Search This Blog

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Selling your Books in Unusual Places

This is a guest post by Jordan Mierek.

One thing I looked forward to greatly, in my dream of becoming a published author, was to greet my fans. I wanted to have lively conversations about the characters and maybe help a few aspiring authors make their dream a reality.

It seems only natural to me that I go to as many events that I can and set up a booth for selling my books. I like to do this with other local authors. We each have our own genres, so we aren’t “competing” at all. What’s great is that more people can find a book they like with the wider variety.

A marvelous location for a vendor booth has been local Renaissance Faires. I bought a red tent, the other authors help supply tables, and we set up in a U-shape. 

Costumes are a must for Renaissance Faires. The other authors and I have gone out to buy fabulous ensembles. Costumes aren’t just for Renaissance Faires, though. I wear one at every book signing I do, be it at a library or a convention center. People will come up to me from across the room. “I saw your costume.  What are you selling?” Costumes work better than book banners!

Sometimes people will ask if they can take a picture with me. A few times, people have tried to lift up my sleeves or skirts as if I were a mannequin!

I must admit that a few “costume” pieces – giant necklaces and brocade corsets – I wear in public on a regular basis. People will come up to me at the store and say, “I recognize you, you’re that author! I remember that necklace.” 

I plan to continue to do these events, and there is a wonderful Renaissance troupe in my area. There are always quite a few spaced out throughout the spring, summer, and fall. I keep my website – – up to date regarding events. If anyone in the area, stop by! I would love to chat and show off my costume. ;)

Jordan Elizabeth Mierek dreams, writes, and lives in Central New York.  She's the young adult fantasy author of ESCAPE FROM WITCHWOOD HOLLOW, TREASURE DARKLY, and BORN OF TREASURE.  Check out her website,, for contests, events, and bonus short stories.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Big Little Lies | Liane Moriarty

“They say it's good to let your grudges go, but I don't know, I'm quite fond of my grudge. I tend it like a little pet.”  

Genre: Chick lit thriller
Number of Pages: 460
Perspective: Third
Location: Australia

Big Little Lies is the story of a public school in Australia. The moms (and some dads) deal with the craziness of lies, drama, gossiping, bullying, accusations, violence, and eventually a murder at a school event. For a complete summary, you can go here.

Usually, hyped-up books fail to impress me, but this book was awesome, and it won my Best Book Award! It was a really long book, but it is a quick-read since you won’t be able to put it down! This book actually reminded me a lot of one of my other favorite books, The Supreme’s at Earl’s All-You-Cat-Eat. You have the three very different friends: one with a strong, no-nonsense personality and an extremely supportive husband; one who is gorgeous, but is hiding a dark secret; and one who struggles with cruel men. Both books also deal with very tough subjects, but refrain from making the story too heavy. Big Little Lies deals with issues such as bullying, rape, domestic violence, sex trafficking, and murder in a way that brings the subjects into the spotlight in delicate way. 

I always love a good mystery/thriller book where I can try to guess the ending. I was able to guess some of the surprises, but a few still got me! The best stories are ones that I can’t guess—even though I try so hard!

I can’t wait to read some of Moriarty’s other books! I will definitely post the reviews to those books when I read them. I would recommend this book to any teen/young adult. I think woman would appreciate this book more than men, but it would give men a good perspective. If you are interested in buying the book, you can buy it here. After you have read it, leave a comment and let me know what you think! 

“Did anyone really know their child? Your child was a little stranger, constantly changing, disappearing and reintroducing himself to you. New personality traits could appear overnight.” 

 5/5 Stars


o Amber Gregg

Check out my other recipients of the Best Book Award!

If you like books like this, you should also check out these books:

Monday, September 28, 2015

What Fuels Creativity?

This is a guest post by Belinda Bennett.

Writing is very much like painting, it requires a certain amount of artistic skill and an understanding of how to colour characters and settings to make them ‘real’. It is an art form in its own right, of course, but the similarities are striking. In the same way a painter is captivated by a certain landscape or figure, the writer is inspired by what they see, hear, feel and, yes, read. Inspiration truly is everywhere, all around us, from news reports to personal experiences.

I have always been inspired by human emotions and the frailties in our make-up. Raw emotion can lead us astray when we are under pressure. Anger, hate, love, weakness. Strong feelings. Like some authors are drawn to the blood and gore of war in an action sense, I am drawn to the tragedy of war. I don’t see victory as a theme, just the cost of winning in human suffering.

Something as mundane as raking the lawn or doing the weekly shop can inspire me. I have even been known to be inspired by silence. But, mostly, I am inspired by the people I see; passers-by who prick my curiosity just by their posture or the way they walk. Maybe, they are wearing odd socks or look especially downtrodden on a gloriously sunny day when everyone around them is basking in the heat. What is wrong with them? What are they hiding? What are they afraid of? I ask myself. And then I start answering my own questions!

As you can tell, I am a devoted people watcher and my imagination runs riot. There is no controlling it. I see everything. My eyes scan the nooks and crannies of the built environment, from street corners to bus stops and supermarket queues, seeking out anything that is not the ‘norm’.  Yes, I see the abused. I see the liars. I see them all.

Good job they don’t see me!

Having a vivid imagination is so important for any artist. Without inspiration to fuel those imaginations, art would be a lesser, not so tangible component of life. Actually, I’m feeling inspired, are you?

Belinda Bennett is the author of The Road to Ataco and five other Kindle books. She wrote her first piece of major fiction at the age of nine, but went on to become a journalist. She started her career as a newspaper reporter at the former Exeter Weekly News, in south-west England, when she was 17. She is best-known for her seven-year tenure as editor of the multi-award-winning Midweek Herald, which covers her hometown of Honiton in Devon. She also enjoyed successful stints on the Sunday Independent, Bridport News and Chard and Ilminster News. She ended her 33-year career in June 2015 (she had been writing headlines for daily newspapers owned by Newsquest along the south coast) to concentrate on creative writing.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Margin Project -- Making Reading a Social Experience

In high school, I remember having to write in the margins of books to prove to my English teachers that I was actually reading and responding to the text. I was always a fast reader, so I became annoyed with having to stop my reading to write my thoughts. But this past year I became intrigued with the idea of using writing in the margins as a social process. 

In the book Life by Committee, the main character gets old books from thrift stores with annotations. She reads those writings to feel connected to whoever read that book previously. It’s like your own private book club. 

Not even a week later, I noticed that my local public library has something called the Margin Project. It was started by Jen Malone as a way for people to share the reading experience. She says it started because, “in late 2013, a number of 2014 debut authors began sending advance copies of their books ‘on tour’ via mail to each other, in order to help spread the word of their upcoming releases. As great as it was to read the printed words, the notes and drawings the writers left on one another’s book as they read were just as much fun!” 

Basically, the Margin Project says that it's okay to write in this specific book. The books are labeled as being a part of the Margin Project and include instructions (basically keep it clean). The person reads and writes their reactions, feelings, and opinions in the margins and returns the book to the library when they are done. The next reader gets to see what the previous person wrote, as well as adding his or her own thoughts. And so on. 

This could also be used in classrooms, book clubs, or just groups of friends. It is the same idea as a book club, in that it takes reading—which can be a very isolating hobby—and turns it into a social experience. But unlike a book club, the thoughts are anonymous, and can, therefore, be more honest and raw. 

What are your thoughts? Do you think that it’s okay to write in a book if it makes a valuable shared experience? Have you participated in the Margin Project?

o Amber Gregg

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Naming a work of Fiction - WTF do I call it?!

This is a guest post by Jessica Harpley..

Have you ever started a project under a temporary name, and then as things keep progressing along, you’re really not sure what to call it? The further into the project you get, the more the name starts sticking to it like some needy significant other. It’s not right for the project, but your project has been with that name for so long that it’s gotten comfortable with it. It’s settled.

Stop! Don’t settle for a sticky, needy, insufficient name. I did, and I’m fairly upset about it, but it’s too late now! My book that has yet to be published is smack in the middle of the same issue. It’s had this name for six years! When I went online and searched that name, I got a bunch of werewolf erotica… Nope. I’m not sticking my epic science fiction trilogy next to your steamy dog porn, thank you very much (not that there’s anything at all wrong with werewolf erotica).

Let’s get into why we’re here. I’m going to run through one of exercises I’m using to find my book a new name. Hopefully it will be useful to you, or at least entertaining.

Synopsis - My Nemesis

If you’re like me, you don’t like trying to summarize your work of art into a few pages, let alone a few words. But herein lies the salvation to your trying times. Write out the basic premise of your work, and keep refining it, smaller and smaller until you’re left with a very basic concept. From there, you can begin generating many names. Let me run through the exercise in a hypothetical scenario:

Set in ancient times, Klatus is a wealthy man who loses everything to gambling. Destitute in the streets, he seeks to make a deal with a demon to regain his former glory. But Klatus doesn’t know the contract damns more than just his eternal soul. He fights for survival now in a city overrun with horrors beyond the nightmares of the unsuspecting townsfolk. Will he become the hero they so desperately need, and condemn himself to eons of torment?

Huh… I should probably write that story. So we have, Klatus the potential hero, ancient times, gambling, devils, acts of heroism, and nightmarish battles. Taking just these things we know, we can start writing down some words:


Sweet! We have words there. Using Klatus, here are a few of the combinations that really stuck out to me as catchy:
Klatus’ Ante
Redemption of the Gambler
The Devil’s Deal (yay for alliteration!)
Wager of Salvation

Anyway, so there you have it. Grid out some words, start smacking them together. Be sure to keep a running list of the words you know you don’t want in your title. For example, if you’re not writing a romance, I would suggest keeping the word “secret” out of the name. There is a surprising number of sexytime books with that word.

If you like what you saw here, or I entertained you in some way, please check out my debut novella - The Mill - (dang that sticky, needy name to hell). It’s available for digital preorder right now, and paperbacks go on sale October 15th: If you’re not interested in buying my work (soon-to-be works) of fiction and just like reading my ramblings, you can check me out at I’d like to thank Amber Gregg for giving me the opportunity to take over her blog for a post! It’s always so flattering to be invited to share my knowledge/wisdom/insanity with the likes of other humans.

Friday, September 25, 2015

A Writer's Guide to Law and Lawyers

This is a guest post by Karen A. Wyle..

The theme of this post could be: what goes around comes around, hopefully to the benefit of my fellow authors and would-be authors.

As a child, I fully intended to become a novelist (make that a "famous" novelist) as soon as possible, preferably at a younger age than ever before achieved. That dream suffered various blows as I got older, starting with the realization, at age ten, that a girl in England had had a novel published at age nine; continuing with the humiliation I suffered when a well-meaning teacher read parts of my first attempt to our fifth grade class; and finally, the climactic realization that I had no idea what to write about and found the act of writing a form of torture. I gave up on writing fiction by my junior year in college.

What was an English major to do? I had no clear calling to the teaching profession, nor were my parents eager to fund a graduate degree in literature. I still had some lingering attraction to producing words, and I found both logic and psychology of interest. So I went to law school.

In law school, and even more in the practice of law, I learned through sheer necessity how to turn out words in quantity without agonizing over the process. When, many years later, I discovered National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo or Nano (about which I'm writing a separate post), I discovered that my facility at writing persuasive prose carried over into writing fiction, so that I could successfully keep up with Nano's frenetic pace.

I've written six novels via Nano, five of which I've published. (Number six should be out by February 2016.) The last two of those five, especially the fourth, included some courtroom drama. The two halves of my writing life, my profession and my avocation, seemed to be drawing closer together.

During this same period, in early 2013, I wrote a series of three guest blog posts for Indies Unlimited called "Writing Convincing Legal Fiction." That series explored some of the essentials of how courtrooms and lawsuits work, and flagged a few of the more common errors I've seen in books and movies. By the end of 2013, I'd begun writing a book based in part on the same theme -- a book with the insanely ambitious goal of summarizing the basics of American law and procedure, both criminal and civil. The focus of the book also expanded. Instead of just helping would-be authors of courtroom drama avoid the more obvious howlers, I sought to entice authors with the enormous dramatic potential of legal topics. To tempt folks further, I included suggested story ideas throughout the book, based on the topic under discussion at any particular point.

And so my youthful failure as a novelist led me to the trade through which I learned how to write; and my return to writing fiction led me to explore the exciting overlaps between fiction and the legal realm.

I'm now in the final phase of readying this book for publication. It should be available as a paperback on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and as an ebook on Amazon, by the first week in October. It's called Closest to the Fire: A Writer's Guide to Law and Lawyers. I based that title on an anecdote I enjoyed (something of a slam at lawyers), and also on the double meaning of "fire." In addition to its literal meaning (in the anecdote, its infernal meaning), we have the expressions "under fire" and "in the line of fire." That's where you'll find lawyers: just follow the sounds of battle.

If I've intrigued you, I hope you'll pop over to the book's website at, where you can find the full (lengthy) Table of Contents, the (even longer) paperback index, and a few "Online Extras" (including deleted rants).

Here's to more -- and more accurate -- legal fiction in the years to come!

Karen A. Wyle was born a Connecticut Yankee, but moved every few years throughout her childhood and adolescence.  After college in California, law school in Massachusetts, and a mercifully short stint in a large San Francisco law firm, she moved to Los Angeles, where she met her now-husband, who hates L.A.  They eventually settled in Bloomington, Indiana, home of Indiana University. They have two wildly creative daughters, and a sweet but neurotic dog. Wyle's voice is the product of almost five decades of reading both literary and genre fiction.  It is no doubt also influenced, although she hopes not fatally tainted, by her years of law practice.  Her personal history has led her to focus on often-intertwined themes of family, communication, unintended consequences, and the persistence of unfinished business.

Check out Karen’s post about Self-Publishing in the Modern Day.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Q and A with Author Julie Long

What was your biggest inspiration while writing your book?

Okay, right here on the first question it’s going to become readily apparent that I have trouble making decisions and narrowing to single answers. To me, nothing seems that simple! I had two initial inspirations that led me to write this story:

The basic idea of “guy pursues the simple life only to find out it’s complicated” was inspired by a high school friend of my husband’s. He moved from Southern California to Minnesota and married a Midwestern girl. They soon split up, however, and I started hypothesizing that maybe what his wife liked best about him was that he was from California. If so, their story would represent a certain irony: His biggest desire was to settle in the Midwest and hers was to leave it. He wanted a Midwestern girl and she longed to be anything but. Character conflict. 

Then I started thinking what else could thwart someone’s goal of returning to The Simple Life. And I naturally thought of my old hometown of Fairfield, Iowa. This Midwestern town in the middle of farm country had become the center of the Transcendental Meditation movement. I found it this ironic, and the town was full of dichotomy. A town divided between old-fashioned and New Age. Tractors and transcendence. When I started to research happenings in the town since I’d moved away, plot points surfaced like fish jumping into a boat. It was fascinating and thought-provoking, and had the potential to be funny.  

It’s amazing how much inspiration we can draw from real life. What is usually on your nightstand?

A novel, a spiritual book, and a book on the writing life. And my own journal. 

Lots of books! Sounds like my nightstand! Which character in your book is most like yourself?

Hmmm, that’s interesting to consider. I’ve got the holistic/spiritual bent of Trishna but I lack her assuredness (I’m working on it, though!). I share Owen’s love for the Midwest and a simple life, yet I’m much more open-minded than he is. And I feel like I share Delbert’s compassion for both sides of a situation, though I tend to want to smooth everything toward harmony where Delbert has the patience and faith to trust that things are as they should be. 

I think that a lot of authors put a little part of themselves into each of their characters. Which authors have most influenced your writing?

Let’s see.... I am a huge fan of Jonathan Tropper. He tells a story with such humor that I laugh out loud while I’m reading it (kind of embarrassing on airplanes) yet there’s deep human truth in his fictional characters and the situations they find themselves navigating. I like characters whose biggest problem to overcome is themselves. (I find that very relatable because I, too, get in my own way. A lot.) Tropper does that wonderfully. So does Anna Quindlan, and Nick Hornby, and Tom Perrotta — Perrotta has also centered novels in the midst of social factions (The Abstinence Teacher) which I found helpful to read. And when it comes to writing about small-town life, there’s no one better than Richard Russo. I think I have every novel each of these authors has written.

OK, now I need to add Jonathon Tropper to my never-ending To-Read list! And I also love Richard Russo. What is your favorite scene in your novel?

I have two (of course I can’t have just one!): The scene in the yoga studio when Owen finally opens up (physically and emotionally). And the scene in the cornfield when Owen joins Trishna. These are two big risk-taking scenes for Owen — he’s finally stepping way outside his comfort zone — and of course he is rewarded.

I loved those scenes too! They were both turning points in the story. What do you think is your lead character’s best trait?

His loyalty. To his ideals, his hometown, his family and finally to his greater good and highest self. 

That is a great quality to have. Are any characters in your book based on a real person?

Delbert gets his name from my uncle, but his personality is fashioned after our older neighbor when I was growing up. He was a craftsman by trade, who was thoughtful and patient and wise. My father died when I was nine, and in a household of all girls (I’m the youngest of four) Mr. Lyon represented father-figure steadiness and solidity for me. He made us bulletin boards, made my mom’s sewing cabinetry. He was always there, right next door. Walking home from school I’d stop to pet his dog Brownie. He’d turn off his saw or whatever machine he was using, and talk to me. His wife, like Delbert’s, was ill and pretty much homebound. He took good care of her. He was a good husband. And a good neighbor.  

You don’t find many people like that anymore. What is something your readers would be surprised to know about you?

Boy, I’m such an over-sharer that readers probably feel they already know way more about me than they want to! Okay, here’s something only my family knows (from personal experience): I have a competitive streak that comes out when playing board games or racing go-carts. 

I am also very competitive with board games! Where is your favorite place to write?

For the past four years, most Wednesdays I write in the Eat’n Park restaurant in Wexford, PA along with my fellow Mindful Writers. The group’s founder, Madhu Wangu, leads us in a meditation, then we journal a bit, and then we write for four hours. Side by side, in silence. The wait staff pops into the room from time to time to bring us coffee and food. It’s a lovely experience.

It’s nice that you have like-minded people to write with. What did you want to be when you grew up?

An Olympic gymnast or equestrian. I lacked the ability and commitment for either. But beginning at an early age I loved to read and write. Trips to the library were weekly occurrences (where I’d walk out with a teetering tower of books), and in grade school I wrote, illustrated and hand-bound two books: “Blip’s and Bloop’s Adventure” and “Barnaby McQuicly”

Maybe one day those books will be published too! :) What is your favorite book of all time?

Oh, the pressure! Okay, here is a book I dearly love that not nearly enough people have read, so please go read it, okay?: Crow Lake by Mary Lawson. It’s a small-scale story about family—love and loss, misunderstanding and resentment, and in the end a recognition that we don’t outgrow our siblings. I’m not great at distilling why a book is impactful. Just trust me. 

Alright, just mentally added that one to my To-Read list too. When is your birthday? 

February 20. I’m a Pisces. Thus the indecision — I’ve got two competing fish inside of me! (Actually, according to an astrologist, I have the equivalent of a an entire school of fish, each wanting to swim in their own direction. Which makes for much flip-flopping and wishy-washy behavior.)

Ah, no wonder we are kindred spirits! I am a Pisces too. I also experience a lot of indecision (but I am passionate about each of my many directions!) What is your dream vacation?

My dream vacation would be to combine into one magical day the best parts of various trips I’ve been lucky enough to take, along with some settings I’d like to experience: We wake in a room in the treetops, and the most amazing French-press coffee is brought to us. After yoga, meditation and a massage, there’s a walk through the woods, and then along the beach, and then through an idyllic pastoral scene (but we never getting sweaty or tired or cranky). We lunch at a little restaurant in Italy, where I order the pasta with duck ragu (I love this so much I once I ate it twice in one day). Afternoon is at a beach in the Caribbean, where I take turns being engrossed in a great novel, drifting in and out of napping, and surfing in the warm turquoise waves (reality check: I suck at surfing). Evening is someplace exotic like Bali, where we’d dine outdoors with a lively crew of friends and family, fireflies flickering in the trees (do fireflies even exist in Bali?). Then we retire to our open-air room (I’ve never stayed in one but would like to), and fall asleep listening to the waves.

That sounds amazing! Describe your writing style in three words. 

Aw jeez, this is veering too close to “tooting ones own horn”—highly uncomfortable for a Midwesterner. Okay, I’ll try: When I’m at my best, my writing is humorous, ironic and warm. 

I definitely got those three things from Rooville! So good job! When naming your characters, do you give any thought to the actual meaning?

For Trishna, I wanted a Hindu name that symbolized what she was about, so I chose Trishna, which means “thirst” or, according to another source, “desire to accumulate.” I was also told that when used as an adjective it would be a way of saying someone is greedy. And, indeed, Trishna’s “thirst” for TM’s power does get her into trouble. 
For Owen, I just liked that the name started with the letter “O”—because it reminded me of Opie Taylor from The Andy Griffith Show, which I think Owen is a bit like, and because when combined with the initial of his last name, the initials spell out “OM,” like a yoga chant, which irritates Owen when his buddy Smitty teases him about this.

I couldn’t help but think of the song Hare Krishna from the movie Hair every time I read Trishna. Probably just because it rhymes haha. What is your main character's favorite song?

Marshall Tucker Band’s “Property Line” because the opening line is: “My idea of a good time is walking my property line and knowing the mud on my boots is mine.”

Sounds pretty accurate. Any recent works that you admire?

Recent favorite fiction includes Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter, Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler, and Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen. In nonfiction, Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh has me snort-laughing. And I adore Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (her list of alternate titles alone is worth the price of the book). 

You are giving me so many books to read! If you could co-write a book with any author, who would it be?

Based on their work, I think collaborating with either novelist Jonathan Tropper or screenwriter Zach Braff seems like it would be an enjoyable experience and produce great work. (Of course, I know nothing about either guy. So don’t burst my bubble if I you happen to know that either of them is a jerk.)

I think Zach Braff is hilarious! How have your personal experiences affected your writing?

I’ve had the tendency to view the world as “either-or.” I’d see these disparate viewpoints all around me and within me, and I’d tried to determine the right answer. So in novel writing, so far I’ve been drawn to dichotomies. Rooville delves into New-Age lifestyles popping up in the middle of Midwestern values. As I began writing that story I was questioning where, in this town divided, would I belong? My next novel pits the small-local-farming movement against large commodity farming. It rose from my pride in my family’s farming heritage being shaking after reading Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. But in writing these novels, I’m reminded that life isn’t black and white, right or wrong, and the truth lies somewhere in the middle — or maybe each side’s truth is the truth in its own way. I take what on the surface seems to be an “either-or” scenario and try to find the common ground, the place where “this and that” can coexist. 

I like that perspective. What is your writing process?

Step 1. Avoid writing and beat myself up over my lack of discipline. 
Step 2. Eventually become so miserable that I overcome resistance, and sit down to write. 
Step 3. Lose myself for hours, completely engrossed and happy. Swear I’ll never forget how much I love writing. 
Step 4. Get sidetracked by life’s demands. 
Repeat Step 1.

Two books that really helped me understand (and forgive) myself and my process are The War of Art by Steven Pressfield and Seven Steps on the Writer’s Path by Nancy Pickard and Lynn Lott.

Thanks for being a part of this Q&A and good luck in your future writing!

o Amber Gregg