Author Spotlight: Susan Harris

Name: Susan Harris

Author of: Shattered Memories; Jessie’s Girl; The Ever Chase Chronicles (Skin and Bones; Collateral Damage; Smoke and Mirrors; Night of the Hunter and Never Back Down)

From: Cork Ireland

 

Can you tell me about the first piece you remember writing? I used to write a lot of poetry as a child and make up short stories. I wrote a poem for a local newsletter about my dad and how awesome he is!

When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as a profession? I’ve always wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. When I realized that acting, my other love, wasn’t meant for me, I continued to write despite not knowing if anyone would read them!

Is there anyone who went out of their way to help or advise you during your journey to become a published author?  When Shattered Memories was selected to be published by the amazing Clean Teen Publishing, I met a wonderful person called Melanie Newton  or(NerdGirlVamp or Melanie’s Muses as she is also known) who has become one of my closest friends. She kicks my ass when I doubt myself, tells me straight out if an idea will work and is basically just an all round amazing person.  She has helped me out so many times and I feel truly blessed to call her a  friend.

Do you exclusively write paranormal romance/crime novels or have you written in other genres? I love paranormal books but I do go off when the story takes me there! Shattered Memories is a YA Dystopian and Jessie’s Girl is contemporary romance. I am currently working on a book that could be classed as Fantasy and Romance …I like to think I am open to writing anything, if inspiration hits.

What is your schedule like when you’re writing a book? Is it difficult to achieve a work, life, write balance? Juggling a work life balance is extremely hard. I work full time, write as much as I can and sometimes venture out of the writing cave to do some fun things! I hate when I get into the flow of a story and have to table it to do non fun stuff like pay bills and socialize lol

How long does it generally take you to write a first draft? How long do you spend on revisions? It takes me about three to four months to get the first draft done and then go over for revisions. Once the first draft is done, I tend to send it to my trusty beta reader who is way better at spotting my errors than I am.

 Can you describe the preparation/research you do for each book?  It does depend on the book. For the Ever Chace Chronicles, I did an online course in Criminal Psychology so that I could write true about profiling and the likes. I want it to be realistic even if the supernatural aspect isn’t. I spend hours creating playlists as music plays a very crucial part of my writing process. I’m also a very big outliner and spend a lot of time planning and preparing for each chapter…that is until one of the characters misbehaves and completely changes my entire story!

Do you have any quirky writing habits (the things you’d never want anyone to know)? I don’t think so! I know I use the same kind of pens and notebooks for each story I outline, but then again, I do have OCD so the quirks I have are just really all me lol

Have you ever done a literary pilgrimage—or any interesting research—for your novels? If not, do you have a research destination bucket list? Yes actually I have. Last year, while writing Night of the Hunter I went to Paris for a couple of days by myself. It was m=one of the best experiences of my life. I went to the catacombs, and Pére Lachaise Cemetery. All of those amazing places were written into the book and make it so much better than I could have imagined.

Inspiration comes in many forms. Can you recall the exact moment of inspiration for each of your projects?  With The Ever Chace Chronicles, I had been toying with an idea for a while and one night, I was watching Criminal Minds and suddenly thought, what would Hotch be like if he were a werewolf? And the Character of Derek Doyle was created!

Do you have a specific genre you prefer to read? What are your favorites? I love paranormal romance and fantasy. I am a big fan of J.R Ward, Laurel K Hamilton, Nalini Singh, Sarah J Maas, Darynda Jones, Rachel Vincent, Ilona Andrews to name but a few…I know I am missing some of my favorites but there are too many to name. I am, first and foremost a reader!

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find or know the real inspiration for? I do actually. When I wrote Shattered Memories, it was because I had just been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, OCD and depression and my CBT therapist thought it would be a good idea to use my conflicting emotions any convey it in a story. All of the pain, all of the isolation that Alana, the main character, was going through was what I was going through.             I also like to use funny things people have said and use them for certain characters.

Are your characters inspired—in part or whole—by people in your real life? Some are …Melanie from The Ever Chace Chronicles is based off of Melanie my friend. Alana from Shattered Memories is also based on the real Alana. Donnie from Ever Chace is based off of Tom Hardy, but that’s for purely selfish reasons lol

Name one book you think is entirely underappreciated.  Can I say my own? Lol No okay…I’m thinking, I’m thinking….Maybe any of the books by Cat Clarke…she is probably one of the only out of genre authors that I tend to read. Her first book Entangled was sooooooooooo good and A Kiss in the Dark is one of my all time fave books!

Name one book that was a guilty pleasure. The Fault in Our Stars…its john Green I have no other excuse.

Be honest: Do you Google yourself? Nope, not at all. I have no delusions of grandeur haha

As a writer, which animal would you choose as your mascot/avatar/patronus? Definitely a wolf…or werewolf to be more precise!

Is there one thing you think you, as a writer, should be better at, but secretly struggle with? Being proud of my accomplishments, I once had a teacher in school tell me I would never be a writer, and now here I am, about to publish my 6th full length novel. I think I proved her wrong many times over.

What is one word of advice you’d give to an aspiring writer?  I have a quote tattooed on my arm that reminds me everyday to stay humble and not forget why it is I have to write. It’s a Cyril Connelly quote that I also have above my writing space “Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.”  I like to think it means that if you are writing simply to get published and not because you are writing for you the there is no point in it. You have to put all of you in your writing, or else the reader won’t feel it.

What is one word of advice you’d give to a newly published author? You are doing just fine. Breath, relax, and never, ever, take any reviews to heart!

In what ways do you “pay it forward” to help other aspiring writers? I share links when asked. I’m also open to give advice though I feel completely unqualified to do so. And more than that, I am more than happy to be an ear or helping hand.

Want to know more about Susan?

 

Skin and Bones (The Ever Chace Chronicles, Book 1)

Being human in a world filled with supernatural creatures can give a girl a complex. Dr. Ever Chace wants nothing more than to be able to stand out in this crazy place she calls home. When she’s asked to consult on a case where teens are being brutalized, she relishes the chance to make a difference by helping to stop a monster. But when she’s teamed up to work alongside a sexy shifter, she ends up with more than she bargained for.
Derek Doyle has been a member of the Paranormal Investigations Team since the monsters first revealed themselves to the world. Considering he believes it takes a monster to catch a monster, he’s definitely in the right place. As a lone wolf not used to letting many people in, he isn’t prepared for the effect his new partner, consultant Dr. Ever Chace, has on him.
With a murderer on the loose, Ever and Derek will have to put their attraction aside while the hunt continues. Easier said than done… right?

 

Buy Skin and Bones from Amazon or from Barnes & Noble

 

 Collateral Damage (The Ever Chace Chronicles, Book 2)

When Derek Doyle wakes up next to a ripped-apart body, he’s terrified he’s about to lose everything he holds dear—Ever, his job, and his family. Dealing with his past has never come easy to Derek, especially since he’s too afraid of what people would think if they knew exactly what kind of monster he really is. But finding out who’s setting him up could be harder than the team thinks. As long as Derek has lived, there’s bound to be a long list of enemies.
Ever Chace has a lot on her plate. Confronted with the possibility that she is indeed losing her mind, Ever tries to push it aside as they deal with the ramifications of Derek’s past. Every new relationship has teething problems, but learning to deal with a mate who’s used to being a lone wolf has its own set of issues.
Can the team figure out how to save Derek from a swift execution? And just how much strain will the revelations put on Derek and Ever’s shiny new relationship?
Collateral Damage is the exciting sequel to Skin and Bones by Susan Harris.

 

Buy Collateral Damage from Amazon or Barnes & Noble

 

 

Smoke and Mirrors (The Ever Chace Chronicles, Book 3) 

Ever Chace is a Valkyrie, but not just any Valkyrie—she’s a Valkyrie queen in the making.
Torn between the past and present, love and obligation, Ever is terrified of saying the words that would break the curse she is bound to. Pushing Derek away hasn’t simplified things; it has only made her miserable. With her father waking, and her and Derek’s lives on the line, can she really shy away from who and what she is becoming? How long can Ever keep her past lives a secret?
Pushing thoughts of his mate aside, Derek tries to focus on the task at hand—tracking down a monster that leaves nothing but a husk behind. But Ever is never truly off his mind, even as two of his own become targets of the unsub. Can he set his personal distractions aside to keep his team alive?

 

Buy Smoke and Mirrors from Amazon or Barnes & Noble

Night of the Hunter (The Ever Chace Chronicles, Book 4)

Caitlyn Hardi is on a mission…a suicide mission. Driven by the pain of the past, she sets out to confront the monster deep in the Catacombs of Paris—the one who took everything from her. Caitlyn doesn’t care if she survives Paris. Her only concern is that the vampire who made her does not take another family from her. If dying means keeping everyone she loves safe—especially Donnie—then Caitlyn can accept that…as long as she can take her maker to Hell with her.
Donnie O’Carroll began to live the moment Caitlyn made him a vampire. Caitlyn gave him a family, a purpose, and he’ll be damned if he’s going to allow the darkness to overwhelm the woman he loves. He will fight to the end to prove to Caitlyn that love can conquer all—even if he has to die to do it.
Sacrifice, a supernatural assassin, and immortal love are on a cosmic collision course in this powerful fourth installment of the Ever Chace Chronicles.

 

Buy Night of the Hunter from Amazon or from Barnes & Noble

 

Never Back Down (The Ever Chace Chronicles, Book 5)

(Coming June 26, 2018)

Since the day that she was abandoned on the shores of Valhalla, and fought her way to be the fiercest Valkyrie, Erika has lived by those three words. There has never been a challenge Erika has backed down from; apart from Loki. But when Erika embeds herself in a supernatural fight club in the hopes that she can weed out Odin’s location, Erika will be put to the test. And when love and loyalty cause confusion, can this battle-hardened warrior finally let her guard down enough to see what’s been in front of her all along?

Loki knew the moment he clapped eyes on the beautiful warrior that she was meant for him. However, the Norse God of mischief hides a secret; he was once cursed and has shied away from his feelings to shield himself from hurt. Can he convince Erika that he’s the one meant for her, will he be forced to watch the woman he wants for himself spiral out of control?

 

Buy Never Back Down from Amazon

 

Shattered Memories

Shattered Memories is a stand alone psychological science fiction romance thriller perfect for fans of Hunger Games and Shatter Me.

A terrible tragedy forced Alana McCarthy to forget a year of her life. Now she is to be executed for a crime she doesn’t remember committing—the murder of her entire family. Lost and alone, Alana is terrified of unlocking secrets buried so deep inside her mind that she’s willing to forget the one person who could set her free.
Daniel Costello hasn’t forgotten about Alana, and he will do anything and everything to protect the girl he loves. But first, Alana needs to unlock her memories and find out the truth about what happened the night her family was killed.
The day of her execution is set. Together, will Alana and Daniel be able to uncover the truth behind her family’s deaths before it’s too late?

 

Buy Shattered Memories from Amazon or Barnes & Noble

 

 

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Writing A Second Novel

Writing a novel is so much pressure. You struggle to come up with a decent concept, struggle with world-building, develop interesting characters that will grow and evolve, make sure there aren’t any unresolved plot points and that you’ve reached the end you envisioned. Next you must edit—remove unnecessary commas, correct misspelled words, replace filtering words, hunt down the illustrious “show vs tell” segments. Then you dive into the submission pressure pool of writing a query and synopsis, researching agents/publishers and submitting. But once you’ve published that first book the pressure is a thing of the past, right?

Erm, in a word…no! 

Welcome to the Follow-Up Foibles, aka all the pitfalls that can make your second novel even more stressful than the first.

 

The fears and stressors that affect your writing during book two:

  • If you’ve got a contract/deadline for book #2 you’re under more pressure to complete your next book within a certain time frame. Luckily, I didn’t. My first novel was signed as a stand-alone and #2, though a companion novel, was developed after A Shine That Defies the Dark was contracted.
  • With your first novel you’re filled with optimism and still a blank canvas as an author. Nobody has preconceived ideas about your writing style or skill. With book 2 you have an established skill level, voice and marketability as a debut author. You can fall to the pressure of having to “prove yourself”—and the fear that each book thereafter will be used to gauge your skill as a writer.
  • With Book 2, you know now how much hard work comes after the novel is written. You know that after the soul-crushing, gut-wrenching work of writing your book is done you’ll be back in the trenches of promoting and marketing, not just one book now, but both.
  • There is an undeniable fear that you’ll disappoint your readers. What if everyone who loved book 1 are lukewarm about #2? Will you feel you’ve failed  them? Will you have failed your book? If book 2 doesn’t stand up will you have failed Book 1 as well?
  • After months (or years!) of reading, re-reading and editing book 1, you thought you were done with it, right? Well, if Book 2 is a sequel you’ll need to re-read book 1 (at least once!) for timeline, character growth, minor character reintroduction and plot line. Setting up a calendar, or event timeline that ties both books together can help so that you only must do this step once.
  • There is a great deal of stress in trying to make book #2 at least as good as the last and the paralyzing self-doubt that it isn’t even close. This fear can wreak havoc on your creativity and productiveness.
  • There is a degree of pressure in people asking when your next book will be out. While you’re happy they want more, the paralyzing self-doubt that “I’m a scam and the first book was a fluke” can impact your creative process. If I hadn’t finished my 1st novel, very few people would know. If I fail to finish book 2, well…more would know
  • Will my second book be as good a concept? Will my pacing and action balance well with the romance? Will my “steamy” scenes just seem like I recycled the ones from book 1? Will there be anything unique to the readers or will it seem like the same story with different character names in a different town?

 

The good news about the stress involved in writing book two:

  • Some of the stress is healthy for your writing. It shows you care, you aren’t taking it for granted that you’re a published author and don’t have to work so hard anymore.
  • If you’re obsessing over the details, it means you’re thinking about them. What sets this novel apart? How can I make it unique? You care about the quality of your work, which is good.
  • You don’t have to let the stress impact you in a negative way. Use it to fuel your productivity and creativity. There is nothing wrong with striving to do better. Just be sure to balance the inspiration with relaxation (take a walk, watch a movie, read a book!). Creativity is fueled in the quiet times a well as the busy ones.

When you’re done you’ll have a new book to be proud of. 

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Author Spotlight: Brenda Drake

 Name:  Brenda Drake

Author of: Analise Rising (coming January, 2019)

The Library Jumpers series: Thief of Lies; Guardian of Secrets; Assassin of Truths

The Fated series: Touching Fate; Cursing Fate; Seeking Fate (coming June, 2018)

Thunderstruck

 

Can you tell me about the first piece you remember writing?

I was eight, I believe, and it was a story about a rabbit looking for his lost carrots. It was horribly illustrated, but my grandmother loved it.

When did you first realize you wanted to pursue writing as a profession?

I always loved writing, but it wasn’t until I was home with the kids that I decided to give publishing my stories a try.

 

Is there anyone who went out of their way to help or advise you during your journey to become a published author?

My journey to publishing started out without having anyone to talk to about writing. It wasn’t until I found Twitter and blogging did I find writer friends. I guess it’s been my many writer friends and my current editors who have read and critique my work that have helped and advised me on my publishing journey.

 

Do you exclusively write books with a  paranormal/fantasy twist  or have you written in other genres?

Currently, all my books have a paranormal/fantasy twist. I love being in the fantastical. I may try other genres one day, but for now I’m happy what I write. I think that’s the most important thing. You have to enjoy what you write because other parts of the publishing journey is difficult but writing should be enjoyable.

 

What is your schedule like when you’re writing a book? Is it difficult to achieve a work, life, write balance?

I’m so off balance when I’m writing a book. It’s all I concentrate on. I’ll write from morning to night, only stopping when I have to, when something needs to be taking care of. I keep trying to follow a schedule, but it never works. I’m just not good at being hemmed into a schedule. I write when the inspiration hits me.

 

How long does it generally take you to write a first draft? How long do you spend on revisions?

It usually takes me four to six weeks to write a first draft and about a month for revisions. Then if I have time, I have a critique partner read it and revise it again.

 

Can you describe the preparation/research you do for each book?

Each book is different and has varying amounts of preparation and research. With fantasy, much of it is made up from your imagination and things come to me as I write. Mostly, I have to research real places that are in my books, maybe weapons and techniques for fighting and things like that. I do a plot graph of each book and it takes me several hours to only a few hours to plot out a story.

Do you have any quirky writing habits (the things you’d never want anyone to know)?

I have to have some sort of noise going while I write. Usually, it’s music. Sometimes it’s a movie that inspires me that I’ve seen so many times that I know what’s going on in it because I don’t pay attention to it while I’m writing. It’s weird, but I think it has to do with feeling lonely in the quiet.

 

Have you ever done a literary pilgrimage—or any interesting research—for your novels? If not, do you have a research destination bucket list?

I haven’t done a pilgrimage. My dream is to do a tour of libraries around the world. That would be the best bucket list ever!

 

Inspiration comes in many forms. Can you recall the exact moment of inspiration for each of your projects?

I can! With the Library Jumpers series it was in a book store and I came across a coffee table book on libraries. I thought how great it would be if I could jump into the photographs of each library to see them for real. For my Fated series, it was during a tarot card reading in New Orleans.

 

Do you have a specific genre you prefer to read? What are your favorites?

I prefer reading young adult fantasy. It’s my favorite, but I read in all categories and genres. For me, it’s about the story. If it interests me, I’ll read it.

 

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find or know the real inspiration for?

Yes, I do. No one has pointed them out yet, so I may have hidden them too well. Ha!

 

Are your characters inspired—in part or whole—by people in your real life?

They’re somewhat inspired by people I know in real life. I borrow traits and quirks from the people around me.

 

Name one book you think is entirely underappreciated.

I can’t think of any one book. There are so many books I feel that don’t get enough marketing behind them that should.

 

Name one book that was a guilty pleasure.

I’ve thought and thought over this one and I don’t know if it’s a guilty pleasure or not, but I loved Twilight by Stephenie Meyer.

 

Be honest: Do you Google yourself?

Yes. And sometimes it’s sad. Ha!

 

As a writer, what animal would you choose as your mascot/avatar/patronus?

I’d say an owl. They’re beautiful, quiet, and they look as if they’re always contemplating their next move.

 

Is there one thing you think you, as a writer, should be better at, but secretly struggle with?

Spelling and pronunciation. They’re my Kryptonite. After an accident, I had difficulties hearing sounds while growing up and it continues to this day. I’ll have my friends repeat a word several times so that I can get it. And I never mind being corrected because it helps me with it. I’m a little self-conscious speaking in front of large groups. I struggle, but I still do it.

 

What is one word of advice you’d give to an aspiring writer?

Learn your craft. Read widely. The key to success is perseverance. If you give up, you’ll never accomplish your dreams.

 

What is one word of advice you’d give to a newly published author?

Relax and enjoy the ride. Don’t spend too much on swag. And remember all authors get bad reviews.

 

In what ways do you “pay it forward” to help other aspiring writers?

I founded Pitch Wars and #PitMad as a way of paying it forward to others. I also mentor in Pitch Wars sometimes. Giving back to the community is rewarding and will make you life long friends.

 

Interested in learning more about Brenda or her books?

 

Thunderstruck

Stevie Moon is famous…at least to the subscribers on her comic review vlog. At school, she’s as plain as the gray painted walls in the cafeteria. So when Blake, the hot new guy at school, shows an interest in her, she knows trouble when she sees it. Been there. And never doing it again.

As the son of the god Thor, Blake Foster’s been given an important mission—to recover the Norse god Heimdall’s sacred and powerful horn before someone uses it to herald in the destruction of the entire universe. But while Blake is great in a fight, the battlefield that is a high school’s social scene is another matter.

Blake knows his only choice is to team up with the adorable Stevie, but she’s not willing to give him even the time of day. He’ll need to woo the girl and find the horn if he hopes to win this war. Who better to tackle Stevie’s defenses than the demi-god of thunder?

Get Thunderstruck from Amazon or Barnes & Noble

 

The Library Jumpers Series:

 Thief of Lies

Gia Kearns would rather fight with boys than kiss them. That is, until Arik, a leather clad hottie in the Boston Athenaeum, suddenly disappears. While examining the book of world libraries he abandoned, Gia unwittingly speaks the key that sucks her and her friends into a photograph and transports them into a Paris library, where Arik and his Sentinels-magical knights charged with protecting humans from the creatures traveling across the gateway books-rescue them from a demonic hound.

Jumping into some of the world’s most beautiful libraries would be a dream come true for Gia, if she weren’t busy resisting her heart or dodging an exiled wizard seeking revenge on both the Mystik and human worlds. Add a French flirt obsessed with Arik and a fling with a young wizard, and Gia must choose between her heart and her head, between Arik’s world and her own, before both are destroyed.

Get Thief of Lies from Amazon or from Barnes & Noble

 

Guardian of Secrets

Being a Sentinel isn’t all fairytales and secret gardens.

Sure, jumping through books into the world’s most beautiful libraries to protect humans from mystical creatures is awesome. No one knows that better than Gia Kearns, but she could do without the part where people are always trying to kill her. Oh, and the fact that Pop and her had to move away from her friends and life as she knew it.

And if that isn’t enough, her boyfriend, Arik, is acting strangely. Like, maybe she should be calling him “ex,” since he’s so into another girl. But she doesn’t have time to be mad or even jealous, because someone has to save the world from the upcoming apocalypse, and it looks like that’s going to be Gia.

Maybe. If she survives.

Get Guardian of Secrets from Amazon or from Barnes & Noble

 

Assassin of Truths

The gateways linking the great libraries of the world don’t require a library card, but they do harbor incredible dangers.

And it’s not your normal bump-in-the- night kind. The threats Gia Kearns faces are the kind with sharp teeth and knifelike claws. The kind that include an evil wizard hell-bent on taking her down.

Gia can end his devious plan, but only if she recovers seven keys hidden throughout the world’s most beautiful libraries. And then figures out exactly what to do with them.

The last thing she needs is a distraction in the form of falling in love. But when an impossible evil is unleashed, love might be the only thing left to help Gia save the world.

Get Assassin of Truths from Amazon or from Barnes & Noble

 

The Fated Series:

Touching Fate

One touch is all it takes…

Aster Layne believes in physics, not psychics. A tarot card reading on the Ocean City Boardwalk should have been a ridiculous, just-for-fun thing. It wasn’t. Aster discovers she has a very unscientific gift-with a simple touch of the cards, she can change a person’s fate.

Reese Van Buren is cursed. Like the kind of old-school, centuries-old curse that runs in royal families. Every firstborn son is doomed to die on his eighteenth birthday-and Reese’s is coming up fast. Bummer. He tries to distract himself from his inevitable death…only to find the one person who can save him.

Aster doesn’t know that the hot Dutch guy she’s just met needs her help-or that he’s about to die.
But worst of all…she doesn’t know that her new gift comes with dark, dark consequences that can harm everyone she loves.

Get Touching Fate from Amazon or from Barnes & Noble

 

Cursing Fate

There’s something strange about the Layne sisters, and Wade Diaz wants nothing to do with them. Especially the one who ripped his heart out and set it on fire before tossing it in the garbage several months ago. Iris. He can’t even think her name without unconsciously rubbing the spot in his chest where she left a gaping hole. But now her sisters are claiming some evil spirit is after his soul, and Iris is the only one who can save him. Well, at least his heart would stop hurting, right? Didn’t sound so bad.

Iris Layne has always been the sweet sister. She’s kind to everyone, including her best friend Wade… Until she makes a horrible mistake and breaks his heart. All she wants is to go back to before ‘the dumping’. Of course, Wade would rather see her in hell first. But then Iris touches her sister’s tarot cards and unleashes an evil curse intent on playing a deadly game where no one Iris loves is safe, especially Wade.

How do you convince someone they need your help when you’re the one who hurt them most?

Get Cursing Fate from Amazon or Barnes & Noble

 

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What Do I Really Know? aka- Queen of the Underqualified?

I opened my email and there it was. My first invitation to appear, as an author, and give a presentation.

My mind immediately filled with images of myself, microphone in hand, perhaps nestled into a cozy leather chair on stage as I gaze upon those who’ve come to listen intently to the carefully crafted bit of wisdom I have to offer them. That lasted about 3.5 seconds and then terror flooded through me. What wisdom?!

I’m finally comfortable calling myself an author, but what do I possibly have to teach others? What topic can I offer that won’t bore a group to tears (including my family, who I’m fairly confident would come just to ensure I do have an audience!). I’ve called all the authors that I usually badger with my neurotic–and endless!–questions (nobody answered, apparently they have lives!).

So my current list of potential topics is:

  • Pairing Snacks With Reading Genres
  • Reading To Escape Responsibility & Recreation
  • Writing: I Did It & You Probably Can Too
  • Hi, I’m An Author. Any Questions?
  • Ascertaining The Primitive Implications of the Transcendental Elegy on the Post-Modernistic Annihilist (but I think that’s for a very specific audience)

 

I’m still tossing these around, but I’m definitely open to suggestions.

 

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On Cocky Novels, Cocky Authors and #Cockygate

Something happened over the weekend. Actually the “happening” of it has been in the works for a while, it was the “blowing up” of the situation that happened this weekend.

As a disclaimer, let me say that I don’t believe I’ve read or typed the word “cocky” so much in such a short span of time as I did over the weekend (and then while writing this!).

Now, for those who didn’t hear about “Cockygate” let me offer you a condensed version (for all the dirty details you can certainly search the #cockygate hashtag on Twitter!):

Claiming Cocky

Romance author Faleena Hopkins apparently secured a trademark on the word “Cocky”. It’s not clear if her trademark is only on the word “Cocky” in a specific font or if she’s truly secured a trademark on the word in any font (which seems the case based on the registered trademark). What seems to be undisputed is that the word “Cocky”, because of her trademark, can no longer be used in any romance e-book title or series title.

 

 

Faleena Hopkins then took it upon herself to contact authors of books with “Cocky” in the title and threatened legal action (note, Faleena Hopkins NOT her attorney, sent out the threats):

 

 

 

 

The authors who were contacted were understandably upset. They’ve written books, marketed them, had them listed under the current titles for quite a while (and trust me when I say that marketing and promotion is a time-consuming endeavor!). Suddenly, this chick is contacting them, telling them they have to change the titles of their books or face legal action. Some of them reached out for support, or with questions, (I’m not sure where the actual spark came in) and an explosion erupted throughout the romance writing community, as well as the creative arts community at large. New hashtags were born (#cockygate, #ByeFaleena, #FreeCocky) and the outrage spread.

“Of all the Cocky and bull things…”

So, why is this a thing? Cocky is one word, right? Well, yes, it’s one word. One very big word (no play on words intended!) because of the implications…

First, let me say that I understand branding and that Faleena Hopkins has an entire series called The Cocker Brothers of Atlanta, and each individual book includes “Cocky” in the title. She claims that her readers were becoming confused by all the “Cocky” book titles and they were purchasing books they thought were hers, only to find out that wasn’t the case (which, a- maybe the readers can check the author name before purchasing a book they think is hers and b- you can always return a book if it isn’t what you thought you were buying…). Her claim is that she pursued the trademark to secure her branding and the integrity of her series.

Why the problem? Well, one person is taking ownership of a word. A word!! By pursuing a trademark on the word “Cocky” she has prevented any other romance author from using the word “Cocky” in their e-books. This is a big deal when you consider the genre and subgenres this affects. The romance industry, and specifically the more, erm…sexy works within that category produces a substantial number of titles every month! One of the things that draws readers in is the imagery the title creates. If you’re searching for a spicy romance novel the word “Cocky”, and its double entendre, leaves no doubt about what kind of novel you’re getting. The number of books with “Cocky” in the title is staggering. I just entered the word into Amazon as a book search. There are over 1,000 results!

Not only is Faleena Hopkins personally threatening authors, she’s involving Amazon and authors are having their book listings removed. This is an action that’s notoriously difficult and time-consuming to get reversed, even under the best of circumstances. 

 

The writing industry is, in general, one of the most supportive peer groups I’ve ever experienced. It’s full of cheerleaders, well-wishers, mentors, collaborators, and people who will, at any minute remind you that we’re all in this together. One writer (and I’m kicking myself for not saving this message!) said she was appalled to find out, upon the release of her book, that another with the same title had been released just before her own. She contacted the other author, explained what happened, and offered to change her title. The other author told her “No” and wished her the best of luck with her book.

There are a number of books in the world that share a title name: The Cloud Atlas (by both David Mitchell and Liam Callanan); Possession (by A.S. Byatt as well as Ann Rule); Forever (by Pete Hamill and also by Judy Blume); Elsewhere (by Richard Russo and again by Gabrielle Zevin) just to name a few. Imagine how quickly the word choices would dwindle if each book had to utilize unique words, or a unique combination of words.

This issue will have a strongest impact on book titles with 1-3 words, and specifically in the romance e-book trade. Though, if I were to re-title and release my own book as A Cocky That Defies the Dark (not that my publisher would go for that, lol!), I’d be in trouble.

Now imagine the implications of authors being allowed to trademark individual words.

What if a mystery author were to trademark the word “Murder”?

What if a sci-fi author trademarks the word “Space” for a title?

How long would it be until books were titled “Book #…” or “Book of…”, well at least until someone trademarks the word “Book” in a title.

This is all to say that to actually pursue the trademark of a single word in a title is a selfish move. It says that you put more value on yourself and your work than on anyone else in the world. To imagine that you’re entitled to the sole, proprietary use of a word–a word!!!!–is the most self-centered thing I’ve heard in a very long time.

And speaking of cocky….

And so, while the romance writing community was blowing up Twitter (and Facebook) this weekend, Faleena Hopkins, romance author and trademark owner of the word Cocky (which is now apparently under appeal with the US Patent Office), posted on Facebook about how she was being attacked online…while also posting this on Twitter. 

 

Doesn’t really strike me as someone who feels attacked, or even like maybe she misjudged herself a wee bit.

So, that’s the update, and my 2 cents worth, on the #Cockygate issue. The lesson I’d like to leave you with is that words are intangible things that we all use to express ourselves and to share our life experiences. Without the free use of language our ability to create and express ourselves is hindered.

Keep words free. Don’t be an asshole!

 

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Lakewater Press Holiday Blog Hop (Day 12): Susan Pape

 

For the holiday season, we at Lakewater Press thought it would be a good time to share who we are with a little holiday blog hop.

Between December 1 and the 24th we’ll share holiday interviews with our authors and the Lakewater Press staff. It’s an excellent opportunity for us to get to know each other a little better, and to give our readers a peek behind the scenes–or pages!

Perhaps you’ll even find a new blog to follow, or your next favorite book!

(Be sure to read all the way to the bottom for our holiday giveaway!!)

Today’s interviewee:

Name and LWP affiliation: Susan Pape, Author 

Your blog (url): www.bookloversbooklist.wordpress.com

Where do you live? I live on the site of an old lunatic asylum (yes, it really was called that) in Menston, between Ilkley and Leeds in West Yorkshire.

What are your chances of having snow on Christmas Day? It’s possible that Ilkley Moor (behind our house) could get a light dusting…but I don’t remember ever having ‘proper’ snow on Christmas Day in West Yorkshire.

Do you have any favorite holiday traditions? My favourite Christmasses were spent with some really good friends who lived in a converted station near Saddleworth Moor. We played games, took part in a pantomime written by the host, tried to look serious during The Queen’s broadcast, and sat down for lunch and all the trimmings – that lasted from about 1pm until 9pm. I also love being away at Christmas – Florence was a wonderful place to be, and then Cambodia/Vietnam more recently.

Egg nog: Yes or No? Ergh…no!

Are you an artistic gift wrapper or a basic “paper & tape” warrior?  Basic, I’m afraid. I’ve tried to do those classy, neatly tucked corners, but they fail me every time.

Do you have any special holiday memories that include books? Are there any specific titles you remember? Christmas seems to be a time of giving ‘joke’ or ‘improving’ books. The joke books go straight on to the shelf in the downstairs lavvy and the improving ones (Shakespearian Tragedies; London Architecture and Tony Benn’s Diaries) get put in the pile for the charity shop.

What is your earliest book-related memory? My parents were not great readers (other than Reader’s Digest) but they did have a shelf full of Graham Greene so I worked my way through those until I was old enough to get my own library card. Not entirely sure it was suitable reading for a child.

Do you write/work during the holidays? Newspapers don’t stop for the holidays so a skeleton staff was always needed to be available on Christmas Day – and throughout the holiday period. When I worked on newspapers, it was usually down to staff without kids to work over the holidays – and that was usually me. I didn’t mind too much as I could take time off in lieu when life returned to normal after the Xmas excesses.

Sue and I at an author talk we did recently

Can you share what you’re working on now? Book Three in the Friends trilogy that Sue Featherstone and I are writing together. So many ideas are bubbling right now  – and I can hardly believe this will be the end of the road for the two main characters, Teri and Lee.

What are your goals for 2018? To finish writing the third book in the Friends trilogy and then complete the murder mystery that Sue and I have already started. It takes us out of our comfort genre, so please, wish us luck.

 

The decorations in a Cambodian hotel

 

 

 

me and hubby at a masked Christmas dinner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Lakewater Press Holiday Blog Hop (Day 11): Sue Featherstone

 

For the holiday season, we at Lakewater Press thought it would be a good time to share who we are with a little holiday blog hop.

Between December 1 and the 24th we’ll share holiday interviews with our authors and the Lakewater Press staff. It’s an excellent opportunity for us to get to know each other a little better, and to give our readers a peek behind the scenes–or pages!

Perhaps you’ll even find a new blog to follow, or your next favorite book!

(Be sure to read all the way to the bottom for our holiday giveaway!!)

 

Today’s interviewee:

Name and LWP affiliation: Sue Featherstone (author)  

Your blog (url): bookloversbooklist.com

Where do you live? I live in Wakefield, just a stone’s throw from Yorkshire Sculpture Park, the UK’s leading outdoor art gallery, and the award-winning Hepworth Gallery, which together with their sister galleries – Leeds Art Gallery and the Henry Moore Institute, both in Leeds – constitute the Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle.

The Hepworth, which has been described as the museum everyone would want on their doorstep, is artistically inspiring but I prefer YSP.

Set in 500 acres of parkland, just a mile-and-a-bit up the road from me, it’s home to one of the largest outdoor collections of Henry Moore bronzes.

Frankly, some of them are a bit weird – but, unlike other outdoor art galleries, the park hosts a changing programme of exhibitions so there’s always something new to see. And, come spring, nothing beats a stroll through the beautiful bluebell woods.

Find out more at: http://www.ysculpture.co.uk

What are your chances of having snow on Christmas Day? Hopefully, slim to non-existent: other parts of the UK (Scotland, for instance) often get snow in December but, thankfully, it’s fairly rare in my part of Yorkshire. I understand the bookies have offered odds of 4/5 on a white Christmas but it’s not a bet I’m prepared to risk.

Do you have any favorite holiday traditions? Santa always used to leave a little note for my daughters thanking them for his mince pie and sherry. It was years before they recognised my handwriting…

Egg nog: Yes or No? Hmmm…egg nog is not very big in the UK although we do have an Irish cream liquer which is similar but not as virulently yellow. And tastes better too. It can be drunk neat at room temperature or some people like to add it to their coffee. I prefer it in a long tumbler, chilled with a couple of ice cubes.  Oooh, I think I wouldn’t mind a glass right now.

Are you an artistic gift wrapper or a basic “paper & tape” warrior?  Definitely a warrior rather than an artist. Prettily wrapped gifts are a joy to behold but, honestly, I just can’t be bothered. Life is too short to stuff a mushroom and it’s also too short to fiddle around with Christmas bows and ribbons.

My copy of Sad Cypress is a bit dog-eared now but still a favourite read

Do you have any special holiday memories that include books? Are there any specific titles you remember? Books are a very personal thing and, I think, a difficult gift to get right. One woman’s good read is someone else’s charity shop donation. Take Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, for instance, which I was given as a child. Please, take it: I still think it’s a huge shame Magwitch didn’t bop Pip on the head and spare us all the agony of his interminable wittering.

What is your earliest book-related memory? Well, my earliest memories of reading are at the breakfast table: corn, sugar, salt, niacin, riboflavin, thiamine…the contents of a packet of Corn Flakes. Otherwise I loved almost anything by Enid Blyton – wouldn’t you have liked to be a pupil at Malory Towers too? I also enjoyed Noel Streatfeild (Ballet Shoes, The Painted Garden), Jane Shaw (the Susan books) and Elinor Brent Dyer (the Chalet School series). As I got older I started to read some of the books on my dad’s bookshelves – Erle Stanley Gardner (Perry Mason), Agatha Christie (Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple) and Nevil Shute (The Chequer Board and A Town like Alice). My first Christie read was Sad Cypress, which I still regard as one of her best murder mysteries.

Do you write/work during the holidays? Yes – if the writing itch needs scratching, I scratch.

Can you share what you’re working on now? I was lucky enough to sell my first short story to People’s Friend, a UK fiction magazine, a few weeks ago. It will be published in their Christmas special – in 2018. I can’t wait.

The fiction editor was very encouraging and I’m hoping to write, and sell, more stories this year.  I’ve got a couple of ideas bubbling away right now.

And Susan and I are in the early stages of drafting the final instalment of our Friends trilogy. We’ve also started a murder mystery but I’m not completely happy with the way it’s going and a re-think is needed. (Must make sure I mention this to Susan before she reads it here!)

What are your goals for 2018? Professionally, I want to get the Friends trilogy wrapped up and then to knock the murder mystery into shape. I like the characters we’ve created – they have a lot of potential for development but I’m not sure we’re making the best use of them. So, there’s food for thought there. I also want to work on my short story writing and I’d like to do a bit of freelance journalism too. Personally, apart from planning a trip to Australia to visit my youngest daughter, a couple of camping holidays in France and a spa trip with my eldest daughter I’m open to suggestions. Any ideas?

The view across Lac Hourtin: we’ll be holidaying nearby this summer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Lakewater Press Holiday Blog Hop (Day 10); Samantha Alban

 

For the holiday season, we at Lakewater Press thought it would be a good time to share who we are with a little holiday blog hop.

Between December 1 and the 24th we’ll share holiday interviews with our authors and the Lakewater Press staff. It’s an excellent opportunity for us to get to know each other a little better, and to give our readers a peek behind the scenes–or pages!

Perhaps you’ll even find a new blog to follow, or your next favorite book!

(Be sure to read all the way to the bottom for our holiday giveaway!!)

 

Today’s interviewee:

Name and LWP affiliation: Samantha Alban, Staff (Assistant Editor)  

Your blog (url):  www.scalban.wordpress.com

Where do you live? Sonoma County, California

What are your chances of having snow on Christmas Day? Most likely 0%, but who knows…this year has been full of weather surprises!

Do you have any favorite holiday traditions? I love setting up the train around my Christmas tree. Last year I even bought liquid smoke for it! I was heartbroken when it broke down and I spent days trying to troubleshoot and fix the problem. After the fourth (I think) day, I finally got it working! I was so excited, I totally forgot about the liquid smoke and didn’t even find the bottle until after I had taken it down for the year. So this year, it’s all about getting that train running WITH the liquid smoke 🙂

Eggnog: Yes or No? YES!!!! (but, I drink Coconut Milk “Egg” Nog).

Are you an artistic gift wrapper or a basic “paper & tape” warrior?  Nothing says a traditional

Christmas like brown wrapping with a simple red bow. I call it “simple chic.”

Do you have any special holiday memories that include books? Are there any specific titles you remember? I always try to give a book to someone every holiday season. I could spend hours in a bookstore and even though books are available for purchase online, I still love walking into a decorated bookstore during the holiday season. And spending the time in the store, looking through all the titles and trying to find the perfect one for someone else to love and enjoy is something that I’ve always done and still love to do.

What is your earliest book-related memory? I grew up surrounded by books. I devoured them as a child. I had my own bookshelf since I can remember and it’s always been stuffed with books. I LOVED all my series books, as a child. In elementary school, I had all My Babysitter’s Club, my Nancy Drew’s, my Sweet Valley High’s, and all of my Christopher Pike’s and later on, all my King’s and Rice and Twain and Dicken’s books all along the shelves squeezed in between all my classics. My most favorite thing to do, after dusting my room (my most hated chore), was to take them all off the shelf and reorganize them. I know, mucho nerdy.

Do you write/work during the holidays? I write all year round, so yeah, I usually squeeze in a bit of time on a holiday.

Can you share what you’re working on now? I’d love to. Right now I have mucho projects, but I’m really excited about this YA magical realism I’m working on called THE MIRROR WALKER. It’s about this girl with a special ability to travel through mirrors to other worlds. (Ed. note: Samantha writes as S.C. Alban)

What are your goals for 2018? Yikes, I’ve got so many! Let’s see…to publish Book 3 in The Strega Series (Death Before Dying), clean up my 2 YA novels for querying, find two amazing books I can suggest to the Lakewater Press list, tackle a new WIP I’ve been stewing on for a while, and snag agent representation (hey, dream big or go home, right?)

 

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Lakewater Press Holiday Blog Hop (Day 9): Sam Boush

 

For the holiday season, we at Lakewater Press thought it would be a good time to share who we are with a little holiday blog hop.

Between December 1 and the 24th we’ll share holiday interviews with our authors and the Lakewater Press staff. It’s an excellent opportunity for us to get to know each other a little better, and to give our readers a peek behind the scenes–or pages!

Perhaps you’ll even find a new blog to follow, or your next favorite book!

(Be sure to read all the way to the bottom for our holiday giveaway!!)

Today’s interviewee:

Name and LWP affiliation: Sam Boush, Author  

Your blog (url):  http://cyberwarbooks.com/blog/

Where do you live? Portland, Oregon

What are your chances of having snow on Christmas Day? Nearly zero. Probably the same chances as me finding a suitcase full of cash and winning lottery tickets under a bench at the zoo.

Do you have any favorite holiday traditions? My favorite part is getting that Douglas fir through the front door. It makes the house smell like Christmas.

Egg nog: Yes or No? Yes. But I take mine with Lactaid and bourbon.

Are you an artistic gift wrapper or a basic “paper & tape” warrior?  Paper and tape. The utilitarian approach.

Do you have any special holiday memories that include books? Are there any specific titles you remember? The list of titles is long, but let me pull one memory out of the ol’ Santa hat.

It was 1995. I was living in France, an eighth grader far away from friends for a year. Generally, I hated it. Then my uncle sent me a box of books for Christmas.

It was a windfall.

English-language paperbacks cost about $40 in today’s money, and were only available in one store. Obviously, I couldn’t afford any of them. So those dozens of Philip Jose Farmer, Michael Crichton, and Orson Scott Card titles were like gold. I re-read them until they fell apart.

What is your earliest book-related memory? I wrote a Winnie the Pooh themed “book” when I was about four years old. And by “wrote” I mean I drew the pictures and dictated what I wanted it to say to my Mom. But somehow the pages got all mixed up and my Mom threw my creation into the trash. (No one recycled back then.) So, obviously I was deeply scarred and that incident led to the tortured poor-life-decision of pursuing a writing career.

And, being a parent myself now, I strongly suspect the “accident” that took down my masterpiece was an inside job. Mom, I’m onto you!

Do you write/work during the holidays? I try to spend family time with my family. But if the muse pulls me onto the dancefloor, I won’t turn her down.

Can you share what you’re working on now? It’s mostly marketing now for ALL SYSTEMS DOWN, which comes out in February. But realistically, “marketing” means scrolling through Twitter trying unsuccessfully to come up with something witty. Then drowning my failure in cheap Mexican beer.

But – and this is important – is there such a thing as expensive Mexican beer? I’m going to go out on a limb and say there is not. Coffee. If you’re going to pay too much for something, coffee is where you should spend your money.

What are your goals for 2018? My main goal is to get a lot of people to read ALL SYSTEMS DOWN. I don’t care how they get it, just so long as there are eyeballs on it.

Not literally. That’s disgusting.

 

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