Willoughby Review

My friend Pam Halter along with artist Kim Sponaugle have just released Book 1 of the Willoughby and Friends.

I love stories- I especially love Children’s stories that allow my kids to go to imaginary worlds. Willoughby and the Terribly Itchy Itch is a fun story. One of a dragon trying desperately to rid himself of an itch. An itch he can’t seem to get rid of. This is a story that shows friends coming together to help each other out- Even when it seems hopeless. In a world where negativity seems to be the focus we can rest in knowing that our true friends will help us in the most irritating times.

This book is a great introduction to a nice new series of Children’s books. The art work by Kim Sponaugle is incredible and the story by Pam Halter is tight. I look forward to more adventures of Willoughby and his friends.

A Time to Rise – Cover Reveal

The television host Mr Rogers was known for carrying around a quote from a social worker in his wallet. The note said:

“Frankly, there isn’t anyone you couldn’t learn to love once you’ve heard their story.” 

In storytelling, we call this the principle of  Make Me Love, or as Andrew Stanton says in his Ted Talk: Make me Care.

In my life I have lived in story. I have found myself diving deep into the depths of words scattered across pages, searching for friends, adventure, and a sense of wonder. The job of a story teller is to do just that. To open a black box and invite a reader in, and to quickly close the lid so they can’t escape. But that only happens when an author has obeyed the principle of “Make us Love / Make me care.”

The incredible covers created by Kirk DouPonce (Dog Ear Designs) for Nadine Brandes Out of Time Series are absolutely captivating. They provide that invitation and that principle of story- Making me want to care and love.

One can’t help but be left with questions: who is this girl? Where is she heading? And what is she searching for?

Pravin Blackwater is not the most likely hero one would expect. But once we hear her story, like those in her world, we can’t help but love and care for her.

This series is one of the most intriguing dystopian series I have ever read. With quotable prose that pulls you in and traps you until the early morning hours.

I’m sad- in some ways to see it come to an end. But like all great characters I have traveled with- the adventure may end, but the story goes on.

The last book in the Out of Time Series is being released this October. And I’m excited to see where our friend Nadine Brandes takes it!!!

Don’t hesitate to jump into this world.

The links for book 1 A Time to Die and book 2 A Time to Speak are below.

So jump in- Be encouraged- And get lost

A Time to Die

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A Time to Speak

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4 Things I’ve Learned After 11 Years of Working in Marketing

I’ve worked in Marketing for Eleven Years now. I’ve made mistakes- I’ve Fixed others Mistakes- And I’ve learned from Mistakes. However, one secret I know is this-

Marketing is not that hard.

It really isn’t. I think we have a tendency to make it harder than it really is. But the truth is: all you need are a few basic things-

One: A good product

Two: A passion for your product

Three: An ability to overcome the fear and share.

When most people ask me how much they should spend on marketing their books, products, etc. I tell them unless you have the money- You should only spend your time.

Sounds strange. But so many get ahead of themselves. Put your money in the production of the product FIRST. A well-edited book with a great cover will do more for you. If you have money left over, invest what you can in marketing.

Here are four things I’ve learned by being in upper management that anyone can do on any budget.

  1. Find what works for you and stick with it consistently.

Our company specializes in Direct Mail. It’s what most of you would call junk mail. But we have mastered it. Everything from creative design to programming mailing lists, to the production of envelopes, applications, brochures, etc is done in house. We even fold, insert, and sort all our mail down to a specific postal carrier route. We have mastered it by bringing everything in-house. We send out 3.5 Million pieces of mail each week. (YES- You read that right.) We know what works for us and we have a concept:

“How do we get you to open up the envelope without tricking you?”

  1. Your Fans / Clients / and Existing Customers- when satisfied will be your Number 1 point of future sales. (Click to Tweet This)

Here’s something. We market to our existing customers. We spend a lot of time and product development in marketing to the family members of existing customers who have been loyal for years. These products are some of our biggest sales. That’s not just us. Any large successful business does the same thing. Word of mouth is the biggest friend you can have. Find your fans- Build that email list- And hold on tight to them.

  1. Frequency- Frequency- Frequency:

Listen- Only Impulse Buyers buy the first time- 85% of the rest of the market need to see it more than once. Now please understand something. We don’t mail each customer every week. Sometimes it’s simply once a month. However, we hit them more than once. If you are a writer or entrepreneur don’t make every facebook, Tweet, or Instagram post about your book or product. After a while I’m going to be like: “Yeah, I get it.” But don’t ever go silent. Push it and don’t be afraid to push it.

  1. Test your control strategy against a test strategy:

We test everything. We have packages that have worked for years- But that doesn’t mean we stop brainstorming new ideas and concepts. Try one thing one day. The next week at the same time- Try something else. Test your results. Test your reach. Don’t shy away from data- It may not always tell the right story, but it can be eye-opening when it tells the same story consistently.  

Nadine & Books: an interview w/ Nadine Brandes

Hey everyone,

I’ve very excited to have with me today Nadine Brandes; Carol award winning author of A Time to Die and soon to be released A Time to Speak. Today we are discussing all things books: So put on your Geek Cap and join the conversation in the comments below.

So Nadine, let’s start off with a few of your favorites. I’m always interested to hear what other writers both like to read and hate…

What were some of your favorite books you read while growing up…?

I loved Narnia and Nancy Drew. Those were my main reads for a long time until Harry Potter came out. Then I became the kid who stalked J K Rowling’s writing updates, waiting for her to publish the next book. Even though they can be controversial in Christian circles, God used them to inspire me to see the power of good versus evil. He used it to awaken a love for fantasy in me.

Do you ever find yourself re-reading, or planning to re-read any particular book or series…?

I try to re-read Lord of the Rings every January as well as Francine Rivers’ The Mark of the Lion Series. Obviously, I re-read Harry Potter, but I don’t plan it out. I read it when I’m in the mood and also read them aloud to hubby. J

What genres do you like best or see yourself gravitating towards more…?

I used to think I was a fantasy girl, but then when I made a list of all my favorite movies and books…I realized I liked sci-fi much more than I thought. Besides, my books are technically sci fi. But when I’m picking up a book from the library or bookstore, it’s usually YA fantasy or YA sci-fi.

Any particular genres you dislike…?

Romance. *hides* Okay, it’s not awful. Actually the Christian romance has gotten much better these days. But when I was growing up it was all far too cheesy, unrealistic, and cliché. I grew very disenchanted and frustrated with the genre and I guess that carried over into my adult years. I still get irritated with unrealistic romance in YA novels.

So, hopefully I didn’t just make a bunch of enemies since Romance is the top genre in the CBA.

What about Covers, you have incredible covers; any particular covers stand out for you…?

I can take no credit for Kirk Douponce’s brilliance, but I’m sure glad he was assigned to my books! I’m a picky reader when it comes to covers (and I totally judge books by them) so I’m glad I ended up with covers to my own books that I ADORE.

Some of my favorite covers are:

Curio, by Evangeline Denmark (also by Kirk DouPonce)

Plenilune, by Jennifer Freitag

Throne of Glass, by Sara J Maas

Walk on Earth a Stranger, by Rae Carson

Those are the books that I pick up just for the covers. I haven’t actually read any of them yet, but I hope they match the awesomeness of their covers! 😀

Let’s talk Characters a moment- Who are some of your favorite fictional characters…?

I love Merlin, from BBC’s TV show Merlin, Hadassah from Mark of the Lion, Harry Potter (duh), Achan from Jill Williamson’s Blood of Kings Series, and Francis from the movie The Greatest Game Ever Played.

These are all characters who had to overcome overwhelming odds. Some of them were born with talents, some weren’t. But they’re all courageous and brave, pushing forward through the toughest adversity. I love them all dearly.

I love anti heroes or the ones you’re just not sure you can trust but end up being good. (Snape is one of my favorites.) What about you, any particular anti-heroes you just love…?

You took my favorite. 😛 SNAPE! By the way, before the last book came out, I always believed he’d be good. Just saying.

Edmund from Narnia. While I hated him in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, I love how passionate he becomes for following Aslan.

Atretes from The Mark of the Lion Series.

What about villains. What stands out as a great villain..? Is there one that has ever just kind of frightened you…?

Maleficent! Maleficent has always been, in my opinion, right up there next to Voldemort. She’s scary and horrible (until Disney released a new version of her and now this example will simply never work.)

I get angry with Characters sometimes. There have been a few I find myself wanting to slap upside the head and knock some sense into. You ever come across a character you just want to say: “Why are you doing that…?” If so, who would that be…?

Any character who’s making a stupid decision. You know the ones: “So-and-so just told you not to trust that evil villain…and now you’re trusting him?!” Or if they have a secret that will save the world, but decide not to tell anyone.

To name a few: Tris Prior from Divergent, Thomas from The Maze Runner, Bella during all the Twilight books, Vrell from From Darkness Won (though I still loved her. :D)

I hate a bad ending to a book. And I have read several. What makes you unhappy about endings…? What do not want to see at the end of a book…?

Hopelessness! (*Curse you, Mockingjay*) There always needs to be a nugget of hope. Because in life, there’s always a nugget of hope. And the moment we lose that in our fiction is when we start feeding our readers lies about life and present them only with darkness.

I also hate endings that don’t fit the story or seem to random to bring in the “shock factor” (*Curse you, Merlin.*)

Okay, your series “The Out of Time Series” is Dystopian. I love dystopian fiction and Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is one of my Favorites. What about you, do you have any particular favorite…?

Despite the hopeless ending and the horridness of Mockingjay, I still cling to The Hunger Games. That was one of the first books that really helped me get the dystopian genre. And I chose to set the Out of Time Series in a dystopian world because of those books.

I also love Ready Player One, which is a virtual reality dystopian. Despite the profanity (you’ve been warned) the story is brilliant.

Let’s take fictional worlds for a moment… If you could step into a book and be a part of a fictional world which one would it be, and why…?

Hogwarts. Obviously, I’d hope to have magical abilities, but even if I was a Squib, I’d want to wander Diagon Alley for a while. It’s always been the most magical world in my mind, probably because I grew up with the books and with Harry Potter. After that, I’d want to go to Hobbiton.

Is there any particular book, or series that influenced your writing…?

I’m pretty sure I answered this amidst some of my other answers, but to give a good list:

Harry Potter, by J K Rowling

Mark of the Lion Series, by Francine Rivers

Love Does, by Bob Goff

The Blood of Kings Trilogy, by Jill Williamson

A Time to Die was you first published Novel. It was nominated for a Christy and won the Carol award at ACFW this year. Did you expect this book to ever be a success like that in terms of recognition and reception…?

At the risk of sounding prideful…sort of.

Don’t get me wrong. I was still scraping my jaw off the floor and crying a lot, but here’s why I say “sort of”:

From the moment I was given the idea for the book, I knew it wasn’t mine. When I started writing, my writing came out in a “voice” (that writing professionals are calling a “natural talent”) that I’d never seen myself use before. I can’t think of it as natural talent. It came out of nowhere! When I wrote the first chapter of A Time to Die at midnight on a school night in grad school, I re-read it the next day and the whole time, I thought, “I didn’t write this. I don’t write like this.” It was like reading someone else’s work.

I feel like I’ve been along for the ride this entire time and that none of it is actually me. God’s just using my fingers. Seriously. So because it was such a bizarre U-turn from how I used to write/think/dream, I knew that God had a purpose for the book and my constant prayer was that He’d grow it so it would touch more lives.

To me…these awards and nominations are simply giving God the glory that I knew He deserved from the very start with this book. So I hope that people see it that way – it has nothing to do with me. God could snap His fingers and I’d return to my old drab way of writing and that’s okay. Because it’s always been Him.

Is there anything that you hope readers will take away from this series…?

That we are created for something mighty and powerful! We are meant to be bringers of shalom and no matter if we have a 9-5 desk job or we’re world travelers, God will use us in world-changing ways. It’s just our job to say, “Here I am.” 🙂

Thanks for stopping by Nadine. Let Nadine and I know what some of your favorites are in the comments below. And check out Nadine’s new release “A Time to Speak” this Friday.

Be Sure to Attend the Book Launch Party on October 20th

(Click on the Pic Below for more Details)