‘The Tolworth Beacon’ by Huw Langridge – Review

Intriguing British mystery with tension, atmosphere and code-breaking vibes…

There’s a lot going on in the life of ‘Chris Powell’. His marriage is strained and there’s an important royal visitor coming to the shop he manages in just a few days time. After a strange attempted burglary at a neighbour’s place the intrigue unfolds in what is a mystery filled ride where I found myself quickly turning pages.

After he mysteriously receives a radio frequency number, Powell realises he is on the path of deception and tension as he has to decipher what it means while finding out what is really going on. Is someone watching him from afar or is he paranoid? Questions arise as tension builds and eventually a very real threat emerges. For those who are interested in the subject of number stations and even code breaking will enjoy this interesting novel with a range of themes and heaps of atmosphere.

4 Stars – Reviews left via Goodreads and Amazon

Awesome Recommended Indie Reads 6

Its been a while since I last did one of these but I have been reading again, and most of which were indie books. Let us dive in and take a look at some recent awesome indie reads that I recommend!

Fee Simple Conditional by H.C. Helfand 

A gem of a read about life, love and land…

Full Review

Escaping First Contact by T.S. Beier

Original and imaginative space sci-fi full of depth and immersion

Full Review

The Art of Reading: How Reading Can Help You Become a Better, More Productive Writer by J.D. Cunegan

A relatable and open guide about reading to improve your writing…

Full Review

The Art & Business of Writing: A Practical Guide to the Writing Life by Chris Jones

A valuable easy-to-read resource for the modern writer

Full Review

A Twist in the Rift by Meg Radiant

Original page-turning sci-fi with unlimited portals of potential…

Full Review

Summer of ’77 by Rebecca Amiss

An easy-to-read heart-warming story of friendship and nostalgia

Full Review

And so that wraps up another long-awaited edition of Awesome Recommended Indie Reads. Thanks for stopping by and peace out!

Weekly Ramble #136

February has started rather brightly, almost positively if there is such a thing. This is going to be my year and right now its looking good. Books are selling and followers are finding me not just on social media but on here. We are nearly up to 1000 word press followers which to me is a phenomenal achievement that has taken many years to carve.

This month I have taken strides to try and lead the charge in promoting the works of fellow indie authors by launching a hashtag over on Twitter. You might have seen it via my most recent indie book recommendations post published just the other day. While my following and influence is quite something to behold on Twitter at least I think there is still more work to do before I can get something like a hashtag trending, we’ll see and either way its an exciting prospect considering only a few years ago I was reverting to zero most days.

You can expect a lot more indie book love from me this month and we’ll lets face it, that’s every month because not only am I an indie author but I firmly believe that supporting my industry makes it a better place to be. Just got to keep going.

Excerpt of ‘The Big Cinch’ by Kathy L. Brown

The Big Cinch, Chapter One: Goodwill


I tapped the Judge’s office door, once, then twice more. At his beck and call day and night, I was. “That must be him now,” Judge Dolan rumbled through the oak panel. “Come on in, Joye.” He was behind his desk, and a swell doll in a smart black dress sat across from him. He gave me a nod and a wink and said, “Mrs. Humphrey, please meet my assistant, Mr. Sean Joye.”

The lady stopped rooting through a beaded bag on her lap and looked up. Pale blue eyes behind a short net veil met mine. They gave me the once-over. A high-society doll and not a bad looker at that. She hadn’t bobbed her hair yet, like half the women in the city. It was all pinned up, mysterious-like, under her wide-brimmed purple hat. Whatever this job was, it couldn’t be all bad.

“Sean, this is Mrs. Taylor Humphrey,” said the Judge. “She brings me an interesting problem.”

“Mr. Joye,” she said, extending a small hand with long, slim fingers. “Please call me Violet.”

I didn’t think she meant it. I shook her sweaty palm, which smelled of Shalimar and jumpy nerves. “Mrs. Humphrey, an unexpected pleasure. This fine morning is now brighter, indeed.”

Her look told me, “Cut the blarney, paddy,” but she said, “The old woman in the lobby predicts snow. The ghost from the elevator shaft told her so.”

I didn’t know which old woman she meant but pretended I did, doubling down on the brogue. It seldom failed me. With American women, anyway. Gents? Not so much. “Pulling your leg was she?”

At that time, I didn’t know any better than old granny tales, that ghosts were merely folks carried off to Faerie, come to pay a bit of a visit to our mortal realm. Not that I’d ever seen any of the fae, including ghosts. At least, not in the courthouse lift. Other places perhaps? I’d just as soon not dwell on that.

Violet returned to the bag and fished out a photograph. The Judge took it, gave it a glance, and handed it back to her. “Why don’t you explain your problem to Mr. Joye?” He folded his hands across his tweed waistcoat, leaned back in the chair, and smiled. I’d never seen him more pleased with himself. “Of course.” She took a deep breath. “This is difficult.” I dumped my coat and fedora on the coat rack and pulled up a chair. “It’s about my sister, Lillian. Lillian Arwald.” She indicated the photograph in her hand and handed it to me.

A pretty young woman—a child, really—in a white, high-collared dress that hung near her ankles, smiled out of the sepia-toned picture while her eyes challenged the world. She looked about sixteen years old. Long blonde hair was pulled back from her face with a fancy comb and hung in loose curls down her back.

“We had a small family squabble, and now Lillian’s run off.” Violet looked down at her lap. She bit her lip, like she was about to cry or something.

I didn’t buy it. Something had spooked her, but it wasn’t the need to discuss her sister’s indiscretions with a circuit court judge. “Do you think she’s in danger?” I leaned in closer. “Sounds like a job for the cops.”

“No, no. Nothing like that. Her debut is this weekend at the Piasa Lodge Ball.”

“Debut?”

“A party. Where young ladies are presented to society.”

I nodded like I understood. I didn’t understand. “And it’s in a piazza? Somewhere on the Hill, I guess.” I tried with difficulty to picture which courtyard in the tidy Italian neighborhood, not far from where I stayed, could hold a fancy society party—in February, to boot.

“No. Piasa. Pie-uh-saw,” Violet said as she crossed her arms. “The American Indian mythological figure? The painting on the river bluffs discovered by the first French explorers?”

The Judge looked embarrassed at my ignorance. “At least a dozen businesses in St. Louis and even more across the river in Alton are named for it,” he said, smiling at her. “And, of course, the premier civic booster organization of the city.”

Well, la-de-da. “So, nothing else for her to hide from?”

“She’s been a bit wild.” Tapped the picture in my hand, Violet said, “That’s from a few years ago. Now her hair’s cut short. Skirts too.”

I liked the twinkle in Lillian’s eyes and something about the smile. The girl had a secret or two, just waiting for the right moment to bust loose.

“She’s just in a phase,” Violet continued. “She’s engaged to be married to a respectable attorney.”

“Trouble with the boyfriend?”

“Perhaps.” But from the look on her face, the boyfriend had nothing to do with it.

Kathy L. Brown’s The Big Cinch is a Dashiell-Hammett-style supernatural noir mystery novel featuring wizards and Mississippian mythology, available now from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk

Let’s Talk About… The Free Book Promo

Ah, the freebie, a normally guaranteed way to stir any type of consumer interest or so they say. This post will look in detail at the free e book promotion – something I know a thing or two about because since being published in 2016, I have run the free book promo 16 times… Yikes, that may sound like a big number but spread out over 5 or so years it has served me quite well. Let’s talk about it…

By definition, the free book promotion to me is the concept of setting the price of an e book to zero. This can best be achieved through Amazon KDP and if your digital book is enrolled in KDP select then you are allocated up to 5 optional days every period to list that book for free. I have highlighted the ‘optional’ part because although 5 days seems like a good amount, in my eyes the shorter amount of time a book is free, the better – this taps into the whole impulse purchase and urgency thing which is quite important in selling anything. Creating a sense of impulse and urgency in a free promotion will increase the likelihood somebody will want to download your book.

So, is a free book promotion worthwhile?

There are plenty of authors I know who will never offer their work for free and that’s fine in my eyes. I suppose its a case of weighing up your individual options against the factors for success. For me, I don’t earn a living through the books I have published, in fact I am nowhere near that yet, so making money as a self-published author right now is not on my wish list. But gaining a readership is and if my free promotion is executed effectively then that is exactly what will happen, eventually, in theory, maybe…

This whole thing is subjective, so remember everyone’s situation is different.

I tend to use the word eventually in most of my author situations because this really is a long game and hopefully with my results below you’ll see that. Before we look at the results which have improved over time, there are several factors as to why a free promotion can be a success. Here are the main ones:

Type of Advertising/Budget

Probably above everything else, the who and how much you spend will dictate a lot of a book promo’s success. Higher end book promo advertisers also have higher quality readers who leave reviews like BookBub. Budget will also determine how much reach it will have. In my eyes, for a free promo, I’m going all in so the money I spend will be returned eventually through reviews, readers and even social media follows. You can find some of the book promo advertisers I have used here.

Combinations

The second major factor in all book promotion is combining different methods – what I mean by this is perhaps playing around with the price/advertisers/books available. This is where book promotion runs can be deemed a success or not. In the many times I have run promos I have also reduced the price of other books or even advertised the free book before and after a promo. Just free is great, but other combinations are even better. I nearly always ‘stack’ my promotion too – this means using multiple advertisers over several days.

Social Media Reach/Activity

The higher and more engaged your social media following, the better it should be for any promotional stuff. Me; I’m pretty much addicted to Twitter and my following of nearly 20k does help. At a glance, the more you put into social media over time, the more you get back. If your profile gets bigger, more people are going to be interested in your work. Building trust over time online will create a fanbase eventually. How? Here’s a guide for that.

Genre/Time of Year

A wintery ghost romance probably won’t sell much in the height of summer but it will during the autumn and winter months. Genres and seasons do tend to go hand in hand. From late September all the way to Halloween works really well for horror and thrillers.

Length of Promo

I mentioned above that being enrolled in KDP Select will allow you up to 5 days every enrollment period to use for free promo but the shorter the promo run, the better. Impulse and urgency sell books that are on a price promotion.

Reviews/Ratings

Most of my free promotion runs saw better results after a certain amount of reviews. There is no fixed number but having over 5 will help a little. The more reviews a book has the better in theory. In terms of ratings, anything over 3.5 stars average rating should do quite well also.

Bibliography

My top book promotion advice is to have more books available and the more you have on your shelf the more a potential reader will invest in you. Even if their first read from you is free, if the experience is enjoyable then they may just return as a paying reader next time.

Make it Easy for the Crowd

Have you ever offered a physical book or two for free to your social media audience? From a signed paperback to an advanced e copy? Was the response mostly crickets and you weren’t sure why? There’s something about singling people out and then offering them something because every so often it doesn’t work. People don’t tend to like being singled out and so a free e book promo makes everyone feel part of a crowd with way less reader pressure.

Worked Scenarios

We’ve looked at the factors now let us look at a few real life free book promo examples. When I ran my first free promo back in 2017 it was kind of a stab in the dark. Something I have tried to improve over the years… (the book selling, not actual knife things…).

Scenario 1 (2017)

Book Title: Open Evening + Darke Blood (Both Free)

Amount of Amazon Reviews: 6 (UK only)

Length of Free Promo: 5 Days

Month: September

Books Published: 2

Budget Spent on Advertising: $70

Social Media Following:

Twitter: 2,500

Facebook: 300

Result:

Open Evening Free Downloads: 713

Open Evening Paid Sales After: 12

Darke Blood Free Downloads: 144

Darke Blood Paid Sales After: 29

Conclusion:

A very good first attempt at a free promo. Although pricey, 800+ free downloads and then paid sales after for both books was a win in my eyes. Turning a profit at this stage is difficult and not a priority. This was a good entry level free promo and to me anything over 500 free downloads for a book is good. You can read in a little more detail about this promo here.

Scenario 2 (2019)

Book Title: Darke Blood (with ‘The Teleporter’ free on the final day)

Amount of Amazon Reviews: 10

Length of Free Promo: 3 Days

Month: September

Books Published: 4

Budget Spent on Advertising: $100

Social Media Following:

Twitter: 2,900

Facebook: 400

Result:

Darke Blood Free Downloads: 3,403

Darke Blood Paid Sales After: 2

The Teleporter Free Downloads: 88

Conclusion:

An excellent result. 3000+ downloads for any book in that space of time is huge. Capped off with the last minute free promo of The Teleporter on the final day – this proved my theory of eyes being on any other book you have published during a free promo – remember combinations? That’s a major factor for success which you’ll see in the third and final scenario. You can read my detailed report on this promo here.

Brief Interlude

While the above two scenarios are impressive in terms of numbers, the free promo gets more valuable when you have more books available. By the time of the next scenario (April 2021) I had 6 books available, 4 were part of a series and the free promo and a book series go hand in hand for combination stuff. This next scenario is also after my BookBub Featured Deal which was also a free promo and resulted in 10,000 downloads of The Teleporter in a day. Time is your friend with this stuff and you’ll see how my results shifted below.

Scenario 3 (2021)

Book Title: Open Evening with rest of the series discounted to 99 cents or equivalent

Amount of Amazon Reviews: 27

Length of Free Promo: 1 Day

Month: April

Books Published: 6

Budget Spent on Advertising: $165

Social Media Following:

Twitter: 7,000

Facebook: 500

Result:

Open Evening Free Downloads: 940

Open Evening Paid Sales After: 2

Paid Sales of other books in the Series on that day: 176

Total Paid Sales that month: 230 – A record that still stands today.

Conclusion:

You can see from the results that the free promo kind of takes a different role because the other books in the series all sold from that initial visibility. You can create a series page on Amazon that links all books in that series together – let Amazon do the work with this, they have the infrastructure so take advantage. Paid sales pushed all of my books up the charts and to better visibility and the best thing is this book promo broke even the next month. April 2021 was my first $100 royalty month and then the second was May. You can read about this promotion here.

Page Reads

Often overlooked is the concept of e book page reads with can be tracked via the KDP sales dashboard. As you can see from mine and historically they have spiked and even sustained after every promo run since 2017. With more books and promos this can become quite an opportunity while also tracking results.

Final Conclusion

From the scenarios and factors laid out before, you can make a free promo very worthwhile. Of course there have been plenty of not so great promos but they are all part of the journey. You just need a backlist, a budget and some tactics. So in conclusion and for an effective free promo, these things work well:

Minimum time – 1 or 2 days work fine. Impulse and urgency. Think of it as an occasion;

More books helps sell all involved. Discounted prices if its a series. Combinations;

Paying for advertising – kind of a no brainer, plenty of good book promo sites out there. Stack them over some days;

Social Media Following – helps but not essential;

Reviews – Some reviews help.

There are always a few anomalies and variables for the individual but everything laid out above should help to sell books. I have found running a free promo works best every quarter or so and over time it can help grow a readership. These days my book sales are regular and mostly at full price all because I started with the free promo some years ago and built a foundation from it.

Thank you for reading. What are your experiences with the free promo? Any lessons or thoughts?

If you enjoyed this post I have stack of more promo scenarios in my author/blogger guide book which is available now!

The Impeccable Guide to being an Impeccable Social Media Author

IMPECCABILITY is what you need to become an IMPECCABLE social media author like me and this guide contains everything you need to get there. Let the impeculation flow through you as this guide will avoid the same old repetition you’ve been reading online for years. You won’t find the same old repetition here because that impeculation will help you sell books, get social media fame and overall success on this path. We’re not even sure impeculation is a word but this is a space for creatives, not snarky editors. Let’s rock!

1. Definitions

In order to achieve IMPECCABILITY first you need to know the definitions of what social media is. So take what you think you know and tear it to pieces because social media is only one place, Twitter! Throw away the hundreds of followers you’ve earned elsewhere apart from Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and any blog you might have and focus on the place where the real party is happening.

Followers: Followers are what make up the audience in which you’ve got to throw every ounce of content you have all the time. When it comes to followers, their actual opinion, needs, and tastes don’t really matter but the number does so just focus on collecting more of them. Talk at them and they will listen, in fact keep talking at them until they buy your stuff. If they don’t buy your stuff then don’t waste your time on them. Block Block Block! Make sure you appear as if you are the only person in the world they have to follow. Don’t give them an opportunity to be included, just make them want to be you!

Engagement: This is the stuff you want to avoid on social media because engagement zaps up valuable time when you could be posting links into the void. Top Tip: Stay away from the replies on any platform where someone is engaging in you. Engagement is the enemy.

DM’s: Direct Messages, this is the tool where you can really hone that IMPECCABILITY by directly targeting followers into submission until they buy your crap. More on this below, probably but all good platforms Twitter allows you to directly message anyone. That is if they haven’t got those pesky privacy settings meaning you can only send them a message request. Block them if they have this. Don’t waste that time.

B) Twitter

Now we’ve looked at the definitions lets look at the real definition of social media, and the only place you can really sell books, Twitter!

The true power on Twitter is the personal connections you can make through DM’s. There’s a plethora of spammy unofficial add ons you can install onto your twitter that will do the work for you. And by work I mean bothering new followers into submission with information – this really works to sell things. So I recommend you set up a function that DM’s new followers instantaneously with a message of your choice. This message must be at least 7 paragraphs of your stuff. Links, blurbs, a not so sincere blanket thank you. And remember the more pretentious your message, the bigger you will appear to the lemmings so if you really want to appear big-time make sure you mention that a social media PR firm are handling all your endeavours. This will show you really care about personally connecting with others.

In terms of being a successful social media author you need two things and then you need to do one thing.

  1. Grow a social media following;
  2. Write a book.
  1. Share it to your social media following for instant sales.

That is it. And before you ask, yes it is that simple but the real challenge is conducting yourself to get sales.

iii) Conduct

There are a bunch of things you must do everyday to secure dominance and then IMPECCABILITY by using Twitter.

Tweeting:

Firstly and most importantly when considering tweeting you must include several hashtags and a link – you’ll find specifics below as to what to actually tweet but the basics are having hashtags and links. This way, the algorithms will favor you every time over everyone else. Only losers really attempt anything other than sharing links and using hashtags. Keep away from conversation and focus on flinging links and making tweets more readable by making #at least #every other #word a #hashtag because this doesn’t look desperate for attention, its the tweet conduct of someone who is goal driven!

Got to tag them all:

If there’s one thing that will help you gain traction and visibility it is to tag those with larger followings than you. They have spent many years carving their engagement and following so its time to use that to your advantage plus they are on twitter so they cant be busy. In order to really get someone’s attention, you want to tag these folks at least three times in a day. Maybe more if you’ve never ever interacted with them. Negative attention you ask? There is only such thing as positive attention online. They will love the overabundance of notifications, trust me.

Drop those links:

Just as you’ll be tagging those higher profile accounts it is also important to drop your book links on their tweets. Even if it is entirely unrelated because this is seen as an entrepreneur move. Everyone and their following will notice your sharp marketing skills and instantly buy your stuff. Drop those links everywhere. Twitter will totally not notice and tell you off. There is a rumour that dropping links all the time will bury your visibility, this is pure myth. Drop that link!

Keep it current, Keep it political:

The best way an author can become IMPECCABLE is to comment on current political events that everyone will forget next week but they won’t forget how you reacted. Jump the gun as they say and throw your one sided opinion into the void. Guaranteed followers and good natured engagement, especially if you move into the trending side of twitter. Much like the bone yard seen in the Lion King, you’ll find a Hyena or two willing to listen and engage with you. This will also show your true colours and reactionist mentality that everyone loves these days. Mud will stick here but this is the type of mud you can use as the foundation for that empire you’ll be creating.

Stay Mysterious:

Twitter is a wonderfully designed platform where it is very easy for your cryptical replies to be misunderstood and ill received. This can only be a good thing because people love a puzzle and conundrum – Sudoku is still huge and so consider this your opportunity to be puzzle master. Let your replies come across weird and give them a tone that cannot be gauged, this will guarantee IMPECCABILITY over time.

Enforce the rules:

Let’s face it, most of us have always had a boner for authority so on Twitter where the catchment of rule breakers is wide, it is important to shout from the hills that everyone should follow your story telling rules. It’s okay that you break them, but everyone else must get in line. Be that bullish borderline narcissistic bully and everyone will follow you in fear. Fear is your friend and leads to sales. Project your nonesense onto others until they love you. They really will.

Enable Trolls:

The Writing community has a weird way of attracting trolls. The best thing you can do is block them and move on engage them. Exchange gifs and give these haters a platform. You’ve got time right and remember everything you tweet will be seen by your followers who will love to see you enabling these worthless fucks good people.

Section 4: But What to Tweet about?

The question of all questions and only now am I going to answer it because you need all the information above to have a fighting chance of wading and then floating through the sheer deluge of words scrolling by per minute on Twitter.

These things are great to tweet about:

If you’re a newbie the best thing you can do is say you are new to the writing community and that you are looking to connect with others. These tweets normally blow up so seize the moment and even if you are not new, it’s okay to say you are. Twitter traction is all based on exploitation and small lies non-truths;

Another great way to get everyone’s attention is to say that Twitter is quiet today. This normally brings in the droves right to your profile. Of course Twitter isn’t quiet, you’re just using it wrong because the platform is open all the time;

Not knowing what to Tweet is also a great advantage. If you were to tweet that, again you’ll get some great levels of attention and remember taking attention away from everyone else is the key to success on the platform;

Of course if you’re looking for answers then ask questions. Asking inane questions all day everyday will guarantee to move the needle in your favor and you’ll notice how much your follows and activity rises when you try something other than inane questions. Remember the more obscure the better, like what would the milk taste like if your main character was a dairy farmer. That’s the real nitty gritty right there.

Sub tweeting – now I might have got this completely wrong but sub tweeting is a great way to show that you’re on track in terms of diet. So next time you eat fresh and grab yourself a subway footlong, tweet about it. This post is not affiliated with Subway in anyway.

Running your own writers lifts. For some reason everyone loves these, even years after the fact most have realised they mean nothing and get you nowhere. You can really build up a huge following of thousands and then be left pondering why none of them bought your book.

Conclusion

With the sections above you can tell I pretty much have a Doctorate in Twitter, social media, subway and IMPECCABILITY and now you can too!

I reckon you are set for pure social media IMPECCABILTIY like no other. That competition of yours will be crushed but there is one final part that is imperative to all of this. The general consensus from some truly IMPECCABLE social media authors. I put the subject of this post to the very best and we shall finish with their answers.

Thank you for reading and for the love of god please treat this post as satire, I wrote it for fun and I’ve had a difficult month/year and my go-to coping strategy is comedy/satire, stay IMPECCABLE!

Lee Hall is an indie author and blogger who spends much of his time putting together awesome guides like this. You can read more serious ones via his patreon and if you sign up, you get a free book, exclusive first access to future guides and his general love.

Why I Wrote ‘The Deep Space Between’ by Cassandra Stirling

Why I Wrote The Deep Space Between

One of the first things I did before I started writing my novel, The Deep Space Between, is write my inspiration story. My why-I’m-writing-this-book story. This is what I wrote. I’m sharing it because it says a lot about me, the writer, and the journey I’m on. It also foreshadows many of the imposter syndrome setbacks I’d have (am still having) with writing and sharing my writing.

And, it answers that age-old question: when did you know you wanted to write?

Let me take you way, way back

As a kid, I always had stories running through my head. If I wasn’t acting them out with my stuffed animals, I was laying in bed or the grass with an internal movie playing out whatever theme was the flavor of the day.

I also wrote stories — not at home because why do that when it could play out in my head without handwriting to slow it down — but in school, specifically during our weekly library sessions with the librarian, Mrs. Barzinski.

Mrs. Barzinksi was an odd woman. She wore clogs, big round plastic glasses, clunky wooden beaded necklaces, heavy wool sweaters in winter, and white cotton gloves. Her thick wool sweaters had the telltale bumps of her breasts somewhere near her stomach, which earned them the nickname Barzinski boobs, and served as a cautionary tale for all the girls to make sure they wore bras.

In those weekly sessions, the table at which we sat was split. One end featured those students who listened to the chapter of the current book we were all reading, headphones twice the size of Princess Leia’s braid buns clamped to their heads. Mrs. Barzinki’s voice read out the most recent chapter; at the end, she included a prompt for a story topic. We then had 20 minutes to write a story about that prompt.

At the other end, the students read the story out loud and she taped us. Similar to the ginormous headphones — this was the ’80s after all — the recording device was massive. It contained two tape reels fastened to the top. When she turned it on, there was a distinctive “thunk.” I can still hear it today.

Every week, she put the best-written stories on the wall outside of the library with an A and then numerous pluses after it big fat red marker at the top of it.

At the end of the year, the students who had the best writing, aka the most pluses, got a prize — always books — for their efforts.

In my sixth grade year, I was in an unstated competition with my best friend, Jenny Simeon, over the total number of pluses we’d get on those stories. Some weeks I won, but most weeks she did. I always came second when I didn’t win, but it was never enough. Jenny was smart, funny, creative, and well-liked. I was awkward, wore outdated hand-me-downs (which I loved), and quiet.

We were really good friends. Outside of school was the requisite sleepover. During school, we’d hang out on the monkey bars (until some dummy got hurt and they banned them), making up stories.

Sometimes they were based on Greek myths (I was Athena, always) and sometimes on characters we created, like Ricky and Katie (I was Katie, she was Ricky). We even wrote and put on a play for our 4th-grade class (9-year-olds).

We were enmeshed in our creativity without even trying. And yet, I still competed with her. I wanted to win that content — to be the best writer in the school.

But I didn’t. Jenny did.

As I watched her walk up to accept her prize — the full set of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books we’d read that year — I had mixed feelings. I definitely did not want that prize, because I hated those books. Who needs to know how to build a bed peg by peg? Not this girl. But I also really wanted to be as creative as Jenny was and I failed. I sucked. I wasn’t good enough. It didn’t matter that I came in second out of my entire 90+ student class.

I didn’t beat Jenny.

The in-between years

Fast forward through my life, where writing wasn’t a feature because I obviously wasn’t any good at it coming second place to someone I looked up to when I was twelve. I still had stories running through my head and often used them as a means to fall asleep when my brain wouldn’t shut off from the day. But I never wrote them down.

And then in 2009, after getting laid off from my publishing job, I decided I was going to write something down. The book I wrote was based on a dream in a post-apocalyptic world.

Most of my stories are extensions of my dreams, but this one had a lot of rich details to it that were used to get the ball rolling.

In November, still unemployed but freelancing to be able to eat, I participated in NaNoWriMo, which is a challenge to write the 50,000 first draft ugly awful words of a book. And I did it. I wrote 50,000 words and my book was born.

My main character, Jenna, was smart, sarcastic, and funny; she was also incredibly isolated, an outsider, and a person who never saw her impact on the people around her. It took me 5 years to finish it, picking it up and putting it down at random moments in time. But eventually, I finished it.

At the time, I had taken a science fiction and fantasy writing class at the local university. Part of the class requirement was to read out five pages of your book. The same week it was my turn to read I had had a job interview. I was more nervous to read those pages than anything else I’d done in life, including that interview.

My classmates liked the content, but I was bombarded with questions on where the people came from, how did the food get made, where did the clothing come from. I couldn’t answer any of these questions, because I forgot to build the world while building the book. I had no idea where it came from; to me, it wasn’t relevant to the narrative. But to the readers, it most definitely was.

My husband did some research as to how much water and power my New City of York needed. He did amazing work on it and tried to help me build the world, but it was so overwhelming, I couldn’t face it. Once the class ended, I shelved the book.

Fast forward to the present

The idea for my current book, The Deep Space Between, came to me while I was writing my other poorly titled Apocalypse Girl book. And it wasn’t a dream, but an idea born out of another daydream, featuring a girl with a boogeyman riding shotgun in her body.

A girl who was an outsider, who was isolated, who felt unloved and separate from everyone else. A girl who never saw the impact she had on the people around her.

Once I realized I’d written, or started writing, two books about the same type of girl, I took a long hard look at myself. I realized I was them, they were me, just in different settings and circumstances. I had a story that needed to be told and I was the person to tell it.

This book is born out of two fears: I’m not good enough to write an engaging story; and, it wouldn’t have any impact on anyone even if I did. But I’m done competing with my 12-year-old self (since it was never about Jenny Simeon anyway).

I’m ready to see the impact I could have, or my character will have, on the world around her as she navigates the story and potentially learns more about my impact on my world in the process.

And that’s good enough for me.

Thank you to author Cassandra Stirling for sharing her inspiring story that led to the release of ‘The Deep Space Between’ which is available now.

About the Book:

Seraphina Lastra Covington had never planned to set foot in the Magical Community of Merricott, New Hampshire again. When she reluctantly returns after a twelve-year absence, she finds that the town has changed: the bustling square she once knew is quiet, and a Magic Wielding child has gone missing. It is not until she starts heeding advice from the voice inside of her head that she realizes everything in her childhood home is not as it seems.

About the Author:

Cassandra Stirling’s entire career revolves around language. She has worked in the fields of law, publishing, and marketing; writing a book seemed like a natural progression. In 2020, her husband noted that, while Cassandra’s childhood dream job was to be a writer, she “was not a writer,” as “she didn’t write.”

She proved him wrong by writing her debut novel The Deep Space Between.

When she’s not writing or working, Cassandra can be found playing video games, reading, cross-stitching, or generally figuring out how to fit all of her life into the seventeen hours a day she’s not sleeping.

Five Little Monkeys -A Detective Story

Hello friends and happy Saturday, today I’m sharing this recent post by fellow author and blogger Megan

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Five Little Monkeys 

Sunday

Detective James Andrews took a final drag of his cigarette before tossing it. He took a sip of his coffee as he made his way down the taped off alleyway.

“So why am I out here on a Sunday morning?” James asked Detective Benjamin Knowles. Who was speaking with a uniformed officer in the middle of the alley.

“Good morning James. Nice of you to join us.” Benjamin said making his way over to James.

“So what do we have?” James asked, taking another sip of his coffee.

Benjamin opened his notepad. “Female, approximately 5’2” 110 lbs. 25-30 years old. Looks like a drug overdose. She has previous track marks on the inside of her left arm.”

James pulled back the sheet and looked over the pale, skinny woman. “We’ll know more after we run her prints and do a tox screen.” Benjamin said as…

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Book Reviews: Some Quick Tips

The struggle for book reviews is real and while I put together a much longer guide about that struggle here are some quick tips to get more of them and how to deal with said struggle…

Leave a message in the front and back of your book to tell readers that reviews are important – this is obvious but sometimes overlooked. Many readers including me once upon a time never thought of leaving a review for a book. Remind your audience.

Fill that gap elsewhere by reviewing other authors works. You probably know how it feels to struggle for reviews so helping the industry will eventually help you. Plus reading, that’s supposed to fun right? But seriously, if you do help a few authors they might be inclined to return the favour but don’t expect it. Above all you’ll earn some trust and maybe even make a friend or two. Book reviews are partly the reason for my social media success.

Think about some book promotion or advertising because a lack of reviews is probably due to low distribution/visibility/sales. Theory would suggest that more sales equals more reviews… There are a stack of ways to advertise your book and I tend to use book promo sites every so often. The higher end sites also have higher end readers who review. More about those sites here

Shout about it in a few different ways because communication is key just like the first tip. On social media talk about the importance of reviews and then when you do get a good review share it and say how much you appreciate it. Make a thread on Twitter or put a review billboard together like this one…

Give incentives to reviewers because sweets for the sweet… from sending a reviewer a signed book to saying thanks to even giving them a shout-out or putting their review quote on the cover of a future release – these things provide some incentive for reviewers to share their thoughts.

Organise a pre-release and offer copies of your book to readers on the condition they review it on publication. If your self-published this will be easier, but basically offer your final manuscript to readers to review it early.

Try to compartmentalise the feeling of that struggle because it will never really go away and take it from me, my comedy ‘The Teleporter’ has over 130 reviews and I’m always wanting more because the chase is endless. I also have seven books published so if I spent every hour of every day worrying about the struggle I would get nowhere. My advice is to work on other things. Write that next book or blog post. Be busy and it won’t even cross your mind because that struggle is a state of mind.

Appreciate that it is really hard not just for you but for everyone published because it really is hard to get reviews. My debut book that dropped back in 2016 has 34 reviews and has sold thousands of copies. You are not alone.

Approach a book blogger because many of them are always looking for something new to read. Of course check out their blog and see if your work fits within their taste. Try to be personable in your approach. As a standard, offer a book blogger a free e copy for that review and be sure to read their submissions policy if they have one.

Talk about it with other authors because my Twitter DM’s, comments section on here and my Patreon are always open for any author in need. Reach out to one another because together our struggles are smaller, especially when we talk about it.

Time, above all is your friend here. Good things in writing take time and reviews take a lot of time to collect for a book which will be around a lot longer than all of us. Remember that. Most of these tips are long game style methods. Be in it for that journey.

Thanks for reading, this post is just a preview of another I have planned soon over on my Patreon which is my latest venture and a place where I intend to help more authors with coaching and future guides. If you sign up to one of my tiers you’ll get a free copy of my self help book Consistent Creative Content which has a whole section dedicated to reviews. Peace out, rock and roll man!

Guest Post: Monty Jay: Indie Romance Author and her Author Merch by Emma Jordan

Emma Jordan is back to talk about Romance Indie Author Monty Jay.

I first discovered romance author, Monty Jay, earlier in 2021, when I bumped into the release of her latest novel, Courage for Fools, a rock star and US road trip romance that tugged, but didn’t sever, the heartstrings: who doesn’t need a happy-ever-after in their fiction?

From the first couple of pages I was hooked on Courage for Fools. Rhett and Quinn leapt off the page, and their road trip and romance are just gorgeous. He’s the reckless rock star on his way from the east to the west coast; she’s on a road-trip with a purpose. Emotion + banter = happy reader.

As I confessed to Lee’s readers recently, I’m a little bit of a music fan – I loved the book so much I had to see what else Monty had written.

That’s when I discovered her 4-book hockey romance series and promptly lost a weekend underneath my Kindle. I was immersed in the fictional world of the Chicago Fury hockey players, starting with the two main characters from book one, Love and Romance. Valour Sullivan (Vallie Girl) and Bishop Maverick (B) have known each other since childhood. Both characters live for hockey and are destined to follow in her father’s footsteps, becoming the best hockey players in the NHL. It was great seeing the perspective of both Men and Women’s hockey, and following other Fury players in books two, three and four.

THEN Monty announced that author merch is available from her online shop.

Now, as a fellow indie romance author, I always have an eye on unique marketing opportunities. (I recently encouraged readers to download one of my free books so that I could treat myself to a new coffee machine). What better way than for a writer who has created a fictional rock star and a fictional hockey team to enhance the reader experience than by offering hoodies and shirts in a shop that ships worldwide? I was more than happy to help out and treated myself to a Vallie Girl sweatshirt which is so comfortable, whether I’m writing (or editing) at my PC or on the school run! Supportive AND practical.

As Monty told me, ‘I love being an indie author because I have the freedom and control over my own work. It’s hard to build readership, but when you do you know it’s because you did it your way. I can write the stories that inspire me, and brand and market myself the way I want others to view me!’

Why shouldn’t authors who have created worlds for their readers be a bit rock star and offer readers clothing, bags, stationery, home items, to celebrate their characters? I’ve started to notice other authors offer swag bags or reader-themed goodies, or authors who have an Etsy presence. The marketing opportunities for independent authors are phenomenal.

What will you come up with to share your character’s stories with readers?

Monty Jay has a new, supernatural, series on the way, out in September 2021.