READ A SNEAK PEEK! Apollo Illusion Offshoot to be Launching Soon, ‘Stone from HELL’

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If you read my debut novel, The Apollo Illusion, then you know all about Stone and HELL. But how did Stone become the person he was in The Apollo Illusion?

Stone from HELL: An Apollo Illusion Short Story” is the backstory of how Stone came to be, and the birth of the infamous organization, HELL. And yes, one other main character from The Apollo Illusion is also in this short story. 😉

[Read the first two chapters now!]

In essence, “Stone from HELL” is to The Apollo Illusion what “Rogue One” is to Star Wars. It’s an offshoot, an extension, a further explanation. And if you loved the world of The Apollo Illusion and were dying to know more about it, you’ll get your fill in “Stone from HELL.”

Read a Sneak Peek!

Because you follow my blog, I’m excited to offer YOU a sneak peek of this brand new short story!


And stay tuned. I still have the cover reveal coming, and “Stone from HELL” will be available on Amazon. My Readers Club subscribers will be the first to know when the rest of the story becomes available, so don’t miss out! Sign up now!

Yes, You Have to Price Your Books Low if You Want People to Buy Them

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You dedicated two years to working on your first novel (here’s mine!). Spent several hundred dollars (or even a couple thousand) on editors and designers.

And now that you’re ready to publish, you’re being told to price your book LOW?

Screw that, right?

I’m Here to Tell You that Low Prices = Higher Readership

I do not advocate giving your book away for free, unless for reviews or giveaway contests. However, if you’re an indie author and you’re publishing your debut novel, you might have to sell your book for less than what it’s worth.


If you’re launching your indie career, I doubt this will be the last book you write. So the goal of publishing your first book should be about building readership. An engaged and dedicated readership, who will then buy book #2, and #3, and so forth …

What’s the best way to get readers to take a chance on an indie author they’ve never heard of before? Remove the risk; price your book low.

Increase Prices as Readership Grows

As you begin to build a readership, and people recognize your value as an author, they’ll be more willing to pay a couple of extra dollars for your next book.

Also, as your reviews and sales accumulate on Amazon, at bookstores, and at libraries, you’ll build enough “social validation” to increase prices of your published works.

In essence, think of your indie career as a marathon, not a sprint.

Don’t Forget to Reward Your Most Dedicated Fans!

When the time comes to begin increasing your prices, don’t forget about the readers who launched you to this place of success! Make sure to offer them discounts and benefits for remaining loyal fans.

  • Coupon codes
  • Pre-order deals with special pricing
  • Giveaways just for them

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Do you agree that indie authors should price their books lower to begin building a readership? Comment below!

Why Indie Authors Have to Stick Together

I’ve heard self-publishing “experts” say time and time again that no big difference exists between an author going the traditional route or the indie route.

Ahem — I beg to differ.

Therefore, here are the reasons why us indie authors have to stick together:

1) We have to pay for EVERYTHING.

Editors, designers, copyright filing, advertising, and yes, book tours.

2) And let’s just admit it. Major traditional publishers have one gargantuan advantage over us: connections.

Connections to major media outlets (like the New York Times and Entertainment Weekly), to librarians, to book store owners, to distributors, and to online influencers.

3) No one takes us seriously when we’re starting out.

4) Those dang literary pirates want to steal and sell our stuff!

5) We’re a bunch of anti-establishment rebels.

Of course, we take on this load because we have SO MUCH MORE CONTROL. Over everything.

  • Creativity
  • Legal rights
  • Marketing
  • Design
  • Presentation
  • Pricing

But man, for an indie author trying to make it, you guys know this is an uphill battle! I don’t care what anyone says, going indie is a tougher climb. And this, my friends, is why we all gotta stick together.

While you’re here, did you know I published my debut novel six months ago? “The Apollo Illusion” is a science fiction dystopia about a future society’s frightening overdependence on technology. Learn more by clicking here!

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Voting is Your Rallying Cry, Your Middle Finger, Your Roar

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Aug. 28, 2018 was Primary Day in my home state of Arizona. This is me after voting.

As a writer, author, and American, I believe so strongly in the power of voicing one’s opinion beyond words.

Yesterday was Primary Day in my home state of Arizona. And I feel the need to say this, to anyone and everyone who is willing to listen.

The will of the people is heard one way, and one way only–by the vote. If you’re discontent with the current state of affairs within your city, your state, or your country, the voting booth is where you can affect change. Your vote is your rallying cry, your middle finger, your roar.

Do not shy away from the power that shimmers deep inside you, even if you doubt its own grit and force. Make it heard. Make it known. November is just a few months away.

“Don’t boo. Vote.”

The Great Goodreads Confession of 2018 (from a Goodreads Author, Nonetheless)

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Let me make a confession: technically, I’ve been a Goodreads member since 2008 or 2009. But I lost my username, password, and old email address. And I couldn’t get back in (can we say “BUMMER?”).

I know, I know.

For someone who wrote a science fiction dystopia about the future repercussions of a society that’s overdependent on technology, you’d think I could get back into my own Goodreads account.

Alas …

So here I am, blogging like a beggar, asking YOU to follow me on my new Goodreads Author page.

Go ahead. Laugh. Get it out of your system.

Now that we’ve cleared that, I do want to clarify that I love reviewing books. And discovering new books. And recommending new books. It’s kinda become my new thing. Seriously. And so much of that will be done on Goodreads.

So besides sounding like a desperate, needy, social media attention whore, I actually do offer some value on Goodreads and genuinely want to know what you’re reading, reviewing, and discussing as well. So what’dya say? Wanna connect on Goodreads?




From Journalist to Horror, Author John Coon Gets Real on His Journey

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I am so excited to have new author and veteran journalist, John Coon, on my blog today! John agreed to an interview about his debut horror novel, Pandora Reborn (which frankly, looks crazy scary, so you should check it out). So, without further ado …

SHARI: You’re a fellow journalist! I always love connecting with other journalists. Can you tell me how your career as a journalist influenced your development as a creative writer and author?

JOHN: One cool thing about journalism is that it really teaches you how to be a storyteller. You learn to listen to how people think and how they speak and watch what they do in so many different situations. You train yourself to notice even the smallest details, so your audience is engaged and informed by your story from the lede until the final sentence.

It makes shifting gears from journalism to fiction so much easier. Many of the same principles that enhance journalism also make a novel or short story better. A journalist is essentially as much of a story teller as a fiction author. Crafting a well-written story requires a blend of skill and art and journalists understand how to strike that balance.

Where being a journalist has helped me the most as a fiction author is shaping characters. I’ve worked in the media for 15 years now and it has given me a chance to literally meet people from all walks of life. Their personalities offer some inspiration to me when I create main characters, secondary characters and even ancillary characters. It helps me paint a much more realistic picture of how a specific character will react in a given situation.

SHARI: You have mentioned that the idea for Pandora Reborn came to you in high school, 20 years ago. What initially sparked it, and how has the story developed over all these years?

JOHN: I grew up in a sleepy farm town called Kamas. There’s a cool bit of folklore in that area of Utah that I became aware of when I was a child. Thomas Rhoads, a Mormon pioneer, was supposedly shown a sacred gold mine, located in the Uinta Mountains, by Ute leader Chief Walkara. Rhoads was allowed to extract gold for the sole purpose of financing construction of the Salt Lake Temple. No one was permitted to know the mine’s location except Rhoads and he was only shown the mine after promising to use the gold exclusively to help temple construction efforts.

Many people have reportedly died in the Uinta Mountains over the years while trying to find the lost Rhoads mine. Their deaths led to legends of a lingering curse on the mine. Learning the story sparked a question in my mind: what could make a mine cursed? At that point, an idea came to me of an ancient chest with an evil witch bound inside. What would she do if someone opened it and let her out? As the idea took shape, I also drew on elements of Pandora’s box in Greek mythology and the Jewish legend of the dybbuk box.

My idea sparked by the rural folklore formed the basic foundation for Pandora Reborn. I always had the woman in black as a central antagonist and teenagers were always the ones who ended up battling her. A large percentage of my main and secondary characters in Deer Falls came to me in a rudimentary form in the beginning. As time went on, I filled in the details on each individual character, added new ones as needed, and sketched out different scenes that ended up in the final story.

Even with it being a horror story, some key elements drew inspiration from my my work as a sports journalist. I covered high school sports for several years and that led to my central character, Ron, evolving into a high school soccer player. It also influenced using a high school soccer game as a setting for a pivotal scene within the main narrative.

SHARI: Your genre of choice is horror. Why do you prefer writing horror, and who are some of your literary influences?

JOHN: I do enjoy writing horror, but it actually isn’t my only genre. My first writing project, which I started at 12 years old, was a comedic children’s book with cats as the main characters. Then, during the summer immediately following my high school graduation, I wrote a rough draft for a 400-page science fiction novel. Both are stories that I love and I fully intend to polish and publish both books within the next 2 to 3 years. The science fiction novel, in particular, will be the first in a six-book series. I already have detailed outlines, character sketches and backstory notes for the other five books.

People may ask, ‘Why don’t you just pick one genre and stick with it?” I don’t find any fun with taking that approach in fiction. My goal is to share specific stories and characters with the rest of the world. One genre that works well for one set of characters may not work at all for another set of characters. I always admired classic authors who could just tell a story and not worry about what category it fit into along the way.

My literary influences attest to that philosophy. I loved reading classic authors Edgar Allan Poe, Jack London, C.S. Lewis, H.G. Wells and Jules Verne while growing up. As I aged, I delved into popular modern authors like Stephen King, John Grisham and Michael Crichton; as well as some less notable authors. I simply enjoy reading and telling good stories, no matter what form they end up taking.

SHARI: You live in Utah, but the setting for your novel is a rural Colorado town. What drove you to write about Colorado over your current state of residence?

JOHN: I wrestled with the setting for Pandora Reborn for some time. Originally, I planned to set it in a fictional rural Utah town because of what sparked my novel’s origin. I ultimately chose to move it to a fictional rural Colorado town to give myself more creative freedom.

Setting it in Colorado opened the door to create a story that could appeal to a broader audience. I could simply focus on developing characters and let the plot unfold in a natural way. I did not have to worry about any ancillary concerns. If I stuck with the original Utah setting, that would not have been the case. When you set a story in Utah, you inevitably end up including characters who are Mormons. It’s impossible not to do so. But it opens up a whole can of worms.

How do you portray a Mormon character realistically in your story without stirring up trouble? Many Mormons are good people and good neighbors. But, as with any church or even a secular organization for that matter, you also have a few rotten apples lurking in the barrel. If your story includes a major or minor antagonist who also happens to be a Mormon, will that decision lead to accusations of negative stereotyping or religious bias?

I did not want to allow these concerns creep in and overshadow the novel, so I changed the setting as I developed my story further. I am happy with how it worked out. Colorado is a beautiful place and I love the irony in employing such a picturesque setting as the backdrop for horror.

SHARI: What is your favorite scene from Pandora Reborn, and why does it mean so much to you?

JOHN: It’s so tough to pick just one favorite scene because several scenes in the book carry special meaning to me. When you devote so much time to developing characters, they almost feel like family or close friends after a while.

One scene that does stand out as a favorite for me is when Christina bumps into Ron at the park after he sneaks out of his house following an argument with his mom, Emily. It is such a cool character defining moment for both teens. The scene climaxes in a powerful way with Ron getting his first exposure to the supernatural realm. It is easy enough for him to scoff and dismiss what he is told earlier in the book by multiple characters. But when he witnesses an event for himself that challenges everything he believed, it is earth-shattering for Ron.

Ultimately, I like Ron’s evolution in the scene. He takes the first steps in a journey to overcoming his own fears and selfish attitude. Christina shows a vulnerable side of her personality for the first time and you begin to see what led a girl like her to end fall in with the detention crowd at Deer Falls High.

I love moments that challenge characters to step outside their comfort zone and force them to grow. It is what makes a story fun and rewarding.

SHARI: If your readers take ONE thing away from reading your book, what would you want it to be?

JOHN: Isolation is a dangerous thing. No one should be on an island of their own making. You need to team up with family and friends to prevail in life’s battles.

When Pandora Reborn opens, every major character is in a state of metaphorical or literal isolation. You have Ron who has been uprooted from his old life and dropped into a new town against his wishes. You have Dean, who spends his days and nights alone and consumed by fears brought on by tragic events from 55 years earlier. There is the woman in black who is literally isolated from other living things due to her evil nature until she is foolishly released from an ancient chest back into the world.

In every case, isolation has a negative impact. Ron develops a selfish woe-is-me attitude that strains his relationship with his mom. Dean has gradually lost his mind because he won’t allow himself to heal from past trauma. The woman in black is consumed by a malevolent spirit and a thirst for vengeance because of what she suffered centuries earlier.

Ultimately, the idea of overcoming isolation through unity, teamwork and love serves an important role in how the story plays out. The toughest battles aren’t meant to be fought and won alone.

SHARI: Pandora Reborn is your debut novel. What have you learned about the world of publishing since it launched, and what advice would you offer to first-time writers?

JOHN: It’s a bit of a shock to see just how crowded the marketplace is for traditional books and ebooks. Thousands of new books are released each month by indie authors. Writing and publishing a book is just the first step in the journey. Marketing and promotion is equally important if your goal as an author is to get your book out in front of as many eyes as possible.

The best thing a writer can do is to construct a sustainable marketing platform for themselves and their book well before it is released. This includes everything from building an active social media presence and connecting with other authors and readers to starting a website and blog dedicated to your book and other topics relevant to your writing endeavors.

Creating exposure is the name of the game in publishing. You want people to know about your book and give them a reason to buy it. That means putting in the work ahead of time, so  you don’t get lost in the independent publishing equivalent of the slush pile with your intended audience.

SHARI: In your opinion, what makes a great horror story, and how did you try to incorporate that into your book?

JOHN: Horror is most effective when it incorporates real fears into the narrative. No rational person is going to be concerned with a vampire or a zombie attacking them in real life. When a horror story can make an antagonist embody a real-life fear, however, it creates a lasting effect on the reader long after they finish the last page. The goal of every good horror author is to get their reader looking over their shoulder and wondering what is lurking in dark corners.

With Pandora Reborn, I played with themes of isolation, obsession and revenge to inspire fear. What makes the woman in black truly frightening as an antagonist, in my opinion, isn’t her skill in dark magic. It is her cold calculating thirst for revenge and power. She wants to control the world around her while delivering a warped version of justice to people she feels wronged her. The scariest part with the woman in black is that she feels justified in all that she does. She sees herself as a hero. That’s what separates a truly frightening antagonist from a cartoonish villain you might see in a low-quality slasher movie.

**John Coon first discovered his passion for writing at age 12 when he composed several short stories on an old typewriter at his parents’ house. After graduating from the University of Utah in 2004, John soon turned a part-time job on the scoreboard staff at the Salt Lake Tribune into a full-time job as a reporter covering sports and business. He has worked as a journalist for 15 years and currently freelances for multiple media outlets including, most notably, the Associated Press. John published his debut novel, Pandora Reborn in June, 2018. He currently resides in Sandy, Utah.

Grab your copy of Pandora Reborn below!



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How to Deal with Criticism After Publishing Your Book


No matter how you slice it, reading criticism of your beloved book is hard. Especially when it’s your first book, and a critique can feel like a personal assault on your child.

I get it. As I prepared to read the first public reviews of my debut novel, The Apollo Illusion, I mentally put up my “wall.” I’ve been a journalist and professional writer for 12 years now, and I became an expert at letting naysayers be naysayers.

But reading criticism of my first novel as a published author—as a creative writer—was a whole different universe I wasn’t prepared for (even though I thought I was).

You will undoubtedly LOVE some of the reviews you receive. You’ll share them on social media, on your blog, in your newsletter, or in paid advertisements. However, others may feel unfair (or at least aspects of them may feel unfair). But everyone knows, as an author, it’s not your place to defend your work once it’s been published.

Judgement now becomes the public’s job.

So, how do you cope when you have to remain silent?

First of all, understand that by trying to argue with the critics, you’ll appear defensive and immature. People will think you’re thin-skinned or an unsuccessful writer who simply can’t take the heat.

In my opinion, the only time you should publicly criticize a critic, is if the critic attacks you PERSONALLY, attacks a loved one, or makes a statement that is false and slanderous (such as claiming you plagiarized your work, when you didn’t).

Here are the ways I dealt with silently swallowing some of the critiques I received:

  1. Realize the unfavorable or unfair review is just ONE PERSON’S opinion. And people are entitled to their own opinions, right? As writers, we thrive on freedom of speech and expression of ideas. It’s all part of the dialogue.
  2. The copyright of your work belongs to you, but the judgement of your book belongs to the readers. It’s the next stage in the creative process, and you have to understand that YOU DON’T OWN THIS. So let it go.
  3. You will probably receive far more positive reviews than negative reviews, so concentrate on the trends! I know this has been true for me with The Apollo Illusion. When I look at the big picture, I realize that overall, people liked my book far more than they disliked it.
  4. You cannot please everyone. What one person loves, another person will hate. Your reviews will reflect this, so try not to take them personally. What matters is that you stuck to YOUR vision when writing your book.
  5. It takes time to build the emotional barrier against critiques of your work. If you’re on your first or second book, be patient. With time comes experience, and with experience comes expertise. I know that I need to give myself more time to get better at “not caring” what others say about my creative work.

If all else fails, you can always decide to just not read the reviews of your book!

**As a writer or author who has dealt with critics, what would YOU add to this list? Comment below, and don’t forget to share!**

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How One Teacher-Turned-Author Overcame Her Fear of Publishing

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Cyana Scriptora

Hey everyone! So since becoming an indie author, I’ve met some other FABULOUS authors who I’d like you to meet. You might see some of them sprinkled here on my blog, as well as in my Readers Club e-newsletter.

Today, I’m dying to introduce you to Cyana Scriptora, who wrote this fascinating fantasy/historical book entitled Lady of Justice (girl power, anyone?) Here’s the cool thing, Cyana is a teacher whose students helped kick-start her into the world of writing and publishing!

Below, Cyana tells us how she found inspiration to write her novel and overcame her fears of publishing (and she’s looking for some additional reviewers, so if you want to read her book for free, COMMENT BELOW with your email address):

A Story of Make-Believe

By Cyana Scriptora

Lady of Justice came to me while I was playing make-believe in a play tent with my daughter. It popped into my head and a ravenous desire to put words to paper consumed me. I spent one month writing the plot line and several more months editing.

My students are my biggest supporters. I write stories for our class, so they can understand biology. They are all too familiar with my writing. After a few of them read it, they loved it so much, they encouraged me to self-publish.

With no formal education in writing other than the general English classes I took in college, I was terrified to publish, but I had this unexplained passion to share this world and these characters with readers.

I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be great to write a book that mothers and teenage daughters could enjoy together? A book that branches genres, utilizes perspectives from many characters (not just one), and uses flashbacks and dream sequences copiously to let the reader feel the emotions and become a participant in the experience?”

I’ve been told Lady of Justice has everything a reader could crave:

  • For my fantasy readers, it has immortals and magic.
  • For my mystery readers, a who-done- it? puzzle.
  • A little sci-fi.
  • Sword fights, evil empires, mysterious visions, immortal realms, and just enough romance to appeal to the fairy-tale lover.
  • Because it takes place in the present and past simultaneously, it reads like a contemporary too.

About Lady of Justice


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Can you really fall in love with someone through their journals? Can you truly change the past? What if a powerful goddess is willing to help?

Anna can’t stop thinking about Prince Audax. She feels like she knows him in a way that no one else does. She spends way too much time staring at his portrait and she’s even read his most intimate thoughts.

No, Anna isn’t a creepy stalker.

She’s a historian and her future career depends on discovering the truth. Her best friend Liz is convinced that Anna has brought her obsession to an unhealthy level, but she refuses to give up. She is convinced that the answers to the mystery of Audax’s death are still out there, and the clues lie somewhere in that dusty room.

Anna is willing to do just about anything to understand what happened, but to solve this enigma, she will have to travel a lot further than just her university library. As she delves deeper into the past, the twisted plot is unraveled and it’s worse than anyone ever thought.

Readers are loving Lady of Justice, calling it “fantastically put together” …  “AMAZING! A wonderful read that I suggest to everyone” … and “could NOT put it down.” 

Grab your e-book or paperback copy today on Amazon!



(And remember to tell your friends!)

Have You Seen these Dope Artists? They Designed My Rockin’ Book Cover

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One of the reasons I went indie with my debut novel, The Apollo Illusion, was creative control—not just of my story, but of the cover art and presentation.

I had two artists in mind who I wanted working on my book’s look, because these guys are seriously awesome AF.

Cover Art: Rebecca Lopatin

Rebecca Lopatin_Darrel_charcoalYes, we have the same last name, because yes, Rebecca is my sister. But she’s also a professional, accomplished fine artist here in the blazing hot desert of Phoenix, Ariz. Like, she graduated Magna Cum Laude from Arizona State University’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. She studied art in Italy. F’ing ITALY.

You guys, she hand-painted my book’s cover art. Like, the classical way. Savage, right?


Rebecca has a garage full of oil paintings for sale that need some serious walls. Even if you’re not looking to buy, you gotta check out her work and give her a follow:

Cover Design: Ryan Quackenbush

Ryan is a sick digital artist and illustrator. I mean, this guy sells his own graphic novels at Phoenix Comic Fest (a.k.a. Phoenix Comicon). His stuff is dark and edgy and just AWESOME.

So naturally, I wanted that look and feel for my cover design, considering the genre of my book. He took Rebecca’s art and turned it into a badass book cover that seriously makes people gasp when they see it.



If you’re into the graphic novel scene (and even if you’re not), I’m telling you to head over to Ryan’s pages NOW and scan his stuff, or follow him:


How Babies and Tablets Inspired this Dystopian Novel


Babies and tablets. The rise of propaganda. Rosh Hashanah dinner. These were a few of the factors that led to the inspiration behind my debut novel, The Apollo Illusion.

I love reading the story behind the story from favorite authors, like Margaret Atwood or Junot Diaz. So when Autumn of Fallen Over Book Reviews asked me to write a guest post on what inspired MY first book, I couldn’t resist. OK, I actually felt special. That’s allowed occasionally, right?

The Story Behind the Story
Everything began in September 2013, when I’d gone to my mom’s house with my boyfriend and sister for Rosh Hashanah dinner. In case that sounds like Elvish to you, Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year, because our calendar goes by the moon (I know, we’re weirdly Twilight like that).

While munching on noodle pudding and roasted chicken, my mom started telling us about a news story regarding babies and tablets. Babies were learning the swiping motion of using tablets before they learned to talk.

Head over to Fallen Over Book Reviews to read the rest of the story! …