Monday 28 April 2014

Why Spying on Your Competition is a Great Way to Be Successful…

Spying is a catchy way of saying “do your research and stay tuned in.” Regardless of what you call it, it’s a mandatory part of being successful. It’s also a great way to build connections. There’s an old saying that to be successful you have to stop obsessing about the competition. I agree with that to a certain degree, but to not be aware of what other authors in your genre are doing is never a smart idea.

Regardless of what you write you need to be dialed into the competitive landscape. Knowing what others in your target market are doing, writing about and promoting can be key to your success as well. Not that I would ever encourage copying, but being in tune with your genre and market can be a fantastic idea generator, not to mention it gives you the ability to stay ahead of certain trends that haven’t even surfaced at the consumer level yet.

First rule of spying: study your target market, the books as well as other authors in the industry. It helps you to also differentiate yourself from them in products, services, and pricing. Again, you don’t want to copy, you just want to be aware. Another lesser known reason for doing this is that if you’re struggling with your social media (like me)—both from the aspect of what platform to be on to what to say to drive more engagement—keeping these authors on your radar will greatly increase your marketing ideas. Living in a vacuum never made anyone successful.

Whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, you want to know who else is writing on your topic or in your genre. Google search is a great place to start. The results will not just turn up names and book titles but also show you the best ways to interact with your reader.

Google is packed with names of authors who write about your topic or genre. As you begin to compile your list I want you to do one thing: ignore big brands because it’s likely that they can do anything they want and still be successful. If you’re a middle grade writer, names like Rick Riordan and Brandon Mull come to mind. These authors are big, powerful brands. You want the smaller names, the people you may not immediately recognize. Why? Because they have to try harder. If tomorrow Riordan or Mull decided to put out a book on poetry, while their fans might be surprised they would likely still buy it. But if a lesser-known author did that they’d look like they have writer-ADD. Not good.

So start putting your list together, as you do sign up for their mailing lists, and follow them on Twitter and any other social media site they use. That’s what I do. Aside from the obvious reasons why you want to do this, I’m a big fan of supporting other authors in my market. Share their Facebook updates, retweet their great Twitter posts, etc.

One of the hidden gems of this research is it will also show you what social media sites to be on. If you've been struggling to figure out where your market resides, this strategy should really clear that up for you. Why? Because if you’re plucking names off of the first page of Google you know one thing: whatever they are doing to show up in search, they’re doing it right. Google has made so many changes to their search algorithms that you simply can’t “trick” the system anymore to get onto page one. Look at their updates. What are they sharing and why? How often do they blog? Are they on LinkedIn instead of Facebook? Is there much going on for them on Pinterest? Really spend some time with this. Not only will it help you tune into your market but it will cut your learning curve by half, if not more.
Successful authors leave clues. Are you following their bread crumbs?

Thursday 24 April 2014

Keep your Eyes Opened for my Upcoming Anniversary Celebration…

A Celebration fit for a High Priestess
Since the month of May is the official ‘Anniversary’ month for my first published book’s release with Musa Publishing, I thought every year in May I’d do something special to give back to my readers. This year is no exception as I’m celebrating my 2nd Anniversary as a published author! Woo hoo!

Here’s a glimpse of what I’m planning:

I’ve already set up two Goodreads giveaways, one for The Last Timekeepers and the Arch of Atlantis the first book in my middle grade/young adult time travel series, and for Legend of the Timekeepers, the prequel to this series. The giveaway begins May 1st at midnight and runs until midnight on May 19th, so there’s plenty of time to enter for a chance to win one of my signed paperbacks, trading cards, and bonus wrist bands.

I’m also having a book sale exclusively on Musa Publishing’s website. It’s a BOGO sale! BUY one, get one FREE! Again, this great deal starts at midnight on May 1st and runs until midnight on May 19th just like the Goodreads giveaway. Two books for the price of one? Can’t beat that!

Oh, and that’s not all! I’m going to be participating in the Children’s Book Week Kid Lit Giveaway Hop happening May 12th to May 18th. The book hop is hosted by Mother-Daughter Book Reviews and Youth Literature Reviews and the list of bloggers and authors is growing in leaps and bounds. I’ll have a special Rafflecopter set up during this week for a chance to win signed paper backs, a Babel necklace featured in The Last Timekeepers series, a Spiral pendant featured in Legend of the Timekeepers, and other book swag like signed trading cards and rubber wrist bands.

So everyone set your time portals to midnight on May 1st, 2014 and spiral in on the celebration! And please, remember to time travel responsibly… 

Monday 21 April 2014

In the Limelight with Children’s Author David Chuka…

I want to thank and welcome good friend and wonderful children’s author, David Chuka for sharing his personal writing journey with us on my blog today. David’s series The Fartastic Adventures of Billy and Monster and his other non-fiction books can be purchased from Amazon.

So let’s get this interview rolling! How long have you been writing, David?

As a children’s book author, I’ve been actively writing for the last two years. I’ve been writing non-fiction stuff longer than that.

Only two years? Quite prolific, I might say! Where did you get your idea and inspiration to write The Fartastic Adventures of Billy and Monster series?

The idea for the first book in the series came early one morning on Boxing Day 2012. The entire house was quiet and instead of lying in bed counting imaginary sheep, I crawled out of bed, grabbed my pen and pad and went to the kitchen. With an empty page staring at me, I began to imagine this little boy who’s an only child and creates this Monster character to serve as a brother and friend. They do everything together and have loads of fun. There’s just one problem. Monster farts a lot and everyone blames Billy for it. I completed the first draft in about 90 minutes. With the good reviews that accompanied the book’s publication and a nudge from a friend, I’ve gone on to write three more books in the series. Book Five is coming out this summer and it’s titled ‘Billy and Monster Meet the President.’

I want to know was in your coffee that morning for you to produce a draft in 90 minutes! What sets The Fartastic Adventures of Billy and Monsterseries apart from other books in the same genre?

I believe the books in this series are different from most books because in spite of the shenanigans Billy and Monster get up to in each episode, there is always a lesson with good moral values weaved into the story. Parents and grandparents have informed me that they enjoy reading the Billy and Monster books with their loved ones.

It’s certainly good to have parents and grandparents on your side! As a children’s author, what is your writing process?

I think for me, there has to be a big ‘What If What if someone couldn’t exercise self-control and it led them
to over-indulge? This ‘what if’ led to me writing ‘Billy and the Monster who Ate All the Easter Eggs.’ What if a child disobeyed their parent because they didn’t want to be teased by their friends? This ‘what if’ led to me writing ‘Kojo the Sea Dragon Gets Lost.’ A ‘What If’ scenario is always the springboard for me to write a story.

Asking ‘what if’ is a very powerful question for a storyteller. How long does it usually take for you to start and finish each book in The Fartastic Adventures of Billy and Monster series?

Hmmmm… that is a very interesting question. Sometimes, like with the first book in the series, it can take me less than two hours to have a first draft in place. Other times, like with the fourth book in the series, it took me about a month to get the story done.

Do you have any advice for other writers striving to write in your genre, David?

I would say to read a lot of children’s book to familiarize yourself with what’s out there. Then I would implore them to either innovate on what’s currently out there or perhaps take a fresh approach on a popular theme. I see a lot of me-too books in kidlit and it’s always refreshing to discover a new voice.

Sage advice, David! So, what’s next for David Chuka the author?

That is a very loaded question Sharon JIn the short term, I’ll be working with my illustrator to get the fifth Billy and Monster book ready before July 4th. In the medium term, I’m working on writing my first Middle Grade book. And in the long term, I have aspirations to write a mystery thriller. Maybe things will pan out in that exact order…maybe not.

Hopefully your plans will all take root, David. Okay, here’s one for me, since I’m writing a time travel series—If you could time travel anywhere into Earth’s past, where would you go and why?

I would love to go to Egypt during biblical times. Whenever I read the Bible or watch the Ten Commandments, I’m always fascinated by the drama that surrounded the ten plagues that beset the Egyptians as well as the parting of the Red Sea. I sometimes imagine closing my eyes and waking up to here and see Moses telling Pharaoh ‘Let My People Go!’

It’s been an absolute pleasure being on your blog today Sharon. I value and appreciate your friendship and the way you go out of your way to make other authors SHINE! Your blog readers can connect with me at one of the links below. I’d love to hear from each and every one of them!

David Chuka lives in London with his lovely wife and two adorable children. His family are usually the first people to hear his funny and quirky tales. He was inspired to write his first book, 'If You See a Doctor' after he struggled to find a book for his daughter who was a beginner reader.

He's gone on to write more books including the popular 'Billy and Monster' series, a funny set of books about a little boy and his Monster who get into all sorts of funny situations and learn about moderation, friendship, self control, bravery etc. Young children can relate to Billy and you'll love sharing his adventures with your children, grandchildren and loved ones.

As a father himself, he has parents at heart when he writes. He recognizes that bedtime has to be one of the best parts of the day for parents and grandparents as it gives them the opportunity to bond with their little ones. He believes you'll enjoy sharing his stories with your loved ones at bedtime.

In David Chuka's books, you can stay rest assured that quality and captivating images will always complement the story to ensure your loved ones are spell-bound as you read to them. Beginner readers will also enjoy discovering new words as they read his books.

He would like to keep you updated on what he's working on and any giveaways he currently has on offer. Please subscribe to his newsletter at and you'll get a FREE Coloring and Activity book for your loved ones.

You can also connect with him on twitter @davidchuka and Facebook.

Make sure to watch the video trailers for his most popular books on his Amazon Page and you'll get a little taste of why his books have garnered more than 300 glowing reviews.

He has so many stories to tell and can't wait to share them with you and your loved ones.

Thursday 17 April 2014

Guest Post: Get Ready for Good Friday with Sloane Taylor

Today, I've got romance author and gourmet cook, Sloane Taylor slaving away in my virtual kitchen in order to share one of her popular catches of the day for the upcoming holiday. Heat up those elements, Sloane and take it away...

Hi, Sharon! Thanks for allowing me to steamroll my way into your kitchen. This dinner we’re about to make is delicious and a breeze to prepare. The perfect meal for busy schedules. So please pour us a glass of white wine, maybe a Riesling, and lets cook Seared Tilapia and Baked Potatoes.

Baked Potatoes
1 Idaho potato per person
olive oil
sour cream
fresh chopped chives

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Rinse potatoes in cool water then wipe dry. Stab each potato in 6 or 7 different locations to allow steam to escape and stop the vegetable from exploding.

Coat the potatoes with a small amount of oil. Set them on a cookie sheet you’ve covered with aluminum foil.
Roast in the oven for approximately 1 hour or until a toothpick may be easily inserted in the potato.

Serve with butter, sour cream, chives, and pepper.

Seared Tilapia
¼ cup flour
3 tilapia filets or any mild white fish
4 tbsp. butter
1 lime, ends trimmed and sliced into thin circles
1 tbsp. capers, rinsed and drained

Pour flour into a paper or plastic bag. Add one filet and gently shake the bag to coat fish. Shake to remove excess flour and set filet on a plate. Do the same with the next fillet skillet.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a medium – large skillet over medium-high heat. Add lime to skillet. Cook until lime is lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Push limes to the side.

Add 1 tablespoon of butter and the fish. Fry until the tilapia flakes easily, about 2-3 minutes per side.

Add the remaining butter and capers. Remove skillet from the heat and tilt the pan to swirl the butter until it melts.

Transfer the fish and limes to individual plates. Spoon the caper and butter sauce over the top.

Add tossed salad for a wonderful meal you and your family will want to repeat.

Thanks again, Sharon, for sharing your kitchen. Bon Appétit!

Sloane Taylor is a sensual woman who believes humor and sex are healthy aspects of our everyday lives and carries that philosophy into her books. She writes sexually explicit romances that takes you right into the bedroom. Being a true romantic, all her stories have a happy ever after.

Her books are set in Europe where the men are all male and the North American women they encounter are both feminine and strong. They also bring more than lust to their men’s lives.

Taylor was born and raised on the Southside of Chicago. Studly, her mate for life, and Sloane now live in a small home in Indiana and enjoy the change from city life.

She is an avid cook. Check out “It’s Wednesday. So What’s Cooking?” with new recipes posted each week on her blog  The recipes are user friendly menus, meaning easy. Feel free to email her at to be included on the Cooking Pals list. These people receive advance notice of the new recipe.

Sloane Taylor Amazon Author Page

Monday 14 April 2014

3 Guidelines to Giving a Great Author Presentation…

Recently, I had the privilege of speaking to a class of grade 7/8 students. Let me tell you I was blown away by how receptive those kids were! I came in with a prepared presentation, and surprisingly found the class wanting to know more and more about what it’s like to be a published author. So, I booked another session with the same class the following week with the teacher, and had the time of my life! The best part wasn’t the readings—though the students wanted to know what happens next when I finished the chapter—it was the question and answer period. And believe me, sometimes kids do ask the darnedest questions!

Whether you’re presenting to a small class like I did or to an auditorium full of people, here are three guidelines for your next presentation that are sure to grab the attention of your audience:

Make it Emotional. You must touch a person’s heart before you reach their head. The easiest and most effective way to make an emotional connection with people is to tell stories. What I did was tell the class about my experiences on the road to publication, and the process behind writing a book. I shared the tough, rejection-filled times, and the high-five signed a contract times. I even sprinkled a smattering of gossip that my agented teen psychic mystery series is presently sitting in the hands of three traditional publishing companies. They ate that up!

Make it Novel. The human brain doesn’t pay attention to boring things. Ideas that spread are unexpected, surprising, and delivered in a fresh or novel way. Kids get this. I came in with a hook. I didn’t talk about my book right off the bat. I asked them about their March Break holiday, and if any of the students went on a trip. Read: I connected with them, engaged them first. After that, we talked about their favorite video games, which rolled into favorite books, which then gathered enough momentum to start my author presentation. Don’t be boring. Be novel.

Make it Memorable. Make’em laugh. Make’em think. Make’em ask questions. Most of all, make’em remember you! The best ideas stand zero chance of being successful if they can’t be recalled. One great technique is the rule of three. It simply means that people can only recall about three pieces of information. Don’t overwhelm your listener. Give them three reasons to invest in you. I started out talking about my past life before engaging the class. They want to know about you the author, and how you ended up standing in front of them. Tease them with what’s in the works for the future, then bring it home with choosing the best possible chapter to read from your book that will leave them hanging, and wanting more.

BTW – This is what the teacher had to say:

“Sharon definitely was prepared and made her presentation interesting for the class. She made a great link between the thinking of video games to the thinking of an author ie) setting, character, plot. Kids totally got that. Saw a little nerves, (had to look at her sheet) but not a routine thing for her. Glad to have her! Sharon also had time to come a second time to answer questions. Thanks!”

~Monica Park, Grade 7/8 teacher for St. Mary’s School, Huntsville ON Canada

Hmm…don’t think the nerve thing will ever go away. LOL! Do you have any author presentation experiences you’d like to share? Love to hear’em!

Thursday 10 April 2014

Introducing YA Author Christina Mercer's Fantasy Series...

Delve into a land steeped in magic in this Tween/Teen Fantasy Series by Christina Mercer

ARROWoftheMIST Book 1-Award-Winning ARROW OF THE MIST
Terror strikes the Celtic inspired kingdom of Nemetona when barbed roots breach the land and poison woodsmen, including 15-year-old Lia’s beloved father. Lia embarks on a quest to the forbidden land of Brume to gather ingredients for the cure. She relies on her herbal wisdom and newfound gift as a tree mage through a land of soul-hungry shades, trickster creatures, and uncovered truths about her family.

 "Ancient magic and herbal lore mark this engaging, fast-moving fantasy with a botanical bent. Lia, 15, is a winning heroine, discovering and wielding her magical gifts. Well developed characters, elegant dialogue, trickster creatures, exciting scenes of mystic battle and intriguing riddles stir up a powerful potion that will charm readers." - Publishers Weekly

arms of anu
 Book 2 In ARMS OF ANU, Lia and Kelven battle through a land of tyrants, war and magic. Can Lia escape the foes who ensnare her? Will Kelven’s love withstand the darkness taking root inside Lia? Is freedom too high a crown to reach, or will they forever remain in the hollows?

"Excellent fantasy story for preteens and teens. Explores a Celtic-style world of magic, with a little romance, through the eyes of both female and male protagonists." -Indie-Visible Collective
BUY LINK: Amazon

head shot image   Christina Mercer is an award-winning author of fiction for children and young adults. She enjoys life in the foothills of Northern California with her husband and sons, a pack of large dogs, and about 100,000 honeybees. For more about her and her writing, visit    

Monday 7 April 2014

Help this Person...

There’s so much talk around the blog-sphere and internet about author platforms. How do you brand yourself? What to do to create an online presence? How to get your book noticed among millions of other books vying for attention? It’s enough just to write a book and get it published whether you selfpub, epub, or sign traditional, but to also have to market and promote the book can take so much time and energy away from creating more books. And it’s exhausting at times.

So what to do?

One way is to internally ask: How can I help this person? Remember, it’s not always about you, and about selling your book or wares or whatever you’re offering. The best way to help others is to share. In this world, you give, you get. People naturally feel the need to reciprocate when someone does something for them. If you want the people you work with to support your career, help them first, and then stand back and watch the magic happen!

Check out this three minute marvelous mini movie, and you’ll get the gist of how helping a person can be a rewarding experience, and make your life richer in ways you never thought possible. Warning, go grab a couple of tissues before you watch…

Thanks for taking the time to read my post, and have a great and grateful day! Cheers!

Friday 4 April 2014

MG Author Mikey Brooks's The Stone of Valhalla Blog Tour...

Welcome to The Stone of Valhalla Blog Tour!

A middle-grade fantasy-adventure by Mikey Brooks.

Don’t forget to check out the GIVEAWAY at the bottom this post
for a chance to WIN a $25 Amazon Gift card and other great prizes!

Using the Old to Create Something New
A guest post by: Mikey Brooks

I discover fun and interesting things with each book I write. For The Stone of Valhalla I did a lot of research into old Norse mythology and legends. I wanted to base my “otherworld” off something that still had familiarity in ours. World building is really fun in the fact that you get to create everything from the ground up. You get to create their religion, their folk songs, their folklore, everything.

While researching I came across a cool story about a dwarf prince that was turned into a dragon because of his greed with gold and a magical ring. I wanted to put the story into mine but wasn’t sure how it would fit. I ended up using the name of the prince as a dragon in my own story. Fáfnir was the name of the dragon from the Völsunga Saga in Norse legends and he became one of the masters of the Stone of Valhalla in the history of my “otherworld”.

I loved sharing that story so much I decided to write in my own folklore. I created a story about another dragon. Nottigin is a dragon who falls in love with a princess. One night he steals her away and hides her in his cave behind a great waterfall. One night the princess goes wondering and slips to her death. Traumatized by the loss of his love the dragon throws himself off the Cliffside and drowns in the water below. Yes, a tragic story, but it added something magical to the story. The place that my character’s camp at is a grand waterfall called Nottigin’s Fall.

I had a lot of fun writing this book and incorporating many of the things I took for Norse mythology. A lot of the names you will find in The Stone of Valhalla all come from the old Norse legends. I loved taking the old and turning it into something new.

I am thrilled to announce the release of my newest middle-grade fantasy-adventure: The Stone of Valhalla. In it you’ll find sprinklings of Norse legends here and there but that’s not where the fun lies. The fun is in the story of Aaron, from our world, and how he is destined to save another.


Aaron was chosen to save their world, but it might come at the cost of losing his own.

Breaking into an old lady’s basement was supposed to reward 13-year-old Aaron with new friends. Instead he finds an enchanted amulet that transports him to another world—one at war with magic. Before he knows it, he is accused of witchcraft and invited to a bonfire—where he’s the main attraction. If that’s not bad enough, a goblin army shows up and toasts the town...literally. The good news: Aaron escapes being charbroiled. The bad news: the goblins are after him. They want his amulet and will stop at nothing to get it. Battling to find his way home, Aaron teams up with a not-so-magical-wizard and learns it’s his fate to destroy the amulet and save this new world. But is he willing to sacrifice his own?

Check out what these talented authors are saying about it:

The Stone of Valhalla is one of those books that only comes along once in a great while. Brooks doesn't just create a world, he puts you inside of it, allowing you to experience the wonder in a way that only he can. His characters are likable and fun. His twists leave you asking ‘Why?’ Treat yourself to an exciting adventure through a beautiful new land. Make new friends and be a part of the magic. This is a book that you will not be able to put down!”
—J.R. Simmons, author of Ragesong: Awakening.

 The Stone of Valhalla drew me in from the get-go. Aaron’s journey is reminiscent of Dorothy’s trek in The Wizard of Oz. Magic, sword fights, danger, and more danger, sprinkled with humor and unexpected twists. This is one of the ‘best’ fantasy adventures I’ve ever experienced!”
—BBH McChiller, author of The Monster Moon Series.

The Stone of Valhalla is a riveting mystery revealing true friendship, loyalty and sacrifice. Brooks engages the curiosity of middle graders and older sleuths alike, until the very end. Fantastic!”
—L.R.W. Lee, author of The Andy Smithson series.

Where to Find The Stone of Valhalla:
Exclusive price for the eBook release is just $2.99! (List Price: $4.99)
And only $9.99 for the paperback!(List Price: $12.99)
On April 12th 2014 the price will return to the List Price

Another special offer:
During The Stone of Valhalla Blog Tour
Mikey’s other great middle-grade eBooks will also be set to the low price of just $0.99!

The Dream Keeper:
Kindle | Nook | Kobo

The Dreamstone:
Kindle | Nook | Kobo

You’re Invited to PARTY!!
The online launch party will take place on Thursday, April 10th at 4pm (MST). The party will run for 2 hours and you’re invited to drop by anytime. The longer you stay the more chances you have of winning prizes! We have slew of eBooks to giveaway, as well as a Stone of Valhalla necklace AND a $25 Amazon gift card! It is hosted by LovingtheBookLaunchParty on Facebook. Just follow this link to join the event:

What’s that? Another Party!
That’s right! If you’re local to Utah you don’t want to miss this kickin’ party. We are having a launch party to celebrate the release of this awesome new book. Of course there will be plenty of giveaways there too, but what’s even better are the guest authors! Just check out these fabulous names: J. Scott Savage, Chad Morris, Lisa Mangum, Jenni James, Ali Cross, and many more. The Launch Party is: Friday, April 11th from 6-9pm at the Viridian Center in West Jordan, Utah. Follow this link for a map:

About Mikey Brooks:

Mikey is a small child masquerading as an adult. On occasion you’ll catch him dancing the funky chicken, singing like a banshee, and pretending to have never grown up. He is the author/illustrator of several books including the best-selling ABC Adventures: Magical Creatures and Bean’s Dragons as well as the middle-grade fantasy-adventure series The Dream Keeper Chronicles. His art can be seen in many forms from picture books to full room murals. He loves to daydream with his three daughters and explore the worlds that only the imagination of children can create. Mikey has a BS degree in English from Utah State University and works full-time as a freelance illustrator, cover designer, and author. As a member of the Emblazoners, he is one of many authors devoted to ‘writing stories on the hearts of children’. He is also one of the hosts of the Authors’ Think Tank Podcast. You can find more about him and his books at:

The Giveaways!
a Rafflecopter giveaway