Win a Kindle Fire From Zoe Winters!

Thanks to Natasha for inviting me to her blog to pimp my contest!

I’ve been away from writing my Preternaturals series for awhile (was writing books for my other pen name). Since I’ve been back in Zoe-mode, I’ve released a side novella in the series that people can read without having read anything else by me yet (Dark Mercy), but the next full-length book in the series, The Catalyst, is coming soon.

Since it’s been awhile since I’ve deeply engaged with this series, I wanted to do something that would serve two different goals:

  1. Get readers who are already fans of my work re-engaged and immersed in the series so they are ready and psyched for the next book. (You know how you can read a book and love it but then it sort of fades a little in the background so future books don’t make you as rabid about having them until you remember how much you loved the other books? Yeah… that.)
  2. Bring on board new readers for the series.

I love Easter Eggs. (I promise this connects.) I don’t mean the colored eggs with the candy inside that the giant bunny (Let’s call him Harvey) delivers to small children to make them hyper. I mean the little things in a book or television series that are almost like inside jokes. Like, on Buffy The Vampire Slayer they were still mentioning Xander’s hyena possession in season seven. And that happened in season one.

So I decided I would host my own Easter Egg Hunt and reward readers for finding the Easter Eggs I’ve left for them in my books. The grand prize is a Kindle Fire! Additionally, I’ll be giving away signed copies of The Catalyst when it comes out (on the home stretch for that!).

For the contest, all my books are on deep discount (check the contest details page above for titles and buy links), to lower the barrier of contest entry for those who don’t already have all the books in the series. The sale will last through Easter Sunday, but you’ll have through midnight on April 15th to turn in your Easter eggs.

Even if you don’t want to hunt, now is a great opportunity to grab my books, or maybe even give one to a friend for an Easter gift, while they are all on extreme sale. (I can’t imagine another situation besides a contest requiring “reference materials” where I’d be crazy enough to discount all my work this deeply.)

Also, if you’re feeling awesome, you can tweet, blog, or Facebook the link to the contest page and get extra entries into the smaller prize giveaways. And let me know, of course. (But you have to hunt to win the Kindle Fire!)

Thanks for reading, and… may the odds be ever in your favor. (Sorry, I’m reading the Hunger Games… I totally couldn’t help that.)

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Books,Kindle Formatting | Tags: , ,

Consorting with the Enemy

I never made a post about Borders closing. It broke my heart, you see. Devastated me. I’ve been going to Borders almost daily for over ten years. Y’all have read the multitude of posts I’ve made over the years about how much I love Borders.

When I first decided to travel, my only stipulation was that we always had to be within driving distance of a Borders—and that it was close enough for me to go several times a week, if not every day.

Borders was my home, more than where or which city I lived. No matter if I knew no one in a city, I could go work on my laptop in the cafe and feel like I was home.

Here, I had friends at Borders. Mostly they’re gone.

So I haz a big sad.

I’d found another cafe, but it was always cold, and it just wasn’t doing it for me. And I missed books. I always work with a pile of books on my table. “Friends,” I call them. And I always knew every new release in every genre, and in teen fiction, I knew of every book, even if I didn’t read every one.

Books inspire me.

So I’ve finally gotten over my stubbornness and have started going to Barnes & Noble. My hat lady friend visits. And I can sit with a pile of books.

And they have soup here, so that’s nice. I always loved getting soup at Borders back in the old days.

It’s not comforting, though. When I used to walk in Borders, it was like a soothing balm to my soul, no matter what was troubling me at the time. I’d walk in, close my eyes and breathe, and all my problems would go away.

I always think a book can solve any problem.

Borders closing broke my heart. But there are other bookstores. I’ll get used to B&N, and I’ll eventually love it. They have a picture of Dickinson over the cafe. Apparently they found 11 male authors worthy of a pic above the cafe, and only one female.


So thus begins my “love” affair with B&N. Hopefully by next year, I’ll be writing odes to B&N as I did to Borders. Right now it just makes me feel a bit grouchy, to be honest.

I think I’ve hit my limit of change. I’ve done so much changing, and Borders was the only thing solid and familiar. Now there’s really nothing similar to my life two years ago except cuddling with my cats. I haz a funk.

CD2 020

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Books,My Adventures |

Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Sidekicks by Mark Terry

imageGuest post today by Mark Terry! His newest book, The Valley of Shadows, comes out on June 7 and is available for pre-order at Amazon, in hardcover, for Kindle, and for Nook. You can check out his website here or visit his awesome blog!


Or do we? I’m a big fan of PI novels, and many modern PI novels involve a sidekick: Spenser had Hawk (or Susan); Elvis Cole has Joe Pike; Travis McGee had Meyer. Hey, Batman had Robin!

And chick-lit and romance novels often have the female lead with her best buddy girlfriend.

As writers we tend to want some sort of foil for our main characters to bounce off. Why?

I’m not sure it’s completely necessary, but for the most part our main characters don’t exist in a vacuum, they have to interact with people. Having a sidekick of some sort allows the writer to compare their behavior to someone. In PI fiction this tends to allow the private eye to be the moral center, for there to be things they won’t do, while working with a sociopath sidekick. Makes the PI look better, I guess.

image With my Derek Stillwater novels I’ve tried to stay away from a sidekick, or at least a regular sidekick. Derek’s a troubleshooter with Homeland Security and his job is to show up after terrorism events of one type or another and try to prevent the next one. In each book to-date, I’ve teamed him up with someone. In the first one, THE DEVIL’S PITCHFORK, it was loosely with a male FBI agent, but for the most part, Derek worked alone. image In THE SERPENT’S KISS, he was teamed up with a female FBI agent and they worked very closely. In THE FALLEN, for the most part, Derek was teamed up with a civilian who got caught up in events. In my upcoming book featuring Derek, THE VALLEY OF SHADOWS, I actually play with this concept a bit.

First, he agrees to work with an FBI agent who has no field experience and her specialty area is financial intelligence. But that’s short-lived and he teams up with an old acquaintance (at gunpoint, for the most part) who used to be with image the CIA but is now a gunrunner. Then he teams up with a former lover, a terrorism expert with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. This is a very reluctant teaming, because they do not get along well at all. Too much history.

One problem I have with sidekicks is they generally get along too well with your main character. All fiction is built on conflict and sidekicks don’t generally create conflict, although I’m a fan of most sidekicks in PI fiction. But forcing someone to work with or deal with someone who causes friction is a terrific way of building conflict into the characterization of your books. Take, for instance, Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch. Bosch doesn’t have sidekicks, although sometimes he has partners – but Harry brings conflict with him wherever he goes. Have baggage, will travel.

What do you think? Does your main character need a sidekick? Or conflict?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Books,Guest Posts |

I Died, I Did

I’ve a story in an anthology with some amazing writers, edited by the awesome Mark Terry, and available for $2.99. You can read DEADLY BY THE DOZEN on Kindle, Kindle for PC, Kindle for Mac, Kindle for Android, or Kindle for iPad at Amazon, and Nook for all of the above at Barnes & Noble. (Print coming.)

There’s a wonderful variety of crime stories included, and I’m just tickled pink (and a little embarrassed) to be included amongst these authors. Here’s the list:

cover (2)

  • “A Hard Line Drive to Wrong” by Jude Hardin
  • “I Died, I Did” by Natasha Fondren
  • “Identity Theft” by Robert Weibezahl
  • “Living On The Blood of Others” by Betsy Dornbusch
  • “Indian Summer” by Lise McClendon
  • “Flat-Footed” by Mark Terry
  • “Into Stone” by Keith Snyder
  • “Marigold Mourning” by Merry Monteleone
  • “Little Siberia” by Erica Orloff
  • “A Break In The Old Routine” by Simon Wood
  • “Whereby Ignorant People Are Frequently Deluded and Defrauded” by Mary Reed and Eric Mayer
  • “Plundered Booty” by Travis Erwin

My story, “I Died, I Did,” takes place in Victorian England, back when the Salvation Army dressed up in uniforms and fought the “Skeleton Army” in the streets to feed, clothe, and convert prostitutes. It was a fascinating time, and I might use that time period in my next book. I love this setting—it has so much in common with today, what with the problems of poverty, the rise of capitalism concurrent with the crush of the middle and lower classes, as well as the scapegoating of social woes on certain sexualities and moralities.

I’m getting all excited again. I think this is one of those ideas that’s not going to rest until I write it. Like… NOW.

So how do you find your angle when you fall in love with a setting? How do you choose a genre for the setting? A character? What’s the most favorite setting you’ve ever written a story in?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Books,Writing Craft |

Finding What You Love

The longer I’m on this writing journey, the more I see the most difficult challenge and greatest factor in improving is knowing thyself. Oh man, is it hard!

I read lots of fantasy growing up. The classics, too. I don’t know what happened, though, but after awhile, I stopped reading fantasy. Maybe I read a lot of romance? Romantic suspense was in there somewhere. And then it was chick lit and women’s fiction and literary novels (what a combo!), then spy thrillers with a splash of cozy mysteries, and now I read lots of paranormal YA with a splash of fantasy and some literary stuff.

It’s hard enough to find what you love to write and an idea you love to write and a world you want to write in, but you know what’s really tough?

Finding books you really love, love, love. I’m not talking about books you enjoy and books you like. I’m talking about those worlds that suck you in, that you want to stay in forever, that you’d show up at the bookstore at midnight the night before its release because you Just. Can’t. Wait. to read it.

I read plenty of stuff I like a lot. What I can’t find enough of is that stuff I love to death. I’d say only about 20% of the books I read are in that love-love-love category.

What about you? What percentage of the books you read are that upper, love so much you want to cry category? Ever go through a dry spell of finding them?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Books | Tags:

A Favor & Some Fabulous Books

April is quite the month for our corner of the blogosphere! I’ve listed some great books and short stories below. Also, I’m guest-blogging at Smart Pop Books today, asking, “Do You Dare to be Different?” Will you go leave a comment, please? Make me look good?

And if you’re interested, my essay is available for free, for one week: The Domestication of a Vampire Executioner. You can comment on that, too, if you like. The comment form is waaayy on the bottom. I joked on Facebook that they clearly don’t know my commenters are smarter than I am.

In alphabetical order, here are some reads not to miss out on:

Chimes: Charles Gramlich

Chimes is a short horror story, available at Damnation Books. About the book: She should have brought her wind chimes in, she thought, when she heard them ringing in the first gusts of the approaching hurricane. She was sitting on the edge of the bed with her feet fishing for slippers when she remembered. She had brought the chimes in. They were hanging downstairs in her living room, where there was no wind to move them.

Charles’ blog, Razored Zen, is not to be missed, either, and I just ordered his book on writing, Write with Fire.

Eight for Eternity: Eric Mayer & Mary Reed

Eight for Eternity is an awesome read! The history is just fascinating.q I’m almost done with it, so I’ll probably give a more extensive review later. For now, here’s the blurb from Publisher’s Weekly:

Reed and Mayer’s excellent eighth John the Chamberlain mystery centers on the real-life Nika riots, which nearly destroyed Constantinople in A.D. 532. When two prisoners escape police custody, each a member of the two main factions who supported the opposing chariot teams at the races in the Hippodrome, Emperor Justinian sends John, his trusted chamberlain, to investigate. John soon finds the young men’s bodies in the chilly waters of a cistern. Meanwhile, two nephews of a former ruler may provide a rallying point for General Belisarius should he opt to stage a coup as rival political factions wreak havoc throughout the city. Subtle, well-drawn characters, from the ascetic John to the capricious and enigmatic Justinian; deft descriptive detail revealing life in the late Roman Empire; and sharp dialogue make this another winner in this outstanding historical series.

The Tavernier Stones: Stephen Parrish

I just ordered my copy of The Tavernier Stones, by Stephen Parrish. If you’ve read his blog, you know it has to be good! Here’s a shortened bit of what it’s about, but go here for a better overview. And go to tavernierstones.com to win a real diamond!

When the well-preserved body of 17th century mapmaker Johannes Cellarius floats to the surface of a bog in northern Germany, and a 57 carat ruby rolls out of his fist, treasure hunters from around the globe race to find the Lost Tavernier Stones of popular European folklore.

The race spans two continents. The finish line is in Idar-Oberstein, the gemstone capital of Germany. There, in chambers beneath an old church, where unspeakable events took place in centuries past, winners and losers alike find answers to age-old questions about the Lost Tavernier Stones.

Managing Maggie: Kate Sterling

I feel rather unjustifiably proud of this book, because I convinced Kate to submit it in more than one place, LOL. (I’m sure she would’ve gotten there on her own.) Managing Maggie was a bestseller at Cobblestone when it was released!

Maggie was devastated when her husband divorced her because she couldn’t have children, but she eventually moved on and started her own graphic design business. When her business partner Jason indicates he wants their relationship to be personal, Maggie is tempted by the sexy young designer, but she thinks she’s too old for him.

Yet an unexpected encounter featuring fuzzy handcuffs and a pink flogger leaves Maggie feeling he may just be “The One”. She’s riding a wave of happiness until a younger woman shows up claiming to be pregnant by Jason. Can Maggie and Jason’s relationship handle the strain?

The Fallen: Mark Terry

I read The Fallen in an earlier incarnation and loved it. Mark Terry has recently been on a blog tour that’s worth checking out. Some of his greatest blogs ever! From Booklist:

A summit of world leaders convenes at a beautiful Colorado resort just in time to encounter a former government agent gone rogue. Threatening to kill a world leader every hour unless his demands are met, the madman and his team seem impossible to stop. It falls on Derek Stillwater, an agent working undercover at the resort as a maintenance guy, to stop his former colleague. Unfortunately, because most of the people he used to work for believe he is dead and was a traitor, Stillwater must work alone and avoid being seen by both bad guys and good. Tense from the first page, The Fallen maintains its intensity up to the very end, and Stillwater is both a sympathetic and believable hero. Readers of previous Stillwater novels will eagerly wait to see him in action again, and those new to the series will seek out his earlier adventures (including The Serpent’s Kiss, 2009). –Jeff Ayers

Have you read any good books lately? Any favorites?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Books | Tags: ,

The Things We Remember

Art created by men is better: That’s what I was taught by the fiction I read when I grew up. I remember one book was about a girl whose father, on his deathbed, said that she would be an artist. She was a fabulous pianist, and ended up realizing that was an art, too, but before that, she tried to be a visual artist.

She was talented. We readers knew this because a famous artist came to her school and judged their exhibition. Her work was the only work he—in a blind viewing—could not tell was done by a woman. Her drawings looked like they were done by a man, and thus, she was good.

I am certain that is not the only time I got that message. Sadly, I am still getting that message.

Oprah’s choices have been suspect. Since 2005, 100% of the 13 books she’s chosen for her book club have been written by men. Since 2003, 17 of the 19 authors whose work she’s chosen have been men.

Publisher’s Weekly’s choice for top 10 books of 2009 were all written by men. Every week, Wendy calculates the percentage of women authors on the NYT Bestseller list as opposed to the percentage of women authors reviewed in the NYT Boo Review. Not pretty.

It’s a well-known fact that, in general, women will read both female and male leads, while men will mostly only read books with male leads. This starts at a young age: even J.K. Rowling was asked to use her initials instead of Joanne, in the hopes that more boys would read her story. I’ve heard tell of several middle-grade authors who were encouraged to make their MC a boy. The PW list, as She Writes points out, was dominated by male heroines.

Moonrat has a great post up, with some kick-ass recommendations I can’t wait to get my hands on. Why have I not seen or heard of these books?

Here’s another question: Are women encouraged by the publishing business to write to genre? Before the front tables became dominated by not-new fiction this year, I rarely saw a female author who wasn’t writing a particular genre, if you include women’s fiction. Is that label a problem?

Women will write what will sell, just as much as men will write what will sell. It’s the nature of art: no one has time to be great unless they can be supported by their art.

So what gives? How can we fix this? Were you given the same messages as a child as I was?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Books,Musings | Tags: ,

Front Table Junkie

It’s terrible; I’m embarrassed: I am addicted to the front tables. Give me any bookstore, and every single day (even if I’m there four or five or six days a week), I will comb through the front tables to see ALL the newest releases.

I’m ashamed. I’m the reason why authors get significantly more sales if they get co-op. I’m the reason why authors struggle to make me aware of their book, let alone buy it, when they don’t get co-op.

Even though I know better, I tend to operate subconsciously on the misconception that if I comb the genre section once every month or two, then I only need to keep track of the front tables and I won’t “miss” anything.

This is not true. I know that.

In actuality, most of the newer books are hidden in the stacks. There’s been a trend lately: have you noticed? An ever-increasing majority of the books co-oped on the front tables are already-proven sellers, a year or two or even three years old.

I’m driven into the stacks to find new books. You’d think this would be a good thing, right?

No. Oddly, I’ve grown addicted to new books, as in, I want to read a book released in 2009. Not 2008. Not 2001. I’m okay with the 1800s, but other than that, I seem to want 2009. If a book perks my interest, I immediately look at the copyright date. If I try a new author, I always pick their latest release, unless it’s a wildly popular series, in which case I will start with (and only with) number 1. If number 1 is not in stock, oh well.

By and large, though, I want the books being released TODAY. I want stories that reflect our world’s subconscious TODAY. I want stories that reflect our culture and society TODAY. I want to know what authors TODAY are thinking. I want to know what readers TODAY are reading.

I do have a bit of an interest in watching the pop culture trends and the book trends, so that might be part of the problem. Also, I believe art should reflect its society and its time. How can an artist/author do any reflecting, if they are unaware?

What think you? How do you browse? Do you have a preference for any era of books, or do you not notice?

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Written by Natasha Fondren in: Books | Tags: ,

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