Monday, April 28, 2014

Cover reveal for Rock me Gently by M.J. Schiller

Exciting day: cover reveal for M.J. Schiller's book Rock me Gently. It will be available on May 1st, and you can win a free e-copy on the author's blog: www.mjschillerauthor.blogspot.com





Blurb:

Rock-star Josh Dunningham is anticipating another average evening of drinking and easy sex. As he downs his shot of tequila and watches a second shot travel to the other end of the bar, he makes eye contact with a blonde that will change the outcome of his evening. When he strolls around to try to pick-up this incredible-looking lady and stares into her face, he loses his usual cool.  

Cassie McCallister is floored when the Josh Dunningham, of Money Back Guaranteed, invites her back to his room. The Midwestern advertising executive has never had a one-night stand, but the tall, gorgeous singer certainly gets her heart aflutter. Would it be possible for her just to sleep with him and not let her heart get involved? Or will memories of her ex-fiancé, Troy, always keep her from getting romantically involved, on any level, with another man? 

Will Josh and Cassie be able to overcome their separate issues with their pasts and find the love that they both so desperately need? Or is this relationship doomed to fail from the outset? Just when things seem to be going smoothly for the pair, Cassie starts receiving threatening mail and is attacked in her home. Will they discover who wants her away from Josh before it’s too late?  

ROCK ME, GENTLY ~ COMING MAY 1ST! 

To enter to win a free e-copy go to
Drawing on Saturday, May 3rd.


About the author: 

MJ is a lunch lady in the heart of Central Illinois. My gosh, can you get more folksy than that? She met her husband at the University of Missouri-Columbia and now she has an nineteen-year-old (how did that happen?) and seventeen year old triplets! She loves to read, karaoke (where she can pretend she is a rock star), and spends way too much time on Facebook. She grew up in St. Louis and still has family there.


Excerpt:


Josh steered Cassie toward an exit, hoping fresh air would help to sober her up.  They ended up at the outdoor pool, a monstrosity complete with overhanging palm trees. Not a soul was in sight, unusual, even at this time of night.
Away from the casino hubbub, it was easier to talk. She eyed him. “Tell me about the band.”
“What do you want to know?”
“Well, as an advertising person, I’m interested in the gimmick, Money Back Guaranteed. Did you ever have to back up that promise?”
Josh took a couple of seconds to think about that. “Yeah. A few times. Once, when an elderly couple came with their granddaughter. They didn’t like the show at all.”  Remembering their reaction, he grimaced. “And once, when a girl caught her fiancé in the hall with another girl. Hardly our fault, but, she didn’t enjoy the concert, and that’s our promise, so…” He shrugged.  
“Interesting. Interesting.” She lifted a leg, grabbing his shoulder for balance, and tugged on the heel of her boot.
“Uhh…what are you doing?”
“My feet are killing me. You’re so lucky you are a guy and don’t have to wear heels.”
“Yes. I was just mentioning that to my friend, Ryan, the other day.”
She didn’t look up. Having successfully removed one boot, she switched legs to work on the other. “Really?”
He smiled. “No. Go on.”
Yanking the other boot off, she nearly toppled over, though still holding on to him. She squeezed his arm. “You’re built.”
He nearly laughed at her frank statement. “Thank you.”
Holding her boots in one hand, her brow furrowed as she concentrated on her next question. She began to balance on the edge of the pool, which was deserted, and scoop stepped, trailing one leg in the water, not seeming to mind at all that her jeans were getting wet.    
“I don’t think that’s such a good idea,” he warned, taking her arm to steady her. 
“I’m fine,” she assured him, breaking away for an instant to do a pirouette in the pool’s gutter to demonstrate.
“Okay, okay,” he muttered, grabbing her arm again. “No need to show off. So why are you in the advertising game?”
“I like the creative aspect of it. And, I can be very persuasive,” she said, smiling at him. As if he somehow silently challenged her, she stopped with a jerk and turned toward him, lifting up on her toes to kiss him. The taste of her was just as intoxicating as the booze had been, and left him equally dizzy. The flavor of sweet lime and midnight rolled across his tongue and sank into him unbidden. Someone in the hotel rooms surrounding the pool above them slammed a door, startling Cassie, the sharp sound almost like gunfire. She jumped away from him like she had been shot herself and started to lose her balance. He reached to save her, but too late, she fell into the pool, dragging him in after her.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

The future is now

When I was a little girl I used to think about the year 2000. In the 1970s and 80s it seemed so far in the future. I would wonder what the world would be like in the year 2000, and what I would be like. 

I counted the years and thought I'd be ancient by the time the new millennia finally arrived. In my imagination it would have androids and spaceships, and I worried I'd be too old to appreciate all that.

Now it's 2014. In the 1980s, science fiction took place in 2014.

The world didn't end. Androids aren't here, at least not like I imagined, and what spaceships we have are nothing like Jason of Star Command. It's okay to laugh, but Jason of Star Command was a big deal when I was six. ;-)

What brings me down this line of thought? Well, I got my new green card yesterday. It's valid until 2024. That's only ten years away, but it sounds so far into the future I can't fathom it.

The world has changed a lot during the past ten years, but at least I don't pay attention until I sit down and think back. If you had told me ten years ago I'd have a cell phone that would understand voice commands, be able to give me directions, and be able to talk wirelessly to my car I would have said, "Suuure I will." Now it's an every-day part of life I don't give a second thought.

2024... How much do you think it will have changed by then? Will we have implants instead of cell phones? Flying cars? Will we have suffered a Zombie apocalypse or an alien invasion? Okay, the last two aren't likely, but a lot of interesting things might happen.

What are the innovations you would be most interested in seeing?


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Keep an eye on your Amazon account!

When I checked my e-mail the other day, I had a message from Amazon saying, "Your order has shipped." That would be awesome - if I had placed an order. Looking at the account revealed a pair of Beats Studio headphones going out to a Daniel Drecker in Indiana. 

I contacted Amazon and said that I don't know a Daniel Drecker, I've never been to Indiana, and I certainly don't want to send him a $300 pair of headphones.

Anyway, Amazon investigated, and it turns out this guy chatted with them giving my e-mail address. He somehow figured out that I have ordered Beats Studio headphones in the past and persuaded them to send a replacement order to him.

If I hadn't been alert, I wouldn't have realized this until Amazon started asking me why I didn't return the broken pair.

Amazon stopped the shipment, removed his shipping address and the fraudulent order from my account, and I changed my password. I also contacted the website ic3.gov where you can report Internet-related crime.

Today, I got a message from Amazon saying, "I'm writing to follow up on our recent chat conversation. I've forwarded your inquiry to our Account Specialist Support team regarding to reinstate the replacement order. You should hear back from them by 24 - 48 hours."

Again?

Seriously?

I said, "Oh no you don't" and sent a message to Amazon to let them know he's trying again.

To be fair, Drecker might be an innocent third party used as a shipping address. He might not be involved in all this at all. He might not even be a real person. For all these reasons I decided not to post his name, address, phone number, and so on the first time all this happened.

If you try to defraud me twice in a week you're making me mad.

Also, if you attempt to defraud someone and the shipment is stopped, you've clearly been discovered. Doesn't it seem stupid to try again?

This time I changed the e-mail address associated with my account, updated the complaint at ic3.gov, and called my local Sheriff's office. I didn't know what to expect, on TV American police seem kinda scary, bit it was a pleasant surprise. The guy who answered was awesome.

He had a pleasant phone voice and took me seriously. He was kind, calm, filled with good advice, and clearly someone to hide behind when the bad guys close in. My only regret is that I can't remember his name.

Moral of the story? Keep an eye on your accounts!

Besides all this real life stuff, I'm sure you've seen Internet memes like this:


Daniel Drecker in Indiana is now scheduled to be an annoying side-character in a book. He's not worthy of main character status, but he will definitely be in there. The nice man at the Sheriff's office will model the hero, of course, and I'm thinking of making up a crime syndicate for him to battle.

Besides giving fuel for my imagination, Drecker is an annoying little twirp. It doesn't matter if he's really in his 50s and six feet tall; he's still a little twirp.

Has something like this ever happened to you? If so, what did you do?

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Have you tried Kickstarter?

I sometimes skulk around on Kickstarter, because I like the concept of crowd funding. There's a fair amount of book publishing projects there, everything from people asking for money to finish writing a book to editing and actual publishing. Some are successful, others not so much.

Have you tried funding a project through Kickstarter? Did it work out?

I've been thinking about trying a project. I have many unfinished books slumbering in my computer, and if I could just fund some writing time I could make something.

A main point seems to be to have many tiers of rewards, so people get something cool in exchange for their money. When looking at others' projects I've seen many good ideas. Some make a thank-you list at the end or beginning of the book. Some name characters after funders giving more than a certain amount. The funders get the finished product, of course, along with other fun stuff depending on size of their contribution.

If anyone has thoughts on this, I'd love to hear. Would you fund a Kickstarter project? Why, or why not?





Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Planning for the RT convention

I have heard people talk about the RT convention for years, and deeming from photos on Facebook, the visitors sure have fun. Last year I decided that 2014 was "it" - the year when I would finally put heart and soul into being a writer, and when I would get my butt out of the chair to attend writing events.

The heart and soul thing was side-tracked after a few weeks into the new year. Starting a new job was counter-productive, to say the least, and I have been attempting to re-find balance in life ever since. But, that's another story to be told a day soon.

Thus far I have accomplished some of my butt-out-of-chair goal - I've been to many events and made many new friends. At least one thing to check off as accomplished.

So, RT... 

I signed up last fall, and at the time the convention seemed so far away. My brain isn't wired to prepare for something that happens months in the future. At least I found a wonderful roomie, who booked a room for us. I paid my fees, and joined a couple of author groups.

Now it's closing in - it's just three weeks away - and I'm getting excited. I have my swag, I have my books. Don't have clothes, but people will just have to take me the way I am. 

I haven't quite figured out how to get to New Orleans yet. I'm thinking of driving. It's far - it's almost eleven hours away - but there are advantages to taking a car. Like, I don't have to wait in the Atlanta airport. (I dislike the Atlanta airport.) I don't have to worry about how much luggage I can bring there, or back. It's many hundreds of dollars cheaper to drive there than to fly.

Downside. It takes almost eleven hours. Even with the Atlanta layover, flying only takes five. And, if I take my car it won't be at home for my husband to use. His don't work very well.

I've never been to New Orleans, but I'm sure Siri could find the hotel. Siri can find almost anything.

Regardless of how I'll get there, I'm excited. Are you going? Have you been? Did you like it?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

I want to write a book on company culture. Good idea, yes or no?

Culture fascinates me. Regional areas have common quirks and ideas, and the same goes for organizations. During my travels and different jobs I've encountered everything from high-spirited corporations where employees take pride in their employer and their work to more depressing versions where employees want to run for their lives after just one week.

My first real job was with a small business consultant firm. I spent a few years there and this laid the foundation to how I see organizations to this day. I just never had an urge to do anything with the observations until now.

I believe that a sustainable, positive company culture is vital to any organization, small as well as large. It will determine whether employees are happy and productive, taking pride in what they do, or if they're miserable, spending their days looking for other jobs or dreaming of whatever's outside the wall.

Bigger organizations generally have an HR department with people trained to handle employees and employee matters, and odds are they have someone well versed in company culture and its impact. I firmly believe that company culture starts at the top, but having someone aware of the phenomenon certainly helps. Smaller organizations - anyone with one employee besides the owner or more - need to think about it as well, and I bet my sunglasses that it's the last thing on the owner's mind.

Don't laugh; sunglasses are important in Florida.

Or, well, go ahead and laugh all you want. I recently had someone point out to me that a sense of humor wasn't an asset, but I disagree. Everything is better with a sense of humor, especially in the office.

The owner of a smaller business has a million things to think about. How should the business grow? Are employees performing up to standards or messing around with their blogs, pretending to work? Do we have enough money for payroll? Should I do accounting in-house or outsource the paperwork? Should we be local or international, do we have enough funding to purchase the new equipment we need, how many employees can share an office, how do we reach new customers... The row of questions is endless, and company culture often falls far down on the list. Too far down.

Many organizations are built around one person, and he or she is a workaholic by necessity. If this wasn't the case, they probably wouldn't have started a company in the first place. They certainly wouldn't keep running it. But, how does this fact affect the employees and their performance?

Company culture is elusive, but I claim that it is something you can see. It shows itself in employee behavior and retention.

I imagine my book as a discussion with examples and tips on what to look out for and how to improve.

What do you think, is this a good idea, or should I tuck it back under the pillow and focus on something else?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Please vote for Flashback!

Flashback has been nominated for a RONE award by Ind'Tale Magazine, and I am stoked! This is a multi-step process, and I need your help to continue to the final.

The books that move on will be judged by industry professionals, and winners will get a prize at an award ceremony in Las Vegas. I've never been to Vegas, and if I were to make it to the final, I'd have a reason to go. ;-)

To vote, please visit this website and vote for Flashback by Maria Hammarblad.

You have to be logged in to vote. Creating an account is easy, but if you don't want to sign up with Ind'Tale Magazine, you can also e-mail your vote to anasmith@indtale.com.

Thank you for your support!



Blurb:

Steve Petersen is a very troubled man. Sole survivor of a Taliban POW camp, he often thinks only parts of him returned; his sanity appears to have been left behind. He seeks solace in alcohol and drugs, but nothing helps block the images from his mind for more than minutes at a time, and he is trapped in horrifying flashbacks.

He is more than surprised when he wakes up in a bright and merry bedroom that turns out to belong to the widow Anna, a woman he has rudimentary memories of meeting. Knowing he should leave isn’t the same as doing it, and before he knows what’s happening, he finds himself pulled into a world with real life problems, such as folding laundry, and what’s for dinner.

Whiskey is no longer his first priority, and not being alone in his waking nightmare is a relief. That is, until Anna disappears. Steve finds himself forced to return to Afghanistan, a place where he’ll have to face both external enemies and himself.



Excerpt: 

When they came home, Steve sank down in the sofa without even taking off his jacket. Life outside could sure be exhausting. Anna went into the kitchen, and he rested his head back and closed his eyes. Listening to her hum a song, just a little out of tune as she loaded the coffee maker soothed his nerves.

A hard rattling sound made him open his eyes again. Gunshots, and they were close. Anna still sang, and she would be an easy target.

He ran through the apartment, making sure to stay away from the windows. Peeking around the corner, his beautiful fiancée was oblivious to the danger.

Women.

How did they survive?

He sprung out from his hiding place behind the wall, shoved her down on the floor, and threw himself over her. After all she did for him, protecting her with his own body was the least he could do.

Anna wheezed, clearly trying to draw a breath.

"Sssh, they're coming."

She lay on her back, and the question in her eyes was clear. Have you lost your mind? Of course he had, a long time ago. She should know. When she opened her mouth, he covered it with his hand so she couldn't draw attention to them.

"Don't you hear them? The shots?"

She shook her head and closed her fingers around his wrist, attempting to pull his hand away.

"I think we're safe, but be very quiet."

Anna nodded, and as soon as he removed the hand, she whispered, "Please get off me. I can't breathe."

He obeyed, she endeavored to sit up, and he pulled her back down.

"Don't make yourself a target."

Why did she look so exhausted?

"Sweetheart, there's nothing there."

"But..." He had heard them.

"That noise? Remember the crazy people upstairs? I don't know what they're doing, but it's definitely them."


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Commas giving you grief?

I've noticed that a lot of people have problems with commas, but it's not that hard once you figure out the rules. And, the rules don't have to be as difficult as many convey them. Good grammar can seem superfluous in an age of tweets and texts, but it helps get a message across.


Commas make a difference:
"I like cooking my family and my pets."
"I like cooking, my family, and my pets."


If you see an -ing word, look out for a comma.


Unless it's a really short sentence, like, "I should be working" an -ing word always comes with a comma. It's not always right by the -ing word, but it's there.

Example:

"Alice ran towards the fire, waving her arms in the air."


And, Or, Nor, For, But, So, Yet


These words require attention. Except for "and" all of them should have commas. The word and is an exception because it can have different functions in a sentence.

  • If and is used to separate an element in a series - three or more things - it should have a comma. "We have apples, oranges, and tomatoes." A lot of people skip this comma, but not writing it gives the sentence another meaning. It's the difference between "macaroni and cheese" and "macaroni, and cheese."
  • If and is used as a conjunction - to connect two independent clauses - it should have a comma. "They ran down the street, and the firetruck raced the other way."

Subordinating conjunctions


It's not as bad as it sounds. A subordinating conjunction is a word that connects a main clause to a subordinate clause. There are many subordinating conjunctions. These are words like:

Because, Before, After, Although, Unless, Until, When, As, Since, While, Which

Examples: 

"Paul needed a nap, because he hadn't slept well."
"Although Isabela liked chips, she didn't enjoy the new flavor."
"Mike didn't want to come to the store, unless they were shopping for toys."


Parenthetical elements


A parenthetical is a part of a sentence used to clarify or explain.

Example:

"Maria's computer, which she mostly uses for writing, ran out of battery."


To avoid confusion


Examples:

"Outside the lawn was cluttered with fallen leaves."
"Outside, the lawn was cluttered with fallen leaves."

"Let's eat Grandma."
"Let's eat, Grandma."

"We're going to learn to cut and paste kids."
"We're going to learn to cut and paste, kids."




Thursday, April 3, 2014

Going to the Venice book fair

Venice Florida, that is. Venice Italy would be nice, but this one is in Florida. If you're in the area, come say hi to me. I'm sharing booth with Mal Salter and Myrna Lou Goldbaum. We write about very different things, so we'll have something for everyone.

The Venice Book Fair is in Centennial Park, Saturday April 5th, between ten and three. I will have paperbacks, some swag, and my charming self, of course. ;-)

I feel like I should have something more to say about it, but I've never been before, so I'll have to come back with a review of the event later.



Wednesday, April 2, 2014

It's a Borealis week

If you follow me on any social media you've probably heard me go on and on about how my Borealis novella Shadow of a Man is nominated for a RONE award? In order to give you incentive to vote, I want to share an excerpt from the book.

In my opinion, this book is the best one I've written, closely followed by Flashback. Funny enough, they're also the least popular of all my books. What does that say about me?



"I wish we weren't going to Borealis."

"Trust me, you're not the only one."

Interesting.

Captain Geo rarely answered when she spoke, even if he was right next to her.

Sometimes she forgot what his voice sounded like.

Why is he standing guard inside the room anyway? He's usually on the other side of the door. Oh well, maybe he needs company too.

Theresa turned to meet his eyes and lifted an eyebrow.

"Did something happen to you there?"

He stood right beside the door with his feet apart and his hands tucked behind his back, looking authoritative and unafraid.

"Something happens to everyone who sets foot there. You too. Am I correct?"

This time all willpower in the world couldn't suppress the shudder. How could she be so fearful of a place she'd never seen? Telling herself Borealis was built and inhabited by humans didn't help one bit. She still considered it one of the lower levels of Tartarus where souls were tortured until the end of times.

"You know. You helped get him out."

He nodded, but didn't have time to answer; his radio crackled to life. She couldn't quite make out the mumbling voice on the other side, but it didn't matter.

It wasn't for her.

It was never for her.

"Ma'am."

Geo's voice right next to her made her jump. His chiseled face was almost within kissing distance. How could he be so quiet and still move so quickly?

"I need your assistance."

The mere words made her feel fatigued.

"Oh no. What did he do?"

"He's setting fires on the cargo deck, ma'am. Fire will deplete our air supply."


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Great review for Embarkment 2577!

Readersfavorite.com has kindly reviewed Embarkment 2577. I must admit that I winced when I got the review notice - I like these books, but they are a bit on the silly side and some people hate them. To be fair, many love them as well, but I didn't know what to expect when I followed the link to check out the review.

They gave the book four stars, and I feel that the reviewer "gets" me. Yay!

The reviewer says, "Maria Hammarblad does a wonderful job of adding in enough information and facts to make you really feel like you are learning about living in space along with Alex, but not enough to bore you." She goes on with stating, "Maria Hammarblad gives us a real-life feel in this science fiction novel. The aliens sound plausible and interesting. If anything, Embarkment 2577 makes me want to delve more into science to see if we can't make some of this come true."

Thank you!

Read the full review here, and see the book on Amazon.