Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Wednesday With Jane Hunt

This week in the blogger spotlight, I have the lovely Jane Hunt, author and book blogger.

I met Jane online a few ago and have always valued her support, optimism and friendship. She's also read and reviewed my Keepers - and her reviews are fabulous. Check them out here.

If you had to write a bio for yourself, what would it say?

'Writing has touched my life in every decade. At fifty, I took a risk and made writing my career, fulfilling a lifetime ambition.'

I enjoy writing blogs, book reviews and especially stories. Vivid imagery, atmospheric settings, strong females and sensual males are essential for my stories. Everyday life and ordinary people inspire me. How would someone react, if faced with something extraordinary? A thread of romance runs through my all my books, whether they be suspense, fantasy or historical.  I want to let my readers escape their lives for a while, experience new places, new people and most importantly, new emotional lows and highs My favorite parts of the writing process are; finding a person, event or place that makes me want to write a story about it and the writing itself; when your fingers cannot type fast enough, to transcribe your thoughts.

Family is very important to me. My two children are my greatest achievement to date.  I am an animal welfare supporter and regularly use social media to promote animal welfare issues.

You’re an author as well as a book blogger – please tell us more about your books.

I’ve published three books so far and I have completed another:

The Dragon Legacy and The Revenge Masquerade, are fantasy romance, full of dragons, demons, wolves and witches. Crimson Frost Books published these. The Dangerous gift, my latest release is a romantic suspense set in Texas. If you like mystery, murder and a magical love affair this is for you. It’s published by Limitless Publishing. Past Shadows is a historical romance with a ghostly twist, there’s mystery, suspense and a passionate love story set in Regency Derbyshire. I am still looking for a publisher for this.

How do you juggle writing your own books and reviewing others for your blog?

My blog and book reviewing always comes first. I love reading and enjoy writing book reviews. There are lots of authors and publishers that want me to review their books and I always put them first. I often think that if it was the other way around, I would have written ten book by now and not four.

Describe your household / family.

My family are and always have been, the most important part of my life. I married my husband thirty-three years ago and I have two lovely children. My beautiful grandson, who’s almost a year old, has certainly given me a new lease of life. I feel so thankful to share this special time with him and my daughter.

Describe yourself in five words.

Determined, Loving, Loyal, Passionate, Optimistic.

What made you decide to start your blog?

Initially I thought I was too old to start a blog, who would want to read it? Once I started writing and having my books published, a blog seemed a great way to communicate with my potential readers. However, I didn’t want to talk about me and my books all the time, so I decided to blog about the books I’d been reading. My reviews are popular both with authors and readers. Book reviews, spotlights and author interviews are the most important part of my blog now.

How did you come up with the name of your blog?

I started blogging and writing seriously, later in life and I am conscious how much I need to learn. So, I called my blog First Steps when I started blogging in March 2013. Later I added the name of my website—Jane Hunt Writer and the blog became Jane Hunt Writer First Steps, a little wordy perhaps but no one seems to mind.

What are the blogging highlights?

I find writing book reviews and blogging relaxing, it’s a natural extension of reading, which I love and lets me practice my writing skills.  I also enjoy personalizing my blog with images and graphics that make it uniquely mine. I love color and my current blog theme is a chalk board which lets me use colored writing to match the book covers of the books I’m reviewing. I find book reviewing and blogging much easier than writing stories, even though I love doing that too.

What are the blogging lows?

Someone criticizing what I've written. Negative criticism hurts but I respect others’ opinions. When I review I always concentrate on the book’s positive qualities.

You receive a lot of author requests to read their books. How do you decide what to read and when?

This is difficult. I try to review books as I receive the requests but my deadlines often slip. I always try to review books if I’ve promised to, reviews are so important to authors. My NetGalley review rate is 94%, so that’s not too bad.

Do you have any advice to authors about how best to approach bloggers and develop relationships with them?

Every blog and blogger is different, treat them as individuals and appreciate they usually do this in their spare time and because they love reading.

What would you like to see more of in the type of books you’re reading?

I read a lot of rom-com and women’s fiction. There are certain themes which are trending now, cottages in the country, tea shops, cafes, bakeries and coastal locations. Whilst I love reading stories around these themes, there are so many. I like reading stories with themes, settings and plots that have a spark of originality.

How has blogging enriched your life?

It helps me relax, improves my writing skills and has opened a whole new world of online friends.

Quick word associations (Please answer all these questions with the first word (s) that comes to mind)

Wine -Relaxation
Babies- Laughter
Gym- Guilt
Holidays- Memories
Hero- Romance
Favourite - Reading
Fear- Claustrophobia
Bliss- Family
Laundry- Routine
Fun- Youth

Thanks so much for the glimpse of the book blogger behind the author, Jane.  It's wonderful that you find blogging relaxing and enjoyable - I love your dedication to this!

For more about Jane's books, book reviews and recommendations, check out her great blog here.

Thanks for reading,
Rae Rivers

Friday, October 7, 2016

Writing the Villains

An avid reader and aspiring young author recently asked me how I developed the villains in my Keeper series.  If you've read the books, you'll know there are several! I recently chatted to Amanda from One More Page about creating my villains - I'm reposting it here for those who missed it.

When I first created Sienna, I knew she was a powerful, modern day, good witch coming to terms with the full throttle of powers she’d inherited from her grandmother. But I also figured that a woman of her status and magical abilities would meet great adversaries and would need some serious back-up.

And so the concept of the Keepers was born - three warrior brothers duty-bound to protect her with their lives. Together, they protect the balance of nature and the innocent people of the world. And yes, they’ve faced many villains throughout the series.

Who are the villains?

I played on the concept of good vs. evil and developed a story about an ongoing feud between three families:

The Bennett brothers (The Keepers) and the Beckham witches (Sienna) vs. the Brogan family (the villains). (In hindsight, I have NO idea why I had all the surnames starting with the same letter as that became a frequent tongue twister for me! )

The Brogans are a group of magical witches and warlocks who love to flaunt their magic in a world where it’s forbidden. Their aim is to expose themselves and others like them, to cause havoc with the balance of nature and to take control of the innocent humans around them by using fear, violence and magic. They’re also accused of killing Sienna and the brothers’ parents, as well as many other innocent people.

But Sienna and her Keepers are determined to stop them and maintain the balance – hence a lot of conflict between the two families throughout all four books.

So what makes a good villain?

There’s a variety of traits that make up a good villain so my list can be added to but here’s a basic idea:

He (or she) has an opposite goal to the hero and heroine – this makes for great conflict!
He has to be convincing and realistic – create a villain that a reader will loathe or fear if faced in real life.
He should be smart and vindictive.
He should try and outsmart the hero and heroine at every turn – and frequently succeed. (Again, more conflict!)
Not a necessity but it helps to have a few beefy sidekicks at his side – and offers more opportunity for even more conflict.
He should come across as interesting and compelling.
He has a background that backs up his villainess.
He has a real or valid goal.
Everyone has a weakness so it’s important that villains do too. And it’s up to the author as to how this weakness will be used against him. (Always a fun opportunity to create some real havoc between the hero, heroine and villain.)

There are many more traits to consider so feel free to add them in the comments section. I’d love to hear what you think makes a good antagonist in a story!

Thanks for reading,
Rae Rivers

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Wednesday with The Hopeless Reader

Today in the blogger spotlight, I'm so pleased to have Ivey Byrd from The Hopeless Reader.  I met Ivey online a while ago when she did a spectacular review of Declan.  (And I'm thrilled to know she's a Keeper fan too!) Since then, she's been a wonderful support to me - and it's great to see we share a love of bad ass heroines!

If you had to write a bio for yourself, what would it say?

The hardest part of creating a blog or creating a social media account is the bio. I can never make myself sound interesting, but here is my best try: I am an avid reader with a passion for editing. I have read over 2,000 books in six years, and ever since I picked up that first book, I was hooked. I am currently working on getting a Masters degree in creative writing, and then I plan to head off to New York after I graduate to get a job at one of my favorite publishing companies, which shall remain a mystery for now. Fun fact: I have an obsession with dragons, anime (especially the boys), fictional characters, and bad ass heroines, and anyone else who shares those obsessions with me is instantly my best friend.

Describe yourself in five words.

Fiery, thoughtful, kind, protective, and open-minded.

What made you decide to start The Hopeless Reader?

Like I mentioned above, I have read a LOT of books, and after about the 1,000th book, I was bursting at the seams to share my love for them with the world. I started up my Twitter account (in the beginning, it was dedicated to The Fault in Our Stars because that book made me feel all the things, but is now where I fan girl about everything book related), and then my blog quickly followed. I started posting reviews almost every week, and then I realized how much I loved analyzing books and giving my thoughts on them. That was when I realized that I could get a job as an editor doing everything that I loved.

What are the blogging highlights?

The biggest blogging highlight is when an author sees my review and tells me how much they appreciate it. I not only write reviews for readers, but also for the authors to let them know how much their books impacted me. That is probably the biggest highlight along with the fact that authors that I love acknowledge my existence, which causes a LOT of fan-girling and screaming. The other highlight of blogging is when readers like myself read my reviews and tell me that they are adding that book to their ‘to be read’ list because of it. That was my goal when I started my blog, to share the books I love with the world, and when a reader tells me that they read a book because of my review, it makes my day.

What is the most challenging thing about being a blogger?

For me, the most challenging thing about being a book blogger is keeping the reviews coming. I have no problem reading a book in one sitting, but college and work have gotten in the way of that so I rarely have time to read anymore, which sucks. My blog suffers because of it because I don’t have the material to bring in views. The stress of not having the time to review books and post them is another challenging part of blogging. However, when I start stressing, I have to take a step back and relax because when reading begins to feel like a chore that is when I have a problem.

You receive a lot of author requests to read their books. How do you decide what to read and when?

When I first started my blog and authors would ask me to review their books, I would readily say yes. At that point, I didn’t know what books I liked or how I liked them written. Now, I know what I like and what I don’t. I don’t want to read a book that I know I won’t enjoy. That isn’t fair to me or the author so I usually pass on books that don’t instantly grab my interest from the start. The synopsis HAS to get my attention or else I pass on reviewing it. As for when I read review books, I usually read them immediately because I am too excited to wait. However, sometimes school or work gets in the way and I have to wait, but I usually read them within two weeks.

Do you have any advice to authors about how best to approach bloggers and develop relationships with them?

I love it when authors chat with me, and I think I speak for most bloggers when I say that when an author recognizes our reviews it makes our day. I am always hesitant when initiating a conversation with an author because I don’t want to bother them, and I think that some bloggers feel that way too. That said, I think that authors should just go for it and start up a conversation with bloggers. That conversation can start any number of ways, ask what kind of books they like, thank them for reviewing your book, ask them why they like blogging or what authors they like, etc. Trust me, once you start a conversation, the blogger will be overjoyed, and at that point, you won’t have an issue starting up a relationship. I have had many authors start up a conversation with me out of the blue and a few months later I am joining their street team or having chats with them every day. Don’t be afraid of us bloggers, we want to talk to you as much as you want to talk to us. We don’t bite….hard.

What would you like to see more of in the type of books you’re reading?

Honestly, I would love to see more plus-sized heroines in books. I am a fantasy book junkie, and I cannot think of more than ten books in that genre that feature a plus-sized heroine. To make matters worse, only about two of those books are YA books. YA literature is the genre that could really use plus-sized heroines to make a huge impact on young girls who are insecure about their bodies. There is a serious lack of curvy girls in YA lit., and it is really discouraging. I would just really like to see curvy girls like me appreciated a little more in books.

Quick word associations (Please answer all these questions with the first word that comes to mind)

Heroes - Hot
Heroines - Badass
Exercise - Gross
Holidays - Halloween
Wine - Moscato
Laundry - Boring
Bliss - Reading
Villains - Voldemort
Gym – Ew.
Fridays – Relaxation

Thanks for sharing, Ivey!  For more book news, discussion posts, and author interviews, check out Ivey's awesome blog here.

Thanks for reading,
Rae Rivers

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Wednesday With Ali - The Dragon Slayer

I'm so pleased to have Alison Drew from Ali - The Dragon Slayer in the spotlight today.  I met Alison online earlier this year and she was kind enough to help spread the word about Ethan's release in April.  An avid reader at heart, she's so supportive of authors and I'm so pleased to have her on my blog today.

Ali, tell us a little more about yourself:

I am currently fighting cancer so relishing the opportunity to indulge in my passion for reading. I have loved books for as long as I can remember, there is never a time when I am without a book or my Kindle.

I have varied taste and particularly like to try new authors. I am based in the UK but am open to meeting people worldwide. I enjoy spending time with my family and a great animal lover. Perfection is a roaring fire, cup of tea and the cat!

Describe yourself in five words:

Loyal, Kind, Honest, Tenacious, Sarcastic

How did you come up with the name for your book blog?

I thought of all kinds of bookish names for my blog but eventually settled on the first idea. My particular cancer uses the slogan 'Slay the Dragon' so in keeping with that 'Ali -The Dragon Slayer' was born. Just seemed highly appropriate and also helps to raise awareness of Leiomyosarcoma.

What made you start your blog?

When I became ill I had the prospect of spending many long hours in hospital. I have always read but now I wanted somewhere to share my love of books and connect with other like minded people to keep my mind occupied and not dwelling on the seriousness of my illness. I wanted to be known as ME not the poor lady with cancer. The blogging/author community are fantastically supportive. I never anticipated my little blog would develop and become as popular as it has!

When you're not reading, you're ...?

I love music, movies, entering competitions and travelling .. when I'm not blogging if health allows you will either find me touring the USA in a muddy field at a festival or at a music gig. We have a huge collection of DVD's/Blu Rays so there is always a movie to watch, plus Netflix .. I'm amazed I find the time to blog.

What are your blogging pet peeves?

I'm sure a lot of other bloggers would agree, my major peeve is when an author expects me to drop everything else and review their book NOW. My schedule is booked months in advance, and if I accept a book I generally give a date when it will appear on the blog. So I'm afraid any amount of emails, DM's, tweets etc are not going to make it happen any faster. In fact having to reply eats into precious reading time. I have been known to push the book down the TBR instead if the pressure gets too heavy. Bloggers do this for fun/hobby we are not paid and do have a life & families as well as books to read, posts to prepare etc

Do you have other interests besides your blog?

I know a couple of people may know but not many, I am a HUGE NFL fan. (American Football) I watch as many games as possible during the season. I have traveled to the US whenever possible to see live games. Usually it's freezing cold, snow, wind, rain but nothing will stop me if my team are playing. And by my team I mean the fabulous New York Giants!

Do you have any advice to offer to authors?

I have a review policy on my blog which clearly states genres I read, preference of book format, whether I have any space or taking a break. If requesting a review please use my name and not just Hey Blogger or similar. I can easily be found on Twitter or Facebook, say hi, interact I'm very approachable ... it's always nice to see what makes an author tick in day to day life. I like to build up a relationship with authors so they know I will give wide coverage of their book and be available when the next book is due but also be interested in non-book aspects of life. A simple thank you also goes a very long way.

Thank you so much for giving us a glimpse of the warrior woman behind the blog, Ali!

For book reviews, book news, author spotlights and a lot more, check out Ali's fabulous blog here.

Thanks for reading!
Rae Rivers

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Wednesday With Star Crossed Reviews

I'm so pleased to be introducing my 'Wednesday With' series of blog posts again.  Every Wednesday, for the next few weeks, I'll be hosting a book blogger for a 'behind-the-scenes' look at life as a blogger. I have some fabulous guests lined up, many whom have offered me incredible support with my Keepers trilogy, and I look forward to getting to know more about them!

Today, in the spotlight, I've snagged the lovely Emma Poulloura from Star Crossed Reviews to tell us more about herself and her blog:

Describe your household / family.

My household is quite small. There’s just me, my boyfriend and my french bulldog puppy. My pup is only 5 months old so he’s in that so cute it’s hard to be angry at him stage. I also have 5 younger brothers, 2 nephews and a niece.

Describe yourself in five words

1. Indecisive
2. Bookaholic
3. Chocoaholic
4. Inquisitive
5. Compassionate

What made you decide to start your Star Crossed Reviews?

I was actually reading I Heart New York by Lindsey Kelk, in this book the main character starts a blog and I was so inspired by this character that I thought yes I can do this.

How did you come up with the name of your blog?

I wanted a name that incorporated the two main book genres that I love (Romance and Fantasy). Star Crossed refers to Star Crossed Lovers which is a rare and magical thing.

What are the blogging highlights?

I LOVE it when someone tells me that my review made them decide to buy that book. There is nothing better.

What is the most challenging thing about being a blogger?

juggling….It’s difficult to fit everything in. Between, work, household chores, spending time with my boyfriend and my little pup sometimes it can be a struggle to fit everything.

What are you currently reading?

Christmas at the Little Village Bakery by Tilly Tennant and Beta reading for On Thin Ice by Aven Ellis

Do you have any advice to authors about how best to approach bloggers and develop relationships with them?

I know that it saves a lot of time but one thing I hate are mass emails from an author I have never spoken to before. In fact so much that I instantly delete them. The other thing that is irritating is when someone emails you about a genre you have outlined that you do not read.

Quick word associations (Please answer all these questions with the first word (s) that comes to mind)

Vampires - Blood
Holidays - Reading time
Treat - Chocolate
Abs - Hot men
Wine - White
Chores - zzzzz
Bliss - tea, chocolate and a book
Outdoors - summer
Gym - hard work
Mondays - suck

Haha, I love these word associations!  :)  Thanks so much for the chat, Emma.  Some great answers here - and your pup is adorable!

Check out Emma's fantastic blog and her review of The Keepers: Ethan here.

Thanks for reading!
Rae Rivers

Monday, August 22, 2016

My Inspiration Behind Rapid Falls

Franschoek, South Africa
So many of you have commented how much you love Rapid Falls, the setting for my Keepers series. I love that my fictional town felt so real to you and that many of you cared enough to get in touch with me to share that.  Thank you!

I recently chatted to Emma from Star Crossed Reviews about the town that inspired Rapid Falls but as I frequently get asked about this, I'm re-posting it here.

I knew when I started plotting my Keepers series that the setting would be as important as my characters. I envisioned a small town with a small group of people set within a beautiful valley.

My character, Jenna, from The Keepers: Ethan summed it up perfectly:

“A peaceful, close-knit town where everyone was up in everyone's business and things like home-baked pie, honesty, and solid friendships still existed.”

Throughout the books, I used multiple settings in an attempt to keep it interesting and fresh. New York, New Orleans and in the final book in the trilogy, a fictional world called Ameera.

But despite these exciting settings, my characters always returned home – to Rapid Falls. A fictional small town set in a valley surrounded by mountains, vineyards and natural beauty. It’s familiar – to my characters as well as my readers – and it’s home. My Keepers own a wine estate, complete with the rows of vineyards and the beautiful, old homestead. They specialise in the production of Ice Wine and come from a solid generation steeped in history and meaning, so this setting seemed perfect for them.

Also, it provided a lot of opportunity for creepy scenes and characters – bridges, forests, tunnels etc. and of course, the isolation that comes within these settings. I live in the mountains, surrounded by forests and dams and magnificent sunsets on surrounding wine farms so this setting felt very natural to write too.

I don’t live in an isolated village like Rapid Falls, my town is much bigger but I drew a lot of inspiration from a small town in Cape Town a few hours away from me – Franschoek.

Set within a valley, the town consists of about 15 000 people and was established in the late 1600’s. It’s known for its annual festivals like the Bastille Festival, Champagne Festival and the SA Literary Festival.

Surrounding the town are many wine estates with rolling hills of vineyards that not only add to the beauty of the town but also produce magnificent wines and champagne. Many of the farms still have their original buildings or farm houses on them, many of which are the traditional Cape Dutch houses.

The town itself has a charming main road consisting of quaint gift stores, a variety of restaurants, art galleries, book stores, and coffee shops.

So although Rapid Falls is fictional, I frequently envisioned this small town as the basis for my setting. I developed this concept into an imaginary home steeped in magic and folk lore. Then I added three hot brothers, three lovely heroines, a few villains, danger, secrets, three beautiful love stories and an epic adventure!

Thanks for reading.
Rae Rivers

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Release Day for The Keepers: Ethan!

FINALLY, after months and months - years, considering when I started this series - of plotting, planning and hard work, it all comes together today as The Keepers: Ethan is released into the world!

I'm hopping with excitement to share this story with you - not only because it's well, Ethan's story, but also because it concludes my Keepers series (which I know many of you have been waiting for!).

I've been holding onto this hottie for so long as I wrote and rewrote and tweaked until I'd told the story the way it needed to be told. It's been a fun and exciting journey and I so LOVED the characters in this book (so many of them to enjoy!) but it's also been a huge challenge too!

But I did it! And I'm so immensely proud and thrilled with how it all came together.

So what can you expect?

You’ll meet old favourites again – Archer, Declan, Sienna and Kate. But more specifically, you'll also get up close and personal with the youngest Bennett brother, Ethan. Previously, he was very much in the background with his two older brothers in the spotlight, but this is his story, his book and he truly owns it! :) You'll get to know a new character, Jenna, who is different to the other heroines in the books. Where Kate and Sienna are witches, Jenna is a Keeper. She's feisty and strong and super confident - and a perfect partner for Ethan! I so loved Ethan and Jenna together and writing their journey was very different to that of the other couples in the trilogy. And of course, I had to put them both through lots of trials and hardships too!

To celebrate Ethan's release, we have several awesome book bloggers participating in a blog tour. There'll be guest posts, Q&A's, reviews, and excerpts from the book so please pop in and show your support. I'll be posting links on my Facebook and Twitter pages as we go.

If you're new to the series, The Keepers: Sienna, the prequel to the series is FREE. And if you're already a Keepers fan, then The Keepers: Ethan can be found at Amazon or any online retailer.

Thank you to every single one of you for your support, enthusiasm and cheering along the way. I really hope that the wait for this final book was worth it!

With love and thanks (and huge excitement too!),
Rae Rivers