Saturday, 22 December 2012

Epic Kindle Holiday Sale - Win a Kindle Fire and $200 of Amazon Vouchers!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I wanted to let you all know about the fantastic holiday giveaway I'm involved in this year! As well as being able to grab a holiday bargain read for either FREE or $0.99 on the 27/28/29 December, you can also win $200 of Amazon vouchers and a Kindle Fire. Visit this facebook page for more details.

The Dark Road

Amazon US   $0.99

Discreet Activities (VIGILANTE Series)

Amazon US       FREE

Cruel Justice (Justice series (Book one))

Amazon US    $0.99

JET (JET #1)

Amazon US    $0.99

AN IMAGE OF DEATH (The Ellie Foreman Mysteries)

Amazon US   $0.99

The Ninth District - A Thriller

Amazon US  $0.99


Amazon US  $0.99

Disintegration: A Mystery Thriller

Amazon US   $0.99

Verliege (A Supernatural Thriller)

Amazon US   $0.99 

Bangkok Burn

Amazon US    $0.99

Sudden Death Overtime

Amazon US   $0.99

Twisted Vengeance (A Supernatural Thriller) (Book One of The Twisted Series)
Amazon US   $0.99

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone!

Friday, 14 December 2012

The Passage by Justin Cronin: Review

I was given the paperback of this novel by my mum, who told me to read it straight away because she wanted someone to talk to about it. I was doing NaNo at the time and was slightly reluctant to plunge into the giant brick of a book that is 'The Passage' but I'm so glad I did.

The Passage is a vampire story, but not one of vampires you would want to date. These are vampires who kill, in fact, not only kill but wipe out the world as we know it. The story spans a hundred years. Set it modern times initially, a group of government agents and scientists have discovered a virus which effectively turns people into vampires. To test the virus, twelve men on death row are brought to a secret government facility and turned into 'The Twelve'.

At the same time, a little girl named Amy is abandoned by her mother on  the doorstep of a nunnery. Amy isn't like other little girls. She is able to communicate with animals, and sometimes, it seems, the dead. Because Amy has no background, one of the government officials, Wolgast, is sent with his partner to collect Amy and make her part of the vampire experiment.

However, everything goes wrong and even though Amy is infected with the virus, she doesn't react the same way as the men. When all the vampires are released from the facility, Wolgast runs with Amy and hides her in a cabin the mountains.

Here the story jumps forward almost a hundred years. With most of the world wiped out, there is one containment left which houses a community of survivors. The place is surrounded by walls and lights to keep out the vampires - known as virals or smokes. The people living here - including a cast of young characters; Peter, Alicia, Michael  Caleb, Mausami, and Sara - know nothing of the outside world or the world before the virals took over. Every day is a battle to survive. But when a girl called Amy, who is now a teenage girl, shows up, they discover a beacon and a way of finding out what happened to the world all those years ago. They set off on an epic journey which sees lives lost and others created, to not only discover the truth but also see if there is a way they can fight the virals once and for all.

What I came to think of as book one (before the virals) and book two (after the virals) are very different. Other than Amy (and a couple of very brief surprise revisits to characters), the whole cast of characters is completely different, which I guess is understandable considering it's almost a hundred years into the future! However, it did throw me at first and I found myself kind of missing the characters from the old book. This didn't last for long though as I quickly got into the new characters.

The virals are fast and strong, and there are some truly frightening moments in the book where the characters are literally fighting for their lives. There are some points in the book which are a bit slower, but considering the length of the novel this is hardly surprising. Overall, I wanted to keep turning those pages.

Probably my only real criticism was that I did struggle to connect with Amy in the second part of the book. Where in the first part, my heart broke for her and everything she'd been through, because she didn't speak much in the second part or show much empathy or emotion at all, I did find relating to her in any way difficult.

This, however, is my only negative point about the book and it's really only a slight one. Overall I absolutely loved 'The Passage', staying up reading because I didn't want to put it down.

This is the sort of book that inspires me to write: to write more, to write bigger, to write better. The moment I closed that last page, my mind was already working up an epic story which would probably take me years to write. But you know what, it doesn't matter if it takes years to write. If it ended up being the same sort of fantastic, inspiring tale that Justin Cronin created, it would be worth it.

I can't wait to read the sequel, 'The Twelve.'

Monday, 10 December 2012

Love Vampires? Cover reveal; Release by Nicole Hadaway

Today I get to be one of the lucky few who gets to reveal to the world the cover of Nicole Hadaway's novel,    'Release'. Nicole was originally published alongside myself with the small press who first published 'Alone'. She is now re-releasing the novel with the super sexy new cover. Check it out!

How hot is that? The artwork was done by Claudia McKinney at Phatpuppy Art, with type done by Ashley at BB Designs (Bookish Brunette). Phatpuppy Art are the same people who created Amanda Hocking's new covers, so she was certainly in good hands!

So has the cover got you interested? Here's the blurb:

 “The ends justify the means”...

For vampire Miranda Dandridge, using her supernatural abilities to rescue children from impossible circumstances is her means to be a part of the human world that she loves so much, despite the atrocities of WWII.

For doctor Ben Gongliewski, saving his fellow Jews from the horrific death camps is an end for which he risks his own life every day, hiding his Jewish heritage while feigning loyalty the SS.

Neither Miranda nor Ben expects to find love in World War II Europe, but that is exactly what happens as they work for the Resistance.  When the war draws to a close, it seems like the vampire and the doctor are free to start a future together.  But just how far the Nazis will go to further their own evil ends?

Desperate times make for ruthless men as loves and lives are threatened, but, Miranda and Ben know that their world cannot go to hell, not by any means…

RELEASE by Nicole Hadaway, to be published January 4, 2013 by Visionary Press Cooperative. Available as e-book and paperback from, and e-book for Nook at Barnes & Noble. 
Author profile:
"As a lawyer, Nicole Hadaway knows all about bloodsuckers and deals with the devil. She currently lives in Texas where she pens such tales involving the supernatural, featuring her heroine, the vampire Miranda Dandridge." You can find out more about Nicole at her blog, The Dandridge Estate.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

The Next Big Thing!

No, this isn't me blowing my own trumpet! I was tagged by the very lovely Libby Fischer to take part in the latest blog hop craze which seems to be sweeping through the blogging world, to answer a few questions about my latest WIP. At the end of these questions, I will tag a few more people to continue the hop. So here goes...

1) What is the title of your next book?

Autumn's Blood - Book One of the Spirit Shifters Saga

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

The initial idea came from a dream, though the details of that dream allude me now. I just remember dreaming about people who had spirit guides in the form of animals. I've wanted to write a werewolf story for a while now, but wanted to put an original spin on it, and these two ideas just clicked together.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

Paranormal Romance/Urban Fantasy

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a
movie rendition?

Ooh, I love this question. It always helps me get the image of my characters straight in my head as well. There are two main characters, but I can't help but mention a couple of the other characters as well as they play a big part and some of the book is told from their POVs.

Doctor Autumn Anderson played by Charlize Theron

Blake Wolfcollar played by 'The Rock'

Chogan Pallaton played by  Rick Mora

Mia Henderson played by Rachel Bilson

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

One sentence - that's so hard!

A scientist with an ancient legacy, and a man hiding from his past, fight to stop a Government Agency from using the paranormal to create an army to conquer the world.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

This will be self-published unless I get an amazing offer for the rights to the series!

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

The first draft is pretty much done and was my NaNoWriMo project so took me a month, though I started planning it at the start of the summer! I'm hoping to have it polished by February and edited out and published by March

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

I really have no idea!

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

As I said before, I wanted to write a werewolf story, which I hoped would be the start to a new series. I wanted to make this series as different from the Serenity Series as possible, so while the Serenity series is essentially about three people, (Serenity, Sebastian, and Elizabeth) this series has multiple characters, government agencies, and is on a much bigger scale.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

I hope this will be the start of a five book series. The first three books are already planned!

And now for my time to tag other authors! I'm going to be tagging  Belinda Frisch, JoAnne Kenrick, Nickie Asher, and Cassie Rae!

Monday, 19 November 2012

How to Make a Living as an Author

Let me start this post by saying that this will not happen overnight. If you’re someone who wants a ‘get rich quick scheme’ then find something else. Being an author is a long, hard struggle where you’ll receive the sort of feedback and plain derogatory put downs that would have the unions up in arms had they been received in any other workplace.

If you’re serious about working as a full time author, you need to grow a thick skin, be a total workaholic, forego any other hobbies, and be happy to live in a total pigsty for a large portion of the time (unless you make it seriously big – in which case, hire a cleaner!).

Are you still here? Okay, good.

My story, like many, began a long time ago. I decided I wanted to be an author just out of university, when I realised I’d spent my whole time studying (Zoology) trying to find time to write. However, it wasn’t until seven years and several novels and numerous short stories later that I eventually got published.

I loved what I was writing (Paranormal Fiction) but when a fellow author approached me to see if I’d be interested in writing some erotica for a paid for blog page – Everything Erotic – I jumped at the chance. My royalties from my vampire novel, Alone, were pretty miserable (read non-existent), and after having my second daughter, I was starting to line up job interviews to get back into a job I hated.

It was now early 2010 and I was starting to get some decent erotic short stories together. Under the umbrella of Red Hot Publishing, I put my short stories together and released them as my first erotic ebook under my maiden name, M.K. Elliott. This collection was called Rescued and this was also when my life changed. Within two weeks, Rescued began to climb the chart of Barnes & Noble. At its peak, it hit the #1 spot for erotica and was selling over 400 copies a night.

Needless to say, my hunt for a new day job ended right there.

In the months that followed, I put more erotic titles out with Red Hot Publishing, several of which sat on the Amazon best seller list for Erotica for months. In this time, I also got the rights for two of my paranormal novels back from the original small publisher and decided to put them out myself. I now self-publish the majority of my work in both name (M.K. Elliott and Marissa Farrar) under the umbrella of my own publishing house, Warwick House Press.

While I’m certainly not rich or hitting the big time, I do earn enough money to support my family and put any thoughts of a day job far behind me.

But it hasn’t all been plain sailing. I used to think that when a book started selling, it would continue to sell, but that’s not the case. Even mainstream authors will see a peak in sales for their new releases and then the sales will start to drop again. Occasionally you’ll get a stroke of luck (or you’ve done some smart marketing) and your book will climb again, but chances are it won’t stay at the top. This is why you’ve got to keep writing to keep ‘filling the funnel’ to keep those average book sales up.

So what I expect you’ll all want to know is how you can actually earn a decent income from writing, so here are my tips:

  •             Do you only have one book? Are you spending several hours a day blogging, facebooking, tweeting, just trying to get people to read it. Well don’t. Stop it right now. Any time you’re spending on the internet, you’re not writing. Wait until you’ve got more titles out before you spend any time promoting. You need people to read one book and then move onto the next. If you’re still six months away from the next title, people will read your one book and then forget all about you.
  •       Mix things up. If you write horror, fantastic, but why not try writing a thriller or a paranormal romance, or dare I say it, some erotica! You never know, you might even be good at it. Why not create a pen name and try something completely different?
  •            Keep mixing it up! The great thing about ebooks is we’re now free to write whatever length story we want and get it out there. The more title you have out, the more visible you’ll be – even if those titles are only .99 short stories. So write your novels, because they’ll always be the best-sellers, but also try your hand at some short stories or novellas.
  •        Be clever with pricing. Yes, low priced books are easier to sell because people will take a chance on them, but getting smaller numbers of sales at a higher royalty makes a big difference as far as keep a decent base rate in your earnings. I love it when my $0.99 erotic titles take off, but its the steady sales of my $4.99 novels that bring in my regular income.
  •       Try out KDP Select. This has its good and bad points, which I won’t go into now. If you do decide to go into KDP Select, do it properly! Make sure you’ve hit all the big free book sites before hand (Pixel of Ink and E-Reader News Today). Getting one of the big guys to feature your book will make the difference between a couple of hundred downloads and a double-digits of thousands!
  •        Write a series. The big earners in ebook publishing are generally educated women who write a series of romance novels! Now if you’re not a romance writer (or a woman!), that doesn’t mean you can’t write a series! I have one series almost finished now, one in progress, and another in planning. My stand alone books sell, but nothing like my series books.
  •        Figure out what word count will work for you and stick to it. When I'm writing a first draft, I try to write at least 2K a day. However, I do tend to hop between projects, so often that 2K ends up split over a couple of books. As long as each of those books gets finished and published  then that's fine, but don't start what you're not going to finish or have too many going at once or you'll never get anything out there!
  •       Make sure you have a good editor and book cover. This is basic, but so true. If you don’t have these basics then there’s no point in bothering to do anything else.
  •       Run a sale! And advertise it! There are plenty of sites now which will allow you to advertise a sale for as little as $50. Make sure you put in your product description that the book is on sale for a limited time only (fear of loss, so people purchase right away).
  •       Above all, be hard on yourself. You’re tired? Tough luck. This is your business now and you’re the boss. Imagine if you went into work complaining you were tired and you couldn’t do what you were paid to do. Would your boss pat you on the head and tell you to go home and take a nap? No, he’d tell you to shut the hell up and get on with what you were paid to do. If you want to earn money from this gig, you’ve got to do the same thing to yourself.

I hope this helps and you’ve picked up some tips or ideas. I know I live in fear of my sales drying up and finding myself down the local supermarket looking for work. So in the meantime, I’ll keep working my butt off and pray that people keep buying my books!

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

NaNoWrMo 2013 - Some (hopefully) Helpful Tips!

This is my third year taking part in NaNoWriMo. The first year was hard, with lots of complaining on my part and vows never to do this thing again. The result was a woman's fiction novel with a difference, which is still sitting unedited and untouched on my laptop. Year two was much better. I wrote the vast majority of the third book in my Serenity series, Captured. That book was finished, edited and published by March the following year and has now sold several thousand copies! Happy days!

This year, I've been looking forward to getting started since the summer! I've had my novel planned (at least the first few chapters - I don't plan out whole storylines as I don't like the ruin the surprise). It's the start of what I hope will be another five book series and is coming along great. I have to be honest though, if I didn't have the writing experience I have, I would probably still be in the swearing, cursing, vows to never do this again, early days.

So here are some of my tips to keep that word count going:

  • Set aside time each day. If you normally watch tv in the evening, switch off the box and spend that hour writing instead. Working a day job? Take a notepad to work and scribble in your lunch hour.
  • Plan at least a chapter ahead so you know where you need to go when you sit down for your writing time.
  • Don't think too far ahead or you will get overwhelmed. Break the challenge down into measurable chunks. Remember this is not a race. The people who have written 20K in the first three days may end up blocked and struggling by the end. Slow and steady will get you to the end!
  • Break down the words you need to get. 500 words during the day, and just over a 1000 in the evening will mean you'll hit your goal.
  • Get involved in some word wars. Focus, uninterrupted, for twenty minutes at a time.and see how many words you can write. I can generally manage around 500 in that twenty minute period which means I can pretty much get my word count in an hour.
  • If you start to get stuck, jump ahead and write a scene which is playing in your head, or that you really want to write -- a great conversation between your characters, a revelation in your plot, or a seriously spicy sex scene!
  • Again, if you're blocked, switch mediums or locations. If I loose track of where I'm going with a story, a piece of paper and a pen will often see me through. I create spider charts with all the different characters and elements and try to see where the story is heading.
  • And if you're REALLY stuck, kill off a character. That will always give you something to write about, even if it doesn't happen until later in the book!
I hope that helps somewhat. And remember that it doesn't matter if you fall behind early on. There is plenty of time to catch up!

***Want to stay updated about Marissa Farrar's new releases? Sign up to the 'new release' form at the top of her blog***

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Dominion, Book Four in the Serenity Series is Out Now!

Whoo-hoo! Today is my official release for Serenity's book four, Dominion! Though the book went live on Amazon over the weekend, today is the day I had planned for my release. With that in mind, I have lots of giveaways planned over on my facebook page today, starting a little later today when people across the pond are out of bed. I'm going to giveaway signed copies of my books - including paperbacks of Alone, Buried, and The Dark Road, personalised jewellery, and even a C.D. of the music I write to.

On top of that, to celebrate my new release, the rest of the Serenity series is on sale! Alone is free, Buried is down from $4.99 to $1.99, and Captured is down from $4.99 to $3.99! So if you've not already started the series, now would be a good time to stock up on the books at a low price.

So head on over to or to grab your copy of Dominion! In a few weeks, Dominion will also be available on Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, and Sony, but in the meantime you can purchase various formats which you can load up onto which ever e-reader you have from Smashwords.

In other news, it's NaNoWriMo next month! I will be taking part and this is my third year, though I'm still undecided about what I'm going to work on! Though I had planned on writing the first book in a new series, Serenity's book five, Endless, keeps calling to me. The characters keep having conversations in my head, so I'm wondering if I may end up having to write that one instead.

Are you planning to do NaNo this year?

***To stay updated about my new releases, make sure you fill in the new release form at the top of my blog!***

Monday, 22 October 2012

The Vampire Diaries - Season Four Review

I was late coming to The Vampire Diaries. When I first saw the adverts of Elena stumbling around in the woods with the 'vampire' (who randomly could walk in the light) vanishing when she cut her ankle, I actually rolled my eyes.

I've loved vampires from my teenage years. My first introduction was a birthday sleepover involving lots of giggling girls and 'The Lost Boys'. After that was the dark, brooding and ever-lastingly lovely Louis from 'Interview with the Vampire'. So when I saw ads for 'The Vampire Diaries', I rolled my eyes and went back to writing my stories - where vampires were actually scary!

However, one night while spending my usual evening in front of the computer,  the television was on  in the background and the show came on. We were onto series two by now and strangely my interest was drawn. Once I actually stared paying attention to what was happening, that was it. Show over... at least on my part. I was hooked.

Unlike in Twilight, these vampires kill! They also have sex - and hot sex at that! I watched a couple of episodes and soon went back and rented out series one to watch each episode back to back (cue several late nights and crabby mornings, though they were all worth it...)

So, here in the UK, the fourth season has just aired. Wow! What a fantastic start.

I have to be honest, initially I thought Elena becoming a vampire was a cop-out (see here for my earlier post) but the way it was handled was excellent. I loved how the production team worked in all of Elena's heightened senses so we felt them for ourselves, and also how she remember the things Damon had tried to glamour from her memory.

The usual brotherly tension was also prevalent in this episode, with Damon angry at Stefan for following Elena's wishes and letting her die. Damon would have saved Elena first, whatever she wanted. But I had to wonder, did Damon want to want to save her humanity because he wanted her to be human or was it because he didn't want her to remember the times he'd told her he loved her and that he'd met her first?

However, even though I love Damon (and really who doesn't???), it was also lovely to see Elena and Stefan growing close again. Perhaps this will be the end of the love triangle for a while?

There were a couple of other story lines which ran alongside Elena changing - that of Klaus taking over Tyler's body (which I couldn't really see the point of) and the council getting all of the Salvatore Vervain and planning to rid the town of the vampires and all those who help them. Also, witch, Bonnie, attempted to help Elena, but at the same time welcomed in some 'dark magic' so I'm sure that will be a featured storyline during this season as well.

So this season really does look like it's going to be different from any of the others. With Elena now a vampire, and a whole heap of people not only out to get them, but to also expose them for what they are, Season four will be one to look forward to!

Friday, 19 October 2012

Low Priced Indie Books... Did they Ruin Things for the Rest of Us?

The other night, I managed to get into a debate over the same thing twice - the price of ebooks!

In the early indie days, the $0.99 price tag was a jumping point for several now indie publishing rock stars, most of which have now signed up with one of the New York big boy publishing houses. But while they've all jumped off the indie bandwagon, they've left the rest of us floundering around in a market place saturated with low price (and often low quality) indie books. That in itself is fine - everyone has an equal right to publish in this day and age - but the affect it has had on the readers is more important. Readers now expect to pay no more than a couple of dollars for an indie novel, yet will happily compare that indie novel to one of the New York published novels which would set them back $10 and more!

I read a post on Amanda Hocking's blog that one of the reasons she took a big publishing contract was because she knew, however hard she worked, the editing would never be good enough unless she had someone who was at the top of their game working on her books. I can understand this thinking, especially when readers pick up an indie book and read it expecting the same sort of editing that the book would have received if published by a big house.

I am a big believer (now) that a book shouldn't be published unless it's been edited professionally. An author should try to save every penny to pay for the editing. However, I didn't always have this opinion. When I first got on the indie train I thought just having another author edit my work would be perfectly fine. It wasn't.

So what is the right price to charge for an ebook? Let's look at the costs. (The following are an approximation and obviously do vary!)

Editing - $300 - $500
Proofreading $75- $150
Cover design $120
Isbns $30 (for two - one for ebook, another for paperback)
Paperback upload (Lightning Source) - $60
Advertising/email subs/website/hootsuite etc. (optional, but neccessary!) $100 per month approx.

Before the book is even published an author is looking at an outlay of up to $760, and then another $100 a month going forward. If an author prices their book at $0.99, they would need to sell well over 2000 copies just to break even. In the indie world, with so much competition, most indie authors don't even earn $500 a month!

So what is the right price for an indie novel and did those early pricing strategies set the rest of us up for failure?

Yes, and no. Unfortunately pricing is still the biggest tool indies have against the mighty power of the big six. I price my novels at $4.99, but I don't think I would put them much higher, even though traditionally published indie books charge more. Is this because I think my books are worth less? In a word, yes, I do. I'm not saying that my story or writing is worth less, but I'm not dividing my profit between a number of people. Once my costs have been paid off, the profit goes in my pocket, unlike a traditional publisher who have on-going costs including paying staff and royalties to the author.

So do I think $0.99 is too low a price for a novel? Yes, definitely. $0.99 should be a price reserved for short stories. I even think $2.99 is too little, but I can understand authors using that pricing in the hope people might try out the novel of an author they've never heard of.

Pricing will continue to be an issue, with some readers steering clear of low priced ebooks because they automatically think the books will be poor quality, and some readers even refusing to pay for an ebook because there are so many free ones out there. (This actually happened to me - someone read one of my books, loved it, and then actually laughed at the idea of paying for another one... like authors don't deserve to be paid for their work, unlike any other industry out there!).

What do you think is a reasonable price for an ebook? If you're a reader, do you tend to try out the cheaper books, or try to steer clear?

Saturday, 6 October 2012

The Hardest Part about Writing a Series...

I'm now about two-thirds of the way through my final edits for the fourth book in the Serenity series, 'Dominion'. My editor already has the first half of the book and is working away on it, so I'm well on track to have the book out for the 30th October, as promised.

With the end approaching, I have to admit that I'm nervous about the publication of this book. I was nervous about 'Captured' but 'Dominion' is even worse, nerve-wise. The reason for my nerves? Well I just don't want to let the readers down! There are so many readers who have been waiting  months for this book and I want them to love it just as much as the others.

All too often the ratings for series books tend to go like this: first book has slightly lower ratings because the first book has weeded out all those people who didn't like the style or the storyline, or perhaps they found the main character annoying. That's fine, they just go on to read something different. Now the second and third books should have higher ratings. All those people who loved the first book have gone on to buy the next in the series and (hopefully) they love the books as much as they first.

But, what tends to happen in a series, is, as the series goes on the average ratings start to go down. People end up disappointed in the books. The characters start to get annoying, the storyline stale. THIS is what I'm most worried about.

As with each of my books, I've pushed the boundaries of paranormal romance in 'Dominion'. I've always had graphic violence, and yes, even horror in my books, and 'Dominion' is no different. I wanted to push the reader out of their comfort zone and I'm hoping they'll thank me for that in the end, leaving them with a story that will keep them thinking long after they finish.

Even so, I have to admit that the tradition of lower ratings the further on a series goes does leave me worrying. It's partly for this reason that only plan one more book in the series after 'Dominion' (though never-say-never!). I want people to finish the series wanting more, not wondering when the hell it will end.

Worries about people starting to dislike the books aren't my only reason for stopping the series at five books, of course. I already have another two series' planned - a Young Adult spin-off of the Serenity series, and another paranormal romance series, 'The Spirit Shifters'.

So I'm hoping everyone loves 'Dominion' as much as the first three books. I guess in a few weeks I know for sure!

Saturday, 29 September 2012

My New Release - Underlife!

Today is the day, folks! 'Underlife,' the novel I started three years ago, is finally available to buy.

I got the idea for the novel during my years living in East London in my early twenties. On a journey on the London underground, I was waiting at a station for the next train. While waiting, I noticed someone had graffitied the wall with the words, ‘Help me.’ Straight away the thought of ‘what if that message was written for someone in particular’ came to me. What if people were trying to communicate with someone via these messages in order to tell them something? I’ve always found the London Underground to be a spooky, strange place and wanted to set a story in the location. There have been many nights when, after working until late at night, I’ve caught the last train home and have been inspired by the creepy atmosphere.
Not long after seeing this message on the wall, I watched a documentary about the underground homeless in New York. Right away the two different ideas blended and the storyline for ‘Underlife’ was born.

Here's the blurb...

Thomas Young has no idea where he comes from. Found living on the streets as a child and put into foster care, he always dreamed of having a family of his own. Now a grown man, he has his much longed for family, but his life is tinged with sadness. His son, David, has leukaemia. 

One night, as he's driving home from the hospital, he hits a homeless man, Mack, with his car. Mack knows Tom from his childhood and tells Tom he was once part of London's underground homeless and his son's leukaemia is not all it seems. 

In a desperate bid to save his son's life, Tom heads down into the miles of abandoned tubes lines and stations. But he quickly discovers something far more sinister waits for him than the giant rats, drug addicts and fast trains. There is also something dark and shadowy, and it wants out...

Underlife is available to buy from and, and Smashwords. The book will be available on other sites such as Apple and Barnes & Noble very soon.

And if you'd like to 'try before you buy' you can get the prequel short story, 'Go Back' together with the first few chapters of Underlife, for free from numerous ebook stores such as Smashwords, Kobo, Barnes & Noble (currently still $0.99 on Amazon).

In other news, I know the majority of you are eagerly awaiting the publication of the next ‘Serenity’ book, ‘Dominion’. I’m thrilled to tell you that the first chapters have been sent off to my editor today, so the book is well on track for its predicted release at the end of October.

Enjoy everyone! I'm off to crack open a beer to celebrate!

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Are There Any Original Titles Left?

I'm currently doing final edits on my novel Underlife, which will be out in a couple of weeks, and then after that I'll be writing the final couple of chapters and starting edits for the fourth Serenity book, Dominion. But I've always been one to plan ahead!

I have a new series planned--a paranormal series based around spirit guides and the ability of their humans to shift into the shape of their animal. The series title will be 'The Spirit Shifters' (this met with polar responses when I first put it out there, but it fits the series best), but I'm struggling with a title for the first book.

I'm planning on writing this novel during NaNoWriMo. Because 50K in a month isn't much of a challenge to me (I write full time now and so producing 2K a day should be fairly easy if I've set my mind on something) I've decided to set myself the rough draft of the full novel (about 70K) as my NaNo goal.

I love writing, but I also like to write knowing what my book is as a whole. I'm not a huge plotter, but because I want to write this book as a series, I've found myself plotting more than normal. Of course this is not my first series. However, when I wrote Alone, it was only at the suggestion of my then publisher that I wrote book two. Book two ended in such a way that it was impossible not to write book three... and so the story continues.

This novel, however, will be a series, and I want to learn from mistakes I've made from NOT planning the Serenity series--such as certain 'world building facts' that have made certain plot lines difficult to work out. I'd like to put this planning into good use by also planning ahead to link the covers and the book titles.

The main reason for this post is that I'm struggling for a title for the first book, which ultimately makes it impossible for me to plan for any future books as well. It's not that I haven't thought of one--believe me, I have! Several in fact! But none of these titles are original and, even worse, some belong to series novels already.

So what do you think? Does a title need to be completely original, or is it okay if a couple of other books are named the same?

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Jumping Genres by Stacy Eaton - 'Whether I Live or Die' Blog Tour!

Today I'm thrilled to welcome Stacy Eaton to my blog. Stacy is a full time Police Officer, so she's able to write her  fiction from a real hands on perspective.
Stacy has a couple of things in her fiction that tie into mine - her first novel 'My Blood Runs Blue' is a paranormal novel about both law enforcement and yes, you guess it, vampires! The second is that her latest novel, Whether I’ll Live or Die, which was released on July 13th, is a fictional story about a young woman named Amanda who deals with the pain and emotional issues of Domestic Violence. As most of you know, this was also the situation of my own main character, Serenity. 

Anyway, Stacy is here today to talk about jumping genres, so I'll shut the hell up and let her talk! Take it away, Stacy!

 Jumping Genres by Stacy Eaton

I met Marissa Farrar after I read her novel “Alone”. A paranormal novel that I really enjoyed! The fact that it contained aspects of domestic violence really interested me too.

As a writer in the paranormal genre with two book published in the “My Blood Runs Blue” series, I jumped genres to write a more general drama fiction novel called “Whether I’ll Live or Die”.  Some people don’t believe in genre jumping, but I actually enjoyed it!

Since my life as a police officer is filled with everyday drama, I enjoy writing in the paranormal world. Taking a step away from real life and adding in tidbits of fantasy helps me alleviate the stresses in my life.  So why did I jump genres and write a general fiction novel when I am already known in the paranormal world?
Because this story needed to be told… that’s why.

Marissa did a great job in her paranormal series weaving the victim of domestic violence into her story, and I have praised her both personally and publicly with reviews.  I needed to take this topic a step further and dig deep to make sure that people understood the seriousness of this problem in today’s society.

I found that one of the biggest differences in writing the two different genres was keeping my mind in real life. Not adding bits of fantasy that are so regularly a piece of my thought process was a bit difficult at times, but this story is so intense and emotional that after I started moving through it, I never thought again about adding fantasy to it. This was a story that needed to be real, 100%!

There are some writers that don’t believe in jumping genres. They believe that you can only stay in one. To me that is saying, Hey… This is your ride at the amusement park, and I know when you are up at the top of your roller coaster, you can see all the rest of the rides, but you’re not allow to get on them. You have to stay here and keep riding this one. 

Guess what… NOT!  If I want to jump off this coaster and go jump on that twirling thing that spins me so fast I want to puke, then guess what I’m gonna do it!  And guess what… I did!

Whether I’ll Live or Die is a very emotional and gripping story about Amanda, a young woman, who is pulled from one relationship to another, always looking for love, but finding abuse instead. As her years pass, the abuse because much harsher.  Officer Nicole Nolan is a new police officer who has to learn the ropes of life on the streets and the legal ramifications of domestic violence in our society.

The story is intense… and there is one final destination, but will it be Life or Death?

As a paranormal fan, when was the last time you stepped off your roller coaster and tried a different ride? Don’t you think it might be time to try it out, just once?  Try it… you might like it! I know I did!

Thanks so much, Stacy! I know I'm a bit of a genre whore and not only write in different genres, but even in different names! It's a great way of stretching your writing muscles! I hope everyone will check Stacy's books out at Amazon: or Barnes & Noble:

You can find out more about Stacy by following these links to her 

Twitter: @StacySEaton

Friday, 27 July 2012

Gone Fishing!

The local beach in Chiclana, Spain
Not literally, of course! No, instead I'm heading off at a ridiculously early hour tomorrow morning to catch a flight with my two girls over to my parents house in Spain. While there, I'm planning on lazing around by the pool, eating lots of tapas and drinking lots of Sangria, while my parents take care of my kids (I'm kidding, Mum, honest!).

Last year, I took my laptop and only opened it once, so this year I'm leaving it at home. Instead, I'm taking my lovely kindle, which is currently crammed full of TBR books, and a brand new notepad. I'm planning on working out some details of a new series idea that has recently inspired me, and maybe even a short story or two!

As for the projects I'm leaving here, well I know everyone is waiting to hear news about the next Serenity book! The  good news is that the first draft is almost done. I've literally just got the final few chapters to write. However, I don't plan on going back to the book until my next novel, Underlife, has been published. I want to be able to focus purely on the Serenity book and I've needed to spend the last month rounding off some open projects. I'm still on for an October release of Dominion though - so don't panic!

So I won't be around for a while, but I will still be checking in (yes, they do have the Internet in Spain!). Hope you all have a great couple of week - I know I will! :-)

Monday, 23 July 2012

My experience with Kobo Writing Life so far...

A few days ago, I wrote about how Kobo had launched its first e-book publishing platform - Writing Life -one that may eventually come to rival Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing. I was excited and eager to get my books up on the site as I love to see my books sales in 'real' time and not have to wait until Smashwords decides to report them.

So, how have I been getting on?

The answer to this would be 'slowly.' It turns out my tried and trusted formatting for Smashwords doesn't work so well for the epub conversion on Kobo. Or at least it does... for some books... not so much for others. And considering all the books have been formatted in exactly the same way, I've no idea why this is! So, I've been playing around with different formatting, using 'Heading 1' to create an automatic TOC, but again, in some books this is working fine, in others it isn't! I'm sure the formatting experts around won't be struggling with this at all, but I'm finding it a bit of a head-ache.

Secondly, I'm finding the actual publishing process (that is, the time I've hit the publish button to when it actually appears on the site) to be very slow. Two of the books I already had published on Kobo (the Serenity series) and had removed by Smashwords, went up quickly, but a new book, which I published on Thursday, is still not showing on the site.

One final negative, before I start on the good stuff, is the lack of categories Kobo has available to choose from. For romance - which is the biggest genre out there - they only have four categories, and one of those isn't paranormal romance! Considering this is the second category in which I would normally place my vampire series (after Contemporary Fantasy) this leaves me in a bit of a quandary.

However, on a positive note, apart from the conversion issues (which are more due to my lack of knowledge than any fault of Kobo's) the upload process is pretty simple. And - the best part! - you are able to download the epub file to use as you wish, which is fantastic. I also like the ability to over-ride the automatic conversion price to either round up or round down in Hong Kong, and Australian, and New Zealand Dollars, among other currencies.

But here is the big thing, so far, sales have been (drum roll please) a big fat Zero! Now I admit I've only got a couple of books up so it isn't really a fair comparison, but considering my sales on Amazon, B&N, and Apple are easily enough for me to support my family on, not having sold anything yet is a little disappointing.

However, I'm planning on looking at this long term. Kobo are only just starting to build their own sales platform. If they're going to be the next big thing in self-publishing, I plan to be right there beside them!

Monday, 16 July 2012

Kobo's new 'Writing Life' Platform is Open for Business!

Just now I received the email to alert me, along with numerous other indie authors and publishers, that the new 'Writing Life' platform  from Kobo is open for business! This platform has been heralded as the next big competitor to Kindle Direct Publishing (Amazon) so I was keen to jump on board.

The first thing I did was register (a quick process) and then I went and removed all my books from the Kobo Smashwords channel. I've seen a few sales come through this channel, but Smashwords are so slow with upload and sales reporting, I'd much rather see the sales come in real time directly via Kobo.

Kobo are paying 70% royalties on higher priced books, so are a good competitor as far as comparing them to the other big publishers (Amazon pays 70%, but Barnes & Noble Pubit, only 60%). I believe they're also saying (and please correct me if I'm wrong) that they're happy for you to take their ePub conversions for you to sell and use as you wish. For me this is a big draw. I struggle with getting ePub files properly converted, and Smashwords doesn't allow you to use their conversions anywhere else.

Well it's ten-thirty at night here in the UK, so I don't intend on starting any uploads tonight. However, tomorrow I'm going to be getting right on it. I'll be sure to report back if their upload and conversion processes are as easy as I've heard from the hype!

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Manually Creating a Table of Contents for your eBook.

Creating a Table of Contents with active links in Word is actually pretty simple, but took me forever to figure out. It was only thanks to another author, Danielle Gavan, that the ball finally dropped, and then I wondered what all the fuss was about! I know there are ways to create a TOC using headings, etc. but this is simply the way I do it.

This is the one part of the document where I might use a 1.5 sentence line spacing instead of single.

1.    Create a title: i.e. ‘Table of Contents’! Underline or make the title bold.
2.   Hit ‘return’ a couple of times. Type in your chapter numbers or titles, hitting return after each one.
3.   Go through your document and ‘bookmark’ each chapter title. You do this by clicking right before the chapter title, then going to the tool bar at the top and simply clicking ‘bookmark’. Don’t put a space in your bookmark name as the whole bookmark box will grey out. You also need to remember to bookmark your table of contents as ‘TOC’ so you can link back the chapters to the TOC.
4.   Go back to your TOC. Now you have all your chapters bookmarked, linking them is easy. Start at the top and work your way down. Select the chapter title in the TOC, so it is highlighted. Then right click and select ‘Add Hyperlink’. This will open another text box. Now select ‘add to place in this document’. All your bookmarks will pop up, so simply select the one that matches your chapter title. If it’s active, the link will turn blue and underlined. Hold down ‘ctrl’ and click on the link to make sure it takes you to the place in your document that you want it to!
5.   Repeat this for the whole of your Table of Contents.
6.   Now you want all of your chapters to link back to your TOC heading. Go through your document and on each chapter heading, select, then right click. Choose Hyperlink and link each chapter back to your bookmarked TOC heading. You can even use your newly created links to hop back and forth between your chapter titles and the table of contents so you don’t have to scroll through the document every time. After you click on the link, the colour of the link will change from blue to purple, but don’t worry, it doesn’t make any difference to how it works!
7.   Ta-da! Your Table of Contents is done!

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Formatting an eBook in Word - Creating a Clean Document.

This post is going to be the first in a number I plan to post on formatting in Microsoft Word. I know a lot of people who hate Word, but it’s the only thing I’ve ever used. I know nothing about any other formats! So far, I haven’t had any complaints about the formatting of my ebooks, and my books look good on my kindle, so I guess I’m doing something right! I hope this will be a simple explanation about how I do things and will be helpful to others. I'm the least technical person in the world, so if I can figure this one out, you should be able to as well!

1.    If you’re unsure of your formatting from the start, or the document has been through a couple of different computers or editors, copy and paste the whole document into something like Word’s OneNote. This removes all the horrible little formatting issues (some of which may even be hidden when you have the formatting sign on) such as change in font sizes. These things ruin the look of your ebook.
2.   Copy and paste the cleared of formatting piece from OneNote back into a new Word document.
3.   Hit ‘Select All’ on the top tool bar.
4.   Decide which font you want to go with. I tend to use Georgia. So, with the ‘select all’ highlighting your document, choose the Georgia font (or whatever one you want).
5.   Again, with the whole of the document selected, right click and select ‘Paragraph’. Here you need to make a number of selections. Start at the top and work down. Check Alignment is ‘Left’. Check indentation is ‘0’ for both left and right. Choose Special, first line by ‘0.8cm’. (This is the indentation I prefer. You may want to make it bigger or smaller.) Line Spacing needs to be ‘Single’. (Again, some people prefer 0.5, but this is your choice). Finally, check the ‘Don’t add space between paragraphs’ box. Now hit ‘OK’.
6.   This should give you a good looking document with no nasty formatting surprises!
7.   Start to personalise your document. If you want certain things centered, you need to highlight that title and center it. Same with any changes in font, etc. If you want a line to be perfectly centered in the document, you need to right click and select ‘Paragraph’ again. This time make sure everything is the same as above, but change the ‘Special’ to ‘None’ and this will make it perfectly centered.

The next post will be on making your eBook look good on an e-reader, so stay tuned!

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Life in a Box - A Post by Serenity.

I first wrote this post for Darcia Helle's campaign to bring awareness for women trapped in violent relationships. I thought I'd share it here as well. I also hope you click the link to take you through to Darcia's blog and read some of the comments left there. Some of the real life stories made me realize just how important it is to get things right in fiction when you're dealing with such a sensitive topic.

Life in A Box

 I live my life in a box.
On all sides rise sheer walls of fear. A roof of humiliation presses down on my head so I’m forced to crouch, to curl up in a ball. Bound across my mouth is a gag of shame. I cannot speak about what the person who is supposed to love me the most in the world does to me.
And I cannot escape.
My husband, Jackson, hits me in all the places no one else can see—the ribs, my lower back, my thighs.
Each time it happens he comes to me, curls up behind me, pressing his body against mine. ‘I’m so sorry,’ he tells me. ‘Why do you make me do these things to you?’ As though this is my fault.
Yet in many ways I feel responsible. The abuse didn’t start until after I lost our first pregnancy.
We’d both been so excited, but then I woke one morning with blood in my underwear—too much blood—and a visit to the doctor confirmed our worst fear, I’d lost the baby.
I blamed myself and saw the accusations in Jackson’s eyes. Ruining one of our pans while cooking dinner was enough of an excuse for him to take his loss out on me.
Afterward, he’d been so apologetic. We cried in each other’s arms and he promised it would never happen again. Except I would hear those words many times in the years to come.
Then I fell pregnant a second time and, once again, lost the baby. With the next I managed to reach twenty weeks gestation but, at the twenty-week scan, the technicians were unable to locate a heartbeat. That one had been the worst. I gave birth to the child, an impossibly tiny, doll-like baby my body had killed.
The next time I became pregnant, I kept the pregnancy a secret. When I lost that one at eight weeks, I sobbed in private and tried to act like nothing was wrong.
My life has no meaning. Incapable of nurturing a child inside of me, what is the point in my existence? My body kills my own babies; as though I’m poisonous, toxic. I hate myself for it.
Consequently, the beatings I receive on a regular basis are nothing less than I deserved. I can’t blame Jackson for hating me. After all, my body has denied him a family.
Ironically, Jackson doesn’t tell me he hates me. If anything he is vocal about his adoration. ‘I love you, I love you, I love you’, he tells me over and over, as though those three little words will heal my wounds.
I start each day judging the mood of my husband. If he’s in a bad place, his temper radiates from him like heat. On those days I do everything I can to avoid setting him off, but he’s a tightly wound spring and looking for a fight, a release to purge his anger.
One time, he dragged me out of the shower by the hair and beat me with the shower head until I passed out. I woke up naked and freezing on the bathroom floor. In so much pain, I had to drag myself to the bedroom. I couldn’t even get on the bed, so I just lay on the floor with a towel over me, trying to stay warm until Jackson came home. When he finally rolled back from the bar, I asked him to help me and he laughed. He told me if I behaved like a dog, I should sleep on the floor like one.
Do you know what really got to me?
To this day, I have absolutely no idea what I did to deserve that beating. I wracked my brains for weeks wondering if I’d left the breakfast dishes out or if I hadn’t cleaned the floor well enough. I was so paranoid, whatever cleaning I did, I checked, and checked, and checked it again to make sure I had done the job right. I didn’t question my husband’s state of mind to beat me as he did; I questioned my own ability to do the God-damned cleaning!
I know people will never understand my position. You’re probably thinking yourself, ‘Why doesn’t she get out? Why doesn’t she leave?’
All I can do is bring you back to that box, the one I’m trapped inside. I cannot see a way out so I hide here; hoping and praying one day things will change.
That one day, someone will help me out.

'Alone', Book one in the 'Serenity' series, is free to download from a number of different sites, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble.