Guest Post/Book Launch from Julie Nicholls

julie aug 22 1

Please welcome Julie Nicholls, who has a brand-new release!



Thank you very much for letting me take over your blog today to reveal the cover for my latest novel, Dragon Moon.

This is a Teen & Young Adult Fantasy, and I hope to publish with Amazon’s Kindle Scout program, if it is accepted.


The story concerns Scarlett, an almost nineteen year old who is undecided about her future. Throughout her school life she has been the subject of ridicule and bullying because of her flame-red hair. While college was easier because she stood up for herself, she can’t make up her mind if University is the place she wants to be, and is taking some time out from studying to decide. She visits the Nottingham Goose Fair, and meets Dizelli, a psychic, who gives her a gold pendant and instructs her to wear it to bed.

Scarlett wakes up the next morning but she’s not in her bed, or her home. She’s in a field. In her pajamas.

Scarlett is thrown into a world of dragons and magic. She’s the Dragon Mage, and it’s her responsibility to save the dragons from slaughter, and also bring two warring tribes together.

There are just a few days left before the Dragon Moon arrives. All the dragons currently asleep, protecting their eggs, could die unless Scarlett finds a way to unite the silver-haired, and black-haired races together and to stop Lord Ithel from killing the elder dragon who knows the secret location of the dragon eggs.


Here’s a sneaky peek!


No matter what Elyan’s surprise is, at least it’s another lovely day out. The sun is shining and despite the cool breeze, it’s perfect for riding. We set off at a walk but once outside the city walls, Elyan kicks his horse and he’s off. I have a hard time keeping up on Sootli; bless her. Once he reaches the foothills, he slows and when I catch up to him, he pulls off to the left instead of the path through the mountain.

“Where are you going?” I ask.

He doesn’t answer and just waves at me as he trots ahead. He’s in charge again; he can’t help it.

We ride for only a little way, and then the smell hits me.


Soon we’re looking at a blanket of white flowers. They stretch along the side of the track as far as the eye can see, and the smell is amazing. Elyan dismounts and wraps the reins around a fallen tree. He helps me down and leads me to the huge log where we both sit.

I can’t stop sniffing the air and notice he’s staring. “What?”

He smiles and I notice for the first time how charming he looks when he’s not scowling.

“I know how much you like Vanillium and thought you would like to see where it grows. Am I right?”

“Yes! Thanks.”

I’m smiling as I look at him and see him in a different light. He can be thoughtful when he puts his mind to it. He stares at me for several moments, his gaze unfathomable. Do I want to know what he’s thinking?

“I am sorry for my behavior yesterday with Mostyn,” he says.

Wow! Didn’t see that coming.

“I expect learning he and your sister were an item was a bit of a shock.”

“I learned something else too. From my father.”

“What was it?” I ask as if I don’t know.

“That there was someone else he loved before mother. I am not angry about that. He expected me to be, though. I have a reputation, it seems.”

I can see a hint of a grin forming.

“My father relies on me to protect the town. While I have my warriors to aid, I am constantly on my guard. My responsibility to our people is foremost on my mind.”

“That’s why you’re so wound up, Elyan. You’re stressed out.”

I know how he feels. In my last year of college I was worrying over my exams, the bullying, and concerns about my life after college. My dad said when someone is stressed, they are short-tempered, have trouble sleeping and are unable to see the positive side of things. Elyan ticks all of the above. People don’t realize they are stressed, but once it’s pointed out to them, it becomes clearer.

“What am I to do? This is my life. I am responsible for our people.”

“I understand you have an important role, but you don’t have to do it on your own. You have warriors who follow your lead. They are just as capable as you are. Let them take some of the pressure.”

Elyan narrows his eyes as he looks at me. He’s listening to what I’m saying rather than spouting off. That’s a good sign.

“But will they then act as I do? Become ‘snippety’ as you say?” He grins.

“No, I don’t believe they will. If you divide the tasks between yourselves, it will be less of a burden. Do you see that?”

“Yes, I do.”

It could be my imagination, but I swear he looks less stressed already. He’s a smart cookie and I know I whined about him plenty of times, but he isn’t a bad person. Actually, as he is now–calm and thoughtful–he’s very attractive. He was already ranking high on my “hot men” chart, but it was his attitude that stopped him reaching a higher position.

Oh, I know you think I’m mean, but I bet I’m not the only one who has a score card.

“When we return home after the meeting today, you can gather your warriors and delegate your duties. Start enjoying your life, Elyan.”

“I like the way you think. You are as smart as my father said.”

“Did he say that?”

“Yes, last night after you left. I spoke with him for a while, and he believes you are too wise for your age.” He chuckles.

Ha! I think what the Earl said probably went something along the lines of “she’s too big for her boots.” But I’ll accept it as a compliment anyway.

Elyan is looking at me again. Not quite a stare but his gaze is lingering and I know I’m blushing. My cheeks are on fire. I’d like to know what he’s thinking. Wait…maybe that’s not a good idea. There’s a glint in his eye, which isn’t a bad thing, but I’ve got too much to think about at the moment.

Extremely bad timing.

“Are all the women in your town like you?” he asks.

“No. They are much nicer.” I laugh. “Women are equal to men, though. They share responsibility, work and some earn such a good wage that the man plays househusband and takes care of the children.”

“That is a story you have made up.” He laughs. “It is a woman’s responsibility to tend the children.”

I’m surprisingly calm after that misogynistic statement. In all fairness, he lives in a world where men are chivalrous and women are skivvies, and that’s not entirely his fault. However, I will nevertheless attempt to enlighten him of why a role doesn’t need to be filled by only one sex.

Here goes.

“Elyan, I’m going to explain something to you which you may find surprising. Women are quite capable of fulfilling any job a man is tasked with. The only difference is that some women might struggle depending on the physical strength required, but that does not mean that some women are not a strong as some men. There are some who are stronger.”

He’s shaking his head, so I continue.

“Women are in the Army, Navy, and Air Force. Where I’m from, we are ruled by a Queen, as are many other countries. So you see… there’s nothing a man can do that a woman cannot. As for taking care of children, why shouldn’t a man look after his child? There’s no rule that says a woman should be the only person to wipe a baby’s bottom!”

He laughs and shakes his head. “You are making this up, surely?”

“No, I’m not.”

I look at him and wonder how he would cope if he were to visit my world. Not only because of the women’s issue but all the technology we have as well. I don’t think he could take it all in, although he might have fun playing my X box.

“I should like to see this for myself. Your world sounds interesting. Do you think I would like it?”

“There are some wonders that would impress you, Elyan, but just as you have problems here, we also have them. Countries fight one another and man has built horrendous machines and created poisons that could kill us all. People starving to death live side by side with people who are so rich, they will never be able to spend their money before they die.”

He’s listening closely.

“Our world is full of different races and we are not all the same color. Whole nations have been targeted because of the color of their skin or religious beliefs. So you see it’s important that we try and resolve the issues here before they escalate.”

Elyan narrows his eyes. He’s thinking hard, I can see from his expression. He will be the Earl once his father passes and he could help implement changes now that would stop future warring.

“This makes you sad, does it not?”

“Yes, very much.”

“We are from different worlds and yet, we are not so different.”

He takes my hand in his and smiles softly. He’s capable of becoming a great leader, I feel it. He has already made changes to the way he acts based on information he’s acquired. He is a smart cookie.

“We have a saying–‘there’s nothing new under the sun’–and this is so true. Wherever we are in the world, whether we’re black-skinned or white, if we have black or white hair, or we worship the sun or the moon, we are all human beings and we have a right to be free and to live.”

“We shall have that here, Scarlett. I promise. I will do everything within my power to make Lord Ithel understand we must live together in peace.”

Elyan pushes up and pulls me with him. “You will show us how to make a start. Will you not?”


Thank you for taking the time to read the sneaky peek… you can read another on my official website to the page, Dragon Moon where a link will be added once the book is available for purchase.

Turning the reader off



I’m on a lot of social media nowadays. It’s something you pretty much have to do, whether you’re a brand-new, fresh-out-of-the-box indie author or a well-known and traditionally published household name. You gotta Facebook blog, Tweet, Instagram, and Snapchat yourself and your books all over the place. It’s just the way it is.


But despite decades of having been advertised to, it seems that most of us. including all the advertising “gurus” who are now hawking their wares all over the net, haven’t learned a damned thing.


No. Seriously, you just keep doing those things that don’t work.


You need to listen to yourself and think a lot harder about what it is your advertising is for.

This is pretty important. If your FB page and Twitterfeed is populated entirely by either people offering to advertise your book (for a price) or other authors hawking their stuff, you haven’t hit your target audience.

And this shotgun approach means that even on retweets, there’s a good chance your cozy mystery is going out to people who only read vampire fiction with a lot of sex.

Those people…they aren’t even LOOKING at your ad.

  • Saturation

Apparently the concept of less is more has no meaning on the internet.

And yet, if you analyze your own response to ad campaigns that are just that little bit (or way too much) repeated ad nauseum, you’ll notice that the main result is ad-fatigue to the point where one actively will NOT buy the thing. Even if it’s what they want. Because it looks old and tired by the time they decide to look for a book about whatever.

  • Overselling

It’s pretty much the most off-putting thing around when an author describes their book as “the best” or “the most” or anything else superlative. You don’t get to say that about your own work. Yeah, you think you’re the bee’s knees.  But no one likes a braggart.

It’s the reader who gets to decide that it’s the best book ever, not you. You don’t get to say “My book is the most exciting new take on Steampunk you will ever read.”

That’s how you wound up with that one-star review. Because you were an arrogant prick who couldn’t deliver.

  • Underselling

The flip side is to do the self-mocking, “my book is awful” ads.

Because people will believe that, and then…well, why would they buy it?

  • Variety

It’s the spice of life, and yet, when it comes to ads on the internet, all I see is the same tagline, endlessly repeated.

Look, if it didn’t make me click the first time, why would I click on the 1001st?

  • Engagement

Engagement is not measured by volume.

Sure, your friends share and retweet your buy-links. Sure, lots of people “like” and “favourite” those posts. But that’s not really engagement.

Engagement means that you make an effort to connect with people as something more than dollar signs. If the only thing you ever post – even on your author page – is urgent pleas for people to buy something, you aren’t selling yourself.

There was a time when people didn’t care so much about the personality of the writer. They read a review, or they looked at a book cover and a blurb, and made a choice. They either wanted to read the book, or they didn’t. The closest they got to “knowing” an author might be if you got a radio or tv or newspaper interview.

What they cared about was whether they liked the books.

Nowadays, with all this communication happening, you can’t expect to entice new readers to follow or friend you on social media unless you are offering one of two things.

Either you are just there to increase their numbers or venues for advertising, or you are giving them something of value beyond endless shilling of your books or services.

And those authors who only ever tweet or post the same old buy-links with boring or repetitive or over-the-top taglines – well, I don’t know about anyone else, but frankly, I mute/hide those people pretty ruthlessly, because out of the thousands of tweets or posts I need to wade through every day, those are kind of a waste of time.

A “friend” offers more than a “What can you do for me?” interaction. A “friend” talks about something other than themselves, at least once in a while.

There’s an old saying that to have friends, you need to be a friend.

Meatspace or on wifi, it still applies.


*NOTE: The other really important thing about all this is that we know that “word of mouth” is what really sells – and “word of mouth” means that you tell your friends and family why you like a particular novel so much that you are willing to “sell” other people on it.

When you retweet or share, don’t you think it would make more of an impact if you included a few words about WHY you think this book is worth reading?

That’s what you need to do for your author-friends, and what they need to do for you.


The Purloined Letters


Marilyn Diptych 1962 by Andy Warhol 1928-1987

Marilyn Diptych 1962 Andy Warhol 1928-1987 Purchased 1980


As a professional editor and the product of academia spanning three countries and five colleges/universities, I’ve learned to spot intellectual stolen property from literal miles away.

I’m not talking about pirating someone else’s published work, the way so many websites claiming “free” downloads of my books, or anyone else’s, do. That’s evil, sure, but nine times out of ten, the downloader gets nothing more than a computer virus and a few ads extorting money from them to fix the problem. Just deserts, really, if you want to steal content purely for entertainment’s sake, and deprive an author or artist of their tiny royalties as you slug back your $5 mochaccino.

Any idiot can tell when someone takes a manuscript wholesale and just changes the author’s name. Any pair of eyes can spot when Walmart sells thousands of t-shirts adorned with artwork that was taken directly from the ‘net to the silkscreen factory without bothering to compensate the artist.

Plagiarism can be different, though. Plagiarism can be your theft of someone’s work, thoughts, insights, creativity with certain, deliberate alterations, and appending your name to it, pretending that you have actual ideas, visions, and thoughts of your own, while knowing full well that you stole them.

And there’s a world of difference between being influenced by someone else’s work, and absorbing the echoes of it into your own endeavours. There’s a huge difference between an homage to another writer or artist, and just lifting it complete and dumping it into your own output.

It’s difficult to put into simple terms, though.

I’ve been taught, and have trained myself, to see how it works in its subtler forms.

Any university prof can tell at a glance when someone has merely condensed a complex idea or construct into a summary, and then added it to an essay without attribution. They don’t need to know the source material to suspect that the concepts might not be the student’s own brilliant insight. Experience tells them to dig deeper.

Fiction is, in fact, no different.

I am, I should remind you, not speaking of the natural process of reading others’ work and taking in those insights and ideas and letting them take root in your own mind. If you have unconsciously absorbed some ideas or beliefs or structures from another author, your own imagination will warp and twist and morph those things, weaving them into your own ideas, and they will grow into unique new fruit that is, in the end, wholly yours.

That’s how we change and develop ourselves – that’s why you need to read, and read widely. It’s what helps you to build something new.

Plagiarism, though, is the conscious and deliberate copying and altering someone else’s work for your own gain, either financially or just for ego-boo when people remark on that incredible idea you had. And it does, I am pleased to inform you, leave a trail that some of us can follow.

One of the signs is when the style of some important passage changes abruptly. If there’s a sudden drop from an intimate tone to an impersonal one, right when a new and game-changing concept is introduced, it’s almost a blinking, neon sign that the impersonal new idea came from someplace other than the author’s head.

Another is the lack of adequate context. Stolen ideas are frequently parachuted in and made to fit existing structures. They feel grafted on and often hurried, as if the writer thinks that if they push past it quickly, no one will notice another author’s signature all over it.

But discerning readers will know, deep down. Readers will feel it, even if they don’t recognize that squirminess for what it is.

Something you create yourself will have a depth and an authority that no stolen material, reworked so that you skirt the letter of the law, can ever have. If the intrinsic details for the “brilliant idea” aren’t yours, then it will be a hollow thing, bereft of soul and heart. It will read as a summary, as a book report – it will have no flesh on its bones, no meat beneath the skin.

And if you are questioned in anything but the most superficial way, you will be floundering for replies, and answering with phrases like “I haven’t worked out all the ramifications yet” or “You’ll have to wait for the next book” – weasel words to get you off the hook.

I guess you can get away with it. Lots of people do.

But if that’s something you have done, or are thinking of doing, you aren’t a writer.

You’re just a thief.

*** Update: This is a blog. If you see it and your name isn’t actually mentioned, but you still feel it is aimed at you, my advice is to keep it to yourself. Because otherwise, people might think, as someone on my Facebook page pointed out, that you have a guilty conscience.



Writing by reading

12 fair kindms


I’m going to give writers some advice, which I mostly try not to do because everyone-is-an-individual-and-we’re-all-different and, well, reasons.

Giving people “rules” or some distillation of a pithy saying never works, anyway. Any one of us can come up with a bajillion exceptions in the time it takes to scroll down to the comments.


Instead, I’m going to recommend that you head down to a used book store or the local library or onto the internet and get yourself a copy of this book:

Twelve Fair Kingdoms (Book One of the Ozark Fantasy Trilogy)  by Suzette Haden Elgin.

It doesn’t matter if you don’t like fantasy. If you really can’t bear the thought of plunking down the two bucks or whatever for it, just stand in the aisle of the bookstore and read the first chapter.


Because Chapter One is an info-dump —– but an info-dump done right. Done perfectly, even.

It’s rambling, and discursive and filled with tangents and digressions. (It’s also tender-funny and distinctive of voice.)

But, more to the point, it is brilliantly gripping and entirely enchanting, and the author manages to give the reader an enormous amount of data about the characters, a grounding in the magic system AND the situation/quest that is to come.

In one chapter.

This – all this – without giving anything away and still managing to hook you in so well that you literally cannot put it down.

If I could do that, even once, I’d die a happy woman.


She’s HERE!

Welcome, Newland Moon. For those of you who don’t know, Ms. Moon is the author of Rites of Heirdron, a new science-fantasy romance novel that is a front-runner for Amazon’s Kindle Scout publishing program. She’s agreed to answer some questions, as well as give us a wee excerpt from her novel, so buckle up, folks – here we go:

  1. What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?

The title of my latest novel is Rites of Heirdron. It’s a compilation of many different influences and genres. I’ve always had a love of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Rites of Heirdron allowed me to combine those loves and add an impassioned romantic element.

2. What are you working on now?

I’m currently finishing the succeeding novel for Rites of Heirdron. It wasn’t a planned book. However, everyone who read the first book kept asking about a second. There’s more to explore, so, I decided to see where Zrahnz and Melanie would lead me.

  1. For those who might consider reading your book, what would you tell them to expect?

Rites of Heirdron is categorized as a sci-fi fantasy erotic romance. However, my deeper love of epic fantasy led the way. My characters are multidimensional, flawed, and relatable. Some parts will enrage you while others will tug at your heartstrings.

The plot is layered and well developed with several twists that may surprise many. I love to add those tiny elements throughout to keep the reader guessing and turning pages.

The romantic element is also throughout. It doesn’t consume the plot, but it is interwoven, yet not overly so. The romance is crucial, but it is only a part of the larger concept.

It’s my hope that I have delivered a well-balanced novel that will satisfy the reader. Rites of Heirdron is a compelling tale of love, honor, betrayal, abhorrence, heartbreak, healing, and love. In addition, it all takes place in the magnificent Ahmezurhran Galaxy.

4. What is your favorite part of being an author?

I love creating new worlds, new species, and new languages.

  1. What are the hardest and easiest parts about being a writer?

The hardest part is finding the time to sit down and write. I keep notepads with me at all times and use my phone as well.

The easiest part is when you have that rhythm and it all just flows. It’s a wonderful feeling.

6. What genre do you place your book in?

Sci-Fi Fantasy Romance

  1. Anything else you’d like to tell your readers?

Yes! Rites of Heirdron was accepted by Kindle Scout for a possible publishing contract. It is an exciting time and I am both humbled and honored. If I may, I would like to invite your readers to visit my page and read an excerpt. If they enjoy Rites of Heirdron, I hope that they will click the “nominate me” button. If I receive a contract, they will receive a FREE advanced copy of Rites of Heirdron!

8. Any links you’d like me to post?

Yes. Please.

Do you have an excerpt or two of Rites of Heirdron?

Chapter one excerpt:

“What you have done to poison this world will not take the life from me. I will heal this planet and save my people.”

He spoke the words and tried desperately to believe them. The pains he suffered were excruciating and the injections and herbs were no longer easing them. He knew this to be tied into the Galactic Coalition’s attack upon Triaxeyn. His mind was such a muddle, some cycles, he thought himself going mad. Even the sex had grown more painful.

“I’ll have need of Melanie,” he said, taking another deep breath.

He shook his head again in an effort to clear his thoughts. He had to focus on Triaxeyn and his people. His illness was infinitesimal compared to that of his planet. Yet, he knew not how to save either.

“Your people have gathered, my Prince.” A deep voice sounded from behind him.

Zrahnz smiled wistfully and lowered his head. “My people, Raydren?”

“My Prince?”

He turned to face him. Q-1 Raydren was the eldest member of the guard and the one person that he truly trusted. He had been more than his mother’s personal guard; he had been like a father to him. Throughout his childhood and even now, he felt a comfort with his presence and knew he cared for him as well. Never did Raydren allow his position to prevent him from providing honest counsel. And that was something the Prince sorely needed.

“When my grandfather ruled Triaxeyn, there were hundreds of thousands of denizens. We were a proud people, though the Galactic Coalition tried to hinder our efforts for growth. When Grandfather died, everything changed. Already the Council had turned their backs on us, but why would they attempt to annihilate our people? Why do we die and the Kaylohrians thrive?”

Raydren nodded and leaned his ceremonial spear against the wall. He motioned to the overstuffed chairs and took a seat opposite the Prince. He understood his anger and trepidation.  He had lost most of his family due to the workings of the Council and still many were sick and infirm.

“Your grandfather was an honorable and strong leader. He was feared and respected by many members of the Galactic Coalition. When he acquiesced to the wishes of the Spirit Council, he did so for the betterment of Triaxeyn. Though the Great Masters of our temple advised against it, King Aoran saw no alternative. He couldn’t have known of the betrayal that would follow.” He placed a hand on Zrahnz’s shoulder.

“Once your mother was returned to Triaxeyn, a pall covered our planet. That’s what truly took the life from him. He loved your mother, and loved you as well. Your grandfather felt the guilt of disallowing your mother her Prince, and the devastation of the Galactic Coalition’s rejection.

“I completed the trials to earn the Rites of Bond for your mother. Our connection was evident and your grandfather knew the same.”

Zrahnz’s head snapped up and his eyes narrowed as he looked at him. “You? You loved my mother?”

“Yes, then and now. But our bond wasn’t allowed. After the Council learned of the pact, she was no longer able to wed. I’ve remained at her side from that day to this, and will do so until the Spirit Wielders beckon me to them.”

“Did—did she love you as well?”

“She cares for me within the confines of her position, nothing more.”

When Zrahnz appeared about to speak, Raydren stood and continued.

“The Kaylohrians aren’t greater than we are. In all ways that matter, they’re much less. It was by their manipulations that our queen was shamed and labeled a Shriahti.

“It was by their manipulations that the Galactic Coalition turned their backs on us. Their king and queen were heralded as true and honorable leaders when they presented their second born before them as if he were the first.

“The priests offered blessings over that debauchery and labeled it the Rites of Heirdron.” He picked up his spear and faced Zrahnz again.

“You are no kahtdrol, my Prince. You are Zrahnz Uleryn, son of Alyahna and grandson of the great King Aoran Uleryn. You are the true leader of this world; your bloodline is pure and unmolested. Regardless of the mendacities told by those of the Council, that truth remains. The Galactic Coalition doesn’t recognize Triaxeyn as anything but a nuisance. Had they their way, we would’ve been destroyed beside our sister planet, Orenz.

“We’ve been denied a place at their table and the protection of their fleet.” Raydren walked forward and locked eyes with him.

“Why then do we abide by the rulings that they foist upon us?”

Zrahnz’s brow furrowed as he digested the truth within his words. When his eyes widened, Raydren nodded.

“Your people await you, my Prince.”



What and Why, YA?

parental advisory

There are some books and attitudes that inform my bafflement and confusion about the classification of “YA”.

The idea that once children learn reading basics, they must then be directed into specific “reading levels” and adhere to some specialized subject areas/topics, strictly monitored for word counts, font size and syllabic range – it disturbs me. It’s as if we assume that not only children’s interests, but their abilities, are tied to their age, and that by allowing them to stretch beyond this (and, yes, conceivably fail) would traumatize them beyond redemption.


The rules, folks. The rules that govern what’s “YA” and what’s not (and the latest invention: “New Adult” omg, what insanity is this?) are the most arrogant, parent-driven, moralistic and saddest thing that really has happened to reading as a pastime. Forget eBooks, or Twitter, or video games.

The thing that’s killing reading is the friendly cloak adults have thrown over an ugly and pervasive thing that can only be termed censorship.

Apparently, no one under 25 is allowed to read about anyone not the same age as them. No one under the age of twelve is allowed to come into contact with any word of more than three syllables, and heaven forfend they should be required to look a word up! O, the horror!

(It’s also, curiously, perfectly all right for them to read about some bloodsucking undead luring a child into a bizarre relationship in unashamedly graphic and erotic terms, even when the readers are still at the preteen level. But drop an f-bomb into that mix, and you have taken yourself right out of the running.)

We shortchange our children every day in this way. And worse: as writers, by knuckling under, we are demeaning ourselves, failing our audience, and perpetuating a system that crushes our own writing skills by suborning them to an invented marketing stereotype.

You know what I was reading when I was 12?

C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series, and The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.

With equal enjoyment.