Free Book Promo Today (Aka, don’t argue with the data)



First of all, I’m excited to announce that the ebook version of Reflection: The Stranger in the Mirror (Records of the Ohanzee Book 1) is available for free today and tomorrow (10/18 and 10/19 until midnight PDT) through Amazon. If you’ve been wanting to try out the series, click here to go to Amazon and get your copy!

Some of my readers may recall I made the decision a few months back to change over from running free book promotions to $0.99 promotions. So why am I switching back? As my fellow authors can attest, the purpose of running a book promotion is not to make money on the sales generated (you’re doing well to break even on the cost of advertising). The purpose is to increase the visibility of your book so that you can reach even more readers. My hope was that $0.99 promos would be more effective in improving the book’s sales ranking–since free sales do not count toward paid sales rankings on Amazon.

Well, the results of this experiment over recent months proved that theory to be incorrect. As it turns out, the difference in volume of downloads between a free promo and a $0.99 promo vary by orders of magnitude, severely decreasing the amount of visibility gained as a result.

My years spent working in science taught me many things, and one of the foremost ones was to never, ever argue with the data. You can argue interpretation, you can question the method, but when you’ve done your experiment right you have to accept the results as they are–not as you wish they would be. And so, I have decided stick with what works and go back to running free promos. Seems like a win-win all around. ^_-

Fun with Bookstagram! Tips?

Awhile back, I posted that I had finally taken the plunge and created an Instagram account. (You can see my account here, and feel free to follow me ^_-) Unlike every other social media platform, I took to this one like a fish to water. Initially, my plans were to share all the random fun things I came across in my daily life and, of course, pictures of Sumo.

I mean, come on, who wouldn’t want to see this adorable face every day?!

Peek-a-boo! #ojisumo #pomeranian #pomeranian #pompom #pomstagram #dogstagram #dogs #doglife #petspotme #cuteanimals #cutedog

A photo posted by Rachel R. Smith (@rachel_r._smith) on

Or this face?

I know I never get tired of it! You’ll never convince me that he isn’t the cutest dog in the world. (Except maybe when he’s being naughty…you might have a chance then, but it would only be temporary. :P)

I was happy with my Instagramming (verbification is fun!)…and then I discovered “Bookstagram,” the portion of Instagram populated by book bloggers, book lovers, bibliophiles, bookworms…insert whichever synonym you prefer here. To be fair, I was aware of #bookstagram early on, but I didn’t realize just how large and varied the bookstagram population was. The level of book love shown in the community is mind blowing!

Even though I have no chance of creating the kind of lovely, intricate photographs many others do, I’d like to contribute in my own way too. I’ve definitely got enough books for it. ^_-

Halloween is my favorite holiday, so that makes it pretty easy to come up with ideas for October. I have a ton of “scary” reads to share and more Halloween decorations than you can shake a stick at. I’ve already posted a few of my favorites…

Even though Halloween is my favorite holiday, I'm not a big fan of horror. Eerie with a dash of suspense and a sprinkle of scary is just my speed. (Think 👻 and 🎃 rather than 🔪 and ☠) Still, I wanted to share some of my favorite spooky reads, even if they don't give you nightmares! Today's post is a gem I discovered several years ago: The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo. Set in 19th century Malaysia and brimming with Chinese folklore, the story centers on Li Lan, a young woman whose family circumstances lead her to become a "ghost bride" to placate the restless spirit of a wealthy family's (deceased) eldest son. It's a beautifully written tale interwoven with mystery and an unexpected romance! And if you enjoy audiobooks, this one is a particular treat–narrated by the author herself! #bookstagram #instareads #instabook #igreads #booksofinstagram #bibliophile #booklover #bookworm #reader #readersofinstagram #booklove #bookobsessed #lovebooks #halloween #halloweenreads #bookphotography #yangszechoo #theghostbride #bookishfeatures

A photo posted by Rachel R. Smith (@rachel_r._smith) on


I was able to get the unique lighting effects in these images because Hubby and I have the Philips Hue lighting system in our house. It’s a perfect marriage of his love of technology and my affinity for pretty colors! You can even see the different colors from outside through the windows, so our neighbors probably think we’re pretty weird. Which is true, but we’re weird in a good way, I promise! ^_-

Anyway, I’m most definitely still a noob when it comes to bookstagramming. I really like the effect the colored lights give my pictures, so I’m sure I want to stick with that, but I’d like to ask for some advice from those with more experience too. What are your favorite kinds of posts? Do you have any tips for creating unique and interesting photos? Do you participate in monthly challenges? If so, how do you find them and/or decide which one to do?

So many options, so little time!

Congratulations, Anna!


Wishing a happy release day to Anna Kopp for her debut YA fantasy novel Rise of the Chosen (Lifeblood Series Book 1)! I was fortunate enough to be one of the authors asked to provide an advanced review quote, which I was honored to do!

Here’s my take: “Anna Kopp’s debut fantasy [novel] gives a unique spin to the classic zombie apocalypse story. A razor thin line separates life and death, truth and lies, and Woken and Chosen – but nothing is quite what it seems. Filled with twists and turns, the story kept me intrigued until the very end. I look forward to finding out what happens next!”

You don’t have to take my word for it though–check out the reviews on Goodreads or Amazon.



What’s in a name?


Every day, all across the globe, parents-to-be ponder, mull, and agonize over choosing the perfect name for their baby. Some choices are easy–taking a name to honor a family member or a dear friend. Some opt for unique names to help their child stand out. Some give names based on their hopes and desires for the child’s future. And some parents name their baby after characters from their favorite movie, book, or TV show.

I, myself, might have been named Galadriel if my dad had his way. No doubt it is an outstandingly beautiful name, but perhaps it is a bit difficult to pull off for someone less than “the mightiest and fairest of all the Elves that remained in Middle-earth.” Instead, I was named after my mom’s favorite soap opera character…although the official story is that I was named after my great-grandmother so, shhhh, don’t tell! ^_-

As it turns out, authors experience many of the same difficult choices as parents when it comes to naming our characters. Except instead of naming the average 2.5 children, authors have to name every one of their characters. And the cities they live in, the rivers, mountains and forests around them, and every imaginable thing in between. It’s a daunting task. There are hundreds of thousands of options, but which one is the right one for our dear characters?! It has to be perfect. It has to suit them. It has to be easy to read. It has to be meaningful.

It’s the last of those needs that inspired today’s post. Before becoming an author, I never paid a great deal of attention to the subtle meanings or symbolism behind a character’s name (I do now though!). I decided during the planning stages of the series that I wanted to add another level of depth to the story for those intrepid readers who read not only the written words, but also see those between the lines.

relief-pixabaySome of the name meanings are pretty straight forward. For instance, the names of all of the Senka and Ohanzee–with a few significant exceptions–have meanings associated with being a warrior.

Ildiko-“fierce warrior”
Hania-“spirit warrior”
Jarold-“strong with a spear”
Caelan-“powerful warrior”

I had a bit of fun when choosing the names for the twins, Cole and Eloc. I wanted names that made sense as a pair, but I never could find a pair that suited the theme I had in mind for the Ohanzee. Then I found Cole, which has the meaning “warrior,” and I realized that Cole spelled backward–Eloc–sounded like a suitable name for a character in a fantasy story. (I might have had a lot of caffeine that day, don’t judge.😛 ) I’ve only come across one person so far who has realized the connection between those two names on their own!😄

pope-john-paul-ii-2I chose other character’s names based on their personality or to give additional insight into their background. Raysel’s mother has a well-known affection for flowers, and she expressed it by choosing names for her children that are related to flowers: Raysel-“rose,” Aravind-“lotus,” Cattleya-“orchid.”

Other examples are:
Desta-“destiny” (Hence the chapter title “An Encounter with Destiny”)
Echidna-mythological monster, half-woman and half-snake, gave birth to the Sphinx, Cerberus, Hydra, and Ladon, among others.
Ladon-mythological monster,  a serpent-like dragon

Some names connect the character directly to the prophecy:
Alden-“old friend”
Rica-“peaceful ruler”
Casimer-“bringer of peace” or “destroyer of peace”

yinyang-pixabayThe names of cities and villages in Renatus also have significance. Niamh, the capital city of Chiyo, means “brightness,” while Nyx, the capital city of Marise, means “of the night.” The countries’ names also have meaning: Chiyo-“thousand years” or “eternal” and Marise-“infinite” or “endless.” The names tie back to the time when Renatus was divided into two equal countries and are intended to convey the idea of opposites that balance one another.

The name of Darnal, the Ohanzee’s hidden city, quite literally means “hiding place” or “hidden area.”

I’ll admit, I chose Nerissa’s name not because of it’s meaning, but because I’ve had an affection for it ever since I first read The Merchant of Venice. However, the meaning behind her alter-ego, Caeneus, is definitely significant. Caeneus was a hero in Greek mythology who was born a woman and became an invulnerable warrior after being turned by Poseidon into a man.

Those of you who have already read the series may have noticed I’ve omitted several (main) character’s names. It wasn’t an oversight. Some tidbits are too juicy to give away in a blog post, and I’m not about to give away any spoilers here. But if you’re curious enough, I’m sure a quick visit to Google will yield the answers you’re looking for😉

Happy Book Birthday, Harbinger!


It’s been one year since my second book, Reflection: Harbinger of the Phoenix, was published! It took me ten years to write The Stranger in the Mirror, and it took me 5 months to write Harbinger. *blows on knuckles* Not too shabby an improvement, eh? (Thorn took a bit longer at 7 months–but that’s because I cheated a bit on Harbinger by having already written parts of it ahead of time.😛 )

So thank you, Harbinger, for giving me an excuse to eat cake. To continue the celebration, I’ve put, book 1, Reflection: The Stranger in the Mirror, on sale all this week for $0.99 (until midnight EDT 9/23). It’s a great chance to curl up with a good book–or if you want to go all out, curl up with a good book AND cake!

In the beginning there was Charis…

Having now finished the revisions to Book 1 and handed them off to my editor, I’m back to working hard on Book 4. I actually finished the outline and planning stages back in August, so now it’s time to put pen to paper on Chapter 1. It’s a bittersweet feeling to start writing Book 4 since it’s the last one in the first story arc. But it’s also a very familiar feeling.


Because all four of the books start out with the same character–Charis. Since she’s not one of the three main characters, she’s often overlooked but she did get some love from Mei-Mei over at Jedi by Knight. (And Raysel did too–I love the comparison she made to Jeonghan of SEVENTEEN!❤ That made my day!)


In Book 1, Chapter 1–The Heiress of Chiyo, we meet Charis while she drops off her weekly delivery of (smuggled) books to Nerissa. She brought along an extra one to show Nerissa–a family heirloom she sneaked out without her father’s permission. It seems at first to be an average, everyday sort of exchange between friends but ends up providing Nerissa with a clue that is integral to her quest to take back the throne.


In Book 2, Chapter 1–Handkerchief, we catch up with Charis while she is curled up in her favorite reading spot: a cozy nook atop the shelves in the Special Collection Room of the University Library. She ends up being stranded in the nook after an argument with Amon, and is so flustered and angry when she leaves that she forgets to lock the gate behind her…leaving the room wide open for the would-be intruders who appear in Chapter 2.

through the books unsplash.jpg

And in Book 3, Chapter 1–Ink, Paper, and a Secret Meeting, Charis has volunteered for an extra shift at the library to fill in for an ill coworker. She ends up inadvertently stumbling upon an after-hours meeting between Amon and one of King Casimer’s men and spies on the pair via a gap in the bookshelves.


So what is Charis up to in Book 4, Chapter 1? She’s packing her bags for a trip! But where is she going, and why? You’ll just have to read and find out… ^_-


Goodreads Giveaway Trifecta Birthday Extravaganza!


It finally happened! The day has come that I actually remembered one of my character’s birthdays. And since today is the twins’ birthday, technically that counts as two, right?😄

To celebrate, I’m doing a Goodreads Giveaway. (After all, I can’t give presents to fictional people!)  The problem is…I can’t give away one book for two birthdays. And I can’t give away only two books when the series (currently) has three.

So today is the Goodreads Giveaway Trifecta Birthday Extravaganza! (Say that five times fast ^_-)

Login to your Goodreads account and click each of the links below to enter not one, not two, but THREE giveaways. There’s one for each book! All three will run from today through September 5. Good luck!

reflection low res


Click here to enter for a chance to win a paperback copy of Reflection: The Stranger in the Mirror (Records of the Ohanzee Book 1). One copy available, US only.




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Click here to enter for a chance to win a paperback copy of Reflection: Harbinger of the Phoenix (Records of the Ohanzee Book 2). One copy available, US only.




Reflection: Thorn of the White Rose



Click here to enter for a chance to win a paperback copy of Reflection: Thorn of the White Rose (Records of the Ohanzee Book 3). One copy available, US only.

Music and an Author’s Brain


I was so excited to discover today that one of my favorite artists, Lindsey Stirling (check her and her music out here if you haven’t heard of her), had released a new album. In the interest of full disclosure, I knew she had an album coming out this month–I had just forgotten exactly when this month. What kind of fan would I be if I weren’t keeping up with release dates, right?!

But I digress.

I’ve taken a bit of a break from working on writing Book 4 (don’t worry, it’s not for lack of inspiration) to work on some minor revisions I’ve been wanting to make to Book 1. I want to have the revised version ready before Book 4 releases, so I figured it doesn’t matter if I break now to revise or wait until Book 4 is done.

As I was working and listening to Brave Enough, it got me thinking about other music I listen to while writing. I’ve mentioned songs that inspire me in a previous post, but those are songs that remind me of specific characters. There are many others that inspire my writing in general–usually instrumental pieces without lyrics. Most of the albums are movie/video game soundtracks like Tengami OST (David Wise), Tron: Legacy (Daft Punk), The Last Samurai (Hans Zimmer). But a lot of the others are electronic/epic albums like Makara (E.S. Posthumus), A Hero Will Rise (Future World Music), or Trailerhead (Immediate).

Out of all the music I listen to, however, there is one album–one song, in particular–that stands out above them all. And since I’ve been working on revisions to Book 1, this one came immediately to mind. That song is Myotis from the Batman Begins soundtrack. Check the release date on that one, and you’ll see it came out back in 2005–very shortly after I started working on the series. It was actually that song which captured/inspired the mood and feeling behind Reflection: The Stranger in the Mirror chapters 6-8 (Masquerade, A Rose Among Roses, and The Phoenix Takes Flight).

Even though it’s part of a movie soundtrack, every time I hear it (including the very first time I heard it), the scenes that take place during the masquerade spring right to my mind. Listening to it is like being transported to that time and place in Renatus. If I ever start to feel “blocked,” this song is one of my go-tos to get back into the frame of mind.

I know I can’t be the only one who’s mind reacts to music this way. What are your favorite artists/albums that inspire your creativity? I’m always open to suggestions of new artists to check out!

The Cicadas are Driving me Crazy! (An Author’s Coping Mechanism)


Cicadas. Our periodic “friends” that provide the charming evening sounds characteristic of late summer.

Occasionally (every 17 years or so, depending on the brood), they emerge en masse, leaving semi-transparent husks clinging to trees like the ghosts of cicadas past, flying out of nowhere to tangle unexpectedly in your hair, and becoming embedded on the front ends of our cars while driving on the highway (cicada goop takes forever to get off paint…believe me, I know >_<).

And I can’t forget to mention this one because it’s the reason for this post: during the brood years they sing their no-longer-sweet siren song ALL DAY LONG.

2016 is one of the years for brood V to emerge. I thought that the brood wasn’t supposed to spread this far into Ohio, but apparently that is not the case. At first, I welcomed the sound–I even took a video to capture their chirring.

The cicadas are back! Now playing the official soundtrack of summer 😜 #cicada #summer #nature #naturegram

A video posted by Rachel R. Smith (@rachel_r._smith) on

I told myself to memorize the rise and fall of the sound, the heat and humidity of the air, the color of the sun in the evening sky so that I could use it to inspire settings in my writing.

As it turns out that was not necessary. Oh no. There’s no way I can forget those details. You see, I can now hear them chirping all day long. Every day. Inside the house or outside the house. The sound is so loud that Hubby actually went from room to room trying to figure out which window is open. o_O (Hint: none of them were open–it’s just that loud.)

It’s ok though. I’ve found one place of refuge to escape the sound: the basement. Sure it’s cold and dark, but it’s blissfully silent. If you need me in the next few weeks, you can find me down there. I’ll be swaddled in blankets like it’s December and telling myself to memorize this feeling so that I use it to inspire settings in my writing…and wondering if my dear characters will hate me forever for subjecting them to the incessant chirping as well. (I’m pretty sure Echidna would have me locked up and throw away the key. :P)