Saturday, April 23, 2022

Kindle Vella: FAQ and recommendations

I really enjoy amazon's new serial platform, kindle vella, both as a reader and as a writer. I wrote an FAQ about how to use it as a reader. I've already written two posts recommending some kindle vella stories I've enjoyed, but of course I've sampled and enjoyed many more since then. 

Kindle vella is a new and growing program, and it can use all the support it can get. If you try it out and enjoy it, consider letting your friends and social media connections know! Let me know what you think in the comments.

Now for this month's recommendations. Here are the top 10 this month that caught my attention:

The Spectra Crown Tales: This one is mine, a YA fantasy/fairytale retelling. Season 1, which is complete, is inspired by Beauty and the Beast and the American Revolutionary War. Season 2 switches to a different character's story and is inspired by Sleeping Beauty. More information about the series on my website.

Spectra Quest: Choose Your Clan: Another of mine, this story is part personality quiz, part choose-your-ending. Your fellow prisoner can help you gain elemental abilities if you help her escape. Your choices at the end of each episode determine which Spectra abilities you get.

The Queen Trials by Penelope Wright just entered its second season. I recommend this one every time, but that's because I'm religiously following every post. There's a short episode almost every day. It feels like a cross between Hunger Games and the Selection, with its own tone.

A Game of Leviathan by N.Y. Seely has a medieval fantasy feel about princes in competition for their uncle's throne. The main character has a disability so is trying to get ahead through a chess-like game.

A Secret Stained in Blue by Kara Jaynes is an interesting romantic fantasy about a rejected girl and a fae.

Courting Fae Thieves and Crowns by Joanna Reeder has another fantasy competition to marry a prince (I seem to read a lot of these), but the main character here is a thief who's supposed to be spying on the prince for the king.

Break Every Chain by Aella Black is a contemporary romance about two teens who live in the same town and yet very different worlds.

The Experiment by Valerie Claussen has a young woman enter a "social experiment" that feels something like a game show, for a quarter million dollars. 

Reigning Embers by C.L. Silas is about a fiery young woman gladiator who refuses to play by the rules, an awesome dragon she secretly bonds with, and a young lord willing to stand up to his society. What's not to love? Did I mention that this is another "competition to marry the man"? I don't seek them out, but these apparently catch my attention.

Unity: On the Edge of Darkness by Victoria Wright: Let's switch up genres and bring out some sci-fi! We have an ambitious woman commander making first contact on an alien planet, but her new friend may change her plans.

Okay, I said ten, but I want to do another in a genre I don't cover as often, so here's a bonus:

Desperate Passions by Sheila Sellinge is a Western romance between a young schoolteacher and a would-be bank robber.

One of the best parts of kindle vella is that you can sample the first three chapters completely free, and that still helps and supports the authors. So try them out, and see if you find a new favorite!

Tuesday, April 5, 2022



is part of life. 

Not an opposite, 

Death is the unpopular little sister. 


I, when a child, 

 had a pet cemetery under an apple tree 

where I buried every hamster and bunny and baby chick, 

where at first I mourned, and then listened to the wind and the birds, 

experienced the life-filled world anew— 

not forgetting, but becoming more alive. 


We are told to be soft-hearted. 

To be vulnerable is to allow pain, 

to allow space for others with holes in their hearts, 

no matter how tempting to close, 

safe but empty. 


Loss, and pain, and grief, 

are vital, even Holy, 

binding every man, every person, every creature together, 

if we are soft, 

if we are open. 

Share, embrace, give, listen, love, 

to each other, to the lost, to yourself, to our Family. 

Faith is the certainty that I do not have the answers, 

but that my Father has the answers, 

and they are the best possible answers. 

I am here, friend. 

I am open. 

I am trying. 

We are whole in our brokenness, 

and we are together. 

Note: This poem goes with a previous poem, Grief. I wrote that one after losing my son. I wrote this one after my child lost a beloved pet, and the emotion is second-hand, but amplified as I worry for her.


Wednesday, March 23, 2022

My first story

I've been writing stories my whole life. I've managed to save my very first fictional story, from when I was in second grade. It's not exactly quality material, but it's cute.

(Translation below). 


I just love animals, and worms, snakes, and Ryan. I love the names Mery, Ramon, Jonothin, and Flowers. One day at the zoo, Mery said, "I see a big dog!"
"A big, big dog."
"I am going home."
"No! No no no." I shout. 
"I am going on my skateboard," said Ryan.
"No. I will spank you."
"Mom, no!"
"Yes! I will."
"I see you. You are trying to go home."
The end.

(I am the mom in this story, Ryan was my crush, and Ryan Jr. was our imaginary child who didn't want to join in the family zoo trip).

Monday, February 28, 2022

Book Recommendations for February 2022

 Here are some books I've read, enjoyed, and reviewed this month:

Trailing The Hunter by Heidi Eljarbo is a historical fiction about a young woman trying to save a Norwegian village from an incendiary witch hunter.

HawkSong by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes is a fantasy romance with an enemies-to-lovers story that I really enjoyed. Desperate to stop the war between their countries, two royal enemies agree to marry one another.

Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke is a middle grade fantasy that I first read a couple decades ago, but we recently read it as a family. We enjoyed the fantastic world of silver dragons and the evil Golden One that hunts them.

On Kindle Vella:

The Queen Trials by Penelope Wright has a similar feel to The Hunger Games. I mentioned it last time, but this month I really got into it and accidentally binged fifty episodes.

The Elementalist by Medea Cygan reminds me of Avatar: The Last Airbender with its magic system, but with a more Urban Fantasy style. 

The Dream Heist by Christina Farley mixes paranormal dream technology with a real life heist. The author travels a lot, so the descriptions of the different countries they go are extremely well done.

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Book Recommendations for January 2021

 Here are some books I've read, enjoyed, and reviewed this month:

Lost in the Pacific, 1942 by Tod Olson makes me think of "I Survived" for grown-ups. It's both informative and entertaining.

The Not-So Chosen One by Tamara Grantham reminds me of the Pixar movie Onward, with a previously magical world turned ordinary by technology.

Chalk It Up To Love by Jenny Rabe is a cute romance with chalk drawings, flowers, and strangers refurbishing a house together.

Just One Wish by Jeanette Rallison. I expected cute characters from Jeanette, but I did not expect the depth and questions about life and God, or to cry. A girl goes on a quest to fulfil the wish of her little brother with cancer.

I've also sampled a few stories on kindle vella. Readers can read the first three chapters for free, and they also get 200 tokens to start. After the first three, chapters typically cost around 25 cents each. Here's some that I've enjoyed this month:

Pride: Falling Storm by Ellaura Shoop is about a lion, leopard, and cheetah in the style of Erin Hunter's Warriors series. My teenage self would have been ecstatic to read this series, and I'm still enjoying it. Also available as a book.

Champlain Dreams by S.A. Vader is a thriller, not my usual genre, but I've enjoyed the first three chapters so far.

The Queen Trials by Penelope Wright is a dystopia about a miner trying to improve her life by taking place in the queen trials.

The Ivory Labyrinth by Cady Hammer reminds me of a cross between Hunger Games and The Maze Runner. It's a fascinating YA Dystopia so far.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Marketing with Twitter

How do you use twitter to market books? 

The most important thing to remember about all social media is that people use it primarily to express themselves. Connecting with others is secondary. So, if you want a lot of engagement on social media platforms, look for ways to help people express themselves. Ask questions. Take polls. Post relatable content. Interact with other people on their posts. Keep in mind what your audience is looking for.

Next, set up your own profile so that people know what to expect from you. Pick one picture and stick with it. Add something about writing in your "about me" section, and include a link.

I use the same handle on every social media platform to simplify things. No matter which platform you use, you can find TheSpectraBooks.

Now to get followers. The quickest way to get a lot of followers is to find people with similar interests and follow them. Once a month-ish, go through and unfollow everyone who didn't follow you back. You can find writer people by searching for the hashtags #writerslift or #writerscommunity. Search for organizations like NaNoWriMo or famous authors you admire and follow people who follow them.

This will get you a large number of follows quickly, but keep in mind that they won't be engaged followers unless you follow the first step: help people express themselves. 

If your goal is to have as many people as possible see your post (for instance, if you have a free deal or a new release), here's how to get a lot of exposure. First, make a post on your own profile. Include a link, and leave space (maybe 20 characters or so) for hashtags. Example:

Now, you're going to copy that post onto other posts that are specifically asking you to share links. Every time you copy your post, change the hashtag. Here are some good hashtags to get you started: #BooksToRead #MustRead #BookRecommendation #WhatToRead #IndieBooksBeSeen #BookTwt #ReadingForPleasure. Don't forget to look at genre-specific hashtags too. Are you in #KindleUnlimited or #KindleVella? #ebook or #paperback? All good hashtags to try.

Where do you find posts looking for links? There are plenty.

 Search for the hashtags #writerslift or #ShamelessSelfPromo (plus the day of the week--this one is especially good on Saturdays). If you happen to be doing this during the month of April, #IndieApril is huge. I timed my 2021 and 2022 books to release in April just to take advantage of #IndieApril. I had huge spikes in sales in 2019 and 2020:

This method will get you a lot of exposure, but it's not really designed to get you a lot of sales. You're posting to a "cold audience" (one that is busy with their own thing and not actively looking for books). But there are ways to find a "hot audience" that is looking for books like yours. You just have to find them. I like to use the search bar and type in "fantasy book recommend". Sometimes I'll mix it up a little, with "fantasy book suggest" or something like that. The goal is to get as specific to your book as you can. You're looking for posts like this:

Now you need the perfect response. I like to start with "May I recommend my own?" to be polite, so I don't sound overbearing. I've only ever had one person say no, and I promptly deleted my post. 

 Next, share one or two sentences about your book, and include a link. If you can, include a bit about why your book fits what they're looking for. I keep my responses in an excel sheet so that I just have to copy, paste, and personalize.

 People often respond positively! It's impossible to tell which sales come from this method, but I have definitely seen an increase, as well as positive feedback.

So, that's how I use twitter. I hope some of this is helpful. Feel free to reach out and ask questions.
And, of course, I'll follow you back if you follow me on twitter 😉.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Rough draft of The Seventh Clan

 I thought some readers might find this interesting. This is the very first draft of The Seventh Clan. The main character Perrin's character changed quite a bit since then, and there's a lot more detail and better writing. If you'd like to compare this with the final draft, you can read the first chapter (free) here.

Thick mist covered the camp, while the few campfires created beams that the mist distorted into fantastic shapes. Perrin crept through camp, concentrating on the sounds instead of the sights. Most of the soldiers were asleep in their tents and only a few voices remained to murmur ghostlike through the mist, seemingly without a source.  

Someone shuffled ahead. Perrin headed toward the sound. “Guardsman?” 

A torch flickered to life. “Who is it?” 

“It’s just me, Perrin. I’ve brought orders.” He hated how his voice squeaked. 

The soldier appeared, every inch a soldier, from the clean white sash that was all the uniform they had to the huge musket leaning against his arm. The barrel gleamed in the torchlight and Perrin wanted to touch it. 

“Well?” the man demanded. 

Perrin handed over a tightly bound scroll and stepped back while the guardsman read. They were nearly the same height. Maybe in a few months Perrin would be the one standing at guard while someone else brought him messages. 

The distant slapping of waves against the beach united with the creaking of tree branches in a night wind. The cool mist teased his exposed skin. Moon. 

Something was moving among the mist. Perrin squinted. A glimmer of light appeared and vanished again. “Over there!” he hissed, remembering just in time to keep his voice down. 

The guard peered in that direction. “I see nothing.” 

Perhaps the soldier’s eyes were tired, for Perrin could now make out dark shapes, gaps where mist ought to be. “They’re right there! People coming toward camp.” 

“Don’t believe everything you...” 

A crack broke the stillness. A hint of orange fire flashed. Perrin cried out. The gun had missed, but now more shots were being fired. “Get help!” the guard screamed at him. “Don’t stick around and watch.” 

“Yes, sir!”  

Perrin ran back toward camp. Hopefully they would hear the guns before he arrived. The guardsmen were shooting back now, but Perrin was not tempted to stop and watch. He’d seen Vangton oppression before, and heard those gunshots. He knew what damage they did. 

The camp was already in commotion. Perrin ran straight for the center tent. The flap opened before he reached it. General Niles stood in the opening. He was a short man for a legend, but Perrin wasn’t fooled. “General!” Perrin shouted. 

“How much do you know?” General Niles barked. 

“Unknown number of Vangton soldiers firing on our guardsmen, coming from the beaches to the northeast.” Perrin thought back, trying to remember any other details. “The sea is calm, but I heard nothing else.” 

“They’ll have come from the Starwood fleet outside of City.” General Niles turned to the aides around him and began barking orders. Perrin knew better than to get in the way. He backed to the side of the tent.  

A face peered out from underneath the canvas. “That you, Per?” 

Perrin stood straight. “I am on duty. Formality, please.” 

The voice scoffed, and then its owner slipped out from under the canvas. Gio stood up, sweeping the dust from his trousers. Perrin doubted it would do any good. Gio’s dirty hands would only get his clothes more dusty. “What’d you see?” 

“In the mist, very little,” Perrin answered. The general was still barking orders. Perrin tried to listen. The sounds of battle were becoming louder and more chaotic.  

“Do the Vangtons really have horns, do you think?” Gio asked. 

“Don’t be stupid!” Perrin exploded. “Our ancestors were Vangtons. If they had horns, so would we.” 


Perrin straightened again. General Niles was looking straight at him. “Yes, sir?” he and Gio asked in unison. 

“We’re evacuating camp. Get to the provisions tent and help pack up. If the fighting comes close, drop everything and run.” 

“Yes, sir,” the boys chimed. 

“Then go!” 

They ran. Perrin led the way to the provisions carts. Horses stamped their hooves. “Someday, we’ll be fighting,” Gio said. “Drop everything and run. Bah!” 

In the distance, someone screamed loud enough that even the gunshots seemed quiet. “I can wait,” Perrin said. 


“I am not!” 

You can find The Seventh Clan on kindle vella, or learn more about the series on The Spectra Books website.

Kindle Vella: FAQ and recommendations

I really enjoy amazon's new serial platform, kindle vella , both as a reader and as a writer. I wrote an  FAQ about how to use it as a ...