Sunday, March 30, 2014

Reads - Week of March 23-29, 2014

Cruelty 4
by Edward Lorn

Earthbound Angels 1:
Oracle of Philadelphia
by Elizabeth Corrigan

Earthbound Angels 2:
Raising Chaos
by Elizabeth Corrigan

The September Series 1:
by Jack Lusted

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
by L Frank Baum
(for a Blog Read :D)

Raising Chaos Blog Tour - Giveaway!!!!!!!

Earthbound Angels 2:
Raising Chaos

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Raising Chaos Blog Tour - Interview!!

Hello, everyone!!  I hope you guys have had an amazing weekend so far. :)  This is Elizabeth's final stop at The Gal for her current book tour and I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I did.  Make sure you continue to the bottom to check out the giveaway :)

If you haven't heard of Raising Chaos, here's a little bit more about it (and you can check out my review here).

Title: Raising Chaos
Series: Earthbound Angels
Author: Elizabeth Corrigan
Release date: 2.3.2014
Pages: 303
Amazon B&N Goodreads 

When good fails, chaos rises to the challenge.

 The daily life of a chaos demon is delightfully sinful—overindulging in Sri Lankan delicacies, trespassing on private beaches in Hawaii, and getting soused at the best angel bar on the planet. But when Bedlam learns that the archdemon Azrael has escaped from the Abyss in order to wreak vengeance against the person who sent her there—Bedlam’s best friend, Khet—he can’t sit idly by.

Only one relic possesses the power to kill Khet, who suffers immortality at Lucifer’s request: the mythical Spear of Destiny, which pierced Christ’s side at His crucifixion. Neither angel nor demon has seen the Spear in two thousand years, but Azrael claims to know its location. Bedlam has no choice but to interpret woefully outdated clues and race her to its ancient resting place.

His quest is made nearly impossible by the interference of a persnickety archivist, Keziel—his angelic ex—and a dedicated cult intent on keeping the Spear out of the wrong hands. But to Bedlam, “wrong” is just an arbitrary word, and there’s no way he’s letting Khet die without a fight.

Hi, Elizabeth.  Welcome to The Gal in the Blue Mask.  How are you today?

I'm doing pretty well.  I'm excited to be here today.  I appreciate you being three early stops on the Raising Chaos tour, which is shaping up to be fantastic!

I'm glad to have you!!  Tell us a little bit about yourself.

As you know, I moonlight as an urban fantasy author, but in my "real" life, I work as a data analyst writing code and responding to requests for information.  I drive a purple Smart Car and live in Baltimore with two cats.

What kind of books do you absolutely love to read?

These days I read a lot of young adult paranormal romance.  The release of the Vampire Academy movie was super exciting to me (though also horribly disappointing).  Of course, I like the bloodlines books better anyway, because I've always been Team Adrian.  Some other favorites include Cassandra Clare's Infernal Devices, Tammy Blackwell's Timber Wolves, and anything by L.J. Smith.

What is the first book you remember reading?

Wow, so I think the first book I ever read was when I was about three.  It was about a grey tabby kitten named Nicky, and he was looking for something, possibly his mother.  The book had flip up pictures, though now I only remember the rock had a snake underneath.  Apparently I started reading it on my own, and my mother thought I had just memorized it.  But then she pointed out words to me in other books, and I recognized them.

Favorite book of all time? - other than yours, of course :)

If I'm going classics - the kinds of books you're supposed to say are your favorites - then I have to pick Emma or Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen.  (Which makes me remember I had a dream last night where Sense & Sensibility was a spinoff of Pride & Prejudice.)  But my actual favorite books are the Secret Circle trilogy by L.J. Smith.  There is no explanation for how much I love them.  I have also read the first three Black Jewels books by Anne Bishop enough times to qualify them as favorites.

What are you reading now?

I've got a few things going right now, keeping in mind that I'm writing this interview a few weeks before it will actually go live.  I've had Michelle Sagara's Chronicles of Elantra series going in the car for the last few months.  My book club is reading Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger, which I had a hard time getting into before but am willing to give another go.  I'm also reading Warm Bodies, because I loved the movie so much, even though it's kind of the ultimate case of Stockholm syndrome.  I'm working on the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer, and I'm supposed to start Foretold by Rinda Elliott next week.

What kind of things do you do when you're not writing?

These days I've mostly been baking, which my coworkers alternately love and hate me for.  I also read a lot, as you can tell from the above.  And I play tabletop role playing games with my friends like the giant geek that I am.  But, hey, being an author sometimes gets me invited as a guest to gaming conventions.

What made you decide to begin writing in the first place?

Making up stories in my head has always been something that I've done.  I made up new plots for my favorite television shows in the days before there was fanfic, and in high school, I started making up my own stuff and even wrote a (really, really bad) novel.  I always planned to write down the stories someday but didn't get around to it for years.  I did NaNoWriMo one year but got daunted by how much editing my crappy first draft needed and put it aside.  Then I was going through a bout of insomnia and had all this spare time on my hands, so I decided to use it to finally write one of my books.  And then I decided it was actually pretty good, and I should do something with it.

Do you have a special place you like to write?

I actually mostly write from my bed at the moment, which, yes, I know all the sleep doctors say you aren't supposed to do.  But I go through phases where I write at my table, or at coffee shops.  It actually depends on what computer I'm using at the moment and what setup it best lends itself to.

Where do the ideas for your books (i.e. characters, settings, storyline) come from?

I got the idea for Oracle of Philadelphia from watching the television show Supernatural.  At the end of season 2, one of the characters sells his soul to a demon, and I spent the whole summer wondering what would happen to him.  So I came up with the idea of Carrie, an immortal Oracle living in a crappy diner (because in Supernatural, an all-powerful Oracle would totally live in a crappy diner).  This then blossomed into the pilot of Oracle.

I had originally planned Oracle as a stand-alone novel, but somewhere in the story development process, I decided that Carrie needed to have fellow immortal friends.  I added the angel Gabriel and the demon Bedlam and they, particularly Bedlam, grew lives of their own.  So I decided that each of them needed a book as well.  I decided to do Bedlam first (for super-secret reasons that I may reveal when they would not be spoilers), and thus Raising Chaos was born.  I incorporated the Spear of Destiny because it had always been fascinating to me, and I had several iterations in my head of what Bedlam's quest for it would look like.  I also added two other storylines to Chaos, one because I thought it was important for readers to know what Carrie was doing during Bedlam's quest, and one because people liked Mephistopheles so much in Oracle that I wanted to give him a back story.

Which of your characters do you think is the most like you?

I added Siren, the angel of honesty, to my choir of angels as a joke side character, an exaggerated version of me if I were an angel.  People can't lie in her presence, and she's an amazing singer.  Okay, so it's just that I don't ever lie if I can help it, and I'm only a decent singer.  I'm also way more conflict-avoidant than she is, but when I describe the snarky angel of truth who is determined to do what is right no matter what anyone else thinks, my friends get what I am going for.  I even gave her my name - her real name is Zabethiel.  As I supposed was inevitable, I got really interested in the character and ended up incorporating her into the storyline.  Enough so that she gets partial narration in Chaos, and she's become my favorite character.

What can we expect from you in the future?

I've been working on a project in a new series that may or may not ever see the light of day.  I've wanted to write a supernatural detective story since the early days of urban fantasy, and I've ended up with a young woman in this 1950s style fictional world trying to solve the queen's murder.  But I promise I'm also working on book 3 in the Earthbound Angels series - Gabriel needs a book! - and I keep coming up with ideas for more and more new books there.  So hopefully you'll be seeing more about Carrie, Gabriel, Bedlam, Siren, and all their assorted cohorts for a long time to come.

Where can we find you?

My web site and blog, where you can read about my latest baking experiments and the YA books I've been reading, can be found at  (There is an "r" in the middle of that.  Leaving out the "r" will take you to the site of a professional trainer in Cardiff, who is most definitely not me.)  My twitter feed is @ercorrigan, and if you message @bedlamftw, Bedlam will respond.  You can find me on Facebook here, and you can see the Oracle of Philadelphia dream cast on my Pinterest page:  I'm still looking for a Lucifer and an Azrael, if anyone has any ideas.

This new book idea sounds great and, the whole time I was reading both of your books, I kept thinking how great your characters were and how much I wish I knew more about them, so I'm glad there's a possibility for way more books in the first place!!  I checked out your Pinterest page a few days ago and, I COMPLETELY agree with your choice for Beelzebub - I actually pictured him in my head while I was reading the story, then laughed when I saw you were too. :)

Well, Elizabeth - make sure you stop by again sometime.  I have learned a lot about you - we have a lot in common!!  :)

About Elizabeth:
Elizabeth Corrigan has degrees in English and psychology and has spent several years working as a data analyst in various branches of the healthcare industry. When she’s not hard at work on her next novel, Elizabeth enjoys singing, reading teen vampire novels, and making Sims of her characters.

She drinks more Diet Coke than is probably optimal for the human body and is pathologically afraid of bees. She lives in Maryland with two cats and a purple Smart Car.


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Another ball dropped

Even though I have a lot of fun on my blog, I take it very seriously.  It is nice little hobby and I have a great time sharing the books that I have read and loved on here, but at the same time, I feel there is a certain amount of professionalism that one has when they do something like this, especially when they choose to sign up for things like Blog Tours.

I knew before I even started my blog that I wanted to take part in Blog Tours.  They are an awesome way for authors to get themselves and their books out there and I recommend that every author utilize them, as long as you make sure the people running them know what they are doing (I have heard a horror story from one author who says that his publishing company did a poor job and actually ended up hurting his sales rather than helping them).  They can be so much fun - and are a lot easier than having to take your physical book to several bookstores all over the country.  

Since I began taking part in Blog Tours, I have had some good situations and some unpleasant situations.

Those of you that have been following me on BookLikes for awhile may remember my vent awhile back.  For those of you who don't, here's the quick story:

I had signed up to do a blog tour with a publishing company I was only slightly familiar with.  They had just opened a new "division" and I was on the schedule for their first blog tour.  It was two days before my post was due and I had heard nothing in weeks from the lady.  I was already discouraged with all the rules they have (i.e. it has to be up by 7am my time and be the top post on the blog for 24 hours - both of these were not something they tell you until after you sign up) - but they were really coming in at the last minute and I still had to create my post.   When I contacted the lady (again), she still did not have the answers to my interview questions and was full of excuses.  I ended up not taking part in this blog tour because of the fact that they were SO unorganized.  (I did, however, choose to do the Book Launch from the same company that day as I had planned because that information was sent to me in plenty of time.)

Since then, I have done a Blog Tour for said company that went well. 

I have also done two Blog Tours for another publishing company who have been absolutely amazing.  This company - let's just say that I am willing to read and do a blog tour for anything they put out because they have been so easy to work with, so pleasant, their authors have been great, and I can trust them to be organized - they let you know about blog tours months in advance so you have the information you need early in.

So why am I writing this post?  Well, another company has ... dropped the ball.

What frustrates me most about this company is that it is not a publishing company, but a company set up SPECIFICALLY to organize Blog Tours.  I signed up to do both an interview and a review of the book (because I feel they go hand in hand), but never received a review copy of the book.  A few weeks ago, I received a picture of the book cover and the author's press kit, as well as a link to the tour schedule, which showed I was only down for an interview.  On the day I received this information, I was up to my ears dealing with something else, so I just let it go, even though I feel uncomfortable doing just an interview (I know nothing about this book, other than the book description, or her writing abilities).  The lady who works for the company in question asked those of us who were slated to do an interview to send her the questions and I did so that day.  I still have heard nothing.  My concern is the fact that my interview is scheduled for THIS Monday.  I emailed her yesterday afternoon asking about this situation and have received no reply.

A Blog Tour is hugely important.  It can make or break an author.  For first a publishing company and now a company who only deals with setting up Blog Tours to ... fail ... an author just shocks me to no end.  And, from what I've read about Blog Tour companies, they charge authors for their services.  (Sounds like someone needs to get their money back.)

I have no idea what to do.

I have signed up for other Blog Tours from the same company, but my contact for those three are a different lady (who, oddly, always seems to miss the Interview part of my request instead of the Review part - you actually click on what you want on a form - her and I have laughed and laughed).  I decided to email her, explain the situation and see if she can help me.  (I hate trying to do a blog post at the last minute.  I like to have time to perfect it and make sure it looks just right.)  *fingers crossed*

Between the Bindings with Elizabeth Corrigan

Elizabeth is one of my new favorite authors - and, no, I'm not just saying that because she's making three stops here on The Gal for her Raising Chaos Tour (for more stops on the tour, click here and make sure to come back tomorrow for my interview with her :D).  She has quite a lot of talent and her books are fun, well-researched and riveting.  She also has really good advice, so Elizabeth, these are my peeps.  My peeps, this is Elizabeth. :)

Every day I ask myself one question: What do I want to get out of my writing?

In some ways, my answer never changes.  I want the same thing as every author who writes: To achieve JK Rowling level of fame.  I want to have the bestselling book series of all time, which is then made into an extended number of blockbuster movies and an international theme park.  I would like to make so much money that I can donate $1 billion to charity and still have enough left to be independently wealthy.  I want to have to write under a pen name so that people will dissociate my books from my old stuff and then still be critically acclaimed.

But.  I must accept that this is not going to happen.  Because it's less likely than winning the lottery, and a lot more work.  Even to settle for being a "lesser" Dan Brown or Suzanne Collins or Charlaine Harris is not something I can realistically aspire to.  Hope for it?  Sure.  Work hard on every book so that if it happens critics will be kinder to me than they are to Stephenie Meyer?  Absolutely.  But I probably shouldn't bet my life's happiness on it.

So, fellow writers of the world, I challenge you to ask yourself the same thing.  Short of everlasting fame and fortune, what do you hope to get out of writing?  Do you want a publisher or to self-publish?  Do you want to be able to quit your job and live off of your writing?  Or just to do well enough that your publisher picks up your next book, or that you make back your investment in self-pubbing costs?  Want a small following of people desperate for your next book to come out?  Or maybe you just want to write for yourself?

The most important thing to remember is that there is nothing wrong with any of these goals.  I think a lot of times in the writing world, you will hear "Real writers do x."  And, as in so many things in life, such absolute statements are rarely accurate.  People write in all kinds of ways for all kinds of reasons, and there is nothing wrong with any of them.  Unless maybe they're writing to incite wide-scale death and/or riots.  But I'm going to assume that you're not doing that and say that whether you're writing for money, fame, or yourself, you are writing for the right reason.

In general, if you want to be a huge success, or even a moderate success, it's going to take some work.  To get a publisher or an agent, you're going to need to get your query and manuscript in top condition.  To sell a lot of copies, or even to get a small following, you'll need to dedicate a lot of time to social media, and you'll probably want to get books out at a relatively fast pace.  And if you're self-publishing and want a product you can be proud of, you'll need to invest the money in editing and a good cover.

Two books into my writing career, I still struggle with figuring out what I want.  Some days I want to go up, up, up!  And other times I realize that I need a lot of time to write and edit, and that I don't have the social wherewithal to spend hours meeting people on Twitter.  So I try to focus on why it is that I write: I make up stories in my head, and I want to communicate them to the world.  I would love to have a large audience, but I am happy to write for the few people who do read and enjoy them.  I want to be proud of my books, and I know that means extensive editing, even when it makes me cry.  At the same time, I have to put my own well-being ahead of my books', so if doing any of these things becomes too much for me, I have every right to re-evaluate my priorities.  

So that is my #1 writing lesson: Think about why you write and don't be afraid to re-evaluate your goals as you learn more about the costs and benefits of doing so.  And in case you want a bit more advice from someone who knows a lot more than she did when she started, I offer the following:
  • Take a writing class or work with a professional editor to learn all the writing rules.  You will be judged on how well you adhere to them, even if you don't agree with them.
  • Read all the Query Shark archives before you write your queries.  Even when she makes you cringe.
  • Don't publish with a subsidy publisher or any publisher that makes you pay for part of your production costs.
  • Don't compare yourself to other writers.  Everyone has different goals, limitations, and motivations.  When you learn to do this, tell me how.
  • Never let anyone, for any reason, tell you that you aren't a real writer.
Thank you for stopping by, Elizabeth,  and I'll see you tomorrow - bright and early. :)

Until next time, y'all :) ..........   

Friday, March 28, 2014

REVIEW: Oranje

September Series 1:
By: Jack Lusted

Genre: Science Fiction, Space Opera
Publication date: 2.21.2014
Pages: 386
Amazon link: Oranje 

Date read: 3.27.2014
Recommended by: Read 2 Review

Summary: The fate of billions will rest in the hands of a few.

In the region of September, the planet Oranje has been devastated, its population wiped out in a merciless attack.

The rest of September is distracted by the imminent war between the Arausio Republic and the Union of Nine, blind to everything else. Only the Curators, reclusive protectors of the Net that connects all of humanity, know the truth. Oranje is just the prelude to a full-scale invasion.

There is only one option: they must send out the Three to warn September, if people will listen. Few trust the Curators, but there are some, tired of the wars between the Union and the Republic, who can help stop this threat.

If the Three fail, all planets will suffer the same fate as Oranje. The future of September is in their hands.

My thoughts

The cover is what originally caught my attention and seeing that it was a sci-fi, I had to grab it up.  It was the prologue, however, that drew me in.  The story was fun and full of adventure.  The unexpected twists began right from the beginning.  On top of all that, the book is well written, but done in a way that most people do not - telling most of the story through conversation.  I was a little concerned about this at first, but it seemed to flow very well.  I can't wait to read more of this series.  

Raising Chaos Blog Tour - Double Review

Earthbound Angels 1:
Oracle of Philadelphia
By: Elizabeth Corrigan

Genre: Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Paranormal
Publication date: 3.20.2013
Pages: 222
Amazon Barnes & Noble 

Date read: 3.26.2014
Recommended by: Red Adept Publishing, R2R

Summary: Carrie works at a diner in South Philadelphia, dispensing advice to humans and angels wise enough to seek her counsel. But there are some problems that even the best advice can’t solve.

Her latest supplicant, Sebastian, is unique among those who have sought her aid. He sold his soul to a demon in exchange for his sister’s life, but his heart remains pure.

Carrie has lived for millennia with the knowledge that her immortality is due to the suffering of others, and she cannot bear to see another good man damned when it is within her power to prevent it.

In order to renegotiate his contract, Carrie must travel into the depths of hell and parley with the demons that control its pathways. As the cost of her journey rises, Carrie must determine how much she is willing to sacrifice to save one good soul.

My thoughts

From the moment I heard about this book, I knew I wanted to read it.  When the email came from Red Adept Publishing about the Raising Chaos Tour, I jumped at the chance, now having a reason to spend $5.99 on this book.  Boy was I surprised when I received the information from the tour and it included BOTH this book and Rising Chaos (thanks guys!! :D).

This book was every bit as good as I thought it would be - and then some.  It is one of those books that I just could not put down - and if I could rate it over 5 stars, I totally would.  One of my favorite books of 2014 so far (and this is impressive since I've read over 100 at this point).

Angels, demons, an oracle who knows what's going on in other people's minds - a new look at not only the characters, but also some Bible stories that I know quite well (i.e. Cane and Abel).  Her character build up was amazing.  The book was well researched and those Bible stories - very uniquely re-written.  Every page keeps you wanting more and the choices of the different characters throughout were ones that I didn't expect.  I like the way the flashbacks are done as well - very smooth.

Let's talk about characters.  When it comes to the heroine - I either absolutely love them or completely despise them (usually the ones I hate are the ones that everyone else seems to love - I get frustrated with the beautiful, can't see how gorgeous she really is, everyone fawning all over her, acts ditsy heroine that seem to be in a lot of books these days).  Carrie is amazing!!  She's intelligent, has been through a lot and is willing to do what she has to in order to make things right.  There are no silly love triangles either, which is a definite plus.

My favorite character by far is Bedlam.  He cracks me up, makes me think and I don't think the story would have been near as good without him there.  Him and Carrie just have a chemistry that is very well written and throughout the story you feel like you're actually there in the room watching as the conversations and events take place.  

It is very rare for me to love every character in a book, but in this book, every single one is so well-written that you just can't help it.  Even the "bad guys" have endearing qualities and there were several that I wish I could have known more about.

An excellent book that I recommend to everyone.  It has a little bit of everything for everyone - fantasy, scary moments, adventure, action...

Earthbound Angels 2:
Raising Chaos
By: Elizabeth Corrigan

Genre: Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Paranormal
Publication date: 2.3.2014
Pages: 303
Amazon Barnes & Noble 

Date read: 3.27.2014
Recommended by: Red Adept Publishing, R2R

Summary: When good fails, chaos rises to the challenge.

The daily life of a chaos demon is delightfully sinful—overindulging in Sri Lankan delicacies, trespassing on private beaches in Hawaii, and getting soused at the best angel bar on the planet. But when Bedlam learns that the archdemon Azrael has escaped from the Abyss in order to wreak vengeance against the person who sent her there—Bedlam’s best friend, Khet—he can’t sit idly by.

Only one relic possesses the power to kill Khet, who suffers immortality at Lucifer’s request: the mythical Spear of Destiny, which pierced Christ’s side at His crucifixion. Neither angel nor demon has seen the Spear in two thousand years, but Azrael claims to know its location. Bedlam has no choice but to interpret woefully outdated clues and race her to its ancient resting place.

His quest is made nearly impossible by the interference of a persnickety archivist, Keziel—his angelic ex—and a dedicated cult intent on keeping the Spear out of the wrong hands. But to Bedlam, “wrong” is just an arbitrary word, and there’s no way he’s letting Khet die without a fight.

My thoughts

In this one, Carrie (Bedlam calls her Khet) has moved on to a new town, a new job and changed her name and, as usual when she's done this throughout the thousands of years she's been alive, she doesn't let her best friend Bedlam know where she's gone, wanting to enjoy the little bit of Bedlam-free time in a new place before he finds her (a game that they play).  Even though this one is still centered on Carrie, it's mainly focused on Bedlam and the adventure he sets out on to save Carrie's life.

This book is a lot of fun and I love it as much, if not more, than the first one.  You learn a lot more about Bedlam and other characters, PLUS it switches Point of View, which is done very well, as were the flashbacks that gave you more information about the individual characters.

In this book, I especially like the way that they use the Spear of Destiny and all that he has to do to prove that he is worthy.  The ending was not at all what I expected when I began this story, but I loved every minute of it.

I really would like to read more about these characters so Elizabeth, if you have more of this story in you, please - PLEASE!?!?! - write it. :)

Elizabeth will be back to visit me two more times over this blog tour - once for an interview and once on Between the Bindings.  I am so excited because she is a really interesting and talented lady.  To find out more about the blog tour and it's other stops, you can check out the blog tour page on Red Adept Publishing here.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Reads - Week of March 16-22, 2014

Grimm Fairy Tales: Oz
by Joe Brusha

Kitty Genovese
(audio book)
by Kevin Cook

Words of Wisdom in the Time of Jane Austen
by Patience Pennywood

(Note: I hit my goal of 100 reads for this year earlier this week.   can't wait to see how much more than that I can do by the end of this year. :D)

Saturday, March 22, 2014

REVIEW: Rocky's School Play

Rocky's School Play
By: Mike Hansen

Genre: Children's Books
Publication date: 1.15.2014
Pages: 31
Amazon link: Rocky's School Play 

Date read: 3.14.2014
Recommended by: Brian Schwartz

Summary: Rocky the dog is back with a brand new set of exciting adventures! When Erik the Labrador falls ill, there is nobody to take the lead role in the school play, but with a little help from his teacher, Rocky overcomes his fears and saves the day! Come share this story filled with love, friendship, and life-lessons sure to thrill readers of all ages. Spend time with old friends like Tank the bulldog and Leo the cat while making new friends like a wise mouse named Michelle. Mike Hansen has done it again with another 'nothin' but net' goal with Rocky's School Play.  

My thoughts

I was contacted via email by a gentleman from PubReview who had seen that I did a review of a children's book on Amazon and wondered if I would be interested in reading this one as well.  In this email, he told me about the free promotion on Amazon.  It looked really cute so I picked it up.

There was something wrong with the file I received from Amazon and, even after removing it from my Kindle and re-downloading it as suggested, it was impossible to read there.  I was, however, able to read it via my Cloud Reader.

Such a cute book.  And really great lessons taught.  I liked it.  I shared it with some little ones and they loved it too, especially Michelle the Mouse "because she's really smart."  I definitely recommend it. :)

Favorite character: I liked Michelle the Mouse as well :) 

REVIEW: There's a Mouse Hiding in This Book

There's a Mouse Hiding in This Book
Benjamin Bird

Genre: Children's Books
Publication date: Coming 9.1.2014
Pages: 32

Date read: 3.14.2014
Received from: NetGalley (Read 2 Review)

Summary: This Tom and Jerry interactive picture book holds a surprise on each page! Where is Jerry hiding? On the title page, on the back cover, or somewhere in between? Little readers will howl with delight each time they open the covers and try helping Tom find the mischievous mouse. Perfect for storytime.

A light, quirky "meta-fictional" picture book series using the well known, timeless characters of Tom and Jerry. Young readers will whoop with delight at the story and artwork, but parents and caregivers will also appreciate the humorous and gentle introduction to the process of reading and the parts of the book.

My thoughts

This is a Tom & Jerry book reminiscent of There's a Monster at the End of This Book with Sesame Street's Grover (one of my favorite Sesame Street books).

It's a fun book, so cute, but I would have liked to see it longer i.e. a few more ways for Tom to get the reader involved with catching Jerry.

I shared this with some toddlers and they got a real kick out of shaking the iPad and taking part in this book. :) 

REVIEW: The Amazing Monarch

The Amazing Monarch
By: Windle Turley

Genre: Nature & Wildlife, Photography
Publication date: 12.10.2013
Pages: 116
Amazon link: The Amazing Monarch 

Date read: 3.15.2014
Received from: NetGalley (Read 2 Review)

Summary: In The Amazing Monarch, author and photographer Windle Turley chronicles the life cycle of the monarch butterfly. Replete with page after page of full-color photographs, the book shows the monarch’s rarely captured destination wintering grounds. The contrast of the orange and black pops off the page as the reader goes on a visual tour in the high mountains of Mexico. The multifaceted work also contains poems and quotations focusing on the beauty of these tiny animals that weigh only.02 of an ounce.

With carefully researched text and consultation with leading entomologists, The Amazing Monarch tracks the monarch’s migration and interesting life spans. Amazingly, this migration only takes place every three to five generations, but somehow, by the last week of October, they arrive at the same small groups of oyamel fir trees their ancestors populated the year before. The handful of roosting sites, located at about 10,000 feet altitude, each may contain 20 to 30 million monarchs in a single site only a few acres in size.

After their stay in Mexico, it is crucial to head north to get back to Texas and Louisiana and specific types of milkweeds to lay their eggs during a critical three-week period. If the monarchs reach their destination too early, frost on the milkweed could kill the eggs. A late arrival may mean the milkweed is no longer succulent.

Returning from Mexico, the fourth or fifth generations will now have lived nine months, and before dying, will lay eggs during the last two weeks of March. A female will lay 400 to 500 eggs during her lifetime, and primarily on only one type of milkweed plant, but only a small percentage of eggs will actually survive to become adult butterflies. The offspring of the first generation travel on to Kansas and Tennessee during April where the female will again lay her eggs and die, after having lived only 45 to 60 days. The process continues to South Dakota, Iowa and Wisconsin in May and the Great Lakes and Canada region in June. But the fourth or fifth generation will not breed, lay eggs, or die; instead, they head south in the late summer.
Granted almost unprecedented access by Mexican wildlife officials, Turley photographed the insects in their natural habitats at their sanctuaries in Los Saucos near Valle de Bravo, State of Mexico and at the Sierra Chincua Sanctuary near Mineral de Anganguo, State of Michoacan—areas unknown to outsiders until 1975.

My thoughts

(I read this on my computer because the file that I was sent from NetGalley would not open on my Kindle.)

I am fascinated by butterflies.  They are truly beautiful creatures and this book captures the beauty of the Monarch in all the colorful photos included inside.  I especially enjoyed the quotes and little stories peppered throughout the book.  At the end of the book, the author very eloquently tells of the life and travel of the Monarch.  A really great book.  I'm glad I picked this one up.

Between the Bindings with CE Martin

I have had many interesting conversations with Charles, so how could I not ask him to be a part of this?  After reading what he had to contribute, I am glad that I asked him.  He may not feel like he has a lot of knowledge, but I found his words very helpful. :)

When I was asked to do this, I was a bit hesitant.  I'm no expert.  Heck, my novels have been seen by less people than Bigfoot.  At best, all I can do is share my ongoing struggle.  I figure I'm no more than a few hundred yards down the road of self-publishing from most of you reading this.  Feel free to pass me.

I first wanted to become an author back in the 1980s.  I was hooked on The Destroyer series by Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir - it's a groovy Men's Adventure series about a super assassin who works in the shadows to keep America safe from all sorts of nasty menaces.  Basically, Science Fiction Kungfu.  With lots of political satire.

Anyways, I embarked on my authorly journey.  I had written some stuff before for fun, but now I wanted to write as a career.  Unfortunately, I never seemed to get past those darn slushpiles.  Over the next twenty years, I would try, fail, try, fail, take a few years off, rinse, repeat, etc.

In the early 2000s, I decided to try nonfiction, writing about my career as a crimefighter (that sounds cooler than saying I'm in the Criminal Justice career field).  I landed a contract, wrote a book ... and got cancelled.  Argh.  The publisher had to cut back on their over ambitious line and I got the axe.  No advance, just a tomahawk in the back.

I turned to blogging.  This was fun.  Then in 2011 or so, I discovered Amazon Studios.  I love movies, so writing a screenplay seemed like a no-brainer.  I did two: one was about a mailman who learns he comes from not one, but two family lines of werewolves, and has to accept this to fight zombies when they attack his suburban home.  Pure schlocky cheese (I love B Movies).  Next, I crafted a more grownup, Young Adultish movie, carefully studying elements all of them had and meticulously planning it out.  I even recycled old characters from two decades prior.

Then I found out about self-publishing.  I was floored.  I had missed the rush of self-publishing and would have to put it in overdrive to catch up.  This was extra infuriating as in the late 1990s, I had tried making my own e-book, offering it for free on a webpage where folks could pay if they liked.  My homage to shareware.

Almost two years later, and I am still writing, and have learned a lot.  More importantly, I am selling.  Not enough to quit the day job or buy a mid-life crisis sportscar, but enough that I see I might actually have a future in this self-publishing thing.  Eventually.

So here's what I have learned:

1. Write what you like.  Meaning, actually write.  Yes, you can research, outline and plan, but the key to self-publishing is product.  No one is going to pay you until your novel, short story, etc is actually done.  If it's going to take you two years to write, it sounds more like a hobby than a sidejob.    And make no mistake, writing is a job, like landscaping, painting houses, etc.  It can bring in beer/pizza money or turn in to a full-time gig.  By writing what you enjoy, you can crank out a finished product, stay motivated and have fun doing it.

2. Volume!  I'll give you two names of indie authors I have personally watched grow to hugeness: Elle Casey and Russell Blake.  Each of these authors started small but now sell really well.  Their secret?  Lots of books.  Elle Casey writes one a month (I suspect she is a cyborg).  Mr. Blake does one every six weeks, if memory serves.  The more you have, the more you can sell.  Imagine if you had a restaurant that only served one dish.  You wouldn't have near as many customers as if you offered many dishes.  And don't think you can't do it.  Ms. Casey has a husband, kids and was teaching and managed to write one novel a month (hence my cyborg accusation).  I've got two kids, a wife and a day job I don't particularly enjoy, but I'm able to do each of my cheesy pulp novels in about a month or two's time (I slack between novels).  It can be done, and even better, the more you write, the easier it gets.

3. Serialize them!  If someone likes something, they want more of it.  McDonald's is built on this premise.  They don't expect you to come once in your lifetime, they expect you to keep coming back.  Novels, and more importantly, characters, are no different.  Nearly all the books I loved growing up were serials.  Tarzan (yes, there's way more than one book), Doc Savage, Retief, Xanth, and finally, The Destroyer.  If you look at the really successful indies, you're going to see series.  Yes, you can do trilogies, but the key is, you're giving the reader what they want - more.  And, when you do a sequel, half the work is done - you've already figured out your characters.  How they talk, their quirks, their mannerisms.  You can develop them more, or not.  But in any event, you've got a huge jump on starting from scratch.

4. People want your money.  And by people, I mean the thriving industry that feeds off aspiring authors.  Freelance Editors, Freelance Cover Designers, Freelance Formatters.  They are all there to let you spend money making your book, or making your book better.  You aren't alone.  Oh, sure, if you want to totally DIY it, you can.  But if you lack graphic art skills, or have no idea what a .mobi or an .epub file is, fear not.  Well, maybe fear a little.  As in the days of vanity publishing, there are some unscrupulous sharks out there ready to devour your wallet.  Shop around.  Compare prices.  But rest assured, you can buy help.

5. Advertising is key.  I hate promoting.  I am the world's worst salesman.  I couldn't sell water to a thirsty man in the desert.  It's just not me.  Alas, that makes selling my books difficult.  You see, there are MILLIONS of other indie novels out there.  No one is going to sift through all of those online to find your work.  You have to find a way to reach your target audience.  This is done by advertising.  Maybe posting on Facebook or Twitter, or hanging out in Forums and telling anyone who listens you write.  Or you could cut past all that and look into (or similar services).  Readers sign up for a daily email telling them about new books.  I finally got my first Bookbub (they are notoriously picky) and it made a huge difference.  People have actually read my stuff now.  And that means dollars.  Dollars I can reinvest - in more ads, in editors, proofreaders and maybe even cover designers (although I enjoy doing my own).

Wow, five things - that's it?  Well, yeah, that's pretty much it.  And your mileage may vary.  You might be incredibly lucky and sell a bazillion copies of your first book without trying.  Or you might plug away for a couple of years, writing to a niche market that hasn't fully embraced e-books.  You can never tell.

Okay, one more tip.  If you need to know anything about indie authoring, ask.  Ask other indies (and they prefer that to "self-publishers").  In the nearly two years I've been trying this, I have found indie authors to be a very helpful and supportive crowd. even has a Writer's Cafe for us, that has some amazing people.  I challenge anyone to pose a publishing question there that can't be answered.  And, you get to watch folks like Elle Casey and Russell Blake start off slow and become giants.  That is always cool and aspiring.

So, you want to be a writer?  Then write!  It's not that hard, and with millions upon millions of readers, no matter what you write, someone will be interested - if you can just find them.

See, great advice!!  Thank you so much for being here.  

Until the next time, y'all ....... :)