CROWS and Other Stories by Dino Hajiyorgi – Anthology

Yet another free download from the Kindle store!

This is an absolutely bite-sized read. There are 8 stories in total, all of which are verging on the flash fiction length or slightly longer. It took me under half an hour to read them all — maybe even less.

Since I haven’t seen a table of contents anywhere, the stories are:

1. Crows
Three old ladies aren’t quite what they seem.

2. The Stork of Midnight
A young boy asks his grandfather why he has no eyes and gets much more than he bargained for.

3. The Lord Will Be Back in 5′
A farmer is ordered by God to kill his son.

4. Mothers
A mother, concerned by her son’s unusual habits, hires an investigator to discover where her son is spending all his time.

5. Porcelain Bones
A man is haunted by memories of his loved one.

6. The Second Mother
A man meets a mysterious woman in the desert. Is she an angel come to forgive him for his crimes?

7. The Gondolas of Athens
A slice-of-life of a boy living in Athens.

8. Love Planet
Two bitter ex-lovers are stranded on an abandoned planet.

Despite its brevity, I enjoyed this book. The stories are fairly well written and descriptive, and Hajiyorgi does a good job of delivering an unexpected twist right smack at the end. “The Stork” is a prime example of this; it starts getting creepy and you think you know where it’s going, but a little twist doubles the horror content.

I enjoyed both “Mothers” and “Love Planet” for their creepy concept and science fiction elements. “Porcelain Bones” was weaker in terms of plot, but had some evocative imagery.

“The Second Mother” and “The Gondalas of Athens” were the two duds in the collection for me. The writing is solid, but compared to the other stories’ surprise endings, these two fell flat.

Despite the original concepts behind many of the stories, one gripe I would have is that each story is so short that you barely have the time to explore a concept before it’s over. The book’s blurb mentions that Dino Hajiyorgi has “a skilful economy with words” — which is true — but the fact that the stories are so short means that you’ve just sunken into them and then they’re over. Given that none of the stories are related, this makes it a fairly jerky read.

Maybe I’d complain less had there been more than 8 stories. Who knows!

Overall, an interesting and creepy read, but personally given how short the book is, I’m not sure I’d have been happy to pay for it.

Posted in Anthology, Horror, Reviews | Leave a comment

Become a Kindle Publishing Millionaire by Victor Gaucho-Ramirez – Humour

Two words: utterly bizarre.

The boy got me a Kindle for my birthday (woo!) and so, obviously, the first thing I did was browse the free books.

I wasn’t quite sure what I was expecting when I downloaded Become a Kindle Publishing Millionaire. More generic fluff from yet another indie author trying to make money off of fellow authors, perhaps, with some kind of humorous twist (a la How To Write The Perfect Novel).

I got onto the overground, flicked on my Kindle and glanced at the first page, fully intending on reading one of the other books I’d downloaded.

By the time I’d arrived at work, I’d already read half.

Bewildering and amusing, replete with outlandish anecdotes, this short book offers useless advice on marketing, creating aliases, coming up with story ideas, and more.

In Greg X Graves bizarre-humour style, Victor ‘Victorius’ Gaucho-Ramirez makes the most ridiculous claims. Between advice on what days to offer books for free through Kindle Select and how to come up with names that sound similar to existing authors, Gaucho-Ramirez claims to have invented the original Nigerian spam email for the modest fee of a flight back home.

If Gaucho-Ramirez is to be believed, he also coined numerous known expressions such as “innovation is the key to success” and even invented a banana-straightener.

I’m not a massive humourist, but I can see why people might enjoy reading this. It’s a quick, irreverent read, albeit a little pointless. At a price point of zero, however, I could allow myself to be briefly entertained.

Or maybe I’ve got it all wrong and this is actually a tome of great wisdom and truth.


3/5 stars.

Posted in Comedy, Reviews | Tagged | Leave a comment

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë – Classic

Finally, my Brontë virginity is gone!

This classic has been on my to-read list for years… but sadly it didn’t live up to the hype. While I’m not fully disappointed, I’m a bit “meh” about it all.

So what didn’t I like?

First, the story within a story trick rarely works for me–particularly given that in this case, the present day story (stranger renting house) was inconsequential. Furthermore, the fact that the housekeeper spills out a detailed family history to an utter stranger seems ridiculous.

Speaking of the characters: almost none are likeable. They’re not even likeable in the antihero you-know-he’s-bad-yet-like-him anyway style. They are just petty, obsessive, small minded… or on the flip side, SO nice that they’re weak and ineffectual.

(I also got bored of parsing what Joseph, one of the servants, was saying. His thick Yorkshire accent was a chore to read; I skimmed over most of it.)

Third, Heathcliff isn’t sexy or romantic. Instead he puts Edward Cullen to shame in terms of obsession. He doesn’t know what love is – he just knows what he wants.

Fourth, I got excited about ghosts. The story kicks off with a creepy ghost/nightmare scene which led me to believe there would be more visitations. Instead the rest of the book was dedicated to reliving the past, with no ghosts whatsover until the last pages of the book.

So why have I given this story any stars at all?

The middle section of the book wasn’t bad, mostly because the present day interjections were kept to a minimum, so I could ignore the story-within-a-story aspect. As you get to know the characters, their family drama gains some element of car crash appeal, which carried me through to the end.

Now, the last hundred-odd pages are the saving grace of the book. Forget about Catherine and Heathcliff–it was the Cathy/Linton relationship that captured my attention. Nevermind that Linton is horrible and Cathy is an idiot; I couldn’t help but read their story with horrified fascination.

Plus, the conclusion was very satisfying. And a little bit creepy.

In sum: this isn’t a classic for the faint-hearted. The first half of the book is a tough slog, but if you push your way through to the end, you will be (somewhat) rewarded.

Posted in Classics, Reviews | Leave a comment

End Of An Era

I’ve known it for some time: I’ve too much on my plate.

What with writing, editing for 1889, and having a day job, my ability to promptly read and review books has gone down the drain.

This imbalance is only set to worsen. Reviewing is merely a past time for me, whereas writing and being EIC of 1889 are jobs — jobs I’m passionate about, too.

So my plan is as follows:

  1. Stop accepting books for review.
    It’s unfair to offer a service I know I can’t deliver, and with such limited time on my hands, I want to read books I want to read, without the added pressure of having to write a review — whether I want to or not.

  2. Move author interviews to 1889.
    The 1889 blog needs content, and I want to downsize quillsandzebras. It makes sense to transfer this feature over. We are working on developing an interview form for 1889, but in the meantime, any submissions received through here will be posted on the 1889 blog.

  3. Feel a lot less guilty!
    By reverting this blog back to a personal one, and away from the regimented ‘must-be-a-professional-book-blogger’, I’ll have a huge weight off my shoulders. And won’t feel forced to post unless I want to (which I probably will end up wanting to do, now that there’s no pressure to do so). Success!

Right now, I’m spread too thin. I want to focus my efforts on instead. If and when the mood strikes, I’ll post a review here. But I’m not going to set any deadlines.

That’s the end of this emo I-can’t-do-it post. Thanks for reading, and for following along :-)

Posted in Ze Miscellaneous | 6 Comments

5 Minute Monday: Robert Collins

Kansas-based author Robert Collins loves to cross the genre aisles. He has published three science fiction novels, one young adult novel, a couple biographies, and a bunch of non-fiction exploring railroad history… not to mention the occasional veer into writing about writing.

A little about you, first. Do you have any hidden talents?

RC: I write science fiction and fantasy. I also write nonfiction about Kansas history. I wish I had a hidden talent, but I don’t.

Tell us about Lisa’s Way — what themes does it tackle?

RC: Teenager Lisa Herbert lives in the small town of Mountain View on the planet Fairfield. The “Savage Rain” decades earlier shut down the hyperspace gate and isolated her world. A casual remark from her sister gets Lisa to ask a simple question: “If life was better before the ‘Savage Rain,’ why couldn’t it be better again?”

That question starts Lisa on a journey. She reactivates Fairfield’s H-gate and travels to three worlds. Each planet offers her a chance to improve life by hard work, by trade, or by making friends. She relies on her brains, her compassion, and a little sneakiness to solve the problems she faces.

Is there anything you want readers to take away from your writing?

RC: As far as Lisa’s Way goes, I hope readers are entertained by her story. Lisa isn’t a romantic, prefers talking to fighting, and will think before acting. I know that won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. That’s okay; I’ll keep telling her story no matter what.

Which other indie authors do you recommend or admire?

RC: I don’t know you’d quite call Kristine Kathryn Rusch an indie author, but I listen to what she says. She’s been an editor and a publisher as well as an author. She keeps keeps her feet in both the indie and traditional worlds. She also pays attention to what goes on behind the scenes of publishing.

As a reader, I don’t go for authors as much as I do stories. If I’m going to look to an author, it’s for what they say about writing and publishing. It’s why I like Kris, and her husband Dean Wesley Smith. I encourage other indie authors to follow their blogs.

Lastly, what question should I have asked you, and why?

RC: What’s your goal as an indie writer?

I would like to earn a respectable income from my writing. Right now, I’d just like some more readers.

Grab Lisa’s Way from Smashwords, Amazon, or Barnes & Nobles… or watch the trailer:

Posted in Author Interviews | Tagged | 1 Comment

How NOT to Get Reviewed #4

Part of a series. When you get hundreds of book review requests, you only take minutes to decide which books to accept. What goes through a book bloggers mind? I can’t speak for all bloggers, but here’s what goes through mine….

From: –
To: my email
Subject line: Review Request and Possible Interview

Hello Anna

You know who I am, great!

[Book title] is a new novel set during the ’45 Rebellion. It has action, adventure, complex relationships and a modest dash of 18th century bawdiness.

Although on first reading, the start struck me as odd, I appreciate someone who gets right to the point. Within seconds I know whether I’ll like this book or not.

My name’s [Name] and I’m an independent author writing historical fiction as [Pseudonym]. I’m currently writing my third novel, although [book title] is the first to be published (by [publisher]) and is available in paperback, PDF and e-book formats.

Superfluous. Cut this down. Especially get rid of the mention of three books; that this is the first to be published only makes me suspicious (were the others crap?).

I’m attaching a PDF version of the Advanced Information sheet with further details. In addition, I have a website for [Pseudonym], and the URL is… [website] – although it’s still not being picked up fully by Search Engines.

Interesting! AIs are what trade publishers use; nice touch. Still, you’re rambling, but I haven’t dismissed you entirely.

The book is 650 pages long and has a word count of 300,000. You can preview [book title] either through [website] or the “Look Inside” function on the relevant Amazon page. I’m sure you’ll hate this but I have to confess that it’s also written in the first person.

And…. rejected. 300,000 words? I know being indie means you have a lot more freedom, but considering that the average trade paperback ranges in the 60-90k range, I wouldn’t write a 300k novel unless I was Stephen King. Maybe not even then. Over 100k (except for perhaps with science fiction) and you’re facing a long, difficult sell.

Basically, however, I wondered whether you might be interested in reviewing [book title] and, if so, the format in which you would prefer to receive it. I’m also available for interviews. I appreciate that you must have a huge backlog but I look forward to your response.

Very best regards.


Writing historical novels as [Pseudonym]
Now available from all good stockists. Click below to sample.
[Book title]

You read my guidelines. You rambled, but not enough to put me off. But even had the entire review request been bang-on perfect, your novel is enormous and will require serious commitment from a reader — which I am not willing to give to an unknown author. Rejected.

Posted in How NOT to Get Reviewed | 1 Comment

5 Minute Monday: Joseph M Armillas

Actor and musician Joseph M Armarillas’ earliest memories are of constantly boarding planes, trains, and automobiles to meet a fascinating variety of characters while traveling with his show business parents. A longtime science fiction fan, Joseph began writing while in grammar school, and hasn’t looked back once.

A little about you, first. Do you have any hidden talents?

JMA: I grew up in a very artistic creative family. My mother and father were in show business. My mom, Margarita Lecuona, was a very well-known Cuban songwriter. She wrote Babalu, made famous by Desi Arnaz on the “I Love Lucy Show”. My dad was an Argentinian actor/singer/dancer. I began playing guitar and piano at a very young age. Seeing my father rehearse lines for his acting work got me involved in the world of theatre early on.

I’m a very good carpenter and I’ve designed and built several recording studios over the years. I was in the US Army for three years and served as a cook. I’ve loved cooking ever since and I must confess I’m a bit of a foodie. My dream is to one day have a big professional style kitchen where I can really cook to my heart’s content.

I had a successful career as a musician for thirty three years and I owned and operated a commercial recording studio for half of that time. I’m a member of SAG and AFTRA and work as a professional actor in film and TV. I’m featured on Lil’ Wayne’s latest video on his hit song “How To Love” from his new platinum album, appearing as a doctor. I’ve recently started hosting an interview show on YouTube, called LA Interview where I interview creative people in the entertainment industry and the arts. I look forward to interviewing self- published authors like myself.

Tell us about your book — what themes does it tackle?

JMA: Plantanimus “Awakening” is part one of the Plantanimus Trilogy. The story begins in the 27th century on the planet Mars, four hundred years after being settled by humans. The main character is Kelem Rogeston, a young Martian psychic and scientific genius who is the first member of the 6th Root Race, the next step in the evolution of mankind. Kelem learns to harness his amazing abilities and invents the n’time generator, a device that will carry mankind to the stars. Kelem struggles against The Phalanx, an evil organization from Earth that wants to steal the technology and conquer Mars. He designs an n’time ship and on its maiden voyage accidentally becomes stranded on Plantanimus, an alien planet where the Dreamers, an ancient race of sentient plant life, help him expand his abilities and teach him the true nature of consciousness.

The story deals with psychic phenomena, the true meaning of spirituality and consciousness, encounters with alien species one of which is a race of telepathic plants and the other a race of humanoid insect-like beings, called the Kren. Books # 2, (Return to Mars) and #3, (The Gulax War) deal with war, revolution and re-incarnation.

The inspiration for Plantanimus came from a dream that I had over three consecutive nights in the summer of 2000. I’ve always been able to “lucid dream”. It’s an ability that manifested itself early on in my childhood, so it was very easy for me to remember the arc of the story and write down the entire three part dream which eventually became the three books of the Trilogy.

Is there anything you want readers to take away from your writing?

JMA: A sense that we humans are so much more than the bodies we inhabit and that the universe is more exciting and mysterious than we can imagine.

That pain and suffering are often self-inflicted and that much of the misery that we humans experience could be easily avoided by simply opening our hearts and minds and letting go of our egos.

That prejudice, racism, ageism, gender and sexual discrimination are the stumbling blocks that keep humanity from truly advancing as a species.

Which other indie authors do you recommend or admire?

JMA: Sadly I haven’t read other independent author’s books yet, but I intend to remedy that shortcoming soon. I’m a member of Authors Learning Center and I already have several authors whose books I intend to read.

I plan to begin a series of interviews with those individuals on my show, LA Interview. I do a lot of research on the people that I interview and before interviewing these self-published authors I will be reading their books in advance.

Lastly, what question should I have asked you, and why?

JMA: 1. What was your journey as a self-published author like?
2. What made you choose self-publishing instead of going with an established publishing house?
3. What if any advice would you give to others that want to self-publish a book?

I would have liked for you to ask those questions so that I could impart what little wisdom and experience I’ve gathered in the last few months as I began to investigate the world of self-publishing, and how and why I reached the decisions I made, and what my experience was like.

Self-publishing is usually a faster way to put your book out there as opposed to the traditional route of signing with an established publisher, but it is not an instant thing. The first thing I recommend for first timers like me is to make sure that your book is as good as it can possibly be. Don’t be afraid to re-write or change things. You’d be surprised how many mistakes and inconsistencies you will find in your manuscript if you take the time to put it away for a week or two, before proof-reading the entire thing. Do it as many times and you can stand it, even if you think that you’ve caught all the mistakes in grammar and spelling.

Even now that my book has been published, I still found a couple of things that I’ll have to correct during the next printing! Be organized and be prepared. Read/research as much information as you can digest regarding self–publishing companies, marketing etc. Thousands of books are published every month and yours is just one of many competing for that market share of business in whatever genre you write in. If you can afford it, join an organization like Authors Learning Center or IBPA, (Independent Book Publisher’s Association) or any of the many organizations out there that exist to help and support independent, self-published authors.

I’m organized and I spend a tremendous amount of time taking care of business. Like most creative people, (particularly writers!) I’ve been known to be a bit of a procrastinator, but over the years I’ve become very disciplined and learned that one must approach writing and business in equal measure, particularly if you’re self-publishing. I schedule a certain amount of hours of the day for writing and another portion of my day for promotion and marketing.

The Plantanimus Trilogy is available from Amazon, Barnes & Nobles and Xlibris. For more information, check out or Joseph’s website.

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5 Minute Monday: Andrew Bardin Williams

Andrew Bardin Williams is a freelance author and copywriter living in San Francisco. Andrew was featured by and has appeared on Dante’s Hot Tub on Radio Valenencia.

A little about you, first. Do you have any hidden talents?

ABW: I am an author and copywriter living in San Francisco. I love to tell stories (embellished of course) and take inspiration from the fantastic people around me.

Tell us about your book, Learning to Haight — what themes does it tackle?

ABW: On the 40th anniversary of the Summer of Love, new reporter Jack McClure is assigned to write an article about an influential figure from San Francisco’s past. A beatnik, a hippie and a one-time movie star, Dean Simmons is anything but an easy interview, but Jack knows that getting to know the “real” Dean is his ticket off the news desk. Along the way, Jack learns what it means be an activist and to make a name for himself. But Learning to Haight is really about the story of San Francisco and its affect on the young men and women who are drawn there to find themselves. The city does something to people–what will it do to Jack?

Is there anything you want readers to take away from your writing?

ABW: I want readers to understand that it’s ok to take chances, to stick their necks out. If it gets chopped off… well, it’ll grow back. I promise. Be active. Be engaged. Be open. That’s what my book is all about. I also want readers to get to know the real San Francisco. The media likes to portray the city as a haven for hippies, liberals and drug-addled free-loaders. Yes, we have that. But much, much more. This city is extremely inspirational as a writer.

Which other indie authors do you recommend or admire?

ABW: I read all sorts of indie fiction, but instead of mentioning them, I want to make the point that many of my favorite Beat writers would be classified as indie today. There’s no doubt that Kerouac, Ginsberg and Burroughs would not have had to self publish if they were just getting started today. They were too out there, and traditional New York based publishing houses do not take risks today. If the current publishing climate existed back then, we would have missed out on some of the most influential writers in the 20th century. That’s why independent and self publishing is so important today.

Lastly, what question should I have asked you, and why?

ABW: As an independent author, how do you promote your book?

I’m not the first person to say this, but social media is the great equalizer. My reader community is online and there are a ton of tools I can use to let readers discover my work. This includes using Spotify to create and post a soundtrack to the novel, Google Maps to pinpoint quotes from the book to their physical location in San Francisco and YouTube to highlight the pop-culture references in Learning to Haight. Check out and to check out some of exciting ways I’m using social media.

Check out for bonus content, including links to a video of Andrew reading at the Beat Museum in SF, a Google Maps with quotes from the book and a radio interview he did on Dante’s Hot Tub on Radio Valencia, an internet radio station in SF.

Posted in Author Interviews | Tagged | 1 Comment

How NOT to Get Reviewed #3

Part of a series. When you get hundreds of book review requests, you only take minutes to decide which books to accept. What goes through a book bloggers mind? I can’t speak for all bloggers, but here’s what goes through mine….

From: –
To: my email
Subject line: Quills and Zebras – Review Request – [book title]

Hi Anna.

Woohoo, personalised email!

My name is [name] and I’m the author of the book [title].

So far so good…

I came across your site via explain how you found the site and can see that you’re a fan of the fantasy books. ADD IN 2-3 sentences of personalization based on reading the blogger’s bio and taking a quick look around their site. And I’ve followed you on list sites you followed them on, so we can stay in touch that way now too.

Aaaaand rejected!

I’m all for template emails – they save time, and ensure the author includes the key information in each email. But at least take the time to read through your emails before hitting send!

Might I convince you to take a look at my novel [book title]. I’d gladly provide you with an copy of my book via your preferred eBook platform – just let me know.

Now I cannot help but read critically. You’re missing a question mark in the first sentence. Also, who says platform?

Description: [book blurb].

Thanks for considering this request. I look forward to hearing from you.

Trailer of the book: [link]

Why whack the trailer here? You should’ve put it straight under the book blurb.

Blog: [link]

You lost me at “explain how you found the site”. Rejected.

Posted in How NOT to Get Reviewed | 2 Comments

5 Minute Monday: Rachel A Marks

Rachel A Marks is a writer and artist, a surfer and dirt-bike rider, chocolate lover and keeper of faerie secrets. She teaches her four kids at home and tries not to act like a nerd during science class. She was voted: “Most Likely To Survive A Zombie Apocalypse,” but hopes she’ll never have to test the theory.

A little about you, first. Do you have any hidden talents?

RAM: A hidden talent, huh?

I can ride a pretty mean trail on my dirt-bike. I can tie a cherry stem in a knot with my tongue… lol (very technical). Okay, I think one talent that not many people know I have is my ability to know what people are feeling, read their emotions. I’ve always been a bit of a people-watcher, but when I was a teenager I realized it had become a weird hobby. I loved trying to understand people, watch their expressions and eyes. I find humans extremely fascinating. ;) Which is why I probably always draw the face and hands in my fantasy artwork (the pieces that tell the story). It’s a hobby that definitely helps in my writing as well.

Tell us about your book — what themes does it tackle?

RAM: Winter Rose is a YA coming-of-age romance with a dash of magical realism. It tackles some pretty deep topics but I think the main goal of the book was to show the journey of the heart. It’s a very simple story, with a very simple theme (love saves us), but the goal was to make the reader not just read the story of Rose, but to FEEL it with her. I wanted the events it to be vivid and mark them, like they did her.

Is there anything you want readers to take away from your writing?

RAM: On a whole, I think mostly I just want my readers to be able to escape through my writing. That’s why I love to read, anyway. But I also hope that my work is able to speak to their hearts and help them feel less alone.

Which other indie authors do you recommend or admire?

RAM: I’m just beginning this journey of the Indie Author, and I’m still getting to know people out there, but I do admire folks that work hard at the craft, put out amazing product that raises the market to that higher level, and have an energetic attitude, willing to help others. I have many many friends in my writer’s group CODEX that embody this. You can find the list of award winners (some Indie, some Legacy) on the Codex Writer’s Website.

Lastly, what question should I have asked you, and why?

RAM: What made me put my work out under the Indie Umbrella now, rather than waiting to find a publisher?

This question means the most to me right now because I’ve been actively trying to get one of my novels published for seven years now (not that long in some circles), but in that time my life-journey has taken many many odd turns.

That first year, my husband and I sold everything and packed up our four kids, moved to a ranch in the middle-of-nowhere, and then proceeded to lose everything we owned within a year (definitely an adventure!). When we came back “home” I was very ill and after several years and a misdiagnosis, it was discovered I had cancer. After a year of treatment I was set loose with a clean bill of health and no hair, as well as several new health issues. Until I was taken back into the hospital and another tumor was found in my chest. After more surgery it turned out to be benign but the constant attack on my body was wearing me down, making it almost impossible to draw or write.

As much as I could, I worked on my craft, though. I tried to write one of my projects when energy permitted, drew several important drawings from the emotion, and was blessed to meet countless amazing people along the way.

And now, I’m feeling my health return, and my seven year journey is taking another turn. We’ll see where the road takes me next.

Because it’s not about the end goal of that “Rich & Famous Contract” but rather about the journey. The things we learn along the way, how much we grow. I wanted people to read what I’d created. For better or worse. And, though I’m still working to find a publisher for one of my novels, I’m excited to take some of my work and reach out to people where I can.

Check out Rachel on Goodreads, Twitter or Amazon!

Posted in Author Interviews | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

5 Minute Monday: Monica Leonelle

Chicago-based Monica Leonellet was first published in English and French in 2009 with her non-fiction book Social Pollination. She also writes ebooks; her urban fantasy Silver Smoke was a Top 1000 Amazon Breakthrough novel in 2011. She’s also one of those hopelessly optimistic, glass-half-full people, and has an adorable dog.

A little about you, first. Do you have any hidden talents?

ML: I do! I can roll my stomach (it’s really gross).

Otherwise, I’m a Chicagoan living downtown in the city, and I write pretty much all day. I love writing fantasy and science fiction and tend to focus on the young adult market.

Tell us about your book — what themes does it tackle?

ML: Silver Smoke is about a 15-year old girl named Brie who tries to investigate her mother’s death after learning a family secret–her mother is a descendant of the archangels and belongs to a supernatural race called the Hallows. Brie is desperate to get answers, because they affect her and her brother, and (as she learns) the entire Hallow race.

Is there anything you want readers to take away from your writing?

ML: The one thing I would like readers to learn from my work is what a normal romantic relationship based on mutual respect looks like. A lot of the young characters in the book series have the opposite of this kind of relationship, and bad things happen because of it. So I want to make an impression on teenagers and show them how secrets are like toxic waste in a relationship. The series showcases good relationships.

Which other indie authors do you recommend or admire?

ML: I admire Samantha Young–she’s a great writer in the young adult genre and everyone enjoys her books.

My favorite mainstream authors include Cassandra Clare, Suzanne Collins, and Holly Black. They are such fun storytellers!

Lastly, what question should I have asked you, and why?

ML: The things I can’t live without, because they are all technology-based.

I can’t live without my MacBook Pro, my TV, or (this amazing website that lets you order delivery food from your area over the internet).

Check out Silver Smoke today on Kindle or check out Monica’s website, which has great marketing tips for fellow authors.

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How NOT to Get Reviewed #2

Part of a series. When you get hundreds of book review requests, you only take minutes to decide which books to accept. What goes through a book bloggers mind? I can’t speak for all bloggers, but here’s what goes through mine….

From: –
To: my email
Subject line: KIndly review [book title]

Having your own domain looks professional , plus it was sent only to me – good. But the typo in the subject line could’ve been easily avoided.

Hi, Anna.

Yay! Plus points for referring to me by name.

I came across your awesome blog through a link on [website]. I am friendly with [Name] and I am so glad she is putting together a list of book bloggers who are ready and willing to read indie books. I am thrilled that you joined the list. I feel that more readers should be reading indie work.

Okay, cool to know how you find me, but don’t get too carried away!

People around the world buy indie art, listen to indie music, see indie films, so why not read indie books? I personally prefer things to be a bit more artsy and unpredictable. I have worked with big time publishers and they sometimes tear works to shreds and edit them to death so they can appeal to housewives in middle America. Not every book is meant for housewives. As a result, I think it is awesome that bloggers like you are willing to take your valuable time to read indie books because no matter how great some one’s review is, Anne Rice, and Stephen King, and Dean Koontz, Simply do not care. But guys like me on the other hand… book bloggers can change our lives. And that’s pretty cool.

Remember what I said about getting carried away? Yeah. You did it. My eyes have glazed over.

I have written nearly 3 dozens books and have worked for and with big time NYC publishers and like many other authors, I was disappointed with the results.

If you hadn’t rambled about indie books, the above would have been okay. As it is, I’m wondering when I’ll ever learn about your book.

My novel [book title] is kind of edgy and weird.

Words like “edgy” and “weird” tell me nothing – what genre is the book? How long is it? Is it actually edgy, or only kind of?

Here’s a summary:

[book blurb]

I finally know the book’s plot after 4 paragraphs… but by now I’ve lost interest.

Attached is an EPUB and PDF. If you can possibly find the time, and if you have the interest, I would certainly appreciate your valuable reviews.

Don’t attach books unless reviewers specifically ask you to.

Keep up the great work!

[Name] (All of my friends call me “[nickname].” You can, too!”)

Cutesy comments are at best amusing, at worst annoying.

Writer / Director / Producer
[Website Name]
[Smashwords link]
[Blog link]

Including a signature – good.

The start is good: mentioning a mutual friend will encourage me to keep reading. But the subsequent rambling puts me off, and I still don’t know the length or genre of the book. By the time I get to the most important bit — the blurb — I’m bored. Rejected.

Posted in How NOT to Get Reviewed | 4 Comments

5 Minute Monday: Dana Michelle Burnett

Dana Michelle Burnett spent most of her life writing short stories and sharing them with family and friends. Over the years, her work was published in numerous commercial and literary magazines including Just Labs, Mindprints: A Literary Journal, Foliate Oak, and many more.

A little about you, first. Do you have any hidden talents?

DMB: I am a writer, a dreamer, and a proud dance mom to an eight year old daughter. I’ve been published in numerous literary magazines.

My secret hidden talents? I can make a hairbun in less than three seconds using only a pencil, and I can write an entire short story on cocktail napkins.

Tell us about Spiritus — what themes does it tackle?

DMB: My novel Spiritus is about a love that refuses to die.

When Becca moves into her ancestral home in Corydon, Indiana, her life takes a puzzling and thrilling turn when she meets the ghost haunting the halls. As the seductive spirit lures her closer and closer, she learns about her own past and starts to understand that some mistakes are meant to last.

Is there anything you want readers to take away from your writing?

DMB: I think we all crave to be a part of an epic love affair that could survive anything and I want to give readers a little taste of that.

The love affair between these characters goes deeper than just love and sex. They relationship encompasses things such a betrayal, revenge, and regret. I wanted readers to sense the many levels of their attraction.

Which other indie authors do you recommend or admire?

DMB: I love the works of Rose Pressey. She is a wonderful writer that goes beyond what you expect in paranormal romance. I bought some of her work on a whim and I was so impressed that I recommend her to everyone.

Lastly, what question should I have asked you, and why?

DMB: You should have asked why I picked Corydon for the setting of my book.

It seems that no matter how hard I worked on my main characters, the town is what impresses people the most. Many readers have noticed that many of the places and events that I mention in the book are real and want to know more.

You can friend Dana on facebook or check out her book on Amazon Kindle or Smashwords.

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5 Minute Monday: Zia Trench

Zia Trench is an award-winning Broadcast Journalist, presenter, writer and documentary maker. She runs Zeitgeist Theatre Ltd, that makes TV, Radio and Theatre productions. She writes, presents and makes films about social issues, particularly civil liberties, feminism and global terrorism. She also makes distinct and creative promotional videos for small businesses and charities.

A little about you, first. Do you have any hidden talents?

ZT: I’m a journalist/documentary maker – and I’ve published a unique, quirky set of poems on Amazon in response to the boring things we hear about taking drugs.

I’d love to be interviewed; I used to present on BBC Politics Show and so quite controversial to release a book like this.

Tell us about your poetry colletion, As High As A Kite — what themes does it tackle?

ZT: My poems are about drug adventures; they’re insights into life, into people and passing time. They do really well at spoken word events in London.

Is there anything you want readers to take away from your writing?

ZT: I just like honesty, lightness and insightful writing.

I don’t want to lecture or be ‘objective’ as I was trained to be as a journalist. Things should just come from the heart and everyone should row their own boat, not be told what to think or what is right and wrong.

Which other indie authors do you recommend or admire?

ZT: I’ve just read all SJ Parris but she’s doing too well for me to recommend!

Lastly, what question should I have asked you, and why?

ZT: You should ask me about the giant conker sitting outside my window.

Grab As High As A Kite from Amazon now.

Posted in Author Interviews | Tagged | 1 Comment

Stories About Things by Aelius Blythe – Speculative Anthology

Stories About Things is a well-written, bite-sized, imaginative flash fiction collection which serves as an ideal introduction to Blythe’s work.

It’s separated into two parts: contemporary stories (about things of this world), and speculative stories (about fairies and things of other worlds).

All the stories feature striking and evocative writing, but also fairly unusual characters and plots — a doctor obsessed with time travel, a widow consumed by grief for her late husband, and a man addicted to maple syrup.

There are 13 stories in total, and they are:

    Part 1: Stories About Things of This World

  1. Teacups: A man finds a teacup he recognises in an antique store.

  2. Time: Dr Ellis struggles to build a time travel machine… before he runs out of time himself.

  3. The Name: A funeral is the wrong time to forget someone’s name.

  4. Maple Syrup: Chi drinks maple syrup to remember his dark past.

  5. The Swing: The death of a tree swing, and of childhood.

  6. That Night There Was No Dinner: Cora fell in love with and married a chef, and cannot move past his death.

  7. First Impressions: A man falls in love with a girl at a bus stop, but cannot summon the courage to speak to her.

  8. Part 2: Stories About Things of Other Worlds

  9. Sun Set: Don’t look into the sun… for dangerous creatures live there.

  10. Shark: A skinny schoolkid who is often bullied isn’t quite as harmless as he appears.

  11. The Dinner Bells: Mort inherits his grandmother’s rundown old house… and the shadows that lurk outside.

  12. Leaves of Trees: Lock up the doors. Close the windows. There are dead leaves outside.

  13. The Bear Would Starve: A boy’s imaginary friend is slowly killing him.

  14. Space: While cleaning her house, Ann finds a door she never knew was there.

My personal favourite was the autumnal story Leaves of Trees, which was unexpectedly sinister and very imaginative.

Recommended for those looking for a quick and thought-provoking read.

Grab it FREE today from Smashwords!

You may also like:
Irregular Creatures by Chuck Wendig || Past the Borders by Christopher Ruz

Posted in Anthology, Fantasy, Reviews | Tagged , , | 3 Comments