Author Interviews, Blog

Author Interview: Megan Lally, Psychological Thriller & Horror

Hi! I’m Megan Lally, I’m a young adult author who specializes in psychological thriller and horror— all the creepy things that go bump in the night. I’m represented by Mandy Hubbard, at ECLA, and we’re working on edits of my latest manuscript right now, actually. It’s a YA thriller about a girl who wakes up in a ditch, covered in blood with no idea who she is, only to be collected at the police station by her father and brought “home.” But it’s not home at all, and he’s definitely not her father.

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

Author:      I started writing in 2009? I think? Somewhere in there. My son was just born and someone gifted me the box set of Twilight for my first Mother’s Day and it was the first time I ever read YA fiction. After that, I started reading everything, and eventually I started picking apart characters and endings and wishing they’d done it differently, etc, until I eventually opened a fresh document and started writing a book of my own. It was terrible, haha, but I loved the process! I loved being creative in that way. And I just never stopped writing stories down. I’ve been writing for about 12 years now. Which makes me feel super old.

How long did it take you to finish your first book?

Author:      My first book probably took about a month, month and a half to draft. Haha. BUT, that’s because I knew nothing about writing a book, so it was 120k words of nonsensical word vomit. There was no plot, or character development, and the dialogue didn’t make any sense at all. People just wandered around being surprised about everything for 30 chapters.

I’ve found that the more I learned about writing the longer it took me to get the words down, because I’m constantly applying all that knowledge to every scene. So now it takes quite a bit longer to reach “The End.” If we’re talking about how long it took for me to finish the book that got me my agent, that’s closer to 5-6 months or so, and my latest book took closer to 8 months.

About Your Work

What type of content do you write and why? Fiction Novels? Poems? Songs? Screenplays? Short Stories? Epic?

Author:      All fiction, all the time. Couldn’t do a memoir, my life has been too boring. Haha. And I’m not made for short stories. They all end up being 40k words, because I’m long winded.

What genres and subgenres do you write in?

Author:      Thriller and horror mostly, though I do love to dabble with fantastical elements so I may try a horror fantasy combo in the future. I also have a long lasting love of historical/historical fantasy, so that may make an appearance some day too.

What is your author brand (genre, mood, image, theme, message, etc)? How did you decide on it?

Author:      This is still evolving a bit, as I work my way toward a debut, but I think my author brand is probably a collection of terrible, creepy things, happening to incredibly strong people. All things dark and terrifying, but with a twist of hope and a whole lot of spunk and sarcasm.

Name some common elements in your writing: villains, magic, red-herring twists, the unfortunate ensign, mysterious phenomena, asyndeton, sentence fragments etc.

Author:      I’m a big fan of red-herring twists, and almost every book I’ve ever written has had a thread of romance. Even in the midst of the creepy and terrifying, there’s always another connection there, and it’s kind of like a balance between the light and the dark, in a way. I’m also a huge fan of the em dash, snarky dialogue, and badass girls who overcome seemingly insurmountable odds.

What was your first goal when you started your journey to becoming an author? Has that changed?

Author:      My first goal probably goes back to me reading all those YA books and imagining them happening in different ways. There would always be books I’d read, and sigh, and hold tight, thinking, “I wouldn’t change a single thing about this one.” I wanted to be the one who wrote one of those for someone else to read and sigh and hold tightly with that same feeling. I still want that.

What do you want your readers to get out of your works?

Author:      That the darkness in the world doesn’t always win.

Which authors write similar books to yours? How did you find them?

Author:      Courtney Summers, Karen McManus, Kendare Blake, Barry Lyga, Maureen Johnson. I found most of them from the book store in the thriller/horror section, or on Goodreads. Also from recommendations from friends and fellow writers. LOVE them. Courtney Summers is like, my idol. I love her.

Have you always read in the genre you wanted to write in? Do you think that’s made it easier or harder to create new stories?

Author:      No, I started reading in romance and YA paranormal, and I actually started writing in that vein when I first started, before I discovered my love of creepy things and true crime. But I still read very widely. Romance, fantasy, science fiction, YA, MG, thrillers, contemporary, contemporary fantasy, urban fantasy, historical. They can all teach you different things.

I think it’s vastly important to know your genre really well and understand what kinds of tropes and trends are out there, but it’s equally important to read ALL the things. You can learn a lot from the types of books you write but being widely read will teach you things about world building, character development, romantic arcs, endings, twists, tension, opening pages, and prose that you can’t always get from reading the same types of books over and over.

What is your writing process, from idea to polished work? Pantster? Plotter? How long does that typically take you?

Author:      I’m a HUGE plotter. I can’t pants a book, it would give me anxiety. I can pants a chapter, sometimes? If I know what needs to be there, I don’t need all the details but I’m a tangent writer so if I tried to pants a whole novel I’d start off on chapter one, and end up writing a whole different book, and ghosts and dragons would show up in the middle, and it would be a mess. I need the structure of plotting to keep the story on track.

Typically I start with post-its. I’ll take my spark of a book idea and break it up into the major plot points I want to happen and I’ll write them all down on a separate post-it. Then arrange them in an order that makes sense on one of those foam presentation boards. Then I add more, to fill out the scenes in between. What starts out as 5 or 6 major plot twists, will turn into 30 or 40 scenes, all sketched out on the tiny squares. Then I group them into chapters. After that, I transfer all that information to a word document, broken up chapter by chapter in bullet points. Then I add more details, and sometimes snippets of information and dialogue. My outlines are typically about 5-10k words long. Sometimes longer. Once it feels like it has enough detail, I start with a fresh document and I start writing.

Where do you network most with other writers, authors, and creative types? LinkedIn? Wattpad? Twitter? Facebook? Somewhere else?

Author:      Twitter and Instagram mostly.

Do you sprint-write like a starving cheetah, or are you a totally chill turtle writer? Somewhere in between?

Author:      I sprint. A lot. I typically procrastinate with a lot of my writing time, and then I’ll get really into it and fast draft like a whole chapter in a couple hours, and then I need a nap. Haha. My creative energy has always come in bursts. I’ll never be a writer who can sit down and stay on task for 8 hours a day, but when the burst hits, I can draft quite a bit in a short amount of time, so I guess it all balances out?

Struggles

What has been the hardest thing to overcome on your journey to authorship?

Author:      The self-doubt. 100% the hardest, though I don’t think I’m alone there. Self-doubt is the enemy of so so many authors because being creative is hard! It takes such a long time to not only learn how to do this writing thing, but then to trust that we know what we’re doing. Every time I start a new book I somehow convince myself I’ve forgotten how to write, when the reality is, I’ve just been in editing mode on a much more polished draft, and a fresh manuscript and all it’s flaws is a very different beast.

Struggling with something doesn’t mean you’re incapable, or bad at it. Writing is hard, revising is hard, querying is hard, going out on sub is hard, and you can struggle through all of those things and still be damn good at what you do. That’s been the hardest to learn and internalize.

How has the writing and querying or publishing process affected you emotionally? Do you have any tips for budding writers?

Author:      It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster. A lot of excitement, a lot of waiting, and a lot of anxiety. Haha. It’s just really hard to take this thing you’ve poured your heart into and fling it out into the world for other people to read and have opinions about. I was a mess when I went out on sub for the first time, but it’s a whole process of growing that thick skin that authors need so badly.

So my advice is to remember that not everyone is going to like your books. Some people may hate them, and that’s fine. I’ve read some hugely popular books that I didn’t like either. Personal taste is a real thing, and it’s real when you’re querying, it’s real when you’re on sub with editors, and it’s real as a reader. It’s been a long process to learn how to not take that personally and step back enough to ask myself “Am I happy with what I made here?” and let that be enough, ups and downs be damned. Write for yourself. Write books that you love, and there will always be someone out there who will love it too.

Do you have any tips or recommendations for those who want to go the final step and become authors?

Author:      Grow that thick skin. Don’t shy away from feedback, every “problem” pointed out is an opportunity to make your book even better. Get yourself some quality critique partners, and swap pages. Get used to taking good and bad notes with stride. Learn the market. Read widely, and read critically— seeing how authors pull off difficult scenes, how they describe things in that “wow, I can really see this” way, how they engage you with the dialogue, how they keep the tension. Learn everything you can from the authors you love the most, and it’ll all morph together in your own writing style. And most importantly, keep going. Even when it’s hard— because it will be hard— don’t give up on yourself.

How do you combat writer’s block?

Author:      I try to write my way through it. Usually writer’s block is brought on by a sense that you’ve lost your way a bit in your story, so I’ll take a look at my outline again, and the scenes that came before I got stuck, as well as what I had planned for the next scenes. And then I’ll set a minimum amount of writing time a day (typically around 30 minutes) where I tinker with those scenes until something lights that bulb and I find my way through the problem. Talking things out with critique partners is also immensely helpful. If you look at “writers block” more as “I am lost” it becomes a mission to find your way back, rather than a wall you can’t break through.

Fun Stuff

What do you listen to while you write?

Author:      All the things. I have about a hundred Spotify playlists for various projects. I’m a big fan of writing to music with lyrics, which I know a lot of people hate doing, but I also have a bunch of classical lists, or ambient noise for when I’m struggling to focus. I love making playlists for fight scenes or kissing scenes, or super scary scenes (there are a ton of classic songs that have been slowed down and remade to sound SUPER creepy and I’m totally here for all of them.) The music is a big part of my writing process.

Is there a fun word or group of terms you like to put into your writing?

Author:      Not a specific word every time, but one of my best friends challenges me to throw random words into each manuscript. This latest one was “eggplant.” Haha.

Where do you write your stories? A tiny office? A loft? The kitchen table? In the bushes while you secretly people-watch like a total creeper? Or a warm café with mocha in hand and feet up on an ottoman?

Author:      Tiny office, for sure. My house is pretty old (1930’s) so I think it used to be like a micro bedroom or something, but it’s mostly just a desk, a loveseat, and piles of books everywhere. I also have a whiteboard on the wall for drafting or revision notes, and a big board hung up for my post-it plotting. It doubles as a guest room when we have company. But there’s a really cute coffee shop a couple blocks from my house that I love to write in too. It’s all bricks and mismatched furniture. They make an amazing lavender latte.

What is your favorite literary trope?

Author:      I’m a sucker for a good love triangle, and enemies to lovers!

What is your favorite writing snack and drink?

Author:      Coconut covered cashews from Trader Joes, and lavender lattes!

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Author:     “The first draft doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to exist.”

Or possibly, “Don’t compare published books to your first draft. Published books have been revised a hundred times, and you’re on draft 0, that’s not fair.”

Both have been immensely helpful to me, in really seeing how unfair the expectations I put on myself are sometimes. A first draft will NEVER be perfect, it’s just not going to happen. So if it’s a little messy and filled with notes and problems, that’s fine. That’s what revisions are for. But I can’t revise what doesn’t exist. And it can’t exist at all if I expect it to be as perfect as a twelve times polished published novel. That’s like cracking an egg into a bowl and wondering why it doesn’t look like the quiche I saw on Instagram.

I’m on Twitter! @Megan_Lally

And Instagram! @Megan_Lally_

Blog, Book Reviews, Steamy Romance Blog

Book Review: Falling Through the Weaving by Leia Talon

A fantastical romance where music is magic and the future can go any one of a million directions…

This book is sweet and steamy with a dreamy vibe that will suck you in. Talon is a master of eloquent narration and has tied together a blend of subgenres in a way that makes them feel like they belong together.

Like cowboys? How about Scottish Lords? Maybe you prefer Norsemen. Dragons? How about mages? Blend Outlander and Game of Thrones with a few cowboys and gods and you’ll almost capture the essence. Falling Through the Weaving has something for every romance reader.

Shelta is a relatable character put in an extraordinary life situation. Talon keeps the mystery of Shelta’s teleportations going until the very end. The tension eats at you, making you have to turn the page to see what Shelta will have to survive next. She is forgiving, full of love, a talented musician, and not afraid to wield a sword or live each day to the fullest. She accepts the challenge of being thrown through life at a whim and never lets it deter her from living in the present. It is inspiring to watch Shelta fight her way through an unpredictable journey in search of family, love, stability, and dragons.

This romance is like nothing I have ever read. The concept of the soul across dimensions and timelines in Falling Through the Weaving is magnificent and shows just how powerful love is—that it can transcend the human spirit.

I’ve had the luck and pleasure of reading book 2. If you read Falling Through the Weaving and enjoy it, you’re going to love Dragons in the Weaving. You can see all the World Tree Chronicles here: My Books – Leia Talon Books

Home – Leia Talon Books: https://leiatalon.com

Leia Talon ✨ (@LeiaTalon) / Twitter https://twitter.com/LeiaTalon

Also check out this phenomenal book of poetry:

Blog

Zedger’s Book Cover Animation

I want to give a special shout out and say thanks to Morgan Wright for animating Zedger’s cover. She is a stellar book cover animator and person. She’s also working on her own books and stories. (See more below)

I’m working on a short story prequel to the Hybrid Genesis series that will be out late this spring. It’s a dystopian cyberpunk novelette that follows main character, Marci, as she travels to the last known city of Tellurians, buried in the red zones. She’s searching for biotech parts to replenish her supply so she can continue to care for the soldiers dumped and left to die in her northern area of the Free Territories of Zion. It will be a permafree book available on this website when it’s ready.

Zedger: Edge of Zion (Book 1 of Hybrid Genesis)

They haven’t had a Crisper in months. When a man’s body is dumped in the basalt flow south of Marci’s mountain cabin, she knows something is off. Stealth vehicles patrol the area, preventing her from rescuing the newest victim of the Disconnect. Unless she wants to risk exposure.

In a post-war, irradiated, future Earth, Marci is the only one of the test subjects strong enough to escape the experiments of Project Zedger—the Astrals’ bioenhanced military designed to protect what’s left of humanity in the Free Territories of Zion. The six High cities that remain create all law and order, enforcing it upon the wildlands at the cost of all others. Zedger soldiers are their main weapons: mutated, spliced, and cybernetically restructured to do the most damage, without objection.

The Genesis hub controls everyone. Marci knows she must take it out if she is to free her people. But this Crisper is different. He was sent to her with a message. When Operational Cybernetic Corps Snipes come after them, Marci knows her time is up.
Zedger must fall.

Zedger’s Animated Cover:

It feels like I’m right there with Marci in the conditioning tank, getting Cerithymite injections…

Morgan gave me three animations to pick from which is just wonderful.


About Morgan Wright: the amazing animator behind the bubbles and flashing light:
On March 31, 2021, Morgan Wright is releasing a dark fantasy short story: When Black Roses Bleed.

Short Stories | Morgan Wright (morganwrightbooks.com)

If you’d like to have your book cover animated by her you can find her:

Website: Book Cover Animation Service | Morgan Wright (morganwrightbooks.com)

Twitter @byMorganWright

Facebook @byMorganWright

Goodreads “By Morgan Wright”

Author Interviews, Blog, Sci-Fi Fantasy Blog

Author Interview: Erin Simpson, YA Science Fiction Fantasy

  Erin is currently on submission with The Blood Farm and working on a new book called The Blinder.

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

Author:      Like many writers, I’ve been interested in stories since childhood, but I started “seriously” writing about eight years ago

How long did it take you to finish your first book?

Author:      My first completed manuscript, a Tower of Babel retelling, took several years (I’ve lost count of how many) but I never queried it. My second novel, The Blood Farm, took three years from conception to when I signed with my agent.

Are you indie, traditional, hybrid, or vanity, and why?

Author:      Traditional, all the way. I’m not gifted in the areas of graphic design or marketing; I would so much rather leave those projects to people better equipped to handle them and focus on the areas I am gifted in: writing.

How did you determine your target audience?

Author:      I write the kind of books I like to read and, for me, that means YA. Because I spend so much time in that age category, I think my writing naturally takes on the characteristics of that group.

What is your publishing process?

Author:      Because I have my eye trained on trad pub, I’m pretty much forced to follow the basic model: querying, submission, acquisitions, print.

How do you get critiques, betas, feedback, and edits?

Author:      I’ve been very fortunate to have found several wonderful critique partners by putting out calls on social media. Twitter, in particular, has a very vibrant #Writing Community filled with thousands of writers looking to connect. Sometimes it takes a while to find people who truly connect with you and your work, but when you find them, it’s magic.

After I’ve completed a manuscript and put it through rough edits, I send it out in batches of 2-3 readers at a time. I would strongly recommend multiple readers to anyone relying on beta feedback as it helps identify areas that are “issues” as opposed to what might be personal preference. As a rule, if more than one reader comments on something, I take an extra look at it.

With edits, each batch takes about a month. After two or three editing rounds, I send it on to my agent, who responds with her own list of edit suggestions.

Marketing

Do you have a platform? What does it consist of?

Author:      As an unpublished writer, I’m still working to develop my platform. Currently, I maintain a twitter account (@Ekaylasimpson) and an author website (eksimpson.com)

Struggles

What has been the hardest thing to overcome on your journey to authorship?

Author:      I think it’s very difficult to be objective about your own writing. You develop such an emotional attachment to what you’re writing that sometimes you’d blind to the problems within it or, vice-versa, overly harsh. This is why having beta readers is so important.

How has the writing and querying or publishing process affected you emotionally? Do you have any tips for budding writers?

Author:      The first time I submitted a story for critique I was emotionally unprepared for the feedback. Whether it’s a critique group, a literary agent, or an editor, you really have to develop a thick skin.

If you could do it all over again, what would you change?

Author:      I would have written more when I was younger. Plenty of writers put out books while juggling day jobs and families, but I regret all the free time I had in my early twenties that could have been used to hone the craft.

How do you keep yourself motivated?

Author:      Accountability partners. Having someone check in just to ask how things are going makes a huge difference.

How do you combat writer’s block?

Author:      Sometimes it’s about being patient. So often writers want to “push through” by sheer force of will and, while that can work, other times you need to give yourself time to consider the story from different angles.

What assumptions about writers and authors do you think are myths?

Author:      So many non-writers don’t realize how difficult it is to actually write a book. It’s one of those things that look straightforward on the surface, but only because you don’t see all the layers that are built up underneath; it’s those layers that make an engaging story.

Fun Stuff

What do you listen to while you write?

Author:      It depends on the story. The playlist for my current WIP is a mixture of Norwegian folk songs and Imagine Dragons.

Where do you write your stories? A tiny office? A loft? The kitchen table? In the bushes while you secretly people-watch like a total creeper? Or a warm café with mocha in hand and feet up on an ottoman?

Author:      Sitting in bed is my favorite place (we live in the country and there are windows on three walls so the views are fantastic) but we have three kids so more often than not I’m writing at the kitchen table or in the car while I wait for someone to finish piano lessons.

What book are you reading at the moment?

Author:      Sawkill Girls and The Ghost Bride

What is your favorite literary trope?

Author:      I love a good enemies-to-lovers plotline but I haven’t had the opportunity to use it myself.

How do you try to “break the mold” and be unique?

Author:      I read a lot of book blurbs and I’ve found there are a surprising number that have basically the same plot (oppressed magical people fight to overthrow non-magical ruling class etc). I’ve found that focusing in on day-to-day activities not only opens up unique stories (maybe the main character doesn’t care about overthrowing the government, she just wants to open a magical bakery), but makes character struggles more relatable. Not everyone wants to upend the monarchy, after all.

What have you learned about yourself from the writing and/or authorship process?

Author:      I’m a terrible procrastinator

What is your favorite writing snack and drink?

Author:      Coffee

Do you have a writing companion?

Author:    Usually at least one child, asking for a snack

Author Interviews, Blog, Sci-Fi Fantasy Blog

Author Interview: Milan Oodiah, Fantasy

My name is Milan and I write fantasy. I’m currently getting ready to query End of Oblivion, a story full of magic, spaceships, and confrontations with inner demons. Currently I’m trying to find the time to bring another idea to life called And Her Name Is Fury, where Fury has a kill list and the otherworldly wrath needed to cross out every name on her kill list.

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

Author:     I started some time when I was teenager, the exact starting point is a blur but I remember trying to write some really edgy dark stuff until I kinda grew out of it. Then I wrote my first full-length book. Mostly because I was bored. I loved a lot of things but really wanted to make something that would be wholly my own. Over time though the reasons for writing changed, but in the beginning I just wanted to do something new and different.

How long did it take you to finish your first book?

Author:      The very first one that I wrote when I was a teenager took about twenty months. I can’t recall the exact details but I think it took me about a year to draft and eight months to edit. It was a book my parents self-published so it was quite an experience to go through as a kid.

Are you indie, traditional, hybrid, or vanity, and why?

Author:     After that publication when I was a teenager, I kind of drew a line in the sand. Now I’m fully pursuing a traditional publishing path. I want to focus as much as possible on the writing. I know that I’ll inevitably need to deal with promo and other things but relatively speaking there’s more time spent on purely writing when going through the traditional route – at least that’s what it seems like.

How did you determine your target audience?

Author:      I didn’t. I started writing for myself and I’m still writing for myself. My reasons for writing shifted as I grew up and now, I write for myself and people like me. I think growing up allowed me to just break the pedestals of varying heights I put others and myself on. Everyone’s broken in one way or another, for one reason or another, and that’s who I write for.

How do you get critiques, betas, feedback, and edits?

Author:      I used twitter #’s to find CPs (Hi :D) and probably will in the future too. What I’ve started doing more recently is spending a lot of time on a writing discord. It’s super useful to have this dedicated space where you can find likeminded people in one place. One thing that makes me improve significantly faster is being able to edit other people’s work – which is nice because then I get to help someone else too.

Marketing

How do you define success as an author?

Author:      The thing that gets me is having a community. Seeing things like fan art or people getting to know each other through the fiction they love. Making an impact is how I gauge success. Impact leads to the rest.

About Your Work

What type of content do you write and why? Fiction Novels? Poems? Songs? Screenplays? Short Stories? Epic?

Author:      I focus on novels but for End of Oblivion I created a massive world full of possibilities and oddities and so to show all it has to offer I also write short stories. I also really love my ‘side’ characters and there’s just not enough pages in the books to give their full backstory and they’re actually all really cool so they have their own little short story series. Most of them are in outlines right now but some day I’ll finally have the time to write them all down.

Name some common elements in your writing: villains, magic, red-herring twists, the unfortunate ensign, mysterious phenomena, asyndeton, sentence fragments etc.

Author:      I have no idea why, but a recurring theme seems to be weird sad boys and angry resilient girls. I have a deep, deep love for Final Fantasy so crystals and summonable creatures, and non-traditional fantasy settings are my favorite. I want to create stories that push far beyond that classic medieval European setting.

What was your first goal when you started your journey to becoming an author? Has that changed?

Author:      I didn’t have a goal when I started really. It’s been a messy complicated journey and though I did start writing when I was a teenager, I put in the work towards becoming an author only in the last five years. There is no single reason for that really. The selfish reason is that I want to rise above leading a ‘normal’ life. I want something different and interesting and to leave a mark. The less-selfish reason, one that I think keeps me going when all other things seem to collapse is that I want to be a tiny little piece of that chorus of voices that help people along their way. Books, stories, art, music, all of those things have made rough patches in my life significantly easier to navigate. Being able to give back, to provide a little bit of relief, some modicum of solace for someone else is the thing that keeps me going through my own tough times.

What do you want your readers to get out of your works?

Author:      I started watching My Hero Academia after I had done most of the work on End of Oblivion. That show, that fucking show, gave me such immense boosts in serotonin that I can only hope to replicate. I write every moment that’s meant to blow people away with its soundtrack playing. I want my readers to have that same unmitigated boost in energy and hype that My Hero Academia gives me.

Struggles

What has been the hardest thing to overcome on your journey to authorship?

Author:      When I started following a writer I really loved on Twitter, she made it clear how much work and how much time it took to become an author. How uncertain and how fickle the industry can be. It took some time to digest. It was a hard thing to really understand, given the goals I’m pushing for, but once I internalized what she said and I felt even more determined, it was the sign I needed to know I could do it.

What assumptions about writers and authors do you think are myths?

Author:      You really don’t need to write every day, sure it will help build your skill level but writing every day just to say you write every day is not worth it. Writing also doesn’t just mean putting words on a page, it means outlining, research, reading craft books, etc.

Fun Stuff

What do you listen to while you write?

Author:      Some days I need songs that fit the theme of the scene, some days it’s one random song on repeat. YouTube has definitely learned the kind of stuff I need at the right time, strangely enough, and instead of being terrified I’ve come to appreciate my lord and savior, The Algorithm.

What book are you reading at the moment?

Author:      Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

Author:      The best writing advice I ever got was that writing advice is not one-size-fits-all.

I tweet a little too much at @MilanMakes

Blog

SCi-Fi Indie Books of the Week

I like to promote my fellow indie authors however I can. It’s a struggle to make a living as a self-publisher, and there are a ton of great works in the digital ether that have yet to be “discovered.” It might be one of these! If you missed the last newsletter, you can still find most of the books below!

Please note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases

Origin of Pietas

By Kayelle Allen
Teen & Young Adult Space Opera
Teen & Young Adult Science Fiction eBooks
Space Opera Science Fiction (Kindle Store)

With utter dismay, Pietas learns the only way he can escape is to trust a lowly human slave – a man he calls Six, a fearsome Ghost Corp special operations soldier trained to kill all Ultras on sight.  As the two enemies travel together in a tube designed to prevent the Immortal leader from using his psychic abilities, they form an uncomfortable and unlikely friendship for mutual benefit, despite their respective races’ 2,000 year history of oppression, war and imprisonment as slaves.

If you like character-based military science fiction set in humanity’s far future, the Bringer of Chaos science fiction series is for you. The epic saga begins with Origin of Pietas and continues with Forged in Fire.


Stunning Short Stories of Fantasy and Science Fiction

By Alethea Eason, Kris Neri, EJ Randolph, Kate Rauner
Science Fiction Anthologies (Kindle Store)
Nordic Myth & Legend Fantasy eBooks
Fiction Anthologies

Join four award winning authors in eight realms of fantasy and science fiction. Otherworldly adventures to touch your heart and thrill your imagination.

  • A deadly secret lurks in idyllic fields of flax
  • Chatting with the dead, even when you’re a fraud, can’t end well on Friday the 13th
  • A blue trunk-nosed alien sniffs out the truth behind a smuggler’s delivery
  • Mining Jupiter’s storms leads to an unexpected discovery
  • and more engaging stories

Mercury’s Shadow

By PJ Garcin
Hard Science Fiction (Kindle Store)
Hard Science Fiction (Books)
Space Opera Science Fiction (Kindle Store)

Imogen “Chim” Esper is thrust into the center of an interplanetary conflict when her father is injured on a spacewalk on a mining station. Haunted by guilt over her own role in the events leading to the accident and the cold indifference of the Kardashev corporation, Chim struggles to find her place in a society that is poised for revolutionary transformation.

The Kardashev Corporation dominates all commerce and politics in the solar system after coming to prominence in the great expansion led by space mining. Alton Neal, the CEO of Kardashev is hell bent on transforming society by capturing the full energy output of the sun.

Citizens of Earth and the stations throughout the system must band together to protect access to the lifeblood of the system or risk becoming permanently enslaved to the Kardashev Corporation.


Chrysalis and the Fire of the Forge

By Robbie Ballew
Children’s Dragon Stories
Religious Science Fiction & Fantasy (Kindle Store)
Children’s Sword & Sorcery Fantasy Books

Her true love was taken by bounty hunters, and she’ll travel to the heart of a volcano to get him back.

Their wedding was the first of its kind: A union between an Elf and a Faun. Their honeymoon will turn out to be just as unique.

Instead of a week of wedded bliss, Chrysalis finds herself racing across this kingdom and the next in pursuit of the thugs who took Chass from her.

Along the way she will encounter dinosaurs, dragons, and ancient spirits. She will even team up with an eclectic group of adventurers to do a little dungeon diving.

Ancient Dwarven temples are a strange place for a Faun, but these dusty old relics may just hold the key to bringing her husband home safe and sound.


Five Light-Years to the Firesnake

by Rayner Ye
Metaphysical Science Fiction eBooks
Time Travel Science Fiction (Kindle Store)
Time Travel Fiction

Aedre is a spiritual and heart-broken young woman. Grieving her mother’s death, she goes to another planet for a fresh start. Little does she know she’s headed into something much more threatening.

Faced with slavery and murder, she quickly becomes the mafia’s target.

But her spirit guardian keeps telling her about prophecies of Aedre becoming the savior of slaves. There’s unknown magic behind everything which is happening, and time travel which makes revenging the Godfather more urgent.

As the complete series unfolds, will Aedre smash interstellar slavery and stay alive?


If you’re looking for EL Strife Sci-Fi, please visit the ELS Store.

Author Interviews, Blog, Sci-Fi Fantasy Blog

Author Interview: Angela Amberden, YA Fantasy

   Hiya!  My name is Angela Amberden and I am currently knee deep in the editing mud of my first novel.  It is a story about two young women, separated by time but connected by so much more that discover that learning where you’re from, who you are and where you’re going can be magical.

From Planning to Published

When did you start writing and why?

I started this novel, which is the first in a series of three, in June of 2019.  I felt like there was this great story I had within me that i needed to tell for all the young women out there who think they’re ordinary or that their life can never be special.  I wanted it to be filled strong relationships and exciting adventure, but most importantly, authentic characters that readers, especially young girls could connect with and see themselves in. 

How long did it take you to finish your first book?

I challenged myself to write everyday for 100 straight days and shortly there after I completed the ~58K work manuscript.  So less than 6 months for the first draft.  I have been actively editing about 5 months and hope to finish and begin querying late this year.

How did you determine your target audience?

My target audience is pre-teen and teenaged girls.  I chose this audience as I feel like I wanted to bring a story that isn’t either repressively innocent nor scandalously mature to young women. I wanted to share an authentic adventure that any young woman could see herself in.

How do you define success as an author?

Success as an author is typically defined as a published work, and while I completely expect that to be the natural progress my book will take, I also have a certain amount of pride in just completing an entire book. 

About Your Work

What type of content do you write and why? Fiction Novels? Poems? Songs? Screenplays? Short Stories? Epic?

While I have been working on this book, I have also found it valuable to create other types of content.  I have written essays, poems, and in college I wrote an editorial advice column under a pseudonym.  I am also a contributing editor to a monthly online food magazine. I also have  a treatment for a comedic episodic rattling around in here…waiting for an opportunity to come out.   

What was your first goal when you started your journey to becoming an author? Has that changed?

When I began, my first goal was just to write a book, specifically I was writing a collection of essays, working full circle from being a daughter, all the way to being a mother with the specific focus on being a mother without a Mom.  It was too emotional and raw but as I was writing the idea for my novel came to me.  After completing this work I may retrace my steps to those essays, but we’ll have to see.  The goal is the same though…write and publish.

What do you want your readers to get out of your works?

For myself, the greatest achievement as an author would be for my readers to see themselves in my books.  To connect with the characters on the page.  That is what I strive for.

Do you recommend any programs, courses, or websites?

I don’t have any particular programs I use all the time, but I would suggest that any writer attend a writers conference.  I was lucky to participate in one before Covid and it supported, refreshed and taught me so many amazing lessons.  Things that I call back to time and time again when editing.    

Fun Stuff

Where do you write your stories? A tiny office? A loft? The kitchen table? In the bushes while you secretly people-watch like a total creeper? Or a warm café with mocha in hand and feet up on an ottoman?

Prior to covid I had two cafes that I frequented.  I felt a certain legitimization in writing outside of my house.  I don’t know if it just “kept me honest” since there were no distractions of home.  Now that we are in lockdown, and nothing is open, I have a home office, which is organized and quiet where I have the luxury of writing in my robe.

What book are you reading at the moment?

I just finished The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennet which I loved immensely.  I am going to try to mimic her pacing, as it was urgent without being frantic.  I just started A Promised Land by Barack Obama two days ago, and since i’m on page 26 of 760-something, I’m sure it’ll be with me for awhile.

Do you have a writing companion?

I have a black and white tuxedo cat, Ferdinand, who I’ve had to give his own space adjacent to my desk so that he can curl up and be at the ready.  He is a cat that senses stress or anxiety and won’t leave you alone until you calm down via petting him.  I usually know it’s been a rough writing day based on how often he’s interrupted me.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

If you want to be a successful and even prolific writer, there are two things you have to do.  Write…A LOT and Read…A LOT.

You can find Angela Amberden on Twitter at:

@AuthorAngelaA

Blog, Writer's Blog

Tips for Book Series Writing

My first book was never supposed to be a series. I’m now on my third series and starting a fourth soon. If you want to save yourself a lot of headache, check out these tips from what I’ve learned about writing series intentionally and unintentionally. Let me also clarify that these series I’ve written are in science fiction and romance, but I have several in YA Fantasy near completion as well.

Why should You write a series?

Series are great for gaining a consistent audience and sales. If you start with a book that interests readers, they’ll want to keep reading and buying your books. This is especially key if you hate advertising and don’t want to manage a ton of books. With a series, you’ll continue to advertise the first book in the series and (if the book is strong enough) you’ll get sales on further books in the series without doing any marketing for them.

Know Reader Expectations

The first question you need to ask yourself is does the genre I want to write a series in commonly have series? If so, how many books are typically in those series? How long are the books (word count)? What sorts of themes, settings, and characters do well? What twists, subplots, climaxes, and endings seem to be successful? If you can solidify what works, what doesn’t, and you feel you can align your story in a way that in some manner fits reader expectations (not necessarily all of the above because breaking the norms can also make your series successful if done thoughtfully) then you’re likely ready to start a series.

A Story Concept Big Enough

Seems simple, but truly having the expansive ideas to fill multiple books is critical to making a successful series. It’s common for book 2 to fall flat or sink into a reader-interest dip because so much of the excitement authors outline happens in the beginning with introductions and at the end with the finale. So you’ll want to setup the series plot and the individual book plots in a way that continually builds the whole series plot. Do this before you get started writing book 1 if you can.

That said, I wrote my first book with no plan to expand on it. But when I reached the end, I found that the climactic point wasn’t as intense or inspiring as I wanted it to be. I started changing details and adding subplots that in the end needed to be resolved later. So I started writing book 2. The same thing happened again with book 2, and I ended up publishing a third book. Now, I’m writing book 4 with the idea in mind of a much larger collection of three series with books written and in progress in each. But it has been chaos to organize after the first book was written. What’s worse is book 1 is from the middle series in the collection. Major face-palm…

Having an idea of the grand nature of the series going into your first book will help you pack enough detail and mystery in the subplots, and leave enough loose ends, to keep readers engaged and wanting to read book 2.

There must be enough left open-ended at the culmination of each book that leaves the reader with questions, concerns, and interest in the next book, while also balancing enough satisfaction that they don’t give you bad reviews for feeling like nothing was resolved at all.

I didn’t plan ahead initially, and book 1 isn’t as strong as it could be. Because of that, I struggle to get enough read-through of my series. So now I have to go back and edit and relaunch book 1. It’s a huge pain and takes away time that I could be spending working on new books.

Take a look at this quick plot series concept chart (it’s a PDF) I’ve designed. Maybe it will help you get started, or you’ll find a way to improve upon it for yourself.

It’s a good idea to spread out your details and the critical series plot events and character introductions throughout the series. With a standalone novel, it’s common to provide a ton of background information and character intros in the first act. With a series, you don’t have to do that, and you won’t want to. Save some of the good stuff for later. Tease your readers along a little with tidbits of what’s going on periodically throughout the story. Solve some things, leave others alone. You want the series to end strong, so save the best pieces for last.

A Story Concept like a Mother-in-Law

She’s going to live with you for awhile. You better like her or at least be able to tolerate her.

If you’re going to invest yourself in writing a series that could take you months to years (depending on the length, number of works, and the writing time you have) you have to want to invest that amount of effort into your project.

Series burnout is frustrating because you know you have a readership that wants to see how the ends will be tied up. They want resolution. They expect that next or last book. The farther you get in a series, the more series details you’re going to have to look back on to make sure they’re correct. The pressure and the effort to complete it will close in on you. All of your subplots will have to line up. It’s a ton of tedious, time-consuming scanning and checking your facts. You have to be committed.

Infinite Spark Series on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited. Book 4 coming 2021.
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Characters worth Befriending for the Entire Series

I can’t say for sure how many times I’ve heard my husband complain about a TV series he was watching and, after the main character or the beloved secondary character died, he just couldn’t watch the series anymore. The same can be said for books.

Some writers can get away with keeping the scene/environment the same and changing characters in each book, usually by making the character related somehow in the book prior. There needs to be consistency of one kind or another in the series. But what engages readers most is a character with depth and identifiable personality, one with investment in the end of the series and struggles that are relatable or intriguing.

Create complex characters with important roles to play throughout the series. They don’t have to be the lead role in every book, though it’s best. They must be solid enough in design (with quality strengths, weaknesses, and challenges they must overcome) to be interesting throughout each book and the entire series.

How will it End?

You’re going to have to know the final goal of the series when you start it, and you’ll need to come up with strong mid-series resolutions for the end of each of your books. If you’ve started out not intending to do a series and now you’re thinking “Crap, I’m writing a series but I don’t know what I’m doing anymore,” figure out how you can expand or complicate the ending of book 1. For my book, it culminated with a soldier sacrificing herself to destroy an alien ship that was attacking earth. In book 2, the attack isn’t over, and more of the alien race are coming. They got the warning signal and the empire has been summoned. The series will finish with the ultimate end of a species (I won’t say which one just yet!)

Trilogies are easiest to start with. Like a dummy, I’m doing eight books in my first series, three books in the two series I’m working on/finishing and six in the series I’m starting next month. But if you can ensure there’s a strong progression of character learning or growing, or a change in the world that includes a climax and resolution in each story, you can make it as many or as few books as you want.

A triangle (trilogy) is one of the most stable shapes. Readers like this number of books unless they’re sci-fi space opera fans who often prefer ten or twelve book series. Some historical romance and other genres can get away with long series as well.

Have Series and Character Detail Charts.

I’m not kidding when I say to keep track of every single detail from strange words you make up for alien materials to the color of the most menial character’s hair. Write everything down. It’s especially important to get the spelling right and whether something is capitalized or uses a hyphen or other punctuation.

Make a note if a character always gets a term or a pronunciation wrong so that you can be consistent in even dialect and colloquialisms. Does a character have a drawl? Do they talk like a two-year old? What is the level of their intelligence, skill, or motivation? Write down everything you can about their personalities, what makes them tick, what their weaknesses are, common thoughts or feelings, and typical body language.

When you’re writing the next books, you’re going to be using these cheat sheets a lot. I often find that organizing them alphabetically helps, but sometimes I have to group certain terms together because they’re related concepts that I’ll want to refer to the collection when I’m writing a character working on an engine of a spacecraft or gathering their firefighting gear, etc. These will save you tons of time.

I often use Excel to print out a blank grid or keep a running list in Word. Just watch for auto-capitalization if a term isn’t supposed to be capitalized. That auto-anything you don’t notice happening when you type could end up making you have to go through every word and fix it in your manuscript if you referenced an incorrect term. Sometimes, I just keep the list in a notepad for simplicity’s sake. Then again, my handwriting sucks. So make sure if you use that method that you can read it!

Read the Earlier Books before You Edit

Yeah, this sucks, but it will help prevent you from screwing up something major that readers will likely pick up on. You have to remember that some of these readers will chain read your works back to back even if you don’t. They will catch consistency flaws and often let you know about them.

After you’ve written an outline or the rough draft, read your earlier books and make notes on what details you might’ve got wrong in your draft and ideas for how to intensify your work. Series and character cheat sheets are great, but they aren’t going to remind you of everything a character said, did, promised, broke, etc. in the earlier books. Trust me, if you think you remember everything, you don’t. Take the time to reread those books and check your work.

Book Titles and Cover Design

If you’re a traditional author, or agented, you’ll be talking with them about titling. They’ll likely look at what you come up with and decide for themselves. Cover designs will also be taken care of by them.

If you’re indie or planning to self-publish, start thinking about titles and covers early on. You’re going to need consistency in format, font, and theme for both titles and covers across the entire series. If you don’t create something recognizable, readers won’t necessarily know or assume those books belong together. I know this because, like an idiot, I designed covers and titles that fit my books individually. At the time, I didn’t have the skill to or the awareness of the importance of matching covers and titles.

Since redesigning the covers, my series books have had more read-through. I’ve now planned titles and cover designs earlier in the series writing process for future works and already feel more confident with how they will be received. (You can see examples of my book series covers and titles on this page.)

Writing and Publishing

Don’t be trigger happy on that publish button. Readers like series books that are published close together. I’ve been researching this and have noticed when I publish closer together that my books get more attention (sales and read-through). I’ve also read comments and questions on many sites from readers wondering why they have to wait so long for books to be finished.

Some readers will understand that we get burned out writing the same genre and the same story for years on end. I admit, I’m one of them. So I alternate what I write: one sci-fi, one romance, one fantasy. Then I start the cycle over, unless I’m on a deadline. I can focus when I have to. But it’s important to consider reader expectations for series availability and interest level in waiting. If people absolutely love your books, you can probably make them wait a bit because they’ll be willing to wait.  If the interest is mediocre, you best publish fast or risk losing those readers’ attention.

I recommend getting the series written first, then publishing each book two weeks to a month apart. It will build much more steady interest and sales than if you publish one book every year or two years. People forget about you and your book if there’s too much time between publications. You don’t want to lose them.

If you’re anxious about getting your series read by people, put it up on a review platform like Story Origin, Prolific Works, or Book Funnel. That way, you’ll likely get them on your email list and be able to ask for feedback or early reviews if you want. This will also help when it comes time to publish. The more of a readership you build up before you launch your series, the better the series is going to bring in royalties in the future.

Don’t Write a Dirty Penny

I’ve been following an online writer’s group of people who are financially successful writers. It’s every writer’s dream, right? They were cranking out a book or two a month…and made me cry from the pressure to be and do more than I was because I so wanted to be like them. I haven’t posted anything in the group, just always watching, reading, trying to learn their magic tricks.

I’ve noticed a few people recently mentioning they were slowing down their writing because they and their readers had been catching major flaws in consistency. Someone even used an incorrect name of a character for the first few chapters of a book, changing it half way through. It confused readers.

Reviews always tank when readers are unhappy or unsatisfied. Aim to create books that are more like shiny silver dollars instead of dirty pennies. I know it’s hard to be patient when you’ve worked so hard for so long on these books. But trust me, take your time to get your series ready, polish it, build up a marketing plan, and release the books close together.

Organizational Programs

I don’t personally use any of these because I’m the mind-map, sticky notes kind of gal. I am constantly moving pieces around and it’s easier for me to just move them than have to shift things on the computer. But it’s important to be organized when it comes to your series. A lot of writers like these programs. Maybe you’ll find one to help you as well.

Bibisco.com
Evernote.com
Finaldraft.com (Screenwriting)
Google Docs, Google Sheets
Hiveword.com
Novel Factory   novel-software.com
Scrivener (program download) Lots of people I know use this one.
Ulysses.app (Apple program)

A Marketing Tip for Series

Don’t waste money advertising the book two, three, etc. in a series. New readers won’t want to start a series in the middle if they encounter your ad. They’ll be forced to research earlier books and won’t likely be interested in putting out that effort. Some will, most won’t.

I did this in the beginning. I always get 20-30 sales on book 1 when I run an ad, and 3-5 sales on later books (which doesn’t return enough profit on the cost of the ad to be worthwhile.) It doesn’t matter how you structure or order or pair the books for ads. But it does matter if you run sales of the series books at the same time.

My recommendation: If you arrange a sale for book 1 and are going to run an ad on it, set up the later books in the series for the same or similar discount. This will encourage readers to buy all the books at once. The benefit here is that they won’t be as likely to forget about those books in their library if they snagged many or all of them. And they’ll be more likely to read them.

People in this modern era have very short attention spans. When you write a series, at the end of the books it’s important that you provide links to the next books in the series if you can and a way for those readers to review the book they’re in. If they see it the moment they’re done, they’re more likely to stay “in the series zone” and not get distracted by other ads, book recommendations, the dog wanting to go out, etc.

Final Thoughts

If you’re not getting engagement on a series, you’ll want to start a new one rather than invest your whole life into one series that might be a dud in the marketplace.

A series is a great way to get readers invested in your work and earn you sales with less marketing. It also shows your commitment to your genre and writing, but it is a commitment. Take the time to outline, plot, subplot, design your characters, and plan how you’ll publish.

Patience is important with a series. But if someone like me can do it without intending to the first time, you can do it too. Because you’re one major step ahead of where I was. You’re reading this and thinking ahead. Good for you!

Go get ‘em, writer!

-E

Blog

Books that Inspired Zedger

I wrote Zedger’s first draft in two weeks I was that excited. I’ve never written a novel that fast. Until now, I’ve never written a book because it was inspired by another, but Zedger came to me after reading The Fifth Wave by Rick Yancey. It’s been deeply reworked since with influences from other works and desires of my fantastic critique partners. It has become so much more than it ever was in that first draft.

You can pick up Zedger: Edge of Zion here

(As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.)

The Fifth Wave
(YA, Scifi)

The movie was great, but the book was far more detailed. I was intrigued the way he presented the post-apocalyptic setting and how innocence doesn’t have to mean weakness in a violent environment. I read this book years ago and followed up with the second, but didn’t find nearly the excitement in book 2: The Infinite Sea. I haven’t read The Last Star, but have seen it had great reviews. I have book three on my to-be-read list.

As with all of my work, the female lead is much tougher, rough around the edges, and less romantically interested in other characters than the average YA, including this book. It’s one of the main reasons I don’t tend to write YA. But The Fifth Wave didn’t make romance a primary end goal, only a motivator, which is why I enjoyed this. Zedger originally had a romantic theme because I believed that was what readers wanted. But I struggled to write it and my first round of critique partners (Lenn, Samantha, and Erin) all concurred it was best to cut it out. Now I’m comfortable writing scifi without romance as a heavy focus.

If you like dystopian YA, aliens that are more relatable to humans than bugs, female-led stories, and suspense, this is a great book.

You can check out Rick Yancey’s The Fifth Wave here

A Star Curiously Singing
(Christian Scifi, Dystopian, Cyberpunk)

I read this book by Kerry Nietz years back and loved the biopunk and cyberpunk elements he presents in this unique realm where there is one supreme ruler and all religion otherwise has been banned. I loved every bit of this storyline and the character cast. It was a very different read from what I was used to, and made me truly fall in love with biopunk elements.

Super brief synopsis: A debugger, Sandfly, struggles under the control of his master and his embedded tech. He becomes the single person on a flight in space who can ultimately change the future beliefs of his people based on what he discovers.

This book has a bit of everything to include humor and odd dream sequences that when you read them, play out so naturally you can’t help but laugh at your own mind’s nightly insanity. A Star Curiously Singing has also inspired another series I hope to publish next year. (It’s a secret for now)

If you enjoy clean scifi (no cursing or intimacy), biopunk and cyberpunk subgenres, humor, and stories that challenge belief systems and travel to the stars, I definitely recommend checking this book out.

You can find Kerry Nietz’s A Star Curiously Singing here

Rise and Run
(Scifi, Genetic Engineering)

This book is hard to find online, often bringing up plant pictures or other books. But it is absolutely one of my favorites. The characters are crass and unique. R. J. Plant is a master of subtlety. Her book features twists and puzzles, with a sort of first-person-shooter RPG feel. It is intense in action and description. What hooked me the most was the concept of being two people in one, each fighting for dominance, and how the thought process worked.

The main character is designed to be a government weapon, but as with any person, they (Felix and Connor) want to be free, to understand their past, and to survive. Their accents and conversations make the read fun while the toxic landscape and edgy suspense keep you turning pages. I wanted to emulate a similar mood and found a lot of inspiration in Plant’s work.

If you like crass humor, tough characters, plots that screw with your mind, intense action and suspense, genetic engineering and government conspiracies, take a look at this book by R.J. Plant.

You can find R.J. Plant’s Rise and Run here

Shatter Me
(YA, Dystopian, Thriller)

When I read this, I found myself focused on the mental thought patterns of the main character as she struggles with her captivity. When you read Zedger, you’ll find Marci doing the same thing, as well as some of my other characters. I was searching for a book to compare my ideas to and found this to feel quite true to natural cognitive patterns. And it starts off with a heavy dose of it.

The very first chapter in Shatter Me is all about the thoughts circulating as the main character experiences the daily cycle of life in captivity. She talks about her symbol of hope, of the miserable conditions, and repeats her survival mantras. Mafi has dug deep into the thought processes when we are at our breaking points and presents them in a way that reflects the broken rhythm of the chaos as we would experience it.

While this is another YA novel, it featured more dark elements and themes than a typical YA in my experience. I think that’s why I connected with it, minus the “two men fighting for one girl” romance trope. Mafi, however, does implement the romance effectively and leaves the reader guessing at the end. She’s very good and keeping the stakes high throughout the story.

This is a popular YA series. If you’re interested in a blend of fantasy and dystopian genres, female led plots, romantic subplots, royalty and military themes, and high levels of mystery and suspense, look into Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi.

You can find Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me here

Red Rising
(Scifi, Dystopian)

One of my all time favorite authors is Pierce Brown. His Red Rising book series has inspired much of my writing. His narrative voice reflects the way I think, a style I was afraid to write in because I doubted its acceptance in society. I always read his work exceptionally slow, taking in every description. The details are so vivid and precise that it truly creates a raw sensation of being there in the story with the characters. Brown’s science fiction settings, cyberpunk feel, space battle choreography, and ability to build suspense make reading his work a thrill ride through another universe. I wanted to, and still do, aim for that level of reader engagement and to create a world as diverse and deadly as what he has.

I was always afraid to write what I truly envisioned in my mind for my books because I feared what others would think about an author that spends so much time dwelling on the violence of war, love, tech, and life in space. But I wanted my stories to feel real and true to what one would experience in any given situation. Brown has opened me up to the possibility that I can write from the heart, from fear and doubt and expectations of the future and people will enjoy it. Though I’m still a bit uneasy about some concepts, I read his work and remind myself it’s okay to be blunt. His book series has given me confidence I can be the author I want to be. I just wish I’d found his work far earlier in my career.

You know that feeling when you finally read work by an author you connect with? I literally cried before I reached the end of the first page. My brain felt like it was on fire. I was confused and relieved… and exhausted. I suddenly didn’t feel alone in the world anymore. This is big for me since I’m adopted. I have a wonderful family, but I’ve still spent my whole life trying to find connections between myself and the world of people around me. It’s a compulsion to understand that link between families built by blood. When I read this book, I realized someone else thought, or at least narrated, like I do in my own mindspace. I’d like to think in another life, we’d be friends. Stars knows I’d be too shy to ever even be a groupie or an obsessed fan in this life. (nervous laughter)

I just hope someone makes this book into a movie. I’ve never gone to a first-showing before. But I would do that for Red Rising.

This book is not for the faint of heart. It is gritty, and spares no action or gore or cursing. If you like futuristic dystopian scifi with heavy military plots, intense political agendas, and underground resistance, you’ll like this book. It’s the first book that’s ever been openly recommended to me without provocation. The narration alone will have you sucked in. If you like books that show people at their darkest moments, challenging life and hope to the last thread, you’ve got to pick up a copy.

You can get Pierce Brown’s Red Rising series here

Blog, Writer's Blog

If I Could Start Over as an Author…

I would have a better plan. I often interact with new writers who are anxious to be authors, and I regularly say the same things. Build your author brand, your author platform, a collection or series of books to release, and a marketing plan… because I wish I had. What I’ve experienced since my first publication back in 2016, through my twelve publications and two collections, has taught me the importance of those things. I want to briefly go over these for any writers looking to be authors.

Now, I can’t speak to traditional publishing specifics since I’m indie through and through. But I’ve worked with a lot of writers and authors that are, so I know these things are still important. If you go traditional, you’re still going to want to know the author business and what it takes to get the attention of readers. Even if you get early subscribers and end up going traditional and scratching a few of these plans, you’ll still have a selection of people ready and eager to read and review your published works.

Author Brand

This is the basic concept of your author business. What genre(s) do you want to write? What mood do you want to represent? What colors and themes and images do you want to be associated with your name or pen name? Do you want a pen name?

Your Author Brand is the recognizable collection of your work defined by your cover designs, your website graphics, the language you use when speaking to your readers and narrating your work. But it’s more than this.

You need to know why you write and how you plan to determine your success as an author. Do you want to inspire people, make money, be famous, or just publish stories that mean something to you? Knowing these things will help you decide if you need to write for mass market (money and fame) or if you can write niche works and have more freedom in your content. If you want money and fame, you’ll especially need to understand the genre tropes and expectations and how to effectively implement them in your work.

You’ll want to think about your target readership and what they’ll be interested in. Research websites of authors in your preferred genres and look at how the design their pages, what content they’re including, and which other media platforms they’re on. Take a look at those other platforms to get a feel for how their author brand shows up. This is a critical component of your author brand: being recognizable. You’ll want to replicate, as best you can, your author brand (fonts and their colors, portrait, images, etc) across those accounts so readers will immediately know if they’re where they want to be.

It’s important that you use the same author portrait for your professional author accounts. By this I mean your publishing platforms, inside book covers, any posters or media representing book signings or speaking gigs, and your main social media accounts that engage mass amounts of readers. You want them to know your face.

As many publishers don’t permit avatars as author photos, you’ll have to put your best picture up for the world to see. And you’ll want it everywhere. Don’t worry, you’re not posing for Vogue. You’re a writer. Readers know that. So don’t worry about what you look like. Just be presentable and avoid hugging your dog or significant other or mother in the photo. They didn’t write the book. You did. Be proud of that, and let yourself shine for that tiny moment.

Author Platform

This is a pretty hefty part of being successful in any way as an author. If you have no platform, there’s no real solid way for anyone to discover your books. So what is a platform? It is the collection of locations that readers can interact with you and find out more about your writing and publications. This is where you’ll put to use your author branding.

Your biggest, most important first step is to build a website. Build always sounds like such a hefty word, but really this is very easy. There are tons of websites that let you set up an account for free. Fill out the About section and make sure you give people that visit a way to contact you. Start a blog related to your books or your writing. If you’re not ready for that, then you can always write about other books you enjoy, ones you hope to write similar content to. Do book reviews. Study the science or theories of something you’re interested in that has influenced your work. Build mood and inspiration boards with pictures you find online (either royalty free like with Canva or provide credit of course).

Next will be to set up a professional email account. There are several sites online you can use to do this. I use MailChimp because it’s free for one email list and up to 2,000 subscribers. I’ve broken mine into two sub lists for my Science Fiction Fantasy Fleet and my Sweet and Spicy Romance. I hope to expand in the next year and need to purchase the next step up to include my self-help books, dark romance, and my YA fantasy.

My recommendation: always start out with free services. A lot of authors I know give up after their first book or three because they can’t drum up enough interest or snag enough sales to justify their business. So I suggest you start out free and be very hesitant to purchase anything until you know for sure if your business is going to take off.

I had no help or anyone to talk to and spent thousands on edits and courses on edits and marketing… and books on writing and publishing. This is all money I’m still trying to earn back. I don’t want you to have to go through that, especially with the world’s economy struggling through this pandemic. When you get to the point that you need to upgrade (i.e.: you’ve got too many subscribers, you want to integrate something on your website that requires a different package, or you’re making so many sales you need professional bookkeeping) then do it. But not until you need it.

Integrate your email with your website if you can. If you can’t because it costs money, then put links on your website that connect to subscriber landing pages you’ve set up in your email account. That way, if someone wants to make sure they hear about your newest release or the upcoming Advanced Review Copies before publication, they can sign up to be on your email list.

This is a critical part of your author platform. Email subscribers are by far the most likely to purchase or download (free early copies – I’ll get to this in a minute) your book and post reviews on your platforms. Social media doesn’t do nearly as much for you as consistently as those people who have specifically subscribed to your content. Friending or following someone isn’t the same as saying, “I like this book I spent hours reading, or I want to spend another 8 hours buried in your stories.” But social media can be good for other things.

Social media as a component of your author platform is a great bonus. I’ve often found other writers and writing groups to talk with and exchange ideas. You can run ads on most platforms for your books. And if you research how to do it well, you can make a lot of sales that way (but only via ads. Most regular posts don’t get you any decent interaction). Social media expects high numbers of followers to give you any attention. And everyone is on social media for themselves, not to research quality content. It’s like flash fiction… a momentary story people forget about seconds later when the video of the cat falling in the bathtub scrolls into view.

What I suggest is that you have a presence and link your website and or publishing platform to your account so people can find your content if they only really use that one account. I am on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LibraryThing, LinkedIn, BookBub, and Goodreads. I think that’s all of them. But I really only use the first two and the last two. Twitter and Facebook have great writing communities, and we often support each others’ publications. BookBub is huge for running ads and connecting with readers. Goodreads is a wonderful review platform that gets far more interaction than BookBub for me. But they each have their perks when it comes to finding new readers and bringing them to your profile page.

You’ll want to consider also being on Reader Magnet or Advanced Review Copy sites like Prolific Works, Story Origin, and BookFunnel. There you can give away an early polished copy of your work so readers can have reviews ready to publish the day your book goes live on your publishing platform of choice. Of those sites, Story Origin is currently still free as of the time of this post. Prolific Works is unless you want to integrate your email list (for $20/month) so subscribers can auto-opt in without having to click a link in your book (though that is an alternative). And BookFunnel, last I checked, is $20 a year for new authors and has 500 downloads max and 5 books with no email integration. You can integrate your subscription system for $100/year. BookFunnel has more package options as well. Again, I would start with the free options and upgrade as necessary.

One of the biggest perks of these RM/ARC sites is the ability to join group promotions where all the people will share the link to the page displaying your ARC copy and everyone else’s. Of course, you’ll have to share this promotion page with your email followers, or at least your social media accounts if you’re just starting. There are ways for the group promo coordinators to check and see if you’ve driven any clicks to the page (via a special tracking link). So you’ll want to make sure you use the right link when sharing.

But the benefit is if you have, say, 50 people in the group promo, that’s (hopefully) 50 people promoting it. If they all have email lists of maybe 1,000, that’s 5,000 people that will receive an email about the promo. That said, most often, there’s about a 30-40% email open rate and a 10-20% click rate. So it’s more likely that 500 or so people will actually visit the page and download free books… but that also means they’re (usually) signing up for the email lists of those authors to get the books. Some will undoubtedly unsubscribe because they don’t want more emails. Others will become unresponsive, and you’ll have to clean them out of your email subscriber list due to inactivity. (And you’ll want to do this to make sure your prime readers who actually pay attention get the good stuff and you don’t unnecessarily go over your subscriber limit with your email provider.) At the end of this though, you’ll have gained subscribers you can send further early copies to, tell them about publications, and remind them when and where they can leave reviews.

Reviews are crucial to convincing people on publishing platforms like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple, etc. that they should buy your book. This brings me to the next point. You’re going to want to know where you want to publish before you do. Research each location and the rules or requirements for publishing works with them. Amazon has KDP Select which is fantastic because you can earn sales on your books at 35-70% royalty rates and when people read pages from your books through the Kindle Unlimited subscription program they sign up for. The catch is that you cannot publish those books anywhere else, not even as a trilogy, series, collection, or omnibus. You’re in KDP Select for 90 days. Those are the kind of rules you’ll want to know about before you decide where to publish. There are also aggregate publishers that can help you distribute your books to multiple publishing platforms for free, such as Draft2Digital and Smashwords.

I won’t go into detail regarding types of publishers here, only the basics. Independent publishers like Amazon, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble (to name a few) have a website you can go to and upload your book and your cover. You will be in charge of handling pricing, marketing, and the book sales content like blurbs and editorial reviews. An aggregate publisher has one site that you upload your content to who distributes the book to many online stores. Vanity or Independent presses make authors pay them to do the work of uploading and formatting content, but marketing is still up to the author. Traditional publishers are hardest to get on with due to the querying process. Authors can either submit book queries to them or an agent can do so on their behalf. If authors have work accepted, they will go through edits with that publishing house and often receive a sum of money that is part of anticipated sales upon publication, though each individual situation varies.

Collection or Series of Books

My biggest mistake was being trigger happy when it came to my first book. I’d worked for 5 years on it and was finally ready to just throw it into the universe. So I did. Then I had nothing else to give my subscribers. My sales fell on their face. It wasn’t until I’d published my third book in that first series that I started to see sales pick back up. Now I have another series started and one almost complete. I’m writing the fourth series at the end of this month. But it took me a long time to realize one simple thing that would’ve changed the last four years: write the series first. Not one book. Not two. Three or more. Have them ready when you publish the first. Rapid publishing is far more enjoyable to readers. Many don’t like waiting for the next book to come out (unless it’s super famous like Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, or Red Rising) in which case a year or two between books is tolerable. But for most of us, we’re forgettable… another book in a sea of paper and ink and e-readers online.

Writing three books might seem like a huge task. So start with short stories or take a novel and break it up into three or four parts and make them begin and end like short stories. This will give your readers a gradual taste of your writing, providing them a spread of content to engage with while you write the next book or books. Starting small and easy like this will take your stress level down and help you learn to write succinctly and be very engaging with your narration, dialogue, and descriptions in a limited space. Some of the common pitfalls of first time writers include: backstory and dialogue dumping, too much daily life, and not being precise in their language. Their narration will take on copious description that could be condensed into language that paints a more vivid image or implied sensation in fewer words. They need to be concise. See what I did there? Super long versus the ultimate point. Short stories are just a great way to engage with potential subscribers more than once.

If short stories aren’t your thing, I still recommend at least three books you write, edit, and prep for publication before you release the first. They don’t have to be in a series or collection, though that will serve you best. Having three books in the same genre or related subgenres to offer your subscribers will keep them hooked and less likely to unsubscribe or just forget about you altogether.

I started with one scifi, one children’s, and one romance, because those were the genres I wanted to write. I had email lists started for those, but they quickly faded to almost nothing because I could not offer any more content to them. It wasn’t ready. I had to basically start over. And that is immensely frustrating. All of that work to build up for the first release was essentially lost until I published the third book in that first series.

I now do my best to have free ARCs available throughout the year to my subscribers. I try to publish three to four times a year in my two lead genres. Sometimes, I can’t make it. When that happens, I search out other free books, reader magnets set up by other authors in my ARC platforms, and I share those with my readers, so they always have free content that I know they’ll enjoy. It’s important to keep them happy and interacting with your content, even if it’s a recommendation for someone else’s work that’s related to yours. It shows you value them and want to ensure they’re happy. If you let your email list(s) die down, you’ll have to do what I did and start over.

Marketing Plan

Marketing is the only way you’re going to get anyone to notice your book. Most often, people start by sharing on social media and running maybe an ad or two for launch without much luck. Then they give up and move on, or they buy more ads with no real design to their strategy.

Your first marketing is done usually on social media or with your email list if you have one from maybe a blog you started early on in your writing career to drum up reader interest. You’ll share teasers like book cover reveals, blurbs, and expected release dates. What’s worked best for me are quotes from the book on a small graphic with the book cover and some indicator of when or where it’ll be published. Another good one is to use any quotes you can from early reviews. Try to pick ones with powerful words or relevant terms to the genre. Say you write thrillers and someone reviews it with “I love this book.” That’s not really going to send the same message as “Intense, jarring action. Slept with the lights on.”

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Next, you’d be best served to set up Advanced Review Copies of your book to get subscribers on your lists and readers who will have potential reviews to post on publication day.

At this time, or possibly earlier if you’re confident on your publishing date, you’ll want to set up a preorder to start gaining purchases that will process on publication day (at least on Amazon). It’ll help create a professional presence online that proves to readers that you mean business.

A trick I’ve learned with Amazon publishing, is to publish the paperback first so that readers can leave reviews that will show up on the day the ebook publishes. To ensure they do this, send out an email to those subscribers in your list that you gave ARCs to and let them know where they can leave reviews. (Preorders only work for ebooks, at least on Amazon’s site.)

So say you’ll have 50 preorders process on the day of publication and you get twenty reviewers to post feedback that day. That will give your book a huge advantage on the top-selling book charts Day 1. This will help Amazon’s algorithms show potential readers (who read in your genre) your book via the recommendations list or customer also-boughts. Having those twenty reviews up there will boost the likelihood of those potential readers clicking the purchase button.

If you want to give your book that extra kick, plan to run a few outside ads (not through the publishing platform) that first week. I usually run three ads spread through that first week if I can afford it. A few sites I like to use are Written Word Media, Just Kindle Books, and Fussy Librarian… because they don’t have review requirements, and I don’t always hit my expected review count or rating the day of publication. I then try to run one ad a week after for the first month, then one a month for each month after to keep drawing interest. But I do highly suggest varying which sites you use and which days you advertise on so you don’t end up showing your ad to the same people that always look for books on, say, Friday at a particular site.

If you can leverage ads on the publishing platform of your choice, do so. Anyone who is actively searching for something to read is going to be more likely to purchase what they find. The fewer steps they have to take to get their content, the better. There are plenty of low cost ways to advertise your book. You just have to research the right advertising sites for your budget.

But if you’re super broke and have zip for funds, you can search for readers in your genre who have reviewed books and contact them directly to inquire if they’d be interested. You can also contact bloggers who focus on your genres and ask if you can do a guest post. I recommend that before you contact anyone that you avoid spammy chatter like “here’s my new book, you want to read this.” Research them and their site. You can do this early on, before you publish, or after. Find out what they like, and see what you can offer them as a post with a mention of your recent book at the very end.

If your book will be free, you can check out AskDavid. It’s a free site that advertises free books in a few locations. I usually get 20-30 downloads that way. So if you just can’t manage anything else, check out this site.

Whatever you do, don’t self-promote where it isn’t warranted. Random people do not want a direct message (DM/PM) from you telling them where to buy your book, especially not immediately after you’ve friended them. You’ll get blocked and irritate people. Reply bots are only good if you’re being helpful or kind. Jamming buy-links down their throats will get you to lose their respect. It’s not a useful way to spend your precious marketing time.

Always make your work and your interaction about others. If you don’t put the reader first, your work won’t go anywhere because it won’t connect with them. Readers are the lifeblood of our publications. If we don’t treat them right, they’ll leave. If we don’t engage with them, they’ll never know we exist. Marketing has to be done, and be done effectively.

Recap

Decide on your Author Brand: how will readers recognize you?

-Images you’ll use
-Genres you’ll write in
-Theme/mood of content
-Same author portrait

Author Platform

-Website
-Email Subscriber Provider
-Social Media
-Advanced Review Copy distribution sites
-Publishing platforms

Marketing Plan

-Book Teasers
-ARCs/RMs
-Set up Preorders
-Remind readers where to leave reviews
-Run outside ads to draw readers to your sales page
-Keep promoting (within your budget)

BONUS: If you can, put subscriber links at the ends of your published books that take them do your subscriber landing pages. Set up a way to send them a free book or short story as thanks for subscribing. When you’re ready to upgrade your subscriber system, build an email campaign workflow that sends several emails over a course of a few months that includes other freebie stories. The more you keep your subscribers engaged, the more likely they are to notice your email amid the tidal wave of promotional messages they get every week. It’s easy for us to get lost. Be memorable and they’ll hunt for your content!

Know your audience and what they want. Know where to find them. Know how to engage with them. If you can get these things under control, you’ll be off to a far better start than I was. I send my best to you and hope these tips help you build your author business into a thriving force to be reckoned with!

Love,
Elysia

Upcoming Book: I Want to Be an Author – Where Do I Start?

The release date isn’t set yet as I’m finalizing content before editing. But my hope is that this book will help other writers who dream of being authors to get started on their journey. All I wanted was something that told me where to start and what I was getting into when I began looking into publishing. But there were so many best seller courses and books on writing and editing and marketing that I felt turned around. I’ve written this book to guide those unfamiliar with the process. I go over writing and publishing a first book with everything I wish I knew when I began plus all the lessons I’ve learned through my twelve publications. I hope you’ll stick around to see it publish!