Monday, February 28, 2011

Writing Prompt #3 - Bottle In The Water

I've had a hankering to go to the beach lately, something I can't really do very easily living in Arizona. So, I figured I'd at least make our writing prompt for the week beach related.

Remember, you can write as little or as much as you'd like, and if you want, you can post your prompt right here. **All work is under copyright of its authors**

Here we go...

Your character is sitting on the beach and a bottle washes up on shore. Inside, he/she finds -

Cynthia dumps the content of the bottle into her hand - a strand of shiny black pearls. No letter, no other item inside the bottle but tainted, dark seawater. 

She stares out at the ocean, the water gray and colorless, the sky above it dark with storm clouds.  The pearls feel ice cold in her hands. She counts two dozen on the strand, and she has to wonder who put them in the bottle. Black pearls, even though they once used to be white but were now tainted by the darkness, were valuable to those who cared to trade for them. Cynthia figured she could probably get a week's worth of meals from a refugee with just half the strand. The other half would buy her shelter for a day or two, maybe more.

Thunder rolled along a ceiling of clouds. The hair rose on the back of her neck and she wondered...

Staring across the sea, across the gloomy currents, she could barely make out a tall spire, reaching into the sky. She could only make out a silhouette of it, but the silhouette was enough to let her know what she was seeing.

Cynthia shoved the pearls in the pocket of her coat and glanced around, sure that someone knew of her presence here. If those from the tower found her here, she would be slaughtered, burned, or even worse, eaten by the cannibals who roamed the land. 

A hum of energy pulsed through the pearls in her pocket and she suddenly realized she had come to the end of her running. There would be no escape from her death now. Her feet would not save her, her breath would be the only thing fleeing, and when it did, she would be met with the darkness that had already swallowed the rest of the world.

The sound of leaves rustling in the distance at first made her think of the wind, but she knew better. Those that slept in the center of the island were awake and aware of her presence now. The trap had been set, the pearls had been taken by her, and even if she were to get rid of them by throwing them back into the ocean, that gray void of water, her hands, her skin, her soul had already been tainted by their dark purpose.

Cynthia ran toward the water, realizing she had only one choice. Though the water would be cold and heartless, void of the life that once swam through it when Earth was in its prime, she would have to trust that it would give her protection from those possessed by the darkness. She would rather drown trying to make it to another island, or even an abandoned ship of some sort, than be eaten or burned to death.

With a deep breath, Cynthia began running into the tide, never looking back.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Release Day For Picture Perfect - Free Ebook!

Jonathan Huxley, a homeless boy living on the streets of Mecca, meets a wealthy gentleman who offers to take him in as an adopted son - if he'll wed the daughter of a family friend. But all is not as it seems in the world of wealth and power, as Jonathan is soon forced to make a decision between a secure future or forbidden love. While he fights to keep hold of what little is left of his innocence, the events surrounding him are shaping him into the notorious mercenary he will soon become.

I am proud to say that Picture Perfect is now available for all of you to read and (hopefully) enjoy. Although it's taking a bit of time to populate properly on the Nook, Sony Reader and Kindle sites, you can head to Smashwords and grab a copy for your ereader right now, and the best part - it's free for a limited time! When you go to check out of Smashwords with Picture Perfect in your cart, just enter coupon code - XZ96L - and you'll get the book free of charge.

The coupon code for Smashwords expires March 4th, so grab it while you can. After that, the novella will be available for 99 cents. In the next few days, the novella will be populating on the appropriate ereader websites for 99 cents as well. Enjoy!

And here's a glimpse of the first chapter from Picture Perfect -

Chapter 1
A Happy Birthday

Tuesday, December 18th, 1990

The cold wind on the night of his eighteenth birthday ripped at Jonathan Huxley’s bare skin like hounds’ teeth, pulling at the small hairs on his arms and the back of his neck, threatening to tear him apart. His nose reddened with the cold, and his eyes watered, making it hard to see the bottom of the trash can he was bending into.

The dim light from the streetlamp cast its eerie glow across the otherwise dark alley, while gusts of wind moved the light pole back and forth with an uncanny creaking sound.

Jonathan pulled himself out of the trash can, half of a rotten banana dangling from his frostbitten fingertips. He placed the fruit on the ground for a moment while he struggled with the frozen zipper on his jacket, trying to get it up to his chin. The coat had holes in it to begin with, making it easy for the pins of chilly air to sneak in and attack him here on the streets of Mecca. He managed to get the zipper up and then quickly shoved his fingers into his mouth to warm them up. The taste of banana, stale coffee, and wet chewing tobacco coated his taste buds, forcing him to spit toward the can.

He glanced down to see where he had put the banana and watched a large rat scurry toward him, grab the banana peel in its mouth, and take off down the alley, into the darkness, safe from the faint glow of alley light.
Jonathan cursed under his breath, angry that he had sought that prized item for the last hour and had been so foolish as to place it on the ground.

He kicked the garbage can, watching with some satisfaction as it fell over and vomited its contents across the dark puddles in the asphalt. That was the last trash can he was willing to search through this evening, so he accepted the fact that he was going to have to go without food today. The last item he ate was half of a stale turkey sandwich coated in some white sauce, which he guessed had been rotten milk, for dinner the night before. This meant he would have to find food in the morning or he would be in danger of starving.

He walked out of the alley and into the streets. The bright, neon lights of the closed shops glistened under the spell of the midnight hour. Up above him, a thick fog blocked the moonlight from reaching that level of the city. Jonathan walked hastily, hoping nobody had taken over his home for the evening. He was tired and hungry, but fatigue overrode the urgency to eat.

He passed by another alley, the last he would see until he reached his destination. Down at the end of the alley, stood a couple of tall figures surrounding a female in a violet-colored dress. She was backed up against the wall, her arms in front of her in defense to whatever they were trying to do to her. He shook his head and moved on, knowing it would not be wise to sacrifice his own life for another’s, especially in this cold. He already learned that harsh lesson once, and that was enough to deter him from attempting it again.

He reached an abandoned cement staircase that led down to a grimy door. He glanced around the area to make sure nobody was watching him and then pulled out an iron key, which he used to unlock the door that led into a wide, well-lit stairwell. He shut the door behind him and locked it, finding some warmth in the empty space.

The key was a mystery to him, given by a complete stranger who was wandering the streets like Jonathan only a few weeks ago. Jonathan was extremely grateful to the cloaked female but had been unable to find her again to thank her for her generosity. Generosity was a currency not easily found here in the “bottom docks” as they were called, the slums of the inner city.

He made his way down a flight or two of the silver-painted stairs and sat in the corner of the landing. The sounds of the large gears a few flights down would lull him to sleep in no time, as they had each night over the past few weeks. He loved the click and clack of the large gears, the city’s energy generated by their perpetual movement.

His eyes slowly sank lower as his mind replayed events of the day in a blurry, jagged stream of consciousness. It was his birthday today, wasn’t it? He couldn’t remember all that well. A stale banana was all he got? Was he eighteen now? Yes. How long had he been on the streets? He couldn’t recall. Was the woman in the violet dress okay? She won’t be for long. How long had he gone without someone to celebrate his birthday with? In his drowsiness, all he could remember from his childhood was a large, circular angel food cake that his mother had plastered with chocolate frosting and topped with ten birthday candles. He had blown them all out with a single breath but never got his wish. His mother had given him a birthday kiss on the cheek…

Jonathan succumbed to sleep in a matter of minutes.

Each night he dreamed of the same things, scattered along the plain of his subconscience differently: the many alleys he had scrounged through, the bits and pieces of food he found himself shoving down his throat each day, the women dressed in slutty outfits, giving their bodies over to poverty and every type of sexual activity. Every now and then, he would dream of his parents, or what he could remember of them. They passed away when he was ten, so his memories of them were faint, but they were good memories and they warmed him on dark, cold nights such as this.

Every morning, the city gears sounded a little bit louder, as if raising their voices at the sight (or thought) of dawn on the topside. They woke him around the same time each day, dragging him out of his dreams and into the real world again—a world he didn’t really want to wake up in.

He opened his eyes, and depression hit him. He quickly attempted to push it out of his mind and heart, having learned how to control his emotions to a decent degree. Usually if the streets didn’t kill someone, the insanity of living on them would. He wasn’t going to let that happen to him. He wanted to make something of himself someday, not die down here in the slums or cave into becoming a professional thief.

He shuffled out of the corner and strained to get to his feet, the gears louder than ever now. He stopped and listened for a moment, noticing another sound other than just the gears. Someone was pounding on the door at the top of the stairwell. His mind raced. If it was the police, they weren’t going to be kind to him, not if they found him down here. Tinkering with the city’s gears was cause for imprisonment and most times, from what he heard, death.

His gaze wandered down the stairwell, down to where the soft glow of lighting merged into darkness. He knew he couldn’t escape down there. Rumors ran rampant through the streets about unmentionable things that occurred to those who wandered into the gear rooms. He heard of creatures there that didn’t want to be disturbed and would make a meal out of you if they were. He could have sworn he could smell rotten flesh wafting up from the shaft while he mused about these awful things.

He shook his head as the knocking quickened. He knew he better open the door. Infuriating the police wasn’t the smartest thing to do.

He climbed to the top of the stairs and unlocked the door, swinging it open to a figure covered in blue armor. An Anaishan Sentry. His giant blue helmet and blue face shield glimmered in the morning light breaking through the dispersing fog.

“Jonathan Huxley?” a mechanical voice questioned from the helmet.

Jonathan still wasn’t sure if these sentries who patrolled the streets were human or mechanical robots.


The sentry moved to the side to reveal an older gentleman in a black tweed overcoat. Gray hair covered his face. He wore a tall hat and carried a cane in his left hand. All of his weight seemed to be pressed on that cane, causing him to lean to the left a little.

“Who are you?”

The old man scowled. “Do not speak to me, boy, until I have spoken to you. That is the rule of age.”

“Who are you?”

“Hmph.” The old man turned to the sentry and nodded. “Thank you. I will take it from here.”

The sentry stared at them for a moment, then turned and left.

The old man turned back to Jonathan and sneered. “Listen, young man. Listen very carefully to me because I will not repeat myself, not even once. I am going to give you the opportunity of a lifetime. I am going to give it to you once. If you decline, you will not have a chance at this again. Not by me, and I certainly doubt you will get another chance by another individual as generous.”

“You still haven’t answered my question. Who are you?”

“My name is Reginald Arthur the Third.”


“To you, it shouldn’t matter.”

“You’re right. What do I care who you are?”

“Hmm. Disrespectful, are we? I guess that can be attributed to your time on the streets since your parents died.”

Jonathan glared at him. “What do you know about my parents?”

“I know much, but that knowledge is not relevant at this point in time. The offer I am going to make to you is simple. I will take you into my home and provide food, shelter, all of the amenities you could possibly desire. All in return for one thing.”

Jonathan stared at the man, watching him shift his weight to the right a little.

“I want you to marry my friend’s daughter in a week’s time, to secure the legacy of my family.”

Jonathan laughed. “Yeah, right. That’s what you want from me? To get married?”

The man nodded. “You have approximately one minute to make your decision. After this minute, which has already started, if you have not made your decision, I shall leave this place and you will never hear or see me again.”

“How can you expect me to make a decision like this that quickly?”

“You are homeless, boy. What is there to decide? I told you what I am offering. You have fifty seconds.”

“Who is this girl? Is she attractive? What kinda rules are you going to make me follow while I’m in your house?”

“I am sure, in this case, that your need to survive would greatly outweigh any inquisitive ponderings you may have. I can assure you that this girl is considered attractive in almost every circle through which she has passed. Who she is, is irrelevant at this point in time. And of course, as with all things in life, there are rules to govern right and wrong. There are no rules that would be outside your capacity to follow, though.” He glanced down at his watch. “Thirty seconds. Don’t try and convince me that you really have a hopeful life down here in the bottom docks.”

“That’s a bit insulting.”

“So is the amount of time you are taking to accept my generous offer.”

“Why do you need me? What makes me so special that you came all the way down here to find me?”

“I need someone to carry on my family legacy. My wife and I cannot have kids together. I already know you are a thief and a liar, so I know what to expect. If I were to adopt from the orphanage, I wouldn’t know what or who I would be dealing with. Twenty seconds.”

Jonathan thought for a moment. He remembered that thieving rat from the night before, running off with his stale banana. That was his banana. He was tired of digging in the trash, tired of watching women get raped. He was on the brink of becoming someone he didn’t want to be just to survive.

He nodded. “Fine.”

The old man nodded in reply. “Very well, Jonathan. Come with me, and I will show you your new home and explain the rules of the Arthur household.”

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tweaks To My Self-Publishing Strategies

Just thought I'd bring everyone up to speed on some neat little things coming down the pipeline. These aren't huge releases or anything, just a heads up about some new additions to what I'm already doing with my self-publishing strategies. Maybe they can be of use to some of you other indie authors out there. ;)

1.) I received a four star review for Black Earth: End of the Innocence, the first novel in my Black Earth series, from a gentleman who is working hard to read and review indie authors - Four out of five isn't too shabby, but I'm shooting for five stars, so I sat down to evaluate why I only got four. If you take a look at the reviews for my book on Amazon, you'll see that two of them are five star reviews and two of them are four star reviews. The main thing the four star reviews have in common are comments regarding the abrupt ending to the book. Not just the fact that it's a cliffhanger, but no indication of another book in the series. Granted, the second book in the series is out now, but that requires those who finish the first book to take extra steps just to find out if the series continues or not. That's not good.

To remedy this situation, I decided I'm going to revise the ebook edition of End of the Innocence to include the first chapter of The Broken Daisy, the second book in the series. I'll also include a line at the end of the novel explaining that the series continues in The Broken Daisy and include links where to find the book. I think this will be more convenient for my readers and give them a little something extra at the end of End of the Innocence to entice them into the next book in the series.

2.) I've been reading a lot of blogs lately from self-published authors who are really starting to make it big in the digital world right now, especially with their titles on the Kindle. I read a comment the other day giving advice to one writer about how the three books he has in a series should be put in one digital book and made available for a reasonable price. What a fantastic idea! This not only adds product to a writer's marketplace, but I know that if a reader finishes one book on a cliffhanger note and has the second right there in their hands already, they are more apt to start reading it.

In response to this, I am going to be releasing a 'double-pack' of both Black Earth books I have available right now (in ebook format) for a reasonable price - probably $2.99. So you'll have the option of purchasing the first book in the series separately for 99 cents, the second for $2.99, or both for possibly $2.99. I'll probably have this finished in the next week or two, and I'll make mention here when it's released.

3.) For years now, I've been determined to release ebook and paperback versions of my books together at the same time. The problem with this is that paperbacks take longer for me to finalize. The formatting is a bit more complex than the formatting for an ebook, I have to wait for proof copies to be shipped to me, and if there are mistakes, the time to fix them gets added to the waiting period. For these reasons, I've decided to release my novels as ebooks before paperback from now on. After paperback will be audio. In that order. This way my readers can grab my books, dump them on their Kindles, Nooks or other readers, and I can be making a buck off my writing while I wait for the paperback versions to be finalized.

4.) I've been perusing the Kindle Boards a lot lately, especially since most of my book sales right now are coming through the Kindle. I managed to find a forum thread -,52815.msg910174.html#msg910174 - that gave some tips on cover design and although I don't agree with all the points made, one did catch my attention -

Since the beginning, I've focused all of my cover design on printed material, how my book covers will look when their in someone's hands, in front of them. With the digital age taking off, and ebooks become a new wave of the reading future, one has to keep in mind what their covers look like digitally. Not just in the book form, but in thumbnail form, like in your email signature.

If you saw the book covers for my Black Earth novels in thumbnail form,

you can't really make out my author name or the subtitles. Although these items show up clearly and easy to read when you're holding the book in your hands, the small font size does me no good when viewing my thumbnail image on Amazon, in my signature, or on other websites.

For this reason, I've decided to revamp the Black Earth covers - just for ebook format - to include bigger fonts in the subtitles and author name. It's an easy fix, one I will be doing in the next week or two.

So, that's what I'm going to be up to in the next couple weeks in between everything else. Just some minor changes that I think will make a decent impact on my self-publishing strategies.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Writing Prompt #2 - Pitch Black

Let's jump right into this week's writing prompt. Remember, you can write as little or as much as you'd like, and if you want, you can post your prompt right here. **All work is under copyright of its authors**

Here we go...

Your character opens their eyes to pitch darkness...

"What are we waiting for again?" Susan asked. Waiting so long in the darkness was beginning to irritate her and she felt a touch of claustrophobia kicking in.

Rebecca shifted her weight against Susan, pushing the girl against the wall of the closet. "Don't be stupid. We're waiting for Bobby. As soon as he comes home and walks into his closet, we'll jump out and scare the crap out of him."

"Remind me again why this isn't illegal?"

"Because he's our friend. He won't care. Besides, he's the one that gave my sister a copy of his apartment key."

Susan squirmed. The darkness seemed to be getting thicker, coating her throat with a thick layer of stuffiness, making it hard to breath. She could smell Rebecca's cheap perfume and suddenly needed out of the closet. She struggled to her feet, pulling at the shirts and coats hanging over their heads. "I'm out of here." She fumbled in the darkness for the doorknob with one hand while swatting Rebecca's attempts to pull her back down with the other.

"Get back down here! He could be home any minute."

Susan found the knob and shoved her weight against the door while she turned it. She stumbled into Bobby's bathroom, which when they first arrived at the apartment only an hour or so ago had been empty. A woman putting makeup on in front of the mirror shrieked and took off running into the other room.

Great, Susan thought. This is going to go over real well.

Bobby's voice could be heard from the other room, calming the woman. Susan glanced over to the window over the bathtub and lunged for it, pulling it open to let the chilly night air in. She boosted herself onto the sill and slid out, tumbling into a rose bush. Thorns stuck her in the arms and legs and she bit her tongue in the process of trying not to scream.

Once she crawled out of the bush and pulled the thorns from her flesh, she glanced up at the window, half-expecting Rebecca to come through at any time. She didn't. Instead, Susan heard the shrieking woman and Bobby talking about Susan in the bathroom.

Time to run. Rebecca's on her own after what she put me through the past hour.

Friday, February 18, 2011


I planned on writing a post on something related to my fiction today, like one of my character profiles or a nice article on world building, but sadly, it's not going to happen. I've been on a self-initiated lockdown the last couple days, pounding the pavement and scrambling to get two major projects out the door: the edits to Endangered Memories so I can pass the manuscript off to my editor, and the formatting to Picture Perfect so I can release it in ebook format next week.

So far, I'm right on track, though the edits to Endangered Memories are taking so much longer than I thought. When I end up having to go through 500 side comments in the Microsoft Word document, then I know I have my work cut out for me. It doesn't help that I am horrible with creating realistic project deadlines, but I'll admit I'm getting better as the year progresses.

Anyway, I'll be resuming my regular posting schedule on Monday with another writing prompt. Hope everyone has a great weekend. And I hope you're all looking forward to the Picture Perfect release next week. By the way, when it does release, it will be available for free through Smashwords for a limited time, so make sure to take advantage of that when it comes around. ;)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Picture Perfect Cover Design

Okay, so I'm finally revealing the cover design to Picture Perfect, the young adult novella that is going to be released in ebook format in the next week. (The audio and paperback editions are going to be released soon as well, but are taking a bit more time to put together.)

The reason the cover art to Picture Perfect is so newsworthy is because it represents the basic structure of what the covers of all of the stories in my Expired Reality series will look like. The symbol, the title, and the spacey clouds will hold different color patterns depending on what the story is, but the same basic look will be held throughout most, if not all, of the series - which is going to be big, mind you.

To give you an idea about how far the cover designs for my Expired Reality series have come, I'll show you the old, full cover spread I had for Drather's Story (the original title for Picture Perfect) -

And here are the covers to the two original novels in my Expired Reality series, the ones I am in the middle of rewriting right now -

As you can see, this time around my cover design has developed into something more eye-catching and more colorful. I used Gimp to create the cover design, and I had a blast putting together the color scheme and the templates for the new cover(s). I am really looking forward to releasing Picture Perfect before the end of February.

Special thanks and credit goes to Obsidian Dawn ( for the great free Gimp brushes I used in creating the cover design. ;)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Writing Prompt #1 - Valentine

In celebration of Valentine's Day, I figured I'd coincide the holiday with the theme for today's writing prompt. Remember, you can write as little or as much as you'd like, and if you want, you can post the prompt right here. **All work is under copyright of its authors. Also, I only edit for capitalization and titles.

Here we go...

Your character pulls onto the street their valentine lives on, bouquet of flowers and card sitting on the passenger seat...

Joshua brings the car to a stop on the curb, three houses down from Brittany's home. He turns the engine and the headlights off and grabs the flowers and card from the seat. Checking his watch to make sure it's eleven, he then leaves the vehicle and slowly walks toward Brittany's house.

No lights on in the one story brick home. Joshua tiptoes across the lawn, hoping the sprinklers aren't set to go off this late at night. He reaches the window to Brittany's bedroom and slowly taps on it with his fingernail. A dog barks down the street a ways. He hopes and prays Brittany's father isn't home. The man's job as security guard at the local mall ensures him late night hours with his work.

The curtain is drawn and the window slides open. Brittany was sleeping, her tired eyes blinking rapidly. She rubs the slumber from them and yawns. Joshua hands her the flowers and the card. She smiles warmly, scratching an itch in her side.

"Are you ready to go?" he asks her, glancing behind him to make sure her dad doesn't pull up. 

She nods. "I packed before I fell asleep."

"Don't forget your jacket. The California beach is hours away and we'll be driving through some pretty cold parts."

She nods again, sliding her jacket over her white t-shirt and black sweats. She grabs the duffel bag she had prepared under the windowsill and crawls out the window, shutting it behind her. 

Joshua feels his heart race. If her parents found out they were running away together, there was no way he'd be allowed to see her again. 

Before she starts across the lawn in her big pink fuzzy slippers, Joshua takes Brittany in his arms and kisses her. "Happy Valentine's day."

She grins. "I love you."

Friday, February 11, 2011

Carrie Green's Wedding Dress

For weeks now I've been going through rewrites to an old novel I self-published years ago and am in the works of resurrecting from the ashes. As much as I love writing about other planets, forming intriguing plot lines, and creating chaos in my fictional worlds, I think the thing I love the most about writing fiction is character design. And with character design comes wardrobe design.

In the final chapters of my upcoming novel, Endangered Memories, one of my main characters, Carrie Green, is about to marry Jerad Montlier, one of the richest men in Anaisha. The novel's climax comes in around these scenes because my novel's protagonist, David Corbin, spends the majority of the novel trying to get to this wedding to stop it, both for love and to supposedly save the world. I know. Crazy!

When I originally wrote these scenes I didn't really give a whole lot of detail or attention to the wedding. I threw Carrie in a white dress, picked random colors for the reception tablecloths and called it a day. This time around, I'm being a bit more generous, giving some more meat to the bones of the story.

In each of my Expired Reality novels, novellas and short stories, I make sure that at least one object, one room, one character's clothing, has some reference to the colors black and red. I'm not sure what my obsession is with black and red, but those two colors make an unbeatable, gothic type combo and I thought it would be neat to incorporate the color scheme into Carrie's wedding dress.

Googling black and red wedding dresses, I was barraged by some interesting picks. Let's take a peak at them and see what I come up with. By the way, I don't take credit for any of these images, I'm simply using them as inspiration for creating my own wedding dress.

The thing I like about this first dress is the smoky look on the bottom. Kind of adds a mystic, fantasy element to the wedding, but the rest of the dress is too cluttered for me. 

Though this dress is more maroon and black than red and black, I kind of like the style with the alternating panels in the skirt.

I really like the flowing style of this dress and the fact that it seems to open in the skirt like a cape.Superhero style all the way!

What I like most about this dress is the design in the back, where it looks like the dress splits to reveal another layer. I also like the floral design in the front.

This dress is kind of neat with the red floral design in the bottom of the skirt (looks almost like flames), and the pattern in the bodice. The location of that red flower doesn't really cut it though.Weird.

Of all the images I searched, this one gave me the most inspiration for my wedding dress design...

What I like about this dress is the way it stays thin at the waist instead of blossoming out. I also like how the skirt acts as a shell of sorts to another layer underneath. I took this idea and decided to make the layer underneath black, with the shell being red. I like the style of the bodice - very elegant for a ritzy wedding - and I added my own black floral print going from the left waist up to the right breast, covering a good portion of the bodice. Carrie will have to do without the belt though.

Phew. Never thought I'd be designing a wedding dress in my lifetime, let alone planning someone else's wedding. Guess there's a first time for everything. LOL!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Indie Author Guide


With self-publishing becoming more and more popular than when I first ventured into it years ago, I figured it would be a great time to catch up with some useful strategies that are current with the times. That, and I had some Borders Bucks to burn. So, I grabbed a copy of The Indie Author Guide by April L. Hamilton. I know, I know, another book on my to-read list. At least I can say I'm reading this one for work.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Writing Prompt #0 - The Falling Book

Last week I posted about how I want to start being a bit less shy as a writer and share some of what I write with the world more. So, in that regard, I decided to start doing writing prompts on Mondays of each week. I'll list out the prompt and include my writing in regards to it. I am hoping that the prompt itself will help those who need a boost with some ideas for writing, and show all of you my own writing process a little bit.

You are all welcome to share your responses to the prompts here, if you feel comfortable doing so. **All work is under copyright of its authors. I don't think I'll set a word count - just write until you don't feel like writing anymore. A paragraph, a page, a book. Who knows where this will lead. ;) And I'm making it a rule, at least for myself, that none of it will be edited aside from capitalization and titles.

Without further ado, here is the first writing prompt to start things out -

Your character (male/female, young/old, doesn't matter) is sitting in a library, studying, when a book mysteriously falls from the shelf nearby. The character picks the book up and -

My response -

Bradley discovers it's a cook book on low-fat Spanish recipes. He glances up to the spot the book once held and sees nothing out of the ordinary. The book had been firmly cushioned between a Rachael Ray volume and a book on wedding cakes. The book couldn't have fallen out on its own, could it?

He takes the book back to his table, moving aside the tome on comic book heroes he had been studying most of the morning. A quick glance around the library told him there was nobody else in the vicinity. Who would be in the library on a Saturday morning when it was bright and sunny outside? No, people were in the park, flying kites and feeding the ducks.

Something had led him to the library though, right? He had a dream last night of his late wife, Isabella. They were in a garden, spending precious moments he only dreamed of - literally. Bradley shook the thought and cracked open the recipe book. It was then that the tears came to his eyes, the pain came back to his heart.

There, in the front of the book, was a dedication to Isabella. It had been given to Bradley and Isabella on their wedding day, and now Bradley remembered Isabella telling him months ago she was going to donate some of her books to the very library he was sitting in on a Saturday morning.

She was there with him, watching over him, wanting to spend a precious moment with him within the walls of books.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Great Tools For Self-Published Authors

In the past, I've posted here and there about the tools I use for my web design, marketing and audio projects and figured I'd bring them all together in one reference for others wanting to check them out. This is by no means a full list of all that is out there, just a list of what I've had success with. Some are free, some cost a minimal amount of dough. Overall, I know most self-published/indie authors are on a tight budget anyway, making it difficult to outsource some of the different jobs one has to do, so these tools will definitely come in handy if you're a do-it-yourselfer like me.

Gimp ( is a great FREE design program if you don't have the cash to spare for a copy of Adobe Photoshop. I mean a legitamate copy of Photoshop. Gimp has great tools that I use for website, cover and logo design. There is a learning curve, but Gimp has a great online instruction manual, and there are innumerable tutorials online by other Gimp users. Once you learn the basics of layers and importing brushes, you're on the right track.

Audacity ( is a FREE program for recording and editing audio. I am currently using it to record myself reading my books instead of paying another company/group hundreds to thousands of dollars to do it for me. I am also using a basic Radio Shack headset with microphone to do it. It seems to work just fine since all I'm doing is reading.
I'll include some other links that go well with Audacity -
Lame ( - lets you convert your Audacity file to MP3 format (FREE)
The Levelator ( - automatically balances out the audio level and volume of your audio file (FREE)

WebEasy Professional 8 ( is a web design program I have been using for years now. It is very user-friendly and relatively cheap - $49.95 last I looked - and gives you a great drag-and-drop canvas to work with, allowing you to include video, images, links, code, and other great items in your website. It has a relatively easy walk-through to help you get your website posted to the Web. If you want to check out what I've done with WebEasy, head to my website at

Musicshake ( is a nifty FREE program a friend told me about that allows you to mix different, pre-recorded instruments, beats and vocals into unique songs. I am currently playing around with this program to create some theme music for the beginning of my audio books and eventually for when I desire to start podcasting. The program is free to download and free to use, but if you want to export what you've recorded into MP3 format, they offer you to do so at a price of 99¢ per song for non-commercial use and $19.99 per song for commercial use.

Dreamstime ( is a great resource for finding the perfect image for a blog post, your website, or any other design project you may have in mind. They offer royalty-free images for a price, but they also have a section devoted to FREE images that can be used without (from what I've read) having to credit the person who posted the image.

Smashwords ( is becoming a pretty popular place to set up and sell ebooks. But more than that, what first drew me to Smashwords was the fact that their technology helps you format your manuscript for almost every major ereader out there - for FREE. They include a downloadable PDF that walks you through the whole process. I found when I followed all the steps - including 'nuking' (cutting and pasting your document into Notepad to strip it of it's defunct formatting) the manuscript, which I do before I even start formatting now - that my novel came out looking pretty good on ereaders. You can list and sell your ebook on their website, sign up for the various distribution channels, and even create coupon codes for your work. Smashwords does take a minimal fee from your profits, but the great thing is they won't take anything from you if you want to offer your book up for free.

Createspace ( is one of many self-publishing sites out there that put the control of your book - and all of its content - in your hands. I have tried a couple other services such as iUniverse (which I did not have a good experience with) and Lulu (which is very similiar to Createspace), but I go with Createspace because my books are cheaper to purchase myself and that allows me to make more cashola. Createspace lets you upload your formatted manuscript to their site and put it in paperback and Kindle format. They charge nothing if you're taking care of the cover design, formatting, editing, etc yourself, or they offer publishing packages for a charge. They also offer ISBN#'s, which is convenient. Createspace allows you to set up your own virtual storefront for each of your books, and also offers distribution packages to get more exposure for your novels.

The Creative Penn ( is a personal favorite of mine when it comes to useful blogs for indie authors. Run by Joanna Penn, an indie author herself, I have found this blog to be EXTREMELY helpful when it comes to self-publishing, marketing, book design, etc. Joanna interviews many authors, marketing gurus, and other special guests and loads up her blog with useful posts and podcasts that help with many different aspects of author and book promotion, spanning from shortcuts in using FBML in your Facebook pages to the elements of cover design for your book. I highly recommend this blog and this link - - will take you straight to a page she created for newcomers to start at. She even offers a free download of her Author 2.0 Blueprint which covers many different aspects of book and author promotion.

Hope some of you find this short but comprehensive list useful. I'd love to hear of any other goodies authors have found across the web, so drop me a line or a comment and let me know about them!