Monday, June 30, 2014

Marketing Mondays: Using Social Media Effectively Without Getting Overwhelmed

Welcome back to Marketing Mondays! So far we've covered Author Brands and that big old social media giant called Facebook. Today I'd like to move beyond Facebook to discover every other version of social media there is. 
Image from business2community
Brace yourselves--there are enough social media platforms out there to eat up your entire day if you let them. But we aren't going to let them! I'm going to share my experiences with each one, and then talk about how to use them without getting overwhelmed. And for the record, we're not going to be looking at every form of social media. There are way too many (and if you don't believe me, check out this list on Wikipedia) for me to try each one. 

You've most likely heard of this one. And if you aren't very active in the social media world, then you might have gone running and screaming from the fast moving feed and 140 character limit. I sure did. I would only get on Twitter when I had something short to say, like announcing something to do with my books or a link to a blog post or something. 

I've recently changed my tune with Twitter, and I'm glad I did. This is a great place to hang out with other writers. Oh, and celebs are funny. It's a great place to get involved in writing sprints and literature chats. I've been involved with #NALitChat on Thursday nights for a while now, and it's been a great resource and a great way to build connections. The 140 character limit can be a pain, but once you get the hang on Twitter speak, it isn't that bad. 

Google Plus started off pretty weak, and most people didn't see much of a point to it (myself included). 
Not exactly accurate anymore, but still funny.
Image from tech.digesttouch
But it is quickly growing into one of the better social media platforms, especially with the new addition of Communities. Communities allow you to join up with other groups of people who have common interests, like fans of a particular television show or book clubs. 

There are also some major perks to posting on Google+ that have to do with search engines, but I'm not entirely sure I understand it all. I do know that if you have me in your circles and search for something I've recently posted about (like Boy Meets World) in Google, my post will show up in your search results. That's pretty cool! 

My experience on Tumblr is very limited, but can be summed up to this:
Image from Erin
Fangirls! Fangirls everywhere! Which means I fit in all too well. It's not a site I visit often, and not just because I can seriously waste a lot of time there. And I'm not even a Supernatural fan (but pretty sure everyone who is a fan of the show hangs out there). There are memes, gifs, videos...You can create a page about your books and post stuff there, or just join with other fans to post fun stuff about your favorite fandoms. It's fun!

Talk about a place where you can get lost for hours...Pinterest is definitely a site you have to be careful with. If you like DIY stuff, baking, fashion, or ANYTHING at all, you can spend lots of time on Pinterest. It's not exactly a place I've found to be very social, but it is a great place to find things you are interested in and...pin them. It's also a useful tool for authors to create boards about their books. I've got one for character inspirations ("casting" actors), scene inspirations, and even a board that was "created" by the main character Madeline in my book Altar of Reality. This is a great way for readers to further connect with your books. 

YouTube didn't used to be a form of social media in my book, but with all the vlogging going on, it has to be included. I might even give vlogging a shot myself at some point. YouTube has beyond making fan music videos (guilty) to reviewing books, movies, and TV show episodes. Like this brilliant fan reaction moment to a certain Oliver and Felicity moment from the season 2 finale: 
People can comment on YouTube videos, which creates the social part of social media. And as you can tell from the options I mentioned above, you can do creative things with your channel beyond vlogs. I created a playlist for each of my book series with music videos from the soundtracks, and I also have my book trailer up on there.

If you are an author, you need to at least establish a presence on Goodreads. You can get involved with the groups there, which can get your book more visibility and more reviews. The groups are essentially book clubs in the form of message boards. There are Read It and Review It programs in a lot of them, where authors offer up free copies of their books for members to review. Similarly, book groups choose books to read and review each month as a group, which opens up a lot of discussions. I've seen Q&A's from authors too, though I've never done one. I've offered up Heirs of War for Read It & Review It programs with mixed experience, but I think they are worth a try. 

Image from MuddyWall
I know Goodreads has a bit of a reputation for being the place where bullies or flamers hang out, but I think you risk that with any form of social media. And as long as you have a strict "Don't feed the trolls" policy, you'll probably be okay. I've had random one star or three star ratings for a book that hasn't even come out yet, but I just ignore it.

I've already discussed my Wattpad experience, so I won't go into heavy detail with it here. But I can tell you that I think this is the absolute best social media platform for authors to connect with readers. You post chapters from your books and readers, well, read them, of course. But there's more to it than that. They can post comments, giving you their thoughts on what you wrote or even specific lines that they can highlight. If they follow you, you can post updates to your profile letting them know what is going on. I use mine to let my followers know about things like Facebook parties and giveaways. Oh, and you can also link your profile to your Twitter and Facebook accounts so that whatever updates you post on Wattpad are posted on there as well.

Instagram and LinkedIn are two other popular social media sites, but I'm not involved with either one. As I understand it, LinkedIn is more of a business connections sort of place. Instagram is all about pictures (I think) but I've heard you can post things like memes there too instead of just tons of selfies and pictures of your food. People can like and comment on your photos, which makes it a bit more than just pictures. And again, you can link your Instagram to Twitter (possibly Facebook? I dunno). Now that I am doing things like book signings (EGAD), I think I'll hop on Instagram as well. 

How To Balance Them All
You might think that as a writer, you need to use every form of social media to promote your books and build your author platform. 
Image from business2community
But you really don't. My solution is simple, really. Pick the ones that work for you. I don't get on Tumblr or Goodreads a lot. I'm trying to spend more time on Google+ but it's not an every day thing. I use Pinterest and YouTube when I have a purpose. And I balance that out by spending way too much time on Twitter and Facebook. 

The biggest thing to keep in mind with social media is not to let it get out of hand. Don't spam, and remember that the kind of posts you make are important. Content is key. Your followers don't need to know every time you go to the gym or what your every meal is, but they should probably know a bit more about you than "I has book." If you are writing more words for social media than your books, you should probably rectify that.

With the possible exception of blogging, which is what we will talk about next Monday! 

My Writing Process Blog Hop

I've been talking a lot about marketing lately, but James Wymore has given me a great excuse to veer off topic and talk about something else: My writing process. He's invited me to take part in the #MyWritingProcess blog hop, where writers from all walks are joining the conversation and passing it along. So what's the deal? Here's the overview:

"We writers share these things, but informally during workshops and at conferences (and, for a handful of established writers, in printed interviews), but not so much through our open-forum blogs. With the hashtag #MyWritingProcess, you can learn how writers all over the world answer the same four questions. How long it takes one to write a novel, why romance is a fitting genre for another, how one’s playlist grows as the draft grows, why one’s poems are often sparked by distress over news headlines or oddball facts learned on Facebook…"

So let's get to the questions!
Question 1) What am I working on?
I could write a whole blog post about what I'm working on right now. Short answer: Probably too much. I've been editing Heirs of War, Crown of Flames (Heirs of War series #2), Altar of Reality (Shifted Realities series #1), and my short story "The Austenation" for The Borderlands anthology. I've also been working on some deleted scenes for the Heirs of War series, and writing the second book in the Shifted Realities series. Oh, and I started working on a superhero serial that will be available on Wattpad. Eventually.

Question 2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Hmm...I don't really know how to answer that. Generally speaking, I don't figure out what the genre is until after I'm done writing it. I'd say Heirs of War differs from other books in the fantasy genre because I write a lot of characters in a younger voice. It's not all that uncommon to find a fantasy book loaded with characters and character POVs (Terry Goodkind, Robert Jordan, George RR Martin, etc) but even if those books have young characters, the book is still typically very adult and a much more detailed and heavier narrative voice (in my opinion). Heirs of War has five main characters and lots LOTS of minor characters that are still pretty big players, but I don't think my narrative style is like the fantasy bigwigs I mentioned. It's much lighter and probably more young adult/new adult than adult. If that even makes sense. I swear that it does in my head. =) 

As for Altar of Reality, I can only say that I haven't stumbled upon any sci-fi dystopians that deal with two worlds at the same time. If you have, then let me know. I'd love to be able to answer the question "What books are similar to yours?" that authors are asked All. The. Time.

Question 3) Why do I write what I do?
Characters. It all starts with characters and an overall situation that they are in, or the relationships around them. Heirs of War started off with the idea of five girls who are related to each other and almost like sisters discovering they have magical powers and are meant to save worlds they know nothing about. Since then, I've discovered that the prophecy part really doesn't even matter, which is kinda cool. It's not as much of a driving force. Altar of Reality started off with the idea of what happens to this teenage girl when she has seizures. Where does she go? What does she feel, even if she remembers nothing of it? The question of where she goes brought on the idea of flipping between realities. So I guess I start off discovering characters who have a story to tell, and that's why I write it: to tell their story.

Question 4) How does my writing process work?
Image from Zazzle.com

Pretty much this ^. I get up, I sit at my desk, check Facebook the news with my coffee, and then when I am sufficiently caffeinated, I shut the door, turn some music on, and get to work. I'm a pantser, but I do work off an outline that I tend to stray a lot from as the story goes on. I write linearly, so that can mean spending a lot of time on a scene if it isn't flowing right. And I just keep going until it is done. =) My characters tend to surprise me a lot, so sometimes that means going back and adjusting scenes to work within the new developments my characters tell me about, but I don't really edit until the first draft is done. If I'm stuck, I'll sit back and think about what is going on while listening to the playlist I have for that book or series, or I'll discuss it with my friends or husband. But the basics is just what the sticker says. Plus caffeine. ;)

I passed this along to Leigh Statham, whose Wattpad sensation Daughter4254 has been matched and then some by its sequel. Look for her upcoming Young Adult Steampunk novel The Perilous Journey of the Not-So-Innocuous Girl from Month9. You can find her on Twitter and find out what her writing process is next week on her blog

Sunday, June 29, 2014

My Personal Fitness Challenge: Week 3 Summary

QUICK REVIEW: Okay, so technically this is week 4, but I skipped last week because I was sick and being a complete wuss about it (Read: There were times I felt okay enough to go to the gym, but decided to stay home and binge watch TV instead).
Image from MediaCache
But we're calling it week 3 since I'm actually working out this week. Once again, my week started off strong. My husband went with me to the gym, so that was a big help. So let's see if this week helps to get me into better habits.

DAY 6: JUNE 23rd
Cardio: 15 minutes on the elliptical/stair stepper hybrid thingy (one day I will learn this equipment's name) at 5 resistance and 5 cross ramp for a total of 1.21 miles. No real improvement, but after a week off, I didn't expect it.

Strength training: Pretty strong start to the week. I did a full body because I'm finding I like that better. But I did more arms than legs. Here's what I did:
Leg extensions 3x12 60lbs
Dumbbell side bends 3x12 15lbs
Leg curls 3x12 80lbs
Bent over triceps extension 3x12 5lbs
Dumbbell rear delt row 3x12 5lbs
Bicep curls 3x12 5lbs
Dumbbell squats 3x12 10lbs
Leg press 3x12 100lbs
Calf raises 3x12 100lbs
Standing chest flies 3x10 5lbs
Dumbbell front raise 3x10 5lbs
Dumbbell lateral raise 3x10 5lbs

Summary: Feeling pretty good about the workout, and glad I had a partner with me. =)

DAY 7: JUNE 25th
Cardio: 15 minutes on the elliptical stepper thing at 5 resistance and 1 cross ramp for a total of 1.21 miles. 

Strength training: Not a bad ass day, but not a bad day either:
Leg press 4x12 100lbs
Dumbbell side bends 4x12 15lbs
Calf raises 4x12 100lbs
Bent over triceps extension 4x12 5lbs
Dumbbell rear delt row 4x12 5lbs
Bicep curls 4x12 5lbs
Triceps extension 4x12 15lbs
Lat pulls downs 4x12 40lbs
Bent knee leg raises 3x10

Summary: I was pretty sore the next day, so not a bad work out.

DAY 8: JUNE 27th
Swim day! Or doggy paddle, as is the case with me. Hey, it counts. Right?

DAY 9: JUNE 28th
Cardio: 20 minutes on the ellipti-stair at 5 resistance and 5 cross ramp for a total of 1.6 miles. A bit slow since I was reading a book at the same time. Also, a bit motion sick from trying to read a book on my phone while bouncing for 20 minutes. Lesson learned. 

Strength training:
Leg press 4x12 100lbs
Dumbbell side bends 4x12 15lbs
Triceps extension 4x12 15lbs
Calf raises 4x12 100lbs
Bent over triceps extension 3x12 5lbs
Dumbbell rear delt row 3x12 5lbs
Decline sit ups 3x10 10lbs
Lat pulls downs 3x12 40lbs
Squats 3x10
Side lunges 3x10

Summary: I cut this workout short when other people invaded the gym came in to workout as well.
Image from She's Losing It
I finished up with some lunges and squats at home, so not a total loss. But it's been a minute since I've done leg extensions and leg curls. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Feature Friday: Review of Whispering Peak by Alyssa Cooper

This week, I got my hands on Whispering Peak, by Alyssa Cooper. It is definitely on the must-read list! This book will keep you so engrossed that you will swear only an hour of your day has gone by after you're done with it. I'm looking forward to reviewing The Motel Room by Alyssa soon, and to see what else she has in store!

Martha and her brother were born in the Outlands. They have only heard stories of Invictus, the grand capital city; they have never seen it for themselves. But when their general is taken hostage, Martha and Asher have no choice but to make their way through the monumental steel gates that enclose the city, and bring him home.

In their valiant and misguided rescue attempt, the pair will come to learn that the darkest of Invictus City's secrets - underground prisons, mutated monsters, psychotropic brainwashing - have been kept hidden behind the wall.

There, they will face the horrors that they never knew existed.

A lifelong lover of literature, Alyssa Cooper was first published at the age of eighteen. Her passion for the written word started early, and as a child she would carry her mother's novels as part of her wardrobe. She has dedicated her life to developing her voice and pushing the limits of her craft. She is the author of three traditionally published books, Salvation, Benjamin, and Cold Breath of Life. The Motel Room and Whispering Peak are her first foray into independent publishing. She currently resides in Belleville, Ontario, where she lives with her typewriters and a personal library.

Five out of Five Stargates: Out of this world!

Whispering Peak by Alyssa Cooper
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Loved it! This book follows the journey of Martha and her younger brother Asher as they make their way out of Whispering Peak and to the ominous town of Invictus. Their journey is full of suspense and danger as they are constantly under watch and have to fend off threats from outside the city gates. The relationship between the two siblings is endearing and only adds to the intrigue of their situation. Martha is obviously very protective of Asher, and he is very much so a six year old child scared of things going bump in the night--let alone finding out what those things are. So for Martha to take him from Whispering Peak to Invictus even knowing the dangers along the way and once we get there really makes you wonder what it is they have left behind, and why it is so important that they get there. Their journey is a page turner, beautifully written, and is heartbreaking in its own right as we see the two forced to grow up in the blink of an eye. As they take their last steps toward the Invictus gates, we know they will never be the same.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Teaser Tuesday: Pangaea: Edens Planet by Tom Johnson

Pangaea: Eden’s Planet
Tom Johnson   
Genre: Science Fiction/Survival

Date of Publication: June 18, 2014

ISBN -13: 978-1497340749
ISBN-10: 1497340748
Number of pages: 100
Word Count: 50,000

Cover Artist: Jared from Off the Wall Creations

Book Description:

Seven astronauts en route to Mars encounter a time warp in space that disables their ship. Crash landing on Earth, they discover an alien planet sixty million years before the dinosaurs.

Pangaea, the super continent, is filled with danger and terror, as they must survive against fierce reptiles that ruled the Earth 250 million years in the past!

Just as they thought they had reached the safety of the desert a giant Gorgon, fully twelve feet in length came out of nowhere, its long saber tooth-like tusks reaching for them. The colonel and Cooper had already holstered their guns in order to run unhampered, and the creature was upon them before either could draw their weapon.
Manning smiled. “Everyone has a purpose.”
Without hesitation, he stepped between the monster and his shipmates …

About the Author:

As a twenty-year military veteran, I served on the Korean DMZ under fire, as well as in Vietnam. I have a law enforcement background. My studies of paleontology and entomology have been an influence in many of my novels.

My wife and I started the publishing imprint of FADING SHADOWS in 1982, and published a hobby magazine and several genre magazines for 22 years, before I settled into writing my own novels.

I have now been published in over 80 books, which include fiction novels and short stories, as well as nonfiction books. I write SF, YA, Western, and Action novels.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Marketing Mondays: Connecting to Readers on Facebook

I've already talked about Wattpad and Author Brands as a marketing tools, but now it is time to talk about the massive giant of social media that is Facebook. Let's talk about the good, the bad, and the downright ugly parts of Facebook pages and profiles as an author.

The first and most obvious perk of Facebook is how it allows us to stay connected to our friends, family, and our readers, all without ever having to put any pants on leave the house.
Image from WiffleGif
But when you are using Facebook as a marketing tool, it gets a little tricky to navigate those murky waters. Most of the tips and tricks of the trade on social media have stated that you should have a fan page separate from your Facebook profile for a number of reasons. Let's go over a few:
  1. Facebook does have a cap on how many friends you can have, but there is no limit on how many people can like your page.
  2. You don't necessarily want to share every aspect of your life with complete strangers. 
  3. You want one place for people to be able to go on Facebook to find out about you as an author.
  4. You can advertise your products on your page, but not your profile.
All of these reasons are still relevant. There are ways around them, which I'll get into in a minute. But what is the deal with fan pages, and why can you never see what they post anymore?
  1. With Facebook's new algorithms, it is harder and harder to get your posts seen. What does that mean? It means that if you have 500 followers, your posts might only reach 5. It isn't impossible to be seen (check out this great post on how to improve your page), and it does keep those annoying people who post every five minutes out of your feed, but it has made things significantly harder. 
  2. If you want your posts seen, more people have to like it or comment on it. So if your post reaches only 5 followers who aren't very active on Facebook, or liked you because of some Rafflecopter contest and really have no idea who you are and nothing to say to you, then your only other option for visibility is paying to boost it. And who wants to do that when your post might just be reaching out to your followers to see how their day was?
  3. Photos and videos are more likely to be seen than links or text posts. Don't believe me? Check out this post on Facebook statistics on fan pages. Again, not necessarily a bad thing. But if you are trying to post a link to a blog post you just wrote about social media (*ahem*) then it probably isn't going to be seen by many. Google+ will love it, but we'll get into that later. 
Basically, there are flaws with using either your Facebook profile or you fan page to engage readers. That being said, it still is a GREAT way to engage readers. Let's talk about the pros and cons I've already pointed out. 

Facebook has a cap on how many friends you can have.
Since Facebook now allows people to subscribe to your page, this isn't an issue anymore. As far as I know, there isn't a cap on subscribers, and you should still be able to adjust your privacy settings to where friends can see certain posts (like ones of your family) and specify which specific posts you want the public to see--like ones about your books or general activities. Which brings us to...

You can still have a Facebook profile and have privacy. And you don't have to have two profiles to do it. I can tell you from experience that it isn't worth the hassle to have two Facebooks, and let's not forget that Facebook actually frowns on that kinda thing. Last time I checked, you can get banned for it. Not sure how you would get busted, but still. Not worth it anyway. You can adjust your privacy settings on your profile to keep your personal data and photos safe while still being able to share content with the world. The easiest way to do this is to adjust your privacy settings so that all of your posts are set to be viewed only by friends (or people on a certain list), and then when you go to post something you want everyone to be able to see, set that particular post to Public by clicking on the little icon on the bottom right corner of the status dialogue box. 

Easy-peasy. So privacy is no longer an issue as long as you have your default settings set to private. Even if that means creating a list that only has the family and friends you want to view every post and having that as your default. 

You want one place for people to be able to find relevant information about you as an author on Facebook.
Having a profile is okay for this, but having a Facebook page is still probably the best way. You don't want your profile to turn into too much of a marketing tool. The reason why Facebook is a marketing tool is because it helps you connect directly with people who want your product and lets them spread it via word of mouth. And as an author, that is still your bread and butter. So even if you don't post tons on your Facebook page, having it is still a good idea. To me, personally, it is more professional as well. I'm more likely to like an author's page rather than add them as a friend just because everyone has boundaries and you have no idea what the next person's boundaries are going to be. I welcome it, but I don't have kids and I use a pen name. 

Blatant advertising
This is a tricky one. I know Facebook frowns on advertising products or contests from your profile (or they used to, anyway), but you still see it happen. All. The. Time. I also see contests where you have to share links on your Timeline or a friend's Timeline to enter, and that is supposed to be a no-no too. This is what Facebook says about promotions from Pages:
3. Promotions may be administered on Pages or within apps on Facebook. Personal Timelines must not be used to administer promotions (ex: “share on your Timeline to enter” or “share on your friend's Timeline to get additional entries” is not permitted).
That being said, I didn't find anything in the Community Standards that says you can't advertise a product on your Facebook profile. It would probably be way too much of a pain to police anyway. I ran a Google search too, but came up empty. However, I before you do anything like that, I suggest going over the rules yourself. 
So can you advertise on your Facebook profile? Pretty much. But do you want to do that all the time? Probably not. Don't be a spammer. That's a great way to get people to delete you or hide you.

Now let's talk Facebook pages and those pesky algorithms. 
I have been just as likely as the next person to bitch about these. I had my Tumblr linked to bond over fangirl stuff, but I realized those posts weren't being seen. Same thing with Twitter. So I linked stuff that I thought was cool, but those weren't being seen either. Then I read that text based posts were more likely to be seen than links or anything else, so I tried that. But those weren't being seen either. 
Image from PhotoBucket
I've since learned that images and videos are the most likely to show up in someone's newsfeed. Facebook gives those priority. So if you are great with graphics, you can really just post an image saying what you want. I suddenly understand why I've been seeing so many authors using memes to make announcements about their books, too. Clever tricks, and I'm glad to know that now. You still have to jump through the hoops of getting people to like or comment on the image or video, but it's a start. (And as a side note: I've since been trying this and though my posts are being seen by more than 5 people now, I still haven't even reached 10% of those who have liked my page.)

Other tips and tricks to get your posts seen without paying to boost them:
Obviously, having your Twitter linked to your page is a bad idea. Keep the random posts to a minimum and instead post quality content. Don't post every fun link you come across or every funny picture. Engaging your readers doesn't mean spamming them, and the more you spam your Facebook feed, the less likely your posts are to be seen. So keep your posts to a minimum while still trying to engage daily. I've read that liking or saying congratulations will boost a post according to the algorithms, but I haven't seen any data on that. And it feels silly (yes, I tried it). Can't hurt to like your own posts, though. But also make sure you are redirecting your readers there. Let them know you just posted news and get them to go look and like it. Maybe even hold a contest and randomly choose a winner from those who like the post in a 24 hour period. 

The Bottom Line
As you can tell, there's a lot of back and forth in this post about using your profile to connect with readers or just keeping it to a Facebook page. Obviously, you have to find what works for you. But keep this in mind before you let me talk you out of getting a Facebook page: While some readers will want to connect with you directly and talk to you about whatever else you might have in common (for me, it is fangirling over various things), some readers simply want a place where they can go to see your updates. And while it is possible to keep your private life private on a Facebook profile, it might not be your ideal way to reach readers. Test the waters. Do what works for you. Just don't let a lack of interaction on your Facebook page leave you feeling like you are failing at Facebook and give up on it completely. Having a presence there, even if it is small, will still help. 

What are you thoughts on the changes with Facebook? Have you found different data than me on Facebook's policies or algorithms? Tell me I'm wrong! I'm on the fence about Facebook, so I'd love to have someone win me back over to loving it again. =D

Check back next Monday when we talk about other social media platforms and how to utilize them to your benefit without getting overloaded.

My Personal Fitness Challenge: Week 2 Summary

QUICK REVIEW: Okay, so week two was a mild fail, and week three I've been sick. But I owe you guys an update, so here it is! As you can see, inconsistency is still a problem. But I'm continuing to work at it, which is the reason I'm updating. Accountability, right? Luckily, my husband has agreed to join me with this fitness journey, and I'm thinking the support will definitely help.

DAY 4: JUNE 10th
Cardio: We used the secondary gym in our apartments (Wow, that sounds a lot fancier than it is, I promise. We just live in a big complex.), which doesn't have the same elliptical as the other one. It's this weird sort of hybrid between a stair stepper and an elliptical. So I did 10 minutes on that at 5 resistance and 10 cross ramp (whatever that is).

Strength training: Here's where the lesson was learned. I got impatient during my sets with leg extensions and didn't really wait in between sets. Know what that got me? A knotted up hamstring and a workout cut short. I had to limp all the way home. So lesson learned: Patience and rest time in between sets.
Leg press 4x10 90lbs
Calf press 4x10 90lbs
Leg extensions 3x10 60lbs

Summary: Don't be an impatient idiot.
Image from A Little Bit of Lisa

DAY 5: JUNE 11th
Cardio: 20 minutes on the elliptical-stairstepper-hybrid thingy at 5 resistance and 6 cross ramp for a total of 1.63 miles. (Note: Apparently I should let writerly frustrations over things like book titles build up before going to the gym. It works pretty well.)

Strength training: I am probably going to wish I couldn't feel my arms tomorrow. But for now, I'm pretty proud of myself.
Standing chest flies 4x10 5lbs
Dumbbell tate press 3x10 5lbs
Dumbbell front raise 3x10 5lbs
Dumbbell lateral raise 3x10 5lbs
Standing bench press 3x10 5lbs
Dumbbell rear delt row 3x10 5lbs
Bent over triceps extension 3x10 5lbs
Bicep curl 4x10 5lbs
Triceps extension 3x10 15lbs
Dumbbell side bends 3x10 15lbs
Lat pull ups 3x10 40lbs
Decline crunches 10
Decline side crunches 20

Summary: Feeling like a badass. And also fully aware that I will probably not be able to move my arms tomorrow. Reading day!

Day 6 was supposed to be June 13th or 14th, and totally could have been. But I procrastinated, which never leads to good things. Then I got sick and now I've gone even longer without a workout. So let this be a lesson: Don't procrastinate, because you never know what's going to happen the next day. =)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Teaser Tuesday & Giveaway: Black Widow Witch by A.J. Locke

Black Widow Witch
A.J. Locke
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Etopia Press
Date of Publication:  May 15th, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-941692-09-7
Number of pages: 239
Word Count: 88k

Book Description:

A deadly curse, a deadly assassin, and one shot to save everyone she loves…
Malachi Erami can’t fall in love. After she’s caught with Knave, the witch Queen’s favorite lover, she’s cursed to savagely butcher any man she falls for. Exiled to live among humans, Malachi runs a bar that serves magic-laced drinks, but since her curse labels her high risk, she’s also closely monitored. Julian Vira is her latest babysitter, but he’s also the first man since Knave that she’s been attracted to. Good-looking and nonjudgmental of her horrible curse? Yeah, he’s hard to resist.
But when Malachi finds a body behind her bar, she knows she’s in trouble. If the Witches Control Council gets wind of it, she’ll be accused of murder and sent to her death. And when her friends start getting framed for murder, she realizes she’s not the only target. Malachi and Julian dig into the evidence to clear her name, but the closer they get to answers, the closer the curse comes to taking over. So when Malachi uncovers a plot to kill the witch Queen, she finds herself suddenly recruited into service, with the promise of having her curse lifted and a reunion with Knave as well. But if she fails, Knave will die. And she and Julian might not live long enough to see that happen.

Short Excerpt- Chapter One

Today was the anniversary of the worst day of my life, and I’d been trying to forget about it by consuming a vast amount of booze. The fact that I owned a bar greatly helped with that endeavor, and the fact that I was drunk was an accomplishment, since witches weren’t easily susceptible to alcohol. Humans were onto something with this whole drinking-to-forget-one’s-crappy-life thing.
Behind the bar, I poured a shot for an eager customer. Amaretto, Southern Comfort peach liqueur, and sweet-and-sour mix went into the glass, then I held my hand over the drink and let a stream of purple magic, the same color as my eyes, flow into it. The drink glowed purple for a few seconds, then I handed it to the customer, who drank it with no hesitation. After slamming the glass down, he grabbed the tipsy woman who’d been hanging on him and gave her a sloppy kiss, then led her out of the bar. I smiled and shook my head. The magic I’d put into the shot, aptly named Piece of Ass, would ensure they didn’t leave the bedroom tonight.
Somewhere in the room I heard riotous laughter, and above that the voice eliciting that laughter. Xiune was having a good night for a change and wasn’t holed up in my office. Though since she was just a head inside a clear acrylic box, it was understandable that sometimes all she wanted to do was hide.
“Malachi, darling!” Xiune called. “Seven handsome young men have requested the Challenge!” I smiled slyly. I loved administering the Challenge.
“It’s time for the Seven Deadly Sins Challenge!” I announced, filling up eight shot glasses with vodka, one of which I downed. “Which sin will it be and what will its victim do?” People shouted their guesses while I sent tendrils of magic into the shots. My magic sparked like tiny bolts of lightning, and like the shot I had just made, the liquid briefly glowed purple. I focused on one of the glasses and started whispering a spell, channeling the essence of one of the seven deadly sins through my body. For a brief moment, my body became flushed with a feeling of ravenous desire, then it flowed out of me into the shot glass. I felt rather charged and wondered if this had been the right sin to choose tonight. But hey, I was drunk, and I kind of wanted to see someone suffer. Misery loves company right?
I levitated the shot glasses onto a tray and sauntered over to the table where Xiune was entertaining the men who thought they were up for the Challenge. With her flawless complexion, golden eyes, and vibrant red hair, Xiune didn’t need a body to be beautiful. I’d known her when she had one though, and if she’d been sitting there in all her glory, she’d have every man kneeling at her feet. Her allure was only heightened by the fact that she was a bodiless beauty who used her magic to float herself around in a box. The box wasn’t necessary for Xiune to move around, but she felt safer inside it when she was out in public. That way if a witch hater spat on her, she’d have a shield. It also prevented those on the other end of the spectrum, people who were fascinated by witches, from getting too close. I set the shot glasses down and motioned for the men to stand around the table. They looked like your typical college fare: unkempt hair, sagging pants, and some sort of ironic or sports themed T-shirt. High-fives and shit talking all around.
“Now boys,” I said, leaning forward on my forearms, giving my cleavage time to shine. “Are you sure you’re ready for this? One of you is moments away from experiencing a sin you may or may not enjoy.” They assured me they were man enough to handle any sin, and I smiled. The fun thing about the Challenge was that everyone handled it differently. One man caught with gluttony had run across the street to McDonalds, spent over a hundred dollars on food, then sat on the floor and gorged himself. A woman under the same gluttony spell had tried to eat her friend’s purse.
“Let’s hope it’s lust and let’s hope it’s me,” one of the men said, winking at me. He stood a couple of inches over six feet, had brown hair and a lanky physique. If he started spending time at the gym, maybe his lame come-ons would give him more luck getting laid.
“Honey, I would eat you up,” I said with a slow smile. Normally I would never have said such a line, but all the alcohol I had consumed was speaking for me. He probably had no idea how true those words were though, because his smile never wavered. However, for a moment after I spoke, I saw another face in place of his, and it cut through my drunken haze like a knife. I gasped, and he must have thought that was a sign he had a chance with me, because his smile became more lascivious. Lucky for him, he did nothing for me.
“Malachi, let’s get this show going.” Xiune slid her box over to nudge me, and I shook my head and turned back to the waiting crowd.
“All right, it’s about to go down!” I yelled. “For anyone who hasn’t witnessed the Challenge before, I’ll explain how it works. One of these shot glasses is infused with the essence of one of the seven deadly sins, and the recipient will be overcome with that sin for the next half hour, while the others will experience the most euphoric feeling they’ve ever experienced from a shot of alcohol.” I motioned for the men to pick up a glass, and Mister Flirtatious had one more wink for me.
“Gentlemen, take your shot of sin!” They took their shots to the head. When they slammed their glasses down, every eye in the room was on them. After about twenty seconds, one of the men—not Winky—suddenly gasped, whipped his head around, and bolted from among his friends to accost a mildly attractive woman standing nearby.
“Fuck me! Fuck me, please!” He shook her by the upper arms while she stared at him, mortified, as his friends tried to pry him off her. I brayed with laughter, as did Xiune and everyone else in the bar.
“Oh god, I’m so horny. Someone please, fuck me!” He struggled against his laughing friends, trying to reach any female in sight, with his erection leading the way. Lust had been the winner tonight, and for the next thirty minutes this poor sap would be lusting after every woman he saw, whether she was twenty-eight or eighty-two. He even lurched toward Xiune, but she floated out of the way. Xiune was one sexy head in a box and had a mouth she could work wonders with. She often came out of her box to work those wonders on any willing man. There were more than you’d think.
“Right sin, wrong guy, right?” brown-haired dude said to me.
I rolled my eyes. “You and your friends will have your hands full for the next half hour. I suggest you hold on to him real good and don’t be surprised if he turns to one of you when it starts to look like he won’t be getting any women.”
He laughed and pulled out his cell phone. “I’ll call his girlfriend, though she’ll probably be too pissed at him for doing this to alleviate his lust.” He left the bar to make the call, while the other five continued to hold on to their friend, laughing like they’d never experienced anything so hilarious in their lives. Some of the more mischievous or drunk women teased the guy by parading in front of him and doing dirty little stripper moves. Only his friends’ hold stopped him from tackling one of them and trying to rip her clothes off.
I wasn’t afraid of things getting out of hand because I could break the spell any time I wanted. There was always a point where things stopped being amusing and started getting annoying. I left them and headed back behind the bar, while Xiune found another table of people to entertain. She was a wonderful songstress, and soon her melodic voice filled the bar as I went back to making magicked drinks. I glanced at my watch, noting that it was almost midnight, which meant the day was almost over. That didn’t actually mean anything though. The day passing didn’t mean I would forget the curse that was hanging over my life.
“Hey, Malachi, can you pass me a knife?”
“Knave?” I quickly turned to the busboy, James, who was bent over a box behind the bar.
“No, I said knife,” he said. My throat was suddenly tight, but I reached under the bar, got a knife, and handed it to him. I stood back and ran my hands through my short black curls, blowing out a slow breath as I tried to rein in my reaction to thinking I had heard the name Knave. That was the name attached to the face I did not like to think about, but no amount of alcohol and rowdy college boys taking the Challenge could truly put him from my mind. I didn’t want to see Knave’s face, didn’t want to think about the hard muscles my hands used to slide over, following the planes of his body to his waist and not stopping until I touched something that arched his back and made him whisper my name. I didn’t want to think about the nights we’d spent wrapped in each other’s arms, feeling our hearts beating against each other. But of course, since his name crossed my lips, he was all I could think about.
Falling in love with Knave was why I was cursed. And I could only blame myself. I should have known better than to take someone else’s lover to my bed. Especially if the woman crossed was a witch queen who was powerful, sadistic, and known to curse people just for sneezing out of place.
“Malachi? Excuse me, Malachi?” I blinked and brought myself out of my thoughts, turning to see that one of the other busboys, Dan, was trying to get my attention. He held a box of empty liquor bottles and needed me to move so he could pass. I shuffled out of the way, but thinking of Knave and my curse, along with all the beer and shots I’d drunk tonight, made me feel slightly unstable. Suddenly, the rowdiness in my bar wasn’t fun; it was obnoxious, and I wanted to get away from it. I headed through the door Dan had passed through, into the hallway that led to my office and the Dumpster out back. Halfway down the hallway, I heard a crash, followed by a scream. I ran through the back door, taking in several things at once that left me rooted to the spot. One, the revolting stench that went far beyond what our single Dumpster could give off. Two, Dan standing rigidly a few feet away with broken bottles scattered at his feet. And three, the thing that had caused him to drop the bottles and scream. Behind the Dumpster was a dead body.

About the Author:

A.J. Locke is an author and artist, originally from Trinidad, now residing in New York City. Black Widow Witch is her second published novel, and other than writing she enjoys reading, drawing, painting, graphic design, and watching too much television.

Twitter:  @maqueripe

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