Friday, December 9, 2016
Thursday, December 1, 2016
Entry Title The Battle for Darracia
Author: Michael Phillip Cash
Judge Number: 10
Entry Category: Genre Fiction
Structure, Organization, and Pacing: 5
Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar: 5
Production Quality and Cover Design: 5
Plot and Story Appeal: 5
Character Appeal and Development: 5
Voice and Writing Style: 5
THE BATTLE FOR DARRACIA: SCHISM, COLLISION, and RISEN by Michael Phillip Cash is an excellent omnibus edition of fantasy stories that examine society and show the real truth. A worthwhile, thought-provoking read that is an excellent entry into the genre.
The colorful cover is striking. I enjoyed seeing it. The combinations of red, blue, and green will grab the attention of the potential reader, and the title and design tell us right away what type of novels to expect. Good work! The back cover copy is excellent and show the reader what questions will be asked, and answered. The author photo is clear and a good addition. The bio was amusing. Great that the author lists some of his other books, and tells us four places online to find him.
I also enjoyed the serious author bio inside.
Inside, the reader will find an epic novel in three parts that explores the ideas of equality and peace. The overall message is inspiring and uplifting. Readers should appreciate the author's sensibilities. Because this is a thoughtful novel with an important message, I'd like to see both adults and young adults read this work. The story is excellent but not preachy. Very entertaining. I love the name Reminda! It's just cool.
Overall, excellent work!
* Judge, 24th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards.
Wednesday, November 30, 2016
At first, I thought it would be simple. Edit my book, get a cover design, publish it on Amazon.
Then I started researching it.
After reading more self-publishing websites than I can count, I felt that I had learned five things:
1. The more professionally-published your book is, the most likely it is to be read and reviewed. Most people won't read a book that appears to be self-published, because they don't trust self-published books to be written at the same level of quality as books published through major publishers. Which is completely understandable, really. The more self-published stink your book has on it, the less likely anyone is to read it.
2. Professionally-published books have early editions,called galleys or ARCs (advance review copies), which are mailed to reviewers for editorial reviews. That's how newly published books already have quotes on them from the New York Times, or Booklist, or Foreword saying things like "stunning!" or "another tour-de-force from whatshisname!"
3. In fact, most of these major reviewers who have a lot of clout, like Library Journal, won't even review a book after it has been published.
4. Without a review from a big editorial reviewer, libraries, book stores, and other really important potential purchasers will likely never hear about your book. Even if they do, they won't think your book is a real, professionally published book and won't be likely to take a chance on it. If they don't take a chance on it, they won't sell or recommend your book to others.
5. If no one hears about your book, or recommends your book, then no one will read your book.
So it became very clear that if I wanted my book to have a chance of being read, recommended, and then sold to more people, I needed to do a professional job in publishing my book.
The first, and most obvious step, was making sure that I actually had a professional quality book. I spent YEARS editing my book, and getting people to read it, and then re-editing it. I fretted about plot holes. I made sure each character had their own style of speech and was easily distinguished from the others when speaking. I deleted dialogue tags by the dozen, and adverbs by the gross. I looked for places where I could show instead of tell. I read lines aloud making sure that they didn't sound awkward. I made sure that my characters had depth. I got rid of anything that seemed hokey. I picked up books on writing and made sure that I wasn't committing any famous errors, or using stylistic devices which are commonly considered synonymous with the word "hack". I rewrote the ending three times, until I felt that my main character went through a true journey, and wasn't just being carried along for the ride. I asked myself if each and every word really belonged there.
Then I made sure that it was formatted appropriately, which was an odyssey all by itself.
Then I found a cover designer who would make changes to the cover free of charge, so I could have an ARC edition put out, and then (hopefully) put blurbs from reviewers on the back before my book was published for real-reals.
In order to make my ARC cover I needed to get my ISBN (it turns out that Amazon ISBNs are anathema in the industry, since they scream self publishing, and also because brick and mortar stores are understandably resentful of Amazon and have no interest in supporting it by giving it money). Happily, ISBNs are free for Canadians so this involved some annoying paperwork but it didn't cost me any money. I also submitted my book to Library and Archives Canada, the Canadian version of Library of Congress in the USA, so I can get library cataloguing information for my book.
Then I needed to set a publication date 3-4 months in advance, because as formerly stated, most big reviewers won't even consider reviewing your book if they don't get it several months before publication.
I had ARC copies made up on Amazon by uploading my ARC cover and having proofs mailed to me, which you can do 5 at a time. I have a US postal address to avoid customs costs, which my American husband maintains and uses.
I went down to Sears with my proof copies and had an author photo taken, and within 24 hours I had my photo on my website, on my cover letter, my press release, and my media press kit, all of which I made with the awesome advice available on the Midwest Book Review's site.
Finally, I mailed off my ARC's.
...And after all of that work, I know the chance of my being reviewed is still very, very slim. The big review houses receive hundreds to thousands of books per day. They toss away anything that doesn't meet their submission requirements, and then they pick and choose the best of the best from the rest. My chances are near to nil. I know this. But if I hadn't done everything I listed above, my chances would definitely be nil. As it is, I have a lottery ticket's worth of a chance that maybe one of them will read and review my book. If I'm really lucky, I'll hit the jackpot and get a great review, or at least a good by-line that I can use on the back of my book which tells people, "Yes, this is a real book, a good book - one worthy of reading."
Assuming that I don't get reviewed by a major editorial reviewer, my next best hope is to build buzz among other readers. So my next step was to get my book submitted to Netgalley.
Netgalley is a website that posts digital versions of ARCs for librarians, book bloggers, and fanatic readers to see. They can request your book if they like the look of it, read it, and maybe they will even choose to review it. A librarian or independent book store owner who reads and likes my book might order it into their library, where patrons can read it, and may even put it on the "staff picks" shelf. A book reviewer for a newspaper might spot it and enjoy it and decide to write about it. And every day readers can take a chance on it for free, and if they love it, maybe they'll review it.
Of course, there's always the chance that they'll hate it, too, and Netgalley readers often post reviews on goodreads and Amazon, where everyone can learn how awful your book is. Netgalley seems to be a big risk, because while my ARCs only cost me less than $10 to order and mail, and my book will likely just be ignored if it's bad, and even if it's good... Netgalley is REALLY pricey. They want hundreds of dollars for 6 months listed on the site, and chances are you will get at least couple of reviews out of it - and not necessarily good ones. When your books are rubbing shoulders with the newest John Green novel or Jodi Picoult, the reviewers are going to expect that level of quality to your writing. Woe betide ye lest ye disappoint them!
I got around the money aspect by discovering Broad Universe, an organization which promotes female writers of genre fiction, which defines me quite nicely. They rent their Netgalley space to any indie author who wants it, not just women, for quite a reasonable monthly fee. If you become a member, which I chose to do, you get a discount and three months on Netgalley pays for the membership in savings. So my book is now also on Netgalley, where it could be read and either beloved or reviled, or both. Since I don't have an account directly with Netgalley, I can't see any reviews posted there. Broad Universe will let me know how many people read it and whether they reviewed it at the end of the three month trial.
So far, only one person has turned up on my book's Goodreads page claiming to have read my book on Netgalley, and to my relief, it was a rave review. But I'm sure there will probably be at least one stinker. I just cross fingers that more people will like my book than hate it. And, let's face it, if my book really and truly sucks, it's better that I find it out now, rather than after months of promoting it. If everyone hates it, I'm probably better off to drop the whole thing and go back to the drawing board.
In the meantime, I'm in limbo land, waiting to find out whether my book stinks or not.
And so, while I wait, I continue to hunt up reviewers. The next step down from Netgalley is a website like Story Cartel or Xpresso Book Tours, which has a base of reviewers who are known for being gentle, but honest. I paid Xpresso book tours some money for a "review alert" which is basically an email blast to her reviewer base and posting on her website, to fish for people who might be interested in my book. I got a lot of responses back, but we'll see how many people read it, and how many people like it.
Even if I get lots of reviews, that won't matter unless someone READS those reviews, so my next step was to arrange advertising. There's a popular body positivity blogger whom I follow. She uses a lot of swear words, and she actually reminds me a bit of my main character. I think that's one of the reasons I started following her, actually, because I realized that she was like a real life version of Stella Blunt. She does advertising on her site, but it's usually clothes and such. I contacted her about my book and she was very enthusiastic. I have arranged a giveaway and advertising. Her readers like her, so they should like my character. It seems like a good bet.
I've also arranged advertising on YA book central, which is like Goodreads for YA and kids books. My book is YA. Seems like a good place to advertise. If people click on my link, they may read my reviews, and if they like the reviews, they may buy my book.
Ultimately, I can push for reviews all I like, and advertise all over the place, but people will either like my book, or they won't. If it stinks, or it doesn't strike a chord with people, I can promote my book until I hemorrhage money and it will be for naught. I know this. So these next couple of months are my litmus test. There are self-published authors who have made it big - Andy Weir of The Martian, for example, and E.L. James with Fifty Shades of Grey. Some of it is about quality - The Martian is excellently written, truly entertaining. Some of it is just about striking a chord - Fifty Shades of Grey commits basically every "hack" error that I ruthless eradicated from my writing, but people still loved it. Reviewers care about writing quality. Readers just want a story they will love.
I don't know if I can produce either, and I won't know how any of this will turn out until I get a few more reviews. Nor do I know how well my reviews will turn into sales. I don't just need people to leave me good reviews. That's nice, and it helps. What I want, what I need, what people like Andy Weir and E.L. James had, are FANS - people who don't just click a five stars and write a few sentences, but people who crush on my characters make fan art and push my book into the hands of their friends.
Either my book has that capacity to inspire fandom, or it doesn't.
Time will tell. But in the meantime, I feel like I have done what I can to give it a good start, and the best possible chance of finding those fans.
If no one likes it... well... I'll just have to write a better one.
Saturday, November 26, 2016
Parents have a primary responsibility of teaching their children to read and learn to acquire new skills. From fantasy books to family fun books, and picture books-graphic novels, books provide children with additional knowledge and understanding thereby making it easy for them to sharpen their minds and have a broad comprehension of their studies. Here are some of the best books to teach your child to read. Take note.
Puddle’s ABCs- Holly HobbieThis is a fantastic and incredibly useful alphabet book in which Puddle (Hobbie’s adorable character) teaches alphabet letters to Otto- his friend as well as writing his name. The story highlights the excitement and joy of learning how to read, write and spell words. In addition to this, the book encourages children to put more focus on words. The Puddle’s ABC kid’s book is appropriate for children of ages 2 years and above. The best thing about this book is that it plays a critical role in preparing children for elementary learning. The book has a humorous approach thereby making it easily understandable to children.
Creature ABC- Andrew ZuckermanThe Creature ABC is an alphabet book and is of valuable importance and use to children in teaching them the sounds made by letters. This book is fun and thrilling to read and features animal photographs and words arranged in an entertaining format. The book is arranged in a way that on one page there is a letter for example Aa and an image of a body of an animal’s part such as alligator’s hand. When reading the book to your child, you should involve the child by making a letter’s sound and asking the kid to guess the animal that represents that letter in the next page. The letters in the Creature ABC book are presented in bright colors
First the Egg- Laura Vaccaro SeegerThe First the Egg book is a concept book designed and published for children as young as 1 year and above. The book employs visual trickery that is also quite entertaining to older kids who about to enter into elementary learning level. The book is perfect for teaching children how to pronounce words as the book highlights words on each page. When reading out words for your child, ensure that the child is able to differentiate the sounds made by each alphabet. This makes it easy for them to learn how to pronounce and spell words correctly from early age before they start formal learning.
Make Way (For) Ducklings- Robert McCloskeyWritten by Robert McCloskey, the Make Way (for) Ducklings book is a favorite kid’s book that is specially authored for kids of at least 3 years of age. While the book was not originally intended for use by young children (3 years and below), the book relates well to most of the stories told to children in this age gap. When reading the book to your child, it is important to ensure that the child is actively involved by trying out the sounds made by alphabets in the book. The child may also attempt reading the captions in the book as a way of enhancing their reading, spelling, and pronunciation skills. The idea behind this child book is helping children learn how to read in preparation for elementary school.
Curious George- Curious About Phonics- Catherine HapkaThe Curious George - Curious about Phonics is a comprehensive children book by Catherine Hapka and features 12 simple stories based on Curious George. Each story ushers children to new sounds, spellings and pronunciations. The stories in this book are not only fun but also very exciting for emerging readers as the stories are written progressively from one story to the other. This children book is specially published for use by children of at least 3 years and above boasts of entertaining that provide a thrilling experience to all types of readers. The book has the ability to enhance the little brains of children as they prepare how to embark on the long education journey ahead of them.
Wrapping upIt is worth noting that these books are not only appropriate for use by parents but can also be used by lower school teachers to impart knowledge in children. The use of these books together with other learning materials such as educational DVDs sharpens the minds of children by great margins. You can learn more about parenting tips and how to choose the best products for your children on our blog.
Friday, November 25, 2016
Sunday, November 20, 2016
Readers can get it for free
In the happy, clean community of Austin Valley, everything appears to be perfect. Seventeen-year-old Em Fuller, however, fears something is askew. Em is one of the new generation of Dream Travelers. For some reason, the gods have not seen fit to gift all of them with their expected special abilities. Em is a Defect—one of the unfortunate Dream Travelers not gifted with a psychic power. Desperate to do whatever it takes to earn her gift, she endures painful daily injections along with commands from her overbearing, loveless father. One of the few bright spots in her life is the return of a friend she had thought dead—but with his return comes the knowledge of a shocking, unforgivable truth. The society Em thought was protecting her has actually been betraying her, but she has no idea how to break away from its authority without hurting everyone she loves.
Buy it HERE
Monday, October 17, 2016
I took my wife and kids to Disney World last week. We traveled with my brother, sister-in-law, niece and nephew. We had a ball, an absolute blast. The last time I was at Disney, I was 16 years old, and I drove with my parents & brother. I remember loving it but making a mental note that I don’t have to come back here for 22 years – which is exactly what I did.
Disney has changed, for the better. We stayed at the Animal Kingdom. My kid’s scream made my tinnitus worse when they saw giraffes and an array of animals, just feet from our hotel room. I really can rest at ease that I will never have to go on an actual safari for the rest of my life. I’m OK with this. I always have Disney.
One thing that really stood out during my trip was the strides Disney has made at their restaurants. For my entire life, I have been severely limited to food. I am highly, HIGHLY allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, soy, tomatoes, avocado, eggplant, and chickpeas. My niece is allergic to dairy, eggs, and chickpeas, and my nephew is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, and eggs. We’re allergic kids, what can we say?
I have always been uneasy walking into a restaurant. Any restaurant I have ever been too, ANY restaurant, I have to repeat my order to the server a few times and stress that no nuts or tomatoes (or any other foods I can’t eat) touch my plate. So far, I have a pretty good track record and have never gone into anaphylactic shock in a public place, which I intend to keep that way.
We got to the Rainforest Café and ordered. The server stopped me in my tracks the minute I said, “I have an allergy too…” She said the chef would come out and take my order, and that’s exactly what he did. AT EVERY SINGLE RESTAURANT I ATE AT DURING MY DISNEY TRIP. Even The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Every chef, no matter where we ate, came out and assured my family and me that my food would be prepared on a brand new table that was not cross-contaminated with any food from the rest of the kitchen. They even had allergy-free menus!
It was one of the biggest sighs of relief I have ever had in my life. Disney takes allergies seriously, and they want you to feel comfortable.
I only hope this spreads to other restaurants around the country. Not just for me, but for my niece and nephew, who have rarely, if ever, ordered food in a restaurant due to possible cross contamination.
Disney will have my business for decades to come. I felt safe and knew that my food was not cross- contaminated. I certainly won’t be waiting another 22 years to visit. My kids are already begging to go back for President’s week vacation.
Saturday, October 15, 2016
I have to admit it. I am a HUGE fan of the original Ghostbusters. I was such a big fan, that for my 10th birthday my parents took about ten of my friends and me, to the New York City Premiere of Ghostbusters II. Although I didn’t feel the sequel held a candle to the original, I always hoped, deep down in my heart, there would always be a third Ghostbusters.
Well, I was over the moon when the news broke last year that Sony was developing another Ghostbusters. In my imagination, I’ve casted each character for decades and could not wait to hear who was the new team. I always believed actors like Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Aziz Ansari and Seth Rogan would have made an incredible ghost busting team.
However, when I heard it was Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones, I had a very neutral reaction. It wasn’t going to be my star casting, but I had faith that Paul Feig wasn’t going to let the fans down.
I had the opportunity to watch it last night with my wife, and I must say, it was hysterical. The four ladies had incredible chemistry. The script was very well written. Chris Hemsworth was a riot. There were times where I was actually laughing out loud, and my wife had to shush me because the kids were sleeping. He stole the show.
The one thing I did not like was the cameos of the original cast. I thought the original characters played such a great foundation that the torch should have been passed down in this film, much like Star Wars 7.
I commend the filmmakers for making this a standalone movie, but if I was given the chance to write the script, you could bet the farm I would have included Venkman, Stantz and Zeddemore (RIP Egon).
Otherwise, it was a great movie and very funny. I highly recommend it.