Degree of Resistance has now been out for a shade over a week, and the bulk of my wonderful ARC readers have left reviews (thank you all, *mwah*). I have requests out to a slew of reviewers, advertising going on at various locations, and I’m in the process of getting my media pack out to various bloggers who are kind enough to host my stuff.
And so far … yeah, the sales are perhaps a touch disappointing. The folks who have read the book so far say it’s hella good (and these people have no reason to blow smoke up my ass. If I’d produced something crappy, they would’ve told me). So what that confirms is that my marketing plan is not optimal and I have to come up with a better method of getting Evie and Ben’s story out in front of readers who love smokin’ cyborg romance.
To that end, the lovely and talented Cecilia Tan (my first editor and now my cherished colleague) was kind enough to spend an hour on Skype with me on Thursday going over various battle plans and ways to promote DoR. Some of them, I must admit, had simply never occurred to me but seem obvious in retrospect (e.g. find ways to write blogs posts that will appeal to girl geek-slanted publications such as The Daily Dot and io9, since a significant proportion of my SFR-loving readers will be found there). Others will require careful use of SEO terms to boost exposure, creative use of graphics, or just plain throwing money at the problem. As I am a poor but honest writer who is still paying off the costs of Wild Wicked Weekend (Tl;dr I had a frigging ball and sold more books than last year) I’m hoping to keep this last method down to a minimum, at least until the end of the month. I still want to try submitting Empress of Storms to BookBub, but I need to save up for that as well, plus I have to wait until I’m past the 90 day limit on sales prices (since it was on sale along with Palace of Scoundrels in December, that should take effect later this month).
So goes the life of a modern hybrid author. Still the best job I’ve ever had, though.
Which has much less Darren McGavin than A Christmas Story, but bear with me. In the spirit of the year (and because all of us need a bit of a lift right now) I’m putting both Two Thrones books on sale for 99¢ until New Year’s Eve. So if you’re new to the joint kingdoms of Hellas and Ypres, this is the perfect chance to check them out.
Yeah I sort of screwed up last week by not posting because I had told myself to set up a post since I was going to be busy traveling to Ontario for the Evernight writers’ retreat … and promptly forgot to make the post. My bad. So in apology, have a longer teaser from my new MF fantasy romance Palace of Scoundrels (Two Thrones Book 2). This teaser features Lord Tomas Villiers, the Winter Wolf and protector of the northern border of Ypres, and his beloved Lady Sibeal de Clerq, who’s been engaged to someone else against her will. They’re hoping that King Matthias can do something about that; in the meantime, Sibeal is hiding with Tomas at his hunting lodge, and being in such close confines is making things … difficult.
Enjoy, and make sure to hit the list after the teaser to see other great Mid Week Teases!
Spring has sprung in the island kingdom of Hellas, but with no signs of an occupant for the royal nursery Queen Danaë is starting to worry about her own fertility. Her concerns aren’t helped by the arrival of the legendarily conniving Dowager Queen Atilia of Illium–or the woman’s handsome grandson Prince Marcus, on the run after being accused of poisoning his older brother.
In the neighboring kingdom of Ypres, Danaë’s royal husband Matthias is dealing with dangerous family politics and a wolfish duke who has kidnapped a young noblewoman for immoral purposes. Or has he? Can Matthias ward off the threat of civil war, outwit his relatives, and deal with a charming rival in his wife’s own palace?
And yet, in a wide, comfortable bed made up with the finest linen and softest blankets, he couldn’t get to sleep. Too comfortable, belike. I’d feel better if I bedded down in front of the fire.
Or out in the fields. Or anywhere other than this hunting lodge. Then again, where he truly wanted to sleep was his own bed in Wolf’s Den, with his legally wedded wife curled up in his arms and his men stationed on the battlements to repel any intruders. But that was looking more and more like an impossibility, if he insisted on Sibeal as his wife.
He’d known taking her from Riens was madness, but it was madness she had shared with him willingly. Her frustration and fear that her mother would force her to marry Clement Reynard served as a spur to grab her and ride hell for leather away from Lierdhe. She had assumed they were riding north for Kelles, but he knew it would be the first place the Lierdhe men at arms would look for him, assuming her maid was questioned and revealed who her mistress was meeting. Sibeal swore that the girl knew nothing, but Tomas wasn’t about to risk it.
Instead, they made for his family’s hunting lodge in the hills north of Mons. He had paused only long enough to send one of his men with a message to Kaarsen telling him to send servants and guards to the lodge. Afterwards they’d ridden through the night, only stopping to change horses at an inn with an attached stable. Poor Sibeal was almost falling out of her saddle with weariness by the time they reached the lush hill country and the lodge.
The first day, it was easy enough to forget that she was staying in the room across from his—they were both exhausted and sleep was far more demanding than anything else. The servants and men from Wolf’s Den arrived the next day. Tomas busied himself with dispersing the guards around the lodge while Sibeal declared herself fit for chatelaine duties and spent the afternoon planning meals and a cleaning schedule with the maid and cook.
As they settled into a routine, waiting for Kaarsen to approach the king and make his request for a visit, Tomas became more aware of Sibeal’s presence in the lodge. Traces of her scent hung in the hallway between their bedrooms, an enticing fragrance of rose and jasmine that seemed to emanate from her skin. He started listening for the sound of her voice, wanting to hear her discussing matters with the servants, or singing to herself as she found little tasks to do.
And every time she appeared, he had to fight the urge to sweep her into his arms, carry her off to his bedroom, strip the gown from her sweetly curved body and make love to her for the rest of the day. He knew full well she shared the same frustration, judging from the longing looks she would give him over a meal or across the great room.
But his beautiful little bride-to-be had the passionate nature of her people and kept discussing what she wanted in whispered little asides and hints. He had been forced to retire to his room more than once, there to shove his trousers down and take himself in hand, quickly stroking his aching cock. And always he imagined Sibeal naked and breathless underneath him, white fingers digging into his back, perspiration beading her beautiful face as she begged him for more.
Finally he would spurt over his fingers, the abrupt release of pressure in his balls followed by a momentary relief and a deep-seated discomfort that he refused to acknowledge as shame. Not so much that he was forced to relieve himself, he told himself, but that he was doing it so damned quickly, like a boy barely into manhood. I am Duke of Kelles, and I will show restraint, dammit.
Even if it killed him.
Finally, Kaarsen had sent word that King Matthias would be arriving for the requested visit. Instead of solving matters as Tomas had hoped, he made things even worse by admitting that he couldn’t order Lady de Clerq to lift that damned spell of barrenness. Knowing that Sibeal couldn’t get pregnant made her even more damnably desirable, ironic as it seemed. He could get up, go into her room, and spend the rest of the night learning how to make her moan his name, and there would be no wagging tongues after the birth of his heir. Except that he had promised the king that he wouldn’t take her virginity, and a Villiers’s word was adamantine.
A low rumble of thunder sounded overhead. The storm that had been threatening that afternoon was finally making an appearance. Good. Maybe it’ll soothe me enough so that I can sleep.
The sound of his chamber door creaking open was almost lost in another roll of thunder. Still, Tomas heard it and sat up, reaching for the dagger he always kept under his pillow. “Who’s there?” he demanded.
“It’s me,” a feminine voice whispered. “Did I wake you?”
Every muscle in his body went slack with relief. He peered at the shape revealed by a flash of lightning. “Sibeal? Sweetheart, what are you doing in here?”
“The lightning woke me up,” she said. He felt the mattress sink as she climbed in beside him. “Can I stay with you?”
“I—” And she was in his arms, snuggling close. By all the gods, how did she manage that so quickly? “Sibeal,” he said, trying to edge his lower body away from her so that she wouldn’t know he was naked under the covers, “this is improper. You need to go back to your own room.”
He could only see her outline in the dimness, but he imagined her smiling up at him, eyes sparkling with mischief. “But I don’t want to. It’s cold and drafty in there, and I’ll be warm in here with you.” Her small hand spread out on his chest. “You don’t want me to fall ill, do you?”
He captured her hand in his own. It felt soft and warm. “You’re dreadful at making excuses, do you know that?”
“I know.” He felt more than heard her sigh. “I wanted to know what it was like to lie in your arms one time. It may be the only opportunity I get.”
Despair and fury made his gut roil. “Don’t say that, sweetheart. It’s not over yet,” he said. “I won’t let you marry Reynard, I swear it.”
“If the king orders it, what will you do? Give up your dukedom and run away with me? You know you can’t do that—you owe it to your people to stay.” She laughed, the sound soft and sad. “And even if we did run away, I still wouldn’t be able to have children. And I want them so, Tomas.”
“I know.” He held her close, frustrated by his inability to protect her. “Let me go talk to your mother, explain how we both feel—”
She shook her head. “You didn’t see her when I told her I couldn’t marry Clement. It was as if every bit of love and light had gone out of her. She frightened me, Tomas. I don’t know what else she would have done to me if I’d stayed.”
Tomas kissed her temple. “I can’t lose you, sweetheart. I’ll make this right somehow.”
The warm body in his arms clutched him tight for a moment. “You may not be able to. And if you can’t, this may be the only night we have together.” She raised her head and lightning flashed outside, allowing him a split second to see the tear tracks on her face. “If I can’t spend the rest of my life with you, then give me this night with you. Let me have a memory I can treasure for the rest of my days.”
He fought the sudden, overwhelming urge to turn her onto her back and make fierce love to her. “Sibeal, I promised the king—”
“That you wouldn’t take my maidenhead, I know.” She touched his mouth, tracing his lips. “But there are other things we can do.”
He ground his teeth. Already he was starting to harden, and twisted further away to hide that fact. “I’m begging you, sweetheart, don’t do this to me. I can’t touch you and not want to … to take you.”
“You’ll have me,” she soothed. “We just can’t do that one thing. I won’t leave you aching, I promise.” Before he could stop her she’d shifted across him, straddling his naked thighs. The soft curls at the junction of her thighs brushed his heated flesh in the movement and he bit back a groan.
“Trust me,” she murmured, stretching forward to kiss him. With a sour thump, he realized that she was right, this might be the only night they had together if the king couldn’t help them. Gods damn me, but I need her too much.
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An amazing number of things have happened to me professionally in the last two weeks things that have reinforced my decision to switch genres and start writing the stuff I always wanted to write. I am deeply grateful for all of these wonderful opportunities, and I want to thank each and every one of you who read my work because you’re the reason why so many good things are happening right now. You people rock.
- May 8th I signed a contract with Me and the Muse Publishing to have Trickster translated and published in German.
- May 15th held three important career milestones for me:1) For the first time in my writing career I cracked the five figure mark in writing income.
2) I cracked the five figure mark for yearly writing income.
3) I made five figures (oh, screw it — $10,000) on one title. And yes, it was Empress of Storms.
- May 16th I signed a contract with Juno Publishing to have Empress of Storms translated and published in French.
- May 18th I signed a contract with photographer Javier Cortina to use a photograph of Colby Keller from Javier’s The Legend of St. George photo shoot as the cover for my fantasy historical M/M romance The Chevalier, coming out in August.
On the verge of turning 50, I feel like my life and career are truly on track, and I’m very excited to see what the next few years bring.
Or me, in other words. I love writing, love my books, ADORE my readers to bits, and I’m very glad that my income is going up every year. But it’s still not what I would call a living wage, and so I subsidize my writing income with my other love — making stuff. Usually jewelry, but that also includes knitted and crocheted items, character dolls, and pretty much anything else that comes together on my workbench.
That jewelry that I usually offer on release days and FB parties? The stuff from Belaurient Arts? Yeah, that’s mine, and rather proud of it I am, too. And to ward off any complaints of, “Why are you making jewelry or knitting stuff when you should be writing?” be aware that doing this other stuff is actually part of my writing practice because while I’m beading a necklace or wire wrapping a cabochon or knitting a shawl I’m also telling myself stories to keep myself entertained, which then gets used when I sit at the keyboard.
Anyway, where was I going with this? Oh, yeah — a few days ago a friend of mine sent me a large wodge of jewelry odds and ends from his late mother’s belongings. (I love it when people do that. So far I’ve have three friends say, “I’ve got a buttload of beads and stuff that I’ll never use — you want them?” Why, yes, yes I do, thank you very much.) This particular treasure trove delivered some adorably kitschy items, one graduated bead necklace that I think is jade (it passes most of the surface tests but I’ll need to do a density test for sure), some nice 70’s style vintage earrings, and a bunch of odds and ends that have been tucked away in my racks of jewelry bits for future use. I was really, REALLY happy when I found these silver filigree clip-on earrings. Their rhinestones were long gone, but luckily my favorite rock and gem store have a very nice selection of rhinestones and I was able to reset them with capri blue square stones that look fabulous against the silver.
The other set that I was very pleased with was a pair of horn Celtic knots. They’d been wired with dull goldish beads through the knotholes, but the wire was steel and didn’t go with the warm tones of the horn at all. So I cut those off, drilled four holes in each necklace for gold eye pins (let me take a moment to thank Dremel for their awesome products which make this jewelry designer’s life a lot easier), wired up six 6mm tiger’s eye beads with fancy head pins and gold spacer beads, added those to the eye pins, hung everything on gold French ear wires, et voila — awesome earrings for people who like Celtic or tribal jewelry, natural materials, tiger’s eye, or any combination thereof. These would be perfect for someone who goes to Burning Man, I suspect.
So after putting a bunch of new pretties up at the Etsy site, I was rewarded with two sales of a combined five items, the payment for which goes into my How Nicola Is Going To Pay For RT Fund. And I still have to put a sterling silver and 14K gold tree of life pendant and a really nifty blue and bronze beaded necklace up tomorrow, as well. And then figure out where I’m going to get the stuff I need for a density test. And work on Cross Current, of course.
Speaking of the HNIGTPFRT Fund, Empress of Storms racked up a total of $514 dollars as of this evening, and if the current pattern holds true I may make $1K on it by the end of its first quarter. Not too shabby for a self-pubbed book in a genre I’d never tackled before, eh? Now if I could only sell the movie rights to Peter Jackson…
Empress of Storms is officially in the black. As of today I’ve made $297.55, which pays off the production and promotion costs (which were $297.56, but I just made another sale according to Amazon so I figure that penny is covered).
And sales have been really picking up since December 5, as well — don’t know if that’s due to advertising, word of mouth, or what, but I’m damn grateful for it. According to Amazon, All Romance eBooks and Smashwords I’ve sold 204 units so far (won’t get reports from Smashwords’s associates for another quarter). The only way this could get any better would be if people left reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, etc. but that’s out of my hands (and it’s been a really busy month for a lot of people, too. Hopefully they’ll have more time in January).
Although I did get that five star review and top pick from Night Owl Reviews, bless them.
So yeah, 2015 is going out on a high note. Let’s see what 2016 has.
As of tonight, Breaker Zone is in the lead for Book of the Year at The TBR Pile (if you haven’t voted yet, there’s still time). For it to win 2015 Book of the Year would be utterly awesome, and I want to send a HUGE thank you to everyone who voted for it — you people rock so hard, you make AC/DC look like a garage band.
Now, switching gears: according to the three online vendors to which I have reporting access, Empress of Storms has earned back 100% of production costs and 95% of promotion costs (in less than two months, to boot). If I sell three copies tomorrow, it’s in the clear and everything after that goes into savings for RT in April.
So another thank you goes out to EVERYONE who’s bought a copy, left reviews, or asked me when the sequel is coming out (right now, that looks like summer 2016. I’m still noodling about the title, but remember that clever and dangerous prince from Illium that Flavia was pushing as a possible husband? He’s going to show up in Hellas with his sarcastic manservant and throw himself on Danaë’s mercy after one of his older brothers drops dead. Meanwhile, the Pauwels are continuing to make life difficult for Matthias, mainly by trying to get him to declare Luna as his heir since Danaë isn’t pregnant yet. And hijinks ensue!).
And of course I need to work on Cross Current (Olympic Cove 4), and there’s the Trickster sequel to finish, and I really want to do another story with Rory and Dmitri, and I wouldn’t mind doing a Bully Boys novel either.
But all that will happen in 2016. For now, you are all in the will, and I adore you to bitty pieces. MWAH!
The Good: The Evernight Readers’ Choice Awards were held on Saturday and Deep Water was first runner up in Best Menage category, while Breaker Zone was first runner up in the Best Erotic category. Thanks so much to everyone who voted for me — I truly appreciate each and every one of you!
The Bad: I seem to be in a moderately bad mood today and I don’t know why. It could just be that I have a metric buttload of cleaning to do around here before I can put up the Christmas decorations and for reasons that I don’t understand a family member is stating on FB that I won’t have anything up this week. Whatever.
The Croggling: I was looking for Empress of Storms reviews today and found one that, to be honest, had me o_0 at first, then laughing, then absurdly flattered. The reviewer, who is also a noted writer of SF and fantasy, had this to say about EoS:
“This book was so good-hearted I forgave it the things that bothered me, #1 of which was that I couldn’t tell if it was set in our world or a second world; all the names were definitely Greek and so were the cities, but the mythology was wrong and there was magic? But a political intrigue story with several twists in it, about a young queen affianced to an older king of another nation, and their relationship and how it affects their countries and their enemies. Definitely a fantasy novel, but the romance elements were strong; particularly, all the erotic scenes were explicit, and other than the first one (which establishes some important groundwork for the partnership) there’s no real plot reason for the rest of them. People who dislike explicit sex scenes for the point of explicit sex scenes will probably be annoyed.”
She then went on to review a MM contemporary romance, concluding with “Also explicit, but more pertinent to the plot (oddly enough) than the previous book, which wasn’t a romance.”
*goes back to check book notes*
*checks categories on Amazon, All Romance eBooks, and Smashwords*
*confirms that yup, I wrote a fantasy erotic romance*
I just read this to Ramón. He replied, “So let me get this straight. A member of SFWA read your book, which was an erotic romance with fantasy elements, and thought it was a fantasy novel with gratuitous sex. So essentially you wrote a romantic pastiche of high fantasy that worked so well it passes for actual high fantasy.”
Then he paused. “You realize this means it’s eligible for a Hugo.”
I think we scared the cats with our cackling.
*takes deep breath, lets it out through nose*
So yesterday I launched a rant about a certain site that was promoting illegal downloads of Empress of Storms. Pretty much everyone who read it and left a comment on social media sympathized with me, reassured me that a lot of pirate sites exist to get credit card information and thus karma would visit those who didn’t know how to use a library, and generally tried to make me feel better.
I appreciate them all. And I should admit that part of my rage was brought on by the fact that Ramón was laid off on October 31 and we are both scrambling for work and trying to figure out how we’ll be paying the December mortgage (Christmas isn’t even an option this year. Paying bills comes first). But the karma bit stuck in my head. See, I used to have a blog waaaaay back in 2001, long before WordPress or Blogger or even LiveJournal were on the scene. Had to hand-code each entry, change the previous entry so that it linked to the new one, and create/update the archive pages. You kids don’t know how lucky you are, with your social media crosslinking and your SEO tags. Now get off my lawn.
Anyhoo, since I knew that big block of uninterrupted text tended to turn readers off I had a habit of trolling the net for appropriate images, downloading them, and using them in my blog entries. I did not buy these. Back then, you didn’t even think twice about it. You found a picture on the net and you just used it. There was no question about reimbursing the artist who took the photograph or created the artwork. If it was on the net, it was free for use, QED.
So, if I am brutally honest with myself this may be karma doing a little bitchslapping of its own for using creative material that I didn’t pay for. And now that my blood pressure has settled, I do have to admit that having 612 downloads and 41 four- and five-star reviews is actually kind of flattering. At least 612 people liked my story enough to grab it from a torrent site and read it. 41 of them liked it enough to leave good reviews.
(I still wish they’d left those reviews on Amazon, but whatever.)
Seriously, though, if you can’t afford a copy and will frigging explode if you can’t read about Matthias and Danaë, don’t go through a torrent site. Email me and I will send you a copy for free. All I ask is that you leave a honest review somewhere, ideally Amazon but I’ll take Goodreads/B&N/iBooks/whatever. That way, karma blesses us both.