Saturday, January 28, 2017

COVER REVEAL: The Dwelling of Ekhidna (Shape Shifter Chronicles, #5) / Lauren Jankowski

Today I’m helping reveal the cover for Lauren Jankowski's The Dwelling of Ekhidna, Book Five of the Shape Shifter Chronicles, designed by Najla Qamber Designs. This action-packed urban fantasy is releasing this Tuesday, January 31, from Snowy Wings Publishing!

Title: The Dwelling of Ekhidna: Book Five of the Shape Shifter Chronicles Author: Lauren Jankowski Genre: Urban Fantasy Release Date: January 31, 2017 Publisher: Snowy Wings Publishing Add to your Goodreads list here!
The home of the guardians, the Meadows, has always been a place of peace and safety, untouched by the ongoing war against the Grenich Corporation. But that could only last so long. During the guardians’ autumn celebration, a bomb goes off, shattering the Meadows’ tranquility. In the aftermath of a tragedy, a deadly virus is released that afflicts only healers. The only cure to the virus is hidden in the Seelie Court, in a location that only one knows: Eris, a legendary trickster, locked away in the dungeons of the Pearl Castle for her crimes against the peoples of Earth. When the Four are forced into a temporary alliance with the unpredictable Eris, their journey becomes more perilous than anyone expected.

Friday, January 27, 2017

COVER REVEAL: Ballad of the Beanstalk / Amy McNulty

It’s cover reveal day for Ballad of the Beanstalk, a YA romantic fantasy fairy tale prequel. This amazing cover was created by Makeready Designs.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000037_00030]   

As her fingers move across the strings of her family’s heirloom harp, sixteen-year-old Clarion can forget. She doesn’t dwell on the recent passing of her beloved father or the fact that her mother has just sold everything they owned, including that very same instrument that gives Clarion life. She doesn’t think about how her friends treat her like a feeble, brittle thing to be protected. She doesn’t worry about how to tell the elegant Elena, her best friend and first love, that she doesn’t want to be her sweetheart anymore. She becomes the melody and loses herself in the song. When Mack, a lord’s dashing young son, rides into town so his father and Elena’s can arrange a marriage between the two youth, Clarion finds herself falling in love with a boy for the first time. Drawn to Clarion’s music, Mack puts Clarion and Elena’s relationship to the test, but he soon vanishes by climbing up a giant beanstalk that only Clarion has seen. When even the town witch won’t help, Clarion is determined to rescue Mack herself and prove once and for all that she doesn’t need protecting. But while she fancied herself a savior, she couldn’t have imagined the enormous world of danger that awaits her in the kingdom of the clouds. A prequel to the fairy tale Jack and the Beanstalk that reveals the true story behind the magical singing harp.

Release Date: April 11th, 2017

Pre-order on Amazon (99 cents for the first week of release only!)

Add on Goodreads

The e-book will be exclusive to Amazon and will be available for free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers! The paperback will be available more widely; watch for news about ordering it as the release date approaches.

Check out the paperback cover:

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000037_00030]

Visit author Amy McNulty’s website to learn more.

Monday, January 23, 2017

5 Things to Consider When Self-Publishing

5 Things to Consider When Self-Publishing


Twitter: @securethoughtsc

When self-publishing your book, you are responsible for just about every aspect of the publication process. You’re given complete freedom to write the book you want – but, you won’t have a publishing house behind you to guide you through the publication process. There are plenty of decisions you’ll have to consider on your own, and we’re here to offer some advice.  

Is Self-Publishing Right For Your Book?

The first major consideration is whether or not self-publishing is the right way for you to go about things. Romance, science fiction, fantastic, mystery and thrillers are among the most successful genres for self-published authors. About 40 percent of e-book sales on Amazon are made up of romance books, while 11 percent of the Top 100 Mystery and Thriller books are self-published. If you’re working on a literary fiction book, then self-publishing may not be your best bet.

How Will You Price Your Book?

Many self-published authors run into an issue when decided how much to charge for their book. If they charge too much, they may turn potential readers away. If they charge too little, they run the risk of failing to break even. 

To decide how much you should charge, take a look at the prices of self-published books in the same genre. Then, cross-reference those numbers with your printing costs. When pricing an e-book, try to keep the price under $10. Many retailers will pay authors higher royalties for books that cost between $2.99 and $9.99, and you can expect upwards of 70 percent.

Are You Taking the Necessary Steps to Protect Your Content? 

Although you have copyright protection from the creation of your book, it is important that you can be able to sue just in case someone infringes on your work. In order to do this, you will need to register your book in a timely manner. Copyrighting with the United States government is a quick and easy process to complete online, and costs just $35.

Throughout the creation of your book, you should also ensure that you are protected at all times. It’s likely that you’re backing your content up. If you’re doing so online, ensure that you practice strict online safety measures to prevent anyone from gaining unauthorized access.

-       Use strong passwords with a combination of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, symbols and numbers.

-       When uploading any work, ensure that you are connected to the internet using a Virtual Private Network (VPN), which will encrypt any information being sent.

-       Use two-step authorization for any online accounts you have. This will require you to log in using your browser along with your smartphone. This is vital for any accounts that are related to your self-publishing efforts.

How Will You Market Your Book?


Self-published books are generally only as effective as their marketing campaigns. So, it is important that you have a comprehensive plan to get your book noticed by as many people as possible.

The key to successfully marketing your book is to getting in touch with your readers. Find out more about them by learning about the blogs and magazines they read, along with the influencers that they follow. Keep a list of publications and names and start pitching to them when you are nearing the last corner of writing your book.  Ask to be a guest on a podcast or being interviewed for a blog. Find out if book bloggers would be interested in reviewing your title. Ensure that your pitch really sells them the idea and convinces them how featuring your book will benefit their audiences.

Giving away freebies is a great way for you to spread the word about your new book. Publishing tools like Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing allow you to offer your books for free over a few days and you can offer giveaways via Facebook and other social networks. It is also worth considering uploading the first few chapters as a separate title and offering them as a free download. 

How Will You Distribute Your Book?

From the get-go, you should have a plan for how you plan to distribute your book to your readers. There are plenty of different ways to go about getting your book read, and these are the top choices of self-published authors:

-       Sell it on your website: there are plenty of e-commerce solutions like Shopify and WooCommerce that make it easy for you to sell and ship items using your website. This option allows you to keep nearly 100 percent of your profits, paying just a few dollars for shipping.

-       Amazon: Kindle Direct Publishing is a great tool for users who want to distribute their e-books and CreateSpace is a tool that offers up a wide range of tools for distributing in-print books, which includes royalty management, in-house design, and editing and marketing.

-       Lulu: With over 1000 new titles every day, Lulu is a powerhouse when it comes to self-publishing books. This service will help you with all aspects of your creation and distribution, including formatting, packaging and marketing.

-       Smashwords: As the world’s biggest distributor of independent books, this service will distribute your work through a wide range of channels, including Kobo, Scribd, Barnes & Noble and Apple. There are plenty of great tools, such as marketing assistance and sales reporting, and contracts are non-exclusive.

When you take these aspects into consideration, you should have a much better idea of which steps you need to take to make the self-publishing process for your book a success. Create a detailed plan and follow it closely, and you can look forward to a thriving career as a self-published author.

Author Bio: Cassie is a technology blogger with a passion for reading. She is currently working on her own book and is exploring her self-publishing options, and wants to share her knowledge with other aspiring authors.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Sign up for the BRAVE NEW GIRLS cover reveal!

Tina and I have the cover for the second BRAVE NEW GIRLS anthology in the house, and we aim to reveal it on FEBRUARY 21 along with the stories that were selected!

Help us spread the word! Click here to sign up for the reveal.

Aaaaand... that's all. Shortest blog post ever, I know! Now, to go back to reading the submissions... we've got some good ones so far...

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Star Wars Chat with Russ Culchamiro!

Episode I: The Fandom Menace

Hey everyone! As you may know, I'm kind of into Star Wars. Just a little :-P. Turns out, so's my fellow sci-fi author, Russ Colchamiro... except he sees the franchise quite a bit differently from me. See, Russ and I are 20 years apart, which means we're different generations of nerd. So we decided it'd be fun to talk about Rogue One and our different perspectives.

We did the chat over Facebook Messenger over the course of two days, so we'll be posting in two parts. Part I is below. Or, you can read it on Russ's website with all the pretty pictures (he was much better about formatting the whole thing!

Russ: Mary. We’ve both seen Rogue One. What did you think?
Mary: I really liked it!! I loved seeing new parts of the Star Wars universe. And they all fit perfectly into the world of the originals... It was pretty stunning how much Rogue One ‘felt’ like an extension of those movies (unlike the prequels—which I also liked, but whose shininess always clashed with the rundown universe we love). I also really loved the new characters. Chirrut was my favorite, with his blend of dry humor and spiritual idealism. And I loved his interactions with Baze. I also really liked Jyn. She’s an interesting character, and it was great seeing a flawed and amoral woman lead a film. And of course the action was thrilling (I could go on).

That being said, I didn’t LOVE love it as much as I did The Force Awakens, which had more of the Star Wars spirit. Star Wars has always been about hope and idealism (in the fairytale mold). Rogue One talks about hope a lot, but doesn’t offer much at the end. And I’m not a fan of the Rogue One soundtrack... Apparently the composer was only given four weeks to knock off John Williams (and you can tell).

Still, Rogue One is a really well made film (with some awesome acting and cinematography) and a great addition to the Star Wars film canon. What did you think?

Russ: I actually loved it. It has its flaws, but the intensity drew me in all the way to the final frame. But it's interesting to me that you said it didn’t have hope. Yes, the characters in Rogue One don’t live to fight another day, but they sacrificed themselves for the greater good. Heartbreaking, but I would argue that their sacrifices paved the way for hope. There was a sense of desperation that we haven’t seen since Empire, and parts of Revenge of the Sith.

Now about the music … it was actually my biggest complaint. No matter the reasoning behind it, to me, it’s not a complete Star Wars movie without the classic soundtrack. What the filmmakers offered us was a poor knockoff. There were specific beats in the story that were perfectly queued up for the classic music to kick in, and it was a dud when that music wasn’t there.

But getting back to Jyn. You said she was amoral. How so? I didn’t really see her that way. Disillusioned, yes. But I saw her as waiting to be, pardon the pun, awakened.

Mary: Sorry, I thought we were doing spoiler-free, so I didn’t elaborate. But if we’re talking about the ending... Yes, there ultimately is hope for the rebellion. But not for the characters themselves. Rogue One is ultimately a tragedy, and really, this is the first time Star Wars has been tragic. Even with Episode 3... You knew Anakin was going to be redeemed. Jyn, Chirrut, Cassian, etc... They’re just gone. I didn’t mind how it ended — I thought it worked for the movie — but it didn’t feel very Star Wars-y.

Music: I completely agree. I think it would have been better off if it hadn’t tantalized us with brief glimpses at the original music that wandered off in different directions. Like the theme music over the opening title... It opens with a perfect fifth jump just like the Star Wars main theme, but then gives us different notes, which is just a huge let down. Anyway, enough music nerding for me!

RE Jyn: When we meet Jyn, she’s neither good nor evil. She’s just out for herself, which is perfectly understandable. She doesn’t believe in the rebellion... The empire planting their flags everywhere is "not a problem if you don’t look up." She’s like Han Solo... He’s amoral when we meet him and doesn’t become good until he saves Luke at the very end. In RPG terms, I see Jyn as chaotic neutral. Of course, like Han, she makes the leap to chaotic good at the end, when she sacrifices herself for the greater good.

I loved that character arc for her. Women in SFF are almost always portrayed as either good or evil, period. They’re not allowed to inhabit that gray area of characters like Han. They’re not allowed to be a bit unlikable, yet still the hero. Jyn was groundbreaking in that sense.

Russ: I agree with that. Jyn was given the chance to have a significant yet tragic arc that had some weight to it.

But speaking of intense. Vader. Whoa. That was awesome! Not a lot of screen time but he definitely made his presence known

Mary: Yes!! I loved Vader’s role. That was the badass Vader I always wanted to see... Vader at the height of his evil power. We don’t really see that in the originals, and I think it’s just because of the technology of the time. Now, we understand why he’s so feared, why those Rebels looked so terrified at the beginning of A New Hope.

Speaking of OT characters, what did you thing of CGI Tarkin?

Russ: Mixed feelings. The performance was really good, with the same understated, cold-hearted delivery as Peter Cushing in New Hope. But ... the technology isn’t totally there yet. He looked just ‘fake’ enough where it felt a bit creepy.

Also … what did u think about Krennic? Ben Mendelsohn is a good actor, and I’d love to see the footage of him that they cut from the movie, but I didn’t really fear him as much as he was just an ambitious weasel.

Mary: Krennic? He was all right. He wasn’t scary so much as a representative of a larger evil... Really, he was a high-ranking thug. Which I didn’t mind, to be honest. Vader and Tarkin were the ultimate villains, even though they had less screen time. I wish they hadn’t gotten so cocky with their CGI, though. If they’d only used transmissions/holograms, even full body shots, they could have gotten away with it. But the close-ups looked plastic to me. Good plastic, but plastic nonetheless. The performance by the actor behind the CGI was well done, though.

CGI Leia worked because she’s only seen for an instant. Also, it’s a lot easier to CGI a pretty teen with smooth skin LOL. Also, how thrilling was it to see the original rebel pilots?

Russ: Absolutely! I loved those original pilots! So cool! And one of my favorite nerd moments was learning that the same crystals that powered the light sabers were being mined to power the Death Star. Great use of duality — a physical embodiment of dark vs. light theme.

And how awesome was Donnie Chen as Chirrut! “I am one with the Force. The Force is with me.”

Mary: Yes! That’s going to be an iconic line... almost as iconic as “May the Force be with you.” I’ve seen people quoting it already. I loved everything about his character. Though now, having seen a real martial arts master in action in the Star Wars universe, suddenly all the Jedi look like actors with sticks! Which is hilarious because Chirrut isn’t a Jedi — despite several articles mistakenly calling him one.

What are your thoughts on K2? Everyone kept praising Alan Tudyk’s performance, but it mostly fell flat for me. Some moments were funny, but most of the quips felt forced, like he was trying too hard to be the comic relief.

Russ: Yeah ... I wasn’t blown away. Not great, not terrible.

So .... we’ve kicked around Rogue One. How would you rate it compared with Force Awakens?

Mary: It’s hard to compare the two since they’re such different movies. Overall, I liked The Force Awakens more, but that’s not because it was necessarily ‘better’ than Rogue One. Breaking it down, Rogue One wins for originality, The Force Awakens wins for enjoyability and that special Star Wars ‘something’ (and for soundtrack). I also liked the characters of The Force Awakens more... I think it’s because there are fewer of them, and so we get to know each a little better.

What did you think?

Russ: I had really mixed feelings about Force Awakens. There were great nerd moments, like the first time we saw the Millennium Falcon, Han and Chewy, R2D2 and C3PO. I was cheering and fist pumping! There were some great action sequences, and for my money, Rey is one of the very best characters in the entire franchise. She’s tremendous. And yet ... Force Awakens was, essentially, a remake of Star Wars, where they blow up the Death Star. Again. And Snoke? Meh. Pretty much just Golem with a throne instead of a ring. The movie looked great, but it lacked originality. Whereas Rogue One, I agree, didn’t have the same ‘magic’ as we might call a classic Star Wars movie, but to me it felt much more urgent, intense, and original. And given that Rogue One ends literally seconds before A New Hope begins, I’m really interested in watching them both back to back. It feels like it’ll give A New Hope an entirely different feel. So all in all, for me, Rogue One was the far superior movie, even though it has its flaws.

Mary Fan and I are both science fiction authors and Star Wars nerds, but as we’re 20 years apart in age (Mary the youthful spitfire here – ha!), we thought it would be fun to chat about Rogue One, see where we agreed, where we disagreed, and where this newest Star Wars movie fits on the list of our favorites.

In Part I of this chat, we discussed Rogue One. Here we rank the Star Wars movies.

Russ: OK, Mary. So ... with eight Star Wars movies under our belts so far ... rank them in terms of how much you enjoyed them and would want to watch again most. Include at least some commentary next to each choice. Go!


8 ) Revenge of the Sith. There’s plenty to enjoy about the movie in terms of sets and costume and creature design, but really, how can anyone take Anakin’s fall seriously? Sith had the burden of bridging the gap between the arrogant 20-year-old we met in Ep 2 and Darth freakin’ Vader, and it failed. Does Anakin really think turning to the Dark Side and killing children will save Padme? And how did he get there after, literally minutes before, declaring that he was going to ‘stop’ the Dark Side?? The whole thing was so abrupt. Not to mention, I can’t forgive what they did to Padme. She goes from a kickass heroine to barefoot and pregnant, weeping all the time and needing a big strong man to tell her what to do. And then she dies of a broken heart. WTF??? WORST. MOVIE.

7) The Phantom Menace. Another unpopular opinion — yay! I have lots of those about the prequels haha. For some background, I actually watched Phantom before the originals... as a pre-teen in 1999. I thought baby Anakin was adorable, and you know what? Jar Jar was actually kinda funny. Of course, he's ridiculous to me now that I’m no longer 11. Just like the Ewoks. Also, that final confrontation with Darth Maul is the best lightsaber fight in the whole series.

6-5) Oof, this one’s hard. I'm going to cheat and call it a tie between Rogue One and (unpopular opinion time!) Attack of the Clones. Rogue One was a really well made film, yes, but I don’t know how often I'd want to rewatch it (there’s only so much tragedy I can take!). Attack of the Clones was not a fantastic movie, but definitely the best prequel. And I really enjoyed watching it. Forget terrible lines about sand... Did you see that fight between Jango Fett and Obi-Wan? How about that high-speed chase through Coruscant? And the introduction to the clonetroopers was chilling because you know what they'll become... it's a fantastic prequel in how it teases the originals. The costume and set design are amazing. Of course, it felt like a different world from the originals, but I didn’t mind that. .... The Rebellion exists on the fringes of the galaxy, which is why we get all the grungy tech in the originals. The prequels are about the Republic at its height... of course it's going to look very different. Just as Chicago looks very different from, say, Camden.

4) The Force Awakens — Fantastic movie. Yes, it was essentially a remake of A New Hope, but A New Hope is just every monomyth ever in space. And yes, Snoke was kind of awful, but Rey and Finn are two of my favorite characters ever. Finn’s actually pretty original... we haven’t seen really seen a turncoat in the film canon before. It was also a thrill catching up with our original trio, even if it was brief and rather tragic. I think that connection to the originals is what really sparked my fan obsession. And I’m so curious to see what they’ll do with Kylo Ren’s character! I actually wonder if Carrie Fisher’s death (May the Force be with her) will change his fate, since Leia’s role is being rewritten for Ep 9.

3) Jedi -- The least of the originals because those Ewoks get more ridiculous every time I watch the movie (even though I thought they were adorable as a kid). The Force Awakens nearly unseated it, but I love that final confrontation with Luke, Vader, and Palpatine too much.

2) A New Hope -- Gotta love the original, with its mix of fairytale idealism and grungy, almost dystopian tech. Also, it has the best ending, with the way it treats you to little victories that lead to bigger setbacks (like rescuing Leia only to lead the Empire to the Rebel base)... all to build up the tension and make that final moment of victory fantastic.

1) Empire -- I mean, it's EMPIRE!! Need I say more?

Your turn!

Russ: Interesting rankings! For the most part, we definitely don’t see eye to eye here (although we agree on at least our favorite). Ha-ha! Here’s me:

8 – The Phantom Menace – Darth Maul was incredible to watch aaaand … that’s about it. I won’t even go into Jar Jar. This could have been a much better movie had the classic Star Wars mysticism been a core underpinning of the narrative, but, aside from Darth Maul, for me, a big, unwatchable dud.

7 – Return of the Jedi – This is kind of weird one for me. The interplay between Luke, Vader, and the Emperor was pretty awesome, and some of my favorite scenes in the entire franchise. But — and I know I’m gonna get nerd hated on this one — I was never a fan of the Joba the Hutt rescue sequence, and the Ewoks are just too silly. I wanted to love Jedi, especially after Empire, and I saw the original in the theaters as a kid, so they’re forever a part of ongoing childhood, but Jedi falls mostly flat for me.

6 – Attack of the Clones – Yes, the relationship between Padme and Anakin is ridiculous, but I liked the nourish feel to the first half, the sequence with Obi Wan and Jengo Fett on the clone water base was very cool, and, aside from the arena sequence, the last 45 minutes is thrilling. I know it’s not a ‘great’ movie, but I love watching it.

5- The Force Awakens – Lots of cool moments, it looks great, and Rey is an absolute star, but there’s a lot of been there done that here.

4- Revenge of the Sith – For all of its issues (poor Padme, the relationship with Anakin, blech), this is the movie where things go dark and gruesome for our heroes, with Ewan McGregor at his absolute peak as Obi Wan. Flaws aside, it’s kinda badass, and if it’s on, I’m watching it.

3- A New Hope – It’s the original, and the magic is still there. The first 45 minutes feels almost painfully slow by today’s standards, and the light saber duel between Vader and Obi Wan is laughable now, but the characters sing, and the ending is as awesome as ever.

2- Rogue One – We discussed this at length already, but I’ll say that it kept me riveted all the way through, and makes A New Hope all the better.

1- The Empire Strikes Back – Hands down the best. Yoda. Lando. Luke and Vader. Han in peril. You know the rest. Pure gold.

He’s a science fiction and comedy author who writes lots of goofy stuff, particularly his Finders Keepers trilogy. But if you want to learn more, you’re visiting his site. Click hereor follow him on Twitter@authorduderuss and Facebook at

Monday, January 9, 2017

COVER REVEAL: All It Takes / Clare Dugmore

Hey everyone! Today, I'm revealing the cover of ALL IT TAKES from Clare Dugmore... coming soon from Snowy Wings Press!

And without further ado...

All It Takes is one night to change the rest of their lives.
Graduating Uni, travelling Europe and buying her own place – these are on Megan Green’s to-do list. At just twenty-two, becoming a mother isn’t.
Fast cars, expensive clothes and bedding a different women every night – this is how Kian Murphy spends his time when not in the MMA ring. Pre-natal scans and birthing classes are not on his agenda.
After a chance meeting and passionate encounter, Megan finds herself pregnant with Kian’s child. But with a womanizing reputation, and a temper that often leads him into trouble, Kian is hardly boyfriend material, let alone father material.
Now Megan and Kian must work out if they have All It Takes to turn their one-night-stand into a relationship that will connect them for a life-time.
All It Takes is a dual-POV new-adult, contemporary-romance about responsibility, love and discovering who you are in life.
Pre Order On Amazon US:
Pre Order On Amazon UK: