Indie Love Review Giveaway: Lichgates by S.M. Boyce

The Indie Love Review Giveaway
S.M. Boyce and Lichgates

Welcome to the Indie Love review giveaway!  This is the first in a series of giveaways held by me to promote the work of some really fun, friendly, talented people who self-publish.  Why am I doing this, you ask?  Because I love books, these authors are great, and self-published authors tend to fall through the cracks.  Which is sad, because so many of them have wonderful stories to tell!

What are my ulterior motives, you ask!  None.  My own book is still in the works, so why not use the extra time to promote other authors?  Sharing is caring and all that.  I am not affiliated with S.M. Boyce.  This is merely something I'd like to do to get her book more publicity.  Because it's great. 

We start with Lichgates by S.M. Boyce, the first book in her Grimoire trilogy.  The trilogy is a YA fantasy with punch, panache, and an original fantasy world.  The main character is strong and witty and there's danger on every page.  Read my full review of Lichgates and learn more about the book here.

The Grimoire turns its own pages and can answer any question asked of it, and Kara Magari is its next target. Kara has no idea what she's getting herself into when she stumbles across the old book while hiking a hidden trail. Once she opens it, she's thrown into Ourea: a beautiful world full of terrifying things that want the Grimoire's secrets. Everyone in this new world is trying to find her, and most want to control the new-found power the book bestows upon her. Even if Kara does escape, Ourea will only drag her back. Braeden Drakonin grew up in Ourea, and all he’s ever known of life is lying. The Grimoire is his one chance at redemption, and it lands in his lap when Kara Magari comes into his life. He has one question to ask the book—one question that can fix everything in his broken world—and he’s not letting Kara out of his sight until he gets an answer. There’s no going back now.

So, how do you win?  So easy!  Check out the rafflecopter below for all your chances to enter the giveaway. Your best option: read the book and review it!  Buy Lichgates here!  You can start putting in entries today and the giveaway will close on April 24th to give you time to read.

Reviews should be at least a paragraph and should not contain any offensive language.  

So come help spread the word about a great series!


Look out for upcoming giveaways for other great indie authors!  

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Writing Tips: Borrowed Titles, or How to Make an Unmarketable Clone

So you know how picky I am about my titles, right? Well, well. The other day I spotted an interesting-looking book called On the Road. You know, that fantastic beat novel by Jack Kerouac. Except it wasn’t. It was a novel by . . . some guy. I’ve forgotten his name and guess what happened when I tried to google it? I got thousands of hits about Jack Kerouac. And another book called On the Road. Which is also not by Jack Kerouac.

Starting to sense the problem? Yes. Naming your work the same title as a very famous work is a great way to make your book unsearchable. Maybe you’ll get some hits from someone looking for the other book. Or maybe readers like me will forget your name and have no way to find you again. But what about similar titles, you ask. These can work. Except when they don’t. A similar or punny version of a famous title is a cute way to say, “Hey, I’m adapting this into a new story, so I’m going to make you think of the old story and then twist it into something clever and new.” What if the other title isn’t that famous? Well, you’re still going to confuse your market.

It can also be a problem, because fans of the original are going to compare you every step of the way. And if the adaptation isn’t clever enough or isn’t close enough or is too close or isn’t whatever-they-think-of enough, you will be judged. This is often used in fairy tale adaptations, often to a good effect. Let’s look at some books that do this well—and not so well. Remember: your title has to work with your cover and your story! So this is also a little rant about modernizing old stories.

Bad Examples

On the Road (who the hell knows! I can’t find him anymore!), On the Road (Angela White). Not Jack Kerouac. Stop it.

Prom and Prejudice (Elizabeth Eulberg). At surface level, okay, it’s a cute idea. Make Lizzie into a high school girl and the country lords into rich kids. However, as the reviews will tell you, the plot is basically a duplicate of Pride and Prejudice, only with different characters. Maybe that’s what you want. Or maybe you love Austen and are wondering why you just don’t go read that instead, since the plot points are all the same. The title tells you that you should be expecting something Austin-esque in a modern setting—but what you get is an Austen clone. If you’re going to adapt, make it new!

Good Examples

Cinder (Marissa Meyer). Great example of the title working with the cover. Alone, the title would just bring up images of fire, maybe some ash. With the title plus the image of a girl’s leg in a high heel and cyborg parts peeking out from the flesh, it’s clear: this is Cinderella, but Cinderella like you’ve never seen her before. This is cute and clever. It makes a statement, but isn’t just rewriting the original. This Cinderella is made of metal and has got lots more on her plate than just evil stepsisters.

Prada and Prejudice (Mandy Hubbard). First of all, check her out on twitter (@mandyhubbard); she’s delightful. Second, great title! It hints at the main plot, a girl getting stuck back in Regency England, but also says clearly, “Hey, this is not some Jane Austen character. This is a modern girl who has no idea what the heck she’s doing.” And how cute: she falls into the past because she buys a pair of cute Prada heels to make herself more popular, and trips. It’s a clever title that wraps up all the important elements into a punchy line.

Say you still want that duplicate title. Then you’re taking a risk that fans are going to get confused, or be unable to search you. Duplicate titles may work best when they’re subtitles for a series. For example. I really wanted to title my second book Dark Moon: The Dream Thief. There are, however, two other books that use this title: one in the Drakon series and the other in the Abadazad series (both book two . . . is that a sign?). So I could probably get away with using the title, because if a fan wants to find me, they can stick “Dark Moon” in the search box and get the right one. But there’s the other question . . . do I really want to use the same title already used in two other fantasy series? Isn’t that a bit lame? We’ll see what I decide . . . but hopefully by now, you have a good sense of the problems associated with duplicates.

Here’s a great article on duplicate book titles and what that can do to your market. I’d also love to hear your thoughts in the comments!


Lucky 7: A brief Dark Moon: The Ward of Shadow excerpt

The very awesome S.M.Boyce has tagged me with this uber-neat writerly meme, Lucky Number 7.  Go check out her excerpt.  It's a great LICHGATES peek!

If you’re unfamiliar with the meme, the rules are:

  • Go to page 77 of your current MS
  • Go to line 7
  • Copy down the next 7 lines - sentences or paragraphs – and post them as they’re written. No cheating.
  • Tag 7 authors
  • Let them know

So here ya go. 7 lines from DARK MOON: THE WARD OF SHADOW ... which I just finished final edits on and am super excited to clean up and submit! Not the most exciting scene, but a fun one nonetheless.
“I never learned magic. It’s not my fault,” she muttered. The defiance in her voice wilted beneath a weight of fear. This was turning out to be a rough morning. Only four days after the journey to Saevica, Lena had woken to the shattering of glass. Thunder ripped through her room, and she had only time to tumble out of bed before she was sucked into dark space and dropped like an abandoned doll onto stone. Darkmoon was a shuddering tangle of legs next to her, both of them squinting through the dawn greyness at the vast shape of the dragon glaring down at them. That had been three minutes ago.

Let me know what you think! And now, for my victims.

@KirkusMacGowan - Kirkus MacGowan
@Xean007 - S.M. Hineline
@MCliffordAuthor - M. Clifford
@BrianRathbone - Brian Rathbone
@cherylktardif - Cheryl K. Tardif
@thefusionseries - Emma Byford
@jaypatrickclark - Jay Patrick Clark

Enjoy!  (And check those authors out, they're lovely people!)


Bizarre Writing Prompts: Volume I

Hey, everyone! Here's a fun re-post from my old writing blog that's just too fun not to share.  If you're looking for a few writing prompts that are just totally out of the ordinary, look no farther!  Don't forget to check out these great websites for more wild and crazy prompts.  By the way, through editing 201 of 372 pages of DARK MOON the first!  So excited!  

Because six websites just aren’t enough, and because I’m supposed to be reading my Personality Psych textbook right now, I decided to scrawl down a few mind-bending prompts of my own. Take them, try them, and tell me how they went! And if you’re brave enough, send me a snippet. Seriously, I’m not that frightening.

Also, feel free to send me prompts of your own for my next compilation. I’ll be happy to include and credit you!

The Prompts

1. Write a story in which a rubber, water-filled, tomato-shaped ball is a key plot device.

2. Think of your favorite food. It just walked through that door and pulled a gun on you. What do you do?

3. The characters from your favorite novel (or your own stories!) decide to go on strike. What is their platform? Who is their leader? What are their demands?

4. A man turns into a fluffy pink bunny rabbit every time there’s a thunderstorm.

5. A millionnaire is dying and reveals to his daughter that he had a life long affair with the accountant, who is the daughter’s real mother. Write the death scene. Do not mention by word the millionnaire, the accountant, or the affair.

6. End a story with this sentence: Even after everything he had done, she still wished that she could rub his toes just one more time.

7. A man throws himself off of the roof of his house. Write the story from the point of view of his twelve-year-old dachshund.

8. A flight attendant, twenty-five bottle rockets, fifty yards of silver chain, a Barry Manilow discography box set, a bag of superbounce balls, and a disgruntled garbage truck driver named Stacy. What’s going on here?

9. You are a superhero. Your sidekick is a painting of Elvis on black velvet. Your arch enemy just blew up the state building. How do you proceed?

10. Pick one of your favorite novels. Rewrite the plot as a rap song, a country song, a rock song, and a medieval-style ballad.  (Or pick one of your favorite songs and write a story or novel about it!)  

Happy writing!


Excerpt: Dark Moon the first by, well, me

So some of you may have seen the little tabbies up there and realized that I am writing a novel!  Well, okay, I'm writing a boatload of novels but Dark Moon: Title to be determined is the one I've been working on the longest and the one that is probably the least hopeless.  I know; I'm as cheery as rainbows dipped in glitter.  Anyhoo, as I go through the final (probably) read-through and edits, I figured I'd offer up an excerpt.  Because, I dunno, it's kinda cool and what-not?  Enjoy!  

Somewhere in the screen of trees, she heard a voice.  She froze.  It was a man’s voice, too low to make out but definitely human.  Another voice joined him.  They were coming closer.  Then, the panic hit.  Crying out, she broke into a run, wincing at the branches that slapped her cheeks but still pumping her legs as fast as she could over the slippery brush.  Behind her, she could swear she heard heavy footfalls, but she didn’t stop running to make sure.  The dark was too thick to see the fallen tree in her path.  She slammed right into it.  Momentum kept her flying forward but her foot was caught in the rotted branches.  It wrenched out with an agonizing pop, leaving her splayed on the ground, howling.  Though her screams, she barely heard the cries of, “Lena!” until Ayla was crouching over her.  The men’s voices were gone. 
“My ankle,” she managed to blubber. 
Ayla ran her hands over the joint.  There was a glow and then she said, “It’s only sprained.  That’ll keep you ‘til I can really heal it.  Come on now.”  She yanked Lena to her feet and marched her in silence another twenty feet, where the tree line broke and the forest became Ayla’s cottage lawn.  Lena had almost been back.  She’d been too shaken to speak while they walked out of the forest, and now she never got the chance before Ayla shook her by the shoulders and barked, “What were you thinking?” 
“I told you to the stay to the paths!  I told you to be back by sundown!  You know how worried I was?  Waiting there fretting, thinking you’d been caught by Durrigan’s men!” 
“Who’s Durrigan?” Lena squeaked. 
“Only the leader of the Malines!  Have the Watchers told you nothing?”  She growled with frustration.  “No, of course they haven’t.  The Malines are the oldest group of outlaws in Mystala.  They’ve been around for centuries starting wars and causing trouble and fighting the Wards, and they were nearly gone but now Durrigan’s brought them back.  He’s got soldiers kidnapping and pillaging all over the continent.  A Maline catches you and finds you’re a Ward and he’ll kill you, plain as that.” 
“I’m sorry, I got lost!” 
“Well don’t,” Ayla snapped, but seeing the shake in Lena’s shoulders seemed to soften her, because the glare vanished from her eyes.  “Just don’t go straying from the paths again.  It’s not safe at night.  The Malines could be anywhere.  Not to mention wolves and bears and woodwatchers, or gods forbid, a shadeling.” 
“Shadeling.  They sound cute.”    
“They’re not.” 
            Ayla was gentle and chatting by the time she healed Lena’s ankle—a process twice as painful as spraining it—and shooed her off to bed.  Lena could only respond in absentminded single syllables.  Until she fell asleep, the only thought in her mind was whether those voices had belonged to Malines, and what would have happened if they’d caught up to her.  


Liebster award! I am lieb-ed!

Thanks and more thanks and Uber-thanks for the most wonderful S.M. Boyce, who awarded me this snazzy Liebster award!  You may already know her from the fantastic Hidden Worlds Blog Tour and her breathtaking fantasy novel, Lichgates.  All-around wonderful person, and I'm so psyched!

The Liebster award is for blogs with less than 200 followers, "best kept secret" blogs.  It's a great way to send some love to those bloggers you think deserve some major credit.  Thanks again, Boyce.  You're awesome!  (Don't forget to check out her blog! She gave me a major break with her book tour when I was just a wee blogging newbie, and she's a lovely writer!)

So you want to accept the award?

  • Thank the person that nominated you on your blog and link back to them.
  • Nominate up to 5 other blogs for the award.
  • Let them know via comment on their blog
  • Post the award on your blog

  • So you're an awesome hidden secret blogger?

  • Diapers, Bookmarks, and Pipe Dreams -- Kirkus McGowan is a great author and one of the nicest I've talked to.
  •  A New Impressionism -- M. and W.W. are great writers, fun people, and super sweet to boot.
  •  Faith McKay -- Faith is a Goodreads wizard and always has cute posts.
  •  Ross M. Kitson -- Always has fun blog posts and cool reviews of stuff I'd never hear about otherwise.
  •  Red Pen of Doom -- Every single post makes me crack up.  Every one.

  • Squee!  Yeah.  I said it.  Don't judge. 



    Hidden World Blog Tour: Lichgates by S.M. Boyce! Long live high fantasy!

    Welcome to the Hidden World Book Tour, courtesy of Sarcasm and Lemons, S.M. Boyce, and the great new novel Lichgates, first in the Grimoire trilogy! Check out a few words from the author of this fabulous novel and then dive into the review. Don’t forget to enter the giveaway, and stay tuned to blog.smboyce.com for more tour stops!

    TITLE: Lichgates
    AUTHOR: S.M. Boyce
    PAGES: 362
    FORMAT: Kindle
    ISBN: 978-1466336940
    BUY IT: Amazon
    RATING: 5/5 [in the genre] or 8/10 [all books I’ve ever read]
    FOR: Fans of YA, clever and unique high fantasy, romance, solid characters, and epic plots.

    The Grimoire turns its own pages and can answer any question asked of it, and Kara Magari is its next target. Kara has no idea what she's getting herself into when she stumbles across the old book while hiking a hidden trail. Once she opens it, she's thrown into Ourea: a beautiful world full of terrifying things that want the Grimoire's secrets. Everyone in this new world is trying to find her, and most want to control the new-found power the book bestows upon her. Even if Kara does escape, Ourea will only drag her back. Braeden Drakonin grew up in Ourea, and all he’s ever known of life is lying. The Grimoire is his one chance at redemption, and it lands in his lap when Kara Magari comes into his life. He has one question to ask the book—one question that can fix everything in his broken world—and he’s not letting Kara out of his sight until he gets an answer. There’s no going back now.

    I decided to read Lichgates because the wonderful S.M. Boyce, one of my first Twitter friends, asked if I wanted to be a part of this blog tour. “Lichgates?” I said to myself. “Sounds pretty cool.” I couldn’t be more thrilled to be a part of this. Boyce is a bright, friendly person and her book is a stupendous new step for YA high fantasy (which you may recall, I was mourning the death of ten or so blog posts back). Newsflash: YA high fantasy is alive and well, and it’s all right here in Lichgates. From the first chapter, I knew this was a keeper. Boyce throws you right into the action without any slow buildup, letting you figure out background details as you go along. Kara, her main character, is a realistic, bright girl with a kind heart and a good brain--but she’s far from perfect, so don’t go worrying about Mary Sue’s. Braeden is the perfect romantic foil. He has a good heart and good intentions, but he can’t quite let go of his own agenda. And guess what!? NO insta-romance! That’s right, folks. These characters meet each other and do not immediately fall in love. I almost did a jig of joy at my computer.

    But you want an original high fantasy world, you say? Look no further! Boyce has created one of the most original fantasy worlds I’ve ever read. I’d be so bold as to say that the originality of her world could be put up there with my hero, Diana Wynne Jones. As soon as you dive into Ourea, you know this isn’t any medieval European knock-off. With Bloods who can psychically control their whole kingdom’s bloodline, soul stealers, shape-shifting muses, charcoal-skinned smoky Stelians, cobblestones that make faces, and dog-horses that walk through walls--it's not your average Tolkien knockoff. I admit a surge of jealousy as I got deeper into Ourea and realized how well-crafted it was!

    And the plot? Don’t worry. Boyce keeps you on your toes. Sure, I could nitpick about a few slow bits or a few strange names here and there, but what’s the point? When it comes down to it, Boyce knows how to keep a reader enthralled. Right from the start she pulls you in, and never lets go. Something is always going on, and every time Kara’s life gets too quiet, something else happens to complicate it. Murder, court intrigue, magic, soul stealing, war--take your pick. Kara is such a sympathetic character that you must keep reading, just to know that she’s okay in the end.

    So my advice? Pick up a copy of Lichgates and clear your calendar, because you won’t want to put it down. Lovely author, great plot, realistic characters, unique world--YA high fantasy is back, my friends, with a book and a bang.

    Also see the sidebar for the giant Rafflecopter and enter to win!


    Cover Reveal: Pretty Amy by Lisa Burstein

    A little late, thanks to a whirlwind trip across the country, but still something fun: the new cover for Pretty Amy by Lisa Burstein!  Ta da, here it is!  What a great contrast between the pretty prom dress and the jail background.  Amy's expression is priceless. 


    Amy is fine living in the shadows of beautiful Lila and uber-cool Cassie, because at least she's somewhat beautiful and uber-cool by association. But when their dates stand them up for prom, and the girls take matters into their own hands--earning them a night in jail outfitted in satin, stilettos, and Spanx.  Amy discovers even a prom spent in handcuffs might be better than the humiliating "rehabilitation techniques" now filling up her summer. Worse, with Lila and Cassie parentally banned, Amy feels like she has nothing--like she is nothing.

    Navigating unlikely alliances with her new coworker, two very different boys, and possibly even her parents, Amy struggles to decide if it's worth being a best friend when it makes you a public enemy. Bringing readers along on an often hilarious and heartwarming journey, Amy finds that maybe getting a life only happens once you think your life is over.


    Lisa Burstein is a tea seller by day and a writer by night. She wrote her first story when she was in second grade. It was a Thanksgiving tale from the point of view of the turkey from freezer to oven to plate. It was scandalous.

    She was a lot like Amy when she was in high school.

    She is still a lot like Amy.


    Have a terrible prom photo? Submit it to the Worst Prom Photo giveaway contest!  More details at www.listaburstein.com.  

    Pretty Amy -- Released May 15th -- Sometimes date is a four-letter word. 

    - C.J. - 


    Writing Tips: The Dangers of One-Word Titles

    No, I am not an agent, published author, editor, etc. etc. What I am is a consumer. As a consumer, there are a few trends in titles that really irk me. What’s more, they make me a significant percent less likely to buy a book afflicted with such a title. Maybe the story is great, but I’ll never find out, because one look at the title and I assume it’s not something I’d want to read. Superficial? Yes. But when you’re faced with hundreds of possibilities, you find a way to narrow down your selection. Cover is big one. Title is another. Even if it’s a great book, I may never know if the title is enough to scare me away. Let’s take a look at some common title trends that set me (and presumably some portion of the reading population) on edge:

    One Word Titles: These can be good, except when they’re not. Sometimes, a good cover can make a bland one-word title exciting. Sometimes, there’s no helping it. One-word titles need to be snappy and thought-provoking. They need to say something new. They should generally not include anything such as “Crimson”, “Darkness”, “Moonlight”, and “Raven.” Unless you’re Poe.

    Bad examples: I’ll pick on YA, since it’s familiar and quite guilty of this trend.
    -- Seduction (Amanda Quick), Passion (Lauren Kate). I know what it’s about now, but I don’t care. It’s not original. It’s just a romance novel staple.
    --Hunted (P.C. Cast, Kristen Cast), Tempted (P.C. Cast, Kristen Cast), Wolfsbane (Andrew Cremer). It’s generic. The covers scream creatures of the night. The titles tell me that it’s no different from any other night creature book.
    --Frostbite (Rachel Mead). Sometimes puns can work. In this case, with the obvious vampire connection and the uber-serious cover, it just makes the reader groan. It could work with a book meant to be funny; not so much with a serious book.
    --Forever (Maggie Stiefvater). Same series as below. Not as strong. The others evoke very concrete, tense feelings. This one just sounds like any old romance novel about immortals.

    Good examples: But it also has some great ones.
    --Lichgates (S.M. Boyce), Abarat (Clive Barker). These relate to made-up concepts. The browser recognizes this and is intrigued, especially if it’s paired with a decently mysterious cover.
    --Crack (still searching for author fruitlessly...), Snuff (Chuck Palahniuk), Shiver (Maggie Stiefvater). The second two are visceral and punchy. They cut right in and create a whole host of associations right away; extra words would bog them down and make them seem softer, friendlier.
    --Twilight (Stephenie Meyer). Yes, I dislike the book, but the title is a very clever analogy for Bella’s encounters with the vampires that carries through the four books. And it’s subtle enough not to evoke fangs right away.
    --Incarnate (Jodi Meadows), Delirium (Lauren Oliver). Incarnate plus the butterfly cover really makes the reader wonder. Is this standard incarnation? It looks kind of futuristic; could it mean something else? Titles that provoke questions are good; the consumer will read the book to get answers. Same for Delirium. At least with the first cover, which implies something dark and hidden; the second is more generic and doesn’t work as well with the title.

    So before you reach for that one-word title, take a second look. Does it cut a deep impression? Does it set you apart? Does it raise questions? Does it have the same general tone and feeling that your cover does? If not, consider something else. The consumers will thank you—by buying your book.

    A last caveat: Make sure it’s searchable. I love the title Crack, but I forgot the author and just spent ten minutes trying to google it and coming up with everything but. So make sure you’re not going to get lost in a crowd of nonrelated links!

    (UPDATE: Holy editing, Batman! This is what I get for trying to send off a quick post before class...)