Nocturnal Lives

Musings from the mind of Amanda S. Green – Mother, Writer, Possessed by Cats

Author: Amanda (Page 1 of 76)

Cover Reveal

Here it is. I’m so excited!

And, as noted yesterday, the release date for the expanded, special edition is October 17th.

Release Date Set

With the final touches being put on the new cover for the expanded version of Vengeance from Ashes, the release date has been set. I’m excited about it and, in a lot of ways, terrified. I loved the book as it originally appeared but I think this new version is a stronger book. It will be released as an e-book and, very shortly after that (on that day if all goes according to plan), in paper. I’m hoping to have an audio version available shortly as well.

In case you missed it yesterday when I posted the revised first chapter of the book, the expanded edition adds approximately 20,000 words to the story. There are some new chapters as well as several new scenes.

So, when is the release date?

October 17th. Mark your calendars.

What’s going to happen is I will take the original version down from after October 10th. For those of you who have already bought it, it will still be in your library (or so Amazon has assured me. But you might want to make a backup copy. You should anyway on all your books.) On the 17th, the expanded version will go on sale. The description, as well as the new cover, will make it clear that this is a special expanded edition and that it includes new material.

Around that same time, the original version of the book will be released in the other stores. I’m not yet ready to give up on KU but I do want to see if I can get any play in the other stores. In the past, when I’ve released books across the board, I didn’t make enough sales from the other bookstore sites to make up for the lack of KU downloads. This is a new way of seeing if that still holds true.

I’ll be posting the updated cover once I get it. In the meantime, please mark your calendars for the 17th and spread the word.

Until later!

Look what I found!

I’m doing my happy dance right now. One of my favorite authors has a new book out. Insurgents, by Margaret Ball, is the first book in the Harmony series. Here’s the blurb:

Can one man make both love and war – at the same time?

Harmony, one of the first settlements from Earth’s Age of Expansion, has a totalitarian government which uses the bleak continent of Esilia as a dumping ground for political dissidents. Now they’re surprised that the dissidents want to secede.

Gabrel is totally devoted to his colony’s battle for freedom. Isovel, daughter of the enemy’s invading general, knows exactly why Harmony should continue to rule the exiles. When she is taken hostage by his guerrilla group, he has to draw a line between his personal inclinations and his duty to the insurgency, while Isovel has to remember her duty to escape. There can be no future for two people on opposing sides of this war – so Gabrel will just have to win the war. And the peace.

I know what I’m going to be doing this weekend — reading Insurgents!

Snippet: Vengeance from Ashes (expanded edition)

Good morning, everyone. I thought I’d give you a taste of the expanded edition of Vengeance from Ashes this morning. This is the first chapter. Those of you who have read the original version will see that nothing had changed, not in the grand scheme of things. However, there has been an expansion of the chapter to the tune of approximately 500 words.  As with all snippets, this is the pre-publication file. There may be a few spelling or punctuation errors that will be caught in final edits. I hope you enjoy!

Chapter One

“Prisoner Four One Niner Baker One-A, prepare for transfer,” a disembodied voice said from the overhead speaker.

Lips pulled back, teeth bared in an animalistic sneer, the prisoner sat up and swung her legs over the side of her bunk. As she stood, she turned away from the cell door. Her hands automatically went behind her head, fingers lacing. Almost without thought, she sank to her knees, legs spread, ankles crossed. Then, realizing what she had done, she cursed silently, hating herself and those responsible for bringing her to this state.

Two years. Two very long years in Hell had taught her how to act. Her body responded automatically to the commands barked at her. Only when she allowed her mind to surface, to let herself fully experience what was going on around her, did she hesitate. But not this time. There was no reason to disobey, no threat yet to meet.

Those years may have taught her all too painfully how to act, but they hadn’t broken her. Not yet at any rate. Even so, they had come close. Two years cut off from those she cared for, from almost all human contact. Stripped of even the most basic of human rights and dignity, she knew she was little more than an animal to break and tame to those in charge. She knew it just as she knew she could do nothing about it.

Just as she knew she’d been betrayed by the government she’d served and had been ready to die for.

Read More

On Amazon, Clinton and Reviews

I’ve made no secret of how I feel about Hillary Clinton’s latest book being published on 9/12. I’m not a fan of Clinton to begin with. But for her to have a book come out on the anniversary of the Benghazi attack went beyond the pale. I don’t care if it was her decision or her publisher’s. It was too much. But that’s not what this post is about. This post is about Amazon’s removal of 1-star reviews of Clinton’s book, What Happened.

I don’t know a single author who hasn’t at least considered asking Amazon to remove a review at some point or another. It is no secret that indie authors feel helpless when it comes to having reviews that attack our work and which we feel are from people who haven’t read the book. Nor is it any secret that many of those complaining about Amazon removing reviews from Clinton’s book have been vocal in demanding Amazon remove 1-star reviews that attack books by authors they support.

Here’s my view. If Amazon removed reviews that did not address the contents of the book but were simply attacks on Clinton, fine. I have no problem with that. My issue will come if they don’t apply the same standard when other authors want reviews removed for the same reason. As an author, I can’t support reviews that don’t discuss the contents of the book. As a reader, to be honest, I don’t want to read those reviews either. If you don’t like Clinton — or Trump or anyone else — then take to social media or your blogs to post your opinions of them as people. Don’t clutter up review pages with those attacks unless you have read the book and the attacks are germane to the book’s contents.

I will also admit to being disappointed in some people who are up in arms about Amazon’s response to those reviews when, not that long ago, they were calling for the same action to be taken with regard to reviews of books by conservative authors. That sort of double-standard does not sit well with me. Now, if Amazon is applying a double-standard as well, then it needs to be held accountable.

And this brings up my next point. Amazon is a company, a very large one. When you have a problem with it, understand that the first level of customer support you get probably won’t be able to help you. It doesn’t matter if you are complaining about formatting going wonky on a book you just uploaded or with the removal of reviews. If, as an author, you think you are being unfairly attacked in reviews based on your political opinions and not on the content of your book, don’t just stop at that first phone call or email or chat. Go up the chain of command. It isn’t difficult at all to figure out how to send an email to Jeff Bezos. And trust me, sending an email to his office gets you a response just about as quickly as sending a complaint to the FCC will get you one from AT&T — pretty damned quickly.

Is it an instant response and is it always the response you want? No, but it is better than taking to social media to whine because you didn’t get your way.

Anyway, back to Clinton and the reviews disappearing. I want to see Amazon apply the same standard to all books and I hope they will moving forward. But, for those of you who are upset because reviews by people who 1) hadn’t read the book and 2) were attacking Clinton and not the contents of the book, ask yourselves this: would you want those reviews to stay up if it were your book? Or would you want Amazon to take them down?

Amazon, for your part, you need to be fair in the application of this rule. If you remove such reviews for Clinton’s book, you need to do the same for Milo’s or for Trump’s or for any other book where reviews do not address the contents of the book. If not, then you deserve any criticism about your double-standard.

Now, I need to get to work. Otherwise, I will be tempted to get hold of a copy of the book just so I can review it. Hmmm, maybe I should. I haven’t done a good snark review in a long time and from the excerpts I’ve seen, this book is rife for it.

A Snippet and a Share

Just a quick post this morning. On the writing front, I finally have the opening of Light Magic figured out and the book is progressing nicely (fingers crossed). I should see the updated cover for the expanded edition of Vengeance from Ashes later today. I’ll share as soon as it’s in. This is also my day blogging at Victory Girls. Today’s post is about the latest Rasmussen poll, what it shows about how American voters now view Hillary Clinton and my thoughts about her latest book being released on the 5th anniversary of the attack on our Benghazi compound.

Light Magic has taken some twists and turns since I started visualizing it. The book I thought it would be will actually be the next on in the series. This one will introduce a new main character as well as bringing back some of the favorites from the other titles in the series. Here’s a very brief — and rough draft version — snippet.

Mossy Creek, Texas.

Nothing but a small dot on the map. Or, as I like to think of it, a pimple on the butt of an otherwise great state. So why was I returning to a place I last saw a lifetime ago? Because I gave my word and, while I might be a screw up where most everything else is concerned, I try to keep promises I make to people I care about. But this might prove to be too much, especially for someone like me.

One thing’s for sure. Neither Mossy Creek nor I will be ever be the same.

Now I’m off to write some more. Until later!

 

Guns, Violence and Journalistic Integrity

Sunday night there were a number of watch parties going on in the DFW area. It was the first game of the regular season for the Dallas Cowboys. Zeke Elliott was playing, after weeks of uncertainty. Dak Prescott was starting his second season at quarterback and everyone waited anxiously to see if he could continue the magic of his rookie year. Added to that was the fact the ‘Boys were playing their arch rivals, the New York Giants. Unfortunately, one of those parties exploded in a hail of bullets that left, as of this morning, 9 dead. Cue the media to start yet another round of calls for gun control and cue the local media to forget all about journalistic integrity and identify the shooter even though his name has not yet been released by the authorities.

Let’s start with the latter first. Only one of the victims has been identified so far. She was the owner of the house. Her mother has claimed to the media that the shooter was her estranged husband. That is the only information we have so far and yet the media has been running with it. A local columnist has used this alleged identification as the basis for an op-ed piece calling for more gun control because we can’t let guns get into the hands of folks who might have anger issues.

There was a time when the media wouldn’t identify a victim — or a suspect — until that identification was verified by the authorities. It certainly wouldn’t identify someone killed, whether in an accident or as the result of a crime. It was part taking the time to make sure the facts of the incident were confirmed and part because it was the decent thing to do. They gave time to the authorities to notify the family of the person killed. But I guess that’s no longer a consideration in this day and age of reporters not reporting the news but wanting to shape it and make it. To hell with the emotional toll such actions might take on family members who had nothing to do with what happened.

Well, to hell with these so-called journalists.

Moving on. I start getting concerned when people want to limit the right to own, much less carry, a gun because of the possibility someone might have anger issues. How is this possibility supposed to be judged? More importantly, who is supposed to make this assessment? To limit a right based on something that might happen at some point in the future based on some set of circumstances that might never occur is not only foolish, it’s unreasonable.

But let’s be honest, this is simply another way the anti-gun faction wants to limit gun ownership. At least this particular columnist finally turned her post into the need to address impulse control and anger issues. But all too many will take what happened in Plano to argue that anyone going through a divorce shouldn’t be allowed access to guns or to argue that everyone wanting to buy a gun go through psychological evaluations.

Not only no but hell no.

The media needs to take a step back — maybe several, especially if a tall cliff is involved — and remember what it is there to do. Unless it is an editorial, they are there to report the news. They should pride themselves on presenting the facts in a fair and unbiased way. Reporters should report and not be part of the news. They should help us shape opinions based on facts and not on their own personal biases.

Newspapers and network news wonders why they are losing followers. It’s simple. We are tired of being shown slanted views of events. We are tired of being considered too stupid to know what is happening. With so many new ways to find out what’s happening in the world, the media should be adapting instead of digging its heels in. Of course, considering it is the twin to traditional publishing, their approach doesn’t surprise me. All I can say is that they will continue to lose viewers and readers until they once again put facts above opinion, integrity above attempting to manipulate the issues.

Grow up, news media, or go home.

Remembering 9/11

(This post first appeared on Mad Genius Club on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. What I said then still applies to today. As we reflect on what happened that day, on its causes and its effects and on what still needs to be done, we should also reflect and take a moment to thank those men and women who dedicate their lives to keeping our country safe, to their family and loved ones who watch them leave and wonder if they will return and we should also remember those who have given their lives for our country. And now, to that original post.)

Tribute in Lights, 9/11 2013

Ten years ago today, they say the world changed. I’m not sure the whole world changed, but my piece of it did. For the first time in my life, I understood how my parents’ generation felt when they heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor. Gone was the sense of safety of living in the United States, secured by oceans on two sides and allies on the other two sides. We’d been attacked, not by a military force but by fanatics who didn’t care about the innocents they killed in an effort to make their statement.

I know some of you are wondering what this has to do with writing. After all, Mad Genius Club is a blog about writing and the publishing industry. There is no simple answer. But there are answers and I’ll try to explain.

There’s a thread that’s been going on in one of the email groups I belong to where someone asked if our writing is influenced by world events. You can imagine there were folks coming in on both sides – some saying yes and others saying no. For me, I have to admit that I really hadn’t given it much thought. I knew the events of 9/11 affected me, but I hadn’t really taken time to think about if they had influenced my writing.

I still didn’t think much about it until the list of free titles available from Amazon crossed my desk the other day. I didn’t know whether to be thrilled or appalled to see all of them that dealt with that horrible day. I truly believe we need to remember what happened that day and do all we can to make sure it never happens again – here or anywhere else. One way to do that is to write about it.

But what appalled me were the number of books that had clearly been written just to cash in on the ten year anniversary of that horrible day. We’re not talking books that have been out for months or years and are just now being made free as promotions. No, we’re talking books that have never been available before. Books I couldn’t bring myself to download.

Look, don’t get me wrong. I’m all for authors using events, real and imagined, in their books. But to use a tragedy like 9/11 or the Holocaust just to sell books is more than I can stomach. Releasing those books so close to the anniversary of that horrible day without thought or concern about what it would do to those who survived or those who lost loved ones makes my blood boil. There are some lines I simply can’t step over.

That said, I will fight for these authors’ right to publish such books, whether I like them or not. That freedom of speech is one of the things that makes this country what it is. Within certain very limited provisions, we can write what we want, when we want. The fact that so many of us have different views on what and how we write is in the best interest of the reader.

On 9/11, I slept in later than I usually do. As I stumbled into the kitchen for my first cup of coffee, I turned on the TV. There are three things I do every morning: drink coffee, read the paper and watch the morning news. So there I was, coffee cup in hand, staring in disbelief as the second jet crashed into the Twin Towers. It had to be a nightmare. There could be no other explanation. Numb, praying for those people who were obviously trapped in the towers, I sat and watched, just like so many others that morning.

The images from that day are indelibly etched into my memory. So are the emotions. The shock, the fear, the anger. But so is the feeling of solidarity, of needing to do something as I stood in line at the local blood bank waiting hour after hour to donate blood in case it was needed. Hundreds of people turned out that day, too many for the small center to handle. No one wanted to go home. This was something they could do. Something they had to do.

Those who were turned away made appointments to come back the next day. Then they left, only to return later with water and food for those of us still in line. A couple came back with radios and TVs so we could watch the latest. No one asked them to. Everyone thanked them. We were all pulling together and it was happening across the country.

The emotions I felt that day were so strong. So were the reactions of the people I saw. The only day that had come close to it was the day when the American embassy in Tehran had been taken over, beginning more than a year of nightly reports about what was happening, reports that became ABC’s Nightline. Back then, I was attending Texas Tech. A number of my classmates were former Air Force officers. As we sat in the break area of the law school after the news broke, each of them were doing what was necessary to make contact with their former C.O.’s, doing what they felt was necessary – offering to return to the service of their country.

As I write this post, I realize there is one thing about 9/11 that has influenced my writing. After feeling so deeply, after seeing others do the same, I became more aware of how my characters should feel and react. I hope I am able to write characters who are no longer cardboard cut-outs. Emotions are what make us human and are what drive us, for good or bad.

I’m not a subscriber to the idea that you have to suffer for your art. Hell, I do my best to avoid suffering – at least in the way it is used in that sentence. But to be a good writer, you have to not only know what the emotions are, you have to know what they feel like – whether you have experienced them yourself or know someone has. More than that, you have to be able to express those emotions in your writing in such a way your characters don’t appear to be cartoonish or cardboardish.

I remember the feeling of helplessness as I stood in line at the blood bank, wondering if my son was all right. He was at school that day. When the district announced parents could come get their kids, I called my ex-husband to see if he was going to pick our son up. (It was his week to have the kid) I wanted to go so badly, just to be able to see for myself that my son was all right. I wanted to be the one to explain to him what had happened and to reassure him that I would do everything in my power to make sure nothing happened to him. I might not have been able to pick him up – my ex did that – but I did get to talk to him afterwards, to explain what happened and what might be happening over the next few days and weeks.

I can channel those emotions into my characters. It’s easier to write about the mother whose child is in danger. I understand the fear and anger and the need to protect. I can write about the everyman who feels helpless as he watches some disaster – be it natural or manmade – unfold before him. It is up to me now to hone my craft so I can write it in a believable way.

But for all of that, 9/11 reminded me of something I hadn’t really forgotten but had, like so many others, taken for granted. It reminded me of how much I love this country. I honor and thank those who willing put their lives on the line every day to protect it, be they police officers, firefighters, EMTs, soldiers, whatever. I thank their families for supporting them. Most of all, I thank God for the fact that I live here, in a country where I can write what I want and not have to look over my shoulder in fear that the thought police will be there to arrest me.

That son I worried so much about ten years ago is now a young man. One year ago today he signed his contract with the Air Force. It was his choice and one I am very proud of. It’s also one that can’t help but scare me some as well. And that is yet another emotion I can channel, if I dare.

In closing, and on a very non-writer note, I offer up a prayer for all of those who lost their lives a decade ago and I pray we never again see another 9/11, here or anywhere else.

 

Light Magic and the Evil Muse

Moving from one writing project to another isn’t always a smooth process. That is especially true when, like me, you have an evil muse. Myrtle, my own particular evil muse, loves to torment me by giving me the basic plot of a book but multiple ways to start it. I swear she does it because she knows it will drive me crazy. But I guess that’s better than having no idea how to start a book. Of course, I wouldn’t argue if, for once, I didn’t start and stop several times before getting to the opening that works best. Still, the stops and starts on Light Magic will have been worth it if the opening is as successful and i think it will be.

Which is what I have finally done.

I think.

I hope.

Okay, that’s enough insecurity from this writer. Light Magic is under way. With the change in opening, there will be a slight change in the plot, but nothing major. The biggest issue I have where this book is concerned is finding time to write. Fortunately, this one has the feel of one of those that won’t fight me every step of the way. If that is the case, my beta readers will be getting it within the month. Snippets should start in two weeks or so. I’ll keep you informed.

One way Light Magic has changed is that it will be bridging the “normal” plot and characters of Slay Bells Ring with the “Others” of Witchfire Burning. Some of that started with Witchfire but this will cement it even more. Of course, this being Mossy Creek, nothing is ever as easy and “normal” as one thinks. That is something Meg Sheridan will learn quickly. It will take her a bit longer to understand why her mother told her to run to Mossy Creek if anything ever happened to her.

Now it’s time to do the mundane things of life — take out the trash, check email and figure out what I have to do today that can’t be postponed for a day or two. Once all that’s done, I can sit down to write. In the meantime, I have a guest post up on According to Hoyt about heroes and sports figures. Take a few minutes to check out Victory Girls as well. Posts this morning (so far) include covering the Equifax breach and how some of their execs made a financial windfall by selling off stock while the company kept quite about what happened and a great short fiction piece that brings home the impact 9/11 had one some of us.

Customer Service Fail

This isn’t the post I’d planned for this morning. That one would come later. This is a rant. I spent too many years working jobs where I had to deal with the public on a regular basis. I understood when I did that I represented not only myself but my employer. So, no matter how bad my day might have been, I did my best to show a good face to the customers. That’ why my experience with one of the local grocery stores this morning hits my hot buttons. Not only was the clerk less than helpful — we won’t even discuss cordial, etc. — but the store manage had completely fallen down on the job and no one working seemed to care one bit.

A little background. I made a quick run to the store to pick up coffee — cooooffffeeeee — and get some cash. It was approaching 0730 when I arrived. The first indication I should have had that this was not a smart move was when the doors that should have been unlocked half an hour earlier hadn’t been. Okay. No sweat. I could walk the short distance to the other set of doors.

It didn’t take long to find coffee that didn’t completely suck (yes, yes, I’m a coffee snob. There’s a reason I order Death Wish coffee each month). So I made my way to the only shopping lane that had an actual human to check out customers. That should have been my second clue. This store, which is located within a mile of several schools and has heavy early morning traffic because of it, was understaffed.

On a side note, it was also under-stocked. But that is nothing new. And then they wonder why people aren’t shopping there as much as they used to.

Anyway . . .

I finally get to the checker, hand over my coffee, my discount card as a “valued customer” and slide my credit card. Simple enough. Then, because I needed some cash, I hit the cash back option. And I wait. And wait. And wait.

Then the oh-so-bored cashier informs me she doesn’t have any cash.

Wait? what?

You’re running a till and you don’t have cash?

Well, not exactly but she only has a few dollars in the till. She might be able to give me my change but it would all be in ones and fives. Did she offer to give it to me? Hell no. Instead, when I continued to stare at her, dumbfounded and kicking myself for not going to the other store in the area that’s only slightly further from home, she finally calls to see if anyone has any cash.

Now, there were four self checkout lanes open as well. I was told after being insulted by the way she referred to me on the phone with her co-worker that I needed to go to one of those lanes and I would be shown the one that had cash. I asked if she had canceled the transaction and she actually did an eye roll at me and did everything but go “Duh!”. (And yes, I did check my account before leaving the store to make sure it had been canceled.)

So, muttering imprecations, I crossed to the far end of the store where the self-checkout lanes are located. Then I asked the checker stationed there to “help” which register I should use so I could get cash back. Mind you, this is the same person the original checker spoke to. I think you can imagine my reaction when I was told I’d just have to pick one and see because she didn’t know.

Yes, I made a comment about being unprepared for the business day and having less than stellar customer service. Worse, I needed a specific amount of money for something today and couldn’t request that amount because the self checkout lanes let you choose in increments of $20. So, I left with $10 more than I needed and also had the need to break a $20 so I had the exact amount for the yard guy. Which meant stopping somewhere else to get change.

Needless to say, I’m not a happy camper. The only reason I’d been going to this store the last month or two has been for its butcher block. But they aren’t keeping it stocked and its prices are far above any other store now. After today, I doubt I’ll be back in. What store opens without having cash in the cash drawers? What store opens without having its shelves stocked? Here’s a hint for grocery stores everywhere. You customers don’t want to have to trip over stockers during the middle of the day — and yes, this has happened more than once in this store — in order to pick up a loaf of bread or cat food or whatever.

Now I’m home and have a fresh cup of coffee and ready to settle down for work. As for the neighborhood store, it lost a customer this morning. I can forgive a bad customer service once. Sometimes even twice. But when it becomes clear this is a trend the store management isn’t putting an end to, it is time to say “bye” and move on. Fortunately, there are two other major grocery stores within 2 miles of my house and two smaller stores within 4 miles. Giving this one up will not be any sort of hardship, something the managers would do good to remember.

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