Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Amy's Author of the Month, April 2011

OK, so I know this is a few days early but I was too excited about it to wait any longer before posting the article. I first saw this woman's lovely cover art on a web designated as The Kindle Homepage. Immediately, I was drawn to the gorgeous dance figure in the midst of clouds and had to know what the book was about. After I read the synopsis on Amazon I was hooked and purchased it with a quick punch of my finger on my kindle. The book I am gushing about is called The Angel and the Brown – eyed Boy and it is written by a fabulous woman, author, mother, wife, spiritualist, etc… who goes by the name of Sandy Nathan. I thoroughly enjoyed this read and would recommend it to anyone who loves a good paranormal romance with lots of action. Click here to purchase The Angel on

Sandy Nathan is a heck of a writer and she has the recognition to prove it. I was really impressed with an article she shared with me recently. As a new author I found a lot of useful information in her words and decided I should pass on her wisdom here on my blog. So, with out further ramblings from me, I proudly present the wonderful and talented, Sandy Nathan…

How to Win a Book Contest
Sandy Nathan

Book contests. You see them advertised everywhere, sponsored by book publicists, advertising agencies, consultants, “book shepherds,” and even book publishers. What will winning a contest do for you? And––how can you win a book contest if you enter it?

I know something about these topics. My first two books won a total of twelve national awards in contests for independent presses and self-publishers. An interviewer once exclaimed, “What! No one has won twelve book awards.”

Well, I have. I'm good at it.

What will a book award do for you?

I’ve read promotional materials that claim that winning an award will catapult your book into the ranks of best sellers and make your name as an author.

Hasn’t worked out that way for me. I do have a friend who read my earlier article on this subject, Win Book Contests –– Make Your Book a Winner! on Your Shelf Life. He took my advice and had his self-published book made into a hardback, entered it in a contest, and won. He was signed by a traditional publisher within weeks. Years later, he remains signed and happy and selling like crazy.

It can happen. (The other thing about my friend is that he’s a supreme marketer and his book sales were spectacular before and after the contest. Also his book is really good.)

While I don't promise life-changing results, here are a few reasons book awards are worth pursuing.

1. An award will increase the visibility of your book. My first book came out in 2006; the second in 2009. I’ve just brought out two more books. I’ve found it much harder to make sales and keep sales momentum going now than in earlier years.
I think that the difference is due to the phenomenal increase in the number of Indie books and authors and their marketing activities. Your book must stand out from and above the hordes.

An award can provide that essential difference, provided it's part of a marketing arsenal. The unspoken truth about book awards is that you have to put your winning book, with its pretty new sticker or badge, in everyone’s face and keep it there, or nothing will happen.

2. Goodies. Some contests have really good prizes. Money, publicity campaigns. Trips to holy places: Book Expo America, for one. These are worth competing for by themselves.

3. An award can be a badge of quality and reassure your buyers. I was participating in an on-line discussion the other night when a woman EXPLODED about how sick she was of buying poorly produced self-published books. Here’s a really good, though rude and insulting, blog article with an incredibly vulgar title that talks about this problem and presents an excellent critique of self-published books. (Read the comments and links beneath the article. They’re also good.)

We in the self-publishing/independent press world need to face this problem and police ourselves. I think that book awards can do exactly that. An award-winning book should represent the highest quality available in the indie/self-published book scene.

Now that we’ve established good reasons for entering book contests, how do you win?

I’m going to give it to you straight. Winning a book contest requires a huge investment of time and a relatively large investment of money. It takes years to prepare a book good enough to win. Getting the peripherals¬¬––your web site, blog, and press packet, with everything it includes–––can take more years if you do it yourself.

As an example, I started my new book, The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy, in January of 2008. I’ve worked on it full time since then, except for when I was working on my other new book, Tecolote: The Little Horse that Could. Tecolote was supposed to be a redo/upgrade of an eBook we already had. Hah! What a joke.

I’ve been in constant communication with book designers, proofreaders, editors, graphic artists, web people and more, for three years. I’ve even been in touch with Tecolote, the horse behind the book.

I don’t know how my new books will do in contests; the results aren't in. Because I did well at one time doesn’t mean I will again. No guarantees in life. I’m not guaranteeing you anything in this article, either.

Now that I’ve made you really happy, let’s get into the nuts and bolts of winning.

The key is: If you win a book contest, you already know how to set up a winner. You know what excellence is and you know how to bring it forth. Getting the result is a job of work, like mucking out stalls at our ranch.

I think I’ve done well in book contests because I used to show horses and win. When you win in a horse show, it's because you started with a winning horse, then schooled, conditioned, fed, bathed, and trained him to perfection. You know all the rules as to the type of equipment and attire you should be using, and you employ them. You know how to ride and enter the arena with all sails flying. The judge will recognize you the instant he sees you.

In a book contest, the judge faces an array of books. Your book has to leap out and SING. Also tap dance.

1. Hardbacks show up better. You’re a judge. Thirty or forty books are sitting on a table. You won’t be able to read all of them. You see a well-designed hardback with a killer cover. Your eyes and hands gravitate to it. Wow. It’s beautiful. The paper even feels classy. You put the book in the “keeper” pile. Hardbacks have more weight in competition.

This is changing. The hardbacks do show up better, but so much contemporary fiction is put directly into a trade paperback (and eBook) format that well-produced soft backs can also win.

(I have experience judging a book contest, which is one reason I know all this stuff. I can’t say anything about the contest except that the quality of the books was fantastic. And the winners showed up immediately.)

2. Your title and cover will make you a winner or sink you. Do you know how to judge a cover? Lewis Agrell of The Agrell Group, wrote a terrific article on what makes a winning book cover. Contact Lewis here. (He's really good, by the way. He did the covers and interiors of The Angel & Tecolote, plus other work for me. One sheets, etc.)

For a quick tutorial on commercial design, let’s look at phone book ads. Open the yellow page ads in any phone book. Scan the page quickly. Where do your eyes land? Note the ad. Do it again on another page, and another.

In all probability, the ad that draws your attention is simple. Uncluttered. Either black, white, or mostly empty. The ads that grab your eyeballs and hold them have attained page dominance. People hire consultants to create dominant ads for them.

Now go to a bookstore sale table and look at the books. Which books grab your eyes? Which do you pick up? Buy? A book contest is like that table. Clear, bold design that dominates the competition will win.

Your cover must have an emotional hook. Think archetypes. Primal images. Something that grabs the inner psychology of your reader/judge.

To win and much more importantly, to be purchased, your book cover and spine must dominate any table and any bookshelf.

3. Your title is really, really important. Your title embodies your book’s essence. It is the first text the reader sees. It should be engaging, easy to read, evocative, and compelling––it should set the emotional tone for your book. As should the subtitle or tag line (the one line description below the title). Also, most of the big catalogs of books will list your book by its title only. It better be memorable.

4. The words on your cover, flaps, and first few pages of your book, your book’s copy, should be unforgettable. These words are your prime real estate and are what will make your book succeed. The book contest judge, book store owner, and your buyer will make a decision about your book based on these words––in seconds. You want emotional hooks, ease of reading, and enchantment.

Writing copy is a skill. You can write text like an angel and not be able to pump out a winning tag line. Emmy-nominated screenwriter Laren Bright, the best copy writer I know, wrote an article about “The Most Important Writing in Your Book.” It’s copy. That's what sells the book.
I say: Hire it done if you can possibly afford it. Copy writing is like writing good poetry. You need to be able to produce succinct messages packed with meaning and emotional associations in a tight space.

5. Book design, interior & exterior: Your book should look like Random House produced it, no less. Every page and every word should be as well designed as your cover. Go to a book store and look at bestselling books. Get a copy of the Chicago Manual of Style––a gigantic book that lays out everything about books––and make it your best friend.

A very important note: Never have your title page on the left side of the book. Do not do that. (I saw books with this flaw in the contest I worked on. This is such a bad error that if you don't know how bad it is, you're in big trouble.) Know the proper order of pages in a book. Know what a half title page is and where it goes. The contest judge will know about these.

6. Self-publishing, small presses, template designs. Some contests are specifically for self-published books, by that I mean books put out by the big POD printers like, iuniverse, createspace, and the rest. If this is your competition, let your lulu imprint show.

If you’re in open competition, hide any evidence that you are associated with these mass printers. You don't want their names on your book anywhere.
Some people/judges have prejudices against self-published books. There’s not as much of prejudice against author-owned small presses––after all, Benjamin Franklin had one. So did Mark Twain, DH Lawrence and tons of big literary names. If you own and operate a small press, that puts you in a different category, even if your book was printed by CreateSpace or Outskirts Press. Just make sure that nothing about the mass producers shows.

If you decide to set up your own small press, create a killer logo and press name, and have the book professionally designed and produced, you’ll be in good shape to compete.
Templates: Many of the big POD publishers set up their books' interiors using templates. Templates are standardized arrangements of a the elements of a book's interior and/or cover design. With a template, text blocks are a certain size, font choices are limited. Books designed using templates don’t show up well in contests. The text is set too tightly, and the margins are too small. There’s not enough variety in the overall design. In contests, judges may see several books with standard interiors and the same cover photo. If your book is one of thirty in a category, or one of three hundred, it has to stand out. A template won’t do it.

7. Professional production: The book contest judge may not have time to read all of your book, but he or she will sample pages and text. Typos, lousy interior and exterior design, cheap paper, all of it pops out. Hire a content editor, copy editor and proofreader. Hire a book designer. Believe it or not, they’re not all super expensive. Look at my blog roll on Your Shelf Life. Some great professionals are listed there.

Also, you can find independent book-making professionals who are cheaper than the design and other services offered by the big POD, author services. I was poking around on one of the major sites recently. They were offering a "big sale" on their "professional editorial and design services." The sale price was twice what I pay for my professionals and I get top quality work. I was on kindleboards the other night, and a number of old-timers advised newbies the same thing. Shop around; you can do better with your own pros.

8. Peripherals: your web site, stationery, & press kit. You did include those with your entry, didn’t you? I assure you, the winners did. The book contest judges are very likely to check your website, especially if you make it through enough of the hoops to stay in “the good pile” to the end. The “ad-ons” are breakers.
Two books might be ranked about the same, but if one author has an amazing web site and hosts a blog with a bazillion visitors a day and provides vital services to the world––who do you think will win? Ditto if an author provides copies of his book’s terrific reviews, testimonials, and advertising materials in a lovely custom folder.

Oh, yeah. What about the video for your book?
Is that linked prominently on your site? Mentioned in your press kit?

As a reality check, the press kits for Tecolote & The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy took me about four months' work, sandwiched between other book production tasks. The press kit for each book includes a one sheet (an 8.5” X 11’ glossy sheet advertising your book), custom business cards, over-sized custom postcards, and a Press Release, Author Bio, and Sample Interview specifically written for each book and designed with in Word with custom graphics. All are designed and printed professionally. These items were placed in presentation folders that matched the books' designs.

9. The book itself, as in––what’s between the covers? In your writing group, you concentrate on literary skills and arts. Word by word, you construct and deconstruct and reconstruct your masterpiece. Ditto working with your editor. You write, rewrite, slash and burn, and make your manuscript rise again. You struggle to express exactly what you want, and worry about pacing and plot and characters.

I was in two writing groups for a total of eleven years. I’ve worked with maybe six or seven good, tough editors. Almost all of this was grueling, painful, hard work. My writing has improved. The quality of the content of your book matters, especially if you want it to sell. If you want word of mouth to propel it. If you want to read it yourself in future years and not be embarrassed.

Most likely, the contest judge or panel of judges isn’t going to read all of your book. They’ll sample it and look at different aspects of it.

Does that mean you can skip the eleven years of writing groups and all those creative writing classes? No. Whatever random page a judge’s eyes fall upon will produce an impression. All the pages have to be good, since you don’t know which ones will be read. You need to know lots. For instance, what terms relating to race, ethnicity, or sexual preference are OK to use in modern literary and cultural circles?

Producing a book that wins contests is a big job requiring a commitment of time and money. It doesn’t have to be a HUGE commitment of money, but its going to cost something. Before you enter a contest, you should know what you’re up against. Hope this helped.

Sandy Nathan
Vilasa Press
Copyright 2011 by Sandy Nathan. All rights reserved.

Sandy Nathan, award winning author
Numenon & The Bloodsong Series
The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy; Tales from Earth's End

Contests for independent presses and self-publishers

SPR Self Publishing Review––Self-published Book

PUBLISHING BASICS––A Book Award Adds Value to your book

Reader Views––Annual Literary Awards

Sandy says, “Most of the contests are closed for this year––though you can still get into the Best Books of 2011 by USA Book News and the National Indie Excellence Award if you're fast. BB's is accepting books through April. Indie Excellence closes on April 10th.”

Oh, is that all Sandy? Piece of cake! Just kidding, seriously, I love this article because it is so brutally honest. So often, as writers, we are underestimated. The amount of time and effort that is put into our work is not comprehended and understood by the average person. All creative people are plagued with this misinformed notion. As an educator of the arts I am well aware of this type of ignorance. I work with intelligent, educated, professionally minded people on a daily basis. They have no clue about what goes on in my dance or theater classes. While I’m slaving away to give my students a meaningful and valuable education I have no doubt they imagine my students scattered around the room pretending to be trees or amoebas. (It was only that one time!). So, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Sandy for allowing me to post her wonderful article and give us a little more credence.

Wait! There’s more! Don’t miss out on my interview with Sandy. This is really good stuff!

The Angel's People and Places

Can you tell us a little bit about your self?

I'm a native of San Francisco CA raised down on the SF Peninsula. They call it Silicon Valley now. In my early years, I lived the life of wealth that's described in The Angel and my book Numenon. My dad was a residential developer. His company was 10th largest in the US at its peak. He was killed by a drunk driver and––poof! all the privilege, my horse, everything, disappeared. I'm still getting over it.

I spent a lot of years in school. I've got two MAs, one in economics, the other in counseling. I LOVED academic life. I worked as an economist for the Santa Clara County Planning Department and on a couple of special projects. Also worked as a negotiation coach for a professor at Stanford's Graduate School of Business. (Which explains a lot about Numenon, which has Stanford MBAs as main characters.) I loved that job. Did it for 20 years, every spring quarter.

The most difficult and rewarding job I've had is being a mom. I have three grown kids. They're wonderful, great people. I've got two grandkids. Family is the heart of my life. My husband and I have been together since 1974.

What else? Horses. Love them. I rode pretty much every day between ages 13 and 18. Lost my horse when my dad died. When I got older, I managed to get back into horses. We've had a Peruvian Paso horse (rare, easy-gaited breed from Peru) ranch for about 20 years, breeding, riding, showing horses. We're in retirement mode now, down to 6 horses.

How long have you been a writer and what inspired you to begin writing?

I've done something in the arts all my life. I was screened as intellectually and creatively gifted in kindergarten. I guess I must be, I'm absolutely miserable if I'm not creating. I drew and painted through high school and then took art and ballet in college. (The ballet sequences in The Angel come from this––I've spent a lot of time at the barre and loved it. My teacher wasn't like Madame Mercier, however.)

When I was in graduate school in economics, I produced and showed sculpture. Loved it! It kept me from going insane studying econ, which is known as "the dismal science" because it is.

I must add that working in the arts in any serious, committed way was absolutely forbidden in my family. My dad was a businessman and everything he did revolved around making money. Not that he was that greedy––he was so poor in the Great Depression that it scarred him. So, even though he died, I've had to fight with myself about being a writer, and about committing the time and effort to the work that I do.

So, I started writing full time in 1995 when we moved to Santa Ynez Valley and this ranch. I was invited into a writers' group led by published poet and literature teacher and joined it as a lark. I'd been writing all along, mind you, in academically and professionally. My first publications are in economics. But this was different. I started writing all the time, different stories running through my mind. I stayed in that group 9 years.

Also in 1995, I had a huge spiritual experience after a meditation retreat. (I talk about it in the Author's Note to Numenon.) An entire book was "injected" into my brain in about a second. I ran to the computer and wrote it down. Ran it by my husband, who said, "It's good."

That was the beginning of the Bloodsong Series. Numenon is its first book. I've got drafts for maybe 8 more books in that series on my hard drive. Not only did I get the plots of a book in that instant, I got the self-discipline to complete the works.

That huge "book injection" after the meditation retreat was me healing myself. Or the universe healing me. Writing is my way of healing.

Back to writing. I got involved in another writing group after the first one disbanded. I was in a group run by a professor of literature at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Most of the people in it were published authors. I found receiving the detailed feedback extremely stressful, though I learned how to write. Now I work with a very good editor. She's as tough and demanding of excellence as the professor's group was, but easier for me to handle.

What else? Well, I'll answer that below.

I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed your most recently published novel, The Angel and the Brown – eyed Boy. Can you tell us what inspired the idea of this book? I’m particularly curious to learn about your character choices for Eliana and Jeremy.

With the Bloodsong Series, I really thought that I had enough on my plate––or hard drive–– to keep me busy forever. And then my brother died unexpectedly. He was my little darling, my baby brother. I was grieving for him, trucking around looking normal, but hurting inside.

I had another one of those huge experiences that some spiritually inclined people do. I dreamed of a light, a perfect golden light hovering over me while I slept. This light was totally good and kind. She--the light was a she, I knew that––wished everyone well. Including me. She was like an angel, but without any form but golden light. The light settled down on me and then merged with me, so that we were one.

I could feel goodness and love coursing through me. I was a blessing. I woke up and walked around in that state for a few hours, then it faded away.

The light became the angel in The Angel. I don't know how, nor do I know where that book came from. My unconscious did it for me; Eliana was just there. The whole book emerged over the few days after the dream. It was my creative process's way of jumbling up reality into a story. Parts of Jeremy are characteristics of my brother, though no one who knew him would recognize him. Jeremy has a few things to say about the life he was dealt, and he says them.

When I finished The Angel, its sequel was there. When I write, scenes and plots, dialogue and locations, come to me so forcefully that I feel that I will die if I don't write them down. It's a compulsion, but a glorious one.

So when I finished Lady Grace, the sequel, its sequel pounced on me. I've got a draft of the sequel to the sequel down. It's a romance between the village headman, Sam Baahuhd, and the love of his life. And a fourth in the series is in my head. That's what happens after Lady Grace ends.

At least I know what I'm going to be doing for the rest of my life.

I understand that there will be a sequel to The Angel. I know that I am personally trying very hard to remain patient for its arrival. Can you give us an estimated time for when you anticipate publishing it? What can we expect from the sequel?

Thank you for your patience, Amy! The sequel, Lady Grace, has just completed its second round of content editing. When I can stand it, I pick up the shreds of the manuscript's torn and slashed body . . . No, I'm being excessively dramatic. The cuts were necessary. Soonish, I'll get through my responses and rewrites and have the manuscript ready to go to proofreading. I would say Lady Grace could come out by the end of this year. (I need to say that my editor says LG is the best thing I've written. That's heartening.)

The sequel tells what happens when the radiation clears. That's all I'll say.

What's actually holding up Lady Grace's publication is Mogollon, the sequel to Numenon, my first novel and the first book of the Bloodsong Series. In Lady Grace, I do this cute thing where some of the characters from Numenon and Mogollon migrate over to Lady Grace. Yes, they jump series. It's hysterical, and it works.

I want Mogollon out so readers can have a chance to get acquainted with those characters. I've got the draft(s) of the Mogo manuscript and am planning a big rewrite when we go to New Mexico in May.

Things are cooking, they just take time. I'm hoping to have both Mogollon (which may be retitled) and Lady Grace out this year.

Who is your favorite character you’ve created and why?

Hmm. Well, I think my favorite is Will Duane, the "hero" of Numenon. Yes, he's an unscrupulous, money-mad bastard with terrible morals who makes Gordon Gecko of Wall Street look cuddly.

But I know him. I also know all that happened to him and what's going to happen. You mostly see Will's outside in Numenon. He's tormented, deeply wounded character who's on the brink of collapse––and rebirth. He's also overcome incredible handicaps to create the world's largest corporation, Numenon. If you think he got it bad in Numenon, wait until you see what happens to him in the sequel. (He's also a hunk––in his 60s.)

I also like Jeremy Edgarton, the boy with the brown-eyes. He's also had it very rough, and he's triumphed. He's very complex and he ends up being himself, despite everything. (A kinda nerdy little guy in his teens.)

And Sam Baahuhd, the village headman in The Angel. Another case of success over great over odds. (A hunk in his 40s.)

And Grandfather, of course. The shaman in Numenon. He's really had it rough, and not only triumphed, emerged ecstatic so that everyone around him feels better. (He's not a hunk, though spiritually beautiful, in his 80s.)

Guess I like complex men.

If you could give one piece of advice to new indie authors trying to promote their books what would it be?

Find your market and direct your efforts there. Do lots of introspection and looking at your work to see who your readers/buyers are. You may have one idea of your work, but readers may have another. Follow your readers, and your own heart. Ask for help.

If The Angel was made into a movie who would you cast for it?

Whoa. I don't go to the movies that much, so I don't really have actors' names/images in my head. I did do a video of people and places that I thought looked like the characters of The Angel. It's here:

Video on

I did some "casting.” Here's my lineup:

JEREMY EDGARTON: Very hard to cast. The young man in the video is my first choice by far. Jeremy is very sweet, though tormented. The kid in the video has that kind sweetness. I searched the 'net to find that photo. Will Smith at age 16 could play Jeremy.

ELIANA: Very hard to cast. Very fair with silver hair and eyes? The best dancer ever? Young teenage looking? Maybe a younger Natalie Portman with a makeover. I'd look for an unknown, a real dancer.

HENRY HENDERSON: Morgan Freeman, James Earl Jones, or Danny Glover

LENA HENDERSON: Phylicia Rashad (#1 CHOICE! She's so warm.), Alfre Woodard, Oprah Winfrey

VERONICA PIERMONT EDGARTON (Jeremy's mother): Elizabeth Taylor at 41 (maybe with a dash of Sophia Loren at the same age)

CHAZ EDGARTON (Jeremy's father): Only one choice–– Marvin Gaye He had a 4 octave vocal range, could play any instrument, and was gorgeous.

ARTHUR ROMERO: Benjamin Bratt, Jimmy Smit if he were younger, or Taylor Lautner but older, in his 30s. (Though Taylor is Native American, not Latino)

VALERIE ZANNER: Anne Hatthaway or Helena Bonham Carter (The latter is sort of a wild card. I'd love to see her play a heavy villain. Well, ditto Anne.)

MADAME MERCIER: I searched "wicked witch" and no one who worked came up.

What types of books do you like to read?

I read all types of books, compulsively, all the time. I'm currently reading Shantaram by David Gregory Roberts. This is a pretty auto-biographical novel about a guy who escapes prison in Australia, makes it to India, where he gets in worse trouble. I'm also reading Winter Light Winter Light and Clearing by poet Rose Black. And Richard Rohr's Wondrous Encounters: Scripture for Lent, and Let Us Now Praise famous Men by James Agee and Walker Evans. Plus a half dozen books by indie authors.

What is your favorite genre?

No favorite. I'll read anything from Romance to Literary Fiction. I do demand good writing. Words that entice and enchant me without needless fluff. I guess I like stuff like what I write best: emotionally involving books that have a message (but don't shout it), lots of action, and characters I love. And beautifully produced. Proofread. All of that.

Who is your favorite author?

Halldor Laxness, the Icelandic Nobel Prize winner. He's a superb writer. Independent People is a timeless masterpiece. I'm half Icelandic, so I have a bias.

Do you have a favorite book?

Probably Independent People, though I loved Diana Gabaldon's Outlander Series. It's not at the same level of literature as Independent People, however.

What is your favorite movie?

Inside Job, the Academy Award winning documentary about the financial collapse of 2008 and what led up to it. Everyone should watch this.

Also I liked Ghost.

What is your favorite song/type of music?

Bill Miller is my favorite musician. I find him absolutely, totally, over the top. He's a Native American musician, artist and speaker. Winner of 3 Grammies. One of the most spiritually elevated people I've known. He leads a Native retreat in Tennessee every September, which I went to for three years and wrote about in my book Stepping Off the Edge. If you can get there, click here. If you can see him perform anywhere, click here.

This is what's going around in my head these days. This is Bill Miller and Arvel Bird performing Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. Very moving, very sad. Beautiful.

Please tell us 5 random facts about yourself.

I wish I could work (on books) two or three times harder than I do. Unfortunately, I currently work all the time, so multiples of that are out.

I reached my peak intellectually in 1973, doing a math problem for a class in Mathematics of Optimization. That was the year I worked on a PhD and almost got an ulcer.

I work out almost every day and will jump in the car and go to the gym when I'm done with this interview.

I have three Cocker Spaniel type mutts, all black. I got them when my daughters left home and I was suffering from close-to-terminal empty nest syndrome. They really helped.

My son and grandchildren are arriving here in about 6 hours. They're staying for a week and I'm really excited, though I hope my son doesn't have an asthma attack. He's allergic to horses.

I truly hope you enjoyed this fabulous post and interview with Sandy Nathan! Please post and tell how fabulous you think it is, :)

Are you an author who would like to be featured as my next author of the month?
Email me!

I'm still looking for poets/poetry features for April (which is poetry month). Please send me your master pieces or your favorites!


Sunday, March 27, 2011

City of Angels is almost here!

Only 9 more days until Cassandra Clare's (my favorite author) Mortal Instruments, Book 4, City of Angels is finally here! Yay!

Check out the cover art. It is fabulous. Don't you just love Clary and Jace?



Saturday, March 26, 2011

Another 5 star review for Soul Quest!

This is so exciting!

Check it out at Evie ~ Bookish ~

"Amy Jones does a superb job of drawing you in. She created an amazing, unique and fascinating world, filled with fantastic, well developed and likable characters. If you liked Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments series then I can guarantee you will LOVE Soul Quest!"

- Evie

I wonder if Evie knows Cassandra Clare is my favorite author. This is the most amazing compliment because I absolutely LOVE The Mortal Instruments series.

Click on this link.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Seeking Poets!

Are a poet? I am not, but I looooove poetry. April is Poetry month and I would like to showcase some great poetry on my blog through out the month to celebrate it. If you are interested please email me own of your poems or a favorite poem.

While I obviously was denied any genetic poetic mastery from this master of poems, my grandmother assures me that Edgar Allan Poe is one of my ancestors. In honor of poetry and family I have selected one of his most famous poems for you. Enjoy!


The Raven

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
"'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door —
Only this, and nothing more."

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; — vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow — sorrow for the lost Lenore —
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore —
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me — filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating,
"'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door —
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door; —
This it is, and nothing more."

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
"Sir," said I, "or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you"— here I opened wide the door; —
Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, "Lenore?"
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, "Lenore!" —
Merely this, and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
"Surely," said I, "surely that is something at my window lattice:
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore —
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore; —
'Tis the wind and nothing more."

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore;
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door —
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door —
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore.
"Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou," I said, "art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the Nightly shore —
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

Much I marveled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning— little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blest with seeing bird above his chamber door —
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as "Nevermore."

But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered— not a feather then he fluttered —
Till I scarcely more than muttered, "other friends have flown before —
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before."
Then the bird said, "Nevermore."

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
"Doubtless," said I, "what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore —
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
Of 'Never — nevermore'."

But the Raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
Then upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore —
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking "Nevermore."

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamplight gloated o'er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamplight gloating o'er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then methought the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose footfalls tinkled on the tufted floor.
"Wretch," I cried, "thy God hath lent thee — by these angels he hath sent thee
Respite — respite and nepenthe, from thy memories of Lenore
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil! — prophet still, if bird or devil! —
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted —
On this home by horror haunted— tell me truly, I implore —
Is there — is there balm in Gilead? — tell me — tell me, I implore!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil — prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us — by that God we both adore -
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore -
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore."
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

"Be that word our sign in parting, bird or fiend," I shrieked, upstarting —
"Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken!— quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamplight o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted — nevermore!

—Edgar Allan Poe

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A 5 star review for Soul Quest!

I just received my first review for Soul Quest. I'm very excited! Here is a link to the review.

Book Reviews by Aubrie

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Review for Nebula's Music by Aubrie Dionne

Nebula’s Music is about a female cyborg’s journey into a world unknown, the world of emotion. Cyborgs are robotic persons who were previously human and received technological enhancements after their mortal death. They look human but think and behave like robots… or do they? Nebula, previously Mirilee Fletcher in her human life, can see glimpses of her host body’s memories when she plays the piano. These memories stir up feelings in Nebula that she has not been programmed to feel or understand.

As a cyborg it is Nebula’s responsibility to protect human life. It is in this effort that she meets Radian, a man who was previously engaged to Mirilee, the woman she once was. More confusing, yet comforting feelings begin to tug at Nebula’s heart when she finally comes face to face with Radian. She asks Radian how and why she died. She learns the truth about her death and the circumstances surrounding it. She decides she must set out on a mission to make things right. On this quest she faces extreme peril and suffers a great loss but in the end she is not left alone.

Nebula’s Music was an exceptionally enjoyable read. It is a little bit of Star Trek mixed in with the feeling of Stephenie Meyer’s, The Host. Author, Aubrie Dionne has created a whole slew of uniquely developed characters in this read, some are human and others are alien or humanoid, but all of them are delightfully intriguing. The character’s relationships were meaningful and made sense. Their existence furthered the plot and supported the actions and feelings of the main character. I was also impressed with Dionne’s colorful play of words and imagery. In particular, her description of the music Nebula played was poetic and moving.

The book is a quick paced read with a steady rise in emotional level. The story flows and escalates in energy in the same way a piece of music may crescendo or an airplane may ascend into the sky.

I definitely loved and will add this author to my reading list. I give Nebula’s Music a rating of 5 out of 5 stars.

Click to buy this book.


Featured Article at Kate Evangelista's Blog

Hello everyone,
One of my Book Blog buddies and fellow authors posted an Article I've written on her blog. The article is titled The Dynamics of Young Adult Fantasy Fiction. Click on the link to read the article.

Make sure you peruse her pages. She has a lot of really interesting things happening there.


Sunday, March 20, 2011

I am Number Four - Official Trailer [HD]

It was a cool book before it became a cool movie.
I am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

Has anyone seen the movie yet? Is the movie as good as the book? The movie is rarely as good as the book, but it still looks awesome!


So You Want to Write a Novel

I found this YouTube video over at Readers and Writers of Distinctive Fiction. It really made me giggle so I had to share it here. Enjoy!


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Meet the Bad Guys...

You always hear about the MC and his or her allies, but who are they up against? Here is a little taste of terror from Chapter Two in Soul Quest. Meet Shyam, Avna, Etheline and Lefu.

Chapter Two
Aengels and Daevas
Time - September 10, 2001 (the eve of 911)
Place - The Waldorf Astoria Hotel
Manhattan, New York

"Be sober, be vigilant;
because your adversary
the devil, as a roaring lion,
walketh about seeking
whom he may devour."

- Bible, 1 Peter v. 8

Etheline frowned at herself in the mirror. She was never exactly beautiful in her human form but now she was morbidly grotesque. Her hair was once a shiny, softly curling, platinum blond. Now it looked stringy, bleached and brittle. She remembered how interesting her hazel eyes looked when the sunlight spilled into them. Now they took on a dull flat black. Her skin was always fair but now her pale skin could make a corpse look healthy. Avna noticed her scowling at herself in the large mirror in the foyer of the hotel suite.
"Don't fret my sweet. It won't last forever. I was even uglier than you in my Aengel form. I'd compare the process to the life cycle of a butterfly. You are no longer a lowly larva. You are changing, a chrysalis of evil. Once you have taken enough human souls to complete the change you will become a Daeva, beautiful and powerful, just like yours truly." she laughed wickedly, sweeping her lovely, fiery red ringlets behind her shoulder as she admired herself in the mirror.
She was more than beautiful now. Her porcelain skin glowed against her dazzling, onyx eyes and flaming red curls. Yes, she remembered Etheline's gruesome plight well. She remembered a dull gray face with charcoal for eyes framed with limp, orange, wiry hair. Ew! All is well that ends well, she thought. Etheline glared at her.
"See!" Avna gestured toward herself in the mirror. "No worries." she bragged.
"Not for you." Etheline spat back. "Did you infect me just so you could torture me until my transition is complete?" Etheline whined.
"Don't be like that, my pet." she purred. Etheline hated it when Avna referred to her as her pet. It was degrading to her.
"Besides, we have far more important matters to concern ourselves with, my dear, do we not?" she prompted.
"Yes Avna. I know that. Has Shyam received confirmation from the humans yet?" Etheline asked.
"Not yet, but it shouldn't be much longer." Avna replied. "If this plays out the way we suspect those incompetent humans will end up doing half the job for us." Avna snickered.
"Do you really think they will take the bait so easily Avna?" Etheline wondered.
"Of course they will. The stupid humans haven't even an inkling of suspicion about our kind. They will blame each other for this 'so called' tragedy." she sneered. "They will go to war and blow each other to kingdom come. Afterward we can devour the aftermath, a buffet of souls practically served to us on a silver platter." Avna cackled wildly. Etheline joined in her laughter. This was going to be so easy. "Where is Lefu?" Avna asked suddenly, realizing she hadn't seen him in awhile.
"He’s hunting. There is a group of drunks in the alley behind the hotel, a mere appetizer to tide us over until the main course that you have described comes to pass." Etheline said in anticipation.
"Good. I'm in need of some refreshment. They will have to do for now." Avna approved.
"I'll raise five souls to your one." Lefu wagered Etheline around a hand of poker.
Shyam still awaited confirmation from the humans. He paced back and forth in front of the bar, brandy in hand. All would have seemed utterly normal had the two not been wagering the souls of humans. They kept tally on a tablet of paper because they could not think of anything significant enough to symbolize a human soul. There was no amount of money, rare jewels, real estate or any material possession that could outweigh the worth of a human soul. Lefu was every bit as eager to complete the transition as Etheline. As Etheline pondered his wager he recalled the tedious efforts necessary to lure the handful of homeless humans to their hotel suite earlier that evening. It wasn't too difficult. After all, they were without shelter and food. It had been raining so he had tempted them back to the room with promises of new, dry clothes, a warm meal and wine. Sadly, he probably could have just offered the wine and they still would have come. Alcoholism... he thought. He'd put them out of their misery, not that he cared. Yes they were desperate, he'd thought. Even after taking in the sight of him they had still agreed to come. Lefu wasn't nearly as put off with his Aengel appearance as Etheline was. He was used to being looked upon as homly, or even worse. During his human years he had been in an accident as a small child that left him scarred, disfigured and crippled. True, his once jet black silky hair was now a dull gray and his deep chocolate brown eyes and skin looked of chalky soot. Now however, the hump in his back and the limp in his walk seemed less pronounced. In fact, with every human soul he consumed he grew stronger. His body seemed to be righting itself. Yes he looked forward to the day when he could glide in a walk with his back straight and his shoulders pulled back. He was sick and tired of feeling old and haggard. He would not be a victim anymore. No one would pity him ever again. Shyam promised him this and so he'd agreed to the infection. Good thing too because now he realized had he not Shyam would have killed him and consumed his soul instead.
"I'll raise you eight souls to your five." Etheline interrupted.
"Damn!" he cursed. Was she bluffing he wondered.
Avna heard his cursing and strolled into the room, curious to the situation. She found them wagering souls in the sitting area. The patio doors that led out to the balcony were open allowing a light, cool breeze to sweep into the room. It felt nice so she relaxed a bit. The waiting for confirmation was beginning to take its toll on everyone's nerves.
"Lefu, I was very impressed with your catch earlier this evening." she teased.
"Perhaps you used a bit of compulsion?" she laughed.
She was making fun of him. They all knew he would not gain the compulsion ability until he completed the transition. A smirk drew on Etheline's lips as well.
"Yeah, you're all so damned hilarious! Why don't you send your resume and head shot over to ‘Stand Up New York’ while you're at it? You could be the next Chevy Chase." he retorted. "Of course the head shot would probably guarantee your application being designated to the bottom of the circular file Etheline." he sneered gesturing to the round waste basket beside the desk.
Everyone boasted a laugh except Etheline. They were quickly silenced by the sound of Shyam's ring tone, Back in Black by ACDC. This was it. Shyam continued to pace back and forth in front of the bar as he nodded and grunted into his cell phone. He was a dangerously handsome man with sleek, black hair and the same glowing porcelain skin of Avna. His eyes too were a radiant onyx, mesmerizing and enticing in all their mystery. No person, human or otherwise, could deny him his desires. This was what they did, he and Avna. They used compulsion to delude the humans. Their beauty would lure them in allowing them to compel them into whatever task they required of them. The Aengels were merely their servants while they forged toward their completed transition. Etheline and Lefu brought them souls for consumption, fuel for energy. They were all young in appearance, but Shyam and Avna were centuries old. Etheline and Lefu would join their ranks one day if they succeeded in completing the transition. The Aengels were more vulnerable. True they were stronger and faster than humans but nothing compared to Shyam and Avna, true Daevas. They could slash through flesh and bone, even metal with their teeth and fingernails, but their bodies were closer to the fragility of a human. Unlike Shyam and Avna, nothing human could threaten them. Even human weaponry was not fast or powerful enough to destroy them. This is why it was their job to manipulate the humans. It had been all too easy for them to set up the disastrous event planned for the next day. A militia of compelled humans would hijack four airplanes and cause a global disaster that would induce doubt, fear, and weakened faith into the hearts of millions for years to come. This was their real plan. As overwhelming as it would seem to the humans the death toll from 911’s events would be next to nothing to the Daevas. However, it would plant the seed of evil. It would seal the fate of the humans dipping the scales from good to evil. This would allow them more power, more control, an expansion of rank. They would rule the world at last. Shyam snapped his cell phone closed.
He turned to face his accomplices and with a wicked edge to voice he announced firmly, "We are ready."

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Guest Author of the Month - This could be you!

Hello everyone, I am interested in beginning a new feature on this blog which showcases a different YA Sci Fi Fantasy author each month. In this feature I would like the author to supply an article about a topic of interest to them (blogging, writing, a review of your current favorite book/author, ect...) and information about yourself and your book/s. If this sounds like something you would be interested in please email me ( your article, a jpg of your book, a link to the site where it may be purchased and a link to your blog and/or website. I will feature the authors/articles in the order I receive them. I'm really excited about this and hope you will be too.

Yours truly,

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Read an Ebook Week was a success!

Thank you to the 71 individuals who downloaded Soul Quest over at Smashwords during Read an Ebook Week. I hope you will enjoy the free book and in return, write some positive feedback on my Amazon page, Smashwords page and/or here about what you liked about it.
I know I intend to do the same for my extended new bookshelf.
Thanks again,

Saturday, March 12, 2011


- Today is the last day of Read an Ebook Week! Make sure you don't miss out on the sales and freebies at Smashwords. I've stocked my "to read" shelf heavily this week!

- I've added a new feature to my blog (Amy's Reading Recommendations). Make sure you scroll down the page so you don't miss it.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ebooks in the Classroom?

I recently read an article about the prospect of Ebooks replacing textbooks in the classroom. I remembered instantly what a pain it was (literally) to lug a huge book sack over stuffed with high school curriculum to and from school everyday. You remember that picture, Literature, Arithmetic, Science and Social Studies busting at the seams, day in and day out. Just imagine what it would be like to have all of that knowledge at your fingertips in an instant on an Ereader device. I suppose it shouldn’t be that much of a surprise to me. As a teacher I’ve seen technology pave its way slowly, yet consistently into the nooks and crannies of our schools over the past several decades. Video projectors were first replaced by VCR’s and finally DVD players. Those green grading books became networked programs through out a state wide system. Instead of scratching numbers into a tiny box, teachers plunk them into a computer database and export them. Chalkboards have become whiteboards, overhead projector images are now on power point, students demonstrate oral report presentations using Video Maker and the old musty Apple computer lab in the back of the school has transformed into a portable Del laptop laboratory.
Has all of this changed how kids have learned in the classroom? You bet it has. It has engaged them deeper in the learning process, furthering their understanding of the curriculum. So, what does the emergence of Ebooks equal in equation? More kids reading? I think this is the case. Children in today’s world are entirely tuned in to technology. They have cell phones, Ipods, laptop computers, Zunes, Wii, Xbox, accounts on Facebook… you get the drift. When you really think about it, if you want to encourage a child to read into today’s society it almost sounds crazy to consider handing them a book. You might as well hand them an old forty – five record instead of their beloved Ipods or a VHS video tape in lieu of a DVD. The reality is traditional books may become obsolete sooner than we believe.
What does this mean for the writing industry? More importantly, what does this mean for indie authors? I believe a Golden Era may be on the approach. What do you think? Please interject your thoughts. I would love to hear your opinion.

Yours truly,

Monday, March 7, 2011

Read an Ebook Week!

In honor of 'Read an Ebook Week' I will be giving away Soul Quest for free on Smashwords through Saturday, March 12th. If you are interested follow the link on this page to Smashwords and enter the following code at Checkout - RE100. Please feel free to pass along this information to any interested parties.

Happy Read an Ebook Week, enjoy!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Helpful tips for Indie Writers and their fans!

Before I begin let me clarify that I am in no way, shape or form an expert on this subject. In fact, I am just the opposite. Like many of my indie comrades I am brand new to blogging and publishing in the Ebook revolution. Having said that I am learning as quickly and diligently as I can. In the process I have stumbled across some very helpful and insightful advice from some of my colleges and I thought I would share what I have learned. Listed below are names of Indie Writers/blogs/websites and hot topics I've found to be of great resource.
Jeanne Tomlin - The importance of reviews, Good Book Covers
Elita Daniels - How to get more responses on your blog (Writers blog)
Victorine Lieske - Getting your name out there, Marketing Your Ebook
Brianna Merrill - Check out the Giveaways link!
Jennifer Hudock - She's got everything! Articles about writing, podcasts, book reviews, blogs, etc...
Talia Jager - Book promoting and how to help
Jason G. Andrews - Various posts/advisement on writing
These are a few of many that I am sure exist. I would love to know about others because the more knowledge I can obtain the better my chances become of selling my book and creating my own fan base. If my efforts help others at the same time, that's an awesome bonus. So, I have a request. If you know a great article/blog that would be relevant here please tell me/us about it. If you have written a great article on this subject, by all means promote yourself here (don't be modest). I would love all the support I can get.

Yours truly,

More blogs and advice. Thanks for the feedback!
Lindsay Buroker - How to earn money blogging
The World of the Blue Bells Trilogy - Dear (Newbie) Writer
The Henderson Files, M. Louisa Locke on Selling Your Kindle Book

You can access links to these blogs at the bottom of this page(Awesome Blogs).