Writing Blind part 1

On Wednesday I’ll find out if I’m having a repeat cornea transplant this summer. For the last six months, my eyesight has continued to deteriorate and I”ve had only hours here and there when it was good enough to allow me to do any reading or writing. But you can only sit and listen to TV so much, so I decided to attempt beginning a new book, albeit in extremely short bursts.

I characterize my erotic romance stories as “Fluffy bunny.” I don’t have anything against the harder, darker stuff, I’ve simply never been inspired to write in that vein. Until now. I should now by now never to never because it’s usually the next damn thing I find myself doing. So for grins and giggles, I decided to post about my adventures in ophthalmology and writing a darker story at the same time. Which will give me the most trouble? We’ll see.

The gist of the new project:

Master Edward is a minor character who appears in Interview with Mistress A and the OTJT series.  I decided it was about time he got his own story. He and his long-time submissive have recently parted ways and he’s a wee bit adrift. Time to give him a challenge, right? Enter Rennie, a woman who survived a horrific event and now suffers from PTSD and a whopping case of survivor’s guilt. Good thing Edward’s day job eminently qualifies him to take on her case.b

Here’s an excerpt from the prologue which took me forever to write since I could only manage a few paragraphs at a time.

Prologue

Two years earlier

 

Was today the day?

What is it within the human spirit that causes it to cling to the tiniest shred of hope? I was ninety-nine percent certain I was going to die and not in that someday, off in the future kind of way. At this point, I told myself to accept it, welcome it even.  When exactly it would happen was still unknown. Maybe today, whatever day of the week it was—I’d lost track, along with consciousness, quite a few times. Please, God, if it be your will, I’m ready but if not…I want to live.

How long will it take? How much will it hurt? No…I can’t think about that now.  I coughed and the sound reverberated around what seemed to be a cavernous space. It was quiet now that Kelly and Andrea were…gone. I can’t let myself think about them either or I will go mad, and I need to keep my wits intact. Just in case.

“I’m home! Please forgive me for leaving you alone so long. My errands took longer than I expected.”

Dear God, please help me. He’s back. Stay calm. My traitorous body began to tremble.

I felt the bed shift as he sat on the edge beside me. “Now, let’s get you up. I’m sure you could use a trip to the ladies’ room.” He removed the handcuffs from my wrists and gently rubbed the chafed skin.  “You know the routine, Renee. Be good and everything will be just fine.”

He uncuffed my ankles and helped me stand on wobbly knees. Tucking my hand into the crook of his arm, he escorted me, like a suitor, across the room, my bare feet stumbling on the cold cement floor.  The bathroom door squeaked on its hinges as he pulled it open and led me inside.

“Because you’ve been such a lovely houseguest, please feel free to have a nice long shower. I’ve left arobe and a towel in there for you. You’ll feel ever so much better afterward, I’m sure.”

This was a new thing. Before, he’d allowed me to use only the toilet. I raised my fingertips to the cloth wrapped around my head.

“Of course you may remove the blindfold. Just be sure to replace it once you’re dressed again. I know I’m a silly goose, but I’m not quite ready to show myself to you, my dear. My shyness is something I’m still striving to overcome.” His voice was soft, his tone utterly sincere.

As soon as I heard the door click shut, I yanked the fabric from over my eyes and blinked in the harsh fluorescent light. As my vision adjusted, I stared at my reflection in the mirror in front of me.  My hair was a matted mess; the remains of my eye makeup was smeared in a dark stain on my cheeks, and my favorite dress was torn and twisted around my body. Averting my gaze quickly, I hesitantly pulled the shower curtain aside and was relieved to see the stall was clean and stocked with soap and shampoo.

“At least I’ll smell better,” I whispered and flinched at the sound of my voice; I’d had no one to talk to for…two days? There was three…then two…now the cheese stands alone. No one left to pray with me.

My muscles protested as I reached back to pull down the zipper on my dress, and I gritted my teeth to keep from groaning. He didn’t suffer complaints well. I let the garment fall to the floor and stepped out of my panties which smelled faintly of dried urine. After adding my bra to the pile, I turned on the water in the shower, shivering as I waited for it to warm. Finally under the spray, I relished the sensation of the water cascading over my body. I’d always preferred showers to baths and my husband had often chided me for hogging all the hot water.

How long will he let me stay in here? Forever sounds about right.

As I lathered my hair, I thought again about the will to live, my will to live. Did I still have it? Maybe a little. I always believed I’d leave this world kicking and screaming but now…I was ashamed of being so meek. Where was my fight or flight instinct? I was weak and hungry and had barely enough energy to bathe myself. Perhaps it would be more dignified to go quietly. The condemned marched to the gallows nobly.

The water temperature turned tepid but still I was reluctant to step out. Forcing my hands to twist off the taps, I stepped out and hastily reached for the towel he’d left, along with a robe, draped over the sink. Though not fluffy by any means, it was clean and smelled of lavender. After drying my body, I used it to wrap up my hair and enclosed myself in the plain white robe .I blotted my hair and looked around the room.

Nothing to break the mirror with, no towel rods. The toilet was a commercial one so not even a tank lid I could swing like a baseball bat.

A polite knock came on the door.

“Renee? Are you finished? Your dinner awaits.”

“Coming.”

“Don’t forget the blindfold, please.”

My fingers were clumsy but I managed to secure it over my eyes and reached for the doorknob. He was waiting a step beyond the door; I could feel the heat coming off his body. The only sense I had of him was that he was quite a bit taller than me and stocky.

With every cell in my body, I wanted to jerk away from his touch but the quiet voice in my head told me that was a very bad idea. He’s not hurt me yet…that I know of.

Leading me back to my bed, he chatted easily as if we were the oldest of friends. “I hope you liked the shampoo. I picked that scent especially for you, Renee.”

“Thank you, it’s lovely,” I replied, on auto-pilot.

He settled me back on the hospital-style bed, straightening the top sheet, fussing like an old maiden aunt. “I took the opportunity to put fresh bedding on. There’s nothing quite like clean, crisp sheets, is there?

“It’s very nice. I appreciate it. You’re taking excellent care of me.” Maybe if I kept him talking…made a connection.

“Let me just pull the cart over and we’ll get you fed.”

I heard the sound of wheels and then his sigh as he sat down on his bedside chair.  “Open wide, my dear.”

I obeyed and was rewarded with a spoonful of lukewarm chicken noodle soup. Broth mostly, it was thin and watery, but it tasted heavenly after having had nothing for what felt like forever. My stomach rumbled and he chuckled. “Are you enjoying your dinner?” he asked as he fed me another spoonful.

“Yes, thank you.” I paused before continuing. “You’re very good at this. Have you been trained in nursing?”

“Who, me? No, I’m afraid not. Any skill I have was gained through practical experience. I had to care for my elderly mother for quite a long time. I would love to have attended higher education of some sort, but she took up most of my time. It was only the two of us, you see.”

“I take it she has passed on then?”

“Yes, finally, about five years ago. After that, I was able to get out in the world a bit more, get a job, live a normal life.”

The spoon clattered against the empty bowl after he gave me the last bite. “There we go. Time to tuck you in for the night.”

I knew what came next and extended my legs out straight. He’d kept them bound together, releasing me only for the all too infrequent bathroom breaks. But this time, he grasped my right ankle and secured it to the foot of the bed before doing the same to the left. His breathing became a little ragged as his fingers lingered on my skin. Dread filled the pit of my stomach and its scrabbling fingers began clawing their way upward.

What’s happening? He’s breaking routine!

Silently, he gathered my wrists together, bound them with zip ties then secured them to something (a hook on the wall?) over my head. I was uncomfortably stretched but kept my expression impassive while alarm bells clanged within my mind.

 

 

Reality check

Imagine you live in a small town where there have been only two hair salons for as long as you can remember. Their prices are similar, their stylists are competent enough, and there’s enough business to keep them both nicely profitable. Now picture what would happen if eight more salons opened up in a matter of months. All ten shops would jockey for customers, price wars would ensue, every marketing strategy in the world would be employed, but ultimately all of them would struggle to remain afloat. After all, five times the number of heads full of hair didn’t magically appear. Some of the stylists would move on to something else eventually due to a lack of repeat customers, but even the most skilled hairdressers would be hard-pressed to make a living.

This is a very simple analogy for what’s happened in the publishing world since the advent of the digital age. As nearly as I can tell from my research, the multiplying factor is more likely to be ten rather than the five I used in my example. That’s right–approximately ten times as many titles are published every year compared to the final years of print-only books. Statistics vary depending on the source, but at the very least millions of titles are now published every year. According to Wikipedia, amazon alone published 4 million e-titles in 2016. Holy moley. I recall naively thinking when I uploaded my first book that readers would stumble upon it. Very, very unlikely.

Now, as if the sheer volume wasn’t daunting enough, consider how difficult it is to compete against free books. If the hair salons I mentioned started offering free services–for example, one free wet and cut to a new customer–sooner or later the other shops would follow suit. You could go quite a while without paying for a trim if you played it right. Let’s say your new book is a BDSM romance. I just typed in “free BDSM romance” in the Amazon search bar and received 5,727 results. A reader need never buy another book from the Kindle store and will never run out of something to read.

One of the things I’ve had to accept is that buying books is a process that has evolved as much as publishing has. Before eReaders, we went to bookstores and browsed the aisles, looking for covers that caught the eye or checking to see if our favorite author had a new release. My daughter and I could easily spend an hour in the store at the local mall picking out a handful of paperbacks.

Now we type in keywords on a tablet and read blurbs that don’t always accurately reflect the plot or quality of the book itself. As a result of making some truly regrettable purchases, I wised up enough to begin reading samples first. Recommendations by friends with similar taste help point me toward good reads; otherwise I could easily drown in the overwhelming ocean of offerings. And speaking of bookstores–I read a statistic that less than 1% of the books published now will ever be stocked on a store shelf. No kidding. That’s probably all the room they can spare.

Most of us authors will try multiple marketing strategies in order to gain readers and sell more books. A recent trend is for writers who’ve had success before the boom to publish how-to books and tell you how to emulate their process. Some of their suggestions are still sound, but many tactics have been nerfed by changes in online publishing and social media. Make sure any guidebooks you follow are current.

So am I saying to all those indie authors–including me–we should give up on writing? Absolutely not if you love it, if you feel compelled to tell your stories. But don’t fool yourself by thinking it’s an easy living–it’s rarely a living at all. The vast majority of self-published authors average less than two hundred book sales a year and that number continues to drop as more and more writers jump into the pool. Have realistic expectations.

Knowing this, I have days of wallowing in the indie author blues. I have no delusions I’ll hit the NYT or sell thousands of copies. What keeps me going is my love of the written word, the joy found in the connections I’ve made with other authors, and the much appreciated feedback I receive from readers. That’s the payoff that means the most to me–when someone tells me they loved my last book. I want to hear that sentiment about my next book too, so I strive to make it even better. It’s what gets me out of bed in the morning. That…and coffee.

New release from Julie Nicholls

I’m pleased to help Julie spread the word about the release of Blood Brothers, the follow-up to Blood Ties. I had a great time editing this fun, action-packed entertaining read. Check both books out on Amazon!

Take it away, Julie!


Blod Brothers coverI’d like to announce the release of Blood Brothers. This is the 2nd book in the Blood Trilogy. We have already followed the characters – K34GEN, Gabriel, Lyssa, and GH05T from book one, Blood Ties, but it seems their trials are not over yet.

Gabriel is pure lycan and was caged by Dr. Keller at Solgen Labs. Dr. Keller is a genetic scientist who used Gabriel’s lycan DNA to create the perfect soldier by splicing his genes with a human. K34GEN was Solgen’s top hunter…but then Keller realized he could improve the enhancements he’d given the human and created GH05T. She was faster and stronger than K34GEN, with a few added enhancements, and it meant K34GEN was no longer the top dog. The former hunter, K34GEN teamed up with Gabriel and together they attempted to bring down Solgen Labs.

The story continues in Blood Brothers

 

Synopsis : Blood Brothers

When you’ve been a “guest” of Solgen Labs, brothers from another mother takes on a whole new meaning. Keagen and Gabriel thought they were experts on all Solgen’s dirty little secrets. Until they met Ghost and found the deceit and conspiracy goes more than bone-deep; it goes right down to their spliced and enhanced DNA.

 

Need a sneaky peek?

 

“Your room’s better than mine.” Keagen pushed the door open wider as he edged his way into Ghost’s quarters. “I guess it’s a girl thing.” He snickered.

“Hey, if you want the pink duvet, take it,” Ghost quipped.

Keagen casually scanned the room while closing the space between them. He noticed the furrows congregating along Ghost’s forehead and blew out a weighty breath.

“I know what’s going on in there.” He pressed the tip of a finger to Ghost’s temple. The possibility she might be right and he should tell Gabriel about his condition was on his mind constantly, but finding the courage to admit he was imperfect wasn’t something he could do easily. He’d never concerned himself with the worries of others previously but seeing Ghost’s agitated expression bothered him. The realization that he could end up like K44 gnawed at him like a dog with a bone, and it was highly probable that this rabid dog would need putting out of its misery. Fear wasn’t in his vocabulary. There had never been anything he was afraid of…until now.

Ghost grabbed his finger and with pleading eyes stared at Keagen. She felt his pain. The possibility not only his body, but also his brain, might betray him was stinging—lacing him with more poison on an already infected wound. She wished he would listen to her and willingly let Lyra and Gabriel help, but the stubborn mask he wore wasn’t about to come off anytime soon.

They turned simultaneously to the sound of a knock on the door followed by Lyra’s soft voice.

“I’m sorry to disturb you. I know you’ve had a long journey, but Michaels wants to brief you on the current situation with K44.”

“It’s okay. We’re ready,” Ghost replied.

She released Keagen’s finger and moved toward the door, but Keagen halted her departure with a firm grasp of her arm. He pulled her close and let his mouth rest against her neck.

“I will tell Gabriel and Lyra about my problems…I promise.”

Ghost shrugged her shoulders. “It’s your business. I get that. I’m sure I’d feel the same, but it doesn’t mean I can’t worry about you.”

She smiled tentatively and headed out the door with Keagen following.

“Where’s Gabe?” Keagen directed his question to Lyra, who was already striding down the corridor.

She called over her shoulder and smiled. “He’s in recovery.”

Keagen charged forward and grabbed her arm, spinning her around. “From what?”

“The procedure.” She frowned. “Didn’t he tell you he’d agreed to give us the samples we need to help K44?”

“No, he didn’t.” Keagen scowled. “He said he wasn’t going to allow anyone else to experiment on him. What changed his mind?”

“You did,” Lyra replied and continued on to Michaels’ office after pulling her arm free and leaving Keagen standing with his mouth gaping.

Ghost sucked in a deep breath and braced. She approached Keagen from behind and stopped suddenly as he whirled around to face her. His furious expression greeted her.

“You told him…didn’t you?”

Ghost lowered her eyes. Before she could open her mouth to apologize, Keagen turned and followed Lyra to the operations room. Her eyes fell shut as she sucked in another large breath. She knew she’d fucked up. Her heart told her to chase after him and make him understand why she’d told Gabriel, but she knew he wouldn’t be interested. While something inside her said it was for the best, she felt guilty because she’d broken his trust.

 

 

Second annual top ten reads of 2016

I LOVE spreading the word about books I’ve read and enjoyed. I encourage you to do the same–tell people on Facebook, blog about them, or simply comment here.

I’ve excluded books that I played any role in creating–nothing I’ve written, edited, or proofread is on this list.

Keep in mind that some of these titles were published prior to 2016. I just happened to read them this year. In no particular order, here’s m top ten. (drumroll please lol):

dreaming1.  Dreaming with a Broken Heart by Mary J. Williams  This book reminds me of the stylish romance novels I loved years ago with engaging characters set against the glitz of Hollywood. I particularly like the heroine in this one. Ms. Williams does a fantastic job of making Jade both vulnerable and strong as she overcomes being abused and nearly killed by her husband. I’m looking forward to reading more titles in this series.

sanctum2.  From Sanctum with Love by Lexi Blake   I took a break from the Masters and Mercenaries series for a bit but I’m happy I picked it back up. I guess it takes a sadist like Kai Ferguson to bring me back into the fold. This 10th novel in the series seems less formulaic than the last few in the series and I absolutely love the suspension play scene. I always enjoy the generous touches of humor throughout all the titles in the series. BDSM doesn’t have to be deadly serious, thank God.

mistress-files3.  The Mistress Files by Tiffany Reisz   My name is Jordan and I am an Original Sinners series addict. I just can’t get enough of Nora, Soren, and Kingsley. Especially Kingsley. This collection of shorts represents excerpts from Nora’s “case files” while working for Kingsley as a dominatrix. Being visually impaired myself, I’m personally drawn to the story of a husband who’s reluctant to dominate hi wife after she loses her eyesight. Also, I never tire of the wordplay between Nora and Kingsley. Great snarkiness, sizzling sex scenes, and memorable characters.

zane4.  Zane:The Decrees by Elaine Barris   Here’s a snippet of what I said in my review–“What is forever but a curse if you aren’t with me?” This quote from near the end of the book sums up this book perfectly. It encapsulates the eternal bond Zane and London share and demonstrates the often unexpectedly poetic writing of Ms. Barris. That and a good dose of humor makes this a great read. When vampire influence is used to compel London’s uptight, pain-in-the-ass mother to swear like a sailor—priceless!

forever5.  Forever Camden by Kitten K. Jackson    This vampire romance is two stories in one. The beginning of the book chronicles Camden’s human life and love in the early 1900s and his turning before fast-forwarding to his modern day romance with Melanie. Ms. Jackson does an exemplary job of matching tone and vocabulary with the eras. I particularly enjoy the formality of Cam’s relationship with his fiance in 1910, including her surprising dominating nature. I’ve not read the sequel–The Coming Darkness–yet, but it’s on my TBR list for 2017.

divisive        6. Divisive and 7. The Fifth Game by John Tucker   Being a fan of true crime novels and possessing a little too much morbid curiosity, I’m both fascinated and horrified by John Tucker’s anti-hero–Dennis Rask. He’s a man who uses charm and flattery to seduce single mothers and turn family members against each other until his end goal–death and destruction–is achieved. It’s a psychological game for Rask and he’s very, very good at it. Due to John Tucker’s untimely death this year, the Rask trilogy will remain incomplete. However; each book can be read as a s creepy, devilishly twisted standalone.

trouble8.  The Trouble with Dying by Maggie Le Page    I found this book through a Bookbub email blast and it is a delightful read. Faith Carson “wakes” looking down on her comatose body in a hospital bed. Time becomes a factor as she attempts to learn what happened, who is responsible, and how she can possibly save herself while in limbo. You wouldn’t think there would be any humor in a story with this plot, but you’d be wrong. Faith’s long-dead grandmother is also floating up on the ceiling, there to provide moral support and, often, comic relief. This is one of those books that sneaks up on you and pulls you in before you can blink.

 

Following eye surgery, I was unable to read for a few months, so I checked out some titles on Audible. These two, which I think are still free, are awesome.

dispatcher9.  The Dispatcher by John Scalzi, read by Zachary Quinto     The premise of this story is fascinating and thought-provoking. For no apparent reason, 999 times out of 1000, a person killed by the actions of another reappears at home, naked, and in the physical condition as  hours earlier. This phenomenon spawns a licensed government agency of dispatchers stationed at hospital emergency and operating rooms. The patient’s condition goes south during surgery? A dispatcher steps in and effectively gives everyone a do=over. But when a dispatcher goes missing, one of his colleagues becomes part of the investigation. You’ll think about this tale for weeks after listening to it.

lollipops10.  So Long, Lollipops by Sarah Lyons Fleming, read by Julia Whelan    I’m not a fan of zombies. I don’t watch The Walking Dead and the only zombie movie I can remember enjoying was the comedy Shaun of the Dead.  So I”m completely taen by surprise with how much I liked this title. While unexpectedly playing the hero to save a group of survivors, Peter becomes a better person and saves himself. I wasn’t crazy about the idea of a woman narrating a story told from a male character’s POV, but she made it work. The prequel, Until the End of the World, is most definitely on my TBR list.

Kindle Scout…Part 2

In my last post, author Martin Crosbie shared his views with regard to his successful bid to have a book published by Amazon through their Kindle Scout program. Julie Nicholls, whose book was not selected, answered the same questions and gives a different perspective. In the name of transparency, let me state I was editor on her book, and I am very proud of it.

dm-coverJulie is the author of several adult fantasies and romances; Dragon Moon is her first work intended for younger readers. She is also an extremely talented graphic designer and produces amazing book covers.
Please explain how participating in the Scout program impacted your writing career in a positive or negative way.
 I was disappointed with a number of issues regarding my Kindle Scout experience. Obviously I was upset I didn’t get the gig, but other issues bugged me. My book received over 3,000 nominations. I was in “hot n trending” rating for almost the whole thirty days. I’m not saying just because of this I should have been awarded a contract, but I don’t see the point of it otherwise. Knowing an author who received 400 nominations was selected for publication, quantity of internet support seems to have nothing to do with it. When I published my book on my own, I was hoping to receive a few sales from the 3,000 nominations, and for this reason I opted to sell my book at 99c initially, with the idea that the low price would be attractive to the nominators who were hoping to receive it for  free. I paid for advertising and hoped for a good turnout but was greatly disappointed.
 
How does it differ from submitting to other publishers?
I have never submitted a novel to a publisher previously so I cannot comment, but I do know that the turn around for Kindle Scout is just forty-five days, and I know other publishers take much longer.
 
What, if anything, would you like to see changed in the Scout process? I think they should scrap the nominations and ‘Hot n Trending’ idea. It gives false hope and from what I’ve seen, serves no purpose.
Will you submit to Scout again? I don’t believe I will.
Many thanks to Julie for sharing her viewpoint. I appreciate her openness and honesty.
My Two Cents’ Worth
As with most endeavors in life, whether or not you get the result you want greatly colors your opinion. That’s just human nature. As an observer, though, I’ve reached some conclusions on Kindle Scout (What a surprise, right? lol)
  • It is true that the forty-five day waiting period is significantly shorter than the vast majority of traditional publishers who typically take anywhere from three to six months to respond to submissions.
  • If your book is not chosen, this is a horribly public way to be rejected. Should a traditional publisher turn you down, only you and the publishing house know unless you choose to blab it to the rest of the world. The biggest problem I see with this is the effect it might have on the people who nominated the book. Because it was rejected, they might think maybe it wasn’t as worthy as first believed.
  • Most authors spend a good deal of time campaigning during the thirty day nomination period. Scout collects the email addresses of those nominating books so the author is unable to capture any of this momentum for the future. I don’t see any way to avoid this; the privacy of those voting should be respected.
  • The free book incentive backfires on the books not selected. If you’ve nominated a novel with the expectation of a free copy but then receive notification you won’t be getting it for free but it is available for purchase, it has a real “bait and switch” feel to it.
  • What IS the point of the nomination process? Many books  have had tremendous support but were not chosen and by the same token, books who had few nominations were. What if the viewers all voted for Joe Blow to win American Idol by a landslide…but the judges said nay, nay, we choose Susie Sunshine. Why ask the masses what they want if it has no impact on your decision.
  • What would I like to see changed? Restructure the process with the goal of selling more books, whether published by Scout or the author. That’s a win-win for both sides. Instead of giving free books to those who nominate them, offer it at an exclusive low price. Allow better, more customizable communication between the author and the voters. Those changes wouldn’t mean a damn, though, if the votes don’t matter. If the nominations play no part in the selection process, then this is all a dog-and-pony show misleading the voters and the authors.

Have an opinion or any information to share about Kindle Scout? Please weigh in! One thing I was not able to confirm was if Scout had published a debut novel and I’d love to know.

 

 

Kindle Scout–the good, the bad, and the ugly–Part 1

If you’re not familiar with the Kindle Scout program, it’s a publishing option sponsored by Amazon. Unpublished manuscripts are submitted for consideration and if accepted, the author wages an online campaign for thirty days soliciting nominations (votes in favor of publication). Books receiving good support are rated as the campaign wears on with “Hot and Trending” being the most desirable rating. Should the book ultimately be published by Kindle Press, supporters who nominated it receive a free digital copy.

After observing a few fellow authors participate in Scout, it’s still not clear how the books are selected for a contract. The For more information, I asked two authors, Martin Crosbie and Julie Nicholls,  to share a bit about their Kindle Scout experience.

the-dead-listMartin Crosbie’s book, The Dead List, a suspenseful whodunit, was selected for publication by Kindle Press. I’ve read all of Martin’s published works; I’m particularly fond of My Name Is Hardly. A fine author, he graciously (and very promptly!) answered my questions.

Please explain how participating in the Scout program impacted your writing career in a positive or negative way. It’s all been positive. As part of the process I had my trusty editor who I’ve used for my previous four books edit my manuscript. Upon acceptance Kindle Press assigns you an editor to work with. The assigned editor could find zero errors in my manuscript. So, I know I have the right editor (shameless plug for Laurie Boris) working with me.

Additionally I’m networking with authors who are on the same page as I am and I feel as though I’ve reached readers who may not have seen my work.

How does it differ from submitting to other publishers? Kindle Press accepted me. When I first submitted to traditional publishers no one wanted to publish me. That changed after I enjoyed some success with My Temporary Life, my first novel but previously I had over one hundred rejection letters. So, it was really nice to get a “yes”.

What, if anything, would you like to see changed in the Scout process? It all came together for me fairly seamlessly so I’m not sure that I could suggest any changes. The thirty days can make for anxious times but it’s only thirty days. Other submissions to trad houses take far longer.

Will you submit to Scout again? I think so. My royalties for the first year are on track to be higher than they forecast and I haven’t had to market it as much as my other books. There are still things you can do to attract potential readers but pricing is up to Kindle Press, so the book only goes on sale when they reduce it. I’ll submit the second “John Drake” book and I’m considering submitting another book that I should have ready at the beginning of next year.

Thank you, Martin, for sharing your thoughts. Best of luck with your next Kindle Scout submission.

Next post: Kindle Scout–the good, the bad, and the ugly, Part 2

 

The Dragons are Here!

dm-coverHands down my fav book of 2016..and that’s counting mine! Yes, that’s my name in the editor slot, but I could not be more proud of this book if I’d written it myself.

Here’s the most important thing you need to know – Dragon Moon is at a special pre-order price of 99 cents thought October 12 ONLY. Order yours now at this very discounted price.

YES! TAKE ME TO AMAZON SO I CAN ORDER MY COPY NOW!

Dragon Moon is labeled as a Young Adult book, but readers of all ages wil enjoy it. Themes of anti-bullying and anti-prejudice are woven into a fantasy tale of adventure and magic. I want to talk to a dragon!

EXCERPT – Scarlett meets Maori

The ground shakes…once…twice…thud…thud. I can hear breathing. Loud breathing.

My head is full of wasps, or bees, or something else irritating. I can’t hear anything over it except…

Hello, Ssscarlett.

Whoa!

I can’t believe what I’m seeing. I’m not awake…I can’t be.

I’ve been waiting for you.

Oh, shit, I hope you’ve eaten already. Did you fly by for a McMuffin before you came home? Please say yes…please.

I not eatsss peoplesss.

Fabulous! Wait…it can hear my thoughts.

Yesss…..it can.

Oops.

Come clossser.

The dragon is halfway out of the cave and fills up the doorway. It’s bright red, and it’s beautiful. I never expected to say that about a dragon, but it is. Large black eyes with an orange iris stare at me, while long sharp teeth wait to tear my flesh apart. Well, they look like they could. Ugh…that’s why they’ve dressed me in red! I’m Little Red Riding Hood.

All the better to eat you, my dear….

Clossser, Ssscarlett.

I glance over to Dizelli. She’s just standing there, staring at me and smiling.

“Can you hear it, I mean, her?”

“No.”

“But you know she’s talking to me, in my head…don’t you?”

“Yes.”

My eyes focus back on the dragon. The magnificent dragon, which I might add looks like it needs a snooze because it seems to be struggling to stand up. It flops to the floor suddenly and the ground shakes as though it’s been hit by a meteor.

It doesn’t look very well.

I need to sssleep.

Oh, I suppose you’ve been out all night living it up at a BBQ. Roasted pig and sheep as appetizers, followed by a herd of cows.

Come to me, Ssscarlett.

Okay. I make up my mind and I’m going in. Moving forward with small footsteps, I near the dragon’s head. Staring into black eyes, I see something other than my reflection. Loneliness. I can feel it.

I am Maori. Waited long time… for you, Ssscarlett.

“So everyone keeps telling me.”

I’m so close now that if I wanted, I could stretch out my hand and touch her.

I not bite.

“Glad to hear that.” I reach out and rest my fingertips on her snout. She’s hot and surprisingly smooth. The scales along her nose are smaller and are a slightly lighter red. The ones around her neck are much darker.

I continue to touch and slowly move up her head. I have to inch closer to reach, but I don’t feel in danger. I feel…safe.

 

Come along for the ride of your life. No matter your age,you’ll feel a child’s wonder as you’re surrounded by dragons in a land called Lur Neval.

First, Be a Reader

I’m always flummoxed when I ask authors who their favorite writers are and at least a few answer, “Oh, I don’t have time to read.”

I understand when you’re working on a book, you might not want the voices in your head to be muddled by someone else’s….but never read? How can that be?

I’ve been a voracious reader all my life. I like to joke that I learned to read by osmosis. When I was about three years old, my grandmother sat me on her lap out on her front porch. She had a tattered old Dick and Jane reader, most likely left behind in her yard as she lived about two blocks from an elementary school.  She began to read aloud, pointing at each word as she said it. I started to chime in and eventually she stopped and I kept going. The patterns of the letters made sense to me, and only once in awhile did I have to stop and ask about a word.

I went from Dick and Jane to Nancy Drew, Little Women, the Five Little Peppers, and anything I could get my hands on–including the books my older cousin hid under his mattress. Although I didn’t understand everything in those paperbacks, I knew they were exciting and I never told on him.

I’ve read over 100 books this year, mostly for enjoyment, but also consciously looking for ways to improve my writing. I was always told if you want to be successful, study others who are achieving success in your field of endeavor. As a self-published author, I sometimes focus solely on others’ marketing and engagement efforts. That’s only a small piece of the puzzle though. I wanted to  spend just as much time looking at the craft behind the writing of good books.

Want to know how to build suspense?  Stephen King is still, well, king. If you’re interested in creating a real psychological mind-fuck of a book, read I Am the Cheese. Need to have a big battle scene? Check out the battle of the Blackwater in A Clash of Kings (Game of Thrones).

I’m not saying to copy or plagiarize–never, never, never! What I’m suggesting is none of us must reinvent the wheel. Learn from the best. When a novice film director wants to create a movie full of suspense, he looks to Hitchcock for  inspiration. Find the gold standard in your genre, and be open to the notion that that might mean reading books written prior to the digital age.

They knew a thing or two about how to write back then. Trust me.

Get some frights in the night!

It won’t kill you to take a break from erotic romance, I PROMISE

See Chicanery on Amazon here!

chicanery-coverChicanery by Barbara Chioffi is a great little collection of eight tales of horror. Here’s my review which pretty much sums up my opinion.

5 Stars  Creeps and Crawlies – Clowns. Giant spiders. Demons. Sadistic relatives. Okay, I bet at least one of those got your attention! If you were a fan of The Twilight Zone, Tales from the Crypt, or any other horror anthology series, Chicanery is right up your dark alley. You know–the one with the broken streetlight. Quick, creepy stories perfect for bedtime reading…if you enjoy looking under the bed and in the closet ten times.

My personal favorite of the collection is The Basement. It’s a tightly told tale of a spunky adolescent who makes a horrible discovery lurking in the basement of the family’s rental house. That kid was braver than I would ever be; I would have been out of there so fast sparks would have been seen in my wake.

Well written and running the gamut from a subtle scare to outright terror, each of Ms. Chioffi’s offerings will have you looking over your shoulder. After reading The Bees Knees, I’ll never look at honeybees quite the same again.

This book is suitable for all ages except very young children, unless they’ve been real stinkers and you want to scare the bejsus out of them. Seriously…tweens and up. There’s no explicit sexual content, but one story does contain references to the act.

the-whisper-teaser
Ugh. What is it about clowns? <shudder>

LINKS FOR BARBARA CHIOFFI

The Dragons Need You!

Kindle Scout–heard of it? It’s a program whereby authors submit books in the hopes of gaining a publishing deal with Amazon. Info on each book is posted on the Kindle Scout page and votes (nominations) are solicited for 30 days. If the book is ultimately awarded a deal, readers who nominated it automatically receive an ecopy. Win-win for everyone, right? And it takes only a few minutes of your time to help a deserving book get the gig. Guess what…the book I’m asking you to support isn’t one of mine.

DRAGON MOON

dm-cover

Julie Nicholls is an amazing graphic artist; she designs all my book covers, banners, etc. If you haven’t heard, she’s also quite an accomplished author. If you’re a fantasy fan, be sure to check out Demon Within and the other two titles in that adult series.

With Dragon Moon, though, I think Julie has found her groove. While it’s categorized as Young Adult, all ages will enjoy this fast-paced, often humorous adventure. At one point, the heroine and her warrior sidekick are forcibly camouflaged with dragon poop. Now that’s funny…unless you’re the one it was spewed on.

Do me a solid and check out the Kindle Scout page for Dragon Moon. Read the blurb and the sample chapter. If it tickles your fancy, ciick the Nominate button. It’s just that easy. Then keep your fingers crossed the mysterious powers that be at Amazon get it right.

Or I’m really going to be tempted to sic a dragon on ’em.

VISIT THE DRAGON MOON KINDLE SCOUT PAGE HERE. THANK YOU!

 – Excerpt – One of my fav scenes. Every kid (and a lot of adults love a poop joke.  Scarlett an Elyan are riding their dragons on a late-night raid in the realm of the dark dragons.

I check behind me and see Elyan is still with us.

We glide over a small mountain range and then Maudel swoops down to fly within a narrow gorge. I can see a river beneath us, the water rippling under the full moon. I can hear screeching. It sounds awfully loud and I glance around but can’t see anything. Maudel follows the river and glides smoothly; she is silent, making as little noise as possible. It makes me wonder if the other dragons come mostly at night.

Didn’t we pick a perfect time to visit.

After a few more minutes, Maudel flies lower. We’re just a few feet above the ground and she veers off to the left and stops following the river. Stealthily she lands in an open, grassy field that absolutely stinks! When you live in a rural area of England, you get used to the smell of manure when it’s sprayed over the fields to fertilize, however…this is beyond manure. This is the biggest stinking sh… muck I’ve ever had to sniff. Not that I’m sniffing! I’m trying not to breathe so I don’t inhale the damn stuff. I’m not telling her how to do her job, but I have to question what she’s thinking. We’re like sitting ducks out here!

Trussst…me.

“Okay…I do, but is there a reason we’re landing in the open?”

Yesss.

“Let’s have it then.”

She roots her snout into the grass and after sniffing and snorting, emerges with a nose full of vile, putrid mud. Her neck bends and she looks right at me.

“I’m not going to like this, am I?”

Whether she sneezed or she meant to do it, I am covered from head to toe in this crap. And I expect that’s exactly what it is–dragon crap!

“Are you kidding me? Was that absolutely necessary?”

Yesss… not sssmell like food…

Aha!

“You’re forgiven!”

Elyan and Braelyn land just a few feet away and he’s given the same treatment. Waving to attract his attention, I give him a thumbs up. “We don’t smell like food anymore!”

“That is good to know.”