Posted in Guest Author, promotion

Please welcome Author Heidi Nicole Bird as she shares her New Release “Ontario” with us!

Hello Everyone! I hope all is well with you! I’ve got Heidi Nicole Bird with us today and she’s sharing her new release “Ontario” with us! But wait there’s more! She’s also sharing her thoughts on bringing characters to life, so you’ll want to keep on reading until the end! She’s got some great stuff for us! 🙂

Take it away Heidi!

Ontario final ebook cover“Don’t worry, Ontario, I’ll never leave you. You will always have me here to protect you and your brother.”

Those words from a childhood memory would haunt Ontario Stratton for the rest of her life. Losing her father had been difficult enough, but her life would change even more drastically at the beginning of her senior year of high school. Only weeks into the school year Mrs. Stratton abandons her two children for a more carefree way of living. Suddenly thrown into a very different life, Ontario clings to her brother Eddy, her new legal guardian, and to no one else. Could she trust anyone anymore? Even her best friend isn’t there for her. . .

In order to feel like less of a burden on her brother, Ontario gets a job at the local fifties-style diner. It is there that she meets her new “family,” including the oh-so-intriguing Austin, the only one who can help her truly heal. In time, Ontario discovers that Austin has his own demons, and that he needs her just as much as she needs him. Some things in Ontario’s life begin to come together again, but others continue to fall apart. Though her world seems to be breaking, she is introduced to a kind of happiness she has never known before, and her new found friends show her that maybe, just maybe, she can learn to love again.

Keep reading and learn how Heidi brings these characters to life!

                               Bringing Your Characters to Life

One of the things that really makes a book for me is a good character. Maybe that sounds like a “duh” sort of thing to say, but hear me out. I have read fabulous stories with fabulous characters, but I’ve also read some really great stories that didn’t quite make it to the “fabulous” category because the characters had something lacking. For me, the story could be fantastic and the author could be well known, but if the characters in the story aren’t that great, then it’s likely that I won’t pick up that book again.  Here’s the thing: characters make the story. Even if you have a great story idea it won’t seem great to your readers if your characters aren’t memorable. Creating great characters that my audience will love is one thing I really try hard to do, so I thought I’d share some thoughts on just how you go about creating a great character.

  1. Name – Okay, let me share my philosophy on names for a second. I like creating new and unique names as much as the next author, but I also think you can go way too far with that. If there’s one thing that distracts me during a story it is a writer who makes all the names so different that I can’t remember who the characters are. I do like unique names, I do! But, if every single character in your book has a name nobody has ever heard before it gets hard for your reader to keep them all straight, especially when the name doesn’t make it clear that the character is male or female. You probably won’t run into this problem as much if your book has few characters, but lots of characters with unique names = bad stuff.
  1. Looks – Another thing that bothers me is when I make it through a book without ever knowing what the author intended the main character to look like. Honestly, I may not even make it through the book if that happens. As the author you already know what all of your characters look like, but don’t forget that your readers don’t! This doesn’t mean you should randomly stop the flow of the story to give a detailed description of each character, but it does mean that you need to incorporate details into your narration. This goes the same for gender as well. Make sure you establish the gender of your characters, especially if your main character is telling the story.
  1. Personality – For me this is the biggest thing. Your characters have to be different. They have to have quirks. Maybe one character likes to make fancy little doilies and another one likes to watch pro-wrestling when kids are asleep. Whatever it is, your characters need to have depth. They need to have identifying characteristics or they won’t be memorable. Think about people in your own life. I bet you could pick someone, anyone, and think of personality traits that are unique to them, things that set them apart. That’s what you need to do with your characters. It’s great to have a character who is confident and happy all the time, but think about how boring it would be if all your characters were like that! Unless your story is about clones then make sure your characters are different, identifiable, and memorable.
  1. Flaws – This is another thing I think is very important. Sure, everybody likes a Super Man, but honestly, even he had his flaws. Your characters can’t be perfect or they won’t be believable, and neither will your story. If everything goes flawlessly for your character then there is something wrong. Nobody’s life is like that, so your readers will have nothing to connect to. Create weaknesses in your character. As bad as that sounds, you need to do it. They can’t be rock solid. Something has to make them breakdown, make them seem human.
  1. Keep your Readers Learning – Let me explain. When you first experience a character you need to know some basic things about them, as was discussed in point number 2, but you can’t, and shouldn’t tell everything about your character right from the get go. Well, I suppose you could if you really wanted to, but that would make for a rather interesting beginning to your story, which would start to sound more like a biography. You don’t want to go too far in the other direction either though. If your character can be completely described in a few sentences then you definitely have some fleshing out to do. Do your initial introduction at the beginning of your story, or wherever they enter the picture, and then throughout the story let your readers get to know them better. It’s just like when you first meet someone who later becomes your best friend. By the time you are best friends surely you have learned more about then than you did during your first meeting.

I’ve only covered five things in this list, but I think each of them are important to consider. I also think there are many other things that need to be thought about when creating character. As overwhelming as it seems, making a great, believable, relatable character isn’t that hard. Just try it out, using these tips, or other ones. As an exercise, think about your favorite book character. Analyze that character and make a list of why you like them so much, then try making a character of your own. The better your characters are, the better your story will be.


***Sorry about the numbers above, I copied and pasted this from Word and I can’t seem to get the numbers corrected in WordPress….thanks for your patience! 🙂


Author Photo 300 DPIAuthor Bio

Heidi Nicole Bird has been writing for as long as she can remember and it is her favorite thing in the world. Heidi is a regular NaNoWriMo participant and is mostly a young adult fantasy writer, but also likes to write juvenile fiction and other genres. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from Brigham Young University and she looks forward to exploring the genre of historical fiction. Heidi lives in Utah with her family and three dogs, and loves working from home as a full time writer.

Also by Heidi Nicole Bird, Through the Paper Wall


Links to Ontario:

Paperback                                       Kindle Store

Ontario on Goodreads

Thanks Heidi for sharing your wisdom with us and being a guest today!

Please leave a comment for Heidi and share your thoughts with us! We’d love to hear from you!

Posted in Guest Author

Please welcome Astraea Press author Patricia Kiyono


Hello Everyone! I hope all is well with you! I’ve got Patricia Kiyono here today and she’s talking about her newest release! And I must say it does sound interesting! Check it out!


Thank you so much for having me on your blog today, Lisa!


The Samurai’s Garden is a project I started in the summer of 2005, just after I retired from my full-time teaching job. I had just learned from my mother that when her family researched the background of the Japanese American man she intended to marry, they found Dad had descended from a shogun! I started reading about the Japanese feudal system and quickly became intrigued by these warriors, and the samurai soldiers who fought for them. I learned that the entire class of people was eliminated suddenly when Emperor Meiji began his rein in 1870 and I wondered how these people coped with such an abrupt change. And as any author will tell you, the question “what if…” is the start of any good story!


As I wrote, Hiromasa Tanaka emerged as the consummate hero—larger than life, with a strong sense of justice and compassion for those less fortunate. Hanako Shimizu is a subsistence farmer with a distrust of former samurai soldiers (known as “ronin” or masterless samurai) because her farm was raided by a band of unscrupulous men the previous fall – men who had previously sworn to uphold the samurai code of ethics known as the Bushido. Hiro is disgusted by the rogue ronin’s acts and vows to help her restore her lands and improve her standard of living.


The Bushido (translated, it means “the Way of the Warrior”) is a series of tenets that each samurai swore to uphold. They include justice, courage, benevolence, politeness, honesty, honor, loyalty and self-control. I found several books and websites about this code of ethics. Most of them are characteristics we find attractive in a hero. Think of the heroes in our favorite stories from any setting or genre – the gruff but gentle cowboy, the fiery but passionate vigilante, the brooding cop. All adhere to a “code” of some kind whether it’s written or unwritten. It’s a strong sense of right and wrong, and they live their lives according to that code.


I fell in love with the hero, the setting, and the people in my make-believe village in rural Japan. Of course, life often gets in the way of large plans, and since I’d never published a book before, the writing project was put away in favor of other things. I’d pull it out once in a while, especially when I joined a critique group that forced me to keep plugging away at the manuscript. I even managed to write a short story about Hiromasa’s four times great-grandson, Andy Tanaka, and The Legacy was accepted for publication in July of 2011 as part of the Japan Relief anthology. That really inspired me to finally complete this story, and I am so thrilled with the entire experience at Astraea Press. I hope you enjoy the result.


Here’s the book blurb for The Samurai’s Garden:


Hiro Tanaka prepared for a life as a samurai warrior. But his world changed when Japan’s feudal system was abolished by the Emperor. Now, he must find a new vocation. Disillusioned with fighting and violence, he travels alone, going north to the island of Hokkaido.  Many other samurai wander through the country and are known as ronin. Some have forsaken their honorable way to prey on the less fortunate.

Hanako Shimizu experienced first-hand the devastation caused by these disreputable wanderers.  The previous winter, they raided her farm and killed her husband. Now, she needs to rebuild but has no money and no prospects—except for the dubious intentions of the town merchant.

When Hiro, tired of his wandering, encounters Hanako in the market, arguing with the merchant, he poses as her late husband’s cousin then offers to help her on the farm in exchange for a place to stay. Working on the land, Hiro finally finds the peace he has been seeking. But the reappearance of the rogue ronin, led by an unscrupulous leader from Hiro’s past, forces him to take up his swords again. But now, the stakes are higher.

This time, he’s fighting from the heart.


The Samurai’s Garden is available at Astraea Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords.


Patricia Kiyono can be found at her website, blog, facebook, and twitter @PatriciaKiyono.


Thanks Patty for sharing your new release with us! I’ve definitely got this book on my TBR Pile!



Posted in Uncategorized

Meet Amanda Alberson and hear about her book “Losing Connor”

First off thank you Lisa for having me on your page! It is an honor. I am in the insane process of self publishing my first novelette, “Losing Connor”. It will be available August 20, 2012 through Amazon. There will be a Face book release day party that day from 5pm central until 9pm, filled with fun games and prizes. Technology is just amazing, now if we could only send cake and drinks out like emails! You have CAKE!

Here’s the cover!

You can check it out at this link:
Excerpts and works in progress of mine can be found on my author website at

I have several things lined up once I get “Connor” off the ground and running. This has been such a long and fantastic journey to publish my first work, and I hope to continue writing for many years to come.
The idea for this particular story came to mind several years ago when my daughter became ill. All of the early symptoms pointed to Leukemia and I was devastated. I found solace in the fact that my husband, her stepfather, is a strong and uplifting man and I was able to lean on him. After several tests and a slew of doctors, she was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, which was a bitter sweet ending to the mystery. After everything settled down many thoughts that had plagued me while we were testing for Leukemia stuck with me and just grew into “Losing Connor.”
It’s a story of courage and love that slips back and forth between main characters’ past and present. Cassandra Coven is faced with a difficult decision when she finds herself pregnant at 17. Cassie must choose what’s best for the baby, even if it means losing everything, including the man she loves, Declan.
Years later when the child she gave away needs, her she will come face to face with all her past regrets. Will she fall under the emotional tidal wave of having Connor and Declan thrust back into her life? Or will she stand strong as she did before and do what’s right?

I’m such a hermit writer; I had to look up the term pantser after seeing it on Twitter one day! I felt like my dad googling ‘hip’ terms kids use all the time. I am a complete pantser, I start with a blank word doc, an idea and sometimes a name and it all grows from there. I’ve had stories change completely half way through and had to rewrite everything, but I love every minute of it! I’ve written stories for as long as I can remember. I would spend summers at my grandmother’s house typing them up on an old antique typewriter. Stories about anything that made me smile or brought tears to my eyes were always my favorite.

Growing up I read every book I could get my hands on. I was a Stephen King expert when I was 9. I could recite the first few pages of “The Outsiders” by: S.E. Hinton years before we read it in junior high, and I still read “Where the Red Fern Grows” by: Wilson Rawls every few years.

The explosion in “indie” writing has blown the doors open and flooded the world with amazing stories. Once I decided to start writing things for everyone to read, I got on Twitter to see what I could learn about indie authors and books. Not only did I find a million fantastic books to read; I made so many new friends.

Everyone in the “indie” community has been open armed and welcomed to me. Their advice and critique of my work has made not only my story better, but molded me into a better writer. “Losing Connor” would never have made it out into the world without all the help and kindness I have found. I would thank them all right here, but that would take up far too much space. They know who they are and hopefully they know what their help means to me!
Again Lisa thank you so much for taking a chance on an unpublished new writer, you are one of the many that I appreciate so much. I hope everyone enjoys this post and will check out my first book “Losing Connor” when it comes out on August 20th!

Thanks Mandy for being a guest today and I can’t wait until August 20th! Your book is definitely on my TBR pile!

Posted in Uncategorized

Check out the Cover and Excerpt for “The Super Spies and the High School Bomber”!!


Excerpt Below!

Chapter One

A whoosh of roiling hot air lifted Sarah Cole and flung her against the kitchen wall like a fumbled football. At the same time, the windows burst into millions of pieces, showering everything with tiny shards of glass. Sarah crumpled to the floor, still clutching the phone. She lay there stunned, unable to inhale or exhale.

“Sarah! Sarah!” her younger sister, Lacey, screamed from the bathroom, where she’d been drying her hair.

The ringing in her ears was so intense, Sarah could barely hear her. Groaning, she opened her eyes and saw only red through her right one. Dread rippled through her body.

“Sarah! Sarah!” Lacey cried again.

Sarah dropped the phone, and put her hand up to her eye. She fingered the area gently before pulling her hand away. Blood.

“Lacey,” she croaked, unable to manage more than that.

“Sarah! Where are you?”

“The kitchen,” Sarah said, finally able to breathe. She blinked her eyes twice and her vision cleared. Relief flooded her body and she wilted against the floor.

“Holy Moley!” Lacey shrieked.

Sarah jumped at the sound of her voice. She didn’t realize Lacey had come up the stairs and into the kitchen. The ringing in her ears was almost gone.

“You’re bleeding!”

“No kidding,” Sarah said, covering her right eye with her hand and glaring at Lacey with her uncovered one. She brushed her shoulder length blonde hair away from her face and gasped at the blood running down her arm.

“We’ve got to get you to the hospital!” Lacey screamed in a voice edged with hysteria.

“Stop freaking out!” Sarah gave Lacey the old one-eyed glare again.

“Sarah, there’s blood everywhere,” her sister whimpered as she wrung her hands. She gazed around her. “What happened? Did our furnace blow up or something?”

“I don’t think so.” Sarah shook her head, dust particles and slivers of glass cascaded to the floor. She furrowed her brow and absentmindedly brushed off her clothes. “I think something exploded outside. Help me up.”

Lacey held out her hand to Sarah and pulled her into a sitting position.

Blinking, Sarah gazed around the kitchen. On most days it was a sunny room with pineapple wallpaper and pine cabinets. It was the most popular room in the house—everyone congregated there during the holidays.

Sarah blinked again. Dust floated through the air and glass littered the yellow linoleum floor. She groaned and turned her attention to her arm.

As she examined the blood running down it, another wave of panic flooded through her body. Sarah’s legs wobbled when she stood and she stumbled as she reached for a kitchen towel that lay on the counter. She used it to blot her eye. When she pulled the towel away, she was shocked to see the amount of blood that had soaked into it. Sarah gulped, trying to swallow her fear as beads of sweat broke out on her forehead.

With unsteady feet, Sarah stumbled into the hall where a mirror hung.

She was afraid to look. Taking some deep breaths, she  stared into the cracked mirror and noticed a cut in her eyebrow. The amount of blood that seeped from the cut was enormous compared to its small size.

Lacey walked past Sarah on her way to the den. The crunch of glass under her sister’s feet caught Sarah’s attention, and she sighed.

Thank goodness we

had our shoes on. A wave of relief washed over her body and she exhaled another deep sigh. The girls had been getting ready for school when the windows exploded and covered everything with glass.

“Sarah, come here! You’ve got to see this!” Lacey yelled.

Sarah whirled around and spotted her sister walking from the den—her eyes were round and full of shock.

“I think all the windows have been smashed. Come and look.”

Holding the towel against her cut, Sarah followed her into the den. “Holy crap!”

She gazed into the room. Shards of glass covered the furniture and the floor. The sun streamed through the window, shining on the jagged bits embedded in the carpet. It appeared as if tiny diamonds were buried within the fibers.

“What in the world happened?”

Sarah shook her head. “I have no idea.”

The shrill ring of the phone made Sarah jump. She dashed back to the kitchen and found the phone where she had dropped it earlier.




“Yeah, it’s me.” Jackie’s voice eased some of the tension in Sarah’s body. Jackie Jenkins was her best friend. They had met when Sarah and her sister moved in with their aunt and uncle three months earlier.

Sarah glanced down at her legs and for the first time saw tiny nicks where she had been hit by flying glass. She bent down and examined the cuts further. They were not deep, and were already clotting.

“All of our windows exploded! Do you know what’s going on?” Sarah asked.

“There was an explosion at the high school.”

“There was an explosion?”


“How do you know? Was it a bomb?” Sarah brushed her hair away from her face and watched as more dust cascaded to the floor.

“I heard it on the police scanner.”

“Was it a bomb?” Sarah asked again.

“They don’t know, but what else causes an explosion?” Jackie said with a voice edged with apprehension.

“Crap,” Sarah gasped, as the energy seemed to drain from her body, replaced with heavy dread. Sagging against the kitchen wall, she clutched the phone as if it were a lifeline. “Uncle Walt.” She choked, and then turned toward Lacey and stared.

“Sarah? Are you there? Are you all right?” Jackie yelled from the phone.

“Sarah?” Lacey’s lip quivered.

Tears welled in Sarah’s eyes as she spoke to Lacey. “There’s been an explosion at the high school.”

“What? No way!” Lacey shook her head and swung away.

“Sarah, I’m coming over!” Jackie screamed.

Sarah nodded numbly as she watched Lacey. Her sister’s breathing was labored and her face turned pale.

“I feel like I’m going to faint.” Lacey’s knees buckled and she reached for the kitchen chair.

“Put your head between your knees!” Sarah dropped the phone, grabbed Lacey and helped her to the floor. She gently pushed Lacey’s head down between her knees. Her sister’s face and knees disappeared behind the curtain of her long blonde hair.

“Now, take deep breaths.”

Lacey inhaled deeply and let her breath out slowly. The two girls sat like that for a few minutes, Sarah holding her sister’s head down and Lacey breathing.

“Thanks. You can let go now.” Lacey raised her head and smiled at Sarah.

Sarah nodded and peered into her sister’s green eyes that were so much like her own. “Better?”

“Yeah.” Lacey let out a long shudder. She sat back on the floor. “I’m not ready to get up yet.”

“Jackie’s coming over.” Sarah picked up the phone and pushed buttons with a shaky hand.

“Who’re you calling?” Lacey whimpered.

“Uncle Walt’s cell.”

Sarah listened to the phone ring, as her stomach tightened into a knot. “It went right into voicemail.” She gulped as the enormity of the situation hit her. Fear ate away at her self-control and her stomach clenched tighter. Taking some deep breaths, she wondered what she should do next. Without a doubt, Sarah knew that Lacey was going to lose it at any moment, and someone needed to take charge. “We have to call Aunt June.” The quiver in her voice betrayed the fear she tried to hide.

“I hope he’s okay,” Lacey whimpered and then sobbed as she sagged against the cabinets. Rocking back and forth, she tried to calm herself.

“I’m sure he wasn’t near the explosion.” Sarah cast a sideways glance toward her sister, hoping to reassure Lacey, but her words rang false in her own ears.

“He went to school early today,” Lacey whimpered as she rocked. She rubbed her hands together as if they were cold.

Sarah dialed her aunt’s office and waited for Beatrice, the receptionist, to answer. Pacing, she chewed on her nail. What was taking Bea so long? While Sarah waited, the wails of police sirens and the blare of fire truck horns filled the air as they rushed past. Panic gnawed at her gut. She fought to keep it at bay and won for the moment.

Beatrice answered the phone and informed Sarah that her aunt was with a patient.

“Bea, this is an emergency.” Sarah’s voice cracked. “I really need to talk to her.”

“I’m sorry Sarah. I didn’t recognize your voice. Just a second. I’ll interrupt her session.”

Sarah waited on hold, listening to the elevator music filtering through the phone. She paced and chewed her nails. “Let’s go in the den.”

Lacey, still wobbly from her near faint, stood and clung to Sarah, as Sarah guided her into the den.

“Turn the TV on and see if there’s anything on the news,” Sarah instructed.

She paced back and forth while her sister stumbled toward the TV. Lacey walked hunched over and slow. With a trembling hand, she finally pushed the power button on the television.

Stifling an irritated sigh, Sarah peered at the TV and caught a glimpse of a scroll at the bottom of the screen. It said Harrisburg High School and Jr. High School closed today due to faculty meeting. Please stay away from the High School. There has been an explosion and emergency personnel need to be able to get to the scene.

Sarah stifled a growl of frustration. That’s it? That’s all they’re going to tell us? She continued her pacing, growing more agitated by the minute.

Sarah chewed on her lip as frantic thoughts ran through her mind. It was her first day at her new school and it explodes? What is going on?

Her aunt’s voice came through the phone. “Sarah? What’s wrong?”

Sarah let out a strangled sob. The sound of concern in her aunt’s voice was enough for her to lose control of her emotions. “It’s Uncle Walt. There’s been an explosion at the high school and all of our windows exploded!” Sarah sobbed. Her best efforts to keep it together were unsuccessful.

“An explosion? What kind of explosion?”

“I don’t know,” Sarah cried. “I just know there was some kind of explosion.”

A low moan escaped her aunt’s lips. “Oh, no. Walt!”

This is the second book in the Super Spies Series and my beta readers have told me it’s better than the first one! It’ll be available on July 26th!!

Tag Your It!

I’ve been tagged by Amazing Astraea Press Author Leah Sanders! I’ve been challenged too!

1. Go to page 77 of my manuscript

2. Go to line 7

3. Copy the next 7 lines/paragraphs

4. Tag 7 other authors to do the same

The Super Spies and the Cat Lady Killer


She got down on her knees, and backed up to the window once more. Sliding her feet through the opening, Sarah arched her back, and then hung down into the inky darkness. Fear squeezed her throat, making it hard for her to swallow. Dangling, Sarah tried to work up the courage to let go.  The pressure of her body weight made the rough window ledge dig into her hands, the pain intensified the longer she hung there. Taking a deep breath, Sarah let go.

Landing with a soft thud, light clouds of dust surrounded her, making her cough. Her eyes watered as she felt the darkness closing in on her. She drew a ragged breath and cleared her throat.

“Hey, are you okay down there?” Jackie asked, peering down into the basement.

“Yeah…I’m all right, I guess. I just don’t like closed in places,” Sarah croaked, then cleared her throat again.

She scuffed her shoe in the dirt making up the basement floor. Immediately, another cloud of dust rose around her feet.

Waiting for the dust to settle, Sarah peered around the basement and noticed the low ceiling and all the cobwebs. No one has been down here in years. She wrinkled her nose and took a few steps toward the basement stairs. Under them she spied some large boxes. Sarah walked closer studying them. These would make great stairs.  After several attempts and coughing fits she moved some of the boxes and created a box staircase under the window. The dust swirled in the air disturbed by Sarah’s activity.

“Okay, guys, come on down! You’re the next contestant on the Price is Right.” Sarah laughed. It sounded unnatural to her, high and tinny. She knew she sounded anxious, but she couldn’t help it—she was.

Jackie giggled as she wiggled through the window. “Tell me what I’ve won, Bob.”

“A nice long stay at Leavenworth Prison compliments of Officer Klonsky!”

“And that’s not all!” Jackie announced. “You get to make a fashion statement in that hot new color penitentiary orange. It’s all the rave these days.”

The girls burst into laughter. Laughing felt good to Sarah, releasing some of the tension in her body.

Here’s the link to Amazon if you want to read more! 🙂

The Seven Authors that I’m tagging are:

1. Bri Clark

2. Ruth Hartman

3. Rebekah Purdy

4. Joselyn Vaughn

5. Patty Seino-Gordon

6. Sharon Ledwith

7. Nell Dixon