A Quick Review, No Chaser

Left on Main

Crystal Jackson’s novel, Left on Main, is a contemporary romance set in a small Southern town. If you are looking for a sex-filled romp, this is not the book for you. If, however, you like a character-driven story that develops slowly and has honest emotional depth, then this is a novel you need to explore.

Left on Main is a book in which the town itself plays a role. For a Southern reader who is used to a storyteller taking his/her time, I appreciate the effort that the author took to describe the town and the supporting cast. There is something very familiar in a mother’s matchmaking, a sister’s overprotectiveness, and a best friend who just doesn’t always get it. And as in any small town, there’s the, “your dating who?” office gossip and that awkward moment when you realize everyone knows your business.

The author would be the first to tell you that this book deals with the emotional aftermath of divorce. The inability to trust someone again after a bad divorce is the primary obstacle that Libby faces. Crystal Jackson points out the theme of trust in her interview with Literary Titan. (Follow the link to read it.) Seth, the good-looking antique store owner, also has trust issues resulting from a past relationship. So how do two individuals with trust issues and this much baggage learn to love again? This is where the supporting characters step in to lend a helping hand.

My only negative takeaway, which I lay at the feet of Sands Press, is this…there are moments where the book’s pacing lags and the prose could have been tightened. An editor should have addressed those issues, but on the whole, this book is a fine debut novel and I am looking forward to the next from the Heart of Madison Series.

I would highly recommend Left on Main as your next book club choice, or for that cozy fall read. The book can be easily read in a single weekend and give you plenty to mull over while you’re having that glass of wine with your girlfriends.

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Left on Main can be purchased on Amazon. Crystal Jackson has several local events that she will be making appearances with her book. To learn more follow the link to her website.

The Unfinished Pile

Dear Reader,
Welcome to the unfinished pile. The following is one of many essays I wrote for a working manuscript titled, My Mother the Mediocre Witch. The collection was originally aimed at my son, a random assortment of stories and lessons – something he might refer back to when speaking with his future therapist. Most of the essays are very short, just a brief glance at an unusual life. I’ve plugged away at this project for years with no clear idea of what to do with it. Periodically, I’ll share a bit of it here on my blog. –Tarrant

Sweeping Chickens off the Porch; Gratitude

A hen pecks near the base of the washing machine, one of two sitting at the edge of our driveway. Both, along with a single two-decade-old dryer, stand like rusting white sentinels at their ill-chosen post. If I am going to be totally honest here, I must confess that the trio irritates the hell out of me, as does the chicken poop dotting the walkway, the steps, and the worn porch. But somehow the discarded machines lined up in the driveway bother me the most. Occasionally, I’ve deposited bags of household trash on top of each washer, a not so subtle hint to your father that the entire lot should be carted off to the dump. Yet the washers remain where he left them. The bags are gone, as are the boxes of collected household recycling. It baffles me that he can’t see it.

I watch the hen for a few more moments. She seems happy in her foraging, her contentment a sharp contrast to my present mood. I stalk back into the house.

Our house. Where do I start? And where are you in this essay? I think at this point, son, you are in middle school and are just now beginning to compare your family’s net worth to other families who homes you visit.

Once grand and with bones that are still sound, the aged Antebellum landmark we reside in is known to everyone who has lived in this area. But appearances are always deceiving. What they don’t know is that we don’t own this grand old house. We rent it. And the rent is cheap for a reason.

The windows rattle on windy days, there’s a good bit of water damage, the wiring is hodge-podge and highly questionable, most of the plumbing in the house is backward, there is little to no insulation, and mysterious critters have now laid claim to the second floor. Thankfully, there is a line of demarcation and it ends at the top of the stairs. The first floor is ours. The entire house is of course too expensive to heat and air-condition, so we have always closed portions of it off. We have learned to ignore the things we don’t have the money to fix. We live shabby chic. It’s a thing. Some people pay big bucks to attain what we have stumbled upon by necessity. But I’m getting ahead of myself. This is about the fact that the proof of the crumbling insides of our house has taken up residence in the driveway. My life does not feel magickal at this moment. I feel like I’ve become the person with the ratty porch couch. You know the ones. The same place that has the rusted car half-overgrown with weeds. Oh yeah, we’ve got one of those too. It was a project that never got finished. Lack of money, if I recall.

Lack of money. Poor to some, but I prefer the term broke. You see poor is a condition and de-moralizing, but broke can be fixed. Broke has hope. Of course, it helps if you can see the world as a Buddhist might, or as a witch might if a Buddhist isn’t around. Did I mention that my husband is one? A Buddhist that is. Which is why the discarded washers and dryer doesn’t bother him. He knows there residence in the driveway is only temporary, for all things are temporary. Perhaps the hen knows this as well. One day the white sentinels will be gone, and the bugs the chickens’ hunt will have to find another place to take refuge.

I think I feel better. I sometimes forget that many years ago I stepped off the path that most would consider normal; college, career, home ownership, and debt. I confess I sometimes lose my gratitude for the things I do have; family, friends, love, humor, health, and fresh eggs.

One day son, you will look back on this big drafty house and smile with gratitude. Or at least I hope so.

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To explore more sides of my writing, check out Beyond the Books where I share some of my older Medium posts.

Sprucing up for a Book Release

With The Fate of Wolves hitting the market this month, I find myself spending a lot of time in the design chair as I dust off and breathe new life into my brand image. It happens every time I release a new book, and honestly, I look forward to it. Social media banners are redesigned. New book signing posters are made. New posters and advertisements are crafted.

Facebook page banner
tabletop display for signings

I try to stick to one theme or image to describe the book. For The Fate of Wolves, it’s this wonderful bluish moon I found.

You’ll begin to notice it cropping up everywhere: Facebook banner, FB ads, Twitter banner, and on this website. Unfortunately, I ran across this fantastic image after I’d created my poster. I’m considering the idea of redesigning it. I know that the most impactful advertising message is one that is concise and unified. And this pale-blue moon image references the werewolves in the second book, but it also speaks to the nature of the universe of the Pale itself. So, the solution might be to use it again for the entire Legends of the Pale Series when The Dreams of Demons is released in 2020.

Facebook Ad

Of course, my redesign time isn’t entirely relegated to the new series. I also have a previous series to market and keep fresh. When I was writing the Darkly Series, I never considered the interesting problem of how to handle the promotion of my back catalog of books. I’ve only recently discovered the hidden cost of having seven different books at each book signing. My next event at the end of this month in my home town of Madison, Georgia will be the first big test. How many books from the Darkly Series should I bring? I’m not sure, but it’s a fun problem to have. I never thought I’d get this far actually. There was a point a few years ago that my writing took a backseat to everything else going on in my life. I’m writing full-time now and my life is all about my books and publishing. It’s amazing how quickly life can change.

Read. Write. And stay Grateful.

That was going to be the end…

But I couldn’t help myself. I have moon fever. Here are the new posters for The Fate of Wolves and the Legends of the Pale Series of books. I’ve also given the Legends books and the Darkly books their own individual pages on the website’s menu.

Legends of the Pale Series

A Day in the Life of an Author

“The learning curve is a bitch, my dear.”

I spent most of last weekend supporting others. I do that from time to time to remind myself that it’s not all about me and my books. And because I strive to be a good friend. My social skills are, at times, limited —so occasional practice helps.

Anyway, one friend had scheduled a yard sale and another was having her first-ever book signing. Both events were just ripe with opportunity for me to step out of my comfort zone and talk to strangers.

Over the two days of selling nick-knacks for five or less dollars, I just happened to meet a fellow writer who was new to our town and going through the querying phase. I loved commiserating with him. As it turns out, he’d gotten several requests for partial manuscripts. Of course, I told him to pounce on them immediately! I know that the publishing industry can be a fickle siren. What’s in-demand now probably won’t be in a year’s time. After I’d offered him my encouragement and good wishes, we moved on to the subject of self-publishing. I was pro for obvious reasons, and I got the feeling he was firmly in the con column. The misconception he and many other yet-to-be-published authors hold tight to is that the traditionally published book will be heavily promoted by the publisher. And somehow, he will be magically left alone to write. Because, after all, writers are creative beings who love nothing more than a good cup of coffee and seclusion. “Please don’t make me talk to people!”

I informed him that the industry has changed. If he gets picked up, he’ll have to actively and heavily promote his book. That means Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and perhaps blogging. I’ve seen that face of disbelief before and I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut. “I’ve done that learning curve. Now it’s your turn.”

What you do get with the traditionally published route is distribution. Some bookstores and book faires are still built into the system. But not all and promotion isn’t usually apart of the debut author experience.

My friend, with the book signing this past weekend, was traditionally published. It is a small but growing publisher and she was very excited to sign the contract with them. She was also under the misconception that she’d sit back and write while her publisher pushed her books. She’s currently learning that the majority of the promotion load is hers to handle. She’s having to contact bookstores. She’s having to promote across social media. She’s having to set up events that she wants to participate in.

Neither road is an easy one, traditional or indie. And neither is made for the socially awkward creature called writers. Entry into the publishing world is a painful lesson for a lot of first-time authors, especially those over the age of fifty. I truly hope my new writer friend lands the deal he dreams of and makes a name for himself. In the meantime, I’ll be over here selling my books one at a time and talking about myself until you and I are both uncomfortable.

By the way, I sold two books and gave one away this weekend. “Totally awesome!”

Excerpts from The Fate of Wolves!

Though the kindle is due to be released Oct. 31st and the paperback in mid-October, I just couldn’t wait to share a little snippet from the book. I’ve already published Chapter 1 at the end of The Love of Gods. Here’s a little from Chapter 2:

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Eva stoically worked her way to the bathroom that lay just beyond his bedroom. After being trapped in her wolf form for so long, the best she could manage was a jerking, halting kind of step, and bloody footprints marked her slow progress. The palms of her hands were just as badly abused as the balls of her feet, and they, too, dripped blood, laying a trail upon the rug and the wooden floor. What would happen when the one who’d called to her wolf returned to his house? Would she meet the wolf first, or the man?

The cabinet over the sink was well stocked with supplies. Gathering what she needed, Eva gratefully lowered herself to the edge of the porcelain tub and dabbed the hydrogen peroxide onto the balls of her feet. Then, rather clumsily, she bandaged them and the pads of her hands as best she could with gauze.

Why he or his pack weren’t here now was a mystery she couldn’t quite wrap her tired mind around. Entering his domain undetected should have been impossible. She’d come from the north, across his territory, onto his front porch, and up the stairs to his bedroom, leaving a clear blood trail. Her wolf had simply followed the route his mind had left behind after that initial contact. At moments during the journey, her human half feared it had been all a mistake on his part, completely unintentional, for the contact had occurred only that one time. How did he even know she existed? Eva had shared these doubts with her white wolf, but her wolf half had refused to be reasonable, and so it was now going to be up to Eva’s battered human half to deal with whomever or whatever found her scent trail first.

It took Eva a good fifteen minutes to summon the will to rise from her cool porcelain perch. During that time, she contemplated the likelihood that she would be dead by nightfall. She was the very last of her ancient bloodline, but that might not be enough to save her. She’d been taught about the packs. She knew it was an act of war to trespass on another pack’s territory. Her grandfather had warned her just how dangerous the male pack would be should they ever find her. He had not been the kindest of men, always quick to anger and sparing with his affections. Only Eva’s grandmother had looked forward to his visits. Unfortunately, Drako Azoulf was the only alpha Eva had ever known; as such, he had ruled her absolutely.

Stay away from the packs. Stay away from humans if you can. Stay hidden at all costs. These had been his laws, and they had guided her life as long as Eva could remember. Now, because of this stranger, by day’s end she would have broken all her grandfather’s commands.

The horrible thought that the one who had compelled her might deny what he had done—or worse yet, might be totally ignorant of the act—buzzed inside Eva’s mind like a fly. If he didn’t find her first, or if he wasn’t near enough to vouch for her, then she was utterly and completely screwed. Eva braced one hand against the bathroom wall. She was no stranger to death. She knew the scent of it, the taste of it.

With a slow but steady shuffle, Eva Ivanova Azoulf stubbornly worked her way to the corner of the neatly made bed. Rest was what she needed. Just a few hours of oblivion, and then perhaps she’d be able to confront the unknown. Her bandaged hand gripped the wrought-iron footboard just as a wave of dizziness hit her. Darkness fogged the edges of her vision, and then she crumpled and dropped like a hanged man cut free from his noose.

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The Fate of Wolves (Kindle Edition) is available for preorder! I’m so thrilled!!!

Some of the latest reviews from Amazon Readers

I love getting reviews from readers. I am fortunate that thus far, The Love of Gods has been received so warmly. Here are some of the latest comments from readers:

“Smith’s characters, though many in number, are well-written and leap from the page. Her depiction of gods/goddesses who operate in the human realm connects the paranormal and romantic elements of the story in a real and understandable way. Her dialog is quick and succinct, making the book’s 300 or so pages a fast read. The romance/love between Lugos and Keely is portrayed in a real, mature manner. Fans of paranormal romance will find The Love of the Gods: The Legends of the Pale Series, Book 1 a terrific read.” (5 Stars) Sept. 21st

“So much going on in this fantasy of love, hate, friends, family and the darkness of the enemy. This is a must-read for all fantasy book lovers. I give The Love of Gods by Tarrant Smith a fantastic super high 5 stars for me.” (5 Stars) Aug. 25th

“This is a beautifully written love story. I am looking forward to the second installment of The Legends of the Pale Series. I also plan to pick up her Darkly Series! Tarrant Smith has created a wonderful, believable paranormal world filled with gods, goddess, Fae, demons, and more. A must-read for any lover of Paranormal Romance.” (5 Stars) Aug. 13th

“Well written, and vivid in the creation of the Pale and its inhabitants, this story shows us that even gods, even shifters, and yes, even demons, are capable of true love and are more like us than not. For a wonderful story about love throughout lifetimes and the age-old fight to survive in any world, this is a great read. I will definitely be reading the second story in this series!(5 Stars) Aug. 8th

Thank you to all those readers who took the time out of their day to leave a comment or review for this book. I hope you will enjoy book 2, The Fate of Wolves, just as much.

The Instagram Effect

Hello all. I’ve now jumped into the world of Instagram, though to be completely honest, I don’t entirely understand it. I also realize that Instagram is owned by Facebook and so I’m not really getting away from big bad Facebook by opening an Instagram account. But once you post something on Instagram it is so easy to share those posts and pictures back to Facebook and Twitter. This should definitely save me some time. Too often I find myself wasting hours upon hours on social media when I should be writing.

After poking around the Instagram world, I came to several realizations. Firstly, I need to up my photography skills. Yes there are a ton of filters, but if you don’t take a well-composed picture in the beginning, filters aren’t going to make it any more appealing.

The second realization is that you don’t have to take selfies every time you upload a post. (I’m telling this to the people in the room who are over the age of thirty-five and are afraid.) I had a preconceived notion that Instagram was nothing but snap-happy Kardasians and celebrities aiming a cell phone at themselves to take selfies or videos. I was wrong. There are a lot of authors and normal people using Instagram. I personally hate selfies with a brightly burning passion. I’ve never taken a good picture. Even professional photographers have a difficult time getting me to relax long enough while in front of a lens in order to capture a decent picture. Luckily, I can spend the rest of my life posting on Instagram without ever taking one single selfie.

My third realization is that I’ve gotten stuck in a rut with my book advertisements. They all are very graphically structured and no longer photography based. So with Instagram as my muse, I’ve changed my approach. In the coming days and months, I intend to do a series of promotional shots for The Love of Gods and the soon to be released, The Fate of Wolves. Here are a few examples.

A cozy read.
Book Club anyone?
I just loved the color of this scarf.
Book on the go…

All of these pictures were composed of household items. Throw in a little graphic design and I think I ended up with some very appealing ads.

Being terribly new to Instagram, I have hardly any followers. If you’d like to join me on this weird journey, you can find me at starrantsmith.

The Hard Truths About Self-Publishing

You’ve written a great book. You’ve queried agents and publishers but have gotten no takers. Your beta readers love your book. You love your book. Even a few of your rejection letters declared it to be a good book but they just aren’t looking for (insert genre) at this time. So, do you sit on it and wait? Or do you jump into the world of self-publishing and become an indie author overnight.

Amazon has made publishing easy because they’ve changed the way books are seen and sold. But there’s a big financial catch. If you are going to go it alone, you’ll need to do your homework and prepare your bank account for the hit it’s going to suffer.

First, some backstory. I’ve always been an indie author. With my first book, I sent out query letters in hopes that I’d get that magical email that said, “Yes, please let us publish you!” After lots of rejections, I got that email. But then I learned how much control I’d be required to give up, so being the hardhead that I am, I turned to Amazon and self-published. That was back in 2010 when anyone with a professional cover, website, and social media skills could garner sales on Amazon.

Fast forward to today. It’s not so easy now. Books by indie authors are oftentimes indistinguishable from traditionally published books. The covers are professional, the writing is well-edited, and the formatting is up to industry standards. Self-published books are no longer a joke. They are a viable option. They win awards. They create buzz. And sometimes, they get noticed by traditional publishers. I call it the YouTube effect.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Publish yourself. Retain control over your vision. Make lots of sales. Maybe get noticed by one of the big publishers. In all likelihood, only one of those four things is going to happen. You’re going to publish. And you’re going to watch your sales rise when your friends and family purchase your book…and then nothing, followed by a trickle of sales. Usually.

The hard truth is that you are competing against thousands of books published weekly, maybe daily. How do you stand out? Social media. Promotions. Word of mouth. Reviews. And a willingness to talk about your books with strangers—all the time, anywhere, no matter how uncomfortable it makes you or them.

I just ran the numbers for this year. Granted I am promoting a catalog of previously published works along with my newest releases, but damn! I’ve spent twice the amount I’d initially budgeted and it’s only September. My promotion cost includes; printed material (bookmarks, posters, handouts, business cards), Facebook and Amazon Advertisement, various promotional sites on the internet (many I’d never use again), and paid review services (which do not violate Amazon’s policies) for the books. Other staggering costs include; the editing of two books by a professional, purchased art for covers (thank the gods I have the skill set to design my own covers), proofs, and a physical book inventory for book signings. What’s not included are the smaller costs; folding table, tablecloth, frames and easels for posters, book display stand, rolling cart to safely transport the books, cost of gas to the event, and a 10×10 pop-up tent. Basically, I’m a walking bookstore at this point.

Without throwing figures around, let me just tell you that my book sales are only a quarter of what I’ve spent this year. And my experience is typical. Thank goodness I don’t write and publish with the goal of supporting myself. I doubt that will ever happen. No, I write these books and share them with readers because I love the stories. And I love to write.

So my writing friends, if you decide to become an indie author be aware that the professional editing and production costs are only a third of what you will spend. And check out the marketing page on my website for a list of free Facebook promotional groups for authors.