Tuesday, June 30, 2015

2015 June Reading List

Nemesis Games by James S. A. Corey – For me, the books work better when the crew is together instead of being split apart. And I would have been more interested in the alien world than a local conflict that isn’t really solved. Still, I liked it better than book 3, a little less than book 4. 4/5 stars Amazon Bookdepository 

Superposition by David Walton – I wasn’t taken by the narrator’s voice and each time the character’s name who was supposed to be Romanian (it’s not!) and the word “varcolac” were mentioned, it threw me right out of the story, but the science was smart and that saved the book for me. 4/5 stars Amazon Bookdepository 

The Vagrant by Peter Newman – Well, this was different. The narrator has a compelling voice, I’ll give him that. But the 3rd person distant POV made it hard to care for the characters and figure out the ‘why’s behind what we were shown. It was like watching a movie. I’m sure the writer had everything clear in his head, but what we were allowed to see wasn’t all that clear or interesting. We never really got to know the MC, and frankly, the goat was much more interesting. 4/5 stars Amazon Bookdepository 

The Gateway Trip by Frederik Pohl – One story was really good while the rest felt like a recap of the other books in the series. 3/5 stars Amazon Bookdepository 

The Girl Who Was Plugged In by James Tiptree Jr. – Imagine a world without ads. Wouldn’t you like to live there? Perhaps not. This was a sad story, but it couldn’t have ended in any other way. 4/5 stars Amazon Bookdepository 

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater – Claustrophobic and overly rich in exposition. Unsatisfying ending. But it has not just one but four broken boys so… :) 3/5 stars Amazon Bookdepository

Monday, June 29, 2015

Amazon is changing its paying terms for Kindle Unlimited

This month, the news broke out that Amazon is changing the way it will pay writers, starting with July 1st. Some panicked, some protested loudly and, apparently, uselessly, and some decided to pull their books out of KDP Select.

To clear out part of the misunderstanding, this change will only affect the books enrolled in the Kindle Unlimited program. Up until now, every writer with books enrolled in KU was paid equal shares of the Amazon KU trust fund, based on the number of downloads/burrows of those books, after 10% of the book was read. Let's face it, this wasn't exactly fair, paying the same for novels and a-few-pages-long books.

From July 1st, writers will be paid based on the number of pages read. Yep, you read it right. It's kind of creepy how much data Amazon has access to, isn't it? Well, there isn't much we can do about that. Most sales come from Amazon, so if indie writers want to make a few (more) bucks, they're stuck with it. 

Now, Amazon claims they will use normalized pages, so font size and line spacing won't matter. I guess they'll go by word count, which makes sense. Since various gadgets have different screen size, word count would definitely make more sense.

One thing is supposed to be sure, from now on people won't get rich only with shorts any longer. And badly written prose won't work either. I guess long series will work best if you manage to write compelling ones and don't get bored writing about the same characters and world all the time. Otherwise, decent novels at least will be needed for a decent income.

From a writer's perspective, the good part--aside from being paid fairly--would be to get detailed reports so we could figure out what are the parts where readers stop reading our books. That would be a great experience. Amazon's report haven't been so user friendly so far, so I'm not holding my breath. I guess we'll find out on August 15th.

The down side, from what I see, would be that, with all the ebook reading options available these days, some read pages might go unaccounted for. 10% is easier to track than a whole book. There probably won't be too many cases, but there will be some for sure.

The other big concern is that there's no way to track the read pages from the outside. We could track the sales/downloads from the live dashboard reports and the book rank, but now Amazon could feed us any data they want with no way for us to check it. Something to think about.

And there's also the issue of the limited profit, based on the size of the KU trust fund, but that's nothing new.

So, how does this affect me? I had Broken People enrolled in KU over the winter, but it never really took off. In three months, it had only a handful of KU downloads, so I removed it from the KDP Select program at the end of the term. At the moment, I have two titles available via KU, an urban fantasy novel, The Weight of a Wing, and a paranormal short story, Breaking the Chains. The short story has been recently released so it's too early to tell how it will do, but the novel is doing rather well because of KU and I'm reluctant to change that. 

Bottom of line, I'll keep things the way they are for now. If everything goes well, the whole The Stolen Wings series will be available via KU in the end. Broken People won't be because it failed to find its target audience there and, frankly, it's too much of a hassle removing it from the other vendors to ensure Amazon exclusivity. I haven't decided yet what I'll do with my upcoming space opera saga. It depends on how things work out over the summer. So we'll see.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Vacation prices on Millennium

Millennium is celebrating 10 years of existence by offering 30% discount for all of its titles until July 1st.

You can get my books:

And anthologies featuring my stories:

Friday, June 26, 2015

Indie Friday: Chasing Down the Night

Guest post by Francis Guenette

Chasing Down the Night is the third book in the Crater Lake Series. All the novels transport readers to a rural setting on the shores of a lake where they encounter characters who quickly become friends and family. Youth issues, family dynamics and relationships are explored while challenging stereotypes of right and wrong.

The latest book in the series opens with a scene that sets the tone for everything that is to come. A cougar stalks the dreams of a young boy. Trauma counsellor and contender for main character, Izzy Montgomery has taken on the role of director at nearby Micah Camp (a home for young people coming out of the foster care system and trying to make decisions about the next stage of their lives.) Liam Collins, a man who has fought a hard struggle to find peace of mind, is busy caring for chickens and children while preparing for an upcoming wedding. Beulah runs the organic bakery and organizes a memorial ball tournament. Her same-sex partner, Bethany, takes on a research job at the Camp and begins to discover her own strengths. Bethany’s niece, Lisa-Marie (who is, for many, the main character) arrived as a troubled sixteen-year-old on the first pages of the first book and from that time she has been head-over-heels in love with Justin. Now eighteen, with exciting opportunities for her future spread at her feet, the sparks fly between the two of them as they continue to feel the impact of the past and must relearn valuable lessons in order to move on.

All of the novels dig deeply into the emotional landscapes of the various characters. And yet, life is so much more than problems to be faced. The everyday rural realities encountered often leave readers chuckling.
The setting, characters and real-life dilemmas described in my novels come out of a blend of my own work and life experiences. I throw them all into the melting pot of imagination and out pops fiction. What an amazing process!

Reviewers have commented that what is unique about my writing style is the ability to tell stories from multiple points-of-view within the same novel. This style creates intimacy and evokes emotion. I was surprised when reviewers found my writing unique because I couldn’t conceive of any other way to tell these stories. Life is not black and white. The best path to empathy is found when we can envision the situations people end up in from as many viewpoints as possible. 

Writing subsequent books in an ongoing series has unique challenges. For example, how much do I tell of the previous books? I work hard to ensure that each novel is stand-alone and that involves a delicate balance between providing enough information so the story makes sense without bogging it down.

By far, the most satisfying part of my writing process is seeing the characters I have created evolve and grow from what they were in the first book to the people they are now.

What do I hope to accomplish by launching these books into the world? The answer is simple. I want readers to feel as though they have been changed. A new way of looking at some part of life has caused an ah-ha moment and thus, what they know about themselves and the world around them has shifted. That epiphany is what I am chasing down the night to capture.

Chasing Down the Night by Francis Guenette

Available on: Amazon US, Amazon UK, Kobo

Official website: http://disappearinginplainsight.com

Follow the author on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/francisguenetteauthor/377139735716267

and Twitter: @FrancisGuenette

Friday, June 19, 2015

Indie Friday: Feng Shui for Writers

Guest post by M.C. Simon

Hello, Ioana. Nice meeting you and your readers.

What is your book about?

First, this book is the product of my love for all the writers. While being an engineer, one year ago I decided to write. Not only to write as a hobby, but to do it so I can quit my job. I even drew a two-year plan for quitting. Now after one year… this book has officially been born. I poured all my heart inside it. Suddenly finding myself into a new world, the writers’ world, I fell in love with it. Being an eternal student, I started researching this world and… a passion arose; the passion of helping writers fulfill their dreams.

And now here comes my book…

In many cases, to understand what something is, it is easier for us to start grasping what that thing isn’t. When I talk about Feng Shui, somehow I find it inappropriate to start with this; for the only reason that Feng Shui can be all things. It is a concept, a technique, an ancient art that finally stands behind anything; that is because all is energy and Feng Shui masters energies.

It approaches the architecture of the so-called Chi, the invisible force that populates the universe, earth and man altogether. Feng Shui is, in fact, an art of improving the quality of life through analysis of the person’s environment.

In our days, most of the people consider that Feng Shui is a fashion and a decorating art. In truth, it is not and will never be related to fashion; more than this, Feng Shui is a science, one of the most ancient sciences we know. It is about Chi in the living environment and it explains how to use this Chi to help with specific goals.

This book doesn’t intend to address the writer’s work or artistic skills but rather it addresses each writing category. We have to do this because what is harmony for a romantic novel writer is different than what is harmony for a journalist writer and for sure very different than for the writer writing for the horror domain.

To bring the Feng Shui technique into the writer’s life, it is not enough to only explain general principles and ideas; we have to dig deeper because the branches of writing are so numerous.

How did you get the idea for the book?

To make the explanation short, while I was working on a novel, I realized that my surroundings didn’t influence me as I wanted.

I suddenly noticed that the Chi flow around my desk and office was stagnant for what I needed to write. Instantly the cogwheels in my brain started working at a high-speed level, and a new creative idea was born… I have to Feng Shui my office, to let the Chi flow freely, to accurately boost my environment for this writing project. I did it… and for some time I wrote like never before; I almost couldn’t be stopped by any external influences.

But… after a while I realized something; I couldn’t keep this information only to myself. I had to share it with my fellow writers. Thus started the process I dubbed “the birth of my second first book”. Yes, like this I referred to my project through which the book “Feng Shui for Writers” was born. I called it “the birth” because even the smallest ideas we have, cross through a birth process before manifesting into this world. I called it “my second first book” because it is my first published book, but the second one to be implemented and emerge from the embryo phase.

And this book was born for YOU - the Writer!"

What does your book bring new to its genre?

This is the easiest question to answer. Feng Shui for Writers, it not only brings new elements to its genre, but it is unique to all the Feng Shui books. At least, until now, I haven’t found any other Feng Shui manual written especially for writers.

What struggles did you encounter while writing this book?

I have to admit that while writing this book I didn’t struggle at all. At that moment, my environment was already arranged according with Feng Shui advice. Instead, I struggled while painting and digitizing all the illustrations included. To write the book I needed three weeks, but to have all the pictures ready, we needed about six months. Hearing a lot of weird stories about copyrights and using someone else's pictures, we decided to do our own. Today I saw the paperback book. The moment when I opened its pages, I knew that all our efforts have been rewarded.

What was the most satisfying moment while writing this book?

Well… I have to admit that I had chills when I wrote the final words. That moment I told myself, “You did it. You really did it”. And at the same time a deep satisfaction embraced my whole being.

What do you hope to accomplish with this book?

Thank you for asking this question. Here the answer must touch two sides of the story. First, I hope to bring into the writer’s life a new approach for their working plans. Being aware of the energy around us and having knowledge of how to influence it, can give the writer a boost in any aspect of their work.

Second, even if it's not about a hope, because I planned each detail and nothing can stop me now, what this book will give me is the confidence in knowing that I just completed the first official step of the bigger plan which I designed one year ago, and which will last for two; quitting my job as an engineer to be a full-time writer.

Thank you for having me here. I hope Feng Shui for Writers will change your life.


Feng Shui for Writers by M.C. Simon

Available on: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU | Amazon IN  
Website: MCSimonWrites.com  
Twitter: @mcsimonwrites
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/MC-Simon/526773840785287 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Breaking the Chains is Free on Amazon

The above image says it all. Breaking the Chains is free on Amazon on June 18 - 20.

Download, read, and review it if you please.

And help spread the word! Thanks.

Monday, June 15, 2015

New Release: Breaking the Chains by Ioana Visan

Breaking the Chains, the first installment in The Devil You Know series, is out on Amazon.

It's a short story of about 4,000 words, priced at $0.99 (the lowest possible price on Amazon) and free via Kindle Unlimited.

It all started with a contest on Nemira’s blog in the summer of 2009 when I was stalking Romanian publishers’ websites, hoping to win free books. The subject was “What is the Devil doing right now?”, and because my blog was in English, I wrote my post in English, too. My entry ended up as one of the winners, I got the book, and this was it.

Then the following summer, I felt like writing something fun just for myself. For a while, the story was available on my blog, and it gave the readers a few chuckles. Since then, the Romanian version of Breaking the Chains was included in my debut short story collection Efectul de nautil, published by Millennium Books in 2013. This was the beginning of The Devil You Know series, and hopefully there will be more stories featuring angels and demons and Lu himself soon. Obviously, this isn’t a series for very religious people, so I apologize if you felt offended by it.

So download it from Amazon, add it to your Goodreads list, and since it's a short read, please, pretty please, take the time to leave a review. Thanks!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Indie Friday: Cycling to Asylum

Guest post by Su J. Sokol

Cycling to Asylum is the story of a family living in the near future who are forced to flee from a home that, despite many hard things about it, they love. In the first half of the novel, the reader learns why they must flee. The second half shows the family's struggle to find safety and happiness in a new place while battling threats—both external and internal—that have followed them from New York.

I came up with the idea for this story while biking home from work. A thought suddenly popped into my head. What if a family were to cross the border from the United States into Québec by bicycle and claim political refugee status? The parents would be activists, wanted by the government, but the kids are innocent, believing themselves to be on a bicycle trip during their summer vacation. As a cyclist, an immigrant, a parent, and an activist who works with, among others, political asylum seekers, I felt this was a story I could, and badly wanted, to write.

I worried about was whether certain readers would find it credible that someone coming from the United States would need to seek asylum. For this reason, I decided that the novel would be set in the future so as to contain dystopian elements that could be a combination of true, invented, and exaggerated aspects of the current political situation. The next thing I decided was that the story should be told from the points of view of all four family members. Truth is already obscured by an inevitable narrowness in perspective; I wanted to have the chance of broadening the focus and thus shedding more light into the situation. 

Cycling to Asylum is a work of interstitial fiction; it does not fit neatly into any one genre. While it takes place in the future and has speculative elements, it reads more contemporary than sci-fi. Moreover, C2A is a family drama with chapters that could comfortably fit into a YA novel; at the same time, it is an alternative, edgy, outside-the-box love story with adult themes. It's also an adventure containing political intrigue, a psychological drama, a tale of activism and friendship, a cycling voyage, and urban fiction with noir elements. The writing is fast-paced and easy to read. Many readers have told me that they could not put the book down. At the same time, there are challenging, literary elements to the writing. For instance, it is written in present tense, first person, with four separate points of view including two children. It also contains long and idiosyncratic dialogue passages that are almost too realistic.

The interstitial elements of the book are, I believe, both its strength and a source of challenge. For me personally, it is part of what made it so difficult when I decided to try to get it published. As a new writer with few publications and no agent, I could not get a big publisher interested, and many small publishers have placed themselves in a narrow niche for reasons of resource management and focus. For science fiction publishers, my book is not sufficiently sci-fi. For literary publishers, my story is too "genre." Even now, after the book was published by a local micro publisher/not-for-profit, I have trouble deciding whether to ask bookstores to put it in the science fiction section or the regular fiction section (or in alternative bookstores, whether it should go under anarchist fiction or cycling fiction.)

In writing this story, I hoped to do a number of things. As with most dystopian fiction, I wanted to point to political and social trends that are troubling and say, "Let's please avoid or fight against this." By including utopian elements, I also wanted to say, "See these positive trends? Let's try to move in that direction." I sought to speak to the struggles that activists face, particularly those who have young children and must balance their responsibilities as parents against their duties towards the larger community. There are certain issues for which I feel a special passion and therefore present in the story. These include police brutality, the rights of migrants, the need to create healthy and sustainable communities and lifestyles, love and friendship, and the arbitrary nature of borders — whether we are speaking of physical borders or psychological ones. I also wanted very much to write a story that describes how the world looks from the seat of a bicycle instead of from behind the wheel of a car. 

Writing this novel was a voyage for me as well as for my characters. It was also a means to cross a border into another type of life: the life a writer. There have been many satisfying moments for which I am very grateful: the first time I saw the book in print with Lin-Lin Mao's vibrant cover art; my two book launches—in Montréal and in Brooklyn; the first time someone contacted me to say they loved the novel and couldn't put it down, and most recently, when I learned that the book had been long listed for the Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. There have been difficult moments too, but like going into labour, you hope for a bit of amnesia from the pain so as to leave open the possibility of giving birth a second time. This is something that I am in the process of trying to do; that is to say, I am working on a second novel.


Cycling to Asylum by Su J. Sokol

Website: www.susokol.com

Twitter: @sujsokol

Facebook: www.facebook.com/cyclingtoasylum

Monday, June 8, 2015

Cover Reveal: Breaking the Chains by Ioana Visan

Breaking the Chains
 (The Devil You Know #1)
by Ioana Visan 

All it took was one human to figure out how to lend his guardian angel to another and now Lucifer “Lu” is left to try to fix the situation before it gets out of hand. With his pet human in tow, Lu begins an investigation like no other and sets out to stop the madness before other humans follow suit and interfere with his livelihood.

Coming to your ereaders in June! 

Friday, June 5, 2015

Indie Friday: Avalon: a Heartwarming True Cat Story

Guest post by Vanessa Morgan

“Avalon is the spawn of Satan. Either you throw your cat out, or I'll throw you out!” my landlord said.

Yet this feline demon taught me several important lessons about life and love. The most important of those lessons is that love is a decision - you decide to love and take care of someone, no matter what.

However, reminding myself of that decision was challenging. Describing my cat as jealous and possessive would be too mild. When another pet (or human) tried to approach me, it was a matter of life and death. On top of that, he vomited on my guinea pig, vocalized every complaint with a set of decibel heavy meows, stole from the fridge, scared visitors half to death, and threw my dates out by towing their coats toward the front door and tapping the keys to the doorframe.

But no matter how intolerable Avalon was, I kept to my decision to love him. After all, if he behaved like a criminal, it was probably because he had been deprived of love early on in his life.

After several years, my patience paid off. Avalon turned into the gentle cat he was meant to be. He even became a feline celebrity. Avalon landed a role in the horror movie The Strangers Outside, appeared in a music video, played a part in A Good Man, and is now cast in the short film Next to Her.

That's the subject of Avalon: a Heartwarming True Cat Story.

I started to write this book a few days after Avalon's passing. I think I wasn't willing to let him go. Writing a book about my cat was a way of keeping him in my life.

But it became so much more than just a cat story. One of the things that sets Avalon apart from other cat books is the depth and honesty with which I treat the subject. I wanted the reader to understand why our bond was so intense. Therefore, I had to dig deep into my own insecurities and failures.

That was the hardest part of the writing – being honest about things I hadn't been honest about before, and portraying myself the way I was instead of how I wanted to be.

But the most satisfying parts were the ones about Avalon's many feline shenanigans. I knew I was onto something good when I described how Avalon made a hobby out of vomiting on my guinea pig, how he spoke a few words of French (I swear this is true), how he became the most feared criminal in the neighborhood, how he developed special techniques to throw my dates out of the house, and how he charmed everyone on movie sets.

I'm sure that Avalon: a Heartwarming True Cat Story is a book that will touch you. You will laugh, but you will definitely cry as well.


Avalon: a Heartwarming True Cat Story by
Vanessa Morgan