July 16, 2018

Book Review: Ashes by Libbi Duncan

Ashes by Libbi Duncan
My Rating: ★★★★

Ashes picks up right where The Scorching left off, continuing Madi’s story. Like in the previous book, Madi is searching for her parents. There is some sort of conflict between the moon and Earth, although I must admit, I have a bad memory for stories, so I forget what the set-up was in the previous book.

I really enjoyed the voice and prose, and like The Scorching, Ashes had some amazing settings and wonderful details.

The first half of the book puts Madi in so much peril, I was at the edge of my seat, furiously flipping—actually tapping since I read this on my Kindle—pages to find out what would happen next. One thing that bothers me about most YA books with a strong female protagonist is that the main character’s friends always follow her plans and ideas no matter how ridiculous they are. It was refreshing to see Madi get push-back from those around her, and them carrying out their own plan instead of hers.

There was one thing near the end that really bugged me, though. Without spoiling anything, there was a serious case of intsa-love between two characters that was really forced. I would have much preferred if one of the characters in that pair hadn’t been in the novel at all.

In all, I really liked the book. Fans of YA dystopian or stories with unique settings would enjoy reading Ashes.

July 9, 2018

Top YouTube Channels for Writers

I don’t really watch that much TV (I’m including Netflix and Hulu in this statement), but I do enjoy consuming tons of YouTube videos. And as a writer, most of my screen time is devoted to following ‘AuthorTube,’ which is shorthand for channels by writers and for writers. Since I’ve moved from searching for tons of writing advice to looking up publishing advice, my list of top YouTube channels has changed.

All of these YouTubers are great, but if you don’t have much time to commit to watching writerly videos, I’d recommend starting at the top of this list.

Alexa Donne

I absolutely love Alexa’s channel. Not only does she post videos on writing, but she also has a ton of great insight into publishing. Since she’s traditionally published, she has experience working with an agent and large publisher. And unlike most authors, she isn’t shy when it comes to topics like money, business, and the realities of being a writer. Most important, though, is that she’s an excellent writer, so her writing advice is sound.

Jenna Moreci

The self-proclaimed cyborg is the queen of AuthorTube. She’s wickedly funny as she shares tips on writing and self-publishing along with bookish unboxings and reviews on author services.

Kim Chance

Kim is such a bubbly and optimistic individual, and her excitement is infectious. She has lots of videos on writing and also vlogs to showcase what it’s like to be an author. My favorites are her coffee talks where she openly chats about deeper subject like making realistic goals and the fear of failure.

Chris Fox

As a full-time writer, Chris absolutely lives what he teaches. He writes both fiction and non-fiction, and the majority of his videos deal with self-publishing. What I like most about his videos is that all of his tips and information are based on personal experience.

Natalia Leigh

Watching Natalia’s videos is like sitting down with a cup of tea to chat with a friend. She’s open about her thoughts and feeling on writing and publishing, sharing each step of her writing journey. One of my pet peeves is incompetent writers who dole out writing advice, so it’s nice to see someone say, “This is my plan and I’ll update you on how it works.”

Megan Tennant

Megan’s channel does have a handful of great writing advice, but most of her content is bookish videos, publishing tips, and indie book features. I love the Savory Stories series, which is a mashup of cooking and books. As a fellow less-than-stellar cook (I’ve burned soup), it’s hilarious watching someone tackle really complicated recipes in the name of literature.

Travis McBee

I really enjoy the format of Travis’s videos--rapid-fire answers to writing questions. Each video is packed with information. He also has a number of adorable animals which are occasionally featured in his videos.

Mandi Lynn

Mandi self-published her first book when she was only 17, and she’s been writing and posting videos ever since. Her videos focus more on the craft of writing, but she also has a few on publishing and marketing.

Gabe (Ava) Jae

Bookish Pixie is a no-nonsense channel of writing advice. They're also traditionally published, which is underrepresented in AuthorTube. Their videos are short and to-the-point, making this channel excellent for binge watching.

July 3, 2018

Today is Release Day for At Fault

While in the middle of drafting a novel—one that I ultimately decided to set aside—I had an idea for another book. Actually, not really an idea for an entire novel, but a character. I’ve met some quirky and interesting grad students/postdocs over the years and wanted to write a story featuring an academic. I started piecing together my protagonist, Dr. Peter Cork. He loves his work, which motivates everything he does, but also overshadows all other aspects of his life.

The themes in this book are particularly close to me because my husband went to grad school and took a postdoc position before settling down. To say those years were hard is an understatement. Although the events in At Fault aren’t inspired by my life, the emotions and uncertainty are.

Once I had my characters, I picked Peter’s discipline along with a town in the middle of nowhere and started writing. I ended up doing a lot of research to get the details on geology, geothermal energy, fracking, and plate tectonics correct. Of course, some of the scientific details are fictitious, but I am a science fiction author, so that’s what I do!

I thoroughly loved putting together At Fault and hope you enjoy reading it just as much! It’s available for purchase in the following formats:

I want to give my sincerest thanks to all of my fans and family who have helped support me through all of my writing endeavors. You’re the ones who’ve made my dream of being an author come true.

June 25, 2018

Indie Authors: Make the Most of an Event

Last weekend was HeroesCon, and I had a great time. I really enjoy going to events to meet fans and sell books in person. Of course, the primary goal of tabling at an event is to make money, but there are a bunch of other benefits that also make it worthwhile. Even though I didn’t quite reach my lofty sales goals for Heroes, I’m still really glad I went.

I’ve done an embarrassing amount of research on setting up an artist table, every aspect of author signings, and even the psychology behind making sales. I’ve also had a chance to apply what I’ve learned and watch what’s worked for other people. So, even if I’m not the ultimate authority, I know a thing or two.

Without further ado, here are my tips for making the most of an event.

Choose the event wisely

It’s impossible to say, “All book festivals are great,” or, “Only big events are worth your time.” Each one will have a different crowd with varying desires to purchase stuff. Do the research ahead of time to see what type of people go to that event and whether or not they’re within your audience. Otherwise, you may end up throwing away money for tables that don’t work out. I had thought that a book festival would be a great place to sell books, but it turned out that most of the people there were locals passing through and had no intentions of purchasing any books.

Something I have observed is that smaller events in smaller towns tend to have more dedicated attendees who take the time to check out every single table. Also, people like supporting local artists.

Just because you’re an artist doesn’t mean you belong in artist alley.

The line between artist and vendor isn’t clear cut. Vendors sell stuff, and artists… sell stuff. The differentiation is made by the event organizer. Artists can only sell things which they created. This limitation usually means a (barely) smaller table fee and a smaller table. This is another thing that can depend on the event, but some attendees may only be interested in purchasing vintage toys and mainstream comic books. That doesn’t mean these focused customers won’t buy an indie book, just that they might skip artist alley altogether and not even see you there.

If the difference in table fee is small, go with the vendor table. You’ll get more foot traffic, meet more people, and (hopefully) make more sales.

Another slightly related note, the table fee doesn’t correspond to how successful you’ll be. Organizers will charge what they think vendors will pay. If the vendor list includes a lot of businesses that attend every year, that’s a good sign. If the sellers present are a new cast each time, that’s bad.

Be approachable

I’ve put a lot of thought into how to be welcoming and approachable. A lot of that is because I spend most of my time with children crawling all over me and not really interacting with other adults, so I’m a bit out of practice. Thankfully, you don’t need to be incredibly attractive for people to want to come over and talk to you.

Wear blue

I know, I thought this was silly when I first heard it too, but it legitimately makes a difference. Blue makes people think you’re trustworthy and competent. Other colors also have strong influences, like red with lust and anger, white with youth and innocence, and black with depression—while also making you disappear into the background.


No one wants to talk to the person frowning in the corner. If you want to interact with people in a positive way, put away the resting bitch face.

Make eye-contact

Not making eye-contact makes you look disinterested or timid. Too much makes you come across as a creep. Find a balance.

Wear a conversation piece

This is just something cool to strike up a conversation. Even better—especially at a comic con—wear a costume. It doesn't have to relate to your books, but certainly helps if it does.

Know what you’re selling

Of course you know what you’re selling, you wrote the damn book. However, there’s nothing quite like having someone ask, “What’s your book about?” when you haven’t prepared an answer. Cue deer in the headlights and a lot of ummms. On the fly, it’s impossible to condense an entire novel into a couple sentences, and you don’t want to simply read the blurb off the back cover aloud.

Prepare a short, medium, and long pitch. For The End of Refuge, my pitch is:

Short: Dystopian.

Medium: A dystopian-style story about a group of people trapped in a bomb shelter.

Long: The End of Refuge is a dystopian-style story that follows a group of people who have been trapped underground in a bomb shelter for over twenty years. As their resources run out, they need to find a way to survive or escape. I was inspired by the Fallout video games when I wrote this book.

I actually flubbed up on pitching my newest novel, At Fault, at HeroesCon. I recently released the paperback and the ebook hasn’t come out yet, so I hadn’t really put together an elevator pitch for it. Because of that, I didn’t sell any copies.

A great book cover will sell your book for you

An eye-catching banner and professional display are important, but it all comes down to the fact that you are an author selling books. Readers who see an attractive book cover will be drawn to your table. The look of the covers will influence which books they ask about and pick up.

Put a book in their hands

There’s nothing quite like the tactile experience of touching a smooth cover, cracking open the book to reveal the deep black ink, and smelling the new-book aroma. Psychology shows that when someone touches something, they’re more likely to buy it, so don’t wait until someone interested picks up your book—place it in their hands.


I love meeting fellow creators. Talking to other artists will give you a feel for the event you’re attending as well as other ones with a similar focus or that are hosted locally. I also enjoy talking shop with other people and learning about their own publishing journeys. Collect as many business cards as you can and follow the people you meet on social media. Although you can meet a bunch of people online, I’ve learned about local events and opportunities from artists I’ve connected with in person.

Agree to do an interview

At every convention I’ve attended, someone has asked for an interview or for me to participate in their podcast. Maybe I’m just being a bit of a narcissist, but I adore doing these. They also provide a link to other creators, and you’ll get exposure to their audience, although it may be small. Having someone interested in your table, especially when they have a microphone or camera, makes other people take interest as well.

I don’t have anything else planned until the fall Four State Comic Con in October, but I’m really looking forward to that one. And by the end of the year, I’m sure I’ll have even more tips to share. Until then, I’ll be focusing on some online marketing and launching my next book.

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