Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Susan Miura Book Review

Shards of Light by Susan Miura
Review by H. Schussman

Reader’s POV:
Miura pulls the reader through two young ladies’ lives… exciting adventure and heartbreaking tragedy. Each must learn from their situations.
Shilo has inherited her great-grandmother’s gift of healing. This gift is fragile and powerful. Shilo has to learn when to use it and how to make sure she gives credit where credit is due—God. Her time in Sicily is an opportunity to learn from Nonna Marie and to become embroiled in yet another life and death adventure.
Back home, Melody watches her most cherished dreams as a ballerina crash about her damaged body. Her struggle from anger and self pity to acceptance and new dreams is both painful and encouraging to read. Amidst this is her desire to learn who her biological mother is without hurting her sweet real mother.
Best friends, Shilo and Melody grow in maturity, faith, and womanhood. They both learn what true romance is with their respective boyfriends.

Writers POV:
This is a fast read… a page turner. The language of the young adults is modern and relevant, yet the writing is clean and almost poetic at times. Miura masterfully describes the scenery, action, and emotional angst. Here’s some random favorites:

*  “Can I go with you?” His [a little boy] hope-filled eyes stare as though a blink might ruin the possibility of a “yes.”
*  The green, earthy scent of rain-washed garden mixes with lemonade air.
*  My eyes remain closed. I refuse to acknowledge her perky existence.

At first I struggled with the changing POV between Shilo and Melody, but Miura clearly marked the shifts and I soon adapted. It’s especially tricky because Miura writes in first person for both characters. And present tense. It’s not an easy writing style, but she carries it off well.
Great mix of long and short sentences, with a few illegal ones thrown in for good measure. Well done and enjoyable young adult novel.

I received this copy in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

EBook, Paperback, Book Cover Questions

How do you publish to so many eBook sites? How did you make your book into a paperback? How do you design a book cover? (I've answered the book cover question in more detail on a previous blog post) I've been asked this by so many people, I don't know who to attribute the question to :)
There’s basically two ways to get your book fully distributed. You can either go to each and every eBook website and download your document file to their library, or just download the document to Smashwords.com. I’m not getting paid by them to write this, but seriously Smashwords is by far the most comprehensive approach. That’s not to say it’s easy. The document must be prepared per their standards… stripped completely clean of any possible corruption. Fortunately, a step-by-step book is free at their website to ensure you can do it properly. Smashwords then takes your perfectly formatted Microsoft Word 97-2003 ‘doc’ (not docx) and formats it for all e-reader devices (each device is different). Believe it or not this is a free service up front. As the sales come in, then they get a portion of the profit. I tried a Fiverr formatter but the guy couldn’t do it right and I ended up doing it myself. Don’t be suckered into their re-assurances that they can do it. Make sure they can, and tell them you won’t pay them if Smashwords doesn’t place you in the premium catalogue.
I’m going to say it again because it’s that important. Follow the Smashwords guidelines exactly. It will probably take you a couple of days. BUT, if you do it right, you will be in their premium catalogue with maximum distribution.

There is only one place who doesn’t accept Smashwords. Can you guess who? Yep, Amazon! When you complete your work at Smashwords, you have to go over to Amazon and follow their instructions. Another couple of days to figure it out. But while you are at Amazon, check out the paperback option at KDP. You have to go to “Author Central” to publish paperback. The great news is they also don’t charge you for the process (which is good because you’re the one doing all the work). They will pay you a percentage. You can choose your price and it calculates your royalty. In the old days, when you had a book made into paperback, you had to purchase cases of books and pile them up in the spare room. Now it’s print on demand. When someone buys your book on Amazon, KDP prints it and then ships it directly to the reader.
Now let’s back up to the question of how to make a book cover. This actually needs to be done before you publish on any site. The easiest way is to go to Fiverr and choose from the hundreds of designers. It’s super cheap (less than $50 usually). At that point bundle your needs for eBook cover, paperback cover, and audio book cover. When you get your cover back you can then publish at Smashwords, Amazon eBook and Amazon paperback.
In my next post I’ll discuss how I got an audio book made…

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Guest Post: K. Bartow

Jim Foster (narrator for Audible) asked, "What drew you to writing? What did you hope to accomplish?"

K. Bartow helped me out by answering this question. Thanks Karina for taking the time to give such a thoughtful and inspiring answer.

Like most children, I skipped around from one idea to another with regard to what I wanted to be when I grew up. I went through the usual choices—ballerina, teacher, and carpenter, my dad’s occupation. As I matured, though, I realized my having Cerebral Palsy would impede my success in all of those fields and many others.

When I was nine, my mom took me to meet a children’s book author at our local library. I listened to her speak and could sense her passion for it, sparking something in me. In the days that followed, I pondered it further and discovered I could do that. I was already a gifted student, especially in English class, and even with only one usable hand, I knew I’d make it happen. 

Once again, however, age made me reconsider my aspirations. As I neared adulthood, I resisted doing something “just because” it was almost the only job I could physically do. I didn’t commit to it upon graduating high school, wanting to investigate other options. In the end, my creativity plagued me and pushed me to put the pen to paper—or nowadays, the keyboard to the word processor.

I didn’t have true objectives starting out, other than having a career and being allowed to use my active imagination every day. Sure, I wanted to create works that publishers and readers alike would enjoy, but that concept eluded me for quite a while. Overall, I guess my main goal was to get to know myself and any talent I may have.

Once I began, I saw everything the craft could give me. I could create a whole world and take charge of every twist and turn and outcome, without there being rights or wrongs. I could use the experiences that had hurt me and state the way they affected me or how I wished I could’ve handled them. Regardless of whether anybody would ever read my words or not, it was a therapeutic release and gave me a freedom I had never known before.

Thus, what started as a sort of “career of convenience” has become a lifestyle I truly cherish.
To connect with Karina visit her at:


Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Space Adventure

This adventure began early this morning. We were picked up by a beautiful compact limousine and whisked off to go get Clay Boyce. You may have heard me talk about my newest endeavor… writing a biography? Well Clay Boyce is the subject of that biography. We met him a couple of years ago and were immediately charmed by this guy. It didn’t take me more than ten minutes to realize his story needed to be told. Trust me, as a rocket scientist from the Apollo era, there’s a lot of stories.
We agreed to meet every Tuesday to put his incredible life in writing. I chose to organize the biography in a storytelling format. The reader will join us at the kitchen table and experience his journey in his own words and my response in mine. We’re going on two years now, and he’s going on ninety. Recently he admitted that his Houston days were probably coming to an end. He was debating whether or not he should go to the RNASA black-tie gala for the last time. With the recent loss of his best friend and wife, he would have to go alone. Naturally, being little Miss Adventure herself, I volunteered to go with him. Joe volunteered to carry the bags.
So here we are on a working vacation. The culmination of all the stories Clay’s tried to explain to me about what it was like to be Aerojet’s Chief Engineer on the Apollo Program. We will tour the Space Center, go to old haunts, have dinner with old friends, and party with astronauts (they won’t notice us, but we’ll be there!).
For now we’re enjoying the experience of traveling on Clay’s coat-tails. He uses a wheelchair at the airport, so Joe and I follow him as he’s taken to the front of every line. 
Because he’s a very, very frequent flyer, he gets all the special treatment like pre-boarding and extended leg room… sweet! We also get free booze during the flight, which doesn’t do us any good on a morning flight, but it’s a nice thought.
So, this blog series is a space adventure and it’s mostly about Clay :)

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Guest Post: K.S. Mitchell

This is an opportunity for readers to ask questions about our craft. Thanks fellow authors for helping me out! I know you are busy.

Musti asked: Do you pay someone to proofread your work?

Children and YA author, Kimberly Mitchell, responded to this question.
The short answer is no. I've always partnered with other writers in a critique group while I develop my books. Once I hit the stage where the book is ready for beta reading, I ask a few friends. My twin sister has been one of my best beta readers as well. During this process, most of the proofreading gets done. Then I'll do a final version before I send the book out and focus closely on grammar and sentence structure instead of the plot line, trusting that the earlier edits have ironed out the story.

However, I did hire a sensitivity reader to read through a middle grade novel that contains diverse characters. Since one of the characters is black, and I'm not, I wanted to be sure I wasn't falling into stereotypes or presenting the character in any way that might be offensive. I found the reader's feedback valuable and I was able to revise the character accordingly.

If I were to self-publish a book in the future instead of pursuing the more traditional route as I am now, I would definitely hire an editor before I released the book.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

How Do You Design a Book Cover?

My friend, John, asked me, “How do you design a book cover?”
Finally a technical question! There’s several different ways to go about it. I designed my first book on the Windows Art program. Honestly, it’s my favorite cover. Unfortunately I had to cave into business pressure and go with a photograph based cover… mainly because my second book had a photo cover.
Speaking of that, my publisher of El Tiburon was amazingly cool to have given me a great book cover. I’ll admit I asked them to stay with my design style, but no. So I had to approve their design, which meant saying no to several models because they didn’t look right.
Eventually I asked them to remove the models from the cover because it looked like a steamy romance (after about two years and multiple complaints from readers that the cover was misleading). Don’t get me wrong… El Tiburon has its romance, but steamy doesn’t quite fit the bill.
My first experience with making a professional quality cover was through a friend who used a Fiverr tech. We made Counterpart’s new cover. Again, I only had yay or nay power. I wanted to have control from the beginning.
For my recently published book, In the Crossfire of Revenge, I contracted with Fiverr all by myself. I felt so grown-up! :) I chose from their long list of book cover specialists based on reviews. I wanted one who allowed for multiple revisions. My lady was in Germany. We dialogued back and forth about how I wanted the cover to look. I was directed to an enormous photo bank to choose the photo I wanted (it took me about a week to decide). Then I sent it to her and she went to work. It took about six revisions until I was satisfied. I love the results… and it only cost me about $45 bucks! She gave me a cover in 3D, a thumbnail for eBook sites, and a square one for the audiobook, and the cover for the paperback.
Then I learned how to make it animated with glittering light using Glitterboo. I think it looks pretty cool on the cover I made for the McGee Series. That one I did using the phone app called Canva. My nephew took an artistic photo of his police gear for me to use. Canva is a great app.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Did you write stories or books when you were a child as well?

Megan Pagan asked, “Did you write stories or books when you were a child as well?"
“I know you ask because you have little ones at home,” I commented.
“That’s what made me think of it. It’s so interesting to hear how some things stick with people since childhood or how people stumble into something they’re passionate about later in life. Also, Levi writes books all the time. It’s so cute.”
I’m going to answer this from two angles: Firstly, did I write as a child and secondly, how to be an encouragement to the little writers in your charge.
My beginnings as a story teller started with just that… story telling (some call this fibs). Plus, I was an avid reader from childhood and was encouraged to relate what I’d read to my family. We all loved ghost stories and would sit around the campfire (we camped a lot) telling goose bumpy tales. Even when I was little I was expected to tell a ghost story. My dad was a bit of a prankster, and loved to tell us tall tales just to see how much we’d believe. We would sit around for hours and tell jokes. To add to that environment, my mom had the nickname, “Little Miss Adjective.” She could describe things to death! It was never a simple cloud in the sky… it was a puff of dragon’s breath chasing a dream! Or some other equally extravagant description. A favorite game on road trips was Mad Lib. Have you ever played that? It’s a fun way to engage the whole family in silly creativity.
English classes were always my easy classes. I started a couple of really, really cheesy romance novels in high school. I’ve kept them for a good laugh. My college coursework required an English class so I took creative writing. My professor challenged me to clean up the cute little stories I wrote, and to get serious. He felt I had the potential to be a writer. I was going to college to become a physical therapist, not a writer. It turns out there’s a lot of writing going on in that career. I found I had a skill for documentation and Medicare rebuttals.
In the meantime I had an intense dream bordering on nightmare that woke me up from a dead sleep. I wrote down the dream and that was the first chapter of my first serious work of literature—Counterpart. It took a decade to write while going to college and then working, but I finally did it.
My recommendation to parents of any child who writes is to let them write. Don’t correct anything they write. Even if you’re an English teacher. Writing can be taught, but creatively expressing yourself cannot. It’s a natural instinct (I think in everyone) that should be allowed to develop young. If a child thinks their ideas are stupid, they will usually stop. Let their teachers teach them the rules later in life. If a child shows you something they wrote, my recommendation is to make a private moment and have them read it to you.
Listen with sincerity. Question things that don’t make sense graciously. They can become good when they’re twenty. I also think this teaches them to start writing projects without getting too hung up on how it should turn out. That’s paralyzing. There’s nothing wrong with being overly confident when they’re ten! Trust me when they go to publish their first book they will become humble.
Okay, I’m stepping down off my soapbox now :)