Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween

I'd like to take a few minutes to wish everyone a safe and Happy Halloween. In the spirit of All Hallows' Eve,  I'm going to encourage everyone to keep an eye out for my next book, Since Inception (Vanishing, #1)

It's going to be a supernatural horror that will be filled with the types of spine-tingling twists and turns you've come to expect from books written by T. R. Graves. Tomorrow will be the official cover release (hosted by Itching for Books) and the first day of NaNoWriMo. The majority of Since Inception (Vanishing, #1) will be written during the contest, meaning I hope this one goes relatively quick since the official release date if 3/1/14.

In the meantime and if you've not read any of my books yet, you have plenty to chose from:

Left (Still Standing, #1) (New Adult Contemporary - 18+)
Grave Bound (Secrets, #1)  (New Adult Contemporary - 18+)
Underground (Secrets, #2)  (New Adult Contemporary - 18+)
Warriors of the Cross (Warrior, #1) (Young Adult Paranormal Romance)
Guardians of the Cross (Warrior, #2) (Young Adult Paranormal Romance)
Enemies of the Cross (Warrior, #3)  (Young Adult Paranormal Romance)

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Indie Author Series: Reviews

YA (and more) Author Club sponsors are talking all about ways to get reviews and what authors should do with them once they have them. As an author... as a marketer of my books, I'm always searching for a great way to get people to read, rate, and review my books.

For me, there are three ways to get reviews:
  • Blog Tours
  • Goodreads Giveaway
  • Rafflecopter Giveaway


 Theoretically, the Blog Tour and the Rafflecopter giveaway go hand-in-hand, but they are separate and distinct so I've listed them separately.

There are many great Blog Tour companies, and all of them appear to be sponsored by passionate readers. Having gone through three of them, I've decided Itching for Books gets my vote. When I released Left (Still Standing, #1), I'd made a conscious decision not to do a blog tour because it hampered my ability to write the book and release it at my convenience (since the other tour companies wanted me to sign-up 6 months in advance). Shane Morgan with Itching for Books contacted me and asked if I'd be interested in letting her do the tour. Something about the timing, her initiative, and her professionalism told me to go for it.

Instantly, Shane began working on my behalf, and within days, she had 30-40 people signed up. After the tour started, she supported both the bloggers and the author by tweeting about the posts. While I appreciate everything Shane did, the proof of her success is the reason I will use Itching for Books for every release from this point forward. Below, I've summarized the impressive impact Shane's hard work and the wonderful bloggers she works with had on my stats. I saw a:
  • 16% increase in Goodreads follows/fans,
  • 10% increase in Facebook Fan Page likes,
  • 7% increase in Twitter followers, and
  • over 70 reviews received from the bloggers and/or their followers
Even more important than the improved statistics was the kindness the bloggers showed to me as an author and human being. It's as if Shane has aligned herself with some of the best-of-the-best, and for that, I'm grateful.

As for what I'll do with those reviews...

My first action was to let almost every person reading and rating Left (Still Standing, #1) as well as anyone sponsoring the tour now how much I appreciated their support. Now, I'll compile some of the most unique, entertaining, and passionate ones and quote them on Amazon.

Take some time to visit the other sponsors' sites and see what they are talking about this week.


Friday, October 11, 2013

Toni's Big Six Journey #3


 “Got something to live for, I know I won’t surrender.” –Bulletproof, Black Veil Brides

I know I usually end with a quote—and I still will—this just felt right. 

This blog post will be about the importance of music while writing and for writing. 

I never really just listen to music.  I learn from it, in a way.  I hear a song and either love it for what it is or love it because my characters do, or love it because I know it will help me during a scene.

“All the greats are the ones remembered.” New Year's Day, Black Veil Brides.  I know I am taking that line out of context from the song, because BVB was not talking about writers.  But how true is that line? The greats are remembered and their works with stand time.  In this song they also say “Legends never die.”  Which is true.  Stoker, Frank, Shelley, etc., and some modern day writers are going to be the greats, and even when their physical bodies pass their works will remain.  But what makes them great, I mean besides withstanding time and having great stories?  I can’t say for everyone, but some writers listen to music while writing and some even say which songs they listened to while writing, and what songs helped inspire them. 

I do.  I am in no way calling myself a great, but I can tell you this music has shaped my writing:

(I wrote this in 2009 about writing and posted it as a note on FB, I will expand on it after)

Music plays such an important role in everyone's everyday life. Without music in life, in each day, life would be boring. Seriously, think about it. In a grocery store, or in any other store for that matter, without music, it would be an eerie quiet. More than just in places of shopping think about movies.

In any movie especially thrillers music plays a larger and bigger role than even the most famous actor.  For example, look at the movie Disturbia. Even if someone has watched this movie four or more times the thriller, the intense scenes still will get to that person. The music begins with a steady drum like a heartbeat, that soon signals the bass to come in and play a few cords, which then signals the guitar to come in and screech out some high suspenseful notes, and so on. Try to watch a thriller movie muted, or any movie for that matter, it will not be as intense. The reason it will not be as intense, is the music is key to get the heart beating faster.

I am writing books and once I got my iTunes account up and running and got my songs (many thanks to my cousin for helping me with my account) I made playlists for all of my books. Each song has a key element in the books becoming movies.   Listening to Version 1 playlist while typing Version 3 helps, because I know what should not go into the book, as well as listening to Version 3 playlist while typing Version 3, because it helps me to know what needs to be in the book.

It is truly amazing how one song, or one word, or one line, or one sentence, or one verse in any song can say all that is need to be said. It is amazing that either a whole song or a little piece of a song can sum up all of anyone's emotions, and it is amazing how music can help someone heal (emotionally, mentally, physically).

I did edit the above a little just now, but it still applies today.

My taste in music has changed a lot from 2008-2009 era until now.  Back then I would only listen to Lifehouse, Switchfoot, Natasha Bedingfield (still love them, still listen).  Now I still listen to them but I also added, Evanescence, Black Veil Brides, Automatic Loveletter, Juliet Simms, Imagine Dragons, We are the Fallen, Ben Moody, David Hodges, and of course others but those most often.  Now, yes some of these bands weren’t around back then, but if they were I don’t think I would have listened to them, because I didn’t understand the full importance of music while writing, until BVB and Evanescence. 

Here is a funny story, I cannot tell you for which book but one day I was on the treadmill at the gym and listening to music and I remembered that I bought BVB’s “In the End” so I put that on and fell off the treadmill.  From the first notes this beautiful scene played in front of me for the end of one of my series.  I literally forgot how to walk, I just froze in awe, and got thrown from the machine.  I had listened to other songs before and had experiences where I saw scenes I already thought about, but this time it gave me a scene.  Black Veil Brides was already a character favorite in the book and from that their music has helped shape that book.  I have to thank them for that.

Juliet Simms music from Automatic Loveletter inspired the epigraph for one of my books (if we are FB friends there are a few chapters of It Started on a Thursday up if you are interested in reading some works of mine).  And from that I actually want characters to meet through her in that book, I just have to go about it legally, like get permission.  I feel like I am rambling and not getting my point across, but music is so important in writing, for writing. 

I am not the typical bands fan.  And with saying what I am about to say please don’t get offended.  A lot of bands have fans that call them “heroes” because the band saved them.  I get it, I do, but I am not that fan.  I personally don’t think it is not fair to put that label on a band, because yes they helped the kid, but it is a big burden for the band to carry.  For me, I like bands because my characters.  There are very few bands that I just like because I discovered them.  For example BVB I love you and am not labeling you, this was Google.  I have this one fantastically gorgeous boy named Jake in Life’s not a Fantasy.  He originally was going to be this emo character, like full on emo.  So I Googled “emo” and Alex Evans came up as the first result, then I was looking through pictures, (I already had a face for Jake, just wanted to fine tune character traits,) then this beautiful face was on the screen so I clicked on it and it said “Andy Sixx” so I was curious and looked up him and found out that he was a lead singer in a band called Black Veil Brides.  I listened and fell in love.  Since then Andy and the band have gone through image and sound changes and Andy no longer goes by “Andy Sixx” but rather “Andy Biersack”. Actually no band I like was my choice it always has something to do with my books.  Yeah, so I am not the typical fan.  Huh, that’s weird…well this just loops back to my post about writer/character relationships.  I wouldn’t like any bands probably if it wasn’t for my book.

Music helps keep me focused in writing.   I sometimes listen to other books playlists while writing so I remember what goes where and don’t repeat scenes from book to book.  I already have a repeated name in two different books, but the gender and spelling changes so I think I can get away with that. Ugh, I feel like this isn’t coming out right and for some reason I am having a hard time writing this.  I’m listening to music right now, writing this and it is wonderful, I am having flashes of scenes coming to me, so maybe I should just give you an excerpt, yeah, that sounds good.  Oh! Oh! and I will associate a song with it.  Yes!

* * *

Here is a scene from a WIP (to be completed December 2013):

Que the music: Just drums, rolling a beat of various rhythms, but all letting you know something is about to go wrong.

Screaming.  A girl screaming.  A girl screaming and clenching her hair in her fists.  A girl screaming and clenching her hair in her fists while falling to her knees on the ground.

This wasn’t any ordinary scream.  No.  This wasn’t just fear.  This was anger.  This was sadness.  Harper was your ordinary school girl.  She was at the time fifteen years old.

Here is where we begin.

Que the music: quiet and slow the drums some, add violins and flutes playing just a few ominous repeating notes/chords.

I felt like I was stuck in a hall of mirrors.  I could see myself and other people’s reflections, but I was frozen in my terror.  I could not find my way out.  Every turn I made took me further into the maze.  I felt like I was staring at myself from two mirrors that were directly across from each other.  Every motion echoed infinitesimally, but I could see how fake it was. It was me, but it was my reflection.  I started the motion and my accursed doppelgängers mimicked my every motion.  I couldn’t break free.  I wanted to crash through the mirrors.  I wanted to watch them tumble to the ground in a chain reaction like large silver reflective and distorted dominoes.

It wasn’t my fault, but it kind of is.  It is all of our faults.  Possibly mostly mine.  I didn’t see it.  I should have.  I remember Jessica aimlessly pulling me to my feet.  I remember grabbing onto her shoulders just in time for the both of us to fall to the ground.  I was a mess.  I never cried so hard in my life.  April 11 a Thursday.  I will never forget.  This was the day I walked into the school gymnasium for a shortcut because I was running late to school.  I kept my head below the windows and walked in the shadows that when I heard it.  It sounded like a belt being slapped on itself but duller, then came the awful gurgling. (Que the music change again: take away the flutes and a bass playing a low and repeating note, just one, sometimes it is held out, other times it is short) I looked towards the sound and saw his body swinging from the rafters.  I started screaming/I started to scream. 

Que music again: add in a symphony.

Parker was struggling.  He was stuck between life and death.  He was slowly dying in front of me and fighting with every ounce of strength he had left in him to reverse his previous action.  He now wanted to live.  I started screaming and his eyes flashed to mine.  He reached his left hand out to me.  I touched his hand and his finger nails scratched my skin, leaving small red marks.  I pulled my phone out and dialed 911.  I said nothing to the operator I just screamed. 

* * *

So I don’t officially have a song for this scene, for other scenes, yes, but that is further in the book, and they are not written yet and would give away too much. 

30 Seconds to Mars is another favorite of mine, and thank god I wasn’t driving, I had the BVB experience with them. A song of their newest album, Love Lust Faith + Dreams, made me freeze.  I saw a character rising from something, while another fell to their knees screaming.  Can’t tell you the song specifically, the scene, or the book, mostly because it will not be in the book.  This will be something that is a movie exclusive only once I’m published and have movie rights, so fingers crossed!

I have a few ideas for my next post, but I want to see what you guys want me to write about so tweet me at twitter.com/write_to_live or write a note to my on instagram and tag me both on the picture and in a comment on your picture username: write_to_live

I will pick my favorite or favorites and write those over the next few weeks. 

Peace, Love, and Inspiration

Keep writing and remember

#itsawriterthing

Toni-Anne Lombardo

 
Listening to: “In the End”, Black Veil Brides, Wretched and Divine

Quotes: “Music touches us emotionally, where words alone can't.” –Johnny Depp

“Music is the universal language of mankind.” –Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“Where words fail, music speaks.” –Hans Christian Andersen

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Underground (Secrets, #2) - NOW AVAILABLE

Underground (Secrets, #2) is now available.

In it, Emily learns that revenge can send you places you never thought you'd go.

Betrayal and loss have changed Emily Riddle in ways she never thought would have been possible. With a death wish guiding her every move, she's willing to compromise her morals, ethics, and instincts to bring the men who've broken her heart to justice... even if that means living a life underground, being someone she's not, and pretending to respect the very men she's positioning herself to take down.

As soon as she teams up with the district attorney, Tope Bryson, and agrees to be a member of his covert operation, she returns to the commune and convinces the patriarchal leaders she is the most qualified person to take on roles traditionally assigned to men. Desperate and without options, Owen, the commune's leader and Emily's father, agrees to a temporary change.

Emily takes full advantage of the opportunity and quickly proves to him - much to her brothers' dismay - that he can't live without having her in those critical roles and that she may be the best candidate for his 'next in command'.

She and Tope quickly realize that the men of the commune consider a woman who threatens the good ole boy system that's been in place for decades public enemy number one. Determined to protect Emily from her brothers, Tope plants an undercover officer and charismatic law student, Noah Babineaux, in the commune. Neither Tope nor Emily is prepared for the attention Noah pays Emily.

With a nothing else matters attitude, Emily focuses on her underground mission and pushes her hate, anger, grief, and... blossoming feelings down until they threaten to explode from the inside and tear her apart. It's a race against the clock to get the evidence necessary (and ultimately the retaliation Emily craves) before a life of submissive brutality - or sibling jealousy - kills her.
* * *

Honestly, Emily's story is a hard one to write, but it is one that must be told. Her life is one worth reading about and learning from in spite of the atrocities carried out against her and the people she loves and no matter how gut-wrenching they are for us. Emily's fictional tale is a gentle reminder that there are women - in this country and others - who are not given the same freedoms that most of us take for granted... that there are men who think of women as property rather than equals.

I also believe that Emily's trials and tribulations are ones that she must endure (and we must bear witness to) in order for us to appreciate the risks she takes, the sacrifices she makes, and the lengths she will go to make sure all women - not just her and Tess - of the commune have basic rights.

The fact that there are people outside of the commune joining her in her fight gives me a strong sense of justice and reinforces the fact that there are people in the world who do not look away when they see people who are in trouble. They are the characters who give me hope that Emily's life will one day be different.

* * *

Along with the book tour (hosted by ATOMR TOURS), there will be a Nook HD giveaway. I'll post the details as soon as I have them.

For your entertainment, I've included pictures of the main characters as I envision them and a brief summary of the traits and characteristics that make them amazing!  Quotes and excerpts to follow.

Elijah Tope Bryson

Like all my great male characters, my husband was my muse for Tope. The dark, brooding, and brunette Tope embodies my husband's most prominent physical traits. Here's the thing... my husband is so much more than the sum of his physical characteristics and so is Tope. The characteristics most important and most difficult to convey are the ones that make Tope a character that will have people coming back time and time again. Rather than tell the reader that Tope is kind to anyone and everyone, that he has the patience of a saint, and that he has a protective instinct when it comes to Emily, I've created actions and reactions that prove what a wonderful person he is. With them, the readers see that he is absolutely worthy of becoming a book boyfriend favorite.
Noah R. Babineaux

Noah is the tattooed biker boy who wants what he wants, and he wants Emily. Unlike the other men, he doesn't buy into the notion that the commune needs to be patriarchal. He's convinced it would run better if the women were allowed to make their own decisions and be treated with the respect they deserve. Like Tope, his morals and his ethics make him endearing (no matter how cocky he is). His determination to protect Emily from the men of the commune... to sacrifice himself in order to do that... will have readers falling for him and wondering which man Emily should chose.
Emily Ador Riddle


Emily is described as tall and naturally beautiful. Her puppy dog eyes are so sad that everyone who meets her feels the sorrow that's such a part of her that it might well be a second skin. Unfortunately, the things Emily's seen prevent her from being the happy-go-lucky girl she would be if she weren't a slave to the men of the commune and she hadn't been made to witness atrocities that have changed her life forever. Like any good hero, Emily uses the injustices she's witnessed and the ones she suspects are occurring to strengthen her resolve. She insists on a better life... not just for herself but also for the other women of the commune, and she takes matters into her own hands to get what she wants.

Emily's life is so miserable, her world is so horrific, and her losses are so great that readers will not be able to keep themselves from pulling for her and hoping and praying that the men of the commune get their due. Even more than revenge, the readers will want to see Emily get her well-deserved happily ever after. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Inspiration for Left (Still Standing, #1) by T. R. Graves

The inspiration behind Left (Still Standing, #1) came after suspecting that several young, beautiful, and intelligent women that I know are living in relationships with men who are abusive. Because I appreciate how special these women are and what amazing qualities they offer to the world, I couldn't stop asking myself why they were staying with someone who treats them with anything less than respect... with someone who doesn't shower them with the unconditional love they deserve.

After going to bed one night with these exact questions churning in the back of my mind, I woke up with the story of Left and its characters completely formed in my head and ready to be written. Since I was in the middle of writing Underground (Secrets, #2) and had immovable editor deadlines associated with that book, I was disappointed. I wanted to charge forth with Left.   

In order to ease the nag, I took an hour out of my writing time and drafted the first chapter for Left, sent it over to my beta reader, and asked his opinion (Write it or forget it?). As soon as he read the chapter, he told me to stop everything and concentrate fully on Left. Since my gut was telling me the same, I did just that.

Morning, noon, night (when I wasn't working, commuting, or sleeping), I was writing Left. I can honestly say that I've never written a story that was so effortless. It's approximately 87k words and 300+ pages, and all of that was written in five weeks.

Left deals with an unspeakable subject, domestic violence, but it's not preachy or in your face. Instead, it's full of sweet and tender (and passionate) moments, ones that will help you understand how a woman, Baylee, can fall for a man, Colt, who has a monster buried deep inside. It's offset by empowering moments where the main character realizes she's been looking through her rose-colored glasses long enough and that it's time to admit what she already knows. Enriching the story is the team of people (in the form of amazing back-up characters... most notably Ryker) who support Baylee as she pulls herself up and swears on all that is holy she will stand on her own two feet if it's the last thing she does. Finally and because no story is complete without an 'Oh my God! I never saw that coming' ending, there are some finishing events that are similar to the ones we see played out every day across this country. They are the result of several relatively benign and ignored actions/reactions. I'm convinced that everything about this story will hit home with readers because the progression of events and the characters' underlying relationships with each other are so natural and real.

I say all of this this because I'm the author of this book (wrote every word and know what's about to happen from one paragraph to the next), and there are several excerpts that still give me chills every single time I read them. They are that powerful.

I'd like to thank Book Bunny's Burrow for hosting my book tour and me (and this guest post). I've said it a million times and I'll say it a million more... authors would be nowhere if it were not for the kindness showered upon us by bloggers just like Book Bunny's Burrow. ❤