Tuesday, October 6, 2015 | By: Jennifer Stinger

Book Review: Officer Next Door (Lock and Key Book 1) by Ranae Rose
























Alright, half naked man on the cover, muscles, and handcuffs. Check! That is certainly one way to get attention and set the tone for what is going to be happening inside the covers, pun totally intended.

The book begins with Alicia watching her neighbor, Liam, in the shower. I'm not sure how close houses need to be in order to see the kind of detail she can make out, but she loves his tattoo!

She's a wedding planner, he's a security guard. The plot is predictable to a point. A couple of prisoners escape and he doesn't want her to stay alone, so he stays with her until she needs to stay with him. Sprinkle in a little supernatural ghost help and...you get the picture.

I haven't read the other two books in the series yet, but they are with his two friends and, conveniently enough, her two friends that had all met during an improvised cookout.

I would have liked a bit of unpredictability to the story to keep it more interesting. Also, when it got really exciting near the end, the writing became confusing and I had to read it a few times to be able to follow where the main character was.

Book Review: Jem by Michelle Abbott





















Good Story, average writing

The story begins with two childhood friends on vacation. When Devon finds out that Jem is being abused at home, he quickly makes her promise not to tell anyone. When she breaks her promise and tells her mother, she calls the Child Protective Service. However, before they can rescue Jem, his father moves them away and the two friends don’t see each other until many years later.

Devon is distrusting of men that have a tendency towards violence and Jem has grown up not knowing any other way. When they do run into each other as adults, one altercation between Jem and a stranger causes Devon to put up her barriers that Jem has to find a way around.

While the plot showed real promise, first person storytelling always presents a challenge, even when switching between the main characters. There were times when the story seemed to drag on and other times when certain things didn’t seem to make much sense, like when Devon didn’t ask him his name until almost the end of the book.

I enjoyed the book and wanted to root more for the characters, I just wish they had been written better. Even the bad guy was a bit over the top for me.

Book Review: Heroes of Chance Creek Series (6 Book Series) By: Cora Seton





I will admit, this series hit on two of my buttons right away. One, it had a half-naked guy on the cover. And two, it has a military theme to it. Well, ok...three buttons, there's a romance story thrown in as well. 

The story begins with four brothers that are given a chance to save their family ranch, but they have to meet a few conditions before a year is up. All four brothers have to get married, one of the wives has to get pregnant, they have to fix up the family home, and they have to stock the ranch.

Sounds easy enough, right? Well, no story can be all rainbows and snowflakes. I really enjoyed the first book and getting the know the oldest Hall brother and his determination to earn back the family ranch and find a suitable wife. As the books went on, it felt like the same recipe (very good recipe, mind you) was used over and over again, just changed for each brother. The same elements remained constant throughout the series. I would have liked to have seen a bit more variety, more of the brothers' personality come through. 

I gave this entire series a four out of five because while there were redundant parts of the story line that were reused, I really did enjoy the overall story and I believe it does have a pretty high re-read value to it. 

**Side Note: there's also a Cowboys of Change Creek Series done by the same author. However, I just haven't been sure if I really want to go to the cowboy side yet.

Sunday, September 20, 2015 | By: Jennifer Stinger

Trust your judgement

When you make the decision to become an Indie Author, you take on some pretty hefty responsibilities when it comes to your novel. For one, you may think that it's more inexpensive and less time consuming than writing all the query letters to try and find an agent. I am telling you right now that you will have to spend countless hours doing your own promotion to help make your novel the success that it can be.

But, that's not what this post is about.

When I first started out, I made the decision to do my own cover design. After all, I am pretty good with PhotoShop and I was confident with my skills. It took a few bits of trial and error to get it tweaked and set up how I liked it. It had elements from my story right there on the cover and, in my mind, was perfect.

Then reality set in. And that harsh reality is that people really do judge a book by its cover.

I found myself even doing it without realizing it. When I browsed the free Kindle books (my weakness is Military Romance Suspense novels, go figure), if there wasn't something on the cover that caught my eye, I didn't even look at the description. It's not fair, I'll be the first to admit it, but it's the truth.

I have been reading a book series lately while I wait for my second book to go through its proofreading stage. I reached out to the one of my new favor authors, Lisa Ladew, and asked her where she had her cover art done. (Be sure to check out the first four books in her Edge of the Heat series that got me hooked here: www.amzn.com/B00Q4YAJL6. If you don't want to commit to four, the first one if free here: www.amzn.com/B00HYEMAFI. Highly recommend!). Being the awesome and helpful person that she is, she told me that her cover art is done by http://www.stunningbookcovers.com. Unfortunately, They aren't taking on new clients at this time, so out into the world of Google and Twitter I went.

I just want to mention that if you aren't using the world of Social Media to its full advantage, you are really missing out. Not only are there other Authors out there that will be happy to answer questions for you and help you out, but it's a fantastic resource.

After some searching and price comparing, I settled on http://ebookindiecovers.com. I was lucky enough to find one of her pre-made covers that fit my needs perfectly. She got back to me quickly and within an hour, I had a new cover for my novel for Kindle. I asked her if she would be able to use one of the models for the series since the second one was coming out, and she was able to quote me the price. I can't tell you how happy I am.

The bottom line is this... while it will save you some money in the short term to do some things yourself, there is no question that having a professional do it for you is worth the money. If you question if you should change something, even a small detail, trust your gut. I had been on the fence for a while on the cover and I'm happy I finally did it. Now, I just wish I had done it sooner. Please see the before and after pictures below.

          Old Cover                                            New Cover

Please feel free to leave me a comment and let me know what you think below.

Happy writing!

~J

Tuesday, September 8, 2015 | By: Jennifer Stinger

Write what you know...or not

Everyone always says to write what you know, what you've experienced, what you've personally gone through. What a load of crap! Granted, I always tend to interject some military, in one form or another, into my stories. But, that's what I like to do. That being said, if you only write what you know, how will you know if that's the only thing you like? 

The short and sweet answer is that you don't.

I want to challenge you to get out there, learn something new. Get outside of your comfort zone, read up on something that you didn't know before and then go and tell someone about it. Find something and become passionate about it. 

What a lot of you don't know, and some of you do, is that I have been a member of the SCA (www.sca.org) for well over a decade now. It's an international society that recreates (NOTE: not reenacts) the medieval period. When I first started, I picked a persona that wasn't for me. I didn't like it, but I went along with it because my now ex-husband was doing it. I then moved on to researching the Mongol culture and really enjoyed it. However, that was suggested to me, 
and still didn't fit me. It wasn't until I found the Ancient Romans and started to look into them, their culture, textiles, and cooking techniques that I was really hooked. I look forward going to events, spending time with my friends and talking about our shared interests, and talking to anyone that wants to listen.

It's similar to that. Find something you like, that something that could spark your interest, and fan that flame. Let it grow and run with it. Don't write the same things over and over again. Find something new and exciting. Share that excitement with your readers.


~J

Sunday, August 9, 2015 | By: Jennifer Stinger

Characters - Let's talk about flaws

Characters, it's what makes your book readable. You have your protagonist and your antagonist. There's your supporting characters and the characters that add a little bit of color here and there. But, what really makes your book *pop*? What really makes your characters relatable? It's their flaws.


What?

That's right. It's their flaws. It's the bits and pieces that make them seem human, a bit more like the reader themselves. I had a friend not too long ago ask me to go over a story idea of his and give him some feedback. It wasn't too bad, but I suggested that he give the three main characters some flaws so that the readers would care more about them, and, therefore, more about the story. His reply back to me was that the one character was arrogant and that was his flaw. Maybe, but I don't see how that would make the readers want to keep reading and get invested for that character. He's since revisited those characters.

Personally, I find it easier to put something of myself in each of the characters that I write for. Maybe it's more helpful that I have a co-author and the way that the two of us play off of each other we never know what the other is going to do so it keeps things more interesting.




The bottom line is this... keep things interesting. No one wants to read about a perfect character that never does anything wrong. Give them something that makes them relatable and it will keep your reader's interest and you won't regret it.

~J
Tuesday, August 4, 2015 | By: Jennifer Stinger

New buzzword, BETA READERS!

What can I say, it's another dirty word: Proofreading.
If you're an Indie Author like me, you are going to try and do as much of the heavy lifting as you can. But, trust me on this, another set of eyes is worth it. Better yet, the more the merrier!
You can read the same thing a hundred, a couple of hundred times, and it will look the same to you. In fact, you know what you are trying to say, so your brain will think it sees the word you are intending to write, but it's not the correct one. After all, who knows your story better than you do? I can't tell you how many times I overlooked "adored" as "adorned". Spell check didn't catch it because it's a correctly spelled word. Shame on me.
That's where we're going to get into our topic of the day: Beta Readers! These can be your friends, your co-workers, your next door neighbors...anyone that you think will give you honest and open feedback about your first draft. Now, you want to do this after you've already run it through spell check a couple a three times. Don't ignore those green squiggly lines either.
Ask your Beta Readers for a few things. After all, these people are getting an advanced look at the next best-selling novel that's going to be out on the market! Ask them to give you feedback on:

  • Storyline: Did it make sense? Did it follow a logical path? Did the reader feel invested?
  • Characters: Did they have a good character arc? Were they relatable? What did they like? What didn't they like?
  • Details: Were there enough? Were there too many? Did you show and not tell?

You will always want honesty over false praise. There is nothing worse than asking someone what they thought and getting, "I liked it." That tells the writer absolutely nothing. You might as well be told that the person didn't even bother to read what you gave them. I would much rather hear about my novel's flaws than hear fake words. After all, if I don't know what's broken, I can't fix it.
~J