Thursday, March 28, 2019

Practicing Poetry: Walking and Noticing

"You're a poet now!" cries my friend upon hearing of only my second poetry acceptance, and I cringe. I shirk this phrase for two opposite reasons: first, because introducing myself as a poet somehow feels pretentious, as if I am putting on airs of laureates and Keats and the Brownings. How can I claim such a title in a field that demands more learning from me every day, that has many hills but no apex? 

My students and I joke that I'm not quite a poet yet, but I am a "poetry professional." I teach a poetry class at our high school and I tell students they can always come to me with their questions because in this room, in this cafeteria, I am the poetry expert. But it's all relative. 

The other reason I don't like that phrase is the word "now." Publication hasn't suddenly made me a poet, my soul has. There's something inherent to me that makes me see the world a different way, a way that is sometimes more painful and more sensitive. My emotionality has led me to choose to live my life awake to beauty and open to receiving. Words come easy to me, phrases like "the consolation of friendship" and "a lover of peonies" float around in the air around me and become poem titles. And then I choose to fill those poems with things I see and touch, and write them down. 

And what's actually incredible about this is that I'm not special. I make no pretense that these qualities are unique to me; I think that all of us are capable of great emotional depth, specific visions, or perfectly curated words. I tell my students that each one of them can and will write poetry in my class. And I believe it! But to be "poets" in how we see the world, we have to make the choice to walk through the world a certain way, and most people don't. Most people, most of the time, hurry. Most people graze the surface. 

It takes practice, I have learned, to develop the habit of slowing down and noticing the particulars of the world. You can do this sitting at your desk and looking out the window, or closing your eyes as you sip your tea. You can notice snippets of conversation or the way a storm billows. Or, as I find it particularly fruitful, you can walk. 

     photo Nora Pace 2019

I am lucky enough to live in a particularly beautiful neighborhood in Providence, Rhode Island. These days I can't get enough of the idea that spring is coming. It hasn't been a harsh winter, but it's been long, and I'm so ready to move on to the next thing. I find myself walking more often in the afternoons after school, since the sun is out longer and the weather, while still chilly, is refreshing instead of achingly cold. I'm looking eagerly for signs of spring, searching for the buds on the trees, the first brave purple crocuses, the fat robins perching everywhere. 

No matter what images or ideas I find, I collect them and use them to populate my writing. I've heard this concept called a "magpie essay" in various places, and I like the name though I didn't create it. We are collectors of shiny, pretty things, aren't we? Things we like to fiddle with or remember. 

I've now written a couple of magpie poems, in which I catalogue things I have noticed and try to draw some connections between them. Here's a list of things I've noticed that fit into one poem: 

the twisting of a sprouting weed
the thorns on a tree
blue flowers 

February buds
oval leaves of an ash 

fences with gaps 
telephone poles covered in staples from flyers 
a coy baby rabbit 
a spider weaving her web 
a garden 

How do the things we notice come together into a poem? 

As I write these posts on poetry and nonfiction writing each month, I hope to include a practical exercise or idea for you to try. One of the first lessons I taught to my poetry class this year was the "I saw" poem. Write down "I saw" on 3 lines in a notebook. Then fill them in with whatever you can gather. 

"I saw" is different than "I see" because you can't just look around for the answers. You have to remember what you saw, which means you must choose, somewhere in your brain what you want to include in the record of your sight. Then you may ask yourself, "why did I remember this?" and as you start to choose how all the shiny things collide, you begin to make a poem. 

Here's the latest one I've written: 

     I saw a tree tied with a bandage 
     I saw a tumult of bricks around it. 
     I saw a broken sidewalk that urges slower walking, no tripping,
        a forgiveness for imperfection

photo Nora Pace 2019

Poetry is the art of noticing. Isn't that the thing we most desire sometimes? To be noticed and known. To feel the eyes on us that value and adorn, rather than strip and smirk. Could we not grant this gift to the people around us and to the world? 

Thanks for reading! My posts are published on the 4th Thursday of each month. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Interview with Author Luna Kayne

LUNA KAYNE is the author of the romantic suspense novel, Controlling Interests. Other published works include poetry, prose and numerous novelettes in the Bedtime Stories for Grown-Ass Adults series. 
Writing from her home on an acreage in Manitoba, Canada, she can always be found with a cup in her hand. Whether it's coffee or wine just depends on the time of day.
Make sure you follow her on Amazon to be notified of new releases.
You can find out more at
Alternatively, she tends to be very chatty and friendly on Twitter (@LunaKayne). 
Twitter: @LunaKayne
Stay in touch and be notified of new releases, contests, beta reviewer call outs and more by signing up at or through

Did poetry come naturally to you or do you find it is something you have to work at?

The words I write are a combination of thoughts and residual creativity from the stories I write. The majority are from my own heart and my own experience and some come from the headspace I'm in when I'm writing a character. Most times, I consider it more prose than poetry as it is just a flow of conscious thought. That being said, there are times when my words don't manifest properly and my drafts folder on Twitter is filled with pieces that I either need to polish, or words that no longer hold meaning and I'm keeping them until inspiration strikes once more.

What first inspired you to start writing?

I've always written in one form or another. I lost a hard drive containing all of my stories years ago and I didn't have it in me to write fiction for a while after that. I got into it again a few years ago when inspiration struck and I haven't stopped since.

Have you always enjoyed writing romance? Do you want/plan to try new genres down the line?

Until I wrote and published Controlling Interests in 2017, I had no idea I could write romance. I had started writing a sci-fi/fantasy series that I expect to be about five books long and I got about 25,000 words into it. As I wrote that story, I began to struggle with some aspects of my character development. Specifically, I wasn't sure if I could write a good alpha dominant character. The first sentence for Controlling Interests hit me and I shelved the project I was working on and started writing Controlling Interests as more of an exercise. After I published it, I kept writing in the genre. I think all of my stories will have some type of romance in them but my most recent book, Kill Code goes a little more into dark action suspense. I do plan on revisiting my original sci-fi/fantasy at some point.

Do you make time to write every day or just write when inspiration hits?

I write every day from Monday to Thursdays. Occasionally I will write a little on Fridays and/or Saturdays. My inspiration is always there whether it is my prose, or something else I am working on.

What are your future plans for your writing?

I am currently writing two novels. Book two in my Kill Code trilogy is coming along and I am working on a new project I hope to announce shortly. Three out of five of the novelettes I wrote last year are also left on a little bit of a cliffhanger. I plan on eventually writing the rest of their story as well.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors and poets?

We all bring something different to the table. There is no set way to doing things and there is no hidden formula. It's okay to listen to what everyone has to say, but be yourself and bring your own voice to your readers. If you want to write, write. If you haven't written your story yet, everything outside of writing is an excuse to not write. Write your story in all of its unedited glory then, and only then, go on to step two.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Book Review of Unspoke (UnPoetry Book 1) by Luna Kayne

There is a silent strength in submission. This is the second book from Luna Kayne and includes a collection of poetry and prose, random thoughts and words.

This is a wonderful, delightful, and sensual collection of poetry that can be devoured in one sitting. The back and forth between the lovers and the rawness is enticing. 

Even if you're not much of poetry reader, I feel anyone who enjoys reading romance or erotica would also enjoy this book. The words go deeper than just surface level love, with the two lovers communicating their desires to know each other on every level, heart, and soul.

So if you want to add a little spice to your day, or just simply lay back and have a quick read that will get your mind and heart stimulated, Unspoke is worth it! 


LUNA KAYNE is the author of the romantic suspense novel, Controlling Interests. Other published works include poetry, prose and numerous novelettes in the Bedtime Stories for Grown-Ass Adults series. 

Writing from her home on an acreage in Manitoba, Canada, she can always be found with a cup in her hand. Whether it's coffee or wine just depends on the time of day.

Make sure you follow her on Amazon to be notified of new releases.

You can find out more at

Alternatively, she tends to be very chatty and friendly on Twitter (@LunaKayne). 



Twitter: @LunaKayne

Stay in touch and be notified of new releases, contests, beta reviewer call outs and more by signing up at or through

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Welcome Our New Contributor V. S. Holmes

V. S. Holmes is an award-winning science fiction and fantasy author. She has written the epic fantasy REFORGED series and the archaeological sci-fi series the NEL BENTLY BOOKS. Smoke and Rain, the first book in her fantasy quartet, won New Apple Literary's Excellence in Independent Publishing Award in 2015. In addition, she has published short fiction and poetry in several anthologies. She also runs Amphibian Press, dedicated to helping hybrid authors with publishing.

When not writing, she works as a contract archaeologist and, as a disabled gender-queer person, is an activist for equal rights and climate change. She lives in a Tiny House with her husband, a fellow archaeologist, their not-so-tiny dog, and owns too many books for such a small abode.

When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

Like most of us, I started writing at a young age--my first series was 12 books about my teddy bear, Heidi, and all her adventures, from trekking the Amazon to getting a new adopted sister (I was an only child and "vicarious" isn't a strong enough word!) Despite this, I never considered getting a degree in English or related fields. Instead, I did pre-med, got a bio degree. Archaeology, however, renewed my love for writing. I realized what I loved was discovering the story of people who were dead or--in case of writing--never lived. I renewed my work on what would become Smoke and Rain, started an indie press, and never looked back.

What draws you to your particular genre?

Though most of my schooling experience was unpleasant, I was lucky to have parents who were passionate about the world and instilled a deep curiosity in me. I was one of those kids who wasn't allowed to watch TV, but the exceptions were NOVA, Cosmos, and the Nature Channel, and the occasional Wish Bone. The drive to explore and question ultimately brought me to science fiction and fantasy, worlds I could create to be gentler to people marginalized in this world. Plus, let's face it--space is awesome!

What can the Readers of The Aspiring Author Blog expect to gain from your posts?

I hope readers will begin to notice how others navigate the emotional, mental, and physical world, and what we can do to help those who have inherent struggles. SFF is a genre that is supposed to push the boundaries of what we feel possible, so what better genre to show where we want our world to go. If I can instill hope in people who see themselves in my writing and posts, and increase empathy in those who maybe didn't realize the difficulties others face, I'll consider it a success!

What is one tip you have for aspiring authors in your genre?

Keep exploring. Keep reading, keep writing, really immerse yourself in the world and never stop asking yourself "what if?"

V. S. Holmes is our fantasy contributor, with her posts focusing on disability and mental illness in SFF worlds. Her posts are on the fourth Sunday of every month.

Connect with V. S. Holmes: Website  Amphibian Press Podcast   Twitter   Facebook   Instagram  

Friday, March 22, 2019

Author Interview with Shanna Swenson with GIVEAWAY!!

Tell me a little bit about yourself!
Hi, I’m Shanna, the author of the Abundance series. I am a full-time cardiac sonographer, Cancer, and dreamer. I have been an avid reader for as long as I can remember. I love movies, pro-football, traveling, hiking, Yoga, taking pictures, sunsets and hanging out with my own “knight in shining armor”. I enjoy the simple things in life and laugh a lot. 

How did you get into writing? 
My third-grade teacher told my mom that I would one day be a writer. I can’t remember what story I wrote then, but it must have been a good one (haha) to impact her that way. I started writing (with intent) at the age of fourteen in high school. It was mostly just for fun, but then I got the idea for book three of my series in my junior year and just let the ideas flow. 

Do you remember any of the earlier stuff you wrote, was it mostly based in romance, or did you test the waters with other stuff, too? 
The stuff I wrote, in the beginning, was inspired by a friend who was pretty much doing the same thing. We wrote plays about our lives (or what we wanted them to be- haha.) In my “play”, my BFF and I had fictional boyfriends. They were football players from Florida who had moved next door to us. It had romance, high school drama, and suspense. So, it was kinda like a precursor for my books, I guess. 

What draws you to the romance genre? Do you think your stick to it or switch it up in the future? 
I feel like the first “real” romance novel I read (at the age of thirteen) led me to write romance. It’s such a dynamic genre with various avenues you can take. And so many tropes to choose from. I feel like my books are more than just romance, they have suspense too. I will probably get into other genres. My father in law is a retired homicide detective, so we are planning to collaborate on a murder mystery at some point ;-).

I could definitely see the influence of a murder mystery type idea floating around, particularly when you were writing about Troy. 
Haha, yes. There’s always a nice element of surprise with a murder and some drama created that wasn’t anticipated. 

Anyway, back to romance. Do you have a favorite romance trope? 
I guess my favorite would be the “knight in shining armor” and “enemies to lovers”. Who doesn’t love a hero?! ;-)

What are some of your favorite authors or favorite reads? 
I love Suzanne Collins, Stephenie Meyer, George R.R. Martin, Richard Preston, and Susan Elizabeth Phillips. I have a very eclectic taste in books (movies and music) as you can probably tell. Paranormal and fantasy are probably my favorite genres, but I’ll read almost anything. 

Loving the fantasy genre, do you ever think you’ll write something that has a ton of fantasy? Or are you going to stick to just reading that genre and stick to more realistic fiction? I can imagine fantasy is probably quite a bit different to write… 
Creating worlds is wonderful, and I wouldn’t be opposed to writing fantasy. Fantasy involves a lot of characters, which I had someone complain about actually- that I had too many characters-ha ha! I thought to myself “Have you ever read Game of Thrones?” It also involves a large amount of planning, I feel like. Maps, new races/species, languages, cultures, etc. But… you never know what will inspire you, so I’m not going to rule it out ;-)

Do you remember the first romance novel that you ever read or what made you fall in love with the genre? 
Yes, the first “real” romance novel I read at the age of thirteen was Nobody’s Baby but Mine, and it’s still one of my all-time faves. It was funny, sexy and witty, and I fell in love with the characters. It made me want to write characters like that. 

For the first book in your Abundance series, where did you get the inspiration to write this story? Did you start with a particular character first, or location, or situation..? 
I was inspired by the movies Hope Floats and The Horse Whisperer. I wanted to showcase the healing power of true love in the face of tragedy. I asked myself what could be the worst thing a mother could experience that would break her faith in humanity. Once I answered that question, I knew exactly where the story was going. I saw it in my head. The situation came first then the characters. I had already written book three (and lost it when I moved), but I thought it needed a back story, thus the idea for Abundance was born. 

Are all of the books in this series going to be stand alone? 
Yes, I don’t really write “cliffhangers”. I don’t really mind them, it just happened to turn out that way. The original series was only going to be three books, but a couple side stories happened, it turned into a saga, now it will end up being six books total. 

Is the thing that ties them all together the location, or are there recurring characters that you expand on? 
With all the characters introduced in the first book, it kinda branches out. There are recurring characters, but the location also plays a part. Each book continues the saga and delves more into characters that the reader has already met or that are introduced as the series progresses into the future ;-) The featured POV changes with each book, so that the reader can catch up with prior couples, but is also told new stories about new couples, if that makes sense. 

When writing Natalie and Jack’s relationship, or any love relationship, what do you find to be the most important or difficult thing to master? 
The chemistry, the realness of the characters plights and their connection. With Natalie and Jack, it was easy. He was immediately attracted to her and just needed to tear her walls down gently to get her inner light to shine. I wanted it to seem real and raw and desperate, and I feel like I achieved that. 

Have you written characters where neither of them are attracted at all, at least at first? 
Yes. There are several characters in the series who aren’t attached in the beginning. Book 2 is more of an “enemies to lovers”/beauty and the beast type feel to it. Book 3 is a coming of age with an unexpected love story. 

Troy was so. dark. Completely took me by surprise. I was like, holy shit, he is a MURDERER. What inspired his character? 
All too often the sad truth hits close to home. Troy is that guy that everyone knows (or thinks they know). The one with a hidden agenda. The good-looking guy that has a closet full of skeletons just waiting to be discovered. He’s the best friend, lover, relative- that’s really a monster. But no one knows the truth… until they do. He was inspired by all the wrong in this world. It just needed a face and name. Plus I needed someone everyone could hate ;-) 

Dan, too - awful person. 
Yes, Dan’s evil came as a surprise. We all knew he was a jerk, but didn’t know just how cruel he could be.

What advice would you give to anyone out there thinking of becoming an author?
Follow your heart and your dreams. If you want it bad enough, you can make it happen. Do it for yourself!

This interview was done by MJ. You can follow MJ on Twitter and Instagram.

Shanna Swenson is the author of the Abundance series, adult contemporary romance novels that showcase the healing power of true love in the face of dark tragedy. She began writing at the age of fourteen. Shanna lives in Georgia with her husband of three years. She performs cardiac ultrasounds by day and writes every chance she gets. She fits her zodiac sign of Cancer to a T and enjoys the simple things in life. Shanna is an avid reader of good books that thrill, chill, and warm her heart. She loves supporting her fellow indies and when she’s not writing her next novel, she likes to travel, watch movies and pro-football, hike, practice Yoga, and hang out with her own “knight in shining armor”.

Her debut novel, Abundance, was published in September 2018. Book two, Return to Abundance, just premiered in January. She is currently working on the prequel to Abundance, Starlight Valley, which launches on March 9th and Book three in the six-part series, Escape from Abundance, will launch this summer. 

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Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Why Learn Music? Why Play an Instrument?

WHY Learn Music? Why play an instrument?

Why? For one thing, because it’s really good for your brain.
The Brain: Wonderful and important parts of your brain turn on when you learn to play an instrument, so you can better absorb material and retain information. It is not unlike learning a new language. 
More good news: Playing music is an art form where you can express your thoughts and feelings.
There have been numerous studies about these benefits. Play music for an hour a week and the parts of the brain that control hearing, memory and motor skills, all become more active with long-lasting results.
In order to learn an instrument successfully you have to learn how to be organized and manage your time wisely. To progress quicker, a musician has to plan different challenges to work on. Hence you become responsible for your own learning as the capacity of your memory increases.
If you learn how to play an instrument, the parts of your brain that control motor skills actually grow and become more active. By reading musical notes on the page, your brain must convert that note into specific motor patterns while also controlling breathing and rhythm as well. 
Also for many instruments, you have to be able to have your fingers and/or limbs each performing different tasks simultaneously. Think of drummers who play a trap set. Every limb is moving and keeping time in different ways.
The more advanced you become on an instrument or as a composer, you begin to be able to play what you want, however you want. Since music is an art form, you can easily play a piece and use it as an outlet for your emotions. Playing an instrument of your own will not only help you relax, but can help build confidence and give you a sense of achievement.
Health Benefits
Music has been found to reduce blood-pressure levels while other studies suggest that music therapy helps children and teens with Attention Deficit Disorder, insomnia, and depression. It can also account for a form of exercise. 90 minutes of drumming burns as many as 500 calories.
Discipline, Responsibility, Problem Solving, and Perseverance, Oh MY!
Learning to play an instrument takes time and effort, which results in the learning of patience and perseverance. To get a musical phrase or entire song down with as few mistakes as possible takes great focus and repetition since most people will not be able to play a piece of music perfectly the first time. In fact, the majority of musicians have to work difficult sections of music multiple times before they can play it correctly. Since it is such a challenge, this teaches self-discipline and the importance of maintaining a steady practice schedule.
RELAX! Come in and enjoy the show!
Music naturally can soothe not only others but the musician as well. The sound combined with the release of creativity and emotion, as well as the simple vibration of an instrument against a player’s body can significantly lower a musician’s stress level. Playing any instrument can actually help release the endorphins in your body, which will also result in reduced levels of stress.
Even after learning the simplest three chords, you have the ability to write your own song. Bob Dylan, for one, has written several well-known songs using only a few chords and there is nothing like playing a song you just learned or wrote for a friend or playing it with friends. You don’t have to be Beethoven or Mozart, you just have to have a desire to learn! In my class, these very young players know the chords and notes of G major. These are easy enough to play and create with on piano, ukulele, guitar, and recorder.
Some instruments strengthen your respiratory system. A musician will often hear his/her teacher tell them to “use more air!” Not only does this help nerves before a performance, but it also helps to make wonderful-sounding music. Musicians often need to control the amount of pressure needed to properly make the desired sound. Breathing exercises are highly recommended for musicians and will strengthen their respiratory system.
Concentration improves especially while playing a solo composition. This requires the player to concentrate on things like pitch, rhythm, tempo, note duration, quality of sound, etc.  Playing in a group involves even more concentration because the musician must learn to not only listen to oneself, but must listen to how they are harmonizing with the rest of the group. Another reason why it sharpens concentration is because of the hand-eye coordination involved. Not only do musicians have to read the music, but they have to hit the right notes! On top of that, when playing in a band/orchestra/ensemble, the musician must keep an eye on the conductor. That’s a lot of work for one’s brain.
Math skills are improved by reading and playing music. In a study performed by Frances Rauscher, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh, she found that math test scores for preschool-age students rose for those who received instruction in piano, rhythm or singing. The students who studied rhythm had the biggest gains, and she said she was not surprised. Rhythm is, after all, “the subdivision of a beat,” she said. It’s about ratios and proportions, the relationship between a part and a whole — all material you find in math classes.

When it comes to reading, Professor Nina Kraus goes on to prove that playing an instrument also improves our reading skills. “Our eyes and ears take in millions of bits of information every second and it is not possible for the brain to process all of that, so the sensory systems in our brains are primed to tune into regularities or patterns in the signals it receives. People who are musically trained are better at picking up these patterns because they learn to recognize notes and pitches within melodies and harmonies. The better you are at picking up these patterns in music, the better a reader you are. This makes sense as letters and words on a page are really just patterns.
As you can see, these are some of the benefits of learning to play music. And this is just the beginning.
Friendships can be formed as musicians learn to play together. Learning to support others in your group is paramount to a successful performance. Caring for an instrument and treating it with love and respect opens the musician up to being caring and meticulous. 
All of these skills are transferable to whatever you do and are at the root of forming solid, caring beings on planet Earth.

Alice Cotton is a professional musician, author, and artist who has been playing music and creating stories for children since the age of 8 when she bravely put her head under her father’s grand piano. With ears next to the piano strings, she listened to all its incredible sounds. Then before bed each night she would tell fantasy stories to her brother and sister. Thankfully the piano top stayed up and her stories were well received by her siblings and friends. Since then, (no surprise) a lifetime of music and storytelling unfolded. Hence, her books include The Case of the Flying Note, Adventure On A Blue Moon, Musical Tales and the Adventures of Hoody Hoody (a young girl) and Budhiem (her magical cat). In addition, Alice has been a lifelong reader of children’s literature and believes that “We are really all here to have a good time!”

Alice Cotton posts focus on children's literature every third Wednesday of the month. 

Connect with Alice:


Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Guest Post by Author Shanna Swenson with GIVEAWAY!

The Importance of Networking as a Self-Published Author, who has no clue what they just got themselves into…

“Well, I hit the publish button,” I tell my husband as I turn from the computer I’ve been glued to for the last day and a half. My hands are shaking, my shoulders are stiff and my brain is totally drained. 

“Wonderful, honey. I’m so proud of you,” he says and comes over to me for a quick kiss. 

“Thank you. Now all I have to do is wait.” 

We, self-published authors, have all been here. The moment of reckoning. The book has been “published” and is now awaiting review before receiving an email that our book is “Live”. It’s a surreal moment and a profound one at that. 
The question then is- now what? 

Now what, indeed. We’ve spent countless man hours going over and over our work with a fine-tooth comb. Writing, editing, revising, re-writing… Our betas/proofreaders/editors have given us their feedback, and we’re well on our way to getting it ready for the world to read.

There are about a thousand things we’ve done as we prepare for our book launch. Copyright, get our covers designed, made up and released, update our blogs and social media posts, send off those ARC copies, receive feedback, get posters/bookmarks made, line up book signings and events, drink lots of coffee, lose lots of sleep, miss multiple meals… But here is the moment of truth. We have made it to this stage, and our book is one step closer to being released into the world. It’s majestic! Like a beautiful breath-taking butterfly exiting its cocoon, it will soon be out and fluttering its wings among the millions of other butterflies flying around. 

So, what separates our butterfly from the rest of its kind? Sure, it’s gorgeous and its wings are shiny. It’s new and a true sight to behold. But we must get it into readers hands now. Get people interested in reading it. How do we do that?
Aside from advertising and marketing your book, which are extremely important avenues of their own, there’s one key step that isn’t highly talked about among us indies. And that’s networking. 

Networking is essential to connect with your fellow indie authors and readers. And it isn’t really explored much among the pounds of research we’ve dug through over the years as we prepare to have our books published. It’s also completely under-rated. Yeah, we are told- Build an author platform. But what does that mean if you don’t have the support you need from fellow indies and don’t have anyone backing you up? 

That’s where networking (connecting) with others comes into play. A lot of times your fellow indies become your readers too. And they become your biggest fans as well. Majority of us are readers as well as writers, so keep that in mind. 

Here are a few of the things I have learned over the short time I have been a self-published author. 

-Get your name out there: Expand your reach. Get on Goodreads, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc. If you aren’t already on social media, get on there. But don’t just post and forget it. Interact with people and fellow authors. Join groups and forums, and get to know other authors and readers. Yeah, your book picture looks great with that Valentine’s Day heart background. It’s perfect. You’re getting likes and RTs and shares and comments. But you see a fellow indie whose book is equally as beautiful next to a bottle of wine and box of chocolates. Tell her! Comment that her hard work has indeed been noticed by you. Support your fellow indies. 

-Give without asking FIRST: We all have our books pinned to our pages. They get seen, just like we see books of others. A lot of times I get an instant DM once I’ve followed someone to RT or repost their work or to buy their book. (Yes, we all have!) But seriously? I don’t even know you. Why are you sending me a message to buy your book? That seems a bit preemptory, don’t you think? Sure, we want our books to sell, but you seem to be going about it the wrong way… You haven’t even interacted with me at any point in time, so why should I buy your book? Always give first before asking for something in return. Don’t make yourself seem so desperate. We are all on the same team here. We all want our books to be read and reviewed but take a step back. You see a beautiful blue book on IG with a tiger on it or a lovely unicorn and read the excerpt an author took the time to type out on there. You like it? Reach out. Say hi. Tell them how interesting their book looks to you. Volunteer to read and review it for them. Oh, wait, you’re too busy? Well, guess what? They are too! We ALL need and love reviews, especially ones we don’t have to beg for. Nine times out of ten, they want to return the favor. And even if they don’t, maybe they know someone who loves dark romance and boom, they are going to tell that someone about your book… Look! You’ve just made a friend. Was that hard? No. 

-Don’t be shy: But you’re an introvert, you say? Guess what? A good bit of us writers are. Join the club. We have a t-shirt around here somewhere. Doesn’t mean you have to be shy on social media (wink wink). You see a game on Twitter that you aren’t tagged in, but you’re cracking up at the GIFs this fellow author is putting out there. Get in there and interact. We all have something to connect us. She’s from Green Bay? You’re a Packer fan. That’s perfect! He loves the Harry Potter movies, and you do too. There’s always something you can use a conversation point. Next thing you know, you’re GIFing back and forth and enjoying yourself so much that you start truly having a connection with this group of people and boom, you’re all in a DM together and sharing your stories and making lasting friendships. So, don’t be shy- Interact. 

-Promote others works: And lastly, don’t be afraid to share! You enjoyed that book on angels and demons so much, and your review was killer, so why not promote it? You have a website with a blog you don’t use for much else. Blog your review of it and share it on your social media platforms. It’s a win-win for both you and the other author. You get exposure, she gets exposure. Yeah, so you only have 1k followers on Twitter and 500 on IG and only a handful of subscribers to your newsletter. The thought and drive are there. You’ll get more. But only if you get yourself out there and start connecting. So… what are you waiting for? Go. Network, my friend. You’ll be glad you did!

Shanna Swenson is the author of the Abundance series, adult contemporary romance novels that showcase the healing power of true love in the face of dark tragedy. She began writing at the age of fourteen. Shanna lives in Georgia with her husband of three years. She performs cardiac ultrasounds by day and writes every chance she gets. She fits her zodiac sign of Cancer to a T and enjoys the simple things in life. Shanna is an avid reader of good books that thrill, chill, and warm her heart. She loves supporting her fellow indies and when she’s not writing her next novel, she likes to travel, watch movies and pro-football, hike, practice Yoga, and hang out with her own “knight in shining armor”.

Her debut novel, Abundance, was published in September 2018. Book two, Return to Abundance, just premiered in January. She is currently working on the prequel to Abundance, Starlight Valley, which launches on March 9th and Book three in the six-part series, Escape from Abundance, will launch this summer. 

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Monday, March 18, 2019

Book Review of Abundance, by Shanna Swenson with GIVEAWAY!!

For Natalie Cameron, misfortune came in the most unspeakable way imaginable, now she must try and rebuild her life while fighting her own dark demons, the town speculation, her arrogant brother and her raging desire for the kindest man she’s ever met. 

Natalie Cameron, along with her young daughter, Dallas, is on the run from a past that threatens to destroy her sanity. When her car breaks down on the side of a two lane Texas road, Jack Kinsen, her parent’s ranch foreman, unknowingly comes to her rescue. His kind eyes and sincere charm make him an easy target for Natalie’s trust issues and pent-up aggressions. But it doesn’t take her long to realize that her attitude towards him has a lot less to do with jealousy and a lot more to do with the fact that his closeness sets her on fire like no one else ever has. His sincerity begins to disarm the front she guards so vigilantly. If she isn’t careful, she could find herself lost to him…. 

At first glance, Jack Kinsen is fascinated by Natalie Butler Cameron and her child with her most curious gift. Natalie is the beloved only daughter of Jack’s employers and he’s not only baffled by her indifference to him but mystified by her unwarranted anger. She starts to awaken something primal within him, but will his compassionate nature be enough to break down the walls she hides behind or are her wounds simply too deep to heal? 

Just as Natalie’s fate begins to turn around, unknowing danger lurks on the horizon. Natalie's disturbing past is about to make an unexpected return...and with vengeance. 

Abundance is a charming novel that will sweep you away with romance, drama, and suspense as it expresses the depth of raw human emotion and the strength it takes to overcome tragedy.

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*We were given a copy of this book in exchange for our honest review* 

I will admit, I am not a frequent reader of romance so my review might be a bit clumsy (much like hands during passionate lovemaking... amiright?). I enjoyed this story a lot. The focus is on Natalie, the rancher's daughter who moves back home after her ex is ... well, let's just say, he is a terrible person, very much a villain; Natalie's daughter, who is just adorable; and Jack, the kind, sexy horse-training ranch hand.

Shanna does a great job of establishing character personalities and creating a build-up in the story, with nothing being given too early. You get to know the characters, learn how they would react, and what their values are. I liked how they were put in everyday situations and you got to see day-to-day life and it wasn't all based on dramatic events. Oh, and she also does a great job of making you feel awkward reading the word "erection" on a public train (do people know what I'm reading!?, I thought to myself).  

It is full romance - love, hot steamy scenes, sexual tension, hot guy, beautiful woman - and it's a well-told story, heartwarming and endearing, with strong characters overcoming devastating situations. A perfect way to escape for a little while. And if you love it, there are more books coming in the Abundance series!

This review was done by MJ. You can follow MJ on Twitter and Instagram.

I am the author of Abundance and Return to Abundance, endearing adult romance novels that showcase the healing power of love after tragedy. I was born and raised in Georgia, but my heart loves to travel. I spent many childhood summers traveling across the south to my father's home state of Texas, and I fell in love with the difference in scenery there. I read my first romance novel at thirteen and thus began my obsession for dynamic characters. I love to be enthralled in a book and feel what my characters feel. Books help you to dream, and I've always been a dreamer! 

I'm a full-time cardiac sonographer at an outpatient clinic, and when I'm not working on my next novel, I enjoy watching movies of the horror and action persuasion as well as pro football, practicing yoga, listening to the music that suits my mood, hiking, reading many different genres of books, taking photos of nature, especially sunsets, and hanging out with my own "knight in shining armor."

I'm currently working on the third book in the Abundance trilogy, Escape from Abundance. 

I support fellow indie authors, feel free to message/friend me.

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Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Book Review of Desolation (The Keystone Bone Trilogy #1)

Eons have shrouded the giant dragon in legend. Ancient myths soon become terrifyingly real…
Aea is an outsider. At age six the clan executed her father and when her mother and sister disappeared, Aea’s life spiraled into chaos.

Suddenly staggering out of the woods, broken by the deadly disease the Field Blight, her mother lays a desperate choice on Aea. To leave the protective forest realm and save her sister from mortal danger.

In a race against time, Aea puts the noose of the Field Blight around not only her own neck, but also that of her unborn child.

Before long, Aea discovers that the world of Erisdün is nothing like she imagined. Surviving the Field Blight might be the least of her concerns, as the great dragon dispatches his army to retrieve the Keystone Bone.

The bone of a God is the only component that will prevent the Arch Demon from breaking free. Powers as old as time itself are about to set the world on fire.

*We were given a copy of this book in exchange for our honest review*

There is so much I enjoyed while reading this story! Who doesn't love a good fantasy? 

This book gave me everything I could crave when it comes to fantasy; dragons, war, intrigue, and beings I hadn't seen before in a fantasy novel. 

This really set the book apart for me, as Aea is a Durian, a people who if they leave their sanctuary forest, become susceptible to the Field Blight. This really was intriguing for me as I hadn't read a novel with this type of character, so I found it as refreshing as discovering Hobbits for the first time. 

The story follows several characters, each with their own mission and journey. As they travel and move, the story begins to become more entwined, drawing the reader in. I will say, it did take me a bit at first to sort out all the information and what was going on in the beginning. As I kept reading though, the big picture came into focus, and I found myself wanting to read more. 

If you enjoy high fantasy, dragons and the like, this book really needs to be on your list.

 Buy Links: Amazon   Goodreads 

Jesper Schmidt is a Danish bestselling fantasy author who also dabbles in non-fiction. 

He is focused on helping and inspiring others, yet the art of writing was something that lived a quiet life, in the back of his mind, for many years. It was a dormant desire and, like so many of our dreams, it was placed on a list of things to do later. It was left there. Half-forgotten. For a long time. 

Every summer (well, almost) he leaves for summer vacation in Finland together with his wife and two sons. There a Finnish sauna sparked his authorship. He picked writing up from that dusty corner of his mind and hasn't stopped since. 

For new release updates, please sign up from here: (at the bottom of the page). In the process, you will also get an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the Keystone Bone trilogy.

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