.

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Wish me luck!

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The gorgeous art in this post is courtesy of, Stephanie Corfee, Featured Artist at Ink & Alchemy. It’s teeming with life and riotous color and it makes me very happy. The perfect art to spur creativity!

Visit my website to learn about my efforts to smear art & lit all over the planet. You can also find resources to use in your creative life and business.

Saint Monolith by Tom Reinhart

You can read this ebook FREE right now! Click the book below.

In the United States, a violent crime occurs every 26 seconds. Police officers take an oath to protect and to serve, but the laws they uphold bind their own hands. Justice is blind, so evil perseveres. Mason Stone is a decorated war hero, and a respected S.W.A.T. Commander. He’s also an unhinged lunatic and a psychopathic vigilante. He believes society has evolved, but humans have not. He is a demon to some, a saint to others, and a savior to all. One man’s struggle to cleanse the world, is also one woman’s struggle to save him from himself.

A thriller. A love story. A lesson for us all about the human condition.

www.SaintMonolith.com

Lillian Holmes and the Leaping Man – Guest post by Ciar Cullen

Today I’m proud to introduce Ciar Cullen, author of Lillian Holmes and the Leaping Man. 

At the cusp of the twentieth century, an heiress turned detective enters a world of deception and danger and must learn to trust her nemesis with both her life and her love.

Tormented by a tragic past, Miss Lillian Holmes nonetheless found the strength to go on, to become the greatest female detective of her time. To make her uncle proud. Except…he was not truly her uncle. Sherlock was a fictional character, and Lil was less a true detective than a sheltered twenty-six year old heiress with taste for mystery…and  morphine. But then she saw him. Leaping from her neighbor’s second-story window, a beautiful stranger. With the recent murders plaguing Baltimore, here was a chance to  reveal the truth.

Except, the Leaping Man was far more than he seemed. A wanton creature of darkness, an entry point to a realm of deception and evil, and to a Truth she had waited countless years to uncover, he would threaten far more than Lillian’s life. He would take both her heart and soul. And she would rejoice in it.

Read an excerpt here.

She has written a guest post for the blog today in honor of her book tour with Virtual Writers. Let’s see what Ciar has to say about her heroine. 

My Heroine, a Most Unusual Woman

 Baltimore, 1899

Single heiress, 5’8”, on the too-slim side, brunette. I love to read books that women shouldn’t read, especially the novels of A.C. Doyle and other mysteries. I ride a velocipede at night to avoid public scrutiny, avoid balls and gay evenings with my peers, and prefer the company of a few close friends. I am prone to the Melancholies, but find that reading helps soften my anxiety. I seek a companion who doesn’t want my money, who doesn’t bore me to tears, who would favor an adventurous wife over a normal lady. Are you out there, anywhere? No, I think not. 

My heroine, Lillian Holmes, is not so different from many of us (especially introverts)… she craves love, but doesn’t feel as if any of the gentlemen who come knocking on her door are sincere or interesting. She loves her books better than shopping for dresses or new bonnets. She treasures her one close friend, Bess, but feels she often fails her. She has chronic depression, but no one recognizes the disease, and she turns to the medicinal of the day, laced with morphine. Lillian craves adventure, fantasizes about being something more than a woman locked in the gilt cage of her mansion. She’s just like so many of us, except that it’s 1899.

Unlike the women in Pride and Prejudice, for example, a woman of means in this era didn’t need a man’s hand in marriage to survive. But she has the same longing for love, for partnership. Lillian does find love, a happy-ever-after (well, as long as she disposes of all of her enemies), but it is in the last person she would have expected…her nemesis.

Writing this book got me thinking about unusual women in literature, and about the reason so many of us love them. Of all things, I thought about Nancy Drew. First written in the early 1930s, Nancy Drew was a most unusual girl. She had a few close friends, and a boyfriend, but nothing gets in her way, not even handsome Ned Nickerson. She will solve the case, and you know it from the first page. I remember clearly going to the big Hutlzer’s store in downtown Baltimore with my grandmother, and as a special treat, she would buy me the newest Nancy Drew book. Looking back, I see what many feminist literary critics have mentioned—a somewhat anachronistic sketch, filled with tension between the era and the wish-fulfillment of the reader. And looking back, I realize that all those Nancy Drew books got deep inside of me, probably had a little to do with me pursuing a doctorate in archaeology, and certainly colored my rendering of Lillian Holmes. Thanks, Carolyn Keene (all several dozen of you, including the man who started the series). Oh, and by the way, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that my hero is named George (although that’s another girl in Nancy Drew) and her best friend is a plump Bess. It’s a nod of thanks.

Thanks so much, Ciar, for sharing your thoughts with us. You can enter the raffle below.

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I encourage each of you to visit Ciar at the tour other stops along the way. Click the banner below to see more details.

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I hope you find time to snuggle up with a good book this week!

 

More lessons in self-publishing

Today, I learned yet another lesson in self-publishing and I’m going to share it with you. As you may know, KDP Select allows a five-day free promotion period for ebooks. You can schedule it whenever you like using the Manage Promotions link from your Bookshelf. I’ve been extraordinarily busy and my three month term has almost flown by so when I realized this today, I decided to pull the trigger on the 5-day promo. Easy and simple to do.

Then I realized that as with everything else in self -publishing, the key was promoting it. Why would I want to give away free ebooks, you ask? Mostly because I hope to generate interest in the book and garner more honest reviews on my Amazon and Goodreads pages. I approach the book promotion process exactly the same way as I manage my social media platform – I seek to slowly and intentionally build a strong network of followers. I try to effectively utilize every tool available to me. I give more than I expect to get.

So…how to maximize my 5-free days? I found some places to promote free books and I quickly realized that last minute isn’t the best way to do this. Next time, I’ll plan better. It might sound like a lot of work, but I suggest that about a month before you plan to offer your ebook for free on Amazon, you do some research and sketch out a general marketing plan.

There are lots of places which will accept your submission and add your book to their sites and feeds, but the rules vary from site to site. Some require that you submit 14-days ahead of time while others will not even accept your submission until the free offer is live on KDP. Some have very strict guidelines about genre, content,  number of reviews, and the score of your reviews. For instance, I ran across several places which would only accept a submission if your book has a review score of greater than 4 based on a set number of reviewers.

I’ll leave you with some ebook promotion links and the suggestion that you plan ahead for your free book promo with KDP. Also, don’t forget to utilize every other social media channel available to you – Twitter, Tumblr, FB, etc.

The good news is that as soon as I began submitting, I started to see my number of downloads climb. It works.

The above list is just a starting point. A simple Google search will yield hundreds of sites willing to promote your free ebook. Pay close attention to their rule and guidelines. Don’t waste your time (or theirs) submitting to those which aren’t suitable for your ebook.

The art in this post was created by Tessa Pearson, one of Ink & Alchemy’s Featured Artists. Click any of the pieces to go to her website. If you have art or writing that you want to share with the world, consider submitting to me. Click here to access the form.

Love & lit,

Robin