Monday, January 30, 2017

Using Your Author Platform to Encourage Others! (Be Positive!)

First of all, let me just say this: I am NOT going to get political! I'm all about being informed, but politics tends to put a knot in my stomach that I can't deal with. So what's the point of this article? Mainly, I've been seeing a lot of authors online - and by a lot, I mean a TON - using their social media platforms to give their own play-by-plays of the world's current events. This leads me to my second disclaimer: free speech rocks, so hang in there with me. This leads me to the entire point: HOW CAN WE, AS AUTHORS, USE OUR PUBLIC PLATFORM AND INFLUENCE FOR SOMETHING POSITIVE? 

The world we live in seems like a hectic place. I see a lot of unhappiness online, but there are a few things I like to remind myself of when I'm feeling blue: First, the Internet is, indeed, a "virtual reality." Removing myself from the online realm is a wonderful way to calm down and feel happier about your life. Second, there are way too many people out there who think it is their job to shove their political opinions in your face. I don't always want to hear about it. Yes, I know it's important to know what's going on. But no, I don't need to hear it ALL THE TIME. To be honest, I'm SICK OF IT. 

Which brings me to the big kahuna: It's my personal believe that we as authors, or any public figure, for that matter, falls prey to the tempting seduction of being a "keyboard warrior." It's easy to post our feelings or opinions online in a moment of passion, but it's important to stop and think about our readership! 

Let me put this in perspective: There are some authors I LOVE. And I mean, REALLY LOVE. I adore their books, I get sucked into the worlds they have built and I stand in awe of their literary brilliance. I have, in fact, emotionally connected so deeply with their stories that their books and their pen names are intertwined. They provide a beautiful escape from the gritty reality of life. Seriously - don't we all read to escape reality? I know that's what initially drove me into the open pages of books: the allure of fictionally engaging in amazing adventures around the world, and removing myself from any pain or discomfort by stimulating my imagination! But sometimes, the illusion of adventure and fiction is broken when the author chooses to use their platforms to discuss ideas or projects that could be controversial. I'm in no way saying that authors don't have a right to do this - I'm just saying, that sometimes I have been sorely rattled when I am hit with the sour reality that my author and the world that they have built are two entirely different things. It kind of kills their fiction for me, and that's a sad thing. A very sad thing indeed. 

It's my belief - and you will see this in the way I have always operated with the public - that those in the public eye, with any kind of platform at all, should use that platform for positivity, not division, and not for politics. I'm sorry if you're into politics - that's cool! Good for you. I personally think that my place as an author is to tell a story and provide an escape from reality for my readers, and that is all! I am an entertainer, to be honest. I entertain people with the words that I weave. I want to use my platform for something positive and cohesive. In this world, so many people are choosing to be divided, and I don't want to add to that tragedy. I want to bring people together with the power of beautiful storytelling, breathtaking adventure and amazing creativity! 

So how do I, Summer Lane, choose to use my platform? For one, I love to promote the creative endeavors of other artistic minds, such as writers, illustrators, editors and literary agents. Boo-yah! I also love to bring awareness to organizations that truly help people or animals, like World Wildlife Fund, my local SPCA or the no-kill cat shelter a few miles from my house, Cat House on the Kings. I love promoting Operation Christmas Child, knowing that impoverished children from other countries are receiving joy and medical care from Samaritan's Purse. I like to talk to kids about reading and help them find books that speak to them, so that they can cultivate a love for literature and learning. I love visiting the zoo and trying to bring awareness to conservation efforts through my social media platform, and being respectful of the incredible natural world around us by protecting forests and natural habitats for endangered animals...the list goes on and on! 

Why use your presence as an author to divide or fight? I see far too many authors, young or old, liberal or conservative, fighting with other people online about their opinions. Go for it if that's your thing, but arguing online isn't going to help anyone. And let's be honest, getting into a verbal argument as an author doesn't look professional: it looks juvenile. We should be above that! 

Let me take this a step further: Keep it classy. Cussing, vulgarity and unfiltered profanity online isn't cute, intelligent or witty. It's unprofessional, childish and offensive. If you're going to fight about something, do so in a respectful way. Yes, I'm talking about authors, here. Some will strongly disagree with me, and that's okay, but the truth is that nobody looks less credible than a potty-mouth. Ooh, did I just say that? Guess I did. Oopsies. 

Let's just be clear. I didn't write this article to rail on authors or celebrities or WHOEVER and shake my little finger at them and tell them to "play nice." I'm just pointing out that the old adage, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all," is a strong and applicable motto to live your life by. As tempting as it might be to think that you're a powerful keyboard warrior while logged into your Twitter account, the reality is that words hurt, they stick, and they are remembered. Don't sacrifice your dignity in the heat of the moment. Think about what you say before the words leave your mouth - er, keys. Be respectful. The Internet has given you a voice, but that doesn't give anyone the right to be a bully. 

With that in mind, I encourage you to go into this next week with a positive mindset, showing love to all. Use your platform to do GOOD, and to lift people UP. There is enough negativity in this world - let's not add to it, please. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

A Venture of the Heart: Romance Novel by Amelia Judd

A Venture of the Heart
Amelia Judd
(Silver Bay, #1)
Publication date: January 24th 2017
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance

“Hello, Pax. It’s good to see you again.”And with those frigid words, karma kicked his ass and blew his dreams into a million tiny fragments.
Paxton Bennett walked away from a privileged upbringing to devote his life to La Vida de Ensueño, the socially responsible luxury resort he manages in Costa Rica. No way will Pax let a hotel chain swallow up La Vida and turn it into another lifeless clone. All he needs is a loan so he can match a buy-out offer. Unfortunately, every damn bank keeps saying no. He has one last hope–an on-site visit from a loan officer that he’s sure he can impress…
Banker Sage Somerset doesn’t want to see Pax Bennett across a busy coffee shop, let alone spend a week at a tropical resort with him. After their cringe-worthy last encounter, just hearing his name makes her blush or curse. Plus, there are snakes in Costa Rica. A lot of snakes! Determined to remain professional on her unwelcome assignment, Sage hopes she can survive a week in Pax’s world…
But a quirky staff, meddlesome family, and the night-time visit of a tiny green gecko soon threaten to turn business into pleasure. Will Pax and Sage fight their troublesome chemistry? Or will they take a chance on the biggest venture of all–each other?

About the Author 
Award-winning author Amelia Judd writes fun and flirty contemporary romance. She loves to entertain her readers with memorable characters and fast-paced plots that blend humor, heart, and heat.
After receiving a degree in international affairs, Amelia lived and studied in Belgium for over three years. During her time in Europe, she traveled extensively, earned a master’s degree, and fell in love with writing contemporary romance.
Amelia now lives in the Midwest with her sports-loving husband, two active kids, and a lovable dog that insists on staying by her side day and night. When she isn’t writing, she’s spending time with family, hanging out with friends, chauffeuring her kiddos around town, or planning her family’s next getaway.


Partnered With:

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Returning Bestselling Author DAVONNA JUROE!

Fantasy is pure magic. Ask Davonna Juroe, the bestselling author of Scarlette, Seeing Red and her newest hit with co-writer John Bladek, Winterbay Abbey. Several years ago, I interviewed Davonna here on Writing Belle to talk about what was then her new debut novel, Scarlette. Since then, Davonna has been a very busy lady, and her success is well earned! 

I love Davonna's books because they mix fun with fantasy and Gothic lore with ghostly chills. Her books are well researched and she's an all-around class act! I encourage you to check out her books online and give them a try. 

Today, we're visiting with Davonna for the first time since 2014 (although the first time she visited with us was in 2012 - time flies, right?). Are you ready? Let's go! 

Welcome back to Writing Belle, Davonna! It's a pleasure having you here again. What have you been up to lately? Tell us about your new novel, "Winterbay Abbey". 

Thanks for having me, Summer! Besides playing my harp and taking enchanting photos for social media, I just released a new novel this Fall, which I'm thrilled about. The book, "Winterbay Abbey", is a modern Gothic ghost story that I co-wrote with author John Bladek ("Lost in Ghostville", Capstone Publishing – “Roll Up the Streets!”, Kane Miller). Inspired by classic ghost tales, "Winterbay Abbey" is a contemporary thriller, reminiscent of Susan Hill’s "The Woman in Black" (twice adapted for film) and Alejandro Amenábar's "The Others". It also actually landed onto the Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and iTunes Top 100 Bestseller Lists over the holidays, and went to #1 in ghost fiction on Amazon, too!

The story follows Seattle architect Will Larson on his last chance to save his stagnant career: design a grand restoration for a long-abandoned abbey. Looming above the breathtaking, windswept coast of Maine, Winterbay Abbey offers a picturesque spot for a charming hotel. But the locals harbor a peculiar distaste for the ruined Gothic convent. 

After witnessing a drowning within sight of the abbey, Will wonders why the police seem disinterested in the case. He begins looking deeper into the incident, gradually uncovering chilling secrets behind the old nunnery’s walls. Will’s wife, Emily, becomes convinced the drowning is a ghostly replay of a past tragedy. But their investigation into the abbey’s frightening history soon becomes a desperate struggle to escape Winterbay’s dark curse.

It's the perfect book to read with a warm cup of tea in front of the fire this winter.

I personally love books with a little chill, a little fantasy and a little mystery. Who are some of your favorite authors/books? 

I'm absolutely crazy about creepy Gothic ghost stories, and I think we're starting to see some revival in that genre. People still like to be scared, but many prefer these tales without gore etc. Some of my favorites are ALL of Susan Hill's ghost stories, Michelle Paver's "Dark Matter", and "This House is Haunted" by John Boyne – all contemporary stories. I also love the classics, "The Turn of the Screw", "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow", "Carmilla", "The Picture of Dorian Gray", "The Fall of the House of Usher", "Dracula", "Frankenstein". I could list forever.

What was it like collaborating with John Bladek for Winterbay Abbey? 

Now that I've co-written a book with another author, I'm not sure I want to write solo again. Collaborating is truly one of the best experiences I've had in my writing career.

John and I live 300 miles apart, so we used Google Docs to bridge the distance. We started with an outline and then took turns writing chapters and then passed the manuscript to each other for full edits.

I can't over emphasize how wonderful it is to have instant feedback and to problem solve with a writing partner. Novel writing is solitary and sometimes difficult with having to manage an entire storyline in your head. While critique groups are helpful, having someone who knows the story inside and out like you do is invaluable and produces high-quality work.

How long did it take you to complete the novel - from conception to finished product? 

Exactly two years from conception to the publication date. Two months before Halloween in 2014, John and I challenged each other to write a ghostly tale based on a list of supposedly haunted buildings and locations in the U.S. We settled on a combination of a haunted hotel and a lighthouse, which morphed into the Winterbay Abbey setting along with its brooding lighthouse offshore.

What kind of research went into this novel?

This novel, unlike my historical novella "Seeing Red" and my historical fairy tale retelling of "Little Red Riding Hood" ("Scarlette"), did not require as much research. However, we did investigate the Magdalene laundries that inspired our setting, and John has a PhD in History, so he brought a lot of knowledge to the table on the topic.
We chose an abbey as the setting based on my research from my previous book, "Seeing Red". Set in the 1960s, "Seeing Red" tells the story of a young woman navigating the "Mad Men" era in NYC. My investigation into that period led me to discover a disturbing yet common practice for handling many unwed pregnant girls. Their ashamed families sent them to asylums or convents for the duration of their pregnancies to avoid public humiliation.
These asylums comprised an expansive institution throughout Europe and North America for much of the 19th and 20th centuries. They were an untalked-of secret that society knew were places for “bad girls.” And they were often much more than places where middle-class daughters hid from shame. For the poor, they could become prisons with virtually no way out. Forced to purchase their freedom at often exorbitant prices, some girls were enslaved for many years.
The Magdalene asylums or laundries, Irish institutions run by Catholic nuns that housed unwed mothers, prostitutes, and other “wayward girls”, became popularized by films like the "Magdalene Sisters" and "Philomena". These movies dramatized life for the destitute and abandoned women living in convents. The films, admittedly fictionalized accounts with some accuracy problems, depict true horror, as women suffered incredible abuses and were robbed of their children and their freedom. A mass grave uncovered in 1993 near one of the Magdalene laundries in Dublin, Ireland contained the bones of 155 forgotten women and children.
These stories stuck with me, and John and I decided to make "Winterbay Abbey" a place of terror while integrating in some of this history. However, “Winterbay” is a work of fiction and not intended to depict any real events.

John Bladeck
Are you planning on releasing any more novels soon? Anything you're currently working on? 

John Bladek and I are at it again on two projects. We are in the middle of adapting "Winterbay Abbey" into a screenplay. Additionally, we are working on an action-adventure novel (set to release in 2019) in the same vein as the "Indiana Jones" films. This new project entitled, "Origin" is about a paleoanthropologist who has just discovered the possible existence of mermaids. We are super excited about it!

"Origin" is a very research-intensive project. I’ve already talked to a paleontologist to make sure the marine science aspect is sound, not to mention John Bladek and I are drawing on John's extensive anthropology/history knowledge. It’s important to get the science right, as this book grew out of my love for mermaids and wishing they had existed ever since I’d been a child. It’s been fun to come up with different scientific — and I will even say somewhat plausible — angles of how they could have come to be.

You live in Washington - a very rainy, very beautiful state! Have you found inspiration for your stories from the world around you?

Very much so. Writing "Winterbay Abbey" during the winter here with all its rainstorms and being close to the coast helped me channel the mood for the novel. Part of the story also takes place in Seattle around the neighborhood I live in, so yes, there is a lot of inspiration here!

Any advice for aspiring young writers out there who would like to see their own books in print? 

If you are looking to have your book printed by a New York publishing house, be prepared for how long it could take to master your craft and research the right agent to get you in the door. I've known some people who took ten years to break in. Don't give up, though. Everyone who continues to keep trying in this business, eventually gets into print.

It's also crucial that you make friends with other writers. People in my critique groups from eight or so years ago have become my good friends, and those friendships have inadvertently led to opportunities in publishing.

In regards to independent publishing, I only recommend it to those who have some marketing savvy and are prepared to spend upward of $2500 for good editing, a cover, and marketing. It's hard to be successful without a product that competes with what you see in bookstores. Knowing your competition and having high quality is important. If you book isn't top-notch, you run the risk of damaging your reputation as an author and not being taken seriously by publishing professionals. I can't stress that enough.

Where can readers can connect with you online? 


Instagram: @davonna_juroe



Thank you so much for visiting with us, Davonna! Always a treat! 

Thanks for having me and Happy Holidays!

All images provided by Davonna Juroe

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

NEW: Quick Picks of the Month: January

Last week, we rang in the new year by talking about resolutions from an author's point of view. This week, I'm sharing my quick fiction/non-fiction picks for starting the 2017 year off on the right foot! (When I say quick, I mean I'm giving you the title and author only!) 

I'm going to give you a comprehensive list of what I'm reading every single month this year. Let's see where that takes us, okay? 

I have personally pledged to try and read AT LEAST 100 books this year. That goal was impossible for me to achieve in 2016 because I was moving and planning a wedding, in addition to writing and publishing 5 of my own novels. Now that I'm settled and have my footing again, I'm planning on happily jumping right back in to my favorite reading rhythm. I've already read 3 books so far in the last week or so, and it's been an adventure so far. (Can you tell I'm a book freak?) 

Here's what I'm reading right now - categorized by whether I'm currently reading them, planning on reading them, am reading them for educational purposes or if I've already finished! If these books interest you, hop on Amazon and support the author by purchasing the novel! 

Just Finished: 
The Last One, by Alexandra Oliva 

Reading Next: 
The Thief Taker, by C.S. Quinn

On My List: 
A Dog's Purpose, by W. Bruce Cameron 

Just Finished: 
Three Years in the Klondike, by Jeremiah Lynch

Currently Reading: 
Really Bad Girls of the Bible, by Liz Curtis Higgs 

On My List: 
The Girl Who Came Home, by Hazel Gaynor

For Non-Fiction Research: 
A Woman Who Went to Alaska, by May Kellogg Sullivan 

On My List: 
What She Knew, by Gilly Macmillan 

Reading Next: 
Bird Box, by Josh Malerman 

For Women: 
Uninvited, by Lisa TerKeurst 

Just Finished: 
H20, BY Virginia Bergin 

Also for Non-Fiction Research: 
Alaska's Wolf-Man, by Jim Rearden 

On My List: 
The Infinite Sea, by Rick Yancey 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

2017: Candid Author Talk (My New Year's Resolutions)

Here on Writing Belle, I use this online platform to talk about life as a writer and business owner. I've been really blessed with awesome readers and peers in this industry. Looking ahead into 2017, I've got some publishing goals and challenges to reach, hurdle and conquer in the next 365 days. I love making New Year's resolutions (I know, I know. I'm a freak.), so here are some of my goals, and how you, as a writer (or anything else!) can apply the same mindset to your life and start conquering the unconquerable! 

2017 is a map. Seriously, 2017 is like a map. You can take it any direction you choose. It's totally up to you! New years are exciting because you can start over, or continue to add to what you're already building. It's an opportunity to grow and continue to learn. I like looking at every new year as a challenge that keeps me fresh and sharp. I usually start January with some kind of an annual game plan, regarding what I want to accomplish in my life career-wise, fun-wise, research, educational-wise, etc. I basically just write up a bullet-point list of what I want to do, and then I simplify it if it's too - ahem - "overwhelming." 

Don't be afraid to chill. I'm not totally up to date on all things "internet speak," but when people say you "have no chill," I picture someone who has been working for days, hyped up on caffeine and doesn't know how to relax. I guess what I'm saying is that you shouldn't be afraid to work in time for relaxation in this new year. The world is obsessed with martyrdom - everyone always has to outdo everyone else with their busy schedules or "crazy" lives. Granted, most of us are super busy, but don't be ashamed or guilty to take time off and enjoy life by snuggling on the couch, napping or baking cookies. Or whatever you do in your spare time. 

My 5th release of 2016 - my 15th total!
Do that thing. Do that thing you've always talked about doing but never have. Seriously! Figure out a way to make it happen, or at least work toward that goal, even it's far in the future. For me, it's taking a research trip to Alaska and returning to Maui for an anniversary trip with my husband. Finding the time and the means to do stuff like that seems difficult, but if you plan ahead and be smart, you can pull it off, trust me. Even when it seems impossible, there's always a way. You can achieve your dreams over time - even if it takes years and years. That just makes getting there all the sweeter.

READ MORE. Let's just talk about books for a second. Television is great and everything, but books. Books are life. Books are everything. We live in a world saturated with technology and special effects that sometimes blurs the line between reality and virtual reality (hello, video games). Take some time to actually read this year, even if you ARE busy reading college textbooks. I'm talking real books. Books that don't cost 300 bucks and contain entire chapters about the amoebae that grows on the bottom of ponds (Sorry, biology majors. Sometimes I can't contain my sarcasm.). Buy books that are fictional or non-fictional, but that entertain and speak to your soul, that teach you about life, not about fungus. Oops, there's that sarcasm again. 

Be generous. This is big on my list. Here in America, I live in the lap of luxury compared to so many places in the world. We have beautiful houses, heating and cooling, clean water, health care, families, food and this amazing thing called Dollar Tree (not to mention gluten-free food sections at grocery stores, hallelujah!). I'm blessed - even when it feels like things are sucky and challenging, I remind myself of the overall truth. I want to give back to my community, to my country and to the world itself. Find something to involve yourself in that helps the world become a better place - whether it's volunteering at a local animal shelter or spreading the word about forestry conservation or sending a shoe box full of toys to impoverished children through Samaritan's Purse. You can make a difference. The gift of you is generous enough! (I've compiled a list of the charitable and non-profit organizations that I support at the bottom of this article!)

Don't be afraid to say no. Candid talk, folks: this has always been difficult for me, in terms of those closest to me. Sometimes, you have to protect your writing time, your work time, your spouse time - whatever - by using this big, scary word. "NO." I always tell people, "Protect your writing time like your newborn child." Nobody messes with your focus time, whether it's writing, a job, or the hours you spend staring at an easel every day, waiting for inspiration to seize your hands and take control of those paintbrushes! Be loving but firm. It's okay to say no and be honest. I have learned this over the years, and it can be hard sometimes. I hate telling people no, because I'm afraid I might hurt their feelings, but the reality is: it's always okay to say no if you need to. 

Get healthier. I'm totally one of those people that seems to have something wrong with them all the time, and it's mostly because I'm either allergic to or have some kind of intolerance toward different kinds of food. For example, a slice of bread is enough to make me sick for an entire week (yuck!), and a tablespoon of soy sauce can ruin a whole weekend (tummy problems suck!). I'm a sensitive eater, and I also tend to shut myself into my office and work from sunup to sundown, so I don't give myself enough time to actually get outside and exercise. Anybody who works in an office can understand this struggle. This year, I'm dead set on broadening my diet by incorporating more delicious, healthy foods and by adding a daily workout to my routine again, just like last year! 

What are your New Year's Resolutions? I hope that 2017 will be merry and bright for you, and that you set goals and accomplish them, however big or small they may be. For me, I feel great if I simply have a good work day and make a yummy dinner for my husband when he comes home from working in the cold rain all day! Epic win. 

Good luck, and keep moving forward! 

Here's that list of charitable organizations I promised to share with you. All are good organizations with a heart for helping people, children or animals: 

(Along with my local zoo, The Fresno Chaffee Zoo)

Monday, January 2, 2017

State of Allegiance Release Date!

State of Allegiance 
Collapse Series #9 

February 24, 2017

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. 

Add State of Allegiance to your reading list on GoodReads right HERE.

So excited to finally have a release date for this novel. Typically I only release in January and June for Collapse books, but because of my December release of Unbreakable SEAL, this release was pushed back a month. 

I can't WAIT for you guys to read this installment. It is such a different kind of an adventure for Cassidy Hart, and ultimately the segway into the final installment of the series. 

Happy New Year, guys! Tune in later this week/month for more interviews, book features and reviews!