The things “Real” authors do

computer-1185637_1280A long, long time ago – ok, almost 3 years ago, now – I sat down at my computer with this idea in my head.  Before that, I had never thought of writing a book.  Oh sure, I had ideas on how to make stories better, but I wasn’t “born” to be an author.  I didn’t have some inner desire to “do this” when I “grew up”.  Instead, this story just popped into my head and forced me to let it out.  Five novels later, I was able to take a breath.

It also kinda sucked.

No, wait.  The STORY was amazing.  The writing, however, wasn’t the best.  Granted, the story was almost (but not quite) enough to make up for the massive amount of newbie mistakes I made.  An editor made them better.  A few dozen beta readers made it good, and then an editor made it into something to be proud of.

But by that point, I was well on my way to being an “author”.  Now, if you’ve ever written anything, you’ll understand that there’s a very wide, grey line all the way around that word.  If we write, we’re writers, but when are we authors?  Is that better or worse than being a writer?  The same thing?  It’s all so confusing.  But I had this book.  People liked this book.  So maybe I should think about letting them have the chance to read it.

And so I dove head first into research.  As I mentioned before, I ended up choosing to publish my work myself.  So far, it’s been a great decision.  I’ve probably made more money (albeit not that much) than I would have with a traditional deal.  Keep in mind, I published my first book about six months ago.  But, in order to make those dollars, I had to treat this like a job, not a hobby.  Thankfully, I came prepared.  Thank you, Google.

tumblr_n0qucd56B61sjoq1co1_500I read, read, read, and then read some more.  I saw that successful authors had certain traits, and tried to emulate them.  First, it was the process of getting the book ready.  I didn’t skimp on making sure that REAL people (besides me) saw it.  I also didn’t go for friends who would pamper my feelings.  I chose the meanest, nastiest, smartest people I could talk into reading this beast of a novel.

Then, I looked at cover art.  Ok, some of my stories were nearly impossible to design the cover for.  Looking back, I realize that a few hundred dollars would have been money well spent.  Instead, I decided to my own professional art skills.  I thought it would be a great way to save money.  I was wrong.  In the end, I spent about the same to get what I needed (software, assets, etc) and added time on top of it.

And when all of that was done, I started thinking about marketing.  Oops!  Talk about putting the cart before the horse, right?  I mean, if you build it, they will come?  Won’t they?  Yeah, not if they have no idea it even exists.  Marketing comes first, and social media is a great way to start.  For me, twitter was the obvious choice.  It doesn’t matter WHICH you choose, just so long as you can commit to putting something out there every day.  It doesn’t need to be related to your book, either.

You see, it takes TIME to make friends in our little virtual worlds.  People aren’t looking to find the next greatest author.  They are looking for intelligent people who have something entertaining to say.  Trust me, no one is going to follow you because you WROTE A BOOK.  There’s a zillion people who have done that, and most of them suck at it.  They will follow you because you entertain them – even if that’s just posting bad spider jokes or cat pictures.

And now, I look at my growing fan base and have to pause.  All those things I researched, all that advice I found… I’m doing it.  When I first held my book (er flash drive) in my hand, it was overwhelming.  I wanted it all RIGHT NOW!  But, not even a year later, it’s coming together nicely.  I have books.  I have fans.  I have followers, friends, and whatever you call the people who read this blog.  The best part?  I also have sales.  Sure, I’d like more.  I mean, I want EVERYone out there to read my books.  I’d love to be able to quit my day job and focus solely on creating the next best escape from reality.  Until then, I’ll celebrate the little victories…. like 1000 people following me on twitter.  =)




The road to success is paved with books

Road KnowledgeEvery author wants to know how to make enough writing books to give up their day job.  I’m no different.  So, I’ve been tracking what works and what doesn’t.

First, let me assure you that the chances of you making it big with just one book is VERY slim.  Oh sure, some do, but some people also win the lottery.  If you wouldn’t bet your financial future on those kinds of odds, then you shouldn’t put it all on a single book.  There are just too many factors to the market for that to be a safe bet.

And if you research it, you will get information that runs the gamut.  Some say it’s all about many short stories.  Others say it’s about putting your book on every single twitter list and blog you can find.  There are places who recommend you do press releases, send books to your local library, and so much more.  I can’t tell you if those work for everyone.  I CAN tell you what is working for me.

I started off working full time at two jobs.  As one died down and fizzled out, I needed to increase my income.  Here I was, sitting on a back list that made jaws drop (which is how I’m pumping out so many books so fast, they’ve been written for a while).  So, before I dove in, I did my research. What sells, what doesn’t, and how do I make the most of my obscure status.

The first thing I saw was that romance is hot.  Hey, I had a cute and sweet romance novel.  Sure, it jerks out a few tears, but it’s definitely romance, and also romantic instead of just erotic.  I wasn’t ever expecting it to get a publishing deal, so I decided that One More Day would be my first foray into the world of self-publishing with Kindle.

It did well.  Now, it wasn’t a best seller, and it sure didn’t buy me a new car, but since I’d been researching, I was told to expect about $50 USD from my first book in the first month.  I made almost $250 without doing more than sending out a few tweets.  Hey, that means I don’t suck!  Ok, so it was time to learn from this.  I chose a series that is almost finished (Wolf of Oberhame) to check the fantasy market.  The plot line is relatively simple, the writing flows, there’s plenty of action, and it’s a bit more PG-13 to start.

08-05bUCzIBut when I tossed that out to the world, it fell into an echo chamber.  No one really cared.  I got a few reads from my previous fans, but that was about it.  The ratings were high, the page reads and sales weren’t.  Hmm.  Well, I owed it to my fans to finish the series, so I got to work on improving WWWK and send When We Were Dancing to the editor.  The corrections that came back meant a few months of work, but on February 12th, When We Were Dancing went live.  Sales skyrocketed.

Now, I cheated a bit.  I gave away When We Were Kings (book 1) during the initial release of book 2.  I offered preorder buyers a nice discount ($0.99 if bought before release, $2.99 after) and I paid a bit of money (less than $20 bucks) to get book 1 some attention on social media.  The result was dumbfounding.

My income during release weekend eclipsed that of both my previous books’ first month combined.  This was my third book, and second in the series.  My marketing was minimal, trusting my fans to honestly want to know how the story ends, and it seems to be working.  To me, this says, “Write the best books you can, and people will buy them, if you prove you can deliver.”

And now, I’m offering two more series.  The Eternal Combat Series follows a group of gamers as they deal with the unexpected repercussions of sexism in their hobby.  Rise of the Iliri is straight science fantasy about the rebellion of a subjugated species of humanoids.  VERY different books, both series are mostly done (editing and cover art are the holdups).  And I’m finishing the last of When We Were Crowned (because the changes my editor demanded means about 50,000 words need to be changed and re-written).

While I’m on this mad dash, I’m tracking numbers.  So far, the best advertising I can get is from Rochelle’s Reviews.  One one side they review romance and erotica novels.  On the other, they have just opened a branch of Science Fiction, Paranormal, and Fantasy.  Both offer readers a place to easily buy the books and to shop for more.  It’s like a portal to the riches of literature.

A measly splurge of $14.99 with Book Tweep hit a larger segment of the reading market than I expected.  I will most likely do this for the first month of each book’s release.  Studies show that buyers need to see something a few times before they trust it, and the daily tweets appear to be working.  It’s not enough to annoy my followers on twitter, but it does seem to bring sales.

But most of all, the best way to gain success seems to be just writing more books.  Each one advertises the rest.  That link on Amazon to my author page, where all my books are easily found is doing half my work for me.  And, of course, the links I place in each novel so my readers can find what they are looking for.

Next month, we’ll see if things are still looking up, but right now?  Yeah, I’ve already gone to part-time and am trying to decide what I need to make to quit altogether.  I have a good feeling that it’s really going to happen.  Hopefully, this time next year, I’ll be a full-time author, traveling on a road paved with all my books.

Where am I going to fit that other book?

Leyli Tristan poses 3So, I have books scheduled to release in March, April, June, August, October, December, and February.  I’m still filling in the months in between, but if I want to keep it nice and consistent, that means When We Were Crowned should come out in July or September.  Now, there’s a gap there in May… can I get my people moving and hit that?  Hmm.

Next week, I get back to working on the Gladiators.  One thing I can tell ya about When We Were Crowned is that there will be a whole lot more ladies weaving through the storyline. I also know that this one is going to mix the combat from WWWK with the politics of WWWD, for a story that I sincerely hope my fans will approve of.

But first, I have to introduce all of you to a few more worlds.  From contemporary drama to outlandish Science Fantasy, I think you all will love the next two series, and I’m working hard to get the all out to you as soon as possible.

Growth as an Author

Salryc TeethIn 2013, I began writing.  I was stressed out, flustered, and just needed to escape.  What came out was a very dark story that somehow managed to portray hope.  The plot has enough tropes to make the reader feel comfortable, yet enough novelty to keep  interest.  The world?  Think Game of Thrones meets Star Wars.

Even now, I think the story is good.  Keyword there is STORY.  The writing?

Oh. My. God.

It wasn’t bad, or anything, but it certainly wasn’t good.  The word choice, stylistic options, and overuse of common “ticks” (a bit, though, etc) was just very amateur.  This is why BloodLust was NOT the first novel I released.  While the story is one of my favorites, it needed to have a little cosmetic surgery, and I’ve done a doozy on it.

Now, the introduction to the iliri has flare, substance, and rhythm.  It reads like a novel should, not some stuttering babble coming from a self-absorbed bimbo.  The story is a gripping coming of age novel from the perspective of a domesticated humanoid in a world where metal is rarely available in pure form.  Iliri are used as cheap labor, considered to be inferior to humans and little more than animals.  Imagine if dogs evolved to walk on two legs and talk.  Now imagine how they’d feel about their collars and being owned.

And the story had a life of its own.  Book 1 quickly turned into a four book series.  The story took hold, grew, and became something epic.  To this day, I’m not positive if it will culminate in 8 or 9 books, but I can tell you that I know exactly where it’s going.  Sadly, I keep finding that what I THOUGHT was a single book ends up being two.  I had to re-write book 5 twice, because 350k words might be a bit much for ONE book, but the plot needs to END when the pages do.  Evidently separating them by location was NOT a good idea if too much happens in one place.

So, I got to learn about pretty much everything while living in the fantasy world.  One of my biggest problems is describing the iliri in a way that makes it clear they are NOT vampires.  They’re predators who are complete carnivores.  There’s a few other hints I drop throughout the series, foreshadowing the “big reveal”, but I also know that 95% of people won’t even notice, but it’s all to keep the reader from associating my beasties with something they have probably read a lot more about.

And yet, now that I’m well into editing the second book (which will release in June) of the series, I can’t help but see how much I have learned by writing so many novels.  At book 6, I dropped half of my personal ticks.  At book 15, I finally figured out a good method of deep third POV.  Around book 20, my dialogue tags began to feel seamless and invisible (see One More Day).  Now, nearing book 40, I look back and just cringe at my novice mistakes – then fix them!  It means that book 2 will probably have more than 60% re-written.  It will also be so much better because of it.  The world will have a chance to come alive because I, as an author, can finally get the hell out of its way.

And none of this could have been possible without the skills of a damned good – and very patient – editor.  Her remarks come back with laughter and cheesy jokes.  When she discovers a new “bad habit” I have (such as mistaking whether to use a period or comma around the quotes) she trains me, making her job easier in the future.  Often, this results in some pretty intense discussions, a lot of ranting, and a few tantrums, but in the end, I’m so much better because she stands her ground and MAKES me fix it.  Yes, the choice is mine, but bad grammar is just bad.

And today, rolling my eyes at myself, I’ve realized that even a good novice author is still just that.  Experience really does pay off, so I’ll keep on writing the books, and hopefully my fans will keep on enjoying them.

Challenge Accepted Cover Reveal – FRIDAY!

Riley Outfits 3This is a novel that is near and dear to my heart.  Challenge Accepted was actually written on a dare – and turned into a series.  A good friend of mine said that there were some things that just couldn’t go together in a single book.  When asked for examples, she listed off: horses, gamer punks, romance, and sexism.  Yep, my mind immediately jumped to Gamer Gate (if you don’t know about it, trust me, it got ugly).  From there, the rest was easy.


I have been a gamer since before MMOs existed (yeah, I’m dating myself, sorry!).  I met my husband online when he asked about my loadout.  While gaming I have met some of the closest friends I’ve ever known.  I’ve also encountered the worst society has to offer.  From guildmates who would send me cash when I got laid off to guys who stream stalked my guild and email pictures to my gmail, the experience is diverse, but I still love it.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  The good far outweighs the bad.

In Challenge Accepted, I hope you can experience all of this.  Friendships that are real, even if the people have never seen each other’s faces, loves that are built on more than just physical attraction, and a dedication to something that most people consider a hobby and others think of as a sport.

Then there’s Riley, the main character in Challenge Accepted.  The world is determined to knock her down because she can’t seem to fit into the narrow rules that society wants her to live by.  She won’t be meek.  She’s anything but mild.  Riley is a force of nature who can’t back down from a challenge.  When she meets Void, the mysterious gamer who keeps dominating the ranks of her favorite game, she thinks he’s just another stepping stone.  Sparks fly, in more ways than one.  Take one alpha male, add a woman so dominant and vivacious that he looks passive, mix in a few death matches, real life threats, and a dog….

Challenge Accepted shows you what happens when sexism meets its  match.  They said girls could never be as good as a man.  Riley is willing to prove them all wrong.

Log in and come along for the ride.  Challenge Accepted is now available for pre-order:



An interesting chat about women

cover girl in grey.pngI was talking with my husband the other night about tropes in fiction.  You see, I really like to muddle with the typical “expectations” and breaking a trope is as exciting to me as a roller coaster is to a normal person.  In the end, the topic came around to popular presentation of women (by him, not me!)

In his esteemed opinion, men are typically attracted to strong, capable women.  Shrinking violets and dainty, demure damsels are an affectation of women – in today’s world.  While sure, there’s still a segment of the population who thinks women should be seen and not heard (and probably always will be, sadly) he insists that men like a woman who is sure of herself, no matter what that self might be.  His proof: Katy Perry over Zooey Deschanel.

Now, I’m not saying he’s right.  I do find his opinion to be interesting from a writing standpoint.  How often do we present our female leads as quiet, overlooked, obedient little ladies?  If not, do we default to snarky and brazen?  Where are the women who can kick ass while wearing designer heels?  Never mind how hard that would be, I mean, there still should be a few, right?

Which kinda brings this back around to writing.  Every time I create a female character who is proud of her sexuality, unconcerned with social norms, or otherwise deviates from the standard “bookish girl with high intelligence whose beauty has been overlooked due to her shyness” I wonder if my readers will hate her.  So far, they have always enjoyed the characters who inhabit my mind.  When I wrote the first Wolf of Oberhame book, I was sure that Leyli would be scoffed at.  She is too girly.  She is too calculating and manipulative.  She is too stereotypically a GIRL.  Never mind that she promptly takes the damsel in distress trope and craps all over it.  She’s most certainly not “masculine”.

But, she is very VERY strong.  When her world turns upside down, she doesn’t break a heel and freak out.  She SURVIVES, because really, that’s what most normal people would try to do in her situation, right?  And I’m still getting emails, direct messages on twitter, and facebook inboxes from fans who adore the story.  She’s sexy because she is confident in who and what she is.

From tomboys to fashionistas, evidently “sexy” is defined by the comfort a woman has in her own skin.  Thick, thin, short, or tall, a little self-confidence is ten times more attractive than some photoshopped ideal that is impractical.  And the more I thought about this, the more I realize how very true it is.  From my little fan girl crush on a certain guy who streams my favorite game to my husband’s “perfectly respectable” appreciation for a rather deviant music star, we all find personality to be much more appealing than any physical trait that exists.

So I’m taking this as a challenge.  Can I make a character more sensual than their physicality?  Can I write love interests who society would not typically find “appealing”?  Can I convince the reader to fall in love alongside the characters in my stories?  I think so, and I plan on proving it.

I’m also feeling really inspired to write another book.  Oh, this is going to be a lot of fun.


What an amazing release weekend!

Leyli Promo poses 1First, I have to tell everyone who read When We Were Kings and/or When We Were Dancing THANK YOU!  I mean it.  Thank you so much for taking a chance on an author you probably had never heard of before.  Thank you for buying the book, or borrowing.  Most of all, thank you to everyone who took the time to leave a review.

I know that this isn’t exactly a “hot” subject in fantasy right now.  Monarchies are over done.  Princesses saving the world?  Oh, that’s “old hat”.  So much about this series begs to be cliche – but it’s NOT.  Leyli refused to be just another princess turned warrior.  Tristan?  Yeah, he had a few of his own opinions.

And they aren’t done yet.  Granted, I’m a little burned out on gladiators right now (this always happens for a week or so after intensive editing of my books, then I’m addicted all over again).  And  it’s already starting.  So far, I’ve been locked out of WWWD for 10 days because of the publishing process.  In that time, little details about book 3 (When We Were Crowned) have become just a little more clear.  Never mind the addendum book that’s begging me to release it.

You see, it isn’t just Tristan and Leyli that are the heroes of this saga.  Haven’t any of you wondered about that birthmark on the Lyone family?  Now I wonder where something like that could have come from.  And while that’s the most obvious hint I’ve left hanging out there, it’s not the only one.  I’m waiting for someone to figure it out.  (Yes, that’s a dare).

But the release has gone so much better than I could have dreamed.  Being a pragmatist, I’m well aware that gladiators, princesses, and obscure indie authors aren’t exactly begging to become the next “megahit” of the year.  I was hoping for a solid release from my dedicated fans.  Instead….

I got so much more.  When We Were Kings hit #31 in free fantasy books, right alongside novels I’d bought myself.  When We Were Dancing reached 29k in the overall kindle store (which has like 4 million books in it)!  These numbers aren’t best seller status or anything, but it’s jaw dropping for me.

Keep in mind, I released my first book, One More Day, in September of 2015.  Less than a year later, I’m seeing sales to be proud of.  WWWK still has a perfect 5 star rating!  Reviews are ticking up, sales have been stable all weekend, and me?

I feel like an author.  Saturday evening, I had to sit down and just let it sink in.  My dream of writing a book had not only been achieved but I really, truly, honestly FEEL like an AUTHOR.  I write books that people actually read.  Not just crap to fill up the kindle listings, but books with good reviews, solid sales, and a fan base that is growing.  I have an audience to keep feeding my stories.  I have a reason to do this.  I have achieved a dream…

And I wish that I could tell each of you how much I appreciate it.  For you, my readers, it may have been a book you picked up on a whim.  For me, the author, this has been a dream come true.

And I’m not at all ready to stop.  I have two more series to release this year, and the Wolf of Oberhame…. yes, there’s still more of her story to tell.  It’s going to be a wild ride.