As a Reader…

surreal_fantasy_art_boats_maps_digital_art_photo_manipulation_Wallpaper HD_2560x1440_www.paperhi.comI love books.  I always have.  Even now that I’m writing them, I still love to read books by others.  Like, a lot!  This means that most Saturday mornings I shop my Twitter feed to see what other indie authors are offering.

Today, I wanted to bang my head against a wall.  This is HORRIBLE people.

Grabbing the first free stock photo you see that’s close enough, cropping it to the right shape, and slapping some Arial 48pt font across it with standard leading is NOT how to make a good cover.  If it takes you less time to design the cover than write the blurb, you’re either a professional designer – or doing it wrong.  Probably the later.

Typography is the art of choosing the right font, setting it together in such a way as to appeal to the eye, and adding those pretty little flares.  Knowing your font families, how many of them you can use at a time (and I mean ALL text on a cover) and how to draw the eye to the important and appealing events on your cover?  Yeah, that’s what will sell your book.

Covers demand more than a basic stock image.  Try some filters.  A little photoshop maybe? Enhance the saturation, contrast, and maybe soften something up.  Take that stock image and make it YOURS.

But I swear, most authors forget what it’s like to shop for a book as a reader.  They spend all their time writing, and none of it making their art into something appealing to the masses.  They want to do it cheap (because that’s the path to riches?  I dunno.) and think that spending money on something like a cover or a PR company is just “too expensive”.  THEN they wonder why no one buys their most brilliantly written masterpiece.  Well, I’ll make this easy:

If you don’t believe in your book enough to spend money on it, then why should I?

That’s really all there is to it.  When I look at the cover and blurb for your book, if I get the feeling that you rushed through it, then I’m going to assume that you put as little effort into your manuscript.  You probably didn’t spend money on an editor.  You very likely didn’t listen to any advice you were given (because this stuff is everywhere on the internet) and you are lazy/cheap.  Probably both.

And no matter how many times you spam your Twitter feed, throw it up on facebook, pin it on Pinterest, or whatever else you do, that won’t make me suddenly have a desire to actually SPEND MONEY on something you’re too cheap to pay for.  You, the person who created it.  You should be its biggest fan.

Instead, it’s likely to convince me that you’re a hack who sucks at this – and that’s before I ever read a word.

Having a bad cover that tried is different.  Putting effort into something is usually obvious.  Now, maybe your cover sucks, but I can see you tried.  Well, I might make it all the way to the blurb – where your WRITING has a chance to impress me.  I might not.  I also won’t think less of you for changing your cover because it sucks.  Rather the opposite, in fact.

We all know this independent author thing takes a little learning to get right.  There will be trial and error.  What we as readers unconsciously avoid like the plague are the authors who come across like they are out to scam us.  Writing is not a get rich quick scheme.  It never will be.  It’s art, and you should treat your ENTIRE book like a masterpiece so that I’ll think it’s worth as much as a cup of coffee.

Because I promise you, dear author, that you do not deserve my money.  You have to earn it.

A secret about being an author

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I write books.  I have these ideas in my head and the roll around until they spill out my fingers and onto the page.  The craziest thing is that some people actually like them.  Because the stories I write are all made up, that makes me an author.

But, no matter how many times I do this, no matter how many people love or hate my books, I always get nervous about it.  Releasing a book into the wide blue yonder of the world is one of the most terrifying experiences ever.  I can never tell if the public (i.e. readers) will love or hate the strange, twisted little thoughts inside my head.  I can’t guess if they will approve of my vision of strong women or hate them.  I have no idea of what I find “sexy” in a man will sway them or revolt them.  I can’t even fathom if a plot twist is truly engaging or yet another tired trope.

Until I read the reviews.

So, here I am, a few tequilas in, and hoping that somewhere out there are people who enjoy my book.  I see the sales.  I read the people who love and hate the book (because the extremes are typically most likely to review it) but I rarely know what people wish to see in their next book.  I can’t guess what it is that they like in a novel.

All I know is what I like.  I’m so tired of books that spill everything out in a few chapters.  I’m sick and tired of stories that are only a single layer deep.  I can’t take anymore books that are little more than an author’s self aggrandizing wish fulfillment put to paper (or whatever).  I think that stories are a journey that is meant to be enjoyed.

All too often I read people saying they want more world building.  Usually followed by someone claiming that the story is too slow and focused on the details rather than the plot.  No one can decide, it seems.  So, I have come to a decision.

Keep in mind, I’m celebrating yet another wonderful release with my amazing fans and a new potential career built on imagination and hard work.  I’m thrilled with my books.  I’m stunned with the potential for success as an indie author.  I’ve also had just enough drinks and hours chatting with the people who make me feel confident about myself to have made a decision.

I write books for me.  I am an author.  I can never guess what others will like.  I only know the kind of stories that move ME, and make me want to spend months dwelling inside those worlds.  I am the one that has to put my name to the cover.  I am the one that will read them over and over and over and over again until I am so sick of the characters that I’m ready to move on.  I am the person who holds this whole thing up, and so I must write books that **I** like.  I can’t guess what will make others happy, and I shouldn’t try.

And still….

I can’t stop checking the reviews of my books.  I can’t stop hoping that the readers like what I have spent so many hours making.  I can’t stop wishing that I’m a good enough author to make them happy, or that I can learn the magic to become one.

And this, my friends, is the secret.  All of us, regardless of what type of art we make, secretly hope that somewhere out there is another person who kinda likes it.  I’m not any different.portrait-1097920.jpg

The mindset to write (and when not to)

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There are times that an author shouldn’t write.  Well, not on their story, at any rate.  Today is one of those days for me.  You see, I have a cold.  I took something to make it all better.  My head is swimming, my reason has flown the coop and I’m basically stupid.

Anything I put down today would be a waste of time.  It would likely pull my plot(s) off track, alter character perceptions, and just derail everything.  Being sick kinda sucks, but it made me realize something.

I didn’t get where I am by putting off writing.  I made it a priority in my life, pushing other things out of the way to make room.  I can’t remember the last time I watched TV.  I’m certainly not current on the news.  I have a brain filled with strange trivia information – like the average bleed-out times for most major arteries, or what colors birds can see in – because I had to research that for a book.

Everything I do revolves around my writing.  My husband knows this.  Thankfully, he encourages me.  He’ll lock himself away playing video games, make dinner and bring it to my desk, or any number of things to keep me “in the zone” and pumping out the next book.  My day job has hours that are convenient to write around.  My hobbies are planned around my next release.  My world revolves around my books because I am an author.

That means, for me, it’s easier to find the right mindset to write.  I don’t get interrupted anymore.  I don’t have people think that I can answer a million questions while planning a complex plot.  I no longer need to explain that distracting me from the words on the screen means that I have to backtrack and start all over.  (A few brilliant tantrums fixed that very nicely, thank you very much.)

And now, this.  Stupid medication making me silly.  I have time to write.  I have the urge to write.  I’m not gonna do it because………Oh, isn’t that shiny?  I’m sorry, was I saying something?

You get the idea: me dumb on drugs.

So, hopefully, someone is out there writing the next masterpiece.  I’m gonna go crawl back into bed and pretend to be a slug.

My thoughts on Piracy

skull-34133_1280Authors are always terrified of their work being “stolen”.  They think that somehow they are losing a sale because someone may have read their work without paying the paltry few dollars for the privilege.  I happen to disagree.

I see piracy as the best free marketing plan EVER!  I’m not some big shot who can command millions of people to line up in wait for the release of my next book.  I’m just an author – a rather average one – like so many other authors out in this new age of digital books.  I write stories that grab people and shake them, refusing to let go until they have read the entire series.  I pride myself on books that almost force the reader to get the next and spend nights laying in bed wondering what is happening to the characters.  This is my forte.  Marketing?  Not so much.

So when someone wants to recommend my book to a friend?  That’s golden.  It’s the best way to spread my “brand”.  It’s also how I found every author I love.  I can honestly say that I didn’t buy my first Harry Potter book.  Nope, I was loaned it by a friend.  I didn’t buy my first Anne McCaffrey book, I was allowed to read my mother’s copy.  I didn’t buy my first Lewis Carrol book.  I picked it up at the library.

deaths-head-487276_1280And then I became addicted.

I found authors to love based on a single “free” copy of a book.  I’ve found others through less “acceptable” means.  One of my current favorites, Anne Bishop, is such an example.  I was researching something for one of my books and stumbled upon one of those links.  Being Captain Oblivious, I clicked it, and began reading this story on the web.  It was an amazing tale of our world – but in an alternate timeline where things were much more magical.  The characters, the setting, and everything sucked me in!  So, I bought the first three books and began waiting for the rest of the series to be finished.

Yes, I found my most recent preferred author from a pirated book.  The horrors!  Now, keep in mind that I had no idea she existed otherwise, and hence wouldn’t have bought any of her books.  That “free to read online” copy of her book sold me on four novels, and I plan to read her other series as well.

So now, every time I have to decide whether to click the DRM box or not, I don’t.  If someone is too poor to afford my book, then let them read it however they can.  If they love it, maybe they will tell a friend.  If enough people do that, maybe more people will read.  The libraries are closing.  The ability for people to read for free is vanishing.  I want to make sure it never truly disappears.  To me, that means more than a couple of dollars from people who wouldn’t have bought my book anyway.

And maybe, now that they know I exist, they’ll buy the next one.

You don’t need to be a gamer to get these books.

Challenge Accepted Final SMALLRiley dreamed of becoming the first female professional gamer in the PLG.  She always loved gaming.  Maybe it’s because she’s part tomboy, or it could be just her wild nature rearing its ugly head.  Either way, it’s what she’s spent her life working toward, and something as silly as falling in love isn’t going to get in her way.

That’s the basic story of Challenge Accepted, the first book in the Eternal Combat series.  Of course, things aren’t quite that simple.  Riley is convinced that the reason she didn’t make it on her first try is because of sexism in the industry.  Her main competition, Void, agrees.  He’s going to help her prove it – whether she likes it or not – and maybe he’ll get the girl in the end… if he can get her to even notice he exists.  Not really something an alpha male like him is used to.

If this sounds a little far-fetched, then you need to take a few minutes to google “GamerGate”.  Yes, it’s a real thing.  Yes, some serious atrocities happened, and some wonderful dialogue ensued, but for the most part, a lot of sexism was revealed.  Yes, it’s still going on.  Following that, I couldn’t help but wonder, what if someone followed through on some of these threats?!

That’s where this series was born.  Naturally, problems don’t start in a vacuum, so I felt that I had to include the prequel, Flawed.  While most of the Eternal Combat series follows the lives of various women who enjoy playing a game of the same name, the problem started before the game was a concept.  And it started with one of the developers, Destiny Pierce.

FlawedSMALLLike Riley, Destiny was obsessed with gaming.  Unlike Riley, she was a good girl, made good grades, and tried to do the right thing.  Then her life was destroyed.

Three years later, addicted to drugs, alcohol, and anything else she can get her hands on, her dream is to overdose well enough that she won’t ever wake up again.  “They” broke her.  The brilliant girl with her entire future before her has become a shell of herself – and her only friend is the net.  So long as it’s virtual, it’s safe.

So when an up and coming game company offers her a pity job, she takes it.  There, she finally finds what she’s been missing and turns her brains to creating something rather than destroying herself… Until the threats return.

Someone wants her dead, but for the first time, Destiny isn’t going to just give up.  Her dream is so close, if she can just push back she’ll make it – she’ll be something that matters.  She just needs the proper battleground – and it’s a game called Eternal Combat.

As a gamer, this is a series that is dear to me.  As a woman, these subjects are something I think needs to be talked about.  Over and over, our love stories are always about girls who fall for nice abs and tons of money.  What about the women who don’t want that?  What about the girls who aren’t waiting for superman?  Where are the love stories for the alpha WOMEN out there?

Yes, the Eternal Combat series is about broken women, men who can be strong without being jerks, and how modern technology has insinuated itself into our lives.  You don’t need to know a thing about games, computers, or the internet to keep up.  These are just stories about women who have been knocked down over and over, but who keep getting back up.  Strong women who didn’t let live make them into fragile little toys.

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From drug dependence, preconceived ideas that make a person feel boxed in, domestic violence, post-traumatic stress disorder, and more, these gamer girls show that it takes a whole lot more than fancy computer skills to be kick-ass.  It takes a strength that comes from deep within.  I also hope that I can show the world why so many damaged souls seek their solace in the anonymity online.

If you’re looking for a new kind of romance, a whole lot of action, some seriously hot sexual tension, and a truly modern love story?  Check out Challenge Accepted on Amazon. (Currently on Sale for just $0.99 in the US)

Flawed is scheduled to release in summer 2016.

 

 

The Villain’s Story

skull-657477I’m going to tell you all a secret.  The iliri may not be the good guys.  Oh, sure, they are the protagonists of my latest series, but does that make them good?  Not really.

You see, Salryc Luxx was actually designed around Sauron from the Lord of the Rings.  You know, that mysteriously evil character who is charismatic and people just keep falling in with.  If you pay attention, there’s plenty of hints along the way, but I wanted to see if it was even possible to write the bad guy’s story in such a way that the reader wanted to cheer him (or her) on.

Why?  Simply because I think that good and evil are matters of perspective.  I don’t think that any SANE person (keyword there: sane) would do unthinkable acts just because.  I think they always have a justifiable reason.  I think that there are always two points of view, and sometimes the more interesting isn’t the “good” one.

I’m currently in the middle of writing book 7 of the iliri series.  To date, I think we’ve touched on every single taboo in existence.  No, the story doesn’t focus on them, but they just kinda came up.  You see, the iliri aren’t human, so I can’t help but wonder if they should be held to the same standards.

And then there’s Sal.  She’s the stereotypical femme fatale.  People are won over by her charm even though they’re intimidated by her.  She’s dangerous yet seductive.  Her followers gain power through their relation with her.  Wait… doesn’t that sound like some kind of secret weapon?  Some demi-god?  Well, that’s kinda what I thought.  Evidently Sal agrees.

But this begs the question: Is she really the villain?  I think she is.  I think she’s going to unleash things on that world that humanity can’t even comprehend… and I hope we all cheer her on.

Get BloodLust on Amazon, or pre-order Instinctual

 

The Series Continues

Salryc Instinctual3The enemy wants to kill them.  Their own country wants to make sure they never rise above slaves.  Humans created them to be the perfect soldiers, but iliri will never be equals.  They’re animals, vicious enough to be the perfect killers, but unable to be trusted.

So why are the Black Blades the unit chosen to stop the Emperor’s bribe of steel on its way to Anglia?  One of the rareest materials on the planet, metal could change the tide of the war.  It cuts better, stays sharper, and is stronger than the resin armor soldiers wear.  In the hands of the largest army on the continent, it would give Anglia an unparalleled advantage.  Their government might be antiquated and their military is archaic, but not even the Conglomerate can stand against the number of bodies Anglia can throw at a war.

If a few thousand kilos of steel reach the Anglian king, Terric will rule the Conglomerate.  The iliri will be exterminated.  Sal’s head will be preserved and hung on a wall somewhere as an example of human superiority.  But the only way to stop this threat is to trust the very people who made it happen.  Without humans, the Black Blades will lose everything.

While Sal struggles to learn everything she missed being raised as a human’s pet, the Black Blades try to protect their secret weapon.  The elite units are gathering in the base, but in  the slums of the capital city, iliri mongrels are starting to smell hope.

Preorder Instinctual (Rise of the Iliri #2) on Kindle.  

It’s an addiction

 

medications-342461_960_720I have a problem.  It’s worth than pills, harder to break than nicotine, and more exhilarating than caffeine.  I love writing.  I can’t get enough of it.  No matter what I’m doing, I think about it.

I am an addict.

And I just finished another book!  Yes, one of those mostly done books in my list of things to finish up is now done.  Oh, I don’t mean it’s ready to be published – not by a longshot!  It’s just ready for my alpha reader.  Then I  make a few corrections and send it to the editor.  Then more corrections, and it goes to the beta readers.  Then more corrections, another round after that, and hopefully, it’ll eventually head out to the ARC (Advance Review Copy) readers.

person-woman-relaxation-girlAnd now, this book has been sent on, and I have time to do something else.  Tonight, I’ll read something I didn’t write.  Tomorrow, I’ll start working on another book.  When I’m on a roll, I’ll create.  When I’m not, I’ll edit.  When I’m sick and tired of everything in my head, I’ll start on yet another series that won’t see the light of day for a few years.  I can’t help it.  I can’t stop it.  I just have to write it out.

I don’t care what genre it is.  What I love is the story.  I love the ability to escape, to visualize things that are impossible outside my head, and to bring other people into this fantasy land with me.  I may not be the best author that ever existed… but I won’t rule out the possibility either.  (C’mon, we all have to dream a bit, right?).  But one day, in the future, I want to be known as a prolific writer.  As someone who produced books that others tell their friends to read.

Now, I just have to decide which of these stories that will be.  Next, I mean.  Because they all gotta get done one day!

All the pretty books!

CyborgI can’t spend all my time editing, but I have enough books in “line” that I should.  It just gets tedious.  After seeing enough stupid mistakes, I want to pull my hair out, and need to feel the creative urge again.

Now, considering that I typically work on at least three books at once, that’s saying something.  Yes, my friends say I’m a freak of nature, that my mind works in crazy ways, and other almost flattering things.  Love you guys, no really.

But trying to plan a release schedule like this is a bit of insanity!  There are a few things I have to take into consideration.  1. How soon can my editor get the book in shape for the public to see it.  2. How long will it take for my cover guy to make something that accurately represents the novel.  3. Do I have a series already in progress?  If so, that bumps it much higher up the list.  4. Should I release books that are similar, or different from, the ones I already have out?

It’s the last one that I can never decide on.  On one hand, my romances seem to be very popular (love my readers!).  On the other hand, I really like writing science fantasy, too.  When I break that down into science fiction and fantasy, it kinda means I have more “make believe” books than I do “make love” books.

So, should I release something like When We Were Kings?  Should I go to the opposite end of the spectrum and bump the cyberpunk series higher in the list?  What about the ones that aren’t so easy to fit into a simple genre, like the almost fantasy, post global warming, genetic engineering based sci-fi?  How about that series where I re-write Romeo and Juliet, but in space with different reasons to be pulled apart?  GAH!

So many pretty books.  So much future waiting for them.  Some are first person, some are third.  Some are from the POV of one character, some are many.  Some have women as the main character, some men.  About the only consistency is that I simply can not write horror or thrillers.  Maybe I should divide all of these up into different pseudonyms, but I don’t want to try and keep track of those!  That means at least 4 different personas, all requiring marketing, publications, and more.

So, my dear fans, I’m always interested to hear what you want to read.  Like shape shifters?  Love androids?  Have a fondness for contemporary romance? Dying to see a good unicorn story?  Let me know!

Insta-Love

Salryc Genesis 3aIt’s a trope we see all the time.  The cute, vulnerable girl runs into a strong, well-positioned man and is instantly in love with him.  There’s no sensical reason for the relationship.  The reader doesn’t get the joy of watching the tension turn into emotion.  Nope.  Instead, it’s just “told” that they are perfect together, and we, the readers, are expected to believe it.

Some of my astute readers may look at the picture to the left, think of a newly released fantasy book they recently read and be thinking, “Hey, wait….”

So yes.  It’s true.  Power is appealing.  Stability has its own alure.  When we are young and foolish, we often convince ourselves that feelings are “love” when it’s just curiosity or boredom.  We tell ourselves it’s love because we’re too afraid of what might happen if it isn’t.  These are the kind of mistakes I made when I was 16, infatuated with the star quarterback, or the hot teacher, or any other guy who happened to be in a position to make me daydream of a “comfortable life”.  It’s what society taught me I should aspire to.

It wasn’t love.

Sal, like so many young girls, may be good at some things, but her experience with love is basically nothing.  Her past is dark and horrible – she was a slave, after all.  All she knows about how to interact with others is to please them or get beaten.  Is it any shock that she falls for the first man to show an interest in her?  Would you be shocked to learn that a natural born killer might not understand that sometimes men lie to protect their own pride?

When you’re in love, it’s so easy to list the reasons, even if they’re stupid.  Men who love you don’t tell you to change into something you aren’t.  Love never results in abuse!  Love has nothing to do with status or hierarchy of power.  Anything else is just a toxic relationship – but those are so easy to see from the outside.  The same is not true for the person stuck on the inside.

One of the things I loved most about writing BloodLust was showing just how wrong a “perfect” relationship could be.  They fell in “love” too fast, believed it was perfect, and the problems were so obvious you wanted to strangle one – or both – of them!  No matter how atrocious the relationship became, societal vulnerabilities convinced everyone that this was “right” and “meant to be”.  Now, the real question is: can things work out in the end? Should they?

Well, let me assure you, the end is not near.  Sometimes people lie.  Sometimes people figure out they were wrong.  Sometimes people figure out they were right. But, without spoiling anything for my readers, I just have to say that it was interesting to be drug along in a story where the insta-love was just as wrong as we’d all expect, but the lovers were too foolish to see it.