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Knowledge of our past is our inheritance. What we do with that knowledge will shape our destinies...

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Optimism: Thoughts on Thursday

Thoughts for Thursday is a feature hosted by Musings on Fantasia and LKHill.  In this meme, we share thoughts or quotes that we know or have recently come across. Each week there is a specific subject or theme. These can be quotes from books, quotes by famous people, (quotes by YOU, perhaps ;D). Anything from anywhere is game, though we do ask that you keep your quote to a few sentences at most. Don't quote, for example, entire passages of a book or essay. These can be funny quips, cool sayings, hair-raising antidotes, movie lines, any kind of quote you can think of!

Just have fun, collect awesome sayings by awesome people, and try to be inspired!

This week's theme is optimism. I've had a remarkably disheartening week, so I really needed this topic this week.  (For even more quotes, visit my other blog.)

Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.--Dr. Seuss
We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.--Oscar Wilde, Lady Windermere's Fan
How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.--Anne Frank
A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.--Winston Churchill
Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.--Victor Hugo, Les Miserables
Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.--Helen Keller
Optimism is the madness of insisting that all is well when we are miserable.--Voltaire
What is your favorite quote about optimism? Do you have one to add?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Teaser Tuesday: The Book Thief

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Today's teasers come from The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. It's kind of weird reading this book because the main character shares my name--same spelling and everything--and my name is unique enough that I don't run into it every often. It's kind of freaking me out. :D
"For now, Rudy and Liesel made their way onto Himmel Street in the rain. He was the crazy one who had painted himself black and defeated the world. She was the book thief without words. 
Trust me, though, the words were on their way, and when they arrived, Liesel would hold them in her hands like the clouds, and she would wring them out like the rain."

What are you reading this week? 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Historical Tidbit: The Legend of the Romanovs

The Romanov Family
Did you know...?

That despite pervasive rumors lasting more than ninety years that when the Romanovs--the Russian royals who's family dynasty had ruled for three hundred plus years--were assassinated in 1918, two of the children somehow survived, the rumors have now been laid to rest?

It's true. Nicholas II, Tsar of Russia, abdicated the previous year as the Boleshevik Revolution got underway. He and his family were banished to Siberia. Yet, a year later, they were gunned down by the Red Guard on the orders of Vladimir Lenin.

Rumors that the Grand Duchess Anastasia, the youngest girl, and her little brother, Yuri, the only boy and heir to the Russian throne, survived because they had diamonds sewn into their clothes that might have deflected the bullets.

For years, rumors, stories, and legends have circulated about what might have happened to the two children. Countless individuals have turned the spotlight on themselves, claiming to be direct descendants of the Romanovs, or even the missing children themselves.

When it was revealed in 1991 that a grave with the Romanov skeletons had been unearthed, and two were absent, these stories seemed to be validated, but not for long. 

In 2007, a second grave, only 70 yards from the first, was unearthed. In it were the charred remains of two small skeletons, giving credence to reports that the Red Guard at first tried to burn the bodies, but upon realizing they didn't have the resources, sorted to simple burial instead.

Since then, DNA evidence has proved without a doubt that this is, indeed, the entire Romanov family. (Source).

So, what's the point of telling you all this? I have two reasons for bringing it up.

1) Obviously, this tragic tale is would be an intriguing backdrop for a historical fiction. And yet, this story has--no pun or disrespect meant--been done to death. There are so many stories in so many formats and from so many different aspects that have been built off this legend.

So my question to you is this: Can anyone think of a great aspect of this historical tale or time period that hasn't been done yet? If you were given this as a backdrop for any story, but you had to incorporate the deaths of the Romanovs, how would you handle it? Just wondering. I'll answer it myself, either in the comments or a later post, but I'd like to hear others' take of it, first.

2) My second reason for posting about this is that it is Russian history. My historical fiction novel due out in May 2014, is about Russian history. Granted, Ivan the Terrible, whose reign is the backdrop for my book, was three hundred years before Nicholas II, but there are more ties between the two than the obvious both-of-them-were-Russian-rulers aspect.

You see, Ivan the Terrible, who ruled in the 1500s, overlapping somewhat with Elizabeth I of England's reign, married a beautiful young lady by the name of Anastasia Romanovna. Now, at that time, her family was noble, but not royal. Her marriage to Ivan brought her family up in society, and for the next 300 years, the Romanov clan was considered royalty and often produced the Russan rulers. Their reign only ended when Nicholas II and his family were assassinated just prior to World War I. 

So, as you can see, this story interests me. In truth, most Russian history interests me. Russians know their own history very well, but not many in the U.S. are aware of it, and I think they ought to be (hence my book) even if Russian history is full of such tragedy and gore as to make U.S. history seem like an after-school special.

But I think we're blessed in the U.S. to have a more tame history, one where it's people haven't had to live through the horrors and heartache that Russian life--especially that in the Middle Ages under Ivan's rule--brought.

So, tell me what you think of this story, and if you're interested in the details of my book, they are posted below.  Happy Monday, Everyone!

In a world where power is paid for in blood, no one ever aspires to more than what they were born to, and danger hides in plain sight, Inga, a maid in the imperial Russian palace, must find the courage to break the oppressive chains she’s been bound with since birth. 
Inga’s life in sixteenth century Russia is bleak until a man she crossed paths with as a child returns to the Kremlin. Taras is convinced his mother’s death when he was a boy was no mere accident and has returned to try and discover what really happened, all during the reign of Ivan the Terrible, the most brutal and notorious ruler ever to sit the throne of Russia. 
While Taras finds only lies and silence where he seeks truth, Inga struggles with the feelings of oppression that have plagued her for most of her life. Taras gives her the chance to leave her loneliness behind forever, but the cost and future of such a liaison is uncertain and Inga is afraid. 
Up against the social confines of the time, the shadowy conspiracies that cloak their history, and the sexual politics of the Russian imperial court, Inga and Taras must discover their past, plan for their future, and survive the brutality that permeates life within the four walls that tower over them all, or they may end up like so many citizens of ancient Russia: nothing but flesh and bone mortar for the stones of the Kremlin wall. 
Available now for pre-order. Due out May 2014

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Follow Friday: Book Selling!

Gain new followers and make new friends with the Book Blogger Feature & Follow! If this is your first time here, welcome! You are about to make some new friends and gain new followers -- but you have to know -- the point of this hop is to follow other bloggers also. I follow you, you follow me.

The Feature & Follow is hosted by TWO hosts, Parajunkee of Parajunkee's View and Alison of Alison Can Read. Each host will have their own Feature Blog and this way it'll allow us to show off more new blogs!

How does this work? First you leave your name here on this post, (using the linky tools -- keep scrolling!) then you create a post on your own blog that links back to this post (easiest way is to just grab the code under the #FF picture and put it in your post) and then you visit as many blogs as you can and tell them "hi" in their comments (on the post that has the #FF image). You follow them, they follow you. Win. Win. Just make sure to follow back if someone follows you!

Bookselling Time: Go to your biggest bookcases. Go to the second shelf from the top and pick out the sixth book from the left. Handsell that book to us - even if you haven’t read it or if you hated it.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Book Review: Cinderskella

Last week, I read Cinderskella, the middle grade debut novel of my friend and fellow JFP author, Amie Borst. Her daughter, Bethany, is her co-author.

Plot: Cindy is a typical junior high girl with a best friend and a crush. Until the day she is called home from school to the bedside of her dying mother. Not long after her mother passes, while alone in her room, Cindy looks down and finds that her skin is gone, along with all muscle and everything else except the bones. She is a skeleton! It seems she turns into a skeleton when night falls, but then back into herself with the dawn. Now Cindy, who dubs herself Cinderskella, must deal with her curse, getting her dad to accept her, and exploring the world--especially the cemetary!--after dark. 

Things take a complicated twist when Cindy makes her way into an underworld-type plane and then her father brings home a "new mom" who has two bratty daughters of her own.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Historical Mystery: The Missing Sodder Children

I'm combining historical and crime tidbits today with a historical mystery. Anyone ever heard of the vanished Sodder children? It's actually a very tragic tale.

On Christmas Eve, 1945, the home of George and Jennie Sodder burnt to the ground. The Sodders lived near Fayette, West Virginia and had ten children, nine of whom were under their roof that night for the holidays. The only one missing was one of older boys who was serving in the army. 

The fire started in the middle of the night and, sadly, only four of the nine children made it out of the house. The oldest son and Mr. Sodder did everything they could to get back inside. The staircase leading to the second level where the other five children had been sleeping was engulfed in flames. Mr. Sodder kept a ladder by the side of the house. Always. But when he went to retrieve it, it was gone. The water sources around the house were frozen solid with the cold weather. In desperation, they tried to start their trucks, hoping to bring them to he side of the house and stand on them to reach the second level. The trucks, though they'd run just fine hours before, refused to start.

The house burnt to ashes in less than 45 minutes. The small town police department didn't arrive until dawn. 

Then the true oddities of the situation began to emerge. In the crematoriums of the time, it took 2 hours at 2000 degrees to incinerate bone. It's impossible to gauge the temperature of the fire, but it burnt out in less than an hour, which means five skeletons should have been found in the aftermath. Not a single one was.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Teaser Tuesday: Cinderskella by Amie and Bethany Borst

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

This week's teasers come from Cinderskella, the debut middle grade novel of my friend and fellow JFP author, Amie Borst. A cool fact: it was co-written by her teenage daughter, Bethany.
Not the vines! Last time I'd seen them they tried to pull me into the ground. I let out a scream. "I do believe in spooks--I mean magic. I do believe in magic. I do, I do, I do." 
"You all right, sugah?" Ms. Wanda extended her hand, reaching for me. Except it was all bone. There was no skin. Her hand was a boney, white skeleton. A bony, white skeleton hand holding a bouquet of roses. 
"AAAHH!" I shrieked, closing my eyes tight.

What are you reading this week?

Monday, December 2, 2013

Great Reads for Book Marketing Strategy

Lately I've read several non-fiction books about publishing, marketing, upping visibility, and book marketing strategy. I've gotten a lot out of them and thought I would share them. They've got some great information and tips for struggling writers, and I think anyone in this industry would get a lot out of them.

How to Market a Book by Johanna Penn

I just finished reading this one and it's EXCELLENT! A bit long--about 350 pages--but chalk full of great stuff. I've followed Johanna's blog for months, now, and bought this awhile ago, but it's been sitting on my kindle since then. I finally read it and am so glad I did. I literally took five pages of notes that I'm now using to put together a marketing plan for 2014. (I'll talk more about that as we get closer to the end of the year, but I'm definitely looking ahead already.)

I would highly recommend this to any struggling writer who wants to improve their visibility, their book's marketability, and overall improve their sales. I think this is especially for those author's who've established a base but want to step up their game. A great read! 

Kindle edition sells for $5.99. (Link below)

Self-Printed: The Sane Person's Guide to Self-Publishing by Catherine Ryan Howard

This is a great book for the author that's just starting out and needs some direction for building their platform and starting a presence through social media. It explains the basics of things--everything from what the difference between self and traditional publishing is to why a social media presence is important for authors today. The information in is very good and it's very affordable. 

I would recommend it to anyone just starting out, though I'll admit that by the time I read it, I already knew most of the information given. If you've already got a book out, or are otherwise fairly immersed in the publishing world, this might be a little too basic for you.

Kindle edition sells for $4.49 (Link Below)

How I Sold 1 Million Ebooks in 5 Months by John Locke

This book is very short and to the point, and I liked that about it. Locke lays out the techniques that worked for him. His tips are especially great for using blog posts to sell books, and I felt like a learned a lot. Of course, these are also the kind of strategies that work for some and not others. The world of blogging and the internet is constantly shifting and trends rise and fall, so you can't necessarily expect to do exactly what he did and see the same level of success. Still, it doesn't hurt to try and absorb his tips into your own writing and marketing efforts. Definitely worth a read!

Ebook only. Sells for $2.99 (Link Below)

Building Your Book for Kindle by Kindle Direct Publishing

This is basically a how-to manual for formatting an ebook so it's suitable for kindle. A great guide if you've never done it before. If you have, or you use other methods, skip it.

Ebook only. FREE! Yeah!

Has anyone else read any of these? What did you think of them? Do you have any suggestions that aren't on this list (I'd love more suggestions for myself to read!)?