Friday, April 26, 2013

Book Release: Storm Clouds, Hero's Sword, Vol. 2

by Mary Sutton / @mary_sutton73

Well, that was fast. I just revealed the cover on Wednesday and the book was available on Amazon yesterday.

Eighth-grader Jaycee Hiller is beginning to fear she only imagined her trip to Mallory. But when a rainy afternoon leaves her with hours of playing Hero's Sword, her favorite video game, she finds herself drawn back into the game - literally.

Storm Clouds is the exciting second volume of the Hero's Sword saga - chronicling Jaycee Hiller's trials in eight grade, and her exciting adventures in Mallory, the setting of her favorite video game. Jaycee enters the video game realm via a special controller and is caught up in the action of this fantasy realm.

In Storm Clouds, a valuable jewel belonging to the neighboring estate of Devin, the Sapphire Star, is missing, stolen at the Fall Consortium. Lady Starla stands accused of the theft. Devin's demands are clear: return the Star or they will take it back by force.

Now it's up to Lyla Stormbringer to find the Star and the thief. before Mallory finds itself at war.

I will update this page as the book becomes available at other e-tailers.

I hope you enjoy your return to Mallory!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Cover Reveal - Storm Clouds: Hero's Sword Vol. 2

Since I'm proofing ebook files, I think it's safe to share this. Here is the cover of the soon-to-be-released Storm Clouds: Hero's Sword Vol. 2.

Coming soon to an e-tailer near you!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Goals for 2013: Update

 by Mary Sutton / @mary_sutton73

So, a while ago, I posted about my writing goals for 2013. I figured I'd give an update.

Submit my second Laurel Highlands Mystery story. 

I admit, I haven't done this one yet. Mostly because I've been bogged down in other things. See, when I wrote the original list, I forgot a very important goal, which is...

Complete and submit my Black Orchid Novella Contest entry.

How this slipped my mind I have no idea. But it did. The contest deadline is 31 May, so there is time. I'm finishing up review of comments from my critique partners now (yay for critique partners) and should finish this week. Which means I'll have some time to let it simmer again while I work on other things (namely the synopsis for Hero's Sword #5 and started the SFD of Hero's Sword #4). This shouldn't derail me too much, but really, I should just submit that story and get it done.

Read at least one craft book per month.

This one I'm making good progress on. I completed Fiction Attack! and am working my way through Revision & Self-Editing. I usually read a chapter and then apply it, which has been working really well. Next up will be Plot & Structure, also by James Scott Bell. And if you're thinking I'm a huge JSB fan, you're right. If you are a writer, I seriously urge you to pick up some of his books (notably P&S and Revision). He's got a great writing and teaching style.

Complete revisions of Hero's Sword 3 by tax day (4/15).

Ha! One that I completed! Well, sort of. I need to do another read through, I think, looking for more stuff from Revision & Self-Editing. But I did complete another two rounds and trimmed another 2,000 words by the end of March, so I'm going to call this a "win."

Complete the SFD of Hero's Sword 4 by May 31 and first revisions by July 31.

Haven't started - mainly because I was struggling with an idea for book #5. But I've got that now, so I'll probably tackle that synopsis next, which will set me up to start the SFD.

Complete and submit two more Laurel Highlands Mystery stories by the end of summer.

Not started yet. These are generally between 8,000 and 15,000 words (long story story to novelette). I've got at least two ideas sketched out. If I can get two more complete and submitted by fall, that gives me four. A fifth is scheduled to come out in an anthology at the end of the year. That allows me to...

Plan an anthology release of the Laurel Highlands Mysteries by the end of 2013

Not started yet. This is not to say that the anthology will be released at the end of this year - but I will have a plan. I've got decent hopes that I can get the next two sent to Mysterical-e and since they say they like series, there's a decent chance they'll be accepted. If so, the anthology may include a brand new story. Timing of the release TBD, but I can have a plan by year end (especially since one of my targeted craft/business reads is exactly how to make a plan).

So there I am - a little status update. Because part of setting goals is being accountable. So if you've read to the end, thanks for helping me stay on track. I owe you one. =)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Liebster

by Mary Sutton / @mary_sutton73

So a few weeks ago, I got a very nice comment from L.D. Masterson presenting me with a blog award (me, who'd have thunk?). And I've been a very naughty person, but honestly, the task of finding 11 other bloggers with fewer than 200 followers was daunting to say the least.

So here were the rules:

1. Thank the blogger who presented you with the Liebster Award, and link back to his or her blog. (easy)

2. Answer the 11 questions from the nominator; list 11 random facts about yourself, and create 11 questions for your nominees. (easy)

3. Present the Liebster Award to 11 bloggers, who have blogs with 200 followers or less, whom you feel deserve to be noticed. Leave a comment on the blogs letting the owners know they have been chosen. (No tag backs.) (um, yeah, this one was hard)

4. Upload the Liebster Award image to your blog. (easy)

Questions from L.D to me:

What is your favorite... in your house? No question, the den/library. It's small, cozy, cool in the summer, warm in the winter, and has a door to shut out the world. Oh yeah, and it's filled with books. =)

...flavor of ice cream? Chocolate. But not just plain chocolate. Give me something with attitude. I particularly like one (the brand/name escapes me now) that is a darker chocolate and has rasperry-filled chocolate hearts in it. Fortunately for my hips, I don't buy it very often because I could easily sit down with the entire half-gallon and a spoon. Hmm, toss-up between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Both have family and good food. But I'd probably have to go with Christmas because of the opportunity to share the joy of others as they open gifts.

...vacation spot? I think I'll have to go with mountains on this one. Shocking, I know. But I love trees and grand vistas. I just don't want to go in the winter. Mid-spring or early autumn (all those vibrant colors) is best.

...genre for reading? Oh, heavens. I read almost anything. But for a tried-and-true read, I gravitate to crime-fiction and fantasy. Unsurprisingly, that's mostly what I write.

...breed of dog? Living? LOL Actually, anything that doesn't look like a mop that is missing a handle, isn't a yipper, or isn't an ankle-biter. I'm a sucker for German shepherds, chocolate labs, and greyhounds. I really want a retired greyhound some day.

...time of the day? Mid-afternoon. By then I'm reasonably awake, it isn't so far into the day that I'm exhausted and ready for bed, and I feel alert and productive.

...sports team (any sport)? Probably any team associated with my alma mater, St. Bonaventure University. I've become so jaded with pro sports these days. The game has definitely become a secondary consideration for a lot of athletes. from your childhood? Oh, goodness. There are so many, I really don't want to pick one. But if I have to, probably Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express. That was the first mystery to really make me say, "Why didn't I see that?"

...sleepwear? This totally depends on the season. In the winter, long-sleeve t-shirt with fleecy pants (I don't like being cold). In the summer, a light-weight sleep shirt. The only thing I hate worse that being cold is overheating.

...year in your life so far (not counting this one)? The sappy thing to say would be the year I got married or the year one of my kids was born. But I'm going to go with 2012. I finally published something and started to get some traction with fiction writing, which is something I've been trying to do for, oh, forever.

Eleven random facts about me:

1. I got my first gray hair at age 15 (thanks Grandma).

2. I was a red-head for almost 15 years (see #1 above - thanks, Clairol).

3. I love to cook (but not just "make dinner).

4. I think Firefly might be one of the best TV shows ever.

5. While I love chocolate, I do think there is such a thing as "too much chocolate."

6. I love reading while soaking in a bubble bath.

7. Even more than I love chocolate, I think I love salty, crunchy snacks.

8. Unlike most of my family, I can neither wiggle my ears nor curl my tongue.

9. My favorite vacation spot is actually my front porch.

10. I don't dislike cats as much as I say I do.

11. I'm addicted to chai lattes (if only they weren't so fattening).

Eleven questions for others to answer.

Details are appreciated, but not required (and will make this more fun).

1. If you could be any kind of animal, what would it be?
2. Name a book that you really loved, but are really kind of embarrassed you love.
3. What is your favorite article of clothing?
4. If you could travel anywhere, where would you go?
5. Who is the historical person you'd most like to meet?
6. Who is your favorite composer/musician?
7. What was your most embarrassing moment?
8. What is the one thing you wish you could change about how you look?
9. Would you rather do the cooking or wash the dishes?
10. Do you prefer shoes or bare feet?
11. If you could play any musical instrument, what would it be?

My eleven award recipients:

Okay, I couldn't find eleven. But here are a few fine folks you should check out:

Annette Dashofy: Writing, Etc.
Kaye George: Travels with Kaye
Edith Maxwell: Edith Maxwell
Gigi Pandian: Gigi Pandian
Jenna Bennett/Jennie Bentley: Jenna Bennett/Jennie Bentley
C. Lee McKenzie: The Write Game

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Star Chasers

or How You Shouldn't Overreact to a One-Star Review

by Mary Sutton / @mary_sutton73

Recently, I came upon this post, expounding on the importance of the one-star review, and how detrimental it can be, especially to indie authors. What particularly caught me was this quote:
Despite her not even having read the book, she has managed to bring my 5 star rating down to 4 stars. This means a great deal of indie book sites will now not include my book in their free lists or advertising lists of the day.
Now, I've blogged about reviews before - the importance of leaving them and the importance of being honest. And if you've followed this blog at all (and I assume you have because, hey, you're here), you know I've done reviews - and posted them to Amazon and Goodreads.

But honestly, everyone take a pill and calm down.

In another article (which of course I now cannot find), it was posited that approximately a third of readers will love a book, a third will hate it, and a third will just feel ambivalent. This sounds pretty logical to me. People are different. They all like different things. Heck, isn't that why there is such a plethora of genres and sub-genres in fiction? Some people like sci-fi, some like romance. Some like light romance, some like erotica. And even within those sub-genres, not every fan of the genre likes every book. Some find the characterization well-drawn and the plotting compelling, some don't.

To this I say: to each her own.

There's a popular saying that the sure way to fail is to try and please all people. It's true for a lot of things, including writing. People are so varied that it's an impossible task. Now, the author of the above quote bemoans that this four-star rating is going to exempt her from certain promotional channels. Having looked for those same channels for my own book, I have to say I've never come across one that demands a five-star rating average. Four stars, four and a half stars, but never five. But since I certainly haven't explored the nooks and crannies of the Internet for every possible channel, for the sake of argument I'll assume they exist.

What do you suppose the real problem is here?

To me, the problem is the channels. By insisting on a five-star average (which means every blessed review is five stars), they have set the bar impossibly high. No author in existence can do this. And I embarked upon a little research to see if I'm just out there or if I'm right. I picked four authors considered "greats" and four "great" books. I put "great" in quotes because really, it is kind of subjective. But as a lit major, I feel generally comfortable saying these four authors rank at the top of the literature pyramid. Here is what I found

  • Jane Austen, Pride & Prejudice: Amazon rated 4.5 stars
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby: Amazon rated 4.2 stars
  • Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls: Amazon rated 4.3 stars
  • William Shakespeare, Romeo & Juliet: Amazon rated 4 stars (random edition)
So right off the bat, these four pillars of English literature would be exempt from these promotional channels insisting on a five-star rating. So I wandered over to my own book, which currently has a 4.6-star rating. Now, am I honestly a better author than Austen, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Shakespeare?

I'm not that proud/egotistical/delusional.

Now let's look at those reviews. Right off the bat, I see a lot of "This sucks," and "Worst book ever." I agree, these are not helpful. But really, I think readers are intelligent enough to weed these out.

For the Shakespeare, a number of one-star reviews were given because of the book condition (it clearly said "used" in the product description, so why give a book a one-star review for not being new?) and because it did not have line numbers as advertised (I assumed these were needed for academic purposes). A legit gripe if that is indeed something you required - but a one-star review gripe?

And then I found this gem of a review for Romeo & Juliet:
This was by far the worst science fiction novel I have ever watched. While the story of two lovers may seem romantic to some people, the use of spaceships and alien robots was very unneccesairy. The worst part of this play had to be the end where both charaters joined up with Marty McFly to save the universe. Thumbs down to you sir! The remix WAS better.
Obviously a joke, right? (Or at least I devoutly hope it was a joke because if it's not, wow, just wow.) But it's still a one-star review. Amazon's engine is not smart enough to filter out a joke review. So poor Will got slammed because some doofus simply didn't like his play and decided to make a joke about it.

I believe readers are smart enough to gloss over this, too.

Speaking of readers, I do a lot of that too, you know. Personally, I am suspicious of books by relative unknowns with nothing but five-star reviews. Because while a review that says "this sucks" is not helpful, neither is a review that says, "Most awesome book ever!" Neither provides any details, why the reviewer felt that way.

And seriously, with all the millions of books in print, "most awesome book ever"?

As a reader, I don't give a lot of five-star reviews. To me, five stars is "I couldn't find any major flaws and any fan of this particular genre should definitely read this." More common is four stars, "An extremely enjoyable read and I highly recommend it to fans of the genre." A couple times I've done three stars: "Enjoyable read, worth picking up, but get it from a library."

The only time I have left one and two-star reviews is when the book is only available for a scandalous amount of money (a hardcover for $35-$40) and there are what I consider major flaws that I think someone should be aware of before spending that money - and they are usually things I wish someone had told me.

So yeah, do I wish more people would learn how to leave a useful (not a good) review? Sure. Is it likely to happen? Probably not. What I wish more is that authors, particularly indies who are already under pressure (self or otherwise) would take a deep breath and realize that a one-star review is not the end of your fiction career. Into every life a few one-stars must fall. It's just the Way Things Are.

If there are promo channels insisting on five-star averages, shame on them. You are not helping. And you are not making me want to work with you anyway.

And at the end of the day, they need me more more than the reverse.