A mixed bag of news

I promised myself I would start giving you all more updates between book releases, whether it is about writing, publishing, or other topics you might want to hear.  Lately, I’ve been really bad about doing that, but I know some of you like to hear my updates  (thanks to those readers who told me as much!).  Below, I’ve got news on how the Dancing with Flames release has gone, upcoming plans relating to the next Dragon’s Breath novel, a current ebook discount, author interview news, and a reading recommendation.

Dancing with Flames update

First, I’ll cover how the Dancing with Flames release has gone.  The second book in the Dragon’s Breath series has received some great reviews and all the feedback has been very positive.  It’s my favorite book I’ve written so far, and I’m grateful that those who have read it have really liked it.  The one downside I’ve found with this release is that the eleven-month gap between the first and second novel really hurt sales and borrows.

The first novel, Stalked by Flames, has a total of about 9 thousand ebook sales and nearly 5 million pages read through Kindle Unlimited borrows (Amazon considers it a 502 page novel for KU purposes so you can do the math on how many people picked it up and read it).  Those are great stats for a book that didn’t get a sequel until recently.

Unfortunately, due to personal troubles last fall and winter, I had a major gap in publishing anything new.  This caused me to lose a great deal of visibility on Amazon and it’s been very hard to regain it.  With all the independent authors who are able to release books every 2-3 months (sometimes less than that), the publishing market has gotten very competitive and waiting too long to publish will hurt an author these days.  I’m truly grateful for the many loyal readers who have eagerly picked up the next novel because I know there are a lot of choices out there, especially in urban fantasy.  Your support and enthusiasm for my writing means a lot to me.

It has now been one month since I released Dancing with Flames and the initial stats are not nearly as high as they were for the first novel.  Current sales stand just shy of 2 thousand and page reads are at about 1.2 million.  The majority of the feedback on the first novel was positive, so I don’t think it was necessarily the quality of book as much as too much time between releases.  I’m hearing more and more people say they like to binge read through series and it’s tough to wait long between novels.  I totally get that.  If I could have released book 2 faster, I would have, but under the personal circumstances I was facing it just wasn’t possible. My hope is that things will improve as more readers discover I’ve moved forward with the series.

I have gotten into a solid writing rhythm that allows me to work faster than I did before.  Nothing that sacrifices quality, but I did work out a system that is more organized.  Hence, how Dancing with Flames got released three months after Darkness Wanes.  If anyone is curious about what I did differently this time around, let me know.  I’d definitely consider writing a post about it.  I was actually surprised at how much more efficient the new system made my writing, and I was able to do a more complex plot than usual because of the method I used.  It’s really too bad I didn’t figure out this strategy sooner because I absolutely love it.

For book three of the Dragon’s Breath series (Forged by Flames), I need a month more than the last novel, but that is because I have more on the ground research to do.  I’m actually going to be going out of town on Monday and doing a bit of traveling for a few days (and I just got back from a separate trip on Friday).  It’s not hard to check on things when the story mostly stays within the confines of Norman, OK because I live in the same area as the characters, but for this next installment I need specific details to incorporate into the book and have to see a few places up close.  I won’t spoil things more than that, though.  Those of you who have read Dancing with Flames are already aware there’s a journey ahead for some of the main characters.

Stalked by Flames discount sale

In other news, Amazon has reduced the price of Stalked by Flames to $0.99 in Australia (I’m not sure if that includes any taxes).  It is part of a winter promotion they’re doing in that part of the world and it will continue until August 22nd.  If you live down there and haven’t purchased your copy of the first Dragon’s Breath novel, this is your chance to get it at a low price.  It is also still discounted in Europe for those over there through to the end of August as part of a summer promotion sale.  I wish I could tell U.S. readers there was a discount on Stalked by Flames here too, but so far Amazon has not informed me of one.  If that changes, I’ll be sure to announce it.

Author Interviews

As some of you may have noticed, I have been posting interviews each Friday with Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance authors.  So far, I’ve done three that you can check out if you haven’t done so already.  They include:

Christine Pope
Colleen Gleason
Dannika Dark

You can click on their names above to go to their individual interviews.  They aren’t the standard ones where I ask the same old questions like how they got started writing or where they get their ideas.  These are a little more personal and include subjects such as their pets, favorite TV shows, whether they’d run down the street naked for a million dollars, etc.  I wanted them to be a little more fun and hope you enjoy them.  The next author to be interviewed this coming Friday is Hailey Edwards.  I can’t wait to share her answers to my questions with you!

These interviews will continue until November just before Thanksgiving.  I’ve filled nearly all the slots between now and then with some really awesome authors, many of which you will recognize, so stay tuned.

Book Recommendation

I managed to knock out a few novels from my TBR list after releasing Dancing with Flames.  There are about a hundred more to go because the list never actually gets shorter, but I have no idea when I’ll get to more of them.  I do very little reading once I buckle down on writing because I don’t want to risk another author’s voice affecting mine.  Most of the books I read recently were good, but there was one I wanted to make special note of for anyone who enjoys sci-fi/alien romance.  It is “On a Rogue Planet” by Anna Hackett.

On a Rogue Planet by Anna Hackett

I do not know this author, and I’ve never heard of her before picking this book up.  I actually discovered the novel while digging through Goodreads lists because I was itching for something like it, and I’m really glad I gave it a chance.  It’s so hard to find a good sci-fi romance that has a solid story, creative world-building, and some sexy scenes without going overboard on the naughty bits.  “On a Rogue Planet” had just the right balance.

This is actually the third novel in the author’s series, but I skipped the others because this was the one that grabbed my attention.  I had no trouble following along and believe it can be read as a standalone.  Having said that, I’ll definitely be reading more books by Anna Hackett in the future.  If you’re into that genre, you might give her work a try.  I confirmed this novel is on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and iTunes.  Since reader opinions are subjective, be sure to download a sample and/or check reviews before purchasing so you know if the book is right for you.  I can only tell you I enjoyed it a lot.

**************

That’s all I’ve got for you all now, but if you’ve got any questions/comments, feel free to ask them below.

Self-publishing and expectations…

Recently I had a visitor to the website who asked several questions about my self-publishing experience. There wasn’t a good way to keep my responses short, though I tried at first. Instead I’m putting my answers in a regular post so that anyone else who is curious can read them as well. Here goes:

“Could you please talk about your experience?”

Publishing is a lot like riding a rollercoaster. Some days I’m on top of the world writing good stuff and hearing back from readers who enjoy my work. Thanks to all those awesome people who commented on my last post! Other days I might have trouble moving forward while working on a scene and/or catch some criticism of one of my books that makes me think I’m the most horrible writer in the world.

There are days I can’t imagine having any other job and that it’s the absolute best. Then I have days where I question why I released my stories for anyone else to read because, obviously, I completely suck. What was I thinking letting anyone see the crazy ideas that come into my head?

Writers have to be deeply in touch with their feelings in order to produce quality work. This is important, but can also make the whole experience more difficult from an emotional standpoint. If a reader is disappointed with your latest book you feel like you let them down though you honestly wrote it the way you believed it had to be written. I thank God for all my encouraging fans. They’re what has kept me releasing the next ones, though I’d probably never stop writing regardless.

“How you went about it. What was the process like? What pit falls did you encounter?”

For how I went about it, you must keep in mind I was writing for a few years before I published and that Darkness Haunts was not my first book. It was simply the first I thought worth sharing with the world. So when I made the big decision to publish I waited nearly a year from the time the first draft was completed before self-publishing it. I queried agents, entered it into ABNA (Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards), and also learned everything about publishing I could.

I researched cover artists, editors, ebook formatting, paperbacks, and a lot on marketing. Though I refused to change to a genre that might be more salable (people were saying urban fantasy was a dying genre), I did study my market so as to gauge my expectations. I also followed other authors and read about their experiences, soaking up every bit of information I could.  At the end, I even changed the title to something more fitting and catchy than the original.  It wasn’t Darkness Haunts until two months before I released it.

Continue reading

For a better visual of the Airborne scene in Darkness Divides

I wanted to wait until most people had a chance to read Darkness Divides before posting this.  It’s a video of the same plane (Casa-212) and type of parachute Melena used in the book.  The main difference being this takes place at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina during the daytime (plus the troops are using proper military procedures instead of Mel’s improvising).  You can see how Melena would have strapped her pack to the front of her similar to the way they do.  These troops are probably carrying upwards of 100 pounds on them, which makes it rather awkward to walk.

I’ve actually jumped on the same drop zone this video shows about a dozen times, often using that plane, so I did draw heavily from those experiences for the novel.  Hopefully this gives you a better idea for what it would feel like to do it.

 

Direct link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WAwIzpHfOaY

Writing Dark Scenes

Dark forestOne of the hardest parts of writing Darkness Haunts has been the dark and emotional scenes.  I had no idea how much it would take out of me when I first plotted the story out.

In this first book of the Sensor Series, there are are several scenes that have required me to dig deep within myself so I could put to words what I saw in my head.  Not only that, but I wanted to make sure the reader would be able to feel as if they were experiencing the moment with my character. It has required me to revise and edit these parts over and over until just the right words were put together for maximum impact.  Even now, I’m looking over the scenes again for what must be the dozenth time and tweaking them some more.  Every time I go through , I find ways to make them even more vivid and powerful.

Poor Melena really gets put through the ringer in this novel.  You’d think I enjoyed torturing her, but there really were some things she had to go through in order to grow and become what she needed to be for future novels in the series.  She doesn’t start off weak, don’t get me wrong, but in the beginning she isn’t fully prepared for dealing with the supernatural world.  She has some knowledge and experience, but not enough to fully navigate it once she is in deep.   Her resistance to letting anyone help her causes her to get into some very difficult situations.  She’ll get out of them, but not without painful consequences.

It is in those consequences that I have had to write the most difficult parts.  As the author, I have to fully imagine what it would be like for a person to go through such gut-wrenching events.  They aren’t exactly situations I’ve been through myself.  At least, not on the level she faces them.  Some are emotional, but others are physical.  She has to fight not only for her survival, but also for a friend she is trying to save.  It means putting herself in the line of danger and learning who she can trust.  For her, none of this is easy.

You may be wondering what these things are I speak of, but of course I can’t really say (no matter how much I want to) because it would spoil the book for you.  Just suffice it to say that this novel is no fairy-tale.  It’ll have a satisfying ending, but not before you get taken on a rough ride.

Developing Character Backstories

Woman in red cape<— Yep, I like dark and mysterious photos.  This one looked like it needed to be posted.  Now, on to the main subject.

I think every writer has a different way of handling backstories for their characters.  In the beginning, I kept those data sheets many writing guides recommend using.  They are good for you to list basic details of each individual, but it’s easy to fill up the page as more information comes out in the story.

As the novel progressed, that wasn’t enough.  Several of my characters had long histories in my head and I wanted to write them down so no important details were lost.  This was also important because the plots for future novels were developing in my mind and I needed to set them up.  Basically, little hints were dropped in Darkness Haunts giving an idea for what might come to pass (or already had) for certain characters.  It’s not meant to be a complete picture, but enough to get the readers wanting to know more.  Further details of character backgrounds will be revealed over the course of the series and sometimes their past will return to haunt them.  What series doesn’t have this happen?  It won’t be too cliché, though.  I promise to make it fun.

At this time, I have the plot written for book two, a solid idea of book three, and a vague idea for book four.  It’s entirely possible a fifth book could be conceptualized, but I’m waiting to see how things go.  There is already a lot of material to work with, so I’m sure ideas won’t run out too soon.  It’s not uncommon for many writers to not know exactly how far they plan to go before stopping. I do like staying in one world so I can continue to build my characters and add new dimensions to them.  That the story doesn’t have to be confined to one book, though I may try and write a stand-alone someday.