Readers' Favorite

April 20, 2013

Featured Book & Giveaway: The Honey Thief

The Honey Thief by Najaf Mazari & Robert Hillman
This enchanting novel of interwoven legends burns with both gentle intelligence and human warmth
This extraordinary book, derived from the long oral tradition of storytelling in Afghanistan, presents a mesmerizing portrait of a people who triumph with intelligence and humor over the oppressions of political dictators and an unforgiving landscape.A musician conjures stones to rise in the air and teaches his art to a mute child. Master Poisoner, Ghoroob of Mashad, has so perfected his craft that it is considered an honor to die from his meals. These are stories of magic and wonder in which ordinary people endure astonishing extremes in a world of bloodshed and brotherhood, miracles and catastrophes.
With lyrical wit and profound simplicity, The Honey Thief reveals an Afghanistan of greater richness and humanity than is conveyed in newspaper headlines; an Afghanistan not of failure and despair, but of resilience and fulfillment. From
Hardcover, 304 pages, April 22, 2013 by Viking

3 Questions with Najaf Mazari and Robert Hillman:

In “The Behsudi Dowry,” the character of Hameed is thought to be foolish and absentminded for his love of books. His parents can see no value in reading fiction. How was reading literature for pleasure viewed in your household and community growing up?

Najaf:  In Afghanistan, only a few very educated people read books other than the holy books. If my brothers or my father or my mother had seen me reading a novel, they would have thought I was insane and would have called a doctor or a mullah to fix me.

How did you become interested in the narrative of the refugee?

Robert:  At the time I first met Najaf, the Muslim refugees who were arriving in Australia on ramshackle boats were being characterised as criminals and terrorists in the press. This demonisation suited the politics of Australia just after 9/11 (or “11/9” as it is known here). It struck me that something vile was happening in my country—something that I might look back on in years to come and think, “Why didn’t you say something?” I wrote Najaf’s story as a way of saying something. The friendship we formed led to Najaf telling me more and more about the culture of the Hazara. The stories in The Honey Thief are, in a way, the backstory of Najaf’s life told in The Rugmaker of Mazar-e-Sharif.

The themes discussed throughout The Honey Thief—the importance of love, work, hope—are universal, crossing all kinds of boundaries of culture, faith, geography, and socioeconomic status. What is your hope for this book? More broadly, what role do you believe literature can play in uniting people across borders?

Najaf & Robert: Stories like those in The Honey Thief make a small difference here and there to the sympathy for people who are struggling through life. Literature cannot change people’s hearts completely. Just a little. A little is okay. We must remember that if stories that honour courage and enjoyment of life could suddenly change everything, then another book that teaches distrust and hatred might also change everything back. People don’t read stories like those in The Honey Thief in order to have their eyes opened. They read them for enjoyment; for pleasure. If it happens that some readers feel that they have gained more than enjoyment, that’s a good thing. We hope that readers will enjoy this book in the same way that they enjoy fresh food cooked by someone who loves good food. We hope that people will smile as they finish each story and say, “Well, that was wonderful!”

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Viking will send 1 lucky reader a copy of The Honey Thief. Open to US residents only, no PO Boxes, please.

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April 19, 2013

Sydney Logan: The Making of a Book Cover

I have a confession to make. I judge a book by its cover.

I admit it. It’s the first thing that grabs my attention. If the cover is not eye-catching, I look for something else. I’m not proud of this. I know that I’ve probably missed out on some excellent stories due to my affection for pretty covers.

As you can imagine, this love for attractive covers makes me a tad bit obsessive when it comes to my own.  I’m lucky in that my publisher allows an author’s input on book covers. I love the process, even if finding the perfect artwork or photographs can be time consuming.

During the writing of my upcoming novel, Mountain Charm (coming July 4), I spent hours upon hours looking  at online photo sites, trying to find the perfect cover image. I found this picture and instantly fell in love.

Normally, I’m not crazy about people on my covers, but I loved the silhouettes here. The dog in the story is  Labrador and, according to a friend of mine, this dog’s tail was not Labrador-ish, but we could easily fix  that.

I sent the picture to the cover designer, Jada D’ Lee. Five emails later, my cover was complete (please note the dog’s new tail).

Since this is Friday Fun, I thought it would be fun to sit down with graphic designer Jada D’Lee and discuss the making of the cover of Mountain Charm.

What’s the first thing you do when you receive a photo? Where do you start?

Stare at it for an hour and wonder what on earth I'm going to do with it! *giggles* Well first of all, you need o find the right photo. Sometimes it's found on a stock photo site, other times it's a photo that author took with her camera phone!

From there, I always make mockups for the author using the image first, or the preview image if it's a stock photo. That way, we know whether or not it's the right pic. Even if it's small form, you can get a good idea. If it works, we purchase the photo and get to work!

After that, lots and lots of adjusting! Highlighting, dodge, burn, moving, stretching, shrinking, put this here,  put that there, add a bar across this part, can you make this monkey have green hair...whatever we can think of that looks good!

Briefly take us through the creation of the cover of Mountain Charm.

Oh, I loved that cover! The first thing I asked was to get a peek at the first chapter. I don't know if this is  common for cover artists, but it gives me a sense of what colors to use. Colors bring out the mood of a  story, so you want to get the right ones for each novel. After a few pages of reading Mountain Charm, I just got this sense of shades of blue, something magical without being sad. You can easily go the wrong way when using blue!

I also really wanted to throw in some magical sparkles and add a sense of romance, which I was happy to hear was exactly what the author wanted! From there, it was all just about finding the right photo for it all. Having worked with you before, I knew you liked graphics as opposed to photographs, so finding the photo for this cover was a real find!

A typical cover takes how long to design?

Oh, I'd say about a week, at most two weeks. But only because I'm a busy Mom as well and some of those  sexy covers, I can't work on when my boys are nearby! But after bedtime, I'm good to go! However, if the author is on a time restraint, I've been known to finish a cover in a day. If it means helping out an author in need, I can go without sleep. Why not!

What program do you use to create your designs?

Honestly, I use anything I can get my hands on! I love Gimp and Photoshop, but if I need something from Jasc Animation Shop 3 or even something as easy as Picasa, I'm using it! Of course in the end, it all ends up as a psd file. Unless I'm doing a book trailer, then I use Animation Shop mostly.

Of your creations, do you have a favorite design? Or are they like your babies and it’s impossible to choose?

Oh my, I can't choose! That's like Sophie's Choice to me! Plus, when I look at my portfolio, my gosh, they're all so different! Sometimes I don't believe I actually made them. It's surreal!

However, I do have a soft spot for my first book cover, which was for S.L. Scott, and my first book trailer, which was for E.L. James. If those authors hadn't hired me, I probably wouldn't be doing the covers and trailers I'm doing now.

And it's been such a cool ride so far. I can't imagine my life without this gig! I can't wait to see what's next!

Check out Jada D’Lee’s creations on her Pinterest page:

About the Author:

Sydney Logan is an Amazon bestselling author and holds a Master’s degree in Elementary Education. With the 2012 release of her first novel, Lessons Learned, she made the transition from bookworm to author. Sydney has a very unhealthy obsession with music, and her iPod is filled with everything from Johnny Cash to Eminem. She is also the author of two short stories: “Mistletoe Magic,” available exclusively on Amazon Kindle, and “Stupid Cupid,” which is featured in the Romantic Interludes compilation. When she isn't reading or writing, she enjoys playing piano and relaxing on her front porch at her home in East Tennessee with her wonderful husband and their very spoiled cat.
Her second novel, Mountain Charm, is slated for a summer 2013 release.
website  *  Publisher  *  Twitter  *  Facebook  *  Goodreads

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Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small fee is earned when purchases are made through the above links. The views, opinions, and beliefs of contributing authors are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of Girl Who Reads.

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By My Side Book Blast & Giveaway

Twitter Party with Stephanie Witter 
Wednesday, April 24 at 10:30 am ET

Talk about an intense, in-your-face, emotionally charged read! By My Side by Stephanie Witter is that and more!
~ Dianne, Tome Tender

I absolutely loved this story of love, loss, heartache and so much more.  
~ Melissa Ringsted,

Lily Saunders sees her family falling apart. Her father is deserting her, and her mother is drinking more and more. Even sarcasm can't help Lily. When she thinks her best friend, Andy Green, will help her, she discovers how his blinding jealousy will mess everything up.

And then Gabe Green comes back home. She thinks it'll be like always between them—sarcasms and curses thrown at each other—but she's mistaken. He's different, and understands right away the problems she's trying to keep for herself. 

But even if he's there for her, making her fall hard, they both know it'll end soon. Because at their age, you can't expect forever. Right?

Buy the book at Amazon!

Enter the Giveaway

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A GWR Publicity promotional event paid for by Anchor Group Publishing. Giveaway is sponsored by the author. Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small fee is earned when purchases are made through the links above.

April 18, 2013

Does Anyone Care What I Have to Say?

My average daily page views have doubled over the last month or so. I love the growth, but I want to know why. I did some looking to see what I have changed. One, I have been doing a better job of titling my posts. The titles are no longer Writer Wednesday or Tips on Thursday. I wrote a post about the necessity of good post titles and it definitely has helped. The other big change I noticed was the lack of reviews.

I will admit my review posts have never been the most read posts on my blog. So I wasn't expecting much of an impact on my average views when I didn't post reviews for a few weeks. Though as a book blogger who gets requests for book reviews, I'm disheartened slightly about the lack of popularity.

However, I have come to terms with the fact that only a small fraction of my readers are coming here to hear what I have to say about books. What I might find most surprising is on days when I do not post anything and my page views hit in the 1000s. Last Thursday, I failed to post my weekly tips, one of my more popular features. I was too wrapped up in my book to stop reading. I joked about it on Twitter and Facebook. I figured since I was telling everyone that I didn't post that numbers would be down. Boy, was I wrong.

It was one of my highest page views day. It really got me thinking - do people care what I'm blogging about?

Since blogging is a hobby, I didn't do extensive digging as to what people viewed, but I can speculate on what happened.

1. People who normally visit my blog on Thursdays for tips got instead the Writer Wednesday post for that week as the top post. Perhaps they came back later to see if my tips post was delayed or maybe they really liked the WW post (it was a great one about new fiction by Paul Landes). And then went looking at other contributed articles.

2. My sharing group works. (This is the more likely scenario). I have written about Triberr before and while it has had its ups and downs, I think it still helps with spreading the word about your posts. Most members are a 1 - 3 days out with posts (meaning they are sharing my Monday post on Thursday). I shared a few posts from the past week as well. 

Further evidence that it was the sharing of others that got my blog noticed: This week I didn't have a Meet the Author post. I posted a blogger opp sign up Monday night. No new post on Tuesday. Thus continuing my irregular posting that has plagued my blog the last few weeks. Yet, my numbers have been up. Daily someone (and usually more than 1 someone) is sharing a post on Twitter from my blog. 

Though my readership hasn't declined, I still haven't answered my question - Does Anyone Care What I Have to Say? I don't ask out of pity, but out of desire to better provide content to my readers. Would you mind answering 1 question?

What do you most want to read on my blog?
Please leave a comment with your answer (it doesn't have to be from the list above).

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April 17, 2013

Michael Frissore: Humor in the Craft

Puppet Shows, my humorous collection of absurdist short stories from Writers AMuse Me Publishing, might not be the type of book one thinks of when discussing “the Craft.” The stories are there to make the reader laugh. Nonetheless, Puppet Shows is crafty, even if it’s more witchcraft or spacecraft than actual “Craft.”

Here, I’ll prove it. “Heckle,” the story of a boy named after a cartoon magpie whose father literally explodes one evening then is later adopted by an organ grinder and his performing monkey, was very carefully crafted. “Heckle” began as two flash fictions, “Carole Lombard is Dead” and “Frances the Monkey,” that no literary journal would touch because they didn’t “go anywhere” or “mean anything.” So what did your humble Wednesday Writer do? Weep? Well, yes, but he also combined the two pieces, did a little research on organ grinding, and BOOM! “Heckle” was born.

I did the same with “Grandpa & Me,” the heart-wrenching tale of a boy whose grandfather elopes with the Bogeyman. That story was originally just 200 words until I decided it needed more meat on its bones if anyone was to take it seriously. I did, however, refuse to do this with the first story in Puppet Shows, “Dinner with Reginald,” which I considered perfect as a small flash piece.

Take another gem from Puppet Shows, “Q.Q.’s Barbershop,” the story of a man who lives and cuts hair inside a whiskey bottle. All that took was combining the usable parts of a story I wrote in college after seeing a W.C. Fields short with a couple of other flash pieces I wrote later, including one about a man wanting to give his deceased pet squirrel a haircut, and KAPOW! We have Q.Q.

I used a similar formula for “The Seven Stages of Sorrow” (which was just one of seven titles I used for that story, one of which was “The Girl in the Ultimate Warrior Jacket”). I had separate, very brief stories about a desert caravan, a teacup ride coming loose at a state fair, two friends wrestling each other as Chris Jericho and Yoshihiro Tajiri, plus three other shorts. Threw them all into the same pot and Bozdee bozdee bop zitty bop! I had my story.

It was the same deal with “The Rise and Fall of the Sockdolagers,” a cute tale about flying sock puppets, and “The Adventures of Root Beer Float Man.” Both of those date back more than ten years when I created the characters in a writers’ forum on Yahoo! Groups and serialized them. People kind of dug both series. So those ideas were in storage for a while, but I never completely forgot them. How could you forget Root Beer Float Man?

I guess the part of “the Craft” I’m talking about is editing, some of which includes taking a little of this and a little of that, and ramming them together, kind of like what Lennon and McCartney did with “A Day in the Life” and “I’ve Got a Feeling.” Not that I’m Lennon or McCartney, or even Ringo. If I’m any type of beetle, I’ve always seen myself as a kabutomushi, the Japanese ninja beetle.

Anyway, another type of editing is what some writers call “killing your baby.” Now, don’t worry. They don’t mean in an Andrea Yates or Susan Smith kind of way. I’m referring to something like what I did with another story in Puppet Shows, “Treasure of the Urinal Cake,” which was to take 5,000 words, cut them in half, say hello to the first 2,500, and so long to the other 2,500, never to be heard from again. Services will be held for them tomorrow.

Some other tidbits about “Treasure,” you ask? Well, I, of course, had the novel and Humphrey Bogart film Treasure of the Sierra Madre in mind while penning this story, but I initially wrote the two main characters as silly college students who tear through Boston Common and Faneuil Hall looking for treasure. Then an editor of some journal whose name I can’t remember suggested I change it into a hard-boiled detective story a la Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett. I did so, and he still rejected it, but it was later accepted by a U.K. journal and included in Puppet Shows.

“Treasure,” by the way, brought me my two favorite rejections of all time. The first one can’t even be printed here because this is a family site. So contact me if you want to hear that one. The other said, “You’re hilarious, but you treat your characters like puppets.” Ergo, Puppet Shows.

But perhaps no story in Puppet Shows is as obsessively crafted as “Dinner at Wither Port,” the tale of an awards banquet at a mental institution. I wrote the first version of DWP nearly twenty years ago. It helped me win an award for fiction at my college. I later tried to shoehorn the story into a screenplay I was writing until two films came out that had the same plot as mine, one of which starred Zack from Saved by the Bell, for Pete’s sake!

I toyed with DWP in every possible way after that. It was a musical, a radio drama, a children’s nursery rhyme. Then I turned it back into a short story and submitted it to journals until it was accepted by one whose name I can’t even mention. The editor of this now-defunct e-zine asked me not to mention the journal’s name in Puppet Shows, or anywhere, because it “was snapped up by a pornographic group.”

So, dear reader, that is my take on the Craft, at least as far as Puppet Shows is concerned. Now, writing my first novel, I find it gets a little more complicated after twenty years of penning short prose and poems. Onward and upward.

About the Author:
Prior to Puppet Shows, Michael Frissore published two poetry chapbooks and an ebook called The Thief. He has recently had new work appear in Unlikely Stories, Zygote in My Coffee, Untoward Magazine, and Revolt Daily. He’s currently writing the greatest professional wrestling novel in modern history. Mike grew up in Massachusetts and lives in Oro Valley, Arizona with his wife and two children.

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Buy the book from Amazon!

Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small fee is earned when purchases are made through the above links. The views, opinions, and beliefs expressed by contributing authors are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of Girl Who Reads.

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April 15, 2013

Bloggers Sign up! Beyond the Iron Gate Giveaway

Free Blogger Opportunity!

Beyond the Iron Gate Book Blast Giveaway
April 26

Sign up HERE!

Prize Pack:  $25 Amazon Gift Card, Tote Bag, Rubber bracelets (2), Handmade beaded necklace and earrings set, Keychain, Autographed postcard and bookmark, Magnets, Series trading cards

In the year 1845, before the mystical land of Fallada was separated from the realm of men forever, the two worlds coexisted in harmony. Man could mingle freely in the world of the Elves and Faeries at will and peace reigned.

In the hills of Shropshire, England, just miles from the gate separating the village of Ludlow from the world of mystical creatures, farmer’s daughter Zara Wells longs for answers. It is not only the golden hair that trail feet behind her, or the strange hue of her violet eyes that separates her from the other girls her village. There is something inside of her, something touched by magic that longs to know more about what lies on the other side of the gate.

In Fallada, darkness has begun to spread. As the youngest and most beautiful girls of her village begin to disappear, Zara comes closer to discovering the true circumstances surrounding her birth. Little does she know, that the closer she comes to the answers she so desperately desires, the closer she will come to being ensnared in the dark queen’s web of growing treachery.

Sign up HERE

A GWR Publicity promotional event paid for by Anchor Group Publishing. Giveaway sponsored by the author, Alicia Michaels.