Friday, September 16, 2016

Happy Book Birthday, Vengeance and Vermouth!

Hi, friends! Vengeance and Vermouth Part 1 is out today and I'm super stoked to share it with you! If you've read Whiskey and Angelfire, the second Zyan Star book (you've totally read it, right?), then you'll know it ended on a cliffhanger. Like, a MAJOR cliffhanger. As in, several people told me they almost threw their e-readers across the room type of cliffhanger.

So, I give you Vengeance and Vermouth, the third book!

To bring her best friend back from the dead, Zyan will march into Hell itself. But first she needs to amass a force that can challenge Lucifer on his home turf.

With Archangel Michael and the forces of Heaven on her heels, Zyan criss-crosses the globe, gathering a supernatural team of epic proportions. She’s calling in all her favors this time, summoning figures from her past both dangerous and deadly.

And to get into Hell she must work with the worst of them all, the one who murdered her friend in the first place. Zy will have to put aside her burning need for revenge to pull off the biggest mission of her life, but that may prove to be the one thing she can’t do. 

Yep, it's on. Zyan is kicking some serious ass. Join her for 99 cents! Here are the purchase links:

Amazon         Barnes and Noble       iTunes        Kobo

And if you have a moment to give V&V a happy birthday shout out, much appreciated :)

Hope all is well with you guys. Any fun news to share?

Monday, September 12, 2016

Cover Reveal: Timeless!

Hi guys, today I'm helping friend and critique partner Crystal Collier reveal the cover for her awesome book Timeless. It's the third in her Maiden of Time series, and I read it - it's kick ass :) It'll be out on November 1st.

Check it out!

About the book:

Time is the enemy.

In 1771, Alexia had everything: the man of her dreams, reconciliation with her father, even a child on the way. But she was never meant to stay. It broke her heart, but Alexia heeded destiny and traveled five hundred years back to stop the Soulless from becoming.

In the thirteenth century, the Holy Roman Church has ordered the Knights Templar to exterminate the Passionate, her bloodline. As Alexia fights this new threat—along with an unfathomable evil, and her own heart—the Soulless genesis nears. But none of her hard-won battles may matter if she dies in childbirth before completing her mission.

Can Alexia escape her own clock?

Crystal is doing a giveaway, too!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Hope you enjoyed the sneak peek. TTFN!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Interview: Mark from The Hawaii Project (A Really Cool Book Discovery Website)

Hi, friends! Recently I came across a really cool book website called The Hawaii Project. Mark, who runs the site, got to chatting with me and we decided to swap interviews. His interview of me is right here. And my interview of him is below. It involves cocktails, Hawaii, and obviously books. What better combination?!

Eye candy from the Paranormal Romance page on The Hawaii Project...

Okay, here we go:

Me: The Hawaii Project is such a cool website! Tell us a bit about it.

Mark: The Hawaii Project is a personalized book discovery service. It’s a great way to find books that match your personal interests, favorite authors and reading habits. You tell us a bit about yourself, your favorite authors and the kinds of books you read, and we recommend great books you’d never find on your own, and alert you to news about your favorite authors. We’ll deliver a personalized email once a week with personally relevant books, or you can explore via our website. It’s like a bookstore where every book in the store was chosen just for you. The more you use it, the more it learns about you and the better the recommendations.

Why is it called The Hawaii Project?

There’s nothing better than relaxing on the beach with a great book. That’s my “happy place”. We wanted to share that feeling with other readers.

Are you a writer yourself? Tell us how you came to love books and/or your inspiration for the site.

I’ve always been a reader. I was one of those kids who read the encyclopedia while eating Captain Crunch for breakfast. But I grew frustrated with Amazon and Goodreads and the like, who kept recommending me books that I had no interest in, but forgot to tell me when my favorite authors released new books. I am a technologist as well as a reader, so I decided to build something better.

I especially love the music playlist section you can add for specific books. Are you a music lover? Any specific background there?

I don’t think I could exist without music, and I am very omnivorous about musicI love Jazz, hard rock, classical, bluegrass, indiealmost anything. I do play the guitar (badly), but reading and music have always been together for me. Just as book discovery is hard, music discovery is hard too. Seeing what music people pair up with books is an interesting way to find new music, and add enjoyment to reading too! Your readers can see books with playlists here.

So, you live in Hawaiitotally jealous! What’s something we wouldn’t expect to hear about living out there?

Well, it’s hard to complain. But it’s expensive. A gallon of milk costs $8! And there’s scorpions! I found one in my sink a few days ago. Yikes!

I see you’ve started an in-person book and cocktail meetup (jealous, once again). Tell us about that.

Together with Hawaii-based author Stuart H. Coleman (who wrote Eddie Would Go and other books), we created Books & Spirits. We bring in authors who have local relevance, and get a local mixologist to create a custom cocktail for the event. We’re trying to get more people reading and help promote great books. Ultimately it’s about building community around books and reading. So far it’s only in Hawaii but we have hopes to bring it other cities as well.

How can authors best use your sitetips and tricks?

Authors can create an author account on The Hawaii Project. We’ll create a page for you and your books (for example here’s Alexia’s page). We add your blog to our index of book-oriented blogs, and readers who “follow” you on The Hawaii Project will be notified when you post.

Anything else you’d like to share?

Our basic service is free, and you can sign up here: The Hawaii Project. You can save 25 books and follow 10 authors, and get all the recommendations you want. There are premium accounts for people who want more. Those have a unique “pay what you think it’s worth” annual subscription (you decide), and we donate 10% of our revenue to 3 literacy oriented non-profits, because we believe Books Change Lives.

Hope you enjoyed our interview swap! I love so many things about this website - and donating to charity is awesome! Authors, if you don't have an account, Mark can get you set up (it's free!). And check out my rad playlist for Martinis with the Devil on my page over there :)


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Finding Time to Write

Hi, friends! It's IWSG time - Insecure Writers Support Group, headed up by Alex Cavanaugh. Check out the other blog hoppers here.

This month's question is: How do you find the time to write in your busy day?

I work full time and so I write in the evenings. If I'm writing a first draft, I set an overall goal for a completion date, and then break that down into a daily word count goal. That might typically be 750-1000 words a day, which is about an hour/hour and a half typically. 

However, at times I've found that counting words stresses me out, so sometimes I'll hide the word count and just write each day until I feel "done". This could be 300 painfully pulled out words or 2,500 written fast and furious because I was really on a roll.

To me, the important part is just to set parameters - a word count, a length of time (30 minutes a day, etc.) and stick to it. Otherwise our lives get in the way and it's too easy for weeks and then months to go by without writing. 

How about you guys? Everyone is different. What works best for you?

As far as my anxieties for the month... just have the third Zyan Star book coming out on the 16th, and the usual worry about sales and whatnot. It's my third book launch this year, so it's been intense!

Hope everyone is doing well! TTFN!

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Greatest Mistakes, Successes and Gnocchi!

Hi guys,

I'm over at Erica and Christy's blog talking about Zyan Star (naturally), my greatest mistake, greatest success, something other things, and most importantly, my gnocchi recipe!!

Pop over and say hi!


Sunday, August 7, 2016

One Year Self-Pubiversary - What I've Learned

At the beginning of 2015 I decided that it would be the year my writing career moved forward, one way or the other. It would be my seventh year of writing with the aim to be published, not counting all the stuff I wrote in my teens thinking I could publish (ha!). So, on August 7th, 2015 I released Black Magic and Mojitos, the prequel novelette to the Zyan Star series. Ironically enough, I signed with my agent two weeks later for a different series.

Initially self-pubbing was exciting, and then fairly disappointing with little sales coming in, and then things caught on and it's been exponentially growing in a short period of time. I sold 1,800 books in the month of July, with another 1,000 or so downloaded in a free promo. Black Magic and Mojitos is on the top 100 bestseller list for sci-fi fantasy short reads most of the time, and Martinis with the Devil hit #5 in Paranormal Romance with angels a few weeks ago. I've been having SO much fun, and I wanted to share what I've learned. Caveat: each person's path is different, so what worked for me may not work for you. I don't particularly care for most of those writing and publishing posts that insist on one and only one way to do something. So, use what resonates with you, don't worry about the rest. Here we go!

1) Have a good book.

Before you roll your eyes, let me elaborate, and provide a caveat. Caveat first: if you love writing, and you want to share your writing no matter what, I think anyone has the right to express themselves artistically and creatively. Don't let anyone stop you. Now, taking that one step further, if you are wanting to self-pub with the aim of making some money, or breaking into the market, I think some things should be considered. If you write your first book and try querying for six months and want to self-pub just because querying sucks man, and all those agents are idiots, well... I'm going to venture that probably (not definitely, but probably) your book is not ready, and you are probably not going to like the publishing world in general. Self-pubbing doesn't avoid the haters, trust me. If you slap something up on the net you're likely to get bad reviews that hurt a lot worse than those form rejections from agents. Because EVERYONE gets bad reviews. And you have to be able to roll with the punches.

The reason I chose the Zyan Star series to self-pub was because I'd gotten a lot of agent interest, with many saying that they loved it and the writing was good, but urban fantasy was too hard a sell right now. Too hard a sell for the traditional market, that is. I had also gotten overwhelmingly positive feedback from numerous entries in contests like Write Club, where your entry is anonymous. So, point being, get feedback from lots of people, not just the ones that are going to be nice to you.

2) Have an amazing cover.

It's true, guys. We ALL judge books by their covers. And if you self-pub, you don't want anyone to be able to tell by looking at the cover that you self-pub. Covers help sell books. If I see a crappy book cover I wonder how serious the writer is about their writing, and wonder at the quality of the book itself. Does that make me an asshole? Possibly. But I can tell you, I'm not the only asshole out there. Don't shoot yourself in the foot at the onset. Make a stunning first impression.

And P.S. this doesn't mean spending a ton. My guy (the amazingly talented God of cover design, Steven Novak, Novak Illustration) charges less than a hundred dollars for an e-book cover.

3) Pay attention to the self-pub authors that are making it.

When I ventured into this, I contacted RaShelle Workman, a self-pub author with over a million e-books sold. That's a LOT of books. She makes her living writing full-time. Total rockstar.

I contacted her first about her cover artist (she referred me to Steven). I later asked her about marketing tips (see below). And I lot of it I learned by observation. For instance, if you look at her and some of these other baller self-pub authors, they have at least the first book in the series priced at 99 cents, and sometimes several of them (or all). I'm actually going to use that to segway into my next point...

4) Price your book at 99 cents.

Those of you familiar with Amazon will know that if you price your book between $2.99 and $9.99, you get 2/3 of the profit, whereas if you are above or below that bracket, you only get 1/3. Thus, I see a ton of books out there from brand new authors priced at $2.99. Personally, I am not going to spend $2.99 on the first book from an author I don't know. I'm cheap, yes. But kind of like the asshole comment above, so are many, many other people. We live in a world where jerks buy e-books, read them, and then return them for a refund (which I think is totally awful BTW). Again, don't shoot yourself in the foot. Make it EASY for people to take that chance on you, as a no-name author. See above about the rockstar ballers charging 99 cents. They have made hundreds of thousands of dollars on their e-books. If it works for them, it could work for you. There's a lot of debate about this: if you pick 99 cents you don't have worth in yourself as an indie writer, etc., etc. That's not what it's about. It's about building an audience. I'd rather get my books in readers' hands.

5) Have a series.

I mentioned at the beginning that after some initial excitement releasing Black Magic and Mojitos, the sales dropped off. I was bummed, obviously. So I contacted RaShelle and asked her what her marketing ideas were. She took the time to look up my book (have I mentioned she's a super nice rockstar baller?) and said that with only one book out there and nothing else for readers to buy, I had lost momentum. She said her most important suggestion to anyone was to have a series with at least five books, and release the first half of the series in close succession. She suggested every few weeks.

With the Zyan Star series, I had initially planned to release Martinis with the Devil shortly after Mojitos came out, but then I signed with my agent and she wanted me to wait. After a few months of being on sub, we came to a compromise, which was that I could release the Zyan series with the books being cut in half, so they technically weren't novel length (this was just trying to preserve my debut status, that weird publishing world virginity thing). Within a few weeks of releasing Martinis parts one and two, sales started to grow rapidly. And that brought in a new influx of sales for Mojitos. A couple months later I released Whiskey and Angelfire parts one and two, and the same thing happened. So, so far RaShelle's advice is spot-on. I also think part of it is that having multiple books out just makes you look like a more serious writer. And a series lends itself to branding yourself and building a set of fans potentially more than individual books do.

6) You don't have to pay for expensive ads (or at least proceed with caution).

I'm going to start this one with a BIG caveat. I have known other authors that have seen spikes in sales from paid ads. I personally have had zero luck with them. Since I have a full-time job outside of writing, I luckily had money to spend several hundred dollars on ads. I got an expensive Goodreads ad and a blog tour, and lots of other supposedly life-altering social media promos. None of them did much, at least nothing noticeable. One problem with a lot of these services (blog tours, newsletters, etc.) is that your audience is other writers. While writers are certainly readers, it's not the same as tapping into a pool of readers that are ready to spend money on books. Since us writers usually have lots of writer friends we like to support, and because we're more picky about writing, we tend to be a little more stingy about buying from new authors we don't know.

7) Make sure you have a stellar hook and strong search keywords.

Just like with querying, you want the brief description of your book on Amazon, Smashwords, iTunes, etc. to really sing. It should be extremely compelling. Again, look at the successful self-pub big dogs and see what they have in their descriptions.

Also, keyword combos are important. Amazon lets you have up to seven. I made one of mine '99 cents' and one of mine 'urban fantasy' and now when you search under '99 cents urban fantasy', my Zyan books are usually four of the top five results.

8) You might enjoy self-pubbing more if you're a control freak and workaholic.

A lot of people ask me if self-pubbing is hard, because you not only have to write the book, you have to arrange editing, formatting, cover design, marketing, etc. I would say the first trip through was somewhat daunting, but after that it's been easy. I have a checklist for e-book formatting - that's the one really tedious part. But now it only takes me a few hours since I've done it a few times. I am ALL about the checklists - I have a very Type A side to my personality that lives opposite the creative side.

I also like to stay busy, and love being able to control all the different aspects of my book. When I do land a traditional pub contract, relinquishing control will definitely be something I'll have to adapt to. The last year has made me realize that I definitely want to be a hybrid author. I want to have some traditionally published works, but I think I'll always continue to release some of them myself.

9) Have fun.

In closing...make sure to have fun. If you're controlling your own destiny, enjoy yourself, eh? We're all just a work in progress as humans and as writers. My sales go up and down still, and I worry that somehow it's all going to vanish. But it's not. Because this isn't a static point, it's a step in the journey. Keep writing, keep having fun. Do it because you love it, whether or not you want to make a career out of it. Celebrate the small things and the big things.

And speaking of that, I am raising a glass to myself for an epic first year of self-pubbing and self-discovery, and to you if you read this far down in the post! TTFN, friends!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Gargoyles and Soul Thieves - An Interview Swap with Rebecca Chastain!

Hi, guys! A few weeks ago, I got an email from a fellow urban fantasy author asking if I wanted to do an interview swap. I love stuff like that, so I jumped on board right away. Rebecca and I have chatted quite a bit since then, and she's super cool and so are her books! Gargoyles and elemental magic are the feature of her latest series. Oh, and she's an Amazon bestseller, so that's rad. Are you ready? Rebecca's answers below, and my answers about the Zyan Star series over on her blog!

She looks badass, right?!

Me: Gargoyles and elementals together? Yes, please. What else can you tell me about your Gargoyle Guardian Chronicles series?

Rebecca: If you took the United States in the early 1900s, added in a population who can all wield varying levels of earth, water, air, fire, and wood elemental magic, and topped it off with multifarious mythical creatures, you’d have the world of the Gargoyle Guardian Chronicles. Within this magic-saturated setting, I built my story around an ordinary woman, because I’ve always felt that no matter how fantastical the world, the best stories involve relatable characters making tough decisions.

Mika is a midlevel earth elemental who has worked a lot of late nights as a freelancer to hone her skills with delicate quartz projects. Her goal is to leave her dead-end quarry job and open her own artisan shop. Unfortunately, her carefully constructed five-year plan—and years of hard work—are jeopardized when a baby gargoyle bursts into her studio and begs for her help on a desperate mission.

As you can probably guess, she can’t say no to a baby gargoyle. Could you?

When you built the world for Magic of the Gargoyles, how did you start?

I start every story by opening up a fresh Word document and typing everything that comes to mind in a non-stop brainstorming session. A lot of…we’ll call it “fluff” comes out in these session, but there’s nothing like that moment when a spark of an idea ignites into an entire story. With Magic, it was baby gargoyles. The moment I pictured a housecat-sized gargoyle, I knew I had to write the story. After that, I researched quartz and mythical creatures, but mostly I focused on building a magical world that would be fun to romp around in for a few novels.

If you could manifest the magical traits of one of your characters, what would it be?

Mika’s elemental abilities, definitely. She can alter the structure of quartz with her magic, shaping it into incredible masterpieces. Plus, she’s the one that gets to help baby gargoyles…

Have you ever traveled (or have plans to) in the name of research, and where?

I don’t know if this counts, but my Madison Fox series is set in my hometown. In essence, every errand run around town could be construed as research.

What are your reading habits these days? Do you have rules about what you read while you’re writing?

I do have rules! While writing the Gargoyle Guardian Chronicles, I refused to read anything with gargoyles in it. In general, I try not to read anything in the genre I’m writing, and when I’m deep into a writing project, I often skip fiction entirely and focus on nonfiction. I have an idea for an alternate history fantasy that may or may not ever happen, so for the last two years, I’ve been reading tons about the world around 1492. I’m now a font of weird facts. For instance, did you know there were no earthworms in the United States before colonists started carting in soil from England? They’d been killed off in an earlier ice age, and those in warmer climates farther south had never burrowed back up this way. 

And here's a synopsis of Magic of the Gargoyles:

To help a baby gargoyle, Mika will risk everything.

Mika Stillwater is a midlevel earth elemental with ambitions of becoming a quartz artisan, and her hard work is starting to get noticed. But when a panicked baby gargoyle bursts into her studio, insisting Mika is the only person she’ll trust with her desperate mission, Mika’s carefully constructed five-year plan is shattered.

Swept into the gritty criminal underworld of Terra Haven, Mika jeopardizes everything she’s work so hard for as she attempts to save the baby gargoyle from the machinations of a monster—and to stay alive…

From the imaginative mind of international bestselling fantasy author Rebecca Chastain, Magic of the Gargoyles is a spellbinding adventure set in a world full of elemental magic and adorable gargoyles that is sure to enchant young adult and adult readers alike.

Want to pick up a copy? (sure you do - 99 cents!)

Amazon, US                Amazon, everywhere

Rebecca's official bio:

Rebecca Chastain is the internationally bestselling author of the Madison Fox, Illuminant Enforcer series and the Gargoyle Guardian Chronicles, among others works. She has found seven four-leaf clovers to date, won a purebred Arabian horse in a drawing, and once tamed a blackbird for a day. Writing stories designed to amuse and entertain has been her passion since she was eleven years old. She lives in Northern California with her wonderful husband and three bossy cats.

Hit her up on the Internet!

Hope you all enjoyed our swap! If you want to check out my answers to the questions, hop on over to Rebecca's blog. TTFN!