Witch Swindled in Westerham Error on Barnes & Noble

Hi to my Barnes & Noble readers. I wanted to apologise and ask for your patience. The second book in my Paranormal Investigation Bureau series came out on 29th August, but only the sample was released. I had uploaded the full version to my distributor, but as I had a week exclusive early release with iBooks, something went wrong when it came time to automatically upload the book to Barnes & Noble, and it didn’t go through as it should have. The result is that you are getting the two-chapter sample, not the whole book. I’m so sorry, but this will be fixed ASAP. I’ve sent about 100 emails—and that’s not too much of an exaggeration, and I’m freaking out, because, well, readers paying $3.99 for two chapters is horrific.

Hopefully this will be rectified ASAP, and you can take delivery of the whole book. Again, I’m sorry for the inconvenience, but bear with me, and you’ll soon have a proper book.

Off I go, to worry some more xx.

 

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Cozy Mystery Cover Reveal!

Here it is, the cover for my new cozy mystery, Witchnapped in Westerham (Paranormal Investigation Bureau Book 1).

World, meet Lily, my sweet yet sassy Aussie photographer who’s trying to survive finding out she’s a witch and an unexpected move to Westerham in England to solve her brother’s kidnapping.

My cover artist, the talented Robert Baird, has outdone himself yet again. All the artwork is original, and I absolutely love it.

If you want to read a sample, you can check it out on my previous blog post here. And in case you really want to buy it, the buy links are at the bottom of that post. The book is in preorder and releases on 29th July.

witchnapping_final_frontfinal.jpg

Thanks for visiting. Have an awesome day, and happy reading!

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My New Paranormal Cozy Mystery Series is Almost Here!

I’m alive! Yes, it’s official. I haven’t blogged in a very long time, but it’s only because life has been so busy. For those of you who don’t know, I’m an editor, author, mother of two, I run Booktastik, and I’m a part-time property valuer, plus I help my husband run his business. I’ve also recently taken up hapkido, because I’m trying to stay, or is that get, fit. It’s a losing battle, but I’m stubborn, so I’m not going down without a fight, literally. In the work-crazed madness that is my life, I’ve finally started writing consistently again.

There are some readers out there waiting for the next book in my epic fantasy series, The Rose of Nerine. I’m so sorry it’s not out yet, and I feel guilty, but I want it to be awesome, so it won’t be out until next year. I’ve more than half written that book, but it became a struggle. Life pressures, plus the pressure I put on myself to make it perfect had me stuck for words. I’d never believed in writers’ block before, but after suffering it for eighteen months, I realized it is totally a thing. A depressing, horrible cow of a thing. So in that time, around all my other commitments, I read, and I read, and I read. I discovered paranormal cozy mysteries, and I ended up reading a book a day. It was costing a fortune, so I decided, why not tell myself the story—it will take longer and it won’t cost me anything. And so I did :). I will be coming back to my epic fantasy, but I’m allowing myself a break to write some cozy mystery first.

The result of this decisions had my fingers flying over the keyboard. I wrote the first book in eleven days and the second in twenty. I’ve just started the third. I’ve almost finished final edits on the first book, which is coming out on the 29th of July. The second will go for first edits on 15th July and will be out on the 29th of August. I’m just waiting on the covers, which my awesome cover guy, Robert Baird is doing. I so can’t wait to see the final product, which will be totally original artwork. Eek!

Anyway, the purpose of this post is to introduce you to Lily, the main character in the Paranormal Investigation Bureau series. She’s a twenty-four-year-old Aussie photographer who finds out she’s a witch on the same day she discovers her brother’s been kidnapped, but he’s all the way over in the UK, in the quaint Kent village of Westerham. A witch from the Paranormal Investigation Bureau (PIB) turns up on her Sydney doorstep and convinces her to come with. They hop on a plane bound for the UK, and that’s where her adventure starts. I hope you’ll take this journey with her. So here are the first two chapters. And if you feel compelled to preorder it, it’s only 99 cents, and the links are after the sample. It’s available wide—Amazon, Kobo, iBooks (coming to Barnes & Noble soon). Enjoy!

WITCHNAPPED IN WESTERHAM

CHAPTER 1

The bride’s nasally whine cut through the string quartet’s soft music. “Hey, photographer, not there. Move that way a bit.” She waved a large knife, indicating where I should go, the glossy white ribbon tied around the handle rippling with her efforts. “Remind me again why I’m paying you when I’m giving all the direction?”

God help me, but I wanted to shove her face into the wedding cake. Deep breaths. I tried to smile while I took a step to the left. I looked through the viewfinder of my Nikon and assessed the shot. The whitewashed weatherboard walls and iron chandelier holding candles created a magical backdrop. So pretty.

“No! Oh my God, do I have to do everything myself?” she shrieked, and I started. The bride bore down on me, knife still in hand, and pushed my shoulder until I was situated exactly where she wanted.

Who said weddings were an easy way to earn money? The bride retreated to her spot next to the groom. At least he had the good grace to blush. I wondered if he was reassessing his choice of a life partner. Bad luck, buddy; you already put a ring on it. “Are we ready to cut the cake now?” she asked, heavily pencilled eyebrow raised, as if I’d been the one holding things up. Sheesh.

“Look this way,” I said, my eye twitching. The bride, Tracy, rolled her eyes. I guess I was stating the obvious, but her husband had been looking at her, so what was I supposed to do? They both turned to the camera, Tracy’s scowl quickly switching to a glowing smile. I snapped a few shots while they poised the tip of the knife on the icing then pushed the blade into the four-tiered work of art.

With Tracy occupied, I quickly stepped back to my original position and clicked away as they fed each other cake. Why hire me if you’re not going to trust my judgement? It wasn’t like I was the cheapest photographer out there, and I doubted Tracy had a degree in visual arts. Who’d come up with the “the customer is always right” saying? Honestly, most of the time, the customer had no idea about shot composition and lighting. A headache threatened as I thought about the editing suggestions that would be coming my way next week.

Her parents joined her, and her father leaned in for a hug. I quickly moved forward, focused the lens and clicked some close-ups. That would be an amazing shot—the emotion in his face brought tears to my eyes. I couldn’t wait to see it on my large desktop screen. Except…

I blinked and stopped clicking. I must be tired, because her father seemed see through, like I imagined a ghost would be. I could see Tracy’s mother through him. What the hell? I lowered the camera. And, of course, he was solid, normal again. I must need more coffee. Maybe Tracy’s whole crazy-bride thing had me so stressed that I was hallucinating.

Feedback exploded from the speaker system, destroying my hearing with laser precision. A giggle followed, and then a woman’s voice slurred out of the speakers. “Oopsie. Time to dance! Get your arses on the floor, peeps!” Taylor Swift blasted over the partygoers. So that was it for any conversation. I pulled my phone out of my back pocket and checked the screen. 8:45 p.m.: forty-five torturous minutes to go. At least the bride would be too busy to harass me, as her bridesmaids had dragged her onto the dance floor.

I slipped my phone back into my pocket and hoisted my camera in front of my face. This was probably one of my favourite parts of a wedding—the candid shots where everyone was having fun. Someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned.

The bride’s father stood there, solid as ever, thank God. He even smiled. “Hi, Lily. I wanted to say thank you very much for today. You helped make this an incredible day for my daughter. I know she can get a little carried away sometimes.” He shrugged, as if to say “what are you gonna do?” Hmm, I could think of a few things. “Anyway, here’s an extra something to show our appreciation.” His smile was genuine when he handed me a white envelope. It all felt a bit Mafia.

“Um, thank you, Mr Papadakis. That’s very kind of you.” He had already paid me the full amount for the job via direct debit, but I could only assume this was extra cash. I really wanted to know how much, but I wasn’t sure if it was polite to open the envelope in front of him.

“It’s my pleasure. My wife and I can’t wait to see all the pictures. Thanks again.” He smiled and made his way to the dance floor to bust some moves with his daughter. What a nice dad.

I took a deep breath and fought an unexpected tear. If I ever got married, I didn’t have a dad to celebrate with, or a mum. They disappeared when I was fourteen, presumed dead. Maybe I would just avoid the whole “getting married” thing, then I wouldn’t have to worry about missing them being there. At least I still had my older brother, James. After my parents disappeared, he took care of me. Then later, he met and married a London girl. They lived just outside London, but he called me every week, and I knew I’d be getting a call later for my birthday. He’d been over there for six years, but he never forgot the important dates.

I nabbed the last of the shots for the night, said goodbye to the bride and groom without too much drama, then lugged my equipment to my Subaru and packed it into the back seat. Once behind the wheel, I locked the doors—one could never be too careful—and opened the envelope. I simulated a drum roll by vibrating my tongue on the roof of my mouth—okay, it didn’t sound anything like a drum roll, but it was better than nothing. My ears rang from the loud music, but the crinkle of the envelope opening was still loud in the quiet car. I held my breath as I pulled out the contents… green plastic notes, which meant, oh my God! One thousand Aussie dollars in hundreds.

“Woohoo!” I screamed. This called for a song. “Happy birthday to me. Happy birthday to me. Happy birthday, dear Lily. Happy birthday to me!” Best present ever. One-thousand un-taxable dollars. I grinned. Maybe I could duck over to the UK sooner than I thought. This money was so going into my holiday/visit-my-brother fund. I turned the radio on and sung along with the latest pop tunes all the way home. Maybe turning twenty-four wasn’t so bad after all.

Except, I may have spoken too soon.

CHAPTER 2

 

I walked in my door at 10.45 p.m., and I was ready to go to sleep, but I didn’t want to miss James’s call. There was a hot shower with my name on it, after which I replied to a couple of texts from my friends wishing me happy birthday and begging me to come out with them, but I wasn’t in the mood. My birthday brought out the worst in me. I was normally a happy person, but depression came calling every birthday. It was easy to feel sorry for myself when I had no family to celebrate with. I missed the unconditional love I’d had when I was a kid—my parents’ and grandparents’ faces would light up when they saw me. The meals we’d have as a family, usually finished off with my grandmother’s apple strudel, were always a delicious feast with much arguing and laughter.

Comfy in my jammies, I settled onto my fawn-coloured couch and flicked through the channels. Yay that Bridesmaids was on, but boohoo that it only had twenty minutes left. It was my favourite comedy movie of all time. Maybe the universe was trying to make it up to me. I lay back on the couch, clutching my phone. At the end of the movie, I checked the iPhone screen. Nope, no calls, which I already knew, because the phone hadn’t rung, but I had to be sure, like sure, sure.

I yawned. 11.30 p.m., which made it 2.30 p.m. over in England. He should’ve called by now, unless he got caught up at work. Maybe there’d been a coding emergency, and all his company’s websites were down. That was more likely than him having forgotten, wasn’t it? Although, we all forget things sometimes. Disappointment settled over me. Tears burnt my overreacting eyes. Dammit, Lily, he’ll call. Stop being such a baby. I sniffled and wiped the heel of my hand over my eyes. No more crying.

Some other show called Dating Naked came on, where the contestants go on dates, you guessed it, naked. Oh, the horror of seeing people horse riding naked. Ew. I wouldn’t want to be the person cleaning that saddle afterwards. And I had no idea about anyone else, but the last thing I wanted to see on a first date was the guy’s junk, and trust me, I wasn’t a prude; it just wasn’t the most attractive part of a man. I was more of an “eyes and face” girl. Ah, late-night television, how you mock me. But I watched it, because it was better than staring at my phone. Okay, it wasn’t really, but whatever.

Shortly after 1:00 a.m., and two god-awful episodes of Dating Naked later, I fell asleep, clutching my silent phone.

Argh, morning. I turned my face away from the gross damp spot on my favourite cushion and wiped dribble off my face. There was nothing like waking up on the couch with an emotional hangover. I squinted and could just make out the time on my phone. No missed calls. No messages. It was too early for more disappointment. Time for coffee. Until my first coffee of the morning, I was only capable of grunts, but when James called, I’d have to do words.

I turned the machine on and filled the thingamajig—I had no idea what it was called, but that lack of knowledge didn’t affect my operating skills—with coffee grounds before screwing it into the main part of the machine. I pressed another button, but instead of hot water cascading through the grounds, sparks showered from the back of the machine.

“No!” I leaned over and ripped the plug from the wall, coughing through the smoke.

My coffee maker was dead. And what the hell? It was only twelve months old. I’d have to get the backup out—my stovetop percolator my grandmother left me when she died.

As I reached into the cupboard, my phone rang. It rang! Hmm, I didn’t recognise the number. Maybe James had trouble with his phone and had to borrow someone else’s?

“Hello?”

“Hello… Lily?” A woman’s voice broke through the static, and it sounded like Millicent.

“Hello, Millicent?”

“Lily, hello? Are you there? It’s—”

The line went dead. That was two deaths already this morning. Yes, they were metaphorical deaths, but the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end anyway, and I shuddered. Today was not looking good. Maybe I should’ve just gone back to bed.

However, I wasn’t a giver-uperrer, so I pressed redial. It rang, but as soon as someone answered, the line cut out. Hmm. The reception in my apartment was always fine, but I moved to the window anyway.

I pressed redial. This time, it didn’t even ring. I blew a raspberry, frustration lacing each droplet of spittle that flew from my tongue. Okay, then. Time to get dressed. I was failing at life this morning, so I’d let someone else make my coffee. The café down the street made a decent brew. Maybe I’d take a walk along the beach after I grabbed my coffee. That sounded like a plan.

I found black sports tights and a red T-shirt in my clean-clothes basket—I hated putting clothes away; it was so time-consuming and boring—and put them on. I dragged my sneakers out from under the bed and put them on too, grabbed my wallet, keys, and phone, and opened the door… to a slim, fifty-something-year-old woman in a grey suit, her hand poised to knock. Huh?

“Can I help you?” I couldn’t see any brochures, so I was probably pretty safe from a religious lecture—not that I hated religion; I was agnostic, and I believed in my right to live peacefully in un-annoyed bliss with my choice, just as I believed others had a right to their beliefs without me judging them and demanding they all become fence-sitters, like me.

Her stern gaze raked me from head to toe and back again. Was my appearance the cause of her frown—my T-shirt was a little creased—or was it her super-tight bun? Actually, I didn’t really want to find out.

“Look, I’m just on my way out, Ms…?”

“Angelica Constance DuPree, but Ma’am to you.” Okaaay. As well as being bossy, she had a refined English accent, which gave her words more gravity. She tipped her head back so her nose pointed higher: all the better to look down at me. “And you’re Lily Katerina Bianchi. You’re about what I expected.”

What was that supposed to mean? I blinked. My brain had nothing. Coffee. I needed coffee. Also, how did she know my name? I supposed she could have found it on the Internet. Was she a stalker? She could have a knife or something tucked into the back of her skirt under her suit jacket.

“…Ma’am, would you like to chat while we walk? I have to get… somewhere.” Coffee didn’t sound important enough a reason to rush outside, but believe me, it was almost life and death. I’d have a migraine by lunchtime if I missed my daily caffeine hit. I eased past her and shut my door, the deadbolt automatically locking in place. It would probably be safer to talk to her in public. She gave off a cranky and slightly scary vibe, to be honest, oh, and she knew my name; let’s not forget that.

“Very well, then. Once you get your coffee, we can come back here and talk. This is a matter to be discussed in private.”

Say again? How did she know I was going out for coffee? Did I look like a coffee junkie in withdrawals? Nah, someone suffering coffee withdrawals didn’t look like anything, at least not until I opened my car door, leaned out and threw up from a migraine. Yes, it had happened. More than once. Don’t judge me; Ma’am’s judgey glares were all I could take right now. Ooh, she was also looking smug, like she had one over on me. I suppose being able to mind-read would make you feel like that. I wanted to read minds, dammit! I didn’t really believe she could do that, did I?

Gah, I wanted coffee, like really, really badly, but this was crazy. I didn’t know this woman. I was not letting her tag along, but how to say it? I wasn’t usually one to speak my mind and be “difficult.” Which was probably what got most women into situations they wished they’d avoided. Maybe it was time to learn to annoy people and not worry.

“Look, Ma’am, I don’t know you, and I have no idea why you’re at my front door, or how you know my name. I suggest you tell me what you want now, and get it over with. Frankly, I don’t have the energy for weirdness today.”

She narrowed her eyes, probably assessing my likelihood of running before she could stab me. I edged towards the stairs, ready to sprint one floor down to freedom.

Ma’am rolled her eyes and sighed. “Honestly, Lily, what are we going to do with you? I’m not here to hurt you; I’m here to protect and guide you.”

And that didn’t sound freaking weird at all. Stuff it. I took off, bounding down the stairs two at a time until I was out the door, on the footpath, in public. Safe.

The sun shone on a cool morning, and it looked like the day was going to be gorgeous—weather wise, at least. It may have been rude of me to just leave like that, but I preferred to be safe now rather than dead. And that’s not an overreaction. Trust your gut was one of those sayings I lived by. If I was wrong about Ma’am, I could always apologise later, and we’d laugh about it. Yep, or she wouldn’t laugh and hold it against me forever.

I hurried along the footpath, past an assortment of unit blocks, from red-brick two-storey ones to rendered brick twelve-storey ones. Monday morning brought out a mixture of joggers, surfers, and people dressed for work. I crossed at the traffic lights and soon reached Surfer’s Brew. The delectable fragrance of fresh coffee swirled around me. I breathed it in and sighed. Ah. That was more like it.

Just before entering, I looked back. No sign of my weirdo morning visitor. Maybe my morning was improving. I smiled and stepped up to the counter. “Morning, Frances. Can I get a regular skim cap?” I didn’t get coffee here every day—because I had my coffee machine, or used to have—how depressing—but I visited regularly enough that they knew me. Sometimes I wanted something frothy with chocolate on the top, and I was too lazy to do that at home.

Frances was in her mid-thirties, had gorgeous straight blonde hair, which was pulled back in a sleek ponytail, and an infectious smile. “Hey, chicky. Coming right up. A little birdie told me it was your birthday yesterday. Happy birthday!” She banged used coffee grounds out of the thingamajig and filled it with new ones.

“Aw, thanks. Did you run into the girls last night?” The girls being my besties, Sophie and Michelle.

“Yep. How come you weren’t there? They told me you piked.” She screwed the thingamajig into the machine and pressed the button. And wouldn’t you know, it worked. I wish my machine still worked.

“Big day photographing a wedding. One drink and I would have fallen asleep.” I laughed—it wasn’t too far from the truth. So what if I left out the bit where I had a pity party because my brother hadn’t called. I’d try calling him later. Knowing him, he had a good reason for missing my birthday, and I would keep reminding myself until I knew for sure.

Frances frothed the milk and poured it into the coffee before sprinkling lots of chocolate on the top—she did extra for me, because it was my favourite part. Then she did some magic with a spoon and made a cute little heart on the top of the froth. “There you go.” She smiled, and I handed her four dollars—coffee habits didn’t come cheap.

“Thanks. You’re a lifesaver. See you later.” I waved. She waved. The usual. I stopped just outside the shop, unpopped the lid and licked the chocolatey goodness off it before taking a sip. Heaven. The simple things were really the best.

I replaced the lid and started down the street, contemplating whether I should return to my apartment, and possibly run into Ma’am, or go for that walk. There was nothing like a stroll on the beach to settle my mind. The rolling surf was calming. During summer, I’d go body surfing, but the water was a bit cool now, and I was the first to admit, I was soft.

Hmm, if I went back now and had to deal with Ms Crazy-pants, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy my coffee properly. That was an easy decision: walk it was!

But since when was life that easy?

I reached the end of the path and the beginning of the sand. Salty sea spray hazed the air, seagulls wheeled overhead, and the sun warmed my face. Surfers bobbed in the water, waiting for the next wave, and a young mother watched her two kids build a sandcastle. Before I could absorb the peace of the scene, I noticed something, or rather someone, that was out of place: a woman in a drab but well-tailored business suit and low heels with her arms crossed in front of her chest and another self-satisfied smile. Seemed like she only had two expressions: pissed off and smug. I breathed in deeply, and when I exhaled, my serenity went with it. Wasn’t it supposed to work the other way around?

“You can run, but you can’t hide.” Great, she was intimidating me with clichés.

“On a scale of one to ten, your creep factor is about an eight. Think you could tone it down?”

She smiled. It could have even been genuine this time. “At least you have some spunk. You’re going to need it, missy.” Her expression morphed into sad then quickly into serious.

I sipped my coffee. I had a feeling I was going to need all the caffeine support I could get before she was done with me.

Angelica nodded. “Unfortunately, you’re right.”

Not again with the mind reading. How was she doing that? “Can you please tell me what you want?”

“Look, we don’t have time to dilly-dally. You appear strong enough, at least, and there’s no way to say this nicely, so I’ll just say it. Your brother, James, is missing. He disappeared seven days ago.”

No amount of coffee could have prepared me for that. My stomach fell as fast as my cup. It hit the ground, still half full, dammit. The lid came off, splashing brown liquid on my runners and shins. A chill sluiced the sun’s warmth from my arms like the reaper’s scythe, leaving goosebumps in its wake. I shivered.

I was transported back to the day my mum’s best friend sat James and me down and explained that our parents weren’t coming home. Ever again. I remembered James gripping my hand and squeezing for dear life. We’d held fast to each other since then, until he’d gone off to the UK. Tears spilled down my cheeks. I wanted to fall to the ground and curl into a ball, but making a scene wasn’t going to help. Was James’s disappearance somehow related to my parents’? Was I next? No, don’t be stupid, Lily. Coincidences exist. That’s all it is.

Ma’am stepped closer and laid a stiff hand on my shoulder. She patted me awkwardly then dropped her hand. I appreciated the gesture: I wasn’t much of a hugger either. My personal space was just as important to me as my right to believe in nothing.

“You look a little pale, dear. I’m sure you have many questions. Let’s return to your apartment and grab your things. We have a plane to catch.”

What? “Where to?”

“Why, London of course. Then we’re driving to Westerham. You’re going to help us find your brother. Hopefully he’s still alive.”

Hopefully? Nausea clutched my throat and squeezed. There was nothing I could do. Nothing. And who was “us”? Common sense wormed its way into my head, or was that avoidance? This wasn’t really happening, was it? I shook my head slowly and tried to clutch onto something normal, safe. “I have work to do, photos to edit. I can’t just leave.” Not that I didn’t want to find my brother, but this was beyond crazy. Was he really missing or was this some farce to kidnap me? Although I wasn’t really kidnap material—there was no one rich who would pay ransom to get me back. Although, my parents hadn’t been kidnap-worthy either, and they’d disappeared, and my brother? Deep breaths, Lily.

I bent and gathered the cup and lid. No matter how loopy things got, I wasn’t a litterbug.

“You can edit the photos on your laptop on the plane or when we get to England. I could even have your desktop delivered, if you’d like. I know this is hard to believe. Just bear with me, and I’ll explain everything while you’re packing. Come on.” She started walking towards my apartment block.

I shuffled along next to her, my legs heavy as if they were weighed down with lead boots. My gut told me she was telling the truth, so I concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other. I bit my lip to keep from crying. Now wasn’t the time to fall apart. My brother needed me.

And I never let down those I loved.

Never.

***

I hope you enjoyed this sample. You can preorder your ebook copy from: Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. The paperback will be out on the 29th too.

Thanks for stopping by :).

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Holy Box Set Madness, Batman!

How awesome are ebooks? That was a rhetorical question, by the way. I remember when I was a teenager and paperbacks were the only form books came in. The cost to keep reading was significant, and, of course, when you finished a book and wanted the next one, you had to get your butt to the shop. But, in this digital age, you can nab hours, hours, and hours of reading for such a small price, whenever you want. So, thanks to the digital age, there is MARKED BY FATE, an awesome, magical, bargain-priced fantasy and science fiction box set collection.

I’ve gotten together with 25 other amazing young adult authors, and we’ve put this set together to reach new readers. If you’ve read and liked Shadows of the Realm, there is a good chance you’ll enjoy many (if not all) of the books in this new, limited-time collection. All authors are bestsellers, and some are even USA Today or New York Times bestsellers, so you know you’re getting quality.

If you were to purchase the 26 included books separately, you’d spend over $100 – and that’s even with ebooks being such a bargain in the first place. The set is only going to be around until November, so if you want a copy, I’d go grab it now. Did I mention you’ll be getting TWENTY-SIX novels for 99 cents? Holy moly, that’s an awesome deal. Seriously. It’s more than a week of constant reading.

Here’s a list of what else can you get for 99 cents:

  • A third of a cup of coffee
  • Five lollies (sweets for you US peeps)
  • Two minutes on the bus (sitting next to someone with really bad B.O.)
  • One raw chicken wing
  • One sip of wine (and who can stop at just one?)
  • Toxic purple lipstick from the bargain bin at the local pharmacy.

To be honest, I can’t think of anything else you would actually want that you can get for 99 cents. So, if you love young adult fantasy and science fiction (including but not limited to epic fantasy, urban fantasy, dystopian worlds, alien worlds) be kind to yourself and grab it—you deserve it, really you do.

BUT that’s not all! At the risk of sounding like one of those TV ads that offer you everything from a knife set to the kitchen sink, if you preorder the box set (ie order it before the release date on the 24th of October) you’ll also get BONUS books, bookmarks and a host of other awesome stuff (that you can check out on our website www.markedbyfate.com. I just checked, and we’re up to 70 books in total with bonuses—holy freaking box-set madness, Batman!!).

Phew! If that’s not enough to satisfy an avid reader, I have no idea what is—maybe try eating the toxic lipstick for some added thrills. For the rest of you reasonable, awesome and soon-to-be happy people, go and grab your copy right now. Just click on the retailer name, and you’ll magically be transported to where you need to be:

AmazonBarnes & Noble, Kobo, and iBooks.

Happy reading!marked by fate profile

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Fantasy & scifi Authors: An Exciting Newsletter-Building Op.

Hi fellow authors! I’m not sure how many of you know, so I’m going to tell you: I’m in an awesome 25-book boxset that’s releasing soon. We’re looking for ways to promote it and our group has come up with a few initiatives, and this is one of them.

We know many of you are finding ways to build your Newsletter. Marked by Fate is offering AUTHORS a great opportunity. A FREE NEWSLETTER SUBSCRIBER BUILD!!

The Authors in the YA SFF boxset Marked by Fate would like to invite you to participate in one of their free newsletter subscriber building opportunities.

All we ask is that you promote MBF boxset and one of our giveaways in your newsletter. In exchange we will share the list of those who signed up for that giveaway. Each giveaway group will be limited to ten authors and will run for one week.
Participation is FREE and there is no minimum subscriber number. We will match authors with similar sized lists where possible. And of course, we’re looking for authors who write YA fantasy, dystopian, scifi and paranormal, as we would be a good fit for each other :).

More info is available on this sign up form: https://goo.gl/forms/ZHBfCpslHmH6Ymgv2

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15 Tips for Choosing a Good Line Editor

Finding a good line editor (or any editor) is one of the trickiest things about being an indie author. Bad editing has caused readers to close a book, never to return, and it’s caused authors to scream in frustration and cry when they realize, after forking out hundreds or even thousands of dollars, their editor didn’t actually know how to use a colon, even though they were apparently one themselves.

If you’re an author who doesn’t think they need an editor or who makes the excuse ‘I don’t have enough money to pay for one,’ you can leave now. If you don’t want to put out a good quality product when you expect people to PAY for your books, you’re unprofessional and obviously don’t care about the reading experience, let alone take writing seriously. Now that all those people are out of the way, I’ll get to why I’m writing this post.

I run Booktastik, a site that promotes books for authors. We don’t rely on reviews but vet all books for editing—we want our readers to have a great experience, and we want writers who work hard to put out a professional product to be rewarded by reaching those readers. Unfortunately, we see quite a few books that don’t meet our editing criteria. We don’t expect books to be perfect, but we expect a certain standard of correct punctuation, grammar, and, of course, minimal typos.

As an indie author, I know how hard it is to find a good editor, and to be honest, not all authors even know what constitutes a good editor. I’m hoping to take some of the doubt out of choosing a competent editor, because any idiot with a computer and internet access can call themselves an editor, and too many authors have spent thousands only to learn later that it was money wasted :(.

This post isn’t comprehensive, as I couldn’t point out everything to look for—it would take too much explanation—but I will tell you basic things to look for in a sample edit and what YOU can do to mitigate your own ignorance.

  1. Find a successful author you like the work of, an author you know is professional, and ask them who their editor is. References are a must.
  2. Google the name of the editor you’re looking at and put ‘scam’ next to it—it’s amazing what can come up. There is also a good site called Writer Beware. Run by the SWFA, it’s also available to writers in any genre. Check them out when you’re researching author services—from publishers to editors and literary agents. http://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/
  3. Educate yourself. Please, for the love of literature, study the basics of grammar, punctuation and sentence structure. The writing journey takes time, and there’s always something to learn, but don’t send your book anywhere, let alone publish it, if you have absolutely no idea what constitutes a standalone sentence and where basic commas go. This is where we get caught out. How can a writer tell a good editing sample from a bad one when they have no idea what they’re looking at? It’s like someone who has no idea about cars looking at two engines side-by-side, listening to all the technical specifications and being able to tell which one is faster or more reliable. An impossible task. And this is why authors end up paying thousands of dollars to ignorant assholes who think they know how to edit.

BASICS TO LOOK FOR IN YOUR SAMPLE EDIT

So, you’ve hopefully gotten recommendations from good sources. The editor should offer you a free sample and a quote. Samples can range from 250 – 1000 words as a general rule. There are two different types of editing: creative and line.

First comes the creative editing, which deals with plot, pacing, characterization, inconsistencies, scene setting, use of language, plus a few other things. Line editing is the final edit that makes sure your periods, commas, semicolons, and apostrophes are in the right place. Some editors do provide both content and line editing in the same manuscript. After the editing is the proofreading to catch any obvious typos, which is NOT editing.

The following is a very basic guide of what the line editor should know and is in relation to grammar and punctuation only (I could write a whole book on content editing, so realistically I won’t go there with this blog post). If the sample provided by the prospective editor is not picking up at least these things, ditch the editor and find another one. Also, ALL changes should be marked up (I’m assuming they use Word) and explained in the margins. No editor should be rewriting your work, either. So, things an editor should know or they’re not worth your hard-earned dollar:

  1. Two standalone sentences next to each other are never broken up by a comma or colon. Complete sentences must be separated by a period or semicolon. I love my cat. My cat loves birds. NOT: I love my cat, my cat loves birds.
  2. Have you used the same verbs, adjectives, nouns, or phrases unnecessarily more than once in the same sentence or paragraph? I grabbed the knife off the table, and then I grabbed the door handle and pulled. He pulled my hair, making me want to scream, so I kicked his shin, making him scream.
  3. When a dependent clause is followed by an independent one, you should have a comma, because in many cases, the meaning won’t be clear without it. A dependent clause is an incomplete sentence by itself and is something like: If I walk down that path…. Before she went to the shop…. With both these examples, a standalone sentence needs to follow to finish the sentence and give meaning to the dependent clause. There always needs to be a comma between the dependent clause and the independent clause. If I walk down that path, the giant spider will eat me. Before she went to the shop, it started raining.
  4. This next comma is necessary because the rules say so, but it doesn’t necessarily aid in meaning. Two standalone sentences joined by a conjunction (and, but, or, so yet, or any other conjunction) need a comma before the conjunction. I ran down the hill, and the dog followed me. An exception to this rule is if the sentence is very short.
  5. There should NEVER be a comma in the middle of a phrase/clause. If the comma splits an independent clause, the comma needs to get the hell out of the way. I felt like, eating chocolate. I regretted eating, the chocolate. Okay, so I didn’t really regret it.
  6. Dialogue attributions. Style guides (and I use CMOS—Chicago Manual of Style) recommend using plain old ‘said’ as an attribution to indicate who is talking. This is because we can skim over it, and it’s almost like it isn’t there. Don’t get all creative and put ‘exclaimed’, ‘commented’, ‘advised’, etc. Even though it’s okay to use ‘said’, don’t use it after every person talks, especially if there are only two people in the conversation.

Mary said, “Are you going to finish those chips?”

“Yes,” I said.

“But I wanted some,” she said.

“Bad luck,” I said.

“You are such a bitch!” she exclaimed.

“Don’t swear or I’ll tell mom,” I warned.

“You wouldn’t dare,” she answered.

You get the picture. It’s irritating and slows the pace. Once you’ve established who is who in the conversation, you only need to remind the reader sparingly. An even better way to indicate someone is talking is to use an action tag.

          Mary stared at my plate. “Are you going to finish those chips?”

          I moved the plate out of her reach. “Yes.”

  1. Exclamation marks. Use them sparingly or they lose their effectiveness. If you have lots of exclamation marks in your work and the editor hasn’t deleted them, they’re no good at what they do.
  2. From the Chicago Manual of Style: In regular prose, a semicolon is most commonly used between two independent clauses not joined by a conjunction to signal a closer connection between them than a period would. If your editor has put a semicolon in between a dependent and independent clause or in the middle of an independent clause, run. There are other rules for semicolons, but they refer to lists and adverbs joining two independent clauses, and that’s where it gets complicated. The instance I’ve described is the most likely one your editor will have to deal with.
  3. Unnecessary words. Before you even send your manuscript to the editor, do a search for the word ‘that’. Most of the time, it doesn’t need to be there. Read the sentence with and without it, and if it makes sense without it, delete. Other words that are often unnecessary include suddenly, began to, and started to. I’m sure there’s more, but the point is, a good editor should point these things out.
  4. In most style guides and dictionaries, alright is not acceptable. Some editors may say it’s okay in speech, and some dictionaries say ‘alright’ is fine in informal work, but still to use all right, as this is the universally acknowledged, formal way of writing it.
  5. Okay is ‘okay’ or ‘OK’. Choose the one you want, and stick with it. Consistency is key.
  6. Direct address. In dialogue, when one character addresses another by their name or by something that replaces that name (grandma, dad), commas set off the name. “Hi, Sarah.” “Don’t do that, Thomas.” “Hey, Brian, why won’t you come?”

I’ve just pointed out the most basic things your line editor should pick up (I’ve left out hyphens, compound adjectives, contractions, colons, evocative language, unnecessary wordiness, and the list goes on). As you can see, there’s a lot to know, and that’s why I think authors need to be their own best friend and learn some of this stuff. You’re only increasing your potential to be ripped off if you remain ignorant when it comes to basic grammar and punctuation rules.

So, to recap, editors should mark everything up on your document and explain why they have made the changes/suggestions they have. Being edited by a good editor is a learning experience and should improve your writing, so your next first draft will be cleaner than the one before. Learn the basics or you may get caught out—you don’t know what you don’t know ;). Google the editor to make sure there are no complaints. Get recommendations from people you respect. Editors should give you something in writing prior to editing, whether it’s in the body of an email or in the form of a contract, setting out what they’ve agreed to do for you and how much it will cost. Most editors ask for a portion (up to half) of the fee upfront. If they ask for 100% upfront, I would use extreme caution.

I’m an editor (although I’m not taking any work until next year as I need to finish my WIP) but even I need an editor. I don’t know everything, and I’m always learning, plus you can’t see the mistakes in your own work. If you’re looking for a competent, professional line editor, I have used and can recommend Hot Tree Editing, and specifically for Science Fiction and Fantasy, Marissa Vu Editing for both content and line. Another good content editor is Nerine Dorman.

I hope I’ve spared some of you the awful experience of paying for crap editing. Unfortunately, there is no standard degree or certificate one needs to get, or an organization one needs to join before they can call themselves an editor. Just make sure you let everyone know when you’ve had a bad experience—good recommendations help, but so do warnings on who to avoid. If we all help each other, maybe we can make it super hard for the bad ones to get work. I know that sounds mean, but it’s common sense, and doing a half-assed job and charging thousands of dollars is way meaner.

I’m assuming some authors will want to put their own recommendations in the comments, but I can’t endorse any of those, as I haven’t seen their work.

Happy writing and editing!

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The Very Real Abuse of an Abused Fictional Character

When my content editor had finished her passes through my last novel, Tempering the Rose, she said, “You’re quite brave choosing a central protagonist who’s experienced such terrible abuse.” I didn’t know why she would say that.

Now I do.

I want to preface this blog post by saying I am married to a wonderful man who respects me and treats me as an equal, and I have two kind and intelligent sons, whom I love with all my heart. This is not meant to man bash. Both women and men have obstacles to face in this world, but today I am choosing to focus on the struggles faced by women because they are women.

I also felt I had to defend my stance on child abuse because of an ill-thought-out review posted today by someone who has not read the whole book. As an author, I believe readers are entitled to their opinion, even if that opinion is that they hate my writing. I’m okay with that, but sometimes reviewers can cross the line from opinion to outright misinformation, which in this case is an attack on me personally and on my reputation.

A reader has my book on a Goodreads shelf titled: dark-erotic, wtf, arc. She also makes the comment: “I’ve read my fair share of “dark” reads, but I am not fan of sex with young children.” This implies my book is an erotic fiction that contains child pornography, which couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m disgusted that this woman would suggest I would do this. This is an epic fantasy novel in the same vein as Lord of the Rings or George R.R. Martin’s works. This is NOT a romantic, erotic fiction, and nowhere is this listed as such. In fact, my book shows how damaging child abuse is to the victims. Child abuse is something I abhor, and my heart breaks for anyone who has been abused—whether it has happened as a child or adult.

We live in a world where we view women through the distorted glass of the existing patriarchal ideology—in other words, we all look at women the way men look at women. And I acknowledge that not all men in first-world countries are trapped in twentieth century ideals (many men treat women with respect and love), but many still believe in sexist ideals, and even worse, so do many women. We have been conditioned from the time we are born to see things a certain way, and it takes an open mind and the ability to think critically to question our beliefs. Unfortunately, there are still many without the ability to do this. Which brings me to Tempering the Rose and how my main character has been perceived.

I purposely created a character who had been sexually, physically, and emotionally abused as a child. I wanted to shine the light on it. I wanted people to talk about it. I wanted those who hadn’t had to suffer the terror of it to empathize with those who had, and I wanted those who had been through it to know that others believe is not okay and that there are people out there who care about what happened to them and who know they did nothing to deserve it.

If it’s not a writer’s job to have or initiate these conversations, I don’t know whose it is. Abuse of children and women continues because of silence. Speaking out about this abuse is the only way to begin the healing process for victims, protect future generations from suffering the same fate, and confirming to ALL of society that this is not okay.

Addy (the main character) was not only abused as a child, she is also a woman. She is a strong person. She is a survivor. She sees what men have done to her and to other women and children. Every day men treat her as if she’s stupid and unable to make decisions for herself because she’s a woman. Addy stands up for herself in these situations and is effectively pushing back against the patriarchy. Some readers find this offensive and have called her immature and whiny. Funnily enough, most of these readers are women, and that makes me sad. They still don’t get it. Addy is not whining—she’s being assertive and standing up for herself. Maybe these readers don’t think she should call these men out when they belittle her. She should just keep her mouth shut and appreciate that these men know better, that they’re just trying to help her see what she can’t see. Thank you, Patriarchy.

Some readers think she’s immature because she doesn’t trust men, even the men who have helped her. They don’t see that if you’ve been abused, you can’t trust anyone more than you can trust yourself. That kind of trust takes a long time to develop. When you’ve been beaten by a stick multiple times, you learn to hate and fear that stick; you don’t second guess those feelings and wonder if maybe that stick could also do other, nicer, useful things like be a toy for a dog or burnt to make a warm fire. Why do women hate her for this? Do they think because a man says something, it must be true? Are they questioning Addy’s judgment because she is a woman? Do they lack emotional maturity and think she should ‘just get over it’ as has been said to many a (male and female) rape survivor?

I know not everyone will get the same thing from a book, and every reader comes to a book with their own experiences that define meaning for them. I don’t expect everyone to love my book, and in fact, I know I’m not the best writer ever, that I can always improve. What does disappoint me is that women still resent other women for demanding equality, for daring to think they are just as good as a man. I also find it extremely disheartening to know that a reader would go out of their way to misrepresent my book to others. Instead of aiding the fight against child abuse, they are perpetuating it by trying to silence my written words.

I know my book will not single-handedly change the world, but if it helps one person see they are worth it, or shows someone a different way to think about who they are and how they can help make society better for everyone, I’ve done my job.

*Just an update. The reviewer has removed the misleading statement from her Goodreads review, but has refused to change the Amazon heading, and resents that she has been asked to alter her review in any way, as now it’s ‘not an honest review’.

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