Author Spotlight – Bonnie Milani

Greetings everyone and a very Happy New Year!

I thought I’d start 2017 with some author interviews. I love getting to know new writers and hearing about their work, so to start off, please welcome Sci-fi author Bonnie Milani. 

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 Who are you and what do you do? 

I’m the walking definition of a masochist:  a benefits broker specializing in micro-businesses under ObamaCare who is trying to build a professional reputation as a sci fi author.

What is your book about?

Which book?  Sorry, couldn’t resist.  My latest is ‘Cherry Pickers’, a teen girl’s light-hearted coming-of-age story – with spiders.  Very large, hopelessly romantic spiders.

 Why did you choose to write your book?

Y’know, I don’t think we choose our stories; I think our stories choose us.  In the case of ‘Cherry Pickers’ I’ve had one of the main characters, Sam, nested in a corner of my mind for more years than I’m willing to count.  Finally decided to let the poor guy out.  So, of course, now I’ve got another whole set of stories growing out of this one.

Cherry Pickers is only $0.99! You can grab a copy here:

https://www.amazon.com/Cherry-Pickers-Bonnie-Milani-ebook/dp/B01LZU1XK1

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You can read my review of Cherry Pickers at the end of this post.

What kind of research did you do?

I’ve sold other stories set on Sisyphus, the world-setting for ‘Cherry Pickers’, so I’d already done the research on the basics of the world itself: size, gravity, atmosphere, chemical composition, etc. I’d also researched arachnid characteristics & behaviors – which was a challenge, considering I’m a total arachnophobe. But the research led me to peacock spiders, & with that I had the ammunition I needed to work out how the Sissy culture would operate.  To give you an idea, here’s a link to the peacock spider’s mating dance: https://www.cnet.com/news/two-adorable-new-spiders-found-meet-sparklemuffin-and-skeletorus/  Just TRY not to think of John Travolta!

What was the biggest challenge in writing the book?

Time is always my challenge.  I have at best 1 hour a day, so progress tends to be slow.  Drives me up the creative wall. But it’s proof that determination & plain ol’ stick-to-it-ness eventually wins the day.

What was the best part of writing your book?

FINALLY getting it to where I felt it was right.  I THOUGHT I had it right on maybe the 4th rewrite, so I sent it off to my editor.  Oy, was I wrong.  Oh, OUCH was I wrong!  She sent back four single-spaced pages of just where & how severely wrong I was, along with commentary in the MS itself.  Exceedingly painful experience – but very, very necessary.  The story just would not have fulfilled itself otherwise.  I realized that after I finished reworking it.

Thought I’d slip in Bonnie’s award. Wow!

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Do you have any advice to give authors who wish to self-publish?

Oy, do I!  Perhaps the most important advice I can offer at all is to realize that posting your doc to Amazon does NOT equate to genuine self-publication, not if you want anyone to take you seriously as a writer.  Agreed, simply getting a MS up on Amazon is quite enough of a chore on its own, but it’s far & away the least, last, & most malleable item in the production chain.

If you’re serious about becoming a professional writer then you simply must learn the craft and write to a professional standard.  And that’s HARD, believe me.  I can tell you from experience that fiction writing is a thousand times more difficult than non-fiction.  I was writing NON-fiction for publication back in high school.  Waaay back in my twenties I was writing feature pieces for Science Digest, Peninsula, Mankind, The Atlantic City Press, as well as  various other newspapers.  In college I wrote an early environmental fairy tale that was picked up and used by the NJ Dept. of Education for grammar school children.  All exciting, professional work – and none of it even a fraction as challenging or just plain HARD as one fiction story.

Long story short: if you’re an aspiring author, then invest the time and money in yourself and your talent to learn how to make your stories WORK.  Learn three-act structure.  Learn character development, world-building, throughlines, the works.  Have your work edited by a professional in your chosen field.  Then swallow your tears (maybe with a glass of scotch or two) when your best efforts come back bruised and beaten.  REWRITE.  Cry or swear some more.  Then send it back to be edited again.  It’s hard, and it’s not cheap, but you’ll feel it when your story is ready to stand on its own and face the world.  Mind, then you have all the mechanical posting & proofing & such to face – but by then you’ve got something you KNOW is good enough to justify the effort.

Wow, that answer kinda got away from me!  Hope your followers find it helps!

 I’m sure they will, Bonnie, thanks.

Do you have a favourite author? If so, what is it about their work that you like?

In sci fi, it’s C.J. Cherryh, hands down.  Her tightly-plotted, women-oriented sci fi is what drew me back into writing after I’d given up for far too many years to help my husband build his business as well as starting my own insurance agency.

Outside of sci-fi, my favorites are the classic women authors: Jane Austen (‘Pride & Prejudice’ RULES!), Charlotte Bronte (‘Jane Eyre’), and of course, Harper Lee (‘To Kill a Mockingbird’)

What are your future writing plans?

I have another novella started.  After that, I plan on returning to the ‘Home World’ universe and completing the rest of the series.  Considering that universe has churned out about two generations worth of tales so far I figure that’s going to keep me busy for a lot of years to come!

Thank you Bonnie.

For more information about Bonnie and her books go to her Amazon Author page:

https://www.amazon.com/Bonnie-Milani/e/B00IPYW4HK/

 

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My review of Cherry Pickers:

Starship Troopers meets Arachnophobia

 I enjoyed this book a lot. I loved the idea of giant spiders being the main characters alongside their human counterparts. Bonnie Milani successfully makes you care about these large arachnids just as much as the human ones, as all her characters are utterly believable.

It was a fast paced read full of suspense, humour and wonderful descriptions of the alien world that made the narrative come alive.

The alien arachnids are both lovable and horrid. I hated the Sissies, but I adored Sam, the spider, he was funny and sensitive. I did feel sorry for Tsk, who’s fate was to become Kekh’s next mate. A thing he dreads, for obvious reasons.

The heroine Nikki is feisty and fun and she relates the story in a jaunty manner as she tries to sort out her role in the complex mating rituals and sinister schemes she has been drawn into. I shan’t spoil the plot, but I was hooked from the beginning to the unexpected end.

This is a great read for anyone who enjoys sci-fi with a difference.

 

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Suffolk Author Spotlight – Ann Elliot

Today I would like to welcome fellow Suffolk author Ann Elliot. She is going to be selling her book – Too Many Tenors – on Amazon for only £0.99 $0.99 from 10th August!!!

Here is Ann’s writing career to date:

Previous publications with Wensum Wordsmiths: Mischief and Mayhem Norwich 1798 (1998) and Time and Time Again (2000). For many years I edited the Eastern Early Music Forum Newsletter and contributed concert reviews for the East Anglian Daily Times. In 2009, I was in the top 5 of This Morning ITV’s short story competition, and was awarded a silver salver ‘for achievement’ at the Winchester Writers’ Conference. My first novel, A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, is as yet unpublished.

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Who are you and what do you do? 

My name is Ann Elliott – a good literary name. I have a degree in English, a diploma in recorder playing, a teaching background. I have rental income, so can afford to stay at home to be creative. My interests are musical and literary and I enjoy wild life and walking.

 What is your book about?

 ‘Too Many Tenors’ is about conflicting personal and professional rivalries within the closed circles of a cathedral choir and a chamber choir.

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Musical rivalry, elopements, swapping of partners and defections undermine the stability of St Cecilia Singers. Alison, anticipating perfect marriage, is blind to her husband’s inadequacies and roving eye. Rick is the arch-perpetrator of most of these sins against greater good of the community and his wife – he elopes with a fat soprano when she announces her pregnancy. Hitherto she had blamed Yarchester Cathedral choir’s regime for their deteriorating relationship. Conductor Gray leaves both choirs to preserve his marriage, bequeathing ‘Singers’ to Rick.  Rick and Singers fall apart. Two ladies later, Alison realises she’s more traumatised by her friend’s betrayal than her husband’s desertion, and accepts her marriage is over. With disruptive influences purged, a new conductor restores harmony to Singers, though Alison is not fully able to move on till reminiscences at a choir reunion finally puts her guilt to rest and allow her to put the past into proportion.

Why did you choose to write your book?

 I have always been involved in choral singing – the book has some autobiographical elements – and  I wanted to write about the knock on effects of relationship tangles on the greater good of the community.

Over the years I have written many short stories, and decided to publish them as a group. Some are new, some updated, some historical.

Who or what was the inspiration behind it?

Personal experience. Fascination with the every day stories of small townsfolk.

What kind of research did you?

As it is set in in the late 60s onward, I had to check every detail of contemporary and cathedral life to make it authentic, and also pop in a few ‘historical’ reference to maintain the sense of period.

I had to research as above for stories set some time ago, and also Suffolk dialect for a few of the stories.

What was the biggest challenge in writing the book?

   Time management.

What was the best part of writing your book?

Writing in full swing, with no distractions

What, if anything, have you learned from writing your book?

The need to revise, cut, re-evaluate, structure, and persist.

Do you have any advice to give authors who wish to self-publish?

Don’t give up, get on with it, don’t procrastinate

Do you have a favourite author? If so, what is it about their work that you like?

Jane Austen. Portrayal of human nature on small canvass, with humour and pragmatism . She wrote QUOTE MINIATURE

What are your future writing plans?

To finish and publish short stories ASAP

 ‘That’s Little Baddenham – Everyday tales of a small market town’  is nearing completion. It is a collection of short stories, contemporary and older, all connected to a small country town very like Framlingham.

Then resume Those Pollok Girls, a family saga begun on UEA ‘Constructing a Novel ‘course.  (2012) This is based loosely on my family history, and I have just been researching in Shetland – a big boost to getting on with it.

I also have another unpublished novel, A Woolf in Sheep’s Clothing, that I may revise/prepare for publication. This book is about the symbiotic and destructive love-hate relationship between a mother and a son, who struggles to free himself from the maternal web.I would describe it as Barbara Vine Meets Joanna Trollope.

Thank you Ann. If you want to know more about Ann and her work you can go to her website: http://anntelliott.wix.com/toomanytenors

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You can Purchase Too Many Tenors here:

Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Too-Many-Tenors-Ann-Elliott-ebook/dp/B00G9YXWOM

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Too-Many-Tenors-Ann-Elliott-ebook/dp/B00G9YXWOM

 

 

 

 

 

 

How should I publish my middle-grade novel?

I finished writing my middle-grade action adventure novel set in London and Duat – the land of the dead in ancient Egyptian religion. The title so far is Cleo Dalby and the curse of the Chaos Mummies. It had several other titles, but this one seems to suit the tone and genre of the book.

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It has been beta tested, edited quite a bit. Beta read again, edited again and again and again… I think it is ready to be let out into the big, wide world.

So, what do I next?

Should I try traditional publishing, agent etc? Or, should I self-publish?

I know the pros and cons of both kinds of publishing having been published by a small publishing house and self-published. Both have their good points and bad. I have heard that it is very difficult to sell children’s or middle-grade books if you self-publish. I don’t know how true that is, but I have heard it said by quite a few authors.

Now that I am a self-published author, I like it. I have control over all aspects of marketing and editorial decisions. A thing I did not have when under contract. I am inclined towards self-publishing this book for those reasons.

However, I may just send it out to a few well-chosen agents that have enough authority and respect within the publishing world, to possibly get me signed to a major publishing house. Why? Because I am unsure of how my book will sell. Most books written for children under the age of fourteen are bought by parents for their children. After speaking to a lot of parents, they said they hardly ever, if ever, bought a book by a self-published author. This may not be true of every adult who buys books for young people.

Am I talking myself into traditional publishing here?

I’m somewhat confused.

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Any thoughts, comments, suggestions, and advice would be gratefully received.

I have posted an extract from the book.

No cover as yet. This will have to do.

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Cleo Dalby and the Curse of the Chaos Mummies

 If you were twelve-years-old and possessed by evil, what would you do?

Curses, chaos, mummies, gods and the fight to save mankind.

Chapter 1

We Are Not Alone

Darkness pushed against Cleo Dalby’s arms and legs as she struggled to make her way through the narrow chamber. Hands outstretched before her, she slid her feet forward, straining to hear something, anything. But every sound, even the skid-slap of her sandals on the stone floor, became lost in the gloom. On Cleo walked slow and tentative, deeper into the world of corpses.

A sigh, long and weary-filled drifted towards her. It seemed to gather friends as it neared, and soon the sad laments of dozens of disembodied voices surrounded her. The moans continued, drifting in and out of her ears like tired moths trapped inside a lampshade. She tried to struggle on, but the wails tugged at her ankles, forcing her to stop and listen to the muffled chatter that swirled and scuttled inside her head.

“We, the dead, abide here. Quietly resting, hands on chest, faces tilted up to catch a ray of sunlight.”

“A futile gesture. For this far below the ground, there is only blackness and the weight of stone.”

“We, the dead, lie still, poised in readiness for our resurrection.”

“What a wait we’ve had. So many years spent lying in a state of half-remembered promises and expectations, grown dull with the passing of each century.”

“We, the dead, no longer know who we are. Memories fade and melt into our hollow skulls.”

“We, the dead, sometimes whisper to each other.”

“Husks of words from dried up lips that stick to the cold walls, waiting for the living to listen.”

Cleo touched the limestone with her fingertips and thought she heard a murmuring of souls.

“We, the dead, can feel a presence.”

A breath of ancient brushed past her cheek. She shivered and rubbed her naked arms. The chill slapped onto her legs and spread upwards leaving pimples of stiff-haired unease on her sunburnt flesh. She gulped and said into the blackness, “Hello? Is anyone there? My name is Cleo.”

“Found out!”

“Not Yet.”

“No.”

The voices ceased.

She called again, but no answer came. There was a smell of rot so strong that Cleo nearly vomited. It disappeared and she felt as if a heavy weight had been lifted from her shoulders. She stood tall, shrugged, and said, “The dark is just an absence of light,” then shook the torch that was gripped in her hand. “Stupid, froggin’ thing. Work.” She patted it against her palm. “Work.” Something touched her shoulder and Cleo jumped.

You can read a longer extract on my website under the heading Cleo Dalby:

http://www.nicolamcdonagh.com

 

 

 

 

Want a FREE YA Dystopian Sci-Fi Action Adventure E-book?

I recently acquired the rights back for my Young Adult, Dystopian, Science Fiction, Action Adventure series – The Song of Forgetfulness.

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Two of the books in the series, Echoes from the Lost Ones and A Silence Heard, had been published by an Indie publisher, but when they closed down in June of this year, I decided to self-publish them with new covers and re-edited. I also had a Prequel – Whisper Gatherers – that I’d wanted to publish for a while. So I was sad, yet happy when my publishers closed their books.

I am not great at self promotion, in fact I’m hopeless, so I enrolled on a book marketing course to learn how to sell myself and my books.  It’s going slowly so far, but I am attempting to put into practice what I have learned.

I am giving away the Prequel to hopefully attract readers to my book series. I am getting some really great 5* reviews too!

Whisper Gatherers is  FREE to download from Amazon from 20th-21st August. 

http://bookShow.me/B00YMSP1UA

“If you like action, and science fiction, then you’ll appreciate one of the first books EVER that gives you high powered adrenalin with chilling revelations of utter suspense! This book is amazing to read and you will not want to put it down!”

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I hope you decide to download a copy, it would help me get my books a bit of exposure.

Thanks in advance!!”

The Perils of Publishing

Now that my publishers have closed down, I am due to regain the selling rights for my YA dystopian/sci-fi series, The Song of Forgetfulness.

When I heard they were going under, I had mixed feelings. Part of me was pleased, as I wasn’t all that happy with them, but part of me was somewhat nervous. What now? What is going to happen to all my hard work researching and writing these two novels?

I had some options:

1.    Try to get an agent and a traditional publishing contract

2.    Send my manuscripts off to other Indie publishers. (Already had a few interested.)

3.    Self-publish.

I considered all three options.

Having heard lots of depressing stories from fellow authors about traditional publishing, I decided not to go there on this occasion. Besides, I’m still not sure about the value of an agent unless it is one with a credible track record. Since I’m not a best selling author, or any way near that, I figured a reputable agent wouldn’t want me on their books. Another reason to opt out of traditional publishing.

Since I had such a bad experience with a small publisher, they take 70% of royalties, whilst I do all the marketing and promotion, plus their editing and book covers were pretty sub-standard, I knew that I would not go down that road again.

The third option seemed to me to be the most logical. I have already self-published a collection of short stories, Glimmer and other stories, and although sales aren’t fabulous, I do sell some books on a regular basis. With my publishers I sold hardly any, if at all.

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With no promotional skills whatsoever, I decided to pay for an online book-marketing course. Wow! What an eye-opener. I didn’t realise there was so much that a self-published author can do to generate readers/fans and ultimately, sales. I am still learning, but have been working very hard to try and make sure that I do things right this time.

So, it’s just over a week to go before the ALL NEW versions of Echoes from the Lost Ones and A Silence Heard are re-launched. All with brand new book covers.

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But, wait, there’s more!!

A Prequel, which will be book 1, Whisper Gatherers, is also being launched.

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Watch this space for more news about how you can get Free copies!

Yes, that’s right – FREE COPIES!!!!

Also, a short story about our heroine Adara, called Changeling Fog, will be a FREE DOWNLOAD

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I’m actually excited!

Wish me luck?

You can learn more about The Song of Forgetfulness here: http://www.thesongofforgetfulness.com/

Or follow on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thesongofforgetfulness

Ventures into self-publishing

I decided to self-publish a collection of my short stories recently. Although I am already published with an independent publisher, I wanted to try my hand at being in control of my work regarding publicity and marketing. I spend a lot of time promoting my novel Echoes from the Lost Ones, so didn’t think it would be too much of a disruption to add another book to that time spent online. Wrong!

I spent days finding out about copyright laws on works of art because I wanted to use an image by the artist Henri Rousseau for the front cover. I was going to call my collection Rousseau’s Suburban Garden, after a story in the anthology. Thanks to the help and advice from fellow writers I discovered that it was highly likely that I would have to pay to use the image. I decided to call the collection something else and use one of my own photographs instead. A graphic designer friend, Simon, took the image and designed the cover. Thank you Simon!

Martin, my husband, very kindly formatted the text for me and I am now at the stage where I will be ready to publish with CreateSpace on Amazon. I’ve never done this before, so I’m a little nervous and excited.

The anthology is now called Glimmer, named after the first story in the collection. I chose it because I like the ambiguity of the title and because it is an award winning short. Anyway, here is the almost final cover design. Hope you like it.

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Here’s to my first venture into self-publishing!

If anyone out there has any tips on how to market short story collections, I would love to hear from you.

Thanks.