Monday, September 29, 2014

To review or not to review, that is the question...

Lately I'm making an effort to be a better author-friend, so I have a little something I'd like to get off my chest...

Hello, my name is Sarah, and I was a terrible reviewer.


*dodges rotten fruit*

Hang on, hang on, hang on! And put that squishy tomato down for God's sake...

This might not sound like much to the average person, but the thing is, book reviews by casual readers--yes, I lump myself in there as well, because I do read for pleasure--are extremely important to authors for a number of reasons.

The first reason is that we like to know someone enjoyed our book. Yes, it's that simple...if you liked a book, please review it on Amazon, B&N, iBooks, or wherever you bought it from. If anything, the author will do a little happy dance when he/she checks it out, and you  know you want to be responsible for someone's happy dance.

The other reasons are more technical. Retailers use algorithms to help sell (or not sell) your books. These can be based on sales, reviews, anything that can be quantified. I'm not an expert on this kind of stuff, but I am aware of it, and that it does happen. Exactly how it works, I have no idea.

This article here  and this other article here are a bit on the older side but, I think, still relevant. I'll summarize some of the main points for you, but they're worth a read (or, at least a quick skim) anyway. And yes, they're about Amazon, but please remember to review somewhere, be it the retailer you purchased from, or on Goodreads.

There's a "nutshell version" posted at the end of this, but please take the time to read it all anyway.

The number (and type!) of reviews can tell a retailer to start marketing a book. Often, writers notice that suddenly their book ends up paired with another once they reach a certain point in their reviews (be it a number, or even an average star rating...both matter!). Basically, Amazon says, "Hey, these people are really enthusiastic about this book! I'm going to pair it up with some other similar ones and/or recommend them to readers." Then Amazon "helps" market and sell your book. And the more your book sells, the more people will's the law of large numbers, though, sadly, only a small percentage of readers bother to review at all. The wider the audience, the more larger the chances reviews will come in.

To put it another way if you're not sure about leaving a review for a book...  I love TripAdvisor for planning trips. I scope out hotels and restaurants, reading the reviews left by consumers and visitors. What did they like? What didn't they enjoy? Were these points something I cared about, or wouldn't it matter? The same goes for books--I want to let someone else make an informed decision about something to read. And if it helps the author out too, then that's an added bonus.

So, lately, I've started to leave reviews. I don't leave long ones--I'm not a book blogger, and don't feel the need to dissect everything in the manuscript. Mine are usually a few sentences, but I will hit the high points, letting the author and other prospective readers know what I enjoyed, and what I felt was lacking. I also do my best to leave a star rating of 4+. I think, as blog post in the link at the bottom of this mentions, "Did the book deliver as advertised?", not "Was this the next Pulitzer Prize-winning novel?" and write a review based on that.

Let me explain the star ratings a bit, too, because sometimes that can be a bit fuzzy. First of all, for review purposes, Amazon really only considers 4 and 5 star ratings to be good, and will push those books more than others, even if you get a few crappy star ratings. "But what if I believe that 3 stars means "like", and I liked the book?" Well, too bad...Amazon might screw the author because of that. Think of it this way: Would I recommend it to a friend? If the answer is yes, or YES, give it 4 or 5 stars. I know a lot of people think of the star rating system like this: 1 star=hated it; 2 stars=just okay; 3 stars=liked it/book was good; 4 stars=really liked/great; 5 stars=loved/extraordinary. But Amazon doesn't think of it that way, unfortunately. Is that fair? Nope--it's inflated and decidedly unfair. So if you liked the book, please keep that in mind, at least with Amazon.

Even though this one is for video games, I'd say it's a good approximation for what to do on Amazon.

You might be thinking now, what if I came across a book I didn't like? Again, I'm not a book blogger, but I do realize that my review has a bigger impact than just telling the author that I enjoyed (or didn't) their work. Honestly, if I didn't like a book, I wouldn't review it--I feel like it would do more harm than good with the way publishing works nowadays. But if I felt compelled to write one, I'd try to find something I enjoyed about it.

So, if you'd recommend the book to a friend looking for something to read, take two minutes and write a quick review. That makes everyone happy.

Nutshell version: How many reviews you have and how good they are (typically a star rating, or average star rating), and your book ranking have an effect on how much "help" you get from retailers. So, a book with a 4.5 average star rating and/or 30 reviews will be pushed more by Amazon (or whatever retailer) than a book with a 3 average star rating and/or 10 reviews. Also, Amazon seems to think that anything under 4 stars is NOT RECOMMENDED (though it's not as bad as it used to be), so please leave a review and a good star rating and help an author out!

For some tips on reviewing on Amazon, check this post out.

How about you? Do you review? Are you like me and do it occasionally, but should do it more? What's your policy for leaving a less-than-awesome review?

xoxo Sarah

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Guest Post by Loni Lynne!

My friend and fellow author, Loni Lynne, is celebrating the release of Immortal Heat on October 6th. It's the first in The Guardians of Dacia series. She's stopping by to tell us a bit about her book!

The Guardians of Dacia Series
Romania has been called the mystical land of paranormal beings and creatures of the night. Before the Romans conquered their land, Dacia was a mystical land of magic and folk-lore until one man and his army destroyed the closely woven fabric set by the gods between man and beast. Now, cursed by their gods over two thousand years ago, one immortal clan struggles to maintain their private world while still learning to live and protect their human brethren while their enemy seeks power to destroy the new world.
 But as the clans face extinction, a new generation of Dacian blood emerges to unite the clans once more. The world as they know it may never be the same. 

Immortal Heat

Dacian Historian… 
Determined to study ancient Dacian folk lore abroad, Marilyn Reddlin’s plans are cut short when she is abducted by a dark haired stranger who insists she’s in danger. The only danger she’s in is losing herself to her abductor’s inexplicable seductive energy. Draylon Conier teaches her there is more to Romania than myth and fairy tales while sweeping her into a wild adventure of paranormal mystery and intrigue. 

Dacian History… 
Thousands of years trying to pay back a debt, Draylon Conier is finally able to do so. Sent to capture a young, American student who is in danger while in Romania, he just has to send her back home. Easy enough for him. Unfortunately, Marilyn Reddlin is determined to thwart his every attempt—even telepathy. But there is more to her than meets the eye and the closer he gets to her, the more danger she is in, not only from the ancient immortal Dacian clans he’s trying to protect her from, but also his own sexual need. 

History just got a lot harder. 
They must find out what connection Marilyn has to Dacian history before Draylon destroys her when she succumbs to Immortal Heat. 

Even better, here's an excerpt from Immortal Heat

The server rolled out a dessert tray, and Marilyn automatically possessed room for the piece of decadent Belgian-chocolate cake whispering her name. She couldn’t pass up the temptation. Besides, it was only a sliver of cake. She needed something to absorb all the wine. The rich chocolate would complement the merlot and appease her craving.
 The first bite hit her taste buds with the smooth, sinful flavor of Belgian chocolate- ganache. Marilyn sighed blissfully and closed her eyes, allowing the sweetness to pleasure her senses as she dragged the fork through her lips to capture every last molecule of taste.
Upon opening her eyes she saw a man sitting at her table, staring at her. She inhaled a crumb of chocolate cake, setting her to cough. Marilyn tried to breathe as her eyes watered behind her spectacles. The man handed her the water goblet and their fingers touched. Trembling at the jolt of electricity shooting through her hand, Marilyn took a sip to clear her throat.
She picked up the subtle scent of the amber and musk she’d noticed in the airport. Was it him? Was he spying on her?
He didn’t blink. His electric blue gaze bore into her soul. Small tremors of the fear her mother had addressed for years came running back, but she sat immobilized, staring back at him.
Dressed all in black, his raven hair blended in with the black leather of his jacket and turtleneck shirt. Those blue eyes caught fire from the reflection of candle light between them. Little bubbles of sensual awareness boiled within her bloodstream, and her mouth went dry as if the cake she’d been eating left behind a sawdust residue. She tried to laugh away the nervousness, but what came out was more of a croak. “I think you have the wrong seat,” she said in broken Romanian.
“You have to leave,” he said.
He spoke in perfect, modern English with a hint of accent. She wasn’t sure what kind. You have to leave, her mind echoed. She shook her head at the distracting sound of his voice. Like the Belgian chocolate ganache, the thick tenor drizzled delicious intent that could make a woman fantasize about what that voice would sound like whispering rich, sweet words into her ear. She needed to stop drinking red wine. It made her think silly things.
What would her mother do in a situation like this? With the stiffened spine she’d learned from Diane Reddlin, she met his gaze—difficult as it was to look into his eyes without melting. “This is my table. You are the one who needs to leave.” She took another bite of her cake as if he weren’t there. Whether the cake was more acceptable to bite into than he was would be a matter of decorum, but she bet he would taste yummy.
Hands joined in a single fist planted on the table, he leaned forward until his face was mere inches from hers. He studied her every move as she ate. The intensity should have unnerved her, and yet a wine induced boldness hit her, coupled with a determination to put him in his place, whoever he was. His good looks and dark, sensual appeal could only mean trouble.
The flickering candlelight created shadows along his jaw line, making him appear even more mysterious. His elegant European nose flared, the muscles in his jaw flexed. The mixed scent of the aroma she’d been alerted to at the airport and leather from his jacket again hit her senses. As much as she tried to fight her feminine instincts, her inner woman wasn’t cooperating. Her nipples hardened, and a quiver started in her core. She shifted uncomfortably in her seat.
“You are in danger, Marilyn Reddlin. Leave now. . . before it’s too late.”
Those eyes penetrated straight through to her soul. She hoped to God he didn’t know what her body was saying. Then his words and the fact he’d just addressed her by her name hit her like a bucket of icy water. She shook off the strange enchantment.
“Who are you?  How do you know my name?”
“That’s my business. Now, leave Romania…tonight.”
Marilyn sat stunned, fighting the commanding lilt of his voice. There was an odd, suggestive pull. She fought it but he’d already left. She hadn’t seen him get up. But when she looked, he’d walked out of the restaurant into the hotel lobby towards the entrance.
 A few moments later she grabbed his hand, halting him. His eyes flared up at her, and then down to where her hand had attached itself to his wrist. She stopped and realized she didn’t remember how she’d gotten from the table to being outside, trying to stop his departure. But here she was. They stared at each other for a moment, both astounded at the circumstances.
He jerked his hand from her touch and popped the collar on his jacket, glaring at her before walking away.
You will leave.
Did she just hear his voice in her mind or had he said that aloud? His back was to her, so she wasn’t sure. She shook her head to get the sound of his voice out of her senses. This was too bizarre.
Like hell I’ll leave, asshole, she thought while staring after him. Who did he think he was? Had her mother put him up to this?
Stopping dead in his tracks, he slowly turned around. Marilyn stood her ground, her hands fisted on her hips in defiance. Did she hear him curse? That was impossible, his lips hadn’t moved, and they were now a parking lot away from each other. 
A logistics truck pulled up through the circular entrance of the hotel, blocking her view, before driving away. When the view was clear, her mystery man had disappeared into the night, leaving only the echo of his warning behind in her head. She walked back to the dining room puzzled over the man’s audacity.

She’d be damned before she turned tail and ran back home to Mama.

Here's a bit about Loni and her writing: 

Born in north-central Michigan, Loni Lynne still loves the quiet woods, lakes and rivers in Otsego County and the Victorian era bay side houses of Little Traverse Bay. But after decades of moving around the country as a child and twenty-five years of marriage to her personal hero, she calls western Maryland her home.
Serving in the United States Navy didn’t prepare her for the hardest job ever, being a stay at home mom, to her two wonderful daughters. After years of volunteering as a scout leader, PTA officer, and various other volunteer positions, all while still writing snippets of story ideas, her husband decided it was time for her to put her heart to finishing a story. He gave her a laptop, portable hard drive and his blessings to have a finished manuscript, ready to be sent out to the masses in one year. He created a writing monster.

Immortal Heat was her first idea six years ago and has gone through many revisions since then. In the meantime another story took hold, Wanted: One Ghost and it became her first published book in 2013. Now with the help of her friends, family and friends of the romance writing community, she’s pursuing her love of telling stories written from her heart.

Amazon Page for Immortal Heat, Book 1 of The Guardians of Dacia series:

Facebook Page for The Guardians of Dacia series:

Loni Lynne’s website:
Loni Lynne’s Facebook Page:
Loni Lynne’s Twitter Page:

Thanks for stopping by, Loni!  And if you lovely readers enjoyed the excerpt, be sure to pick up Immortal Heat, out October 6th! 

xoxo Sarah

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Interview Time with Jennyfer Browne!

Since apparently I'm on a mission to have as many lovely ladies--and creative versions of "Jennifer"--as possible on my blog, here's another one.  Jennyfer Browne is the author in a genre not many are aware of--Amish romance.  But she doesn't play by the rules, and writes it how she wants...and it's good

See for yourself.

Tell everyone about yourself and how you got started in writing!

I’ve always had my head in the clouds, thinking up stories to entertain myself. My best friend and I used to play Star Wars- which can probably be considered live action fan fiction- she always got Han *SAD FACE*. I started writing early, first poetry, and then epic fantasy of a teenager soaking up Tolkien and Terry Brooks. And always with a strong, though often suffering heroine.  

What are your favorite and least favorite parts about being a writer?

My favorite parts are being able to share something from the heart with those that enjoy it ( yay awesome readers!). My least favorite parts? Never having enough time and having a deadline.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to other writers?

Write every day- whether it is on the manuscript you are working on or simple short exercises to keep your brain and fingers trained. Even if you have a writer's block- dedicate yourself to the time- even if it is to simply write: “nothingnothingnothingnothingomgthisisterriblenothingnothing”

I've definitely had those days. And do you prefer silence or to have music on when you’re writing? What kind?

I love music while I write. And I love all kinds- I have a few playlists to help with the mood (Angry, angsty, sad, inspiring). It all depends on the mood and sometimes I will play the same song over and over for one single chapter.

How’d you get the idea for the In Your World series?

In Your World started out as an online chat session with some girlfriends over a celebrity photo shoot in which he appeared with a black hat and innocent face. Jokingly calling him Amish, the inspiration struck and I had the first four chapters written in a day. A lot of research following once I realized I knew very little about the Amish save my childhood jaunts to Lancaster.

For readers who’ve never read in this genre, what sets the IYW series apart from a lot of Amish romances? How is it similar?

IYW can better be labeled contemporary romance, with an Amish twist. I like to call it sweet and savory with a twist of tart, as it does have a little more spice to it than typical Amish fiction reads. It is more secular in its approach as it is from an English (non Amish) person’s perspective. It is still meant to be respectful of the culture and philosophies of the Amish, illustrating the meaning of love between two people in a world that would see to tarnish it.

Will there be a 3rd IYW book? 

Most definitely! Initally I had planned on simply two, but in finding titles for the first two, the verse from 1 Corinthians 13 stuck:
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
So  felt it was important to round out the series with Finding Love- which is the story of the young Bishop, Benjamin Yoder. I’m very excited to give him more life and rejoin with characters we have all followed in the last two books.

Your covers are lovely! Did you do them yourself? If so, how’d you do them?

Aw, thank you so much! I did do them myself- which was a huge undertaking and provides me with so much admiration for those create covers professionally. I was a bit of a control freak for the first book, and I wanted a very particular image of Nathan (of which my friend and model, Brian helped to make a reality!). Hours and hours of learning the basics of Photoshop ( you can download it free for 30 days and get it done!)- and InDesign for the formatting of the cover. A great learning experience but my next series I am definitely hiring out!

What made you decide to self-pub?

This series was going to be a tough sell- what with the sexual situations that are not found in Inspirational Romance. I didn’t want to delete those moments, though, as I feel that love and sensuality are a beautiful thing and shouldn’t necessarily become a Fade To Black. I had an interested publisher but there was talk of shrinking it to one book, and that scared me.
Self-pubbing is a lot of work- in that you can decide to do all your own formatting cover, and even editing if you choose. My advice if you choose to go with self-pubbing and you don’t have a lot of funding- put it into editing. You can never see all the errors you make in writing!

What are you working on now?

Finishing up Finding Love, with the hope to publish in November (another boon/curse to self pubbing- you can pick your publish date!). After that I have a series of contemporary New Adults I want to start. And an alien romance. And a vampire romance. LOL

Tell us what genre(s) you write in, why, and what your experiences are like writing in them.  If you write in multiple genres, how is the experience different from one to another?

I love to write in a few genres- Paranormal, Sci fi, New Adult- but of them all, I want a strong female lead. The tone changes- paranormal has that feeling of danger or suspense, New Adult can be more comedic, and Sci Fi can be a free for all. But the heroine has to be strong, even when she is in danger of losing it all.

What was your favorite scene to write in the IYW books?  Why?

Oooh! Favorite scene had to be Kate’s first encounter with Magnus. I love that horse.

What scene gave you the most trouble in the IYW books? Why?

The sensual scenes were the most difficult. Initially they were a little more brazen- but given the audience targeted- a bridge between bodice rippers and Christian fiction, I had to really evaluate what was going too far and what was censoring. To some, I still have gone too far, but I stand by the words and their intent- that love between two people and how they show it is beautiful when they respect one another.

Where can we find you on the interwebs?

Where can we find your books?

On iTunes

Thanks for stopping by, Jennyfer! :-)

xoxo Sarah

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Interview Time with Jen DeLucy!

Today we have the amazing Jennifer DeLucy, author of the three books of The Light Series, which is getting a serious cover make-over AND a box set! Woot woot!  Maybe, if we're good, she'll even let us see the pretty new covers...

Take it away, Jen!

Tell everyone a bit about yourself.

Oh, man. This question. When I was younger I could have come up with this whole thoughtful answer that seemed completely authentic, but, the truth is, nowadays I’d say I’m this woman constantly growing into and out of her skin. In other words, I have no idea! It keeps changing. I guess I’m someone with feelings to express.

What are your favorite and least favorite parts about being a writer?

Favorite parts? Falling into a story so that I can’t break away and want to write constantly. Also, seeing it published and hearing from readers about their shared experience. Least favorite? Pushing past writer’s block. Keeping the faith when success is slow coming.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give to other writers?

This much has never changed: DO NOT STOP WORKING. It may take you a decade to become known or successful. If writing really does bring you satisfaction and it’s all you really picture yourself doing, then you aren’t allowed to give up. You can whine, you can cry and throw things, but do not stop writing new things. It’s the only way you’ll become a better writer and beat the odds.

Do you prefer silence or to have music on when you’re writing?

Silence. I can’t concentrate very well when music is on, but only because I love music so much that it distracts me. I tend to listen to my musical inspirations before and after writing sessions to keep in the mood.

I’m super-excited that The Light Series is getting a make-over! Can you tell us how much input you had in the new covers? What’s the process like?

I had a very heavy influence in the new covers. My publisher worked with me closely, giving me guidance and opinions, but allowing me to pick and choose a lot of the way. The process was super easy when we came down to it. It was the last five years of my aversion to characters on the covers that made me put the whole thing off. But it was just time now, I guess, because it fell together easily for all parties.

Can we get a peek? Pretty please?

You can. :-) Here’s a glimpse of the box set. It’s not the full size covers, but, it’s enough to wet the palette.

That's gorgeous! And how’d you get the idea for The Light Series?

Well, I was obsessed with Harry Potter. (Still adore that series with all my heart.) And I’m also a huge paranormal fan. I love scary things. I’m also pretty spiritual, though, and think there are a lot of plausibilities in this mysterious universe that we can only imagine. So I just wrote from my head and heart what I felt was (mostly) possible if the supernatural and the natural world were the same, with all sorts of creepy and cool things existing among humans with special abilities. I didn’t overthink it initially. I just wrote and learned about their world as I went.

Okay, I have to ask…are YOU a bigger fan of Christian or William? Why?

Ooooookay. Okay, okay! Hah. I promised people I’d answer this question, but I hate to, because I don’t want anybody to think my love is unevenly distributed among my mains. Alas, however…sure, I’ve got a favorite. It’s William. There. I said it. Just a little above Christian, for me. And the reason is simple: He’s exactly the kind of man who would challenge my character without making me feel any less for it. He’d force me to be the strongest version of myself. And though that would be harder, I think it’s a good thing.

I love it! And it's okay to have favorites. :-) Which one of the series was your favorite to write?   

Which book, you mean? Ugh. It’s tough. Seers has the most magic in it, for me, because I was just getting to know the characters and the world, and I was falling in love  for the first time, but Circle was super cool to write, as well, because my writing abilities were amped up by then. My writing and storytelling were far better. Plus I got to research other countries. But, I’d say Seers, because you can’t beat the magic of your first love.
What are you working on now?

I’m working on a book called “Beautiful”, about a very unorthodox protagonist. That’s all I’ll say for now. :-)

Tell us what genres you write in, why, and what your experiences are like writing paranormal romance for The Light Series.  How is the experience different from one genre to another?

I don’t hold myself to any one genre, though I prefer paranormal. The book I’m working on now is contemporary, actually. My experience writing The Light Series was about as beautiful as I could have imagined. There’s just something about the mystery of the unknown and supernatural that feeds my soul. I’ll always love paranormal.
I’d say the main difference between paranormal and contemporary writing is that you have to really work hard to keep the plot interesting in a contemporary book without the novelty and fun of supernatural elements. And to write paranormal, you need to be able to suspend your own disbelief and let your imagination run rampant. You also have to be able to make up an entirely new set of rules that somehow feel believable to readers, where contemporary novels lend themselves to the reality we already know, so they’re easier in that way. 

What was your favorite scene to write in The Light Series books?  Why?

Good Lord…These questions are hard! Can’t I pick a scene from each book? Please? I’m going to say, in Seers of Light, it’s one of the initial training scenes between Lily and William. In Whisper of Light, maybe the grocery shopping scene with Nicole and Christian, and in Circle…I believe the scene involves potatoes.

What scene gave you the most trouble? Why?

I think in Whisper of Light, any scene with Nicole and her dad was tough, just because it was hard to muster the kind of animosity his character put forward, but it was necessary.  

Where can we find you on the interwebs?

Where can we find your books?

Sweet! Thank you so much for being awesome, Jen!

Please go check out Jen's books...they're just as wonderful as she is.

xoxo Sarah