Self-Publishing: An Author’s Experiences

Janet Stafford BRAGI’d like to welcome back B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree, Janet R. Stafford today to talk with me about her experiences in Self-publishing and what she has learned in her endeavor thus far. Janet was born in Albany, NY, but spent most of her childhood and all of her teen years in Parsippany, NJ – so she thinks of herself as a Jersey Girl. She went to Seton Hall University (South Orange, NJ) where she received a B.A. degree in Asian Studies. She also has a Master of Divinity degree and a Ph.D. in North American Religion and Culture, both from Drew University (Madison, NJ). She worked for eight years as an adjunct professor teaching classes in interdisciplinary studies and history. But Janet’s primary call has been serving six United Methodist churches over the past 24 years, where she has worked in the area of spiritual formation and ministries with children and youth. Her current passion is multi-generational worship and learning.

The publication of Janet’s first novel, Saint Maggie, led to the creation of a series by the same name. She followed up with Walk by Faith in 2013 and After the Storm in 2014. Heart Soul & Rock ‘N’ Roll, a contemporary romance, was published at the end of April 2015.

Janet, when did you decide you were going to self-publish?’

I had tried attracting a publisher and/or agent years ago, to no avail. At that point I gave up trying to publish and focused on creating dramatic materials for the churches in which I worked. I realized that self-publishing was a possibility when a friend of mine, Rich Melheim of Faith Inkubators, announced that he was publishing a book through Lulu. I thought, “Well, if Rich can do it, so can I!” So I polished SAINT MAGGIE and began my self-publishing adventure.

What has your experience been like along the way?

My experience has been a major learning curve! I’ve learned so much about publishing in general – everything from formatting and editing to cover design, to distribution and eBooks, to marketing and publicity. Self-publishing is not about writing one’s book. It’s about writing the book and everything else that goes into putting the book into the public’s hands. However, I’ve got to say that I am enjoying the experience. I’ve made some interesting goofs along the way, but every time I mess up, I learn something and am more empowered.

What are some of the challenges you have faced?

The big challenges have been marketing and publicity, and I freely admit that I still am not very good at either of them. I’m just not good at tooting my own horn. It’s hard for me to say “This is the most moving book you’ve ever read” or “This book will sweep you into the conflict and pain of the Civil War.” The Saint Maggie series is an inspiring story about a family, but it’s not going to change anyone’s life. My upcoming romance, HEART SOUL & ROCK ‘N’ ROLL, is fun and engaging, but it’s not going to bring about world peace. Advertising and marketing is all about exaggeration in order to get people’s attention, something I find disturbing and difficult to do. Also, marketing on social media, while free, takes a significant amount of time – time that I would rather spend writing. So the marketing and publicity aspects are quite challenging for me.

Saint Maggie Book with BRAG Medallion

What have you learned in this industry?

I have learned to do what’s best for me and my books. I started out with Lulu then tried a few other publishing/printing platforms, only to come back to Lulu. My reasons are simple: even though the books cost more to print through Lulu, I find that they give better, more personal service and I have easy access to my files. I even run copies for beta readers by uploading drafts to Lulu and printing them while keeping the material private. The process also helps me work on the cover. When the book is complete, I change the setting so that it will be available to the public, add my ISBN, and it’s ready.

I have also learned the value of old-fashioned public relations. One of my favorite things is to give talks and make public appearances. This past February I spoke to one group that was excited to have an author in their midst. Let’s be honest, most indie authors are unknowns, but if you offer to speak to a group for no charge, as long as you can bring your books to sell and sign, many book clubs, discussion groups, and community groups will be happy to have you. People want to pick authors’ minds, discover why we write, how we write, how we come up with characters, and so on. Best-selling authors don’t or can’t do this for local groups. But relatively unknown authors can. Groups and clubs appreciate it if you take the time to converse with them and sign books. It’s a slow-track in the world of publicity and marketing, but for me it’s the more rewarding track.

What are the do’s and don’ts of self-publishing?

1) DO find someone to help you with editing, story continuity, etc. If you can’t afford to purchase someone’s services, then find friends who are avid readers, or school teachers or college professors. Also find people who will be honest with you. You cannot do editing all on your own. I use volunteer beta readers at present.

2) DON’T believe deals that look too good to be true. A simple adage: if it looks too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true. There are countless people and agencies out there looking to separate you from your money. They will tell you that you’ll get x-number of readers or x-amount of publicity if you use their services for x-amount of money. But experience has taught me that there is no magic bullet. I have been taken a few times and I’d like spare you. Be judicious with your money.

3) DO celebrate with the few indie writers who have become well-known and/or wealthy; but DON’T allow their success to make you doubt your own value as an author. Remember, people who write best-sellers are a minority who probably had some phenomenal good luck and/or good friends in the right places. What about talent? They have it – but many little known or unknown authors have talent, too. Don’t forget that.

4) DO work on becoming a better writer. Read work by other authors, be critical when reviewing your drafts, and ask for helpful criticism from others.

What advice would you give to a writer who is considering the self-publishing route?

Know why you’re writing. If it is to get rich and famous, forget about it. You’ll quickly get discouraged when it doesn’t happen. However, if you’re writing because you need to and because you have a story or stories to tell, then go for it – but be prepared to do the hard work and don’t expect to be thrust into the wonderful world of a best-selling book. Instead, look for your rewards in the “small” things. At a recent book club, one reader gave me some helpful criticism of my second book, and then finished up by saying that she could see my growth as a writer throughout the three books. I loved that. Another reader told me on Facebook that I was her favorite author. Are you kidding, with all the other authors out there? That is some kind of compliment! Rewards should not be confined solely to income, book sales, popularity, or number of reviews. Find your joy in the process of writing and publishing, and in your readership.

What are the promotional techniques you use via social media and how much time a week do you spend promoting your work? What are the different sites you use to promote your book?

I use Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter, and have a website for my micro-publishing company (I will be publishing work from another author soon) and one for me as an author. I’m also on Goodreads, but I’m inactive and really should drop it. I found it was just one site too many for me to handle.

Since I also work 25-30 hours a week as an assistant minister at a United Methodist church, ideally I want to devote 15 hours a week to research, writing, and publication. I’ve never really tracked how much time I spend on social media. I suppose now that I’ve got four books under my belt, I should log my time to see. My sense is that social media and website work can suck up a fair amount of time.

As for promotional techniques, I do a few things. For instance, I enjoy putting up impromptu games and offering a book as a prize to the first one to give the correct answer. I did that recently on Facebook with HEART SOUL & ROCK ‘N’ ROLL. On occasion, I run special deals on my author page. I will drop the price or ship for free. However, I don’t care to do deals on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, because it is klutzy to change pricing. Also, I don’t go in for things like KDP Select or Matchbook on Kindle – which probably explains why I don’t get much traction on Kindle or Amazon! But I do not like having to make my eBook “exclusive” to Kindle. For WALK BY FAITH and A TIME TO HEAL, I used a crowdfunding platform called Publish to get the word out and raise money for publishing expenses. Crowdfunding also raised awareness about the books. Occasionally, I have used advertising on the web through Yahoo or Google. The ads did get my work exposed to a wider audience, but I learned that you must watch the daily expenses, as they can pile up quickly.

Finally, I have done giveaways on Goodreads. These were comprised of an offer to give away ten books to ten people who enter the giveaway. I got tons of interest and gave away the ten books, but the follow-through from other potential readers was negligible. I am wary of doing too many giveaways – first of all because they cost money, and at present my company is always short of that! The second reason comes from seeing what has happened to music. Easy access to free music has led many people to expect that all music should be free, forgetting that someone had to create that song. The music did not spring forth from the ether. Of course, the work of musicians, authors, and other artists should not be priced out of the average person’s reach, but neither should a person’s creative work be taken for granted and expected to be free on a regular basis.

Where do you see this industry in five to ten years?

I don’t think of self-publishing as an “industry.” It seems to me that we are so many little ants out there creating books and trying to get readers’ attention. So perhaps self-publishing will become an industry as more small publishing companies and/or authors’ support groups come to the fore. At the present, self-publishing reminds me of the frontier – anything goes until the sheriff, pastor, librarian, and schoolmarm come to town.

If something can be improved upon in this industry, what do you think it should be?

Perhaps we need to have author support groups. Oh, I know writing groups are out there – but my “day job” (or more correctly, my “other vocation”) is demanding. I often work Saturdays, am always busy on Sundays, often at the office on weekday mornings and sometimes doing things on weekday evenings. So hooking up with a face-to-face group doesn’t work for me. But it would be helpful to have online groups where people could exchange experiences, give and get advice, and so on. Hey, maybe I should start one of those! Anyway, the emergence of more organization might make self-publishing an industry.

How long have you been an indie author?

I published SAINT MAGGIE in 2011, so I have been an indie author for four years. I’m a baby in the field! That said, I have published two more books in the Saint Maggie series, and have just launched my first romance. Whether or not I become a “best-seller,” I’m in this for the long run!

Author Link:

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Twitter @JanetRStafford

Squeaking Pips (my publishing company)

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Sunday Book Highlight

Thane

B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree

An awkward and lonely young man with special reason to hate the Huctans, Timothy is trapped in a cycle of purposelessness and drudgery. But when the Huctans conscript him into a secret army—and when a girl with a strange set of skills sets him free—Timothy gets a chance to fight back.

Throwing himself into the rebel cause and training as an elite young Thane, Timothy ignites years of pent-up frustration into an obsessive drive to become the best. For months he practices combat and espionage, finding friendship with an equally fanatical young rebel and losing himself in the exhaustion of training and the danger of missions. Loving every minute of his new life, he wraps his new identity completely in service to the rebel Band.

The rebel Band which, unbeknownst to him, was created to be betrayed.

Book Excerpt

Verinald had no sword, no knife, no poison, and no noose. He was chained to tent pegs by wrists and ankles, which ruled out breaking his own neck. He had a bowl of soup—tin, not glass—and he had a spoon.

The spoon was his best chance.

But before he could work up the nerve to use it, the tent flap rustled. Verinald relaxed his grip and focused on his soup. He was calm. He was rational. There was no reason to take the spoon from him.

Then a voice spoke. “Let him sit up,” it said.

Verinald was not an easily flustered man. He had trained to maintain his composure since he was old enough to talk. He had kept a straight face while in fear for his own life, while lying to generals and kings, and while watching men die. But as he heard that voice—as two Huctan soldiers loosened and extended the chains on his wrists and raised him to a kneeling position—he trembled with a mixture of grief and rage that was beyond his control.

“It’s good to see you alive, old friend,” the voice said.

Verinald forced himself to raise his gaze, to meet the eyes that belonged to the voice. The trembling would not stop.

“Ricera,” he said.

“I know you want to condemn me for my betrayal,” Ricera said. “I know you’re itching to rail against me, to try to make me grieve for what is lost. Believe me, I grieve already. But I have made my choice, and your judgment is the least of my concerns. So let’s skip the shouting and weeping and get on to the reason you’re still alive.”

Verinald knew the reason he was still alive. His only consolation was that they could torture him until their knives grew dull, and he would not tell them anything. Not because he was strong, but because there was nothing to tell. Everyone else was already dead.

“Certainly,” Verinald found himself saying, with a voice that was saner than he felt. “Don’t let me inconvenience you. I know how busy you are with treachery and faithlessness.”

Ricera sighed. “Or you could replace the shouting and weeping with sarcastic jibes,” he said. Then, to the Huctan soldiers, “Leave us, please.”

The two soldiers obeyed, and Ricera squatted on his hams so that his eyes were level with Verinald’s. He was close, well within reach, and Verinald still had his spoon. This, more than anything, was a measure of Ricera’s contempt for him. Verinald might be Ricera’s peer in subterfuge and espionage, but in combat he was no better than a common soldier. Even if the spoon in Verinald’s hand had been a sword, he would have been no threat to Ricera.

“Stop measuring us against one another,” Ricera said. “You have done nothing else your entire life. Focus, just for this moment, on the task at hand.”

Verinald’s hand shook on the spoon, and he could not stop it.

“I have your son,” Ricera said.

Just like that. Ricera’s abruptness should have shocked Verinald into showing some emotion, into betraying something, but this deception was so practiced—so ingrained—that Verinald actually managed to raise his eyebrows in confusion.

“My son?” he said. “I have no son.”

“You have a son, and you know of him,” Ricera said. “Your face has suddenly gone smooth. How many times did we learn that lack of emotion can be just as telling as emotion itself? How old were we when they taught us that? Ten?”

“Who’s measuring us against one another now?” said Verinald.

“You’re right,” said Ricera. “The task at hand. Your task, if you care for your son.”

“I have no son,” Verinald said.

“You have a son,” Ricera repeated. “I sent for him as soon as Eoriden fell. His Huctan mother gave him up without a fight, when she learned that you were dead.”

Verinald’s spoon began trembling again.

Ricera smiled. “And you criticize my faithlessness.”

“The faithlessness of loving a Huctan woman is not the faithlessness of handing your nation over to the Huctan army.”

“The task at hand,” Ricera said. “The point of this meeting is that you, too, will hand people over to the Huctan army.”

“I will not.”

“Tomorrow,” Ricera continued, “I will set you free. I will have my soldiers wound you, if you wish, so that you can invent a story as to how you escaped capture. You will join your friends, if you still have them, and you will gather the remnants of the Duest to yourself.”

“I will not.”

“You will. I have found many of them, but there are many that I have not found. They have gone deep into hiding. But you were always a leader of men, Verinald. I have confidence in you. Over the years, you will gather them to yourself. You will organize them. You will form a resistance. Just think: for a time, you can be the leader of the Duest. I know it is a position you have long coveted.”

“You are mad.”

“You will gather them, lead them, even recruit others who wish to rebel. You will make a safe haven for them, a base of operations, a gathering place. The hill country between Suiton and Shadil will do, I think. I even give you permission, as you see fit, to inflict damage on the Huctans. My only condition is that the damage you inflict does not lead to your discovery. You will maintain secrecy and safety at all costs.”

“You don’t have my son,” Verinald said. “You may have known of him, but you don’t have him. This is a bluff.”

“Secrecy and safety,” Ricera said, “but watchfulness. Because when I call for you, you will respond. You will deliver the remnants of Botan into my hand. You will betray those you have gathered, and in so doing you will earn the life of your son.”

“My son is dead,” Verinald said.

“Your son is alive,” Ricera said. “He is beginning to speak. He is very intelligent; you can see it in his eyes. In that, he is like his father.”

Verinald could not stop himself. He was too tired, too full of despair and hate and self-loathing. He dropped his head, dropped his spoon, and began to weep.

“Take comfort,” Ricera said. “I may fail. All my plans may crumble around me, and I may never send for you. You may never have to betray those who trust you, as I have. You may even succeed in starting a real resistance. The Huctans may govern poorly. Perhaps, in time, you will throw their shackles off and win independence and freedom for Botan. Maybe your son will hear of your name and come to your throne with open arms.”

Ricera’s hand touched Verinald’s shoulder, and Verinald jerked as if burned. He looked up to find a mirthless smile on Ricera’s face.

“But don’t count on it,” Ricera said. “Don’t count on it.”

Travis Daniel Bow

Travis Daniel Bow

Travis Daniel Bow is the author of Thane and its sequel, King’s Table. He grew up in Reno, NV (where he raised pigs for FFA), earned degrees from Oklahoma Christian University (where he broke his collarbone in a misguided Parkour attempt) and Stanford (where he and his bike were hit by a car), and now does research and development work for Nikon. He has eight published short stories, four pending patent applications, one wonderful son, one beautiful wife, and one loving God.

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My Confession as a Book Reviewer

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I am sitting here at my desk contemplating my review for, To Catch a Falling Star by Anna Belfrage. This book is the eighth and final book in the unforgettable series about the Grahams. Alas, they are a fictional family but they will become just as real as your own. I must admit my book reviews in the series has been a disappointment to me. Why would I say that? Let me explain. Sometimes when I read books that touch me so much, I’m at loss at where to begin or how to express my feelings of the story. After all, how does one do that when the writer has so brilliantly portrayed the realities of the human conditions in just about any situation you can think of? Belfrage explores all avenues of life. At least it seems to me. Not only that, she gets right down to the core of the harshness and evil of humanity. She does not shy away from it. I marvel at how she goes to those depths unscathed.

Now, it’s not all about those sad and unfortunate realities…there is love, joy, goodness, faith of God, forgiveness, starting over, birth, the bonds of family, justice or redemption-if you will- and human kindness. You get both sides.

When reading the Graham Saga, you will cry, feel angry, sadness, your heart will race and your chest will tighten. You will smile, feel joy, laugh, feel happiness and will feel the love of family and the love of a mother’s heart.

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Yes, Anna will truly evoke all these emotions in you and much more. Quite possibly you will be forced to confront emotions you did not know you had or have had to deal with. You will question yourself throughout this series. If I was in that situation, would I do that? How would I have treated that person or handled that situation if that happen to me? Could I go to that extent? Now getting back to writing that review!

My review for, To Catch a Falling Star by Anna Belfrage will be posted on May 6th as part of the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours. I would also, like to add that Belfrage is a multi B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree and she will be a returning guest at Layered Pages in the near future. For those of you who don’t know, BRAGMedallion.com is owned and operated by indieBRAG, LLC, a privately held organization that has brought together a large group of readers, both individuals and members of book clubs, located throughout the United States and in ten other countries around the globe. The word “indie” refers to self or independently published books, while B.R.A.G. is an acronym for Book Readers Appreciation Group. It is their mission is to discover new and talented self-published authors and help them give their work the attention and recognition it deserves.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Layered Pages

To catch a falling star

Some gifts are double-edged swords…

For Matthew Graham, being given the gift of his former Scottish manor is a dream come true. For his wife, Alex, this gift will force her to undertake a perilous sea journey, leaving most of their extensive family in the Colony of Maryland. Alex is torn apart by this, but staying behind while her husband travels to Scotland is no option. Scotland in 1688 is a divided country, torn between the papist Stuart king and the foreign but Protestant William of Orange. In the Lowlands, popular opinion is with Dutch William, and Matthew’s reluctance to openly support him does not endear him to his former friends and neighbours. While Matthew struggles to come to terms with the fact that Scotland of 1688 bears little resemblance to his lovingly conserved memories, Alex is forced to confront unresolved issues from her past, including her overly curious brother-in-law, Luke Graham. And then there’s the further complication of the dashing, flamboyant Viscount Dundee, a man who knocks Alex completely off her feet. All the turmoil that accompanies their return to Scotland pales into insignificance when a letter arrives, detailing the calamities threatening their youngest daughter in Maryland – at the hand of that most obnoxious minister, Richard Campbell. Matthew and Alex have no choice but to hasten back, no matter the heartache this causes. Will they make it back in time? And what will Richard Campbell do?

A Writer’s Life with Author Judith Arnopp

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I would like to welcome back Juith Arnopp back to Layered Pages today to talk about her writing. She is from Wales in the UK, is the author of seven historical fiction novels. Her early novels, Peaceweaver, The Forest Dwellers and The Song of Heledd, are set in the Anglo-Saxon/Medieval period but her later work, The Winchester Goose, The Kiss of the Concubine, Intractable Heart and A Song of Sixpence, concentrate on the Tudor period. She is currently researching for her eighth novel about Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry VII. Judith is also a regular blogger and author of historical articles.

Judith, why do you write?

That isn’t as simple a question as it sounds. I have always written, since I was very little anyway and I really wouldn’t know how not to. It is such a huge part of my life, everything I do is structured around research, writing time, promotion – and that is before the business side of things begins. The biggest thrill for me is the creative process; the time I spend at my pc letting the ideas flow and the characters develop. I come away from the desk at the end of the day absolutely buzzing with creative joy.

How has writing impacted your life?

Becoming a professional author has allowed me to do the thing I love to do and get paid for it. It isn’t a chore. I used to feel a bit guilty when I wasn’t making money at it, I sometimes felt I should put my pen away and get a ‘proper’ job but now I don’t have to. Mind you, I never really stop working – even holidays and days out turn into research trips. Since readers began to notice me and my sales have risen life has become both harder and easier; there is more pressure now to keep the books coming but it has enabled my husband to take life easier. I am glad for that and very grateful. Also, probably the most surprising thing, is how many wonderful people I have met through writing. Most of these relationships are ‘virtual’ ones but I have found really good friends, strong supporters and fabulous readers. I spend the first half hour of every day reading emails and messages from readers, or bloggers inviting me to appear on their blogs. For someone who lives so rurally to have so much support from all over the world is an amazing thing!

A Ssong of Sixspence By JA

What advice would you give to beginner writers?

I am often asked this and I think the best advice I could offer is ‘Only attempt to write professionally if it is a compulsion.’ I wouldn’t be able to keep it up if it were a chore. I think writing suffers if you’ve laboured too hard and long over it and the actual act of writing is the easy bit.

Often people have an image of writers enjoying a leisured lifestyle, peppered with literary lunches and book launches, but the reality is very different. Most days my lunch is snatched at the desk, there are crumbs on the keyboard and coffee stains on my paperwork. It is hard, totally absorbing work and, once the book is launched, the literary world can be cruel. Sometimes I think all writers must be crazy but, for me, the pleasure of crafting a new story outweighs the negatives.

Self-publishing is even harder. Many new writers make the mistake of thinking it is the easy option, which may be why there are so many sub-standard books out there. There are also some brilliant ones but those are the ones that have been a labour of love. It is not about just publishing the first draft, there are many, many stages to go through: rewriting, editing and honing it to perfection before you can even think of sending it to print. When you launch a writing career you are embarking on a small business. You will need a team of assistants, beta readers, editors, cover designers. I am not intending to put people off but they should be aware that writing for pleasure is easy, writing for profit is not.

When do your best ideas come to you for a story?

It varies enormously but inspiration usually strikes when I am nowhere near a notebook and pen! Sometimes an idea comes out of the blue, or is inspired by a visit to a historical site. Most often an idea for the next novel is born out something I am currently writing. For instance, when I was writing Peaceweaver I was struck by how hard it must have been for the Saxons to be so overwhelmed by Norman rule. Everything was suddenly different, the ruling class was foreign, the language was different, the laws were different; everything Saxon, all that they were accustomed to was suddenly altered. History, as we know, is written by the winners, that is why I wrote The Forest Dwellers from the point of view of the conquered.

My research often makes me aware of a fresh perspective of a historical figure. I have most recently published A Song of Sixpence, the story of Elizabeth of York and Perkin Warbeck and during the process of writing it the characters became very human to me. I am now researching the life of Elizabeth’s mother in law, Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry VII. I was aware of the events in her life but hadn’t previously considered how they might have affected her. I am having a great time finding out.

The Kiss of a Concubine

How do you respond to positive and negative reviews?

Positive reviews make me happy, of course, negative ones, not so much. I don’t read my reviews but my husband does and sometimes he passes them on to me. I think he gets more upset by a negative response than I do. I read them and consider what they’ve said. If it is a silly, badly spelled one liner, ‘nah, this is rubish, give it a miss,’ type of thing, then I ignore it. A review like that, won’t be taken seriously by prospective readers and there is nothing I can learn from it. If it is a well-written, deeply considered, informed review then I take on board the criticism and act on it if I see fit.

It isn’t possible to write a book that will please everyone. The reading public is diverse and, particularly when it comes to history, have strongly held beliefs. I often wish readers could remember that historical authors are writing ‘fiction’ and in no way suggesting that their version of the story is ‘fact.’ I do try to stick to recorded fact where I can but when I wrote A Song of Sixpence I had to go along with the idea that Perkin Warbeck was in fact, one of the Princes of the Tower. That is not to say I believe that to be so, it is simply the perspective I chose to take to make the fiction work.

Thank you, Judith!

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Book Spotlight: The Masque of a Murder by Susanna Calkins

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In Susanna Calkins’ next richly drawn mystery set in 17th century England, Lucy Campion, formerly a ladies’ maid in the local magistrate’s household, has now found gainful employment as a printer’s apprentice. On a freezing winter afternoon in 1667, she accompanies the magistrate’s daughter, Sarah, to the home of a severely injured Quaker man to record his dying words, a common practice of the time. The man, having been trampled by a horse and cart the night before, only has a few hours left to live. Lucy scribbles down the Quaker man’s last utterances, but she’s unprepared for what he reveals to her—that someone deliberately pushed him into the path of the horse, because of a secret he had recently uncovered.

Fearful that Sarah might be traveling in the company of a murderer, Lucy feels compelled to seek the truth, with the help of the magistrate’s son, Adam, and the local constable. But delving into the dead man’s background might prove more dangerous than any of them had imagined.

In The Masque of a Murderer, Susanna Calkins has once again combined finely wrought characters, a richly detailed historical atmosphere, and a tightly-plotted mystery into a compelling read.

Praise for the Lucy Campion Mystery Series

“…the high-quality writing augurs well for future outings.” -Publisher’s Weekly

“Calkins makes Lucy’s efforts to find the real killer entirely plausible, leading to a nail-biter climax with London in flames. This history-mystery delivers a strong heroine making her way through the social labyrinth of Restoration London.” -Booklist

“Calkins’ debut mystery places her unusual detective in a world rich in carefully researched historical detail.” -Kirkus

“A historical mystery with originality and great attention to detail. Readers are transported to 17th century England, a time when social classes were just beginning to change. The characters are multi-dimensional–including the smart, adventurous Lucy Campion–and the mystery will keep readers turning the pages, and they’ll eagerly await the next book in the series.” RT Book Reviews (4 Stars)

“…an intricate tale of fraud and blackmail, leavened by a touch of romance. Calkins, who holds a doctorate in British history, puts her knowledge to sparkling use in this intriguing mystery, which combines a gripping plot with rich historical detail and one of the most admirable protagonists in the genre.” -The Richmond Times-Dispatch

“Calkins is able to seamlessly weave this romance into the story without making it the main plot line, and keeping the mystery the main focus of the story….The puzzles, anagrams, and many secrets combine to make intertwining plot twists that keep the pages turning. FROM THE CHARRED REMAINS is an exciting, secret filled, historical mystery that will keep readers guessing until the very end.” –Fresh Fiction (Reviewer’s Pick)

“A good yarn and a fascinating look at life in England in a time when things began to change…social classes, positions, servants’ rights…all because of plague and fire.” -Book Babe Blog

“For me, this book was more than a mystery. It was an eye-opening look at what London was like in the mid-1660s, including the plague and fire that ravaged London, class struggle, the plight of women, and the laws of the time. The author’s engaging writing style made it easy to slip back into the past and experience these things with Lucy.” -Book of Secrets

“A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate is Susanna Calkins’ absorbing debut novel. Just a warning that time WILL easily slip away as you become engrossed in this historical fiction mystery.” -1776 Books: A Philadelphian’s Literary Journey

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About the Author

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Born and raised in Philadelphia, Susanna Calkins lives in Highland Park, Illinois with her husband and two sons, where she is an educator at Northwestern University. With a PhD in history, her historical mysteries feature Lucy Campion, a 17th century chambermaid-turned-printer’s apprentice. Her first novel, A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate, was a finalist for the Sue Feder Historical Mystery Award (Macavity). The second in this series, From the Charred Remains, is currently a finalist for the Bruce Alexander Historical Mystery Award. Her third, The Masque of a Murderer, will be released in April 2015.

For more information and to subscribe to Susanna Calkins’ newsletter please visit her website. You can also follow her blog, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

A Pledge of Better Times by Margaret Porter

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A sweeping tale of ambition, treachery, and passion . . .

For generations Lady Diana de Vere’s family loyally served England’s crown. But after King Charles II’s untimely death, her father firmly opposes James II’s tyranny. Charles Beauclerk, Duke of St. Albans—the late king’s bastard son by actress Nell Gwyn—also rebels against his newly crowned uncle’s manipulation. Secretly pledging to wed Diana, he departs for the Continent to become a soldier.

Political and religious turmoil bring about revolution and yet another coronation before Charles returns to claim his promised bride. As companion to Queen Mary Stuart, Diana has followed her de Vere forbears into royal service. She expects Charles to abandon his military career after marriage, but he proves unwilling to join the ranks of the courtiers he despises and mistrusts.

In palace corridors and within their own household the young duke and duchess confront betrayals, scandals, and tragedies that threaten to divide them. And neither the privileges of birth nor proximity to the throne can ensure their security, their advancement—or their happiness.

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Margaret Porter is the author of A Pledge of Better Times and eleven other British-set historical novels for multiple publishers, in both hardcover and paperback, including several bestsellers. Many foreign language editions have been published.

She studied British history in the U.K. and returned to the U.S. to complete her theatre training, and subsequently worked in film and television. After earning her M.A. in Radio-Television-Film, she was a freelance writer and producer for film and video projects. She worked on location for three feature films and a television series.

An occasional newspaper columnist and book reviewer, she has also written for lifestyle magazines. She contributes articles on British history and travel to numerous publications, and her photographs (travel, architectural, and nature) appear in a variety of print media and on websites. At national and regional writers’ conferences she presents workshops on historical research and writing techniques. Her poetry was featured in the literary magazine Granite Review and she spent a summer as Writer-in-Residence at Wesleyan College.

A member of the Authors Guild, Novelists, Inc., Historical Novel Society, London Historians, and other organizations, she is listed in Who’s Who in America; Who’s Who in Authors, Editors and Poets; and Who’s Who in Entertainment.

Margaret returns to Great Britain annually to research her books, and is an avid world traveler. She and her husband live in New England with their two lively dogs, dividing their time between a book-filled house in a small city and a waterfront cottage located on one of the region’s largest lakes.

More information is available at her website.

Category: Historical Fiction    

Publisher: Gallica Press

ISBN   978-0-9907420-4-3 (trade paperback) $14.95

ISBN  978-0-9907420-0-5 (ebook, all formats) $6.99

Pages: 411

On sale: 04/14/15

Marketing: Reviewer ARCs, print, web, and radio advertising; author appearances (New England, South, Rocky Mountain West); blog tour

Readers Group discussion guide

Links to buy, A Pledge of Better Times:

Print edition at Amazon

Kindle edition at Amazon

Print edition at Barnes & Noble

Nook edition at B&N

Kobo

 

Book Review: Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor by Melanie Dobson

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I’m always intrigued with stories that blend the past and present….

In the present, a woman named Heather –who lives in the States- must return to England. Her parents have passed and their cottage needs tending to. She must decide if she is going to keep the cottage or sell it. Shortly after she arrives, she comes across secrets about her parents that change her situation to say the least. Not only that, she has secrets of her own.

In the past, a young girl named Libby- who is not quite like everyone else- finds herself drawn to the son of Lord Croft of Ladenbrooke Manor. Libby becomes pregnant and when her father kicks her out of the cottage, she finds herself in even more trouble. Not only that, Lord Crofts son drowns in the river on the property and no one was ever found responsible.

As the story weaves from the past to present, you become intrigued with the mystery surrounding these two families and as you learn more about them, you are fascinated with their extraordinary but tragic lives. I found this book to be atmospheric, true to the time and place. You really has a sense of the historical surroundings and the emotions the writer brings, leaves you longing to know more about these people’s lives.

Throughout reading the story I couldn’t help but wish I could explore the cottage and the Manor. So mysterious and full of charm. A lovely story.

I’ve rated this book four stars.

 

Book Review: Inspector of the Dead by David Morrell

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David Morrell’s MURDER AS A FINE ART was a publishing event. Acclaimed by critics, it made readers feel that they were actually on the fogbound streets of Victorian London. Now the harrowing journey continues in INSPECTOR OF THE DEAD.

Thomas De Quincey, infamous for his Confessions of an Opium-Eater, confronts London’s harrowing streets to thwart the assassination of Queen Victoria. The year is 1855. The Crimean War is raging. The incompetence of British commanders causes the fall of the English government. The Empire teeters.

Amid this crisis comes opium-eater Thomas De Quincey, one of the most notorious and brilliant personalities of Victorian England. Along with his irrepressible daughter, Emily, and their Scotland Yard companions, Ryan and Becker, De Quincey finds himself confronted by an adversary who threatens the heart of the nation.

This killer targets members of the upper echelons of British society, leaving with each corpse the name of someone who previously attempted to kill Queen Victoria. The evidence indicates that the ultimate victim will be Victoria herself. As De Quincey and Emily race to protect the queen, they uncover long-buried secrets and the heartbreaking past of a man whose lust for revenge has destroyed his soul.

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First off, Inspector of the Dead by David Morrell is pure genius. He is the master of building tension in all the right places. His characters are one of a kind. His plot leaves your heart racing long after putting the book down. Murder. Madness. Dark intrigue. Pure evil. You will not escape it.

After I read this book I could not pick up another book for days! For me that is just unheard of. I had no idea how I was going to write my review for this book. I felt my assessment of the story would pale in comparison and it still does. I really truly don’t know where to begin. I want to take you back to Murder As A Fine Art. That is where all this brilliance begins…but that would take too long and there is so much depth to both stories.

Morrell’s characters are truly extraordinary. Thomas De Quincey and his daughter, Emily are unforgettable! I was completely mesmerized by them. Not only that, you will be drawn deep into Victorian London and its lowest and highest of society. One of the many things I found fascinating about this story was how Morrell weaves in events based on actual  assassination attempts people made on Queen Victoria life.

Everything about this story impressed me to no end.

I’m rating this book five stars.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

What the Victorian Experts Say:

“Even better than Murder as a Fine Art. A truly atmospheric and dynamic thriller. I was fascinated by how Morrell seamlessly blended elements from Thomas De Quincey’s life and work. The solution is a complete surprise.” —Grevel Lindop, The Opium-Eater: A Life of Thomas De Quincey

“The scope is remarkable. Florence Nightingale, the Crimean War, regicide, the railways, opium, the violence and despair of the London rookeries, medical and scientific innovations, arsenic in the food and clothing—all this makes the Victorian world vivid. The way Morrell depicts Thomas De Quincey places him in front of us, living and breathing. But his daughter Emily is in many ways the real star of the book.” —Robert Morrison, The English Opium-Eater: A Biography of Thomas De Quincey

“I absolutely raced through it and couldn’t bear to put it down. I particularly liked how the very horrible crimes are contrasted with the developing, fascinating relationship between Thomas De Quincey and his daughter, Emily, who come across as extremely real. It was altogether a pleasure.” —Judith Flanders, The Invention of Murder: How the Victorians Reveled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Crime

Buy the Book

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Amazon UK

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Books-A-Million

iBooks

IndieBound

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About the Author

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David Morrell is an Edgar, Nero, Anthony, and Macavity nominee as well as a recipient of the prestigious career-achievement Thriller Master away from the International Thriller Writers. His numerous New York Times bestsellers include the classic espionage novel. The Brotherhood of the Rose, the basis for the only television mini-series to be broadcast after a Super Bowl. A former literature professor at the University of Iowa, Morrell has a PhD from Pennsylvania State University. His latest novel is INSPECTOR OF THE DEAD, a sequel to his highly acclaimed Victorian mystery/thriller, Murder as a Fine Art, which Publishers Weekly called ”one of the top ten mystery/thrillers of 2013.”

For more information visit David Morrell’s website. You can also connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.

Inspector of the Dead Blog Tour Schedule

Tuesday, March 24 Review at Unabridged Chick Excerpt at Boom Baby Reviews

Wednesday, March 25 Review at Back Porchervations Interview & Giveaway at Unabridged Chick

Thursday, March 26 Review at JulzReads

Friday, March 27 Review & Excerpt at Jorie Loves a Story Interview at JulzReads

Monday, March 30 Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book Spotlight at Tales of a Book Addict

Tuesday, March 31 Interview & Excerpt at Oh, For the Hook of a Book

Wednesday, April 1 Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book Guest Post at Mina’s Bookshelf

Thursday, April 2 Review at Build a Bookshelf Review & Giveaway at Mina’s Bookshelf

Friday, April 3 Review at Peppermint, Ph.D.

Monday, April 6 Review & Giveaway at To Read, or Not to Read Excerpt & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

Tuesday, April 7 Review at Book Lovers Paradise

Wednesday, April 8 Interview at Back Porchervations Spotlight & Giveaway at Words and Peace

Thursday, April 9 Review & Giveaway at 100 Pages a Day – Stephanie’s Book Reviews

Friday, April 10 Review at Layered Pages Review, Excerpt & Giveaway at Drey’s Library

Monday, April 13 Review at Flashlight Commentary

Tuesday, April 14 Interview at Flashlight Commentary

Wednesday, April 15 Review at So Many Books, So Little Time

Thursday, April 16 Review at Editing Pen Review at Luxury Reading Review at The Maiden’s Court

Friday, April 17 Guest Post & Giveaway at Editing Pen

Monday, April 20 Review & Giveaway at A Literary Vacation

Tuesday, April 21 Review at A Book Geek Review at Books and Benches

Wednesday, April 22 Spotlight at Historical Fiction Connection

Thursday, April 23 Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Friday, April 24 Review & Giveaway at The True Book Addict

 

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Book Spotlight: Scent of the Soul by Julie Doherty

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In twelfth century Scotland, it took a half-Gael with a Viking name to restore the clans to their rightful lands. Once an exile, Somerled the Mighty now dominates the west. He’s making alliances, expanding his territory, and proposing marriage to the Manx princess.

It’s a bad time to fall for Breagha, a torc-wearing slave with a supernatural sense of smell.

Somerled resists the intense attraction to a woman who offers no political gain, and he won’t have a mistress making demands on him while he’s negotiating a marriage his people need. Besides, Breagha belongs to a rival king, one whose fresh alliance Somerled can’t afford to lose.

It’s when Breagha vanishes that Somerled realizes just how much he needs her. He abandons his marriage plans to search for her, unprepared for the evil lurking in the shadowy recesses of Ireland—a lustful demon who will stop at nothing to keep Breagha for himself.

Buy the eBook

Amazon

About the Author

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Something magical happened in the musty basement of Julie Doherty’s local courthouse. She went there intending to research her ancestry, not lose herself in a wealth of stories, but the ghosts of yesteryear drew her into the past and would not let her go. The trail left by her ancestors in those yellowing documents led her from rural Pennsylvania to the Celtic countries, where her love of all things Irish/Scottish blossomed into outright passion.

She became particularly interested in Somerled, self-styled “King of Argyll” and progenitor of the Lords of the Isles. In 1164, he led a fleet of 164 galleys up the River Clyde in an all-or-nothing attempt to overthrow the Scottish crown. What would lead a man of his advanced years to do such a thing?

Of course, history records he did so because the king demanded forfeiture of his lands. But the writer in Julie wondered …what if he did it for the love of a woman?

Those early thoughts led to SCENT OF THE SOUL, Julie’s first novel, available now on Amazon.

Readers will notice a common theme throughout Julie’s books: star-crossed lovers. This is something she knows a bit about, since during one of her trips to Ireland, she fell in love with an Irishman. The ensuing immigration battle took four long years to win. With only fleeting visits, Skype chats, and emails to sustain her love, Julie poured her heartache into her writing, where it nourished the emotional depth of her characters.

Julie is a member of Pennwriters, Romance Writers of America, Central PA Romance Writers, The Longship Company, Perry County Council of the Arts, and Clan Donald USA. When not writing, she enjoys antiquing, shooting longbow, traveling, and cooking over an open fire at her cabin. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, who sounds a lot like her characters.

For more information please visit Julie Doherty’s Website and Blog. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Scent of the Soul Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, March 23 Review & Giveaway at Unshelfish Spotlight at Literary Chanteuse

Tuesday, March 24 Review at The Mad Reviewer Excerpt & Giveaway at Sexy Siren Book Blog Spotlight at I Heart Reading

Wednesday, March 25 Spotlight at Genre Queen

Thursday, March 26 Interview at Mythical Books Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews

Friday, March 27 Spotlight & Giveaway at So Many Precious Books, So Little Time

Monday, March 39 Spotlight & Giveaway at Cheryl’s Book Book

Thursday, April 2 Spotlight & Giveaway at Griperang’s Bookmarks

Sunday, April 5 Review at Carole’s Ramblings

Monday, April 6 Review at Book Nerd

Wednesday, April 8 Review at The Lit Bitch Interview at Sizzling Hot Books Spotlight at Layered Pages

Thursday, April 9 Spotlight at Deal Sharing Aunt

Friday, April 10 Spotlight at Romance Book Junkies

Wednesday, April 15 Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book Spotlight at A Literary Vacation

Thursday, April 16 Review at Dreams Come True Through Reading

Friday, April 17 Review at The True Book Addict Spotlight & Giveaway at Boom Baby Reviews

Scent of the Soul Book Tour Banner

 

Aegis Incursion by S.S. Segran

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On a bright July morning in 1948, a B-29 Superfortress flying a top-secret research mission over Nevada crashes into the calm waters of Lake Mead and sinks, remaining lost for half a century.

It has been nearly a year since five friends—Jag, Kody, Mariah, Tegan and Aari—mysteriously reappeared in a small town in Yukon several weeks after their small plane went down in Northern Canada. All were found in good health but with no recollection of what happened to them after the crash.

A baffling contagion is spreading across the bread-basket of North America destroying vital crops. As this dark shadow marches across the globe, widespread famine and riots bring desperate nations to the brink of war.

These seemingly unrelated events set the stage for a battle between the forces of darkness and those destined to become the ‘bearers of light’. From ravaged fields in the Great Plains to clandestine installations around the world, the Aegis League must race against time to save humanity.

Praise for The Aegis League Series

“Five Stars! Unique and compelling. Delivers on every level… ”

~ Readers’ Favorite Book Reviews ~

“Unique and compelling! With non-stop action, adventure and intrigue,

Aegis Incursion will appeal to fans of Maze Runner, Percy Jackson and Hunger Games.”

~ Michael Beas – Bestselling Author of ‘Strump: A World of Shadows’ ~

“Astonishingly Imaginative and thoughtful…the book should be read both quickly and slowly – quickly in order to enjoy the rapid sledding of the plot and slowly to mull characters and ideas. Aegis Rising sets a festive narrative table and makes the reader eagerly anticipate a sequel.”

~ Samuel F. Pickering – Professor Emeritus of English, University of Connecticut

& Inspiration for the film Dead Poets Society ~

“S.S. Segran wields a skillful pen that transcends her youth by crafting haunting prose, vivid imagery,

and a well thought out plot to cast herself into a mix of young authors to watch.”

~ Christopher Gill – Amazon Reviews ~

“What a blast! A roller coaster ride filled with twists and turns that leaves the

reader devouring every page right up to the last word in the epilogue.”

“S.S.Segran brings us a worthy sequel to her best-selling debut novel, Aegis Rising. Relentless action and gravity defying twists and turns hold the reader in a tight grip till the last page.”

~ Honore Gbedze – The SAGE Foundation ~

“An extraordinary effort… all the more amazing given the author’s age. I was especially gratified by the way she used the teen protagonists’ close knit relationships as the backdrop against which the dramatic events in Aegis Rising unfolded, without having “love interest” or other typical teen story devices hijack the underlying theme of the book. She’s a real talent!”

~ Red Grammer – Grammy Nominated, Award Winning Producer ~

“Recommended! Screaming for adaptation as a successful film…”

~ The US Review of Books ~

S.S. Segran

S.S. Segran spent a good chunk of her childhood exploring the enchanted forest of a million tales in the mystical land of books. In her early teens, she began crafting intriguing new worlds and conjuring up characters who came alive with the flick of her wand… err… pen. With the publication of Aegis Rising in her senior year of high school, she was surprised by the abundance of time that magically appeared right after graduation. She plans to use this newfound resource to expand the arc of the Aegis Series. Her future plans include studying Cognitive Science at university and helping youths in developing countries realize their potential through her non-profit organization, Aegis League  

When not devouring a book or writing one, S.S. Segran can be found standing behind the cauldron of life, stirring a potion made up of chores, parkour, gaming, drawing, horseback riding and—having recently jumped off a perfectly fine airplane at fifteen thousand feet – perhaps skydiving.

 S.S. Segran B.R.A.G. Medallion for Aegis Rising