Happy Thanksgiving!

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It’s been a productive day (a few productive days actually, hence the photo from Saturday). I’m on a roll writing, and there’s only 2ish days left until Thanksgiving, so in lieu of my weekly post, I’ll be busy writing some more. I hope, dear readers, that you’ll forgive me! ^_-

I expect I’ll be partaking in copious amounts of Dunkin’ Donuts Iced Coffee over the next few days to fuel both my writing and food preparations. My family usually opts for a non-traditional celebration by getting together for a big meal at our favorite Chinese restaurant and then follows up with snacking and desserts back at home until going out to join the shopping madness around 1am (we night owls go late to get the deals while avoiding the rush!).  I hope that you all have a wonderful weekend–regardless of how you celebrate!

Free E-book Download Today! 11/16

 

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The ebook version of Reflection: The Stranger in the Mirror (Records of the Ohanzee Book 1) is available for free today (11/16/16) on Amazon until midnight PST. You can get your copy here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00XGYO2C4 or through your local Amazon site worldwide.

Also–a special note to say “thank you” to those early birds who have already gotten copies today! The response to the promotion so far has been fantastic–by 10 am, the book had already hit #1 in one category, #15 in another, and #1,589 overall. What a lovely surprise first thing in the morning!❤

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Thank you!

NaNoWriMo!

Is this an election year or something? I feel I’ve seen a couple posts about it recently. Does anyone know who’s running? I’m kidding, of course. You’d have to be living pretty far below ground to avoid the steady feed of politics this past year. This blog, however, is a politics-free zone! I just couldn’t resist having a little fun since today happens to be election day.

As you can tell by the title, the real purpose of this post is to talk about NaNoWriMo. ^_- If you’re not familiar with NaNoWriMo, here’s a brief primer. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. It takes place every November, and is open for any and all authors and aspiring authors to take part. The goal is for each person to write 50,000 words towards their novel from Nov 1-30. Reaching that word count goal means you “win” NaNoWriMo. If you want to learn more, visit the site here: http://nanowrimo.org/

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Reflection: Dragon’s Bane (Book 4)

When I first learned of the event last year, I was taking a break between writing Harbinger of the Phoenix and Thorn of the White Rose. This year, however, I’m right in the middle of writing Reflection: Dragon’s Bane. Even though I’m a full-time writer, I know I won’t make the 50,000 word goal. I’ve found that I work best by cycling through three phases for each chapter before moving on to the next: detailed outlining, writing, and then editing/revising. It takes more time during the writing phase to work this way–and it’s definitely not conducive to achieving 50,000 words in a single month–but it significantly reduces the amount of time I spend on final revisions after the manuscript is complete. It’s just what works for me.

Still, despite knowing that I’m not going to “win” (I’ve set a personal goal of 30,000 words), I think NaNo is a great way to connect with other writers and it serves as great motivation to write a little faster!  If you’d like to be writing buddies, you can find me under author name RachelRSmith. I’ve posted a brief excerpt from Dragon’s Bane Chapter 1 in my novel information, too. (It’s from the unproofed first draft, so please overlook any typos and grammatical errors!)

Are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? I’d love to hear a little about your project, your goals, and your progress in the comments! ^_^

Happy Halloween from my Favorite Does-Tricks-For-Treater!

Happy Halloween! In honor of the day, I’m digging up one of my favorite old posts to share. It’s too early in the day to have photos of this year’s costume, but I’ll have it up on Instagram tonight!

It’s Halloween. You should either be trick-or-treating or handing out candy. But since you’re clearly not doing either one, please enjoy some pictures of my favorite does-tricks-for-treater!

Sumo Angel
Treat! Angel Sumo

Sumo Lobster
Treat! Lobster Sumo

Sumo Pumpkin
Treat! Pumpkin Sumo

Sumo Shark
Treat! Shark Sumo

Santa Sumo
Trick! It’s way too early for this costume!

football sumo
Treat! Football Sumo

prince sumo
Treat! Prince Sumo

reindeer sumo
Trick! Too early for this costume too…

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Treat! Shark Sumo version 2
Shark Halloween
Halloween 2015

Halloween Reads (It’s not too late!)

There’s four days left until Halloween–and an entire weekend of reading time! For the last three weeks, I’ve been posting a series of Halloween reads via my Instagram account, so I thought this would be an appropriate time to share a compilation post of some of my favorites here. If you’re looking for some spooky stories to enjoy over the weekend, perhaps you would find some of these interesting!

Today's Halloween read is The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe. Please forgive me, I lost the dust cover for this one a long time ago. 😳A mystery set in Salem and split between contemporary times and the 1690's witch trials, this book seamlessly weaves history and fantasy together into a bewitchingly intriguing (see what I did there 😋) tale perfect for this time of the year! #bookstagram #booksbooksbooks #mystery #katherinehowe #physickbookofdeliverancedane #instareads #instabook #igreads #booksofinstagram #booksofig #bibliophile #booklover #bookworm #reader #readersofinstagram #booklove #bookobsessed #lovebooks #halloween #halloweenreads #bookphotography #bookishfeatures #bookstagramfeature

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

Halloween reads #10 is The Aviary by Kathleen O'Dell. Though past it's prime, the Glendoveer estate is beautiful–except for the creepy squawking birds in the cage in the garden. After Mrs. Glendoveer's passing, Clara, the daughter of Mrs. Glendoveer's caretaker, learns of the family's tragic past and stumbles across a decades-old murder mystery. When I first started reading this book, I didn't realize it was actually intended for middle grade readers. The writing style and vocabulary were definitely simple enough for young readers, but the characters and plot were just as substantial as you would find in any other books! #bookstagram #instareads #instabook #igreads #booksofinstagram #bibliophile #booklover #bookworm #readersofinstagram #reader #booklove #bookobsessed #lovebooks #booksbooksbooks #bookphotography #halloween #halloweenreads #theaviary #kathleenodell #middlegrade #youngadult #ya #yalit #mystery #bookishfeatures #bookstagramfeature

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

🍁🎃Halloween reads 7a and 7b are 14 and The Fold by Peter Clines. I put these two books together because, while The Fold isn't a direct sequel to 14, these two books are *definitely* a pair. These are easily the best sci-fi/horror books I've ever read! The characters are colorful and believable, the plot intriguing, and the story kept me guessing the whole time. My only regret is that I can't read them for the first time again. If you like books with plenty of mystery and suspense–and a healthy dose of 18th century fringe science–then these books are a must read for you! (And what better accessories for a book titled The Fold than origami bats?! I mean really, who could resist? 😜) #bookstagram #instareads #instabook #igreads #booksofinstagram #bibliophile #booklover #bookworm #reader #readersofinstagram #booklove #bookobsessed #lovebooks #booksbooksbooks #bookphotography #halloween #halloweenreads #bookstagramfeature #bookishfeatures #thefold #14 #peterclines #scifi #horror

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

Halloween reads #12 is The Mist by Stephen King, which is the first story in the Skeleton Crew collection. No list of Halloween stories would be complete without at least one of Stephen King's works. For me, the scariest one of all is The Mist. Not because it is particularly terrifying, intense, or gory. It's because it focuses on the fear of the unknown and weaves it into a common, natural occurrence (fog). The idea that something you've experienced dozens and dozens of times without a second thought could one day hold mortal danger tugs at the most primal of fears. And truly, ever since I read this story nearly 20 years ago, I feel nervous every time I have to go out on a foggy morning. 😪 #bookstagram #instareads #instabook #igreads #booksofinstagram #bibliophile #booklover #bookworm #readersofinstagram #reader #booklove #bookobsessed #lovebooks #booksbooksbooks #bookphotography #halloween #halloweenreads #stephenking #themist #skeletoncrew #horror #bookishfeatures #bookstagramfeature

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

Halloween reads #18 is another classic, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. I hate to admit this, but I probably would never have read this one if it hadn't been required reading in college English. And that would have been a real shame because this is so much more than a story about a scientist that creates a living "monster." Some of the quotes from the book are among the truest observations I've read about life–not only back in the 1800s when this was written, but today too. Actually, it might even be *more* relevant today. Two examples: "Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change." And "Beware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful." I think the most eloquent summary of the story is one I've seen circulating around online many times before, playing on the common misconception that the monster is named Frankenstein. It goes as follows: Those who haven't read Frankenstein think he's the monster. Those who have read Frankenstein *know* he's the monster. Even if you don't read this one for Halloween, it's definitely worth checking out anyway! #bookstagram #instareads #instabook #igreads #booksofinstagram #bibliophile #booklover #bookworm #readersofinstagram #reader #booklove #bookobsessed #lovebooks #booksbooksbooks #bookphotography #bookreview #bookrecommendation #halloween #halloweenreads #frankenstein #gothic #romantic #maryshelley #bookstagramfeature #bookishfeatures

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

The sixth Halloween read I'd like to share is Gyo by Junji Ito. In this sci-fi/horror manga, fish with legs appear and begin walking out of the ocean to invade Japan. While the premise itself sounds more campy than scary, Ito has a knack for casting even seemingly mundane things into a truly disturbing light. While this is not my favorite of Ito's works (that title goes to his manga, Uzumaki, which I'll discuss in another post), it is still a chilling story not to be missed! (And, boy, was this black on black cover difficult to photograph!!) #bookstagram #instareads #instabook #igreads #booksofinstagram #bibliophile #booklover #bookworm #reader #readersofinstagram #booklove #bookobsessed #lovebooks #booksbooksbooks #bookphotography #halloween #halloweenreads #bookstagramfeature #bookishfeatures #junjiito #gyo #manga #horror #scifi #vizmanga

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

I’m not going to repost all of them here, so if you want to see the full set of recommendations, be sure to pop over to Instagram. I’ve also got a few more spooky books up my sleeve, so here’s a sneak peak of the remaining Halloween reads books!

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The Architect of Song by A.G. Howard
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xxxHolic by CLAMP
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Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
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Hallowe’en Party by Agatha Christie

What spooky reads have you enjoyed so far this season? Any recommendations for me to add to my TBR?

 

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

 

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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

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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!

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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?

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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.

Einar-“warrior”
Ildiko-“fierce warrior”
Hania-“spirit warrior”
Jarold-“strong with a spear”
Caelan-“powerful warrior”
Alala-“war-like”

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:
Shae-“admirable”
Desta-“destiny” (Hence the chapter title “An Encounter with Destiny”)
Parlen-“farmer”
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”
Ohanzee-“shadow”
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😉