Smorgasbord Cafe and Bookstore – Christmas Book Fair – #Romance Jacquie Biggar, #Fantasy C.S. Boyack, #Fantasy Charles E. Yallowitz, #Relationships Stevie Turner

A big thank you for the shout out. I find myself in great company here.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Welcome to the Christmas Book Fair where I will be featuring all the authors on the shelves of the Cafe and Bookstore that would make great gifts for family and friends.

The first author today is USA Today Bestselling author Jacquie Biggarwith her latest romance release Perfectly Imperfect.

About the book

What happens when Miss Perfection clashes with Mr. Casual?

Georgina’s in trouble. The startup money she borrowed from her parents’ retirement fund is long gone and her dream of owning the next big thing in market-to-table cuisine disappeared with it.
Her only choice? Merge her company into the corporate giant, CLO, and hope she isn’t making a huge mistake.

Rhys Turner is his father’s progeny, born and raised to take over the empire when his dad deems him ready. Rhys doesn’t mind the fast-paced lifestyle, though he detests the coldblooded mantra of the corporation- Buy from the…

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Questions 3: Being an Author in 2020

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Coming to the end of a very strange year, I was thinking of something I could do for the December Thursdays.  I began to think about how writing, reading, publishing, and the whole thing took a very odd turn thanks to Covid-19.  Some people saw book sales soar while many saw them either drop or stay low.  I read articles about how more people are reading and others say how lockdowns made people avoid books.  I saw authors explode all over social media in an attempt to sell books to those they considered a captive and desperate audience.  I saw others kind of shrug and figure that this really isn’t going to change their luck.  We all have different thoughts and perspectives on how 2020 went, so let’s share them.

  1. Did you find it easier, harder, or the same to write books this year?  Why?
  2. What impact do you think the pandemic had on readers?
  3. Did you learn anything new as an author or reader this year?
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When Kindness Change the Villain

Sanji and Ghin from One Piece

Above, you will see a picture from the anime called ‘One Piece’.  Don’t go running away yet because there’s a point.  In the scene, you have one of the heroes named Sanji (blonde) with a villain named Ghin (guy on the floor).  Ghin is part of an ‘evil’ pirate crew and actually one of the more violent members since he’s second to their captain.  Yet, here he arrives at the floating restaurant starving and is denied food since he has no money.  Sanji refuse to let people starve to death, so he feeds him.  This results in a later scene where Ghin, under orders to kill Sanji, can’t do it and begs his bloodthirsty captain to show mercy.  There’s also a sacrifice and major change of character for Ghin, which stems entirely from the single act of Sanji giving him food when he was dying.  So, kindness changed the heart of a villain.

I’m sure some people are already rolling their eyes because it can’t possibly be this easy to change a villain.  I mean, you could say the power of food combined with a state of desperation and vulnerability.  You could also point out that it’s a cartoon/manga, which many think are aimed at children.  Anime and manga really isn’t just for kids, but I digress there.  The thing here is that Ghin reveals he has had a tough life and that’s what lead to him being a villain.  Sanji could very well be the first person to show him any kindness and treat him like a human being.  That can go an amazingly long way with a villain who still holds some humanity.  Even in reality, you would be surprised how often a single act of compassion can turn a person around.

In comparison, his captain, Don Kreig, sees everyone as an expendable tool and Sanji giving him food to prevent him from dying is met with a clothesline to the throat.  He goes on to try to kill everyone and take the restaurant that gave him enough food for his starving crew.  Then, he fires a gas weapon that threatens even his own men, which shows how evil he is.  So, you can see that the same act doesn’t work on everyone.  Ghin and Don Krieg are both pirates with violent, evil streaks, but one still holds onto a spark of his humanity while the other is pure villain.

That spark is an important thing to consider too when writing your villains.  Do they have anything that appeals to their human nature?  It can be an act or something rather sweet like animals or children.  In Legends of Windemere, Baron Kernaghan shows a soft spot for a little girl and a cat.  Sure, he transforms them into creatures, but he still shows that he cares about them.  To be fair, neither would have survived in the Chaos Void in their original forms.  Now, this didn’t change the Baron, but it showed that he wasn’t 100% bad.  That’s the type of villain that appeals to audiences nowadays.  They want to see that there is something relatable in there and maybe even the hope of redemption.

To reach that turning point, an act of kindness is something that can go a long way.  You don’t have to make the two happen in quick succession.  There can be the kindness and then a trigger for the change down the road.  It can be the person who was kind or an item that reminds the villain of that time.  A key point is that it doesn’t just change them immediately too.  The reason you need time is because the initial act causes them to doubt their actions and path of villainy.  They see that tiny thing grow into an internal counter argument for what they have been doing.  Truthfully, this tends to work better with secondary villains than the big baddies.  That is unless a disaster is started by the main villain and the act of kindness bubbles into their mind to have them realize they made a mistake.  It may sound cliche, but you’d be surprised how often people will stay on the wrong course and then come to a triggered epiphany at the eleventh hour.  You just have to make it flow.

Personally, I like this twist in a story because it can show a lot of humanity.  You have the villain getting a new dimension that can change him or her for the better.  You have the person who saw beyond the evil or was ignorant of it, so they treated this person that the audience should hate as a human being.  I know we’re always tempted to have the villain come close to redemption and then have them stomp on the act of kindness, which might be a sign of our cynical time.  It’s almost like that’s the new standard and having it change the villain is the surprising twist.  Of course, there are plenty of levels in between that you can run with depending on your story.  It’s all up to you and what you feel is right for what you’re doing.

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Music of Legends of Windemere: Prodigy of Rainbow Tower

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Welcome to another week of music videos.  Hope this is hitting the right mark and people are enjoying these.  Today, we have Prodigy of Rainbow Tower where Nyx made her debut.  A lot of action and traveling happened here.  Really got to flex the world-building skills too.

This song has no lyrics and is all about the energy.  I had a lot of fight scenes in this book and it’s where I started cutting my teeth on them.  So, something like this really makes me think of all of the battles that Luke, Nyx, and their friends went through while traveling down the L’dandrin River.

I was really trying to think of something other than this one because it seemed way too obvious.  Nyx depends a lot on fire and explosive magic.  Yet, I did play this one a lot long ago when I was writing this book.  Never really listened to the lyrics, so she isn’t that twisted, but she is a fire-starter.  Another fast-paced song too.

This song has a big defiance aspect to it that works for Luke and Nyx.  Both of them have dreams and goals that require pushing against others.  Luke is out to prove himself and Nyx has been raised to save the world.  Both paths require them proving that they can do it through actions.

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RecordCast: a Free Tool to Create Your Book Trailer

Nicholas C. Rossis

One of the free author tools I’ve discovered lately is RecordCast. RecordCast is an all-in-one tool for screen recording and video editing that helps everyone turn screenshots into professional-looking videos in just a matter of a few minutes. This can be great for creating a book trailer within minutes just by adding images and effects.

RecordCast | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's book

Highlighted Features

One of the things I particularly like about RecordCast is the fact that you get a high-quality recorded video without a watermark—for free. Also, you don’t need to download anything; the whole process is handled online.

The recording itself is pretty flexible: you can screen capture your whole screen, an application window, your webcam, or a browser tab as you need. You can also choose whether you wish to record audio simultaneously or drag-and-drop your favorite background music to the video.

As for video editing, RecordCast has a built-in video editor, so…

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Returning the Favor in Fiction and Reality

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I was watching anime with my son when I noticed that there was a theme that popped up a bunch.  Not in one episode, but in various series.  It isn’t one that I’ve ever considered or seen much about, so I felt like broaching it.  In fact, we can see how ‘Returning the Favor’ relates to our own lives as well.  We are told very often that we need to payback the help that is given to us and do things without expecting a reward.  Yet, we don’t think about it outside of situations where a favor has been returned in glorious fashion or a selfish snub has been made.  So, let’s examine.

In Fiction

To make sure we’re on the same page, I want to be clear what ‘Returning the Favor’ is in my mind.  Simply put, this is when somebody helps you and, whether immediately or down the road, you help them out.  This happens a lot in fiction both clearly and by accident.  An adventurer saves a village in passing and they show up when a small army is needed or their savior is looking for a place to hide.  Sometimes, it isn’t even direct and the favor is returned by another figure.  In ‘Rise of the Shield Hero’, the main character saves a village during a cataclysmic event while the rest of the chosen heroes ignored it.  This resulted in a handful of soldiers and craftspeople supporting him later on because they had family in that village.  The favor had been returned.

It isn’t too hard to do this on paper.  You can plan it out or notice it when it happens, but it’s really a two-part equation.  Somebody has to do a good thing first.  It doesn’t even have to be seen since it could have happened before the story begins.  We’ve all seen stories where a person helps a hero because a relative or some other connection lent them a hand at some point.  After this has been established or seen, the favor is returned in some fashion that progresses the plot or solves a problem.  Probably one of the simplest plot devices you can use.

Of course, people don’t always like it.  These can be seen as contrived and a coincidence that the person who owes the favor can help.  Well . . . yes.  That’s kind of the point.  If the person returning the favor wasn’t useful for that situation then they wouldn’t be there at all.  Part of the point of this is that they or at least the hero see that they can help, which can be a coincidence.  Happens in real life too.  You just happen to know a person who can help you get a good job.  You happen to know a guy who knows a guy that is trying to get rid of a car while yours just broke.  Reality is fairly contrived and coincidental if you think about it.  Might be getting off topic, but the point is that you shouldn’t let this be a reason to avoid the returning of a favor in your book.  It could be the game changer that gives you the ending you want.

In Reality

Returning the favor is a really big thing for authors too.  One person promotes a book and hopes that others will do the same.  It’s much harder though because authors disappear from social media all the time.  Public calls for help can be missed while there are others who get help without returning the favor.  You get burnt enough times and you might not try to help anyone.  This ends up hurting you as well.  It really shows that returning the favor of promotion is a big part of being a self-promoting author.  Sometimes, it’s the only thing we have because it doesn’t cost money.

I will admit that it is a lot harder than it used to be.  Long ago, authors used to read each other’s published books and do blog reviews.  Some would even write a review on Amazon for a little boost.  Then, Amazon cracked down it because it was seen as cheating.  This is no longer a practice, which means we’ve lost a way to return the favor.  Although, I’m pretty sure many still do this on the sly, but they avoid Amazon when it comes to posting reviews.  Anyway, this is just how it used to be way back when.  Now, we have to be more creative in how we return favors and help each other out.

What do you think about returning the favor in fiction and reality?

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Lost or Stolen Opportunities

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I was going to be more upbeat today, but I got a thought stuck in my head.  I couldn’t shake it loose.  You ever have an opportunity that passed you by?  We all do.  Maybe we missed it because we weren’t paying attention.  It might not have looked like one when we first saw it.  This might turn more into a ‘tell your story’ thing.  Why?

One type of loss of opportunity came to mind.  It’s when one is stolen from you.  Maybe not you, but someone you care about.  I was thinking about someone in my life and the opportunities that they have had over the years.  Then, I realized that several of them were missed because of a third party.  That has to be the most agonizing one and had me spinning my wheels.  Even noticed times in my past where I was undone from smart moves due to other people.  I realized that this happened in two general camps:

  1. The other party simply forgot to relay some information that could have help.  You either find out after the fact.  This is an honest mistake even though it can cause anger and frustration.
  2. The more malicious one is when a person withholds information or makes a move that actively removes your opportunity.  This one hurts.  It could be done because they see it is a mistake, but there are times when they purposely want to get in the way.  Could be someone that wants the opportunity for themselves or wishes to urge you onto a different path instead of the one that is about to succeed.  I’ve been the victim of this one once or twice in some arenas.

Now, I’m not sure where else to go with this idea.  I realize that I’ve stated my point and that’s really all I had.  No idea how to identify this or what to do about it.  Maybe I’m just trying to toss this into the open.  Anybody else have something to add?  Personal story or advice?  Let’s converse and see if I’m just being silly.

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Reading Is the Key to Learning

Great post on why reading is important. Kind of surprised more people don’t realize this.

Nicholas C. Rossis

Garima Aggarwal | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's bookThis is a guest post by Garima Aggarwal. Garima is an aspiring content writer working for TABSCAP. Coming from a journalism background, she has been into content writing for 2 years and is passionate about topics related to lifestyle, health, and digital marketing. 

Reading is the key to learning

Books don’t just teach you good vocabulary, but a lot more than that. 

As a child, I always found it hard to read books. I mean, who could read a thick novel containing difficult text and no pictures?

And yet, I was always been told that reading books is vital, especially for people interested in writing or those who have to interact with a mass audience on a regular basis. But very few people ever cared to explain to me why reading is important. The rather boring list of reasons they gave me included clichés like, “you will learn new…

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Goal Post: Thanksgiving Came and Went!

This week was totally berserk.  Every day had a twist that turned all plans on their heads and made me wondering what was coming next.  Some of these incidents were caused by Covid-19, which I think is getting worse around here.  At least, it feels that way because I hear about cases more often.  Nothing has been shut down and everything is supposedly under control.  Still, it leaves me wondering if New York is heading for another ‘lockdown’ or whatever that was earlier in the year.  I don’t believe it will be as strict as before, but it really depends on how widespread the idiots are and how many take risks that turn out to be wrong choices.  All I know for sure is that the last month of 2020 isn’t going to be any less stressful than the previous 11.

Thanksgiving came and went for me.  Since we couldn’t have guests and my son was with his mom, it was just me and my parents.  Meatloaf, potatoes, and squash straws were the feast.  We had a real Thanksgiving dinner on Friday when my son was with us.  Chicken, rolls, cornbread stuffing, green beans, yams, pumpkin pie, and apple pie.  Great menu and my son, who has been having food issues since September, did an amazing job.  He tried everything except one that was a failure earlier in the week and he ran out of room for the yams.  Of course, the room was made for the pies.  We got to do a little video chat with a new member of the family.  Don’t think I have permission to announce anything beyond that here.  It was fun, but a face-to-face meeting is going to be tough given the times we live in.

Speaking of meetings, I got to hang out with some old friends for a night.  The high school crew doesn’t get together very often since we’re scattered.  It really did remind me of old times since it was supposed to be an early night, but we chatted outside until after midnight.  Oops.  The good weather didn’t help because you usually can’t be comfortable outside in late November for so long.  I think this was something I really needed this week because of the earlier chaos.  In fact, this year has really taken a toll on my nerves, self-esteem, goals, and overall mental health.  My psyche is a brutalized punching bag that is still dangling from the chain.  Getting together with friends gave me a boost and helped forget my inner misery for a while.

Writing life saw some progress . . . I think.  Do I Need to Use a Dragon? is my focus right now.  I’ve finished 13 of 70 sections.  Hoping to get another 3-4 done today, but I’ll be happy with 2-3.  This project keeps catching me by surprise.  I genuinely thought that I could use all of my notes to crank out sections and finish this with ease.  Then, I ran into a problems.  My anxiety is giving me issues on this.  I never realized how much comfort I took from hiding behind characters.  This is all me and the style of delivery is my own voice.  I’m not trying to sound like a professor or an intellectual.  It’s me as if I’m sitting on the other side of a table from the reader.  There are snacks and drinks between us.  The casualness may be a comfort for those reading it, but I’m noticing that I feel completely exposed.  So, I need breaks more often than I planned.  This has to be the most draining project I’ve ever tackled and it’s showing.  I always thought that I could write sections at night after my son goes to sleep, but I might not be able to do that.  Then again, I’m finding it easier to stop a section and come back to it later.  We’ll see what happens as this week progresses.

I’m still toying with the idea of dropping all of my books to 99 cents in early December and keeping them there.  Some people have understood the idea because I need exposure and sales more than money.  Maybe asking for $2.99 for one book is too much since I’m a nobody and we aren’t living in great economic times.  I was always told to price myself at what I think I’m worth, but ego shouldn’t be the only guide.  I have to consider if I want money or readers as well as if people are going to be willing to take a chance on an indie author for $2.99.  That’s really what I still am after all these years.  I’m a risky investment instead of a sure bet when it comes to entertainment.

Since I keep talking about what I’m watching, I’ll keep that trend going.  I got through the biggest storyline of ‘Yu Yu Hakusho’, which is an older anime.  This would be the Dark Tournament story arc, which brought me to about halfway through the entire series.  I needed a break and a trusted friend mentioned ‘Schitt’s Creek’.  Yeah, I’m 5 years too late to jump on the bandwagon, but that’s how I roll.  I never paid it much attention even though it has some actors that I always enjoy.  Since I was barely able to function after the late night hangout due to being older than I used to be, I tried a few episodes . . . and ended up in Season 2 before I knew it.  Obviously, I really like it and being able to watch the whole series is a good thing.  I’m probably going to get into or through Season 3 by the end of the week.

This coming week is looking to be rather tame compared to the last one.  Never know these days, so I won’t put money on that.  I’m going to stay the course on this week.  I have my son, so I want to spend a lot of time with him.  That’s what this week is about, so any writing I do will be a bonus.

Goals of the week:

  1. Time with son.
  2. Work.
  3. Writing if I can.
  4. Watch more ‘Schitt’s Creek’.
  5. Puzzle time if I need it.
  6. Make a decision on the price drop.
  7. Sleep.
  8. Work on ‘Ruins of Zodiac Gods’ outlines when I have a break at work.
  9. Write the mental health post for next Sunday.  Jumping between poem or short post.
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7 Tips to Being the Author You Were Meant to Be

It’s difficult to be an author and carve out your own identity.  There are industry standards, armies of gatekeepers, lengthy histories of each genre, and the constantly gnawing self-doubt.  A negative opinion on our style can hit harder than 100 positive comments.  Especially when we start, we find ourselves standing at the edge of a precipice that we pray we can walk away from.  Here are some tips to help you take the first step and get away from that abyss.

  1. Always remember that styles evolve over time.  They might never reach their final form because you could always find something to add.  We are constantly trying to hone our craft and make each story better than the next.  So, a negative comment early on only means you, like all authors, have a temporary flaw to buff out of your style.  Take it in stride and use it to evolve like a Pokemon.
  2. Jumping on a bandwagon could help you get attention as long as you sacrifice the style you feel is more natural.  This is a dangerous path.  For one thing, that bandwagon is popular because somebody already took the driver’s seat and many others jumped into the front few rows to show there was more of a public desire.  You may end up in the backseat and get just enough attention to succeed, but not enough to get a solid fan following that will carry over to when you try to write in your own style.  This is where you have to weigh being yourself and struggling against following the trend and risking your author identity.
  3. Similar to #2, DO NOT set out to be the next *insert famous author*.  That claim means you’re stepping into the shadow of an established figure and those fans will take you seriously.  Every aspect of your author identity will be put under a microscope, carefully dissected, and compared to the person you want to imitate.  This doesn’t happen if you step up and claim you’re writing in your own style.  Now, you can say you were influenced and inspired by that author.  That’s different.  You aren’t trying to claim the mantle (mantel?) and fandom.
  4. Everybody makes mistakes with their style at some point.  It can be early on when you’re still learning or later during an experimental phase.  Authors are humans and we make mistakes.  As long as you learn from them, you should be fine.  Also, don’t forget to admit when you make a wrong turn.  People can tell when others are lying in this arena.
  5. Be wary of authors who try to help you with your style.  Not with your writing, but with your style.  Learning how to use commas, semicolons, and tenses is one thing.  When another author that acts as a mentor starts pushing you to write in a way that is extremely different than what you started as, it may be time to think about it.  They could honestly be trying to help you and not realize that they are eroding your own identity.  They could reveal that their plan all along was to make a clone of themselves in the hopes of establishing their own school of writing style.  (I’ve met those!)  Solve the issue by talking it out and standing up for what you believe in.
  6. Experimentation is fun.  Never think that establishing your style means you can never try new things.  It’s like eating out at a restaurant, but without someone at the table making enough substitutions to turn spaghetti and meatballs into a rather lacking Cobb salad.
  7. Cherish the positive comments, but do not let them draw you into a state of staleness and egotism.  People will love what you do and ignore your faults.  Some may simply think it isn’t their place to point such things out.  It’s the polar opposite of those who nitpick and try to destroy you.  Both can cause trouble, so take them with grains of salt and open minds.  That or ignore them while focusing on those that give you a more balanced opinion.  Your choice.
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