Monday, December 8, 2014

Book Spotlight on The Golden City of Doubloon by Richard Natale

The Golden City of Doubloon is a fantasy adventure tale with a strong moral and spiritual underpinning that will appeal to young and old alike. Set in the Great Depression, the protagonist's journey of self-discovery includes a massive flood, a tornado, a terrifying massacre at a tent revival meeting and a climactic battle aboard a zeppelin. Our hero, Japeth Finian, 20, the devout, orphaned son of missionary parents, embarks on a time-constrained journey to Doubloon, the “oasis of the Midwest,” to find a serum that will save the inhabitants of his small town from a blood disease that robs them of their immortal souls in return for the promise of eternal life. When they arrive in Doubloon they are confronted by all the wonders, and terrors, of modern life. Joining Japeth in his adventures are his friends, the brave and noble Crowell, the loyal but scatterbrained Lon, Crowell's sister Lucinda, with whom Japeth is not so secretly in love, and Abra, Japeth's mute younger sister who may possess secret powers.

A few minutes later, they pulled up to the shelter and pounded their fists on the metal doors, shouting “Open up, Reverend, open up,” until they were hoarse. But the howling wind drowned out their efforts.
“We’re too late,” Lon screamed. “Now we’re gonna die.”
They looked up in horror as one of the twisters touched down on the far end of Main Street, wrapping itself around the new fire house and spitting loose bricks like they were bits of confetti. One by one, the swirling, dark eddy ripped its way down the street, dismantling the post office, the general store, and the schoolhouse.
Abra pulled on Japeth’s arm and drew him down the hill toward the church. One of the chapel doors was open, flapping aimlessly in the wind like an invitation.
“But there ain’t even so much as a basement in there,” Lon cried.
“Don’t matter. It’s our only hope,” Japeth said.
Crowell climbed into the truck and rolled it downhill. Japeth and Abra jumped onto the running board and held on. Lon brought up the rear, riding Becka up the steps and inside the church.
“I don’t care if it is the Lord’s house, I ain’t leaving her out there,” he said before anyone could protest.
“All creatures great and small,” Japeth reassured him.
After parking the truck behind the church, Crowell helped Japeth secure the doors and bolt them, while Lon rode Becka around to shut all the windows and attach the shutters. They scanned the dimly lit room for a suitable place to take cover and nearly jumped out of their skins when the wind blew through the organ pipes, producing a blaring, discordant tune.
“That’s it,” Japaeth shouted. “We get behind the organ. Thing weighs a ton. Not even a twister could lift it.” He crouched down and peered behind the organ. It was a tight fit, but it would have to do. “Get in,” Japeth commanded Abra, who got down on all fours and crept into the darkness.
Japeth was about to follow when there was a sudden roar. The twister, now just outside, was rattling the front door like an determined burglar.
Lon got down from his horse and tried to find someplace to tether her. Frightened, Becka bolted and ran straight toward Japeth. He jumped out of her path and spun around. One of the window shutters exploded and slammed against the back of his head, throwing him across the room.
The gyrating wind howled through the insides of the church picking up any loose object it could find. Crowell and Lon flattened against the floor and crawled over to Japeth, who was unconscious. They dragged him toward the narrow opening behind the organ. Lon went in first, grabbing Japeth’s wrists. Crowell clamped his hands tightly around Japeth’s ankles to keep from being swept away.
“I can’t do it. I can’t,” Lon said in a panic. But slowly, he inched Japeth in. The last thing Crowell saw as he folded his body under the organ was poor Ol’ Becka being lifted into the vortex.
The wind tapped out a deafening dirge on the organ as it devoured the chapel. Abra had to press an ear against her brother’s heart to be certain it was still beating.
A few minutes later, as impulsively as it had descended, the twister relinquished its hold on the church and raced away. But the group remained huddled behind the organ taking no chances. The two tornadoes flirted with each other on the outskirts of town for most of the day. They finally gave in to their attraction and, just after nightfall, returned to visit their combined wrath on the graveyard. The giant twister skipped lightly over the old cemetery and concentrated its fury on the annex, churning the dead from their eternal rest. Tombstones were overturned, coffins lifted out of the ground and corpses were carelessly tossed about.
Sated, the tornado then trailed off in search of fresh prey.

*review to come soon!!*

Friday, December 5, 2014

Guest Post by Michael Mullin author of Talespins


An Adventure in Three Acts

It’s common knowledge among writers that Hollywood uses a basic, three-act formula for screenplays. It’s equally agreed upon that writing Act 2 is the most difficult. That’s where most spec screenplays (and many movies) break down. Why is that? Here’s a theory to which I happen to subscribe: Act 2 is the hardest because it takes the most work, and most writers have neither the knowledge nor the discipline to do what is necessary to transcend mediocrity.

Act 1 is the set-up. The hook. It’s closely tied to the premise, or idea that got you writing in the first place. You get to introduce all your characters, so your enthusiasm and effort are in high gear. Act 3 centers around the climactic scene, which is often “already written in your head,” so again, the enthusiasm is heightened. (Not to mention the excitement of being almost done!)

That leaves us with Act 2. The middle stuff. The obstacles and subplots. This crucial section of any story often comes out too sparse, too disjointed, or just plain boring because that’s how writers (unknowingly and unwillingly) approach the task of writing it. Their semi-subconscious goal is to simply get through it, and onto the more exciting Act 3.

Now consider, using those terms, a “movie” called The Indie Author starring YOU. As you probably already know, it’s a drama/adventure flick with a little comedy and (hopefully not too much) horror mixed in. And keep in mind, you’re not only starring in the story – you’re writing it, too. What I’ll try to do here in this piece of writing is offer some broad-stroke guidance. Just some things you might want to think about. I’m not a big success or an expert, but I’m generally known as someone who knows what he’s talking about. Read on and see if you agree . . .

Act 1 is writing a great book. Not one that just you and your polite friends think is “great.” I mean a book that a total stranger will think is great. It’s hard, but absolutely essential that you do this. And if you need some blogger to tell you how to write a great book (be original; create characters that connect with readers; writing is rewriting; proofread; have your cover professionally designed), then you’re probably not cut out for this sort of thing. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but you wouldn’t be able to just start doing any other profession without a fair amount of knowledge, experience and skill, so why should author be any different?

And being an avid reader doesn’t give you the skills to be a writer. It can certainly spark an interest, and if it does, that’s great. But you have to learn the craft. I like to eat at restaurants, but that doesn’t mean I can be chef without a LOT of training and practice (not to mention an inherent talent that I may or may not have). I also love going to museums, but I know that – despite studying art and painting into my college years – I’m no artist. While at Disney, I was lucky to work with and befriend quite a few insanely gifted artists who studied and toiled for years to get where they are. And none of them are rich or famous, by the way.

Just because you can write sentences and paragraphs in your native tongue, know how to punctuate dialogue and can get the grammar (mostly) correct, doesn’t make you an author. I’m sure you can draw a face that anyone would recognize as a face. But you wouldn’t dream of calling yourself an artist based on that.

I’m not saying all this to discourage anyone. I actually want you to become an author, but I want you to do it the same way you’d become a chef or a painter or a rocket scientist: the right way, via the long road of hard work and study and experience and feedback and failure. If that idea makes you curious, then maybe writing is indeed your thing. If it makes you nauseated or annoyed, then probably not.

And remember .  .  . that’s just Act 1. Are you getting the hint that this is shaping up to be one loooooooong movie?

You might think Act 1 ends when you write “The End.” That would be nice, but no. Act 1 ends when your book is published and is available to all those strangers whom we hope will think it’s great. Getting from “The End” to “For Sale” is easy enough these days and the process is explained in great detail all over the Internet. Easy search.

Act 2 (which you may have guessed by now) is the marketing and self-promotion of your work. Ugh, right? Wait, it gets worse: Act 3 is your life as a successful author. Who wouldn’t want to rush and cut corners to get there? But realistically speaking, you can’t. Now that you’ve spent all that time learning the craft of writing, you get to put all those skills and all that talent on the shelf while you engage an entirely different set of professional-level skills.

Wait, you don’t have those skills? Hmmmm .  .  . yeah. Unfortunately, you’re now going to have to learn those, too: marketing, promotion, publicity, etc. Did I mention Act 2 is really difficult? This is the breakdown: the thinking that you can achieve success by tweeting about your book. (Or worse, by paying someone who hasn’t read your book to tweet about it amid a non-stop string of tweets about other people’s self published books that he or she hasn’t read either.)

To increase your chances of success in Act 2, learn the business side of publishing. It’s an industry that’s been on its ear for a while now, and as an indie author, you can use that to your advantage. Make no mistake. The hardest part is separating your great book from all the terrible ones flooding the market today. You don’t want to be associated with those, but guess what? You are. The goal is to be the cream that rises upward in the indie, self-published ocean of fiction.  (I know I mixed my metaphors there with “cream” and “ocean,” but the giant coffee cup image wasn’t working for me.)

How do you do this? Start small. Reach out to book bloggers for reviews. If the most popular bloggers are booked up (which they mostly likely are) or don’t review self-published titles (which they often don’t), just find ones who do. There are plenty, and if you can’t search and find them without me providing a link here to a gift-wrapped list, then you have to sharpen your computer/online skills. You’ll need those skills, so just do the search.

As you know, much of your marketing will take place online, and part of that is social media. I’m all for social media, but my advice would be to go into it knowing its limitations. Nobody likes a one-note self-promoter. You already knew that, but if I didn’t say it here, you might think I didn’t know that’s the single most important advice regarding social media marketing. I do know it, and it’s true. Join conversations. Read and comment on other people’s work.

The most important marketing effort you can make, however, is offline. Reach out locally to the people who work in nearby bookstores. (Again, don’t know where they are? Search online.) If interested, they’ll most likely work with you in one of two ways: consignment, which means they shelve a number of your books and take a percentage cut from each sale (usually around 40%), or they will buy a few books from you at a wholesale discount and then sell them at the retail price to make their money from the profit. If your books sell, they’ll buy more from you. The trick here is to promote yourself as someone with whom business people want to build a long-lasting, working relationship. If you quibble over display location or sales percentage points that will (maybe) put an extra 50¢ in your pocket, then you’re more trouble than you’re worth. It’s that simple.  

Also, branch out not only to the bookstores in nearby towns, but also gift shops and other small business merchants. They might see promoting a local author as kind of cool for them (provided that you’ve completed Act 1 successfully. If you go in there with Book 1 in your bondage erotica series, you’re on your own. Seriously, don’t tell them I sent you.)

So if you follow my advice, fame and fortune are pretty much guaranteed. (Ha. Just messing with you to see if you actually read this far! If you did, thanks!) Honestly, I do hope my thoughts have been helpful and inspiring.  And lastly, I don’t have any real tips (yet) on Act 3, but if I did, they’d probably focus on being humble and philanthropic with your riches. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Author Interview with Michael Mullin and Giveaway!!!!!!

1. Have you always enjoyed writing poetry?

I’ve always been drawn to writing some things in verse. A Dr. Seuss influence I’m sure. I actually see “poetry” as something different, I defer to real poets on that topic. I respect what they do, but frankly, I don’t read poetry all that much. That said, writing stories in verse has unique challenges that I do enjoy: the economy of words without sacrificing plot or meaning being one of the big ones. Also fun is making sure the meter is solid (by reading aloud!) and eliminating any rhymes that readers will see as forced.

2. Did it take long to come up with new ideas for classic fairy tales?
Each story was written during a semi-focused couple of months, but those months were stretched out over a decade! I had the 8th Dwarf story for years, waiting to release it as a follow-up to a bigger project that never materialized. So I finally decided to publish it myself and write a second story. Both those (8 and Penny) were first available as individual eBooks.

The rough sketch ideas for each came relatively quickly. My background in licensed merchandise has me always start with character. Then plot follows close behind. Characters’ actions and reactions move a story, and what characters do is a function of who they are, so getting to know them first makes the most sense for me.

3. When you’re writing do you have a specific reader in mind?

Just a demographic, actually. TaleSpins is meant for a tween/teen YA reader (which we know is a genre that’s also popular with adults). I like the fact that it’s not a children’s book, but if children read it, they’ll find nothing inappropriate. The aging up is really just based on theme and vocabulary.

4. Has writing and being an author always been a dream of yours?

Not at first. I went to college as an Economics major and had a very different (albeit quite blurry) vision of my future. When I graduated, I had switched to English and went on to get an MFA in Creative Writing. So by then, yes, writing was the goal and the dream. 

5. What advice would you give for aspiring authors?

Meeting face to face with your local, independent bookstore owner (even if he or she is a town or two away) and setting up a reading/signing event that draws eight people (six of whom are friends of yours whom you bribed to come!) is exponentially better than paying a “service” to tweet your book’s logline to their “12K Followers.” 

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