Wednesday, January 23, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Somewhere Between Black and White

Somewhere Between Black and White

Title: Somewhere Between Black and White
Author: Shelly Hickman
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Romance
Type of Review: Requested (I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review)
Kara's Rating: 4.5 Kicks to the Heart

Blurb: When approaching life's problems, Sophie sees in black and white. That is, when they're someone else's problems. So when it comes to her sister, Sophie is sure she has all the answers, and offers them without hesitation. If only her sister would listen.

Then, through a series of chance encounters, she meets Sam, who is witty, kind, and downright unflappable. Sophie has the overwhelming sense that she's known him before, and as a relationship builds between them, odd visions invade her mind. Though she tries to dismiss them, their persistence will not allow it.

As someone who is quick to judge others, she is intrigued by Sam's ability to accept people as they are. She begins to see him as a role model, but try as she may, his accepting nature is difficult to emulate.

Will Sophie ever be able to put her hasty judgments aside and realize not every problem has a simple solution?

Kara's Review: This was hands-down one of the best self-published books I've read in a really long time. Grammatically it was perfect. The formatting was flawless and overall it was just a very "clean" book. Reading it was easy and quick.
The relationship between Sophie and Sam was written very well. It progressed at a nice easy believable pace. The chemistry between them was great and really hot at times! However, there didn't seem to be any tension or problems between them. I, for one, like to read romance because of the relationship between the hero and heroine and because I like to see what obstacles they have to overcome. I also like to wonder (even though the outcome is usually the same) if they will in fact overcome their issues and be together. I didn't feel like I got that from Sophie and Sam. Sure, they had a few little spats here and there, but it wasn't anything major. It wasn't anything that made me fear for their happily ever after. And if I don't fear for it, I don't root for it.  Don't get me wrong, I liked Sophie and Sam a lot and I'm thrilled that they ended up together forever, but I felt it just came too easily for them.
The relationship between Sophie's sister, Evie and her husband, Christian, though, that was fantastic! I was more emotionally involved in Evie and Christian's story than I was in Sophie and Sam's. The real life issues Evie and Christian had to face were so believable and really tugged at the heart strings. I honestly feel as though Evie & Christian could have their own full-length story. They were wonderfully written, vibrant characters.
I did have two small issues with this book: (MILD SPOILERS AHEAD)
1. Sophie starts to have visions and begins to believe that she and Sam knew each other in a previous life. I had no trouble with that. What I had trouble with was that this part of the plot wasn't ever really clarified at the end of the book. Did Sophie continue to have these visions? Did they go away? Where did they come from?
2. There are 3 chapters in the book that I felt were not needed. Two of them were set in the past with characters that I assume were Sophie and Sam (with different names) in their previous lives. Normally, Sophie's visions were handled via short flashbacks so when I cam upon the two full chapters it was a bit jarring. It totally took me out of the story and I had to grasp to get back into it. If those same chapters had been handled as dreams, maybe it wouldn't have been so jarring. And the fact that it was only done twice was a bit confusing. Why only twice? Why only those specific scenes?
The third chapter I felt was unnecssary was one told from the POV of a student that had done something pretty rotten to one of his classmates. The chapter shows the kid at home, thinking about what he'd done, regretting it, and finally deciding to tell his mom. Even though it was a great insight into the boy's mind and very interesting, I was left wondering why? Why did we need to have that information? If it had been left out it wouldn't have taken anything away from the rest of the story, in my opinion. As it stands, it was just something that took focus from the main story: Sam and Sophie.
Overall, it was a great read with wonderful characters. I couldn't stop turning the pages because I just had to know what was going to happen. I highly recommend this book. You can grab your copy at AMAZON.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

TEASER TUESDAY {1/22}: The Georgia Corbins

My young adult romance novel, The Georgia Corbins, is scheduled to be released later this year. I've been busy doing edits on it and getting it ready for release. The absolutely fantastic and beautiful cover was released this past week and I'm super excited to share it with all of you today!! =) I'm also going to give a short excerpt from the novel!! (Please be aware that the excerpt below is still in the editing stages and may or may not change in the final version.)


I sat on my bed with my back against the headboard and my ankles crossed.
            "Do you mind?" Levi asked holding up the photo album he'd found on my bookshelf.
            "Bring it here," I said patting the spot next to me. Levi sat beside me, put the album on his lap and opened it. The first few pictures were of me in my Christmas dress when I was six.
            "I remember that dress," Levi said with a sideways glance and a smile. "Tucker said you looked like a…"
            "…fat apple." I laughed. "I was so angry with him for that. I loved that dress." I ran my fingers over the picture. The dress was crushed red velvet with poufy arms and ruffled lace. Black patent leather shoes with a one inch heel had completed the outfit. I'd been so happy with those shoes—they were my first pair of heels.
            We flipped through a few more pages until Levi stopped at a picture of me, him, and Tucker on Halloween. We'd been eight. I was dressed up as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. Levi was the Cowardly Lion and Tucker was the Tin Man. It'd been my mom's brilliant idea to dress us up like that and as soon as Mrs. Corbin heard of it she'd jumped on board with it. Talk about embarrassing.
            "Wow. I'd forgotten about this," he said staring at the picture. "Do you remember that year you begged us to dress up as the characters from The Little Mermaid?"
            I buried my face in my hands and giggled as I nodded. "Oh, god, I think that picture's in there too." My Little Mermaid phase had been a tough one. Even though they hadn't said anything I knew my parents were ready to strangle me. They'd humored me though and re-painted my room to look like the ocean and indulged me for a little while by calling me Mermaid Ali. It wasn't until I refused to participate in anything unless Levi and Tucker dressed up for Halloween with me that my parents put an end to it. They conceded to the Halloween costumes on the condition that I give up the mermaid obsession.
            "Here it is." He pointed to the picture.
            I peeked at it through my fingers and cringed. I was dressed as Ariel, of course, and Levi was King Triton while Tucker was Prince Eric. "I'm so sorry I did that to y'all."
            "No reason to be sorry," he said turning his chocolate brown eyes in my direction. "We'd have done anything for you back then Ali. Hell, we still would."
            "Thank you." A lock of hair fell across his forehead and without thinking I reached up and brushed it back. I noticed Levi's eyes darkened slightly and my breath caught in my throat. My body became instantly overloaded with a mixture of emotions: happiness, excitement, uncertainty, fear, and lust. I let my hand fall from his face and cleared my throat. Why did things suddenly feel so awkward?

**** Coming Summer 2013 from Entranced Publishing  ****

Friday, January 18, 2013

How To Find a (Reputable) Publisher

So, you've taken the time and done the easy part: you've written your book. Okay, so the actual writing of the book isn't all that easy, but it's definitely easier than what comes next: finding someone to publish it for you.

With the recent popularity of epublishing, publishers are a dime a dozen. Good for you, right? Not necessarily. It's very easy for anyone to open a publishing house nowadays and not all of them are on the up-and-up. So, how do you find a publisher who is reputable? The answer is different for everyone, but below are the steps I use when I'm searching for a good, reputable, publisher.

1. In order to research a publisher you have to first find a publisher. The two sites I always use are Duotrope and Writers Market. These sites allow you to search for publishers in your specific genre. Make a list of those you're interested in.

2. Once I have my list, the first place I start researching is Preditors & Editors and Absolute Write. They are both free sites that offer advice and insight into various publishers. I ALWAYS check these two sites BEFORE I submit anything to a publisher.

3. If your chosen publishers has a clean track record with Preditors & Editors and Absolute Write then it's time to start looking at said publishers website. Look at everything. Click through every page they have available. If there are a lot of broken links then you might want to think twice about sending them your work. If there are a ton of authors who've only ever published one book with the publisher then it's a good possibility the publisher is an author mill and you want to avoid those. If the publisher has a sample contract available--READ IT! You don't want to waste your time formatting and submitting to a publisher if their contract is one that you're not comfortable signing. Also take some time to study the book covers. Do you like them? Would you be proud to have your name on a book with a cover similar to the ones they provide?

4. Another thing I always do is look at their current published authors. I randomly pick four or five, look them up and then email them. I introduce myself, explain that I'm considering publishing with XYZ Publishing, and ask if they'd be willing to tell me about their experiences with said publisher. You'd be surprised at how helpful this can be. This is probably the best source of honest information you'll get about a publisher. A fellow author will be able to tell you things that you can't find out otherwise--things such as how it is dealing with the editing staff or if royalties are paid on time.

5. So now that you've found some publishers you like, it's time to start submitting. Be sure to read all their submission guidelines very carefully and follow them to the letter. Failing to do so will most likely result in an automatic rejection.

6. Wait for a response.

7. Wait a little bit longer.

8. Yay! You've gotten a response. It's a rejection. Yell. Scream. Call a friend and bitch until your heart is content then file it away and wait some more. Chances are you'll get several more of these. It's the nature of the business, but don't lose hope.

9. Woo hoo! Another response. Congratulations! You've been offered a contract. Take some time, jump around. Yell. Scream. Dance. Tell everyone you've ever known that you're going to be a published author. Now calm down. It's time to do some more research.

That's right. Just because you have a contract offer doesn't mean you're done. In fact, you're just beginning. Again. Believe me, I know how tempting it is to just sign that contract and send it right back, but doing so could be detrimental to you.

10. The acceptance email you just received will usually contain the contract, a pre-editing or formatting checklist, pertinent information about the publisher, a book information and/or cover art form. Take the time and read each one of them carefully.

Start with the contract. Read it line by line. If you don't understand something, ask. If there's something missing that you feel should be included, ask. If there's something included that doesn't sit well with you, ask. Ask! Ask! Ask! If you don't understand it--don't sign it! Sit down and compose an email asking every single question you have. Then send that email. Keep the contract safely in your inbox and wait for a response. If after you get answers you're still unclear, send another email asking more questions. Pay close attention to not only the answer you're given, but how long it took you to get them.

REAL LIFE EXAMPLE: I received an email stating one of my manuscripts had been accepted by a publisher (who shall remain nameless) and that I should be on the look-out for the contract in a separate email. It took a full two weeks for them to send me the contract. That alone was enough to irritate me, but when I read the contract and sent them an email full of questions, I never received a response. Ever. Needless to say, I politely declined their contract offer.

11. Time to move on to the pre-editing/formatting checklist. Most times it specifies font style, size, margins, quotations, em dashes, etc. However, many publishers have certain things they prefer--such as using "as if" instead of "like" or saying "my gaze followed her" as opposed to "my eyes followed her." Pay careful attention to how they want you to do things.

REAL LIFE EXAMPLE: I received a pre-edit checklist in which the publisher wanted me to remove all complex sentences, semi-colons, and em-dashes. I stopped reading at that point and politely declined the contract offer. I refuse to "dumb down" my work for anyone.

I'm not going to lie. It's a lot of work, but in the end when you find that publisher who's just as passionate about your work as you are, it'll all be worth it.

Do you have any tips or stories about your search for a publisher?