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Monday, August 27, 2012

Jennifer Hillier: A New Voice in Suspense

Hello, Fire Enthusiasts. Those of you have been with me the longest know that I just love sharing great new books or authors with you. Last year, I told you about Jennifer Hillier. In Creep, her fantastic debut, Dr. Sheila Tao is kidnapped and held by a serial killer that she knows. She knew him because he was her teaching assistant and because she had a sexual affair with him. Engaged to someone else, she broke it off with Ethan Wolfe, but he didn’t take no for an answer and very nearly killed her. It was only due to the efforts of Detective Mike Torrance, former police detective and now P.I. Jerry Isaac and Sheila’s fiancé, Morris Gardener that she survived.

In the just released sequel, Freak, Hillier takes the story further as Ethan is out of the picture, but his girlfriend and partner in crime, Abby Maddox, is in jail for the crimes that either one or both of them committed. However, women are turning up dead all over Seattle. They are the spitting image of Abby Maddox and they have the phrase: Free Abby Maddox scrawled onto their bodies. Dr, Tao, Jerry Isaac, Detective Torrance and the surviving characters have their worlds turned upside down as they grapple with the manipulating psychopath that seems to be taunting and striking out at them from behind bars... That is until she gets out.

If you know me at all, you know that I live on my laptop - that is whenever I’m not at my 11 hour day job. I found this book to be such a page turner that I literally left my computer off until I had finished the ride. And what a ride it is! This thing has all the twists and turns of any novel out there.

I’d like to say something about twists and surprise endings. Sometimes these can be overdone. Have you found this? I recall watching The Dark Knight and thinking to myself that if the Joker was that far ahead of Batman all the time, how could he ever be caught? In the Dan Brown novel, Angels and Demons, I thought the first three quarters of the novel were brilliant, and then it had one twist too many for my tastes. Having said that, you may find this to be true about Freak. Had the series ended with this second book, I would have sided on that side of things; however, now that it appears there will be another chapter in the series, I think it works just fine.

I will state, unequivocally, that Hillier is a fresh new voice in fiction. Where some use the same tired formula, Hillier shakes things up, pushing the boundaries of Crime, Suspense, Thriller and Horror fiction to create a serious rival to the current crop of masters out there. Eventually she will be a household name. Of this I have no doubt.     

Hillier’s writing breeds three-dimensional characters that literally leap from the page. As a reader, you will believe that she is an expert in Psychology, police procedure and the penal system. Her perfect pacing leaves no room for anything as it plows forward, taking you on a rewarding trip that will cause you to stay up well into the night, take longer lunch breaks and perhaps even keep you off of the social networks (as I did) as you flip page after meaty page.

Hillier’s got the goods, my friends, and she delivers on all counts.

Now, before I go, I am pleased to tell you that we are making real progress over here at Dance on Fire headquarters (Sorry. Perhaps too much Starbucks has caused me delusions of grandeur). Dance on Fire: Flash Point is in the hands of an editor and I am pushing for an October release. I have the cover ready to go and will be revealing that next week. If any of you would like to reveal it on your site as well, I would love to hear from you. Until next week.

We'll talk soon.   

Monday, August 20, 2012

Missed Periods

Hello, Fire Enthusiasts. It’s so good, as always, to have you drop by. As you know, I typically only post once a week on Mondays. The good news is I only have to spend my week dreaming up one topic for discussion. I don’t know whether you’ve noticed, but I love it when I don’t have to talk about me and my writing. I mean, I’m a writer. You know this. I don’t have to tell you that. My book is there in the top right corner. I’d love it if you bought it and said something nice about it on Amazon. It’s pretty good, in fact. Notice I didn’t say it was the greatest thing since apple pie. Apple pie is fairly tough to beat in a contest, you know.

In any event, I’d much rather talk about someone else’s book, and today I get to do just that. Please welcome my buddy Jenny Baranick. She is the author of the new book, Missed Periods and Other Grammar Scares: How to Avoid Unplanned and Unwanted Grammar Errors. She caught your attention with that title, didn’t she? That’s because what she brings to the table is fresh and innovative. Here’s the Amazon blurb:

Grammar has finally let its hair down! Unlike uptight grammar books that overwhelm us with every single grammar rule, Missed Periods and Other Grammar Scares is like a bikini: it’s fun, flirty, and covers only the most important bits. Its lessons, which are 100 percent free of complicated grammar jargon, have been carefully selected to include today’s most common, noticeable errors—the ones that confuse our readers or make them wonder if we are, in fact, smarter than a fifth grader. What is the proper use of an apostrophe? When should an ellipsis be used instead of an em dash? Why do we capitalize President Obama but not “the president”? And why is that question mark placed outside of the end quote?

Author Jenny Baranick is an English professor whose students can’t believe she’s actually
that into grammar. Upon experiencing the joys of grammar at an early age, raising grammar awareness became Jenny’s raison d'être
. By spreading her remarkably user-friendly and hilarious approach to grammar, she hopes everyone will experience the satisfaction of a properly placed comma, a precisely used semicolon, and a correctly deployed en dash.

Missed Periods and Other Grammar Scares shows grammar as it’s never been seen before: uncomplicated, laugh-out-loud funny, and, dare we say, a little risqué.

ow More
I stumbled into Jenny's class, so to speak, sometime in 2010, when I happened to find her insightful, intriguing and always hilarious blog. Since that first read I have been “signing up” for her class every week. Welcome her to the blog, won’t you.

Me: Hello, Jenny. I really enjoy what you do on that blog of yours and am very excited to see your new book. How and when did you decide that teaching English was what you wanted to do with your life?
Jenny: Thank you so much for liking my blog and being excited about my book. When I was in 11th grade, I had an English teacher, Mrs. Rippe. On one of our exams, she included an extra credit question that asked us to analyze an Emily Dickinson poem. I sat there and stared at the words and they meant nothing to me. Then, magically, all of a sudden, the meaning opened up to me, and I was so excited and I realized that I wanted to help others unlock the mysteries of literature. However, because I work at a fashion college, the students are only required to take English Composition, so now I help them unlock the mysteries of the comma and the thesis statement. Not quite as sexy as poetry.
Me: When given the choice I gravitated toward English and creative writing classes; however, I’m terrible at the rules of grammar. I usually only “luck” into getting my sentences correct. What is it about grammar that gets you so excited?

Jenny: Grammar excites me because I was the same as you. I was a big reader, so by osmosis I got by grammatically in college. I’d get a few red marks but not enough to affect my grade. Then, I was assigned to teach a remedial English class that focused on grammar, and I was cocky enough to think that I could just wing it. And then something horrible happened: the students started actually asking questions, and I was stuck. I couldn’t explain why, for example, a comma went there; I just knew it did. So it was terribly embarrassing, and I studied my butt off during the quarter break only to realize how liberating it was to actually know the rules. I no longer had to rearrange sentences because I wasn’t sure if a comma went there or not, and, even more exciting: I learned the purpose of a semicolon. I want everyone to experience that sense of liberation.

Me: How and when did you get your start blogging? Did you have any inclination that a book might come out of what you were doing on the blog?

Jenny: The idea for the book came before the idea of the blog. I started the blog to get a platform for the book. However, I don’t think I could have actually written the book without the blog because blogging is how I actually discovered and gained confidence in my writing voice.

Me: What has been the process of getting your book produced? What roads did it have to take in order to see the light of day?

Jenny: It has been a long road! I think I saw a draft from 2008 the other day. When I started the process, as I’m sure is the case with many writers, I didn’t know about querying or proposals or any of that. I think perfecting the proposal took almost as long as the book. And there was so much rejection! I had agents telling me that no one would want to publish a book like this, that they liked the concept but not the way it came across on the page, that they thought I was ugly and worthless (okay, not really, but that’s what it felt like). After MUCH revision, it all finally came together. The day I finally got my agent, Neil Salkind—who has been wonderful to work with—was up there with the day I found out Johnny Depp was back on the market.

Me: BB King named his guitar Lucille, but has had many. Tell us what you’ve done to your car and explain why this version is not the original either.

Jenny: One morning I was getting coffee and my dilapidated 2001 Toyota Corolla was parked next to a shiny, new Prius. And, although I’m not a car snob, I’ll admit it: I had a moment of superficiality. I wanted my car to be pretty, and somehow my stream of consciousness went from “I should paint it” to “I should transform it into a grammarmobile” in about ten seconds. (And that was before the coffee!) So I got obsessed with the idea and thought it would be a great way to promote myself, so I stuck funny grammar sayings all over my car. Then, I got into a car accident and my car was totaled (I was fine). But it all worked out because I took the money from the insurance and bought a shiny, new(ish) Prius. And, then, of course, I turned her into a grammarmobile. What should I name her?

Me: Where do your ideas come from? Do your students make you sign a confidentiality agreement, just in case they do something terrible for fear it will become fodder for your blog or perhaps book 2?

Jenny: Many of my ideas do come from my students’ errors, but they don’t make me sign a confidentiality agreement because—and herein lies the problem—grammar is the last thing on their minds. My students know I am the crazy lady who drives the grammar car, and many of them know I wrote a book. However, they’re fashion students, so they’re like call me when you’ve started your own fashion line.

Me: You remind me of a good preacher who has a point he or she wants to make, but catches your attention with something else, only to swing you around to see what they wanted you to understand. Have you always had this skill or did you have to work at it?

Jenny: I borrowed (okay, copied) this technique from the author Tom Robbins. I was always so tickled by how he would start a chapter discussing something and weave his way into his actual point. I loved the surprise of where I landed. I love surprises.

Me: What do you do to “let your hair down” and have you had much opportunity for that as you gear up for your release day?

Jenny: Oh, you know, sky diving, space travel and ultimate fighting. Okay, the truth is I am boring. Obviously, I like to read and write. I also like to do yoga, play piano, thrift shop, and do the Sunday LA Times crossword puzzle.

Me: Finally, the stereotype is teachers should be given a shiny apple, but you would rather have your students stand on their desks and salute you as their captain. Care to explain?

Jenny: First of all, I am not a big fan of apples. I always feel hungrier after eating an apple than I do before. And that scene from Dead Poet’s Society was amazing. It was Ethan Hawke’s character who started the whole standing on the desk thing, and he was the one that was so timid in the beginning. I would love to inspire that kind of change and passion in my students. And I have a penchant for the dramatic. And I love attention.

I’ve had a great time spending a few moments with Jenny and hope you have as well. Do yourself a favor and sign up for her class. I guarantee it’ll be your favorite, and you’ll find yourself clamoring up onto your desk and shouting her name in no time. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter and her blog. Don't forget to check out her book.
We’ll talk soon.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Blog Ring of Power interview & Lucky 7's

Hello, Fire Enthusiasts. Thanks for dropping by. It always means the world to me when you do. I will be monitoring from the day job since my blessed two weeks of vacation have now ended. That means 3 am alarms, and shifts of eleven hours or more and a company cell phone that rings and rings and rings... On the other hand, air conditioning isn't cheap. Has it been dreadful where you live, my friends? It's been solid triple digits here in the California Central Valley, so I'd better get back to work if I want to be properly shielded from that.

I was tagged by friend and talented author Linda Cassidy Lewis this week. If you aren't familiar with Lewis, you really ought to follow the link. You might recall my telling you about her delightful novel, The Brevity of Roses. Anyway, I had told her that I would schedule my response in another week. However, instead of offering any updates on novel or publishing progress, I thought I would go ahead and do it now. It would give me an opportunity to offer a taste of what's coming with book 2. According to the rules of the Lucky 7 Meme, I'm supposed to start at page 7, travel 7 lines down and then offer the next 7 sentences to you. Unfortunately, there was little "meat" there, so I skipped to page 77 instead.

First, a bit of back story. Steve and Angie Rosen make their home in Morro Bay, California. Before that, they had been next door neighbors to the main heroes of Dance on Fire back in Kingsburg, California. They hadn't seen their only child, Tiffany, since the week a fire took their former home. That was five years ago. In that time, Steve had neither had any contact with his former neighbor, (then Detective and now) Police Chief Michael Lopez. Due to escalating tensions, Steve has since reached out to Chief Lopez. Ok, that's a spoiler enough, so ask me no further questions. ;)

Steve trudged into the kitchen without turning on a light, his mind going a mile a minute. By this point, he just knew that Ashley had disclosed to Tiffany about her having discovered him snooping in their bedroom. Whether the subject of her being topless in his presence had come up, he was unsure just what he should think about that; and just what might Tiffany say, if anything, to her mother.

He walked over to the sink and placed his hands on each side of it to steady himself. He looked out the window at nothing in particular, wondering suddenly just what it had been that he had come into the kitchen for. And then he thought about the chief just as instantly as he had contemplated his purpose in being in the kitchen. He considered his instructions on the message that he had left about exactly when to call and began to half-pray that the chief might disregard them and call right this moment. Hell! he thought. Walking in the door might be better. Steve was surrounded by family and yet he felt so utterly alone.

I know, I know. You have questions. You probably will want to read Dance on Fire first. Everything else will become clear later this year when I release Dance on Fire: Flash Point.

A few weeks ago I was interviewed for a group of cool people that collectively are known as the Blog Ring of Power. It was quite the extensive interview and not always easy to answer. I was challenged by it, and I hope you'll find it interesting and informative. It will be broken up into five parts and the first part was posted this past Friday. If you have the time, I hope you will surf over and show the different bloggers some blog love. Below you will find the necessary links.

Part 1 @ Em - Friday, August 10th Realms of a Fantastical Mind.
Part 2 @ Sandra - Monday, August 13th Sandra Ulbrich Almazan. 
Part 3 @ Dean - Tuesday, August 14th The Write Time.
Part 4 @ Terri - Wednesday, August 15th Home of Author Terri Bruce. 
Part 5 @ T.W. - Thursday, August 16th T.W. Fendley, Author. 
I hope you guys all have a great week.
We'll talk soon. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Amazon Giveaway - The Aftermath

Hello, Fire Enthusiasts. How's your week? That's not really a fair question, I realize, since it might be just starting, depending upon when you see this post. Perhaps I should try a different tactic. May you have a great week, followed up by a fantastic weekend. You see, I'm still on vacation from the day job, so it should be fairly easy for me to enjoy my week. I'm Sorry. I'm not trying to rub it in or anything. :)

This has been one of those stay-cations, rather than a vacation. We did take one day trip to Monterey, California. My dad had never been to the world famous Aquarium, so the four of us picked him up and took him with us. We had a nice day, getting away from the triple digits and cooling off on the Central Coast. We might do something else before I go back to work next week, but for the most part I'm simply glad to have had some extended time off.

Now, with regard to my free event this past weekend, I'm torn. On the one hand, I am unsure just how many copies I thought I might be able to give away, but having read how others had done with their events - giving a couple of thousand copies away - I guess I hoped to do the same. I realize these things are hit and miss, but I would be lying to you now if I simply hid those feelings and pretended to be giddy. As of late Sunday night, I had given approximately 700 copies of Dance on Fire away. At my peak I reached #363 after having began the event at #93,554 in the free rankings. In specific categories, I reached #14 in Suspense, #22 in Thriller, and #17 in Horror.

Am I being silly or unrealistic with regard to quantity of copies given away? Feel free to tell me. I really want to feel great about what happened.

On the other hand, there is much to be positive and extremely thankful about. In the first two years of being published, I think I may have moved somewhere between two and three hundred copies of my book. It was on every site except Amazon. It had good reviews, but didn't really go far. I mean no offense to those sites. I will be back there soon. My point is, I had never been in the large pond before and was looking toward making as big a splash there as I possibly could. I guess I did make a fairly big splash when you think about it. One of my bestie's, the author Linda Cassidy Lewis (The Brevity of Roses), promised me that I was about to reveal myself to a much bigger audience than had seen my work before. And we did. We were between 2x and 3x as many readers in two days than I had done in two years. I guess I shouldn't hang my head, huh?

And lastly, the thankful part. If it weren't for you guys, I never would have come this far, either in copies given away or even getting that book on Amazon in the first place. So many of you never ceased to offer a hand in assistance, whether that was formatting, editing, etc. You have been there to pat me on the back, massage my shoulders, offer high-five's or pull me back up to my feet when I began to fall. You spent your weekend offering RT's on Twitter; posting and sharing my giveaway on Facebook; cheering me on with FB, Twitter and Google-plus comments; helping me keep my mind off the numbers while I sat in front of my lap top all weekend long; and all sorts of other things. You buddies, pals, mates, chums, secret crushes (had to throw that in there, but will never confess just who *grins*) and friends are really a marvelous community of writers and readers. No matter the final numbers, this has been a splash, and I couldn't have done it without you.

So, what's next? I loved The West Wing television show and President Bartlett always asked that.

Well, now that the event is over, I will turn my attention to the sequel, Dance on Fire: Flash Point. We're still finishing up the cover and I'm waiting for another beta reader or two to get back to me with their takes on how I've done. I will be contacting a professional editor and scheduling that work. I want to get the sequel up on Amazon before the year is over. During this time I will work on producing the softcover version of Dance on Fire, working with Amazon for that as well.

As always, if you have any advice for me, I would love to hear it.

Thanks again for everything, you guys. We've come a long way together.

We'll talk soon.  

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

At Long Last...Amazon (Free Event)

Hello, Fire Enthusiasts. Hey, it's mid-week! What am I doing posting again? Well, I'll tell you. It's been a long strange trip...

Many of you have been with me since January 2010. I thank you and everyone else who has climbed aboard since then for your visits, encouragement and, in a great many cases, friendships like I have never known. We may not have grown up, attended school or worked together; however, you and I share something that family, friends and co-workers have never been able to understand. We have a love for telling stories and a storehouse full of stories to tell.

As most of you are aware I lost my small publisher recently, as she closed up shop quite unexpectedly. I had that pity-party for a day and then converted that wasted energy into action. I contacted a few of you about joining your small presses or publishing homes, but in the end decided to go it alone. Please forgive me if I wasted your time. I didn't think I had the time or knowledge to go it alone, but so many offered support and so much of themselves that I realized that it was only fear that was holding me back.

Putting your advice and encouragement to good use, I (reluctantly) stepped away from the blogs and social networks, and entered the proverbial writer's cave where I began line editing my debut novel, Dance on Fire. For those who have read it already, I thank you. I found those errors and took the polish to every sentence and have, I think, made that baby shine. I apologize for not having done that the first time. I thought I had. *sigh* I'm still learning, and endeavor to do a much better job with every subsequent release.

The novel had been on every site except Amazon. When the publisher closed it came down everywhere. Now its back, better than ever, and firmly ensconced on Amazon's KDP Select Program. The link at the top right hand of my blog is working again and will take you right to it.

If you're new here and are unfamiliar with my book, it is a PG-13 read about two vampires who know one another and are not exactly pleased about that. They meet in modern day Central California in my real-life hometown of Kingsburg, leaving quite the body count. It is a crossover, combining the best of "edge of your seat" horror and suspense with Christian themes. I did my best to toe that middle ground and hope you find it to be a wonderfully fresh combination.

Those of you who know me on the social networks may have already seen an invitation to this weekend's free event. If not, allow me to invite you now. This weekend, August 4th and 5th, I am launching my arrival on Amazon with a free event. Let me also thank you in advance for picking up your copy, replacing your old version with this new one and for sharing this news wherever you can. You guys are great that way, so I thank you well in advance.

What's next? I have heard back from some betas on Dance on Fire: Flash Point. I will quickly turn my attention there. We have been working on the cover. Once I line edit that bad boy, I will be having it professionally edited for release before the end of the year. It seems I have been promising this for a very long time. I plan to rectify this very soon.

Once again, many thanks for your friendship, encouragement and support.

We'll talk soon.