Impulse Buy Book of the Week: HOUSEWITCH by Katie Schickel

Katie Schickel _ housewitchAllison Darling, former foster child, now a stay-at-home mom of three, desperately wants to fit in with the organic latte drinking, hundred-dollar-yoga-pants-wearing moms who run Monrovia, her charming seaside village. Constantly feeling like an outsider, Allison dreams of more for her children.
When the Glamour Girls, a soap-selling company run by the most charismatic and powerful women in town, recruits Allison, she jumps at the invitation. The Glamor Girls have a hand in everything in Monrovia, from bake sales to business deals. This is what Allison’s wanted her whole life—to be liked. To be popular. To belong.
After Allison’s estranged mother passes away, she learns her family’s heartbreaking legacy and the secret Allison’s been fighting to suppress all her life emerges: she’s a witch. What’s more, she’s not the only one in town. There’s more to the Glamour Girls then it seems… and once you’re a Glamour Girl, there’s no going back.
Allison must use her rediscovered magic to defend Monrovia, protect her marriage and her children, and reclaim her legacy. Fighting tooth and nail for her family is easy, but what about for herself? Is it too late to confront her own demons and become the woman she dreams of being?


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Katie Schikel
Katie Schickel grew up in Ithaca, NY and graduated from Georgetown University. She’s worked as a newspaper reporter in New York, a scuba instructor in Key West, a magazine editor in Pensacola, and a dot com writer in San Francisco. Eventually, she moved back east where she has worked, among other things, as a middle school English teacher, farmer, fisherman, and silversmith. She lives in Newburyport, MA with her husband and two children.

Go Ahead And Trash It

I’m a firm believer in wearing clothes you can trash. Everyone needs at least one set of super comfy clothes for lounging in all day while reading a book, and one set of clothes for trashing.

We call them Grubbies.

During the first week of summer break the first project of the year is the Grubbie Shirt. Usually white, the shirt gets painted or dyed to mark the start of summer, and then it gets trashes.

Every stain, rip, and paint splotch is a memory. Summer camp friends sign the shirt. Dogs drool on the shirt. The bison at the zoo try to eat the shirt. And it doesn’t matter because THAT IS WHAT THE GRUBBIE SHIRT IS FOR!

There’s a glorious freedom in knowing there is absolutely no way to ruin a grubby shirt. Everything done to the shirt makes it better. Because the point of a grubbie shirt isn’t to be pristine, it’s to be used. It’s a shirt that’s meant to be lived in.

You know what else is meant to be lived in? LIFE

We try to hide the truth with instagram filters and overly positive FaceBook posts, but the truth is, life is messy. We get scars. We get ripped. We get torn. We make mistakes and some of them will stick with us forever. But all this bumps and hiccups don’t take anything away from us; they add something. For better or worse, everyone is an accumulation of life experiences. The good and the bad.

The more you do, the more new things you try, the more life you experience… the more you grow as a person.

So read a book. Take a hike. Paint. Sing. Dream. Create.

Real life is messy, so go ahead and get dirty.

You Will Be Rejected (a reprint)

Originally Posted 7/15/13

Not: You might be rejected.

Not: You’ll have a few rejections.

Not Even: Well, if you’re only mid-list worthy you’ll have at least twenty rejections.

You want to get published? Fine. You need to accept that every single day of your career will have rejection.

Everything you write will be rejected.

Every book you publish will be hated.

Every character you love will be degraded.

Every hour you put in – the blood and sweat and tears – will be dismissed as “…talentless hack who doesn’t know how to string a sentence together.”

Millions of people will never read your book because they can’t read at all.

Millions of people will never read your book because they don’t speak the same language as you.

Millions of people will never read your book because they hate your genre.

Millions of people will never read your book because they don’t like fe/male authors.

Millions of people will never read your book because they didn’t get into it.

Billions of people will reject your work. They will mock you. They will dismiss you. They will talk trash about you.

You. Will. Be. Rejected.

It doesn’t matter. You aren’t writing for the millions. You are writing for the one.

The one person who tells you your book made them cry because it spoke to them.

The one person who tells you your book changed the way they saw the world.

The one person who tells you your book was the only light in a dark time.

The one person who tells you your book inspired them to be something more.

You are writing for them.

They will wish they could take your characters to prom.

They will read your book after their mother’s funeral.

They will curl up in bed with your book on a cold night after their first real break up.

They will turn to those pages time and again to revisit the places they love.

You’re going to get rejected. And you’re going to take that punch square on the chin and not ever back down because you know who you are writing for. Because you know it takes more than a pretty font to make a book work, you have to be willing to take the rejections. You have to go into this knowing you will fail a million times with a million readers, and that it doesn’t matter because you aren’t writing for them.

Keep your chin up. You are someone’s favorite author even if they don’t know it yet.

Impulse Buy Book of the Week: SHADOW OF THE VOID by Nathan Garrison

Nathan Garrison_Shadow of the VoidWith comparisons to N.K. Jemison, Michael J. Sullivan, and Joe Abercrombie, readers have fallen in love with The Veiled Empire, the first book in The Sundered Worlds trilogy. Now, Nathan Garrison takes the story to the next level Shadow of the Void.

The Veil has fallen . . . and the gods have been woken.

For many, a new dawn has risen, as freedom from the tyrannical Emperor Rekaj has created a land replete with opportunities. But for those who had lived outside the Veil for generations, the sudden appearance of a new nation is not cause for celebration–it is the cause for war.

Yet, even as the political machinations of men and mierothi and valynkar start to manifest on a global scale, there are a few playing their own games. Whether it’s the powerful combination of Vashodia and Jasside trying to carve out a country for those freed from the Veil, or the warrior Mevon and assassin Draevenus forming an unlikely alliance in search of the dark god Ruul, the world is in chaos…which might be exactly what some are counting on.

Continuing where Veiled Empire left off, Shadow of the Void shows us how individuals can shape their own destinies, but not necessarily control them.

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Nathan Garrison_Veiled Empire_Author PicBorn in 1983, Nathan Garrison has been writing stories since his dad bought their first family computer. He grew up on tales of the fantastic. From Narnia and Middle-earth to a galaxy far, far away, he has always harbored a love for things only imagination can conjure up. He counts it among the greatest joys of his life to be able to share the stories within him. He has two great boys and an awesome wife who is way more supportive of his writing efforts than he thinks he deserves. Besides writing, he loves playing guitar (the louder the better), cooking (the more bacon-y the better), playing board/video/card games with friends and family, and reveling in unadulterated geekery.

FaceBook | GoodReads | @NR_Garrison

Summer Is Coming

20160507_115624IT’S SUMMER BREAK!!!!

You’d think that with four kids I’d be dreading summer break, but I’m not. During the school year I have anywhere between 8 and 12 alarms going off every day reminding me to do drop-off, pick-up, mandatory school volunteer work, homework, and chauffeuring to school events or sports practice. It’s exhausting, draining, and life-threatening.


The pick-up lines at school make MAD MAX:FURY ROAD look like a lazy Sunday drive. It is a miracle no one has died yet and that the collisions this year were all minor. It’s bad for my blood pressure. I won’t miss it.

Summer also means Alaska is warm enough that I can do fun things, like hiking! And more hiking! And staring longingly at mud flats wishing they were warm, sandy beaches! Trust me, it’s super exciting.

While the sun refuses to set over Alaska the blog will be on summer hours (2-3 posts a week) and my online presence will be sporadic (more sunshine means more outdoor time). If you need me, you know where to find me.

Happy summer!
– Liana

It Is A Truth Universally Acknowledge That All The Great Novels Have Subplots (a reprint)

Originally Posted 1/17/13

Forgive my abuse of beautiful Jane Austen quote, but it is the truth. Every bestseller out there that I’ve read (which does exclude a few with sparkling undead and men named Grey) have subplots. Think Dresden, LOTR, Price of the Stars, Lost Fleet, or any of the dozens of amazing, re-readable books out there.

You know which books don’t have subplots? The ones that never make it past the midlist (with some really weird exceptions).

I’ve developed a not-recommended habit of picking up the early works of bestselling authors. Unless you are an author: Don’t Do This. It will make you cry. I’m not sure most authors should do this, it might make you cry too, but there’s something very educational in looking at a bestsellers work from twenty years ago and comparing it to what they have on the shelf today.

What I’m seeing in a lot of debut novels is a lack of subplots. The main characters are established, the minor characters are established, the goal is given, and … that’s it. There are no side quests, no jolting bumps in the road, maybe a few curve balls but never the mini-story that is the hallmark of the subplot.

The big red flag for this has become the Training Montage. An unknown or weak fighter joins the group/fleet/hero/vampire roller derby team and must be taught how to be awesome. In a bestseller this training happens while someone tries to stab the person in the back, or happened before the novel opened, or is summed up by, “After six weeks of intense training I felt drained, but I was able to keep up on the nine mile death march.”

Another red flag is the fantasy favorite travelogue as the characters walk for six months to cross a continent.

Chapters and chapter and chapters of nothing happening. No conflict. No fights. No information gained that couldn’t have been summed up in a matter of sentences. I know authors are trying not to Tell (evil, boos, hiss!) but showing is not an excuse to be lazy or boring. Never, ever be boring.

The main plot should never be neglected, but there are times where it will reach a natural low point. This is where the subplots become so essential. Something needs to happen while the characters walk from Point A to Point B. A new enemy appears, someone betrays something, a romance starts, there’s a spy! Pick something!

Although, be wary because romances as a subplot are better woven into multiple subplots than left alone. Romance plots need a partner or they sound weird. That’s just my opinion of course, and depends a lot on the genre, but I like a romance plot mixed with the other plots because it tends to come across as a naturally developing relationship rather than BAM! Eyes Across The Crowded Room It’s LOVE!!!

Quick And Dirty Tips For Creating Subplots

– Not everyone should love the hero.

– The more antagonists you have the more conflicts you create.

– Real life should happen to the characters, even if they are saving the world they have jobs and responsibilities.

– Give the character interests and friends outside of work.

– Multiple point of views aren’t a bad thing if you know how to juggle them.

– It all needs to come together at the end.

– Not every antagonist needs to be vanquished at the end.

– – Give us more than one character to love– (from Diantha)

— Make each and every character count — (from Diantha)

Have you got anything else to add?

Impulse Buy Book of the Day: WOODWALKER by Emily B. Martin

Emily Gray_WOODWALKER 4Exiled from the Silverwood and the people she loves, Mae has few illusions about ever returning to her home. But when she comes across three out-of-place strangers in her wanderings, she finds herself contemplating the unthinkable: risking death to help a deposed queen regain her throne.

And if anyone can help Mona Alastaire of Lumen Lake, it is a former Woodwalker—a ranger whose very being is intimately tied to the woods they are sworn to protect. Mae was once one of the best, and despite the potential of every tree limb to become the gibbet she’s hung from, she not only feels a duty to aide Mona and her brothers, but also to walk beneath her beloved trees once more.

A grand quest in the tradition of great epic fantasies, filled with adventure and the sharp wit—and tongue—of a unique hero, Woodwalker is the perfect novel to start your own journey into the realm of magical fiction.


HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo 

Park ranger by summer, stay-at-home mom the rest of the year, Emily B. Martin is also a freelance artist and illustrator. An avid hiker and explorer, her
experiences as a ranger helped inform the character of Mae and the world of Woodwalker. When not patrolling places like Yellowstone, the Great Smoky Mountains, or Philmont Scout Ranch, she lives in South Carolina with her husband, Will, and two daughters, Lucy and Amelia.

Working In Groups

Raise your hand if you hate group projects.

Raise your hand if you always take over a group project -or- do all the work because no one else will.

Me? I’m both. I don’t play well with others because I do have a dominate personality, a strong idea of what I want done, and some lingering perfectionist tendencies. In other words… I want it done, and I want it done MY WAY.

Guess where this attitude doesn’t fly: EVERYWHERE BUT THE 1%.

If you’re middle class, lower class, classless, you have to work with others. It’s just a fact of life. Work, shopping, even games nowadays require a certain level of social finesse. You need to be able to work together, be a team player, and not kill your healer because they’re being an obnoxious twerp (long story).

Which brings me to the dilemma of the day (not writing related – sorry) and the email sitting in my in-box. The comittee chair for the group I volunteer with keeps changing the schedule, ignoring suggestions, and generally being a flighty creature who I want to silence. Not in a violent way. Maybe just with a bit of duct tape. Or by suspending her email account so she can’t change an activity for the 13th time in two weeks. But I can’t, because this isn’t a fiction story and duct taping people to silence them is frowned upon my my local government.

Moral of the story? Sometimes being a mature adult in the real world kind of sucks. There’s bills, annoying group projects, good causes being ignored, great people who can’t find jobs, and enough bad stuff floating around the news and social media that sometimes you wonder why you couldn’t be a sitcom character so at least everything could be resolved in 30 minutes and there’s a decent chance you’d get some cake.

I’m probably going to shorten my 3000 word email to, “I can be at the June meeting.” and let it go… and by “let it go” I mean I’m going to dive into a book where the good people win, the monsters die, and all is right with the world if you just work hard and stay true to yourself. Because that’s the fantasy I want to become real, and if the only place I can find it is in a book, that’s where I’ll get my fix.


P.S. If any of you wonder why I work under a pen name and don’t tell my neighbors, blog posts like this are a major reason. I like being able to vent online without getting angry emails. 🙂

Scientist Working To Develop a Phone That Can Send Messages Back In Time

The Day Before: A Time And Shadows Time-Travelling Mystery“….one scientist believes that time travel is possible – and he has the design for a working ‘time telephone’, which he believes will receive messages from the future.”

No, that’s not a quote from THE DAY BEFORE. However, that is exactly Dr. Emir’s plan in the Time & Shadows opening book, and the plan of real-life scientist Ronald Mallett.

Mallett’s work was what I read while working on the original drafts of THE DAY BEFORE. If you’re enjoying the series, it’s worth reading up on his work. If you aren’t enjoying the series, it’s worth reading up on his work to see where I fictionalized everything.

Either way: go read some science!

Signed Editions
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Yes, Virgina, You Need A Critique Group (a reprint)

Originally Posted On 2/5/13

Over the years I’ve taken a middle-of-the-road approach to critique groups. I waffled. I tried to see and accept opinions that I didn’t entirely agree with. And now I give up.

You need a critique group before you publish.

When you make the choice to move from Hobby Writer to Writing For Publication your need to scour your neighborhood and the internet and find a critique group that is lively, educated, and that has a history of turning out published authors.

When you find the critique group you need to spend at least six months as an active member (critiquing, the forums don’t count) before you consider sending your manuscript into the world. I don’t care if you are self-publishing, going with a small press, or if you’re chasing the agents and the Big 6 (5? 4? whatever), you need this experience. You need to have someone do a real critique that tears your work apart and makes you question everything. You need to learn how to give that same kind of emotionless critique so you can use that experience when you edit your own work.

The reason I say this is that the more I read, the more I am aware of who has the critique group experience and who doesn’t. It’s less noticeable in the world of Press publication where an author works with an editor or an agent/editor pairing. In a way those are mini critique groups and done correctly they turn out excellent work. In self-publishing the critique group experience is one of the factors that makes or breaks a book. The other major factor is how much the author is willing to edit, grow, and listen to good advice, but that’s a post for another day.

“But, Liana!” I hear you wail. “My book is perfect and I live nowhere near fabulous Authorly types! Surely I don’t need a critique group!”

Yes you do.

Find an online critique group. Critique Circle and Absolute Write are two I will recommend to you. Try both, find one that suits, get to work.

“But there are reasons I can’t be in a critique group!”

Let’s break that down, shall we?

Someone will steal my work… pack up your toys and go home, you are not ready for publication. Let me introduce you to a harsh fact of life: if you publish someone will pirate you. There’s almost no way to avoid it. I know. I tried. It sucks. If you want to never see someone steal your work, don’t publish.

My book is ready for publication now… no it isn’t. Don’t lie to me. Don’t lie to yourself. Your book can be better. It’s great that friends read and edited your work, but it’s not enough. You need someone who doesn’t know you, or how you think, and who hasn’t exchanged 300 emails about the character’s motivations to read the book and make sure it makes sense.

I tried a critique group and I didn’t fit in… try another one. I’ve seen this in multiple places and I get it, sometimes the crits you get don’t make sense. Sometimes no one there understands your genre. Keep looking for a group that lets you fit in.

I don’t want anyone to say something mean about my book… you are not ready for publication. Sugary sweet reviews are for books you only show friends. If you want to publish you need to learn to take a hard edit of your book, including the one that says this chapter is trash. Cry it out, and get back to work. Remember that just because you write a bad chapter or book doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer. We all have bad days. Keep moving.

I’m not going to change anything in my book… then you’ll never be a good writer. Seriously, you’re not going to get anywhere with that attitude. You can self-publish and pat yourself on the back, but you won’t be writing great books. Editing makes your writing leaner, tighter, better. You need to edit. You need help editing.

No, not all critique groups or partners are created equal. Not every piece of feedback you get will be useable. But you will learn from all of it if you’re smart. Critiquing other people’s work will give you a firm idea of what is good and what isn’t. You’ll make connections in the publishing industry that will be invaluable as you continue to publication. Your book will be better.

If the only people who have read your book are you and your bestest friends, you aren’t ready to publish. You need more than a finished manuscript and Amazon to be successful. Consider a critique group your boot camp for publishing.