Happy Birthday Biscuit!

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A few days ago, our dog Biscuit turned 13! We got him some little cakes and as you can see, lit some candles for him. He’s slowing down a bit due to his age but he’s still as happy as ever and he’s still so loving and caring.

Happy 13th birthday Biscuit! We love you!

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Book Review: “Berg’s Book of Shapes” by Berg Norcross

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I received a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review.

This is a book written and illustrated by the author, Berg Norcross. It is a short book for children teaching them about the different shapes. Berg has included 12 shapes in this book.

The way the pictures are drawn makes it look at though the shapes are dancing when you turn the page. The book is written in rhymes, which makes it catchy and easier for children to remember the different shapes. There is a chorus after every four shapes, which means that the whole book could quite easily be sung.

The artwork in this book is incredible, and I really like the way Berg has made it look as though the shapes are moving from page to page. The cover is bright and colourful, and stands out among other covers. I think this is a good, fun, colourful book for children to learn the different shapes to.

I rate this book 5/5 stars!

Book Review: “No Pizza Delivery?” by Grace Marshall

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I received an ebook copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

No Pizza Delivery? is the story of Ruth Deloach. She has a comfortable life in Wisconsin, until one day her father announces that they are moving to Missouri to open a ranch. Even worse, their new place is in the middle of nowhere, they are so far out that they cannot get pizza delivered!

Ruth soon discovers that she knew a bit less about horses than she thought she did, and that she has a lot to learn. Will the new farmhand, Emmett, teach her everything she knows? Will he give her a reason to enjoy Missouri?

I enjoyed this book. Ruth was such a relatable character. I imagine that I would have reacted in the same way at her age had I had to move and leave all my friends behind, not to mention not having pizza delivery!

The story flowed very smoothly, there were no huge time jumps and it was an easy, enjoyable read.

Grace Marshall is a talented author, and one that I will definitely read again! I eagerly await book Two of the Horse Haven series!

I rate this book 4/ 5 stars!

Guest Post: John Mathews’s Top 3 Horror Novels Turned Into Movies

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As a total horror buff, I’ve seen most of the all-time scariest films. I love cult classics and everything from zombies and witches to psychopathic killers and Satanism. But what really gets my sweat pumping is reading the best horror books that were at some point also made into a movie. Horror book junkies, look no further: here is my top three list for the best horror novels that were also turned into great movies.

  1. The Exorcist. The movie is considered by many to be the best horror film ever made, and I absolutely loved it (the uncut version). But if you think the movie is terrifying, read the book. William Peter Blatty’s writing is incredible and his prose just pulls you into a realm of horror and keeps you there. You will get to know the demon “Pazuzu” to the depths of his soul – and it will terrify you. This beast is vile, ruthless, and one of the purest forms of evil ever written about. It doesn’t just possess the young girl, it mercilessly preys on her – slowing her heart beat and depriving her of sleep for days while mocking the priests. The fight for the girl’s life is very real and intensely involving for the reader. And one thing the book features that the film doesn’t are detailed Satanic worship rituals with graphic scenes. “The Exorcist” will scare you out of your gourd.
  2. Silence of the Lambs. The movie is epic and considered one of the most suspenseful ever made. Terror is genuinely felt as the reader gains access to the manipulative mind of a dangerous psychopath needed to track down a serial killer. In the book author Thomas Harris writes to make the reader feel sympathy for the character Hannibal Lecter, just like a psychopath would actually want you to. The vocabulary is brilliant and we get to know Hannibal as a true genius. He develops an in-depth relationship with FBI trainee Sterling, each of them revealing more and more to each other about their past. The back and forth test of wills between Sterling and Lecter is riveting and will stand the test of time in the literary world. It’s a mental game of cat and mouse that delivers shock, horror, and a great crime mystery to the reader.
  3. Pet Sematary. The movie was decent and gave me a good chill. But it just can’t compare to the dark and eerie masterpiece by Stephen King. The characters are developed perfectly, each unique and unforgettable. When Jud Crandall meets his new neighbor Louis Creed, he shares with him some of the town’s “secrets”. These stories about what happened in the town years before are absolutely terrifying. The combination of supernatural terror, the tragic loss of a child, and coming back from the dead will freeze your blood. The pacing of this novel is fantastic, with hints of a growing malevolent force that can’t be seen. A likeable and healthy family goes through horrors that will keep the reader awake at night. The book is like the burial ground portrayed in it – a force that takes you under. Many people consider this to be the scariest novel ever written.

John Mathews is a tenured University Professor of English and living in Rome, Italy. Immersed in a long and somewhat stressful career, he feels the desire to break out of the mold and delve into macabre thriller fiction novels which focus on the dark side of human nature. He writes captivating thriller and suspense fiction books with the goal of pulling the reader into the plot through the minds of unforgettable characters. Complete with great suspense, plot twists, and shocking scenes, his stories will keep you guessing until the very end.

 

London – 12th and 13th July 2016

Hi everyone! Firstly, my apologies for not posting in a few days or replying to emails. I have been away and been unable to reply. I am going to start replying today though so if you have sent me an email, you will receive a reply later on today.

I have been to London! It was fantastic! I’ve been there a few times before so it was nice to return. I saw some of the big tourist attractions like Big Ben, The Houses of Parliment, St Pauls Cathedral, The Shard. I even went up to the top of St Pauls, what a fantastic view!

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I also saw some lesser-known places such as Little Venice, Primrose Hill and South-End Green Fountain. My feet are aching like mad but I had an amazing time.

I would like to thank my Dad for an incredible few days away! Thank you!

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Book Review: “Zero” by Morgan Dark

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I was given a copy of this ebook in exchange for an honest review.

Kyle Bradford is a student at Drayton College. Zero is a thief, known in the media as the “One-Hundred-Million-Dollar” thief. Kyle is looking forward to a new year at Drayton with his friends when suddenly items that have been reported as stolen by Zero start appearing in his life. Who is Zero? Why is he trying to frame Kyle?

I absolutely loved this book! The story starts off right in the action, in the middle of Zero’s latest robbery. The story itself is very fast-paced, and I found myself reading chapter after chapter, desperate to find out what was going to happen next. The main question I was asking myself was: Who was Zero? Every time I thought I had it all figured out, the story turned my theory upside down.

I liked Kyle as a main character. I liked the way he found an instant solution to the problems that Zero was putting him under, and that he stood up for his rights, such as when he believed the headmaster was being unfair to him.

I liked the last 20/25% of the book as it really summed up the whole story and told us the story from a new perspective.

Morgan Dark is such a talented author, and I cannot wait to read more of her work in the future.

I rate this book 5/5 stars!

Author Advice: Elements of a Book Cover that Sells by Kari Anders

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Designing Your Own Book Cover: Elements of a Cover that Sells

As an indie author, you’ve probably read about the differences between traditional publishing, self-publishing, and hybrid publishing. Some of you may have chosen to self-publish for the advantages it brings over traditional publishing: higher royalties, creative control, faster time to market, global rights retention, and more. Or you may have chosen to self-publish after rounds of unsuccessful queries. Either way, all indie authors need to understand the Elements of a Cover that Sells before finalizing their design and clicking that sweet button on Amazon that allows you to say, I am an author.

I’ve often heard traditionally published authors complain they have little to no say in cover photography or design. Authors begin to imagine what their cover looks like as they are writing their story. They feel they know their story best and therefore have the knowledge needed to design a great cover. Unfortunately, they link those two thoughts incorrectly. Knowing a story well is usually a fault when it comes to creating a cover, which is why traditional publishing houses usually keep authors far away from cover design.

Why? This is a problem best described through the cliché: it’s hard to see the forest through the trees. When authors are asked what their book is about, they often have a hard time answering. Their book is about so many things. They try to describe the main storyline, the subplots, the theme, the lesson, the story arc, the relationships between the characters, the character’s backstory, how the family got their dog, why they moved to San Francisco, all without giving away the ending. Has a friend ever asked you what your book is about? How hard was it to simplify your work into just a sentence or two?

Most authors are sentimental about their book, and rightfully so. They want the cover to do it justice. But they forget that the cover is packaging. It is intended to sell the product. It’s not intended to be the product. So, what sells a book? Does the cover need to intrigue readers? Does it need to have colors that pop against a white background? Does the text need to have high contrast? Maybe these are concerns if you are Stephen King or Nora Roberts. But if you are reading this, you are likely not already a New York Times Best Seller, and therefore, these details are secondary. You are trying to get your book read by readers looking through hundreds of thousands of titles in a similar price range in a world where a new book is published on Amazon every five minutes. The truth is, your cover needs to do one thing: give your story away.

The market landscape in books has been changing for a while now. Readers are left to choose from such a wide variety of books, and they usually spend just seconds on a cover or description to determine if they are going to buy it. This doesn’t mean you need to be intriguing or stand out from the crowd. It means quite the opposite. Creating mystery around your book by using a unique cover confuses readers; they don’t know what you are trying to communicate. Instead of being intrigued and ready to know more, they are ready to move on.

Catching readers’ attention starts with a good description. You want to set the scene very quickly and give as much away as you can while asking as few questions as possible. If your book asks five new questions every time it answers one, this keeps the reader turning pages! If you cover or description does that, it turns your potential readers off.

When you go to write your description, think about the Who, What, When, Where and Why. Who is the narrator? What is the biggest event that happens in the story? Is your book set in WWII? You readers need to know this. These are only some of the questions you need to ask yourself to write a good blurb. You don’t need to tell the entire story to catch a reader’s attention, but you need to make sure you lay out a clear introduction. You also need to make sure you give a few things away: is your book a love story, does it contain magic or is it considered sci-fi? Does your main character experience abuse, trauma or loss? Not everyone wants to read a book about murder or fairies. And that is okay; your audience is not everyone.

I was talking to a newbie author who was publishing her first book, a memoir about being raped at the hands of her ex-boyfriend. She didn’t want her description to give away that it was a book about rape, with the fear that this would turn off readers. She was convinced that if they were drawn into her book from the beginning, they would be so intrigued by her story, the content of the book would no longer matter. This is a common thread among new authors who were not traditionally readers of that genre before they began writing. Remember this if you remember nothing else: Readers are finicky. If you trick them into reading your book, they will remember and not in a positive way. It creates a breeding ground for poor reviews. Make sure they know what they are getting themselves into. Trust that there is an audience for your book. A broad description doesn’t reach a wider audience; instead, it stops you from finding yours.

So how do you write a good description? I can usually tell by the first few chapters what the book’s description should say. By then, I’m developing ideas about the cover image and the mood of the cover. Let me give you an example of a bad blurb versus a good one.

 

Bad Description: Meet Jenna Lucas, a young twenty-something fashion designer who seems to have life figured out. One day, a letter from a lawyer reveals an inheritance that Jenna wasn’t expecting. In a leap of faith, Jenna goes on an adventure of a lifetime in a last ditch effort to find out what this inheritance is really about. During the trip, she meets Pete, a quirky old man that won’t leave Jenna alone. Is he as crazy as everyone makes him out to be, or is he the key to uncovering the secret about Jenna’s family that’s been hiding for so long?

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If you read the first description and look at the cover, it’s hard to paint a picture. You are given information that may or may not be relevant, and every sentence brings up a question without answering any. It’s not the specifics of the cover that are the concern, but the title, cover, and description do not work together to sell potential readers anything.

 

Good Description: Jenna Lucas was never really close with her aunt, Lauri. The day of her mom’s funeral was the last time Lauri came to visit; effectively separating herself from anything that reminded her of her sister. But when Lauri passes away, Jenna inherits a ticket on the Royal Maritime, a ship that circles the Arctic in an exuberate display of the Northern Lights that only shows itself once every nine years. But the trip was planned for Lauri, and during the cruise everybody Jenna meets was expecting someone else. Join Jenna on the trip of a lifetime, a last chance at knowing her aunt, and discovering the real reason why she left so many years ago.

Image Two

In the second description, we are given where the story takes place, what is happening during the book, the reason behind the story, and the important characters. It sets the reader up for really knowing what they are getting into, and in turn pulls them into the story. There is a little bit of mystery to the end, essentially offering up stakes for the reader (if you don’t read this book, you’ll never find out why Jenna’s aunt left!). And you can even picture Jenna on the cruise, hearing stories from the different passengers, and piecing together information about her family. But most importantly, the cover, description and title all work together to paint this single picture.

 

Here is a good test: If you read the cover of a book and you can’t describe it in once sentence, you are in trouble. How would I describe the second book? A woman inherits a ticket on a cruise ship, meets some interesting people and finds out more about her family along the way. I wouldn’t even know where to begin on the first one.

If you are designing your cover yourself, have a friend read the first three chapters and then tell you what they think your book about. Use this information to write a strong, descriptive blurb that really paints a picture of the story, and use that picture to create a cover. From there, your title should pop out. These three pieces should work together to sell your potential readers a single story. If you are hiring a book cover artist, make sure you write your description first and let the artist work to create a cover that fits.

BIO: 

Kari Anders is a book cover designer who works mostly with self-published authors and small publishing houses. She worked in freelance design for six years before attending graduate school, and now teaches design and runs freeebookcovers.com. All of Kari’s covers are designed as CreateSpace Wraps for only $75, with the eBook version included for free. Her site specializes in Pre-Made Book Covers, but she also does interior design and custom covers.

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