Of Blade and Valor Book Tour!!

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So I must call upon all me fellow bloggers and readers…even authors.

Today is a really special day for a great gal that I have really come to admire. It is her day…the day her book is brought to life. She has walked carefully out on the plank and stared down into the waters swimming with the sharks of the literary world, but seeing her dreams on the ocean floor, jumped right in. This girl has put in countless hours preparing, learning, and writing for all of you.

The problem we face, as writers, the the lack of support from the very people who read books.

So I am asking you all to get involved today. Visit the post that will kick off Cheryl’s tour and participate. Download your copy and be entered to win prizes! We were able to pull a bunch of bloggers together to make this tour a lot of fun for you as readers. Click here for the schedule of stops!

We beg you, yes this is me begging, to share this among your audiences and help to propel this young woman to great heights.

When it is your turn to sit in the spotlight, you know we will be behind you as well! We appreciate your support! Feel free to reblog the Twisted Willow Press post today!

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Happy Birthday to me! My eBooks are Free!

So I was born on June 18th, 1973. According to my kids, I am old. According to my body, I am old. According to my mind, I am old. But according to my heart, I am young. I will always be young.

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To help me celebrate my big 40, I am putting my eBooks on sale for absolutely nothing and this is only on my birthday.

With the release of The Benevolent Light happening soon, now is the time to catch up on the rest of the Aspen Series.

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Beginning at one minute after midnight, well, my time of course, you will be able to take advantage of such a sale. Don’t wait! Being able to break my own records of the most downloads would be such an amazing feeling on a day such as my own birthday. 😀 These downloads will be available on Amazon.com in Kindle books.

I want to thank all of you for following me here. I hit a very cool 100 followers just yesterday. Thank you for reading, thank you for believing in my dreams for me, and thank you for being fans. I think that the greatest experience would be to meet you all in person…spend a few hours just talking. That would be amazing because it is you, my readers and fans, that keep me going. You make me want to keep plucking away at the keyboard, one scene at a time and one chapter on top of another. It is true that I write for myself…but I suppose I also write for acceptance, for entertainment, and for your approval. It makes me most happy.

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When I blow out the candles and laugh with my family and friends, I will think of those of you who have read my work and who have raised me to where I am today.

I am forever grateful…

To Bully Or Not To Bully? That Is The Question…

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Bullying has been a part of life from the beginning of time.
That statement does not erase the effects that those words and behaviors have on a person. No amount of apologies or take backs can heal that scar the victim will wear the rest of their life.

We read about nasty kings from the old days, the ones who would tax the people beyond their abilities just to make them miserable and their purses heavier. They would steal brides from their new husbands and take their virginity just because they could. They would devise the burning of homes and crops to force people to bend to them. This is bullying, right?

It seems that every television show has to have a protagonist who has to make someone’s life pretty miserable. Even family shows like “Little House on the Prairie”, for all its goodness and value, Nellie Olsen was just an evil person. Watching that show, however, did not prepare me for the bullying I would endure through my middle school and high school years. So did that show “teach” the concept that bullying is okay? Well, I don’t think so. If anything, it showed that the good can prevail…that other people do grow up eventually.

I had a handful of kids that liked to tease me mercilessly, from slamming my locker shut on me to calling obscenities…many of which I didn’t even understand…, and those who would wait for me after a religious class and muss up my hair asking if I had horns under there. I could name two girls who would wait for me to get off the bus and spray shaving cream in my hair, blow up condoms and say horrid things. I could go on. If I showed any of the emotion that was ripping out my insides, they would come at me all the more. I didn’t have a leader I felt I could turn to…and if I spoke up, who knew what they would do to me then!

Eventually, I really struggled to find acceptance. There were girls who pretended to be my friends and then just drop me at the drop of a hat. There were some, guys and girls, who are still my friends today. But I sacrificed some as I tried to gain others. In the end, I felt as though I didn’t belong anywhere. I imagined that every kind word anyone dared to say toward me was with an evil intention. I acted out to gain attention…

Now that I have children, I have become very protective over them. Will I ever know the extent of what happens to them in school? As I trust others to keep my kids safe…mentally and physically? Probably not. I do my very best to pump up their self-esteem so that the bullies of the world cannot touch them but I wonder if even my power as “Mom” can withstand the abuse from other children.

My 15 year old son has struggled with acceptance and has been dealing with bullying at his school. While I understand that this is commonplace anymore, it sucks to relive those dark and terrible days with him. He has found an outlet in martial arts and boxing. For quite a while, he has been able to hide his temper when others aggravate him. But just last week, he was tormented by another student until he finally snapped. That moment suspended him for two days, a light sentence I know, however, my thoughts stray to this kid who thought he was so cool to get my son to react to his abusive words. Who has taught this kid that it is okay to badger another human being until they retaliate? Is it the parents, or lack thereof, television, peer pressure? I would just like to know how someone can justify ruining another’s life, their self image, their hopes of fitting in at such an awkward time in life.

I am not the sort of person I feel I should have been. I am jaded. I don’t trust people. I look in the mirror and see a monster in the glass. I struggle daily with my sense of self-worth. So when I speak to someone, I do evaluate how my remark will make them feel. However, I am human and I have slipped when I feel my line has been crossed. But I don’t remember a time in my entire life that I have felt that it is okay to damage another’s frame of mind.

As parents, writers, and social media participants, we should be setting the example that it is NOT okay to be a part of this sort of behavior. The sad truth is that some do not know the difference. We are allowing this trend to grow rampant and it needs to be squashed. Freedom of speech is one thing…assault on another human being (whether words or actions) is not. It should never be.

When I write, I do indeed have a protagonist. I have bullies…they are a part of life. However, I find solutions to rid my world of them. Real life is no different. I would like to walk up to those who had mistreated me as a kid and slap their faces! But you know, that makes me no different than them. I am better than that. But if I get my hands on the kid who thinks it is funny to torment my son, and we will have meet your maker kind of meeting. I do not wish my experiences on anyone, much less my own child.

So be on the lookout for some nasty ends to some terrible bullies of the medieval times. I won’t tolerate it even if it is all made up!

Target Audiences: What is yours?

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When I worked for a company that really cared about teaching their management staff how to understand their employees and make the environment better for each person working for them, I attended a set of meetings that helped us learn about the different generations and how to best relate to them. So what are those generations and what do the gaps mean?

We will start with the eldest of our generations, the Silent Generation. These people were children of the Great Depression and frugality is a way of life for them. These people were born between 1925 and 1945. At this time, these people don’t care much for reading…the words on the pages are too small. Therefore, appealing to these people is difficult.
Technology is not their friend so digital copies are not very interesting to them. Paper copies work, but it is hard for them to read. Solution? Audio books do well with this generation. You can tell the story and they can take it all in by listening to you.
How do you reach these people? Mailings are the best way, but word of mouth that reaches a family member can work as well.

Next, we look at the Baby Boomers. These people were born between 1946 and 1964. Many of these children learned to be very thrifty from their parents so cost is always a factor when looking into luxury items such as books. Most of these people do not appreciate electronics the way the later generations do so a paper book is much more appreciated. If your book resonates with this crowd and you don’t have your book in print, you are missing out on sales.
This generation prefers to curl up with a great book, to smell the pages and bend back the cover…even dog ear the pages to mark their place. This generation loves to please people, they are loyal and dependable. Once you convert them to being a fan of yours, they will be faithful to you until you do something to destroy that relationship. Unless a parent or sibling was lost to death, most of these families were in tact, two parent families so moving and emotional stories tug at their heart strings.
How do you reach these people? Well, more and more, this generation is using social media outlets like Facebook to keep in touch with their family. If you can capture their attention online, encourage them to “like” you there. Ask them to share their thoughts about your work on Amazon and refrain from using the word “review”. It is a very intimidating word that makes people feel the need to be technical and not sincere. Getting a snazzy mailing will get their attention, but you need to be thoughtful about your price point. There are mailing list companies that will compile lists based on specific demographics and printers such as Vista Print that allow you to create and print items such as postcards to cater to your audience.

Then, we have the Generation X. These people were born from 1965 to the early 1980’s. I think of this generation as the “in betweeners”. Yes, I am aware that that isn’t really a word, it is just an expression I came up with. These people were born and raised around the evolution of computers and cell phones. I am a Gen X kid. While I had two parents all of my childhood, both of my parents worked outside the home. Many of my friends were from single parent families as divorce rates began to rise. We were a generation that raised themselves, yet most of us still had two parents at home after work.
This generation loves to be praised. It is thought to be due to a lack of it when both parents are absent more than present. They need to feel wanted and needed.
Dramatic movies with effects that were the cornerstone of today’s movies started a virtual evolution and a love for fictional stories. These people have learned to adapt to a new way of life, a digital life.
When I read a book, I still love a paper copy in my hand and the way the ink looks on the page. However, I do like being able to download a book onto my Kindle app and have it right there. I am the type that I only collect the paper copies of books that I am most loyal to and others, I commit to technology. When I become a large enough fan, I buy the paper copy.
So, this generation will prefer either type of book. It is a good idea to market a choice of formats for these people as some are very against digital copies while others prefer them. You can reach the majority of your audience by the web as mailings can be boring and add to the pile in the trash can. Things like Facebook ads direct emails will grasp the attention of these people. Placing bookmarks in local bookstores or grocery stores may help them find you.
This group of people used their imaginations as kids. They love descriptive works that are easy to read and hold their attention. For many, the characters come to life and the setting will take them away as a means of escape. If that works for them, the story doesn’t have to be technically accurate for them to be fans. The vacation is what they want.
One thing I have found is that this generation really displays little loyalty. They can love your work and give you a marginal review. They rarely stand up for you, especially if you are new to the publishing scene and shout to the world that they like you. They are afraid of being condemned by their peers for their opinions. Many of these people are happy to follow but not to be the start of great things. (This is not to offend any Gen X people out there…This is just what I have found. My least loyal crowd are Gen Xers.)
Words of appreciation and praise will help them create a relationship with you. Be warned, however, that even my closest friends and family have turned their backs and never “share” my links even though they rave about my work. If this happens, find a new crowd to help you out. Your target may be these people, but the Gen Y people may be of more help to your reputation.

And then there was Generation Y. These people were born early 1980’s to the early 2000’s. They are lovingly referred to as “Millennials”. This was the birth of the technological generation. Everything is digital, everything is virtual, everything is instantaneous, and everyone is a winner. These people are very particular about movies and books…even food. This generation can feel more logical in their thinking. Imaginations don’t exist much and that is a product of their environment.
With a lack of imagination, movies and writing must be very accurate or you lose the interest of this generation. They require precision. Whatever they do, be it movies, gaming, or reading, it must be very real or it immediately sucks.
Cracking into this audience is quite a feat, but if you do, they have the technological know how to reach out to waves of people that can spur your career forward. Catering to this generation can be your ticket to a bestseller!
Gen Yers know the importance of spreading the word for you…but be prepared that it might not be the words you want spread out there. While other generations don’t complain as much, this generation can be brutally honest in giving feedback. They mince no words about the fact that your story had a few typos or a historical discrepancy. For them, it is black or white…they love it or hate it.
More than any other generation, these people use the social outlets like Twitter and Facebook most so they can be your best friend! This generation is big on blogging and can exhibit a “big mouth”. Meaning, they have groups of people in their corner that they have never met in person so they can speak volumes when they give their thoughts on your work. Even being able to post an article as their guest can gain you new followers.
Digital copies work the best for this generation. They are a “I want it now” kind of people…used to microwave food, 3D movies and up close and personal video games. They don’t think about how their words affect people as much. Most of these people are from broken homes and absent parents. They have completely raised themselves. They cannot fail out of school or lose a soccer game. This is a world where no one loses, so they don’t think about how they come across. Respect is not first and foremost with these people as they feel the world owes them a little something.
Reaching this audience will be very much computer oriented. Hooking them with concise advertisements will prompt them to click and could result in a new fan.

There is a name for the newest generation…Generation Z. These kids were born after the year 2000. If your audience is for the younger kids, remember that they are much the same as Gen Y where technology is concerned. These kids can teach you how to run your cell phone before you even pay for it.
Modern stories with real situations they could encounter will capture their attention while old school scenarios will turn them away.
However, with this generation, you must appeal to their parents as well. You don’t want to offend the parents or you get no sales. These parental generations will be Gen X or Gen Y so use of the computer will reach either audience. You can bet that a Gen Z child will read their books from a tablet or another device. If you don’t have a digital version of your book that pertains to this audience, you are losing sales.

This is a lot of information, I know. Are you marketing the right way to fit your audience?

Every author wants to believe that their books do fine with all generations. Don’t cheat yourself! Really work at determining who wants to buy your work. If you write for a Baby Boomer crowd and you market to a Gen Y, you will not be successful. You need to focus on your specific group of people and from there, it could explode on you.

Some authors will even recognize the opportunity to write for the Gen X and Y people as they are the easiest to reach and hook. There is something to this strategy. But I feel that you should write a story that speaks to you, not cater the story to your audience.

This post skims the surface of determining your audience. It is just another way to follow the avenues that will lead you to a marvelous reader base. I could go on for pages and pages…

So, here is the loaded question: What generation is your target audience?
Psst…Mine is Gen X and Y. However, there are many Baby Boomers that enjoy my work as well. But X and Y are my targets. Digital copies and paper copies are a must. Mailings and online activity are my ways of communication. I also write for two of the most difficult audiences that there are.

What about you?

Resolution Challenge

Well, Happy New Year!

I wanted to initiate a challenge to everyone out there as the New Year approaches.

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Get your Kindle out or download the Kindle app.

Then, I challenge you to look for new authors to read…perhaps someone you have never heard of before. You know, fancy names don’t mean a book is good. There are many indie authors out there who do phenomenal work! As people, the world revolves around us working together. Read other’s work, know that they are baring their soul to you, review what they had to say, and share it with those you know.

If you think you can write a better story, write it! But give others a chance to become a part of your treasured bookshelf.

You can start with my series on Amazon, my friend Cynthia Hepner, or another buddy: Random Jordan. There are so many authors selling their work for an almost insulting dollar. One dollar bill for hours of entertainment, a journey to another world, a vacation from the woes of reality.

If you take my challenge, feel free to let others know of your experiences by returning here and commenting below! 🙂

Chapter 3 of my NaNoWriMo…

 

Chapter 3

The teller at the window that Natalie stood at looked back at her like she was crazy. Natalie simply walked up and said she wanted to withdraw all of her funds. She shouldn’t have to explain herself, she shouldn’t have to justify it. They should just hand over her hard earned dollars because she asked!

“Look, I’ve been saving for a long time to take a trip. I leave in just minutes and I need my money. I do not want to use my card. It is my right to hold my money in my hands, is it not?” Natalie asked firmly.

“Uh, yes…yes, it definitely is, ma’am. It will just take a few moments to get this amount together, though,” the woman replied not taking her eyes off of the triple digit number on her screen.

“I just have a few minutes so let’s get this going,” Natalie said hoping the girl did not feel the panic in her voice as it bubbled out of her.

The woman disappeared and Natalie looked out the wall of glass windows at the clouds growing even darker, swirling in the sky. Rain was starting to fall again, she could see the drops rolling off the side of her car and onto the ground.

The woman returned with a paper in hand and asked Natalie to sign it. She handed over her identification and pressed her thumb to a plate of glass that scanned it. Then, she was handed her money in a bag of large bills. She had a feeling it had been difficult for the bank to pay her out without notice.

“I really appreciate this,” Natalie offered a small smile.

“We appreciate your business, Ms. Hunter,” the woman replied and beamed at her.

That, made Natalie feel better.

Walking outside, she looked around for anyone who looked like they would mug her. It was very odd to walk out with a bag of money. She felt like every eye was watching her, rubbing their hands together in anticipation the way a dog salivates over a steak.

She made it safely home, parked in the garage, and hurried about the business of packing her clothes for the trip home. She could hear the wind picking up in speed, the raindrops delicately pelting the window turned to sharp rapping noises. She looked through the blinds to find the hail coming down the size of her fist. She couldn’t see Stowe’s town in the valley anymore, it had become completely fogged in. Or perhaps it was just the clouds descending upon it. Quickly, she flung her bag over her shoulder and raced downstairs where she turned on the television. More news was blaring, catastrophes all over the world were happening along all of the coast lines from the huge earthquake in California. Tsunami waters were invading cities everywhere and more earthquakes were happening around the world. Japan, South America, parts of Africa and extending north and south. Tears welled in Natalie’s eyes as she saw the amount of destruction. And then, footage from Yellowstone showed more volcanic eruptions that had sent magma flowing through the cracks in the earth from further quakes in the Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming areas. Natalie’s hand flew to her mouth to stifle a cry. The ticker along the bottom was warning everyone to prepare for safety. Many tornados and hurricane weather had been reported along the east coast heading north at a fast pace and was growing in intensity.

A loud howl from somewhere outside made Natalie jerk away from the screen. She knew that sound. Her windows began rattling, her doors were being sucked in and then out but stayed secure in the jambs. The lights flickered and then went out and her entire house groaned under the pressure. Natalie ran to her front window but she could see nothing more than hail and mist. She ran to the back door that led onto a deck that faced the city below. That was where she saw it, the giant funnel cloud that was trying to decide whether or not to descend upon the inhabitants of Stowe.

“Oh, no!” she cried aloud and ran to grab her bag hastily making it down into the basement in the dark.

She unlocked her phone’s screen, the images of twisters and volcanic matter filling her mind. There was no signal. “Call Mom,” she spoke to it.

“I cannot complete your call, Natalie,” it replied to her and then a screen blinked at her. “No Signal Available”.

She let her head fall back against the cold wall and exhaled am abnormally huge sigh. “Please God, keep them safe. I may not be the most deserving of your grace, but I beg of you to protect the ones I love,” she whispered.

The ground began to shake and the rumbling above the ground became louder…and louder. It was deafening. She could hear windows breaking, thunder clapping, and the structure of her home was trying to fight back, not wanting to give in to the torment of Mother Nature. Yet, with a spectacular groan in protest and a scuffle within the walls, Natalie then heard the familiar smashing, crashing and wood splintering cries from the house and she could only imagine the extent of the damage. In the distance, she could hear her beautiful car crying for help as the panic alarm went off involuntarily. The door closing her into the room in the basement quivered like in the leaves of an autumn tree.

Natalie clapped her hands over her ears and screamed. It was almost too much to bear, the sounds, the images that had conjured in her head, the rumbling of the ground all around her.

It felt an eternity before the shaking stopped and the deep pounding ceased. Natalie was sweaty and shaking. That was worse than any tornado she had experienced before. She just sat there for some time before managing to climb to her feet and reach for the door knob.

The wind was still whipping outside when Natalie opened that door. She could feel it whistling down the stairwell. Dread filled her and a heaviness weighed in her heart. It was like time has slowed. It was difficult to walk forward, hard to see the pool table in the great room of the basement pushed against the far wall from her, one leg rocking back and forth, the table slumping lazily away from her. The light fixture lay in pieces on the carpeted, concrete floor. There was rain on the stairs and when she looked up the flight and where a door used to hang, there was only the elements exposed to her.

She just couldn’t walk up the steps to see her house gone. She wanted to throw up. Feeling weak and lightheaded, she just sat on the stairs, the water in the carpet soaking her behind. She just sat and cried until she felt sated, wishing she had someone to lean on at that point, a man to kiss and know that they could make it through this together. Instead, she was utterly alone, her parents were likely dead, and no one knew if she had lived or died. She had cut herself off from so many people, focused on making her way, defending people who lied, and obtaining material things that had just vanished beneath the scourge of Mother Nature. Now, she had been left to fend for herself, alone in this destroyed world.

Larger raindrops began to fall on Natalie’s head some time later, her brunette hair hung in wet clumps of disarray. Drops feel from her eyelashes like tears, like the ones she had cried out until she ran dry. Finally, as the light was fading and a chill was rising in the air, she wandered up the stairs and into the full force of the storm. She choked back a sob to see that there was little left behind.

What used to be her lovely, blue collar home was now strewn about as rubble. Bits of wood that used to be her walls lay in pieces as far as she could see through the rain. Shattered glass crunched beneath her feet. Her breathing became heavy as she struggled to keep calm after losing everything. Well, everything but her life. Broken dishes, pillows ripped apart, litter that was not even hers had been dropped there, and her car was upside down on the neighbor’s barely affected home two doors down. There was no going home to Wisconsin now. No way to find her parents. Barely any way for her to survive.

Natalie’s brain finally fired up the synapses in there and she began to think logically about her survival. She gathered up pieces of wood and found a random pan lying in the weather. She set it right side up to catch the moisture that she could use later for drinking. She threw as much of the wood down the stairs as she could before the light had all but vanished. Larger pieces, she drug over to the opening and stacked them over the hole in the ground to protect her from the elements. If the hurricane was still coming, she needed all the protection she could find. A large piece of black plastic sheeting flew by and slapped against a stud that was only halfway whole, ruffling wildly and noisily in the wind. She took it and spread it over the wood, keeping it down with some heavy rocks. The pan of water would be full by morning, she assessed and retreated back into the basement, securing the flap of plastic inside with rocks.

The light was gone, it was black as she felt her way down the stairs and into her room. She closed the door, regretting it not being a locked door. Never, had she thought it would become her front door. Opening the closet, she felt around for her flashlight and found it. Turning it on, it lit the room in a weak yellow light. Quickly, she stripped out of her wet clothes and pulled out her thermals from the pack and clean, dry clothes from the bag she had packed that contained her money. Using a towel, she wrapped her head to dry her hair and keep warm. Tempted by the hand warmer packets in the pack, she closed the door, telling herself it could get a lot worse before it gets any better. She may need them more on future days. Taking two blankets from the ottoman, she turned off the flashlight and flopped down on one of the couches. It had been almost 6:30 in the evening when she started fiddling with the tarp so she knew an hour had probably passed. There was little else to do but sleep and prepare for the next morning, so she snuggled down under the blankets and closed her eyes to the world that had forsaken her.

A Thank You

You know, it is very hard to step out on the stage and allow yourself to be vulnerable and judged by the public. It is quite different to make your work available over keeping a journal. Both are equally great cruades, but I didn’t care so much about who read my work or even if they did.

Now, it is a different case. I have been on a mission for some time now and finally decided it was time to really get serious about what I do because I have been told by many that I do it well.

I am having an affair with my characters. They never leave me alone. They are consuming my mind. I love them dearly. I cry when they feel sorrow. I have put in my sweat, tears and blood pressure for my readers’ benefit. It was for them that I continued to tell my characters’ story. I’m in love with my whole world and I want you to be too.

So…I want to applaud those who have taken the time to actually read my posts and my books. I owe a debt of gratitude to those who retweet me on Twitter. And I will love every one of my fans who propelled me forward even when I wanted to give up. You all know who you are and I will be forever grateful. Please keep spreading the word and telling the world how much you love the Aspen Series or Hyde and Zeek.

For those who have promoted me and wish me to mention a special you have going on or a new book being released, let me know! I am here to make the system work. And know that if I “like” your posts, it means I read them and they moved me in some way.

Weeds

“Aspen walked around her room admiring every flower in every vase until she spotted one particular bouquet. She had to stoop to pick it up and it appeared to be the only one without water. She stared at it as a smile touched her face and a tear gathered at the corner of her eye. It was a small gathering of weeds held together by the sash off of a dress. It was a child’s gift and the dearest one to her. It was the kind of gift she would have given as a child being poor but not uncharitable.” ~ Noble Courage, Chapter 8

So while this all happens at a little more melancholy part of the book, my very awesome friend, Burgandy is her name, claims to be my biggest fan and when I had surgery a few months after the release of this book, she took the time to come and see me…and brought me a sweet bouquet of weeds. I will never forget that gesture. Ever. When I think about it, I smile. My work affected someone so much that she would bring the story to life by doing something like that. I miss her calling me asking me what Thorne and Aspen are up to.

Friends are just special people. Keep them close to you always. There are few things better than just being able to call up your friend and talk out your troubles, someone who loves you for you and will always be there. I love my friends, and I love my Burgandy. It is a better world with all of you in it.  🙂