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How technology is changing our reading habits

In this fascinating survey, paper-book lovers share how technology is changing their reading habits

PAPER TECH By Lucie Smoker
I asked four avid readers in Britain, Canada and the US how devices have changed their reading—but hold on a minute: these are four people who love paper books. Their responses showed how technology seems to support their literary habits—and broaden their horizons.

Do you enjoy paper books? Where do they fit in your mix? eBookSoda wants your thoughts, too. Check out the full survey below and then share your own answers in the comments. Invite your friends who love paper books to join in.

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Leslee B. believes in true love, fairy tales, and happily ever afters. Mostly though, Leslee believes in coffee. She lives in the mid-western United States and tends to read three books at a time.

Fully converted from brick-n-mortar bookstore devotee to reading across several e-platforms (see below), Leslee still reads paper children’s books aloud to her son.

 

Leslee’s answers:

1. How do you read? In other words, on paper or devices and which ones?
Leslee: I’m one of those crazy people that can have two or three books going at once because I use different devices or apps. Primarily, I use my smart phone. I have two reading apps (Overdrive and Kindle) as well as an audio book app (Audible). I usually have an audio book going in my car as well. I also have a Kindle but am using it less frequently thanks to my smart phone Kindle app.

From time to time it’s easier for me to pick up an actual paper book, but generally I read less than half a dozen a year in paper form. For my young son (that I still read to) it is paper all the way from this Mama. He has a kids’ tablet that has a reading app on it and he listens to a few books on that as well.

2. What types of books do you like to read?
Leslee: My favorite genre is Romance and I enjoy full length books as well as novellas and shorts. I like all the subgenres; historical, paranormal, and contemporary. I am a sucker for the Happily Ever Afters. I do read a few mysteries, science fiction, urban fantasy, women’s literature, novels, and young adult books as well. If it ends well and is well written I will give it a chance. A couple of my favorite authors are Susanna Kearsley and Sarah Addison Allen … who have a way of bringing a little bit of magic into their books where it makes you wonder if magic could really be real!

3. Have your devices in any way changed WHAT you read or the frequency of your reading over the last five years?
Leslee- Having a smart phone enables me to read at the frequency I was accustomed to when I worked part time for a book store and took home several paper books each week. When I started working full time I went from reading a book a day (or two days) to reading a book a week until I discovered the smart phone apps. I always have my phone with me and if I find myself in a long line or eating lunch alone I can get lost for a few minutes in another place and time.

rowena

 

Rowena from Vancouver is an eternal learner who likes nothing better than to lose herself in a book. She also likes to travel and everywhere she goes, she picks up some tea, a shot glass and a fridge magnet.

Using the online reading community, Goodreads, Rowena has found more female and African authors. She reads most of them on paper, though uses her phone app when out without a book.

 

 

Rowena’s answers:

1. How do you read? In other words, on paper or devices and which ones?
Rowena: The majority of my reading is done the old-fashioned way, on paper. I have some backup e-books on the Kindle app on my phone that I read if I’m caught in public without a book.

2. What types of books do you like to read?
Rowena: I read quite broadly and my favourite genres are classics (especially English, French and Russian), African literature, poetry, biographies and Sociology. I find myself reading more African literature these days and a few of my favourite authors from that genre are Chinua Achebe (Nigeria), Mariama Ba (Senegal), Ngugi wa Thiong’o (Kenya) and Yvonne Vera (Zimbabwe). Poetry-wise, I enjoy Saul Williams, Fernando Pessoa, Pablo Neruda, Christina Rosetti, Aime Cesaire, Jack Mapanje and Leopold Sedar Senghor).

3. Have your devices in any way changed WHAT you read or the frequency of your reading over the last five years?
Rowena: Using Goodreads and seeing what others are reading has helped me broaden my reading horizons even more. Additionally, having a record of the books I read online has helped me see that I need to read more women authors.

mike

 

Mike Jeffs is a student at the University of Leicester, England, studying Geography. Despite his well-spoken southern accent his literary interests extend across many genres and platforms.

Mike finds news and short stories easier to manage on his phone’s Kindle app. He still prefers novels mostly on paper.

 

Mike’s answers:

1. How do you read? In other words, on paper or devices and which ones?
Mike: Preference for paper books due to ‘feel’ and even smell. Also use my phone using the Kindle app if I’ve been unable to bring a paper book with me somewhere.

2. What types of books do you like to read?
Mike: I generally like to read anything: autobiographies, fantasy, fiction or non-fiction. Probably my favourite series has been the Pratchett Discworld novels, although at the moment I am reading Bukowski’s ‘Women’ which is probably as far removed from that as you can get. The only magazines I read are either gossip magazines (guilty pleasure for a bit of fun at the lies to be honest) or motorsport magazines.

3. Have your devices in any way changed WHAT you read or the frequency of your reading over the last five years?
Mike: I would say the change has not been that great … however, I do feel that news is easier obtained on my phone so I may prefer to list some articles on the Guardian to read rather than bring a book somewhere if I have no means to carry a book, same goes for short stories I have on the Kindle app.

mallory

 

Mallory Brooks is a native Texan masquerading as a New Englander. She’s a huge football fan, avid reader and Mexican food connoisseur with a penchant for hyperbole.

Mallory enjoys reading news and longer, would-be heavier. books on her Kindle or iPhone app. She prefers paper books at home but prefers the convenience of e-books on the road.

 

 

Mallory’s answers:

1. How do you read? In other words, on paper or devices and which ones?
Mallory: I love the smell of a new, fresh paperback, and physically turning the pages. However, I do have a Kindle, and the Kindle app on my iPhone. The majority of my “electronic” reading happens when I’m traveling – it’s a lot easier to read Gone With The Wind on the subway as a one-inch-thick tablet than as a 1,037 page book. I only use my phone when I have no other option.”

2. What types of books do you like to read?
Mallory: I prefer long-form novels. My favorite genres are fiction, mysteries and crime-drama, and sci-fi. For news consumption, I prefer to read online and in list/article form. An increasingly large amount of the news I read comes from the Huffington Post or Buzzfeed. I also use an app called Zite – which is like Pandora for news. It selects articles you may be interested in based on previously read articles or categories that you’ve liked.

3. Have your devices in any way changed WHAT you read or the frequency of your reading over the last five years?
Mallory: I went from getting most of my news via television, to reading it (which I infinitely prefer). My iPhone has absolutely been a huge factor in that switch, as well as enabling me to have books on hand at all times. For instance, I’m in Chicago this week for a conference. I forgot my Kindle at home, and my paperback was buried too deeply inside my carry-on to be of any use during the flight. Even though it’s my least preferred method of reading, I just opened my book on my phone and was fine. Five years ago, I would have had a pretty miserable hour and a half in the air.

The rest is up to you! Leave a comment and join in the discussion
on how technology has influenced your reading habits…

lucie smoker

 

Lucie Smoker is a freelance arts writer and bestselling suspense author. Her first mystery, DISTORTION, features artist Adele Proust who walks into a murder scene just before it burns. When she paints the scene in reverse perspective, she brings out new clues—plus some thugs with big guns . . .

 

Discounting Books – A guest post by Bryan Cohen

discountHere at eBookSoda we like to think we know all about the power of discounting books. About how readers, tempted by a deal on our site, can become lifelong fans of newly discovered authors. Author Bryan Cohen is expanding on this idea, and experimenting with enhanced ways to win new readers. Bryan’s here today to tell us about his latest venture:

“If you discount a single book in the middle of Amazon, does it make a sale? Some books do quite well on their own in the middle of the book-selling wilderness. Others don’t. There are so many factors that dictate whether or not a book will make a 99-cent or free sale worthwhile. I’m not the kind of person who likes taking chances.

In February, I ran an event on non-fiction books for writers called March to a Bestseller. Instead of discounting my book and hoping for the best, I joined together with 15 other authors in my genre and we worked together to bring all of our fans under one Facebook roof. Each of the authors took shifts during the event to respond to questions and interact with fans. The comments came fast and furious and it was nearly impossible to keep up. By the end of the day, more than 600 people officially attended the event, and most of the authors sold hundreds of copies of their books. One attendee said it was the most enjoyable Friday he’d had in quite some time. I felt the same.

When we bumped our prices back up from 99 cents, increased sales continued as we’d all entered each others “also bought” lists. The authors thanked me and encouraged me to organize another event in the future. I had another idea in mind. I wanted to organize four of them.

In honor of my upcoming first novel, Ted Saves the World, I put together four author events on Facebook centered around genres that related to my book. By running these events, I figured I’d meet authors who were the best in the business in fantasy, paranormal and horror, while interacting with the fans who make the genres thrive.

The first event, Cruel Book Summer: A One-Day Sale on YA Paranormal, Horror and Fantasy Books, starts this Friday June 13th on Facebook. There will be 16 authors on hand ready to chat with readers, give away prizes and sell their books at 99 cents a piece. Join the event by clicking here.

cruel book summer

It’s valiant to go it alone on Amazon, but there may be a better way. Figure out how to connect with authors in your genre to cross-pollinate your readers and meet amazing people who will help you to feel a sense of community.”

Bryan Cohen is a non-fiction and YA paranormal author. Learn more about his upcoming work on his website: BryanCohen.com

Author Interview with Hilary Grossman

Hilary

 

Today we’re talking to Hilary Grossman, author of ‘real-life’ contemporary romance Dangled Carat – One girl’s attempt to convert the ultimate commitment-phobic man into a doting husband with a lot of help from his family and friends!

Today, Dangled Carat is on offer via eBookSoda for just 99 cents / 99p!!.

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Hilary had gotten used to dating the commitment-phobic Marc, thirteen years her senior. They had a great relationship—why rush into things? She saw no need to pressure him for marriage, believing that when the time was right, he would propose.

But after they had been together for four years, their friends decided to take matters into their own hands, pushing Marc to propose and making Hilary realize how much she really did want to marry the man that she loved. Unfortunately, Marc still wasn’t ready—and their friends’ meddling in the form of a faux engagement party led to a disastrous New Year’s Eve that brought their relationship to an inevitable turning point.

For anyone who has ever dated a commitment-phobe, who has found their patience wearing thin with the one they love, or who has sat around wondering if he is ever going to pop the question while trying to remain the very picture of patience and grace, Hilary’s humorous and honest story will hit home.

Tell us a little about what prompted you to write Dangled Carat.
While many of the things that happened to me (two faux engagement parties, for example) were very unique, being involved in a relationship with a commitment-phobe is a very common situation.  I felt that my story was something so many women could relate to which is what prompted me to write this book. 
But more than that, I wanted to share my story in the hopes that I could help someone who was in the same situation.  It is a very difficult position to be in. Everyone in your life has an opinion and “advice”.  You are always seem to be second guessing yourself and your actions.  My desire to help has been accomplished! I recently received an email from  self described commitment-phobic male reader who shared that after reading the book he realized some of the ways that he has sabotaged his relationships in the past.  He completely related to Marc.  He also told me how he learned that he has to go at his own pace regardless of what the other person seems to want – it will either work or not. He also learned that he has to communicate his feelings and just relax – enjoy the moment and let nature take it’s course – rather than worry about what tomorrow will bring.  This new attitude has kept him in a relationship that he would have already ended in the past!
Dangled Carat is written in a unique way. You took a personal story and wrote it like a novel. The reader feels like they are reading chick lit, but at the back of their minds they know it’s a true story. Was it difficult for you to write your story in this format?
It was very hard.  I really struggled with deciding if I wanted to fictionalize this story or stick with it as a memoir. In fact several agents strongly suggested I fictionalize it so that it would be more marketable. But in the end I just couldn’t do it.  For the reasons mentioned above I wanted to keep the story as a memoir. But I also wanted it to be a fun read. I didn’t want it to read like a “how to book” on how to get a guy to commit, as most other similar books are.  So I as I wrote, I just pretended that I was sharing my dating experience with a new friend over a bottle (or two) of wine.
The most difficult part of writing this story was sharing all my innermost thoughts, fears and experiences.  Some of which I never expressed to anyone in the past. It was almost like going through therapy! 
How did you come up with the title of your book?
It sounds corny, but the title came to me while I was driving home from work and stuck in a major traffic jam. I was struggling with what to call the book. And as soon as Dangled Carat popped into my head I knew that was the perfect title. After all, that carat kept on being dangled! No one should have as many faux engagements as me….
What was the most difficult part of writing this book?
In my first draft, I didn’t include any s-e-x. My editor, Christina Baker Kline, NYT bestselling author of Orphan Train, told me that I couldn’t have a relationship / dating memoir, of such a personal nature, and not include sex. I knew she was right, but I just couldn’t write it. It took me hours to work up the nerve to write that section!  
What was the most encouraging experience you had during your journey to publication?  
Like all other authors I querried agents. I was very realistic with myself during this process. I didn’t expect to land an agent, but I knew I had to try.  I was shocked that five agents requested my manuscript, and one of them spent an hour on the phone with me making suggestions as to how I could improve the story!  Although none of them ended up taking on the project, knowing that they were interested, gave me a huge confidence boost!  I am also in awe at how supportive and encouraging authors are. They are so eager to offer advice. They help you celebrate your successes and provide a shoulder to lean on if you are unsure, upset, or just need to bounce an idea around. 
Was there a definitive ‘moment’ in your life where you decided ‘I am going to be a writer’?
Not really… Writing was always something that I wanted to do / enjoyed doing. For as far as I can remember I always would dream of one day writing a book.  Actually I played around and started many over the years,  but I never stuck it out long enough to finish one. Then one day, about four years ago, I got tired of dreaming. I decided to started my blog, Feeling Beachie, to see if I had the wherewithal to write as well as to see if anyone would be interested in what I had to say…  I fell in love with blogging, and writing became a regular part of my day.  Then BlogHer had a conference about turning a blog into a book and I jumped at the opportunity to attend. I was so encouraged by the sessions that I started writing Dangled Carat immediately after.
How did you react the first time you held your book in your hands?
I cried. I was so happy that I was able to transform my life long dream into reality.
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Thanks so much for sharing your writing (and relationship) experiences with us. It’s been great having you on the blog!
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Today, Dangled Carat is on offer at eBookSoda for just 99 cents / 99p!!
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Here’s where you can find Hilary online:

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St Patrick’s Day interview with Irish author Eddie Stack

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Being St Patrick’s Day, we have a treat for you – an interview with wonderful Irish author, Eddie Stack. Eddie hails from Ennistymon, County Clare, where many of his stories are set, although he now divides his time between Ireland and California.

“If I wasn’t teaching at UC Berkeley, I’d be back in the west of Ireland,” he says. “That said, I do really like California, especially around San Francisco. It’s a good place to winter in.”

Borderlines is a collection of three stories by Eddie Stack. Hilarious and heart wrenching, beautifully written in cinematic prose, these stories show the true Ireland and the real Irish people: funny, zany, complicated, love-crazy and always entertaining! Eddie’s a master of the short story and these long reads are gems.

borderlinesCarnival Cop describes the fall-out after a lady constable gets obsessed with a raggle-taggle roadshow. Stack gives us unique characters and a touch of Fellini in a small Irish town.

 Bonzo is a local mystery man who everyone likes, but few know anything about. This excellent story is set during Ireland’s Celtic Tiger era and captures the greed and the recklessness with stark images. It’s a story about good and evil and has a terrific and unexpected ending.

 One for the Rover is the longest story and is set in the alternative and artistic community in the Clare hills. Eddie Stack makes this scene very real, with singer/songwriters, crystal-toting hippies, gurus, music managers and love stories. This shows off Stack’s talent for capturing delicate relationship scenes with realism and sensitivity

Are you working on any writing projects?

I’ve a few short stories marinating and I’m finishing a non-fiction book about the traditional arts of Doolin, where I spent much of my youth.

Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction?

I find all writing hard. Fiction comes a bit easier to me maybe. And the process of fiction fascinates me — the twists and turns a story can take and what the subconscious can throw up. With non-fiction, I’ve to decoupling the mind in a different way and deal with facts.

 How did you become a writer?

There was no conscious decision to be a writer, I just rambled down this path. I grew I just rambled down this path. I grew up in a small pub, not far from here. A few old storytellers used drink in our pub and they used tell me tales in Irish. Séalta Grinn they were called, funny stories. I could tell stories long before I could write them! The first bit of writing I did was in Irish — I wrote a short poem when I was 10 or 11. Then I remember putting words to a tune and turning it into a song when I was in my early teens.  A friend of my parents, Caitlin McNamara was married to Dylan Thomas, so I heard a lot of talk about him when I was growing up. I was in awe of him.

My first job was in Dublin and the literary scene there was just post-Behan and Kavanagh. I knew John Jordan and Liam O’Flaherty and they encouraged me to write more. I flirted with poetry for a good while before trying my hand at short stories. It took me years to figure out how to craft a good story. And more years passed before I got one published. That was a story called ‘For the Record’, and it was published in a literary review that also included Seamus Heaney, John McGaharn, Kathleen Raine and others. After that, a few doors began to open for me. A while later, my first collection of stories, The West, was published and things began to happen for me.

What is your writing process?

Stories begin for me with a germ of an idea or a feeling. Generally I’ll make some notes with pen and paper and transfer them to computer later. Some stories come easy and I’ll have them down in a couple of drafts. Others are with me for years and go through a good many drafts and rewrites. I rarely give up on a story. They haunt me until they see the light of day. I try and write a few hours in the morning and rewrite and edit in the evening.

Which authors most inspire you?

Raymond Carver, Anne Beattie, Dylan Thomas, Seán O’ Faoilean, Frank O’Connor, Gabriel Marquez, James Joyce, Flann O’Brien, Alice Munro, Flannery O’Connor, Peter Carey, Cormac McCarthy, TC Boyle, William Kennedy. And last but not least, my friend Willy Vlautin.

What prompted you to write Borderlines?

I had these three long stories written and they weren’t long enough to be novellas so I called them ‘borderlines’…then I figured that some of the characters were sort of ‘borderline’ and that the stories had a commonality. So I bunched them together as a book.

Where did you get Mariah?

Mariah is an archetype, a dharma butterfly. I’ve met her a few times in my life and in the oddest of places. Deep down she’s a sweet old soul, but a bit ditzy. She’s also a conjurer.

So are you Barry in the story?

No, unfortunately.

Hope that’s got you in the St Paddy’s Day spirit! If you’d like to know more about Eddie and his writing, you can find him in the following places:

Website     Blog     Amazon

Writing with your best friend

I guess most people think of authors as solitary creatures. That to write a book, you’d have to lock yourself away somewhere quiet and uninterrupted. Well not Genie Davis and Linda Marr. These two friends decided to write a novel together:

Genie & Linda promo pic

“Don’t tell me you were writing in that office all day long,” Linda’s husband remarked as we finished up work one Saturday and dumped our practically scraped-clean lunch dishes onto the counter that separates her family room and kitchen.

“I could hear you laughing in here,” he continued somewhat accusingly,  “You were laughing a lot.”

Well… hmm… yes, we suppose that’s true.

            We do laugh a lot.

And ironically, that helps us work a lot. You see, first and foremost we’re best friends. Then we’re also two writers who have already been successful in our own careers for a number of years. But along the way, both of us felt that something was missing in all those hours we spent getting to do something as cool writing for a living. Something like – dare we say it? – fun.

            It’s not like we don’t like writing by ourselves. Genie has already published a number of different books including several award winning romantic suspense novels and a mystery. Linda comes from the world of television where she’s worked on everything from comedy to reality to news. And we both know a thing or two about romance, or at least we like to think we do. Romance certainly factored into a lot of our conversations. So for two best friend writers who like to talk romance it was just a small – albeit relatively work intensive — step to actually writing about it.

A romantic suspense novel, to be exact.

The way we figured, with all the differences in the way men and women think, there’s bound to be a little suspense to any romance. We just wanted to push the envelope a little — to situations, and love interests, that might be way beyond what could happen to us in our every day lives. It was just a simple matter of finding the right story. That, and figuring out what we wanted to eat for lunch.

Seriously.

Two good girlfriends, food, and making up our own romantic rules where, in the end, everything comes out all right. Meaning, of course, the way we want it to. As women and writers, what could be better?

Many of our friends and a few total strangers have asked us why we wanted to write together, all lunches aside. After all, doesn’t writing conjure up images of sitting alone in a room, an intense internal struggle raging inside a writer’s head?

Well, we do struggle. We just do it loudly. Together. If Linda’s husband didn’t actually have to work, he’d hear us go at it quite a bit as we discuss story and characters. In fact, it can seem like we’re having a bad time when actually we love the exchange, talking about ideas, about what romance means to us, what sizzles, or what keeps us in suspense.

We also love that when one of us is a little off, the other one can step in. Basically, what we’re doing is telling each other stories. About our own past, about our hopes and dreams, about other people’s lives whose emotions reflect our own experiences. And we also get to dish on the juicy stuff, like favorite romantic getaways, how we like the men in our lives to treat us, what turns us on. Okay, that means we are essentially gossiping, but its all in the service of telling a good story.                                               

            And isn’t telling a good story and sharing feelings what friendship’s all about? Whether we were writing together or not, we’d be sharing together.

            As Anais Nin famously said “Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” When we’re writing together, we do just that.

The way we see it, friends take the ride that is life together– including the hard work and the discouragements; they don’t just wait for the accolades to come streaming in. No matter what, friendship rekindles the enthusiasm and joy. That’s what writing together means to us. And that’s what we hope shines through to our readers.

            All in all, the combination of writing with a good friend and just being with a friend is pretty much unbeatable. Then of course, there’s lunch.

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And here’s the fruits of their lunches, erm labours . . .

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BetweenTheSheets500-1.

Between The Sheets

Romance writer Jenna Brooks lives an ordinary life in a quiet Oregon town, putting her sensual heart into her fiction rather than her everyday life. But suddenly, Jenna finds herself drawn into her own stories, literally. When the seductive, mysterious Riley Stone rescues her from an attempted hit and run, she’s plunged into a reckless, wild relationship unlike anything she’s ever experienced — except on paper.

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Genie Davis is a multi-published novelist and produced screen and television writer. Recent releases: mystery thriller: Marathon,  romantic suspense: Executive Impulse, The Model Man, and Five O’Clock Shadow, literary fiction: Dreamtown. Her erotic romance Rodeo Man won an RWA Passionate Plume award.

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Linda Marr is a producer/writer on America Now. She’s also co-writer of the comedy book Dear Neighbor. Her many television projects include the NBC comedy The Mommies, HGTV’s House Hunters and Design on a Dime, a Nickelodeon skateboarding special, and some of the most successful infomercials on the air.

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Best and worst things about being a writer

We love this funny and insightful guest post from Scott Cramer about the highs and lows of being a writer:

writerBest and worst things about being a writer:

Best – Not having a boss.

Worst – Not having a boss! Once in a while it’s good to be told what to do.

Best – Being selected by a sixth-grade reader to be their “author” in their school author fair.  Thank you, Katie.

Best – Naming a tropical storm, ‘Katie’, in my next book, and naming a hurricane (which plays a very big role), ‘David’.  David’s Mom is a YA book blogger from Chicago and David pitches in to write reviews every now and then.

Best – Having a reader write to say they are well beyond the young adult years (72 years old) and they loved the book.

Worst – Trying to come up with tweets and facebook posts when I have nothing to say.

Worst – The psychic torment/the pain in the soul/the gut wrenching sense of imbalance that I find myself experiencing during a first draft, which can last for months and months.

Best – Surviving the above.

Worst – You tell someone you have written a book. They immediately respond that they like to read and then tell you about the book they are reading.

Best – Getting to know people from Bulgaria (my cover designer), Portugal, Sweden, UK, and the US (beta readers) and bloggers from everywhere.

Worst – Reading the work of so many talented authors and thinking, wow, incredible, what command they have of the craft… and then realizing there is no way I can do that; it is simply a talent gap that exists.

Best – Realizing that I have something to offer that nobody else does… I can be me, with a unique point of view, and if I really stay true to who I am and how I think and speak and view the world,  then talent doesn’t matter as much.

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Book 1 in Scott’s fantastic YA sci fi Toucan Trilogy is currently FREE, so I’d definitely bag yourself a copy. It’s a great read!

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Espionage, Thrillers and Women – Guest Post from Libby Fischer Hellman

Libby-HellmannWith ten novels and twenty short stories published, Libby Fischer Hellmann writes compulsively readable thrillers, suspense mysteries, historicals, PI novels, amateur sleuth, police procedurals, and even a cozy mystery. At the core of all her stories, however, is a crime or the possibility of one.

Today, Libby is sharing some of her thoughts and recommendations on spy thrillers both in literature and on the screen. As well as a look at where women fit into the genre. Enjoy!

I started reading spy thrillers around the time of Watergate (Hmm… think there’s a connection?). The first two I read were The Wind Chill Factor by Thomas Gifford and The Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett, and I was blown away by them both.

spy 1The Wind Chill Factor – Thomas Gifford

I love this political thriller with a difference, centered around a group of Nazi survivors who viewed their WW2 defeat as a temporary setback rather than the end. They have plans. They have people waiting to spring into action in powerful corporations and capital cities across the world. And the world will soon be theirs… unless someone can stop them. Enter John Cooper, who holds a secret too explosive to be kept as he races against time to redress the balance of good against evil. Classic political suspense from an excellent storyteller.

Eye of the Needle – Ken Follett

Eye of the Needle is a spy thriller without equal. It’s set during WW2 again, this time the story of an enemy spy who knows about the Allies’ greatest secret, a ruthless aristocratic assassin called The Needle, who holds the key to Nazi success. One Englishwoman stands in his way, and she’s in danger of falling for the killer who has entered her life. Suspense, intrigue, love and danger… what else could a nice girl who does noir girl want?

All the L’s

Inspired by these two novels, I worked my way through most of the good old household name standards like John Le Carre, Robert Ludlum and Len Deighton… whom I call the “L’s”. Unsurprisingly, all the authors I read were men except for the marvelous Helen MacInnes (who is definitely not an “L”).

After a steady diet of these authors, though, they all started to sound the same: the world was about to blow up, the hero saved the world from blowing up, then he walked into the sunset with his girlfriend. Looking back now, after publishing ten books of my own, the writing—except for Le Carre—wasn’t especially gripping, either.

So I stopped reading them, and broadened my reading to include mysteries.

But that was then.

Episode 312Things have changed. Like the TV show “Homeland,” thriller authors have learned to appeal to women in their stories. It’s about time—we make up 80% of the reading market.  As a result, the espionage authors I enjoy most today feature strong women as protagonists and/or major characters. These protagonists do everything (and more) that men do, and there is often a complicated romantic thread that makes the stories even more compelling. Here are just a few of the authors I’m loving now.

Daniel Silva

I’ve mentioned him before, but Daniel Silva is so good it’s worth repeating. If you’ve read all his excellent Gabriel Allon books, we’re on the same page. But have you checked out his earlier novels featuring Michael Osbourne and his lawyer wife Elizabeth? They’re a bit wordier, but still excellent stories. And since the introduction of Chiarra and Dina, his women characters play more prominent roles. Frankly, he still has a way to go on that score. But his plots are grounded in reality, his prose is elegant and easy, and Gabriel Allon is a hero we can admire. His novels tend to come out in July (can you tell I’m ready now?). Here’s a link to Silva’s books on Amazon.

Christopher Reich

Christopher Reich is new to me, but he’s a seriously good New York Times best-selling writer who creates top notch stories. I’ve only read two of his so far, The Prince of Risk and Rules of Betrayal—yes, I know I read out of order—so I’m excited to dive into the rest.  His pacing is excellent, his prose as well, and I enjoy the twists and switchbacks in his plotting.  Most of all, though, I am fascinated by his female characters. His “Rules” series is practically a role-reversal, as you can see in Amazon’s synopsis of Rules of Deception:

“Doctor Jonathan Ransom thought he knew everything about his wife Emma until she was killed in a tragic skiing accident in the Swiss Alps. They had been married for eight years, eight blissful years in which they had travelled the world together. But the day after her death a mysterious letter addressed to her arrives at their hotel. When he opens it, his beliefs begin to unravel — fast. .

In the envelope is a railway baggage check to a suitcase that reveals an Emma far removed from the down-to-earth nurse who has been his constant and loyal companion all those years. In it he discovers the clues to a double life. Was she having an affair? When is your wife not your wife? And when she is not your wife, who is she?

In The Prince of Risk, his latest novel, a female FBI agent takes center stage. Talk about difficult to put down! Here’s a link to Christopher Reich books on Amazon.

Jason Matthews

Jason Matthews wrote the superb novel Red Sparrow, his first so far, and it has just been nominated for an Edgar. Like Reich, Matthews gives us both a male and female protagonist who, of course, become lovers. But just to throw in a major obstacle, the man is a CIA agent, but the woman is a Russian spy, who may or may not be a double agent by the end of the story. Can you say “suspense?”

Here’s what Goodreads says about it:

The two young intelligence officers, trained in their respective spy schools, collide in a charged atmosphere of tradecraft, deception, and inevitably, a forbidden spiral of carnal attraction that threatens their careers and the security of America’s valuable mole in Moscow. Seeking revenge against her soulless masters, Dominika begins a fatal double life, recruited by the CIA to ferret out a high-level traitor in Washington; hunt down a Russian illegal buried deep in the U.S. military and, against all odds, to return to Moscow as the new-generation penetration of Putin’s intelligence service.”

But where are the female thriller writers?

Even though women are featured more prominently, there’s still a problem. As you have undoubtedly noticed, all the authors I’ve mentioned are male. So where are the female thriller writers? And are they writing strong female characters?

There’s Gale Lynds, who fell cracked the genre’s mostly-male bias when the female president of a New York publishing house agreed to buy her debut spy thriller, Masquerade, then changed her mind because “No woman could have written this novel”. This was despite the fact that Lynds used to work at a Government think-tank and had Top Secret security clearance. She eventually found another publisher for Masquerade, which became an instant bestseller. Here’s a list of her books:

  • The Book of Spies (2010)
  • The Last Spymaster (2006)
  • The Coil (2004)
  • Mesmerized (2001)
  • Mosaic (1998)
  • Masquerade (1996)

There’s Stella Rimington, the first ever Director General of MI5 who worked there between 1992 and ’96 and based her books on her experiences. And how about Leslie Silbert, a Harvard graduate whose debut novel The Intelligencer connects Christopher Marlowe’s 1500s spying with an international conspiracy set today? She works as a private investigator in New York, guided by a former CIA officer mentor. Like Lynds, she walks the walk as well as talking the talk.

Sure, there are female thriller authors like Jamie Freveletti, Zoe Sharp, and yours truly, but it says something that I’m having trouble finding female authors who write spy novels. And it’s even more interesting that the three women I did mention have all worked in the field, living the life before writing about it.

 Your turn

What about your favorite espionage or spy novels?  Especially those who feature women in key roles? I know I’ve missed some.

georgia

 

Libby’s own award-winning Georgia Davis PI series is showcased on eBookSoda today, where, for a limited time, you can get the boxed set of 3 for just $1.99.

 

 

Here’s where you can find Libby online:

Website    Goodreads    Facebook

Interview with chick lit author CeCe Osgood

Today at eBookSoda, we’re privileged to be hosting an in-depth interview with chick lit author CeCe Osgood. Asking the questions is writer and book blogger Ali Crean, otherwise known as: The Word Slinger from All The Things Inbetween.

They’ll be discussing CeCe’s debut novel, The Divorced Not Dead Workshop, covering topics from friendships and love, to trust and commitment, as well as chatting about what it’s like to be an indie author. It’s a perceptive interview, showing that genre fiction, in particular romantic comedy/chick lit, can reveal character and substance . . . along with the fun and fluff.

cece

CeCe has had a fascinating career so far: having produced a cult horror movie, worked as a script analyst for HBO, had two screenplays optioned, and has now finally realised her childhood dream of becoming an author.

Her debut novel The Divorced Not Dead Workshop is a romantic comedy with a whopping side dish of sassy chick lit!

 

divorced ~

Divorced five years and recently dumped by her Brit boyfriend, Dorsey Bing, smart, funny and a wee bit angsty, brainstorms about a dating workshop for divorced people. Too bad she’s an idea person with zero follow-through.

Facing failure, humiliation and heartbreak, Dorsey must tackle her biggest challenge if she’s to win the love, and life, she’s always desired.

~

Ali: The Divorced Not Dead Workshop is a pretty cheeky read about the thirty-something relationship sinkhole that many of us women fall into. Dorsey is a very comical walking disaster, I couldn’t help but constantly be pinching my eyes shut to better imagine the visual of her antics. Was the first concept Dorsey the same thing that final edit Dorsey was? What was the evolution of her in your character process?

CeCe: Dorsey did evolve from the original concept. At first, she was a less introspective character and a non-stop klutz, however as her backstory surfaced she evolved into a more realistic person in my view. In my writing process, and I know this is true for many authors, I created a list of details about Dorsey—her physicality, her attitudes, her family history, her emotional range—but during the (many) drafts of the story, she became more individualized and distinctive.

 In the beginning of the story I noticed that you really “California’ed” up the novel. It oozes Los Angeles character and I couldn’t help but feel like I had returned back there when you were talking about the parking lot that is the 405, Pei Wei, air kisses & false affection, mini mansions on Beverly Glen, and the general douche-baggery of LA people in their unashamed and blatant preference of what twinkles, shines and has bigger, firmer and more than likely terribly expensive implants. Was it simply writing what you knew or was it that you really wanted to comment about the superficiality of Los Angeles and how it played into Dorsey’s state of mind?

Dorsey is at a crossroads at the beginning of the book. The fifth anniversary of her divorce is preying on her mind, as well as being dumped by Theo. She’s trying to figure how to make things change, and the idea for a dating workshop for divorced men surfaces, however she has zero follow-through on her ideas. Pilar is the one who forces Dorsey to act, at least it seems that way. To me, Dorsey is actually at a turning point in her life, one that’s been coming for a while

Dorsey is on the negative scale of self-esteem and her self-talk is horrendous and her pessimism is through the roof. Not many people would understand the conflict of a character like hers being so distrusting of other’s motivations and intentions while also relying so heavily on them to save her and like her at the same time. Were you ever worried that you would make Dorsey unlikeable in her emotional complexity?

In an early draft, I decided Dorsey was too whiny and had her show in later drafts a wider range of emotion, using anger, resentment, and sadness to offset her self-doubts. I wanted her to be real, not a kick-ass heroine, which seems more of fantasy than a reality to me. I can understand that women, particularly younger ones, who haven’t gone through divorce or other kinds of loss may still have a lot of kick-ass in them, but Dorsey has had several losses in her life over the past five years, so she’s proceeding with caution.

It’s often stated that in friendships three is the perfect number for a pack of females. In view of Dorsey’s insecurities did you ever consider when making this trifecta that there would be an imbalance in her mind that should have also been woven through the story about conflict of sides within that friendship. The world was against Dorsey and everyone was always undermining her and sometimes you really can’t trust the ones you love after all. Did that aspect ever strike you?

No, frankly, that didn’t strike me. This story wasn’t focused on the female friendships, which I feel would have placed it more directly in the genre of women’s fiction. Its focus is on divorce and dating after divorce, so I chose to make the M/F relationship more complicated and filled with trust issues.

This entire novel is all about risk. The risk of taking an idea and actualizing it. Taking the risk to truly commit in a relationship and invest in it. Taking the risk to fully trust someone and surrender to the fact that they might hurt or disappoint you and it won’t be the end of the world. Taking the risk to be something and risk the chance to fail at it. When you were coming up with the concept for the book was the theme of risk so heavily weighing in your mind and why didn’t you make Dorsey focus more on the topic of risk in the workshop?

“Taking the risk to truly commit in a relationship and invest in it” is a central theme in the novel. At the deepest level, that’s what the workshop is about. It’s also how I feel about marriage. My own experience with divorce showed me that I did not fully commit to the relationship or to making the marriage work. Like Dorsey, I was too young and not ready for marriage, but wasn’t aware of this. I learned though. Sadly, it took many years because I didn’t go to a “Divorced Not Dead Workshop.” (sigh)

Another theme concerns why people don’t act on their ideas. Dorsey has a great idea but doesn’t put it into action. This is a behavior pattern for her. She fears failure, which many women undergo after a divorce. And taking the risk to start again? Well, that’s just about every Woody Allen movie ever made.

One of the things I noted the workshop never touched upon was the value of not every relationship ending in romance or something serious. It’s extremely unhealthy to be in that constant black and white thinking of men/women are bad or I can’t live without this being ‘my everything’. Entering into intense relationship after intense relationship only fortifies that sense of insecurity of not being worthy of one. Dorsey never really learns the value or importance of male friendship over a romantic or sexual relationship. Had you ever considered having an alternate ending with a more ambiguous ending? Maybe something where she realizes that she just needs to be whole before she become to halves of a whole?

If the story had been more of a literary fiction, I might have chosen that direction. Since, however, I thought of it in terms of a romantic comedy/chick lit/lighthearted women’s fiction I wanted the romance to play out. Plus, it shows Dorsey coming to understand her own mind and behavior patterns. She has to become proactive (to act on her idea rather than bail like in the past). She has to confront Theo. She has to face her biggest challenge — and fight to get what she wants; for “the serious” relationship.

The Divorced Not Dead Crew becomes a rather close group of friends. Of those in the workshop who was it that you found the most fun to write and who gave you the most trouble to visualize? Did any of the characters surprise you in their self-discovery?

I enjoyed the sisters and their rivalry quite a lot. And Stewie, who appears to be a jerk. He did surprise me in how he behaves as the story unfolds.

I also enjoyed creating Chester and seeing him grow from a timid fellow to someone who realized his own value.

If you were to review your own book what would you have to say about it? Tell me what you feel are the strong parts and the weak parts about your novel and in hindsight is there anything that you might have changed.

I was worried about the workshop chapters. Originally they were longer but I cut out a portion because I thought it dragged, and I also felt that I needed to get more plot events going on to satisfy the genre aspect of the story. I wanted the book to show how we can become aware of our thought patterns and yet fall right back into them, which is what happens with Dorsey.

I guess my review would reflect on this and point out that this romantic comedy cloaks a fairly serious approach to human psychology.

I wanted to show that, despite what she’s “learned” in the workshop and the events of the story, she falls back into that thinking almost by default in the last confrontation with Finn. I guess Tolstoy said it more succinctly: “True life is lived when tiny changes occur.”

As a self-publishing author how do you feel about book pirating? Do you think that indie authors are more strongly impacted by illegal book downloading than publishing companies? Would you be willing to make your books free and request donations if you found that was a better earning model as a self-publisher?

I’m not sure how the requesting donations would work. I think the music industry has done something like this, but I’m unaware of the result.

I hate pirating, not only because it is theft, but also because it devalues the intense amount of work an author puts into a book. Like Nathaniel Hawthorne said; “Easy reading is damn hard writing.”

And, really, doesn’t everyone wants to paid for working? No matter what you do or where you do it.

What does being an indie author mean to you? What would you wish to change about it?

I enjoy writing under my own rules, which doesn’t mean NOT proofing or editing the work. That’s a given.

I wish I knew of a better way to become visible to the reading public. It takes a lot of time and energy to get reviews, to get your title out there, and to find promotional activities.

Are there opportunities that you would like to find out about or network with that you don’t have available to you currently that would help you become a more accomplished writer, increase your fanbase or help establish your work publicly that you would be interested in having someone contact you about?

Reviews are a strongly needed component in the self-publishing world. It’s getting very difficult to secure effective promo without a certain number of reviews and the number keeps ratcheting up.

Also I would like to know if there are more print-on-demand companies springing up and a list of editors, proof-readers and web designers would also be useful.

Anyone who can help CeCe out with her list of requirements, feel free to leave details in our comments section. And if you’d like to connect with CeCe online, here’s where you can find her:

Website ~ Facebook ~ Goodreads ~ Twitter

 

Top 5 Epic Fantasies – Five on Friday

This week’s Five on Friday is all about the epic fantasies. Swords and sorcery, intrigue, rebellion and adventure, there should be something here for any fantasy fan.

war.

1. WAR OF THE WILDLANDS by Lana Axe: Stunningly crafted tale of unrelenting war between humans and elves.  Read more

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.dark pursuit

2. DARK PURSUIT: THE LOST SHINMAHS by Kevan Dinn: Vivid tale that tells of magic and intrigue in ancient India . . . and the power of the human mind.  Read more

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crow.

3. CROWCHANGER by A.C. Smyth: As his people begin a rebellion, Sylas is forced to choose between his race, the shape-changers and his lover . . .  Read more

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moth.

4. MOTH by Daniel Arenson: When the earth stopped spinning, one half was bathed in light, while the other half lay in darkness. Enthralling tale of two races on the brink of war.  Read more

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protector.

5. PROTECTOR by Vanna Smythe: Duty or love? Wonderful world-building in this coming-of-age debut novel of adventure and magic.  Read more

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