Exciting News! (Also, Help!)

Guys!

Masque has been nominated for, and come out as a finalist in, the 2016 eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBook Awards!

Twice.

Once in Best Novel, then again in Best Fantasy (High Fantasy/Sword and Sorcery).

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Whhhhhheeeeeeeeeeee!

The finalists are now open to public votes, so if you’ve read and enjoyed Masque, please head on over to the Bards and Sages eFestival of Words website and vote in one (or both!) categories. I promise to think you’re awesome for the rest of my life!

Cover Art and Competence

I’ve always been under the impression that I’ve not got the talent for cover-making.

Hey, for all I know, that impression is the correct one. But I came across a handy-dandy guide on Joanna Penn’s blog, in which a process for making covers through Microsoft Word was explained and shown. So I thought, ‘Well, why not give it a try?’

So I did. My Underland Novelette Thing now has both a cover and a title. Hooray!

Introducing PLAYING HEARTS, its cover, and a small excerpt by the way of a bit of contrast from my MASQUE’s 1st Birthday Posts. Let me know what you think! And if you haven’t yet signed up to my Newsletter, do so now: PLAYING HEARTS will be made available to my subscribers for free, a couple months early.

 

Playing Hearts Official Take Umptyteenth 3-page-001

Above my head, the Queen’s voice said: “I’d hate to think that you’re sharing your…tea…around Underland. It’s not healthy.”

There was a garbled mumble from the Hare that made me thankfully aware that he was still alive, and Hatter sat down again. I immediately seized his legs again, and though they were as skinny as ever they weren’t as stiff. I had the feeling he was as glad for me as I was for him.

“Not healthy for you, and certainly not healthy for them,” said the Queen. I didn’t think she was really talking about tea, but for the life of me I couldn’t figure out what she was talking about. “The type of tea you’re spreading about has a nasty habit of poisoning the drinkers.”

“Poisoned tea is no use,” said Hatter, his legs quivering. “All our guests would die. Dead guests are so hard to entertain. Perhaps a little sip of Syrup of Poppies instead?”

“Number Six, restrain the Hare,” said the Queen. Her voice was soft and plump, like a pillow. A pillow pressed against my face so that I couldn’t breathe. “I’ve heard that a hare’s foot is good luck.”

Above my head there was a brief, violent struggle, the sound of smashing crockery and what sounded like the Hare’s feet beating against the tabletop.

“CALUMNY!” yelled the Hare, his voice more frenzied than before. “A HARE MAKES HIS OWN LUCK, MADAM!”

 

Gratitude And The Self-Publisher

It’s a funny thing, this self-publishing business. You start out with reasonably realistic expectations–‘I’ll probably only sell a book per month at first’, and ‘It’ll take a long time to build that email list’–and you put your head down and work at the thing.

You sell your book-per-month, and you feel grateful. You’re excited that there’s someone out there every month who wants to read your book. Then it’s four books a month. After that, it’s four books per week. At first you feel delighted: your sales are growing! But the next month, when it’s still only the four books per week, a subtle sense of disappointment begins to creep in. You begin to forget that once you were happy with a book per month.

Soon you’re averaging a sale per day. Giddy excitement! Life has never seemed so good! You may not be one of the best sellers out there–or even one of the best Indie sellers–but you’re not doing too bad for yourself. And your sales are still growing, albiet slowly. Maybe you have a promotion or two. Suddenly there are spikes of twenty to one hundred sales over a day or two, and it feels great! Then you get back to the humdrum sale-per-day after the promotion ends, and suddenly it feels a bit flat…

What’s the problem here? There is no problem. Your sales are fine. Your career is fine. It’s still growing, and it’s still miles ahead of the reasonable expectations you had when you started this thing. And yet, that subtle sense of disappointment still tends to creep in when you’re not watching out for it. You have to remind yourself that a sale-and-a-bit per day is miles ahead of where you reasonably expected to be a few months ago. There are still many miles to go and many readers to reach before you find your audience.

What does this have to do with you, you may be asking? (Apart from my use of the 2nd person for the blog post, that is). To you I reply: Precisely nothing. It’s more of a reminder to myself. But for all the other indie authors out there who sometimes feel glum and disappointed at the amount of books they’re selling (or not selling, as the case may be), try looking back to your beginning as an author.  I bet you’re doing better now than you were then. And you’ve probably done the same thing I have: you’ve become so used to a higher rate of sales that you’ve ceased to be grateful for what you’ve got. Take a moment to remember what it was like when you were starting out. It helps to put things in perspective.

And maybe don’t check your sales every day. That’ll help, too.

A Week Of Ups And Downs

WARNING!! THIS POST CONTAINS MULTIPLE GRATUITOUS LINKS.

Last week was a bit of a wild week. Wolfskin was on blog tour, I started a new WIP (Blackfoot), and Spindle started a month-long stint in Netgalley (not, it has to be said, with particularly glowing reviews). Then, toward the end of the week, Angst! and Drama! But more about that later.

Wolfskin got some really lovely reviews from C.J. Anaya, Jax of Bea’s Book Nook, Sage of Coffee & All Things Random, Maghon of Happy Tails & Tales, Mariela of Just Us Books, and Ashley of Book Nerd’s Paradise. I was given more than a few delightful comments upon the beautiful cover (thanks Joleene!) and overall Wolfskin‘s reception was very positive.WOLFSKIN - 2000

Meanwhile, over on Goodreads and Netgalley, I was discovering just how tough of a crowd Netgalley reviewers are. From them, I learned that a reviewer can love a book and its characters, and want to read the others in the series, and still rate the book at three stars. Whew! That’s when I knew I was in for it 😀 From them I also received my first one-star review! I’m not quite sure whether to be happy I’ve got it now and don’t need to be always dreading it, or whether to be shattered that it’s on my newest book, Spindle. Regardless, the not-so-wonderful reviews have somehow managed to rid me of (most of) my fear of the review process. Some people are just not going to like my book. Some people will rate low. It’s something I don’t need to be afraid of. And the reviews have my no means been all bad: the three-star reviews have been thoughtful and well-written, and there were four stars in there as well.

Back at Wolfskin‘s blog tour, I was being interviewed on not one, not two, but four blogs! Basically, if there is anything you want to know about me and my books (from favourite books to thoughts on fairytales to preference for chocolate or icecream) you can find it out on any of these lovely websites: A.F.E. Smith’s Reflections of Reality, Sandra Fairbrother’s Blog, Kimber Leigh Writes, and Jess Watkins’ A Book Addict’s Bookshelves.

I was also fortunate enough to have a guest post on Mythical Books (From Fantasy to Fairytales) and another on Bookwyrming Thoughts (Villains I’d like to know more about).

Over on Netgalley, Spindle was still jostling for position with Terry Pratchett’s World of Poo on page 11 of Most Requested in Science Fiction/Fantasy.

And then #Plot Twist I got An Email.

It said something like: “Hi. I thought you might like to know that someone is suggesting that you buy reviews” and included a link to an author’s Goodreads blog.

Well. Naturally, I followed the link. And found that the author of the blog had posted a letter they received after doing what I had done earlier- approaching some of Amazon’s Top 100 Reviewers for reviews. This letter purported to be from one of the same reviewers I had approached, and in the plainest of terms, it told the author that he would be glad to review his/her work- for a price. Namely 1 review for $XX, 2 for $XXX, etc. All apparently for his charity of choice.

Cue me feeling physically sick to my stomach. You see, the email I received from the same reviewer had said that he would be glad to review me. It was only after that, that he said he had a charity he would love donations for, and would I mind checking it out. He stated in no uncertain terms that it would not affect his review. I checked out the charity, found it to be for a good cause (library for kids) and trusting that Amazon wouldn’t allow dodgy business under their aegis, I donated (as I do to many other causes).

It was VERY different from the email this other author had received. And that’s when things became rather nasty. This other author then listed ALL THE AUTHORS who had been reviewed by the Top 100 reviewer (myself included) with the very broad suggestion that we had all paid for our reviews, and that the Top 100 reviewer had a reason to make sure we all succeeded.

Cue me throwing up in the bathroom.

One author, playing judge, jury, and executioner with my writing career. Thanks for that, mate. I appreciate it.

I don’t know whether this reviewer is taking money for reviews. I know I didn’t pay for any of my reviews. I left a message on the blog post, but by morning the whole thing had vanished from Goodreads. I still don’t know whether this reviewer was running a scam (it looks AWFULLY like it) but I do know that I was left feeling as though I’d been made a fool of. More, that I’d been tarred with a brush that I didn’t deserve, and that could kill my career before it even started.

I can’t even get the reviews removed, which means I’ll always be connected to it. Please, please guys- be careful what you say about your fellow authors. You don’t know that it’s true, and you don’t know the damage you can do.

It makes me appreciate all the wonderful authors out there that support and help one another (and me!) Toward the end of the week I had the lovely surprise of finding that the talented and much-celebrated A.F.E. Smith had been so kind as to mention my murder-mystery fairytale Masque in her list of Top 5 books containing Fantasy & Murder. A.F.E. has been on her own blog tour with her newly-released Fantasy Novel Darkhaven, and has been busily promoting other SFF authors in her blog tour like the delightful lady she is. Cheers, A.F.E!

A big thanks to all the others out there who have encouraged and shared and cheered, too. Thanks especially to: Kate Stradling, Ingrid Seymour, CJ Anaya, J. Ellen Ross, J.J. Sherwood, and Karataratacus. You guys have been fun and encouraging and so generous with your shares! I appreciate you all!

And thanks to everyone who shared this week of ups and downs with me (especially Sis and the Hubby, who put up with all the whining and pouting and upchuck). It’s been a somehow wonderful week. Also thanks for putting up with a 1000 word blog post 😀

All The Lovely Stuff

When I first decided that I was going to go with self-publishing rather than traditional publishing, there was no doubt in my mind that it was going to be a long, hard slog. I knew that I’d have to work very hard for potentially very little reward, and that success – if it came – would most likely come slowly.

I was prepared for the exasperatingly finnicky adjustments and bug fixes of preparing different formats for different platforms. I was prepared for the necessity of promoting myself (not an easy thing for an introvert). I was even prepared for the arduous gauntlet of GST, ABNs, EINs, ITINs, and every other taxation-related acronym. I knew I’d have to do a fair bit of leg work to get my books into the local bookstores, and that this would involve a lot of stammering, ums, and daft half-sentences that would lead the most patient store owner to wonder how an idiot ever managed to publish a book.

I knew, in fact, that there was a very good possibility that I would publish to very little reception, and that I might never write to an audience of more than three or four people (not counting mum and sis). I figured I could live with that, because let’s face it, I write because I love writing. Getting paid for it would be a plus, but it’s not the reason I write. Becoming famous would be awesome, but it’s not the reason I write.

I was pretty well prepared for most of what I’ve had to do. A few things have taken me by surprise: been harder or easier to do than I expected, etc. But I find that I neglected to think of one thing.

It didn’t actually occur to me that someone, having loved what I wrote, would write, email, tweet, or contact me in some way, to tell me how much they’d loved it. It seems a bit stupid of me not to have thought of it. But the first email I received, telling me that the writer loved Masque and that they were waiting eagerly for my next book, was a complete surprise. The second left me stunned and a little dizzy, and inclined to stare into the middle distance with a fatuous beam on my face. Then there were the lovely tweets, comments, and emails that followed.

So to everyone who has contacted me in some way to tell me how much they enjoyed my book/story/excerpt, etc: Thank you! You’re part of The Lovely Stuff about being an author. When you tell me that Thing you particularly enjoyed about my book, it delights me to know that someone noticed that Thing. Odds are, I worked very hard to make it right.

It can sometimes feel like I’m shouting into an immense void, and the occasional human touch from across the internet is very much appreciated. Thank you for reaching out and becoming a part of my life.

Jim Carrey in The Mask, sourced from http://giphy.com/search/thank-you/2

Jim Carrey in The Mask, sourced from http://giphy.com/search/thank-you/2

Last Edits And Other Means Of Torture

There’s this feeling you get after finishing a story. It’s something like: “Yes! I’m done now! It’s finished!”

It’s completely wrong. Your brain is lying to you because it knows just how much work there is still to go. In comparison to what you’ve still got to do, writing the MS was the easiest thing in the world.

I’m talking about edits. First edits, second edits, third edits- heck, anywhere from first to fiftieth edits. You painstakingly go over the MS from top to bottom, start to finish; hunting down every wrong word, misplaced comma, unnecessary adverb, missing preposition, and incorrect spelling. You sit back, exhausted from your Herculean efforts, and reward yourself with a cup of earl grey tea and as many biscuits (cookies, for the Americans out there) that you can scoff. Congrats! You’re done.

Except you’re not. There’s still Last Edits to go. (Why, yes, those are the Capital Letters Of Doom).

Let me show you what Last Edits look like.

MS #3MS #2MS #1

Admittedly, these are the most extreme of my Last Edit pages. Some of the pages have no red pen at all, just glorious black and white. Some have a scribbled-out word or two, with notes to remind me about continuity for one thing or another.

I usually leave a MS for at least a few months after edits before I begin Last Edits. It makes me more inclined to notice things I wouldn’t necessarily have noticed otherwise, and if I’ve been working on another MS, it’s the closest thing to a fresh look that’s possible. Last Edits are a chance to get an overview of the whole MS: what the pacing is doing, how the register is behaving as a whole, and if the continuity of well, everything, is smooth and painless.

The problem is, when you sit down to do Last Edits, you can’t turn the line editor off, either. (Well, can’t. Bully for you if you can.) So I end up doing little bits of line edit as I go. It’s excruciatingly painstaking.

And it’s worth every minute. (I can say this because I have less than 30 pages to go on my Last Edits of Wolfskin. When I was halfway through all you’d get from me were growls and snarls.) You may have to replenish your red pen supply by the time you’re finished, though.

Congrats! Your Last Edits are done!

Oh, did I mention the proof copy that’s going to arrive in the mail any day now? Yeah, you’re gonna find a lot more missing words in that one, too.

Enjoy it, won’t you?

Wolfskin Excerpt

Wolfskin is on its final edits and will be published May 1st, 2015! It’s set in the same world as Masque but is a standalone novel with separate characters. I will hopefully be doing a blog tour a month or two after publication, but in the mean-time, here’s a short excerpt for you to get a feel for the book.

Enjoy!

 

When I stepped from the thread to the path leading to Akiva’s front gate, there was a woman between me and it.

She was so beautiful. I’m not sure why I expected her to be otherwise. Her hair was black and glossy, and hung loose to her waist in a sleek, rippling sheet that mingled with royal purple satins and silks that were as sleek as her hair. Her eyes, framed by impossibly long, dusky eyelashes, were of an equally impossible shade of violet. I saw them and my herbs scattered themselves on the path, dropping heedlessly from my nerveless fingers. Those twin violets gleamed with the same darkness I had seen in Bastian’s eyes the first time I met him.  

Horned hedgepigs! I thought, swallowing. It could only be Cassandra.

She looked me up and down with those brilliant, purple eyes while I regretted fervently that I hadn’t been a moment quicker, and then said: “You’re not pretty.”

Her voice was bell-like in consideration; and, like every other part of her, breathtakingly beautiful.

“I know,” I said. Even if I had been as beautiful as Gwendolen, I couldn’t have hoped to compare with Cassandra. I eyed her unblinkingly, wondering why it mattered to her.

“You’re not pretty,” she repeated; a statement, not a question. “I didn’t expect that. He must be desperate.”

“I don’t know what you mean,” I said, scowling. I was coldly frightened, and that made me angry. Black, tarry magic was stirring around her, creating nasty pockets of corruption in the air that made me feel ill: it was vastly more powerful than anything I had ever seen.

She looked at me contemptuously through the haze. “Beauty is all that matters to him, stupid child. You can only lose.”

“Bastian isn’t here,” said Akiva’s voice suddenly and startlingly. I tore my eyes away from Cassandra’s and saw her, knobbly and infinitely welcome, leaning on a stick behind the enchantress. For a horrible moment it had felt like I was drowning in the brilliant lavender of Cassandra’s eyes.

Akiva hobbled past her and put a hand on my shoulder. I felt a sense of her power, welling up deep inside her, warm and comforting. I think I was still looking up at her with wide eyes when she said quietly: “Go into the house, Rose.”

As I closed the gate with cold fingers, I heard Akiva reiterate: “The wolf isn’t here.”

“I can smell him all over her!” hissed Cassandra.

There was a silence suggesting that Akiva was shrugging; then her old, firm voice said: “I sent him away: he knows what I think about him. Today was goodbye.”

Their voices faded with distance, but as I loitered on the garden path I saw the warm glow of an astonishing and formidable power rising to meet and match Cassandra’s. I recognized it as Akiva’s, hale and hearty, and stronger than I could ever have imagined. After that I hurried to get into the safety of the cottage, feeling the hairs prickle on the back of my neck, because I knew that it was no longer safe for me to be out in the open. Once inside, I plumped myself down in Akiva’s chair, absently staring into the fire and contemplating the extraordinary power I had just witnessed. For the first time in the excitement of my new magical prowess, I felt thoroughly humbled and weak. My own power, puny in comparison to that shown so effortlessly by both Cassandra and Akiva, was pitiful past thinking about. I was suddenly very thankful for Akiva’s protection. In the coldness of the moment, I knew there was no chance that I could ever hope to fight against Cassandra and win.

Wolfskin is available for preorder on Amazon and Kobo, due for release May 1st, 2015.

Fun Stuff Around The House: Chest Of Drawers

I’m coming to the end of my 2 weeks of holidays. It’s been a great time, I’ve been amazingly productive (writing-wise, anyway), and I’ve managed to keep the house (relatively) clean. I’ve gone out, stayed in, read books, written lots; vacuumed, washed-up, polished, dusted, and consumed an immense amount of tea, pinapple lollies and muffins (English muffins, if you’re American and don’t know the right words to stuff 😀 )

Now I’m painting a small chest of drawers. It’s coming along nicely. I have an overabundance of stripy stockings and colourful socks (that’s a lie: a person can never have too many stripy stockings and tights) that were having difficulty squeezing into the drawers of my tiny bedside table. So when I was in the 2nd hand store the other day and saw a diminutive chest of drawers for only forty bucks, I snatched it up. (Not literally: sis and I carried it out. Then there were a couple guys who offered to carry it for us, and since I believe in encouraging chivalry whenever I meet it, we said thank-you nicely and let them do it. They seemed to have more difficulty than we did, but it was nice of ’em, anyways.)

I’m a fan of the ‘distressed’ look furniture, which was just as well, since there were a few chunks taken out. No need to hit this baby with chains and hammers! No, it is a superior piece of furniture that came pre-distressed. All I really needed to complete it were a few sample pots of paint.

I matched up my colours at the Mitre 10 down the road, then brought everything back home and went to work. I sanded her down, took all the knobs off, and took all the drawers out. That’s when I discovered that I am in fact getting old and that my back didn’t appreciate the hour or so I spent half-hunched, sanding away madly.

cod 1cod 4       cod 5

The next day it was time for the first coat of paint. Sanctuary Point (a kind of sage green) went on just right. Two coats made it look just lovely. I’m using it as a base coat so that when I put the Almond Sugar (a kind of eggshell off-white) coats on, I’ll be able to sand through it in places and have a combination of the two. My back still didn’t love the work, but really, biggest challenge at this stage was keeping the flies and dog-hairs out of the paint pot and off my freshly painted work.

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Dido, my mini foxie, was helping out. Her task is to supply all the 'cute' I need.

Dido, my mini foxie, was helping out. Her task is to supply all the ‘cute’ I need.

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Today, I added a coat of Almond Sugar to the main frame and the door knobs. Then I decided it was time for breakfast and promptly gave up for the day. So, my grand project lives to see another day. I’ll post more pics when it’s complete.

And since no glut of pictures is complete without a picture of what I had for breakfast, here you go:

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Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll just be settling in for the rest of the holidays with my laptop (the better to write), my cuppa (the better to drink), and my stack of books (just plain better):

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