Social Reading Sites & Name Twins

Name twins. Such a problem for authors.

Since you can’t reserve or trademark your name, there’s a chance — a good chance, if your name isn’t an odd one — that another person out there shares your name and your literary ambitions. Maybe more than one. Not to mention the possibility that someone with your name isn’t a fiction writer but does publish books: scholarly treatises on some obscure point of economic history, say, or computer programming manuals.

Two problems: 1) you want/need to grab things like URLs and user/profile names before the other party does, and 2) search algorithms can’t tell the difference.

Now, the first one isn’t the worst of problems. If you don’t end up getting “yourname.com”, you can always go with “yournamewriter.com” or something to that effect. My Facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/WriterKella because that was the best available option by the time I went to create it, but… it’s okay. WriterKella is okay, maybe even good. It doesn’t match my Twitter, but I can live with that.

The second problem can be… more of a problem. For instance, the editor of Stamps, Vamps & Tramps is an award-winning author with stories in literary magazines like Joyland and Nimrod, but she shares a name with someone who writes western romances and the author of an art history textbook (as well as at least two fan fiction writers on Wattpad, who could venture into Amazon territory at any time).

Not that there’s anything wrong with any genre, but if you’ve worked hard to build up a readership and reputation in your genre and style, you don’t want your readers confused — and what if that person who shares your name isn’t a good writer, or has a sloppy publisher and terrible cover designer, or has made enemies on Goodreads, or stands for values or politics you abhor?

This is why I claim my profile across all the social reading sites as soon as I can, regardless of whether I like them or want to use them or think they have value.

Amazon is the easiest one to take care of (I blogged about it back when I set my author page up). Once you’ve set up your page and claimed your books, it’s clear which ones are yours, and you can easily direct readers to your Amazon page to see them. Plus, if readers can easily see that Mary Smith #1 has claimed a series of gritty sci-fi adventures while Mary Smith #2 writes sweet Christian romances and inspirational/devotional short stories (with author photos and bios that show the Marys are two completely different people), there’s no confusion.

Goodreads is probably the most important one after Amazon because so many people use it. It’s super easy (there’s a link on unclaimed author pages saying “Is this you?”) and you usually get your approved status and welcome email within a couple of hours. The profile set-up is very straightforward and you can just walk through it as easily as the Amazon one. It lets you display all the usual information and, as with Amazon, you can “claim” your books.

LibraryThing is a bit trickier to use, because it’s more like a library database; there’s a learning curve. You can ask to be a “LibraryThing Author” but it takes a while for the request to be approved (in fact, at first I thought I was being ignored because I just have one story in one anthology, but it’s apparently just slow due to a huge backlog). Even while you’re waiting for LT Author status, though, you can still add an author photo and edit biographical details — actually, you can do this for anyone, not just yourself (some publishers will even take care of this for their authors). Most importantly, if you share a name with some other author(s), LibraryThing lets you split off your works from those of your name twins.

Shelfari seems to be down or slow a lot these days, and I find its mechanics a bit frustrating, but I still think it’s worth checking on your book(s) and author profile there. I believe there’s a way to claim “Shelfari Author” status, but as far as I can tell, there’s no real reason to do so since you can edit everything for your author profile anyway without officially claiming it as a Shelfari user. As with LibraryThing, there’s the ability to combine or split author profiles if you’ve somehow ended up with two or you have a name twin.

Booklikes appears to be mostly a blogging platform for readers and reviewers, but it does have author profiles so it’s worth registering to add the usual photo, bio, website link, etc. Unfortunately, at the moment I don’t see a way to deal with name twins on the site, but perhaps an author in that situation could make a report and have it rectified.

Do you have a name twin in the books-and-publishing world? What have you done to differentiate yourself and make sure your readers aren’t confused?

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Joy of the Season to All

Happy Holidays from Kella Campbell

Health for those who are ailing,
Some comfort for those who feel blue,
Good digestion for all who are feasting
And a deep night’s sleep too.

Love for those who are lonely,
Safe travels for those on the roads,
Only gifts that are actually wanted
And a lightening of loads.

Peace for all on this planet,
And joy of the season to you,
Celebrations without any drama
And your dreams coming true.

Something Yummy: Best-Ever Bread Pudding

I don’t cook — no time, no inclination, no natural talent. But I’ve got to eat. So any food things I make need to be fairly low in their time commitment and domestic skills requirements.

Oh, bread pudding… staple of my university residence dining hall days… perhaps best known for its permanent grip on the dining hall ceiling in the wake of a bygone food fight and rumoured to be a rather fine hair conditioner. Also, it was surprisingly tasty. I seem to remember it was drizzled with syrup or honey (something sticky)? Anyway…

I never really thought about trying to make it until I came across a recipe for Raspberry Nutella Bread Pudding from Evil Shenanigans. And it actually looked easy enough for me to try!

Since then, I’ve found that this way of making bread pudding is almost infinitely adaptable to any kind of flavour/filling, and while the whole milk and 2 Tbsp of cream recommended by Evil Shenanigans makes it extra rich and, well, creamy, the recipe works just fine with 1% milk or even skim. Here’s my adaptation, but do go check out Evil Shenanigans if you want to try the original.

You need:

  • 8 slices of BREAD (any tasty kind — plain white, egg bread, fruit bread, raisin/cinnamon…)
  • 1 1/2 cups MILK (any degree of richness from skim to whole, according to your preference)
  • 1/3 cup SUGAR
  • 2 EGGS
  • 1 tsp. FLAVOURING (vanilla is most standard, but I’ve had some lovely results with almond extract & orange extract too — it really depends on what your filling is)
  • approximately 1 cup FILLING (can be anything delicious… limited only by your imagination and access to ingredients…)
  • extra SUGAR and/or other toppings for dusting/sprinkling
  • (optional) SAUCE to drizzle over the top — custard, maple syrup, honey, chocolate sauce, caramel, fruit coulis…

Heat the oven to 350ºF.

Prepare your baking dish — I usually use a 2.8 L Corningware one — to be non-sticky however you like to do it (I just butter mine).

Make four sandwiches with your bread and filling. You can spread the filling as thickly as you like. Cut the sandwiches into quarters and place them in the baking dish; you get a nice look from triangle-style pieces placed points-up as per the original recipe, but as long as the dish is pretty well crammed with an even layer of sandwich pieces, it should work fine.

Crack the eggs into a suitable container (I often use a 2-cup measuring cup as it pours nicely afterward) and whisk them a little, then add the sugar, milk, and flavouring — keep whisking till it’s all nicely blended.

Pour the egg mixture evenly over the sandwiches. You might need to tilt the dish around a bit to make sure the egg mixture gets into all the corners. Then dust/sprinkle your extra sugar and/or other toppings (orange zest? chocolate chips? rainbow sprinkles?) evenly over the sandwich pieces.

Let it stand for at least ten minutes so the bread can soak up the egg mixture. (This is important. Do not skip this wait time!)

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until set, then let it cool for at least ten minutes. After that, you can serve it warm, let it cool to room temperature, or chill it, as you wish.

Bread pudding can be served with a sauce drizzled over the top, though it’s totally not necessary and I usually don’t bother unless I’m trying to be fancy. Still, it’s one more option to add to this totally flexible dessert… which can also double as breakfast, since it’s mainly egg and milk and bread. And yes, I have eaten this for breakfast.

Review: SEE JANE FALL by Katy Regnery

So I’m lucky enough to be part of the blog tour for See Jane Fall, book #3 in the Heart of Montana series by Katy Regnery.

See Jane Fall Blog Tour Banner

I’ll start off by saying that I’m already a huge fan of Katy’s writing in general and her Heart of Montana series in particular. I don’t think you absolutely need to read the others in the series before this one since it certainly stands alone, but since you’ll probably end up wanting to read them all anyway, it wouldn’t hurt you to grab the first two as well and have a three-book reading binge. And you know what? There’s a Rafflecopter giveaway for e-books of By Proxy (Heart of Montana #1) and Midsummer Sweetheart (Heart of Montana #2) going on until Sunday, as part of the book tour. Just putting that out there. The Lindstroms are… quite a family.

Review

If you enjoy “ugly duckling” stories and family sagas, this is a book (and series) for you. Jane thinks she’s plain, as her name suggests, having grown up in the shadow of her supermodel cousin Sara — known to the world as Samara Amaya. Under family pressure to keep her job as Samara’s assistant despite truly unpleasant working conditions, she’s overdue for a bit of love and happiness. Unfortunately, past experience has proven that every nice thing Jane has gets taken away, and she has no reason to hope it’ll be different this time. So when she meets tour guide Lars Lindstrom during the preparation for supermodel Samara’s fashion shoot in Yellowstone National Park, Jane knows she won’t have a chance once Samara rolls in. Lars says he’s “not that guy” but Jane can’t trust his words, can she?

See Jane Fall is a truly enjoyable book, smoothly written, entertaining, with a nice balance of fun and heat and emotion. I like Jane and her inner turmoil and issues feel real. As for Lars, his choices at certain stages of the book might annoy or infuriate some readers, but I think he comes across as authentic and fully developed, and he certainly redeems himself in full by the end. There’s a bit of red herring jealousy involved, but it’s handled naturally enough that it didn’t really bother me. I adore the way he calls her Minx, and their unfolding relationship is as full and sweet as anything I’ve read in a while.

The message? Family relationships are complicated but everyone has a breaking point beyond which no amount of blood ties and obligation will hold.

Favourite quote? “And yet without his permission or blessing hers was the face the earth had turned to him, to whom he felt bundled and bound, as surely as he did to Yeller, as surely as he was a Lindstrom, and he didn’t know what to do if he couldn’t have her — if she wouldn’t, or couldn’t, belong to him.”

How I found this book? I know the author through Facebook and was invited to be part of the blog tour — Book Plug Promotions gave me a PDF review copy, but I ended up buying it for my Kindle anyway.

4 stars • a definite keeper, highly recommended, totally gripping and very well done

About Katy Regnery

KATY REGNERY, contemporary romance author of the Heart of Montana and Enchanted Places series, has always loved telling a good story. She credits her mother with making funny, heartwarming tales come alive throughout her childhood. A lifelong devotee of all romance writing, from Edwardian to present-day, it was just a matter of time before Katy tried her hand at writing a love story of her own. Living in northern Fairfield County, Connecticut, where her writing room looks out at the woods, her family creates just enough cheerful chaos to remind her that the very best love stories of all are the messy and unexpected ones.

Please track down Katy on Twitter (@KatyRegnery) or Facebook (KatyRegnery) where she loves interacting with her fans…especially at #LunchtimeLiveWithKaty every weekday from 12-1pm EST.

Where to find See Jane Fall

GoodreadsLibraryThingShelfari
BUY IT ON AMAZON

Review & Interview: Miss Mabel’s School for Girls by Katie Cross

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Review

If you like YA fantasy, Miss Mabel’s School for Girls is a must-read. Set aside your comparisons with Harry Potter (inevitable forevermore when an author combines boarding school and witches, not to mention competitions and curses), because Miss Mabel’s is an all-girls boarding school, and Bianca Monroe is far from a “smart girl” stereotype in a witch hat. She struggles with homework, prefers practical study to book learning, adores her family, can’t bear to be caged in… and then there’s that deadly curse she needs to get rid of. To live past the age of seventeen, she has to negotiate with an ultra-glamorous and deadly devious witch who’s playing a much deeper game than anyone knows.

It’s a page-turner that will tempt you to read it all in one sitting, staying up past your bedtime or whatever it takes. The characters are engaging, and the plot clips along with enough unexpected twists to keep you guessing. Don’t expect romance — the only men we see are Bianca’s father and the old coachman — but the plot doesn’t need it. Do expect some darker elements; there’s illness, pain, nasty curses, a couple of deaths, and hints of impending war (so readers below middle school might not be ready for it). This book would make a fabulous movie.

The message? You can be as strong as you need to be.

Favourite quote? “It felt good, mixing fear with a bit of courage, making me feel like I stood up to her, when really I depended on her for my life.”

How I found this book? I know the author through Facebook and am on her launch team — go, Katie!

4.5 stars • rare • truly excellent, blew me away, unforgettable

My Interview with Katie Cross

Kella: Could you tell me a little about the world of the Network, beyond the book?

Katie: Yes! And then we’ll make this an exclusive interview that no one else has. Ha!

Kella: Does everyone there do at least some magic — is it a world entirely of witches?

Katie: It’s a world of just witches… for now. Although, off the record, there’s a distinct possibilities that mortals could make a reappearance in some vague future book.

Kella: I get the sense that it’s a relatively low-tech world of horse-drawn carriages and candles; is there any interest in technology, or does everyone rely on magic for progress?

Katie: It’s all kinds of Medieval! Which is, for me, part of the appeal. Bianca (my main character) doesn’t need her iMac to be bad ass, which is awesome. I envy her courage.

Kella: There are some references to potential war between the Networks… what would that involve? A magical war, like a large-scale multi-person Mactos?

Katie: War, which is inevitable for this world, will involve both magic and brute strength. Each Network has their own kind of culture around the magic, which means they will all fight it differently. I haven’t actually figured that out entirely yet. I’m still in negotiations with the East.

Kella: You mention some coins called sacrans and pentacles; how does the money system work? Is everything done by payment with coins, or is it a world where one might also barter, or incur obligations by doing favours?

Katie: There are coins, but many people take care of things on a bartering level. For example, I would easily buy twelve of Miss Celia’s cinnamon buns for a pentacle. Whereas she’ll sometimes trade them for new material for an apron.

Kella: So, which character was the hardest for you to write?

Katie: Bianca, the main character. I felt like I didn’t really find her until later drafts. Once I found her though, she was an open book. She’s got a snarky side that’s pretty easy to like.

Kella: Why did you choose to write a YA Fantasy series?

Katie: I kind of felt like the book chose me, if that makes any sense. It just seemed to fall out of me. The first draft only took seven weeks to write.

Kella: Who inspires you?

Katie: Pinterest. Seriously. I love to stroll through the boards when I’m stuck. Husband is a big inspiration to me because he’s constantly pushing himself to be better and strive higher. There’s nothing he can’t do and I think that’s incredible.

Kella: What is your personal favourite line from Miss Mabel’s School for Girls?

Katie: Oh, there are so many. Bianca’s a true snark at heart so I’m going to give you two —

“I’m Bianca Monroe and I run in the woods with my skirts up.
I also don’t know how to steep or pour tea.”

“I am more than what they train me to be.”

You can “like” Miss Mabel’s School for Girls on Facebook
or visit the official website.

GET THE BOOK ON AMAZON (paperback or Kindle)
OR SMASHWORDS (ePub)

Staking My Claim

Okay. I’m a bit stunned that more authors don’t set up their Amazon author pages and claim their books. You can do this as soon as you have something published and available for purchase on Amazon — yes, even in an anthology where your story is one of many. It’s super easy to do: just go to Amazon’s Author Central and set yourself up.

It was, quite seriously, the second thing I did after Stamps, Vamps & Tramps came out (the first being to squee about it on Facebook, of course). I find it just faintly embarrassing that I seem to be the only author from the anthology who has done so at this point, and mystifying because plenty of them have much more to gain from it than I do (since I’m one of the few who doesn’t have other titles available — and author pages are all about discoverability).

When you claim a book with your Amazon Central author profile, it activates the More About The Author(s) section of the book’s page, which appears just underneath the customer reviews section. If only one author has claimed the book, that author’s picture shows up complete with a bio and a text link inviting readers to visit the author’s Amazon page. If more than one author has claimed the book (in the case of a co-written book or an anthology), you get each author’s picture with just the name underneath and an invitation to “Discover books, learn about writers, read author blogs, and more.” That’s why it looks a little awkward when only one author from an anthology has claimed the book… the display is formatted as though that person is the sole author of the book. Sigh.

There’s no cost, no downside, and you get a nice page where you can add a photo (square ones look best, I’ve noticed) and a bio and your twitter feed and blog feed. Here’s mine. It has a follow button, of course, and even a discussion forum. Plus, it allows you to manage which books are associated with you… which can be somewhat important if your name or pen name isn’t the most unique combination in the world. Does an Amazon search for your name bring up someone else’s theological textbooks, or used computer manuals from the 1990s, or biographies of long-dead people in some unfamiliar field, or badly self-published erotica with truly uncomfortable cover art? (Yes, I have seen all of these things come up when looking for books by debut authors and editors.)

And then there are the authors who have Amazon Central accounts and author pages but don’t bother to claim all their books. This, I really don’t understand. Is it possible to become so big that you don’t feel the need to acknowledge every one of your stories? Or to get to a place where you write what you don’t love or believe in, not wanting to acknowledge them as yours, just to get paid? Or — most likely in my opinion, though it’s just a guess — to have so many books out and so many projects on the go that you simply don’t remember to go claim your latest baby?

Some publishers will remind their authors to take care of this little detail, since it’s one of the few things that can’t just be done by someone else (an agent, a publicist, someone in the publisher’s office); Author Central is for authors. As far as I know, there isn’t a way to grant someone else access to your profile, short of giving out your Amazon username and password… Um, no. In any case, you can’t count on getting a reminder, since not all publishers babysit their authors like that, and some smaller publishers may not even know it’s a good idea.

It seems only smart to be responsible for my profile across all the social reading sites, regardless of whether I like them or want to use them or think they have value. Why not stake my claim everywhere I can? Why not make sure that information out there about me is accurate and nicely presented? So once I was happy with my Amazon page, I moved on to Goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari… In a couple of cases, I had to edit the book details first to make sure all the contributors (including me!) were listed, but that’s easy to do. I don’t have to participate on those sites or use their giveaway tools, and I don’t need to engage with readers and reviewers — it’s often wise to just stay quiet — but if my profile is going to exist there with or without me, why not make sure it represents me the way I want to be seen?

Stamps, Vamps & Tramps Anthology

Happy Valentine’s Day! Today is the official release day for Stamps, Vamps & Tramps, edited by Shannon Robinson — a Three Little Words anthology from Evil Girlfriend Media. I’m beyond thrilled to have a story included alongside those from so many amazing authors, and it was a privilege to work with such a fine editor.

SVTcover4

The anthology is, of course, built around stories about tattoos, vampires, and tramps (of any definition). I particularly enjoyed working a tiny postage stamp into my story to max out the theme with two types of stamp, two types of vamp, and two types of tramp… and I apparently wasn’t the only author thinking that way — I was absurdly pleased to see a mention of postage in Sandra Kasturi‘s “Mungo the Vampire” as well (one of the funniest vampire stories I’ve ever read).

There are so many excellent stories in this anthology (again, I’m just awed to be in such fine company), it’s hard to pick and choose between them, so I’ll just mention a few more favourites.

The opening story, “Easy Mark” by Rachel Caine, is outstanding, as one might expect, with a unique yet traditional take on vampires and a deeper look at good and evil and humanity in the context of hobos and the Great Depression. Second up, Barbara A. Barnett‘s “The Whole of His History” is much less traditional in its take on vampires, but equally moving — a story about outcasts and a longing to live without secrets. In “Follow Me”, Christine Morgan held my attention with her protagonist, a strong and intelligent prostitute named Euterpe, and a rich setting in ancient Athens. I particularly enjoyed “A Virgin Hand Disarm’d” by Mary A. Turzillo for the gradually revealed identity of Will, since I’m a bit of a sucker for origin/explanation/identity stories about… him. I also loved “Summer Night in Durham” by Cat Rambo for its unexpected and utterly perfect ending. Finally, the closing story — Gemma Files’ “His Face, All Red” — engaged me and drew me along with suspenseful action and vividly unique characters.

There’s some occasional gritty language sprinkled throughout the anthology, and a few sexual encounters (to be expected in a book of stories about vampires, really), but if you’re the sort of reader who gets freaked out by that, you’re probably not interested in reading about non-sparkly vampires anyway. Fair warning.

fromtheheartpromo

My story “From the Heart” is third from the end of the anthology. You could say it’s got some grit going on — it involves a boozy stripper, a coffee-slinging hipster, a homeless ex-programmer, a lost corset, and… you get the idea. I kept coming back to the idea of “judge not, lest ye be judged”, and the story just grew from there.

The anthology as a whole is definitely worth reading, and I hope “From the Heart” plays a small part in that. Happy reading!