Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Christmas Reading List 2016: What You Need to Read this Holiday Season

Christmas season is upon us at last! I don't care what anybody says - I love Christmas, and I love singing Christmas songs ridiculously loud in the car when nobody is looking. Or maybe when somebody is. Don't judge me! Christmas is my favorite time of the year, including Thanksgiving, because it's the most magical and joyous occasion of the year. I love snuggling up with a good book on a cold, rainy night, clutching a steaming mug of hot tea. It's every bookworm's dream. This year, I've got a few YA and Adult picks for you guys. The books listed here have either been read by me or will soon be voraciously consumed once I have hit my publication deadlines on Unbreakable SEAL (coming at ya'll December 9th, 2016 - holla for that little bit of self-promotion!).

 If you are interested in any of the books on this year's Christmas recommendations, go purchase these wonderful novels on Amazon or Barnes & Noble! My intent here at Writing Belle is merely to promote and further the appreciation of the written word. 

So here you have it: my annual recommended holiday reads for 2016.

Let's start with some romantic drama...
The Light Between Oceans, by M.L. Stedman
After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season and shore leaves are granted every other year at best, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby. 

Tom, whose records as a lighthouse keeper are meticulous and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel has taken the tiny baby to her breast. Against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them. 

*** 
Summer's Note:
I absolutely adored this novel, by the way. If you're looking for a refreshing, almost poetic look at both romance and tragedy, I highly recommend this beautiful story. 

Next, let's visit the apocalypse...
H2O by Virginia Bergin 

It's in the rain...and just one drop will kill you.

They don't believe it at first. Crowded in Zach's kitchen, Ruby and the rest of the partygoers laugh at Zach's parents' frenzied push to get them all inside as it starts to drizzle. But then the radio comes on with the warning, "It's in the rain! It's fatal, it's contagious, and there's no cure."


Two weeks later, Ruby is alone. Anyone who's been touched by rain or washed their hands with tap water is dead. The only drinkable water is quickly running out. Ruby's only chance for survival is a treacherous hike across the country to find her father-if he's even still alive.
*** 
Summer's Note: 
In the process of reading this one. So far I love the sarcasm of the MC.

How about some dystopian to lighten the mood? 
The Book of Ivy by Amy Engel 
After a brutal nuclear war, the United States was left decimated. A small group of survivors eventually banded together, but only after more conflict over which family would govern the new nation. The Westfalls lost. Fifty years later, peace and control are maintained by marrying the daughters of the losing side to the sons of the winning group in a yearly ritual. 

This year, it is my turn. 

My name is Ivy Westfall, and my mission is simple: to kill the president’s son—my soon-to-be husband—and restore the Westfall family to power. 

But Bishop Lattimer is either a very skilled actor or he’s not the cruel, heartless boy my family warned me to expect. He might even be the one person in this world who truly understands me. But there is no escape from my fate. I am the only one who can restore the Westfall legacy.

Because Bishop must die. And I must be the one to kill him…
*** 
Summer's Note: 
Picked this beauty up on Cyber Monday, my one indulgence. I've heard great things about it. 

What's a bookshelf without some YA? 
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo 
Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can't pull it off alone...

A convict with a thirst for revenge
A sharpshooter who can't walk away from a wager
A runaway with a privileged past
A spy known as the Wraith
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes
 

Kaz's crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don't kill each other first.
*** 
Summer's Note: 
This book look amazing. I can't wait to read it. I recommend that you give it a shot, too. 

A little blend of dystopian/science diction and post-apocalyptic adventure: 
The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking #1) by Patrick Ness
Prentisstown isn't like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else's thoughts in an overwhelming, never-ending stream of Noise. Just a month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd and his dog, Manchee -- whose thoughts Todd can hear too, whether he wants to or not -- stumble upon an area of complete silence. They find that in a town where privacy is impossible, something terrible has been hidden -- a secret so awful that Todd and Manchee must run for their lives.

But how do you escape when your pursuers can hear your every thought?
*** 
Summer's Note:
There is a bit of a plot twist in this book that I am all too aware of. Word on the bookish street is that this novel will be a full-length motion picture very soon. I hope that's true!

Some brilliant fantasy never hurt anyone! 
The Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs
The adventure that began with Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and continued in Hollow City comes to a thrilling conclusion with Library of Souls. As the story opens, sixteen-year-old Jacob discovers a powerful new ability, and soon he’s diving through history to rescue his peculiar companions from a heavily guarded fortress. Accompanying Jacob on his journey are Emma Bloom, a girl with fire at her fingertips, and Addison MacHenry, a dog with a nose for sniffing out lost children.

They’ll travel from modern-day London to the labyrinthine alleys of Devil’s Acre, the most wretched slum in all of Victorian England. It’s a place where the fate of peculiar children everywhere will be decided once and for all. Like its predecessors, Library of Souls blends thrilling fantasy with never-before-published vintage photography to create a one-of-a-kind reading experience.
*** 
Summer's Note: 
If you are intimately acquainted with the bookish machinations of my imaginative mind, you will know that I am IN LOVE with and positively HEAD OVER HEELS for this series. It's addicting, it's incredible. Ransom Riggs is a masterful storyteller. 


So there you have it: a list of recommendations to get you through those cold winter nights! If you have a suggestion, feel free to email me. I'm basically game at featuring anything!

Enjoy the Christmas season, folks! 







Monday, November 21, 2016

Why I Set So Many Goals & Deadlines (And How It Can Work for YOU, too!) #NaNoWriMo2016

November is here, folks. For a lot of you, that means it's time for NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month! Aspiring authors and just-for-fun writers join together to try to complete the impossible task of writing a 50,000 word novel in just 30 days! Sound ridiculous? It is! But that's also why it's so great. The challenge is awesome. 

Personally, I've written so many books in the last 4 (almost) years, that I don't feel compelled to participate in NaNoWriMo anymore - I'm always working on a book at any given time during the year. However, I do use NaNoWriMo as a fun motivation to work faster on any chosen manuscript for the month of November! 

There's a manuscript (and it shall not be named at this time) that I've been working on for the past 10 days. On a whim, I decided that I was finally going to bring this particular book to fruition, and in order to pull off the release that I wanted, I would have to write a complete, full-length manuscript in 15 days. Bear in mind that this manuscript would also have to be relatively clean, well-researched and in need of only minor edits and modifications. There wouldn't be time to spend weeks and weeks on deep edits. 

Sounds like a bad idea, I know. But welcome to my world, where I inexplicably love to come up with impossible tasks and figure out ways to accomplish them. I think it's fun to do things that nobody can usually pull off. It defies the status quo and proves that with a little determination, you can do ANYTHING. 

Right now, I'm 10 days in, with almost 30,000 words under my belt, and the story is flowing along nicely. By the time this article releases, I will be done with the first draft. On a daily and weekly basis, people ask me what my writing method is. How (and why) do I set such insane deadlines? How do I manage to meet my project finish lines? Why do I push myself to do what everybody else usually thinks is "crazy?" 

Well, I've written up my methods for you. So at last, you will know the truth! *wink* 



I don't remember who told me this, but it's awesome.
I take breaks. Let's just say, that with the amount of technical details and research that goes into my books, I can't write as quickly as I used to. I have to make sure that what I'm writing is accurate and factual. When I'm gunning for a higher word count, I set my bar at about 3500 words a day, and I usually end the day with about 4000. But I don't sit down and write it all at once - not anymore. I take a small break every 1,000 words. I get up, I perform another task for my business, I wash the dishes, I eat a snack, I go outside and count the leaves on the trees (not really, but you get my drift). If I break, I can actually last longer. Slow and steady wins the race, after all. If you pace yourself, the insurmountable challenge won't seem so impossible, because you have broken it into smaller chunks. 

I stay well hydrated and well fed. Okay, this sounds funky, but it's true: if I am dehydrated and starving, I will get nothing done that's worth a darn. My work won't be anything of quality. Just like anything else, if you want to put your best work out there, take care of your body. Feed it, water it, put some sunshine on it. Plant yourself and grow, baby. If I feel myself dragging, I'll grab some fruit, crackers, make some tea, keep a thermos of ice water with me, etc. Feed your brain and your brain will feed your creative output. You'll be more productive. 

Make a writing time. Yes, I own a publishing house. No, I do not sit and write all day long. Managing a business means I manage all aspects of that business, along with everybody who works for me, including press and public relations, emails, interviews, editing and creative writing tutoring/consulting. Most people don't own their own publishing house - I totally get that. But if you want to write a manuscript, you have to dedicate time to it. For me, that time block is basically 8:00 a.m. to 2 p.m., every day, Monday through Friday. I don't write on weekends - unless it's an emergency. Weekends are my rest period. 


Ha. Ha.
Bust office blues. I sit in an office all day long. ALL. DAY. LONG. Sitting for hours and hours is not good for your body - it's terrible. I recommend simple exercise to clear your head, or try some easy office yoga. Don't know where to start? Look up some tutorial videos on YouTube (what did we ever do without YouTube, right?) or pick up a book at the library. Open your lungs and your eyes. You'll feel better. 

Don't beat yourself up if you miss your word count. Here's the thing: I'm totally obsessed with setting goals and deadlines and having to bring them to term. It's my own personal quirk. I can't help it. But the truth is, sometimes I fall short! For example, I had jury duty right smack in the middle of my 15-day manuscript sprint. SO not convenient for me. But I had to give up a day for it. It put me behind by 3500 words - but it was okay. I can't always make the count. Be easy on yourself every once in awhile. We're only human, ya know. 


Reward YOU. I like to dangle a proverbial carrot in front of my little writer's nose during the work day. For every small, hourly goal that I meet, I give myself a reward. Sometimes it's something small, like checking my Instagram (stress free and requires no thought), or food-related, like a couple of cookies while I sit outside and admire the blue sky. Just find what motivates you - what makes you look forward to the small moments of the day - and use that as your motivator. Some of my favorite "carrots" are: music, reading magazines, baking, watching Netflix (hello, Gilmore Girls!), texting/emailing a good friend, and of course, spending time with my husband. 

Don't be an avoider. While I'm a big "don't beat yourself up because you couldn't meet your word count today" kind of girl, I'm also not the person who thinks that making lame excuses are cool. You have to be self-motivated to get a book written, so stick to it. Finish the darn thing, even if you don't want to. Legitimate excuses are one thing, but procrastinating is another! You won't feel good about yourself if you keep avoiding your project. If you're serious about finishing a novel, you must be persistent! Get it, girl! (or boy!)  If you are sitting home all day and have nothing else to do, be productive! (I have such a problem with sitting still, can you tell?) 

This advice works for lots of things. Honestly, this mindset works well not just for writing a book, but for any area of your life that you're looking to improve - whether it's exercising, homework, teaching, finishing a project or following through with a promise. Find it within yourself to push a little harder, a little longer and a little farther. You can do it! I KNOW you can! 

Any questions? I'm always around to answer questions. You can email me at summerlane101@gmail.com. Happy writing. If you are a participant in NaNoWriMo, GOOD LUCK! 

And HAPPY THANKSGIVING! Remember to be grateful for what you have, to love those around you, and to spread kindness like God sprinkles rain. You live once. 
Spread knowledge and grace. 








Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Unbreakable SEAL: SURPRISE CHRISTMAS RELEASE FROM SUMMER LANE (Yours Truly)


Title: Unbreakable SEAL 
Author: Summer Lane 
Release Date: December 9th, 2016 
Series: Standalone Novel 

Synopsis: 
Chris Young has it all. 
Elite training, undercover missions, and a lifetime of adventure. As one of the best Navy SEALs in the world, he finds himself in the thick of some of the violent situations on planet earth. 

He's a warrior. 

But when his wife is murdered by terrorist assassins, everything he thinks he knows changes. For Chris Young, everything is now about revenge, and finding the people who killed his wife. 

He will assemble a team. He will come up with a plan. 

He will make them pay. 

From the #1 bestselling author of the Collapse Series, Zero Trilogy and Bravo Saga, comes this thrilling adventure novel about one man's quest to avenge the person he loves most.



I gotta be honest with you: writing and publishing Unbreakable SEAL is probably the craziest thing I've ever done, considering I did it in perhaps the fastest timeline I have ever written and edited a book. 

I decided on a whim that I wanted to release a novel for the holiday season - something I've always wanted to do! The idea for Unbreakable SEAL has been in my head for years, ever since the original conception of the character of Commander Chris Young. To actually bring it to life was a ridiculous challenge and I totally loved it. 

Thankfully, I've done so much research on tech specs and tactical operations that writing an adventure novel is literally second nature to me at this point in my career. But still a challenge. 

Chris's story is the first and only novel I have ever published that is not set during the apocalypse. It is a prequel of sorts, and it deals with war in a modern fashion - the way that we presently deal with it. It's insight into Chris's backstory and molding. His trials and tribulations - what really made him Chris Young, the leader, the friend, the lover. *wink* 

It's the story of one man's unbreakable resolve and will, his promise to avenge what has been lost, and to bring those to justice who have committed heinous crimes. Chris Young is popular, I think, because he represents a hero who fights for something so obviously right. He's a protector, a defender and an all-around trustworthy leader. I thought it was fitting that he finally receive his own book.

So, there you have it. In just THREE weeks, I'll be dropping this beauty on December 9th, 2016, nationally and internationally. 

I hope you love it. 






Monday, November 14, 2016

FINDING PARADISE: ROMANCE NOVEL BLITZ (With $25 Gift Card Giveaway)


Finding Paradise
V.P. Ortiz
Publication date: September 24th 2016
Genres: New Adult, Romance

Mila Quinn is ready to finally move out of the college dorms into an apartment with her longtime boyfriend, Ethan Lowe. But when Ethan reveals a big secret, her world is suddenly turned upside down, stirring up old memories of love and loss. Completely torn apart, she boards a plane to Hawaii to escape for the summer.
Even though Mila wants to spend her time in paradise in isolation, fate has other plans when it drops sexy local Gage Madden in her lap. Hesitant at first, she agrees to let him take the reins on her island exploration. As Mila discovers the wonders of Oahu with Gage, it becomes harder for her to fight the budding attraction between them.
But behind the curtain of island adventures and undeniable chemistry, trouble is brewing where Mila least expects it. Secrets begin to bubble to the surface that could destroy her all over again. Will Mila find her paradise? Or will she leave Hawaii with another broken heart?
EXCERPT:
We’re not at this cafĂ© for a normal lunch between a boyfriend and his loyal girlfriend. No, my dear, we’re here for an ambush. A bombshell. A catastrophic turn of events that’s about to turn my uneventful life upside down. And I’m supposed to have words at this point to speak? What are words?
“Mila…”
Ethan utters my name, but I can’t peel my gaze away from the image in front of me. My tunnel vision is focused on the small grayscale picture he slid towards me with guilty eyes a few minutes ago. The picture next to the Cobb salad that will never be eaten and next to the iced tea covered in condensation dripping down the glass, crying for me.
The picture is actually perfectly clear. They say it’s hard to make out anything but blobs of gray in these things, that you can’t see much at this point. But they say a lot of things, like that love conquers all, and all you need is love. Whoever they are, they are full of shit.
I can see everything in the picture so perfectly. The tiny button nose, the delicate fingers, the rounded belly. I can make it all out just fine.
The baby in the ultrasound picture in front of me belongs to my boyfriend.
But the baby in the ultrasound picture doesn’t belong to me.



About the Author
V.P. Ortiz lives, works, and breathes in sunny/snowy/beautiful Colorado with her loving husband, their two beautiful children, and their three fat cats. While her home may be in the Rocky Mountains, she left her heart somewhere on the island of Oahu, where she plans to retire someday in a tiny house with an avocado tree and free-range chickens. Besides reading any book in sight, her hobbies also include eating, dancing, lip syncing, and occasionally running until her husband has to pick her up eight miles away because she got lost and has a leg cramp.
Learn more at http://www.vportiz.com


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Thursday, November 10, 2016

STATE OF ALLEGIANCE: COVER AND SYNOPSIS REVEAL

COMING WINTER 2017
The 9th thrilling installment in the #1 bestselling COLLAPSE SERIES! 



Be brave. Be vigilant. But above all, be loyal. 

In the wake of a dangerous but successful mission to Yukon City in Alaska, Cassidy Hart now finds herself back in California, at the naval air station in San Diego. Together, she and Chris now face their most terrifying threat yet: nuclear destruction. 

Surviving in a world gone nuclear is easier said than done. Faced with the prospect of being wiped off the face of the earth by Omega's nuclear arsenal, Cassidy, Chris and their fellow rebel friends stage an incredible, daring journey into the Pacific Rim with the hope that they will be able to seize a weapon that could turn the tide of the war in the militia's favor. 

The clock of the apocalypse is counting down. 
Choices must be made. Relationships will be strained. True love will be put to the ultimate test. 
It's militias versus Omega. Hope versus destruction. 

Where does your allegiance lie? 

Choose carefully. 



I am SO excited to release this installment of The Collapse Series. I know I say that with every release - but it's true! This book is amazing - unlike any other novel I've written. It is set in the Pacific Rim, which means that Cassidy is LEAVING the North American continent for this book. Pretty cool, right? 

The release date is not yet finalized. I am currently working on dropping my surprise novel for readers, UNBREAKABLE SEAL, in December 2016. So until that baby is signed, sealed and delivered, we won't have a release date for Allegiance. 

But don't worry. I'm hard at work. 
This is the second to last installment in the series before we cap at the tenth novel. 

Will it really, truly be the end of Cassidy Hart and her comrades? 
*wink* 
WE SHALL SEE. 

(I'll just leave you with that)






Monday, November 7, 2016

THE LAST TREASURE OF ANCIENT ENGLAND: Interview with M.J. Colewood


If you love the idea of a historical mystery, then The Last Treasure of Ancient England is definitely a book that you should pick up. Written by two co-authors, this novel begins after the Battle of Hastings, way back in the year 1066. 

To be honest, I didn't know anything about this book until the authors and I corresponded a few times over the wonderful worldwide web (hello, skynet!). I enjoyed getting to know them through their interview and I think that you will, too. Give their book a try - support independent authors and pick it up today! 


Interview with M. J. Colewood 


THE LAST TREASURE OF ANCIENT ENGLAND
M.J. COLEWOOD

You may be surprised to learn that M.J. Colewood is in fact not one author, but two: Mark Colenutt and Jacqueline Wood.

Welcome to Writing Belle! Tell us about yourselves, and how you became a writing team. 
We were both teaching at the same school and if I remember rightly, the first conversation that we ever had was about books. Many a lunchtime was spent discussing authors and eventually we were brave enough to talk about our own writing. Over the years we’ve been involved in our own projects, but Mark had an idea that he particularly wanted to see come to fruition. One day he asked if I would be interested in co-authoring a book. When he told me what it was about I was only too happy to get involved.

Tell us about the novel you wrote. How did it come about - and where did you get inspiration from?
The Last Treasure of Ancient England is what can only be described as a historical mystery adventure story. It begins in 1066 in the aftermath of the Battle of Hastings when the corpse of King Harold is looted. The disappearance of a particular item enrages Duke William, and only one of his knights knows its whereabouts. In his remaining years, this knight has to make a decision: will he ever share his secret, or take the greatest enigma in English history to the grave.

When Chester Bentley arrives at his new boarding school in 1981, he is unprepared for the mystery it conceals. Then, the discovery of an age-old riddle lures him and his friends into a quest to uncover the secrets safeguarded by the stately manor house. Hidden somewhere in the county is an extraordinary treasure and the school holds the key to its location. But something is lurking in the dark, shadowing their night-time adventures, and a ghostly legend puts fear into the bravest of pupils. Can they succeed where others have failed and even died, in a chilling hunt to reveal the last treasure of ancient England?

The idea for the story came from Mark’s own time at Buckland House School in Devon:
 “One finds that classroom time is quality daydreaming time and I put those endless hours to that fine use. My school had an ancient history, with its Norman foundations and that coupled with a few other notable characteristics set my mind meandering during many a Latin lesson. I later went on to do a degree in Medieval history and that added more fuel to what was gradually transforming itself into a story. Just 35 years later I had it all worked out, more or less, which if you were to ask any of my bygone teachers was pretty quick going for Master Colenutt.”
The story covers three eras, the 1980’s which comes from Mark’s own experience, the 1930’s and 1066. Mark has an MA in history and did meticulous research around the subject. The challenge was, taking a famous person like William the Conqueror and portraying him in an accurate light. The battle speech for example is so convincing that it’s hard to believe that those weren’t his actual words.

There is a lot of research involved for everything. You must get the details right and it’s essential to stop and question everything: what did people wear, eat, do and say? It’s a bit like spotting a spectator wearing glasses in the hippodrome as Ben Hur flies past in his chariot, or plastic bottle of water in the background of a television drama set in Victorian times, people will pick up on it immediately. William the Conqueror would have benefited from having a mobile phone in his pocket to plan his military campaign, but it just can’t happen.


How long did it actually take you to write the book itself - from day one to publication? 
Just over a year. We began by planning the storyline, clues, chapters and characters. Because it’s the first book in the series, we also had to think very carefully about how we want the characters to be in the future, to ensure that their development throughout the first book is consistent with that plan. Then came the writing and lastly the moment of truth when we gave the book to our first readers. They came back with comments which we considered, then we made some changes, even at the last minute before publication.

Are you planning on writing any more books after this? 
Yes, this is the first of Chester Bentley’s mysteries and we have a very good idea of what those mysteries will be. We also have our own projects on a back burner. I have a children’s book which needs to see the light of day and Mark has several self-published titles already out there in his Hispanophile series covering Don Quixote and Old Seville among other topics. He also has two non-fiction history titles: Under Providence, about how Britain really took power in India and a further revisionary title concerning the Raj which he is presently seeking representation for.

Where can readers connect with you guys online?
We’ve got a website www.chesterbentleymysteries.com where you can find out background information about us and the book, as well as contact details. You can connect with us on Twitter: @MJColewood, Facebook: Chester Bentley Mysteries and you can also find us on Goodreads.

Thank you so much for visiting with us! 


Grab M.J. Colewood's book on Amazon!