The First Three Chapters

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I was on a writing forum recently and noticed a call for beta readers. Several people responded (saying that yes, they would be willing to read), and the author said something very interesting about their novel. I can’t remember verbatim, but it was something along the lines of: “Well, the first few chapters are kind of boring anyway. It doesn’t get good until the middle.”

*Throws computer through window. Cries real tears.*

As you can imagine, I was shocked. It was my assumption that everyone knew that the first three chapters are the launching pad to any novel, otherwise, agents wouldn’t request them…right?

So many important things happen during the first few chapters! We’re learning who the main character is, what issues are plaguing them, what kind of story we’re getting into, etc., all while building up to something so momentous that the character will never be the same again and will spend most of the novel (the middle) trying to restore order.

But what makes a good first few chapters? Well, I guess that’s subjective. What’s good for you might not be good for me, so just off the top of my head:

  1. An interesting main character. They don’t always need to be likable but if I’m going to spend 300 pages with somebody, they better at least be interesting. What makes a character interesting? Well, their perspective on life. The things that they do or say, the people they surround themselves with (the list can go on).
  2. Good narrative voice (not what is said, but how).
  3. The writer presents a real life problem for the main character that readers will care about. It doesn’t have to be life or death, but the main character should care enough about the problem so that the reader cares. And even better, the character should care enough about the problem to try and (actively) find a solution.
  4. A good supporting cast. Nothing like great secondary characters to make a story pop.
  5. This one’s personal, so if you don’t mind this one just skip it: for me, I hate it when a book starts off too fast. Like when there’s a dead body on the first page and I haven’t spent enough time with the characters to even care about who’s dead. Or, a story that starts off with a car chase, or so much action that I find it hard to ground myself in the story. My personal preference is for a slow build (but not so slow that we’re still moving at a snail’s pace halfway through the story) that leads to a heart pounding climax. Just my preference….

So that’s my two cents. What about others? What kinds of things do you like to see in the first few chapters of a novel? What turns you off?

And to writers: what methods do you employ when writing those first few chapters?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!




Paid Blog Tours…Are They Worth It?

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Lately I’ve seen a few discussions on Goodreads about blog tours, mainly from people looking to start blog tour companies. First off, I think if someone is organized and connected enough, a blog tour company is a great business idea. Especially if that company can provide an impactful service for authors who aren’t connected enough or who just don’t have the time to organize their own blog tour.

But for authors: are paid blog tours worth it? I can tell you from personal experience that my feelings about them are mixed (I had a few of them last year when I released my first novel). I won’t disparage anybody here, but let’s just say that there are blog tour organizers who aren’t able to deliver what they promise and who also don’t have the best followup skills (but that’s a story for another blog post).

What types of things should an author consider when looking at blog tour companies? There are several things that come to mind:

Price. I’ve seen tours range from $50 to $800. What is “reasonable”? Well, I think that depends on an author’s budget, but also consider this: what kind of return are you getting on your investment? If you don’t get at least a few sales during your tour, increased page views, etc., then you might decide that it’s not worth it to book a blog tour for your next release and just roll up your sleeves and do your own marketing.

What’s being offered? I think the main thing that authors want from blog tours is reviews, so how many will you get?

Number of tour stops (The more the better.)

Amount of traffic/page views/comments for participating blogs. I don’t mean to suggest that participating blogs need to have thousands of readers, but if nobody is reading that blog, then you’ve pretty much wasted your money. My personal thoughts? Even if that blog only reaches one person who bought your book, depending on how much you paid for the tour, that might still be worth it: if that person likes your book they will tell their friends, and their friends will tell their friends, and so forth.

Another thing that might help an author decide is the “success” of  a company’s past clients: how many reviews do their books have? If a blog tour promises 5 reviews but the book has zero (or only a couple) reviews, that might be something to consider. Side note: blog tour organizers are normally up front about reviews: they can’t promise that reviewers will post them, but if very few reviews are consistent across the board for their past clients, that says something about their blog tour hosts (and not something good).

Does the blog tour organizer have a decent social media following? If they don’t, then you might want to have a conversation with them about how they are going to reach bloggers and help you spread the word about your book (or pick somebody else).

I think that blog tours are a great way for authors to get exposure for their books. Blog tour companies are good for authors who are short on time but I strongly believe that a well connected author can successfully organize their own blog tours. Heck, even an author who isn’t so connected: all you really have to do is gather a list of bloggers, tell them who you are, don’t be spammy, and pitch them your blog tour idea. I also think that an author should consider what a blog tour company can offer them and weigh that against what they can do for themselves. If there’s not much of a difference, then it might be worth it to save that money you were going to spend on a blog tour and use it towards something else (like towards the cost of a good book cover for your next novel).

What about others? What’s been your experience with paid blog tours? Do you recommend them? Any horror stories? (I hope not!) I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Also, for anybody looking for a blog tour company,  I had a very fun (and from what I could see, successful) blog tour with Chick Lit Plus. The organizer, Samantha March, was by far the most organized and professional blog tour organizer I’ve come across. Her followup skills were impeccable and she let me know what to expect pretty much everyday.

Here’s a couple of other companies I’ve come across in my search that seem to be pretty reputable:

Pump up Your Book. Their prices are waaay out of my range but during my research I discovered that indie author K.L. Brady used them for her debut novel, The Bum Magnet. She eventually ended up getting a traditional book deal (probably not as a direct result of the blog tour, but definitely something to consider).

Fabulosity Reads

Bewitching Blog Tours

As always, before booking a blog tour with anyone, do your research! 

Writing What you Love Vs. Writing What Sells

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When it comes to writing, I generally follow the Toni Morrison rule: “If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

That’s why I write the kind of books that I write: southern paranormal fiction and humorous fiction. I generally write the types of books that I would walk into a bookstore and buy.

But there’s another issue here: actually making a living as a writer.

Before I started my publishing journey I was aware of a few things:

It’s hard out there for an author, especially an independent one, without the marketing muscle of a big time publishing company. There’s no guarantee that the book you spent a year, two years, or even ten years writing will ever make a dime.

But there is a genre that seems to be raking in the cash: erotica. In an article titled “Why Boomer Women Are Hot For Erotica E-Books” author Julio Ojeda-Zapata discusses the convergence of two trends: a rise in e-readers (fans can now read these books with anonymity) and a mainstream acceptance of erotica (the success of books like 50 Shades). In fact, in 2012 romance and erotica books raked in $1.4 billion in sales. The erotica book business seems to be a-boomin’.

I recently came across a blog post where an author was saying that the genre she loves the most doesn’t sell well but her erotica titles sell something like 2,000 copies a week (yes, that’s 8,000 copies a month).

After I read that I said to my husband: “I think I’m going to write erotica under a pen name.” And you know what happened? He laughed at me! I said, “What’s so funny?”

He said, “You don’t even like erotica!”


“I think you should just stick to what you’re doing.”

I have to be honest with you: I have been seriously considering trying my hand at erotica (under some sexy pen name like Veronica Sizzle) just to see what happens, but you know what? My husband is probably right: I should probably just stick to what I’m doing because a book written without passion is sort of, well…meh. And the last thing I want to do is get outed by TMZ for writing subpar erotica. No, ma’am!

So I guess I’ll just stick to writing what I love and do like all the other authors who came before me: read as much as I can, hone my craft, and hope that with a little dedication and persistence, my writing career will eventually take off.

But it is very tempting to try and write the trend in expectation of getting a huge pay day. Very! So if you ever see a book by Veronica Sizzle, just don’t judge me, okay?

What about all of you? What genres are you writing in? Do you think about book sales when you write? Does what you write just so happen to fall into a genre that’s hot right now?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!





Does Color Matter?

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Recently I came across a blog post by author Kenya Wright titled “To have a Black Woman on the Cover or Not….

In the post, Wright talks about making the decision to put a black woman on the cover of her novel, Fire Baptized. She says she got advice from people telling her that if she took the black girl off the cover she would get a bigger audience.

That really got me thinking! As most of you probably know (based on the picture of yours truly here on this blog…), I am (big revelation here) black, as are many of my characters because…well, my family is also black and most of my characters are (sorry, mom!) based on them. And the thought of someone making the decision to not buy one of my books because it featured a black woman on the front? #faceplants.

Wright also says: “…This is what many publishers and authors wonder when their heroine is ethnic. They battle with if readers are really going to purchase a cover with a black woman on it or not.”

I heard about this issue a few years ago when the US cover for Justine Larbalestier’sLiar” appeared. The novel features a black protagonist but there was a white character featured on the cover. The publisher eventually changed the cover—perhaps because it stirred such a huge debate.

Larbalestier vents her frustrations in a blog post titled “Ain’t That a Shame.” You can see the original cover (and read the post in its entirety here). But here is some of what she says:

Every year at every publishing house, intentionally and unintentionally, there are white-washed covers. Since I’ve told publishing friends how upset I am with my Liar cover, I have been hearing anecdotes from every single house about how hard it is to push through covers with people of colour on them. Editors have told me that their sales departments say black covers don’t sell. Sales reps have told me that many of their accounts won’t take books with black covers. Booksellers have told me that they can’t give away YAs with black covers. Authors have told me that their books with black covers are frequently not shelved in the same part of the library as other YA—they’re exiled to the Urban Fiction section—and many bookshops simply don’t stock them at all. How welcome is a black teen going to feel in the YA section when all the covers are white? Why would she pick up Liar when it has a cover that so explicitly excludes her?

The notion that “black books” don’t sell is pervasive at every level of publishing. Yet I have found few examples of books with a person of colour on the cover that have had the full weight of a publishing house behind them. Until that happens more often we can’t know if it’s true that white people won’t buy books about people of colour. All we can say is that poorly publicised books with “black covers” don’t sell. The same is usually true of poorly publicised books with “white covers.”

Are the big publishing houses really only in the business of selling books to white people?

What say you, folks? Do you buy books with people of color featured on the front? Do you agree that “black covers don’t sell?” Does color matter? Is this something you’ve ever even considered before???

And to authors of color: what’s been your experience?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!


Interview with Horror Writer Latashia Figueroa

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When I heard that author Latashia Figueroa was releasing a collection of short stories, I knew I had to read it. I grew up reading a lot of paranormal fiction as a child (R.L. Stine and Christopher Pike), so I knew that her short story collection, This Way Darkness: Three Tales of Terror, was right up my alley. And it does not disappoint!

Latashia was gracious enough to answer some questions about her recent release and writing process. I hope you enjoy it! Be sure to add This Way Darkness: Three Tales of Terror to your Goodreads shelf.  And when you grab your copy remember: leave the lights on!



Wrapped in Small Flesh and Bone: 
Robert and Linda desperately want a child but are unable to conceive. Linda will do anything to get pregnant. Robert’s love for his wife brings them to an unconventional decision. They put the miracle of making a baby in the hands of a witch. 

The Alternative: 
After her mother dies from cancer, Lorna Powel realizes she does not just fear death, she hates it. But there is someone who understands Lorna’s disdain for her fragile mortality. He knows because he has been watching her for a long time, waiting in the shadows to offer an alternative to death. 

The Retreat: 
Brad Levee has joined eleven others on a life-changing spiritual retreat that was promised to bring them closer to God. But the charismatic leader, Aleister, has a different plan for his followers that will shed blood. And Aleister isn’t the only one Brad should fear.


1. Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Well, I am very imaginative and I hope that shows in my writing. I worked in the fashion industry for over ten years and then I decided to pursue my writing. I am a thrill seeker (love heights – give me a roller coaster any day of the week), and I am a big music lover.

2. How does your upbringing influence your writing?

You know my mom was the one who encouraged me to write as a child. She worked pretty long hours but I remember leaving my tattered notebook on her nightstand and in the morning she would ask me questions about the story, with enthusiasm. “Keep writing.” She would say. In middle school I did a book report on Stephen King’s book Pet Sematary. I got an “A” and the teacher was impressed. My mom again encouraged me to read what I liked. So, I read books by Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe, Dean Koontz. She didn’t think it was strange that I liked all those dark stories; she just encouraged me all the way. And she still does.

3. Tell us about your latest book and how it came about.

This Way Darkness is a collection of short stories. But what you don’t know is that two of those stories are prequels to upcoming novellas. I started writing “The Retreat” two years ago and it was supposed to be a novel. I got sidetracked with another project. When I went back to writing “The Retreat” I couldn’t focus on the characters. So I stepped away and said, Okay, if you’re going to write these stories, start off small and see where they take you.

4. I am particularly interested in “Wrapped in Small Flesh and Bone.” It’s my favorite story in the collection and I was really intrigued by Rose’s back story and how she came to be, and also, what happens to little Jenny. Is this something that you’re going to explore in another story?

I get that a lot. “Wrapped in Small Flesh and Bone” seems to be a favorite for a lot of readers so far. I’m glad because this is one of the prequels I spoke about. It was fun to write. I plotted the entire story in my head in one day.

Once I began to write the story I couldn’t stop. Rose’s character should have a back story and I am planning something with her character. But right now I am writing about Jenny. What happens to little Jenny, or a better question, what happens to the next unsuspecting person she comes in contact with? Hmm, we shall see.

5. What was your favorite story in your collection and why?

If I had to pick a favorite I would have to say “Wrapped in Small Flesh and Bone.” Creepy kids always makes a good horror book or movie in my opinion.

6. What are your main influences?

I think inspiration can come from something as simple as a quiet house on the street or a little girl riding her tricycle, or a particular music piece. I think writers pay more attention to the details of everyday life. And we should. There’s plenty out there to inspire us.

7. There seems to be a religious thread in your writing. Can you tell us about that?

My beliefs definitely play a big part in my writing. This Way Darkness is really about the choices we make and their consequences. In “Wrapped in Small Flesh and Bone” for example, the protagonist Robert clearly knows that there will be consequences to his actions. He’s anticipating from the beginning and in the end his worse fears are realized. We hear that little voice telling us “No, don’t,” all the time. And we ignore it. We want what we want. Sometimes the very thing we are reaching for can do us more harm than we ever imagine.

8.What are you working on now and when can we anticipate your next project?

I am working on two projects right now. One of them is the follow up to “Wrapped in Small Flesh and Bone.” I’m hoping to have it done by this fall.

9.Do you write in other genres?

I write what I love to read and that is Horror, Paranormal and Thrillers. I do like mysteries as well. At this point I cannot see myself writing a romance novel, unless I throw in a few demon-possessed lovers.

10.Most of us are trying to juggle full time jobs, family, writing, and marketing ourselves. How do you manage to find a balance?

Yes, especially since marketing is a full time job. You just have to set aside a few hours a day; even if it is just one hour. If not, your writing suffers. You become bitter, disillusioned and before you know it you’ve closed your laptop and broke all your pencils. If you really love to write, you have no choice but to write, and you will find a way to make time.

11. What’s something that people would be surprised to know about you?

I have a great sense of humor. I can be very silly. I think when you tell people you write horror they’re expecting a certain presence. I love to laugh, have fun. I like being around people and enjoy company. Just don’t piss me off or I’ll chop off your head and throw it in the woods. Well, not really. But I’ll put you in one of my books and have one of my characters do it for me.
Thanks for the interview, Quanie! Here’s to you and much success.

Author Bio:

As a chmy bio pic 3ild, Latashia was told the house she lived in was haunted. Perhaps that is the reason the dark and macabre, the strange and unknown captivates her mind and often refuses to release. Since those malevolent little thoughts constantly haunt her, she has decided to explore them. And although her stories may be disturbing, Latashia assures she is perfectly normal. Her husband disagrees.

This Way Darkness is Latashia’s debut short story collection.
She is currently working on a novella.

Beyond writing, Latashia loves the arts, is a self-proclaimed wine snob and is obsessed with roller coasters. She lives on the east coast with her very supportive husband.

Learn more about Latashia Figueroa on her blog

Connect with Latashia online!

Calling All Critiques: Final Wrap-Up

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The first Calling All Critiques event was a success!

On behalf of all the bloggers, I want to thank all entrants and participants for taking time out of your busy schedules to take part. We hope you enjoyed it and perhaps learned something along the way. Got any suggestions on how to make the next event a success? Leave them in the comments!

Third Week Visiting Winner

The third week’s visiting winner who either commented or followed one of the participating bloggers on Twitter is:


Simon Clark


You’ll receive an email soon. You have until Thursday to respond with further information for us to send you your prize. If we don’t hear from you by then, a runner-up will be chosen.

One more shout out to the bloggers!

Don’t forget to give some thanks to all our participating blogs and bloggers:

Again, thank you!

Book Trailers: Yay or Nay?

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Today I’m talking about book trailers! And as part of Calling All Critiques I’m also sharing the query letter from Dawn Allen’s Adult ThrillerThe Drought of Sam Dakota. If you have some time, stop by and leave your feedback!


I’ve been thinking of doing a book trailer for my upcoming novel but I’m conflicted about it.  I guess my main concern is this: are book trailers an effective marketing tool for books?

I think about the way I discover books. I may hear about a book through a friend, stumble upon it online (Amazon or Goodreads), but these days, I’m looking a lot at books by indie authors that I meet online. Even with ebooks, I do the same thing I would do at the library: read the blurb. If that catches my attention, I read the first paragraph or so. Generally, that’s how I make my decision about which books I’m going to buy. I don’t even necessarily read reviews because a lot of books I’ve read with great reviews have left me feeling cold.

I’ve seen some stellar book trailers, but in all honesty, none of them have persuaded me to actually buy a book. That’s why I hesitate when it comes to paying someone to create one for me. I’ve seen them range in price from $5 (yes, $5! And you know what they say: you get what you pay for) all the way to $1500 (yikes! $1500!). But I’ve been wondering: if there’s a tiny fraction of readers who are moved by book trailers then maybe I should go ahead and do one? But I have to be honest, guys. If I do decide to go the book trailer route, I’ll probably go ahead and do it myself because the thought of shelling out $400 for a book trailer just runs up my blood pressure.

So what about all of you? Readers: do book trailers play a part in your decision to buy a book? Do you even watch them? And to authors: do you find that book trailers have been an effective marketing tool?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Also, if you’re shopping around for a book trailer, here are a few book trailer companies I found online. They all seem reasonably priced and reputable. Prices range from $75 – $400. As always, check for reviews.

Erin Kelly Editing & Design 

Nifty Book Trailers

Forward Authority Design Services


Calling All Critiques: Query Letter/Book Blurb – Entry #2

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It’s the third week of Calling All Critiques (man, that went by fast!) and today we’re looking at blurbs and queries! I actually think book blurbs and queries are tough to write so I’m looking forward to seeing some of the feedback this week and learning a few tricks.

And don’t forget about our giveaway! One lucky person will win a $10 Amazon gift card, an eCopy of Guarding Angel by S.L. Saboviec and an eCopy of It Ain’t Easy Being Jazzy by yours truly.

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Entry #2

Author: Dawn Allen
 The Drought of Sam Dakota
Genre: Adult Thriller

After the horrors Sam witnesses as a child advocate, he never expected four words to be what keeps him up at night. “I have your son.” When Danny vanishes, the chances of finding out who took him slowly dwindle with every dead end. Faced with changing theories and dwindling police interest, Sam makes the tough decision to hire Rami Amato, an unconventional P.I. with an aversion to “kid cases.” Amato uncovers more than a kidnapping. He uncovers conspiracy and betrayal, Sam never could  have imagined.

Then the second note arrives. “Thank you for your contribution. I always wanted a boy.” Each note depicts further the horrors being exacted on Sam’s son, there’s nothing authorities can do. The ongoing nightmare consumes his life as the kidnapper starts a clock, counting down to Danny’s death. Amato’s last kidnapping case ended badly; he refuses to let another end like that. Besides, it’s clear Sam won’t survive that final letter. Everyone’s time is running out.

There’s More!

After leaving your comments, you can head over to one or more of these blogs to see some more great entries:

Proof Positive

Official Blog of Brian Basham

MM Jaye Writes

Magic & Mayhem Book Reviews

Before Ink Dries


Calling All Critiques: Submit Your Query Letter or Book Blurb Now

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Starting now, Calling All Critiques is accepting entries for your query letter or book blurb.

How to Enter

Submit your entry to Cut and paste the following template into your email and fill it in.

Your name/pseudonym:
Your website (optional):

Genre (include audience, such as YA/Adult, and category):

We’ve not assigned a limit to number of words in your entry.

Acceptance of entries closes on Monday, June 9, at 8 p.m. EDT.

More Details

Questions? Check out some of the earlier blog posts or leave a comment below:

After You Submit…

After you submit, check out all the participating blogs and bloggers:

Thanks for being part of Calling All Critiques!

Edge of Truth Book Birthday Celebration!

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EoT_Ebook_FinalEdge of Truth (YA Dystopian) is officially 1-year old today!

In celebration, Natasha Hanova is hosting a big giveaway with book contributions from multiple authors. Since June 6, 2013, Edge of Truth has landed a spot on Amazon’s Teen & Young Adult Science Fiction and Dystopian Top 100 List, earned an average review rating of 4+ stars, got facelift a.k.a. new cover, and now has bonus content.

Please be sure to enter the Rafflecopter contest for a chance to win chocolate, an Amazon Gift card, or free books.

First, enjoy a short excerpt of one of my favorite scenes. Rena and Nevan have escaped from the bad guys and have set up a hidden camp inside a cave made from a stone with diamond-like qualities.


“You’re divided,” Nevan said.

“What?” Rena asked.

“Your face.” He lightly touched her hairline, traced a path down her forehead, between her eyebrows, across the bridge of her nose, and paused slightly at her lips then continued to the tip of her chin. “Divided between shadow and light.”

“Oh.” Sweet Mother… Warmth blossomed from the tingling line down the middle of her face and swept through her body. Her breath escaped in a soft moan, which she hoped the crackling sound of the fire covered.

“Rena?” Firelight danced across his face. His bi-colored eyes drank it in, more radiant than the sparkling stone. He was too beautiful to look at, and the only thing she ever wanted to see.


“Remember the other day, at that club in the Underground?” he said in a low voice.

His strong arms wrapped around her. His soft lips pressed against hers. The delicious taste of his mouth. Heat pooled in her stomach. She hoped the shadows hid her blush. “How could I forget?”

“There’s something I need to tell you.” He sounded too serious.

A cold wave rolled over her, dousing the flames inside her with an almost audible fizzle. “Uh-huh?”

“I don’t know where to start.” He peered over her shoulder at Blaze who snored softly. “And this might not be the best time or place, but I really need to get this out.”

“What is it about?” She wasn’t sure she really wanted to know. Her tongue swelled, making it difficult to swallow. She parted her lips slightly and sipped small breaths.

“Us,” he whispered. He was quiet for a moment, a long, impossible moment.


About the Author

NatashaHanovaNatasha Hanova is an award-winning author of young adult and adult dark fantasy/paranormal fiction. Edge of Truth (June 2013) is her debut novel. Her short stories appear in multiple anthologies. She loves nibbling Peanut M&Ms while reading paranormal, dark fantasy, and/or dystopian books with heavy doses of romance. She lives in the Midwest with her husband and children. Find her blog at


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