Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sample Sunday - The Crown in the Heather

If you're on Twitter, there's a great way to discover new writers! Just search under #SampleSunday and add any other hash tags you'd like (#historicalfiction, #YA, etc.) to help you refine your search. This will take you to a sample of an author's writing. I'll be checking them out today, retweeting those that catch my eye.

So without further ado, here is my installment from The Crown in the Heather (The Bruce Trilogy: Book I). The year is 1296 and Robert the Bruce is at Lochmaben awaiting the birth of his first child with his wife Isabella of Mar. But as it was back in those days, childbirth was a precarious event. What should have been a joyous event was often bittersweet:

My eyes swept toward the great four-postered bed across the room. On the far side, the old midwife, Alice, wiped delicately at Isabella’s white brow with a cloth. And nearer to me, at the foot of her bed, Father Malachi . . . performing last rites.

“Dear God in heaven,” I uttered. “No, please, no.”

The priest daubed the soles of Isabella’s feet with holy oil as he blessed her soul to heaven’s keeping. I drifted past him, the iron tang of blood filling my nose and mouth. A great blotch of red-brown stained the sheets on which she lay. Over her bloated belly and bare legs someone had draped a blanket in modesty. Her shift, wet with the slickness of birth, clung to her full breasts in dark, sodden wrinkles.

Stunned, I knelt beside her and took her hand, still warm, in mine. Sweat glistened like a fine sheen of hoarfrost upon her cheeks. The only color in her face was a mask of red encircling closed eyes. Her waist-length hair, once fair and shining, lay across her pillow in twisted, lackluster strands. I stroked her fingers, even as I sensed them stiffening, and bent my head to my forearm.

My Isabella, she cannot be . . . No, no, it isn’t possible. This is not right. Did her eyelids not flutter just now? Her chest rise in the slightest of breaths? Was that twitch beneath my fingertips not the faint pulse of blood streaming through her veins?

A wail of lament ripped from my gut, but I clenched my jaw fiercely, trapping the knife of pain in my throat. My hands began to tremble, then my arms and shoulders, until soon my whole body shook uncontrollably.

“Marjorie,” came a hoarse whisper.

A long moment later, I swallowed back the hard knot in my throat and looked up through bleary eyes. “What?”

“Marjorie, my lord,” Alice murmured, a sorrowful smile on her thin lips. “Lady Isabella’s last wish was that you should name the child Marjorie—after your mother.”

With quivering fingers, I pushed away tears. But like a fresh cut doused with vinegar, their sting remained.

“If . . .” My voice cracked with grief. “If that was her wish.” I glanced at the tiny babe swaddled tightly in the curve of Ljot’s arms.

Father Malachi touched my shoulder. “The godparents should be summoned, my lord. If I remember, you chose your oldest brother, Edward. And your sister . . . Mary, was it? I will send to Lochmaben for them. We can perform the christening as soon as they arrive.”

Christening? How could I take joy in the baptism of a child in the same week I was to bury my wife? More often, it was the mother who lived and the child who died, as Ljot’s did. If only this babe had—

God forgive me. How can I even think such wickedness?

Then I heard the slurp and grunt of my daughter’s vigorous suckling and soon her bittersweet cries rent the air.

“Marjorie,” I repeated.

Until later,

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Somewhere, somebody needs your help

In the past couple of years, while I was contemplating whether or not to go the indie route in publishing my books, a very wise voice appeared on the scene over at Her name was April Hamilton and she had started up a website called Publetariat as an online community and resource for indie authors. She was among the first to herald indie publishing as a legitimate course for authors and an alternative to the traditional publishing scene. She spent many, many hours on Authonomy sharing information about what self-publishing is and is not. Although most writers there were curious to find out more, a handful of them believed that indie publishing was for those who would never find success anyway and would only ever end up selling to their friends and relatives. April always kept a cool head and never resorted to emotional outbursts,always maintaining the utmost level of professionalism. I quickly got the impression that not only was she very knowledgeable, but also very selfless with that knowledge.

I spent hours on her website and following the links there to learn as much as I could before finally making the brave decision to publish my own books. Without her, and many like her, I may never have done so. Six months into the venture and I'm now earning enough from e-book sales to pay off my monthly satellite internet bill, my phone landline and take the family out for dinner every now and then. It ain't a lot, but it's something and the added bonus is that I can actually call myself a writer because my books are being read by complete strangers.

But back to April Hamilton. This past week, she posted this: Is Publetariat Worth a Dollar to You? To summarize it, she was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year, her husband left her and her business went under. Struggling to make ends meet, she is also facing foreclosure. So she's asking for help - a dollar or whatever can be spared, to help her family and the website stay afloat. You can donate at Publetariat via PayPal or purchase one of April Hamilton's books.

I firmly believe that if you do your best to spread good karma that it will one day come back to you. I also realize there are many, many other people and animals in the world who need a helping hand at times. So find someone in need, give up your Double Mocha Grande' Latte for a day and throw your change in the Salvation Army kettle or whatever cause you believe in. I've been eating cheap at A&W lately and shoving my change and spare bills in the Humane Society piggy bank there. Meanwhile, have faith in the Universe, then, that the same kindness will come back to you when you need it. But that good karma has to start somewhere - why not with you?

Merry Christmas!


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sample Sunday (#ss on Twitter)

Although I've been brewing a couple of other blog posts in my gray matter, they keep getting delayed by studying and writing a term paper. Next week my college course will be over and I'll be unfettered, so in the meanwhile here's a quick mention for the new Sample Sunday.

If you're on Twitter and are looking for new reading material from indie authors, just search for #SampleSunday or #ss and you'll find oodles of reading samples recommended by other readers and indie authors. The great thing about indie books, particularly on Kindle or other e-reading devices, is that they're usually very CHEAP!

Here's the link to David Wiseheart's (Kindle Author) blog post about it:

If you find one you like, feel free to retweet it.

Until later,

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The second Robert the Bruce book is now available!

After much line editing and finagling of the cover, my second book of The Bruce Trilogy, Worth Dying For, is now available as an e-book on, (Kindle) and Smashwords (LRF, PDB and epub). Worth Dying For picks up in 1306, where The Crown in the Heather left off:

"One day. One battle. Bannockburn, 1314.
The rise of Robert the Bruce. The vengefulness of James Douglas. And the ruin of Edward II.

Robert the Bruce has known nothing but hardship since seizing Scotland's crown. Parted from his wife and daughter and forced to flee through the Highland wilderness, he struggles to unite a kingdom divided by centuries old blood feuds. The price, however, must be paid in lives and honor.

Falling to temptation, Robert's only means of redemption_and to one day win his wife Elizabeth back_is to forgive those who have wronged him. One by one, Robert must win back Scotland's clans and castles. The one man who can help him purge the land of English tyranny is the cunning young nobleman, James 'the Black' Douglas, who seeks vengeance on those who took both his inheritance and his father's life.

With the death of Longshanks, Edward II ascends to the throne of England. His first act as king is to recall the banished Piers Gaveston. Too soon, Edward learns that he cannot protect the one he loves most and still preserve his own life and crown. To those who demand the ultimate sacrifice, he must relinquish all power. To have his revenge, he must do what his father never believed him capable of_defeat Robert the Bruce on the field of battle."

The print version should be available sometime early in 2011 - but first I'm taking a break from writing and publishing to get up to speed on some college biology in hopes of becoming employable.

P.S. Remember, if you don't own an e-reader, the Kindle for PC and other Kindle apps are available for FREE!

Happy reading,

Friday, November 26, 2010

Final Giveaway for Isabeau at Goodreads

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Isabeau, A Novel of Queen Isabella and Sir Roger Mortimer (Paper... by N. Gemini Sasson

Just a quick note to let everyone know that this is the final giveaway for a signed paperback copy of Isabeau, A Novel of Queen Isabella and Sir Roger Mortimer. It ends at midnight on Sunday, Nov. 28th, so hurry on over and check out other great book giveaways at Goodreads!

P.S. I finally won a book myself (yes, I can no longer moan that I never win anything), but I can't mention what it is because it's actually going to be a Christmas present for someone else.

Until later,

Friday, November 19, 2010

Fighting hibernation

For the life of me, I cannot understand people who say they love fall. Because fall, to me, means that winter is imminent. I wilt when the first Arctic blast bears down from Canada. Once it drops below 40, forget running outside (I used to be much tougher, but then I got older and smarter and more frail). I sleep with extra socks on and the blankets piled up deep and in the mornings I resist unraveling from my cocoon, because the spouse has the thermostat set to drop to refrigerator temperatures at night. I have more hooded sweatshirts than I have shoes, because one can never wear too many layers. I'd move further south if it was up to me, but you see, the spouse has a high percentage of Scandinavian blood and if it were up to him, we'd be living in International Falls, Minnesota - you know, that dot on the map where all the weathermen in the contiguous lower 48 states point to when they mention the lowest LOW temperature on a winter day?

Snow? Snow is pretty to look at from inside on a day you have nowhere to go to and it does brighten up a drab, muddy landscape beneath gray skies. But it's not runner-friendly, particularly on our country road, which is always the last to get plowed because only ten people live on a five mile stretch of it. I hate driving in snow because I imagine my car careening into the ditch. Proof that as I've gotten older, I've also become more of a fraidy-cat. Worst of all, our 1/4 mile long, uphill, gravel driveway is like an Alaskan off-road adventure whenever the snow drifts. With a coating of ice, driving downhill is a thrill ride that outranks The Beast at Kings Island. Unfortunately, we ruined all sledding opportunities when we put up pasture fence at the bottom of the back hill. If you want to sled down the driveway and don't mind the potholes or the possibility of a concussion when you slam into the cottonwood tree, that option is still open.

Mostly, though, it's that weekend of turning the clocks back that nudges me towards hibernation. By 6 p.m. it's pitch black outside and a half an hour later I'm yawning and ready for bed. This makes it tough to stay up and watch Craig Ferguson (I still haven't figured out how to set the DVD player to record, even though we've had it for five years now). Darkness is sooo . . . depressing.

I need sunlight. At least 14 hours worth per day. I generate energy through photosynthesis, I'm sure. If you ask me, it should be summer 11 months out of the year. I'll allow that one month of winter for tucking in and recharging and holiday shopping, but after that I want to be back outside with the sunshine warming my skin and the gardens bursting with color and the birds chirping away - even that blasted nocturnal mockingbird that camps outside my window.

To combat hibernation (and thus gaining 5-10 pounds every winter), I haul myself to the YMCA for workouts, read the books I've been meaning to read all year, purge the basement of all those 'things' I thought I'd need sometime later and spend waaay too much time on the computer.

This year I'm going to do something totally different - take college courses in Geology and Biology. For fun? you ask. Uh, no . . . although I do find the subjects interesting. Actually I'm trying to renew my teaching certificate, so at some point in the future I can grow up and get a real job. As long as my brain doesn't implode from having to remember how to study, it should make the months pass quickly.

What do you do to make it through the cold season? And is there anybody out there (except you skiers) who actually embrace winter?

Stay warm my friends,

Friday, November 5, 2010

Karma Wears Fur

This post has nothing to do with books, writing or publishing. It is of a personal nature, but one which many of you reading this I'm sure will feel an undeniable connection with. And if there hasn't been some special dog who graced your life and enriched it, perhaps it was a cat or a horse or some other furred, feathered or scaled creature.

The picture above is the Australian Shepherd, Eagle Creek's Prima Donna DNA-CP, OA, NAJ, RV-O/OAC-V, JV-O/OJC-V, GV-N/NGC-V, ASCA Hall of Fame Dam #292

The alphabet soup after her fancy registered name basically means she was fast and loved to jump and climb on things - and that she had a few kids who took after her in that department.

Her name really should read: Domino - Loyal, Brave, Devoted and My Hero.

And her story goes something like this:

Almost 14 years ago I got a phone call. It was Domino's breeder. She asked me if I wanted her and told me if I didn't take her, she was going to have to 'blue juice' her. That's breeder-speak for 'euthanize'. We owned Domino's sire, Drum, who back in the day was a multiple Best of Breed winner in the showring and an all-around versatile dog. Nervously, I asked why - because when someone says they're going to put a dog to sleep, you figure it's got to be for serious reasons. "She's dog aggressive. She beat the crap out of her litter sister, and blah, blah, blah..."

My first thought was of my two young children. Did I really want to bring a dog in the house that had aggressive tendencies? I should've said 'no', but I have this inexplicable sense of intuition and on that occasion, I blurted out, "Yes, when can I get her?"

You see, one thing I've learned in over 20 years of being a dog breeder, is that sometimes what an owner tells you about a dog and what is really true about that dog are not necessarily one and the same. The breeder had decided to keep two females and a male from the litter because she couldn't make up her mind who to pick. We had warned her this was a bad idea. Littermates will always establish a pecking order. Sometimes this shakes out quietly; sometimes the fur flies. Especially when said pack is unsupervised by humans. Which was the case in this instance.

When Domino came to our home, she growled once at my husband, was promptly picked up by the ruff and given a stern talking-to, then she went limp as a dishrag. She was smart enough to know she wasn't boss here.

Gradually, I began to trust her. She never once provoked another dog - either her kennel buddies or strange dogs in public. Not only was she not dog aggressive, but she was an absolute mush when it came to children. She cleaned up the crackers they dropped on the floor, yet never stole from their hands or off their plates. She went to nursery school, where I spoke to 4-year olds about how to behave around dogs and fourteen of them took turns dragging her up and down the hallway on leash, tugging her hair and crushing her in bear hugs. She alerted us when strangers came to the house and made a fierce racket to warn them they were on her territory, yet the moment she sensed we accepted them, she let her guard down and begged their attention with dark, intelligent eyes.

At some point I noticed she had a penchant for jumping UP on things. Crates, trashcans, tables and even cars. So I took her to agility class and that is where she found her joy in life. Running agility with her was a bit like driving a Porsche on the Autobahn. That smooth, that effortless, that fast and free. I could actually run the course without saying a word to her. All I had to do was point at an obstacle, turn my shoulders or slow down and she responded.

What I will remember of her is not her titles or her children's titles. It is that in return for me saving her life, she also saved mine.

I rarely speak of this. It's not a day I like to remember, but on this occasion I will. We'd had another dog who, to put it kindly, had a few loose screws. He could be friendly and smart one moment, and reactive and sharp the next. He hated another of our dogs, Pirate. Loathed him. Pirate could've cared less, but Pirate was also not going to let another dog beat up on him. One day, this dog slipped past me into the yard with Pirate. I tried to call Pirate in, but he was afraid to turn his back. When I went into the yard, the fight had already started. And it was an ugly, nasty, to-the-bitter-end kind of fight. I stupidly grabbed the other dog by the scruff, intending to hoist him in the air and literally throw him over the fence. But he whipped around, clamped his jaws down on my arm and would not let go. In his rage, he no longer knew me.

I screamed. It was the worst pain imaginable. Panic consumed me. And then . . . he let go. Domino had sunk her teeth into his neck. I stood up and, my arm dripping with blood from a big gash that exposed tendons, ran inside. My heart in my ears, all I could hear behind me was the gnashing of teeth and throaty growls.

While I rinsed my arm off under the faucet and had my kids call my husband home, Domino had beaten the other dog to the ground and tore a hole in his side the size of a grapefruit. He slunk off into a corner while she kept a watchful eye on him. In the fight, she had broken two teeth and torn an ear, as well as suffered deep puncture wounds.

When I returned home from being stitched up at the hospital, my husband let Domino into the room with me. For several days, she wouldn't let another dog near me, even when I told her it was okay. When we both recovered enough to get back to agility, our bond, our means of communication were stronger than ever. It was like she could read my mind. In a sense, I could read hers, too. Her eyes said what she could not.

Domino is nearly sixteen now, but she hasn't long left. A few weeks ago I noticed a mammary tumor. It grew rapidly. She hasn't eaten for three days. Her breathing is shallow and rapid. What little she drinks comes right back up.

She's in the laundry room within eyeshot of my desk. I check in with her often and run my hand over her fur and tell her what a good, brave dog she is. I compliment her on her speed and jumping ability. Tell her she was a wonderful mother to her pups. I reminisce with her about the good ol' days in agility and all our trips together, getting up before dawn and driving for hours. When I do, I recall her grace and her intelligence, her impeccable manners and her love of children.

Sometimes, I run my fingers over that scar on my arm and think how I have been blessed to know true devotion, have witnessed courage firsthand and just realize how incredibly lucky I have been to have her in my life.

Hug your pet today.

Until later,

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Crown in the Heather - Goodreads Book Giveaway

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Crown in the Heather (Paperback) by N. Gemini Sasson

The Crown in the Heather

by N. Gemini Sasson

Giveaway ends November 10, 2010.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win
To mark the upcoming e-book release shortly of Worth Dying For, The Bruce Trilogy: Book II, I've set up a Goodreads Giveaway for the first book in the series about Robert the Bruce, James Douglas and Edward II. To enter to win The Crown in the Heather, just click above.

You must be a Goodreads member to be eligible, but please do browse around. There are tons of great books being given away there all the time. I throw my name in the hat every week or so and I'm still waiting to win one, but there's always hope.

Meanwhile, it's back to the final proofreading stages for my third book. After that, hmm, time to start writing another one???

P.S. Best wishes to all my NaNoWriMo friends out there! Stay sane. I'll try not to distract any of you, but I can't make any promises. I may do some scribbling myself, but I have this paralyzing anxiety about keeping track of word counts, so I'll just focus on putting the pieces together for now.

Happy reading,

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Pigtailed Heart

Author Ruth Francisco delivers an intelligent, multilayered, and rapidly paced historical crime novel of 1930’s Los Angeles in The Pigtailed Heart. Based on an actual criminal trial, this story swings from the courtroom, to seedy backroom gambling parlors populated by Hollywood socialites, to even more sordid political entanglements that reach far beyond the glitter and sunshine of southern California.

George Kendall Dazey is a well known doctor whose wife, the lovely yet troubled starlet Doris Dazey, dies under mysterious circumstances. The death is at first ruled a suicide, but later when Dazey remarries and seeks to claim full custody of his son from his powerful in-laws, a murder charge suddenly surfaces and Dazey’s life becomes the object of unbearable scrutiny.

Former detective Jack Clayton is retrieved from a quiet life of manual labor on his family’s orchards by renowned L.A. defense lawyer Jerry Geisler to investigate the charges. But what starts out to be a simple case of searching for evidence to uphold Dazey’s innocence becomes something far more. Every clue leads to more questions and incriminations, as the scope of those involved becomes broader and ever more scandalous. Slowly, as Dazey’s trial progresses, Jack begins to uncover a bully’s playground of organized crime, political corruption, espionage and eugenics.

The Pigtailed Heart is a gripping crime thriller that will keep readers teetering on the edges of their seats and reluctant to put the book down until the very last word. Impressively detailed and impeccably researched, this story will not only hurl you back to the darker side of Hollywood’s golden era, but leave your heart pounding and your palms sweaty.

Happy reading,

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Ruth Francisco's Kindle Primer: Part III

Here's the final installment in the Kindle Primer series by author Ruth Francisco. These points are about where to promote your book and get it reviewed:

PROMOTION: The most difficult part about selling ebooks is getting the word out about them.

For "Amsterdam 2012", I mentioned it on the Amazon Kindle forum and on That was it. And it took off. Most of the promotion is word of mouth--doing guest postings on other writers' blogs, finding interest groups and pitching your book (e.g., if you have a book about dogs, pitching it to websites for dog lovers), participating in various writers groups, reviewing other writers' works. The self-promotion is time-intensive, and, yes, annoying. But even traditional publishers insist their writers do a lot of self-promotion on their own (my last publisher asked me to hire a publicist!) There are some websites that review ebooks only. Soon there will be established review venues. Right now everyone is kind of flying by the seat of their britches.

AUTHOR COMMUNITIES to Join and to Promote Your Books:

- Sign up and promote your book on the Writer's Book Bazaar forum. Participate in as many discussions as you have time for. Post questions if you want. Everyone is very helpful. These boards list a lot of other venues where you can advertise your book.

-Amazon Kindle, Discussions, Kindle Forum. There are several threads where you can plug your book. Let friends know about where you’ve plugged your book, so they can comment on your remark and keep it on the first page of comments. This helps enormously in sales. I do not recommend posting a new thread about your book, although many do. Several “trolls” are very harsh to writers who “hog” the forum for self-promotion. Use this venue with caution. Become a member and promote your book. If you spend time on their discussion boards and make "friends", they can be really helpful. Become a member and promote your book.

-Soundings:Puget Sound Speaks. Promote on Board Index, Independent authors Become a member and promote your book on the authors’ promotion thread. Become a member and promote your book.

AUTHOR BLOGS Where You Can Ask to Have Your Book Reviewed or be a Guest Blogger: (Fill out their author's interview questionnaire. They will post your book in about 3 weeks.) Kindle Nation Daily, a promotional site. Promotional blitzes start at $79.

-There are many, many more. Many are mentioned on from time to time. It is a question of networking and favors, but this shared promotion is invaluable.

Other Promotional Tools to Know About

- Tagging. On your book page on Amazon, there is a place where you can list "tags" or key words that help people find your book. Add tags, then go to Kindleboards and ask fellow writers to tag your book. This will get your book up on the rankings for specific types of books. Very important.

- Author Page on Amazon. Amazon now gives you an author page where you can write about anything you want to promote yourself. Put up a picture and stuff about yourself. You need to set up a separate page for Amazon UK.

-Facebook and Twitter. Lots of writers use Facebook to promote their books. Become a fan of other writers on FB, and they will do the same.

Many, many thanks to Ruth Francisco for compiling this information and graciously allowing me to share some of it.

Happy publishing,

Monday, October 25, 2010

Book Giveaway for Isabeau at History and Women

We interrupt the very informative Kindle Primer by Ruth Francisco for this commercial message:

Mirella Patzer over at History and Women is running a book giveaway for the paperback of Isabeau, A Novel of Queen Isabella and Sir Roger Mortimer!

So if you don't have a copy yet - or have one and want an extra to pass along - run over and sign up. The contest ends on Weds., Oct. 27th.

For those of you who have a Kindle, Kindle app., or Kindle for PC (which is free, btw), the Kindle version of Isabeau is available for just $.99 for a limited time.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Ruth Francisco's Kindle Primer: Part II

Following are some more excerpts on pricing, making changes to your e-book and publishing backlist titles from Ruth Francisco's The Kindle Option thread that originally appeared on


A lot of writers first post their books for .99 cents because a number of Kindle readers routinely buy only .99 books. It is a way to get a following. Think of it as an introductory price. The minimum for which you can get at 70% royalty is $2.99, which is why many indie Kindle books are $2.99. The DTB publishers often list their books at $9.99 or higher because they can. Many writers think it's the DTB publishers’ way to suppress the ebook market, and to maintain a demand for DTBs. But readers have made it clear on the forums that they think it is unfair to post an ebook for more than a paperback.

In other words $9.99 is probably too much for an indie ebook. Keep it under $5.00.

At some point you might want to change your price. If, for instance, you post at .99 cents and it sells like crazy, getting you to the top 100 Kindle Best Sellers list, you might want to keep it at .99 cents until you drop off. (The big deal about the top 100 is that it is a visible list that is promoted by Amazon. A major goal is to get on this list.) But if you are not making a lot of sales at .99 cents, you might as well go to $2.99 for awhile. I've had books that began to sell more when I raised the price.

There is no stigma for .99 books on Amazon. DTB Publishers sometimes run very cheap specials (or free) for their best sellers. Everyone, in other words, is trying to find a good price point.

You'll simply have to test it out.

CHANGES. At any point after you have published, you CAN make changes. You can change the price. You can make editorial changes and upload again. You can change your cover and synopsis. Amazon may take your book offline for up to 48 hours, so you don’t want to do this excessively, but it is hugely comforting to know that once “it’s gone to print”, it’s not “carved in stone”.

BACKLIST TITLES. Many authors are uploading to Kindle previously published books when they get their rights back. You need a letter from your publisher confirming Reversion of Rights. Upload your book. Within a few days, Amazon will contact you and ask you to scan in your letter and send it to them. Within four or five days, your book will be approved.

-Smashwords does not require such a letter.

Don't forget to check out the previous post on publishing to Kindle and to find a list of Ruth's books!

[Up next, where to promote your book and get it reviewed.]

Happy publishing,

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Ruth Francisco's Kindle Primer, Part I

Yes, new writers still can and do acquire agents and publishing contracts these days; I know a couple of very talented ones who have. But many others who've either already tried the traditional route or have decided to skip it altogether are now considering the option of e-publishing as indie authors.

One thing I've come to appreciate about the indie author community is the openness, support and encouragement that can be found there. Recently, Ruth Francisco, who is both traditionally published and an indie author, posted a forum thread on called The Kindle Option. Ruth was kind enough to share the details of many of the steps in publishing to Kindle as an indie author.

I was impressed with the first book she'd posted on Authonomy, Amsterdam 2012, and recently read and reviewed her gritty, fast-paced historical crime novel, The Pigtailed Heart. I asked Ruth if I could post excerpts of her forum post here and she graciously agreed:


I want to share my experiences with Kindle, and to let everyone know that epublishing is a viable option to waiting around for a traditional publisher.

Not only are Kindle writers being offered traditional DTB (dead tree book) contracts, but established writers are publishing original material to Kindle. Epublishing is revolutionizing publishing and writing, an event no less important to intellectual discourse than the penny newspapers of the nineteenth century.

In February, after a year of shopping my latest novel "Amsterdam 2012" to New York publishers, and being turned down for being “too controversial,” I decided to upload it to Kindle. I didn’t know anything about epublishing. I actually posted it because I was afraid my aging computer would crash, and I would lose the novel. Or the house would burn down. I figured at least if it were up on Kindle, it would be safe. I set the price at .99 cents. What the hell.

I sold 1,000 copies the first weekend, and soon my book was number 30 on the Kindle best seller list. With a Kindle royalty payment of .35 cents (35% of books under $2.99 and over $9.99; 70% between $2.99 and $9.99), I was not getting rich; but I was getting read. And readers were responding—immediately—in reviews, on forums, and in emails. I had written the book because I wanted people to discuss a difficult topic, and they were; I was having an active and open dialog with my readers unlike I ever had with DTB publishing. I was exhilarated.

After the success of "Amsterdam 2012", I uploaded two backlist titles, "Good Morning, Darkness", and "Confessions of a Deathmaiden", the rights for which my publisher had recently returned to me. Then three original titles.

Why did I do that rather than submit them to my publisher? For one thing, waiting a year to get published, even if my agent could sell my manuscripts tomorrow, seemed antiquated. Who has time for that? If I write about fresh, relevant issues, I want the stories published now. I was also selling more books on Kindle, reaching more people, all over the world, than I had with DTBs. If I set the Kindle price at $2.99, I make $2.04 per book, about the same as I would for a hardback. If I sold it as a $7.99 paperback, I would only earn about .64 cents per book.

Also, epublishing does not preclude a DTB contract. In fact, the paper publishing arm of Kindle, Amazon Encore Books, culls its list of Kindle authors for books to publish. Soon other DTB publishers will follow.

While the ebook market is still only 5-7% of the total book market, it is a growing market. The market for DTBs is shrinking. I chose to go with the growing market.


("Ruth Francisco worked in the film industry for fifteen years before selling her first novel Confessions of a Deathmaiden to Warner Books in 2003, followed by Good Morning, Darkness, which was selected by Publishers’ Weekly as one of the best mysteries of the year, and her controversial third novel, The Secret Memoirs of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. She now has four new novels, including The Pigtailed Heart, up on Kindle. She is a frequent contributor to The Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and currently lives in Florida.")

Happy publishing,

Monday, October 18, 2010

How much is a book 'worth'?

How much is a book 'worth'? Ponder that. Notice I didn't ask you how much a book should cost. 'Worth' is a relative term and means different things to different people. A book that changes how you think, that stirs you on a deeply emotional level, that carries you away from the stress of daily life and lets you relax for awhile, or that teaches you something valuable isn't something you can put a sticker price on.

An easier question would probably be: How much would you pay for a book? How much for a hardback vs. a paperback? How much for an e-book? Would you pay more for your favorite author? What about a debut author or one you've never heard of before? What about a reference book that provides valuable information? How much for a non-fiction book that you'll use on a regular basis vs. a fiction book that you'll devour in a few days and never look at again? Ah, maybe those questions aren't so easy to answer either.

Recently, I read A Dog's Purpose by Bruce Cameron. I loved it. I was moved to tears. It encapsulated, from the dog's point of view, what a dog lives for and made me, as a human, think twice about what they must surely feel in regards to us bipeds. Since then I pat my dogs on the head more often and say, "You're such a good dog" in that gushy, high-pitched tone that you talk to babies in. I've recommended to others several times. It's a rarity for me, being on a practically non-existent budget, to buy a hardback book when it first comes out. But I did that for this one. Generally, I'll wait until A) the local library gets it or B) I can buy the paperback (better yet if it's used and dirt cheap).

This isn't because I don't value the author's time. Quite the opposite is true. As a writer myself, I don't believe you can put any price on the endless hours of writing, revising, proofing and researching a book - not to mention, the angst of sending out query letters to agents, waiting to hear back from editors, wondering if anyone, anyone at all, will buy your book and even when they do whether they truly enjoyed it or would classify it as landfill material.

Since we can now agree that a book's worth is a relative term, let's get back to the question of price.

So is $25 too much for a hardback book? Does $8-15 sound about right for a paperback? $10 or less for an e-book, because after all the bookstore didn't have to ship it in, stock it on their shelves and there's isn't the cost of paper involved. If you see an e-book for 99 cents, do you assume it's garbage and you wouldn't touch it with a barge pole? Or do you judge each book individually and then buy it as long as it's within your budget, whether under a dollar or ten times as much? Since the library doesn't charge for books (unless, like me, you tend to keep them too long and have to pay overdue fines), does that fact that it's free to you make you think less of it? I doubt it.

On several online discussion forums, the topic of e-book pricing frequently comes up, particularly for indie authors. Ever since established $2.99 as the baseline for giving authors 70% and anything from .99 to $2.98 as only earning 35%, the $2.99 tag has become the norm for most books by indie authors. This is still quite a bargain when you consider that the majority of e-books put out by traditional publishers fetch quite a bit more - anywhere from $7.99-12.99 and up.

Why then are indies pricing themselves so cheaply? Doesn't that devalue not only their work, but yank the bottom out of e-book prices and threaten to bring the whole system tumbling down? Will writers ever be able to earn a living at writing again??? Well, truth is, most of them don't make a living at writing anyway. And, I don't know about the lot of you, but when items are cheaper, I tend to buy more of them, whereas if they are out of my budget to begin with, I don't buy them at all. Example: If long-sleeved T-shirts are $20 apiece, I may think that's too much and not buy one at all. If they're only $12 each, wow, suddenly it's a bargain and I buy 2 of them, shelling out 24 bucks. Get my point?

Many indie authors cringe at the thought of offering one of their books for a bargain basement price like 99 cents. I did, too, until recently, when I went ahead and dropped the price of the Kindle version of Isabeau down to just that. Why? Simple. Because I want more people to read it. Believe me, if folks were shoving each other out of the way to buy my books, I'd charge what the traditional publishers do. That would be beyond cool. My husband could retire from his present job and go find something fun to do, like play golf every day. I could send my kids to their choice of Ivy League colleges, fix my driveway, replace the old mini-van . . .

Okay, reality check. Established authors have a built-in demand for their books. Debut authors do not. Indie authors have an even rougher road. But . . . it's not an impassable one.

I don't have a marketing budget or the luxury of shelf placement at Target and Wal-Mart. If I do pay for a $10-35 ad somewhere - and there are places I can do that - that means that money comes out of my grocery shopping. Or gets added onto my already mounting credit card bill. One thing I do have is control over what price I charge for the book. If I can entice someone to try my book, then if they like it enough they'll let others know about it or come back to buy the next one at $2.99 or more. Many indie authors with multiple books have at least one that they offer at 99 cents to serve as an introductory price to readers. They build a following that way.

The greatest challenge for indie authors is gaining visibility. Readers have to know that your book exists before they ever have the option of buying it. Often, I'll see the argument that if a book is priced at 99 cents, it gets lumped together on that line 'Customers who bought Cheap Book A, also bought Cheap Book B.' etc. where Book B is in a totally different genre. Yes, ideally, it is better if your book is grouped with similar books. But if you're not selling enough in the first place to show up anywhere, isn't that a moot point? Isn't it better if your book at least shows up somewhere? After all, not all readers read exclusively in one genre. My own tastes are quite varied.

My husband and I have bred Australian Shepherds for over 20 years (bear with me, there's a point to this). Early on when we were nobodies, we practically gave away puppies or dogs, that we could have charged thousands of dollars for, to people who didn't have lots of money but who we knew would train, trial and campaign the dog. We did it because we knew that upfront loss would pay off in the long run - and it did, tenfold. The more dogs we got into actively showing and trialing homes, the more good advertisement it meant for us. Over the years, demand increased to the point where many times I didn't have enough puppies to go around. (Hey, they poop a lot and I can only raise so many at a time.) We gave up short-term gain for a long-term goal.

It is up to the indie author to decide what to charge for their e-books. If your book sells well at $2.99, by all means keep it there. If you can sell it for more, more power to you. But if you're looking far down the road, at building a career, then you need to find ways to get your book into more hands.

Happy reading and writing,

(P.S. Later this week I'll have a guest post on a primer to e-publishing for indie authors by Ruth Francisco, author of The Pigtailed Heart, Amsterdam 2012 and other great books.)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Crown in the Heather book trailer at The New Covey Trailer Awards

The book trailer for The Crown in the Heather is Entry #28 at The New Covey Trailer Awards for September 2010. Be sure to vote for The Crown in the Heather or whichever book trailer you find intriguing. This site is run by David Boultbee and they also have the awesome New Covey Cover Awards.

If you're an indie author, this is another great place to gain some free exposure for your book and see what others are doing as far as cover design and trailers - speaking of which I'd also like to recommend Blazing Trailers, where you can also submit your book trailer for free or just get ideas. As of earlier this week, The Crown in the Heather's trailer on YouTube is nearing 700 hits! Honestly, I never even thought that many people would find it. I heart YouTube.

How do you make a trailer? To start with, your book's short synopsis will serve as a guide for the storyboard. You also need a program for making videos, music (royalty-free), and pictures or video clips.
  • Think of it as a commercial for your book. Book trailers should be short enough to retain the attention of viewers, but long enough to let them know what it's about. You can convey a lot about the tone of the story in one minute. Two minutes is reasonable. Three or more and it's getting a bit long.
  • Don't have a crew of actors and cameramen lined up? Still shots can still be used to good effect. Spend some time at iStockphoto and find eye-catching professional pictures that give a fair representation of your story.
  • Need royalty-free music? Try This step is important. Find a score that conveys the mood of your book.
  • Software? I used Windows MovieMaker. Spend some time learning all the effects that come with it: fade in/out, pan, zoom, etc.
  • Time your transitions and place your pictures to match the music. It can take a heap of time to synchronize everything, but it's worth paying attention to.
Do book trailers actually sell books? That's hard to gauge. There certainly may be more effective ways to spend your time and money. However, if you have the means to do one or know someone who creates them, it's one more means of advertising your book. I had a blast making mine.

Until later,

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Sign up for the Isabeau Giveaway! (and when did I become a computer geek?)

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Isabeau, A Novel of Queen Isabella and Sir Roger Mortimer (Paper... by N. Gemini Sasson

Isabeau, A Novel of Queen Isabella and Sir Roger Mortimer

by N. Gemini Sasson

Giveaway ends October 20, 2010.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win
"The story of Queen Isabella, who sought revenge on her husband Edward II, and her lover Sir Roger Mortimer, who masterminded the invasion that accomplished it.

The marriage of Isabella of France and Edward II of England in 1308 is a union meant to secure lasting peace. For years, Isabella is a loyal wife, who repeatedly salvages her husband's kingship, even as she endures his neglect. When she finally speaks out against Edward's favorite, Lord Hugh Despenser, her income, lands and children are taken from her. In an age when women are not supposed to openly defy their husbands, Isabella vows to get her children back and have her revenge on Despenser -- no matter what the cost.

Imprisoned in the Tower of London for leading a rebellion against King Edward, Mortimer escapes with Isabella's help and finds refuge in the French court. But when Isabella arrives in Paris to negotiate a peace treaty, it is a temptation the ambitious Mortimer cannot resist."

Click on the 'Enter to win' link above to put your name in the hat for a free, signed copy of my latest release: Isabeau, A Novel of Queen Isabella and Sir Roger Mortimer. If you're eager to start reading, Isabeau is now available in paperback at, and Barnes and Noble. Or, if you prefer to save some trees and read it on your e-reader, you can find it at (Kindle), (Kindle), Barnes and Noble (Nook), or (Epub, LRF and PDB).

The giveaway for The Crown in the Heather resulted in 1147 people signing up to win that book, which was pretty darn exciting on this end. To discover more free book giveaways at Goodreads, go here. I've signed up for a few myself, but haven't gotten lucky yet :( . Whenever they're selling raffle tickets somewhere, I make my husband buy them by the arm stretch. He has a pretty good winning percentage and we've hauled home some valuable loot. I gave up after about 20 tries when I hadn't even won the squeaky toy at the dog show. There's a reason why I don't play the lottery.

I meant to start the giveaway for Isabeau sooner, but complications with my web host have bogged me down lately (see previous post). After several requests to tech support which resulted in some very colorful expletives on my end and a bloody computer screen where I banged my head repeatedly, I decided to move on.

So, I'm in the process of transferring to who, BTW, replied to my help request within two hours and even called me to clarify a couple of things and see if I had any questions. Yes, I spoke to a real person. And he didn't even use computer-ese. And he ended up saving me $30. I was so pleasantly shocked by their great customer service, that before the guy could end the phone call I gushed at him for a good long minute. I think it made his day!

Hopefully, I'll get my web site back up and running by the end of the week and I can get back to writing in order to get the next book ready. Who knew you practically had to have a degree in computer science to be an author?

Until later,

Friday, September 17, 2010

On Being a Writer in the Age of the Internet

Long gone are the days when writers scribbled away on clackety typewriters in self-imposed solitude. To be a writer today, you have to wear many hats. And to be a successful writer, it helps if you're not an anti-social, reclusive technophobe.

Earlier this week I discovered that my web host, in its zeal to 'update' everything, has somehow misdirected both the domain names I own: the one for my author site and the one for my Australian Shepherd kennel. One day, everything was there exactly as I had painstakingly designed it and the next . . . well, things are . . . missing. Attempts to communicate with tech support have resulted in them spewing back technical gibberish which may as well have been Swahili. And this during the week that I'm releasing the paperback edition of Isabeau, A Novel of Queen Isabella and Sir Roger Mortimer, and when a front page article about me and my books appeared in the local community paper.

Can you say 'bad timing'?

Thank goodness there are still other ways to stay in touch with and provide information for readers, like YouTube, Goodreads, Twitter, an Amazon author page and e-mail (please excuse the shameless links I've slipped in there while my web is on vacation). But this (hopefully) temporary crisis made me realize how reliant authors are on the internet these days. I, for one, did not realize when I first sat down to write stories over a decade ago that I would need to became a semi-expert in the arts of social media and web site building. While I love picking out artsy fonts and getting my page colors to be all matchy-matchy, if you start talking about things like 'file transfer protocol' you may notice me sticking my fingers in my ears and going 'la-la-la-la-la-la'.

The truth is: I learn enough to get by. Sometimes I need help. Bless husbands whose best friends are computer engineers. And writing buddies who mentor me in the etiquette and rituals of Tweeting and Blogging.

The internet provides numerous ways to reach potential readers and . . . the internet also takes time away from writing. Thus the dilemma. So hone your writing first; then find ways to get your name out there. You can't write or edit if you're tweeting all day long; but no one will know you exist if you don't have some kind of internet presence. Is it possible to sell lots of books while remaining incognito? Hmm, possibly, if you have a major publisher pumping $$$ into publicity or Oprah selects your book for her book club. Good luck with that.

One of my favorite blogger-writers (who I incidentally discovered on Twitter) is author Jody Hedlund. Her first book, The Preacher's Bride, is due out in October from Bethany House Publishers. Jody has created a substantial following through her informative posts. She talks candidly about everything from platform building to time management for writers. By serving as a filter for helpful information, Jody has succeeded in building a name for herself and consequently an audience that will be eagerly awaiting her book's release.

Still, blogging, tweeting or a slick web site are not the only ways to connect to potential readers. Many other writers simply interact with readers and other writers on a personal level on various forums, like Kindleboards, which is a closely moderated site that does not allow for obnoxious plugging that might alienate readers who are there purely to discuss books or their newest Kindle acquisition. At some point, a reader or book blogger tries their book, likes it and enthusiastically endorses it. Then, the proverbial snowball of success starts rolling as the book rises up through the ranks by word of mouth to compete with traditionally published bestselling authors. Some recent examples are Amanda Hocking, Karen McQuestion, David Dalglish and David McAfee, just to name a few. This isn't going to happen if the book doesn't strike a cord with certain readers. In other words, being social in itself doesn't lead to success, but paired with a well-written book, the potential is there for that to happen.

It has been said many times that "Luck is when preparation meets opportunity". Writers today can't neglect their writing (preparation), nor can they ignore the great equalizer of opportunity that the internet provides.

Happy writing,

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Interview with Ann Weisgarber

I first met author Ann Weisgarber at the Historical Novel Society conference in Chicago in June of 2009. Actually, I met her husband first when I sat down next to him at one of the many wonderful sessions offered at the conference. Somehow, Rob and I got to talking and it turned out he and his wife were originally from Kettering, Ohio, less than half an hour from where I live, and they had both graduated from Wright State University in Dayton, as I had. Afterwards, he introduced me to Ann. I think it was just serendipity that I bumped into them, because it led me to eventually read Ann's novel, which instantly became one of my all-time favorite works of historical fiction ever.

Ann's debut novel, The Personal History of Rachel DuPree, has been named Best Work of Fiction by the Texas Institute of Letters, longlisted for the Orange Prize and shortlisted for The Orange Prize for New Writers. Quite a list of accolades for a novel that was originally passed over by several American publishers. Happily, the novel found a home with a U.K. publisher and has recently been released by Viking in the U.S.

Following is an interview Ann did for me which originally appeared over at the Historical Novel Review Blog:

How did you become interested in writing about African American ranchers in South Dakota?

I’ve always loved the West and admire the determined spirit of the people who call it home. I knew there were African-American cowboys, and I had visited a few historical forts where black troops had been posted during the late 1800’s. I didn’t know anything about African-American settlers, though, until I happened to see a photograph of a woman sitting in front of a sod dugout. The photo wasn’t labeled, but from the background the location could have been Nebraska or one of the Dakotas. I was intrigued for several reasons. This unnamed woman was alone, and she was an African-American. I did a little digging and found John Ravage’s Black Pioneers. His non-fiction book was filled with accounts of black settlers in the West.

This was new history for me, and that was exciting. But it was more than that. I couldn’t stop thinking about the woman in the photograph. She was alone in the middle of a wide open stretch of land. I didn’t know her name, and I didn’t know where she lived, but I knew this: she had a story that needed telling. I decided to do that for her.

How did you research this novel? Did you spend time in the locations you wrote about?

I did the research in bits and pieces. I’d write a scene and realize that I didn’t know anything about the details. For instance, Isaac was posted at Ft. Robinson, Nebraska. This meant I had to research the fort and the cavalry units. When I discovered that the Ninth Cavalry served as reinforcements at Wounded Knee Creek, I then had to research the massacre. From there, I researched the relationship between Buffalo Soldiers and Indians. After that, I read about Pine Ridge Reservation. One piece of information often led to a new idea. Many times the research shaped the book.

I did have a four-week writing residency at Badlands National Park, but I did very little writing while I was there. Instead, I talked to people who lived in the area, I visited Ft. Robinson, and I went to Lead to see the gold mine. I was in the Badlands during a three-day windstorm with gusts so strong that it was impossible to walk upright. There was an electrical storm where the night sky turned white and stayed white for seconds at a time. Best of all, the residency was an opportunity to experience the quiet beauty of the Badlands.

I returned to the Badlands one other time, but that was only for a few days. That was long enough to renew my commitment to finish the manuscript.

Rachel’s voice is so strong and clear in this story. Did you find it challenging to take on the voice of an African American woman from the early 20th century?

Thank you. It was a challenge and that was one reason why it took so long to write the book. I had to step back in time and imagine a point of view very different from my own. Reading about historical figures such as Ida B. Wells Barnett and Booker T. Washington helped. But it seems to me that assuming a different voice is nothing new for people who write historical fiction. Many writers put aside the “Can I?” and “Should I?” questions. It’s a matter of connecting with the characters on an emotional level. In my case, I was determined to give the unnamed woman in the photograph a story. I wanted to do the best I could. That was my focus.

Every author has a unique path to publication. Can you tell us a little about yours?

The book -- an American story -- was first published in the UK and then in France. Prior to any of that, I had an agent who did her best to find a U.S. publisher. No one was interested. Several editors said the story was too quiet, and I took that to mean the novel wasn’t ready. My agent lost interest, but we parted on good terms. I went back to page one and started another round of revisions.

Meanwhile, I read about Macmillan New Writing in Poets & Writers. The imprint, a division of Pan Macmillan in the UK, was willing to publish new writers who did not have agents. I sent the manuscript to MNW. It was a long shot. The imprint received thousands of manuscripts and printed twelve novels a year. Eleven weeks later, Will Atkins, the editor, sent an e-mail. He liked the novel.

Eight months after it was published in the UK, it was nominated for the Orange Prize, a literary prize for women writers. A month later, it was nominated for the Orange Award, a prize for new writers. In the States, the Texas Institute of Letters awarded it the Best Work of First Fiction prize.

The nominations in the UK and the prize in Texas opened the door for Rachel DuPree. Pan Macmillan sold the U.S. rights to Viking, an imprint of Penguin Group. It’s a great match for me. My editor, John Siciliano, and the team believe in the book.

The book came to the U.S. through the back door, but I wouldn’t change a thing about my process. This was how it was meant to be.

What’s next for you?

I'm currently working on a novel that takes place in 1900 in Galveston, Texas. The plot revolves around a college–educated woman who marries a dairy farmer. The story begins a month before the 1900 Storm, the historical hurricane that killed more than six thousand people.

Where can readers find out more about you and your book?

My website is There, readers will find my e-mail address and they are welcome to write me. They’ll also find the first few pages of The Personal History of Rachel DuPree as well as a few articles about the historical facts behind the book. Under Book Clubs, readers can find questions for book discussion groups.

Happy reading,