Undisturbed by Reality

Undisturbed by Reality Cover - Venus

by Annalise Phenix

Undisturbed by Reality Cover - Venus

Playing with patterns and forms, this sampling of poetry by Annalise Phenix combines imagery from the natural world with the language of dream and myth.

Winner of the 2014 EPIC award for poetry.

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Also available for other devices. Search for ISBN: 9780983513353 eISBN: 9780983513360

Sisterhood

Sisterhood Cover - Woman with Gun

by Deleyna Marr

Sisterhood Cover - Woman with GunSomething is watching…

A single gunshot shattered Dana’s perfect life. Now she’s starting over with a new life, new rules and an old flame to chase all her demons away. But Dana’s demons have other ideas. They want her — and her sisters — at any cost.
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and many others.

Ask for ISBN: 9781631070044

Introducing Alicia McCalla

Alicia McCalla

Here is my long-overdue interview with Alicia McCalla. Alicia has been a delight to work with and I was proud to publish her book, Breaking Free, in February 2012. She’s hard at work on the sequel as well as another novel that she’ll be self-publishing. I frequently use Alicia as an example of how to market. She’s out there making contacts and speaking her heart. Her passion drives her fiction and it shows. This woman simply can not write fast enough to satisfy the hunger of her fans!

HA: Why did you decide to indie publish? Why now?

AM: A little over a year ago, I attended a discussion at my local writer’s group that discussed the problems and concerns with traditional publishing. I listened to authors published by traditional publishers share some truly heart wrenching stories. That discussion along with learning how digital publishing has been changing the face of the industry led me to seriously consider indie-publishing. Last February, my dream became a reality when my debut novel, Breaking Free, became available in print and for immediate download. Exciting!

HA: You have a platform that motivates you, and led me to want to publish your book. Tell us about that.

AM: My platform in Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal in color. It’s my goal to encourage FFP authors to desegregate their fictionalized worlds and add protagonists of color as well as content that relates to people of color. It’s a sensitive platform but very important in the 21st century. If readers are interested in why I write my blog, they can visit my first blog post “Black People Don’t Read Science Fiction.”

HA: Your book is incredibly relevant to current events. You speak directly to the young people of today. My husband and I have had a debate over whether Trayvon’s death was racially motivated. I claim that it was not, but that the handling of the case by police was a horrific injustice that has hurt racial healing. I think of the many misunderstandings in your book. I’m curious about your opinions.

AM: The Trayvon Martin case was very sensitive to me. I’m not only an African-American but a mother of a teen Black male. Trayvon’s case rattled me. Stereotyping, racism, and weapons are dangerous. In our 21st century minds, we think of lynching and segregation as a thing of the 19th or 20th century but the vestiges of that dying mindset still remain. I was so pleased when I put the call out to speculative fiction authors to participate in Trayvon 2.0: A Creative Science Fiction response towards racial healing, I received many short stories on my blog from writers of all races, backgrounds, and sentiments. I’d hoped that Trayvon 2.0 could be a creative outlet for people to heal. It’s been an amazing project.

HA: What do you do for a living?

AM: Um. I’m pretty boring LOL! I’m a school librarian. I spend my days encouraging students to read, research, and use technology. I do enjoy working as a librarian. It’s really quite fun. There’s always something really interesting going on in libraries. Wink!

HA: Do you think that affected your portrayal of the librarian in Breaking Free?

AM: Yes and No. I really just wanted to make a cool character who was evil with a capital “E.” I’m hoping that readers sit on the edge of their seats when they read the fight scene. It’s both physical and mental. It was a tough scene to write but I feel that I captured the full battle. Violence and triumph all in one.

HA: Can you tell us more about the story?

AM: Sure. XJ is a 17-year old genetically-enhanced girl who must save her mother from a mind swiping procedure. Breaking Free is the first book in the Genetic Revolution series. This series is intense and controversial. There are issues of race, class, gender as well as sexual identity crisis. Did I mention that there’s an interracial romance? This series chalked full of current issues. Teens will have lots to talk about after reading it.

HA: Would you indie publish again?

AM: Yes. I am publishing more books. Readers can visit: www.aliciamccalla.com to find out more about my upcoming books. Double Identity, the next book in XJ’s series will be available in February 2013. I’m so excited.

Why I think Amazon Select is bad for writers.

Jungle

I’ve been busy the last few months with medical issues (not my own), so this post is delayed. Delayed, but important.

JungleAmazon has a program out for publishers called Amazon Select. They’re offering participants this month $600,000 in bonus money (divided up by how many downloads a book receives) if they will agree to publish only through Amazon for 90 days. I’ve read some statistics and on the surface, this looks like a good deal. Authors who are participating in the program are making higher royalties.

I’ve read some widely circulated articles on why every author should be participating in this program.

Why don’t I recommend jumping into this seemingly peaceful jungle pool? Has no one ever heard of piranha?

I grew up in Silicon Valley. I’ve watched big companies fight over profits, and I’ve seen a lot of little companies and individuals get eaten.

I have no doubt that the short term gain for authors from participating in this program will be significant.

But — why is Amazon doing this? Why would they want authors to publish only on the Kindle and not on…oh, say iPad, Nook, Sony or any of the other generic e-readers out there? Because the content from the Select program is free to readers who participate in the Amazon Prime program.

I seriously considered signing up for Amazon Prime. Free shipping. Streaming videos that might let me discontinue Netflix. The bottom line looked really good for my budget. And then they came out with Amazon Select.

I guess Netflix gets to keep getting my money.

Because this is Amazon.

Have you ever had to work with Amazon’s customer service? I have. The result was a shocking, “we don’t really care about an individual sale” attitude. I’d given someone a gift certificate to Amazon. The end result was: Amazon had the money and my friend never got their gift. Whenever possible, I buy from someone else.

Amazon Prime and Amazon Select are excellent tools for Amazon to devour their competition.

A $2.99 ebook I sell on Amazon’s regular program nets the author about $1.83 after the 30% discount and delivery fees. The same ebook sold on Barnes and Noble nets the author $1.94 because while they charge a 35% discount, they do not charge a delivery fee. Apple pays $1.92 through my reseller. When I sell to a generic e-reader through my reseller, the author gets $2.24.

The differences are small, but they add up. If you are buying your ebooks through Amazon, the authors are getting a smaller chunk of the profits, even though Amazon advertises having a lower discount rate. Why? Extra fees.

Amazon has a huge chunk of the market on the Kindle. Imagine what will happen once they’ve pushed the big competition under a rock. Is there any question they’ll lower royalties and increase their discount rate? We’re talking about Amazon.

Self-published authors are being forced to make a choice. Publish to Amazon Select and earn higher profits on a bunch of sales. Or, earn lower profits but allow customers more freedom to buy books through any retailer they choose. I’m recommending that authors give their readers a choice to buy their books in any format they wish, from any company they wish. Yes, this may initially mean slightly lower profits on some books. (I’m not recommending avoiding Amazon altogether, just avoiding the Select program.) In the long run, however, I think we’ll be giving Barnes & Noble, Apple, etc. a chance to respond to this attack.

And I suspect the results will be interesting.

Interesting. As in the old curse: May you live in interesting times.

As writers and publishers, especially independent writers and publishers, we do live in interesting times.

Introducing Elise Skidmore

Elise Skidmore

Elise SkidmoreI’ve known Elise for more years than I want to confess to. I’ve watched her incredible talent grow and mature over the years. It has been frustrating to see this talent mostly hidden away, so bringing this book into publication makes me blissfully happy. I’m so excited to share her talent with the rest of the world!

HA: Why did you decide to indie publish? Why now?

ES: I’ve been writing poetry for most of my life and even had a few poems published, but the truth is I hate the marketing side of the writing business so I haven’t pursued publication much. Over the past 15 years or so, I’ve been sharing my work with other writers and poets, mostly in private venues, and several of those colleagues have been pushing me to put together a chapter book of my poems. Other than random poems here and there, self-publishing is really the only venue for poets to put their work out there, and self-publishing in print doesn’t come cheap. It happened that a long-time friend, Lisa Norman, was starting Heart Ally Books and suggested we try to publish “Poems from the Edge of Spring” in Kindle format first, and depending on its success, we could print in hard copy later. With the recent increase in the popularity of digital books, publishing in digital formats seemed a good way to share the poetry without breaking the bank, so I decided to take a chance.

HA: Why not do it yourself?

ES: Partly because I’m lazy. (I mentioned I hate the marketing end of the business, didn’t I? And don’t we all try to avoid the things we hate?) But mostly because I’m what I like to call a “computer-duh”. I know how to use a computer, of course, and over the years I’ve become a bit less of a “duh”, but only about the things I actually use the computer for, like writing or surfing the net, and even then I probably take the long way around to accomplish things that others, more knowledgeable than me, can do more efficiently. Sort of like being able to drive a car, but other than checking that there’s gas in the tank, having no clue why it might not go when I step on the gas. The idea of trying to format a book for publication was way over my head, so I decided to trust the technical aspects to someone who knows what they’re doing.

HA: I know you write beautiful prose. What is it about poetry that draws and motivates you?

ES: Well, as I mentioned, I’ve been writing poetry for most of my life, much longer than I’ve been writing prose. I think it’s the idea that you can express so much in a few carefully chosen words. You don’t have the pressure to tell a story, though you can and often do, and yet if you do it well your reader will be able to relate it to their own experiences.

HA: Blueprint your work for me. What comes first, the rhythm or the verse?

ES: Most of my poems are free verse so I rarely think about rhythm in the sense of iambic pentameter and such unless I’m working on a poetry form that requires it. But I think all poetry has an internal rhythm to it, which is something that comes naturally to me and changes with each poem. Poems always begin in one of two ways for me: with a word or phrase that catches my attention, like “Mosaic of Joy” for example, or seeing something that sticks in my mind like a snapshot, the way the bird in “Avian Suicide” did. Once that spark has been ignited, it may smolder for a while until the poem is ready to be written (I usually jot down key words/phrases so not to forget them in the meantime.). Other times, the poem comes out in a single burst.

HA: Do you have a favorite poem in the collection? Can you tell us more about the story behind that poem?

ES: That’s a tough question. It’s like asking a mother to pick a favorite child—but they always want you to, don’t they? If forced to pick a favorite, I think I’d have to narrow it down to two that are closely related: “Counting” and “10:05pm”. The first was written three weeks after my father died, the other was written two years after. I was blessed with the best parents anyone could ask for and have written many poems over the years about both of them, but my father and I always had a special bond. My sister and I were by his side, holding his hands, when he passed. Letting him go was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done. He was simply the best and will always be my hero.

HA: Oh, great. Make me pick. Well, since we share the experience of watching a parent take their last breath, I think I’ll pick “Counting” because that one has always touched my heart.

Counting

I can’t stop counting
the measure doesn’t matter
three weeks or
twenty-one days
it’s all the same
and time keeps ticking
backward

memories come uninvited
and stay for tea
while I recall in minute detail
the moments leading
to our last goodbye

tear-soaked whispers
of love and assurance
letting go when
all I really want
is to beg you to stay

inhaled breath
counting
long
seconds
until
your
final
exhalation

alone
I laid my head on your chest
knowing there were no heartbeats left
to count

I have done this before
days turn into weeks
weeks into months
months into years
always counting
backward
until one day
tears subside
and I begin to tally
the many joys
of having you in my life.

HA: Poetry, by nature, is vulnerability. Why expose yourself?

ES: It took a long time before I was willing to share my poetry with other than a trusted few, because poetry always feels more personal, even when it’s about nature or politics rather than love or family. With age comes wisdom (or so they say), and I think that we all have these thoughts and feelings, whether we let others see them or not. We may experience them differently, but we do all experience them. By putting the work out there, I’d like to think I’m giving a voice to all the others who don’t know how to express those thoughts and feelings, but can relate when they see them.

HA: What do you think of the experience so far? What were the hard/easy parts?

Would you do this again?

ES: The experience has been a very positive one and I would definitely do it again, as long as I had someone I trust to deal with the technical aspects of production. Lisa had a heck of a time trying to maintain the poetic form in a venue that changes as the reader changes font sizes, but she managed it somehow, so that was the easiest part for me. The hardest part was deciding which poems and photos to include in the book and how to make it cohesive. Once I stumbled on the idea of using March and April as the “edges of spring,” it all came together.

HA: What’s one rumor you’d love to see spread about you and/or your work?

ES: Let’s see… How about: Elise is a stunningly beautiful woman, both inside and out, with a great sense of humor. Her poetry is not only accessible to the masses, but is turning poetry haters into poetry lovers.

HA: Well, that wouldn’t be a rumor – that’s the truth!

Breaking Free

BreakingFree_AliciaMcCalla_435-680

by Alicia McCalla

What if CAGE took your mom?

BreakingFree_AliciaMcCalla_435-68017-year old XJ Patterson comes home from school to find her revolutionary mother using pyrokinectic abilities to fight officers from CAGE. XJ freaks out when her mother falls and CAGE hauls her away for a mind-swipe procedure. She wants to get her mom back but she won’t become a revolutionary to do it. XJ hated growing up in the GEP Revolution and will do anything that she can to be mainstream even ignore the boy that she crushes on… She won’t join him. She won’t let him tell her story…

Brandon Miller has a huge crush on XJ. He doesn’t care if they’re the wrong mate designation type, that she’s poor or he’s rich, that she’s black  and he’s white, or that she’s his stalker ex-girlfriend’s step-sister. All he cares about is convincing her to become his girlfriend and telling her story on his Revolutionary TV program. When he sees XJ cut a deal with a crooked mainstream reporter, he does anything in his power to show XJ the truth but will it be too late?

Breaking Free is the first story in the Genetic Revolution series. Three cousins come together to become the ultimate weapon that will destroy CAGE, an organization designed to keep GEPs under control. With the help of their holographic grandfather and host of GEP allies will XJ, Amber, and Whitney reunite to overthrow CAGE and free GEPs from oppression and tyranny?

 

Available from:

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and many others. Ask for ISBN: 9781631070105 or eISBN: 9780983513384.
You can also purchase the paperback direct from CreateSpace.

Patronizing the Arts

As a young writer, I wanted a patron: someone who would pay my way in exchange for the creativity I would then offer up to bless the world.

Reality can be a pain.

I was horrified to learn there are so few patrons these days.

Great, classical authors had patrons. Painters had patrons. But there was no patron for me.

Reality is changing. In our modern world, anyone can be a patron of the arts. Many of us already are, without realizing it.

If you buy books, traditionally published books, you’re paying the publishing industry. You’re actually supporting a whole slew of jobs, but only a tiny fraction of the cost of the book actually makes it back to an author. That number is probably around 10%. (May be less, may be slightly more, but that’s a good comparison number.)

If you buy a book from an independent author, that author will likely receive around 60% to 70% of what you pay. (The printer and distributor like Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, etc. will take their cut.) That’s a huge difference.

In the modern indie publishing environment, that’s the difference between a writer working as a plumber in order to live and being able to write full-time. More and more indie authors are able to support themselves off of the profit from their books. That means they can write more books, improve their craft, and provide you with a higher quality of entertainment.

As a bonus, these indie authors are able to explore a wider range of topics than traditionally published authors.

So, become a patron. Whenever possible, buy your books from indie authors.

How can you find them?

If you’re using an e-reader, look in your marketplace for books priced $5 or less. There’s no guarantee that these are indies, but most of them will be. Yes, that means you can read these books for less money than you can buy from a traditional publisher.

Any of the books I publish qualify as indie books. These authors receive 90% of the profits from each sale. I’m working on getting a good variety of books: poetry, fiction, memoirs.

Search for “Independent Authors” in your search-engine of choice. You may have to buy these books on-line. If you can buy them in a bookstore, consider asking your local independent bookstore to consider carrying your favorites. (Not all independent authors have set up the distributor relationship that allows this. Heart Ally Books authors have.) If you buy from your local bookstore, you’ll be supporting them as well.

Become a patron. Enjoy the benefits: new voices, creative approaches, entertainment that you enjoy. If you buy a hard-copy, don’t forget to request an autographed bookplate from the author. You will have shelf of books that you can look at and know you’ve helped support those writers.

Poems from the Edge of Spring

Cover - daisy on the edge

Cover - daisy on the edge

by Elise Skidmore

A book of poetry from Elise Skidmore touching on the phases and loves of life, family, friends and the world we find ourselves in. Elise is converting poetry haters into poetry lovers with her accessible poems that delight and entertain.

 

Like Love

Like love, spring snuck up on me;
one day when I wasn’t looking,
the trees stretched bare arms to the sky
and the next thing I knew,
the world was amass of green,
rich and alive,
and smelling oh so sweet.
Like love, it filled my heart
near to bursting;
the sheer beauty of it
left me walking in circles
with this silly smile on my face.

 

Watch the trailer:

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Look for me on Kindle Fire.

 

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Also available for other devices. Search for eISBN: 9780983513346

Now available in print!

When Leaves Fall

When Leaves Fall Cover with Epic Finalist Award

Autumn scene with Epic Finalist Award

by Elise Skidmore

What people are saying about Elise Skidmore —

I’ve read POEMS FROM THE EDGE OF SPRING, and can highly recommend it! The sort of book you can pick up for a moment’s respite or inspiration–or just sit and read from piece to piece, always entertained/comforted/made to think. Lovely book! — Diana Gabaldon

Poignant and lyrical, every sentence is a gem. Each poem brought back personal memories of family members and past experiences, each one re-lived through Ms. Skidmore’s precise pen. I thorougly enjoyed this selection of poems, and look forward to reading more from Elise Skidmore! — Karen White

… I really enjoyed the beautiful poetry in Poems from the Edge of Spring. I will pick it up and read it again…and again. — Cheryl Secomb

Elise Skidmore gives us a glimpse of her inner most feelings and she does it well. Each of us can find a bit of our own soul inside her elegant words. Definitely worth the read! — Susan Michalski

When Leaves Fall is the eagerly anticipated second book from acclaimed poet Elise Skidmore whose poetry reaches into the heart and brings us together in the seasons of life that we all share.

When Leaves Fall

When leaves fall,
still shouting life with
their last rasping breath,

as brilliant reds, yellows and umber
crunch beneath our feet,
I breathe deep,

inhaling sunshine, wood smoke
and memories of laughing
with the leaves
and you.

 

Buy now:

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Also available for other devices. Search for eISBN: 9780985374044

Now available in print!