Monday, December 4, 2017

Get THE WISH THIEF for a steal!

I'm offering you my personal favorite for a steal. Just $2.99 (Reg. $4.99) for the holidays. Click here to go to Amazon page.

The Wish Thief: A Modern Fantasy With Holiday Spirit
More than once I've been asked of all of the books I've created, which one do I like the best. Hands down it's The Wish Thief because of the main character, Glory Alley, is the loyal best friend I would have liked to have had as a girl. She's adventurous, prone to fits of laughter, a bit of a science geek, too proud to back away from a fight, a mix of Tom Boy and Girly Girl, self-conscience about her weight, but not into fashion because her entire wardrobe is hand-me-downs. Plus, she wouldn't look down on my family for being poor because so is Glory's. Used to struggling to survive at both home and school, little does she know her biggest challenge is around the bend, down in the forbidden caverns of Queen's Mesa. Did I mention that Glory is a cave explorer and wannabe geologist? Very cool attributes in a best friend! 

The story opens a few years after her mother's death. Glory's father drowns his grief in alcohol, while the house falls down around them. To escape her troubles at home, Glory frequently treks across the countryside to the mysterious caves of Queen's Mesa. When Glory finds a priceless treasure beyond compare, she thinks all of her dreams are about to come true, but as bad luck would have it, otherworldly creatures with mystical powers arrive to foil her plans. However, dauntless Glory faces them with her own brand of magic--the power of never giving up. And, the battle is on! 

The story takes place on a world much like our own, during the Season of Giving, making it a fun book to cozy into around the holidays. There are religious undertones to the tale, so subtle you may not even notice, but if you enjoy digging for that sort of thing, you won't be disappointed. The price is right, so take a chance on Glory today! 

Click here to find it on Amazon

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Win an Avant Nation Coffee Mug



I'm celebrating the release of Escape the Machine, book number two of the Avant Nation series, by giving away a nifty coffee mug.

The front is of the main character, Clara Spinner. The image symbolizes how she is caught in the daily grind of the cosmic machine, like so many cogwheels, spinning around and around: 

The back of the mug reads:

Avant Nation
Caution: Cogs at Work 

The mug is a fun little giveaway, a way of paying homage to my writing fuel of choice, coffee! 

To enter all you have to do is sign-up to follow my blog here or already be a follower. Regretfully, only those of you living in the United States are eligible (because shipping costs are crazy).

Click HERE to check out Escape the Machine (Avant Nation, Book #2). Thank you for your interest in my work and good luck!


Monday, July 3, 2017

Independence Day and Washington Have Gone to the Dogs

Oh, happy fault. Pedigree made a short documentary about General George Washington and his enemy's lost dog. It's a clever ploy to plug their products, but who cares? The video accurately captures a little piece of history during the War of Independence and I love it!

From the evidence gathered, George Washington was a dog lover, partial to Staghounds, a hunting breed similar to what we call Greyhounds today. Sweet Lips, Vulcan and Scentwell were some of their names. He also had several Black and Tan Coonhounds, including rascals Drunkard, Taster, Tippler and Tipsy. Could it be that their owner was a bit of a Boozehound himself? After all, Washington did own the largest distillery in America and enjoyed a fine imported Madeira every now-and-then. However, he was no drunkard. The man was a model of moderation and self-control.

There's a rumor among dog breeders that Washington bred the Black and Tan Coonhounds with his Staghounds, which resulted in America's first Foxhounds. After studying the comparison, what do you think? 

Hmm . . . maybe.

Now back to the commercial. The scene takes place in Pennsylvania, October 1777, during the Battle of Germantown. Cornwallis had previously marched into Philadelphia and claimed it for the British, so spirits were low. Of course, as the video captures so well, Washington never lost his sense of integrity.  

If you want to know more about the incident, there's a really cute children's book called George Washington and the General's Dog by Frank Murphy that summarizes it quite nicely. If you prefer an adult version, check out General Howe's Dog, by Caroline Tiger.

The original letter Washington wrote to Howe has been preserved for history. To see it, click here.

I wasn't planning on doing a blog entry today, especially not about dog food, but after I watched the commercial I couldn't stop myself. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. Happy 4th of July! 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Avant Nation Publishing News

Here's a list of what's been going on over here in "cog" land:

Title Changes

  • When novel one was released back in 2015 it was simply called Avant Nation. I recently went back to give it a subtitle, Resist the Machine. Available here.
  • Avant Nation is now the name of the entire series. 
    Sequel Release Info
    • The title of the second book is Escape the Machine.
    • Gingerman Editorial has given it a thorough content edit and now it's currently with Mitey Editing for a line-by-line check. At this point, I can't give a precise publication date. My best guess is September 2017, thereabout. Fingers crossed.

    Book Cover Switch-A-Roo

    • I had planned to commission the same cover artist to do all of the books in the series, but he has dropped out of the business. Talk about bummed. I absolutely adored the image of Clara clinging for dear life on a giant cogwheel, but whaddaya gonna do?
    • I decided to use the opportunity to rethink the vibe I wanted it to give off.  Since Avantica is a place where the government uses advanced technology to exercise total control over its citizens, I wanted book cover 2.0 to wed Technology with Big Brother Is Always Watching for a creepy Utopia Gone Wrong effect. Do you think the new cover is effective that way? Feel free to comment. 

      Available on Amazon
    • A big thank you to my new cover artist, Keith Draws. When I approached him, I had a totally different idea in mind that I later scrapped. He was infinitely patient with my indecisiveness. Check out his webpage here.

    Evolution of Avant Nation's Lingo

    I made a few small editorial changes to the world building in book one. For starters, I gave names to technology that hasn't quite come to fruition yet in the real world. 
    • If you have read book one, you already know that flat screens are a thing of the past in the advanced nation of Avantica. Three dimensional viewing is everywhere. Images from video games and television are projected into the air. The Avants call these images video clouds. Vloud is the slang term (video + cloud). 
    • The clock makers wear telescopic goggles now instead of sunglasses. I didn't give them a special name, but I wanted to let you know.
    • In keeping with my own vision of the future, the majority of vehicles in Avantica are now driverless. The citizens summon them like taxis and simply tell the on board computer where they want to go. No human driver required. I decided to keep calling them cars and trucks. The reason being is that Avants assume a vehicle is driverless unless someone says otherwise.
    • The young Avants in the artificial wombs at the population factories are no longer called children. They're potentials. 
    Since every powerful culture develops its own vernacular, I think it makes sense the Avants would as well.  

    Now you're up-to-date and hopefully eager for book two. 

    In upcoming posts, I'll reveal the the precise publication date for Escape the Machine (Avant Nation, Book #2), how to get it at a discount, and maybe talk about some of the cool elements commonly found in dystopian cover art.  

    Thursday, May 4, 2017

    Discuss Comet Dust Online with the Catholic Book Club

    Goodreads . . . The Catholic Book Club
    Comet Dust, a supernatural apocalyptic thriller based on the astonishing revelations of the saints, is the the Catholic Book Club's Book of the Month. I'm excited to be chosen and a little scared to find out what readers really think. Heh.

    If you'd like to read or join the online discussion over at Goodreads, here's the link: 

    Click Here for the Comet Dust Discussion 

    For those of you who may not be familiar with Goodreads, it's a free website for book lovers. Think of it as a large library that you can wander through and see everyone's bookshelves, their reviews, and their ratings. You can post your own reviews, catalog what you have read, what you are currently reading, and plan to read in the future. You can join a book club, create one of your own, and sign up to win free books.

    Wednesday, August 10, 2016

    Comet Dust and the Gender Divide

    Received 90% of male vote.

    Book Cover Appeal: Men and Women are NOT Alike

    Most of us are vaguely aware of this fact, but I was gobsmacked by it over the weekend.

    Anyone who has followed my writing for a while knows how I like to experiment with book covers and titles. Hence, my new novel was called Days of Darkness for barely a week. The new title is Comet Dust. 

    You'll recognize the same 'Brunette in the Wind' from the original Days of Darkness cover. Over the weekend, I came up with an alternative cover, 'Purple Starry Head'.  

    The two covers are designed to give off different vibes.  In the aftermath of a comet hitting the Earth, Brunette in the Wind plays off of the ongoing chaos and decline of civilization. On the other hand, Purple Starry Head captures the main character's determination to hold onto her dreams and work for a brighter future.

    Received 90% of female vote.
    Anyway, I conducted a very scientific poll to gather input. It consisted of me emailing family members and asking random people on the internet to choose their favorite cover. Thirty or so people replied back. Age range: 13 to 59. About two-thirds were women.  

    Since I didn't intend the poll to be a study of gender differences, the results surprised me. Only one male voted for Purple Starry Head. Two women voted for Brunette in the Wind. That's a striking gender divide. I'd love to know the reason. Do you think it's just a color palette thing with Comet Dust or something deeper? Feel free to comment below.

    What I have taken away from this is that men and women have very different tastes. Duh. Of course, they do. But what does it mean for me as an author? 

    The poll tells me that I should use a target market approach. When facing the apocalyptic fiction crowd, which has a strong male readership, Brunette in the Wind is the obvious choice. If I'm going after a female-dominated genre like paranormal suspense, I should probably go with Purple Starry Head. Then again, maybe I should toss both covers and go with something entirely different. Lucky for me, changing an eBook cover on a whim is super easy. Hurrah for the digital age!

    The following was edit in later on August 26, 2016: 

    Another hurrah for the digital age! Just because I can . . . my experimentation with book covers continues.

    Here's a third option. I dub it 'Dusty Gloom'.

    This cover displays the dust left behind by the comet in literal fashion. It lingers in the air, reducing the amount of sunlight reaching the surface of the planet, creating famines and economic disasters. The mood it's supposed to provoke is confusion and despair. Although the main character tries to remain optimistic, a sense of hopelessness has gripped the world, and it's weighing her down.

    I wish the Dusty Gloom cover had existed when I conducted the poll. It would be helpful to know how it stacks up against the others. What do you think?

    Monday, May 16, 2016

    Common Newbie Writer Mistakes (And How To Avoid Them)

    C. D. Verhoff
    Fiction Writer

    1. Starting with a prologue.

    General rule of thumb, ask yourself if the story makes sense without the prologue. If it does, get rid of it and work the information into later chapters. When your book contains a prologue, in essence, you’re starting the story twice. It’s difficult enough to hook the reader once, so don’t risk having to do it a second time.

    2. Opening with a dream scene.  

    This is the equivalent to playing a trick on your audiences. “Ha, ha! I made you think this exciting scene was really happening, but it was only a dream. Fooled ya!” Readers will not be amused.

    3. Avoiding the word “said”.

    It’s the dialogue word of choice, so apply liberally. Professional fiction writers refer to it as an invisible word. The mind overlooks it, which keeps the attention on the events of the story, not the prose. That’s a good thing. Dialogue tags such as he replied, she grumbled, he sighed, she retorted and he quipped are fine, but use them judiciously. On the other hand, fully embrace he said and she said. 

    4. Chapter One begins with the main character waking up.

    Beginning your novel with a wake up scene isn't wrong, but it's certainly not original. “Are you crazy?” Some of you might protest. “The character waking up to a new day, to new possibilities, is the most natural place in the world to begin.” I won’t argue the point and neither will a million other writers who have started their stories exactly the same way. Having the main character wake up and throw the alarm clock is also cliché. So is waking up and shuffling to the mirror to give a character’s physical description to your readers (see #5 below).

    Search your imagination. Bring out the conflict ASAP. Start with a bang, not the groan of someone getting out of bed.

    5. Having the main character look in the mirror or some other reflective surface in order to give physical description.

    I have seen new writers galore, including myself back in the day, start their novel something like this:

    The main character wakes up, stretches, shuffles bleary-eyed over to the basin to splash water on his or her face. The character happens to catch his or her reflection in the mirror. If it's a woman, she contemplates her emerald eyes, ivory skin and silky raven locks. If it's a guy, he combs his fingers through his disheveled hair, studies his chiseled jaw and admires his six-pack abs. Does this sound familiar?

    New writers think this is a clever way to sneak in physical description, but no. It’s usually the mark of an amateur. If you decide to give a character's physical description, and it's not always necessary, stretch your writing skills to bring it out in some other way. 

    6. Waiting too long to introduce the conflict.

    Paragraph one of the first chapter should deliver the conflict or at least hint at it. What obstacle will the main character face? Who or what is standing in the way of happiness? Conflict drives the story. Readers want to have an idea where the story is going before they invest a lot of time on it. It will be difficult to convince your readers to keep turning the pages if you fail to entice them with a juicy problem on page one.

    7. Bad guy clichés.

    Have you imposed a ‘bad guy’ dress code throughout your novel? Look around. Are your villains dressed in black, specifically black leather? Do they wear their sunglasses at night, have pock marked skin, scars, rotten teeth, bad hygiene or breath that reeks of garlic and onions? If so, relax the dress code a bit. Introduce some color to their wardrobes. Bathe them in Irish Spring and buy them a tin of Altoids.

    For example, a killer in one of my stories was taught to knit by his dearly departed granny. The last thing his victims see as they’re being impaled with knitting needles are his bright homemade sweaters. Doesn't that cheerful smilie face sweater up the creepy factor?

    Don’t get me wrong, there are times when black makes sense. It’s the choice of Ninjas and burglars alike, but don’t get caught in a rut. Stretch your imagination where you can to add extra personality to your villains.

    8. Adverb addiction.

    The first step is to admit that you have an adverb problem. If you’re unsure, look around. Do you see words ending in –ly lurking on every page? Study your speech tags. Do they look anything like this:

       “You’re beautiful,” he said sarcastically.
       “I bet you say that to all of the girls,” she retorted dryly.

    If you answered yes to any of the questions, you are probably an adverb addict. There are numerous online articles about why adverbs ought to be avoided in fiction. I encourage you to search them out on your own. I also recommend Stephen King’s book, On Writing. If he can’t convince you to give up your adverb habit, I might as well forget it.

    The first stop is acknowledging you have an adverb problem, but if you can’t give them up cold turkey, start by limiting them to two or three per chapter.

    9. Average Joe and Jane characters.

    I can hear the protests now. Are you crazy? It’s Joe’s ordinariness that makes him so gosh darn relatable. I agree to a certain point, but on some level a character must be larger-than-life. Part of the draw of fiction is that it pulls readers into someone else’s life. Readers don’t want to read about drab humdrum lives. They are seeking new experiences through the written word. The more dramatic, the better. Who wants to hang out with a meek little lamb who never makes a splash in the world? It’s human nature to want to hang out with inspiring friends or to gawk at the car wreck. Give your readers unforgettable characters in memorable situations .

    If I’m going to hang out with Plain Jane for three hundred pages, she doesn’t have to be pretty or intelligent (though it’s recommended), but she needs to have something not-so-average about her.

    Maybe Jane is incredibly driven to win the class spelling bee. Maybe she’s determined to avenge her father’s death. Perhaps she has caught the interest of a serial killer. Then again, maybe she is holding a grudge against her sister, they haven’t spoken for twenty years, and they’re shipwrecked on an island together. Will they forgive each other and work to get off the island? Or will they kill each other before they can be rescued?  

    Part of the draw of fiction is that it lets us escape our own reality for a little while. That’s why a character and her problems ought to be extraordinary. Speaking for myself, that’s why I’m drawn to fiction in the first place. It pushes my imagination beyond the average, beyond the ordinary, to something larger-than-life.

    10. Inattention to micro-tension.

    This is the moment-by-moment conflict that keeps a reader in a continuous state of suspense. Micro-tension is separate from the main conflict; it is not the same as plot. This kind of tension comes from the inside of the your characters, their emotions in conflict, ideas at war with one another, their inner turmoil. Bring it out in your character’s thoughts, the dialogue, and his reaction to the world around him.

    11. Going it on your own.

    Four eyes are better than two. Two brains are better than one. I suggest growing a thick skin and seeking honest feedback from a critique buddy. And don’t be snobby about it. Finding an experienced writer to exchange chapters with is like finding gold and a beginner is silver. Both are valuable commodities. If you don’t know any writers who might want to exchange critiques with you, a good place to find one is an online site called Critique Circle. I found a great critique buddy on Goodreads by combing through the various writing groups. Hatrack is another possible avenue.

    12. Adhering rigidly to advice like mine. 

    First, learn the rules and expectations of good fiction, then occasionally break them. For example, the The Hunger Games begins with a wake up scene. However, Suzanne Collins is no newbie writer, making  newbie mistakes. Her wake up scene is masterfully done. Originally, I planned to discuss why it works so well, but I think it deserves it's very own post. Stay tuned.

    If you’ve made any of this newbie mistakes, don't get discouraged. You’re not alone. I’ve made most of them myself. Consider it a right of passage. You’re on your way. Happy Writing.

    Get THE WISH THIEF for a steal!

    I'm offering you my personal favorite for a steal. Just  $2.99 (Reg. $4.99) for the holidays. Click here to go to Amazon page. ...