Friday, January 31, 2014


Today is the Chinese New Year taking us into the Year of the Horse. Even though I'm not a horse (I'm a boar, but shut up!), I love horses. Here's a very cool graphic for the holiday.I obtained it from the Auston School of Management, so I'm not sure who the original artist is. Given that they showed it off, then I will too and lay the blame at their hooves.

You can also get a very nice greeting card at Zazzle from AV_Designs. I love that their logo is a Star of David. Not sure what that's saying. But Gung Hay Fat Choy in any case.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


Jack the Ripper has sought out J.Q. Rose as the recipient of a free ebook copy of "The Mud Rose" by Renee Duke. I already knew JQ is a winner in her own right, but it's nice she won this great prize as well. And how whimsical is the winner of a Rose book is already a Rose? The Name the Ripper Contest was right here. If you missed it, you should take a look. I'll bet you didn't know all the possible suspects.


Sunday, January 26, 2014

How About That?

I wasn't expecting the audio book of "Missing, Assumed Dead" to appear for another couple of weeks. surprised me with a record-setting three days from final OK to distribution to Audible and Amazon.

Amazon offers a discounted price ($13.08) if you purchase from their store. It just sends you to Audible anyway.

Audible has the higher price ($14.95), but "Missing" can be your book of the month if you're a member or you can get it free if you sign up to be a member. That's what I made my hubby do. He got two book by signing up.

iTunes is also carrying Missing, and is the only place that understands the ebook and the audio book are related.

So, what are you waiting for? Oh, right! You're waiting for those freebie promo coupons. Well, I have NO idea when those will show up. So, go ahead buy the book. The freebie promo coupon gives you a book credit with which you can purchase another book. Either way, you'll get something free.

Friday, January 24, 2014

What Next?

I've got a few books in the published column. I'm pondering which to put up to the audio market next.

My murder mystery, "Missing, Assumed Dead," is already recorded and waiting for the final polishing by ACX, the audio book publishing arm of Amazon. Scroll to the bottom of this post to listen to the first chapter, ably and excellently narrated by Lisa Baarns. It'll be out in a couple of weeks. Already in distribution, TALES OF A TEXAS BOY is a set of home-grown, simple stories told by Eddie, a boy growing up in West Texas during the Great Depression.

Here are my choices for next book to go to audio. What do you think?

Witches of Galdorheim Series: The three books in the series follow the adventures of a teen witch, Katrina, who can't quite get her magic working right. BAD SPELLING, MIDNIGHT OIL, and SCOTCH BROOM. If I start with these, I'll have a three-book set of audio adventures.

Ultimate Duty: There's a smaller, earlier version of this book titled "First Duty." I could send FIRST DUTY to the audio machine, but ULTIMATE DUTY has a lot more to it. Same plot, but with a lot more action and depth of plot. The sticking point is getting the current publisher to relinquish the audio rights to the book. Two emails and a PM in G+ later, I've yet to receive an answer. Should I consider no answer to be consent by default?

Setara's Genie: Formerly published in a couple of formats, SETARA'S GENIE is the first of my middle-eastern mythology books. It stars Setara, a poor little rich girl looking for adventure. She finds it in spades when she becomes the mistress (master?) of Basit, a genie who isn't necessarily cooperative when he needs to be.

Faizah's Destiny: In the same general fantasy world, FAIZAH'S DESTINY shows the strength of a simple farm girl chosen to lead the battle against the forces of evil. Her army? A slave, a beggar, a lonely rich boy, and a strange little man named Menog. Can they avert Armageddon?

Eagle Quest: Four teens journey to the wilderness of the Klamath Wildlife Preserves to aid one of their members, a native american boy, in his search for his roots in a vision quest. In the Bear Valley Preserve, the EAGLE QUEST leads the teens into danger and enlightenment.

Read any of these books? If so, do you have a favorite you'd like to hear in audio format next? Let me know.

Here's Chapter One from the audio book, MISSING, ASSUMED DEAD.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Look Out! Jack the Ripper is Out to Get YOU!

Life’s hard if you’re a Victorian street urchin, and crossing the path of Jack the Ripper can make it even harder.

Another journey into the past takes Paige, Dane, and Jack to Victorian London, where they meet two young mudlarks named Hetty and Pip. Even though life is difficult, Hetty is leery of seeking help from Dr. Barnardo or other social reformers who might separate her from her little brother. The Time Rose travellers have an idea for getting around that problem, but they’re about to have another. Jack the Ripper’s grisly attacks on women in the East End have the whole city on edge – and the blood covered man Hetty and Pip come across late at night isn’t keen on having witnesses on the loose.
You could win a free copy of The Mud Rose by leaving a comment voting for your choice in regards to Jack the Ripper’s true identity.

(See the end of the post for a wonderful giveaway game.)

Thanks for having me here today, Marva. I now have a blog, too, Time Travelling With Kids which is at  I’ve been doing interactive history units with 6-13-year-olds for several years, and use to the blog to offer up both historical information and ideas on how to bring kids and history together. Lately I’ve had several posts up about Victorian times, the era in which The Mud Rose is set.

The Mud Rose is the second of five books in my Time Rose series, which is about the adventures of three kids (Paige, Dane, & Jack) who use an ancient medallion to travel through Time and help children who are in trouble. In the first one, The Disappearing Rose, they connected to the two princes who disappeared from the Tower of London in the fifteenth century. In The Mud Rose, they connect to a pair of young mudlarks – children who found items in the mud of the Thames and sold them on so as to have enough money for food and lodgings. Hetty and Pip don’t just have poverty to contend with though. This is the time Jack the Ripper was terrorizing London, and a blood-covered man they saw running through the streets one night is trying to eliminate them as witnesses to his nocturnal activities. Having got Hetty and Pip to attend a Barnardo-run ragged school, the modern day kids think it might be best if they use that organization to get them out of the country through a child migration programme that placed youngsters on homesteads in Canada. But, of course, that doesn’t go quite according to plan.

 Despite the controversy over practices like child migration, I’m an admirer of the work of Dr. Barnardo. Barnardo and other Victorian child care organizations did the best they could for kids in relation to the times they lived in. Most of the charges of abuse and neglect laid against these organizations came from later eras, after Barnardo, Quarrier, and the other original founders had died and other people were in charge. Traffic came to a standstill in London during Barnardo’s funeral because so many people wanted to pay their respects, so the people of HIS time, obviously didn’t question his devotion to children.  I wanted to show that in a story. I also wanted to bring awareness of child poverty and child labour, which by now should be ‘history’, but regrettably is not. In many areas of the world, children still have to work at backbreaking and/or dangerous tasks from dawn to dusk just to obtain food and shelter. I once worked in a Third World country through World Development & Peace. Trust me, you never forget walking down a street at night and seeing small children curled up asleep with empty bellies (the average age for being turned out on the streets to fend for yourself was eight). We helped as many as we could, but we barely scratched the surface. That was back in the late 1970s, but it’s no better today. In fact, I think it’s worse.

That explains the Barnardo aspect. If you’re wondering how Jack the Ripper fits into this, well, he was around at the time, and while he didn’t target children, I don’t imagine he would have had any scruples about removing any who inadvertently saw him about his nefarious work. His killing spree only lasted from August 1888 to November 1888, after which, murders with his signature on just stopped. What happened to him, and who he really was, remains a mystery. And when something is a mystery, people in general, and writers in particular, can … speculate. There were, and are, several theories as to who the Ripper was. These include:

(A) Alfred Napier Blanchard. Why? Because he confessed. Mind you, several people confessed, especially drunks, but even though Blanchard had been drunk for three days when he made his confession, other drunks thought it had a kind of authentic feel to it, and who’s to say they weren’t right?

(B) Dr. Thomas Neill Cream and/or his Double. Why? Because he did kill people, and though imprisoned for life because of this, was later let out for ‘good behaviour’ (obviously didn’t try to do in any fellow inmates, then). True, he was in prison during the time of the murders, but he was reputed to have a double, and it could have been the double who was actually serving time in prison just then couldn’t it? Well, couldn’t it?

(C) Prince Albert Victor Christian Edward ("Eddy”), grandson of Queen Victoria. Why? Because he wasn’t the brightest jewel in the crown, and hey, it’s exciting to pin something on a royal. The fact that he was miles from London at the time of the attacks is irrelevant. That could easily be faked, right?

(D) Dr. Thomas John Barnardo. Why? Because he was often in the Whitechapel area late at night. Claimed he was looking for homeless children. What kind of lame excuse is that?

(E) Charles Lutwige Dodgson, otherwise known as Lewis Carroll. Why? Because, brilliant scholar and mathematician that he was, he liked to invent anagrams, some of which could, maybe, possibly, if you worked them out properly, be a record of how he committed the murders.
(F) An Insane Jew (Name Unknown for sure, but asylum inmates David Cohen, Jacob Levy,  and Aaron Kosminski were among those suggested) Why? Because blaming Jews for anything bad that happened had years, make that, centuries, of precedent. They made great scapegoats, and being insane as well was a bonus.

(G) A Deranged Midwife (Name Unknown). Why? Because there was no real reason the Ripper had to be a MAN, was there? Like a doctor, a midwife could walk around late at night, covered with blood, without arousing suspicion. (Except from the people who came up with this theory, of course.)

(H) A LOW PROFILE, EVERYDAY-LOOKING PSYCHOPATH who never came under suspicion and only stopped because he met a sudden, unexpected end through typhoid, cholera, accident, barroom brawl, etc.

Thanks again for having me, Marva. If any visitors would like a chance to win a free copy of The Mud Rose, all they have to do is leave a comment stating which one they’d vote for. (Write-ins encouraged, if they have other ideas. There have been a LOT of suspects put forward over the years.)


A few minutes later, the governor brought Hetty and Pip back to the receiving room and told Paige that someone would take the two to Old Rosie.

“The rest of you will be safely seen to Mr. Hollingsworth’s house in Mayfair. Even though he is out of town, I imagine he has arranged for you to stay there.”

“Yes, he has. But we’ve been talking, and we think it’d be better if Hetty and Pip were to stay there too.”

“You does?” said Hetty.

“Yes, we does,” said Paige. “You’ll be safer there.”

“Oh…yeah.” Hetty gulped, her fears about being stalked by the Ripper returning.

“As you wish,” said the governor, a trifle impatiently.

“Hang on a minute, though,” said Hetty. “We still wants to see Old Rosie. We can’t just up and leave the country without saying a proper good-bye.”

She looked pleadingly at Paige, who sighed resignedly.

“Okay. We’ll go there first. You don’t have to take us to Uncle Clive’s,” she told the governor. “He doesn’t mind us going about alone.”

“But I do. You will be accompanied, first to the home of these children’s great aunt, and then to Mr. Hollingsworth’s residence.”

Unable to banish thoughts of crossing paths with Jack the Ripper, they did not really mind having an escort. The scrawny young man named Cedric might not have been much use in a fight, but just having him along was reassuring. Even if he did look less than pleased with the assignment.

The Ripper was obviously on other people’s minds, too. They passed a few children wheeling scarecrow-type figures in makeshift carts whilst calling out, “Penny for the guy.” The guys all had villainous countenances, and sported dark capes such as the Ripper was reputed to wear.

“Bonfire night tonight,” Hetty told them, identifying the date as the fifth of November, when people celebrated Guy Fawkes Day with bonfires and fireworks. “Not likely to be much of a turnout, though. Folk’s leery of being out after dark now. We shouldn’t’ve been neither, the night we saw him. Old Rosie near did her nut over it. Said we should have stopped with our mates ’til morning. S’pose we should, but I didn’t want her wondering where we’d got to.”

* * *

Renee Duke can also be found on Facebook, and through her website (

Buy Links for The Mud Rose:

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

And Yet Another Place to Vote

This time, the "Faizah's Destiny" cover by C.K. Volnek is in the running for the You Gotta Read Cover Contest. 

In the Top Ten for Best Ebook Cover in the Preditors/Editors Poll.

Previously won 2nd Place in the August 2013 You Gotta Read Video Contest.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Is Your Book Boring?

I've noted a couple of excellent posts lately about the problem of the "missing middle" of books which cause middle-grade readers to jump to the end of the book. Dianne Salerni (author of We Hear the Dead) should know. She teaches the middle-school rugrats and polled them on how many jumped to the end of a book. She writes an excellent article on the subject at Project Mayhem. A couple of possible reasons she suggests: The kid just can't wait to find out what happened, or the middle of the book was boring, or they just always do.

I no longer know what goes on in the mind of a middle-grade reader. I used to be a middle-grade reader back when dinosaurs walked the earth. Today is completely different. Or is it?

What grabbed me back in ancient times was the development of the story. What would happen to Black Beauty? I was pretty sure he'd be okay in the end because Happily Ever After is not only a trait of bad romance (doesn't anybody ever freaking die?), but also with some childrens' books. But he might have been beaten to death after all. But Ginger dies, so not so happy an ending after all.

When a book reaches into the teen years of YA, then some bad stuff might be at the end of the tale, but the norm is a reasonably happy ending or at least not an ending where everybody dies. Unless, of course, everybody dies but they all become zombies.

I am personally weary of the straightforward path to the happy ending. Returning to the golden days of yesteryear, what happened to Charlotte in Charlotte's Web. Just after you got over your arachnophobia and loved that spider like she was your best friend, what happened? She DIED! I remember weeping in my 4th grade classroom at storytime. The teacher (Mrs. Miller, the bitch from hell) mocked me because I found the story so sad. I cried. I missed Charlotte. Today, I have to wonder what was wrong with the teacher? What was wrong with the other kids? Didn't they feel sad?

Let's take Old Yeller. O.M.G.!!! That was so sad, I barely got over it. I'm tearing up now as I write this.

Did I want to jump to the end of those books? No. I knew from experience I might very well be very very very unhappy with the ending. I put it off. I didn't want to go there. But the writer dragged me along, kicking and crying to the final sad line...or final happy line. I didn't know which way it would go.

What does this have to do with a book being boring? It's because if any semi-intelligent fourth grader knows that everybody will be all jolly and happy at the end of the book, why bother with the middle?

Don't ignore the middle. Just putting a bunch of words there won't cut it. Make it your mission to FORCE those kids to read every. last. word. They should turn to the last page with trembling hands, afraid of what they'll see. They won't be flipping to the end yawning because they know what will happen. Princess will get Prince. Charlotte won't die, but turn into a fairy queen. Old Yeller will live happily into old age. Those could be fine endings, but your young reader shouldn't know which way it will go until they read every word.

Don't let your middle-grade book have a boring middle. You'll lose your audience.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Brag Post

The annual Preditors/Editors poll is finished and the final tallies counted. While I didn't get any first places, I did get a nice variety in the Top 10s.

Buy Faizah's Destiny at MuseItUp or Amazon (also has print)


Buy Spellslinger at Amazon in ebook or print.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Conda Douglas on Her Audio Book Experience

I've mentioned lately I've been taking my book to audio. When I discovered one of my favorite writers, Conda Douglas, was also delving into the media, I asked her to write about her experience turning "A Crispy Rice Christmas" into a sweet auditory treat. So, here's Conda!

First of all, thank you Marva, for this opportunity!

Around about the beginning of November, I decided to do my first audio book, ever. This turned out to be a daunting task, at least at first, as I determined how to do so. Since I'm a film maker as well as an author, I know a great sound person who is producing audio books. However, when we discussed the process of producing an audiobook, it was obvious that it would take a lot of time and money, neither of which I, as is so common for authors, possess in great abundance.

A number of my fellow authors had good things to say about ACX, the audio production part of Audible (which is owned by Amazon) so that was my next and last stop. I found several advantages to ACX: it's fast and easy to start a production and find a producer (narrator) and there are different ways to pay for creating the audiobook, including a 50/50 royalty split with the narrator. Since my fellow authors also mentioned that many authors were going the ACX route and to be proactive about getting a narrator, I contacted a gal right away with a contract offer, which she accepted right away. Both of us were newbies, so it was a great learning experience. And my narrator did a great job.

The main thing I learned? Well, I had posted for production a Christmas romance, figuring since it was early November and it was a short story, it'd be produced and posted by early December. It was produced, but I hadn't counted on there being a four week long period of ACX "reviewing" the audio. The audio book was published the day after Christmas! Urk. Ah well, live and learn.

Overall, it was a great experience, one which I'm eager to repeat soon!

Visit my blog, Conda's Creative Center at, for hints, tips and secrets for creative people. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Speaking of Audio Books - Want a Free One?

Wooooo hooooo! I have promo coupons to get a free copy of the audio book, "Tales of a Texas Boy." I laid some coupon goodness on G+ already and am waiting to see if I get a response or two so I know how many I can dole out on a given promotion.

So, THREE is the magic number. Maybe more if I'm feeling generous. Comments are the way to play.

Say "I want one" in a comment to this blog post. I'll select three (I hope at least three of you will comment) and will PM or email the info for you to pick up your copy (if you're a winner) at You don't have to be an member to get the book; you just have to have some player (I use an installed audible player (free to download) on my Kindle Fire and my droid smart phone) for the listening tasks.

Here's what I beg of you.

1) If you win, please USE the coupon. It's one use only, but if you don't use it then it's one less I have to give to somebody who wants a copy.

2) Please leave a review on Audible or Amazon. You don't have to love it, you don't even have to listen to it, but PLEASE leave a rating and a few words pretending you did.

Remember, I know who you are and where you live. Well, not the last necessarily, but you get the idea. Really, it's a fun book. The stories are short, only about 5-10 minutes each.

Here's how you use a coupon on

1. Visit

2.  Enter the download code (which I'll send you) into the "Redeem Your Promotional Code" field and click "Redeem".

3.  If you’re not an Audible customer you’ll need to create a new account. Don’t worry, you can use your Amazon account to do this.

4.  Follow the instructions. You’ll have 1 credit applied to your account.

5.  Go to my book’s listing (

6.  Add it to your cart. When you check out you’ll see an option to apply the free credit.

7. Audible will put the book in your book library. When you start up your app, your library will contain Tales of a Texas Boy, so you can listen anytime you want.

See. Easy-peasy.

Now leave a comment.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

MuseItUp's New Year Blog Posts

January is a month for looking back on fond memories and forward to new events and challenges.

Visit me on the MuseItUp Blog to read my thoughts on the change from one year to the next. Dedicated to the Roman God, Janus, the god of beginnings and endings.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Audio Book Discounted Big Time

BIG markdown on my audio book, TALES OF A TEXAS BOY. Regular $6.95, but only $2.99 for a limited time through Audible. Get it while it's cheap! I don't know how long the discount will be in effect.

Please re-share the link to let your friends take advantage of the deal.


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Another Reminder: Please Vote in the P&E Poll

I know it's a major pain in the butt to use the Critters site for this poll, but please vote for FAIZAH'S DESTINY in the following categories:

Science Fiction/Fantasy

Children's Books

Young Adult Books

Book/Ebook Cover Art (by C.K. Volnek)

And if you have the patience, you could vote for SPELLSLINGER in the SF/F Short Story category.

This is the last time I'll mention it. I promise. Well, I may give another shout out near the end of the poll. Or not. Who knows?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Read About My Audio Book Journey

Penny Estelle is my hostess today on her blog, Penny's Tales. Since my first audio book, "Tales of a Texas Boy," hit the market at the end of December just in time for the new year, I thought I'd pass along the process I went through from pondering the idea of audio books to releasing my own from Amazon's Audio site, ACX.COM.

Drop by Penny's blog to say hi.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

You Gotta Read Cover Contest

FAIZAH'S DESTINY is in another beauty contest. This time, it's up for best cover at You Gotta Read. Entry #8 on January 8th. Voting is open between January 21st and January 26th.

Note that the book trailer won 2nd place in the You Gotta Read Video contest last August.

I think C.K. Volnek did a smashing job capturing Faizah's strength and determination. Kudos to whoever's picture it is. She's a gorgeous young woman.

Here's the link:

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Lowest Paperback Prices

These are the best ever paperback prices these books will be. Sometimes the 3rd party vendor has a lower price, but they never have the free shipping offered through Amazon. Also, Amazon is discounting a few of them. Like the feel of a paperback? Grab a few now. See the Witches of Galdorheim tab for paperback books available in that series. They're also at the lowest possible price.

Faizah's Destiny

Setara's Genie

Missing, Assumed Dead

Tales of a Texas Boy

First Duty

Quest for the Simurgh

Eagle Quest

Friday, January 03, 2014

Audio Book #2 in Production

Rather than sitting around waiting for the hundreds, if not thousands, of sales on my first audio book venture, I immediately jumped in with another.

"Missing, Assumed Dead" is a murder mystery set in Eastern Oregon. The producer will again be Baarns Narration and VO. The narrator this time will be Lisa Baarns. I only had to listen to about 30 seconds of the audition to know she's the perfect voice for Kam McBride. I spoke with her on the phone to clear up a few pronunciations (like txakoli and pintxos). She was fun to talk with, and I'm even more convinced she's the right person to narrate this book. After all, she admits she stayed up all night reading the whole thing because she just had to know what was going to happen. Enthusiasm is a big plus.

Prejudice, murder, insanity, suicide: Every small town has its secrets.

When Kameron McBride receives notice she’s the last living relative of a missing man she’s never even heard of, the last thing she wants to do is head to some half-baked Oregon town to settle his affairs. But since she’s the only one available, she grudgingly agrees.

En route, she runs afoul of a couple of hillbillies and their pickup in an accident that doesn’t seem...accidental. Especially when they keep showing up wherever she goes. Lucky for her, gorgeous Deputy Mitch Caldwell lends her a hand, among other things. Her suspicions increase when the probate Judge tries a little too hard to buy the dead man’s worthless property.

Working on a hunch and trying to avoid the Judge’s henchmen, Kam probes deeper into the town’s secrets and finds almost no one she can trust. With Mitch’s help, she peels away the layers of prejudice, suicide, murder, and insanity. But someone in town doesn’t like her poking around, and when they show their intentions by shooting her through the police chief’s office window, the stakes are raised. Kam must find out what really happened to her dead relative before someone in this backward little town sends her to join him.

And she thought Oregon was going to be boring.