Harry Potter, 6 years on…

This week I’ve been re-watching all the Harry Potter movies. I hadn’t watched them in a while, and since I had some time, I decided to do all 8.

Most notably, the films hold up pretty well. Despite The Sorcerer’s Stone (’01) approaching it’s second decade, it doesn’t look dated. The young stars seemed a bit ill-formed, but they were pretty young….and became more sophisticated as they went along.

This time around–possibly because of the rosy glow of time passing–some of the things that bothered me in the past weren’t as bad.  

I started having problems reading the books at around Book 5, (Order of the Phoenix).  Harry annoyed me to death with his constant whining about how bad his life was, and that colored the next two books for me.  I was SO done with Harry.

(Sorry, in OotP, Harry had just turned 16, and it was hard for me to relate to a kid being so whiny at that age.   A)I taught HS, and most kids that age are past the whiny stage, and B)I was a sophomore in college at 16, so I wasn’t -in- HS at that age, and therefore struggle to relate to that whole environment anyway. And yes, I know Harry had worse-than-average teenage issues, but…)

Anyhow, one perq of watching the movies instead or rereading the books is that you perceive less of the whiny-ness. The first time I saw that movie, I had recently read the book, so the book experience tainted the movie. This time, I actually liked OotP much more.

The same lack of “recently-read-the-book” taint also made the last three movies better for me, as did being able to watch them in quick succession. In those two books, my main beef was the extraneous subplots and gazillion unnecessary characters…many of which the movies skipped over.

Therefore, this time around it was a much better viewing experience.  I have a greater admiration for JKR as a story teller at this distance, and hope to watch these again in another 6 years.

New Story Coming Out in Ebook

Later this month (6/22?), I’ll be putting out one of my short stories in ebook format. The Bear Girl originally appeared in WolfSongs, Volume 1, an anthology choice which makes sense only to when one had read the story!

The cover is one I created myself, depicting the first scene in the story, and I hope it looks enticing enough to draw readers in!

GUD Magazine (in their review of the anthology) called this story a ‘gentle coming-of-age story’, which I thought was particularly apt description.

 

In addition, I wanted to let people know that I’m on track for a August release of Overseer, the final book in the Horn trilogy, after which I’ll tackle the first sequel to Dreaming Death.

I still don’t have a name for that book, but I’ve got about 70K of it written now, and I’m excited to get it out there!

For those who are unsure how the two series relate to each other, it’s easiest to see it as a dichotomy. Most of the people inhabiting the world of the Dreaming Death (and Shared Dreams) stories are living in a world with magic and mystery. The Horn is populated by people–the Oathbreakers–who know the true origins of their peoples, what the Fortresses actually are, and what capabilities they have.  In essence, they live in a world that’s closer to science fiction….

The two halves sometimes cross, but social pressures generally keep the knowledge of the Oathbreakers under wraps.

Whether or not that will change may come into play when the king has to choose his heir, the person who will one day decide how much of the Oathbreakers’ science has to be used to keep Larossa safe from the Cince…but those stories are fairly far down the line at this point (2019ish!)

 

 

 

New Covers…

I’ve been working for the last week or so to learn photo-editing, and have done that primarily by working on new covers for some of my previously published short stories. To that effect, I’ve made new covers for Fleurs du Mal and Whatever Else. I’ve repeated some of the elements, hoping to tie my republished stories together in appearance.

This ties me into using certain elements for the remainder of the shorts I’m hoping to republish this year (starting with The Bear Girl next month.)

If you already have these books, there’s nothing new inside the covers…I’ve just prettied up the outside. So there’s no need to purchase a new copy.

I’d like to think that both of them are improvements on the old covers. We’ll have to see as time goes on, I suppose.

The Bear Girl will be my first composite cover, where I’m putting together images from different photos to get everything I need into the shot.  It will not look similar to either of these, save for (most likely) the placement of the text elements.

So sometime next month, I’ll be putting that one up here.  Stay tuned ;o)

 

 

 

Update on the Dreaming Death sequels…

Last week, I had someone over at Goodreads ask when the sequel for Dreaming Death would be coming out.

As is probably evident by now, my publisher isn’t putting out the sequel. First week sales weren’t good enough to consider continuing the series, and therefore I’m no longer with them. Which leaves me with an incomplete story, something that rarely makes people happy!

Therefore, I thought I’d let people know I DO have a plan.

Due to some niggling contract issues, I could not immediately launch into producing the sequel. (If you run into me sometime, I’ll explain that, but otherwise it’s too complicated.)

I had the old sequel that I produced after I originally wrote Dreaming Death…but that was no longer valid*. And as I didn’t want to rewrite the whole thing with no guarantee that my publisher would even look at it, I worked instead on outlining and producing The Horn series. Those novels are set in the same world, but in a very different province, one that holds more knowledge about that world itself.

The first two books of that series are out now, and I’m hoping to finish up Book Three by the end of the summer.

THEN I’ll be working on the first of the Dreaming Death sequels.  Now, admittedly, I have a bunch done. I’ve been working on that intermittently this year, so I’m hoping to get the first sequel out by the end of 2017 or early 2018.

I have not yet decided on the titles for the three books*, but as soon as I do, I’ll be getting with my cover artist and working on the covers.

I will probably not use the series title that the publisher did (Palace of Dreams Novels) because it doesn’t quite work for me, so I may have a new series title. I’ve actually been calling these the Dreaming Death World online, and may stick with that, or I may call it something totally different. Titles aren’t my thing, so it will be a struggle to decide what’s best.

(FWIW, the original short version of The Golden City was called “Of Ambergris, Blood, and Brandy“.  The publisher bought the book with that name, but later changed it to Of Blood and Brandy and then finally to The Golden City.)

But back to the topic…as soon as I have made decisions on that, I will post about it here, and will definitely let you guys see the covers as soon as my artist (Kate Marshall) can grind them out.

So don’t give up! I’m typing as fast as I can…

*Because of changes that my editor asked for in Dreaming Death, the original sequel that I wrote long ago (2005?), is no longer valid. Its name was The Sins of the Fathers, mostly because it dealt with the lingering death of Shironne’s father.

 

 

99 Cent Sale!

Hi! I’m running a sale on all my indie ebooks through the end of April, 99 cents each!

(This includes the pre-order for Original  for Kindle)

Kindle: AUTHOR PAGE

Barnes & Noble: NOOK PAGE

Kobo: AUTHOR PAGE

(This sale does not, sadly, include my books from Penguin, as the publisher controls those prices. I wish I could put them on sale, but it’s just not possible.)

Original Available for PreOrder

The Amazon preorder page for my newest book, Original, has just gone up. This is the second book in The Horn trilogy (after Oathbreaker), and although preorders will be at 99 cents, the book’s price will go to $3.99 afterward.

Blurb (I am still working on this–as I’m told it’s a bit dry):

Dalyan was created by his Cince masters to find and resurrect an abandoned Fortress…but he never chose to serve them. Now he’s free from the implanted device that tied him to them. He’s ready to begin a new life, one beyond their vision for him.
Amal, Lady Horn is just grateful that Dalyan survived. But his very existence portends a new future, one with their long-time foes, the Cince, using ancient knowledge—learned from the time of the Originals—to invade the country of Larossa and their Fortresses. Now Amal’s Family must convince the Oathbreakers of the other Families that to protect themselves and their country, their Fortresses must be woken. And Salonen, the abandoned Fortress, must either be resurrected…or killed.

PREORDER ON AMAZON!

(An FYI for people who visit here: Oathbreaker will also be on sale the 15th through the 27th for 99 cents, and then go back up to regular price.)

 

 

 

I Don’t Think That Means What You Think it Means…

Once of the decisions writers make when they’re indie publishing is whether to hire someone else to edit their work. All too often these days I run across an ebook that could have absolutely used another set of eyes on it, and even though Spell Check does a great job catching misspellings, over-reliance on it leads us to the dreaded Spell Czech.*

A Spell Czech is when you have a perfectly good word in a sentence, but it’s not what you intended.

There are a few ways this happens:

  1. AutoCorrect messes you up, and you miss that mistake in edits.
  2. Synonym Finder puts in a synonym, but it’s not quite right.
  3. Homonyms trip you up.

 

AUTOCORRECT:

Now I think that all of us have experienced the first instance. You’re typing along madly and AutoCorrect is going along behind you and changing your words, often with comical results. You can turn AutoCorrect off, but I don’t. I cannot spell the words just or because without screwing them up.

 

SYNONYM FINDER:

I usually catch a writer doing this when they’re trying to be a good writer. They’re typing along and realize they’ve used the word ‘lectured’ too often. So they click on synonym finder and it tells them ‘bloviated’ is a synonym.  And we get this:

He lectured her on economics.>>> He bloviated her on economics.

Uh, this doesn’t work. Technically, the two words are, loosely, synonyms. However…lecture can be used as transitive or intransitive, while bloviate is pretty firmly intransitive. So someone who knows the word bloviate will find this jarring and…well, unfortunate.

 

HOMONYM MISTAKES:

These are easy to make. I had the word mantle in a manuscript for a long time before my mom caught that it should be mantel. Nothing will get a writer past homonym issues faster than awareness. Here’s a great list: Alan Cooper’s Homonyms.

Some of these we learn in grade school. It’s still easy to make too/to/two mistakes decades later, and the internet is full of they’re/their/there and your/you’re issues.

But what I’ve seen a lot lately is the more obscure ones like PEAK/PEEK/PIQUE.

One does not engage in a fit of peak.  One does not eat a hardy meal. One does not pay their dos.

(I’ve seen variations of all of those lately. They make me strongly consider putting the book down.)

Right or wrong, I tend to associate all of these mistakes with people who are not as well read. The last one in particular seems to be the province of someone who’s heard an expression spoken aloud, but has never seen it in print. (This is the opposite of kids who mispronounce words because they’ve only seen them in print, but have never heard them spoken aloud.)

I have to admit, I’ve had things edited, and we STILL find mistakes in them several passes later. However, a lot of these things can be caught by a copy editor. This is why, for my novels, I pay someone to copy edit for me. (Rick at EQP BOOKS is great!)

(I did several posts at my old website about things I learned from my copy editors. I still struggle with DUE TO/BECAUSE OF, though.)

So if you’re having problems, try a copy editor, and try to learn from what they point out…

*I don’t know who first used this term. It is not mine. I am simply not that clever.

 

 

 

 

Who Should Be Giving Writing Advice?

In the last year or so as I’ve been switching onto a more indie-focused writing track, I have read COPIOUS amounts of advice.

(This is me, only a lot thinner, younger, with more hair, and better skin, and…OK, it’s not me at all, but the expression on her face pretty much captures how I feel.)

There’s a huge market out there for people who are offering help to writers.

Very often it turns out this advice is coming from someone who, when I look them up, has only published two self-help books (on how to write a bestseller…with no evidence that they’ve ever written a bestseller themselves). As I’ve purchased a few of these books, I’ve noted that they’re full of generalizations. They won’t tell you exactly where or when to advertise or what venue to publish in. Part of that is because that seems to change with alarming speed. What works one month may not work the next, so if they get specific, it will date their advice/book.

So it tends to be a frustrating world out there. I am certainly not a big success story, so to some extent, that invalidates my giving advice, too.

But my first piece of advice is this: Check out the source of the advice.

See whether they’ve published anything. See whether they’re even in your genre. Do they write novels? Or books on how to write novels?

Are they one-sided? Do they recommend ONLY one method? Does their advice FEEL wrong?

I’ve seen advice out there that makes me cringe. I suspect that there are people out there holding workshops who spew out the most ridiculous ideas, and it doesn’t matter to them because they’re getting paid, right?

The most egregious example of this I have is a cautionary tale about a newbie writer I met back in 2010 who, at lunch during a writers conference, told all the strangers sharing the table with her that….

1) she was in the writing to make money and if her (only) book didn’t sell well, she was just going to quit writing;

2) because she was sure that she was going to be a success, she’d gone ahead and–as was recommended to her in a workshop–spent $10,000 setting up as a LLC to protect her in case she was ever sued; and

3) she wasn’t sure what genre her book was, so she’d just picked a random agent off the list to speak with, but they were sure to like it because it was going to be a blockbuster. (The agent informed her, after listening to her pitch, that it was chick-lit).

By this point, the other people at the table (and I) were sitting there with our mouths hanging open. The woman involved delivered all this information with supreme confidence that she would soon be too wealthy to care what we all thought. It was…

…well, someone had told her to do all this stuff. In a writers workshop. Someone had told her that she needed to spend all that money to legally protect herself in case her book got published. (NOTE: you can get an LLC for FAR LESS MONEY THAN THIS, but you don’t really need one.) Someone told her that she didn’t need to research her potential agent, or know anything about her genre, and that she would make big bucks straight out of the gate.

When I talk about Researching for Historical Fiction, I start off by telling my audience about my writing. Because I want them to know that I HAVE written and published Historical Fantasy. I’m not just pulling these weird recommendations to use Street-View and Facebook out of my butt.

And yet I suspect that there are a lot of people out there giving advice who have no chops at all. Instead they see a market full of writers who are desperately seeking that snippet of advice that will make them millionaires…and they take advantage.

So before you take advice, look at your adviser’s writing record. See what they have published, and where. Check their reviews and people’s comments. Don’t follow them off a cliff.

(NOTE: Self-published is perfectly valid. There are a lot of self-published authors who are doing really well. Personally, I prefer the idea of hybrid publication, because I don’t put all my eggs in the same basket, but that’s a personal choice for each writer. If you desperately want to pursue only traditional publishers, then do that.)

Anyhow, all of this is to say that if you’re going to take writing advice, make sure it’s from a valid source. Not the random internet guy.

 

 

 

 

 

Adventures in Indie #8 Marketing Efforts

Beyond the newsletter, it’s a challenge for an indie writer to know how to market their books.

Make no mistake: There are a bunch of people out there making a fortune. A lot of them are making a fortune selling books that tells other people how to sell books.

I’m actually on a few newsletter lists from these people, and they always have pat answers as to what will give you your first 10,000 readers. And what to do to make your newsletter pop. And what promotional tools (usually theirs) you can use to accomplish that.

The problem with any marketing technique (I have a degree in Marketing, BTW) is that it’s very difficult to figure out why it worked. And whether it will work next time. And what it will work for.

I ran an experiment this past weekend. The last time I promoted a book sale (months ago now), I used several of those sites that send out daily newsletters to readers promoting books that are on sale. A couple of them had small charges, but the bulk of them were free.

And…I used those same 7 services over the last several days. How many 99 cent books did I sell?

5

Yep, just 5

Even though those were decent marketing vectors a few months ago (and well worth the time I spent to get a book in their listings), this time they were a dud.

(For comparison purposes, I did NOT run my own newsletter last weekend, because I wanted to see what kind of bump I would get without it.)

One of my readers mentioned that she had herself taken off all those lists. She just couldn’t keep up with all the daily recommendations. Me? I generally delete them unopened. So while they were useful months ago, they’re losing any value.

This is one of the horrid things about marketing. It’s not a hard science. It’s wibbly-wobbly at best. And therefore it’s hard to know where to put your time and money.  After all, those 7 resources cost me a total of $30 and my return was a total of $1.35 (or so…one book sold in UK).

And if we’re trying to look at publishing as a business, it’s imperative to put our money where it counts.

And Amazon keeps changing the rules (link here). With every new program from Amazon, authors seem to lose an edge. The Kindle Unlimited program has flattened promotional sales quite a bit. (Read through article). In fact, some people did choose to read my promotional book via KU last weekend, rather than purchase it.

But the upshot of the above problem is that bigger and more expensive promotions are losing some of their return on investment:  “The result was that promotion tools such as EReader News Today and Free Kindle Books & Tips became much less effective. Only BookBub remains reliably effective.” (From the above article).

And while BookBub is still effective, it is both now more expensive to get an ad and less profitable. So your ROI is much lower.  (The last time I looked, a BookBub ad for my genre runs about $650 for a 99 cent book…that’s a huge investment if you’re not assured you’ll earn that much back.)

So the efficacy of that type of ad is dwindling. (I honestly don’t open BookBub any longer. I just delete.)

I think in a lot of cases, readers are simply overwhelmed by the fire hose of promotions coming into their mailbox every day. So the question is…what’s the next big seller?

Me? I’m going to run a .99 cent sale next month, where all my self-pubbed ebooks will be 99 cents. So now you’re warned.

Maybe it will work. Maybe it won’t.

Wish I had the answer!

Starting the Story in the Right Place

While traveling last weekend (which is why I didn’t post a segment of The King’s Daughter), I tried to read a historical mystery novel. It was the first in a series of several and I’d hoped I’d found a new Sebastian St. Cyr or Nell Sweeney. Instead I found a boring series of events and gave up about 25% of the way through the book.

My main gripe? Well, it wasn’t until 14% of the way through the novel that we had an inciting event. Until that point, I wasn’t sure what the plot of this book would be, or whether it just would be a long string of events.  In my mind, everything that happened in the first 14% (and first YEAR) of the novel could have been summed up in a few sentences. The novel would have been better served to start there, when the heroine finally found the suspicious letter that got her moving.

It’s an important lesson to learn.

When I first submitted “Touching the Dead” to Jim Baen’s Universe, there was another scene at the beginning. The editors there quickly pointed out that my story would be served better to start on the next scene, and anything important from scene 1 could be worked back in later. I did as they suggested, and they bought that story. Easy peasy.

After that point, I always tried to start with the dead body.

It doesn’t work for all my stuff, but I try to get there as quickly as I can.*

So it’s worth keeping in mind (for authors) that we need to tell readers up front what this story’s about and why we should keep reading. There needs to be a clear beginning (along with the middle and end.) And finding that beginning can be difficult.

I, for one, often write parts that end up being cut off.  For example, The King’s Daughter has TWO prologues. Both were intended to tell the reader that X was going to happen later in the book.  However, in the ultimate version, I will definitely cut one, and possibly both. The book really starts when the soldiers arrive.

I cut scenes off the beginning of a lot of my stuff. I feel, strangely, that I benefit from writing them, even if I know early on I’m not going to use those scenes. They help ME understand the backstory, and while backstory doesn’t always surface in the final product, it fills out the characters for me.

So my advice would be to go ahead and write your rough draft, starting it wherever you want, but keep your mind open to trimming that beginning off later.

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*My big exception to this is Dreaming Death, where the editor asked me to add a few days to the beginning of the story. It originally started roughly where Chapter Nine is now. I wasn’t wild about the change, but the editor asked and I delivered. Then the next editor was baffled why nothing happened in the beginning of the book and asked me to take most of it out. I tried, but since I was in the middle of moving to another state and under a very short deadline, I really couldn’t do that successfully…leaving me with a version of the book that is too front heavy for my liking. If I ever get the rights to that book back, perhaps I’ll change it back to the way it was. I liked that version better.

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And speaking of Dreaming Death and “Touching the Dead”, I plan on releasing an ebook version of three short stories set in that world, all of which occur before the novel itself. “Touching the Dead” is included in this, and is the first meeting of Shironne and Colonel Cerradine.

Shared Dreams should be out later this month, and will sell for 99 cents…so look for it on Amazon and Barnes & Noble!

(typewriter photo via Pixabay)