The Heart of the Pack by Iris Sweetwater: Brothers of Fang Book Tour

Today we welcome Iris Sweetwater as part of her book tour for her newest release: The Heart of the Pack (Brothers of Fang Book 3). Happy release day, Iris!

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Name: Brothers of Fang: The Heart of the Pack
# in Series: 3

Blurb: Isaiah knows that the war between the pack and the coven are over, and that means things will change. It is time to let go of what is in his heart bad go with what is best for the Olympia pack. However, doing so is not as easy as he thought as the beautiful hybrid, Annalise remains in his territory. When he finds out that the coven is at risk without her, he must make a heartbreaking decision to send her home, even if it kills a piece of him and her both.

Now, there is a new war, one that is being waged inside the leaders of the coven and the pack. It is the kind of war that cannot be won with claws and teeth. It is a war of the heart, and no one knows who will win and who will be lost in the process.

Book Trailer: 

Release Date: 10/20/17
Special Deal: Anyone who purchases the Brothers of Fang books by 11/3 and shows confirmation to me on any of my social profiles gets all the exclusive bonus chapters full of untold secrets.

 

Bio: Iris Sweetwater grew up writing poems and thinking up crazy stories while she was bored at school. Everyone was certain she would become an author one day, especially when at 13, she saw her first poem being published in an anthology. Since then, life has given her many twists and turns, seeing her as a sales associate, an SEO content manager, a teacher, a curriculum specialist, a mother, and a ghostwriter. All of these things have led her to finally being in the time of her life where she knows she should be sharing her own stories and not just someone else’s. She hopes to make a career out of writing paranormal romance, young adult fantasy, and contemporary romance while still pursuing ways to help children engage in the learning process.

The Panther’s Lost Princess: Free for a limited time!

As part of a promotional thingy, The Panther’s Lost Princess is free on Amazon for a limited time! Book One of the Redclaw Security series, The Panther’s Lost Princess introduces us to the elite paranormal agency when top investigator, Jack Ferris, is assigned one of the most challenging cases of his career: find the heir to the shifter kingdom of Coreldon, who went missing as a baby.

And find her he did, tracking Princess Ariel de Winter to a hole-in-the-wall diner where she worked, oblivious to her heritage, as a waitress under the name of Ellie West.

Finding her was the easy part.

Convincing her to come with him more difficult.

Keeping her alive when assassins hit their trail: a nightmare.

But discovering his assignment was also his fated mate? Impossible.

She can’t be his mate. She’s the mission.

 

Each book in the Redclaw Security series can be read as a standalone, and though there is character crossover between stories, it is not necessary to read them in order. Be sure to grab your copy of The Panther’s Lost Princess soon–free on Amazon only until 10/11/17!

Author Interview with Jennifer Julie Miller

Hello! I’m delighted to have you here with us, Jennifer, sharing about your writing process. First, please tell us a little about yourself and the kinds of stories you like to write. Would you say there is an underlying theme behind your stories?

Wow, let me see. I have a boy job by day. I’m a Brazer at a local factory and I have done that for 18 years now. I have only been writing since 2015, and I am the proud author of four books. I have two grown kids and now I have both of their better half’s also. I have a very rotten granddaughter who reminds me to play, with very supportive parents, aunts, sister, and friends. I have been blessed with my very own Happy Ever After. I am married to my high school sweetheart, who makes me smile every day, and after all these years I still miss him when he isn’t around. Rick is my very best friend in the world and I’m lucky enough to be married to him.

I began writing in 2015, after my husband had a dream about a girl and her magical Water Skippers…. He got up one morning and said, “Come on, we need to go buy a few things.” He took me to a local office max. I honestly, had that deer in the headlight look. I had no idea why we were there, anyway, he says. “Pick out a nice notebook and a pen I have something I want you to write.”  We came home and he told me all about this dream. This is what my very first book Water Skippers is all about… A dream my husband had.

The underlying theme is Love, Love…. Our lives are so much more than sex and arguing. There is no greater gift than to love or to be loved and my books hit that hard.

That is so fascinating–an entire series born out of your husband’s dream! I love too how supportive he is of your work. I have that too, but so many women writers I know struggle to find support among their families for what they do. 

What part of the world do you call home? Can you tell us a little about where you grew up and where you live now?

A little town in southern Ohio, called Ironton.

I’m a small town girl myself! There’s a lot to be said for growing up and raising a family in a small community.

How long have you been writing? Did you write as a child or is it something you developed a passion for later in life?

I didn’t know what I wanted to do until I was in my forties… so it took me awhile to figure out what I wanted to do when I grew up…

Hah! I know what you mean! I think a lot of writers try out different professions and hobbies until they realize it was all just prep for writing. What is the draw for you in your chosen genre? Why THIS kind of story?

I only like to read things that aren’t real.. life is real enough, so of course I want to escape into my writing the same way.

Have you written in other genres?

No.

City Boy/Girl or Country Mouse—and why?

I am all country girl, but I can play dress up also.

I know what you mean! I wear practical clothes but love pretty lingerie and having my nails done. 🙂

“Writers should write what they know.” What does this statement mean to you as an author?

I think things that are experienced are easier to write.

That’s an interesting way of looking at it! Are you a panster or a plotter?  Do you outline extensively or write your story as you go along?

I have to have the ending in my head, but other than that. I write as I go.

What’s your idea of a perfect vacation?

1000 miles from nowhere, with room service.

Do you have a favorite character that you’ve created? Why does this character resonate with you?

Ragon my pet dragonfly is my favorite.  He represents all the good we have in all of us.

Oh, that’s nice! Of the stories you’ve written, which one would you recommend a new reader begin with?

Water Skippers. It’s the first book in my series and they are the magical creatures in all of my books. They are my little heroes, and they always help the guy get the girl.

What are the three most important things in your life—the things you can’t do without?

My husband, family, and books…. I need more than three hahahah.

If you could have one super power or magical element from popular science fiction movies or literature, what would it be and why?

I want to be a dragon.

Nice! Do you see your writing as a hobby or is it your goal to be a full time writer at some point in the future?

I would love to write full time, just can’t afford to.

I hear you on that one. I’d love to be a full time author myself. What advice would you give to someone starting out as an author? What’s the one piece of advice you wish you’d been given?

Have very thick skin.. This is a crazy rollercoaster ride. Don’t stop; write until your fingers fall off, because when someone tells you they love it… It’s all worth it. 

Remember the little things, like the first time you held a guys hand, or that amazing awkward first kiss. Take the time to look up at the stars, and take the time to play in the rain. It’s the little moments in life you will always cherish. 

You are so right there! How often does your real life experience figure into your story telling? Do you base characters or stories on your actual experiences?

There is a lot of my own life, and especially the way I feel about things in all of my books. All of my books are me. My mom says it’s like being inside of my head…. So many of the stories in my books, have really happened in my own life. 

Research: love it or hate it?

I don’t do it… this is fiction, just go with it.

Editing: love it or hate it?

Ohhh the misery, but I like to learn new things.

How much do you think that a good blurb and good cover art figure into the success of a story?

It means everything.

Have you ever been intimidated by reviews?

Ohh yea, I have cried like a baby.

I think we’ve all had that experience. I recently wrote a blog post about handling bad reviews as a reminder to myself and others how to deal with the stinger you get sometimes.

Do you listen to music while you write? If yes, do you find what you listen to influences the story at all?

Yes,  it helps tune out all the background of the world around me.

Do you miss your characters when you come to the end of their story? Do you find ways to write sequels for them or do you become entranced with a new set?

When I finished my last set I cried. It was like I had lost a member of the family.

What are your writing goals for 2017? Your personal goals?

I honestly don’t know.. my set will be put in a box set for Christmas, but other than that I’m open.

Where can your readers find you and your stories online?

Http://Amazon.com/author/jjm5325903.  I am also on Twitter www. Jenniferrick@twitter.com…. Also I love to talk so email me at Jenniferjuliemiller@gmail.com…. And I have a website https://jenniferjuliemille.wixsite.com/mysite..

Book One: Water Skippers

Book Two: A Dragonfly’s Whisper

Book Three: Earth Shadow

Book Four: Shadow Reborn

How to Handle That Bad Review

A friend of mine recently got a stinging review–the kind of gif-laden nasty review that is a deliberate slam to the author with little purpose except to wound. I went looking for a post I’d read several years ago about the best way to handle ugly reviews to share with her, but I couldn’t find it. Rather than spend several hours searching the internet for similar posts (and reading them all to make sure they were worth sharing), I decided to write my own. Because we’ve all been there. We’ve all gotten reviews that made us wince, cry, or seriously consider chucking the whole writing gig altogether.

Many of us strengthened our writing skills in fandom, writing reams of fanfic because we loved a set of characters so much we wanted to spend more time in their universe. One of the gratifying things about fanfic is within minutes of posting it, you can see the counter change, indicating the number of people who’ve clicked on the link. Within 24 hours, kudos and comments start rolling in. And because you are writing about specific characters and pairings, you have a built-in audience which is predisposed to be kind because they love those characters too and are desperate for more stories about them.

At least, that used to be the case. I’m seeing a greater sense of entitlement creep into feedback on fanfic. Perhaps it’s because nearly every website on the planet encourages you, the consumer, to leave a review, that things are changing. Amazon, in particular, in conjunction with Goodreads, has given an enormous amount of power to the reviewer–the ability to raise or lower a story’s visibility, and therefore, sales. Reviews on original fiction are few and far between compared to fanfic, and are definitely blunter. I see some of this bluntness–and in some circumstances, downright rudeness–seeping into fanfic feedback these days. But I digress.

Not only are there far fewer reviews (on average) for original fiction versus fanfic, but there is a much longer delay between writing and publishing an original story and when those reviews begin to trickle in. Instead of the nearly instantaneous feedback you might receive on posting to one of the big fanfic archives, your original story goes through a lengthy editing and publishing process. In some cases, it may be months before a finished story is released. If you’re like me, after you hit ‘publish’, you keep refreshing your sales page to see if anyone has left a review. I don’t think most of us can help it. We’ve groomed our child, prepped it for school, and placed it on the school bus. We can’t help but wonder how the first day of class went.

But if you only have twenty-five or so reviews, it’s going to make the one or two bad ones stand out even more. Funny how one nasty review has the power to negate fifty or more stellar ones, right? But it can and does.

So let’s break this down.

First, with fanfic, comments are the currency of fandom. People aren’t buying your story, they are ‘paying’ with feedback. It’s one of the reasons I find the ‘kudos’ system on Archive of Our Own a little disappointing. It effectively made every story 99 cents, if you know what I mean. I appreciate getting kudos, but I miss the detailed and loving feedback fellow fans used to give.

When you are publishing original fiction, your audience is paying with actual money. So if your sales are fantastic but few people are leaving reviews, I wouldn’t sweat it. People are leaving reviews–with their money.

The longer I’ve been at this, however, the more I’ve learned to take reviews with a grain of salt–especially the bad ones. Here are some of my ‘rules’.

  1. Stop looking for reviews. No, seriously. I do a search on occasion (and my reason will be listed below) but for the most part, I avoid places like Goodreads. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t solicit reviews from review sites. That’s one of the ways of bringing your story to the attention of the reading public. But don’t set up Google Alerts to notify you of every mention, and stop constantly checking your sales page for stats.
  2. Keep a file of your outstanding reviews. Not only will you want pull quotes for future promo, but it’s helpful to have a folder of lovely things people said about your stories to read when a particularly spiteful piece of feedback lands in your lap. Yes, I know this is contradictory advice to the point above, but often the people who write nice things about your stories send you that information directly. Use it.
  3. Read the reviews of your all-time favorite authors/stories. You’ll be amazed. Books that you think are outstanding, authors so good you would sell your soul to the devil to be able to write even a fraction as well–they all get horrible reviews. If someone can slam a book that you think is phenomenal, then face it, not everyone out there is going to like great writing. Not everyone out there is going to like your writing, or if they do, not necessarily all of your stories. That’s a good thing, actually. It means there is room out there for all kinds of storytelling. One person’s cup of tea might be another person’s poison, but the tea drinkers out there will appreciate your work.
  4. A mean review isn’t the end of the world. It seems to frequently be the case that one person loathes the thing 98% of readers love. Often the thing that the reviewer detests is the thing that makes me dash out and buy the book in question. Which leads me to number five…
  5. Don’t rant about a nasty review in public. Don’t post links on Facebook or Twitter with a furious rundown of the reviewer. That is tantamount to asking your fans to go after the reviewer, and that’s a big NO. No. No. No. Don’t encourage your fans to attack someone on your behalf. That review is someone’s opinion, something they are entitled to. If you find out your fans are vehemently defending you, ask them to stop. By not doing so, you wind up looking like the bad guy, even if you never said a word to your fans in the first place. The ONLY exception to this is if you can post about a negative review with a sense of humor, not outrage. NEVER give specifics. Someone on my Twitter feed recently posted about a negative review she received, citing the reviewer’s objection to her ‘liberal political beliefs’ intruding into the story. She said as far as she knew, the only liberal beliefs were that everyone in town recycled. OH THE SHAME. It was both funny and made me one-click purchase the story. 
  6. The nasty, gif-laden review. Let’s take a moment to address that. It’s my belief this form of feedback became popular after this particular review of 50 Shades of Gray. I could be wrong, but after this review, I seemed to see a lot more in a similar vein. I’ll be the first to admit, I thought this review hysterical. I also don’t feel too badly for E.L. James, as she is probably laughing all the way to the bank. But I do regret the number of people who’ve chosen to leave feedback in this manner as a result of the popularity of this particular review. This kind of copycat review has only two purposes: either to wound the author and/or to appease an audience. I call it the ‘Simon Cowell Review.’ Face it, some people tune into America’s Got Talent to watch Simon roast some poor delusional participant. People who deliberately choose to review in this fashion either intend to destroy an author’s self-confidence or like the attention they get from people following their reviews, or both. In all honesty, this is the type of review that’s the EASIEST for me to ignore. There’s another agenda at play here. Either the reviewer hopes to crush me, in which case he/she is a Dream Vampire stomping on my hopes and ambitions because someone stomped on theirs, or they are there to entertain their groupies. I have no time for that.
  7. If, however, you’ve ignored my advice about reading your reviews and you’re faced with a lot of negative reviews that say the same thing, you have to face up to an unpleasant fact: either you didn’t get the point of your story across as clearly as you’d hoped or there is a major problem with your story as told. If many people are saying the same thing, the sad truth is they are probably right and you screwed up. Still, this is not an end-of-the-world experience. Listen. If necessary, be ruthless. Pull the story, fix it. Chalk it up to experience and vow you won’t release a book before its time ever again. Take writing courses, find a critique group, pay for quality editing. Don’t bristle up defensively and double down on your position. Admit you made a mistake and fix it if possible. If you can’t fix it this time, make sure it doesn’t happen again.
  8. Never, ever respond to negative reviews. Heck, I’m not sure you should respond to positive reviews–the opinion seems divided on that. But everyone agrees you should NEVER respond to a negative review, particularly on Goodreads. Why? Because authors who attempt to address negative reviews, even if it is only to correct a reviewer on something they stated that was wrong, are always the villains here. Always. Goodreads in particular is considered a ‘reader’s’ site. in that, outside of an author-run group, Goodreads is for readers. Readers want to be able to post their honest opinions without feeling as though the author in question is watching over their shoulder. The truth of the matter is most of us are watching. But at the very least, we should have the sense to keep our mouths shut. Especially since dog-piling and blackballing can get very ugly on Goodreads. It is simply not worth it to engage with a disgruntled reader. Not on any level.
  9. Don’t let a negative review derail your writing plans. I did that once. I let a lukewarm review shatter my confidence on a planned story arc, and as a result, I sat on subsequent installments of a series until fans had given up all hope of seeing a sequel. The series lost momentum as a result, and never took off as it had the potential to do. All because one review made me doubt what I had in mind. One out of hundreds which indicated the reader couldn’t wait for more. I could kick myself now.
  10. Accept the fact that reviews have the power to make your book more or less visible with the algorithms that make up sales. But you have to decide right now whether or not reviews have the power to make you stop writing. If the answer is yes, they do, then know sooner or later, you’ll receive one that’s a mortal blow to your desire to write. If the answer is no, bad reviews will not stop you from writing, then congratulations, you’re an author. Now be the best author you can be. Once you decide that nothing will stop you from writing, the negative review loses a lot of its power. That’s not to say they don’t still have the power to wound or infuriate you. But if they can’t stop you from writing, they are nothing more than annoying gnats.

What a Difference 10 Years Makes: Publishing in 2007 vs 2017

I’ve been doing some cleaning up around the house and I recently came across some old journals. I’d gone to a sci-fi convention back in 2007 or so, and had attended all the writer’s panels they held. I scribbled down every bit of advice, every shared experience, every tale of woe shared by the authors on the panel. Believe me, it wasn’t a cheerful or encouraging discussion.

Let’s place this in perspective though: at the time of the convention in question, smartphones had yet to exist. Amazon had just launched its first Kindle (with a $400 price tag) and readers swore up and down it would never catch on. Instead, Amazon sold out of them before the day was out and they were on back-order for months afterward. Google Maps wasn’t yet a thing–and I don’t know about you but I can’t go anywhere without it today! There was also no such thing as ‘the cloud’, if you wanted to save important material, it went on an external hard drive. Heck, I used to back up all my stories to a thumb drive before there was such a thing as dropbox or Google drive!

Youtube was just becoming a thing. No one had heard of a Roomba, much less videotaped their cat riding it to upload it to Youtube. The guy that used the 3D printer to create an arm for his son? Yeah, didn’t happen yet. Virtual reality devices and space travel remained concepts for science fiction. Now my husband has a VR device and space travel is looking more and more possible.

Ten years ago, the main way for someone to get published was through the Big Six (or Big Five now, since the Penguin-Random House merger). Self-publishing back then meant ‘vanity publishing’, and was the mark of someone who couldn’t get published any other way. It’s taken a decade to diminish that stigma, and there are still people out there who refuse to read any self-published work.

One of the YA authors on the writer’s panel spoke of the difficulty in getting published, and why so many authors accepted terrible deals as a result. They wanted so badly to be published that any offer seemed like manna from heaven and was accepted without question. This author explained that she’d submitted a story and had been told by the publisher they loved it so much they wanted it spun out into a ten book series. What unpublished author wouldn’t jump at that kind of offer? But she didn’t really examine the contract details or what the press would require of her. Without fully comprehending what it would entail, she signed a contract agreeing to produce 70 K words every six weeks–and that later books in the series could be written by other people. She was responsible for creating a ‘Bible’ that could be used by other authors to follow the story arc. She told us that she had to write a minimum of 5 K words a day and never had a chance to look over what she’d written–she just submitted it and hoped the editors would catch anything wrong.

This young woman looked exhausted. And you could see in her eyes that the joy of writing had become a drudgery of pounding out words that she scarcely cared about any longer. Her take-home message was about reading contracts and standing up for what you believe in, but when asked if she would do it again, she said yes because she was published. Wow.

The guest of honor had even harsher words for the industry. He spoke of how publishing houses used to be run by people who loved books, and for every mega-seller like J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series and one moderate best-seller, the firm would carry eight mid-listers. In his opinion, that was all changing. When he began writing, the expectation was that once you had one hit seller, sales from that first book would help produce others in the series. Now, every book had to sell in the stratosphere, and each book you wrote had to outperform the one before. Publishers were getting greedy, and demanding greater production with no care as to the content. Authors could no longer get by on writing one book every year or so. The guest speaker, by the way, was George R. R. Martin.

Another writer agreed with him, saying that she’d known many authors unable to live up to the ‘outsell your last book’ production model who’d been dropped by their publishers and had re-invented themselves under a new pen name with a new press–which meant dividing their original audience even more and having to build from scratch again. And with the number of Big Publishing Houses getting fewer and more interconnected, finding a new publisher wasn’t as easy as it sounded.

I basically came away from the panel thinking I’d never be a published author.

And yet I am.

In 2013, I was one of the authors at a sci-fi convention on a writer’s panel, giving advice to eager wanna-bees in the audience.

What changed?

Remember that list of tech I mentioned? Yeah, the one that has had the biggest impact on publishing is the Kindle–or e-reader in any form–but face it, Amazon has been the largest driving factor here. Amazon put e-readers into the hands of thousands, and then has nearly singlehandedly created the self-publishing industry by making it so darn easy to do. Advances in tech have also made it possible for people to make cover art, format stories, promote newsletters and so on–and if you can’t do these things yourself, the Internet has made it possible for you to find the skilled services you need. (Another reason why we need Net Neutrality, damn it!).

Now I’m not saying Amazon is the Great Hero here. The rise of e-readers has made it possible for me to become published because the rise of small digital presses meant someone would take a chance on a no-name like me. But that same juggernaut has slowly crushed a number of these small presses over the years because many of them can’t compete with the behemoth that is Amazon. I’m just saying that as a company, it revolutionized the way we read–making books more accessible, making self-publishing an option many didn’t have before, and also freeing the industry from standards set by a select few as to ‘what will sell.’ But I also believe that Amazon will grind us all to dust if we let it. That’s why though I use Amazon and KU, I don’t rely on them alone for sales. I distribute to other outlets when that KU wave crests. I support my local B&N (sadly, B&N’s website TANKS compared to Amazon’s–ordering an e-book from them is a huge PIA in comparison) and independent bookstores too. Once Amazon has ALL the publishing market, we’ll discover Amazon isn’t really a publishing company. They sell e-readers. Authors aren’t their priority.

But they have made it possible for me to be a published author. Something that never even seemed remotely possible in 2007.