Superhuman Disaster by Kristen Brand

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A hero awakens.

Retired superhero David Del Toro has just woken from a coma—or at least, that’s what the black-market doctor watching over him in an off-the-grid safehouse says. The doctor can’t tell him what happened, but that’s alright. Dave figures he can just ask his family. Except they’re nowhere to be found, their phone numbers are all disconnected, and when he goes home, he finds a hole the size of an elephant smashed into the front of the house and nothing inside.

A villain returns.

Frantic to find his family, Dave calls on all the contacts he made over his superhero career. He learns that his wife has apparently gone back to being a supervillain, and his former sidekick has become a rogue vigilante. Something rotten is going on in the DSA, the law enforcement agency that handles superhuman crime. What does it have to do with Dave’s family? And with such a late start, still suffering the aftereffects of the coma, does Dave have any hope of stopping it?

 

What the perfect end to an amazing series!  Let me start off by saying that for those of you who haven’t started this 5-book adventure, the first, Hero Status, is only 99 cents on Amazon!   It’s a phenomenal superhero series that you can read the ENTIRE series for only $12.95!!  That’s five quality books  for the price of one from the book store.  For those of you that have had the amazing chance to read The White Knight and Black Valentine series, let’s get started with my review…

I’m going to be very careful to not spoil anything so I’m going to start with this question: Do you know all of those amazing minor characters laced throughout the books that you’ve been waiting for their “HELL YEAH” moment?  For me in particular, I think a note on every book I gave to Kristen was “can I please see more bad assery from Elisa and Julio?”  I knew they were bad asses; they knew they were bad asses; Kristen knew they were bad asses; but, it wasn’t yet their moment.  Well, folks, their moments finally happened, and I could not be happier with the results!  Without creating a Mary Sue, Elisa is an insanely strong vigilante in the making – and you can bet I’ll be nudging Kristen in the direction of her getting at the very least a solo book in the future because she’s just too great of a character to pass up.  Also, leave a comment below if you think Elisa what ‘super’ route she’ll take in the future: superhero, supervillain, or vigilante?  Now also feels like a great time to bring up how amazing of a villainous comedic relief Eddy was, popping in to sprinkle some evil humor along the way.  I would write a novel myself if I went into all the fun character moments, but they include great moments from some of my favorite characters like Freezefire, Blue Sparrw, Agent Lagarde, and Moreen.

In addition to amazing character development and their powerful moments, the plot was filled with incredible action.  The fighting scenes are so well-written and have the added bonus that we get to see more fights from different powers, adding in different fun tidbits we haven’t had a chance to see yet.  Fun new villains fights include an evil sentient mist and beefed up No-Men, but I should leave a few surprises.  Really, this book wrapped up Dave and Val’s stories beautifully, but definitely left the world still in need of some superheroes.

Did I also forget to mention we finally have the answer to how Dr. Sweet has stayed alive?

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For those of you craving more of Dave and Val, you can buy The Best Man: A Superhero Short Story to read about their wedding for just 99 cents on Amazon or read a longer version of the prequel for FREE on her website here!

Chapter 31: What The Bachelor Teaches Us About Romantic Plot Lines

I was supposed to get this blog post out weeks ago, but life doesn’t really account for my plans. While my health is something I’d like to continue to keep private, just know I’m not not posting just because I won’t. It’s because I can’t. I’ve missed more work these past few weeks than I’d ever like to, but enough about me. Let’s get into the post.

This season of the Bachelor was “the most dramatic yet”, and I have to say that Colton is possibly my favorite Bachelor of all time. Granted, I’ve only been watching since Ben so other than Ben himself, my options are admittedly very limited… but it wasn’t an ‘you’re the least annoying Bachelor’. I really genuinely liked him, and that’s why I’m writing this post to use his televised love story to help authors write a better love story.

Let’s start at the most logical place: the beginning. To be honest, I was confused at Colton’s methods. Where was my dramatic two-on-one between Queen Demi and Tracey or Courtney? Why did Cassie not get mentioned more than once until she went on her one-on-one or suddenly everyone decided her and Caelynn weren’t ready for marriage?

All the girls talked about the other girls, but instead of coming in to attack the accused, he listened to their side of the story. Although I’m not sure if it was the best way, he had Onyeka and Nicole sit down and hash it out right in front of him so he could decide what to believe. That was our first hint this Bachelor would be different.

But so how can he help us write romantic plot lines? Really, it’s not until the end of the season that I want to make my point. More often than not, a book or series will have more than one love interest – often at most a love triangle, though, so the Bachelor kind of increased that ratio by thirty. Still, you have the main character tried to decide who he or she really loves.

Colton presented a unique opportunity for us authors: write one love interest to be best for the character and another best for the plot. Tayshia/Hannah G made the most sense for the series’s story that it sells every season, but Cassie was the best choice for the ‘character’.

As the author, it’s our job to provoke emotions in our readers. Too often in literature, the standard is to choose the couple that the most readers supported. You painted the perfect picture of why the couple was meant to be together from the first page they were written together, and when they did live ‘happily ever after’, the readers were left with the safe satisfaction that love stories were supposed to make sense from the beginning to the end.

But, how often is that really the case? I’m not saying don’t put the sexual attraction between the two. I’m jump to the other side of the fence (lol) and do the hate-to-love trope that I myself am guilty of enjoying. Sometimes, love doesn’t make sense until it does.

Now, the Bachelor edited the story they wanted us to see – apparently she was writing from the beginning that she thinks she loves him, but her mind didn’t agree. That’s another interesting thought – what point of view is your story being written? Does your main character see the truth, or is the love interest hiding their truth feelings? What does your character see versus other people? How does that affect your main character? Now, you have two advantages here over the Bachelor. 1) You’re characters are always mic’ed. 2) You’re not trying to balance thirty people in the same romantic plot. You have more time to spend developing little moments between the characters in the grand scheme of the central plot.

The last thing I wanted to point out was how Colton did the fence jump. It has two possibilities of negative limelight. The first is that if it was a woman doing the same, she would be perceived as desperate or clingy. The second is that an ongoing discussion in feminism is to respect the “no.” Earlier in the season, we even listened to one of the contestants share a heartbreaking story of sexual assault.

This is where we as authors must draw the line. If we romanticize toxic masculinity, we’re slowing down progress. Portray toxic relationships as toxic. But, that’s not what Colton did.

His situation wasn’t, “She doesn’t love me, but if I just continuously pursue her against her wishes, I can change her mind.” His situation was, “I can clearly see that she wants to continue this relationship [despite everything the cameras showed. Remember, they were un’miced for most of their date in Thailand since they were in the water. He’s said in interviews that was when he first realized how much she challenged him] but is too scared to act on it while there are still cameras.” There’s a difference in writing about a guy willing to do the work to get the girl, and a guy chasing a girl that doesn’t want him.

What I really want to drive home, though, is the interesting complications you can add through the romantic interest not fitting in with the plot. Rather than rely fully on the plot, let your characters guide it. If your character is the type like Chris Soules, who would rather follow the plot than the character – write it (we all see how that turned out). But, if your character is the type like Colton, who would chuck the plot if it meant losing a character – write that. Not to say that’s your only two options, but find how your characters’ love can enhance the plot past the first dimension.

Chapter 30: 10 Things To Know About Promoting Your Book

When I was in college, I majored in Finance with the School of Business.  Numbers are my other love, and I work as an accountant as my nine to five.  You can’t know finance without also learning about marketing and sales.  While of course that doesn’t make me an automatic expert, I like to think that it’s given me a little edge on understanding how to work the business side of being an author.  I’m actually using a lot of these practices for my upcoming trilogy, The Witch’s March.  So, next year once those results are in, I plan to share what worked and once didn’t.  Let’s get into those need-to-knows, shall we?

  1. It’s never a bad time to talk about it.  For me, this is a hard one.  As passionate as I am about my work, I clam up as soon as someone asks me about it.  Being a writer gives me the shield of not being there to physically see their reaction.  It’s not like actors on stage, that feel the awkward tension when their scripted joke doesn’t get the desired laugh.  I’ve always like that about writing, but you simply have to be vocal about it.  I’m not saying shove its way into every little conversation you have, but be open to talking about it.  When the time comes where something’s said and you think “oh, now I could make a good segue”, do it.  My best advice so you don’t feel guilty about constantly monopolizing the conversation into it all the time is finding a one to two sentence tagline to sell your book.  Get them interested, and they’ll do the rest
  2. Figure out your budget.  It sucks, but we don’t have an infinite number of cash to throw into promoting our books.  Once you set your publishing date, decide then and there how much you’re willing to spend on promotion.  Once you have that number set, look into the different costs of different strategies and decide which ones work for you.  For example, as a Young Adult Fantasy writer, book tours have been known to have success for my genre so that’s where the main chunk of my money is going.
  3. It’s never too soon to start.  The early bird gets the worm.  That stands true for promotion too.  I’m not saying throw all of your money into an unfinished project.  Make sure that your book has its voice first.  But once you know what direction your book’s going in, start talking.  Have that line waiting for you once the figurative sale doors open.
  4. Go to where your target audience is.  For example, Facebook is by far the most universally used social media with almost 70% of adults reporting that they use it – 94$ of 18 to 24-year-olds.  Other good avenues are YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter.  If you want to stay away from the social media outlet, don’t.
  5. If you have a publisher, talk about promoting expectations.  When you’re not self-published, a lot of this is thought of for you.  While that’s nice, that doesn’t mean you just get to cruise through while the agency does everything.  Talk to them about what they expect from you as far as press and make sure you have the support you need to accomplish it effectively.
  6. Get book reviews.  Did you know that a Dimensional Research study found that 90% of those surveyed considered positive reviews when making a purchase decision?  And guess what.  The more reviews you have, the quicker you’ll shoot up that Amazon search ranking.  Search for people who review your genre and apply to have yours read.  Ask family and friends who you know plan to purchase to leave a review.  It’s not annoying; it’s necessary.
  7. If the books a part of an established series, use it.  If you don’t have the complete list of your series in every single book of that series, I don’t know what you’re doing.  Of course when you’re still in the process of getting them published, you’ll have to go back and make some updates.  Do it.  It’s worth it.  If it’s Kindle format, I’d say go as far as to put in the link right there for your readers to click and buy the next of the series.  Make your series a unified social media account.  A one-stop shop for your readers to find to learn where they can keep reading.
  8. Blast it on your website.  If your thought to that was “I don’t have a website”, fix that.  I will say that they are time and money, so don’t make one for every book and/or series unless you have the time and money to, which most people don’t.  Name the site after yourself and then build small sections within your site for each book/series.  Make sure to always include direct links to buy the book once that becomes available.  Besides traditional ads, one way I’ve chosen to promote my upcoming The Witch’s March series is by posting relevant historic facts, as the series takes place over a large chunk of history from WWI to WWII.
  9. Test Your Title.  Basically think of it as an ad or article headline.  This is especially true in non-fiction books.  Look up key title words in your genre and see if you can add them in.  For example, fantasy loves the word “Queen” right now.
  10. Give them a little something extra.  The best example I can give of this is what movie marketing teams thought of for post-theater money-making.  When people stopped buying the VHS/DVD experience, what did they do?  They added bonus material or footage.

Chapter 29: When To Publish Based on Genre

While it’s true that a series (or an author) with an active following has a bit more wiggle room for when they choose to publish, it’s an indisputable fact that the timing of when you publish will affect sales.  Yes, most readers have one or two (or three) genres that they like to stay within, but why not have your book published at the right time?  Like in the early summer months when they’re dreaming of their summer vacations?  Or if your audience is YA, giving them self-help non-fiction for when they realize they get back into the mind-set of school?  Or a self-help book when the new year is starting and they have resolutions to keep?  Or even a cook book they decide they need because they’re trying to be healthy again?

Please notice that there’s some wiggle room of when to publish.  Also, please note that if you’re doing a series, when to publish the sequel and so on should rely more heavily on when the first is published than the month.  Also, please recognize that in addition to some genres appearing in more than one month, some of these items/genres might overlap in reference to your book (e.g. Romantic Fantasy), so when in doubt, choose the stronger theme of your book – or which one  best fits with your timeline.  Below I have the list, including some successful books published during the window:

January (“New Year, “New Me”)

February (Least published month adds to marketing visibility opportunities)

March

April

  • Mystery (Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn published on April 22nd)
  • Women’s Fiction (The Hideaway by Lauren K. Denton published on April 11th)
  • Design

May

  • Adventure
  • Fantasy
  • Travel
  • Women’s fiction
  • Biographies (Robin by Dave Itzkoff published May 15th)
  • Mother-targeted

June

July (similar to June but quieter month so similar visibility opportunity as February)

  • Adventure
  • Fantasy (Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling)
  • Travel
  • Women’s fiction
  • Biographies

August

September

 

  • Paranormal
  • Academic
  • Political (Change We Can Believe In by President Barack Obama published on September 5th)
  • Fantasy Sequel (Legendary by Stephanie Garber published September 29th)
  • Cooking
  • Debut novel

October

  • Horror (Gilchrist by Christian Galacar)
  • Political
  • Cooking (holiday recipes)
  • Non-fiction (established writer)
  • Photography
  • Art

November

December

  • Children (A is for Adorable by Elizabeth Sarpong published December 4th)
  • Illustrated
  • Quiz
  • Novelty
  • Dictionaries

 

Fun little-known fact is that the holiday season is actually not the best time to publish.  Some recent numbers show that there was about $3.5B book sales made in summer when there was only about $2.5B for holiday gift giving.  With that said, don’t let trying to make all of this fit into your novel stop you from publishing at all.  The best way to publish is to publish at all.

Chapter 28: 10 Questions to Ask Your Characters

Almost every novel’s top five main characters can be broken into these five categories: protagonist, antagonist, sidekick, mentor, and love interest. In a later blog, I will go into more specifics about each of these roles, but for now, I’m going to go over ten major questions to ask these characters in order to flesh them out and give your book quality characters to make the reader fully invested in their story. Some are simpler to answer than others, of course.  You might not think a name is anything more than just that, but I disagree.  I think this Japanese proverb says it best: Tigers die and leave their skins; people die and leave their names.  So without any further ado, here are the 10 questions to ask your main characters:

  1. What is their name? Every author has a different method to naming their characters. There are some other questions to consider when answering this one. What is their culture? What year is it? Some authors like to look up the meaning of names to help them decide. A good website for that is Behind The Name. If you’re writing fantasy, a good method could be finding a real name and altering it slightly. A good example of this is Eddard from Game of Thrones – changing the name Edward into a more gritty sounding name to fit the character.

  2. What role do they play to add to the plot? This can be protagonist, antagonist, sidekick, mentor, love interest, temptor/henchmen, skeptic, emotional, logical, etc. How will their existence complicate or propel forward the plot?

  3. What is their primary goal? Answering this question helps create such complicated plots like in Game of Thrones. (Can you tell I like the series from my many references?) What does their happy ending look like? What are they willing to do to achieve this goal? How does this goal align with the protagonists? How does it interfere with or what roadblocks does it bring to the protagonist’s goals? Will they get said happily ever after?

  4. What are their strengths? If they were being interviewed for their role in the plot, what would they say? A good place to start is answering if they appeal to ethos, pathos, or logos. In the terrible situations they get themselves into during the plot, how can they contribute to the plan to get themselves out of trouble or accomplish some heroic action? A good example is Hermione’s abundance of knowledge and common sense of preparation helps Harry Potter get out of several sticky situations. Another thing to think about is if there’s a trait that acts as a strength in one instance but a weakness in others. This is like how Scarlett in Caraval unconditionally loves her sister.  It gives her the strength to push past several emotionally draining situations; however, it also leaves her less cautious as she feels more desperate throughout the book.

  5. What are their weaknesses? Same as strengths, but obviously in reverse. If the story needs the character’s team to fail in that plot point, how would they contribute to that failing? Their impatience? Anger? Naivety? Cockiness? Stupidity? This is the entire principle that the series of The Agency is written around: a societal male underestimation of women that the protagonist spy takes advantage of continuously in her adventures.

  6. How old are they? This will largely contribute to several of their characteristics because the following answer must be answered: what kind of environment did they grow up in? There’s often the said cycle of: strong men lead to good times lead to weak men lead to bad times lead to strong men, and onward. Also, did they deal with certain discriminations that took place before the plot begins?

  7. What is their connection to protagonist? How do they know each other? If they have a history together, at the very least summarize it for yourself so that it can contribute to their relationship. Does the protagonist like them? Do they like the protagonist? Is there anyone in particular that they are close to or care about?

  8. What is their occupation? How a person chooses to earn money says a lot about them. Could their occupation add to the contribution of why their an asset to the team? An example of this is Philo in The Scorpion King and how is knowledge of science from his job as a court magician helps save the ‘good guys’ more than once.

  9. How will you introduce this character? Is their depiction in that first scene true to their character or do you want to give some misdirection? How much does the reader know about them at their first appearance? Do you want them to be mentioned before officially meeting them or do the readers only know what the protagonist describes at the first hello?

  10. How are they different in the beginning of the story versus the end? In order to be believable, every character needs a growth arc. A good example of this is following Claire Danvers in the Morganville Vampires series. While several of her main characteristics stay the same throughout the books, her bravery grows and her strengths against the varying antagonists shifts.