June 1, 2020

#Utopia Go Fund Me Blog Hop #Giveaway

As we jump into the FIFTH year of the amazing UtopiaCon, we want to give back to the organizers who have given so much inspiration and support to us. A conference of this magnitude–of this level of MAGIC–is not cheap.

Over the past few months, we’ve learned that organizers, friends, and even family have come forward and given from their own personal funds in order to help move Utopia forward another year, and we want to pay them back. We want to FIGHT FOR OUR WRITE and do our part to help.

This year especially, we’d like to make sure the Utopia team  goes into planning sessions with an extra boost to the conference’s bottom line.

So if you’ve ever been touched by Utopia, or if you love any of the authors, bloggers, or readers who have, please take a moment to give a few dollars. This will insure that the inspiration continues.

We hope you’ll be led to give from the heart…but to sweeten the deal, we have some MAJORLY EPIC incentives! In addition to what you’ll get from the Go Fund Me organizers (see the donation page to read about those), you’ll also get entered to win any one of these amazing raffle prizes listed in the Rafflecopter below!

Prizes like this one:

And in order to help convey the magical sense of community Utopia has instilled in its attendees, I want everyone to know that…


(Don’t you LOVE the still image YouTube picked?! I tried to change it, but it was determined to make me look silly.) ANY-who…

There is no purchase or donation necessary to enter the drawing, but we encourage you to give even just $10 in order to help move us toward our big goal. And don’t forget, every donation of at least $10 earns you FREE books!

How to enter:

  1. Go visit #UtopiaLove’s Go Fund Me page and make a small donation (this isn’t necessary, but we would be so jazzed if you did this first! AND this earns you an automatic prize based on your donation level. Check your email to collect.)

  2. Click through any one of the Rafflecopter entry methods. Complete the necessary item and get entered for all of the raffle prizes listed below.

  3. Click through to the list of other participating authors & bloggers to read how Utopia has changed them!

That’s it! Thanks!


Participating Blogs:

Shantella Benson

S.M. Boyce

Stacey Marie Brown

Susan Burdorf

Shelley Custer

Komali da Silva

Amy Evans

Ginny Gallagher

Heather Hildenbrand

Karen Hooper

PK Hrezo

Elisabeth Kauffman

Carlyle Labuschagne

Patti Larsen

Liz Long

Jo Michaels

Michaela Mills

Kallie Ross

Raine Thomas

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank You, Jillian Dodd!

Jillian Dodd, an Extraordinary Woman

Ten days ago, 98 other authors and I participated in a promotion called 99 Authors, 99 Books for 99 Cents. It was an unprecedented effort that wound up being a smashing success! This undertaking was spearheaded by author Jillian Dodd, an amazing woman who somehow managed to coordinate a slew of authors and bloggers from concept to implementation.

Hats off to you, Jillian Dodd!

Today, I’m part of a surprise to thank Jillian for her efforts. A group of 99 authors and bloggers are featuring Jillian and her books in an effort to promote her work and get her to the top of the sales charts! Let’s learn a little more about Jillian and then go buy her books, shall we?

Author Bio:

Jillian Dodd grew up on a farm in Nebraska, where she developed a love for Midwestern boys and Nebraska football. She has drank from a keg in a cornfield, attended the University of Nebraska, got to pass her candle, and did have a boy ask her to marry him in a bar. She met her own prince in college, and they have two amazing children, a Maltese named Sugar Bear, and two Labrador puppies named Camber Lacy and Cali Lucy.

She is the author of the That Boy Trilogy and The Keatyn Chronicles Series.


Stalk Me by Jillian Dodd:

Keatyn has everything she ever dreamed. Her life is following the script she wrote for the perfect high school experience. She’s popular, goes to the best parties, dates the hottest guy, and sits at the most-coveted lunch table.

She’s just not sure she wants it anymore.

Because, really, things aren’t all that perfect.
Her best friend is threatening to tell everyone her perfect relationship is a scam.
Her perfect boyfriend gets drunk at every party they go to.
It’s exhausting always trying to look and act perfect.
And, deep down, she isn’t sure if she has any true friends.

To add to the drama, her movie star mom has a creepy stalker.
A hot, older man flirts with her and tells her they should make a movie together.
And she’s crushing on an adorable surfer. Dating him would mean committing social suicide.

So she writes a new script. One where all the pieces of her life will come together in perfect harmony. But little does she know, there’s someone who will do anything to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Kiss Me by Jillian Dodd:

I’ve always written scripts for my perfect life.
But no way could I have ever scripted this.
My life is so far from perfect, it’s not even funny.
All because of a stalker.

I’m at a boarding school, where I have to lie about who I am.
I can’t see my family.
I’m tutoring a hottie god that tortures me with his smile.
The most popular girl already hates me.
But there’s this boy.
This hot, sweet, sexy boy.
So I’m going to stop trying to script my life and just live it.
Because who knows how long I have left.

Links: Stalk Me  on Amazon and Barnes and Noble

Links: Kiss Me on Amazon and Barnes and Noble

Jillian Dodd’s Website

Follow Jillian Dodd on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads

It’s Here–the Much-Anticipated Release of CIAO by Bethany Lopez!

Folks, if you haven’t read Bethany Lopez’s Stories About Melissa series, you’re really missing out! These contemporary YA books are wonderfully written and feature a group of unforgettable characters. I’m so excited to be a part of Bethany’s launch tour for her latest Melissa story, Ciao!

Let’s learn a little more about the book first. Check out the blurb:

Melissa has had a fantastic summer hanging out with her friends and making new ones. Life as she knows it will change when they all come together to begin their sophomore year at Dearborn High. Connections will be made and friendships will be tested. Will Melissa’s family and friends be able to help her through the challenges she will face in the upcoming months?

Awesome, right? I love that the Stories About Melissa series is written in the style of journal entries. It really helps the reader get into the mindset of the teenage protagonist, I think.

As a way to introduce you to this story, Bethany has very kindly provided an excerpt from Ciao. Since I know that you will want to buy it as soon as you read the excerpt, I’ll mention that Ciao is now available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Now let’s enjoy the teaser. Then be sure to go and buy the book!



Last Few Days of Summer:
      Last night was AWESOME!!! Jess asked me to stay at her house last night. We only have a few days until school starts, and we wanted to catch up. I asked my parents, and they weren’t too sure, since her mom was working, but they said yes!
      We started out just hanging around in our pajamas and listening to the radio. We were calling in and requesting songs and talking to the DJ; it was pretty fun! We tried texting Jimmy, but then we remembered that he was at his grandparents’ house for a family dinner, so we started texting everyone else.  I didn’t invite Cassie – not because of the thing with her and Jimmy, although that’s still kinda freakin’ me out, but I wanted time to hang with Jess, just like we used to.
      Then, I got a text from Brian, asking if I thought Jess would mind if he gave Giovanni her number. He said Giovanni thought she was really cute and wanted to talk to her. When I told Jess, we started screaming and jumping up and down. Hello… Of course she wanted Giovanni to call her!!! As soon as I told Brian that, Jess’s phone started buzzing. It was Giovanni.
      She answered the phone, giggling again, and walked into her bedroom to talk to him. I texted Brian back and said, “That was fast.”
      He texted back, “I’m right here with Gio. We are hangin. What R U doin?”
      “At Jess’s.”
      “Do you guys want company?”
      “I don’t know, I’ll ask her.”
      I ran over to Jess’s bedroom and poked my head in. “Jess… they want to come over!”
      She had a big smile on her face and nodded at me, before replying to Giovanni, that she wanted to get to know him too.
      “Jess said OK.”
      “Cool, we will be by in 10.”
      OMG… we looked like total slobs! I ran back and motioned getting changed to Jess, and she nodded again. “Okay, Giovanni, I’ll see you in a bit!”
      She hung up and jumped up onto her bed and started jumping up and down. “Oh… My… God! He is coming over!”
      I laughed and said we needed to change… Quick!
      We both put our clothes back on and brushed our hair. We were fumbling to get our makeup on, when we heard the car pull into Jess’s driveway. We both squealed and went out into the living room, to try and look like we hadn’t been waiting for them to get there. We let them knock twice, before we got up to answer the door.
      We opened the door and looked out together, and I have to say, those boys looked gorgeous… Both tall, with dark hair, and big smiles on their faces.
      “Come on in,” Jess invited.
      “Come va, Jess… Eh… How are you?” Giovanni asked, taking her hand and kissing it lightly, as he entered.
      “Great!” Jess replied, and gestured towards the living room. “Have a seat!”
      Brian and I hugged hello, and then we went in and sat on the couch.
      We all hung out in there for a while, talking about the summer and getting ready for school. Then Brian and I went into the kitchen to grab a snack and I heard Jess ask Giovanni if he wanted to go in the backyard and sit on the porch swing.
      Brian and I got some mint chocolate chip ice cream and some bottled water, and sat at Jess’s table.
      Brian cleared his throat, “So, Mis, have you given any thought to what I said that day at the Buddy Walk?”
      Crap… I thought, and then looked into Brian’s sparkling blue eyes. “A little,” I responded, “But, I just don’t know, Brian.  A lot has happened, and we have a really great relationship, I don’t know if I want to complicate things.”
      Brian looked down at his ice cream, and then back up at me. “Yeah, I get it… I just really like you and wish you could give me another chance. I think we could be really good together, and I would love to call you my girl.”
      OMG… Could he be any cuter? I could feel the pleasure rushing through me as his words registered.
      “Look… What if we take it day by day. We don’t have to rush right back into going out, but maybe I could ask you on a date sometime. What do you think?” he asked reaching across the table to hold my hand.
      The warmth of his hand in mine, made me feel light-headed and sort of tingly all over. I looked into his eyes, and I really wanted to say yes, but I couldn’t help but think of Jimmy, and that held me back.
      “Can I think about it?”
      “Sure,” he said with a smile, not letting go of my hand.
      We stayed like that for a while, just talking and laughing about stuff. It was really nice.
      Jess and Giovanni eventually came back in, and Brian and Giovanni said their goodbyes and headed out.
      Once the door shut, I turned to Jess, who looked like she’d been smacked in the face by a crazed Care Bear.
      “We kissed!” Jess screamed at me, grabbing my hands and jumping up and down. “IT WAS AMAZING!!!”
      We jumped and yelled for a few more minutes and then fell to the floor laughing. I lay on my side and looked at her, “Spill.”
      “Okay,” She said, sitting up into the old crisscross applesauce position of comfort. “We went out onto the porch swing and were swinging and talking about…Whatever. Then, he looked deep into my eyes and said, “Avvicinarsi.” Then he leaned in and softly touched his lips to mine. Mis, he didn’t touch me, or pull me closer or anything, just our lips were touching. It was so sexy! We sat there, just kissing and not touching, forever! It… Was… AMAZING!”
      “What does avvicinarsi mean?” I asked.
      “I have no idea! Let’s look it up.”
      She grabbed her mom’s iPad and looked it up. “Come closer… Can you believe it? He is wonderful, Mis. I really like him.”
      I told her how happy I was for her… And I am. Jess deserves to be happy, and Giovanni is totally awesome, but I can’t help but wish for the same thing.
      I know. I know. I could totally be in a relationship right now, but, then I have to make a choice – Brian or Jimmy. And what happens to my relationship with one, if I choose the other?       Ugh… Why does it have to be so complicated?


Buy Ciao now on Amazon or Barnes and Noble!

It’s Launch Day for ORACLE by J.C. Martin!

You may recall that I participated in a promo tour for the cover reveal of Oracle by J.C. Martin back in January. Many of you expressed interest in the book during that tour, so I’m delighted to share the news that Oracle is available today! Congrats to J.C. on the launch. Let’s learn a little more about the author and her new release–including where to buy it.

About the Author

J.C. Martin is a butt-kicking bookworm: when she isn’t reading or writing, she teaches martial arts and self-defence to adults and children.After working in pharmaceutical research, then in education as a schoolteacher, she decided to put the following to good use: one, her 2nd degree black belt in Wing Chun kung fu; and two, her overwhelming need to write dark mysteries and gripping thrillers with a psychological slant.

Her short stories have won various prizes and have been published in several anthologies. Oracle is her first novel.

Born and raised in Malaysia, J.C. now lives in south London with her husband and three dogs.

Contact: Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook

Book Blurb for Oracle

With London gearing up to host the Olympics, the city doesn’t need a serial killer stalking the streets, but they’ve got one anyway.Leaving a trail of brutal and bizarre murders, the police force is no closer to finding the latest psychopath than Detective Inspector Kurt Lancer is in finding a solution for his daughter’s disability.

Thrust into the pressure cooker of a high profile case, the struggling single parent is wound tight as he tries to balance care of his own family with the safety of a growing population of potential victims.

One of whom could be his own daughter.

Fingers point in every direction as the public relations nightmare grows, and Lancer’s only answer comes in the form of a single oak leaf left at each crime scene.

Purchase Links: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble

Be sure to pick up your copy now and support this amazing writer!


Defying the Odds: One #Indie Author’s Perspective

Today I’d like to share with you the dedication from my upcoming book, Defy. For those of you who don’t know, Defy was a book that just about made me give up writing.  It seems silly to say that now, but there you have it.

I’ve never revised a book as much as I did this one, and I spend a lot of time editing my books. At one point, I chopped 20,000 words and rewrote them. Then I chopped and rewrote some more. It felt like every time I was “done,” yet another change had to be made. My husband eventually took pity on me and shipped me off to a local hotel for a long weekend just so I could sit in peace and revise.

And still, I wasn’t done.

But whenever my frustration took hold and I wanted to throw the proverbial pen across the room, I’d receive some kind of positive feedback…a great review of one of my books, an unbelievably appreciated shoutout by a fellow author to an interested literary agent, or (most especially) contact from a new fan. It was messages like the one saying, “Thank you so much for your hard work and talent, and for putting forth such an intelligent story and beautiful imagery!” that got me through the rough spots.

Someone I don’t even know thanked me for all of my pain and suffering? How could I not go on?

What I’ve also learned in the process of finishing Defy is that I’m not alone. Many authors feel this way at some point. I’m contacted periodically by writers who express frustration, depression, feelings of inferiority, and/or the sentiment that they don’t feel like continuing on with their writing. And the advice I give them is the same advice I followed: never, ever give up.

Before I share the Defy dedication, I’ll offer a few tips for writers that I’ve recently picked up in hopes they’ll help someone out there. If you missed my first post featuring tips for writers, you can check it out here. As for my latest tips:

1. Don’t give up. Okay, I just said that…but it can’t be said enough!

2. Socialize like you’ve never socialized before. On a surprising number of occasions, I’ve observed other writers saying things like, “Pinterest is just a passing fad,” “I’m not going to waste time beefing up my Facebook presence,” or “I don’t get Twitter, so I just use it occasionally.” Um…seriously? I won’t even touch the Facebook and Twitter comments because, quite frankly, if you don’t see the value in those hundreds of millions of followers by now, I probably won’t be able to reason with you.

But, people–have we learned nothing from the past? There was a time when Facebook and Twitter were thought to be “passing fads.” There’s a quote by Steve Jobs (you might’ve heard of him) that says, “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” Pinterest is the most visual site there is. On top of that, it can link to your Facebook and Twitter feeds. Get on there and start pinning your books, your blogs, pictures that resemble your characters, images that inspire your settings, amazing wardrobe photos, and anything else that you think might draw interested readers into your world. This is the hottest social media site out there right now. Don’t miss out because you think it has no bearing on the writing world!

And, yes…I’ve made book sales via Pinterest.

3. Support other writers. I believe in the power of karma. There has been some negativity in different segments of the writing community, and a lot of it stems from whether or not an author is traditionally published. In my mind, we should look beyond that. We should acknowledge that we’re all working exceedingly hard at our craft. We should support each other. We should read each other’s books, tweet about them, like them, pin them, blog about them and refer them to all of our friends and relatives. This is a hard enough industry to succeed in without having unnecessary obstacles caused by narrow viewpoints.

If you work hard on your writing, keep your mind open to creative ways to sell and market your books, and never stop developing your social media platform, you can defy the odds and have a successful writing career. Believe it.

And with that, I leave you with the dedication to Defy, which releases on April 30th. I hope you all enjoy Tate and Zachariah’s story as much as I enjoyed completing it!

This book is dedicated with sincerest gratitude to all indie authors and everyone who supports us.

It never ceases to amaze me what an inspiring and supportive community this is. Here’s to defying the odds, pursuing our dreams and reaching for the stars!

Raine Gives Back: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

It’s so hard to believe that 2011 will be rolling to a close in just a few days. This has been a whirlwind year with so many wonderful experiences, and I can’t wait to see what 2012 will bring! For me, personally, these are the top five highlights from 2011:

5. Finally getting to see an Atlanta Braves spring training game at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports
4. Coordinating my 100th wedding and publishing a nonfiction book for wedding vendors
3. Buying a new house and moving into it
2. My daughter’s graduation from VPK and her first day of Kindergarten
1. Publication of the Daughters of Saraqael trilogy

There are other highlights, of course, not the least of which is joining Twitter and Triberr and connecting with so many awesome people. In the new year, I’m inviting some of the amazing writers I’ve connected with to participate in my blog, so be on the lookout for interviews and guest posts to come. I’m very grateful to everyone who invited me to participate on their blogs this year and look forward to returning the nod!

St Jude Childrens Research Hospital Lastly, a 2011 accomplishment that has a lot of meaning to me is the establishment of the Raine Gives Back initiative. I’ve donated 5% of my net earnings from book sales each month to a different cause, beginning in October. The very worthy cause receiving a donation in December is St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, a suggestion offered to me by author Sara Reine. My donation will be made in Sara’s name once December’s sales numbers are finalized.

Do you have a cause that you feel is worthy of a donation from Raine Gives Back? If so, please comment and tell me more. I’m looking forward to contributing to many great causes in the new year, and, as always, I thank you for your support!

First Time in Paperback! The Daughters of Saraqael Trilogy

I’m pretty sure that every author longs for the day when they get to hold their own books in their hands. Most of us grew up as avid readers, scouring bookstores and libraries to enjoy books written by others. That love of the written word is what drives most of us to pen our own works. So the “Wow–I’m an author!” moment really clicks when you have your own book in-hand.

Because I self-published, my books were first released in electronic format. I can’t say that I intended to format them for paperback publication when I started this writing journey, but when the eBooks started selling well and my fans asked when the paperbacks would be available so they could own those, too, I consulted with my business manager (aka, The Hubby). And we decided to go for it.

Daughters of Saraqael Trilogy Paperback

I had A Moment just holding these.

I’m deliriously excited to announce that the Daughters of Saraqael trilogy is now available on Amazon.com and CreateSpace.com in paperback format! Look–aren’t they beautiful??

Holding the books in my hands was a moment to remember. I don’t think I stopped smiling the entire day. But I’ll confess that when I saw how big they were, I fretted about it. “They’re bigger than typical paperbacks,” I pointed out to hubby.

“That’s because they’re trade novels, not standard paperbacks,” he said. “They’re kind of a cross between hardcovers and paperbacks. If you made them any smaller, the page count would increase and they’d have to be priced much higher. You don’t want to do that to your readers.”

Did I mention that he’s a GREAT business manager?

What excites me the most about the launch of the paperback versions of the Daughters of Saraqael trilogy is that this provides another revenue stream to contribute to my Raine Gives Back campaign. In October, I donated 5% of my book sales earnings to Susan G. Komen for the Cure® in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Thanks to your helpful suggestions, I’ve now lined up several causes to be the recipients of the Raine Gives Back funds in coming months.

Ciara Ballintyne, a wonderful writer and great all-around person, suggested that I donate to an organization that specializes in working with people in need of organ transplants. At Ciara’s great suggestion, my husband and I identified HelpHopeLive.org (www.helphopelive.org), formerly the National Transplant Assistance Fund. On behalf of Ciara and her family, we will donate 5% of November’s book sales to this amazing, life-saving cause. Thanks, Ciara!

This is such an exciting time. I never thought that there could be a greater feeling than holding my printed books in-hand…but there is no denying that the feeling was heightened by knowing that the books will help aid a good cause, too. So, I’ll once again thank my readers for your support. None of this would be possible without you!