Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Why do you write?

i iz hiding from monster  in closet

I've had a few other writers ask lately how I sold so many e-books. I promise I'll get to that in another post soon - or at least give my best guess - but first I need to back up and explore something a little more basic.

The first question I always want to ask other writers is: Why do you write?

You see, I write because I have to. Sorry to get esoteric on you, but the truth is I write because I am an emotional creature, constantly analyzing why people do and say things. I learned long ago that while I couldn't control other people and events in my life, I could neatly arrange everything on the page, make sense of it all and find the closure that simply doesn't exist in the real world. A control issue? Hmm, maybe. But I think it's more about expression, about sharing the human experience, about bonding, sometimes with complete strangers (readers - yay!).

While I'm sure there are writers out there who can neatly build plotlines from formulas and find success that way, I'd imagine a lot of writers are just people trying to make sense of the world. We're made, rather than born. Life beats us up and being the overly sensitive creatures we are, we try to heal those wounds by living through our fiction. We create heroes because we need them. We make challenges and provide our characters with ways to overcome them. Really, we're just people with deep souls, chasing demons. And winning.

I love to be alone for at least part of the day. I love to think. I love to create something out of nothing. And I love the way words sound. Most of all, I understand the impact words can have if arranged in just the right way. They can inspire, paint vivid pictures in our minds, and teach; they can also hurt. They can connect us, in both good and bad ways, and they can drive us apart. Words are powerful - and that fascinates me.

Writing - and by the same token, reading - help us better understand and cope with the monsters in life. Cheap therapy, if you will. So, that's what I've been doing - writing. For a looong time. Like ten years. Trust me, if you keep writing, you'll end up having written more than a few books and you'll get better with each one.

If you truly have the soul of a writer, keep writing. Don't worry about whether or not you'll succeed. Don't worry about how much money you will or won't make. Don't get discouraged by criticism or naysayers. Don't let fear or perfectionism paralyze you.

Just write. From you soul. Say something worth saying. Write stories worth telling, with memorable characters in extraordinary situations. Exorcise your demons. Be funny, be informative or be poignant. Be you. And share that part of you with others through writing.

Happy writing,

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Crown in the Heather - 99 Cent Holiday Sale!

For all those folks opening up their shiny new Kindle Touches and Kindle Fires, The Crown in the Heather (The Bruce Trilogy: Book I) is just 99 cents on Kindle for a limited time during the holidays!

Need a last minute gift for someone special? Just click on 'Give as gift' and your present will be delivered electronically.

Don't have a Kindle? FREE Kindle apps are available for PC, Mac, iPhone, Blackberry and other devices.

Here's hoping your holidays are filled with loved ones, peace, good times and great reading!

All the best,

Thursday, December 22, 2011

What a Difference a Year Makes

Sometimes, dreams can be elusive. You pour all your energy into them, years go by and it seems you're no closer to than you were when you started. The bigger and bolder those dreams are, the smaller the guarantee that you'll ever attain them.

It can be a struggle. It can be painful. Hope appears unexpectedly and then gets dashed on the rocks into a million little pieces. Writers know this heartbreak well. Yet dreams spur us on, whisper in our ear to 'keep trying, keep trying'. Many times we talk sense into ourselves and settle for a safer, less frustrating existence.

I don't know how many of you are reality show junkies, but I shamelessly admit to being one. There are always contestants, particularly on talent shows like The X-Factor and American Idol, who step forward and share the story of their struggles: poverty, addiction, years on the road seeking out that one big break. Talent and persistence alone don't always equal success. Sometimes the missing element is just plain luck.

A year ago, I had sold an unimpressive total of about 400 e-books after six months and three books. It wasn't even enough to cover my start-up expenses. Satisfied, I'd given it a go, I signed up at the local community college for courses in biology and geology. I had bills to pay and I accepted that my life was headed down a new path - that of becoming a teacher. An admirable vocation and it was about time I put my neglected degree to use. For four months, I didn't write a single word. Encouraged by a steady uptick in sales, I continued to market my work, but I was thoroughly convinced there wouldn't be a fourth book. It just wasn't worth the effort anymore.

Fast forward a year later and not only is the fourth book out, but I'm close to finishing my fifth. By Christmas, I'll have sold a total of 30,000 e-books. So yeah, for now at least, it looks like this is my career. It doesn't touch what Amanda Hocking, John Locke or a dozen others (see here) have done in this rapidly changing world of publishing, but it's waaay more than I ever imagined possible.

I wanted to share this because I know a lot of writers who have published more recently or who are still struggling to increase sales. I can only advise patience and hard work. It's extremely rare for a book to take off out of the gate, especially a debut. It's crowded out there and it's getting harder and harder to get noticed. I understand the frustration, but if you chuck your dreams today, whatever they are, you may never know how close you were to reaching them.

Meanwhile, enjoy the journey. As Socrates said, "If you really want to get to Mt. Olympus, make sure every step you take is in that direction."

Oh, and Merry Christmas! In celebration, I'm going shopping because my brain is fried from reading medieval history.

Until later,

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Why I Haven't Enrolled in KDP Select

I usually shy away from controversial topics, but here goes...

For those of you who haven't heard yet, Amazon recently offered a new program for authors and small presses who upload books to Kindle directly called KDP Select. In a nutshell, it requires that the e-books enrolled in the program be withdrawn from other retailers for the initial 90 days. This does not apply to audiobooks or print versions, just e-books. For buyers, the upside is that if you're a member of Amazon Prime ($79 annual fee) you may borrow one Kindle book per month for free, provided it's part of KDP Select. Authors whose books you borrow then get a per cent of a fund set aside by Amazon, based on the number of borrows. Authors may also select to offer any book in KDP select for FREE for up to 5 days.

Let me just say this has been the most divisive topic among indie authors that I can remember since I started indie publishing a year and a half ago. Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords and probably the first and biggest distributor of digital content to embrace indie authors, had his own understandable thoughts on the matter. He spoke about the possible far-reaching implications here, from both a broader business perspective and the potential effects for both authors and readers.

For many authors who weren't selling enough copies elsewhere to justify not joining in the KDP program, it made sense. With free books, there's a chance for fresh exposure to new readers. So far, I've not made any of my books free, but that doesn't mean I don't see it as a viable marketing tactic. It's just one more tool in the kit.

Added exposure is another allure of KDP Select. Amazon Prime members are voracious consumers/readers. What author wouldn't want to be placed squarely in their sights?

Frankly, I feel like part of the minority, because I didn't join. David Gaughran discusses the topic more thoroughly here in his blog. I had many of the same misgivings.

But what it really came down to for me is that MY READERS MATTER MORE TO ME THAN MY SHORT TERM GAIN. Indie author Kait Nolan gives her perspective as a Nook owner here.

A couple weeks ago, I had a lovely e-mail from a fan waiting for the final installment of The Bruce Trilogy to come out on Nook. The delay was primarily with me not getting a properly formatted book to Smashwords in a timely manner (too many irons in the fire, yeah, yeah). Eventually I uploaded to Barnes and Noble directly, so that lovely reader had his book just two days later.

I don't sell piles of e-books through Apple or B&N. Not even 2% of my digital sales are through retailers other than Amazon. But that 2% matters to me. I don't care what kind of e-reader you choose to own. I want my books to be available in as many places as possible. Variety and competition, I believe, enrich our lives by making our options more individualized.

There are many, many things Amazon does well and perhaps the greatest thing going for the site is that it is soooo easy for readers to search for new titles there. I have found so many fantastic new voices this past year since I first got my Kindle, that I've never been more satisfied as a reader.

As an author, I'd prefer to just sit back and see where this is going and how other retailers and distributors will counter this move. For now, everything is status quo on this end.

Until later,

Monday, December 5, 2011

Imperfect Heroes: Tristan Vazante

Today's imperfect hero is Tristan Vazante, brought to you by the author of Artemis Rising, Cheri Lasota -

When my dear friend Gemi asked me to post about my “imperfect hero” Tristan Vazante, I thought: What a brilliant idea! We adore our fictional heroes as we read them and write them and daydream about them. Yet, oftentimes, we gloss over their imperfections and impatiently await the story’s happy ending—something we wish for ourselves vicariously through our characters. So much of how stories affect us comes down to reader expectation. Most genre fiction “requires” a happy ending (even series books) despite the sufferings and betrayals we put our characters through. But if we only wrote perfect characters, where would the story be?

We all go through experiences of deep betrayal and hurt in our lives, usually at the hand of those we love most. And much of what draws us to fiction is the ability to see how others deal with the problems we have had. How do they survive pain, cruelty and abuse and come out stronger than ever? Just as our dreams let our subconscious work out problem-solving situations, I attest that fiction does the same thing in our waking hours, albeit with a little more sense!

Fiction may be fantasy, but it often explores the most raw and universal truths about the dark side of humanity. When we read, we work on these societal problems within the context and safety of a world that does not exist. This helps us to process situations we may not be able to face otherwise. Besides entertainment, fiction has had the power to move us to action within our own lives. It empowers, enlightens and reveals. The pen truly is mightier than the sword!

My young Azorean Islander Tristan Vazante is an amalgam of many different people: the Knight Tristan of Cornwall (Arthurian legend), the Greek God Alpheus (to add a bit more of a dark side), pieces of several different beloved characters from other novels and films, and even parts of men I’ve known throughout my life. Most importantly, I needed to make sure that his personality and beliefs matched the time period and location in which he lived (1880s Azores Islands): deeply religious, kind and welcoming, salt of the earth.

That’s quite a patchwork quilt of a character, eh? This was all quite purposeful, because I knew my tendency was to protect him from harm, as he was my favorite character in the book. When I create any character, there are a few specific characteristics I give all of them before I can really get a sense of who they are. Here were Tristan’s:

• Greatest strength: self-sacrifice
• Greatest need/desire: the heroine, Arethusa, of course! =)
• Childhood trauma: loss of mother
• Deepest secret: his origins
• Fatal flaw: lack of loyalty

Tristan’s traits needed to both compliment and contrast with my heroine’s characteristics, so the characters could attract and repel each other at different points in the story. Early on in drafting Artemis Rising, Tristan’s main flaw was that he had no flaw. So I worked hard at creating a more complex background and personality for him.

In the end, his fatal flaw—lack of loyalty—tested the characters’ love right down to its foundations. The scene in which it is most forcefully illustrated appears to touch my readers deeply. Could this be perhaps because they recognize and remember such pain in their own lives? Certainly that scene fulfills that purpose for me. I remember, too, how difficult that scene was to write. It brought me to tears that day and it still does when I re-read it. And for some readers it does the same. There is a catharsis in seeing our own experiences laid bare in the life of another, fictional or otherwise. It helps us make sense of the madness and frailty of human nature and accept it for what it is.

Later on Tristan’s loyalty is tested once again. And this brings me to an important point. Writers seem to know inherently that if a character fails his first test, he’ll need to be tested again. The second time, a hero has to learn from his previous mistake. Or if he doesn’t, he becomes more of an anti-hero.

The beauty in Tristan for me is that he is always a hero, despite his imperfections. He has a moment of weakness—and it’s big one—but it doesn’t destroy his honor permanently. For me, he represents the epitome of hope: despite our flaws we can still be redeemed. This is such an important message for me personally. He reminds me of this every time I think about him. And isn’t that a mark of a good character? You remember him long after the book ends. Here’s hoping he nestles in your heart as much as he did mine. *sigh*

Cheri's Website

Artemis Rising on:
Barnes and Noble
SpireHouse Books

Thanks so much for sharing about Tristan, Cheri!

Happy reading,

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Three 5-star Novels for Under $3

Since I acquired my Kindle, I've read some of the best books in years! In fact, I've read more good books in the last six months than in the last six years put together. Even better is that there are a lot of excellent, well-written books out there you can buy for less than $3 and some at just 99 cents. While I don't believe in climbing aboard the indie train solely for the sake of doing so, I do believe in recommending self-published and small press authors who've written some amazing books that truly deserve a wider audience.

Being the sensitive idealist I am, I love a book that makes you think, cry, laugh or sometimes do all those things. Today I'm featuring three poignant and thought-provoking Kindle books by debut novelists who I can confidently count among my all-time favorite reads. To browse some of the top Indie books on Amazon, click here. Meanwhile, here are my three picks for 2011:

Daisychains of Silence, by Catherine MacLeod

"Daisy’s story unfolds over three days of memories and misunderstandings during a visit to her mother, Ellen, who’s in the early stages of dementia.

An idyllic childhood in the highlands of Scotland ends abruptly when Daisy is sent to boarding school, but that’s just the beginning of her unravelling. Fall-out from her parents’ disintegrating marriage spirals her into chaos and the 1970s Punk scene, but childhood memories intrude.

Daisy keeps it all inside, but she has had enough. Forbidden contact with her family, she marries Jake, a musician, determined to build her life from scratch, based on honesty not lies.

All goes well for twenty five years, till Jake faces a crisis of his own. Daisy reverts to old ways of coping as betrayal and family secrets are exposed, loosening the threads woven so tightly into the fabric of her life.

Ellen is losing her already shaky grip on reality. If Daisy is ever to find out the truth, she must do it now. A gun and a bundle of letters at her mother’s house trigger a series of painful but ultimately cathartic memories, forcing Daisy to re-examine her past.

The story explores the bonds of friendship and the ties between mother and daughter, father and lover. Mostly though, Daisy’s story is about trust."

The Silver Mist, by Martin Treanor

"Her dying father calls her unique, doctors have diagnosed her ‘brain is wired wrong’, most say she's ‘plain simple’ yet, in herself, young Down’s syndrome woman, Eve Hayes, feels only that she’s different. Then, on 21st July, 1972 - Belfast's ‘Bloody Friday’ - Eve encounters the captivating Esther, who ferries Eve on a sequence of illuminating, metaphysical journeys. In order to make sense of the slaughter that surrounds her, Eve must first learn the truth of her perceived difference, and therein unravel the timeless purpose of the silver mist. "


Einstein's Shutter, by Vincent Yanez

"Einstein’s Shutter is a whirlwind journey into a decade of one man’s life, in New York City, during what turns out to be one of the most horrific times in U.S. History. It’s also a story about redemption, reincarnation and ultimately it is a story of the power of the human spirit in a man, and a city, finding the strength they need to rise again after the attack on 9/11.

Einstein’s Shutter is also a comedy, a romance novel and ultimately a memoir of one life, amongst millions, in the greatest city in the world. "

Happy reading,

Friday, November 25, 2011

Small Business Saturday - Support Cottage Industry!

(Kindle sleeve from Downstairs Designs)

When Black Friday rolls around, I hunker down at home. No way am I venturing out to sit in traffic, elbow fellow bargain hunters at the clearance rack or shuffle forward one foot at a time at the checkout line. Not to mention stores opening on Thanksgiving evening is something I find to be, errrr, over-the-top commercialism. Please, give the poor cashiers a break. Let them gather round at the dining room table with nieces and nephews and in-laws, eating leftover pumpkin pie, while the fiftieth football game of the day plays out on the big screen.

While I'm not sure how this movement got started, I think Small Business Saturday is a fabulous concept! Something to counter the chain stores, give a boost to local economies and help keep small business afloat.

One bonus effect of the e-reader boom, besides the growing ranks of indie authors and micropresses, are all the cottage industries that have sprung up in an effort to provide diehard readers with bags and sleeves and covers to keep their Kindles/Nooks safe and protected. You can find tons of them on I have spent HOURS browsing Etsy, so you don't have to, but do feel free to wander. This is quality, durable, handmade stuff at reasonable prices. The sorts of gifts that last for years and are truly unique. Here are a few of my favorite Etsy shops:

Solar Threads (Quilted Kindle sleeves) - I have an orangey-gold Kangaroo print sleeve that I adore.

Joe V. Leather (Everything from leather Kindle covers, to wallets, bracelets and belts. A great place to browse especially if you're shopping for some of the guys in your life.) - I'm frothing over the tree cover and the sun-face one. While leather covers do add a bit of bulk to your e-reader, they are excellent protection, while adding a touch of class. Plus, if you want your e-reader to feel more like a book in your hands, covers are the way to go.

Gardenour Leather (Leather selections from Kindle and iPad sleeves, to purses, wallets and checkbook covers.) - Someone on Kindleboards recommended this company and they have many admirers there. Slightly more affordable than some of the other leather covers you'll find.

Borsa Bella Design Co. (e-reader and electronics bags and purses) - Between my daughter and me, we own four Borsa Bella bags. Need I say more? If I were a millionaire, I'd buy myself ten more and then buy all my friends some. Fast, personalized service. Variety of sizes and patterns available. Stylish and practical.

Here are a few more:

Stephanie Kiker Designs - Whimsical, cushiony e-reader sleeves in bright colors with original artwork (marine life, dragonflies, butterflies, etc.).

BritGal Designs - E-reader sleeves and cases in an endless variety of patterns and colors.

OhKey - More sleeves and cases in bold designs.

That should keep you busy shopping for awhile!

Happy reading,

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Imperfect Heroines: Aridela

Today, author and guest blogger Rebecca Lochlann talks about about her Imperfect Heroine, Aridela, from her debut novel, The Year-God's Daughter.

To view the YouTube book trailer, click here.

For time beyond memory, Crete has sacrificed its king to ensure good harvests, ward off earthquakes, and please the Goddess. Men compete in brutal trials to win the title of Zagreus, the sacred bull-king, even though winning means they'll die in a year.

Two brothers from predatory Mycenae set out to thwart the competition and their deaths as they search for exploitable weaknesses in this rich, coveted society.

Hindering their goal is the seductive and fearless Cretan princess, Aridela, an uncommon woman neither brother can resist, and ancient prophecies, which predict that any threat to her people will spark Goddess Athene's terrible wrath in a calamity of unimaginable consequences.

(Want to win a paperback copy of The Year-god's Daughter? Enter the giveaway at Goodreads, going on now!)

"I would like to explore my heroine, Aridela, rather than one of my heroes, for one reason: current stories seem wont to portray women as flawless, lacking even the perfectly normal “flaw” of not having as much physical strength as males. In Aridela, I wanted to create a protagonist who is strong, yes, but real and believable. I wanted to show how she acquires her strength, rather than simply shoving her out there already formed, as if by magic.

Child of privilege, daughter to the Queen of Crete, she has never known want or suffering. She has never experienced betrayal, humiliation, subterfuge or fear. Renowned tutors educate her. She learns how to discern truth from lies in the Chamber of Suppliants. Ten years old at the book’s outset, Aridela is an indulged, sheltered princess. Adventurous, bold, and charismatic, Aridela is inherently ready, yet profoundly unprepared, to take the throne of Crete. The people adore her, her mother dotes on her; she impresses even the hard-nosed royal counselors. Like many of Crete’s citizens, Aridela reveres beauty and beautiful things. She doesn’t realize how shallow she is, because most around her are the same. The reader might be excused for thinking this child will grow up to be a spoiled, independent woman, emphasis on “spoiled.” But naturally, I wanted more for her.

When Aridela meets and crushes on Menoetius, it’s easy to understand why. He’s a gorgeous, charming, seventeen year old foreigner with a delightful accent. What ten-year-old girl wouldn’t fall for a guy like that? But he goes home. Aridela grows up and hankers after another youth—no surprise that the object of her affection is a dazzling, celebrated bull leaper. It’s when the warriors of the mainland converge upon Crete, determined to win the Games and become the next bull-king, that real challenges begin chewing away her comfort zone. Chrysaleon, the arrogant prince of Mycenae, introduces Aridela to passion. Again, it’s easy to see what draws her: he’s good looking and a prince. It takes her awhile to realize the guard he’s brought with him is none other than her first love, Menoetius, but a profoundly different Menoetius than the boy she knew. No longer beautiful, he is the first challenge Divine Athene sets in her path. How will she deal with this angry, wounded man? She has no experience with the kind of pain he’s suffered. Harpalycus, another mainland prince, introduces her to cruelty and shame. Harpalycus is Aridela’s first exposure to humiliation, to fear, to a sense of her weakness. He and the other mainland competitors lay bare the encroaching danger of the world outside her safe island paradise.

Aridela, a coddled princess, faces challenges that will either destroy her or incorporate the necessary components needed by all rulers from antiquity to the present: humility, caution, empathy, and compassion. Immortal Athene takes her child into the blackest pit where life no longer holds value. From that place, Aridela will survive and recover, honed by adversity, or become what her oppressors want. Either way, she will be very different from the child who brazenly entered the ring and joyously danced with a wild bull."

The Year-god's Daughter can be found here:
Barnes and Noble

Rebecca Lochlann's blog/website

Rebecca fell in love with the stories and myths of the ancient Greeks at a very early age. It took about fifteen years to research the Bronze Age segments of the series, and encompassed rare historical documents, mythology, archaeology, ancient writing, ancient religions, and volcanology.

"The Year-god's Daughter" is her first novel: Book One of "The Child of the Erinyes" Series. Its sequel, "The Thinara King," will follow in a few months.

Though she cannot remember actually living in the Bronze Age, the Middle Ages, the Victorian era, and so on, she believes in the ability to find a way through the labyrinth of time, and that deities will sometimes speak to us in dreams and visions, gently prompting us to tell their forgotten stories.

Thanks for sharing, Rebecca!

Happy reading,

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Giveaways for The Honor Due a King

I almost forgot to mention (*head/desk*) two giveaways that are running now:

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Honor Due a King by N. Gemini Sasson

The Honor Due a King

by N. Gemini Sasson

Giveaway ends November 27, 2011.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Check out the Goodreads giveaway (signed paperback copy) above or hop on over to Unusual Historicals (paperback or Kindle copy)!

If you want to put a paperback of The Honor Due a King on your Christmas list, still has it at a discount for $12.25 right now. No guarantees on how long that will last, though.

Huge thanks to all those readers who have put The Honor Due a King on Kindle's Top 100 Bestsellers' List for Historical Fiction this past month.

Tomorrow, tune in for guest blogger, author Rebecca Lochlann, as she talks about one of her characters from her new novel, The Year-god's Daughter.

Happy reading,

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Imperfect Heroes: Archer Hamilton

(Artwork credit: B. Lloyd)

Today, novelist V.R. Christensen is jumping in and telling us about her Imperfect Hero: Archer Hamilton from her book, Of Moths and Butterflies.


Archer Hamilton is a collector of rare and beautiful insects. Gina Shaw is a servant in his uncle’s house. Clearly out of place in the position in which she has been discovered, she becomes a source of fascination . . . and curiosity.

A girl with a blighted past and a fortune she deems a curse, Gina has lowered herself in order to find escape from her family and their scheming designs. But when she is found, the stakes suddenly become dire.

All Gina wants is the freedom to live her life as she would wish. All her aunts want is the money that comes with her. But there is more than one way to trap an insect. An arranged marriage might turn out profitable for more parties than one.

Mr. Hamilton is about to make the acquisition of a lifetime. But will the price be worth it? Can a woman captured and acquired learn to love the man who has bought her?


"Perfect people are boring. I cannot understand them (because I don’t know any, myself) and I cannot sympathise with them. I do, however, have a deep appreciation for those who strive to be good, despite their weaknesses, despite their downfalls. A hero who is too good is unbelievable, and that is too flawed...well, they are difficult to root for. It’s hard to find that balance.

I acquired, several years ago, a very battered collection of George Meredith’s works, and I’ve been trying to read my way through them. He writes such amazing women, strong and good, if sometimes rebellious, which I like. That was quite a flaw in the Victorian era, female independence, you know. And his heroes? They are equally flawed. Perhaps more so. Richard Feverel (The Ordeal of Richard Feverel) for example is too obedient and it becomes a tragic flaw. And yet you follow him with rapt fascination toward and into that tragedy. Evan Harrinton, on the other hand, is what they call a ‘managed man’. His elder sister tells him what to do and where to go and whom to love and what to make of his life. And for the most part he does it. And when he doesn’t want to do it, he wallows around feeling sorry for himself and wondering why he cannot get up the gumption to stand up to her. I found him difficult to sympathise with. Perhaps because I’m a woman with a fiercely independent spirit. But it is, nevertheless, a truism that those who must fight for what they want appreciate it most, while those by nature blessed rarely take full advantage of their opportunities. At any rate, Evan was a difficult book to engage in.

And so I knew, when it came time for me to write of my own ‘managed man’ that I had to walk a fine line.

Archer Hamilton is young and he has much of youthful ambition and willfulness about him. And yet he doesn’t always use these to the best effect. He is controlled, manipulated by his uncle who has raised him, and who has raised him to believe he will inherit...if he observes his duty. And chiefest of his duties is to marry a fortune. This is all well enough until he meets the unfortunate Miss Shaw, who he later learns is a servant in his uncle’s house. He cannot marry her, and yet he is irresistibly drawn to her. He considers, and very seriously, breaking with his uncle over the matter, but then...he has no money of his own. He is powerless.

Miss Shaw, as it turns out, is not the penniless misfortunate she would like people to believe her, and when it is discovered she’s actually the unwilling beneficiary of a sizable fortune, Archer’s uncle arranges their marriage. Archer does not object, in fact quite the reverse, but the blessing of having the woman he wants comes with an enormous price. He is now his uncle’s puppet. Sir Edmund has seized the money and taken control of everything, and Archer is helpless now to do anything for himself. Neither has he the respect of his wife. And without this, perhaps the most important thing of all, he has nothing.

Archer is not entirely without strengths, however. From his mother he learned the value of earning the love and respect of others, which has been his primary motivation in remaining loyal to his uncle. Sir Edmund might, should Archer manage to please him, be the father he never had. More than anything, though, he must grow up, something he has so far not bee required to do, with everything he’s ever needed handed to him on a plate. He learns, and quickly, the value of worthwhile loyalty, and that family pride, money, tradition, the opinion of the masses, these mean nothing when you have not the love and respect of those most important to you. For these he learns to fight, whatever the cost.

As a work entirely fictional, it seems, and perhaps is, an impossible story. And yet there are parallels to modern life. The book is about the various forms of abuse, mostly (though not entirely) psychological, and about the barriers we allow to be placed in the paths to our own success and happiness. Those barriers are most often the direct results of our own flaws and weaknesses. We may blame them on circumstance or on others, but we always have a choice what we will do with the obstacles placed before us, and, too, with the opportunities. Sometimes they are not, after all, entirely different.

I am a champion of the underdog, of the honestly flawed. To have weaknesses and to be honest about them speaks of a person who is trying to do and be better, rather than pretending to be something he is not. I cannot help but respect that. It’s true we have too few heroes in this world, but I’ll take a flawed hero over a perfect one any day."

(Thanks so much V.R.!)

V.R. Christensen's web site



Of Moths and Butterflies is available at:

Barnes and Noble


Happy reading,

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Imperfect Heroes: James Douglas

In the coming month, I'll be featuring some Imperfect Heroes from fellow historical novelists. These are the guys who tip the scales, rise victorious from conflict and (hopefully) get the girl in the end, but they aren't without their flaws.

We could discuss the (exemplary) archetypal hero vs. the (contrary) antihero, but what about those protagonists who fall somewhere in between? As in reality, literary persona run the gradient of good and bad traits. For those of you who have read Bernard Cornwell's Saxon Tales, Uhtred Uhtredson of Bebbenburg, on first impression, is about as antihero as you can get. He's cynical, ruthless, and far from being the romantic type. But over the course of the stories, you see a clear pattern evolve - he keeps his word, he's courageous and he's more than willing to take action to get what he wants. And that makes him admirable.

Perfect heroes are boring. Let's face it - Prince Charming is very one dimensional. He's handsome, he's rich and his kiss alone can wake Sleeping Beauty from a seemingly interminable coma. All very convenient for our wilting maiden, but in fairy tales like that, it's external circumstances, not the characters themselves, that need to be overcome for a happy ending.

As we get older, we come to realize perfect people don't exist. And in real life, happy endings aren't always guaranteed. We can identify with flawed characters. We feel their angst, understand their fears. We root for them. Cheer when they succeed. Mourn when they fail.

When I started to write The Bruce Trilogy, the first chapter I put down was about ten-year old James Douglas, standing on the parapets of Berwick at his father's side, witnessing the assault on the castle and subsequent massacre led by the ruthless Edward I (Longshanks) of England. That event - the atrocities and his father's humbling submission - determined his life's path. It filled him with the want for retribution, hatred for his enemies, and the determination to put things right in the only way he knew how - by force of arms. Unfortunately, being so young then, he could only bide his time. How serendipitous that when he finally came of age, Robert the Bruce was making a bid for the crown of Scotland. He became King Robert's most loyal soldier and, renowned for his cunning and stealth, was given command at a young age.

Perfect? Hardly. He was right for the role he played in Scotland's history, but as a man he was an imperfect being. What few descriptions we have of him are that he spoke with a lisp and then not often. One gets the impression that he was shy with words, maybe even a little uncomfortable in social situations with the opposite sex, even though his male friendships were like Super-Glue bonds. I focused a lot on this awkwardness in The Honor Due a King, where his reticence keeps the woman he loves at bay, and his loyalty conflicts, more than once, with winning his life's love. Even as I was writing him, I kept wanting to grab him by the collar and say, "Speak up, man! How is anyone supposed to know how you feel if you keep pushing it back down inside you and denying it? You deserve her. Go for it, will you?"

In time, his loyalty and thirst for revenge became traits that even he began to question. Numerous times he recaptured, ruined and even razed his own boyhood home, Douglas Castle, because he did not want the English to have it.

As for the girl - well, I won't tell you if he gets her in the end. You'll have to read the book to find out.

P.S. The guy on the cover of The Bruce Trilogy books - that's James Douglas. But if you've been thinking all along that it's Robert the Bruce, please continue to do so.

Happy reading,

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Giveaway for The Bruce Trilogy over at Musings of a Book Junkie

If you still need to catch up on reading The Bruce Trilogy, Allison over at Musings of a Book Junkie is hosting a giveaway for one copy of a book from the series (The Crown in the Heather, Worth Dying For or The Honor Due a King), your choice of either Kindle or paperback (and yes, international entries are fine). Contest deadline is November 1st - so hurry over and add your name and contact info.!

To enter, click here.

Meanwhile, The Honor Due a King has stealthily found its way into the Top 100 for Historical Fiction on Kindle and I'm spending my days in 14th century England, working on the sequel to Isabeau. My desk is being overrun by research books, highlighters and Post-It notes.

Happy reading,

Monday, October 10, 2011

Razing castles

Hi All!

I'm guest blogging over at Sarah Woodbury's on razing castles in the 14th century. Follow me over there and check out Sarah's incredible blog, filled with historical articles!


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Honor Due a King (The Bruce Trilogy: Book III)

It's been a marathon week and as evidence to that, it's nearly noon and I'm still in yesterday's clothes. I just finished a backlog mountain of laundry at midnight last night and the grass has grown a foot since last mowing.

The end result is that the final installment in The Bruce Trilogy, The Honor Due a King, is now available as an e-book at,, and Smashwords (for Nook, Ipad, Sony and Kobo). I'll post here again when it's directly available from Barnes and Noble, etc. The paperback should be available on Amazon well before the end of the month.

As I caught up this morning with e-mails from readers to let them know about the new release, I realized how the interest has snowballed over the past year and I got a little... misty. It's been a challenging year, both frustrating and rewarding in turns. But nothing worth doing is ever easy. So whatever your dreams and goals are - go for them! There are people out there who like to squash dreams by criticizing, dismissing or talking bad about you. Forget about them. As Oprah says: "Surround yourself with angels."

Now, here's the blurb for The Honor Due a King:

In the dawn of a kingdom, loyalties and lies collide.

The truth will change England and Scotland forever.

In the triumphant aftermath of Bannockburn, Robert the Bruce faces unfamiliar battles. His wife Elizabeth, held captive in England for eight long years, has finally returned home to Scotland. With his marriage in ruin and hopes for an heir quickly fading, Robert vows to fulfill an oath from long ago—one which will not only bind his daughter to a man she does not love, but challenge the honor of his most trusted knight, James Douglas.

While Ireland falls to the Scots, King Edward II of England must contend with quarrelsome barons. Hugh Despenser is the one man who can give him both the loyalty and love he so desperately craves. War with France looms and Edward’s only chance at peace rests with his queen, Isabella—a woman who has every reason to seek her own revenge.

Tormented by his past, James returns to a solitary, ruthless life of raiding into the north of England. When a bewitching spy promises him the ultimate victory, James must weigh whether to unveil the truth and risk losing her love—or guard his secrets and forever preserve Robert’s faith in him.

Happy reading,

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Goldilocks and the Three Books

Imagine Goldilocks rumbling through the Three Bears' house. She's bored and in need of something to read. She flips through the family-shared Kindle (because bears are too poor to afford multiple e-readers):

1) Finds a Stephen King book: "This is too scary!"
2) Opens a Nicholas Sparks book: "This is too mushy!"
3) Discovers Carl Sagan's Cosmos buried in a collection: "Now this is just right!"

After filling her tummy with Mueslix (hey, they may be poor bears, but they're health-conscious), and sipping some chamomile tea while trying out the different recliners, she finds herself getting nappy and looks for a place to sack out. Shortly after which the bears walk in and---

(Okay, that story needed to be brought into the 21 century, but I digress...)


After a long night flopping around on my bed because the springs were digging into my bones and waking up more tired than when I went to sleep, I figured it was time for a new mattress. I've been contemplating one of those squishy memory foam ones. The Tempurpedic commercials have infiltrated my brain, you see. So of course I posed the question to my buddies on Facebook (because, next to Google and Wikipedia, that's the best place to gather collective wisdom).

Opinions ranged wildly. From "Love mine!" to "I felt like I was being swallowed by a marshmallow." After having my neck readjusted because I ended up sleeping with my head craned at an impossible angle towards my left shoulder one night, my osteopath said mattresses are an entirely individual matter. Just go with what's comfortable to you.

This made all too much sense. Heck, my husband thinks the firm support of the floor provides a restful night's sleep. Yeah, and I used to think it'd be a blast to be on Survivor until I realized that after sleeping on a bamboo mat on the ground for a few days I'd probably be so sleep-deprived that I'd go postal. Then after getting voted off because I couldn't cooperate with the resident Svengali, I'd watch the show and see myself muttering unintelligibly and wonder who that person who was wearing my face and clothes and using my name.

I'm still undecided on the mattress issue, but it made me think of how individual a lot of choices are. What's perfect to one person is anathema to another. And books, because they often provoke strong emotions, are a prime example of why we can all have distinct reactions to the same thing.

Recently I read a book that stirred some very poignant emotions in me and made me stop and think about life a little more deeply. I loved the dry humor the author used in telling the story, the little snippets of events that played into the bigger picture and the journey of self-discovery the main character traveled. So when I went to leave a review, I was surprised to see how some readers had a very different reaction - as in, they 'just didn't get it'. Had they been sitting in the same room, I would've been tempted to turn around, give them that creased brow look with a slight sneer and say, "How can you not 'get it'? This book is subtle genius, deeply philosophical and emotive. Were you expecting pyrotechnics, car chases and super models?"

But I'd never do something like that. Ever. Because what I do get is that we all have different needs in what suits us - whether it's books, movies or beds. What's right, brilliant and memorable to me will be the opposite for someone else. Everything's relative. The person who loved a book/mattress was right. So was the person who hated it. Offer me a Pepsi and I'll tell you I'd rather go thirsty (no offense, Pepsi fans). I'm a Coke girl. It's my elixir of youth.

This is why when I'm browsing for books, I skim reviews and while I may find them helpful, I never depend on them 100% for picking out my next read. I look through them for specific points that may appeal to me or repel me. If one reviewer goes on and on about how they hated the battle scenes, that's an automatic sample for me - because I LURV battle scenes. If one reviewer gushes about how much they loved the intricate detail - well, that may not be an automatic delete for me, but I'll keep it in mind, because I find too much detail a snooze. I want action, emotions, and characters that grab me by the throat and make me pay attention.

As for picking out books, mostly I rely on the blurb and sample. If I'm still sucked in at the end of the sample, then I buy.

So, Goldilocks had it right. She tried things out herself and came to her own conclusions. I do think the bears would've appreciated it if she had asked permission first, though. ;-) Meanwhile, I'm going to drift over to the furniture store, try to dodge the commissioned salespeople by avoiding eye contact and moving quickly, and test out some mattresses.

Happy reading,

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sarah Woodbury - On Turning Medieval Drama into Fiction

Today, I'm happy to announce a guest post by fellow historical novelist, Sarah Woodbury. I asked Sarah to tell us why she writes about medieval Wales and how the political intrigue there features in her books, including her latest release, a medieval mystery entitled The Good Knight.


"Wales in the middle ages has been a focus of my research and passion as an anthropologist, writer, and amateur historian for the last ten years. One of the joys of working within this era is the extent to which history is stranger than fiction. Medieval Wales provides a wealth of opportunity for story-telling, with all the drama and excitement a novelist could want—without even having to make it all up.

The Good Knight is set against the backdrop of the rule of Owain Gwynedd, one of the most powerful and stable monarchs of north Wales in the middle ages. He was fortunate to have ruled during a time in which England, which had been trying to conquer Wales for a hundred and fifty years, was torn apart by the rivalry of two claimants to the throne: King Stephen and Empress Maud. Owain, in the fine tradition of Welsh royalty, took advantage of the strife in England to consolidate his rule and bring the other Welsh dynasties under his control.

In doing so, however, he engendered animosity among the other lords of Wales—and within his own family. With two wives, multiple mistresses, and a dozen sons, many of whom fought among themselves for power and favor, he created a legacy that would last until the death of Llywelyn ap Gruffydd at the hands of the English in 1282.

And made him a fulcrum of murder and mayhem in the middle ages."


The Good Knight (A Medieval Mystery)

Intrigue, suspicion, and rivalry among the royal princes casts a shadow on the court of Owain, king of north Wales…

The year is 1143 and King Owain seeks to unite his daughter in marriage with an allied king. But when the groom is murdered on the way to his wedding, the bride’s brother tasks his two best detectives—Gareth, a knight, and Gwen, the daughter of the court bard—with bringing the killer to justice.

And once blame for the murder falls on Gareth himself, Gwen must continue her search for the truth alone, finding unlikely allies in foreign lands, and ultimately uncovering a conspiracy that will shake the political foundations of Wales.

The Good Knight is available now at Amazon, Amazon UK and at

Happy reading,

Friday, September 16, 2011

Artemis Rising, by Cheri Lasota

Myth and legend unite in Cheri Lasota’s hauntingly beautiful debut novel, Artemis Rising. Even with such an intricate plotline, this book is a highly engaging read that will sweep you away with its lyrical passages.

The story begins as Eva’s mother is mentoring her in the pagan rites of the goddess, Artemis. Eva takes the name of the water nymph, Arethusa, and thus consigns her fate to the myth surrounding the nymph, who was pursued by the river god, Alpheus. But Arethusa’s father, a strict Catholic, discovers them and ships them off to the Azores. Soon, Arethusa finds herself the object of attention of the ship owner’s son, the darkly handsome and possessive Diogo.

When a storm wrecks the ship, Arethusa awakens in the arms of her shy rescuer, the soft-spoken Tristao. Now parentless, Arethusa must suffer the derision of her fellow orphans. Diogo soon appears at her bedside and Arethusa begins to believe that he is her Alpheus.

Soon, another legend arises in Arethusa’s life – the tragic romance of Tristan and Isolde. While struggling to unravel these two ancient tales and their often disturbing correlation to the events in her own life, Arethusa searches for the strength within herself to discover her own destiny.

While it’s easy to get wrapped up in the myth and legend that Lasota has so skillfully laid out here, this book is surprising in both its depth and its message. It gets even more intense as it nears the end. The characters are solid and true. Most of all, Arethusa is a unique heroine of uncommon strength who will have you rooting for her all the way. Artemis Rising is a love story unlike any other, making it even more memorable.

Happy reading,

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Saying Goodbye to Dragons

I have shamelessly stolen my son's artwork (from when he was about 14) for this blog post. I hope he won't mind, but I'll find out soon enough. When he was a Buddha-bellied tyke with a bowl haircut, he had a fascination with dinosaurs and dragons. So when we moved into our rat-infested, cob-webby house, which we had blindly bought at a sheriff's auction, I figured after emptying and gutting the place I'd decorate my kids' rooms in a way that was uniquely them. My daughter got a mural with blue sky and green rolling hills dotted with sheep and horses. In my son's room, I stenciled a chair rail border of 2" high green, fire-belching dragons.

Those tiny dragons were there for ten years. Until this past spring, when we discovered he had allergies. So we ripped out the carpet, put in new wood floors and I woefully painted over those dragons - all 68 of them. There was something very symbolic about the process. A rite of passage not only for my now 18-year old son, but for me, as well.

After we packed him off to college, friends would ask, "Don't you feel like an empty-nester? Miss your kids?" Well, yes... and no. He was so stoked about going, how could I possibly have regrets about it? People used to ask me something similar when we raised puppies and they went off to their new homes. "Aren't you sad to see them go?" Um, do you know how many piles of poop 10 8-week old puppies make on a daily basis? Okay, kids can be messy, but not in that way.

The point is, I know if I've planned my litter, socialized it and done my best to hold out for good homes, things are going to turn out just dandy. I'll get reports for years from beaming owners about the fabulous things their dogs have done. If I've raised my kids right and given them the good sense to be able to go out into the world and make their own way, it's actually kind of exciting to nudge them from the nest, see them take wing and know that in time they're going to be okay. They might even do good things and make me proud.

It's like that with writing books. I labor over them for years. Eventually though, I have to let them go. I'm about at that stage with another one. I alternate between feelings of apprehension and excitement. What if someone hates it? What if someone loves it so much they want to make a movie out of it? Part of me wants very fiercely to keep it to myself and stay safely connected to the characters so I can go on living in their world. But a bigger part of me knows there comes a time when I need to trust in the universe and share it with readers.

The difference between kids and books is that there's always another book to write. I've run out of kids. And I have so many more books to write...

Until later,

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Places to find me (Facebook, Twitter, Past Times Books)

I've recently joined a group of fine Historical Fiction authors over at Past Times Books. These folks are a mixture of independently and traditionally published historical novelists who've banded together to offer readers a selection of quality historicals. So drop on by the Past Times Books web site and check them all out.

And you can finally find my author-self on Facebook! Setting up a fan page has been on my to-do list forever, but it kept getting bumped. A wonderful reader who'd just discovered one of my books went looking for me there and couldn't find me (guilty!), so there I am now, at long last. If you 'like' my page there, you'll get all the important updates, like upcoming releases, blog posts and book signings directly on your FB newsfeed. It's a bit bare at the moment, but I'll continue working on it. I promise to save my 'Pop-Tart failures' and 'Kindle accessorizing addiction admissions' for my Twitter babblings, but if you really want to know, you can find me there, too.

BTW, if you Tweet me, post on my FB wall or e-mail me (imgnr "at" imgnr "dot" com), I do write back. I LOVE hearing from readers! One reader recently mentioned how much they liked a certain character -who is now going to return in a sequel, just because of that.

Until later,

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Must Reads for Self-Publishers

Over the past year, I've been asked for tips on self-publishing. The ugly truth is that sometimes I'm just flying by the seat of my pants.

One thing I do is sit back and watch others - meaning I read books and blogs and forum posts on anything and everything about digital publishing. I take what makes sense to me and use it, following the lead of those who've gone before, but with the realization that what worked a year ago or even few months ago to gather momentum, may not work tomorrow.

Recently, I've come across a few authors who have done a fantastic job of gathering information on self-publishing in the digital age and the importance of social media for authors. They've already said it all so much better than I ever could. So rather than reinvent the wheel, here they are:

Let's Get Digital, by David Gaughran

"This guide contains over 60,000 words of essays, articles, and how-to guides, as well as contributions from 33 bestselling indie authors including J Carson Black, Bob Mayer, Victorine Lieske, Mark Edwards, and many more. It covers everything from how the disruptive power of the internet has changed the publishing business forever to the opportunities this has created for writers. It gives you practical advice on editing, cover design, formatting, and pricing. And it reveals marketing tips from blogging and social networking right through to competitions, discounts, reviews, and giveaways. If you are considering self-publishing, if you need to breathe life into your flagging sales, or if you want to understand why it's a great time to be a writer, Let's Get Digital: How To Self-Publish, And Why You Should will explain it all."

Let's Get Digital is a comprehensive look at the advantages of writers going direct to readers. For information on where to download this book, or to grab a free pdf, go to David's blog here. He was kind enough to include the story of my path to publishing along with 32 other indie authors, but you can learn something from each and every one, as well as gain inspiration.

Smart Self-Publishing: Becoming an Indie Author, by Zoe Winters

"This book is relatively short for its subject matter, weighing in at a little over 47,000 words. There is no filler, just straight talk in Zoe’s typically blunt writing style. If you’re tired of people selling you rainbow farts and butterfly dreams and want to know how to think and act like a business person, create a solid plan, and become an indie author, this book is for you."

If you're considering self-publishing an e-book, this should be the first book you read. It's concise and understandable, especially if all the publishing jargon is new to you, but it really hits the important points without a bunch of fluff.

We Are Not Alone: The Writer's Guide to Social Media, by Kristen Lamb

"Kristen's method is simple, effective, and helps authors find ways to harness the imaginatin used for writing and employ this creativity to build a solid platform designed to connect with readers. This system is designed to change the writer's approach, not the writer's personality."

I'm including Kristen Lamb's books because I think social media is the most misunderstood and misused aspect for many indie authors. Kristen not only gives guidance on what to do, but what NOT to do. Like, don't tweet 20 times a day that you have a book to sell (those are the first Tweeters I tune out and sometimes even un-follow.) Even for those of us who are inherently shy (moi), this book will help you more effectively and efficiently use your time.

None of these how-to books can replace putting in the time (usually years) that it takes to properly learn the craft of writing, commit to writing a whole book and then hammering it into shape, but once you've gotten to the point where you're ready to nudge your baby out into the world, they have all the information you'll need to set you well on your way.

So to all you hopeful writers out there - good luck!

P.S. If anyone has suggestions for similar books that they recommend, please feel free to share them in the comments!

Happy reading and writing,

Monday, August 1, 2011

Summer Reading Recommendations

Hi Strangers! No, I didn't fall into a Black Hole - although that would make for some interesting conversation. In between editing my next book and taking short jaunts around the country (vacation and track meets), I've been reading.

Since Kindle allows you to sample books before purchasing, it's rare that I buy a book anymore that I don't finish, simply because I don't punch the 'Buy Now' button until I've reached the end of the sample and am still hooked. Seems like ever since I got my Kindle this past spring, I've been finding more great reads than ever. Which is why I like to share my finds with all of you.

So check out these blurbs, sift through the reviews if you'd like, and download a sample. If they're to your taste, buy and read the whole book - then be sure to share the ones you liked with your friends. Word of mouth is very powerful.

Here's my summer reading:

The Last Letter, by Kathleen Shoop

I can't say enough great things about this book. I tripped across it on the Kindle Historical Fiction Bestseller Top 100 list when it was just entering the rankings. At 99 cents, who could resist? (Although I certainly would've paid far more.) It's now in the Top 10 there - and deservedly so. It reminds me vaguely of Anne Weisgarber's lovely The Personal History of Rachel DuPree, in that both books detail the struggle of young mothers as pioneers on the prairie as they battle the unforgiving elements of nature and reach for the strength within themselves to stand up to husbands who domineer or disappoint.

The Last Letter is at times stark and gritty, but seething with emotion and startlingly realistic. It takes place in the late 19th century on the Dakota prairie and alternates between the viewpoints of the daughter, Katherine, and the mother, Jeanie Arthur. You can read my full review here at Historical Novel Review. I'll remember this book for a long time, it was that powerful. (Price $.99)

Jack: A book about a dog where the dog doesn't die at the end, by Ray Braswell

I'm a huge, HUGE fan of both The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein and A Dog's Purpose by Bruce Cameron, but they can both leave you a little heart-heavy if you've ever loved and lost a dog - which most of us have.

This is where Jack comes in at an entirely different angle. Humor is hard to capture on the pages of a book, but if you know the general personality of Labrador Retrievers at all, this book nails it. I was laughing my head off in bed at midnight while reading this. Whatever you do, don't skip reading the footnotes. They're just as hilarious as the rest of the book, which portrays tidbits of Jack's puppyhood from the perspective of his owner, who Jack refers to as Tall Guy, and Jack himself. (Price $2.99)

Broken Laces, by Rodney Walther

Don't be fooled - this is not just a book about baseball. It's a heartfelt story about a father trying to salvage his relationship with his son after a tragedy strikes and turns their world upside down.

In trying to move forward, Jack Kennedy does so many things wrong. Just about when you think he's going to be okay, he finds a way to mess his life up. What makes this story believable is that you just know Jack is only human and his intentions are wholly good. (Price $2.99)

Waiting For Spring, by R.J. Keller

Briefly, I'll say this was one of the most emotive books I've ever read: raw, sometimes gut-wrenching, layered, and yet imbued with traces of hope. From the outset, I cared what happened to Tess and those around her. I almost feel like I know her in person now, she was that real, albeit imperfect. Without a doubt, I am looking forward to Keller's next book with great anticipation. (Price $2.99)

I'm going back into writing/editing mode now, but I'll be sure to share more great reads once I compile another list. Up next, a few excellent references for the indie writers out there.

Happy reading,

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

One Year of Self-Publishing

Today, I'm over at Lisa Yarde's blog chatting about my first year of indie authorship. Check back at The Brooklyn Scribbler throughout the week to catch up with some other fledgling indie authors as they share their experiences of the past year.

Meanwhile, no, I haven't been kidnapped. I'm editing. Red pen squigglies freak me out - even when I'm the one who put them on the page. The only cure is to quietly and methodically eradicate them, surrounded by my trusty stacks of resource material. Am imbibing way too much caffeine these days.

Until later,

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Traditional vs. Self-Publishing - Is it really Us. vs. Them anymore?

We live in a digital age that has democratized authors' access to readers - and that has caused a lot of debate in the arena of traditional publishing vs. self-publishing. With print-on-demand and e-books, the floodgates have opened up. Nowadays, it seems like everyone is writing a book.

Not too long ago I resigned myself to no longer engage in such debates. I'm glad I didn't say that out loud, because here goes:

Publishing is in a state of flux. The lines are blurring. We have writers like Amanda Hocking transitioning from self-published stardom to the world of traditional publishing in order to reach even more readers. We also have writers like Seth Godin going the other direction. Now we have the announcement that JK Rowling's e-books will be available, not on Amazon or B&N, but via her own designated web site and sold in 'partnership' with her publisher.

Then there are self-published authors like John Locke selling over a million units and yet others like Nancy Gardner and Victorine Lieske breaking onto the New York Times Bestseller lists.

There used to be a prevalent belief that if you self-published you'd obliterate your chances of ever becoming traditionally published (see Amanda Hocking, above) and never make any money at it (see Amanda Hocking, above). "Yeah, but . . ." you say, "she's an exception." You're right. The truth is that aside from the standouts in self-publishing, there is a growing sector of indie mid-list authors. And yes, my name is there somewhere. You also have the tens of thousands who never sell over a hundred books because 1) the writing/formatting/cover are awful, 2) they don't know how to promote, or 3) they just give up too soon once they realize the work that's involved. No debate there.

I've seen the perpetual arguments on writers' web sites and discussion lists for or against one side too many times to count; so much so, that I just have to roll my eyes. Those who are the most vehemently against self-publishing flooding online booksellers like Amazon and Barnes and Noble basically state that the midden heap will be so high and fetid that we'll never be able to find a good book again. All I can say is that is a very black and white view of the world. Blogger/author David Gaughran dismantles that myth and others in this post.

There are also those who say they've picked up a self-published book or two (or more) that was absolute crap. Yes, they're out there, plenty of them. But you don't have to sift through ALL of them like some squinty-eyed underling combing through the slush pile at a big literary agency. Amazon, in particular, has a system of recommendations that will weed out for you what others have already weeded out. So don't worry that the moment you get on Amazon to load up your Kindle that you're going to be buried by failed 6th grade English essays masquerading as literary brilliance. Trust me, no matter how picky you are, you'll find something worthwhile to read.

Let me summarize: Self-published works are not inherently bad. Some are, I agree. Some are okay. Some are very good. And some are are FABULOUS! Quality is a gradient. And value is subjective.

When I go to a local theater production, I don't pre-judge the actors just because they aren't graduates of Juliard or Hollywood actors with multi-million dollar contracts. And you know what? I've been bored to tears, mildly entertained, and blown away at different times.

Publishing will undergo some growing pains in the next few years as it catches up with technology. Authors - both those already on top and those working their way up from the bottom - are in large part affecting that change. But ultimately, it's readers steering the ship and picking out books. And for the most part, they don't care if it's Random House that publishes a book or Joe Smith's Garage Press. They care about the quality of the story inside and whether it provides entertainment, moves them to tears or laughter, or makes them think.

Maybe, just maybe, we should judge each book not by the publisher's logo on the spine (or lack thereof), but by the content within?

Happy reading,

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Milestones and Moments

Earlier this month marked my one year anniversary into the world of indie publishing. In a couple of weeks, I'll have a guest post over at Lisa Yarde's The Brooklyn Scribbler, detailing the journey of my first year.

Meanwhile, I've finally cleared my schedule and am deep in wrapping up the first draft of the third book in The Bruce Trilogy - The Honor Due a King. After that there are still edits, proofing and cover to do (I sometimes forget how long that stage can take), but once I have a projected publication date I'll announce it here. I almost think I've been dragging my feet on this because I don't want to leave Robert, James and Edward behind. Authors really do get attached to their characters. After all, they usually lead much more interesting lives than we do.

The highlights of my first year:

1) Getting my first fan mail. Believe it or not, it came from a reader in Scotland. (Whenever I lose touch with my motivation, I glance at the letters taped to the wall behind my desk. Endless thanks to those who have bought the books, recommended them to others or left reviews and written to me. I urge all readers to spread the word about books that you enjoy. Word of mouth really is the best way for good books to find an audience.)

2) Being awarded the IPPY Silver Medal for Historical Fiction for Isabeau. (So, so wish I could've gone to the ceremony in NYC to meet other writers and publishers, but sometimes family takes precedence over business.)

3) Surpassing 10,000 sales in e-books. (That absolutely blows my mind, especially considering that in my first month of July 2010 I only sold 21 Kindle books.)

I'll have more to blog about when I emerge from my imaginary world. Until then . . .

Happy reading,

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

IPPY Award for Isabeau and a Giveaway for The Crown in the Heather

I'm excited to announce that Isabeau, A Novel of Queen Isabella and Sir Roger Mortimer, won the IPPY Silver Medal for Historical Fiction! There were over 4,000 total entries for this year's IPPYs (Independent Publisher Book Awards). Medals were given out on May 23rd in New York City. Unfortunately I couldn't be there, but I'm looking forward to receiving my 'bling' in the mail soon. This is a great honor, as it's the only contest that Isabeau has been entered in and there was a lot of competition, so it's had me floating on a cloud for weeks now. For anyone who's wondering - yes, there is a sequel to Isabeau in the works and, um, yeah, it just might answer some unresolved issues about the whole Isabella/Roger/Edward thing. *grin*

If you haven't yet snagged a copy of The Crown in the Heather, here's you chance to win one over at Historical Fiction Obsession. Just click here, follow her blog or tweet the link and leave a comment.

I first found out about Kimberly's review of The Crown in the Heather via Google Alerts (technology is a wonderful, wonderful thing). She also did a review for Isabeau. To say that I'm thrilled to have such an enthusiastic advocate for my work in a prolific book blogger like Kimberly is a GINORMOUS understatement.

If you've already read and enjoyed CITH, share the link or tell your friends. Meanwhile, I'm going into my writing cave because there are people waiting on me. Oh, the pressure!

Happy reading,