Thursday, August 1, 2013

Collection Now Available...and a free read!

Cover art by Diana Bittleston
Title: Ghosts, Monsters, and Men: Tales of the Supernatural
By C.B. Calsing

A collection of sometimes bizarre, sometimes satirical, but always haunting stories of the unexplained.

Buy link

Coupon Code: RY38T. Good until 1 August, the anthology is only $0.99.

Check out the "Free Read!" page above for a sample story.

Monday, July 22, 2013

A little over a week left...

Don't forget to vote for your favorite cover for Ghosts, Monsters, and Men.

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1W8F1XmKHtwWUWGsEJgwLeG6SODLqSbYCBBivniaTsYU/viewform

July 31 I'll announce the winner, and the new anthology will go live the next day. Check back here for download coupon!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

A weight has been lifted.

I could not have awoken to better news this morning than to find out the rights to my first collection, All Along the Pacific, had been returned to me by the publisher. This was the classiest thing they could have done, and I am so relieved. To have my first, big creative endeavor back in my own hands, to be able to work with it again and get it out to readers, is an amazing feeling.

At this point, I'm just so hyper with ideas bouncing around in my head of how to make it better. To lure in those of you who bought the original, I'm going to include a new story. I haven't even thought of what it will be yet, but something unexpected...or totally expected that I overlooked before. Emperor Norton? Something "straight out of Compton"? Maybe a trip on the delta of Sacramento or twenty-six miles across the sea to Catalina. And I do believe my artist will fix us up with a new, second-edition cover.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Vote for your favorite cover and win a prize!

I'm running a contest to see which of these covers should become the final choice for my next collection. Enter for a chance to win a free ebook copy!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Cover Art for Upcoming Collection

Right now, I'm finishing up one more story for the collection.

In the meantime, I thought you'd like to have a look at the beginnings of the cover art. I think this really captures the feeling of the stories...

Copyright 2013 Diana Bittleston
When finished, it will have full color and font and what not, but it's nice to see the process. Plus, it gives a few teasers as to the stories...

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Collection Coming Up

I've been sitting on a bunch of supernatural short stories for a while. Some of them have appeared in anthologies, some were accepted for dead projects, and some have never found the right home. I decided to put them all together into a collection. I hope to release it as an e-book on Smashwords later this summer.

I've even contacted the artist who did the work for All Along the Pacific for the cover art. I anticipate it will be something evocative and reminscent of pulp covers from early American horror. The artist, who happens to be my mom, even illustrated my first novella, a vampire story, when I was a freshman in high school. It's good to have long-term partners for projects like this!

One story needs some fleshing out, but the rest are pretty much edited, proofed, and ready for print. I can't wait to put it, since it has been so long since I've published. I'm hoping it will reignite the writing flame this summer.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Review of "The Odd Job Squad" and Interview with Author Karl Fields

Make sure to check out all the stops on this tour. One commenter from each stop will win a box of "Pinks," which are pink fortune cookies that Ander, the main character has a fondness for. One $25 Amazon gift card given to one random commenter at the end of the tour. 

Blurb

Thirteen-year-old Ander Cartwright is an expert on two subjects: fortune cookies and payback. Especially payback.

When he’s not struggling with algebra, Ander is the leader of an anonymous revenge club that operates within the walls of Marina Middle School. Got a beef with a classmate? Shoot Ander’s crew an email and, if your case if legit, they’ll deliver some retribution on your behalf.

It’s not easy to right wrongs and stay under the radar at the same time. That’s why Ander developed three simple rules designed to keep him and his friends from blowing their cover.

But when Ander spots the opportunity to settle an old score of his own, he ignores his own rules, setting off a chain of events that threatens to blow his cover, and it’ll take all the butt-kicking, detention- dodging skill he can muster to keep a lid on his secret.

Excerpt

That afternoon, the four of us sat around the computer in our “office” – the guesthouse Christian’s mom let us use (she thought we were just playing video games) – to decide if we should take the job. It was good having us all together again. Sure, we hung out during the summer, but it seemed like somebody was always on vacation, had cousins visiting from out of town or, in Shooter’s case, at basketball camp.

Christian pointed to Alan’s email, still up on the screen. “Come on, obviously we take this one. I mean, Greg Bilski’s a tool.”

Joe wagged a finger at him. “Uh, uh, uhhh, amigo. I think somebody forgot the rules over the summer. ‘Not personal’ and all that.”

Joe and Christian. Not exactly peas in a pod. Joe was tall and lanky, with this spiky black hair that never moved. Almost everything he wore was black, including the polish on his thumbnails. It seemed like he never got worked up over anything. On the other hand, Christian’s look was mostly skate shop, with a little Gap thrown in. He had a head full of kinky brown hair that Joe called a bowl of lettuce and glasses that refused to stay up on his nose. Plus, he’d been on the small side ever since second grade, so he knew how it felt to get pushed around.

“I think we ought to hack into the school database and change all his grades from last year to F’s,” Christian said. “Let’s see how he likes going back to sixth grade.”

Interview

Tell us about The Odd Job Squad.

It’s set in a San Francisco middle school, where a group of friends operate an anonymous revenge club.The way the club works is, if a fellow student has been wronged (bullied, been the victim of rumors, had their homework stolen, etc.), he or she emails the Odd Job Squad, who seeks to even the score on the victim’s behalf. For instance, when an eighth grader, who happens to be a huge San Francisco 49er fan, bullies a sixth grader, the Odd Job Squad kidnaps his 49er jersey and takes pictures of people pretending to blow their noses on it. The bully gets the message and doesn’t bother anyone else. But things get interesting for the team when someone at school discovers their identity and threatens to make trouble for them if…certain conditions aren’t met.

What made you decide to write for tweens?

There’s something about that age range – when you’re not little kid anymore, but you’re not quite a young adult either – that has so many possibilities for a novel. In short, up to this point, your life has been all about you, but now we start to become more aware of the world outside of ourselves and then seek to fit into it. That last part really provides fertile ground for a writer.

Who do you look to for inspiration as a writer?

I wouldn’t say I look to a specific person, but for me, inspiration is everywhere. The Odd Job Squad, was inspired by a newspaper article about bullying. I got the idea for Instant Preplay, my other novel for tweens, while watching a reality show. I also have a novel for adults that was inspired one day when I walked by a poster advertising a play. So, at least for me, inspiration comes from all sorts of places. I think the key is to keep an open mind because you never know when an idea will go upside your head.

Which book of yours do you love the most? Why?

Of mine? That’s tough, but I’d have to say The Odd Job Squad. For one, it’s my first book and there’s always something about that “first love.” Another reason I like that book is because of the reaction it gets. Typically, as soon as I say the words “anonymous revenge club,” people are like, “Really? That sounds cool.”

Music when you write or no? If so, was there a particular song that you listened to while writing
The Odd Job Squad?

For the most part, no, which is interesting because I listen to music when I’m doing almost anything else. When I’m writing, music tends to fade into the background and I end up paying almost no attention. That said, there are songs I associate with certain scenes in the book. For instance, there’s a scene that takes place in a fancy hotel and the main character, Ander, hears a Muzak version of a Green Day song coming from the speaker system, so that scene always reminds me of “American Idiot.”

What advice would you give to my middle-school readers who want to become professional
writers?

The first thing most people will tell you is that to become a writer you have to first be a reader, but I’m guessing most people following your blog already fit that category, so let’s skip past that one. The one thing I’d say to anyone who wants to write is this: be honest. You have to write the story that’s within you to write. Even though they’re very popular, I don’t write zombie or werewolf stories, because that’s just not me and it probably be painfully obvious. So, write with honesty and never try to put one past your readers.

Anything else? (links, comments, etc)

Just that I think this blog does a great job with all of the various how-to articles in addition to the reviews and interviewing people like me. Keep up the great work and thanks so much for the time!

My Review

This was a pretty fun story. It was fast-paced, and the plot was tight.

I work with students the age of Anders and his friends, and I know how hard it can be to write kids this age realistically. So often, adult authors resort to stereotyping or trying to sort of recreate themselves as teens in their books. I didn't get that impression here. The narrator, Anders, was engaging, funny, and most everything he did -- his reactions, his vocabulary -- seemed age appropriate without feeling as if he came right out of a Disney Channel sitcom. I enjoyed his quirks, his ups and downs, and his determination.

Being originally from California, and having written stories set in San Francisco myself, I am partial to that city. There were enough touchstones to make it familiar without overburdening with details or making it feel as if the city is the main character, which can happen sometimes in stories set in such iconic places.

I would recommend this read to my students, and look forward to the author's other works.

About the Author

Karl Fields is a writer of fiction for teens and young adults. His other interests include jazz, golf
and collecting flash drives, the more unusual the better. He was an army brat and by the seventh grade, he had attended six different schools on three continents. His first book, The Odd Job Squad, is about the exploits of three eighth graders who operate an anonymous revenge club at

their school. He recommends that you not attempt the stunts portrayed in this book. His second, Instant Preplay, is about a boy who discovers that his DVR records shows before they air. He recommends that you get one of those if you can.

www.karlfields.com
Amazon http://www.amazon.com/The-Odd-Job-Squad-ebook/dp/B00560R9BC
BN http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-odd-job-squad-karl-fields/1103800835?ean=9781463537890
Kobo http://www.kobobooks.com/ebook/The-Odd-Job-Squad/book-qHs3VJyBxEmMs0UaGNlx8g/page1.html?s=uUC_07B_Hk-5_N1qzhxLUA&r=1

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Review of "Lords of Prophecy" by Michael A. Rothman

Leave a comment for a chance to win a $50 gift card to Amazon!

Check out all the stops to improve your odds:

Blurb

The Riverton brothers have completed their training, and despite their own personal skills, they worry about the forces arrayed against them. Knowing the barrier that's kept the people of Trimoria safe for over five centuries is weakening, the brothers ready their ragtag army of humans, dwarves, and elves for battle. 

In the meantime, on the other side of the ancient barrier, a growing army of demons have readied themselves for the final battle against the people of Trimoria. 

As the barrier weakens, Ryan is struck by bouts of debilitating madness. As the barrier crumbles, so does the hope of Trimoria's citizens. 

Excerpt

A light-hearted scene where the main characters are watching their youngest siblings interacting with a mysterious young dwarf.

As the soldier affirmed the order, Ryan turned toward the window and watched the children.

Zenethar, the king’s son showed the dwarf a wooden block. “Can you float this around? I wanna do my archery practice.”

Rebecca looked puzzled. “Archery?”

Zenethar tossed the block to the dwarf and Ramai caught it, letting Maggie drop as his interest in the doll waned.

“Maggie!”

Rebecca ran over, dusted her doll off, and gave her a hug. She sat back on the pillows and watched the boys.

Ramai studied the plain wooden block and looked puzzled. “Is this a fun game?”

Zenethar nodded enthusiastically. “Ryan does this lots! Just float it slowly.”

Ramai levitated the block and allowed it to float aimlessly around the stone chamber.

Zenethar flicked his finger and a sparkling bolt of energy flew at the block, hitting it and sending the wooden toy spinning.

Rebecca laughed and clapped with glee. “You got it Zenny! Do it again!”

Ramai smiled as the block moved around and the darts of energy flew throughout the room. When he increased the speed of the movement, Zenethar missed, leaving a tiny scorch mark on the stone ceiling. “This is a fun game!”

Ryan muttered to his brother. “This could get out of hand quickly.”

Aaron covered his mouth, suppressing the sound of his amusement as he watched the dwarf challenge Zenethar’s aim. Rebecca screamed with laughter.

Aaron leaned over and whispered, “Let them have fun. They can’t exactly burn down a stone castle.”

The wooden block swooped down and Zenethar accidentally sent a bolt of energy at Ramai. The bolt bounced off of his white robe and singed his beard.

Ramai slapped at his beard, as Zenethar’s face went from amused to shocked. With a puff of smoke coming from his beard, the dwarf announced, “That is not a fun game!”

My Review

This book has a lot to love, integrating many of the tropes that make fantasy great, from young love to dragons returning to a world from which they had been long absent. I'm reminded of, as one other reviewer stated, The Hobbit, but also Game of Thrones, and in some of the cheekiness of the newlyweds, Piers Anthony's Xanth stories. The villains are sufficiently villainous, the heroes quite heroic, regardless of their weapon of choice. It's a fun read with enough variety to satisfy a wide range of fantasy fans.

Author Information

I've been writing throughout my career as an engineer, however my writing had been relegated to technical
books and technical magazine articles. Heck, you might even find a couple of those musty tomes still for sale if you look hard enough.

With my foray into epic fantasy, I've shed the shackles of technical writing and created novels that I hope will be attractive to a much wider audience.

I've always admired truly epic tales. You know the ones I mean. The book you crack open, wander through and utterly get immersed in. The story takes you on twists and turns you never expected, run into dead-ends that make you wheel your arms backward to prevent you from falling into an endless abyss. By the time you reach what you think is the end, you've read hundreds of pages and realize the end is really only the beginning of the story.

You close the book and wonder out loud, "Do I have the next book? Is it out yet?"

My goal when I started writing the first book, Heirs of Prophecy, that involved the Riverton family was to make a story that would allow a younger audience access to such a tale. Since then, a second book, Tools of Prophecy, was released, and now I introduce the third book in the series with Lords of Prophecy.

As to my other writing activities, I've completed another as of yet unreleased novel in the Prophecies series, and they are scheduled to be released as soon as - well, as soon as the paperwork on them is complete, and the lawyers nod their heads up and down.

I hope you enjoy the novel.

In the meantime, if you want to see my ramblings, I lurk at the following social media portals:
Twitter: @MichaelARothman

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Sunday, February 17, 2013

New Collection in the Works

I realized today that I've been sitting on a whole bunch of horror stories that have never seen the light of day. Most of them were accepted to various anthologies that were never published. I figured I'd put them together and release it on Smashwords.

Want to write horror? Here's a book you may want to check out.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Book Review of The Bird Brain books, written by Emlyn Chand and illustrated by Noelle Griffin


Emlyn will be awarding a $25 Amazon Gift Card to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour, so leave a comment here and check out all the stops on the tour:

The Bird Brain Books

Courtney Saves Christmas

Courtney is a peppy young penguin who just loves exploring, and is overjoyed when she receives a compass from Santa on Christmas morning. She’s so grateful for the gift, in fact, that she just needs to give Santa a great big hug and say “Thank you!” in person. The only problem is she lives in the South Pole, and Santa is all the way on the other side of the globe!

With the aid of her new compass, Courtney sets off on a journey that takes her almost an entire year. By the time she reaches Santa’s workshop, the elves are in a flurry preparing for the upcoming holiday. Unfortunately, Rudolph is feeling very sick—too sick to guide the sleigh. If Courtney can’t find a way to help, Christmas will be ruined and all the children of the world will be devastated. What’s a little penguin to do?

Davey the Detective

Davey dubs himself the luckiest crow in the entire world when he finds a wonderful, shiny object. It even has a fantastic name: “paperclip.” Wow!

One dark and dreary day, Davey’s treasure goes missing, and he is beside himself with grief. Luckily, he knows just how he can find out which of the forest animals is to blame for the theft. Inspired by the torn pages of a Sherlock Holmes story that were used to fashion his nest, Davey calls on the help of Sarah the sparrow to investigate the mystery and, hopefully, retrieve his prize.

Together the two birds begin to collect clues. Their trail leads them straight to Mr. Bushtail, a greedy squirrel who keeps a giant store of objects in a hollowed-out tree trunk. When Mr. Bushtail refuses to cooperate, the two birds have no choice but to break into his tree house in search of the truth.

Honey the Hero

Honey, an inquisitive young parakeet living in the Australian Outback, decides to become a superhero after she spies a human family watching Superman. Since she already has the power of flight, all she needs to do is create a costume to conceal her true identity and then fly off in search of animals that need rescuing.

Unfortunately, every time she tries to help, Honey only ends up making matters worse. She spoils Kangaroo’s game of hide-and-go-seek by revealing his hiding place to Wallaby; Mr. Anteater must go hungry when she alerts the ants to his presence, and Mrs. Koala is made a laughingstock among bears when Honey pretends to be her Joey. Finally realizing that she’s not as heroic as she’d like, Honey gives up her day-saving efforts.

But what happens when someone actually needs Honey’s help? Will she rise to the challenge?

Poppy the Proud

Poppy is the prettiest peacock in the entire garden, but one day his privileged existence is upset when an all-white peacock is born and promptly named the most beautiful by a smitten flock. Intensely jealous, Poppy no longer knows where he fits in and decides to reclaim his title as the fairest bird in all the land, no matter what it takes.
In a desperate attempt to regain the admiration of his peers, Poppy steals items from the humans that visit his park. He wraps himself in a beautiful silk scarf, wears a series of ornate bangles around his neck, and even tries to dye his feathers with colored dust from a festive Holi celebration. Unfortunately, each of these attempts not only fails to improve his appearance, they actually make it worse. What’s a poor bird to do?

In this compelling tale of self-esteem, pride, and learning what makes each of us special, Poppy the peacock discovers that true beauty lies beneath the feathers.

Tommy Goes Trick-or-Treating

Tommy is a mischievous little woodpecker who loves to fly to the edge of the forest and watch the people in the nearby suburb. One evening, something strange and exciting happens—people emerge from their houses wearing costumes and carrying colorful buckets with smiling faces on them. What’s even crazier is that they shout a special codeword while standing outside of each house, and are given delicious-looking candy.

Tommy simply must join in the fun. He and his friend, Michael the raccoon, fashion their own costumes and head off to join in the festivities. Thanks to Tommy’s knock-knocking beak and Michael’s quick paws, the duo is able to heist many a candy bar from the unsuspecting homeowners and children.
But are they missing out on the true spirit of Halloween? 

My Review:

The illustrations are what really did these books for me. I found many of them giggle-worthy--in a good way! There's just something about a parakeet in a little superhero mask and anteaters crying. The illustrations add a graphic-novel quality that young readers are sure to appreciate. I'm actually quite sad that I ended up reading these on my Kindle with no color.

These are fairly text heavy for picture books, which I like. They are more for kids to read to themselves rather than parents reading. Many of them also align to the character education schools have initiated in the last few years, such as Character Counts! They could be used to supplement those programs or create tie-ins between reading and the character education.

Poppy the Peacock was my favorite of the five. I think the message was the clearest, and children have an easy time identifying peacocks with pride and beauty, so it's very accessible.

Each sells for $0.99 at the Kindle store (buy links below), so they are not a huge investment to check out. The illustrations alone are worth it.

Author Bio

Emlyn Chand emerged from the womb with a fountain pen clutched in her left hand (true story). When she's not writing, she runs a large book club in Ann Arbor and is the president of author PR firm Novel Publicity. Best known for her Young Adult novels, she is also developing a small, but devoted, following to her children's book series and is beginning to dapple in other genres as well. Emlyn enjoys connecting with readers and is available via almost every social media site in existence. Visit EmlynChand.com for more info. Don't forget to say "hi" to her sun conure Ducky!

Online Links

Website & Blog: www.emlynchand.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/emlynchand
Twitter: www.twitter.com/emlynchand
Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/emlynchand


Monday, January 7, 2013

Book Review of "The Dare Club: Nita" by Laurie Bradach and Kim “Howard” Johnson



Laurie and Kim will be awarding a $20 Amazon Gift Card to a randomly drawn commenter during the tour, so make sure to leave a comment here and visit the other stops on the tour:


Series: The Dare Club
Format: E-book & Paperback
Genre: Contemporary YA, Mystery
Length: 330 pages in paperback

Blurb:

Nita Conroy has relocated to the most boring town on the planet. That is, until would-be boyfriend Brad Keeley spills the beans about a secret group of girls known as The Dare Club. During her subterranean initiation below the high school, Nita overhears a plan by contractors and school officials to embezzle millions of dollars in grant money. When she is betrayed, The Dare Club's pranks become deadly serious.

With the clock ticking, Nita will need the help of her new friends to expose the chilling plot--and hopefully survive long enough to snag a date to the homecoming dance.

Excerpt:

At least a dozen of the most popular, meanest students on campus were now spinning manically, twisting and turning, swiping at stains that just kept getting bigger. More students had rushed to their aid, and now those do-gooders were frantically trying to rid themselves of the mysterious goo that seemed to be everywhere. One brave soul put hand to mouth, and a cry went up that the substance was chocolate.

Runny, melted chocolate was extruding everywhere.

The students began to examine their chairs. The dark wood seats had perfectly camouflaged the squishy chocolate bars that had been placed on them. The chairs could be wiped off, the clothing would come clean again, but Lauren Wells might never recover from the humiliation.

“Lauren needs her diaper changed!” someone shouted. “It’s already on YouTube!”

“Epic,” Nita whispered under her breath.

It took several minutes for order to be restored. Mr. Withers excused all of the candy-coated students, while the rest of the class—Nita included—were instructed to remain in their seats.

Mr. Withers began walking up and down each aisle, dabbing at the stains on his shirt, making them larger and more noticeable. “There will be an investigation into this matter,” he said. “And when I find out who is responsible…”

He had just started up Nita’s aisle when the bell rang. The raven-haired girl literally sprang from her seat. As she did, a candy bar bounced from her purse and landed right in Mr. Withers path. Nita heard the sharp intake of breath, and saw the girl’s panicked look. Mr. Withers saw it too, and began weaving up the aisle through a cluster of departing students. For a moment he was buried in the crowd. In that instant, Nita scooped up the candy bar and stuck it in her own backpack.

Then Mr. Withers was there.

His eyes narrowed. “Did I just see what I think I saw?”

My Review:

I was reminded of the serial, teen-girls-kick-butt chapter books I used to read in middle school, so the nostalgia alone was enough to make me enjoy this book. The opening scene, with a streaker in the cafeteria, had me laughing, and the rest of the book maintained my attention. I kept wondering what kind of dare the club would try next, and some proved to be pretty creative (like the melty chocolate bars in the excerpt above). There are a few good twists and turns to the plot that had me guessing, and the teen romance subplot helps round out the narrative. 

I questioned a few things, like why a teenager who'd been arrested for terrorism would be allowed to go home with a friend's dad, no ankle monitor even, but younger readers, with less life experience, would probably overlook issues like that.

The editing could also have been a little more thorough. Commas were missing in some direct address, for instance, as well as a few other errors in punctuation and grammar.

All in all, this is a fun book for readers in the twelve to fourteen age bracket.

Unfortunately, this is not an AR book.

About the Authors:

Kim “Howard” Johnson has written comic books for Marvel, DC, and Event Comics. He is a director of improvisational comedy, an actor, and is rumored to hang around with the Monty Python gang. Howard’s other books include Monty Python’s Tunisian Holiday and The Funniest One in the Room.

Laurie Bradach has nearly escaped the world of comics. Currently, she devotes her time to writing action-adventure stories without the use of word balloons. She is active in her local Romance Writers of America chapter, Heart and Scroll, and is a founding member of Random Moon Books. Laurie is also the author of A Good Draw, a romantic suspense novel.


Howard and Laurie are delighted to have written their first book together without killing each other. Be sure to look for the second book in the series, The Dare Club: Lindy.



www.doubledarebooks.com
Buy the paperback or Kindle edition through Amazon: