• Fangirl-ing over Rainbow Rowell

    At the risk of sounding petty: DANG, I WISH I HAD WRITTEN THIS ONE! I liked it even more than Rowell’s  Eleanor and Park. (You might to if you thought E&P was a bit of a bummer but didn’t want to admit it.) Fangirl combines the emotional honesty and unflinching look at sadness that Rowell(…)

  • Mac is Back: Title release and giveaway for the McKenzie Duncan series

      From author Adrianne James: “Today is the title reveal for Adrianne James’ final installment in the Mackenzie Duncan Series. If you love paranormal romance, you need to check out this incredible Werewolf tale that follows Mackenzie from the time she was bitten until she learns the real truth behind her life and her future(…)

  • Quickie review: Why We Broke Up

    When I first picked up this book, I noticed that it felt heavier than most hard cover books – even the librarian seemed surprised by its heft when she checked it out for me. Its weight comes from the absolutely gorgeous water colors by Moira Kalman that introduce each chapter, lovely still lifes that represent(…)

  • Cover reveal: The Elsker Saga and Giveaway!

    Here is the big, beautiful new cover for the first book in  Elsker Saga, Elsker. I’ve read it, and you will  as well. Here’s a little blurb to get you eager for the release: ELSKER The Elsker Saga #1 by ST Bende You don’t win the heart of an immortal assassin without making a few enemies(…)

  • Snark Style: What Georgia and her sisters wear to the prom

    In Prom and Prejudice, the final book* in the enovella series Snark and Circumstance, Georgia Barrett’s sisters go the prom. So I consulted the most stylish person I know, Polyvore fiend Clary Gracewood, to come up with the perfect outfits for each of the sisters. She did a great job. See whose style you share(…)

Fangirl-ing over Rainbow Rowell 0

fangirl-ftrAt the risk of sounding petty: DANG, I WISH I HAD WRITTEN THIS ONE!

I liked it even more than Rowell’s  Eleanor and Park. (You might to if you thought E&P was a bit of a bummer but didn’t want to admit it.) Fangirl combines the emotional honesty and unflinching look at sadness that Rowell presented in E&P with a funnier set of characters and premise. Cather, the MC, enters her first year of college somewhat lonely and somewhat perfectly okay that way. She’s relied on her twin sister, Wren, for a social life in the past and Wren wants a little more independence, which saddens Cath but leaves her more time to write her brilliant and wildly popular fan fiction for a Harry Potter-like series that is about to end. Without Wren, she makes no effort to meet people but has to deal with her older and somewhat scary roommate, Regan. And with Regan comes her almost constant companion and probably-boyfriend, Levi. Cath’s got good reasons to be wary of people, especially charming guys who smile too much and couldn’t possibly be as interested in her as he appears to be.

I know the feeling, sweetie. I loved entering the world of fan fic and fandoms, and I couldn’t have been more surprised to have developed a crush on a fictional Nebraska farm boy, but the growth of the relationship between Cath and Levi kept me turning pages long after I should have turned in for the night. It’s sweet, smart, and utterly believable. You’ll be “rooting” for them, too.

Mac is Back: Title release and giveaway for the McKenzie Duncan series 0

shutterstock_30985633

 

From author Adrianne James: “Today is the title reveal for Adrianne James’ final installment in the Mackenzie Duncan Series. If you love paranormal romance, you need to check out this incredible Werewolf tale that follows Mackenzie from the time she was bitten until she learns the real truth behind her life and her future in the Werewolf world. Mix in a few hot men who also happen to howl at the moon and you have an exciting tale full of romance and adventure.

“Today you all are being given a chance to win a role in the final book! Each blog or Facebook page that is participating will have a clue that can lead you to the title and plot line. After you check out the clues, head over to Adrianne James’ facebook page for the final clue. There you can leave a comment with your guess as to the title and what you think will happen in the final book. The person (or persons) closest to the correct answer will be written into the book! The winner will get to decide what type of wolf, the human description, even their personality. Sound like a kick ass prize? I thought so!”

[see photo above for clue]

“Once you have a good look, head to the other pages for more clues!

https://www.facebook.com/FirstPageToTheLast

https://www.facebook.com/stephanie.wardrop.5?fref=ts or her blog http://www.stephaniewardrop.com/

https://www.facebook.com/sarracannon

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Paranormal-Reads/210602165622398

https://www.facebook.com/ParanormalRomanceAuthorsThatRock

http://abbycook30.wix.com/abbys-book-blog1#

And Finally,

https://www.facebook.com/AuthorAdrianneJames

 

Good luck!”

Quickie review: Why We Broke Up 0

10798418When I first picked up this book, I noticed that it felt heavier than most hard cover books – even the librarian seemed surprised by its heft when she checked it out for me. Its weight comes from the absolutely gorgeous water colors by Moira Kalman that introduce each chapter, lovely still lifes that represent important artifacts from the relationship that’s given a post mortem in Handler’s book.

As I began reading, I noticed something else – something about the style and voice struck me as very familiar, in a pleasant way, yet I had never, to my knowledge read anything by Daniel Handler. But I had, as it turns out, as he is the incomparable Lemony Snicket! How We Broke Up carries much the same humor, often dark, the same sharp, clever turns of phrase and some other less definable characteristics that are bound to please any young reader who is ready to move on from the “Series of Terrible Events” to perhaps the most terrible event of all: romance’s often ugly disintegration.

The novel’s premise is that its first-person narrator, Minerva “Min” Green, is writing the narrative in the form of a letter to her ex-boyfriend Ed.  The letter will be placed in a box with all of the mementoes of their relationship and an explanation of what each meant to Min then, in the throes of love, and now, after love’s crashed against the rocks. In Min, Handler creates an utterly believable smart, cinema-obsessed young woman who finds herself inexplicably falling for the stereotypical jock. He makes us see from the beginning why the relationship will never work (we already know it doesn’t from the title) yet makes Min’s and Ed’s mutual attraction nonetheless believable.  You don’t read the book to find out “why they broke up.” You read to hear Min’s wryly honest perspective and you hope for her even as you see the events unfold in their inevitability.

Why We Broke Up is a great book, whether you’ve loved and lost or not. It’s funny, sad, and presents several true-to-life and compelling characters. You may even wish some of the movies Min loves so much were just as real.

Cover reveal: The Elsker Saga and Giveaway! 0

ELSKER-Ebook-03-31-14

Here is the big, beautiful new cover for the first book in  Elsker Saga, Elsker. I’ve read it, and you will  as well. Here’s a little blurb to get you eager for the release:

ELSKER
The Elsker Saga #1
by ST Bende

You don’t win the heart of an immortal assassin without making a few enemies along the way.

Kristia Tostenson prefers Earl Grey to Grey Goose and book clubs to nightclubs, but when she transfers from her one-stoplight town to Cardiff University in Wales she falls in love with Ull Myhr.  Her new boyfriend isn’t exactly what she was expecting.  He’s an honest to goodness Norse God – an immortal assassin fated to die at Ragnarok, the battle destined to destroy Asgard and Earth.  Kristia’s crazy visions are the only thing that can save their realms.  Her orderly life just got very messy. 

As the say in infomercials: BUT WAIT! THAT’S NOT ALL!

You won’t have to wait long for more of the series because Tur releases soon as well!

TUR-Ebook-04-04-14

TUR
The Elsker Saga #0.5 
by ST Bende

Inga Andersson is the envy of every girl in Asgard. On the surface she has it all — great friends, a job as Odin’s personal fight choreographer, and a happy ever after with her realm’s hottest assassin. But when evil invades Asgard, her perfect world comes crashing down. Someone is planning to kill off the gods, and Inga’s best friend Ull is first on their list. With the Norse apocalypse a nanosecond away, Inga has to decide how she’ll spend her final moments of freedom. Because from the moment this battle begins, Inga’s happily ever after will be nothing more than a memory. 

Some things are worth fighting for.

If you like sweet romances with lots of action, some supernatural heroes, and hunks in tight sweaters, then these books are for you. Marvel’s Thor is all well and good (even better? Loki), but S.T.Bende’s spin on the Norse gods and legends will leave you swooning.  While you’re waiting for the books, check out S.T. Bende  on her blog, Facebook  or Goodreads pages. Or tweet her and she’ll send you (virtual) waffles (you’ll have to read the books to find out why you want these waffles).

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Here’s a little bit about Ms. Bende:

Before finding domestic bliss in suburbia, ST Bende lived in Manhattan Beach (became overly fond of Peet’s Coffee) and Europe… where she became overly fond of the musical Cats. Her love of Scandinavian culture and a very patient Norwegian teacher inspired the ELSKER series. She hopes her characters make you smile and that one day pastries will be considered a health food.

There’s also a Rafflecopter giveaway! Win copies of ST Bende’s and other books.

Snark Style: What Georgia and her sisters wear to the prom 2

640px-Wrist_corsageIn Prom and Prejudice, the final book* in the enovella series Snark and Circumstance, Georgia Barrett’s sisters go the prom. So I consulted the most stylish person I know, Polyvore fiend Clary Gracewood, to come up with the perfect outfits for each of the sisters. She did a great job.

See whose style you share among the Barrett sisters:

photo 2Tori goes for the classics. She’s confident and modest and knows that whatever she wears, her boyfriend Trey is going to love. Tori always makes the right choice, in clothes and in life, but Georgia loves her anyway.

 

photo 3Cassie thinks it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t full of bling. She likes to make a statement and to sparkle and she’s pretty sure that whoever her date is, he’ll find her hot.

photo 4Cassie’s twin, Leigh, is her polar opposite. She’s very modest and probably wouldn’t even go for all of those bangles on her wrist, but she ought to loosen up a little bit for prom night,right? Good thing she and her boyfriend, Alistair, worked things out.

Georgia doesn’t go to the prom – but Michael  asks her to come over to his house on prom night. But does that count as a date? She’s not sure, but she wants to look good. Here’s what Clary thought she should wear:

photo 1Except for her classic Chuck Taylor kicks, this might be a little fancy for George, actually.

What’s a girl to do? How do you dress to impress without looking like you’re trying?

My friend and fellow writer ST Bende asked that question over on her blog. If you leave a comment (and read an excerpt from Snark 4 Prom and Prejudice), you could win a copy of it! Head over to her blog and enter! 

*and fear not, Snark 4 isn’t really the end for Georgia and Michael. A full-length book is coming out this fall!

Prom and Prejudice Teaser #2: The Soundtrack 0

800px-Apple_iPod_mini_blue-2005-03-07If the final installment – the big romantic finish – of the Snark and Circumstance series had a soundtrack, this is what it would sound like:

Track 1: P!nk’s “True Love”

Cover by Ernesth Garcia http://ernesthgarciadesigns.blogspot.com/2013/07/pnk-true-love-feat-lily-allen.html

Cover by Ernesth Garcia http://ernesthgarciadesigns.blogspot.com/2013/07/pnk-true-love-feat-lily-allen.html

P!nk is one of my MC, Georgia’s, favorites, and not just because she has an exclamation point in her name, and this song presents an extreme example of what she and Michael feel for each other. They used to almost “really hate” each other, and now that they’ve found love, I’m pretty sure there will be times when they still want to “wrap [their] hands around” each other’s “necks.”  But it’s true love nonetheless.

Track 2: Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran, “Everything Has Changed”

Everything+Has+Changed+LyricsWhen I first heard this song, I was kind of startled by how exactly it had captured something Georgia says in Prom and Prejudice. After she and Michael spend some quality smooching time, she marvels at how the world seems to have changed in the last twenty minutes and says, “Everything is different now, isn’t it?” And that’s how love – especially first love – feels, isn’t it?

Track 3 – Jason Mraz “I’m Yours”

0000256774_350 This song is all about surrendering yourself to “just go with the seasons”, to just give yourself up and admit you love someone. Plus Mraz is a vegan, so Georgia would totally approve if I told her this was her and Michael’s  “song.”

Quickie review: The DIVERGENT movie (A Dystopian View of Standardized Testing?) 0

This is not Dauntless cake, alas.

This is not Dauntless cake, alas.

There is no Dauntless cake in the blockbuster movie version of the first book of Veronica Roth’s YA series Divergent. But that’s my only complaint.

When I saw the movie today at an early afternoon showing, there were probably more (or at least as many) full-fledged adults as young adults in the audience, and as many men as women. So it looks like the Divergent franchise may save YA novel adaptations for Hollywood, which, according to numerous media reports, was ready to pull the plug on any other YA book-to-movie scripts after a string of disappointments like Beautiful Creatures and The Mortal Instruments. This film adaptation of this novel was far superior to the latter in that it didn’t alter the characters or plot in fairly unforgivable ways. Tris’ mom may have a slightly bigger role in the film, Uriah is gone, and most other characters are flattened out so that Tris and Four are our main focus. They have the only romance in the movie, so Christine/Will fans are in for a disappointment, perhaps to downplay Tris’ role in Will’s fate (I’m trying to avoid spoilers here). But the first Tris/Four kiss kind of makes up for that.

From the moment the letters spelling “Divergent” collect and then scatter (diverge?) on the big screen, you’re pulled into this world and happy to be there. It opens on a post-war Chicago landscape, zooming into the city after showing us the surrounding walls-topped-with-fences that “our founders built . . .keep us safe,” as Tris’ voiceover tells us. This voiceover exposition works well to establish the scenario of isolated districts (can I use that word?) separated into factions so that “everyone knows where they belong,” as Tris says, adding, “except for me.” Sounds like high school, and this parallel between the film and a somewhat dystopian real life is one of the most engaging aspects of the series and highlighted in the film. As teenagers we all want to figure out who we are where we belong, and the series plays well into the anxieties of this generation’s teens who were raised in a world of standardized testing so that no child could be left behind (but so many are). Like most teens in public schools in the US, Tris and her peers have been taught to “trust the test” to “tell” them who they are. But because no test can truly do that, and because the would-be governing faction of this world wants to preserve our cherished American notion of individuality and choice even as it created and perpetuates the factions, young people like Tris are also told that they can choose any faction to belong to, no matter what they test into.

The ferris wheel here is in much better shape than when Tris and Four climb it. Photo taken by E. Kvelland.

The ferris wheel here is in much better shape than when Tris and Four climb it. Photo taken by E. Kvelland.

A lot of adolescents can identify with Tris as she tries to find herself and navigate these inherent contradictions in her social structure, even identifying with the point that what separates Tris (her divergence) is what simultaneously makes her special/powerful and dangerous enough to be outcast or eliminated. (She may even have ADD as she is told her “mind works in a million different ways.” ) So much of the pleasure of this movie comes from Shailene Woodley’s performance and watching a 16-year-old girl outsmart and out-lead a group of male government leaders (the main female leader, Kate Winslett, is as awesome as one would expect, as well). While Woodley looks enough unlike the “book” Tris to have upset many fans, she is unlikely to disappoint them in her performance. Theo James makes a suitably hunky and enigmatic Four, though I found the moment when Tris learns his secret past to be a little disappointing. Still, if Theo James asked me if I wanted to see his tattoos, I would not have to think about my answer for more than a nanosecond.

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AShailene_Woodley_-_Flickr_-_nick_step_(2).jpg

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AShailene_Woodley_-_Flickr_-_nick_step_(2).jpg

Divergent begins what looks like a very promising series. It’s as successful in its adaptation as The Hunger Games franchise and judging by the makeup of the audience today, it seems like it will bring in new fans of political intrigue and action even if they haven’t read the books.

Leave a comment and tell me what you thought of it. Try to avoid spoilers, though, please.

(Anti)social media, or My Shaky Author Platform 0

512px-Megaphone-redMost aspiring writers have heard this advice: before you can even think about being published, you need to establish an author platform. For many of us, it seems like a weird thing to do before you’ve actually written anything that anyone besides your family, friends, and critique partners would know about, and I have heard rumors recently that some editors and agents are seeing the platform as less of a must-have before working with a new writer.  After all, isn’t it better for both the aspiring writer and their would-be agent/editor to have that writer working on their manuscript instead of posts and tweets and status updates? I’ve also heard rumors of a bit of a backlash against all the social media mongering most writers have had to engage in. One writer recently said that her writers’ group is dropping their collective blog due to lack of time and traffic and I’m not surprised by this.

So my question is: Has social media reached a saturation point for many writers?

Sometimes I think so. And not just because I feel so overwhelmed at times by all the venues I’m supposed to take advantage of that I would like a reason to stop.

When I signed with my small press, I like, many newly minted writers, was advised to set up an author page on Facebook, a Twitter account, keep up the blog, and get on Goodreads. (This was only about a year ago and since then I’ve made an author account for  Pinterest but have not yet gotten around to figuring out Instagram or Vine. I figure if I wait long enough the next big thing will come around and I will jump on that.) If I take account of how effective each of these social media venues have been in establishing me as a writer (don’t make me say “my brand”), I think the results are mixed.

Facebook 

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Facebook has been a wonderful thing for me, personally, and probably helps professionally. Before starting my author page, I  reconnected with old friends, boyfriends, acquaintances, and former students whom I would likely never have heard from again pre-Facebook. It’s fun knowing the names of their kids, what they’re up to, who’s gone bald. Professionally, I was asked to join a group of other new indie and small press writers and that has been a boon. We share each other’s triumphs and help each other through the setbacks, we promote each other’s stuff on our blogs and on the collective blog, Indie Ignites, and are indispensable to me for advice and at times shoulders to cry on. My author page gets some traffic, I think, but nothing that would impress most writers. My most popular posts are not links to blog posts or sharing other writers’ book news – they’re birthday wishes or on-this-day-in-history reminders about writers or brave women or just pop culture silliness (My most popular post in months involved announcing that I share a birthday with John Turturro, Frank Gehry, Brian Jones, and  Paul Krugman. Go figure). So I now subscribe to site that sends me daily emails about famous birthdays and try to post any time there’s a cool writer or important (to me) historical figure celebrating a milestone. Maybe it gets people to think about my books?

Who knows?

Twitter

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I am a most reluctant Tweeter. I just don’t feel I have a lot of interesting stuff going on on any given day to tweet about. If I think of something funny, I’ll tweet that, and the 140-character limit has forced me to edit each bon mot into byte-sized chunks, which could be a good thing. But as my number of followers grows, I grow more skeptical. I have absolutely no idea who most of them are and doubt that they have read, let alone enjoyed, my books. I suspect many of them are bots, but most seem to be writers’ services (self publishing houses and formatters, blog tour coordinators, etc.) hoping to get my business. My worry about Twitter is that for me at least it is an ever increasing but closed circle of writers following each other and trying to get each other to read their books. I have hooked up with some great bloggers through Twitter, though, and when I got my most recent cover from my publisher, I tweeted “Anybody want to do a cover reveal” and was gratified to have a lot of people ready and willing to reveal my cover to the world.

Goodreads

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My worry about the closed circle applies even more to Goodreads, unfortunately. I’ve basically stopped using it, though I get (and accept) several friend requests a day. I was turned off of Goodreads months ago by a rash of trolls posting scathing reviews of books that they could not have read because the book wasn’t out and they hadn’t received an ARC (advanced reader copy). Who does that? I don’t want to know. And I may stop accepting friend requests from people I don’t know because I’m being inundated with “read my book” messages. Believe me, as a writer, I know how hard it is to get people to read your work. But if we’re all just shouting at each other “Hey! Read my thing!” then who’s actually reading the things?

Pinterest

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I discovered Pinterest as a “private citizen” without a book to shill  and fell in love. How did I ever make dinner without it? So it seemed logical to create an author account and post images related to my books, vegan recipes related to Snark, and other YA- related fun stuff. I still like doing that, but I’m having a hard enough time keeping up with a demanding full time job, life, family, and trying to squeeze in writing time to keep up with it like I once did.

Tumblr_Logo.svg

 

I’ll admit it – I went to Tumblr at fist because I’d heard all the kids were doing it. And I love Tumblr. I love following the person who is cooking all of the burgers of the day from Bob’s Burgers and those obsessing about the movie Velvet Goldmine and I used to post my blog thereI know other people blog on Tumblr but I find it cumbersome. My images never loaded properly (and I see lots of other people’s tumblrs filled with what look like blank versions of old Polaroids, so I’m not the only one confused by this). Tumblr seems to wrk best for quick bits and a link to a blog site rather than a blog itself, but again, I am not presenting myself as an expert here in any way.  If Tumblr works for you, please tell me how!

So that’s my history with author platforms. I’d love to hear any advice you guys have (or questions even) about how to do it more effectively. I’m certainly not a model to follow but as I figure out what I’m doing, I’ll share with you guys. Assuming there are some of you out there and the blog part of the platform is reaching anybody. (For now, please imagine me tapping the edge of a microphone and saying “Is this thing on? Is anyone there?”).

If you’re a newbie setting up author platforms, good luck to you! It can be a lot of fun and you can learn a lot about yourself and writing and different audiences. Just don’t forget to keep up with the writing that led you to create the platform in the first place.

New release: Mermaids plus zombies! 1

StarvingforLove_1600X2400The Little Mermaid meets The Walking Dead? That’s a combination that is so seemingly insane it has to be pretty awesome, right? Nicole Zoltack’s Starving for Love releases today! Here’s the blurb:

Sirena never thought a trip to the surface would change her life forever until she meets Kristian. The sea might hold her body, but Kristian now holds her heart. Their love can never be, however, for she is a mermaid and he a human.

Rushing to steal some time with him, Sirena swims as if sharks are after her only to find Kristian’s lifeless body in the sea. Heartbroken, she turns to a sea dragon witch. With the promise to bring Kristian back to life at the mere cost of Sirena’s memories of him, the sea witch works her magic. Only, Sirena isn’t specific enough with her request, and her love returns as a zombie who threatens the mortal world.

Longing to fill the emptiness inside, Sirena swims to the surface and discovers a distraught child crying about a monster eating his family. Appalled at the notion, she promises to slay the monster, not knowing she is seeking to destroy the man she loves.

Nicole Zoltack loves to write in many genres, especially romance, whether fantasy, paranormal, or regency. When she’s not writing about knights, superheroes, or zombies, she loves to spend time with her loving husband and three energetic young boys. She enjoys riding horses (pretending they’re unicorns, of course!) and going to the PA Renaissance Faire, dressed in garb. She’ll also read anything she can get her hands on. Her current favorite TV show is The Walking Dead. To learn more about Nicole and her writing, visit http://NicoleZoltack.blogspot.com.

Starving for Love is available on Amazon now.