Cover Reveal: In Dreaming Bound

Shironne and Mikael are back!

Their next story, In Dreaming Bound, is scheduled to be out by the end of April, and here is the first look at the cover!

 

But there’s more!

There are two other books in this series, planned to come out late 2018/early 2019.

The new covers for the series are by Kate Marshall Designs, (I cannot recommend her enough!) and once I have rights back* to Dreaming Death, she’ll be putting together a matching cover for that book as well when I reissue it.


And with that, I’ll let you get back to your day ;o)

*I do not know when that will be, unfortunately…

New Cover for Shared Dreams, plus a Paperback

Available at: Amazon, B&N, Apple, Kobo, Others

 

For anyone who’s previously picked up a copy of my collection of 3 short stories from the setting of Dreaming Death, the book now has a new cover. So if it looks like a new book to you, it’s actually not. (You have to wait a couple more months.)

However, in a week or so, it will also be coming out in paperback. It will be a thin (novella length) volume–about 140 pages–but I know there are some people who want books in paper (including libraries.)

This volume includes three short stories: A Mention of Death, Touching the Dead, and Endings. There’s also an excerpt from Dreaming Death (which comes after those stories chronologically.)

This is part of getting ready to reveal the first sequel for Dreaming Death, In Dreaming Bound. The new cover links to the covers of the upcoming Palace of Dreams novels, so it will simply fit in better.

I am still hoping that In Dreaming Bound will be out in by Summer (I’m close, you guys!), and I’ll put in a date as soon as I know.

(And when I’m ready to do a cover reveal for IDB, I will definitely link it here!)

 

 

 

 

Some tips for writing Romance

This week over on my writing Tumblr, I read a post that talked about how to write Romance. I thought all of the advice was pretty good except…

…well, except for the part that said (paraphrased) “Don’t write a story that’s -about- the romance.” The writer went on to explain that they didn’t like the Romance genre because the romance was the main plot.

Okay, first of all, that poster is allowed to have that opinion, but giving advice to writers who want to write romance should probably not include the advice NOT to write Romance. That’s ignoring the fact that about 1/3 of all book sales are Romance. There are plenty of people out there who love it, so go ahead and write it if you want!

 

So, here are my tips:

Make sure your characters are real people first.

Not cardboard cutouts. Develop them into real characters first, preferably likable people. Preferably ones whom readers want to succeed, not die because they’re too stupid to live. Having characters that the reader wants to read about ensures that they will stick with the book through any rough patches.

There’s a strong tendency to have the lone wolf alpha male and the perfect (skinny) female who doesn’t know how beautiful she is*, but you might want to consider changing it up a bit. Instead try the alpha male’s sidekick who’s nice to his mother and has four boxers because he works at a dog rescue in his spare time. He doesn’t even have to have a tortured soul.

(*Although yes, I KNOW the alpha male sells, and if that’s your thing, you can still write it.)

Have them realize there’s a possibility of a romantic relationship.

You need to go slowly enough that there’s a moment when each realizes that there might be a relationship building: more than just friendship or, depending on what you’re writing, more than just sex. These realizations can come at different times in the story. Statistically, men tend to fall in love faster, so it might be more realistic to have the male POV think in terms of love first, then the woman (but beware of him turning into a creepy stalker and turning off your readers. Ew.)

These things don’t have to take up pages and pages of time, but putting in that realization into at least a sentence or two makes a sharp division between a realistic romance and instaluv*. In addition, it can be sidestepped by building in a relationship in the past–they were best friends in high school, they dated in college, but married the wrong people. However, if these characters have just met for the first time, they need some time to build up to having a relationship.

(*Although yes, I KNOW instaluv still sells, and if that’s your thing, you can still write that.)

 

Have one or both put out feelers to gauge the other’s interest…

…and then make a connection

This is one of the best parts: the first date, the first talk, the first kiss, the first waltz. Savor it.

It’s not the most important part of the novel, but for readers of Romance, this is often the part they’ll go back and reread over and over.

It may not be the kiss, it may be that moment when she reaches out a hand and brushes back a bit of his hair, the moment his hand touches his lover’s over a ripe mango in the kitchen, the moment in the hospital where she’s holding her best friend’s hand and they both realize that they’re more than friends.

This is about reaching out and being rewarded with a connection. The reader’s been WAITING for that connection to happen, and it doesn’t have to be sex or a proposal or even touching. The important part is the emotional connection.

Falling is love is NOT EASY

Remember, the saying is not staying balanced in love, it is falling, losing your self to love. So, if you are in the early stages of falling in love right now, and you feel a little crazy, don’t worry, you kind of are. You are under the influence of your hormones that are making you feel, all at once, euphoric, endangered, and exhausted.    —Psychology Today

 

That ENDANGERED is important. Both characters are putting themselves into a trust fall with another individual. If they’ve known each other a long time, this is easier. If they’re new to each other, it’s scary. Especially for the females in the equation. Either party in the new relationship can be hiding things from the other.

That can be born from a sense of fear that the other won’t accept the hidden factor. That hammer toe that grosses everyone out? That horrible scar he’s hiding, physical or emotional? That crazy ex who might drop by at any minute? All of those things can endanger the fragile new relationship.

And no, the participants are not at their most stable, so it might not hurt to have them reflect on the fact that X is SO out of character for them. (Or have a friend comment.)

FWIW, this endangerment is huge in the Romance genre, where we have–about 3/4 of the way through most books–the Black Moment. Where the thing has happened that will split up the fragile relationship. So look for that sense of endangerment, because it makes for a better final act.

 

Make Consent Clear…

Not everyone will agree with this, but as a writer, I feel it’s part of my job to model healthy relationships. This is my stance. I would like everyone in the world to adopt it, to have their characters verbally agree that this is the time for a relationship, that this is the time for a kiss, that this is the time for sex.

So if you want readers to see characters who are behaving in a morally responsible way toward their potential partners, write it. Make sure you include clear language that says both of your characters want to continue on this path, that they’re emotionally committed to the next step. And clear language when they want to say NO, also.

(Personally, I like my characters to have talked in terms of possible children as well, since that’s a consideration in many romantic relationships. And depending on the time frame, perhaps they should also talk about protection against STDs. Including condom use is pretty common in Contemporary Romance these days.)

Communicate, people.

 

…but sex is not a requirement.

I actually mean this two ways. IF there is sex during the time spanned in your novel, you can choose whether or not to ‘show’ it to the reader. You can ‘fade to black’ if you’re not comfortable writing those scenes.

Personally, I’m not. My characters usually kiss a little, engage in a little foreplay, discuss whether they’re going further, and then I fade out. There are exceptions, but generally I have a reason for showing the sex. (Forex, when I show the sex in the Horn series, it’s largely because with the two main characters being ‘sensitives’, it changes the dynamic, and I still don’t go into detail.)

In my view, what’s the most important is the part is where they commit to going all the way.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure.”

Once the emotional impact of that moment happens, what remains…is an action scene. AN ACTION SCENE. (Think about it, you’ll get there in a moment.)

 

Additionally, characters do not need to be having sex at all. Not all couples bump and grind their way through their relationships. One may be incapable for one reason or another. They may have more of a meeting of the minds. One of them may be asexual. Or both of them.

 

Commitment

If you’re writing a Romance or a book with a Romantic Subplot, this usually comes near the end. We usually tie up the romance part of the show with an HEA (Happily Ever After) and an HFN (Happy For Now). Both require that there is some sort of commitment to work on the relationship. Not always marriage. Sometimes there’s a more complex thing going on.

Either way, your HEA/HFA has to make sense. If your characters have not resolved their issues (ENDANGERMENT), then the HEA/HFN might not work. Does she still live on Mars and he still lives on Earth? Did they have to move in with his ex? Will she still not tell him that secret? Then a declaration that they will live Happily Ever After will fall flat.

The HFN is more common when we have a series, with more books coming up. In those cases you can still have unresolved issues. (Are we Okay? Yeah, we’re okay.) It’s not a perfect relationship, but they’re committed to working on the issues.

FWIW, I ended my first book without either, which I’m sure some people hated, but it WAS part of a series.

 

All of the above are just my opinion, as a writer of non-Romance stories that often have a romantic subplot. Just about every other writer who includes Romance in their work will have other ideas, possibly better ideas than mine.

Go forth and write romance. Or Romance. If you want to.

 

 

(All pictures in this post via Pixabay.)

So…how’s the writing going?

Well, it’s the time of year to do some accounting.

 

Writing:

In 2017 I indie-published 7 ebooks, two of which were novels, 1 collection, and 4 short stories. I also put out two novella-length ebooks to my Patreon patrons that were not published to the general public. In addition, I pretty much serialized all of The Amiestrin Gambit (about 100K) and have started on the second book in that series.

 

I received the following incomes:

Royalties from my 4 Roc novels: 278

Royalties from sale of indie books: 1550  (still working on final number)

Patreon donations: 917

For a total estimated writer income of  $2745

 

My writing-only expenses this year included: 

Covers (for the 4 DD books and PB covers for the two Horn books) 680

Editing/ formatting (for the Horn series) 655

And more loosely: 

Mailing 240

Promotional 286

Webpage/Software 400

So that’s a loose expenditure total of $2261

 

This leaves off things like travel expenses, purchasing of research books and author copies, supplies, and various webstuff. Plus it doesn’t account for the supplies that I purchased for making book covers, like my memberships to various stock photo sites and paying for photoshop, etc.  I’m counting that part of my nascent cover business, and therefore separate from the writing.

When I add the other stuff in, I will break even or be in the red, I’m afraid.

Please note that my Patreon patrons are saving me from being hideously in the red. If not for them, I would not even be close to breaking even, so I want to thank them all here for keeping me afloat one more year. 

 

How will I do better next year? (2018)

Well, here’s the current plan:

  1. I will publish more novels. One thing that helps the sales of an indie author is simply to have more available. In that effort, I intend to publish 5-7 full length novels next year. It’s a bit intimidating, but 3 of them are written and mainly need editing, one is -mostly- written and needing editing, and one is the Patreon serial that I’ve been working on for a while now. The remaining two may not squeak into this year, but I’ll be working hard to get them done.
  2. I will start advertising. When an indie author doesn’t have much to promote, there’s little point in throwing money at it, so I did very few ads this last year. Next year I will be working toward the summer’s debuts to get the advertising ball rolling.
  3. I will make some appearances. At this point I’m only scheduled for Boskone and looking at Gencon’s Writer Symposium, but I’m determined to wisely choose some new venues and work more with the local libraries.
  4. I will streamline costs by making some of the covers myself. I have been working pretty hard to learn graphic design, and if you want to see how my current efforts are looking, pop over to my cover designer page to see my first batch of covers up for sale.  They’re not perfect (I can’t get the lighting on #4 correct), but they’re not ‘bad’ either. (Also, I paid for the 4 Dreaming Death covers in 2017, so those won’t need to be charged into 2018.)
  5. I will be working to learn InDesign software to decrease my formatting/editing costs, and publish some of my books under my own press label, Dream Palace Press. (I will still have to hire editors, though. I refuse to put out a novel that hasn’t had a good editor look at it.)

I will need to be working at light speed to get all these things done, so if the housework falls to one side, I apologize to my husband and dogs now.  I plan to be on the internet less, so I will be dropping in less frequently. And this year, I really need to get out and exercize more. Really.

But for now, 2017 is tied up with a bow and gone.

For 2018:

Get more of the important things done.

Spend less time letting the man get us down.

Get out and vote whenever the time rolls around. 

Historical Research Roundup

Posts on  Research for Writers of Historical Fiction

RWHF#1 / RWHF#2 / RWHF#3 / RWHF#4 / RWHF#5 / RWHF#6 / RWHF #7 / RWHF #8 / RWHF #9 / RWHF #10 / HISTORICAL RESEARCH ADDENDUM: USING WIKIPEDIA AS A PORTAL

 

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Guest Posts on  Research Rabbit Holes

RHONDA EUDALY: IT’S ALL RELATIVE

LAURA ANNE GILMAN: THE EVENTUAL EMERGENCE OF EXTINCT ANIMALS EPIC FANTASY

JULIET MCKENNA: WHEN YOUR RESEARCH GOES TO THE DOGS

MIKE REEVES-MCMILLAN: HOW RESEARCH HELPED CREATE MY STORY

LYDA MOREHOUSE: SAMURAI SH*T

ALLISON MULDER: ZOOMBIE TO ZOMBEE, AN ACCIDENTAL FLIGHT PATH

WENDY NIKEL: TRUTH IS STRANGER THAN FICTION

KAT OTIS: ONCE UPON A TIME IN WHITEHALL, OR, WHY THE FIELDS OF ALT-HISTORY ARE FULL OF RABBIT HOLES

KATHRYN SULLIVAN: RESEARCH FOR WRITING YA AND MIDDLE GRADE SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY
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Other Research Posts

STEWART C. BAKER: GOOGLE-FU: INTERNET RESEARCH, LIBRARIAN-STYLE

BETH CATO: RESEARCHING THE GREAT SAN FRANCISCO EARTHQUAKE OF 1906

Running like my hair is on fire…

I haven’t been posting as often as I’d like here, but life circumstances have been busy recently. However, I wanted to touch bases with readers on where various projects are, so here we go!

 

The Truth Undiscovered is my current Patreon serial, a prequel to The Golden City where the four members of what I secretly called ‘my Torchwood’ meet and work out their first case. This December I will put out Book Two for my Patrons, hopefully before Christmas.  So I’m scrambling to get that last chapter written and format the things for ebooks.

Then in the new year I will work on the last part of the story, which in my tentative plan would take me into May. At that point I’ll hand the book over to my patrons and work on getting the novel version up for sale in the summer. I have been toying with cover ideas, and have been looking at this one, which is meant to depict how Gaspar sees a specific bit of magic.

Interestingly enough, this illustration, in turn, inspired the final chapter of the book. So perhaps one day all the stuff in the sky will make sense.

(Non-final cover possibilites below.)


 

 

My other serial, The King’s Daughter, is currently paused as I try to get the edit pass on Book One done. Once I finish that, I’ll start posting bits from Book Two.

My current plan is to wrap up the first three books of this  and publish them summer of 2018. I’m hoping to have all three edited and ready to go by then.

(Also non-final covers)

 

And I’m feverishly working on the Dreaming Death sequels when I’m not editing. I’m hoping to publish at least one of them next year, with the best case scenario of getting all three done IF life doesn’t interfere too much.

My cover artist, Kate @ Kate Marshall Designs has been working on the covers for those, and we’re almost done, although I won’t be revealing the whole cover for a while, I’ll show a snippet of an earlier version….

 

So just an update, so you know where I am with things…

Arbitrary Numbers…

Authors tend to put a lot of emphasis on numbers, and I’m no different. I see milestones where none actually exist.

My first novel, The Golden City, is slowly creeping up to its 1000th rating on Goodreads.

The 1000 number is arbitrary, but the interesting thing about it is that there are lists on GR that specify ‘at least 1000 ratings’ for books to be included. Not that getting on these lists is a major life goal for me…but instead, it’s nice to know I’m eligible.

(There’s varying schools of logic out there for how many people will rate a book. I’ve seen people claim anywhere from 1-10% of books sold are rated, but according to the numbers from my publisher, my last two books are closer to 20-25%, so I have no idea how to judge the relationship between how many ratings I have and how many books were actually sold.)

It’s not a big deal, but you can bet your buttons I’ll be checking GR every day until I cross that threshold ;o)

Now Available for PreOrder: Overseer, The Horn~Book 3

Special Preorder Price: $2.99

Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Others

Those who hold the secrets of the Fortresses

can remake the world…

A new player has arrived at Horn Keep, and it’s up to Amal to decide whether he’s the key to keeping her people safe, or the threat they’ve feared the most. Aulis is, like Dalyan, a version of the same long-dead engineer, a Founder of the Salonen Fortress. That alone should make him worth keeping alive.

But he’s served the Cince Empire for almost two decades, the very people who want to steal Salonen Fortress. Now Amal is faced with the task of deciding whether he’s even capable of telling the truth, whether he can lie to Dalyan. The question is…are they the same man or not?

And is buying Aulis’ loyalty worth the risk of giving him the one thing he wants more than life itself? It’s within Amal’s power, but she knows that doing so will forever change her people’s world…

 

 

Also on sale*

Oathbreaker, The Horn, Book 1

Only 99¢

Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Others

 

*prices good though 10/22/17

International Talk Like a Pirate Day (Arrrrr!)

Yes, today is the annual celebration of piracy, although not the literary kind (which still sucks.)

In order to help people get in the mood, I have a new ebook out, A Hand for Each!

Available via: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Others

This short story was originally published in Shimmer Magazine‘s Pirate Issue (November 2007), and is a historical fantasy about…well, what it takes to be a pirate.

So I’m going to tell you semi-amusing tales about getting this story published:

  1. I first heard of this issue being planned at the Shimmer Magazine Party at World Fantasy Con a year earlier, and immediately decided I wanted to take a stab at a pirate story.
  2. Knowing nothing about sailing, I had to research for a couple of months before I began writing, but I got the story in before the deadline.
  3. The deadline was then extended, because they didn’t feel they had enough appropriate stories.
  4. The next MAY, I was contacted by the special editor (John Joseph Adams) about making some changes. They turned out to be comparatively small changes, BUT…
    1. I was in the middle of the OWFI conference that weekend (and I was the organization’s treasurer)
    2. I was also hosting a writers group meeting in my hotel room
    3. and because JJA kept saying ‘make it more like POE’, I was frantically searching online for Poe stories to read to try to get the feel the editor wanted. (That was a little difficult, because I had worked hard to mimic the ‘voice’ of Richard Henry Dana for the story…but what the editor wants, the editor gets.)
    4. I had no idea at the time whether he actually wanted to purchase the story or whether I was spending time that would end up being thrown away.
  5. But I persisted, and he ended up buying the story (and putting it in the pole position in the issue!)

The hardest part of this whole sales process was that I knew because there were two other pirate anthologies open for submission, there would be a gazillion pirate stories floating around out there, all of which my story would have to challenge if JJA didn’t purchase it!

Anyhow, that worked out, to my great relief!

And now the story is back, haunting you from its watery grave! So go buy a copy…it’s only 99 cents!

 

Care and Feeding of Authors: Freebies

As authors, we’re constantly scrambling to find what works (promotion-wise), and one of the unfortunate truths is that the thing that worked 5 months ago might be dead by the time that we find out about it. It’s very hard to know.

One of the things in our arsenal is the ability to give away books. Over the last year, I’ve tried a lot of giveaways, searching for the right balance of free and paid…since I’m also here to make money (someday.)  Some giveaways had very specific requests attached to them, some did not. Some were successful, and some were massive failures.

So here are some of the things I’ve tried. (Remember, your mileage may vary.) 

 

Freebies for reviews:

About a year ago, I signed up for a service called Instafreebie via which readers could pick up my books and…well, do something. One of the options is a Review Request, so I tried that out first.

People downloaded over 700 copies of my book Iron Shoes for free.  A year later, I’ve only had one review pop up on Amazon. I did have 11 ratings (not reviews) show up on Goodreads. In that same time, I sold almost 100 copies of the book.  So out of 800 or so books that went out, I got a total of 12 ratings/reviews over the year. Hmmm.

Now, from an author’s standpoint, that offer of ‘free for a review’ didn’t pan out.

 

Freebies for signups:

Now this one, for me actually worked well…sort of. It’s not unusual for writers to give away a book if you join their mailing group. And following switching over to an email signup (rather than a review request), my mailing list grew substantially. In other words, giving away books for a review massively flopped, BUT giving away a book to get a new newsletter person seems to be a pretty good match….except…

There is some question as to the involvement of those new catches with the newsletter AFTER they have their free book.

Back when I had an ‘organic’ mailing list (that means only people who went to my website to sign up), I had about 30-40% of respondents open and click on a link with every newsletter. Now, a year later, it’s about 2-3%.  For example, last September, my newsletter had 22/93 people click on something (perhaps to purchase). This year? 36 out of 1515 recipients clicked.

Essentially, I’d picked up 1400 new subscribers by giving them a free book, BUT only 1 percent of those new people (14/1400) actually opened and clicked on my newsletter.

Well that ‘s rather disheartening. 🙁

 

Freebies as enticement for new readers: 

Authors want to attract new readers by giving away bits of their work as samples. Or we give things away as gifts to readers who’ve historically supported us. Or we give books away hoping for reviews (particularly when a book is new.) But we have to be judicious about this.

Most recently when I set two ebooks to free for two months–hoping to gain new readers–my overall sales dropped by half, so the quick lesson for me was that free books translated to less income.

I have been told by other authors that the free/low price book enticement works best when it’s the first book in a series. So from this point forward, I’ll probably offer lower prices only to spur a series sale…once I get this series finished!

 

Freebies to superfans:

Now this has been the most consistent thing of value to me. I have people I consider my superfans (although they probably would -never- call themselves that because it sounds silly). These are the people I interact with regularly, the patrons on my Patreon, the reviewers I know from my past work. These are the people I can count on to support me by doing amazing things like reviewing, purchasing, and talking about my books.

This, I think, is definitely the most worthwhile, so I’m going to keep giving free books to these people.

 

And that’s my summary of my freebie efforts for the last year. Not as profitable as I would like, but…that’s cool. It’s all a learning curve at this point!