For this Wednesday's entry, I'm offering an excerpt from Lady of the Seals, one of my favorites, an erotic selkie romance set in Scotland.
If you like what you read, you can find the book at Amazon, or check out the Smashwords edition for half off with the coupon code TW63G.
It was a dream, he thought. It had to be a dream. Or maybe it was heaven, because how else could this have come to pass? He had been halfway to death—more than halfway—and now he lay on the beach in the arms of a beautiful woman with large, brown eyes.
Barely conscious, he registered her presence as if she were a dream. But her skin against him warmed him, gave back some of the life the cold ocean had tried to take.
She was naked, he realized slowly, and so was he. They were rolled up together in a mass of heavy wool blankets, skin to skin, her breasts against his chest, her long legs scissored between his. He remembered, vaguely, the touch of her mouth on his as she put her own life’s breath into him. Now she shared her heat.
He looked at her in the darkness as she lay there against him. Her eyes were closed, and he was almost certain she slept. Gently, he drew his hands down her back, and set his lips against hers. She tasted of life, and the salty ocean. He opened her mouth with his, tasting more deeply, and she stirred against him, and opened her eyes with a smile.
His hands slid down her body, cupping the soft, warm roundness of her buttocks. Her thighs pressed against his and then opened loosely, inviting him in. Wrapped as they were in the blankets, it was difficult for him to align his body the right way, but he eased his thigh between hers as he kissed her. The wetness of her sex made hot dew on the skin of his leg.
She moved closer to him, all of her body a warm welcome to his. He hefted her breasts, bent to take one, then the other, into his mouth. Warmth and more warmth, silky and soft and beautiful.
“I’ll no’ hurt you,” he whispered, though she seemed to have no fear of him. Her hand slid between his thighs, pressing his scrotum against his body. The heat flashed through him, bringing him to life where the ocean had tried so hard to send him to death. She shifted her legs against his and the blankets eased around them. Her fingers, rising up the heavy length of his erection, eased him inside her.
He stilled there, enraptured by her heat. Everything the sea had taken from him—his breath, his warmth, his very life—she had given back. The heat radiated from his sex up through the core of his body, through his limbs, to his skin. Through his heart.
Wednesday, January 25, 2017
Tuesday, January 24, 2017
I've got another book reformatted and ready to go--this one's a previous Ellora's Cave title and one of my favorites, Lady of the Seals.
Please note this is an Elizabeth Jewell title, so it's an erotic romance, so if that's not your cuppa, be warned. And it's a Scottish selkie story, so if that IS your cuppa, go grab it!
Special offer for blog readers--if you go to Smashwords, you can get the story at half-price with the code TW63G.
It's also available at Amazon.
Monday, January 16, 2017
December and January have been a bit weird for me. There’s been a lot of work, but also a lot of down time. I’ve spent tons of time with family, from gatherings with my now-local parents, sister, niece and nephew and respective significant others, to a visit from my son, who’s still headquartered in Colorado while he finishes up college. December saw the release of Call Me Zhenya, a book I still really like. Based on the reviews, some other people like it, too.
There’s also been a big drop-off in client work, which is typical for the holiday season. It always worries me, though. I’ve been filling the time planning for 2017, promoting Zhenya, and working on some new projects. I’m writing a sequel to Zhenya with the working title Code Name Anya. You can follow a rather cryptic chronicle of my progress on Pinterest. This is where I dump research material, inspirational photos, and other bits and pieces while I’m working on a book. Zhenya has a board, too. Just think of it as a glimpse inside my brain.
I’m also tackling a big project I’ve been picking at for ages, and that’s reformatting all the books I’ve published through Notes on Vellum. I’m making the interiors way prettier using Vellum (no relation), and I’m redoing some covers. The first book to get the treatment is Sweetest Songs. (For some reason the new cover isn’t showing for me on Amazon, although it’s showing on my KDP dashboard. This is what it should look like—)
Sweetest Songs is a little darker and sadder than most of my books, with a bittersweet ending. The hero goes through a process of change that’s painful for him, but at the other side of loss he finds his way to a new and better version of himself. I hope you’ll give it a look.
Wednesday, January 4, 2017
My new book is out now on Amazon, and since Marteeka Karland has reinstated the Humpday Hump, I thought I'd offer a contribution. Enjoy!
She woke abruptly to the sound of a growl. Evgeni’s head was still heavy in her lap. The growl came from him; he was dreaming. Anna fought back the surge of adrenaline that had struck her as she jerked awake, but her heart continued to pound hard at the back of her throat. Evgeni twitched against her, the growl morphing to a sort of whine. The sounds, and even the movement of his body as he jerked in the dream’s throes, seemed more dog than man.
The whine disturbed her, especially when it came again, sounding even more mournful and pained than before. She’d had a dog growing up; she’d always woken him up when he made noises like that. She’d always worried, though, that he wouldn’t totally shake off the dream and would awaken with the same fear that caused those sounds, think she was a threat and bite her. She had the same concern about Evgeni now. Instead of waking him right away, she stroked his hair. It had often worked with the dog; she’d stroke it, scratch at its ears, rub its head, and it would settle into a more peaceful sleep.
He quieted as she pushed her fingers through his thick, dark hair, rubbed the back of his skull. “Zhenya,” she murmured. “Shhh.”
He made an odd, breathy sound, and one hand closed on her thigh. She was starting to think he was getting a little personal when he turned his head and buried his face between her legs.
She jumped. That was . . . unexpected. He took a long, deep breath through his nose.
Anna shivered. Instinctively, her hand went to his head, prepared to push him back, but concerned about how he might react. Her hand, though, seem to want to push him closer. That was an interesting conundrum. She tugged gently at his hair, drawing his head to a more neutral position.
He kept sniffing, moving up the side of her body across her ribs, her belly, over her breasts. His nose went into the fold of her armpits. His big hand closed over her breast, the touch almost neutral, as if he were just holding her still and it had provided a convenient handle. He lingered with his nose under her arm for a few long seconds, long enough for it to start to tickle, which was almost a good thing because it distracted her from the uneasy embarrassment settling over her.
Oddly, though, she wasn’t afraid. It was strange, uncomfortable, and she didn’t understand all the ramifications of what he was doing to her, but he wasn’t hurting her. And he wouldn’t. Of that she was certain, but she wasn’t sure why.
His head shifted, but he didn’t stop sniffing. His nose made a line up the side of her neck, to behind her ear, where he drew another deep, long breath. He sniffed at her face—her eyes, her lips. And then traced his tongue across her mouth, soft and hot.
She let him. She held perfectly still and let him. It was strange but not threatening or even uncomfortable. He was taking liberties, yes, but it was the wolf, not the man. And she had a feeling this was a ritual of some kind, something important to the wolf that would help him accept her, see her as a friend.
His tongue slipped past the seam of her lips, tracing the line between them but not asking for entrance. He drew back after a quick taste, and his teeth pressed against her jawbone, a gentle bite between the point of her jaw and the point of her chin. Then he curled up next to her and closed his eyes.
Friday, October 21, 2016
Over the last few months, I've been posting about my Kindle Scout experience at Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. This post originally appeared on their blog in July. It has been edited from the original post, since the original had specific, time-sensitive information in it that is no longer relevant. (It involved chocolate. Not to imply that chocolate is not relevant. Chocolate is always relevant.)
Promotional plans, and lessons learned along the way.
I hate promotion. I’m sure I’m not alone. In fact, I’m not sure I know any fellow writers who tell me they love promoting themselves and their work. For me, it’s not even so much that I don’t like talking about myself and my work. It’s just a big workload piled on top of an already big workload, and most of the time it feels like it’s not really getting me anywhere.
I know it’s necessary, though, so I do what I can. I don’t think I do it particularly well, but sometimes I manage to find something that’s actually fun, and that helps.
In any case, when it comes to my current Kindle Scout project, it’s blatantly obvious I need to promote. So, while I’m finalizing my edits and figuring out what system I want to use for my final formatting, I’m brainstorming on some promotional ideas. Here are some things I think I’ll try for online promotion:
Thunderclap. I’m not sure this kind of “tweetstorming” approach works consistently, but I know people who’ve seen some decent results. I think it’s far better to have numerous other people tweet for you than to tweet the hell out of your own audience. Also? It’s easy. And free.
Blog tours. Also free, unless I decide to pay to have someone set it up for me, which I don’t think I’ll do.
Facebook boosted posts. I’ve done this a couple of times but not enough yet to have made any conclusions about the results. I think it’s worth a shot.
Facebook ads. I had some good success with these on a past project, so I think I’ll give it another go.
I’m also going to switch out my autoresponders on my newsletter signup site to send out a sample of the book I’ll be Scouting. I’ve been sending a romance short story to new subscribers, but I think it’s time to switch it up a bit. I’ll also send this sample to my current subscribers. I’ve found that I get very high open rates when I send out freebies. This so far hasn’t really translated into sales, but at least I get people’s attention.
I’d like to hear from anyone who’s tried these promotional techniques, or who’s had a particularly good response from any other on-line promotion approaches, so feel free to hit the comments. The promotional landscape is changing at least as fast as the publishing industry itself, so reports from the “front lines” are always useful and welcome.
This is an encore post, but I'd still be happy to hear from anyone who's got great promotional ideas!
Wednesday, October 19, 2016
Over the last few months, I've been posting about my Kindle Scout experience at Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. This post originally appeared on their blog in June.
The continuing saga of KK’s quest to conquer Kindle Scout.
In order to submit your book to KS, you need to have 1. A book. 2. A cover. 3. Lots of editing and formatting shizz. This post is going to cover number 2—the cover. And my apologies in advance—it’s a long one.
One of the first things self-publishing gurus tell aspiring self-publishers is, “Never make your own cover art.” This is probably a good piece of advice. Unless you want to make your own cover art, and are willing to put in the due diligence to make one that doesn’t look like you put it together in MS Paint (unless MS Paint is an important theme of the book, of course [sets aside plot bunny for another day]).
So…confession time. I do my own cover art. Some of it is stanky (and is on my list to be redone). Some of it is, in my own humble goddess-like opinion, not too damn bad. Why do I do my own art? Because I like doing my own art. I like learning about graphics and Photoshop and Canva and GIMP and whatever else. For the most part, I enjoy the challenge and the process.
I learned to use Photoshop making Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel fan art. I made wallpapers with half-naked (and sometimes totes naked) David Boreanaz on them because it made me happy. And I learned a lot. When I started self-pubbing, I used those skills to start making covers. The first few I made—not so hot. But I started learning. I have a friend who works for the cover art department at one of my publishers, and she vets my work. My daughter is about to become a photography major, and has a great skill and eye for art. My college-age son has been making computer graphics for ages, and also has a great eye for art. So they give me feedback, too. Which leads to feedback like, “Mom, her face looks like it has a tumor on it,” and “No, those colors look like three-day-old poop.”
That’s the kind of feedback you need for this kind of venture.
So what do you need to make your own covers aside from somebody—preferably multiple somebodies—to tell you when your painstaking work is a piece of crap?
1. An idea of how cover art works. There’s all kinds of advice on the internet about how to improve/create cover art. My current favorite guru is Derek Murphy, from creativeindiecovers.com. On his site, you can find templates, author tools, and even an online tool where you can create your own covers (I haven’t tried it, so I don’t know how well it works, but give it a go if you’re so inclined). He also has published a book on the topic, which has some interesting advice in it, much of which seems to fly in the face of the advice of other cover gurus. For example, Murphy says it’s not necessary to make the title big enough to read on a thumbnail, which you’ll find as the Number One Guideline for Proper Ebook Cover Art just about everywhere else. Since I’m super contrary, I figured this was the advice for me.
His templates are very cool, but they’re in Microsoft Word (!) and MS Word hates me, so I was unable to bend them to my will. However, I imported some graphics into one of them, got a general idea of what I wanted my cover to look like, then assembled everything in GIMP. More on that later.
2. Some graphics software. I used Photoshop for a very long time, then I upgraded the OS on my computer and the old, old copy I had stopped working. This was very stressful. I swore a lot. Then I consulted my Tech Department (above-mentioned son and daughter) for recommendations. After some fiddling with various freeware packages, I ended up with GIMP. It’s free, and it does darn near everything Photoshop does, and with a similar workflow. (I still needed a tutorial from my son, who helped me with my cover for Lord of the Screaming Tower, but I’m getting the hang of it.) I recommend finding something you’re comfortable with, and then playing with it until you feel less like flinging the computer out the window. Find online tutorials or a mentor-type to get you on your feet.
3. Some PICTURES!! Pictures are the most important part of cover art. Because…well, because cover art. There are lots of places to find photos—istock photo, fotolia, bigstock, dreamstime, etc. Some pictures are pricier than others. My favorite price is free, so I’m going to talk about how to get free pictures you can use for your covers.
Firstly, though, you have to be VERY CAREFUL about this. Be absolutely sure you have the right kinds of licenses for your photos before you put them on your book cover. Some places, like morguefile.com and Wikimedia commons, are mostly public domain, but still be sure to read the fine print. Some pics at Wikimedia require you to change the picture, or require you to credit the photographer. Don’t take shortcuts here—respect the photographers.
Anywho… Another way to get free pics, almost all of which will have the right type of licensing for book covers, is to wait for free trial memberships for major stock photo sites. I coincidentally was offered a free trial to graphicstock and bigstock within a couple of weeks of each other, and as a result ended up with close to 150 images for free. Once the trial is over, you just cancel, and then feel guilty every time they offer you another free trial (in all fairness, though, I’ve spent quite a bit of money at these sites, so I should probably chill). All the pictures I used for this cover came from the collection I downloaded during these free trials, and I have a bunch more that I grabbed with an eye toward future projects.
4. Fonts!! Never underestimate the power of a flippin’ awesome font. You’re probably good with two for a book cover—one for the title and one for your author name, possibly with an eye toward future branding. You can spend as little or as much as you like for fonts, from what I’ve seen. Again, I like free. My current site of choice is fonts101.com. They have a gajillion fonts, and they have a Font O’ the Day mailing list, and how cool is that?
You also have to look at licensing with fonts, so keep that in mind. If it says only for personal use, I’d suggest not putting it on a book cover. Look for fonts that are free for any usage or that specifically say free for commercial use. Or, of course, pay for the commercial upgrade if you really like the font.
That’s my basic how-to when it comes to covers. If you’re comfortable doing it, I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t. If you’re not comfortable doing it, it’s probably better to outsource it.
Tuesday, October 18, 2016
Over the last few months, I've been posting about my Kindle Scout experience at Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. This post originally appeared on their blog in June.
Pros and Cons of Automated Editing—a Discussion of AutoCrit
In the continuing saga of preparing a book for Kindle Scout, let’s talk about editing for self-publishing. This could also apply to editing for submissions, since you need to have your book in squeaky-clean shape before you start submitting to publishers (I know a good number of people who don’t believe this, but that’s for another post…).
If you’re like me, the idea of getting a book in solid shape for self-pub is a bit intimidating. I edit for other people on the side, but I have very little faith in myself to find my own mistakes. I know my manuscripts generally go to the editor far cleaner than many of the manuscripts I edit for other publishers, but there are still mistakes—typos, weirdness generated by Dragon Dictate when I use it, and of course the dreaded continuity issues.
Ideally, before you self-pub a book, you should send it to a professional editor. This can get pricey, though—I’m not sure I could afford myself as an editor right now, and my rates are really low. Nathan Lowell beat me to the punch in talking about using beta readers to crowdsource your editing in his article Bootstrap Your Book. The methods he discusses here are very useful and effective. If you’re lucky, you maybe have a proofer or editor on your list from a publisher you’ve worked with before who might be willing to give your manuscript a gander for a low cost. My group of proofers includes a fellow author I’ve edited for years as well as a proofer/editor from one of my publishers. It pays to make friends in this industry… Bartering can work, too—if you feel confident about your abilities to find typos or point out continuity issues, work out a trade with another author. Or offer large quantities of chocolate.
In any case, since Nathan covered the bases of crowdsourced editing, I’m going to talk about another low-cost approach—automated editing. Wait, wait—don’t run off. I have Important Things to Say.
I’m sure you’ve heard of Grammarly, which is a site where you can upload your manuscript and have it spit out a number of different grammar issues regarding your manuscript. I haven’t used this site, but I’ve used AutoCrit, which I believe is similar. I’m going to discuss my experiences, what automated editing can and can’t do, how it’s helped me, and why it might be worth looking into.
I stumbled across AutoCrit by accident. I’d gotten a sponsored email from Writer’s Digest with a free offer for a short video course on creating dialogue. I have a tendency to grab and hoard free things (SHINY! SHINY! FREE!), so I grabbed the course. I didn’t notice at the time, but it was from the AutoCrit website. They started sending me emails offering me a GREAT DEAL on a year-long membership to their site. After deleting several of these, I finally thought okay, wait. I’ve got a manuscript I need to get cleaned up. Let’s go sign up for the 7-day free trial and see what this puppy can do.
So I did that. I then uploaded Call Me Zhenya—all 93,000 words—onto the site and let AutoCrit do its magic. It generated about ten reports, which I then downloaded and looked over.
There are, of course, limits to what this kind of editor can do. It’s best to ignore a lot of the advice it produces, much like it’s best to ignore most of the green squiggly lines MS Word automatically generates to tell you you’ve committed a grammar infraction.
The reports I got from AutoCrit found a good number of things I had obviously missed on the forty quadrillion editing runs I’d done on my own. The report on “ly” adverbs was particularly enlightening (My name is Katriena and I am an adverb-aholic). It also found some typos I’d missed and put my horrible word repetition habit into stark relief. (Seriously? 1600 repetitions of “quietly?” Good grief, woman!)
I wasn’t quite as on board with the reports that supposedly showed me show vs. tell writing. The parameters they used didn’t seem realistic to me, as they were mostly keyed to certain verb tenses. The passive verbs report seemed equally arbitrary. I do, however, feel like the time I spent going through the reports and sifting out repeated words, typos, and adverbs was well spent. I also took the plunge and bought the discounted year’s subscription. It seemed like a reasonable price, though I probably would have balked at a full-price subscription.
Overall, I thought it proved to be a good addition to my self-pub repertoire, since it found a good many things a proofreader would have marked up. That means I can send a much cleaner version to the actual humans who read the story later, and that can only be a good thing.
For those who might be curious, the reports AutoCrit provides are:
- Adverbs in Dialogue Tags
- Adverbs Overall
- Generic Descriptions
- Passive Verbs
- Sentence Starters
- Show vs. Tell Indicators
- Unnecessary Filler Words
You can run these one at a time or all in one fell swoop. You can also decide whether to get a high-level report or a detailed report that shows you exactly where all the noted transgressions are located in the manuscript. This can be in a list form, or highlighted on a copy of your manuscript. You can upload a few pages, a chapter, or the whole manuscript for evaluation.
Overall, I did find AutoCrit useful, and I think it provided a good way to spot some issues I would have otherwise missed.