If all goes as planned, y'all won't hear from me next week. I'm taking a vacation that begins with the county fair on Friday, June 21, and will extend through the following weekend.
The Clark County Fair is strongly oriented toward 4-H and agriculture. I grew up as a 4-H member and my children were 4-H members and I have been involved with the county's only llama and alpaca oriented 4-H club for 10 years. This year, we're taking seven alpacas and one llama to the show ring. This year, Booboo stays home.
Booboo is my rescue llama. He's 17 years old. He joined our herd six years ago. Yes, there's a story behind Booboo, one I've told many times before. That said, if we'd had a club member who needed a llama as special as Booboo, then he'd be headed to the fair again this year. Booboo is special: he's the one I match with disabled children.
FREE BOOK PROMOTION
In 2014, I published my first book via Kindle Direct Publishing. My knees and hands shook with dread and hope. I called a friend to help me weather the anxiety of taking that big step as an indie author.
The anxiety never quite dissipates. Each release is cause for giddy celebration.
On July 28, 29, and 30, Rowan: Branch 1 of the Tree of Life--the first in the trilogy--will be offered for free download through Amazon. Get started on this trilogy and enter a contemporary world of sidhe, shifters, and vampires.
What do I like about this book? The characters are mature adults. No teeny boppers here. Nothing "new adult" overflowing with angst and melodrama. No billionaires. No man-whores. Because supernatural characters can be realistic, you know, and still be drop-dead gorgeous.
UPCOMING RELEASE & COVER REVEAL
Progress is picking up on Russian Pride, the fourth and final book of the Russian Love series. In this book, we come full circle. Giovanni, the cousin of our heroine in Russian Lullaby, is our hero. Our heroine, Inessa, is the daughter of Maksim and Olivia Andrupov. Here's a quick synopsis:
Domestic abuse victim Inessa is rescued from a beating and sent to recuperate in the home of Giovanni Maglione, the mafia captain of Cleveland. Her parents discover that Inessa's husband double-crossed the Chinese triad, and now they want their pound of flesh--and they're happy to take it out of Inessa. In an effort to spare her the triad's retribution, Maksim and Olivia persuade Giovanni to marry their daughter. The Chinese triad will be looking for a Russian mobster's wife, not the wife of an Italian mobster. Inessa agrees to the marriage of convenience which, of course, isn't so convenient. The triad doesn't fall for the ruse. That forces Giovanni into a violent and bloody mob war, because he protects what's his... and Inessa is most definitely his.
Yes, the description leaves a lot to be desired. I invite anyone who'd like to participate to offer a revised cover blurb. If you've got suggestions or something better, please send 'em to me at email@example.com. I could use the help.
One task an author has--especially one who writes paranormal, fantasy, or speculative fiction--is to suspend disbelief. After all, if I'm going to write about shape shifters, mythological creatures, demons, and such, then I need to convince the reader accept these characters as real for the duration of the story.
As a ghostwriter, this involves puncturing holes in a client's story.
One project on which I'm working involves a trek through an extensive subterranean network of caves and a supernatural creature. The progress of the protagonists immediately fell prey to a distinct lack of realism. There is where my background of knowing a little bit about a lot of things shows its value. With convincing arguments related to actual experience and a good bit of logic, the client agreed to some changes in his story to suspend readers' disbelief.
Failure to suspend disbelief affects movies, too. Poor graphic effects--see any fantasy movie from the 1970s or 1980s--instantly turn what could have been a great flick into a cheesy laughter magnet. This is a concept filmmakers George Lucas and Steven Spielberg understand. Vast improvements in CGI graphics help to make the transition from poorly conceived special effects to awe-inspiring admiration.
Steven Brust does this with his matter-of-fact descriptions of witchcraft and sorcery--not the same in his Vlad Taltos series. He speaks to the sensations of building spells and grabbing power, the emotional and physical feelings the magic user experiences. It's not necessary to own a grimoire or spellbook.
Anachronisms also crash the story. Characters acting in ways radically inconsistent with the norms of their class and time seldom fail to disappoint me. Actions and objects--even something as simple as donning a piece of clothing--that don't fit the occupation, conventions, or background of the character(s) also pull me out of the story. For instance, consider Azeem's use of a primitive telescope in the movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. While it's a great scene imbued with wry humor, no such appliance had yet been invented at that time in history.
Suspension of disbelief not only concerns the environment in which characters find themselves and the special abilities they employ to defeat their enemies. It also concerns dialogue. Whether I'm reading historical fiction, a military thriller, romance, or fantasy, if the characters speak in ways that simply don't ring true, then that disconnect pulls me out of the story.
For an example, let's focus on romance. I've had sex. I have two children who are evidence of that. I cannot remember ever holding an extended and eloquent conversation with my husband during the process of procreation. Therefore, when I come across a scene of explicit intimacy in which the hero and heroine are holding a lengthy discussion, my mind automatically heads to the realm of "Hah! Not likely." In short, the author has failed to suspend my disbelief.
One hallmark of good writing is the ability to lure the reader into the story and immerse him or her into that world, only releasing the reader when the story ends or real life intrudes with its more urgent demands. Effective suspension of disbelief makes all things possible.
On July 4, the United States of American will celebrate Independence Day and spare a moment to appreciate the freedoms and civil liberties hard won by the blood, sweat, and tears of military and civilians alike. What many many not consider among the civil liberties to be celebrated is the freedom to read.
The written word influences human thought. Throughout the centuries, governments and religious institutions have sought to direct, guide, and restrict ideas to that which did not challenge their authority over those whom they governed. Books that challenged authority were banned. In some countries, many books remain banned.
The American Library Association publishes a list of banned and challenged books. The first 25 are listed below. Many are familiar classics.
1. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
2. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
3. The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
4. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
5. The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
6. Ulysses, by James Joyce
7. Beloved, by Toni Morrison
8. The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
9. 1984, by George Orwell
11. Lolita, by Vladmir Nabokov
12. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
15. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller
16. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
17. Animal Farm, by George Orwell
18. The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
19. As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner
20. A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway
23. Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
24. Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison
25. Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
Wikipedia offers a list of books banned by governments. Good Reads has several lists of books banned for multiple reasons. Whether considered subversive, blasphemous, or lewd, the lists of banned books range from the Bible to modern literature. In short, these books were and are banned because they offer ideas that someone somewhere doesn't want you see, they expose you to thoughts that someone somewhere fears will corrupt your mind.
The internet has greatly expanded access to banned and challenged literature. As stated, many are classics. Libraries, the first and often foremost bastion upholding the freedom to read, carry many--if not all--of these books. Those books which have passed into the public domain can also be obtained in digital format from the World Public Library and Project Gutenberg.
So, on this celebration of Independence Day, exercise your civil liberty and read.
As a thank-you to current readers and a taste of my work for potential readers, I have released a short story (less than 10,000 words) titled "By Water Reborn."
Those who enjoy my paranormal and fantasy fiction will like this. Those who aren't sure about paranormal and/or fantasy romance should give it a whirl. There's no cost to download and read the story. Just in case you're wondering, yes, my editor liked it, too: "I SO enjoy your writing... You create these wonderful worlds that beg to be expanded upon and explored. I know your other readers feel this way, as well."
Of course, since Kindle Direct Publishing won't allow me to upload a "permafree" story, I had to set a price for this book. The free book promotion begins on June 27 and runs for five days. After that, I'll remove it from Amazon. The story will, however, remain linked via this website as well as made available on Project Gutenberg. However, if someone knows how to make a book "permafree" in KDP, then please pass on the information. I'd really like to find out how to do that.
If you haven't heard of Project Gutenberg, let me introduce you. Started in 1971, this nonprofit organization has worked to make available the world's literature to everyone. Since then, the World Library Foundation has eclipsed Project Gutenberg and supports the initiative. These wonderful resources put primary, secondary, and tertiary literature at your digital fingertips. If you have an e-reader, mobile device, or desktop computer with a link to the internet, then you have a worldwide library ready-to-hand.
That said, I'm busy. Swamped with work. So, yes, Russian Pride is still in the hopper and I still hope to make my September 30th release date. Also in the hopper are a sequel to Pure Iron and The Dragon Wore a Kilt. I doubt I'll have the time (or brain power) to write the sequel to Daughter of the Twin Moons this year. No doubt another idea or six will hit me and demand that I write the stories for those before year's end, too.
Yes, we've all heard the advice to never judge a book by its cover. But, really, don't we all do just that? Of course. Therefore, there's a lot of thought that goes into cover design on books.
With the hundreds of thousands of books available at our fingertips, cover design has shifted into some standard tropes according to genre. For instance, a half-naked couple in a sexy clinch or the bare, muscular torso of a man usually indicates a steamy romance. I get a lot of amusement from these covers, because of the poses models affect.
There's the hunk with his hands clasped on his head. Got a headache, buddy? Hey, I've read that author and her heroines give me headaches, too. <snicker>
There's the hunk looking down his pants with an expression that goes one of two ways: 1) What the hell is that? 2) There's something weird going on down there. <snicker>
And there's the handsome dude with the smirk and sexy glint in his eye who's quite obviously laughing at all of us women drooling over his picture. Yeah, you know you're pretty, don't you?
Other covers make me scratch my head. When Nora Roberts' Cousins O'Dwyer trilogy came out with Dark Witch, people enthused over the cover. My reaction: Why is there a horse running loose in the front yard? Did someone forget to shut the gate?
Then, of course, there's the guilty pleasure of ogling a man who's young enough to be my son. That always makes me feel just a little creepy. That, of course, is followed by the thought that one of my own sons might make a good cover model. But then I'd have to endure the idea that women like me were ogling my little boy and... nope... can't do it.
That's not to say that any or all of the aforementioned cover types were poorly designed; they just didn't elicit the desired reaction from this particular viewer that the cover designers obviously wanted. Hey, I can't help it that I've got a warped perspective.
Some cover designs--especially for romance novels--get very racy, but they're all designed to capture attention. We all know sex sells: the sexier the cover, the better the book should sell, right? Who knows?
I have learned that an intriguing cover design has no bearing upon the quality of the content behind the cover. I've read--and failed to finish--many books that had delicious cover art and stories so poorly written my family could hear my molars grinding from the next room. Too many authors put more effort and resources into their books' covers than they do the content they publish. I'm convinced that's a mistake.
Granted, I probably go the opposite route in dedicating too little of my resources to cover design. However, when dealing with (very) limited resources, I prefer to dedicate them to the content, because readers will remember the content long after they forget the book's cover art. I do make an effort to create--or have designed for me--cover art that can be viewed by impressionable children and stiff-necked prudes without offense. Since most of my work comes with a mature content warning, I'll let the story sizzle, not the cover.
I could be going about this all wrong, of course. However, my best selling book happens to have a closeup picture of a rose, with the title and author. That's it. No beefcake. No cheesecake. No bodice ripping.
So, maybe I'm not so wrong after all. (Hey, I just love justifying my decisions.)
And speaking of covers and content, stay tuned. I will shortly have a gift for all my subscribers and readers: a new story. Free. It's a gift, so that means it's free. Stay tuned. I hope y'all will like it.
Hard boiled, scrambled, over easy, and sunny side up: eggs are the musings of Holly Bargo, the pseudonym for the author.