Guest Post – Christopher Tozier

Christopher Tozier is an award winning middle grade fantasy author who worked with the same publicist as me. I’ve got a lot of respect for authors who can write books for kids and get them interested in fantasy and/or science fiction at an early age. I know how much I loved those books at that age. As such, it didn’t take much convincing for me to invite him here to share a guest post. Then I read the premise of his books and I was even more impressed. There aren’t nearly enough fantasy books out there for kids that feature an awesome girl as the protagonist. Christopher is here to talk about something I’m very familiar with, how to keep the stories from becoming stale when you’re writing a series.


Re-entering the Portal
How to recreate magic in a series

Every story has a portal. Portals are symbols, gateways that fundamentally transform your characters’ lives. Some portals are physical: Wardrobes, tornadoes, rabbit holes, train station platforms. Some portals are people: Captain Ahab, Mephistopheles.   Some portals are conceptual: murder, divorce, bankruptcy, storming a beach during WWII, the Force.

In Olivia Brophie and the Pearl of Tagelus, the portal that transforms Olivia’s life is a sinkhole that leads into the aquifer beneath Florida. Once there, Olivia discovers an ancient abandoned city filled with magical objects whose significance we can only guess. There are animals both dangerous and charming. And there is undeniable beauty. Portals reveal a magic that would be impossible to imagine if the portal didn’t exist. They also expose our characters’ flaws and bring danger into the story.

The point is, the character’s life was one way, then portal happens and everything changes.

Traversing the portal is one of the most important scenes you can write. It summarizes everything about your character and plot. It promises the most profound sense of wonder and fear. It’s a powerful scene and your story will never overcome a weak portal.

But what happens if you are writing a series? You can only pass through a portal for the first time once. Every other time is a retread. How can you capture the magic of the first time in your second and third book?

Normally, my advice is to put everything you’ve got into your story. Pour it all out. Don’t hold anything back. For one, you are trying to write the best possible novel. You also don’t know if you will ever have another book published. However, if you are writing a series, you must hold something back. You absolutely need to think about how to recreate the magic of the first time, over and over again. If you put it all in book one, your following books will be boring. You will be stuck with fabricating bigger battle scenes or meaner enemies, but the spirit and magic of your first book will be gone. Isn’t that why the first book or movie in a series is usually the best?

Exactly how to hold something back can be tricky. It depends upon your story. In the Pearl of Tagelus, the trick was Junonia, the abandoned city. By not populating Junonia, I left a lot to the imagination of my readers. But I also created the opportunity to populate it in the future. A magical city filled with light and life is a very different thing than a dark, mysterious ghost town. The second book, Olivia Brophie and the Sky Island, also features a hidden civilization that worships time travel. It’s a big leap forward in Olivia’s understanding of the world. It’s a new portal taking the series in a new direction, not just advancing the direction it was already taking. You can’t simply write what you wish you had written in book one. You must take huge steps, steps that are big enough to excite your readers in a whole new direction.

Most importantly, you should focus more attention on your primary characters. Make them as complex and interesting as possible. They are the real engine that will bring readers back time and again to your future books. Leave some secrets unresolved, some darkness unlit. No matter how amazing your portals are, if your readers don’t love your characters, they won’t continue reading.


Tozier

Christopher Tozier lives in the north Orlando, Florida area and is the author of the award-winning Olivia Brophie series for children published by Pineapple Press. His first novel, Olivia Brophie and the Pearl of Tagelus, is set in the Florida scrub and is widely taught in schools. World’s Around Us is the free curriculum developed by scientists and educators around the country for use with the book. The sequel, Olivia Brophie and the Sky Island was released 2014.

Christopher Tozier was awarded the 2011 Individual Artist Fellowship from the State of Florida. A Little Book of Light History published by YellowJacket Press is his first volume of poetry.

You can find Christopher’s author site here, and the site for his books here, or check him out on Facebook or Twitter.

Three Promises Now Available! (Really This Time!)

It’s here! Three Promises: An American Faerie Tale Collection is now available as an ebook! For $0.99, no less! I’m still a little blown away that this is my third book (and second this year). Three Promises was a new adventure for me. It’s a collection of short stories—technically three short stories and a novella—and I’ve always struggled with short fiction. It’s never come as naturally to me as novel-length fiction, but that wasn’t the case here. These stories seemed to write themselves, and the characters truly shine. In my previous books, The Stolen & The Forgotten, the story drove the characters. In Three Promises, the opposite is true. There’s no child in danger, no looming shadowy enemy snatching kids off the street, and you get to see the characters for who they are. I was worried they wouldn’t stand on their own, but I think they didn’t just stand, they soared. I really liked them before; now, I love them. I hope you will, too.

As a reminder, if you preorder the paperback (releases 1/8/16 and is only $3.99) from The Fountain Bookstore, not only will it be signed, but you’ll get an exclusive gift, too (and it will be awesome). As a nice bonus, you can also order signed copies of The Stolen and The Forgotten while you’re there, and don’t worry, they ship worldwide.

Excerpt of Without Light or Guide

T. Frohock is a fellow Harper author, and friend. Her latest novella, Without Light or Guide is a sequel to In Midnight’s Silence. She’s a gifted writer who has turned a love of dark fantasy and horror into tales of deliciously creepy fiction. She lives in North Carolina where she has long been accused of telling stories, which is a southern colloquialism for lying. These are great stories, with interesting, compelling characters. The setting, just before and during the Spanish Civil War, serves to add both tension and depth. She’s also the author of Miserere: An Autumn Tale and numerous short stories. Her newest series, Los Nefilim, is from Harper Voyager Impulse.

You can find out more about T. at her website, or follow her on Twitter or Facebook.
Without further ado, Here’s T. to tell you about her book and give you a sneak peek.


The hero of Los Nefilim is Diago Alvarez. He, and his lover, Miquel, are part of a secretive group known as Los Nefilim (Spanish for The Nephilim–say it like “The Mob” and you’ve got the right idea). This group of angelic Nefilim monitor daimonic activity for the angels.

The only thing is: Diago is not fully angelic. He is part daimon, part angel, and his very unique form of magic is sought by both sides in the conflict between angels and daimons. Diago moves through a world of espionage and partisan warfare with a rogues’ gallery filled with angels, daimons, and mortals.

In the first novella of the series, In Midnight’s Silence, the reader is introduced to Diago’s world. We meet Diago, Miquel, and Diago’s son, Rafael. We get a brief glimpse of the shadowy world of Los Nefilim and its king, Guillermo Ramirez.

In Without Light or Guide, Diago’s story continues as he tries very hard to fit in with Los Nefilim, but his daimonic heritage follows him, and seeds distrust among the other Nefilim. Guillermo assigns Diago to work with another Nefil by the name of Garcia, who is Guillermo’s plant within the Urban Guard.

In this scene from Chapter 2, Diago has just completed an assignment for Los Nefilim and is going to meet Guillermo and Miquel. After a tense encounter with his dead father, Alvaro, on the subway, which has left him on edge, Diago is hoping to evade another argument with Garcia.


Diago rode the elevator to the main floor and exited the building. Outside, Garcia was nowhere to be seen. Either he had hidden himself well, or he was off on another task for Guillermo.

Relieved, Diago turned toward the Gothic Quarter and decided to avoid the metro. Another encounter with Alvaro was the last thing he needed.

He had just crossed the street when a police car rolled to a stop beside the curb. Had Ferrer discovered the missing memo? Diago made a conscious effort to keep his hand away from his pocket.

The youth behind the wheel cranked down his window with ferocious speed. “Excuse me, Doctor Alvarez!”

Doctor? Oh Jesus, what now? Diago bent over and saw Garcia’s terse face glowering from the passenger side of the car. This day was not getting better.

Garcia emerged from the car. The urgency in his step alarmed Diago. His concern shifted from the stolen memo to Guillermo and Miquel. Had something happened to them?

Garcia rounded the bumper.

“What’s the matter?” Diago asked.

Garcia clenched Diago’s bicep and propelled him to the car’s back door. “You’re a doctor now, do you understand?”

Diago twisted free and lowered his voice. “Don’t touch me again.”

“Just get in the fucking car.”

“At least tell me what kind of doctor I’m supposed to be.”

“An alienist.”

Diago calmed somewhat. Guillermo was in no danger if he had sent for Diago to play the role of a criminal psychiatrist, and that likewise meant Miquel was safe.

Whenever mortals were involved and his friend had needed someone to read the patterns of a daimon attack, he’d called on Diago and passed him off as an alienist. Now that he was Los Nefilim, Guillermo must have decided wining and dining him was no longer a necessary component of the request. “And what kind of crime am I investigating?”

“We don’t have time for questions.” Garcia jerked the door open. “Get in.”

No use arguing. The sooner he got inside, the sooner they’d arrive … where? There could be only one place. Guillermo had mentioned a visit to Doña Rosa Iniguez. Diago got in the car.

Garcia slammed the door hard enough to rattle the window in its frame.

Diago caught the young mortal’s gaze in the rearview mirror. “What’s happened?”

The young man licked his lips. “He killed them all,” he whispered. “He’s insane.”

Garcia rounded the right bumper.

Diago resisted the urge to lean forward. “Who?”

The officer clutched the wheel in a white-knuckled grip. Before he could answer, Garcia jerked open the door and got in the front seat.

“Drive.”

* * *

It seems that throughout Barcelona, the mortals Diago has known are dying gruesome deaths. A daimon is loose in the city, and Diago’s only clue to her identity is a mysterious phrase written in smoke: She Hunts.

The year is 1931.

The city is Barcelona.

The fate of mankind has nothing to do with mankind.

The hunt begins.


Without Light or Guide and In Midnight’s Silence are available at all the usual sellers of ebooks:
Amazon     Apple     Barnes and Noble     HarperCollins     Kobo

WithoutLight cover IMS

Exclusive Giveaway For Pre-Orders

On 12/8 Three Promises comes out in ebook.  It’s the third book in the American Faerie Tale series (technically book 2.5) and among other things, you’ll finally get to see what happened after the events of The Stolen. Now if this wasn’t enough, I’ve got a special treat for you. With the help of the wonderful people at The Fountain Bookstore, I’m doing a special, exclusive giveaway for pre-orders of the paperback version of Three Promises (which is released 1/5/16). If you pre-order the book from them, not only will you get the book signed (and personalized if you so choose) but you’ll also get an exclusive character drawing I commissioned. These won’t be available anywhere else, and at $4 (technically $3.99) how can you not buy it? I know what you’re saying.

“But, Bishop, I don’t live anywhere near Richmond VA. How will I get my book?”

I’m glad you asked. As it happens, The Fountain will ship the book. Anywhere. In the freaking world! Just get in touch with them (phone or email) and they’ll set you up. Be the first person in your city with a signed copy, and one of the select (and super cool) people who has the exclusive character drawing.

If you do happen to live in or around Richmond, stop by The Fountain on Black Friday, or Small Business Saturday. I’ll be there signing books. And I’ll have a special treat with me.

Awesome Book and Great Giveaways!

My friend and fellow HV author, Michelle Hauck’s debut novel was released yesterday. To celebrate, she’s hosting a spectacular raffle in which you could win various copies of great Harper Voyager novels, including both The Stolen and The Forgotten, just in time to read before Three Promises comes out! Check the raffle out. It’s free books! What’s not to love?


 

It’s finally here! The big day!


You can now officially get your ebook copy of Grudging at your favorite retailer.

A world of chivalry and witchcraft…and the invaders who would destroy everything.

The North has invaded, bringing a cruel religion and no mercy. The ciudades-estados who have stood in their way have been razed to nothing, and now the horde is before the gates of Colina Hermosa…demanding blood.

On a mission of desperation, a small group escapes the besieged city in search of the one thing that might stem the tide of Northerners: the witches of the southern swamps.

The Women of the Song.

But when tragedy strikes their negotiations, all that is left is a single untried knight and a witch who has never given voice to her power. And time is running out.

A lyrical tale of honor and magic, Grudging is the opening salvo in the Book of Saints trilogy.

Find it: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Goodreads

To celebrate, I’m giving away a huge prize package of books from my fellow authors at Harper Voyager Impulse. I think authors at the same publisher, especially one that features a limited number of genres, should be a big family. We support each other. And we provide prize packs when someone has a special day!

These are super reads in fantasy and science fiction. I have read several of them and can vouch they are great reads!

There are ebooks and paperback copies. All you have to do to enter is use the rafflecopter below. Follow all these generous authors on Facebook or twitter for additional entries.

I’ll have a short blurb about each book below the rafflecopter so keep scrolling to see in more detail what you could win. And don’t hesitate to buy a few if you can’t wait for the rafflecopter! I’m sure the authors will appreciate you for it!

The rafflecopter will determine the winner and each author will send their prize to said winner individually. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Books You Will Win:

Paperback for the Winner:

Geologist Petra Dee arrives in Wyoming looking
for clues to her father’s disappearance years before. What she finds instead is
Temperance, a dying Western town with a gold rush past and a meth-infested
present. But under the town’s dust and quiet, an old power is shifting. When
bodies start turning up – desiccated and twisted skeletons that Petra can’t
scientifically explain – her investigations land her in the middle of a covert
war between the town’s most powerful interests. Petra’s father wasn’t the only
one searching for the alchemical secrets of Temperance, and those still looking
are now ready to kill. Armed with nothing but shaky alliances, a pair of
antique guns, and a relic she doesn’t understand, the only thing Petra knows
for sure is that she and her coyote sidekick are going to have to move fast, or
die next.

Buy: Amazon|Barnes and Noble|HarperCollins

Paperback for the Winner:

Anders Jensen is having a bad month. His roommate is a data thief, his girlfriend picks fights in bars, and his best friend is a cyborg…and a lousy tipper. When everything is spiraling out of control, though, maybe those are exactly the kind of friends you need.
 
In a world divided between the genetically engineered elite and the unmodified masses, Anders is an anomaly: engineered, but still broke and living next to a crack house. All he wants is to land a tenure-track faculty position, and maybe meet someone who’s not technically a criminal—but when a nightmare plague rips through Hagerstown, Anders finds himself dodging kinetic energy weapons and government assassins as Baltimore slips into chaos. His friends aren’t as helpless as they seem, though, and his girlfriend’s street-magician brother-in-law might be a pretentious hipster—or might hold the secret to saving them all.
THREE DAYS IN APRIL is a speculative thriller that raises an important question: once humanity goes down the rabbit hole, can it ever find its way back?
Paperback for the Winner:

Compiled for the first time, The Oldest Trick comprises The Iron Ring and Iron and Blood in the Saga of the Redeemed.Tyvian Reldamar gets betrayed by his longtime partner and left for dead in a freezing river. To add insult to injury, his mysterious rescuer took it upon himself to affix Tyvian with an iron ring that prevents the wearer from any evildoing.

Revenge just got complicated.

On his quest to get even, Tyvian navigates dark conspiracies, dodges midnight assassins, and uncovers the plans of the ruthless wizard Banric Sahand. Tyvian will need to use every dirty trick in the book to avoid a painful and ignominious end, even as he learns to work with—and rely on—his motley crew of accomplices, including an adolescent pickpocket, an obese secret-monger, and a fearsome gnoll.


Buy: Amazon|Barnes and Noble|Kobo|Google Play

Ebook for the Winner:

 

The Empire is Shrouded, not only by the barrier that covers the land, but by the lies and oppression of the mierothi regime. Magic is the privilege of the elite, and the people of this shadowed country have forgotten what it means to hope under their rule.
 
But there are some who would resist, with plans put into motion millennia before. For returned to the Empire is a valynkar, servant of the god of light, and with him come the strength and cunning that could tip the scales to end the Emperor’s reign. He has gathered a group of heroes ready to ignite the flame of rebellion and fight against the dark power that has ruled for nearly two thousand years. A power that has champions of its own.
 
Nathan Garrison’s Veiled Empire throws a mythical land into chaos, with races long thought forgotten, and magics only just discovered. Steel and sorcery clash as brave souls vie for freedom and control in this astonishing debut novel.
 
Author will provide ebook or paperback:
A body is found in the Alabama wilderness. The question is:
Is it a human corpse … or is it just a piece of discarded
property?
Agent Samantha Rose has been exiled to a backwater
assignment for the Commonwealth Bureau of Investigation, a death knell for her
career. But then Sam catches a break—a murder—that could give her the boost she
needs to get her life back on track. There’s a snag, though: the body is a
clone, and technically that means it’s not a homicide. And yet, something about
the body raises questions, not only for her, but for coroner Linsey Mackenzie.
The more they dig, the more they realize nothing about this
case is what it seems … and for Sam, nothing about Mac is what it seems,
either.
This case might be the way out for her, but that way could
be in a bodybag.
A thrilling new mystery from Liana Brooks, The
Day Before will have you looking over your shoulder and questioning what it
means to be human.
Ebook for the Winner:
Sixteen-year-old Marci Guerrero is one of the best teen hackers in Seattle. However, she’d give up all her talents to know she isn’t crazy.

Marci feels possessed by what she perceives as shadowy spectres that take control of her body and make her do crazy things. While spying on the clandestine group known as IgNiTe, she’s confronted by the leader, James McCray. His presence stirs the spectres inside her brain into a maddening frenzy. Her symptoms and ability to control them don’t go unnoticed by James, who soon recruits her and shows her the awful truth.

Half of the world’s population is infected by sentient parasites. They bind themselves to the human brain and replace the pathways for all thoughts and actions. The creatures then morph their hosts into grotesque monsters with extraordinary strengths. Winged, clawed, fanged half-humans become living nightmares. Now Marci wishes she was crazy, because the truth is worse.

She’s infected.                                     Buy: Amazon|Barnes and Noble
Ebook for the Winner:
For ten millennia, the leaders of the Overland have been Selected by the Machinery, an omnipotent machine gifted to the world in darker days.
The Overland has thrived, crushing all enemies. But the Machinery came with a prophecy: it will break in its ten-thousandth year, Selecting just one leader who will bring Ruin to the world. That time has arrived.
Katrina Paprissi is an Apprentice Watcher, charged with seeking out any who doubt the power of the Machinery. But as the Machinery nears breaking point, her own doubts begin to surface. She must travel to its home in the depths of the mysterious Underland, to see if Ruin really is coming for them all…
Choice of ebook or paperback:
Tonight, for the first time in over a century, a mortal child will be kidnapped by faeries.
 
When her daughter Fiona is snatched from her bed, Caitlin’s entire world crumbles. Once certain that faeries were only a fantasy, Caitlin must now accept that these supernatural creatures do exist—and that they have traded in their ancient swords and horses for modern guns and sports cars. Hopelessly outmatched, she accepts help from a trio of unlikely heroes: Eddy, a psychiatrist and novice wizard; Brendan, an outcast Fian warrior; and Dante, a Magister of the fae’s Rogue Court. Moving from the busy streets of Boston’s suburbs to the shadowy land of Tír na nÓg, Caitlin and her allies will risk everything to save Fiona. But can this disparate quartet conquer their own inner demons and outwit the dark faeries before it’s too late?
Choice of ebook or paperback:
Across the United States, children are vanishing. Only this time, faeries may not be to blame …

Dante, Regent of the fae’s Rogue Court, has been receiving disturbing reports. Human children are manifesting magical powers in record numbers. Shunned and forgotten, they live on the streets in ragtag groups with the already-booming population of homeless changelings. But the streets aren’t a haven; someone, or something, is hunting these children down.

Wraith, a teenage spell slinger, has no home, no family, and no real memories of her past. She and her friends SK, Fritz, and Shadow are constantly on the run, fleeing from a dark and unknown enemy. But when her companions are taken by “the snatchers,” Wraith is their only hope. Her journey to find them will test the limits of her magic–and her trust. A dark force is on the rise, and it could spell the end of our world as we know it.
 
Ebook for the Winner:
Ayla Nightshade never wanted to rule Darkhaven.

Yet her half-brother Myrren hasn’t inherited the family’s ability to shapeshift, so their father, Florentyn, forces Ayla to take over as heir to the throne.

When Ayla is accused of Florentyn’s brutal murder only Myrren believes her innocent and aids her escape. A fugitive from her own guard, Ayla must now fight to clear her name if she is ever to wear the crown she never wanted and be allowed to return to the home she has always loved.

But does something more sinister than the power to shapeshift lie at the heart of the Nightshade family line?

Ebook for the Winner:
 
A fantasy
full of sumptuous characters, rip-roaring adventure and dark deeds…” Harper
Voyager, UK 2015
Archivist,
Devin Roché has just taken his finals at Coreé prestigious Académie. As the
sixth son of the ruler of Llisé, his future is his own, and so he embarks on an
adventure to memorize stories chronicling the history of each province.
As Devin
begins his journey with only his best friend Gaspard and their bodyguard
Marcus, he hears rumors of entire villages disappearing without a trace and of
Master Bards being assassinated in the night.
As the three
companions get closer to unearthing the truth, they can’t help but wonder
whether it is their own quest that may have set these events in motion. But if
that is the case, what do Llisé and Devin’s father have to hide?
 

Buy: Amazon US|HarperCollins|Amazon UK

Paperback for the Winner:

It frightens me, knowing the One has called up two such strong individuals. It means that there are troubled times in our future, and you must prepare yourselves.”

The Temple at Illian is the crown jewel of life in the Northern Territory. There, pledges are paired with feli, the giant sacred cats of the One god, and are instructed to serve the One’s four capricious deities. Yet Sulis, a young woman from the Southern Desert, has a different perspective – one that just might be considered heresy…

Sulis’s twin Kadar, meanwhile, is part of a different sort of revolution. When Kadar falls in love with a woman from a Forsaken caste, he finds he’s willing to risk anything to get these people to freedom. But with Sulis drawing a dangerous level of attention from the deities, and war about to break out on two fronts, the twins find change may not come without great sacrifice.

An astonishing debut, Kelley Grant brings to life a powerful new epic fantasy tale of determination and self-discovery.


Buy: Amazon|Barnes and Noble|HarperCollins

Ebook for the Winner:

 

Sebastian Grey always thought he was a fairly normal teenager – good friends, decent grades, and a pretty sweet job in his foster brother’s tattoo shop.
 
But when Romany gypsies arrive in town, Sebastian discovers his world is not what it seems. There is an age-old feud between his family and the gypsies – and this isn’t the only secret his brother has been keeping from him. His life is not his own. The girl he’s been dreaming about has just turned up at school, and he feels compelled to protect her at all costs.
 
Even if that means life might never be normal again.

Buy: Amazon|Barnes and Noble

Excerpt of Beth Cato’s Latest Book

Beth Cato is a brilliant author also published through Harper Voyager. Her Clockwork Dagger series is a really great read. It’s a steampunk fantasy with a healer for the main character. Let’s hear the love for the clerics in the D&D party! Not only is she a great storyteller, she’s also a fiendishly good baker and regularly shares the recipe for her delights with the public; no doubt as part of her plan for world domination. This is probably how she attained the role of High Priestess of Churromancy over at the Holy Taco Church. Today, however, Wings of Sorrow and Bone: A Clockwork Dagger Novella is out today and the ebook is only ninety-nine cents! Have you bought it yet? Why not? Need convincing? Okay, fine, here’s an excerpt.


 

Wings of Sorrow and Bone

Wings of Sorrow and Bone: A Clockwork Dagger Novella

A few months after the events of The Clockwork Crown

After being rescued by Octavia Leander from the slums of Caskentia, Rivka Stout is adjusting to her new life in Tamarania. But it’s hard for a blossoming machinist like herself to fit in with proper society, and she’d much rather be tinkering with her tools than at a hoity-toity party any day.

When Rivka stumbles into a laboratory run by the powerful Balthazar Cody, she also discovers a sinister plot involving chimera gremlins and the violent Arena game Warriors. The innocent creatures will end up hurt, or worse, if Rivka doesn’t find a way to stop Mr. Cody. And to do that means she will have to rely on some unexpected new friends.

In this excerpt from Chapter 2, Rivka and Tatiana have just met and escaped from Balthazar Cody’s party. Their nosiness has guided them to a basement laboratory full of peculiar creatures…

“Yes. Gremlins. My God, they are ugly,” said Tatiana, shuddering. She had to speak loudly to be heard.

The creatures mewed, cackled, and banged on the copper and wood bars of their enclosures. Nothing was made of silver. Rivka stepped closer.

The bright electric lighting showed the green gremlins well. Some had tint variations, like patches in a quilt. Their sizes ranged from pigeon to husky tomcat. Long, bat-like wings folded along their sides. Hideous hybrid faces featured round, black eyes, some of their noses compressed and others more elongated. Their arms tended toward long and skinny, hind legs stubby.

Gremlins had split lips, just like her.

Rivka traced her upper lip with her tongue. Doctors in Tamarania could fill the gap that partially exposed her front teeth. She was slowly saving up money for that very surgery.

“Hi there.” Rivka reached out. A gremlin’s three small fingers clutched her fingertips. There were no claws, nor did it try to lurch her off balance. The little gremlin pressed its face to the bars. Long, whiskered ears trembled. Rivka felt a vibration against her hand, and with a start realized that the creature was purring.

“A lot of them—no, all of them—are injured.” Tatiana pointed.

She was right. The gremlin whose hand Rivka held had bandages girthing most of its torso. The one to the left had no ear, just a rounded stub. The one below had no wings, and therefore, no arms. A cage over, the gremlin actually had separate arms, but its wings were gone as well.

“Is this like a medical ward for maimed gremlins?” Rivka frowned and looked around as she wiggled her hand free. It certainly seemed like a sterile surgical space. She pulled out her trusty little screwdriver again.

“What are you doing?”

“Being nosy. There has to be a ledger or something around here that chronicles their injuries.”

The cages were numbered and denoted with colorful flags; not all were occupied. Most of the cabinets and drawers held tools and blades with purposes she didn’t wish to contemplate. No paperwork had been left out. She pulled a cart from beneath a steel table. Lifting the hinged lid, she found a snarled pile of dead gremlins. She gasped.

“What?” called Tatiana from across the room.

“Bodies.” Rivka shoved the cart away. She’d seen all kinds of dead things before, people included, but there was something especially disturbing about a haphazard knot of that nature.

Like that sample? Read the whole novella for just 99-cents

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Google Play | iTunes

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Beth Cato hails from Hanford, California, but currently writes and bakes cookies in a lair west of Phoenix, Arizona. She shares the household with a hockey-loving husband, a numbers-obsessed son, and a cat the size of a canned ham.

She’s the author of THE CLOCKWORK DAGGER (a 2015 Locus Award finalist for First Novel) and THE CLOCKWORK CROWN from Harper Voyager.

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Follow her at BethCato.com and on Twitter at @BethCato.

Reviews: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Just do it.

It’s a common thing you hear from writers at all levels: if you liked a book, leave a review. In fact, this picture by a fellow Harper Voyager author has gotten around quite a bit on Twitter and Facebook.
Leave a Review
But what if you didn’t love the book? Or, even worse, what if you didn’t like it at all, or hated it? Well, I’m not going to tell you how to write a review or what you should put in it. That’s something for you to decide. Personally, I tend to keep my negative reviews (and I’ve done a few) straightforward. I just say what I didn’t like: I couldn’t connect with the characters, the story line didn’t hook me, I had trouble following the plot, etc. But even if you didn’t like the book, you should still leave a review.

Let me repeat that. Yes, you should leave a review, even if it’s going to be a bad one.
Now obviously there are people who have no problem doing that. Yes, some reviews can get ugly, and that’s just part of the business. I wrote about that here when an author on Goodreads replied to a review. No, this blog post isn’t for those people. They’re leaving reviews and for that, I sincerely thank them. Yes, I just thanked people for leaving ugly reviews.

Here’s why. All reviews help sell books. Yes, you read that right. Studies show that books with only positive reviews don’t always sell as well as books with mixed reviews (though usually with a positive average). Negative reviews show potential readers that real people (not bots, or just the author’s friends and family) have read the book. No one, not even us starry-eyed authors, expects everyone to like our stories. Of course we’d love it if they did, but we know that isn’t going to happen. So if you’re worried about hurting our feelings, thanks, but don’t be. I promise we’ll be okay. We have other writers, friends, family, beer, and chocolate to give us solace. If you’re worried about hurting sales, again, don’t be. As I said, you’ll actually help. Not to mention that most authors I know try to approach negative reviews as a chance to learn. Obviously we’d go insane (or more insane) if we tried to adjust our writing for every bad review, but if there’s a criticism that readers keep bringing up, it helps to shine a light on something specific we can reflect on and possibly use to help us grow as artists. I say this speaking from personal experience. Like I said in my last post, here, it wasn’t until my first book came out that I saw the tropes and stereotypes I was using. You can’t improve without seeing both what you’re doing well and not so well, and I know I always want to be improving my craft.

Here’s something else you might not know. Amazon.com, and probably Barnes and Noble as well, use an algorithm to look at how many reviews a book has. When it reaches a certain number (there is considerable debate over what that number is, and Amazon isn’t sharing) it starts showing up on the recommended books section of users’ screens. This is a HUGE benefit to authors and can mean the difference between drowning in a veritable sea of books or standing out enough that someone sees it and buys it.

Yes, I realize all this could come back to haunt me. It’s entirely possible that people who were holding off on bad reviews will suddenly come out of the woodwork and my book ratings will plummet. That’s okay, I’ll deal with it. Like wise, it’s entirely possible there is now a Kickstarter campaign with the sole purpose of hiring someone to kill me. Please don’t contribute to it. But, please, review the books you read. You don’t need to leave long reviews, and they don’t have to be glowing. In fact, the only thing a review should be is honest. You owe that to yourself, to other readers, and even to the author. Amazon, B&N, Goodreads, wherever, just please, pretty please (with sugar on top) leave a review.

Pwease