Gypsies After Dark!

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It has been a long time coming.

Late last year, in the August or September timeframe, I signed on to a box set that was planning on releasing in June.  It had a theme I hadn’t written a thing in before, but I could see how and where it would fit into the Anadidd’na universe, and so I went for it.

I’ve been leaving breadcrumbs to this series in my work ever since, and it makes me so excited for it to finally be ready for preorder.

Gypsies After Dark went live late last month, and we’ve been doing great.  We’re going to try to hit the USA Today bestseller list (okay, truth is that every one of us wants to go for NYTimes, but that’s a lot of luck and a lot of things working out – USA Today is something to work toward – NYTimes is something you close your eyes and hope for, when the work’s done), and there are a lot of things going on to get the word out.

First, a little about the box.

It’s Gypsy themed.  That much is kind obvious, I get it, but it was one I hadn’t thought about before.  I don’t know a lot about Romani gypsies – Esmerelda and Quasimodo are about it, really, and I scarce believe that they represent anything about gypsy culture outside of the flashy, media-distilled headlines – so I looked at ‘gypsy’ as more of a generic term for nomadic wanderers of a kindred type of culture.  In Gypsy Becca, Makkai gypsies are descended from an angel and gifted with crystal magic.  They don’t read palms and they rarely tell fortunes, and their opinion on Tarot cards is one I’m actually going to touch on at some point in a later book.  What they do is they hunt supernatural threats, living in a tight-knit group called a tribe and using their marvelous crystal magic.

They tell stories.  They play instruments.  They dance.

Of all of the work I’ve done in the Sam & Sam Anadidd’na universe, the Gypsy Queen series has the most life and color to it.  Sam and Samantha deal with some pretty dark stuff, and that leads to a grim outlook, even if it is spirited and determined.  The gypsies are more family oriented, more optimistic, and overwhelmingly more colorful in the literal sense, and it makes for a very different tone of book, even as the feel of the monster hunts remains true to the universe they live in.  I’ve *loved* these books, and I will have the sequel to Gypsy Becca – Gypsy Dawn – available on preorder right around the day the set goes live in June.

The rest of the books range across time and continents, and the authors have been so much fun to work alongside.  The covers are gorgeous and the plot concepts seem really intriguing.  I’m really excited to see what we can pull off.

Ordering is easy.  I’ve got a landing page for you to pick which version you’re interested in (and if it’s all the same to you, Apple, B&N, and Kobo increase our chances of listing much more than an Amazon order does, for drab technical reasons that I can explain in the comments if you’re interested).  There’s a free gift to preorders that you can claim here, and while you’re there, check out the giveaways.  This set has serious giveaways.  No kidding.  Think your friends might like to know about it?  Share in exchange for entries to the big giveaway.  That easy.

Want something to read before the set goes live in June?  Make sure you’re signed up to my newsletter for exclusive samples to all of the books in the set, plus prequels, deleted scenes, and tie-in short work in the same worlds.  Mine is a deleted scene from the middle of Gypsy Becca.

In all, the set has 23 brand new, exclusive novels, and it costs $0.99 for the preorder and the week of launch.  After that, the price is going to go up.

Grab it now, and wish us luck!

Post launch edit to note that the giveaway is closed and that we have increased the price to $2.99.  The set is now exclusively available through KU if you prefer to read it that way.  Thanks so much for checking it out!

Genre survey – the results!

If you never ask, you’ll never know.
That’s where this started.
Sales of Rangers and the rest of the Sam & Sam collection have not been what I hoped they would be. I’ve been putting them in the right places, recently, though some of the higher-tier advertisers won’t accept my ads yet, and I have been selling, but it didn’t feel like I was meeting my benchmarks. I have a number of author groups I hang out in, and we spend a lot of time talking about the big three for packaging:

1) Cover
2) Blurb
3) Sample

Your cover brings in readers, your blurb entices them to try the story, and your sample proves that you can tell a story they want to read. The first, biggest, and potentially most important gate is that cover.
I’ve posted the Rangers cover a few places before and had people ask for the name of the designer. I love the cover, and how well it captures the feel of the series and the peculiar person that Samantha is. She’s not flashy and pretty with thick flowy hair and a warrior stance. She’s a chick in jeans with a chainsaw.
Booyah.
(No, she’s never handled a chainsaw in the books, *actually*, but I’m looking for my first, earliest opportunity to fix that.)
The problem is that, even if the cover fits the book, it needs to fit the genre, too.
If the cover doesn’t communicate genre, it’s not going to attract readers who are interested in it – it’s going to attract readers who are looking for something else entirely. The same problem goes with where a book is shelved – if I don’t tell my readers what it is, accurately, the right readers and I are going to miss each other.
And I was pretty sure Sam & Sam were Urban Fantasy.
So I asked.
I posted the covers for the first four books and a brief description in one of my favorite writers’ groups, and an interesting conversation ensued about whether or not a book with that cover belongs in urban fantasy. Whether or not I even was urban fantasy. What those books said they were.
And, sitting and watching these well-informed, intellectual conversations, I realized that they weren’t going to help me at all.
Authors know that Urban Fantasy is a book set in the real, modern world, usually an urban (city) setting, with a paranormal twist, usually involving magic.
But what do readers think it is? That’s what actually matters.
So I asked.
And I got answers.
Answers that have clarified a lot of things, and made me very confused about some other things. I promised to talk about the results for my newsletter, and I did, but I want to use graphs. And talk a lot more. So I also promised that they could check here for the real download on my survey results. And my immense gratitude that they took the time to answer my questions.
I’ll go through them by question, from here, and talk about what I think I learned. Feel free to straighten me out in the comments if you think I’ve missed something important.

Question 1: You’re reading a book with a scene where a demon’s still-beating heart is tacked to the door with a knife, a pair of eyes are duct-taped to the window, a swordfight is going on as the two people involved use copious amounts of magic and all of this takes place in an abandoned warehouse in a large city. Is this:
A) Urban Fantasy
B) Horror
C) Dark Fantasy
D) Fantasy
E) Ew.
F) Other

I allowed them the freedom to choose all that applied. This is the compiled response:

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First, for the person who said “ew”. I totally get that. I do. Please don’t read Sam & Sam. It kinda gets worse from there. Portal Jumpers is potentially still a really great fit for you.
So. I thought the answer here would be urban fantasy, shoo-in, with a perfectly reasonable case for dark fantasy, maybe fantasy, and perhaps ‘other’. I thought I would get a certain number of ‘horror’ responses, because it’s kind of graphic, but I’ve thought from the beginning with this series that it isn’t horror because it lacks dread anticipation – the style of suspense is just *wrong*. So, hooray, I actually agree with these results. Completely. The number of Urban Fantasy + Dark Fantasy responses was really encouraging. Others included Paranormal (totally agree) and this, which won the whole survey for me (I know I promised no wrong answers, but that doesn’t mean some can’t be more right than others): “That depends on what city. If it’s a city in this world, it’s Urban Fantasy. If it’s an imaginary world it’s fantasy.”
So, so far, so good. I agree that I’ve got my book on the right shelf calling it dark fantasy or urban fantasy. Yay!
Question 2: What genre is this cover?rangers-ebook-cover-kindle

A) Horror
B) Urban Fantasy
C) Dystopian
D) YA
E) Zombie Apocalypse
F) Is this a trick question?
G) Other

Again, pick as many as you like.

 

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The results here were… troubling. Horror. YA. Zombies. Dystopian.
I’m really not anywhere near any of these.
The rate of people picking UF was low enough that I have concluded that I’m going to have to put re-covering the series on my list of things to do, because I’m not selling to the right people. I’m just not.
Loud and clear, I think, and I’ll try to learn from it.
I think that the woman on the cover is probably too young, the color scheme is wrong, and… I might have to give up the chainsaw.
Le sigh.
I can work with that.
Once more, thank you.

Question 3: Which of the following TV shows would you consider ‘Urban Fantasy’?

A) Charmed
B) Grimm
C) Supernatural
D) Buffy the Vampire Slayer
E) True Blood
F) Arrow
G) Medium
Here, I knew there would be some gaps, because not everyone has watched every show, or even heard of them, but I used TV instead of books because it gives me a better shot at finding stuff people know well enough to have an opinion.
First, let me walk through why I picked these.
The ringer is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It has literally every core element of popular Urban Fantasy, including featured but not central romance plotlines, a kick-butt heroine, the elder mentor, the grimoires, magic, vampires, angst, and a dark cityscape setting. And almost everyone has heard of it. I can’t come up with any reason to argue against Buffy being UF.
The next one on the list is Supernatural. There’s a case to be made that Supernatural is horror. I don’t agree with it, but I could see why you would ‘shelve’ it there, rather than UF. It’s also often quite rural. Other than that, this is my second-strongest case for UF. Magic, paranormal, adventuring, hero’s quests… On and on. Also very popular and well-recognized.
Grimm. I don’t watch Grimm. I started and it never hooked me. I consider it a little-brother to Supernatural, with a lot of the same mythological elements, the hero’s quest discovering the mythology of the world… Again, rural, and this time the world is a bit further away from ‘real’. Just a little, but it’s there. If you wanted to call it ‘mythological fiction’ rather than ‘urban’, I could see my way to agreeing that you have a valid perspective.
Charmed. The big sister of grimoire witches. Just about every mythology ever showed up at some point, the same kick-butt feminine leads. I figured that the only big miss on this one was that it’s been off the air for… kind of a long time, now. And the cityscape wasn’t quite so ‘urban’ as consistently as Buffy.
True Blood. This is the first one on the list that I might not have picked, because I think the romantic plotlines dominate the story more than a classic UF. I will admit, though, that I’ve never watched an episode – I’m going off of press and raves. I don’t know who the hero is – human or vampire. I just know that if you asked me, cold, what type of story it is, I’d call it paranormal romance.
Arrow. Another very-close-to-the-line pick. I was hoping to find that my core group of shows popped up everywhere, and that True Blood, Arrow, and Medium would show up in smaller subsets. I would say, ‘aha!’ and explain that they do have UF elements, but they’re missing core pieces. True Blood would be the central plotline outside of a romance, and Arrow is magic. I only made it about a season, but Arrow is, at its roots, a superhero plot. Can Superhero be UF? Fascinating question. Absolutely fascinating. My results didn’t help answer that question at all, I’m afraid.
Medium. This was my biggest stretch. Partially because Medium doesn’t look like an Urban Fantasy. The cinematography is well-lit, open and airy, even if it is urban. (Going solely on ads, here. Mea culpa.) It’s also a procedural, rather than an adventure. That matters. It’s also the weakest match to my core audience. I figured, of all of the shows I referenced, this would be the one that was least-often recognized, and you can’t categorize a show you don’t know. Here, at least, I think I was right. For what reason? Dunno.

Results:

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The part of the results that were most mind-boggling to me weren’t the final distribution. It actually looks about right. The core 4 are best represented with Buffy winning, and the other three tail off in exactly the distribution I’d have expected. What was unexpected was how they came in.
I had three people pick six of seven. A bunch at five. I had a few pick three or four. Almost everyone else picked two or one, and the twos didn’t come in patterns. They were random. (Except Medium.)
Grimm, Supernatural, and True Blood.
Grimm and Buffy.
Supernatural, Buffy, and Arrow.
Just Arrow.
Just Charmed.
Just Grimm.
Just Supernatural
Supernatural, Buffy, and Medium.
And it goes on.
Going through it all once more, I think that I do find the trend I expected – that the young lead discovering and adventuring through a mysterious magical world full of supernatural conflict is the core of what readers see is UF – but there were a lot of combinations I didn’t understand.
Was it because I watch more TV than is good for me? That could be. It’s hard to know, given that I didn’t ask which ones they’d *seen* before I asked which ones they’d categorize, but I thought that that was overly-complex. Still think I was right, there.
So.
That’s what I got.
Really sitting with the data in front of me and pulling it apart to write this, I think I’m reassured more than I’m troubled.
Rangers needs a new cover. Darn.
But the genre is what I thought it was. The tropes of adventuring and discovery of the paranormal resonate. And readers care enough to show up and tell me about it, when I ask.
Thank you.
So much.

The List

So.

I told my newsletter that I’d written a Christmas short that was only going to be available for the 12 days leading up to Christmas.  I had no intention of advertising it outside of my newsletter because it was going to be available for such a short period of time, and at 6 pages, it’s just for a smile, anyway.

And then InstaFreebie asked to promote it.  The week of the 28th.  And I can’t turn that down.

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So The List is going to be up through the end of the month (sorry to my mailing list for letting IF make a liar of me), and, because it’s a Christmas short, it doesn’t match anything else I have out.  So you don’t need to sign up to my mailing list to get a copy.  Presumably, if you’re hanging out here, you already have a pretty good feel for whether or not you like my fiction, but I’m not going to try to tell anyone that if they like The List, they’ll like a lot of my existing novels.  Maybe.  But sitting at a bar at the north end of nowhere just doesn’t relate well enough to demon hunting for me to think it’s realistic.

Anyway.  Grab a copy if you like.  Don’t like InstaFreebie?  Feel free to contact me directly and get one.

Merry Christmas!

 

Justin!

My blog is a little behind my newsletter today.  One of them has to go out first, and the newsletter won.  I announced that Justin was available at InstaFreebie (it is!).

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Yay!

As with all of the prequels right now, they aren’t available to buy yet (they will be soon… I’ll talk more about this in a minute) so the only people who get to read them are the ones on my mailing list.  InstaFreebie requires that you sign up in order to get your copy.

Bonus, y’all.

But what surprised me was an e-mail I got from one of the readers I know best, who said she was really excited about this one.  And all of a sudden, I remembered how important this story is.  All of the prequels are *really* important.  That’s why I had to write them.  Carter and Samantha have all of this history, and all of these really important things that happened to them, and those were stories that I needed to get written down.

But Justin.

Justin is a big deal.  And I’d kinda forgotten that amidst all of the other stuff that I’m doing right now.

Now, this isn’t for sale yet.  It has an InstaFreebie exclusive cover, and it will probably not go on sale until the middle of January at least.  It’s possible it doesn’t make it to Amazon until February.  But it’s also only on InstaFreebie for a limited time.  So grab your copy.

Eventually, there are going to be four books in The Book of Carter: Rage, Justin, Diana, and Departure.  Once they’re all available, I’ll bundle them together and do a smidgen of editing to remove the constant explanations of who and what things are (translating angeltongue over and over again, among other things) and put them out in The Book of Carter.  Miss one of the first four?  Want to review the full set?  Let me know.  I’ll start putting together a review list for the book and get you a copy before it goes up for sale.

I’ll eventually do a full blog on it, but the long and short of reviewing for me is this: reviews are necessary for me to be successful.  Good or bad, I need them.  I will not require that you write a review in exchange for *anything*, a review copy or anything else.  I will not tell you that you should like, or review as though you like, anything I write, but I would kindly ask, if you *hate* everything I write… why are you here?  No.  My writing doesn’t fit everyone, and I have no issue with that.  Not all of my writing fits everyone, even if all of the rest of it did.  That’s okay.  The point of a review is for you to flag down other people who are thinking about reading something I’ve written and going: hey, this is what you need to know to make a good decision about whether or not to read this.

It’s not about me or my writing.  It’s about helping me and the people who would genuinely enjoy my work find each other.

So.  Contact me or comment here if you want a review copy, and I’ll get you on the list.

Yay, Justin!

Isobel – the book!

So this post is way late.  I was going to put this up Nov1, but Isobel wasn’t quite ready and then NaNo got the best of me and I ended up waiting for my Dec1 post.  And now it’s the third and I’ve been so involved in writing that I’m just getting to it.

So my apologies to her.

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Isobel went live in the middle of November.  This is a book in the Sam & Sam universe, but Isobel is not in on that, quite yet.  She’ll show up in Sam & Sam #7, but her history was one I wanted to get figured out before she turned up.

Because Isobel is complicated. Continue reading “Isobel – the book!”

Mailing lists – why?

I’d been planning on doing this blog for about a month, now, because next month I’m a part of a number of different promotions aimed at increasing my mailing list.

Does that feel like icky marketing stuff to you?

Because it did to me for quite a while – give me all your information so I can pester you with buy links! – and I’m coming around on this being a lot more than that, and nothing like as scammy and sell-y as I thought it was.

Stick with me on that.

The reason the timing is… interesting… is the ‘pocalypse going on among a bunch of the Amazon-exclusive authors right now. I’m not going to talk a lot about it, because it’s business-y and it’s highly data-driven, and… well, a lot of the authors involved are kind of struggling not to sound whiny, despite some very sound data running around to support them. I try very hard to keep my positive voice on, when I’m in public, because the internet is forever, but you can’t blame them, when they’re seeing a business model potentially impode on them.

And that’s the part that’s relevant, here. Continue reading “Mailing lists – why?”

#ProjectNovember

My writing calendar revolves around November.

Four years ago, I promised myself I was going to try to make a career out of writing, and that journey began at NaNo (National Novel Writing Month, in November).  While a lot of people quite legitimately feel like NaNo falls in the middle of what is already the most stressful season of the year for meeting obligations and finding time to get things done, I find it reinvigorating to repurpose a dark, cold season into the peak of the writing year.  The first few years, I intentionally took off the entire month of October, in order to be sitting on a pile of creative energy, come midnight, October 31st (not to mention a pile of leftover candy with its own kind of energy).  That hasn’t worked out for scheduling reasons, lately, but it’s still day 1 of my writing calendar, with a sense of new, with all of the shortcomings and the lots-of-work from the previous year wiped away.

November.

This is also when I take a close look at what I got done last year and what I plan on getting done next year, because anything that I don’t have on a glide path to finished by November isn’t going to get done in 2016 – it’s going to have to be next year’s project, anyway.  And this has been… an interesting year.

For reasons that aren’t worth listing out, here, I had a large break in publishing called ‘2015’.  I didn’t publish anything between Warrior, which came out Dec 30, 2014, and HDM: Miami, which was May, 2016.  (It’s worth noting that I didn’t stop writing, through this period.  I had two successful NaNos, and a few other really strong writing-challenge months, so the work is written.  I just have to get it *done*.)  They say that a gap in publishing that big is a momentum killer, but I didn’t have any momentum to speak of, anyway, so I figure it didn’t make all that big a difference to me.  Regardless, when I looked at this year, back at NaNo2015, I wanted to get books out, again, but that particular muscle had atrophied quite a lot, and it took five months to get the HDM novel organized and put out.  From there, things have rolled a bit more smoothly, but without really seeing the results I was hoping for.

So I made a deal with myself.  Writing year 2016-2017 is *the one*.  Everything I have been promising myself I was going to get around to, everything I’ve been meaning to try, all of the identified causes I have for not being as successful as I want to be – I’m going after them.  And that starts with a blitz of content all targeting – November 2016.

The things that are already done for #ProjectNovember:

-New cover for the original His Dark Mistress novel.  (The old one was a formative attempt at proving to myself that I’ve got no idea what I’m doing, designing a novel.  I’d love to say that that lesson is officially learned, but…  Quite frankly, I’m probably going to continue trying.)

-Publish and release Dragonsword.  My favorite book of the ones I’ve written to date, I’ve been sad to see it languish as much as it has, so far, and I hope that as I get further into #ProjectNovember, some of the readers who really enjoyed Sam & Sam will find that they enjoy it as much as I do.

-Release the Sam & Sam box set.  The first four books are really one story.  It has three natural breaks in it, which are where the four books come from, but this is how they were always meant to be.  I don’t know if I’ll do another Sam & Sam box set with any of the other books I have planned; perhaps a box set of Sam & Sam companions, as they come into existence, but probably not with the linear (numbered) Sam & Sam novels.  They just don’t go together the way the first four did.

-Various behind-the-scenes advertising and promotional work.  I find this a bit tawdry to discuss here, so I won’t.  Suffice to say, I haven’t done it before, and they say that in order for readers to know that your work exists, you have to tell them.  I find it difficult to argue with the inescapability of this logic.

Things that are yet to come before November:

-Sam & Sam paperbacks.  Yes.  This is happening.  The covers are done, it’s just a question of getting the layout finished, which takes time, and JJ is already underwater with the amount of stuff I’m asking him to do.  Like, you know, publish two books and a box set in two months, and a bunch of other things.  The first four books plus Dragonsword will all be ready in paperback by the end of October, though, or I promise to beat him.

-Isobel.  Oh, Isobel.  Isobel has been digging a hole in JJ’s brain for years, and he asked me to pry her out and pin her to a story, so that’s what I did.  She lives in the Anadidd’na universe – not that she knows it.  She’s the first of the Sam & Sam companion stories, and is an odd format, compared to the others.  I’ll be posting a short story (or at least, part of one, depending on how things go) to my blog here to help get a feel for how Isobel goes.  The cover is done, the editing is mostly done.  Isobel should be up by the very end of the month.

-More advertising and promotion.  I should note, here, that if you want to find out about all of the big groups of discounted books I join up with, be sure to sign up for my mailing list.  There are going to be more of these, going forward.  They’re a great way to find other authors who are writing the same kind of stuff I write, at great prices.

-Potentially the first Book of Carter novella.  In all, there will be four novellas, and my plan is to release them quickly across the end of this year and the beginning of next year, and then combine them all into a single book.  The first one is called Rage.

November.  The writing year starts in November.  And I’m going to do everything I can to make it a big one.

Wish me luck.

Rangers boxset!

So, things keep stacking up.  I’ll have a blog on it in a day or two explaining where I’m headed, but this is here so I wanted to get it posted:

Rangers Origin, books 1-4 is now available on Amazon at a 30% discount to the price of the four books individually.

All the demonic hack ‘n slash, none of the going-to-get-the-next-book.  Score one for the good guys!  Buy your copy here.

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Dragonsword: Live today!

It’s here!

I want to open with this, because it’s important to me: Dragonsword is my favorite book, of the ones I’ve written so far, including 17 novels and a basket full of shorter work.  The world of Sam & Sam continues to pick up new characters, and this is the cast that I’ve really been looking forward to.  There are also a number of continual character transformations that are really important, over the course of this book.  Makes this book, among all of my Sam & Sam books, their offshoots, and my other books, feel like home.

After the tumultuous formation in the first four books, Sam, Samantha, and Jason have hit their identities.  The problem is that there’s a reason Samantha ran away from all of this in the first place: New York and its political intrigue is messy, dirty, and violent, and the more powerful you are, the more involved you are, whether you like it or not.  And while Samantha may not like it, she’s not going to back down.

You can get Dragonsword on Amazon here.  Don’t want to dive in in the middle?  Start with Rangers, for only $0.99.  Prefer to read paper?  Watch this space: Sam & Sam in paperback is coming soon!

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