“Kistishi Island”: An Unbelievable YA Journey

Kistishi Island

I recently had the pleasure of reading Kistishi Island, by Jordan Elizabeth. This YA novel was a well-written story, with a plot that comes full circle. Although the names are a bit difficult to pronounce, the characters are interesting and likable, especially Corvo (goddess of crows, and Krieg, goddess of war). The main character, Serena, is portrayed to be a teenager with depth, but still a teen, and you won’t be able to help but like her.

When Serena talks to her imaginary friends, they just don’t feel imaginary. The kids at school taunt her and she winds up in trouble all the time. Her aunt thinks she’s crazy and wants to send her to an asylum, her mom is off on archaeological digs all the time and is never around, and her imaginary friends are the only friends she has.

What will happen if she learns her imaginary friends are really goddesses watching over her? We’re about to find out, when she runs away to the Island of Kistishi to find her mom, where the walls of the ruins suck you into underground dwellings and other people see her friends, too. Besides learning that her friends aren’t imaginary, Serena also learns that she is capable of depending on herself, and that she’s capable of having real friends.

This story is well-crafted and perfect for YA readers, (or older readers who secretly love YA stories but don’t want to admit it). It is a fun and exciting read. I give Kistishi Island four quills.

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Let’s Talk About Short Fiction

The Collapsar Directive

I have a story appearing in the newly released science fiction anthology from Zombie Pirate Publishing, The Collapsar Directive. It’s a dystopian tale titled, If You’re Happy and You Know It, set in a world where you’re only allowed to be happy on the weekends.  I must give kudos to the editors, Sam Phillips and Adam Bennett for their selections for this anthology. The other stories featured in this anthology are all top rate, and my fellow authors are a talented bunch. I feel proud to be counted among them.

Zombie Pirate Publishing is pretty smart really, because they get their authors involved in the process – not really the actual publishing process, but with the final editing and, certainly in the marketing process. And having been involved in the process with this great group of writers, reading the stories of the others, which are all well written pieces, got me to thinking about what elements make up a high quality short story.

When I review a short story, I look for the same things I’d look for in a novel length work, with a few exceptions. I’d down my rating for the same type of things though: if it doesn’t read smoothly, if there are logic problems (which occur less in short fiction, but they do occur), excessive use of adjectives and unnecessary words, or if there are a lot of typos or spelling errors which bring my editors mind right out of the story.

Just as in a longer story, I want to see a well-written story, with a beginning, a middle and an end. But, this is where short stories often fall short. In a novel, it may take the author several chapters to wrap up all the loose ends and tie their story neatly into a bow. Short stories don’t have that luxury. Although, there is no set length as to how long a short story should be, other than word count limits set by those you are submitting to, it is even more important with short fiction to eliminate any unnecessary words and get to the point of the story. If you don’t, your story may end up becoming a novel. So, in short fiction, I look for stories that tell the tale without drawing it out unduly.

However, it can be difficult to get in a full story arc, without drawing out the tale, so I’ve come to expect this to be the case with short fiction. That way, instead of being sadly disappointed when a short story falls short (pun intended), I am pleasantly surprised when I come across short fiction which feels complete at the end of the story. It is even harder with flash fiction. The shorter the story, the less space you have to accomplish the task. I recently reviewed an anthology in which almost every story had a full arc, leaving me with a very satisfied feeling. (Catch my review of Darkscapes.)

All of the stories in The Collapsar Directive accomplish this feat, as well. All the stories featured seem to arc nicely, the beginning, middle and end are usually easy to identify in each one, and they all hold my attention to the end. That, of course, is the most important element in any story, long or short. It has to pull you in and hold you there from the first page to the last, regardless of the length of the story.

 

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“Darkscapes”: Stories That Will Keep You Reading

Darkscapes

Darkscapes is a top quality anthology of short stories put out by Curiosity Quills Press. I must say, this anthology delivers on the promise of the premise. The title says that the stories within may be on the darker side of things, where danger lays hidden beneath the layers of the mind’s eye. The cover image tells me I’m in for some rather unusual stories, ones that go to places which may defy logic. And, having read many books produced by Curiosity Quills Press, the fact that they published this book says it’s a collection of good quality, well-written stories. And that my friends, is exactly what I got – all of the above.

There are twenty-one stories contained in this collection, too many to be able to discuss all of them here. So, I will give you a brief overview of the six, yes six, stories which I deemed to deserve a five quill rating, meaning the authors of these stories have done an exemplary job of storytelling. Keep in mind that these stories are the best of the best in this collection, but all of them are good reading.

The first story in the anthology, Exley Avenue, is an extremely well-written ghost story of sorts, with a surprise ending. Going between the 1920’s and the twenty-first century, storytellers Jordan Elizabeth and W.K. Pomeroy unravel the unsavory history of the stone castle on Exley Avenue, when several bodies are uncovered on the premises.

Further into the collection is a cute noirish story, with an unlikely P.I. for a protagonist, which is sure to keep you chuckling until the end is Skeleton Jim, by J.R. Rain. Noir with humor is the only way to describe this bizarre tale. But, rest assured, Skeleton Jim always gets his man, (and the girl, for some reason). Things are no different when the client, Lucy Newman, hires him to find out if she killed her abusive husband, and who is blackmailing her, Jim may have his work cut out for him. No bones about it. (Skeleton humor. Har, har, har.)

Then, there is The Giovanni Effect, by Robert J. Defendi, an extremely well-crafted story with excellent world building. Readers will live this one. On a desert outpost planet where sand and wind are constants, Allred and his wife and child are the planets only occupants. They’ve always known others might come, but when a ship lands on the planet Allred is forced to put their emergency plans to the test. The planet’s harsh atmosphere may be the death of him, or it might just be his savior.

The forth story, Landing a Job in the Private Sector, by Rena Rocford, kept the pages turning with the best of them. Furies are conditioned assassins, but when Boxy, an enslaved fury acquires an organic ship that is loyal to her, and becomes a rogue mercenary, she learns that everything is negotiable, even under pressure.

The fifth five quill story is Out of Sight, by Mathew S. Cox. Sima is a street kid, who wakes up to find she’s been relocated to another planet and her pod crashed. She all alone, with no supplies, no clothes and no idea where she is. But then she discovers three other children who were sent here, as well, and she has more to worry about than just her own survival.

The One You Feed, by Katie Young was the last story in this collection to fall into my best of the best list. This was a well-written werewolf story, which left me wanting more. Dupree is haunted by more than just werewolves. As he spins his tale for the cowboy he just hired on with at the last rodeo, we learn more about the ghosts who haunt his past, and the curse that controls his future.

The above mentioned stories are, in my opinion, the best stories in this collection. However, they are all entertaining tales. I wouldn’t rate any of the stories in this collection with less than three quills. They really are that good. The smashing cast of talented authors whose work appears in this anthology also includes: Richard Roberts, Ann M. Noser, Randy Attwood, Nathan Croft, Tegan Wren, James Wymore, J.P. Sloan, Andrew Buckley, Darin Kennedy, J.E. Anckorn, Piers Anthony, B.C. Johnson, S.E. Bennett, Mark W. Woodring, and Benjamin Sperduto.

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Overall, I give Darkscapes four quills.

 

Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs at no charge. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


“Gnarled Bones”: A Collection of Five Brief Tales

Gnarled Bones

Short stories carry the burden of telling the tale in few words, so they often sacrifice many of the qualities one finds in a novel length work, including details that fill in our mental picture for us, making readers work harder to gain a clear vision for the story. Another common complaint that I often voice is the fact that they are a brief glimpse into the character’s lives and don’t always have a complete story arc, making them feel incomplete, like there should be more. Such is the nature of the beast we call the short story. I have had to learn to expect these things when I’m reviewing short fiction, and not mark against the story for these faults alone. So, while I may comment on some of these qualities when reviewing anthologies or short story collections, they will not be the basis for lower ratings. Those will be based on the quality of the writing and how well the stories are crafted, just as they are with a longer work.

That being said, I found Gnarled Bones and Other Stories by Tam May to be a collection of highly crafted stories, with brief descriptions that skillfully put readers in the scene and allow them a clear vision of each story being told. Each story in this collection has heavy literary qualities and each carries the theme of empowerment, or the lack of it, in some way. Although most of them felt unfinished to me, they were none-the-less captivating, capturing my full attention during the brief snapshots I was allowed.

Along with Gnarled Bones, the story which sticks out most in my mind is The First Saturday Outing, which I enjoyed at first, but was later disappointed in, when the woman’s inability to empower herself and embrace her freedom became apparent, making the character, whom I’d been routing for, appear weak and inept.

Also to be found in this collection is Mother of Mischief, where Marie is driven by her need to look after and care for someone, drawn to mischievous men who need to be kept in line. Bracelets, where Isabelle, a circus acrobat is drawn to her circus family through the tragedy of a lion attack on a child. And, Broken Bows where, for Anne, a train ride becomes an act of defiance and two very different souls find one another briefly.

Along with theme, the stories in Gnarled Bones and Other Stories have other things in common, as well. Each has a female protagonist, each has literary qualities and feel, and each is well crafted to tell the story with skill and ability. I give it four quills.

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Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs at no charge. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.


Interview with Author Scerina Elizabeth

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Today’s interview kicks off the Full Moon Bites blog tour for Scerina Elizabeth, a paranormal romance erotica author, who has recently released four novellas: Nocturnia: Her Dark Angel of the Night and Spellbound: The Awakening, Eternally Yours, and Savagely Yours: The Beginning. 

Kaye: How did it happen that you’ve had four novellas released so close together?

Scerina: Actually, Nocturnia: Her Dark Angel of the Night was originally released on May 1st, 2017. But due to it being my first ever published book and wasn’t edited nor proofread – I had to go back and edit and revise it than re-release it this month after being edited and revised.

Spellbound: The Awakening was originally released on July 1, 2017 and Eternally Yours: Bloodlines will be released don August 16, 2017.

Eternally Yours was accidentally published and am in the process of rewriting it. It will be about a woman who grows up in foster care.  After moving to New York City at the age of eighteen, she inherits her biological family estate back in Louisiana where she will learn all about her biological family and who she truly is.  She will also discover a dark family secret which she is now responsible for.

There is a prequel to Eternally Yours that I am about to release within the next week or so called Savagely Yours: The Beginning, which tells all about the beginning of Eternally Yours.

I am currently in the process of rewriting Eternally Yours which will be available on August 16, 2017

Nocturnia Cover 01

Kaye: Would you like to tell us a little about Her Dark Angel of the Night (Nocturnia #1)?

Scerina: Nocturnia: Her Dark Angel of the Night was really my first true published novella.  I wasn’t planning on publishing it but while writing this little story, I discovered how easy it was to self-publish and publish my own writings.  I was told by two close friends who read the early stages of Nocturnia: Her Dark Angel of the Night to have it published as it should be made into a book.  That it had actual potential to make it in the literature world.

SPELLBOUND COVER

 

Kaye: What can you tell us about Spellbound: The Awakening?

Scerina: After re-releasing Nocturnia: Her Dark Angel of the Night, I was told that my stories and characters should be more developed with more backstory to them.  I did this in Spellbound: The Awakening, but turns out it was information overload which in turn did more damage to the actual story.  A close friend told me that Spellbound: The Awakening would work best as a full-length novel more than a novella – which I plan on doing sometime in the future. Extending it into a full-length novel along with Nocturnia: Her Dark Angel of the night.

Kaye: You’ve written some very distinct works. Vampires, Dragon Shifters, Witches… What, if anything, do the three works have in common?

Scerina: I am a huge lover of Vampires, Shifters, and Witches – that is my area of specialty when it comes to Paranormal Romance Erotica. I not only enjoy writing such stories but I enjoy reading them as well.

Kaye: What can we expect to see from Scerina Elizabeth in the future? What’s the working title of your next book?

Scerina: Right now, two other Paranormal Romance authors and I have come together to collaborate with other authors (who are interested) in a collection of Paranormal, Horror, & Erotica short stories called HallowErotica 2017 that is due to be released on Halloween – October 31, 2017. You can learn more about HallowErotica 2017 and how to enter your short fiction works @ https://scerinaelizabeth.wixsite.com/hallowerotica2017

As for me personally, my next projects are:

Bitten by A She Wolf: A New Moon Rising book which is an American who is in Europe with his best friends and girlfriend.  While celebrating his twenty first birthday in a club, he catches the eye of a she wolf who is on the prowl for a new mate.  A she wolf who will stop at nothing to get what she wants even if it means stealing him from his current girlfriend to make him hers.

This will be a very interesting story. I am also in the process of working on a prequel to Nocturnia: Her Dark Angel of the Night and also the first book of another series called

Angel Falls will be about a Dragon-Shifter who has just awaken after hundreds of years of being asleep underneath a frozen sea after a shipwreck.  He comes across a woman who was attacked by some kind of creature and takes her back to his home where he tended to her.  This is the start of a very intimate relationship and she could possibly be his true love.

Kaye: As a paranormal romance erotica writer, what kind of research do you find yourself doing for your stories?

Scerina: I have always been a lover of anything and everything Paranormal Romance & Erotica.  I have read numerous books and novellas based around these genres, also based on movies and shows which I watch.  I don’t really do research as I go by memory of what I learn from other books, novellas, movies, tv shows, folklore, and of course superstitions. I add my own little twist to them to make them my own for my stories, to keep them original.   

I usually do my research when I read other Paranormal Romance Erotica stories as well as a bit more research when I need more information about something in particular.

Kaye: What time of day do you prefer to do your writing? Why?

Scerina: I basically write whenever I feel inspired or motivated which is basically anytime really.  I love to write when is quiet so that I can focus more on my stories and the creations of my stories.

Kaye: What is the one thing in your writing career that is the most unusual or unique thing you’ve done so far?

Scerina: The ability to create a unique world or environment for my characters that is unlike any other – originality.  The ability to add my own personal twist to a legend or folklore or something that we so often hear about to make it my own.

Kaye: Are you a plotter or a pantser? Why?

Scerina: I like to say am a plotter, but sometimes the plot takes an unexpected turn and that is when I go with the flow of the story.

I guess you can say am both a plotter and go with the flow kind of author because my the story lines tend to change depending on what my inspiration is at the moment when am writing.

Kaye: What works best to sell books for you, as far as marketing goes?

Scerina: I love posting on Goodreads related Groups to promote my books and novella as well as in Facebook related group to promote.  Twitter is another excellent promotional tool as well. I also promote my latest releases on my own site as well.

I love to post excerpts from my current projects to catch the interests of the readers to give them a little glimpse of my newest project – keep them on their toes so to speak.  So when my book is released, they will want to read it.

I also love the idea of book promotional trailer videos and banner ads with quotes from the book as well.

Kaye: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Scerina: I love to read other Paranormal Romance Erotica stories, as well as watch reality t.v. I am a huge fan of real life paranormal reality shows and I enjoy watching any kind of Paranormal/Horror movie.

 

Kaye: What’s your favorite social media site for promotion? Why?

Scerina: My official site of course. But, I love to promote on Goodreads, Facebook, & Twitter. I love these places mainly because they are very popular and a lot of people who share the same interest and passion for Paranormal Romance Erotica are on there looking for new books and novellas to read.

Kaye: What is the strangest inspiration for a story you’ve ever had?

Scerina: Well this is one for a short story that is based on an old eighties horror film called The Unholy – a demoness who seduces priests. Not only does she seduce them but she also becomes pregnant with their unborn child making it, the anti-Christ.

I have a very creative imagination that can sometimes be very sick and twisted which shows in my stories sometimes.  Hopefully it is what makes my stories all the more interesting and keep the reader’s interest.

Kaye: Why do you think some authors sell well and others don’t?

Scerina: As I learn recently from a really negative review, too much information and too many characters can really kill a good plot.  Especially if it is a short story.

I also learn that sex really does sell especially in these kinds of books as it keeps the reader’s interest and makes them hungry for more.

But if you are using sex as a sell too, you better have a good story line that goes along with it, as sex alone won’t keep the reader’s interest. Yah sure, they love a good sex scene and all that lust – but having a good story line makes it even better.

Kaye: What kind of Chinese food do you order all the time?

Scerina: Fried Rice and Dumplings 😊

Scerina Elizabeth Banner

I want to thank Scerina Elizabeth for joining us here on Writing to be Read today, and wish her the best of luck in her writing endeavors. I’m sure we’ve peaked the interest of many paranormal romance erotica readers. You can find out more about Scerina on her Website or Goodreads, or check her out on Facebook or Twitter.

 

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“The Psychokinetic”: Good Story, Believe It or Not

The Psychokinetic

The Psychokinetic by Grace M. DeLeesie is Book 1 in her The Day Twelve Witches Burned series. If this first book is any indication of what’s to come, I might hesitate in reading the sequel books. There are many, many typos, missed words, and misspellings; the whole story is told, rather than shown; there is a lot of head hopping. But the biggest problem was an inability to suspend disbelief. I just couldn’t buy into the odd responses and behaviors of her characters.

Overall, the story line is a good one. Six teenage girls find themselves with extra-sensory powers which normal teens just don’t have. They feel they have been led to find each other, and they’ve bonded to form a tight knit group, who look out for one another, while they search for evidence of who or what they are. And before the first book is finished, we learn that there also exists an evil nemesis, who has followed them through many lifetimes, intent on destroying them. Which, is all pretty cool.

I spoke with the author, Grace M. DeLeesie about my concerns with this story, and she admitted she had some problems with a previous editor. She assured me many of the problems are already being addressed and a revised text will replace the current version. I have to say, I really like the story line, although it could have been written better. I still can’t buy into the story or its characters, but with the author’s assurance that at the least, the grammatical errors and typos will be corrected, I feel comfortable giving The Psychokinetic three quills.

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An Adventure in Social Media Marketing

Delilah and Horse Web Cover

In my post, It’s All in the Packaging, I interview cover designer, Dawn Leslie Mullan and I issued a plea for your help and support as the cover art for Delilah made it to the second round in a book cover contest on Facebook. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it into round three, but I want to thank all those who took the time and went to the effort to vote. Delilah has a great cover that fits her story, and I appreciate everyone who jumped in a tried to help us win. I also want to thank DL Mullan for providing such a great cover and Robin Conley for nominating it.

Although I have participated in release parties, it was my first experience with an event like this on social media, so I learned a lot from the experience. I think there are several reasons why we didn’t make it to round three. The promoters of the event were romance authors, and many of the covers we were up against were romance covers, especially the ones which got the most votes, which leads me to believe romance readers were the majority of the audience attending this event, so I considered it lucky that I was able to get the votes I did. Again, all those that voted, whether from my previous blog post, or from my massive marketing campaign to gain votes, you guys are great, and greatly appreciated.

I also learned what not to do when hosting an event like this. The event promoters laid out a set of rules for voting, which had participants clicking and liking various pages, and although the rules were laid out, it seems several of the participants failed to do so, because in later rounds, new “Rules” posts were put up, saying those who failed to follow each step would not be counted. Also, at the end of round two, they announced that hearts did not count as votes, only ‘likes’, but this was not stated at the beginning, so anyone who had someone who loved their cover enough to give it a heart was disqualified.

I think these events should be made as easy as possible to participate in. Think about it. We’re asking people to take time out to go to a page and vote, or play silly games to win prizes in the case of release parties. The games should be fun, or at least funny. The prizes should be something that will be viewed to have some value. And voting should be quick and easy, only taking a few minutes of their time. And for heavens sake, if someone does accept your invitation and attends, or votes for you, show some appreciation and thank them. I know I do, and it keeps readers coming back for more.

I was happy that the cover for Delilah made it to round two, and disappointed that it didn’t go to round three. Maybe next time. Although, I am wondering how effective these social media events really are. A couple of authors I’ve talked said they’ve participated in release parties, but haven’t seen any real increase in sales from them. That could be partly because they are attended mostly by other authors, so we may be playing to the wrong audience there.

I’d be interested in hearing from other authors who participate in these events. I’d like to know how beneficial they really are. Do they bring in sales of your books? Or are they a waste of time? If you’d like to weigh in, leave a comment here, or contact me at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.

 

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