Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Tale of Two Willows

Today I am happy to introduce author Jennifer Donohoe.  Jennifer and I belong to the same writers group on Facebook.  In the midst of planning a joint promotion with several other authors for a Kindle Fire giveaway, it became apparent that Jennifer's novel, The Legend of the Travelers: Willow's Journey and my novel, Willow Vale, share enough similarities that we thought it would be ideal to present information on each other's books.

A synopsis of The Legend of the Travelers: Willow's Journey:
     Willow is left without a memory after being brutally attacked, but this is not the worst thing that will happen to her. Her mother is missing and Willow is the last traveler who can find the Four Jewels of legend. Surrounded by Celtic gods, Japanese legends, Native American folklore, and a guardian fairy that does more harm than good, Willow learns everyone she meets has a stake in the choice she will have to make. She tries to put the pieces together, aided and hindered by those who are torn between helping her and killing her. Willow decides to fulfill her destiny regardless of the consequences.

Here is an exciting excerpt from Jennifer's contemporary paranormal:
Left for Dead
            Pain raged through her body. Willow’s hand trembled as she ran fingertips over her face. Her skin felt sticky. Blood? She couldn’t tell. A hard cold surface pressed against her back and she peered at a wood-beamed ceiling. She tried to focus on something, anything familiar. A shiver ran across her and she clenched her teeth to keep them from chattering. She squinted, trying to make out details in the dark room. She tried to rise, but when she pushed against the floor, the movement hurt.
            What happened? Someone help.
            She brought her arms up. Long, dark gashes crisscrossed her skin. She placed her hands on her chest and abdomen. When she removed them, something dark blanketed her palms. The strong copper smell of blood filled her nose. To quell the fear, she grabbed the sleeve of her shirt and wiped her eyes.
            Unable to sit up, she craned her neck to view the surroundings. Damaged furniture lay scattered about the floor against the background of charred walls. The scent of burnt wood and paint hung thick in the air. She closed her eyes again. When she opened them, nothing had changed.
            Willow raised her head. A wave of dizziness overcame her and her stomach lurched. A rotten taste filled her mouth.
            Mom. Where is she? Why isn’t she here?
            Uncertainty and abandonment raced through her mind. Blood. She lay in a pool of it. Her heart throbbed in her throat. Tears welled in her eyes. Her hands quaked. Her own body fought against her.
            Stop! Focus. Just focus. Calm down. Breathe. I need help.
            A howling scream came from far away. Her own voice escaped her parched throat. She lifted an arm, leaned over, and lost balance. The smack of the hard floor against her back made her shudder with pain.
            An open door. Her pulse quickened. Moving onto her stomach, one arm in front of the other, she pulled her unwilling body across the flat surface. Her legs, heavy and useless, dragged behind her. Her arms shook in the struggle to move closer.
            Just a little bit more. No use.
            The room deepened into a tunnel as life slipped away. Sleep. Just a little sleep. It would be over then. Her eyelids drooped, too heavy to keep open. She succumbed. Darkness carried her away.
            Far away.
            A warm, peaceful sensation washed through her. Did I die? She floated. The air changed no longer the coppery smell of blood, burnt wood, and paint, but now an outdoor smell. Her labored breath fell quiet to a gentle breeze.
            A sunlit meadow stretched out in front of her. She raised a hand to subdue the bright light and fought to understand where she was. Heaven? Could this be my heaven? This is so beautiful. What I always imagined it to be. She ran her hands over her body. No pain. No gashes. No blood. 
            Flowers danced and rolled with every flicker of the wind, reminding her of the waves of the ocean. A large gnarled trunk twisted and turned high above. She rubbed her fingers on the aged bark. It felt familiar, like home. Sadness swept over her. I’ll never see home again. I’ll never see my Mom again. How will I know what happened to me? She leaned her forehead against the tree then turned and pressed her back against its rough surface.
            The limbs danced and tossed in the wind’s grip. Every sway contributed to an entrancing melody, like a sweet lullaby. The leafy tendrils wrapped around her and their gentle embrace comforted her. The branches lifted her into the heart of the tree and cradled her.
            “Willow,” a female voice called.
            Willow’s breathing quickened as she searched for the source.
            “Willow, my darling.”   
            “Hello. Who’s there?” A cool breeze wafted through the leaves and Willow’s senses reeled when she realized how high she perched.
            “Be not concerned with who I am. Be more concerned with who you are,” the voice said in a soft tone.
            “I’m Willow.” Her arm shook as she balanced herself against the trunk.
            “Yes, you are.” The voice floated closer to her.
            Willow shifted her weight, hunting for the voice’s owner.
            “Whom do you seek?” the voice asked.
            “You. I want to see you. I just want to know what’s going on.”
            “Me.” The voice paused. “Ahh.” A small laugh filtered down. “You are not ready to know me, let alone see me.”
            “Am I in heaven?”
            “No darling, you are not. Are those tears?” A cold touch, like a finger, swiped across Willow’s face. “I will keep these. You will need them later.”
             Is it a spirit that speaks to me? Did I imagine the touch?
            Willow caressed her face where she felt the sensation. “What is this place? I want to go home.”
            “You are in a safe place. Nothing can harm you here.” The voice paused. “Sometimes when the body suffers great pain, the soul escapes for a while. It is a way of protecting the essence of a person.” She gave a sigh. “It comes at a great cost.”
            “What’s the cost?
            “For everyone it is different. For you, it will be your life.”
            “I’ve already lost it.”
            “No. You will return to your body.”
            “Am I in limbo? My body is somewhere else? How will I get back?”
            “When it is time.” The voice hesitated. “Willow!”
            “Yes.”
            “Breathe!”
            “Willow, breathe!” a male voice said.
            Hands pressed down on her chest.
            The branches loosened their grip. She fell. Fear and pain collided in a thunderous rush and a tunnel of wind swept her back into her painful body.
            Flashing lights pierced the darkness. Shadowy figures drifted in and out of focus.
            “Did you find anyone else around?” a man asked.
            “I just found her. She was alone,” a woman answered. “Who do you think did this? I mean, why would anyone be this cruel?”
            “Hang in there. We are going to get you help,” a second woman said when she came closer.
            Willow blinked a couple times and saw beautiful blue eyes staring back at her. She allowed herself to inhale deeply and loosen tight muscles.
            “I cannot believe this has happened...here. It is starting,” the second woman said. “It is too early. What will we do?”
            Talk to me. Please. Can’t you hear me? Help me, please. Just take my pain away.
            “We need to think about helping Willow first,” the man said.
            “You are right.” The first woman placed her hand on Willow’s forehead and pushed the hair from her face.
            The man bent close and pressed his fingers against Willow’s neck. “I feel a heartbeat, but we have to get her out of here.”
            Her stomach roiled and lurched toward her mouth. She turned her head and vomited. A moan escaped her lips.
            “Stay with us, Willow,” the man said.
            Let me go! Just let me go. The pain is unbearable. I don’t have the strength.
            Willow heard the concern in the voices surrounding her. The darkness pulled her in. She shuddered and the cold grip of death crept through her veins.
            This must be it. I’m dying. Save me!
            A warm hand touched her shoulder. A young man stood to her side. His golden eyes were moist with tears. Someone this beautiful regarded her with caring and empathy. Then he stepped back into the shadows and disappeared.
            A man with long black hair placed his hand on her arm. “Hang on.”
            A jerk. Then a forward movement.
            Just stop. No more. Please. I can’t take it.
            Time seemed to elude her. Warmth embraced her and the smell of herbs and spices eased Willow. A familiar scent, but she didn’t know why.
            A voice infiltrated her thoughts. “We are here,” the older man said. 
            Mass confusion filled the next few minutes. People rushed around. Muffled voices. Gasps.
            Everything became a blur.
            Willow let her thoughts roam through the darkness of her mind. Around some imaginary corner, the young man with the golden irises appeared in front of her. He’s back. Why? She stared at him for a long period, unsure of what to do or say. He was silent, still. An unknown light source silhouetted his muscular body.
            “Who are you? Where am I?” Willow asked.
            “This is the Shadow Land between life and death. I’m Tecumseh and I’m here to help you get out.” He stepped to one side, motioning her past him.
            “Help me get out? But the willow...” She eased one foot forward, paused...then followed his direction.
            Why is he here? In this place? With me?
            Willow stepped out into a large meadow. The same one. She raised a hand to shade her eyes from the sun and turned to see the young man. A fierce growl made her swirl around. Near the center of the meadow, two large wolves, one white, one black, stood face to face. She knew she should fear them, but didn’t.
            “Why are they here? They weren’t here before.” she asked, unable to remove her attention from the beasts.
            He slid next to her and glanced at the animals then her. “Because of the struggle that lies within you.”
            “What struggle?”
            “The one of your heritage...your family...you. You have come from a long line of protectors, which means you must finish the task your forefathers began. It’s not an easy one. Because in doing so, you’ll lose the very essence of who you are.” Tecumseh took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. “But your sacrifice will mean the birth of a new hope for the people.”
            “I know nothing of this. What you’re saying can’t be right.”
            “A battle rages inside of you. That began there.” He pointed to the meadow.
            “If it’s inside me, then why are the wolves out there?”
            “This is where it began and this is where it’ll end.”
            “Just tell me what all of this means.” She took a few steps forward.
            “Something happened that caused your soul great strife. It’ll be up to you to figure it out.”
            “I don’t remember what happened. How can I figure it out?”
            “This is a path chosen for you. I can’t answer your question. I’m sorry.”
            None of this makes any sense. All I want to know is what happened to me.
            The wolves bayed, jarring her from her thoughts. “Will the wolves fight?” she asked.
            Tecumseh remained behind her. “It depends.”
            “Depends on what?”
            “Your choice...Willow.”
            “What choice? Which one will win?”
            “Whichever one you allow to win.”
The wolves clashed; fur on fur, claws ripped and teeth tore at one another, saliva dripped. Willow moved forward. Adrenaline rushed through her as each sound pulled her closer.
            “Stop!”
            Willow halted, startled by his outburst. “Why did they fight?”
            “They sensed your anger. Your thoughts.”
            The wolves ceased fighting and faced her. For each step she retreated, they followed. Tecumseh placed his hand against her back to keep her from moving away. The wolves crept closer.
            “They are coming. We should leave,” Willow whispered.
            “No, you must face them,” he said.
            “They’re going to attack.” Her hands trembled and her legs weakened. The wolves lowered their bodies close to the ground, preparing to pounce. “Please, let me go.”
            The wolves gathered strength in their haunches and lunged forward. The rush of death came straight at her face. Willow felt their crushing weight on her chest.

About Jennifer Donohoe:

Jennifer Donohoe currently lives in Northeast Ohio. She works as an In-Home Counselor to Felony Juvenile Offenders. She loves taking landscape photography as a hobby and uses the photos as descriptions for some of the settings in her stories. Her passion is writing and she enjoys the company of her characters.

Legend of the Travelers: Willow's Journey is available at Amazon on Kindle and in paperback.

Thanks for visiting actuallyalethea, Jennifer.  Now everyone can choose a favorite Willow novel, the paranormal Legend of the Travelers: Willow's Journey or the historical Willow Vale.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Author Nancy Jardine on Using Images to Sell Books

Today we give a warm welcome to Nancy Jardine, who comes all the way from Scotland to visit actuallyalethea and talk about the importance of visual material to help sell a novel.  Glad to have you here, Nancy!

What a lovely picture! What a lovely photograph
…of a location, or person, or article, though sometimes it’s not so easy to acquire those images.

Hello, Alethea. I’m delighted to be here today and very pleased you’ve invited me to your blog.

I’ve been spending quite some time, recently, researching image material to use to enhance my writing, and more specifically for marketing purposes. Before my debut novel was published in August 2011, I had absolutely no idea of the impact the use of suitable images might have on increasing the chances of selling more of my novels. I was always aware of how much a cover image was very important as I, personally, browsed around in bookstores before buying a novel, and was aware that a good image on a poster in the bookstore was a great selling point for some author. Yet, before the spring of 2011, I was extremely naïve about other book-selling venues- blogs, book trailer videos, and Pinterest Boards.

Over the course of the last year I’ve realised how much visual material can enhance blog items, when suitably used-an explanation for the amount of time I’m now spending on that very task.

Authors who write only contemporary work are more likely to have less of a problem when it comes to finding suitable material to illustrate aspects of their novels- locations in particular. I’ve not had any difficulty with finding suitable material for my three contemporary novels. In fact, during my researching stage before completing those novels, I amassed a nice bulging folder for each with possible photographic illustrations. Photographs coming from my own camera have no copyright restrictions, so they’re brilliant to use. With other images I’ve purchased the use of them from cheap sources of Royalty Free images, to ensure I can use them on my blog, or Pinterest, or book trailers without fear of retribution.

I’m delighted to have loads of suitable material for my contemporary novel, TAKE ME NOW, releasing very soon on the 3rd August, 2012 from The Wild Rose Press. I’ve got lots of photos of all the cities Aela flies her boss, Nairn, to-as in London, Paris, Barcelona, and Tallinn. I’ve lots of photos of the Scottish countryside they fly over-many more than I could use in my book trailer video. My Pinterest board is another thing entirely since I can keep adding to that whenever I want. Creating a new Pinterest board is a fabulous way to illustrate a novel, and great fun to do.

I’m very much looking forward to gaining a contract for my third contemporary novel which uses locations like Vienna, and Amsterdam and Heidelberg. They’re all stunning European cities, and I’ve a nice collection of images ready and waiting.

But what about my historical fiction? I’ve had a much greater problem with finding images for those two historical works. One is a time-travel novel for children set in the north east Scotland of AD 210, and I certainly don’t have any images sitting on my own camera for that! 

My other historical novel, THE BELTANE CHOICE, will be launched on the 31st August 2012, by Crooked{Cat}Publishing. This is set in Britain, in AD 71, on what is now border country between Scotland and England, where there is conflict going on between the Roman invaders and the local Celtic peoples.

Acquiring images to use for illustrating them has been a much greater challenge. I’ve scoured the Royalty Free sites, and I’m still scouring them. I’ve tried to paint my own images, but sadly I’m no artist… Paying for the services of a talented artist to make me custom made illustrations is beyond my pocket at present, so I have to be more creative in enhancing these works. My book trailer video for THE BELTANE CHOICE has required me to use different techniques- some new learning necessary for that.  

I’m wondering, Alethea, what kind resources your readers might use to enhance written projects- especially if the time you refer to is prior to the earliest photographs. I’d love you to drop me a note and share your ideas.

Thank you very much, Alethea, for inviting me here today to wax lyrical about my illustrating issues.

**happy waving here, and a big smiley face to everyone who has visited**

TAKE ME NOW
Blurb:
Nairn Malcolm’s looking for the impossible. He needs a highly skilled, enterprising aide who’ll be at his beck and call 24/7. No ordinary Jane Doe will do. He doesn’t expect the only candidate who drops in at his Scottish castle for an interview to be so competent…or so stunning.
Aela Cameron’s got exactly the right mix of talents to satisfy all Nairn Malcolm’s needs, and more. She loves the jobs he needs done, adores his castle, and finds his frenetic lifestyle energising. But she’s only looking for temporary: not to fall in love with the man.
Can Nairn convince Aela she’s tailor-made for him in every way…and not a passing fancy?  

Excerpt:
Unadulterated vigor oozed from every last bit of him—overall a dangerous concoction. Something stirred way-down-low inside Aela again. He was a real honey, and the bee in her wanted to be very sticky.
Her mind whirred. The man bore a vague resemblance to the ruggedly handsome thirty-two year old Nairn Malcolm of the internet photograph, but would the blonde limpet in the recent celebrity snapshot want to curl herself around this forbidding wreck of a man? Aela thought not. She wondered, though, if his blank expression was caused by current circumstances, or if this was his normal demeanor, since he hadn’t been smiling in the photograph either.
With the high granite wall as his backdrop she could easily imagine this man lording over the castle, ruthlessly challenging any invaders to his domain. Taking any woman he wanted? Now there was a thought she was happy to entertain. A tiny smile broke free. Tamping down her crazed imagination she re-assessed him.
What had the guy been doing to get himself in such a state?
Who was he?

Bio-Nancy Jardine
Having taught 11-12 year olds for many years, Nancy Jardine finally gave up the chalk in the autumn of 2011. During the last few years she has redrafted a historical novel, written three contemporary novels- two of which are what she calls her history/mysteries. She’s also re-drafted the first of a time-travel series of novels for children aged 9-12years. A family saga is her main work in progress.

Nancy lives in the picturesque castle country of Aberdeenshire, Scotland, with her husband who now does all the cooking…the menu far more exciting and tasty than it used to be! Ancestry research-if you hadn’t already guessed-is one of her hobbies, as is participating in exciting events with her family which drag her away from the keyboard. Working in her large garden, she tends real flowers and now grows spectacular weeds which she’s becoming very fond of! She cherishes the couple of days a week when she child-minds her gorgeous granddaughter.


Nancy can be contacted at:
Twitter:  http://twitter.com@nansjar


Available to buy now-Monogamy Twist
from The Wild Rose Press http://bit.ly/wOpGbT  
Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/ynu0t0  
Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/wwaGCv  
Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/AuMbii
Link to YouTube Book Trailer for Monogamy Twist is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJVzbrkJQzA 


Coming Soon:
TAKE ME NOW will be available from The Wild Rose Press 3rd August 2012. Link to YouTube Book Trailer for Take Me Now is:  http://youtu.be/stDC4Yhm2r0




THE BELTANE CHOICE will be available in ebook formats from Crooked{Cat} Publishing 31st August 2012.

Thank you, Nancy, for such an informative guest post! 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Congratulations to Winners!

The WILLOW VALE SIGNED COPY GIVEAWAY here on actuallyalethea and on Facebook has ended.

Winners:

Phyllis!
Ann!
Arletta!
Pat!
Lynda!

As soon as I get your address your book will be on the way.