Monday, October 31, 2022

Sneak Peek:

Here's the first scene of The Cousin Pact (The Spectra Crown Tales #3): 

The castle of Merlandia fairly burst with important people, but Alvis Welson was not one of them. Instead, he perched on a wooden chair in a tiny office that stank of potpourri. The bailiff, a round fellow with formidable eyebrows, hadn’t looked up from a yellowed scroll since Alvis entered the room. “The castle is not hiring guards right now.” 

Alvis tugged his homespun sleeve further down his arm. “I don’t do guard work.” 

This drew the bailiff’s gaze. A bead of sweat—or worse—dangled at the end of his nose. “You’ve got the build of a soldier, yet you’re applying for servant work?” 

“Yes, sir,” Alvis said. His well-toned body was the only thing he liked about the years of soldier training, and now even that worked against him. “I’m willing to do anything.” 

“Meaning you’re unskilled.” 

Alvis flinched. He would be skilled if his family had let him quit training. 

The bailiff leaned closer. “Your clan?” 

“I am Spectra, if that’s what you mean.” Alvis tried not to show his anxiety as the bailiff studied him. He hadn’t answered the question, but the bailiff didn’t really care which Spectra clan he was. He just wanted to know, without asking outright, that Alvis wasn’t a powerless human. 

Or so Alvis hoped. 

The bailiff leaned forward. “We’ve got extra visitors to the castle for the princess’s coronation. We do need extra help. And your looks do you credit.”  

The words would have been a compliment from anyone besides the pudgy bailiff. Sure, girls did talk about his dark curls and bright blue eyes, but they always said it while clinging to his brother’s arm. 

“I might try you... what’s that?” 

Alvis looked where the bailiff pointed, and groaned. His sleeve had ridden up, revealing an edge of green. Even in the muted light of the office, the veins and texture of leaves were clear. Alvis might as well come clean. “It’s leafskin, sir.” 

“You’re a Sprite then.” The bailiff frowned. “You didn’t tell me your clan earlier.” 

“It shouldn’t matter,” Alvis said. “Using life energy doesn’t prevent me from—” 

“I told you, we aren’t hiring guards,” the bailiff interrupted. 

Alvis kept his temper. “I don’t want to be a guard. I’ll do anything else. My Sprite abilities give me added strength, that could be useful in a number of different—” 

“Can you heal?” the bailiff interrupted. 

“No,” Alvis said. “I’ve got some innate ability in plant growing. I’ve never trained, but I could make a decent gardener...” 

“We have gardeners who have trained since childhood,” the bailiff interrupted. “I’ve got no positions for Sprites right now.” 

Alvis went rigid. Perhaps the bailiff noticed, for his expression softened. “The army always wants Sprites, healers or no. Their office—” 

“I know where their office is.” Alvis stood and, before he said things he shouldn’t, left the room. 

An iron fence separated him from the winding drive that led to the castle. Alvis stared at it for almost a minute before he pulled a scroll and charcoal from his pocket. He found his meager list of ideas and scratched a line through ‘castle servant’. He didn’t need a fancy house or title. Was it too much to ask that he find a trade that didn’t involve fighting? 

Why read? It's a mystery!

My family does a virtual book club. On her turn, my sister-in-law chose the works of Agatha Christie. We could choose which of her books to read, but somehow almost everyone read Murder on the Orient Express. She gave a presentation about Agatha Christie and mysteries in general, and then challenged us to turn in a plot synopsis for a mystery of our own.

I took up my sister-in-law's challenge. The next Spectra Crowns Tale will be a retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, with a bit of a mystery.
The crown princess's scepter was stolen, and Alvis Welson, a young man trained for war who wants nothing to do with violence, must figure out which of the twelve girls are responsible. The Cousin Pact is releasing now on kindle vella as The Spectra Crown Tales Season 3.

I'll be honest. I don't read a ton of mysteries. I love the twists, but I don't always love the slow buildup. I read Hardy Boys as a kid, but mostly for the action. I didn't bother to try to figure out the mystery and let myself be surprised.

How do you feel about mystery books? Love them, hate them, or both depending on the book? Do you try to solve the mystery as you read, or simply enjoy the ride?

Friday, October 14, 2022

Why Self Publish?

 "My question was, what is the process of self-publishing, what is the amount of effort that goes into it, and what is your overall opinion of it?"

I originally chose to self-publish (also known as independent or indie publishing) because I decided that my goal was to share my stories, and I would be satisfied by progress, no matter how slow, even if I didn’t make as much money or reach as many people. I've found several reasons why I prefer self-publishing to traditional:

1. I have all creative control. Traditional authors don’t get any say over their covers and very little over formatting, for example. 

2. Self-publishing is a lot faster. With traditional publishing, it can take months to even hear back from query letters, whereas I usually release a new book every six months. You get a higher percentage of royalties in indie publishing, so if you do manage to make it big, you’d be earning more money. You also get paid more often (usually monthly). 

3. I’ve heard that traditional authors have to do more and more of their own marketing anyway. As time goes on, publishers will put even more of their focus on big-name authors and less on new authors, or even mid-list authors (those who do well but aren’t hugely popular). Self-publishing has no gatekeepers, so it's especially good for those who write books that might not be as appealing to a wide audience, but still have niche readers out there who want to read it.

4. I can change things quickly. I can upload a new cover if the current one doesn’t seem to be working. I can fix typos or even re-edit a story within a day. I can even change the title or give myself a new penname. (A few things can’t be changed, though, including paper color. I accidentally published book 2 of a trilogy with white paper instead of cream, and that can’t be undone).

In both cases but especially in self-publishing, success usually comes a little at a time, and very few see results right away. This year, I finally made enough money to make up for all of my startup costs (website, the 4 covers I bought, experimenting with ads, etc), and I started in 2015.

I suppose I'll have to admit that there are cons to self-publishing. Not everyone wants or is able to invest in learning all of the different facets that go into publishing a book. You don't get a nice cushy advance right up front. Also, there is still a stigma against indie authors. While some indie books are amazing, anyone can publish anything, and some people have been turned off by the bad apples. My local library only accepts traditionally published books on their shelves, and many physical book stores do the same.

Self-publishing can be as hard or as easy as you want it to be. Once you set up an account with amazon, it’s really simple to upload your story as an ebook. You can upload just about anything, no matter the quality. However, if you want to do it well, here are a few basics about the process to get you started:

The first step is to write the book, as well as you can. Next, edit as best as you can, with as much feedback as possible (preferably with a paid editor, but keep in mind that won’t be cheap). You’ll need to format your book or pay someone to do it for you. If you’re only doing ebook, this is easier, but you’ll still need chapter breaks and usually a table of contents, things like that. It’s much more involved with a paperback, since you’ll need to consider things like font and font size, page numbers, additional front material (title page, table of contents, etc), what the chapter breaks look like, and so on. You’ll also need a cover. Covers are super important for marketing, so this is not a place to skimp on time or money. Unless you really, really know what you’re doing, you’ll need to purchase one. Some places have premade covers, which are cheaper (find one you like and buy it, and they’ll put your name and title on it for you). Getting the paperback as well as the ebook will cost extra, if you go that route.

In case you’re wondering, I personally don’t hire an editor, a formatter, or (usually) a cover designer. I do have lots of beta readers, and I’ve been willing to put in work/study into learning the skills needed for all of these. It’s taken years and a lot of mistakes, and I’m still improving.

With self-publishing, you get what you put into it: the more you learn to market, and to put out a good product, the better you will do. 

Friday, September 30, 2022

Find your People


Have you ever had an experience where you've walked into a group and realized that you've found your people? That's how I felt when I attended my first ANWA (American Night Writers Association) conference. I'd always thought I was weird for carrying around an old notebook and scribbling stories during every free moment, but ANWA introduced me to other writers who have similar values and religious beliefs as I do. It was an amazing experience.
I encourage more people to find groups that appeal to them. Maybe it's a hobby, or a church, or a group of friends.

Book Recommendations for October


I've been interested in finding a book like Now We Are Animals for a while. However, every time I've searched for such a book, I found steamy stories using the idea of humans treated like animals for the shock value. This book was exactly what I was looking for. It gets dark, sure, but the themes revolve around what makes us human, what makes us sentient. It resolves with hope, that yes, we are animals, and we are also human, and that's an amazing thing.
You can't go wrong with Terry Pratchett! Admittedly, I've only read a few of his books, but The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents has his hallmark humor that explores deep questions when animals start becoming sentient (so like, the opposite of the previous book?)
Here's my latest kindle vella find, The Assassin's Bride by Anastasis Blythe. Obviously, with assassin in the title, there is violence, but the story doesn't glorify it, use it for shock value, or treat it too lightly. Instead, it deals with the real humanity of the people involved (even the one that's not human)--their trauma, their thoughts and emotions, and very real, relatable reactions.

Sailing into a new Spectra story!


Is anyone else an avid daydreamer? I've been studying what some call maladaptive daydreaming. It's not letting your thoughts wander, or planning out your future, or even figuring out what to write next. When I'm stuck in a daydream, I'm basically watching a movie unfold inside my head--a movie I get to direct and control. Is it maladaptive? I'm not sure. Usually after about a week, it fades and I'm more grounded in reality for a while, until I meet a new idea I just have to watch unfold. Part of my character Indra's struggle with living in dreams (literally) in the DreamRovers trilogy comes from me.

I bring it up because these daydreams end up being a goldmine of story ideas. I'd like to introduce you to a new story that started as a daydream. As I wrote down the basics of the daydream, I noticed its similarity to my favorite Shakespeare play, As You Like It. I combined both ideas into a new story, The Captain's Dowry.
Sal lives a double life--half at sea as her father's cabin boy, and half at a fine finishing school. Both worlds turn upside down when her father sells his ship and her hand in marriage. If her new husband thinks she'll stay quietly at home while he sails off into the sunset, he can think again. She won't stop until she finds a way to be herself--both of them. 

If you'd like to read the first three chapters completely free, you can find them on kindle vella. (FAQ for how to read on kindle vella here). I'll be posting two chapters each week on kindle vella. If you'd rather wait for ebook, paperback, or Kindle Unlimited, the full book is coming out April 1, 2023. That'll give me time to finish all 45 chapters, have a few more beta readers look over it, and have a baby.

Monday, August 29, 2022

Book Recommendations for September


If you've seen any of my book recommendations before, you've probably heard me mention The Queen Trials, a dystopia that reminds me of a mix of The Hunger Games and The Selection. I read one episode daily on kindle vella, and it gives me something to look forward to throughout the day. Well, for those who prefer reading a whole book at once, the first season just came out in ebook, paperback, and audio!
This is my newest kindle vella find. It's Once Upon a Ren Faire by A. Christine Castillo. Keltia's normal day at the local renaissance festival is turned upside down when she follows a handsome knight into the portal to a magical realm. I'm excited to find out what secrets the knight is keeping from her.

Stone and Feathers is a short story that I adapted for kindle vella. It's an urban fantasy retelling of the Grimm fairytale, Joringel and Jorinda, with quotes from the original tale. The story uses the same magic system as my other works, but a different setting.

Sneak Peek:

Here's the first scene of The Cousin Pact ( The Spectra Crown Tales #3):  The castle of Merlandia fairly burst with important people, b...