New Year, New Perspective

Welp. It’s 2018. There’s no denying it. And if you don’t know this about me yet, I absolutely love denial. See, I am a super slow processor. I need time to adjust to ideas, and people, and stressful circumstances. Denial is the sweet, sweet friend who helps me get through the present in order to cope with the future.

Before you start quoting me all over social media and praising me as the best new life coach of our time, let me make it clear that I am not exactly recommending this system for anybody else. Also, if you are under 18: “Face your responsibilities. Carpe Diem. And all that.” There. I’ve fulfilled my adult responsibilities, right? Good. Let’s move forward.

So at the end of last year, I was kind of raving about all the exciting things that would be coming in 2018. But now that the new year has arrived I am a little less exuberant. Good things are coming, don’t get me wrong. But the reality is that many of those good things require hard work. The month of January has been, and I think will continue to be, a month of reckoning and counting the cost.

But with that being said, I am still excited for this year. It’s not the “Christmas morning” type of excited where you get free presents. It’s more of a “I’ve committed to climb Mt. Everest and it’ll be hard but amazing” kind of excited.

And I guess the biggest thing I have learned so far this year, is how extremely precious the journey is. Goals are not everything. Mountain peaks are not everything. And in 2018, I intend to enjoy every minute of the difficult, grueling process. I am very thankful for the readers and writers in my life who inspire me and push me to be better. So thank you!

How are you guys doing with the process? Are you always dreaming about the mountain tops, or are you able to appreciate the day-to-day struggle? And what projects do you have this year? Please comment below. I really do love to hear your thoughts!

My First YouTube Interview

So Hannah Heath is hosting me on her Episode 4 of #ChatWithIndieAuthor. Check it out! We talk about my books, my writing process, and answer some questions from you guys!

The Phoenix Fiction Writers!

I know I normally post on Thursdays, but I am making an exception today for this exciting event!

Six indie authors are banding together to form this speculative fiction marketing collective and it’s going to be awesome!

Go drop by the website to learn more about us: www.phoenixfictionwriters.com

Check out our YouTube channel to meet the authors!

And if you sign up for our mailing list right now, you’ll be entered into a giveaway!

 

 

How Do You Rate Art (or My Philosophy on Book Reviews)

Before we get to my philosophy on book reviews, we are going to start with that age-old question: is beauty in the eye of the beholder? Or is there some objective standard with which to measure art? The answer to both questions is yes. Confused? Good. At least I’m not the only one!

I think the answer lies somewhere in between two extremes. The truth is that everyone has their own personal taste when it comes to art. But it is also true that we can find patterns of what people like. Things like symmetry and the golden ratio are pleasing to the eye. Artists of all mediums have learned what people find pleasing and used it to their advantage.

It is also true that standards of beauty differ from culture to culture. But there seem to be certain elements that are universally regarded as good and beautiful. We aren’t going to go into where these standards come from (although I have very strong opinions on that). But we are going to turn this discussion to writing!

So are there objective standards for what makes a book “good?” Yes, you can evaluate a book by the standards of English grammar. You can ask whether the author communicated the message well, or not (although that is partially subjective, too). But ultimately there are no objective standards that make a book good or bad. 

But what about the writing rules?! What about the writing police?! What about publishers and agents who seem to know the perfect standards of storytelling?!

Well, actually there are no perfect standards of storytelling. Publishers and agents may know sells and therefore what trends are currently marketable. But that is not the same thing as an objective standard.

“But what about the writing rules?!” you ask.

Are they really rules? Or are they best practices? The truth is that the first authors didn’t have a bunch of rules. They used the English language to tell the best story they knew how. After seeing which stories did well and which didn’t, people began to develop these rules for how to write books. And if we are honest, those “rules” have changed over time.

Now, before you get angry and label me as “one of those indie authors dragging down the writing community because she doesn’t care about standards”…(you wouldn’t do that would you?) Hear me out.

For the most part, the best practices of writing are good! They exist for a reason. A lot of them are there for the reader’s benefit. I have learned some of this the hard way. I like to write stylistically and tell stories in new ways. Some readers have no problem with this. But I learned that when I submit to some of these best practices, I can reach more readers with my story.

So what does this have to do with book reviews? Well, what exactly is a book review? It’s your personal opinion on your book and a recommendation of whether other readers would like it. It doesn’t have to be a literary critique of every element of the book (unless that is your job). I repeat: it doesn’t have to be a literary critique of every element of the book.

I admit, when I first started reviewing books, I thought five stars had to be absolute perfection. But that is a dangerous standard. Because there is no perfect book in the world. (Okay, maybe one.)

It’s a bit dangerous, and a bit unfair to hold authors to a standard of perfection. Especially when the five-star rating gives you so few options. Let’s think about this for a second: if books were rated on a scale of one to ten, there would be a lot more leeway in the upper tier. I would probably buy and read any book that was a seven or higher. That is four different levels: 7, 8, 9, and 10. But with the current five-star rating, I hesitate to buy a book that is a three. That would translate to a five out of ten.

So clearly the system is a bit unfair. There is nothing in between four (pretty good) and five (perfection). In light of that, I give you my new reviewing philosophy:

Round the star rating up, give the author the benefit of the doubt, and then express any reservations in your actual review. Seriously. Think about it. The star rating piques the potential reader’s interest and indicates whether or not this book might be worth their time. But the reviews go a long way in helping them make that decision or not.

Here’s something else you should consider: if you are an author yourself, you probably have a more critical eye than the average reader. That doesn’t mean don’t be honest. But let the star rating show whether you think people would enjoy the book, and let your review delve into the strengths and weaknesses.

“But what if I give it a three star and then rave about it in the review to show people that I really enjoyed it?”

Here’s the truth: when it comes to spending money, most people consider a three not worth their time. (Remember, a three would be a five or six out of ten)

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be honest with your ratings or reviews. But I hope it gives you a different perspective. Personally, I have a very detailed rating system for books and movies because stories are super important to me. But I have to translate that detailed rating system into something general readers would understand and make decisions off of.

I hope this has given you something to chew on! What do you guys think? I really want to hear other people’s opinions. And let me know in the comments if you are an author yourself, or just a reader!

A Very Bookish Thanksgiving and Black Friday!

I can’t believe the year is almost over! It has been a year of great reads for me and I’m going to take a second to list some of my favorites from this year.

Malfunction by J.E. Purrazzi

The Beast of Talesend and The Tomb of the Sea Witch by Kyle Robert Shultz

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy

Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis

Two Lives Three Choices by K.L.+ Pierce

Where the Woods Grow Wild by Nate Philbrick

Song of the Mountain by Michelle Isenhoff

The Collar and the Cavvarach by Annie Douglass Lima

Jared’s Story by S.M. Holland

The good news is, the year isn’t over! And I am joining Indie Christian Books in their annual Black Friday sale!

From Nov 24th through Nov 30th, a huge selection of independently published Christian books are on sale (including mine!). You can find discounted paperbacks, dozens of books offered with free shipping, $0.99 ebooks, package deals and more. Even if your budget is depleted from Christmas shopping, they have some freebies for you! Need even more of a reason to support indie authors and fill your shelf with good stories? When you purchase a paperback book through indiechristianbooks.com you’ll be eligible to enter an exclusive giveaway including free books and an Amazon gift card!

You can meet the authors by visiting the Author Database on the website. Want to get to know the authors better AND have the chance to win some fun prizes? We’d love to have you join our week long Facebook party which will feature 39 authors over 7 days.

What awesome reads of 2017 are you thankful for? What books are you looking forward to reading in 2018?

A note on the Ebooks Only page. Many of the books are listed as “Sold Out.” This is because we aren’t selling those directly through our site. Please click onto the product pages to find descriptions and links to discounted or free ebooks.

Acknowledgements: Thanks to Leah E. Good and Kendra E. Ardnek</a> for their work organizing this sale, and Hannah Mills for her fantastic design work on the website graphics. Hannah can be contacted at hmills@omorecollege.edu for more information about her design services.

Indie Author Interview #9 Sarah Addison-Fox

Happy Friday! I am so pleased to be hosting Sarah Addison-Fox on my blog today! Have you guys missed me indie author interviews? I have. Normally, I interview authors after I’ve read their work. Sarah is a special exception. But as you will see below you, she is funny, sweet, authentic, and she spells center, centre. What’s not to love? Without further ado…

First off, if you were a combination of three fictional characters, who would they be, and why?

Probably Maggie from my Allegiance series, because she’s a mum, has a heart to help children and tries her best to live her faith through actions. Lucy from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, because she’s honest and imaginative and the Princess from the Princess and the Pea because I’m really fussy.

 Honestly my husband jokes about how much of a Princess I am. Hey, what do you expect? The name Sarah means Princess right!

Besides writing, what are some of your favorite activities?

Reading action-packed books, watching action-packed movies…hmmm there is a theme developing here….

When did you start writing and why?

I started writing in earnest in January this year. Before then I’d studied, gained a diploma and an assortment of other qualifications but I never had the motivation to actually finish a novel.  

Last year I was diagnosed with MS, and suddenly my priorities changed. When I heard comedian Michael Jnr speak about people knowing their “What” (for me that was writing) but not understanding their “Why” everything fell into place. That was the push I needed. Now, after 20+ years of procrastinating I had the best reason in the world to write. For the Glory of God.

Tell us about your book, Disowned (Allegiance #1)! What do you love most about it?       

Disowned is the story of an unwanted slave girl, desperately trying to find a place to belong. A place where she is valued and loved. What I love most about Disowned, would have to be the characters. Especially Mick.

If readers came away with one thing from your book, what would you want it to be? 

Wow, that’s a great question. Maybe to examine how much of a gift freedom is? And to think about why slavery is still rampant today.

Can you tell us a little bit about the sequel without giving too much away?

The second in the series (Dissemble) centres around Celeste trying to keep the Haynes family safe all while deceiving them. She’s locked into a contract and if she breaks it, or fails, she could lose everything and everyone she’s come to love.

What characters/tropes/themes/plots would you love to see more of in fiction?

I’d love to see more functional families and more realism and more humour. Everybody is so serious! Oh, and lots more healthy, respectful, romantic relationships.

But not where the couple get married and never have any problems or any passion! That’s a pet peeve of mine. Passion is a joyous thing within the context that God frames it.

What are three tools/resources that you use as an indie author?

Does chocolate, epic music, and coke count? Er, Word, Mr Google, and kind friends.

What is your advice to aspiring authors?

Put your bottom on the chair, and commit. All the preparation, character profiles, world-building, and research will do you no good if you can’t make a regular commitment to write. The reason I can write a draft so quickly is because I have a 1000 word limit that I stick to every single day no matter if I feel like it.  

Don’t read over what you’ve written and obsess about getting it right the first time. The first draft is supposed to be dreadful. Give yourself permission to make a mess, concentrate on having fun and get those words down!

 It’s really an equation. If you commit to 1000 words a day for two months you’ll finish a first draft. Commitment plus time equals a novel.

Have you read any great indie books lately that you would like to recommend?

 Mind blank on specific authors! I’d have to go back and look on Goodreads, but I have a rule. If I start reading the sample and I don’t like, I put it aside.

If I start reading a book, and list it as reading, it means I’m interested and will see it through. I will never place a bad review. If I don’t like a book I’ve read, I’ll leave unrated and refrain from commenting.

I recommend any books I read which have Biblical truth, are a little different from the norm, have romance and action in them.  If the characters grab me, I don’t care about the technical errors. 

I don’t recommend books I feel are preachy, sappy or unrealistic.

Thanks so much, Sarah! I loved learning more about you and am eager to read your book!

If you want to learn more about Sarah, you can find her on:

Instagram:   instagram.com/sarahaddisonfox/
Facebook:   sarahaddisonfoxfantasyauthor/
Website: www.sarahaddisonfox.com
Twitter: @Saddisonfox
Goodreads: Sarah Addison-Fox

You can go buy her book now on Amazon. Or keep your eyes peeled for the Black Friday Sale coming soon from indiechristianbooks.com !

Exciting YA Action/Adventure: The Student and the Slave

Hi guys! I’m honored to be a part of the blog tour for Annie Douglass Lima’s upcoming book: The Student and the Slave.  I loved the first book in this series: The Collar and the Cavvarach. I didn’t find this series until recently, so I’ve just started the second one. But I have every faith that books two and three will be wonderful.

It’s a fantasy series that takes place in an alternate reality, similar to ours, but with enough differences to make you think: a very prominent system of slavery, for one. They also have this fascinating martial art sport known as cavvara shil, which plays a prominent part in the story. If that sounds at all intriguing (it is), then you definitely need to give this series a try! Here’s a bit about books one and two:

Book 1: The Collar and the Cavvarach

Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is desperate to see his little sister freed. But only victory in the Krillonian Empire’s most prestigious tournament will allow him to secretly arrange for Ellie’s escape. Dangerous people are closing in on her, however, and Bensin is running out of time. With his one hope fading quickly away, how can Bensin save Ellie from a life of slavery and abuse?

Click here to read chapter 1 of The Collar and the Cavvarach.
Click here to read about life in the Krillonian Empire, where the series is set.

Book 2: The Gladiator and the Guard

Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is just one victory away from freedom. But after he is accused of a crime he didn’t commit, he is condemned to the violent life and early death of a gladiator. While his loved ones seek desperately for a way to rescue him, Bensin struggles to stay alive and forge an identity in an environment designed to strip it from him. When he infuriates the authorities with his choices, he knows he is running out of time. Can he stand against the cruelty of the arena system and seize his freedom before that system crushes him?

Click here to read about life in the arena where Bensin and other gladiators are forced to live and train.

Book 3: The Student and the Slave


Is this what freedom is supposed to be like?
 Desperate to provide for himself and his sister Ellie, Bensin searches fruitlessly for work like all the other former slaves in Tarnestra. He needs the money for an even more important purpose, though: to rescue Coach Steene, who sacrificed himself for Bensin’s freedom. When members of two rival street gangs express interest in Bensin’s martial arts skills, he realizes he may have a chance to save his father figure after all … at a cost.

Meanwhile, Steene struggles with his new life of slavery in far-away Neliria. Raymond, his young owner, seizes any opportunity to make his life miserable. But while Steene longs to escape and rejoin Bensin and Ellie, he starts to realize that Raymond needs him too. His choices will affect not only his own future, but that of everyone he cares about. Can he make the right ones … and live with the consequences?

Without further ado, here is an exclusive excerpt from her upcoming release:

In this excerpt, Steene meets some of his new colleagues and learns a little about the family he has been sold to.

A wiry Nelirian man with as much gray in his hair as black picked a spot across the long table from Steene. According to his collar tag, his name was Gerrard. “Steine, huh? I guess you’re my new roommate.” He looked as though he wasn’t sure what he thought of the idea.

“It’s Steene, actually.” Steene felt a flash of irritation at the guy at the auction house who couldn’t be bothered to get his name right. “So what do you do here?”

“I take care of the horses and work with Toby on his riding skills.”

“Toby?”

“The second Jeet kid,” put in a woman whose collar declared her name to be Teri. “Probably the second biggest spoiled brat of the family, after Raymond, though that’s a tossup.”

“No, Kenny’s worse,” said someone else. “Have you ever had to clean up after those rodents of his when he lets them loose in the hallway? Try suggesting he keep them in their cages, and you’ll never see an angrier six-year-old.”

An argument broke out as the slaves around them debated which of the three brothers was the biggest jerk. But Gerrard just shrugged. “Toby’s got his faults, certainly, but he loves his horse. It’s hard to hate a kid who loves a good horse. Raymond, though — you’ll have an interesting time with him.” He chuckled.

“But he loves cavvara shil, right?” Nobody who loved a martial art could be too awful to work with.

“Yeah, I guess.” Gerrard shrugged. “But you’ll see what I mean soon enough.”

Click here to order The Student and the Slave from Amazon for $2.99 a discounted price of just 99 cents through November 31st!

About the Author:

Annie Douglass Lima spent most of her childhood in Kenya and later graduated from Biola University in Southern California. She and her husband Floyd currently live in Taiwan, where she teaches fifth grade at Morrison Academy. She has been writing poetry, short stories, and novels since her childhood, and to date has published fifteen books (three YA action and adventure novels, four fantasies, a puppet script, six anthologies of her students’ poetry, and a Bible verse coloring and activity book). Besides writing, her hobbies include reading (especially fantasy and science fiction), scrapbooking, and international travel.

Connect with the Author Online:

Email: AnnieDouglassLima@gmail.com

Blog: http://anniedouglasslima.blogspot.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AnnieDouglassLimaAuthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/princeofalasia

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/ADLimaOnGoodreads

Amazon Author Page: http://bit.ly/AnnieDouglassLimaOnAmazon

LinkedIn: http://bit.ly/ADLimaOnLinkedIn

Google+: http://bit.ly/ADLimaOnGooglePlus

October Happenings!

Hi guys!

It has been way too long since we sat down and had a good chat. I hope I haven’t been the only one super busy!

So, The Traveler has officially launched into the world. I hope those of you who’ve had a chance to read it have enjoyed it. I have been generally pleased by its reception. I keep thinking about how everyone is going to react when they read the second one (rubs hands together gleefully).

In case you were wondering, the first draft of the sequel is complete, but it will be some time before I can polish it up and make some needed changes. What else am I working on?

Well…The Creation of Jack Book 3, of course! Guys, I am so excited for this book! It takes the series to a whole new level and I get to incorporate a few more classic scifi elements. The scope of it is pretty ambitious, which is why I’m not rushing myself. Unfortunately for you guys that means I have no projected publishing date, yet. But believe me, it’ll be worth the wait!

On top of all of that, I have a super-duper secret project in the works which I am SO EXCITED ABOUT!!!! Leave it to an author to be mysterious. It isn’t a book, but it does have to do with writing in general. It’s going to take a lot of work but it is going to be so worth it! I just know that you guys are all going to love it! For now, we will name it Project Phoenix. A few of you might even know what that means because I’ve thrown out hints!

I hope you are all having a fantastic October! I have been busy with work (for those of you who don’t know, I work for a nonprofit), and super busy reading! But I will try to post a little more regularly now that crazy season is over!

Until next time…