Friday, September 27, 2013

Spencer Hill Press Author Michelle Pickett Visits Writing Belle!

Spencer Hill Press is a publishing house that dishes out one awesome book after another, particularly in the Young Adult category. This year I read PODs, a YA novel about the end of the world as we know it. It centers around Eva, a girl who is among a select group of people chosen to enter underground containment units and be spared a painful death caused by a worldwide plague. I was so excited to talk to the author, Michelle Pickett, about the world she created in PODs. Let's start!

Thank you so much for visiting, Michelle! 
Thank you so much for hosting me today! I’m so excited to be here.

I read PODs over summer vacation earlier this year and thoroughly enjoyed the story world you created. Can you tell us how you came up with the idea for the novel?
I really wish I had some great answer for this question, but I really don’t. It’s actually kind of boring, really. I think it came about when I was watching a news program about the new “super viruses” doctors have been warning us about. My husband and I started talking about them, and I also spoke to my physician about them and how they related to the overuse of antibiotics, including antibacterial hand soaps and so forth. Around that time my mother had a hospital stay and contracted a very serious case of MRSA that was resistant to a lot of medications the doctors were prescribing her. All these events jumbled in my head and somehow the idea for PODs was born.

This publishing house is awesome.
The driving force behind Eva's determination is her love for David. Explain their character creation.
Eva was the first character that “introduced” herself to me when I started writing. She started telling me the story. I knew there’d be some type of romance component to the story, but I hadn’t formed David until I actually stated writing about the POD occupants. He just evolved as I wrote him.
I wanted them to both be strong characters, but also have flaws, just like a real person would have. I wanted them to be very vulnerable. I mean, they’re going through a lot of very emotional things! I hope that comes across.  Their complete devotion to each other, though, shows that they weren’t totally vulnerable. They still had fight in them. In a time of death and destruction they found each other and held on with both hands and despite the obstacles thrown at them, they didn’t let go.

This is not your run-of-the-mill apocalyptic novel. It took me by surprise on a few fronts, but the most interesting to me was the concept of the underground pods in which the selected populace took shelter from the disease. How did you go about bringing this idea to life?
The PODs were the one thing in the book that was the hardest concept for me. It took the longest for me to conceptualize. I wanted something that could be already in place, but was secret. The PODs were built by the government years before the virus hit as a means to escape any form of attack on the country, but the general population wasn’t aware they existed. So I had to come up with something that was hidden.
I lived in New Mexico (where the PODs are located) for a time, so I know there is a lot of undeveloped land and also there is almost always a breeze, at least where I lived. So the undeveloped land was perfect for an underground structure and the breeze made the wind power doable. And New Mexico is sunny—it’s always beautiful, making solar power very believable. So, that’s how the idea for the underground PODs grew.

How long did it take you to write PODs? What was it like?
PODs was the fastest book I’ve written. It was very exciting because it came to me so quickly. From start to finish, it took three months. That’s from the first time my fingers touched the keys until I had an offer for publication. It was like a dream—still is. I feel completely blessed. I’m still in awe by the entire thing.

Michelle's upcoming release, coming March 2014
Do you write with or without music? And do you have a favorite writing snack? *winks*
I write with music sometimes and without sometimes. It really depends on my mood and how noisy the house is. PODs has a playlist on my webpage ( and on youtube. I don’t think I’ve updated them so one might have one or two songs the other doesn’t.
Snacks, ugh, yes. I’m addicted to Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. You know the snack sized ones in the bag? Yeah, they are bad, bad, bad. I put the bag in my desk drawer and sneak them while I write. I’m currently trying to kick the habit, but I have to admit...I’m a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup junkie. But, hey, they say the first step is admitting you have a problem, right?  (ha-ha).

Any plans for a sequel, prequel or novella? Say yes! 
Okay, YES!  The sequel is titled “The Infected” and will release November 2014. I know it is SOOO far away, but I hope when it’s released readers will think it was worth the wait.  And just a side note: I’m doing edits now, so if there is something you’d like to see in the sequel—or not see—drop me an email. I can’ promise it’ll be added, but I try to make readers happy as much as possible!

Do you have any advice to offer aspiring authors?
Don’t stop. This is a hard industry. So write, write and then write some more. Learn how to edit your work so it shines and submit, submit and submit some more. And when those rejection letters come (and they will), let yourself have a pity party for five minutes then get back to work. Don’t stop!
And find a group of writers, either on line or in person, who can offer you support and you can support them, as well. You won’t believe how much having a group of your peers surround you with positive vibes helps! I didn’t have that while writing PODs. I’m thankful I have a group of very talented and very sweet writing friends now. I don’t know what I did without them!

Thank you so much for stopping by! Best of luck to you in all your writing endeavors!

Thank you so much for having me. I’ve enjoyed answering your questions. I love to hear from readers, bloggers and other authors. Drop me a note anytime. 

I always love to hear from readers, bloggers and other authors!
Find me here:

Buy Links for PODs:

Buy Links for Milayna:
About Michelle
I’m a wife, mother, reader and writer, although not always in that order. Between helping my twin eight year-old daughters with their second grade homework and my twelve year-old son with his sixth grade homework (which I’ve recently learned I am NOT smarter than a fifth (or sixth) grader, thank you very much Jeff Foxworthy), and being a football mom (GO BULLDOGS!) I write young adult urban fantasies, science/fiction and paranormal romances and have recently started dabbling in young adult and new adult contemporary romance.

Red Bull or Monster Khaos are my coffee of choice and my day doesn’t start until I’ve downed one. My son usually hands me a can as soon as I stumble into the kitchen in the morning. I’m addicted to Reese’s peanut butter cups and eat way too many while I write (I’m currently trying to kick this habit). I have an abnormal obsession with hoodies and can’t write without one and since I live in Texas it’s an odd habit to have. But I strive to be abnormal. Normal is boring. We all need a little quirkiness in our lives.

I hate to cook, but love to watch cooking shows on television. The closest I’ll ever get to cooking anything resembling gourmet food would be writing a character who is a chef. I’m a hopeful romantic; I love a swoon-worthy ending that will give me butterflies for days. And books that keep me thinking of them long after I’ve finished the last page. Although I graduated Summa Cum Laude with a degree in accounting (why I chose a career that frowns on creativity remains a mystery), I am very blessed to have a husband that supports my writing so much that he encouraged me to write full-time. 
My work includes:
Young adult books in paperback and ebook format:

The Amazon Bestselling young adult novel PODs
Milayna, March 2014
Milayna’s Angel (Milayna #2), September 2014
The Infected, a PODs novel, November 2014
The Innocent (Milayna #3), April 2015.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Buying Book Reviews? Say it isn't so!

I don't know if you've noticed or not, but lately I've been seeing a lot of stories about authors - and just businesses in general - buying positive customers reviews by the hundreds to boost their sales. What's so bad about buying reviews, you ask? Because it's akin to bribery, and if somebody is being paid to write a glowing review about a book, product, restaurant, or hotel, then the review isn't true. It's fictionalized, and therefore a lie. It's wrong. It's unethical. And nobody should do it. 

Here's the other thing I wanted to bring up. If people can buy good reviews by the hundreds, who's to say that there isn't an opposite to this? Everybody knows that there are mean people who "troll" products or pages on the Internet (you haven't quite lost all hope for the future of society until you've read through the comments on a YouTube video...), and these people leave negative feedback no matter where they go. But if there's a sleazy market for buying fake good reviews, you can bet there's a market for buying fake bad reviews, too. 

I know, I know. It sounds so silly. But I'm a publicist, and I spend a lot of time studying market trends, and there are certain things that stick out to me. And the balance between good and negative reviews is one of those certain things. I look at books and rankings every day, and one of the things I really like to study are customer reviews.
You have to wonder what's true and what's not. Read reviews and take them with a grain of salt. I will buy a book regardless of how high or low a book is starred on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. I will judge for myself if it's a good read or not, because honestly, you just don't know who to trust these days! 

That's not to say an honest customer review isn't awesome! What I'm saying is this: look for an inundation of positive or negative reviews and ask yourself if the feedback sounds valid or not. Scammers and spammers are everywhere these days, and you have to keep your eyes open for them. There's a reason GoodReads recently updated their review policy, you know. Because there was a lot of crazy reviewing stuff going on!

And I'm not talking about book review blogs, by the way. I'm talking about the public comment/review sections in places like Amazon or GoodReads. 

What are your thoughts on the subject?
Let me know!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Frostbite Release and Amazon Gift Card Giveaway

My NA Sister Lynn Rush (also known as Reese Monroe over at NA Alley) is releasing the first installment in the Touch of Frost Trilogy: FROSTBITE. I'm so excited for her! Isn't the cover gorgeous? Plus, it's New can you go wrong with that? *wink* Also, be sure to check out the $25 Amazon Gift Card giveaway at the end of the post in celebration of this release. 

Book Details:
Title: Frostbite (Touch of Frost Trilogy #1)
Word count: 72,000
Release Date: 9/17/13
Publisher: Lynn Rush, LLC
Genre: Paranormal Romance – New Adult/Upper YA

Amanda gives a whole new meaning to cool...
Amanda Smith is sick of getting chased from town-to-town. So when she lands in tiny Trifle, Arizona, she hopes it’s her last move for a long time. Despite hating the smallness of the town, she settles in and finds a best friend, and even a boyfriend. Normality at its finest.
But for a girl who can shoot snow from her hands and lift a two-ton truck over her head like a bag of feathers—normal is not an option.
The scientists who murdered her mother come barreling into Amanda’s quiet life. She must decide if she’ll run again or stay and fight. The price of either choice might be her life or the lives of those she’s come to love…
 “You barely know me, Zach.” And I was so the wrong girl. He just didn’t know it.
“I’m trying to get to know you. You won’t let me.” His dark eyebrow quirked up, and his dimple flared as he offered me his totally addicting half-smile.
He was right, though. So trained to stay protected I’ve pretty much forgotten how to…be. So controlled. So…
I inched closer, which probably looked ridiculous as I scooted across the sand, but if I was going to take a chance, Zach was going to be that chance.
His eyes widened, and he leaned forward as his grip on my hand tightened. Despite the sand mixed in with our hands, his warmth still crept up my arm. But it also left a trail of goosebumps.
Do. Not. Freeze. Him.
I drew in a breath, then pushed that last inch separating us. My reward was the softest pair of lips. The contact, as light as it was, sent a shockwave through my chest, rattling down my spine. The warmth of the sun toasting us, and his now familiar scent, swarmed around my body, filling me with him.
All Zach. 
Author Bio:

Lynn Rush is a pen name that is a combination of two sources – Lynn, the first name of her mother-in-law, who passed away and Rush – since the author is a former inline speed skater and mountain biker. All of Rush’s books are dedicated to Lynn, her namesake, and a portion of the proceeds benefits cancer research and treatment.

Rush holds a degree in psychology from Southwest Minnesota State University and a master's degree from the University of Iowa. Originally from Minneapolis, Rush currently enjoys living in the Arizona desert with her husband of 17 years and her loveable Shetland Sheep dog. When she’s not busy writing her next trilogy, she can be found pounding the pavement, training to run her first marathon.

Lynn loves connecting with her readers:
Catch the Rush®:

Other links of interest:
$25 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway:

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