Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Opal Arrives



You saw it coming- 

You’ve waited- 

You’ve wondered, maybe even dreamed of what it would be like, and now you can finally find out. Opal Charm - The Path To Dawn is available!

Print edition: http://www.amazon.com/Opal-Charm-Path-Dawn-1/dp/1523467452/ 
Kindle:     http:www.amazon.com/dp/B01CN7HOWY
                   



We talked about it with author Miri Castor in a previous post. Here’s what she says about her heroin:

Opal is a young girl living in Dewdrop, a bustling suburb southeast of New York. Life is a constant struggle for her, until she befriends newcomer, Hope Adaire. With the girls’ friendship slowly beginning to grow, Opal’s life begins to change in mysterious ways, as the secrets of Hope’s enigmatic life begins to unfold.
In the process of taking new paths and unveiling truths, a new world is discovered and with it, the discovery of a Gift a power that can make Opal stronger than she ever imagined. Yet with every truth, lies must be shattered. Now, when Dewdrop and the new world is threatened, this temperamental teen with too much emotional baggage, must learn how to control her Gift, and protect everyone living in her world and the new one—or face the consequences of unmasked truths.


Here's what you'll find- and what you won't-

Features a dark-skinned black female MC struggling to understand herself

WoC dominated cast (damsels-in-distress free)

Diverse characters with magical powers (who also kick some butt)

Diversity in suburbia and SFF setting

Explores themes of light and darkness

Focuses on familial, self-love, and platonic love

The first in the series from the incomparable Miri Castor is out. Grab it and be charmed...

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Have you discovered Fiverr?

Fiverr.com houses a world of professional service providers and merchants who have all agreed to sell something for as little as five bucks. These are sold internationally so you won't find any plumbers or nannies. Authors, however, can find a host of valuable services at reduced rates through this organization. They also post super fast turn-around times. Many will complete a job in as little as 4 days! I'm doing business with my third "Fiverr" right now. Here's what you'll find:



Book Cover Designers

Some actually offer covers made with simple photo designs for a five spot. I have to use drawings for my Runaway Pony series book covers. That cost me a pretty penny with my first designer, but I found a Fiverr who would redo it for far less. 

Illustrators

Query any of the big-time illustrators you can find. It's likely most of them drive exotic sports cars at the rates they're charging per illustration. My budget doesn't support such things. The same graphic artist who redid the cover agreed to produce quality illustrations for the book with my cartoon-like characters and settings.

Editors

Text editors are available at seriously low rates. Some will offer to do a certain number of words for $5.00. That's mighty convenient for something like a short story you plan to enter in a writing contest. I would carefully check the background of anyone willing to edit a novel for extremely low fees. Look for industry experience along with any academic credentials.

Proofreaders

These providers offer to go over a number of words or pages for the fee. Proofreading is a skill that proves itself. I don't care how much industry experience or how many language degrees someone has, proofreading is not always done completely. How many mistakes have you found in commercial books? Anyone who can clear a whole book of its typical author errors is priceless.

Beta Readers

Scores of them who specify what they will offer in terms of critiques. It's a great gig for someone who loves to read. They can get paid for it and help to influence future literature in their favorite genre. There's one sure way to get someone to commit to a beta read for you. Pay them!

How about Promoters

Yes, book promoters who can actually help sell your books. They use social media and other online venues to showcase and advertise you as an author, and your books. The first time I sold a book to someone other than family was through a Fiverr promotion. I'll be doing that again after the second edition is completed.

You may find other services that help your writing or other needs through Fiverr members. I'm extremely glad for this site and hope it helps you in some way.

Thanks for dropping in
 - Jonra Springs


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

A Moment with Miri Castor



You are in for a real treat today. I’m delighted to have special guest indie author Miri Castor on hand. Her upcoming release is Opal Charm - The Path To Dawn. In addition to giving us sci-fi and fantasy thrills, her character reveals poignant interpersonal struggles while making some stringent social commentaries. Many will find this to be an eye opener.



Q. Miri, thanks for joining us. Let me start with the basics. Where do you live?

A. I live in Brooklyn, New York, but I travel out of state for school on the East coast.

Q. Oh, a big city girl. Do you have a family?

A. A pretty big one, yes! I have my mom, my uncle, my older brother, and my great aunt with me in Brooklyn. My grandparents are in Florida, and my dad lives in the US Virgin Islands, along with distant cousins.

Q. How did you become a writer?

A. It occurred to me when I was a fourth grader and I wrote a picture story on Powerpoint. It was about my “complicated” life as a ten year old. My mom said it was the cutest story she’s ever read. Then my best friend told me how hilarious it was and the seed of possibility was planted. I wouldn’t touch upon it until sixth grade when I first started Opal Charm: The Path to Dawn. All the kids and teachers in the schoolyard were calling me a writer since all I did during recess was sit against the fence and write my story. I’ve gone with the flow ever since.

Q. Wow, you were writing already at ten years old. That’s amazing! What was the first thing you wrote that you could take seriously?

A. I wrote a story for my high school’s literary magazine club in junior year as the co-editor. It was about a teenaged boy who recently died in a car accident. From the grave he watches his girlfriend, a new teen mom, struggle through life without him. He remains in purgatory, where he has to do XYZ, and then he makes it into heaven. Even though I wrote and finished Opal Charm before I published this story, I consider it to be my first serious story. I was like, “Woah, this is deep. This kind of stuff is what I really wanna do. I’m actually a writer.” Writing that story made me want to revise Opal Charm, and make it into something more serious than it was originally.

Q. Opal Charm - The Path To Dawn, is quite an accomplishment. How many other stories have you written to date?

A. I’ve written more than fifty short stories. Before there was Wattpad and Tilbo, Fanfiction was my haven. I wasn’t popular at all. I really shouldn’t be counting those embarrassing stories.

Q. Do you have stories published on Wattpad now?

A. I have chapters 1-5 of Opal Charm up on Wattpad now. I plan on publishing some short stories related to Opal Charm after it gets published, too.

Q. What was your motivation for writing Opal Charm - The Path to Dawn?

A. At first, it was to create a badass, takes-no-crap persona for my timid self. I was influenced by a lot of adventure books, Marvel movies, and Square Enix games. I really wanted to create someone who not only spoke her mind and cursed everyone out, but who had powers like the characters in my favorite games. She also had to actually look like me. Although I loved black superheroes (Storm was the boss) I felt that there weren’t enough who looked like me and had more on their mind then kicking ass.

Jonra: I’m always glad that Gene Roddenberry showed sci-fi fans a multicultural team with intelligent members from each race. You’ve got to love Lieutenant Uhura. I know I do!

Miri: It’s a shame I didn’t know she existed until my freshman year of high school. I fell in love with her and her existence in a sci-fi show. She was before my time obviously, but that doesn’t mean I still can’t admire her. Same thing with Garnet (but not quite), a femme presenting cartoon from CN’s well-known, sci-fi show Steven Universe. In case you don’t know, she’s the leader of the Crystal Gems and the ace on the team. Shoutout to both Uhura and Garnet for adding diversity to sci-fi shows!

Q. What sort of reaction are you hoping to get from your readers?

A. I’m hoping that they can’t get enough of Opal! My readers should be on their hands and knees begging me for a sequel. Jokes and ego aside, some of the themes of Opal Charm are truth, lies, light, and darkness, which are open to a lot of reader interpretation.

Q. Your protagonist is a young girl with some special abilities. Tell us about her…

A. Opal’s personality changed many times over the years. I’ll talk about the Opal you’ll read in my novel. At her core, Opal is a lonely and sad kid who pretends that she’s a heartless being. She’s a passive-aggressive, self-deprecating thirteen year old who struggles with depression. She doesn’t really care for anyone or anything, besides passing eighth grade. But she contradicts herself as she tries to maintain her “I don’t care about anyone” facade. She’s emotional and takes everything to heart. Her hidden power has a lot to do with her facade, so she’s gotta work through it. Truth plays an important role for her.

Q. Are any of the actual situations and struggles that you experienced while growing up referred to in the events of the novel.

A. I struggled with socializing in my early college years. I moved from Brooklyn, NY, one of the country’s melting pots, to a PWI where I could count on one finger how many black people were in my chemistry classes. I’d felt lonely as child of divorced parents, but this was a whole new level of loneliness. As many writers do, I exaggerated my own struggles with reaching out and keeping friendships through Opal’s struggle to face her truth and scrutinize a part of herself she pretends she doesn’t have.

Q. Why did you write this novel? Are you hoping to gain anything by doing it?

A. The stereotype of black people, specifically black women, is that they’re emotionally strong and independent. This can also be applied to other PoC as well. It’s become a jaded trope now, the black girl as the supportive, most of the time sassy or funny, minor character to the white protagonist’s main story. I want to get out the message that black girls are not all strong and independent. We’re not all loud and sassy. We’re multifaceted people who are more than stereotypes and tropes. We struggle with mental illnesses, we have body issues, we’re not mammy figures who are always taking care of other people. Long story short, I want people to realize we’re not superhumans who never feel pain. There’s more to this, but I’ll save it for another time.

I’m hoping to get myself out of my own rut. I wrote this as a way of coping with my depression. I changed my protagonist completely from the wild child she used to be to the sullen, bile teenager she is now.

Q. Do you have to be in a certain environment or mood to write?

A. Yep. My ideal spot is in my bedroom. Doing the “I’m writing a novel” thing in Barnes & Nobles cafe or Starbucks is not my scene. I need to be alone with my thoughts. As for my mood, it depends on the scene. I can’t be thinking about the latest Archer episode or American Crime when I’m writing about a character’s death or it’s not gonna be written well.

Q. Do you ever play music while you’re writing or editing? If so, whose music helps you to write?

A. It depends on the scene, again. Sometimes I can put on some Azealia Banks and power through a chapter with a sad piece of Opal’s backstory. This only happens when I’m in the zone. For a scene like that without being in the zone, I usually listen to Lianna La Havas or Purple Ferdinand. I’m also gonna show my nerdiness and add the Kingdom Hearts soundtracks to that list. For more intense, nitty gritty stuff I listen to some Kanye West (before Yeezus), SZA, Kelela, Azealia Banks, and FKA Twigs. For the nonchalant parts, I mainly listen to Janelle Monae, Nujabes, spazzkid, and The Internet.

Q. Do you have any role models or authors you look up to?

Not necessarily, I pick and choose qualities I want to emulate in “role models.” There are some authors whom I strive to be similar to, like Audre Lorde and Octavia Butler when I’m trying to write deeply. I pick traits that I’ve noticed in author’s stories and use them when I’m writing about something funny or heart-wrenching. I believe you should try to be your own person, or in my case, writer. While it’s great to have people who influence you, they are themselves and you are yourself, if that makes sense.

Q. Opal Charm - The Path To Dawn is a sci-fi work. Do you write in any other genres?

A. I write literary and speculative fiction. I do poetry while I’m in school and don’t have time to invest in an actual story. An actual story for me is more than 300 pages.

Q. What genres do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors from these genres?

A. Fantasy, sci-fi, spec and literary fiction are my favorites. I do have paranormal as my guilty pleasure ever since I was a little girl. I grew up on R.L. Stine books from my school library. Then I got into books about demonic possession, which says a lot since I spent twelve years in Catholic schools. I regret to say I went through the Twilight phase, but thankfully it was brief. Christopher Moore was my favorite author for vampire love and other paranormal books. George R.R. Martin is hands down my favorite fantasy author. I don’t think I have one for scifi yet, Nova Sparks’ The Dome is a close contender. Many of the sci-fi books I read are YA and can be too tropey for me to fully enjoy.

Q. What do you do when you’re not writing?

A. While at school, I do scientific research and work in the lab in between classes. Now for the fun stuff… I go to the movie theaters frequently. I’m inevitably drawn to Marvel movies and frat guy party movies. When I come home from school, I go to NYC Street Poets in Brooklyn with my friend to listen and enjoy the atmosphere. All that costs money though, so when I submit to the broke college student atmosphere, I’m playing video games and watching documentaries online. I also tend to watch the more thought provoking movies at home.

Q. What are you working on now? Will Opal Charm be a series?

A. Opal Charm will most definitely be a series. I’m working on the next story now, Hope in Nautical Dawn (a tentative title.) This adventure will be something to look forward to. My thoughts are still a bit scattered on it, but the main idea remains the same: Opal will be learning how to harness her powers and will be fighting the bad guys. She’ll also try to keep her best friend, Aaron Reyes, out of the new villain’s grasp. She will be exploring more of Athre, the alternate world, and encounter many more characters whose lines of morality are pretty blurred, and then she’ll see that this follows for a few of the “good guys,” too. It will be much darker than The Path to Dawn. I’m excited to explore new themes with this story!

Q. That’s great. We’re excited to see the first Opal Charm release, The Path To Dawn, come out. She sounds like the kind of character we can all learn something from. When is the projected launch date?

A. Winter of 2016.

That’s great. We’ll certainly be on the lookout for that. You can find Miri Castor on          
Facebook    Tumblr    Twitter

Thanks again for joining me, Miri. I wish you all the best!

And as always, thanks for dropping in

- Jonra Springs

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Guests On Your Blog



Why should you open your blog up for guests to posts about their business? I mean this is your special place on the web, your acreage of cyberspace. The idea of giving that up for someone else to do their bidding is entirely foreign. Didn't I open this page to run my big mouth about whatever happens to be on my mind today?
That was how I looked at when I first considered blogging. Thankfully, I didn't follow through at the time. Now it's about sharing the journey I'm taking as an indie author. Hopefully my fellow authors can use something I've experienced to make their road a little easier.
It is actually more productive to be the guest on a blog than the host. That allows you to reach a whole new audience and advertise the fact that you blog, write books, create fabulous paintings or whatever you do. Although there are benefits being a host.
First, it's a post for your blog that you didn't have to coerce your own genius to invent. Someone else has books or paintings and by hosting the artist, you get to spread the ink all over your site.
You also have the opportunity of making friends with a fellow artist. Not only that you may actually help this colleague's career by sharing your audience. My impression is that we're all in this together so why not support each other in any way we can. Still not enough?
There will also be an influx of new readers visiting your blog who want to read about your guest. What artist do you know who doesn't have a blog? Now these readers are on your site, and they know where it is. Some of them may even remember your name the next time they see it. Beat that!
As you find yourself promoting your business on the web, you will surely want to be a guest on other blogs. In the eyes of your potential hosts, it won't hurt to have a record of being a good host for others.
That said, I'd like to invite you to join me next time when my special guest will be the incredible Miri Castor, indie author of the sci-fi fantasy Opal Charm - The Path To Dawn. It has been so much fun working with Miri. I am really pleased to share my little slice of web-space with her, and I'm extremely proud to present her to you on September 16th.

Thanks for stopping in
Jonra Springs

Thursday, August 13, 2015

First Published Mistake

The road to success as an indie author has been paved with nothing but learning. The same is true of every other business, but this one has more resources for those setting out. I blog to illustrate my journey in hopes of being one of them.

Let me share a key mistake I made with the cover of my first release that is killing its sales. (At least this is what I blame.) My book cover as seen on the right has an unfamiliar name at the very top. Most need a phonetic spelling to pronounce it. One person even asked if it's a foreign language. ...Great!

We all know books are judged by their covers and that judgement happens in a few seconds. Any book an adult cannot pronounce the title of is not one they'll buy for a child.

The actual title is Fired Up, but it's the first episode in the Eusta Diddoo - Runaway Pony series. I wanted that name to become popular among its readers, but it's not going to happen. The next cover will simply read: Fried Up. Then along the base we'll print: Runaway Pony Series - Episode 1. I'll introduce the character, Eusta Diddoo, with a phonetic spelling on the first page. That should be simple enough.

I also want to redo the cover art to show the pony exiting the front gate of the farm with a backpack over one shoulder. This should raise questions in the onlooker's mind. Why is the horse leaving the farm? What's he carrying? Where is he going? Such questions help turn shoppers into readers.

I'm also taking the suggestions of a reviewer to add more pictures and split the text into chapters. These short segments will be called scenes. Then I want to add an illustration for each scene. There will be eight in this episode.

Naturally artwork and cover design costs money, and right now hot tubs aren't selling very well. It may be a while before I can correct this mistake and release a second edition of Fired Up with greater marketability, but that's the plan. Wish me luck...

Thanks for stopping in
- Jonra Springs

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Entering Beyond Time


I mentioned the Beyond Time Science fiction writing contest in the last post. It's presented by Inkitt, a fabulous group working on a writers website out of Germany.

I had some difficulty uploading a story. It seems the software didn't like receiving text copied from a Google Doc. I heard from three different reps at the site who contacted me in efforts to fix the problem. One of them had it figured out in less than an hour. They're a wonderful bunch!

I hope you'll read the story and click the heart to give it a vote for the contest. It's about a couple with a gig as intergalactic travel writers. Of all things, tourism is the largest trade among the space faring community. By the time a species manages to travel between stars, they don't need anything. That is unless they're looking for a new home...

Our friends are from a distant star and the protagonist works as a writer. He uses his influence to push for interstellar travel and succeeded on his home world. Soon after his wife makes a case for hitting the cosmos to work as travel writers. He's in no position to argue.

The two establish a reputation as honest commentators on cultures, scenery, wildlife and habitability. They notice several similarities between planets and ecosystems. Everything goes swimmingly until they arrive at a docile world between two stars that doesn't accommodate it's own people. The couple is in danger of losing more than their ideology on this mysterious world.

See what this author dares to suggests, and spot the future of our home world in this short story. It's posted on the Beyond Time science fiction contest at: http://www.inkitt.com/edit/17321

Please cast your vote for "The Dead Bottom Wood" by Yours Truly. And as always, thanks for stopping in.

- Jonra Springs


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Free Sci-Fi Writing Contest


The Beyond Time free science fiction writing contest is open to all writers. The competition is brought to you by the sci-fi department at Inkett. It's open to stories of any length. Entries are being accepted now through July 27th and visiting readers are deciding which stories are best. Current entries are already collecting votes so get yours uploaded with a cover photo and send your friends to the website for support. The entries that net the top ten percent of the votes will go before the Inkitt staff for a chance to place first, second and third. Good luck with your best sci-fi piece.

The first place winner will receive Scrivener novel writing software, 5 print books made from the winning work by Inkitt's designers and two books on writing. Second place gets a $30 book voucher and two writing books. Third place winner takes a $20 book voucher and the two writing books. All authors in the top 10% will receive badges for their websites.

Inkitt is a readers and writers group that showcases author's works from a variety of genres and makes them available to readers. They have discussion pages to critique material and help to connect authors with reviewers. This site is definitely worth checking into whether you're writing or reading.