Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Author Sybil Nelson: The Power Behind Superhero "Priscilla the Great"

I've had some AMAZING authors on my blog this month, and this week's is like putting icing on the cake! Sybil Nelson is the author of the middle grade series "Priscilla the Great," which feature a fantastic girl turned superhero. I really enjoyed book one and am looking forward to continuing the series.

Also, Sybil is offering a FREE Kindle copy of "Priscilla the Great Versus the World" to ANYONE who leaves a comment, just include your email! Woot woot! Don't miss out!! Thank you, and welcome, Sybil!

Tell us a little about your background and how you became an author.

Growing up I used to love to read. I also wrote many short stories and poems as a child. In college, my scholarship was for English and Journalism but I soon lost confidence in my writing and switched my major to Mathematics and Music. It wasn’t until I was a high school teacher that I returned to my love of writing. I began reading stories and adding my own diverse characters to the stories in my mind. Then I finally began writing those characters and stories down.

What is one of your favorite books and why?

I think Priscilla the Great: The Time Traveling Bullet is my favorite. I was able to really get creative as to what I think the future will be like. It was also fun finally giving Priscilla’s twin little brothers powers.

What inspired you to write this book series?

I really just wanted a fun superhero book for girls. I grew up loving comic books and found that sometimes they are very boy-focused. So I thought it would be great to have a strong female character. I was a high school teacher at the time I started writing Priscilla the Great and two of my students really inspired her personality and her looks. My student Helen would come to class each day with a story about something weird that happened to her. That is where Priscilla got her quirky personality. She got her adorable red hair and freckles from my other student Ellen Hudson.

How would you describe your writing process?

To write the Priscilla the Great series, I usually create a playlist of peppy music and then each night, I play the music and write. When the playlist ends, my writing session ends. With this method, I usually can finish writing a Priscilla the Great novel in about a month. I also carry around a notebook with me where I can jot down ideas during the day. This helps my evening writing sessions.

What has proven to be your most successful marketing tool?

I don’t think there is one specific thing that works best to market a Middle Grade novel. I think it is a combination of things. For example, blogging regularly and holding giveaways helps to increase the number of subscribers to my newsletter which helps build a solid fanbase of readers who will read the next book. Also, for a middle grade book, I’ve found that speaking engagements at middle schools are rather effective. Once again, I’m able to get subscribers to my newsletter.
I have also given away thousands of book one for free. This really increases the sales of the other books in the series.

What advice would you give to other authors?

Never give up and keep writing more books. Not only will your writing and the quality of your books improve, but your sales will increase as your readers will have more and more books of yours to buy.

Please provide a favorite excerpt from your book.

Priscilla the Great Book 1
Snot Wars

For the past year or so, Charlie and Chester had perfected a game they liked to call Snot Wars. Basically, they earned points for hitting certain predetermined targets with none other than their very own snot. Yes, they would press one nostril closed and then, after taking a deep breath, aim a snot rocket at an inanimate target. We had to limit the boys to inanimate objects after Max Montgomery ran away from being the victim of one too many snot attacks. I don’t know where they got an endless supply of snot from, but I swear, I’ve seen Charlie hit a lamp shade from ten feet away.
Josh and I kept our belongings safe by telling the twins that if any snot ever fell on any of our stuff, they’d earn negative points. That was enough. They were so into their game that they had their own scoring system. Right now Charlie had forty hundred gazillion trillion points, and Chester had thirty fifteen hundred million bazillion points. I wasn’t sure who was winning.
Given the fact that Stefanie was in the local newspaper for sending ten thousand text messages in the month of July alone, I just assumed that she would have some little love notes written to Trevor on her annoyingly pink sparkly Blackberry.
In order to distract Stefanie long enough for me to snatch her phone, I told the twins that there was a target in the house worth a hundred billion trillion gazillion points. The target: Stefanie’s mouth.
Josh knew something was going on when he saw the twins skulking around the living room in their blue camouflage Osh Kosh B’Gosh overalls. They were stalking their prey. I guess I should’ve told them that the war paint was unnecessary.
“Priss, get the twins out of here. They’re up to something,” Josh called while wrapping a protective arm around his girlfriend.
“What? They can’t play in their own house? They’re fine.” I peeked into the living room from the hallway and noticed that Chester and Charlie had worked out an attack plan through a series of hand signals. Charlie was going to distract Josh while Chester went in for the first shot.
Charlie dug a half-eaten Twinkie out of his pocket and lobbed it at Josh. Josh leaped off of the couch and charged after him. But little Charlie was quick. As Josh’s pursuit of the Twinkie-thrower spilled out into the backyard, Chester jumped on the coffee table, closed a nostril, aimed, and fired.
Stefanie’s wild screams filled the house as she manically wiped snot off of her forehead. She shot off the couch and ran to the bathroom, giving me the opportunity to rifle through her purse. Once I had the phone in my hand, I ducked into a corner and scrolled through her text messages.
“What’s going on? Why is Stefanie screaming?” Josh asked, bursting back into the house.
“I missed.” Chester poked out his lip, crossed his arms, and flopped into a chair.
“Missed? Missed what? Oh God, not Snot Wars.” Josh ran to the bathroom to find Stefanie.
Seconds later, Josh emerged from the bathroom and screamed, “I’m gonna kill you, Chester!”
“Josh, wait,” I said, stepping in front of him. “He’s not the one you should be mad at.” I held up the phone as he started reading countless text messages from Stefanie to Trevor, or as she put it “Sexy Trevy.”
“I hope you’re going to punish that little beast!” Stefanie yelled when she came out of the bathroom.
Josh didn’t respond to that request. Instead, he silently handed over her phone and said, “How could you?” before sulking off to his room.
Stefanie’s mouth flew open, giving Charlie the perfect opportunity. He won the hundred billion trillion gazillion points.

Where can readers find you and your book?

Sybil, thank you for the wonderful information! I love it that you create a playlist to listen to while you write. What a terrific idea! Thanks so much for being my guest today. I encourage everyone to check out this series--it's a lot of fun!

--KSR Writer

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Award-Winning Children's Author Catherine Cooper

I am SO excited to introduce today's guest, award-winning children's author Catherine Cooper! She is the author of the Jack Brenin series, which includes "The Golden Acorn," "Glasruhen Gate," and "Silver Hill." (And the fourth book will be out soon!) Many have called this the next Harry Potter series!

I downloaded "The Golden Acorn" onto my kindle after reading the rave reviews about it on Amazon and gave it to my 8-year-old to read. He loved it and immediately asked for the next book in the series. He also insisted I read it, and it was obvious why he enjoyed it so much! Welcome, Catherine!

Tell us a little about your background and how you became an author.

I had two great ambitions when I was young; the first was to be a teacher, and the second, to write books for children.  I never really left school.  I left college, with a teaching certificate and a degree, and went straight back into school.  I taught for 29 very happy years.  I would still be in the classroom now if ill health had not necessitated I take early retirement.  For my 50th birthday I found out I’d got degenerative bone disease and was also diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer.  Neither of these had been on my present list!  With my teaching career at an end I had a choice to make.  I could either sit back, and let illness rule my life, or I could fight back and start a new career as a writer.  I chose the latter. 

I planned the Jack Brenin series during weeks of hospital visits, subsequent treatment, followed by countless nights spent in the chair when I could not sleep.  My characters gave me a focus and a reason to persevere.  That was six years ago.  I’m still here, still writing and really enjoying having a 24/7 job I can do from home.  I go back into schools as an author visitor, speak to writing groups and am affiliated to a voluntary reading helper scheme.  I never thought my books would be translated into many languages, be readily available throughout the world or that I’d sign a contract with a Hollywood film company.  At the end of last year my Jack Brenin series was tipped as one of four in the running to fill the Harry Potter void.  It’s been quite a journey.

What is one of your favorite books and why?

My favourite adult fiction book is Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman.  I love the humor in the book.  The subtitle is ‘The Nice and Accurate Prophesies of Agnes Nutter – Witch’.  It’s a tongue in cheek apocalyptic parody.  I love the book because it makes me laugh out loud, every time I read it.

I was a designated World Book Night book giver last week and when asked for my first, second, or third choice of the books from the list, I’m afraid I wrote Good Omens down each time.  I had a great time giving out the book.

What inspired you to write this book series?

I live in the beautiful English county of Shropshire.  The countryside around me, the myths and legends of the area and my love of history and nature greatly inspired me.  I also read an article, a few years ago, about ‘Sudden Oak Death in America’; no one seemed to know why the oaks were dying.  Having been brought up on classical myths and legends I knew all about Dryads and Hamadryads.  The plot of book one, The Golden Acorn, was conceived from that article.  No scientist on earth would agree with my theory but it is crucial to the plot of my books. 

For any of you who have read any of the Jack Brenin books you’ll know there are maps in each of the books.  The map of Glasruhen is a real landscape.  I see it every morning from my study window (unless it’s misty!).  I’ve changed the names of the locations, some are anagrams of real places and some are a play on words.  Newton Gill is an anagram of the small market town where I live, and the real location of Falconrock is a place called Hawkstone.  I’ve started some ‘secret’ pages on my website where the real locations for the series will appear.  As soon as I’ve finished book five I’ll make sure the photos and explanations are complete.

How would you describe your writing process?

I do a lot of research and handwrite copious notes before I start planning.  I do an overall plan for the whole series first, on the blank side of a long piece of wallpaper.  This is then sectioned into books, which in turn are divided into chapters.  I add the main plot for each chapter, the characters, action, and outcome.  I use the ‘who, where, why, what, and when’ method for each chapter.

I usually get up at 6.30am, edit any writing from the night before then continue writing until breakfast.  I have a facebook page for my main character and I usually sort out his daily post next, answer emails, prepare visits, and work though all admin work until lunchtime.  I constantly update the website.  Author visits take place in the afternoon, talks or meetings.  After supper I edit the morning’s work before continuing with the chapter I’m writing.  I always clear my email inbox before going to bed.  

What has proven to be your most successful marketing tool?

I think ‘word of mouth’ has been the most important factor that has helped promote my books far and wide.  The Internet, and sites like Amazon, have played a major role in making the books accessible.  Facebook, my own website, book sites, and blogs, can inform and reach a very wide audience too.

What advice would you give to other authors?

Write, read, edit, and then edit again.  I have a process I go through when I write.  Once I’ve finished a chapter I read to myself first and correct any glaring errors.  I then read it aloud to my husband.  You would not believe how many times your brain gives you a better alternative, when reading aloud, to what you’ve written down.  Next my husband reads the chapter to me.  If I’m not hearing what I intended to say, I re-edit, until what I’m hearing sounds right.  When I’m satisfied I’ve edited my writing to the best of my ability, it goes off to the publisher to be edited professionally.

Please provide a favorite excerpt from your book.

(Before reading a word of explanation… a lath is Welsh for wand.  In the book it is a twig, given to Jack by Arrana, the last Hamadryad on earth.)

They entered a large meadow full of knee length grass and tall buttercups.  It looked like a golden carpet in the sunlight.  Nora stopped in front of an open well.  A crystal clear stream ran down from the hillside and trickled into it.  Pieces of rock, covered in moss and strange carvings, surrounded the well.  The clearing was almost circular and looked as if some ancient building had once stood there.  Nora knelt down and put her lips to the water.  At first Jack thought she was drinking but then realized she was speaking. 
A multitude of bubbles broke the surface and a mass of long disheveled green hair, entwined with waterweed, old twigs and some dead leaves, rose from the water.  Underneath the tangle was a pale green face with strange slanting eyes.  The creature shook its head and sent a spray of water everywhere.  Jack could see its ears were pointed and it had unusually long arms.  The foaming water clung to its body like a gown.  When Nora said he might see some strange things in the forest she’d not been wrong.  This was the strangest creature Jack had ever seen.
‘What is it?’ he whispered to Elan.
‘A water nymph.’
‘A water nymph!’ exclaimed Jack. ‘But aren’t they supposed to be beautiful?’
‘She thinks she is!’ explained Elan, but before she could say any more the creature began to speak to Nora.
‘I hope it’s important?’ she wheezed, ‘I was very busy and you’ve disturbed me.’
‘Jennet,’ said Nora, addressing the water nymph, ‘Elan is here and we’ve brought Jack Brenin to meet you.’ 
 She stepped aside so that the water nymph could get a better view of Elan and Jack.
‘Well that’s quite a different matter.  Why didn’t you say they were coming today?’ She looked at Elan first and nodded her head, then turned towards Jack and spoke to him directly. 
‘Come here Jack Brenin so I can get a good look at you.’
Jack stepped forward rather reluctantly and stood in front of the nymph whilst she inspected him.  He felt uncomfortable as Jennet not only looked but also sniffed the air around him.  When she’d finished she turned back and addressed Nora.
‘He’s not much to look at is he?’
‘I agree,’ croaked Camelin. ‘He’s going to be as much use as a chocolate teapot.’
An awful sound came from Jennet and Jack only realized she was laughing when Nora looked crossly at her.
‘I’m going to do my best,’ Jack announced loudly.
This must have satisfied Jennet because she turned her attention back to Nora.
            ‘Does he know what he’s got to do then?’
‘Not yet, but he’s spoken to Arrana and she’s explained our problem to him.’
‘Is that all you wanted to tell me?  I’m very busy you know.’
‘No,’ said Nora sternly, ‘I want you to promise to help Jack should he ever need it and tell the other water nymphs they must promise too.  You can start by working out which symbol Jack needs for the lath Arrana gave him.’
Jennet screwed up her face and narrowed her eyes.
‘What do I get in exchange for this?’
The water began to bubble around Jennet again as she waited eagerly for her gift.  Elan stepped forward and produced a large black shiny marble from her pocket.  The bubbles were now turning into what looked like a mini whirlpool.  Jennet stretched out a long arm and wrapped her spindly green fingers around the offering.
‘This is very acceptable,’ she crooned and pointed towards one of the rocks in front of the well.  ‘This will be your mark.  Come and touch it.’
Jack approached the well, taking care to stay out of Jennet’s reach.   He put his right hand upon the cool mossy rock.  There was a flash of light.  The rock became burning hot.  He pulled his hand away.  Glowing in the rock was a strange symbol.  His finger was throbbing and when he examined it, the same symbol was glowing there too.
‘Make sure you succeed Jack Brenin.  We’re all counting on you.’ 
Jennet’s words were almost lost as a final surge of bubbles engulfed her.  Then she was gone.

Where can readers find you and your book?

My books are available on Amazon UK and Amazon USA, from the bookshop on my website at , or from the publisher at
Thank you for inviting me onto your blog.

Thank you so much for joining me today, Catherine! Your books are loved by both children and adults, and you have had a remarkable journey! It was such a pleasure getting to know you! I encourage everyone to read the Jack Brenin series!

--KSR Writer

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Meet Cheri Schmidt, Author of the YA series "Fateful"

As soon as I finished reading the young adult novel "Fateful" by Cheri Schmidt, I contacted her and asked her to be on my blog. It is a well-written vampire romance that any Twilight fan would enjoy. Welcome, Cheri!

Tell us a little about your background and how you became an author.
I actually don’t have a background in writing, just an overactive imagination. I’ve always had stories in my head, but it took me a while to realize those might not be just for my own personal entertainment. My past professional life was as an artist and a portrait photographer. In collage I majored in photography. These skills have helped me design my own book covers. I realized I could write pretty much by accident. I dreamed about a story entitled The Fairy Ring Enchantment and always thought it would be published as a picture book. I thought I would be illustrating this story, but when I started writing, it turned into a novel. I was extremely confused because I knew it was way too long to be a picture book like I’d originally planned. That story will be finished and published sometime in the next year or two, as a novel. Even though Fateful was not the first story I thought of, it was the first one I finished writing. Seven years ago, I finished Fateful and most of Fractured in about three months. Over the next few years, both books went through several rewrites as I started my goal of getting published.
What is one of your favorite books and why?
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C S Lewis. This was the first book that introduced me to fantasy and transported me to another place, a very magical place. I really wished I could find an enchanted wardrobe like that.
What inspired you to write this book series?
My teenage daughter did a retelling of The Frog Prince for an assignment in her writing class. As I thought about this story, I began to wonder what it would be like if the prince had been cursed with something else. Like what if he was a vampire instead of a frog? And how would she cure him? As I answered these questions, Fateful came to me. The Fateful Trilogy, which was simply Ethan and Danielle’s story, is complete. But there will be many more in the series: including Max and Nadia’s story and an actual cookbook from Sophia. This series started out with a simple story about a frog prince and has taken on a life of its own, I think.
How would you describe your writing process?
When I try to pinpoint my process, I really draw a blank. I suppose I simply get into the story and just write it as it comes. Many times I will write the beginning and then the climactic ending, and then just fill in the middle with the ending always in mind. As I’m working on a story, I will write for hours at a time and then go back and edit what I’d written for that day, two to three times. Many of my best ideas come just as I’m tucked into bed and on the edge of sleep. I keep a notebook by my bed and spend a lot of time writing things down in the dark with my light-up pen.
What has proven to be your most successful marketing tool?
That would be Amazon Kindle Select, or their Prime program. I’ve paid for ads, given free books to book bloggers, and done many giveaways. None of it has driven my sales like KDP Select has. I’ve taken advantage of the free promos and lending program for e-readers they offer. Giving my book away for free occasionally has brought thousands more book sales.
What advice would you give to other authors?
Don’t give up. Join Amazon Kindle Select. One editor is never enough—I generally used 12 or more, and they still missed things. Help support fellow authors. Be friendly with and get to know your readers. Without them, you are nothing....
Please provide a favorite excerpt from your book.
From Fateful:
She was standing in an enchanted forest, being kissed by a vampire, surrounded by hundreds of colorful fairies. This never could have happened in her wildest dreams, and she thought she was pretty creative.
Where can readers find you and your book?
The Book Depository (for free international shipping):
Thanks so much, Cheri! I recommend "Fateful" for anyone who enjoys reading young adult books, and I'm looking forward to finishing the series!

--KSR Writer

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Children's Book Week Giveaway Hop

May 14th Update: Congratulations to the two winners of the Children's Book Week Blog Giveaway Hop: Mother Daughter Book Reviews and Doodlebugs! Thank you for participating and supporting children's books!

--KSR Writer

It's time for another giveaway hop, and we're honoring Children's Book Week! This hop is sponsored by KidLitFrenzy, Classic Children's Books, Mymcbooks, and I Am A Reader, Not A Writer.

This week I'm giving away a FREE eBook copy of my middle grade children's book "Tall Tales with Mr. K" to TWO lucky participants!

The third-graders at Coyote Run Elementary thought the teacher's lounge is where teachers eat candy out of vending machines, watch TV and get to play video games. They didn't expect it to be a tropical island where they are kidnapped by pirates, a circus where they learn the flying trapeze, or a crime scene where they solve a jewelry heist. Each chapter of this young middle-grade fantasy tells the story of a different student's adventure in the teacher's lounge accompanied by their mysterious new teacher, Mr. K. Only one student, Sam, decides to boldly go into the teacher's lounge by himself where he discovers something completely different yet.

Simply follow the instructions below and fill out the form. I will choose two winners at random on May 14th and notify them via email.

Be sure to check out all the other participating blogs listed below. Thank you, and good luck!

--KSR Writer

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Tips for Creating a Successful eBook

I read an interesting blog post from SmartMoney talking about whether or not Microsoft's investment in the Barnes and Noble Nook will actually hurt the success of e-readers. Some believe that as ebooks become more available to read on multiple devices, readers will use their smart phones, tablets, etc. to read rather than traditional e-readers. Others believe if readers have more options, then they'll demand more ebooks. I think anything that increases the demand for ebooks is a good thing.

I also believe readers are smart and will not only demand more ebooks, but will demand good ebooks. We've all heard (and witnessed) the complaints that many ebooks aren't well written. This is where authors need to start. According to Smashwords founder Mark Coker, the number one secret to having a successful ebook is publishing a great book!!

This means spending the time and money necessary to have your book professionally edited and a cover professionally designed. First impressions are still key, even in the ebook world.

Below are several other secrets from Mark Coker that I think are worth mentioning:

Publish a great book, then publish another great book. Best selling authors publish more than one book. If you have multiple books available, offer the first ebook for free. Assuming readers like it (and if it's a great book they will) then readers will come back and purchase your additional titles, especially if you have a series!

Maximize distribution for your ebooks. Make your books discoverable and purchasable. Although many readers find and purchase books from Amazon, there are plenty of readers who use other booksellers, so make sure your reach is as wide as possible.

Build your Author Platform. Contribute, support, and share ideas on your social networking platforms. Be visible (but not by spamming your network with solicitations for your book). According to a Smashwords survey, 29% of their readers discover new book titles from online forums, blogs, and message boards, whereas only 4% rely on recommendations from family/friends. The online community is your friend!!

Word of mouth (whether in person or online) continues to be the number one way books are discovered. So focus on reaching your "first reader" and eliminate any obstacles to reaching that person, which means make your ebook easily discoverable, available to sample chapters for free, and easy to purchase from multiple booksellers.

 Be Patient!! Ebooks follow a different growth curve than traditionally published books. They start small and grow slowly before breaking out. Don't pull an ebook because it's not selling initially! Ebooks never go out of print. Nurture your online author platform and make sure your book is visible to readers.

For some additional interesting data and facts that Smashwords has collected, you can view Mark Coker's presentation here. He has gathered data from Smashwords authors that show ebook trends, such as the longer the word count, the better it sells, which ebook genres sell the best, and what price points sell the most books. The information is not intended to change the way authors write, etc., but rather give authors something to consider.

If you have any thoughts on eBook trends or ways to make your ebook successful, I'd love to hear them!

--KSR Writer