The Cover Reveal for WITCH HEARTS

Hi everyone! I want to thank the amazing authors and bloggers who volunteered to help with today’s cover reveal. Indies wouldn’t be here without their help and of course, you guys. I am so excited to show off the cover for my new book – I’ve been looking forward to this for weeks!

Witch Hearts is my second novel, an adult paranormal thriller meant for those who liked to be a little creeped out and also enjoy a murder mystery. My first book, Gifted, A Donovan Circus Novel, is about a murder at a supernatural circus, and is available at Amazon on Kindle and paperback. Now without further ado, the cover for Witch Hearts! (Is it creepy enough for you?!)

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Witch Hearts Synopsis:

How does a witch stay safe if a killer can get through her protection spells?

Witches like Ruby and Courtney can take care of themselves. So when Courtney is murdered, Ruby’s world crashes to a halt. The only thing keeping her grounded is the return of Courtney’s brother, Cooper. He seeks revenge, but Ruby wants to help other witches stay alive. To do that, she’ll have to reunite with her old coven’s High Priest, who also happens to be her cheating ex-boyfriend.

If that wasn’t awkward enough, when the killer gets too close, Cooper temporarily moves into Ruby’s place while a police officer tails her every move. Cooper’s presence distracts Ruby as they fight their desire against their need to stay safe. Then Courtney begins to haunt Ruby’s dreams and secrets are spilled, things from Cooper’s past that could get them both killed. The killer continues to stalk Ruby and the more she discovers, the more she fears she won’t be able to keep her heart in her chest.

About the Author:

DSC_0089 Liz Long is lucky enough to have a dream career in magazine publishing as an editor and writer, yet still have time to create adventures on the side. If you catch her staring off into space or talking to herself, don’t worry – it’s just her imagination at work.

Liz graduated from Longwood University with a BA in English, though her professors might be disappointed to hear she reads more fantasy fiction than literary novels. She also loves action and thriller genres. This book probably won’t change your life, but she hopes it steals you away from reality for a while.

Her first book, Gifted, a Donovan Circus Novel, is also available for paperback and Kindle on Amazon.

To learn more about Liz, visit her website: http://lizclong.com

Author Evolution: Confidence and Stronger Writing

Several times now I’ve gone back to look at my debut novel. Gifted, a Donovan Circus Novel will always hold a special place in my heart. It was my first title, my first self-published book, my first true attempt to really put my writing out there. And luckily, it’s been well-received by most readers (and even with the not-so-favored, I’ve learned a couple things from their reviews).

However, I often find mistakes. I wish I’d written a section differently, added or subtracted things or words from certain scenes, or whatever. You get the idea. Authors often talk about how they’re so glad that their first books weren’t picked up by traditional authors because when they look back on them now, it’s embarrassing. Obviously, I feel differently. I was (and am) so proud of Gifted, so eager to put it out into the world and not a day goes by that I’m not proud of this achievement. I just can’t see myself in ten years frowning at the decision. And I can’t wait to dive back into the second title and hang out with my characters, meet new people, and introduce the next villain. GiftedCover

I started writing Gifted when I was 23. Between life events and plucking up the courage to self-publish after I got tired of waiting to hear back from potential agents/publishers, I was 27 when Gifted became a real book outside of my computer. Because it was my first novel (and partly because I thought I was only writing for me before it took on its own life form), I hadn’t really found my writing style yet. I’m not a beautiful, prosey writer. I’m not quite as succinct as Hemingway, though many of my friends usually say that’s a good thing. I am painfully uncomfortable about situations where I have to say what I write. When I tell them the genre or plot, I’ve always braced myself for an eye roll or that “Are you kidding?” look. Take for instance the Roanoke writers conference – when a new friend said she’d love to read my book I had in my bag, I apologized as I handed it to her, telling her it was “nothing like the other authors here at this thing.” For a moment, I hesitated about my freshman, self-published fantasy book in the midst of serious non-fiction and the classics-loving reading groups.

Then I remembered that I have readers, too. I have people who want to read Gifted’s sequel and the few who’ve read Witch Hearts saying they liked it even more than Gifted. I feel confident now in a way I didn’t before Gifted. My second title, Witch Hearts, is due out this spring. It’s a very different book from Gifted. It’s an adult title, a paranormal thriller mystery with some romance (okay, an urban fantasy but my definition is more accurate). It dives into some spooky territory I didn’t know my mind could create. My villain is a worst nightmare, the details creepier than before, and the tension, I feel, racketed up more than Gifted ever achieved. My writing, it seems, has grown in my experience with writing for magazines (I have word counts!). It has grown in my reading lots of other books and trying lots of different authors in the genres I love. (I can afford this because I buy $0.99-$4.99 indie books on my Kindle/app, by the way. Just sayin’.)

It seems to me, my friends, that we as writers will grow more each time we write down new words. The upside to your writer’s growth, especially in a series (at least I hope), is that the books – with sharp writing and well-developed characters – will only get better. I love Gifted with all my heart, but I know several mistakes to avoid and styles I’ll roll with this time. Because I’m now (slightly) more comfortable thanks to experience, support, and Scrivener, I hope I continue to grow and make my writing better. I want each book to be better than the last and for my readers to love every new word.

I mean, someone out there reads paranormal mystery thrillers with romance and murder (not at the same time). You guys are probably here for a good reason, right?

Gift Glossary – Unique Powers Special to the Gifted World

As promised, I wanted to help any confused readers by handing over a glossary to keep track of the superpowers I’ve used so far in my Gifted world-building. Below is the short, yet ever-continuing list of terms I’ve used for my Gifted world. You’ll be able to refer back to this page any time you visit my blog on the top section of pages so that readers can easily check in for any questions they have or new powers I add as time passes. If you have any suggestions or powers I simply HAVE to add, I’d love to hear them! You can let me know any way that’s best for you (Facebook, Twitter, email, or leave me a comment here) and I’ll consider adding it to the glossary as well as possibly include it in a Gifted world book!

Gift Glossary – Unique Powers Special to the Gifted World

Airspinner: One who controls the air around them; can create wind, blow large gusts of wind using their mouth/breath. Often used with tornados, wind storms, etc.

Collector: A rare gift; beings often hide this information from others as it has a bad reputation. One touch from a Collector can take away an individual’s gift, leaving them a normal human for a period of time. Amount of time holding another’s gift depends on skill level; they may return the gift at any point or it will naturally leave them and return to the owner after time passes, assuming the owner is still alive – if they are dead, the Collector may hang onto it until releasing it for another. Unknown if they can “trade” a gift with another in certain cases. A Collector may only hold one gift at a time.

Doubler: An individual capable of “doubling” themselves; they create a second image that mirrors the person’s every move. Given enough skill, they can control the image to speak or fight on their own movements.

Earthshaker: One who can create earthquakes with a stomp of their foot. Size and damage of quake depends on skill.

Empath: A being who feels other people’s emotions. Must spend several years learning to control it so that they do not confuse other’s emotions with their own. With enough skill, an Empath may learn how to harness their emotions, manipulate and warp them into other feelings. Empaths make good therapists in the real world.

Firestarter: A being that can control fire and is usually impervious to its harm. They appear human; can be hurt otherwise, etc. Each talent has different levels, usually depending on age, practice, etc. Firestarters with enough power are capable of killing lesser Firestarters, though this information is not well-known for obvious reasons.

Types of Firestarters:

1.)  Passive—they can only touch it or pass through it. They cannot create or control. They cannot create, but can use outside sources (such as lighters, campfires, candles, etc); given technique they may control it to a certain degree. Also called Carriers.

2.)  Aggressive—can control and create it using energy and heat from body—most control through palms of hands. Some have “better than others” attitudes. Their tempers are usually the worst and most are wary of this group. It takes many years to control their Gift well, typically into adulthood. Also called Creators.

Influencer: One who uses their eyes or touch to get what they want. They may use this gift on other gifted but is especially powerful on humans. In the wrong hands, a particularly dangerous gift as it destroys free will and commands them to do as the Influencer says.

Runner: One with the ability to run at lightning-fast speeds. Length of speed depends on skill.

Shapeshifter: There are two types of shifters – those who can shift into other humans and those who can shift into animals. No cross-shifting exists. A shifter must touch the object of transformation before they can turn.

Telekinetic: A being who controls an object’s movement with their mind, eyes, or hands. Skills start small and grow to larger object such as buildings or heavy machinery after years of practice.

Telepath: One who hears other’s thoughts. Range and volume depend on skill level. Often times Telepaths retreat to quiet spaces to get away from the noise.

Timekeeper: A being who can control time. Several different levels of this gift. Most may only freeze time (and with it, the people and objects around them); they have the capability to unfreeze certain people while still maintaining an overall freeze.  Others may slow down and speed up time, usually for their own benefit. Lastly, and it is very rare, but some Timekeepers are able to go backwards and forwards in time, though it is not recommended as there is imminent danger in altering history.

Tracker: One who can sense the use of a gift. Depending on skill level, a Tracker may often be able to tell what gift was used, as well as the skill level of the user. Cannot trace to exact user (for example, a Tracker can tell a powerful Firestarter used their gift, but cannot name the culprit or find them as a bloodhound might).

Translator: A being who can speak any language after briefly hearing a few words and cadence from a native speaker (those who choose to live in the human world often become translators for political members or language instructors). Note: Most translators are for human speech, but a select few can speak with animals (these beings make excellent vets, animal trainers, and circus travelers).

Transporter: One who may travel from one place to another in an instant. Distance and the ability to carry others depend on skill level. They must often study their grounds and learn how to get within certain places before moving on, for example going from a spot in the US to a spot in another country.

Unbreakable: A being with the ability to withstand most injuries, as well as have impenetrable skin. Most often they are able to lift certain amounts of large weights (even up to cars, buildings, machinery). People often mistake their strength for immunity; most are immune to pain and sickness, but they can die of old age, as well as other incidents such as drowning, fire, disease, etc (“from the inside out”).

Volter: A being who creates electric blue lightning from their hands. Often used to kill or maim. A rare, dangerous gift not often found amidst the public or human world as it is difficult to hide. History includes a few Volters using their gifts for science or medical fields (such as an EMT bringing a stilled heart back to life). Not much else is known about these beings.

Waterbearer: One who controls water; certain beings can create water from their bare hands, while others must have water nearby to “borrow” for their creations. Can create water orbs or other shapes, as well as large waves with enough skill and practice.

An Indie Author Checklist

As a big supporter of to-do lists, check lists, whatever you call them, today I thought I’d make a list of a few things every indie author should consider when jumping into self-publishing. Keep in mind I am certainly no expert–if I’m missing a few key things, perhaps you better tell me so I can hop on it before the book release! This is just a very basic rundown of things I’ve done or am currently doing to better prepare for the release of Gifted, both for the book itself and the beginnings of a small, easy marketing plan. Technically, this gives me 2 to-do lists, which makes me happy, but for blog purposes, you get the basic idea.

Liz Long’s To Do List (Yes, I really do write that at the top of every sheet of paper. <—Freak.)

  • Finish manuscript. There’s literally nothing you can do until you have a real, live, ready to go book. This includes page breaks, correct page numbers, embedded fonts, copyright page, dedications and acknowledgments if any, and most importantly, setting your pages to odd and even so that it prints correctly into a book that doesn’t look amateurish. (Obviously, you can see what I struggled in the last stages. At least now I know how to set my margins and page numbers for any book I write now, because it’s best to set up these things before you start instead of after–it’ll eff up your pages and chapters.)
  • Convert manuscript into correct formatting for book (mine will be a 6×9, clocking in at a healthy 320 pages) (see first bullet about what’s needed for formatting)
  • Convert manuscript into correct formatting for ebooks (I gave up and hired a freelancer for this–check out Jo Harrison if you need help. She’s sweet, she’s fast, and very reasonable. It’s not worth the headache, tears, and temporary heavy drinking to do it myself. The relief I had at her emails was enough for me to realize I didn’t have the patience or time, not if I’m looking at a release in 2 weeks.) <–As a side note, she did my formatting in less than 24 hours AND answered all my frantic emails that day immediately. Seriously, hire this girl if you don’t want to do formatting yourself.
  • Cover art (this includes not just the front cover, but also the back cover AND spine). This is important–I was only thinking in terms of online jpegs, but obviously the back’s gotta be included for the printed version. I got so caught up on the front that I totally forgot about the back bio and synopsis. Luckily, that’s easy-peasy for designers. You need to consider the spine width too, since that’s based on how many pages you end up with after the completed manuscript.
  • Put a spreadsheet together of all the great book bloggers specific to your genre–I’ve got an excel file with names, websites, emails, whether it’s a form or email submission, and additional notes I need to cover when contacting them (if they need links, a chapter sample, etc.) **It’s also important to note that authors should NOT mass-email these bloggers. I want to include their names, websites, anything we have in common or a book they loved that leads into mine. Just as we take time to write the book, they take time to read and review it. I’m not about to spam anyone who might be interested in doing me a huge favor.
  • Participate in reviews or interviews from bloggers or authors as needed.
  • Set up author pages on Goodreads (once you get an ISBN) and Amazon (once you have the book). Also include a giveaway for people to sign up for a hard copy.
  • Asking (very nicely) for Amazon reviews–I’ll first sent out a text message to my friends who have read it and beg them. Then I’ll hope other people follow suit. Right now, assuming each person who’s read it posts, that’s 5 or 6 positive reviews off that bat (and not just because they know me–because they actually like it!).
  • Set up book on my own blog-add the cover and info, post the cover jpeg every-freakin’-where I can, and promote in general.
  • Wait. This is definitely my toughest thing. You have to wait to get approval for the print copy, to get premium cataloging at Smashwords, to get approved by Amazon for your Kindle versions. It’s definitely a waiting game. I recommend taking this time to write up a nice proposal for bloggers and begin sending out your information (individual emails!) and asking for a review with a pretty-please-and-sugar-on-top.

So there you have it. A short yet always ongoing check list. Like I said, it’s the quick and dirty version of my list, but I think they’re all very important on the path to indie publishing. There’s always something to do, someone to talk to, words to write, but I think as long as you have a general idea of what needs to get accomplished, the “how” will come sooner or later.

Please feel free to list any of the items on YOUR check list or if I’ve missed anything that’s super important for every indie author to know!