ETJ Writes

How to Get Free Books!

(If you cannot afford to buy)

Hello Friends!

In these trying times, escaping to a different world via a great book is what many of us are craving right now. Unfortunately, it’s also leading some people to start pirating books, which hurts struggling authors (which is the vast majority of them) and is generally just not kind.

Therefore, I would like to take this time to remind readers that there are some wonderful ways to get free books that still support the authors (taken from a post I wrote on tumblr some time ago):


  • The Library – if the library doesn’t have the book you want, ask them to buy it. I’ve never actually had to do this because the interlibrary loan system works so extraordinarily well, but if by chance the book is not on file, they can buy it for you. This benefits both the author and the library! (Side note: for indie books this works best when there’s a paperback in addition to an ebook available, and the book can be purchased outside of amazon.)
  • Digital Libraries – slightly different in that these only stock ebooks, but services like HOOPLA, OVERDRIVE, & LIBBY are free reading apps that work in partnership with local libraries to give and maintain free access to thousands of books. The more you use any library services, the better the chances of those services sticking around.

  • Free Amazon Books – Go to the kindle store on amazon, type in “free kindle books,” and thousands of results pop up. All you need are an amazon account and a kindle app (free to download for iOs, Android, PC, & Mac), and you’re good to go. Yes, a lot of the free books will be romances, but many other genre authors who are part of KDP select will put their books on freebie deals for a few days every now and then. Twitter is also a great way to find these freebies, just browse the #freeEbook hashtag.

  • Become a Book Reviewer – All of us have thoughts and opinions about literature, and reviews are coveted by both the traditional and indie published book industry alike. Popular book bloggers and booktube channels are often contacted by authors and publishing houses and are sent free books (usually ARCs) in exchange for honest reviews.
      • Smaller book reviewers can participate in blog tours (search twitter/instagram to find these) for new releases, both indie and trad, and/or sign up for a NETGALLEY (or similar website) account. Netgalley, BookSprout & BookFunnel are all sites that send readers free ARCs in exchange for reviews.

These are the best ways I personally know of to get free books and still directly support authors, whether it be by review or having a library purchase their books, and they help everybody in the book world.

(Let’s be honest, most of us have a mile long TBR, and so while some of the above methods require waiting, we have lots of books to read in the meantime. And if you do run out, there’s always AO3.)

That being said, happy reading, my friends! Let’s stick to imaginary piracy only, inside the pages of a good book, and practice kindness in our real daily lives.

~ETJ

All images sourced from unsplash or pexels

Thorunn Giveaway & Pre-Order Announcement!

Hello Friends!

Today is a very exciting day! For the last few years, I’ve been feverishly working on finishing my sophomore novel – my debut Young Adult Science Fiction novel to be exact – and I’m so pleased to announce that Thorunn (releasing May 20th, 2020) – is currently available for pre-order!

Many thrilling adventures await within the action packed pages of the novel, enhanced by cool futuristic tech, mysterious shape-shifting aliens, and heart-stopping (literally!) escapades, all underscored by themes of loss and forgiveness, hope and heartbreak, and greed and sacrifice.

The shadow of the Hexagon looms large over Laine, Kenton, and Bo, and they have no idea whether they’ll escape alive. . .

Me and BookYou can pre-order paperback copies through Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, or your favourite local indie book store, (paperbacks will be available through Amazon for US costumers shortly), and ebook copies through Amazon, Apple Books, and other major online e-retailers. Additionally, Thorunn will be added to the Overdrive and Hoopla catalogues, so don’t forget to check out those sources as well.

Speaking of libraries, I’m inviting you to be a part of my street team, and help make Thorunn a smashing success in its debut year!

Even if you plan to purchase a copy, one of the best ways you can help out is to request a copy from your local library. That way the novel can be enjoyed by hundreds of teens who might not be not able to purchase a copy themselves. (It also makes the libraries very happy that their services are being used to further the love of reading.)

Another thing you can do right now is to head over to Goodreads, and add Thorunn to your “want to read” shelf. Don’t forget to go back and leave a review once you’ve finished reading the novel! (And if possible, a review on Amazon would be highly appreciated from me.)

The last bit of exciting news today is that I’m hosting a giveaway! Two special winners will receive a signed paperback ARC, and five lucky people can get their hands on an exclusive eARC before the book releases in May!

To enter, simply follow me on Twitter (@etjwrites), retweet my pinned tweet, and tag me and two friends telling me how much you’d love to win a copy! This giveaway will be open until the end of March. Winners will be notified publicly and by DM.

I am planning a launch party, and the details of that will be announced very soon, so be sure to subscribe to the ETJ Writes Newsletter to be informed of when and where that will take place.

In the meantime, you can whet your appetite by checking out some sneak peeks of the novel over on Wattpad (and hurry, once the book comes out, many of those chapters will disappear!) or dive into Bo’s backstory, and his time as a kit living in the Hinnom Forest after the terrible events of chapter one.

I’m inexpressibly excited to go on this book launch journey with you all, so check that pre-order box, mark your calendars for May 20th, and get ready to join the fight to save Thorunn!

Happy Reading!
~ETJ⚡

THORUNN

How to Turn any Kindle eBook into an Audiobook with this Simple iPhone Hack

Hello Friends!

In this article I cover how I seriously got into audiobooks, and the solution I discovered to get my phone to read aloud to me.

[Watch Video or Jump to step-by-step solution.]

You may recall that in my “Top 5 Books I Read in 2019” I mentioned that I struggled to read traditionally published books during college and for a few years afterward. Part of that, for me, was the work of having to commit to a new world, new characters, and plots. Once I’ve gotten into a series, I’m fine, it’s the getting started that’s the issue. (As opposed, to say, fanfiction, where I’m already attached to the worlds and characters I’m reading about.)

But early last year I was bound and determined to read more than one original work a year, so I set my Goodreads reading goal to 50 books, hopped on Twitter, and downloaded a varied selection of books to the Kindle app on my phone.

At first I was reluctant to try audiobooks. I’ve always been able to read much faster than I can listen, and I always felt I would be wasting time by listening to books instead of sitting down for a dedicated hour or three. But during college and after, I found that that dedicated hour or three was constantly being filled up by other things – writing, music, work, so I thought “What could it hurt? I might as well listen to a book and get two things done at once, even if it’s slower than reading it would be. I’m not reading anything at all, otherwise.”

As it happened, in late 2018, I’d stumbled across the Kingfountain series by Jeff Wheeler, whose books in the KindleUnlimited program all have the whispersync audiobook feature (meaning that one can listen to the audio recording without having to have audible).

The Kingfountain series was for me the perfect introduction into the world of audiobooks. I was forced to slow down and really absorb every word, as I couldn’t go back and re-listen to a certain phrase or paragraph if my hands were busy and I’d missed it. I started to deeply, in a way I hadn’t before, appreciate the care that other authors put into crafting every word, every emotional phrase. And I couldn’t get enough. I was suddenly reading 2-5-10! books. I would listen in the car, while doing dishes or laundry, or working out, or mundane work on the computer, gardening (practicing scales sometimes even!) – you name it, if I could listen and keep my hands occupied at the same time, I had a book on.

But I ran into a problem. That problem was that not every novel has an audiobook accompaniment. There were all these books on my Kindle that were piling up and I wasn’t listening to them. I knew that Kindles have a text-to-speech option, but I didn’t have a Kindle, only the Kindle app, which doesn’t have that feature (if amazon ever adds it, I’ll be thrilled, and update this article). I tried several different third-party apps, but nothing worked well.

Still determined, I experimented with the VoiceOver option from the Accessibility settings on my phone. That was a bit disastrous. But I was on the right path. And that right path led me to the solution, also located in the Accessibility section of Settings. I tried it on the book I was struggling to find time to read about the middle of 2019, and I never looked back.

And, dear readers, here is the “hack” I discovered.

(This solution is for iPhone, but I imagine Android and other smart phones have similar capabilities.)

I enabled Speak Screen. This setting allows you to use a simple finger gesture to activate the iPhone’s internal text-to-speech feature to read webpages and other detected text content. (Unfortunately it doesn’t work on PDFs, at least not yet.) It does take a little fiddling to get it to work correctly on the Kindle app, but once it gets going, it works like a charm.

Part 1 – Setup
(These steps only have to be done once, but can be adjusted as needed.)

Step 1. Locate Speak Screen from Settings>Accessibility>Spoken Content. (This might vary slightly depending on which version of IOS your phone is running.)

AccessibilitySpoken Content Speak Screen

Step 2. Toggle it on. (I would avoid turning on the other settings, as they can be a bit frustrating, but feel free to experiment with what works best for you.)

Speaking RateStep 3. Set the speaking rate. (I find the middle works best for me. Too fast is difficult to comprehend, too slow strands us firmly in the uncanny valley.)

Step 4. Select a voice. (There are a lot of voices, but I prefer to go with a female British voice. It’s very soothing, the inflection is usually correct, and it reminds me of listening to audiobooks as a child.)

Step 5. (Optional) As you have Speak Screen read aloud, you might notice it butchering some simple words, or struggling with fantasy novels’ pronunciations.

PronounciationTeutaOne that I’ve noticed is that it thinks “No.” (with a period at the end) is the substitute for “number” and so reads it that way. Consider adding in some alternate pronunciations if this bugs you – just make sure you tap on “Languages” and set it to your preferred reading voice.

Step 6. Open up your Kindle app.

Step 7. Make sure to tap on the page, and select the “Aa” from the top of the page to bring up the Kindle app options menu.

Step 8. Make sure that “Continuous Scrolling” (if the book you are reading supports it) is turned off.

AaContinuous Scrolling

This is because Speak Screen refuses to work in the Kindle app if this option is enabled.

Part 2 – Execution
(Just four more steps and your Kindle ebook will be an audiobook!)

Step 9. Set your volume to high and your brightness (if not plugged in) to as low as you can stand. This can be done from inside the app and with the volume control buttons on your phone, or by rapidly tapping home twice and swiping up to accessing your iPhone’s Control Centre.

Step 10. (This is where it gets a bit tricky!) Swipe down firmly with two fingers from the top of your iPhone. If not done correctly, this might swipe down the Notification Centre. Just slide it back up, and try again.

Step 11. (Vital!) Once the screen reader playback box appears, swipe to the page before and then back to the page you started out on. This will prompt the screen reader to keep reading once it reaches the end of the page. Otherwise, it will stop at the end of the page.

Step 12. Tap the arrow to hide the screen reader playback box. This will also help prompt the screen reader to keep reading.

Kindle Speak Screen PlaybackKindle Speak Screen 2Sometimes there is an issue where initially the screen reader will read from the previous or subsequent page. In this case, close the Kindle app, reopen it and repeat steps 10-12. This might have to be done one or two times to reset it correctly.

Step 13. DO NOT TURN OFF YOUR SCREEN. If you do, the screen reader will read to the end of the page, then stop, and you will have to repeat steps 10-12 again. In fact you will have to repeat those steps if the Speak Screen is disturbed in anyway (a phone call, going to another app, etc.) This is the purpose of setting the brightness and volume level before starting.

The brightness level is especially important here, because if your phone is at half/full brightness, unplugged, the phone will die rather quickly. On low brightness, it will last for a long time if not plugged in. I suggest having a car charger if listening on long car trips.

Speak screen also works for the Wattpad app (but you have to back in and out of the app for every chapter to avoid it reading the ads by mistake, so it can be a bit of a hassle), and for A03. On websites, you usually can turn the screen off or use other apps at the same time, because of the vertical non-stop scrolling. It’s just the page turning aspect of the Kindle app that forces the issue.

Yes, the Speak Screen output does take a bit of getting used to. There are no variances between voices for different characters, or for dialogue versus prose, but for a synthetic voice, it does a decent job. Good stories shine through, and badly written stories are immediately apparent.

And there you have it! How to get your iPhone to turn any Kindle book into an audiobook. I trust this will open far more reading possibilities for you all. It definitely has for me!

Happy listening!
ETJ

Thorunn – Cover Reveal!

Hello Friends!

I’m so thrilled to be able to finally present the cover for my next book, Thorunn!

Loss, hope, forgiveness, betrayal – these are the defining themes that run deeply through Thorunn’s core, wrapped up in the closely twined stories of Kenton & Laine.

I was blessed to again be able to work with the same fantastic cover artist as I did for my first novel, my wonderful sibling Don Jones, who is also my long-suffering sounding board. He did an amazing job of capturing the most important elements of Thorunn and representing them on not only the front, but the back cover as well! (Keep an eye out for the post announcing physical arcs; you’ll be treated to a 360° display of Thorunn.)

A little explanation on the image presented below. It features both Kenton – hooded and holding a very important device called a “quirn” – and Laine, with his signature leather jacket, and a Cloud 47 at his hip. The blue represents the deep blue of Thorunn’s sky – alien yet beautiful – as well as the peculiar energy given off by frix, an enigmatic type of electricity that is Thorunn’s most distinguishing trait.

So as to not spoil some key plot points, I’ll let you all decide the significance of what details I haven’t mentioned, and without further ado, I present the gorgeous cover of my debut Young Adult Science Fiction novel, Thorunn:

Thorunn Cover


Nine years ago, Skytown soldiers brutally murdered Kenton’s family. Now those same men aim to return and destroy Kenton’s hard-won, idyllic life amongst the peaceful shifter people of the Hinnom Forest.

Meanwhile, Laine Riven – dragged from Earth to Thorunn against his will – is stuck navigating an unfamiliar school, his jerk of an uncle, and the rising threat posed by the Outpost Terrorist.

When their paths clash amidst tragedy and betrayal, Kenton realises he and his best friend Bo may have rushed headlong into a situation too impossible to fix.

Time is running out as frix season closes in, and their only shot at victory hinges on outrunning the seasoned bounty hunters, savage creatures, and unpredictably violent weather trying to kill them every step of the way. . .

Coming May 2020

Keep an eye on this blog for pre-order and launch party updates!

The Top 5 Books I Read in 2019

Hello Friends!

2019 was the year of reading for me. I’ve always loved books, and there hasn’t been a day in my life that I’ve gone without reading, but around college – and for years after – published books kind of fell to the wayside for me. I read a lot of online works and while there are so many talented writers producing fiction (both original and derivative) for free – and I applaud their hard work and willingness to share their writing with the wide world – as an indie author I felt very strongly that I needed to support more self-published writers.

That’s not to say that I haven’t read traditionally published books, but indies made up a large portion of the 50 books I ticked off in the Goodreads reading challenge last year. There have been gems, there have been lesserly polished works, but it’s been fascinating reading them all, and I’ve loved re-discovering the wonderful world of books (particularly with the help of audiobooks, which I’ll cover in a future post).

Of course, my main goal as an author is to spread the joy of reading, so following are my top 5 books I read in 2019, the ones I think about often and treasure.

These books (a mix of traditionally and independently published) made me laugh, cry, gasp in shock, and relive some of the best moments from my childhood, and it is my hope that you all will read these and be as thrilled with them as I have been:


The Blight of Muirwood1. The Blight of Muirwood by Jeff Wheeler
🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Hands down, this was my favourite book of 2019. Somehow I stumbled onto “The Queen’s Poisoner” – the first book in the “Kingfountain Series” – early last year and fell headfirst into the worlds of Jeff Wheeler. A fantastic author who liberally peppers his work with underlying Christian themes (à la C.S. Lewis), I’ve read almost 14 of his books since that first one.

But the singular novel that has stuck with me is “The Blight of Muirwood.” It’s actually the second book in the initial Muirwood trilogy, and though the prose isn’t as delicately refined as his later books, it’s the characters, story, and core values that stood out to me. I fell in love with the main character, Lia, and related to her so much. As I was listening to her story, her struggles became my struggles, her victories, my victories, her steadfastness to her convictions and beliefs, my steadfastness.

I truly believe this book will stick with me as one of my favourite books of all time.


Project Starfighter2. Project Starfighter by Stephen J. Sweeney
🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

This book nearly took the top spot. Science fiction is just as dear to my heart as the fantasy genre, and this is a true space adventure. I already wrote quite a long, adoring ode to this book in 2019, so I will copy portions of that below, and link to it here.

As a kid I played the game released by Parallel Realities over and over again. It wasn’t easy, as timed missions, heavy artillery from the WEAPCO ships, and literal minefields made completing it difficult at the best of times. But I loved the challenge, playing over and over and over, memorising the dialogue from the cut scenes, and falling in love with the characters – Chris, Phoebe, and Ursula.

You can imagine my excitement when I discovered that the creator of the game had decided to write a novel based on it.

I was not disappointed. Yes, the writing and dialogue could have been stronger in parts, and there were some disturbing events that happened to the characters that I could have done without, but overall, the story was well told. The novel greatly expanded on the world I’d been introduced to in the “Project Starfighter” game, taking us down onto the planets and interacting with the characters at a personal level.

The ending was fantastic and didn’t let me down in the slightest, topped off with a short, well crafted epilogue that brought me to tears. This book took me back to my childhood and teen years, and I got to relive some of my fondest memories while experiencing something new. I definitely recommend “Project Starfighter” to anyone who loves sci-fi, gaming, or both.

Suffice to say, another book that is going on the permanent favourites list!


Urban Heroes3. Urban Heroes by T. J. Lockwood
🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

The twist, the twist, the twist.

This book gutted me – not so much emotionally, but on a thematic and storytelling and structural level. It asks (and answers) such a huge question, one posed by media such as “Almost Human” and “Detroit Become Human” and by the works of sci-fi legend Isaac Asimov. I can’t reveal it here, because that would involve ruining the near-perfect slow moment of revelation, but I hope that everyone who reads this book will feel the same wonder and shock that I did when I finally understood what the novel was saying.

And of course, the in-media-res start, almost non-stop action, excellent writing, and wonderful characters round out this absolute gem of a story.


Twilight to Son Shine4. Twilight to Son Shine by Jim McDonald
🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

This is a beautiful book of poems documenting the transformation of man from darkness into light. A few of them (“Depression” and “It Comes in Threes” in particular) really touched my heart.

I’m not usually much for poetry, but: 1. I’d recently read a story that changed my perspective on the purpose of poetry that put me in a more curious mindset, and 2. I had the great pleasure of meeting the author at a book fair, and his life story and genuine manner convinced me to give his works a try. I’m really glad I did!


Warmaiden of Arna5. Warmaiden of Arna by JT Archer
🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

This book was long – but the wonderful kind of long. From the very first pages I wanted to sink into the world of this story and never leave. I listened to it while riding my bike. I listened to it running the track at the gym. I listened to it while practising piano, and while driving in my car.

I couldn’t get enough of this book, and I can hardly wait to read the sequel.

 
So there you have it, my top 5 books of 2019! You can find the full list of stories I read and reviewed last year on my goodreads page, as well as the full reviews of each book I’ve mentioned above.

I’m so excited to dive into a new set of books this year, and in fact, have already started! I can hardly wait to discover some new favourites from fantastically talented authors in 2020.

Pick a book from this list, dive in, and happy reading!

ETJ.
 
View all my goodreads reviews

End of a Decade – Hello 2020!

Hello Friends!

It’s the penultimate day of 2019 – of the decade! I’ve done so much exciting stuff over the last ten years:

  • Graduated from high school & got my AA and BA (in Music/Theory & Composition)
  • Published a book!
  • Made some amazing new friends and reconnected with old ones
  • Visited England for the 1st time in years
  • Debuted several flute choir music compositions
  • Started teaching music
  • Wrote a guest blog post
  • Attended quite a few weddings
  • Got my own PO box finally
  • Took some road trips
  • And so much more!

I’ve truly been blessed with all the wonderful things that have happened – too many to list here really. I’m looking forward to 2020 and all the next decade brings. I’m lining up some great new content for this coming year, including publishing Thorunn, which I am so pleased about.

Join the brand new mailing list to stay informed, and I’ll end with a little slideshow of all the Tedenbarr of Have Lath quotes I’ve posted to Instagram since last year. (I’m still a little surprised that I made 65 of them in total, wow!) I am retiring them for now, but only because of what I mentioned above.

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Happy Reading!
ETJ

Tedenbarr of Have Lath

Tedenbarr of Have Lath: Hardcover Edition!

Hello Friends!

I alluded to this exciting piece of news about a month ago, but here it is, the official announcement that my medieval adventure novel for young adult and middle grade readers – Tedenbarr of Have Lath – is now available in hardcover!


.

The size of the book, how it feels in my hands, the stunning quality of the cover art – even the little creak that issues upon opening the novel – it’s everything I originally envisioned when I first dreamed about publishing.

This new edition features beautiful glossy case laminate with larger print for easier reading, and I was so happy to be able to get copies printed in time for the annual CHAP convention where the very first one found a home in the hands of an avid young reader!

In the evenings they all supped together, and Tedenbarr regaled them with stories from the Agon cycle, tales that [SPOILER] eagerly soaked up, having been deprived of such entertainment during his long imprisonment.

I’m so thrilled to be able to share this milestone with you all, and I hope that everyone who purchases a copy will love the hardcover version just as much as I do.

https://www.amazon.com/Tedenbarr-Have-Lath-Esther-Jones/dp/153730741XThis edition is available for order wherever books are sold and Paperback and Kindle versions of Tedenbarr of Have Lath are also available via Amazon.com.

Happy Reading!

ETJ

2019 CHAP Convention!

Hello Friends!

books on con tableThis past weekend I went to my second CHAP convention (check out last year’s blog post to see what the 2018 convention was like!) with my wonderful mother – again featuring her memoir, Four Jewels in My Crown, a lovely tribute to biblical focused home education and an encouragement for other homeschooling familes.

Last year was tons of fun, and this year was even better! Naturally I was there with my medieval themed novel Tedenbarr of Have Lath, discussing the uplifting themes presented within, and connecting with other homeschool families at all different stages in their homeschool journeys.

I had so many more goodies to offer this year – crossword & word search puzzles (available for download right here) and two different colouring pages that were perfect for the little kids to attack with crayons while the parents and older siblings chatted.

Jones with reader Jones with Fan

Additionally, this year I debuted the hardcover editions of novel – beautiful glossy case laminate with larger print for easier reading – and sold my very first one to an avid young reader and an overall fan of books. I also got to meet a fan of Tedenbarr of Have Lath who told me told me she loves it so much it’s going on her extra-special bookshelf. Every author’s dream, and I couldn’t be happier!

Moments like these make every single minute of work worth it as I’m always so excited to meet young readers, and it’s my sincerest desire that each person who reads my novel comes away even more enthused about literature.

Of course this being
a homeschool convention,
I would be remiss if I
didn’t include a picture
of my mother again this
year, as her hard work
and dedication helped
mold myself and my
siblings into the people
we are today.
marann Jones with book chick fil a mascot

(It was also pretty fun meeting the Chick-Fil-A mascot on the first day of the convention. Eat more chicken!
New this year to CHAP were the Interactive Corners.

The one I hosted was called “acting out the story,” featuring short, one act plays based on scenes adapted from my novel wherein we read through the plays, discussed their meaning, and then, scripts in hand, acted them out using assorted props to really bring the story to life!

Doing so was such a fun experience, and one I hope to repeat over and over again, bringing the art of storytelling to young readers through play(s).

Don’t forget to check out my mother’s article on “Gardening with Children” in the CHAP 2019 Spring Magazine, and for those of you who weren’t able to make the convention this year, the kindle edition of Tedenbarr of Have Lath is on a countdown deal until the end of the week!

Many Blessings, & Happy Reading!

ETJ

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