January 18, 2017

New Release - Fading Into the Shadows by Kelly Hashway

I'm excited to share Kelly Hashway's newest release:

When sixteen-year-old Ella Andrews’s best friend, Avery, goes missing, she’ll do anything to get him back—starting with punching the no-brain cop who couldn’t care less about the disappearance.

Ella’s convinced Avery’s been kidnapped, and she tries everything to find him—even following a strange shadow to another world where the constellations are real-life figures in the sky. But three star groups have fallen and are destroying the world.

The fallen constellations are not the only enemy. Melanie, the princess of Stellaris, is forcing Ella, Avery, and an army of other kids kidnapped from their world to fight the rogue constellations, even as the land is draining away their life. The longer they stay, the more they fade into substanceless shadows—a fate worse than death.

Buy Links: 

Happy reading!

January 16, 2017

January #InkRipples – More Book Covers

This month I’m exploring the making of a book cover. So far this month I’ve shared the progression of a couple covers as I worked with digital artists and I shared my experiences working with an illustrator. This week I want to share the experience of covering a series.

Even though I have The Weaver Tales series, it didn’t start as a series, so I didn’t go into it knowing the covers had to relate. Plus each of book in The Weaver Tales series is a standalone. When it came time to work on a cover for King of Bad, book 1 in my Super Villain Academy series, I knew that there would be more books with the same theme. But I still didn’t understand what it meant to make the covers look like a series. Not really.

I would love to say that I approached the cover of King of Bad knowing how the over all story arc would progress over the next two books. But I mostly didn’t. Instead, I approached King of Bad with my blinders on. Looking only at the single book and it’s single cover. The only suggestion I had was that I wanted his super power abilities of fire and ice represented somehow. When I got the resulting cover I was super happy! Isn't the ice beautiful?

Final Draft

Then I wrote the second book, Polar Opposites, and started working with a different cover artist. I worried that a different artist wouldn’t be able to mesh the covers. Turns out it was almost my fault that they didn’t mesh. I gave her all the wrong information. She sent me this great mock up of a boy looking out over a desert scene, an adobe building all but camouflaged in the sand. It was a great cover, but the boy looked too young even though he faced away from the camera and the scene just didn’t say super powers at all. I wish I had a copy to show you, but I must have deleted it. I regrouped, revisited the King of Bad cover and realized that I was over thinking it. We needed Jeff’s nemesis, Set on the cover of Polar Opposites and his super powers control weather. This remains my favorite cover to date. The back cover is pretty too.

Final Draft

1st Draft
I wish I could tell you how easy the cover of Super Bad was, but again I was over thinking it. Plus I had yet another new cover artist, so she didn’t have the previous experience to tell me I was over thinking it. I talked too much and too much was happening on the first draft. That was when I realized that I needed to KISS (keep it simple, Stupid) and I told her who should be on it and what super powers play a part in the epic final scene. We went through a few more drafts trying to find the right balance of powers before she struck a great balance. The feminist in me is happy to have a girl with powers on a cover!

Final Draft
I have plans to write another trilogy with these characters, but I think I’d go in a different direction with the covers. Though still keep it simple. Granted, the publisher could put a kibosh on my ideas, or I may not have a publisher at all, or, well, we’ll see if it ever comes together.

You can pick up any of the books in this series or a three book bundle. Visit my website for links, www.kaistrand.com.

What element grabs your attention on a cover? Fire? Lightning? Rain?

#Inkripples is a themed meme hosted by Mary Waibel, Katie L. Carroll, and Kai Strand posting on the first Monday of every month. To participate compose your own post regarding the theme of the month, and link back to the three host blogs. Feel free to post whenever you want during the month, but be sure to include #inkripples when you promote so readers can find you. The idea is that we toss a word or idea into the inkwell and each post is a new ripple. There is no wrong interpretation. Themes and images and more information can be found here.

January 9, 2017

January #InkRipples – Book Covers Continued

This month #InkRipples is talking about book covers and I’m exploring the making of a book cover. Last week I shared the progression of a couple covers as I worked with digital artists. This week I want to share the experience of working with an illustrator. Oh my gosh! So cool. (It’s all cool, actually, but whatever.)

My first published novel was The Weaver, published by Guardian Angel Publishing, a publisher of books for children from 0 – 12. The majority of the books they publish are picture books, which require heavy illustrating, but my book was a middle grade novel – no illustrations required. Or so I thought. The publisher paired me with illustrator K.C. Snider for my cover art, because we live close to each other.

K.C. invited me to her house to see her studio. Then we went to lunch and talked about my book and what I might want on the cover. Keep in mind this is my first book. I’ve never collaborated over a cover before. Never thought about what a cover should look like. Never expected to have input on the cover. And finally, was pretty star struck to be having lunch with an illustrator/established fine western artist.

K.C. had just been in St. Louis visiting the publisher and when she was there the publisher mentioned that I wanted a house on the cover of my book. Turns out, my publisher used to be in real estate and sold a house in St. Louis that she thought fit with the old-timey, village-y feel in my book. So they went and took some photos of the house and K.C. shared them with me over lunch. She said there should be something child-like on the cover as well. I mentioned there was a gnome-elf character in the story and shared his physical description with her. A few weeks (maybe) later I got a mock up of the cover.

This was the full art. Some would wrap around the back of the book. The publisher still had to add the title and my name. She tried a few different treatments with the lettering before we settled on the woven look. I'll be honest, I geeked out over each step. Here's the final:

A couple years later my standalone novel became a series with the impending publication of The Wishing Well. Suddenly we needed to collaborate on another cover. When K.C. asked me if I had a house in mind I said, “As a matter of fact…” There is a house in my town that I’ve always loved because of its old timey feel. I knocked on the front door one day and asked, “Can your house be on my next book cover?” The owners were thrilled.

Finally, it came time for the third book in the series, The Lumpy Duckling, to get a cover and I didn’t have a feel for that one, but all I had to do was look around my own home. I love houses. Cottages to be specific. I have Thomas Kincade plaques, paintings of quaint farm scenes, and miniatures all around my house. So, I took pictures of my favorites and K.C. combined elements of them to make an idyllic scene. The only change I suggested was to have an ugly duckling somewhere in the scene. K.C. was happy to add a duck family with their ugly duckling offspring (You have to get the print copy to see this little addition.)

For me personally, there are two really great aspects to working with an illustrator. 1) K.C. is a wonderful person and I respect the heck out of her talent. We’ve done many, many school visits and book signings together. I’m so happy to know her. 2) I own the original art to the first two covers. (Cripes! I really need to get the art to Lumpy!) It is really cool to have that hanging on my wall. I can’t even tell you how cool that is.

The Weaver Tales books are available in ebook and in print. You can find links to all major retailers on my website, www.kaistrand.com.

Do you have favorite illustrated cover art?

#Inkripples is a themed meme hosted by Mary Waibel, Katie L. Carroll, and Kai Strand posting on the first Monday of every month. To participate compose your own post regarding the theme of the month, and link back to the three host blogs. Feel free to post whenever you want during the month, but be sure to include #inkripples when you promote so readers can find you. The idea is that we toss a word or idea into the inkwell and each post is a new ripple. There is no wrong interpretation. Themes and images and more information can be found here.

January 2, 2017

January #InkRipples - Book Covers

Welcome to the New Year and a new year of #InkRipples. This month we are talking about book covers.

I have a thing for book covers. As a matter of fact, I have folders on my computer where I store the jpgs of each book I read. It makes me remarkably happy to open those folders and browse the images.

Have you ever wondered how the book covers come together? Each one happens a little differently, but some of the general rules are that the author gives the artist some basics about the book’s theme, the characters, the setting, any key item, etc. The artist designs a mock up and asks what the author thinks, the author says what they like and what they don’t like and the artist makes appropriate changes.

I know, you’re probably falling asleep by now. Such a clinical explanation. So guess what? Each Monday in January I’m going to share with you the progression of some of my very own covers. You’ll get the behind the scenes look at how the covers came together.

Today let’s start with two of my middle grade novels.

1st draft
Save the Lemmings With this novel I had a pretty clear view of what I thought should be on the cover. I expressed the desire to have a school girl surrounded by media. I was super excited with the first draft even though there were things that had to be changed, most expressly, Natalie’s hair color.

2nd draft
Notice how the images in the mock ups are fuzzy. It’s because the image hasn’t been purchased yet. Good thing, since we changed it a couple times.

3rd draft
You’ll notice the sweater changes and then goes back again. I might have been pretty obnoxious about the fact that Natalie is a priss and I wanted that to be evident from the get-go. Featherweight was great to work with on this cover and I love the final image.

Unfortunately this book never had great sales and the rights have already reverted to me. One day I’ll repackage the story and republish it. But for now I still have a few print copies available with this awesome cover. You can buy a signed copy direct from me.

Final Draft

Beware of the White
This book I had NO clue about the cover. So when asked what I envisioned I was like, “Uum…IDK. This is what Terra looks like. There is a scary bad guy who looks like ‘this.’ He is a death janitor.”

1st Draft
When I got the first draft I was like, “OOOOoooo.” But there were two things that struck me as not right. One I didn’t want another blue book cover. I had two other covers with blue or blue/green themes. And more importantly, I thought it gave the feeling that the story was scary. Which it isn’t. Though I LOVE the feet and arm sticking out of the janitor's cart. *Snort* Anyway, I shared a little more with the artist about the story, like how the underground city Terra protected is bright – all the colors of the rainbow - and peaceful. The poor artist could not find a good Terra, and finally asked me to look for one. I found a girl that was perfect looks-wise, but wore a hood in all the photos I found of her. The clever artist was able to remove the hood and use her. The new color scheme also made me super happy. It even ‘pops’ in thumbnail size. So after a couple minor changes, the final draft was very satisfying. This book is available in eBook.

Final Draft
So see how even though all the original drafts are great, an artist and author work together to try to best represent the story inside the cover?

Come on back next week and I’ll share more collaboration stories.

In the meantime, what tends to draw your eye when you are browsing books? People? Weapons? Serene settings?

#Inkripples is a themed meme hosted by Mary Waibel, Katie L. Carroll, and Kai Strand posting on the first Monday of every month. To participate compose your own post regarding the theme of the month, and link back to the three host blogs. Feel free to post whenever you want during the month, but be sure to include #inkripples when you promote so readers can find you. The idea is that we toss a word or idea into the inkwell and each post is a new ripple. There is no wrong interpretation. Themes and images and more information can be found here.

December 28, 2016

Goal Time - My 2017 Finish Lines

This is the time of year I reflect and then look forward. Usually. Last year I purposefully avoided the big think. I was in such a bad place in my writing life. I didn’t want to look back because that was what opened the dark hole in my head. I didn’t want to look forward because I really didn’t care if I ever wrote another word. So I went into 2016 without any goals. Without a plan. Without guilt. It was AMAZING!

Now as we approach 2017, I’m excited to say that I’m writing again. I completed two new manuscripts in 2016 – quite surprising actually. To be honest, when I see that sentence, “I completed two new manuscripts in 2016” I think, Holy sh*t! I did?! Oddly, I now have a new set of problems. What to do with them. However, this post isn’t about my screwed up writer’s head, so I’ll simply say I keep changing my mind as to what my next path will be in the world of writing and because of that, my career is still pretty halted. As hard as it is to have two completed manuscripts doing nothing for me, I really want to follow a plan, so until I figure out what that is I’m restraining myself from acting on all of the knee jerk thoughts that flit through my cluttered mind.

I’m working on finishing a third manuscript and already have the general outline of the next book in that series. The writing on this one is slow, but I plan to put a big dent (dare I dream of finishing!) in it while I’m visiting the east coast for three weeks. The ending of this WIP is going to be epic and I can’t wait to get to it. It’s like the carrot strung before my horse. It keeps me writing because I really, really can’t wait for it to unfold and to see the reactions of the characters. Though I don’t expect to finish the first draft of this manuscript before New Year’s Day, there is a distinct possibility I will be able to tick off a completed ms as early as the first week of 2017. Imagine that?!

Then I need to edit the time travel romance I recently completed. I want to submit this one to my publisher’s other imprint, which again is a different path than I intended to take when I planned this book in the first place. It’s crazy how quickly this industry shifts and either blocks a path, or opens a new one. CRAZY!

I need to figure out what to do with my YA contemporary that I’m currently subbing to agents. Stay the course? IDK. I really DK. I need someone to fall in love with my writing, but this submission processes really destroys my confidence. One minute I think, Just haven’t found thee one yet. The next minute (read hour/week/month) I think, It’s because I suck, my writing sucks or there’s just nothing special about it. Oh wait, I said this post isn’t about my screwed up writer’s head…moving on.

Going forward I have more writing and edits and all sorts of research and submissions (or different sort of work if I self pub) to find the right home for my work. However, I have a tentative goal of seeing at least one publication in 2017. Two would be fantastic. It doesn’t equal the four titles I published in 2014, but it’s more than the ZERO published in 2016. I’ve been happy with two publications per year in the past and would like to get the wheel turning so that I can do that again. Since I’m writing again, that is a distinct possibility.

I also hope to do a lot more public appearances in 2017. I love talking to readers, so I’ve set up several classroom visits with some wonderful local teachers, and I hope to do a few bookstore events. I’m always open to presentations and workshops. If you have a group (book club, writing group, classroom, etc) hit me up. If I can’t travel there, I can Skype.

Finally another focus will be my blog and my newsletter. They are great ways for me to stay in touch with readers and the writing community. I hope to share relevant and interesting information that will keep you aware of not only the status of my career, but of other great books and authors. You’ll continue to see #InkRipples, author interviews, and book spotlights on my blog and giveaways, events, sales, and random related book interests in my newsletter.

I’m a planner and it’s nice to go into 2017 with a bit of a plan. It’s also nice that it isn’t the stringent, hardcore plan of years past. I think finding a happy medium will help me to develop better books with strong distribution for you – my favorite person – the reader. *Heart squish*

What about you? Any major goals in your life or career for 2017?

December 16, 2016

Spotlight on Enchantress, Sacrifice by Denice Hughes Lewis

I'd like to welcome a writer friend of mine, Denice Hughes Lewis. She is celebrating the release of her young adult novel, Enchantress, Sacrifice. 

Welcome Denice! Congrats on the release. (Throws confetti!) Tell us about the book.

An invisible barrier protects an uncharted island and its natives from the world. A Beast grows deep within the island ready to destroy it. Only a baby can save the island, if she survives her forbidden birth and gains the powers of an Enchantress.

Elandra, the newborn, struggles in shadow until she can breathe light instead of air. Rescued after her mother’s murder by a monster with the soul of a woman, she hides underground. A secretive healer becomes her mentor. He sends her to the surface before her sixteenth birthday to gain the power that will fulfill her destiny. He hasn’t taught her how to control her emotions--the only thing that gives her a chance of survival. A shipwrecked young man complicates her feelings making her unwilling to accept her destiny as a savior. She chooses a quest to become normal, risking the lives of her loved ones, her own life, and the existence of the island.

How did this book come to be? 

This story wouldn’t have been written if my writing/author friend, Suzan Noyes, didn’t drag me to a writer’s conference. I needed something to read for five minutes and wrote a few chapters that were so well received that I was inspired to continue.

Oh, that's a great story. And can I just drool over your cover for a few moments? I really love it.

Before we share the really FUN book news, how about if we get our readers excited with a little sneak peek?

Born to Die

This damp dungeon slithers into my soul. So dark, that I can see nothing. Devoid of the thing I need most in this world in order to survive--the breath of light. Even the darkness cannot stop my ability to feel, to know exactly what my treasured friends are experiencing in their cells. I hear the roar of Bryntar as she fights the chain confining her clawed hand. Daniel suffers with chilling fear for me, rather than himself.
I block out all remembered pain, too much to bear now. For this is my fault. My desire to become normal was selfish. If I cannot find a way to save my loved ones before my execution, I shall go mad and the Beast will devour me.

Okay, readers now that your appetite is whetted, guess what? You can download Enchantress for FREE today and tomorrow (16th and 17th). Ahhh!!!! Isn't that great news? Do it now. We'll wait...

If you're seeing this post on the 18th, don't worry, it has only jumped up to $0.99. 

About the Author, Denice Hughes Lewis:

I love young adult fantasy, especially survival stories filled with adventure. If it's a coming-of-age story fraught with choices concerning personal responsibility, romance, family and life-or-death, all the better.

More of my loves include kids, animals, movies, nature, art, and especially adventures in unlimited imagination. My other interests involve writing plays, music, and directing for the stage. I'm an award- winning eBook author and screenwriter. When I'm not writing, I'm walking my Pomeranian dog, taking care of my 31-year-old blind pony and my 150-pound goat.

You can find Denice on Twitter: @DeniceHLewis, Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/denice.lewis.71
and her website: www.denicehugheslewis.com

Thanks for visiting, Denice. Best of luck to you and Enchantress.

December 14, 2016

Three Times A Charm with Kama Falzoi Post and InHUMAN

You may remember that I participated in the cover reveal for InHuman by Kama Falzoi Post. And now I’m happy to host Kama herself as she celebrates the release of her book. Welcome to Three Times A Charm, Kama. Tell us a little about you.

I discovered a love of writing as a young girl and haven’t looked back since. My short stories have appeared in various online and print magazines, as well as an anthology of speculative fiction.  InHUMAN is my first young adult novel. When I’m not writing, you can find me living on the outskirts of a small city with my husband, son, step-kids, and too many cats.

Congratulations on the release. There is nothing like a book release and the best part is each release is as exciting as the one before. It never gets old. Please tell us about your book.

Mira’s mother sizes up bodies at the morgue like she’s rifling through the sales rack, until she finds one just right for the one they call Adam. Since Adam’s survival is the key to drawing out the Conduit—a slippery sort bent on evacuating souls from their human bodies—Mira must help him pass for a typical teenage boy and blend in.

Ironic, because blending in is has always been a challenge for her, especially with hair the color of a Dorito. But at their small, secluded prep school, blending in is a matter of life and death. Because the Conduit is watching.

I recommend my book to readers who like:

·        Rick Yancey, THE 5th WAVE
·        Jennifer L. Armentrout, OBSIDIAN
·        Stephanie Meyer, THE HOST

Oh, jeez, I loved all three of those recs. Now I’m itching to read InHuman. Let’s switch gears. In order to know your writing, we want to get to know you better. Give us the top three responses to the following:

Top 3 things you learned about the business after becoming a writer.

    1. Writing really is a business, and it helps to look at it like that. Shifting my perspective a bit and shaking my preconceptions about *being an author* (dreamy look) helped me keep a cool head when things didn’t go as planned.
    2. People in this business are awesome, and they really want to help you succeed. Listen to them.
    3. Writing is the easy part. But it is only the beginning of the journey.

Top 3 snacks to munch on while working.

    1. Every kind of crunchy food.
    2. My fingernails.
    3. Red wine. But not too much, or my characters make stupid decisions.

Top 3 favorite places.

    1. Snorkeling off Cinnamon Bay in St. John, Virgin Islands
    2. Butchering common Spanish phrases in Malaga, Spain
    3. Target.
Fingernails and stupid decisions - *snort*.  Kama, share with us all the places our readers can find more about you and InHUMAN.

Twitter: @KamaPost

I’m so glad you stopped in. Best of luck to you and to InHUMAN.


December 10, 2016

Five Authors. Five #Freebies.

Are you ready for some freebies? Jen Finelli is the mastermind behind this collaborative giveaway. You can receive free chapters, a short story, a novella, and an awesome book by the awesome authors Jen, James Beamon, Ray Anyasi, and Crystal Collier. Oh and me. I’m talking scifi, historical fantasy, romance, super heroes and my very own super villains. Meet new authors, test drive their writing and be entertained all in one link!

Click here to find out more: http://bit.ly/2hiU5V8

Be sure to tell your reading obsessed friends! Happy reading. 

December 7, 2016

#InkRipples 2017

Three years ago we started #InkRipples with the idea that if we tossed an idea into the inkwell, it would give fellow bloggers food for thought. We love to see how many different approaches there are to a single topic. We continue that tradition with our monthly 2017 #InkRipples topics. Each of these topics can be approached with a slant toward writers or readers, from the eyes of historians or researchers, with the idea of what has happened or what you’d like to see happen next.

For those of you who are always searching for topics for your blog, please consider joining us. There are no hard and fast rules on how to participate, we have the loose suggestion that you can post on the first Monday of each month, but last year Katie posted multiple Monday’s on the same topic and I think I’ll follow suit on some of these topics this year. If Monday doesn’t work because you already have a feature that day, then post another day.

The only two things we’d like you to do is 1) link back to our blogs in your post and 2) use #InkRipples when you promote. I personally do a search on that hashtag at least once a month so I can visit any post I might not have spotted in my Facebook or Twitter feeds. Plus it helps us to find your link for cross-promotion.

Without further ado, here are our topics for 2017:

January:              Book covers
February:             Genres
March:                 Tropes
April:                   Revision
May:                   Fairy Tales
June:                  Blurbs
July:                   Heroes/Villains
August:               Author Options in Publishing
September:         World Building
October:             Career vs Hobby
November:          Finishing that Book!
December:          Goals

To make it easy-peasy, copy and paste this paragraph in your posts:

#InkRipples is a themed meme hosted by Mary Waibel, Katie L. Carroll, and Kai Strand posting on the first Monday of every month. To participate compose your own post regarding the theme of the month, and link back to the three host blogs. Feel free to post whenever you want during the month, but be sure to include #InkRipples when you promote so readers can find you. The idea is that we toss a word or idea into the inkwell and each post is a new ripple. There is no wrong interpretation. Themes and images and more information can be found here.

Which topic(s) has your mind churning? 

We look forward to you joining us in 2017, starting right off the bat on January 2nd - or, you know, whenever. I personally have a series of posts planned in January about book covers. I'm so excited to share with you!

December 5, 2016

December #InkRipples – Cookies

Yesterday (December 4) was National Cookie Day. According to Punchbowl, the English word “cookie” is derived from the Dutch word “koekje,” which means little cake. Dutch bakers used to test oven temperatures on small amounts of batter so that they would not waste the entire cake mix if the temperature wasn’t right. It was not long before they discovered that these tiny pieces of cooked batter were actually quite tasty!

Funnily enough, I didn’t know about National Cookie day, but the day before, my daughter mentioned that she wanted to celebrate by baking some cookies. I thought to myself, “Hey, I have a blog post due to post on Monday about cookies. Sweet!” So I asked her what kind of cookies she wanted to make so I could buy the ingredients. She chose chocolate and peanut butter chip cookies. Not once did I complain.

When I was a tween I used to love experimenting with cookies. I would throw anything that seemed compatible into cookie dough, I’d make huge cookies and tiny quarter sized ones. Obviously I never came up with the next “it” cookie or I’d be blogging about baking, not writing. But it was fun to do.

I rarely bake now. I don’t have the patience. But I love to eat the results of other people’s efforts. My favorite kind of cookie is probably snickerdoodles – mostly because of nostalgia. Mom used to bake them when I was little. Do you bake? Do you take care packages to your neighbors this time of year? What is your favorite kind of cookie?

By the way: We've determined our topics for #InkRipples 2017. I'll be posting the topics here on my blog on Wednesday. Please swing by again to make note of which months you'd like to join us. We'd love to have your thoughts added to the ripple. 

#Inkripples is a themed meme hosted by Mary Waibel, Katie L. Carroll, and Kai Strand posting on the first Monday of every month. To participate compose your own post regarding the theme of the month, and link back to the three host blogs. Feel free to post whenever you want during the month, but be sure to include #inkripples when you promote so readers can find you. The idea is that we toss a word or idea into the inkwell and each post is a new ripple. There is no wrong interpretation. Themes and images and more information can be found here.