Posts Tagged ‘ love ’

Trans-Atlantic Team-Up – Exploring Discoverability

Buzzwords. What did we do before they were invented? Or maybe they’ve always been with us, just under a different name.

One thing’s for sure – the buzzword of the day among indie authors is “discoverability”.  The art of getting noticed. It’s not a new word, created in the epublishing revolutionm though looking about you you might think indie authors created the concept.

Actually it’s been around since forever.

But in the world of digital book selling it’s never been more important.

The e-charts get ever more competitive, and while we still love to read about the success stories of new and unknown authors beating the odds and winning the Amazon lottery, the simple fact is it’s getting harder and harder. By the day. Even for established authors with a brand and a loyal readership base.

As ebooks become more acceptable there are tons more indie authors out there competing for the attention of a limited number of ebook readers. Even by the most optimistic estimates only 25% of buyers are buying ebooks – print still has 75% of the market. And while the e-shelves may be infinite, the number of books that will be bought is not.

Most importantly, the once indie-friendly e-charts are suddenly not so indie-friendly after all.

Getting noticed is hard, and getting noticed beyond your home shores is harder still.

One advantage we still have as indies is the ability to be nimble. To take risks. To experiment. To look at new ways of becoming discoverable, and then trying them out.

Say hello to the Trans-Atlantic Team-Up.

Yes, it’s an experiment. Yes, it may fail abysmally. It may stall this year and take-off next year. Who knows. But one thing’s for sure: Nothing ventured…

So we figured, supposing we took a good seller from the UK doing less well in the US, and a good seller in the US not doing so well in the UK, and put them together in one volume? And then released it both sides of the Atlantic, so fans of author A would see author B’s work, and fans of author B would see author A’s work?

Box-Sets are commonplace ways of getting one author’s books “doubled up” to increase exposure, and exchanging links and recommending one another’s books is also a commonplace method of cross-promotion among indi9e authors. So why not take it to the logical next step?

We approached our in-house cover-designer Athanasios and put the idea to him. Back came a design we loved. A simple, yet elegant frame, whereby any two separate novels could be presented in one volume.

For the launch we chose Tom Winton’s stunning social-justice thriller, The Last American Martyr, and the first of our Rose Red crime thrillers, Snow White.

Yes, both are also still available as individual books, so this is very much a way of increasing exposure for both authors and both titles, while offering readers value for money.

This, the  first of the Trans-Atlantic Team-Up series, has just gone live on and, and will be appearing on other platforms very shortly.

Other titles will follow soon. Anyone interested in having their book(s) paired with an author across the ocean should get in contact and we’ll see what we can do.




Wednesday Review: Gerry McCullough on “Life Is But A Dream” by Cheryl Shireman

Gerry McCullough

Once again it’s my pleasure to welcome back our reviewer in residence Gerry McCullough, with this long overdue post on Cheryl Shireman’s novel.

By coindence I was e-discussing this book yesterday with Cheryl and I was echoing almost exactly Gerry’s thoughts, as below, about how this novel is absolutely nothing like you expect it to be. And I’m sure that has accounted for its amazing sales.

Anyone masochistic enough to be hoping for my usual lengthy preamble will be disappointed today. Yes, I can hear the rest of you cheering.  Thanks for nothing.

Anyway, both Gerry and Cheryl are regulars here and have been through my cruel introductions many times. They escape today because my net server is playing up as usual, and I’m miles behind with everything, also as usual. If I delay any longer the evening net signal will be too weak and I’ll miss the Wednesday deadline.

So without further ado, here’s Gerry on Cheryl.


Life Is But A Dream: On The Lake

Reviewed by Gerry McCullough


The word which stays with me when I think about this book is ‘powerful.’

Right from the first page, when Cheryl Shireman takes us into Grace’s thoughts, dreams, and dream-memories, she grips. Using a poetic, literary style, she plunges us right into Grace’s psyche, just in the same way that Grace plunges into the swimming pool. And throughout the book she takes time to bring us into the head and soul of each of her major characters as we meet them – Nick, Tony, Bert, Paul.

It’s Cheryl Shireman’s amazing way with words more than anything else that makes her people so alive.  The reader knows so many deep things about each of them in such a short time after she meets them.

The child Grace’s thoughts as she moves slowly nearer and nearer to the pool, unobserved by her mother: ‘She does not see. She does not. See me. See. Me.’

Nick’s pain as her mother fails to return. ‘When he found her she would ask him, “Quanto tempo ti amo?” And he would pull out the picture and say, “Ti amero sempre.”’ Words repeated with immense emotional effect towards the end of the book.

Grace’s experiences with God, and her feelings.

Paul and his child, and his final experience… ‘a little girl was waiting. A beautiful little brown-eyed girl named Julie whose arms stretched toward her Daddy. And Paul had smiled.’

It is these moments and many more like them which make this book so special.

For the first few chapters, I thought I was reading a gentle, moving, literary romance with great characters, a story which focused mainly on the people, their backgrounds, and their interaction.  Halfway through, I woke up and realized that this book is also a thriller full of action, excitement and a terrific climax which seizes us and hurls us along breathlessly.

And yet the focus on the characters is basic to the book, too. It’s because Cheryl Shireman has taken the time to build her characters and to allow us to feel for them that the impact of the action is so strong. As Grace rows across the lake our hearts are in our mouths with her. And the dreadful discovery in the cabin closet hits us as surely as it does her, as a further horror almost beyond believing and yet something which has really happened.

The ending is beautifully handled. We really want Grace to be happy. There have been so many possibilities for her, all of them abortive. The final resolution is everything we want for her; and yet it does not seem contrived, or only there to tie up the story nicely. Instead, it seems inevitable, something which couldn’t have worked out in any other way.

The murder plot is deft and agile. There are a satisfactory number of suspects, and enough twists and turns to keep us guessing, but the final solution arises straightforwardly from what we already know about the characters. And when Grace, at the last, turns away from approaching rescue and goes back into the cabin, the little scene, and the repetition of the words ‘Ti amero sempre’ is immensely moving. It is so right that Grace should go back in.

The spiritual element of this book is one other thing, a one of great importance, which makes it different and powerful. Introduced through Irene and Harold, God takes His place as a major character in the story from then on. Grace says at one point that she finds the whole idea too confusing. But as things begin to happen, she turns more and more to prayer as a natural response to the need for help, both for herself and for others. The beautiful picture of the sunset and her delight in it is a key point in Grace’s development.

The sun slowly slides from the sky, from another day in my life. It meets the water with a languid and silent splash, pulling a riotous mane of color behind. A wild shock of orange and pink is tangled amid tousled blue and purple tresses. Such beauty is overwhelming. Suddenly, it does not matter that I am divorced. It does not matter that Laney is not with me. At that second, that glorious second, all is right with the world.

And later she and Tony sit quieting watching the wild geese and feeling at peace.

Like me, you will probably find that this book is not what you expected. But you will find it striking, moving, exciting, powerful and very, very readable. Don’t miss out!

Life Is But A Dream: Beyond The Lake can be bought from and
Highly recommended by Gerry. Highly recommended by me.

Finally, a reminder that today’s reviewer Gerry blogs regularly over at Gerry’s Books.

And if you like her reviewing style you’ll love her books. Gerry’s debut novel Belfast Girls is available on and

Her latest novel Danger Danger is of course also available on and

Gerry also has a book of short stories out but my net won’t let me grab the cover or link. C’est la vie.

Call Me Demens, But… – Charley R. reviews Susan Kaye Quinn’s “Open Minds”

If you’re wondering what that snazzy little Saffina Desforges Recommended logo is all about then I’m afriad you’ll have to be patient  a little longer. All will be revealed shortly, but not today.

Suffice to say that, despite the teething problems (as with any new start-up enterprise), and local conditions and ailments delaying progress, the MWiDP wagon is still rolling, and the YA / teen fiction imprint is gathering pace.

Our very own St. Mallory’s Forever!, the first of a new YA boarding school series, is close to launch, and it will be joined by a very, very different YA book Anca’s Story. Both will be in an ebook store near you this spring, along with our top secret (so top secret we can’t even mention title or topic at this stage!) MG / 8-12 series which could be live as early as next month.

For those who missed yesterday’s post, our own Sugar & Spice was officially declared the UK’s best selling indie ebook of 2011, and came in at number eleven out of ALL ebooks sold last year, despite being up against some of the biggest names in the industry. We made the top rankings not in some fly-by-night promo blitz, only to disappear a week later, but held poll position for months at a time and was the most searched for brand for several months.

I mention this now because, wiith our new distribution outlets now live (see post here for background) we’ll be looking to emulate that success in 2012, not just for our own titles but for those who have joined with us under the MWiDP banner. The Saffina Desforges Recommended initative is just one part of that master-plan, using our brand recognition to help promote your books. More in coming weeks.

Here just to remind regulars, and inform recent newcomers, that we last year lent our commendation to many promising YA authors who went on to great success (Michelle Brooks, Marion G. Harmon and Megg Jensen to name but a few) and plan to expand that support this year.

And first in line for 2012 is Susan Kaye Quinn (that’s her on the right), whose book Open Minds was itelf a mind-opening experience. I absolutely loved it, and predict a huge success in the future for this title as word spreads.

And Susan herself will be here after the weekend talking about YA in general.

But for now, back to her book. I have to admit I was sorely tempted to review this myself, but my co-writer Charley R. beat me to it. Here’s Charley:

Call Me Demens, But…

Charley R. reviews Susan Kaye Quinn’s Open Minds

Before I begin, I have a confession to make. Despite the fact I am not yet old enough to drive, order a drink in a bar, or marry without my parents’ consent, Young Adult fiction usually isn’t my scene. Call me a literature snob, but most of the time I feel they just reiterate the same old story, with a few mythical creatures thrown in just to spice things up.

So, for me, Open Minds was a lovely breath of fresh air. The premise of the story is very simple – it’s our world, in the future, and everyone can read minds. Well, almost everyone. Our heroine and first-person narrator Kira is a zero – she can’t read minds, or project her own thoughts, which makes life surrounded by constantly gabbling mentalists something of a daily trial for her. That is, until she accidentally clobbers her best friend’s brain and discovers she’s not a zero … though she might just wish she was.

I found the world to be a very engaging place – it was intriguingly realistic, while at the same time managing to make me go “ooh, shiny!” at several very strange moments (especially when it came to the mindwave controlled cars. So long, SatNav!). The slang is also completely believable and, for me, was one of the highlights of the book. It’s hard enough working out why certain words are slang today, let alone devising convincing ones of your own! “Demens” is my favourite 

However, despite this, I think the story was pretty effective. It was quick, snappy and moved along at a good pace to keep the action coming and – praise be! – avoided any long stretches of angsting that seem so common to today’s teenage heroines. The characters were clear cut and sympathetic – well, except the baddies, but even they manage to look rather cool. Regrettably, due to an unfortunate combination of brisk pacing and a small cast of characters, every event did turn out to be rather Kira-centred, and I found the singling her out as an extra-special individual among an already gifted group was a little irksome at times. Thankfully, the author knows too well to let me get a solid point on that, because she then went and showed us a perfectly viable and believable conclusion for Kira’s individual prowess. Curse you, logic!

On a similar note, I did very much like the deft handling of the grey area concerning the shadowy Clan. Rather than confirm them as either good or bad people through events of the book, the author has performed that oh-so-delicious yet utterly frustrating feat of presenting them both ways. It’s up to us to decide what we really think of them (personally, I’m just as confused as Kira. Though I would rather like to give Agent Kestrel to Andre and Molloy, just for kicks and giggles…)

In short, therefore, I’d say Open Minds is a pretty piece of YA indeed. True, it’s not flawless – Kira sometimes falls into the trap of out-of-character altruism, and I found the swiftness with which she attached herself to Laney (and, to a certain extent, Laney herself), a bit peculiar – but, I think the fact I’m now planning to pass it around my friends is testament to its charm. That, and I have to fight down an urge to describe everything as “mesh” now.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go and test my own jacking skills … here kitty kitty …

Thanks, Charley.

I just adore the future teen world Susan has created with Open Minds. And in particular I loved that it was almost at the very end of the book that the author finally gave us a date for when this is set, and throughout the book the new world was spoonfed to us without ever info-dumping or contriving dialogue to explain why things are like they are.

One of the true joys of indie-reading is coming across new writers who have all the skills and flair of an accomplished long-published author. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does you know pretty much from the first page that you have stumbled across something special. That you are reading the work of a future superstar.

Susan Kaye Quinn is one such, and I have no hesitation in introducing her as the first Saffina Desforges Recommended author of 2012.

Open Minds is available on, and of course on:

B&N:       Smashwords:     iTunes:      Diesel:   and Kobo.


Finally, just to say Charley R., our intrepid reviewer, is herself in the spotlight in the newly released short-story anthology Saffina Desforges Presents… Volume 2 of the Kindle Coffee-Break Collection. I’ll be covering that here in detail on MWi after the weekend (yeah, a busy week ahead on MWi – you have been warned!).

The Power Of Love – Cheryl Shireman And Daughter Scarlett On The Prairie

Day Six

Okay, I hope you’ve all brought a box of tissues along, because you’re gonna need them.

Because it’s Little House On the Prairie time here at MWi, and I promise you there won’t be a dry eye in the building by the time you finish reading today’s guest post.

Okay, I lied about Little House. No Laura Ingalls Wilder here with us today. Sorry. If anyone remembers the TV series but has never read the books then you’re missing out on some great reading, by the way.

But if you had to sum up the series, books or TV, in one word, there’s really only one word that would suffice: Love.

Sure, Little House is about kids growing up in the prairie states, and it was adorable just for that, but the theme that bound every episode of the TV series and every chapter of every book, was love.

The love between a family that lived and loved together.

Which of course rather dates it, right? Families don’t live together anymore. Nowadays the kids are on the first flight out to Independence City and old-fashioned family values just don’t apply. Or so it seems sometimes.

For some years now I’ve been very slowly tinkering away at a West African version of Little House. It’s called Sunrise Over Serrekunda. If I ever finish it, it’s unlikely to be a commercial best-seller, but it’s my chance to share some of the incredible warmth and beauty of everyday life here, that is every bit as alien to the modern western reader as Little House.

But some recent discussions with today’s guest, Cheryl Shireman, gave me some ideas for another novel set here on the planet’s most impoverished continent, and it may be that Sunrise Over Serrekunda will take a back seat a bit longer. Cheryl suggested maybe it’s time I created my very own girls-kick-ass character here in the Third Word. Cheryl, you’re absolutely right. Thanks

I first came across Cheryl thanks to an interview she did over on indieiq. At the time she was just coming to terms with her new found success as an indie writer. Her book, Life Is But A Dream, had made the top 100 in lit fiction on It’s now in the top forty, and in the top thirty in several other categories.

Her latest book, Broken Resolutions, is chasing it fast. Good luck with that, Cheryl.

But I didn’t invite Cheryl her to talk about that. She has her website and blog if you’re interested. I invited – nay, insisted – Cheryl come here today to tell us about another book she has out, that I downloaded and read a few weeks back, and have been in tears over ever since. It was that bad! So I demanded Cheryl come here and explain herself.

Of course, that’s not true. Yes, I was in tears, but because the book was so good.

The book is called You Don’t Need A Prince. It’s very short. It has lots of images and very few words. It’s also one of the most beautiful and moving books I’ve ever read.

Oh, and it’s a love story



Just four tiny letters.

One solitary syllable.

But it’s probably the most powerful word in the English language.

It has a thousand and one meanings, but whenever it’s used we know exactly what it means at that given time.

We love our parents, our children, our partners, our siblings. We love our pets. In each case we know exactly what we mean. We know the romantic love we share with our partners is not the same love we share with our parents or children. Or our pets.

We make love to our partners (anyone with confessions about the others on the list, please report to the nearest police station).  We want to love and be loved by the rest. And in each case we know exactly what we mean when we use that word.

We love chocolate and coffee. We love going to the cinema. We love reading books. We love summer. We love fall. We love snowflakes and flowers. We love cinnamon and ballroom dancing. We love Bill Hayley and Pink. We love to dress up, or dress down. We love… Well, you get the picture. The word has even found itself a role in sport. Anyone for tennis?

And it’s not just a word. It’s a theme. And just any old theme. It’s the theme.

Love dominates literature, and indeed all the arts. It’s inescapable.

Dig beneath the surface of almost any novel and love, in one of its infinite manifestations, will surely be there. And I don’t just mean the romance genres.

Where would Harry Potter be without the love for and of his parents to drive his quest? And of course love was in the air in other ways as the characters grew up. And which kid wouldn’t love to have been Harry or Hermione?

Stephen King explored love through bizarre extremes in Carrie, Christine and Firestarter, and which writer among us will ever forget the corrupted love in Misery?

James Patterson is the world’s best-selling thriller writer by far, yet fully one third of his average Alex Cross novel is given over to the MC’s love of his family and friends.

And of course love has always dominated crime fiction. Our own Sugar & Spice is about the love of a mother who lost her daughter to an entirely different and corrupted kind of love. Most crime fiction takes a less controversial base-line, but invariably the theme of love will be lurking nearby.

So let us be thankful for horror stories, where we can get away from all this mushy nonsense, right? Only, what is Frankenstein if not a wonderful love story? Dracula? Even more so.

Which brings us back to today’s green room guest in the MWi studio, Cheryl Shireman.

That’s not to say Cheryl is a bloodsucking vampire, by the way. I was still talking about the theme of love. Honest!

Cheryl’s book, You Don’t Need A Prince, started with a few personal emails she fired off to her daughter in moments of quiet reflection and forgot to delete.

Well, from such tiny beginnings are great novels sprung, right?

Only, this isn’t a novel. This is those actual emails, reproduced unedited, in a book, with a few family album photos throw in for good measure.

A nice family keepsake? Undoubtedly. But not just for the Shireman family.

This is for anybody who has, or will have, a daughter. If Caroline Ingalls had ever had a computer, she would have written emails like this to Carrie, Mary and Laura.

It’s a book that will remain forever on my Kindle, and when my daughter is old enough to understand it then it will be compulsory reading for her.

But even if you’ve not got a daughter, this book is a must-read. It’s about relationships. It applies to everybody.

As I said, it’s short. Download it today and you’ll have read it all in thirty minutes.

But the sentiments will stay with you forever.

Cheryl wrote it for her daughter and so, in an unprecedented move, I asked her daughter to join us here at MWi too. Between the three os us we span three continents.

Here’s Cheryl. And Scarlett. Don’t forget the tissues!

As a parent, there are few things more painful than when your child is hurting and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. As a mother, I often held my children and successfully soothed them after they had fallen down and scraped a knee or after someone had teased them on the school bus. But as those same children became young adults and scraped knees turned to broken hearts, it became much more difficult to console them.

A little over a year and a half ago my youngest daughter, Scarlett, called home from college in tears. She had been dating the same guy for about four years, but she didn’t feel like things were right between them. She had been thinking about breaking up with him for months, but just couldn’t bring herself to hurt him. To make matters even more complicated, she had just met another man and she was totally infatuated with him.

To be honest, I wasn’t entirely broken-hearted that she was thinking about ending the relationship with the first guy. Nothing against him, but he just wasn’t the right guy for her. And he lived in California – all the way across the country! Selfishly, I was still hoping that she would find a nice guy from Indiana and end up living down the road from me. Now she was head-over-heels in love with some new guy she had just met. I secretly hoped he lived in Indiana. Soon, I found out that he did not. Head-over-heels guy was from Denmark. As in the country – Denmark!

I listened to her on the phone as she cried and longed to wrap my arms around her and tell her that everything would be okay. Only I didn’t know if it would be okay, so how could I lie? I didn’t think California Guy was right for her, but I couldn’t tell her that. She had to discover that for herself. And I certainly didn’t think Denmark Guy was right for her, based solely on location. Denmark?! She cried some more, and we talked some more, and then I got off the phone and cried a little too.

That night, I had a nightmare about her and woke up at 3 a.m. Shaken, I got out of bed, went to my computer and sent her an email. I had no easy answers for her. I couldn’t tell her what to do. The only thing I could tell her is what I have learned about love. And so I did. I poured my heart out to her in an email and then went to bed. That email meant so much to Scarlett that she began forwarding it to her friends. And they then emailed it to their friends. A network of girls began reaching out to each other through these words of love. At the time, she told me, “This should be a book for women to give to each other.” I was thrilled that Scarlett placed so much value on my email to her. Sometimes, as a parent, you get it right.

Fast forward to about a month ago. As an Indie Author, I had just published my first novel, Life is But a Dream, in late January. My second novel, Broken Resolutions, was published in April. The first novel had already far exceeded all of my expectations for sales, and the second novel was just beginning to take off. One day I started thinking about that late-night email and Scarlett’s words – This should be a book. And it suddenly hit me – with the revolution of Indie Publishing, this could be a book! I thought that perhaps if I put these words in the form of a book, they might comfort and encourage another girl going through a tough time. Perhaps a friend might pass the book along to another friend. Perhaps a mother might give the book to her own daughter. An aunt to a niece. A grandmother to her granddaughter.

As I began to think of how to illustrate the book, I immediately thought of little girls – even though the intended audience for this book is women. Because I believe every mother sees her daughter as a little girl, no matter how old she is. And I believe every woman is a little girl at heart. I also believe when we are children, we know how to love. It is only as we become adults, that we often lose our way. Now, with the Royal Wedding still fresh in our minds, perhaps we all need a reminder – you really don’t need a prince to make you happy.

Immediately, I started creating the book, including a cover that I absolutely fell in love with. I had already determined that I would make this book and present it as a gift to Scarlett. If she wanted to share it with the rest of the world, that would be her choice – not mine. It was her email. Within a relatively short time I had created the book. I made a video call on Skype to Scarlett, and then emailed her the final product so I could watch as she opened the book. She loved it. She agreed, wholeheartedly, that the book should be made available to everyone.

In Scarlett’s own words – That was such a confusing time in my life. Should I stay in a relationship that I was “comfortable” with or follow my heart and pursue what seemed like “true love” at the time. As I read the email, so much of what my Mom had written rang true. I almost hated that she was so right! I am one stubborn girl (I get that from her!), but I had to admit, every word I read was true. I could see myself and my sometimes unrealistic expectations in those pages. I began crying uncontrollably. As the weeks and months went by, I let her words sink into my heart. When I finally made my decision, it felt as if a great weight had been lifted from my shoulders. And I knew it was the right decision for me. I feel so lucky to have the kind of Mom who would take the time to write such a loving and inspiring letter when I needed it the most. Now, I hope this book will spread across the world to girls and women who feel lost and confused. And I hope it will encourage them to make the right choices. Thank you so much, Mom. I love you more than words can express. See ya later Alligator!

And so, thanks to the revolution of Indie Publishing, what started out as my simple email of love is now available as an eBook (Amazon’s Kindle or Barnes and Noble’s Nook) or as a paperback through Amazon. I know it has been said time and time again. But this is nothing short of revolutionary! I can write a book, illustrate a book, and publish a book – all from the comfort of my home. Now, my novels are reaching thousands of readers. And I just published my first title in late January. As I write this, it is mid-May. Within less than four months my books have found thousands of readers! Astonishing! The traditional publishers and literary agents are no longer gatekeepers. For the first time in history, the writer has the power to bring his or her words to the new gatekeeper – the reader! The reader, alone, will decide on the success or failure of any given title.

As for You Don’t Need a Prince, my book has already succeeded. Even if it never sells a single copy. My daughter was married last December in a beautiful fairytale princess wedding to the man of her dreams. She now lives in Denmark. Yep, Denmark.

(After while Crocodile!)

Guys, yeah we know. Something in your eye. Funny how that always happens…

Girls, when you’ve mopped up, check the book out, and share the love.

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