The secret ingredient to true love

I once stood at the window of our apartment, watching this guy and girl have a terrible fight in the rain. She was trying to leave, but the car was locked and he wouldn’t give her the keys. He was raging about how she had disrespected him. She refused to admit any wrongdoing, blaming him for his lack of love. To his credit, he never punched her, although she hit him a couple of times. Eventually, he stormed off and she called someone to pick her up.

It was fascinating. If the woman refuses to respect her man, he withholds the love that she craves. The relationship goes into a death spiral.

In our culture, women have been elevated to goddesses. But they are also not held accountable for their lack of respect. Very rarely is that addressed in fiction: women are always princesses and men are always Prince Charming. Except relationships don’t work that way. There has to be respect on both sides.

A while back, I got on a young adult fantasy kick. I read stacks of the things, mostly pulled at random off the library shelves. I’d pick up titles I’d seen on blogs, I’d read them for their pretty covers, I’d read them if they featured any monster but vampires.

I despise vampires. Blame it on some really, really awful fanfiction I read as a teen.

One thing I noticed over and over was that these authors seemed to have no idea what a healthy relationship looks like. The characters have random sex, love triangles, and abuse each other mercilessly. Respect is hard to find. And don’t get me started on the relationships these characters had with their parents.

Ugh.

Paranormal romance always follows the Beauty and the Beast formula. Girl is forced by circumstances into monster’s miserable world. She can free him from his prison, but it’s going to take a lot of effort on both their parts.

Corollary: the girl can join him in his miserable world instead of redeeming him (aka becoming a vampire), but it’s not as satisfying to the reader.

As a culture, we’ve lost the true meaning of love, which is self-sacrifice. Instead, we try to glorify this selfish, grasping, possessive, unhealthy thing and call it love.

This thing that we’ve become
Might look like love to some
All the lies you’ve fed to me
Leave me standing empty
With nothing to say

–The Huntress, The Echoing Green

I mean, nothing’s more romantic than Edward sneaking into Bella’s room at night to watch her sleep, right? Right? Or how about the werewolf growling, “MINE!”

twilight-vs-tangled

Yeah, right. Girls, this behavior is a warning sign, not something to seek out.

So I decided to try my hand at writing the whole teen paranormal romance thing. I had a few questions in mind that I wanted to explore in a story.

1. Can you love someone if you have no emotions?

2. What does a respectful, self-sacrificing relationship look like?

3. Can love redeem a monster?

The answers I eventually came up with:

1: Yes, because love is an act of will

2. Smoking hot

3. It helps the monster take responsibility for seeking his own redemption. No human being can really save another.

After reading so much fiction where love is basically elaborate lust, I needed to see what true romance looks like. So I cracked open the Song of Solomon.

Hoo boy. Song is HOT. I needed a cold shower after I finished.

What I learned, though, is that real romance happens not only when two people are attracted to each other, but when they highly respect each other. They’re willing to do anything for the other. And the longing. So much longing. In the Song, he leaves flowers on her door, so she runs out into the streets looking for him, and wanders until the city guards send her home. It’s a long time until she finds him. When she does, their joy (and intimate times) are so great that only metaphor can describe it.

As I wrote the Malevolent trilogy, I kept this in mind, ramping up the respect and self-sacrifice in each book. In book 1, we deal with the awkwardness of Mal and Libby meeting and figuring out Mal’s secrets. In book 2, they have an established relationship and their shared secrets are slowly killing them. Monsterhood comes at a high price.

The result is a super-hot romance, heavy on the feels, that has almost no physical contact. I think they kiss once in each book. Even the telepathy stuff is shown to be a bad thing after a while.

I kept coming back to respect. Respect respect respect. This is harder for women than for men. Women naturally give love and affection, while men naturally give respect.

If you can get this right–as well as the occasional failings, when they forget to respect each other and cause trouble instead–you can have a romance that is far more satisfying than just characters jumping into the sack together. I hope Malcontent is a decent picture of what this looks like. You know, if you were telepathically chained to a soulless monster. 😉

Malcontent has officially launched! Now you can continue Mal and Libby’s story, as well as their deeper dive into danger.

When things don’t go as planned (and Valentine’s book sale)

“I have a book to launch this week!” I thought to myself. “I’ll spend the week setting up advertising, formatting the ebook and print book, and celebrating!”

And then we all got tonsillitis.

I’ve never had it before, and it’s all kinds of lousy. It’s taken me a whole week to get better. A whole. Stinking. Week. AND THEN all the kids and my husband got it, too. So I’ve been barely well enough to look after other sick people. There’s been a lot of hot tea and kombucha around here.

“Sure, I’ll participate in this big blog book sale!” I said several weeks ago.

Annnnd tonsillitis. I woke up this morning and realized, crap, that was TODAY. I had the bright idea to throw a roast in the slow cooker so I could get my work done and still have dinner.

I pulled out the slow cooker and set it on the sink. I opened the cabinet to grab my seasonings. A glass jar fell out of the cabinet, fell into the crock pot, and as luck would have it, shattered the crockery of the pot, NOT the jar. So now I have the extra step of baking a roast in the oven instead of the set-it-and-forget-it slow cooker.

It’s been kind of a rough week. So here’s some books!


This Valentine’s Day, the awesome authors at Fellowship of Fantasy have banded together to provide an awesome selection of free and discount Fantasy and Speculative Fiction stories. Browse the titles, select as many as your heart desires, and discover your next favorite author!



All Fellowship of Fantasy titles are author rated with a guaranteed content level no higher than PG-13, so you shouldn’t encounter graphic sex, gratuitous violence, or excessive language.



As pricing can be subject to the whims of the vendors, please verify that the deals are, in fact, still active before purchasing. Thank you!


Bargain Books (priced at 99 cents)

Fellowship of  Fantasy
Rebirth—Frank B. Luke-Amazon
Seven Deadly Tales—Frank B. Luke-Amazon
The Hidden Level—AJ Bakke-Amazon
To Save Two Worlds—AJ Bakke-Amazon
The Regency Shifter Series—KM Carroll-AmazoniTunesBarnes and Noble
Academy of Secrets—Michael Carney-Author Website
Sunbolt—Intisar Khanani-AmazonBarnes and NobleKobo
Wyndano’s Cloak—A. R. Silverberry AmazonBarnes and Noble
The Stream—A. R. Silverberry –AmazonBarnes and Noble
Rainbird—Rabia Gale-AmazonBarnes and NobleKobo
Reality Break—Jennifer Kibble-Amazon
Battle for the Throne—EJ Willis-Amazon
Nyssa Glass’s Clockwork Christmas—H. L. Burke-Amazon
The True Bride and the Shoemaker—L. Palmer-Author WebsiteAmazon
Cry of the Sea—D. G. Driver-Amazon
Foxtails—Erica Laurie-Amazon
Eun Na and the Phantom—Erica Laurie-Amazon
 

Free Books

The Buick Eight—Frank B. Luke-Amazon
Cora and the Nurse Dragon—H. L. Burke-Amazon
Lands of Ash—H. L. Burke-Amazon
Prince of Alasia—Annie Douglass Lima-Amazon
Awakening—Julie C. Gilbert-Amazon
Leandra’s Enchanted Flute—Katy Huth Jones-Amazon
Mercy’s Prince—Katy Huth Jones-Amazon
Woe for a Faerie—B. Brumley-AmazoniTunesBarnes and Noble
Chasing Lady Midnight—C. L. Ragsdale-Amazon
Jin In Time Part One —Karin De Havin-AmazoniTunesBarnes and Noble
Nyssa Glass and the Caper Crisis—H. L. Burke-Amazon
Fellowship of Fantasy

Love, Lies and Hocus Pocus (why you should read it)

Yep, this is a book review. Of a really fun book. You ready?

No, I did not just say that in a WWE wrestler’s voice.

Anyway, here’s the official summary:

By day, book-loving wizard Lily Singer manages library archives. By night? She sleeps, of course. In between, she studies magic and tries to keep her witch friend Sebastian out of trouble. Much to her displeasure, he finds it anyway and drags her along with him.

From unmaking ancient curses to rescuing a town lost in time, Lily and Sebastian fight to avert magical mayhem. Meanwhile, Lily’s mysterious past begins to unfold–a past hidden from her by those she trusts most. Will she be able to discover the truth despite them?

And now for my review.

This isn’t really urban fantasy, not if you take UF to mean clever wizards as the underdogs in a massive struggle against an overpowering evil force against the backdrop of a rainy city. This is more like what I think of as contemporary fantasy (and might be at home on a shelf of paranormal cozy mysteries): Girl and guy solve mysteries. They have chemistry. They exchange witty banter. They drink tea. Oh, and occasionally they do some really interesting magic.

I think that’s one thing that attracted me to the book in the first place. The magic system is based on Sumerian cuneiform (which has always intrigued me). It smacks of frontiers. The heroine, Lily, is always learning some new spell by examining an ancient artifact. It thrills my little paleontologist/archeologist heart.

The hero, Sebastian, is a witch. But he’s a witch in the sense that his magic comes from trading favors with other beings. And the beings he prefers to deal with are fairies. So there’s lots of him bribing various fairies and pixies with booze. It’s hilarious and not very witchy. It’s like the lighter moments in the Dresden books when Harry bribes the pixies with pizza.

The book is laid out kind of oddly–it’s basically three novellas rolled into one book. So in Story 1, you meet Lily and see how she deals with a haunted house. In Story 2, you follow Sebastian into the seamy underworld of Alabama and see how his fairies help him take on a drug ring. In the third story, the artifact of note in story 2 has been used to freeze a whole town in a time loop. Think Groundhog Day.

It’s kind of odd reading three stories in one book. But they’re all heavily interconnected. The shorter length makes for quick reading (again, like a cozy mystery).

Since I’m always in the market for light, fluffy reading, this book hit the spot. I’m also reading the second book, which is supposed to take the metaplot a little deeper. There’s also a kickstarter going for books 3 and 4, which will be out soon (yay!).

What are you waiting for? Go grab a copy!

Cover reveal: MALCONTENT

It’s finally here! Malcontent is ready, and now the buildup to launch begins!

malcontent-fullsize

Six months after the events of MALEVOLENT, Mal and Libby are struggling with the side effects of having two souls combined in one body…and the uncomfortable intimacy it brings.

When Mal captures a hive of killer bees, they inform him of a new threat from the Necromancer. Dark barriers and dangerous sigils are mounted around the valley. At the same time, Libby begins training with the Marchers, who will instruct her in the use of life and death motes. But the Marchers are on a relentless hunt for the Lich Prince and his hidden soul – which she now carries inside of her.

Now Mal and Libby must find a way to extract Mal’s soul before they are caught by the Marchers – killed by the Necromancer – or destroyed by the slow subsumption of their souls.


MALCONTENT will be available on all retailers February 14th! (Isn’t that a totally appropriate release date?) I’m super excited for this book–it’s one of my best yet. There are feels. There is suspense. Mal and Libby’s relationship deepens. There may even be kissing. 😉

Preorder here!

Sneak peek at chapter 1 here!

Marketing (and how nobody knows how to do it)

Sign-ups for this year’s Realm Makers conference went up yesterday. All my writer friends are excitedly talking about it, exchanging yarns from last year, and looking forward to going this year.

Meanwhile, I’m sitting here thinking, “The only way I could possibly go to RM is as a panelist, and even then they’d have to twist my arm.” Which set me daydreaming about what topic I’d talk about. Which led me to probably the biggest question all writers have.

MARKETING.

HOW YOU DO IT.

One thing you must know first about all marketing: nobody knows what works. If publishers knew what books would sell, all books would be bestsellers. The ideal marketing is to put your product in front of people who want to buy it. But how to find those people? And how to entice them to buy your product at all?

Targeted marketing has become a big deal. Facebook ads that show ads only to a certain demographic of people who are the most likely to want the product. Or Amazon ads that only show you books similar to other books you’ve bought. (How many of us shop the also-boughts? I do!)

When I was in college for digital design, the whole focus of the course was on advertising. I learned a whole lot about advertising that I didn’t want to know. Want to know what I learned?

Ready for this?

All marketing boils down to hitting three points:

Lust of the flesh

Lust of the eyes

Pride of life

That’s all there is to it.

This book will give you FEELS. (Lust of the flesh).

the_fault_in_our_stars

This book has a PRETTY COVER. (Lust of the eyes, and boy do I buy books with pretty covers).

raven-king

EVERYBODY ELSE IS READING THIS BOOK AND IF YOU READ IT YOU WILL BE COOL TOO. (Pride of life. I think a lot of lit-rit-chewer falls into this category. Like Mark Twain said, literature is something everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read.)

goldfinch

Chris Fox has a nice little book about marketing. You find groups online where your target readers hang out. For instance, one of my friends markets her fantasy books with science-based magic to homeschoolers whose kids want magic but who disapprove of Harry Potter. She could target all kinds of homeschool communities.

Cozy mystery authors who write mystery + knitting or mystery + baking can target the baking or knitting communities.

Really, it’s not rocket science–hunt down the people who are interested in your topic. Then you have to work on your presentation. Instead of bombing into the party and screaming BUY MY BOOK, you have to rub elbows, hobnob, make friends. Maybe do a guest post here and there on blogs, or run an ad on their network. Do it quietly. People have to see an ad at least six times before it registers enough for them to make a decision about buying.

But if you spam their social media with BUY MY BOOK over and over, you’re going to get blocked. I see this happening with politics right now. The media is hawking so much hate and rage that people are blocking it out. The louder they scream, the more they get ignored.

Kristen Lamb has a great social media marketing book called Rise of the Machines. In it, she goes into the neuroscience of how we ignore ads. We’ve been saturated in advertising for so many decades that our brains have actually evolved resistance. We physically don’t see the ads anymore.

I notice this as we drive down the road.  My hubby will say, “Did you see that billboard?” I look around. “Huh?” I didn’t see any billboards at all. My brain has filtered them out.

Big fat graphic ads don’t work so well. You know what work? Links. Like these. People click little links like these WAY more often than the huge ad graphics.

To sum up, marketing is one of those things that are simple but not easy. It’s all about schmoozing. And social media is terrible at that. Just look at the summary of last year’s advertising for Rachel Aaron’s books.

The number 1 best way to sell books?

Write more books. Talk about them when they launch. Quietly run an ad on a different book newsletter every month. Indielister is a goldmine of a database of ads and results. Keep an ear to the ground for industry news. None of the steps are hard, but they do require getting educated.

Now go out and make people lust after your products!

2016 TBR Book Shaming post

I saw this on another blog and thought it was hilarious. Here is a list of all the books I didn’t read (but meant to!) in 2016. In fact, these are all books I paid cold, hard cash for, and still didn’t read. Mostly, I just forgot about them. Some of them I’m going, “Ooh, ooh, I need to read that!” Some of them I’m going, “Why do I even have this?” And I’m not going to list the dozens of samples I downloaded of books I was interested in trying before buying.

In order of oldest to newest, here we go:

The Heir, by Avily Jerome (why haven’t I read this? I’m pretty sure it has dragons in it.)

Agatha H. and the Voice of the Castle (Girl Genius book 3) by Phil and Kaja Foglio. (Why haven’t I read this? It’s an adapt of the comic, and it happens to be my favorite storyline to date. I just … didn’t.)

Wilde Omens by Bree Lawrence

Starship Eternal by M.R. Forbes

No Such Thing As Werewolves by Chris Fox

Thaddeus Whiskers and the Dragon by H.L. Burke

Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m A Supervillain by Richard Roberts

One Good Dragon Deserves Another by Rachel Aaron (which I didn’t read because I was afraid this title meant that the main couple broke up. I found out later that they didn’t, but I still never read it. Shame on me.)

RealmScapes A Sciencefiction and Fantasy Anthology by Realm Makers (I don’t do well with short story anthologies).

The Timeless Trilogy by Holly Hook (her books are always fast-paced edge of your seat, and I haven’t been up for that kind of thrill recently.)

Dragon of Ash and Stars by H. Leighton Dickson

The Chronothon by Nathan Van Coops

Love, Lies and Hocus Pocus by Lydia Sherrer

Water Gambit by Juliann Whicker

Space Carrier Avalon by Glynn Steward

Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines

Everything Marc Secchia has written

So there you have it. All my books that I haven’t read. Any books you would recommend me reading first? Any I should strike from the list? Any I should add? 😀

 

the_wise_one_by_vampireprincess007
The Wise One by VampirePrincess007

 

 

Guest Post: Confessions of a closet fanfiction writer

I’m being hosted on Ralene Burke’s blog today as part of her confessions series!

fanfic-meme
“Please, please, can we have a Sega Genesis?” my brother wheedled. “I’ll buy it with my birthday money!”

Our parents hemmed and hawed. This was the 1990s. Focus on the Family had been cranking out anti-videogame propaganda for years–anything from it ruining a kid’s grades to being a gateway to porn. But finally our parents said that we could buy a Genesis on one condition: they approve the games we bought.

The light was green! We bought our first video game system (and every single system after that). We played Sonic the Hedgehog and Jurassic Park and the maddeningly difficult Disney games. Batman Forever became a fixture.

Then–horrors–one hot summer day, our parents decreed that we spent too much time on games. “One hour a day,” they admonished. “Go do something else.”

Mutinous, I stalked upstairs to my desk. As a homeschooler, I had a very nice desk … Read More

Top mystery/fantasy books of 2016 (and how most of them are series)

It’s January of 2017–time for all the lists! Top ten EVERYTHING! Top fifty! Top 100! Stuff we learned last year! WOOHOO!

So, as I’ve been looking at these lists with the casual interest of a reader, I’ve noticed a few things.

Namely, a bunch of these books are way far into a series. Like, book 3. Book 6. Book 9. Book 12.I’m mostly looking at the Goodreads top 2016 lists, because they’re so beautifully easy to navigate. The Kobo ones are pretty similar.

Let me show you. I’ve taken the liberty of marking each book’s place in a series with a big fat number.

top2016-booksthriller

You can tell which ones are the thrillers. They tend to not be in a series, because most characters in thrillers don’t survive anyway.

Next up: Fantasy!

top2016-booksfantasy

Very few stand-alones here. Every book 1 is also the beginning of a series, with the exception of one book, which is a short story anthology (that tiger one).

Next up: Young Adult Fantasy:

top2016-booksya

Series are a big deal in this genre. The only book 1s are all series starters from authors who have established themselves with other series/trilogies.

It’s interesting to look at the spread here. If you want to hit a bestseller list, you’ve got to write series. Kevin Hearn’s Iron Druid is up to book 8 now. I spy a book 10 of another series. One of those mystery series is at book 42! These authors have been at this for a LONG time. The young adult authors seem to crank out trilogies, but sometimes they run longer than that. Even Stephen King is up there with a book 3!

As authors, I guess we can expect to plug away at this for book after book–so pick a genre that you like an awful lot. Unless you’re a thriller writer, then you can write boatloads of book 1s.

If you’d like to look at the other Top Goodreads genres, it’s here. And hey, maybe you’ll even find something new to read. 😀

Open letter to my aspie friends

When I was a kid, I went to a big science event for local homeschoolers. We mixed chemicals, opened eggs, and played with liquid nitrogen. It was grand.

During one of the breaks, I wandered out into one of the patios. A group of kids was out there talking. One of them was a boy who carefully enunciated all his words. He was arguing some advanced mathematical concept with the other kids.

I listened for a while, then departed, feeling shy and slightly envious. He was so much smarter than me. I knew that he was different, and I would never be that smart because I wasn’t wired that way.

The term Asperger’s hadn’t yet come into vogue. Without a label, I was free to observe and draw my own conclusions. My conclusion was admiration.

Years went by. As a teen, I sought out creative, intelligent people and surrounded myself with them. Many of them spoke in that clear, enunciated, staccato way. They were always super-smart, taking ideas to a level of genius I’d never conceived. I learned to seek them out when I needed to develop ideas. By comparison, other people seemed like Muggles.

Then the term Aspergers* came along. Suddenly my super-smart friends were apologizing. “I have a sensory-processing disorder,” they would say. “I’m going on medication for it.”

I watched as my once-brilliant friends were dulled to the level of a Muggle by medication. They meekly accepted the ruling of The Establishment that there was something wrong with them.

So this is my open letter to you. This is me shouting NO. Aspergers is not a disability. It is genius. The definition of genius is being able to focus on one thing at a time. You do that with the intensity of a laser, drilling deep into a concept, far deeper than I can, with my scattershot mind. While I can achieve that level of focus, it’s more difficult for me to achieve. And your brain does it effortlessly.

 

mana_tide_by_aquasixio-d7eab8c
Mana Tide by AquaSixio

 

Our culture has ceased to value genius. It only values stupidity and conformity. Look at our pop culture as the foolish, the disgusting, the mentally ill, are praised and glorified.

Don’t let them tell you that you are broken. Don’t take their drugs that will alter your brain chemistry. If you have health problems, take high-quality supplements (this one is my favorite!) and good probiotics to support your natural health. Eat veggies. Drink water. Exercise. You have a brilliant mind. Care for it. Guard it.

Drugs will take it away. Labels will make you feel bad about yourself. Before geniuses had Aspergers, I recognized them for what they were.

Geniuses.

Please don’t ever change.


 

  • The term Aspergers has been rolled into the broader “autism spectrum”, which encompasses everyone from the slightly shy to the non-vocal. Pretty much everyone I know fits into this definition.
  • Lots of famous people have been on the spectrum. Check out this list. Among them are Albert Einstein, Adam Young of Owl City, Satoshi Tajiri (creator of Pokemon). To say nothing of famous people who probably were spectrum, like Mozart.

Resolutions for 2017

Or less resolutions and more like my bucket list of things to do this year.

First up: how did things go last year?

outer_frontiers_by_valse_des_ombres
Outer Frontiers by Emilie Leger

Last year in January I had a 2-month-old baby. I meant to do one of these posts, but never actually did. My word for last year was “smile”. When you have a new baby, you have to smile at them a lot to teach them how to do it. I hadn’t smiled in so long, my face muscles had almost forgotten how. The kids kept asking, “Why are you smiling so much?” It made for a nicer atmosphere in our house, just me smiling even when I didn’t feel like it.

Last year kicked my butt. Between having a new baby, getting harassed by CPS (oh noes you let you kids play outside!), and having to move suddenly in October, it was a grueling, stressful year. Not to mention all the election garbage that saturated social media. Blah. Barf. I’m glad that’s over with.

I did manage to publish Werefox in March, and the fourth Spacetime book in June. I revised the next two Malevolent books, but didn’t quite manage to release book 2 in 2016. I just got the edits back this week and I’m hoping for a February release. I can even do a cover reveal in a few weeks. Yay!

So for 2017, here’s the lineup:

  1. Publish books 2 and 3 of Malevolent

2. Edit/publish my dragon cozy mystery, Takes the Drake (think the Dresden Files, only fluffier, with ice cream).

3. Write the fifth Spacetime book, which will end Series 1. Not sure if I can write/publish it in 2017, but it’s worth a shot.

4. My hubby and I are starting to stream gaming together on our Beam channel Chronostrider Gaming. Eventually we plan to do it every weekend, and we’re planning to play every two-player co-op we can think of.

landscape_by_hughebdy-d4ob7k9
Landscape by HughEbdy

My oldest child will turn 10 this year. School is going to change gears into a heavier workload for him, I think. Right now we’ve sort of slipped into unschooling (moving right before the holidays seriously disorganized me), but we’ll be heading back into more structured school here in the new year. Gotta get these kids writing more. Their reading and math skills are great, but writing, not so much. That will go along with their science/history/book reports.

Ah, book reports. I’m making them do reports in the format of Amazon reviews. So far my two oldest kids have successfully sold each other on various books, with Twisted (a book about were-tornados) being the latest hit. We’re also reading the Saturdays aloud, with plans to read the entire Melendy series.

I’m also trying to learn how to use Daz3D to create artwork. So far it’s been fairly easy to learn posting and lighting … now I just have to learn to incorporate it into a larger artwork.

So that’s my very general agenda for the next year. As this past year has showed me, I really have no idea what sort of things might happen. What I’m most thankful for is that my relationship with my husband is thriving. After all the anguish of last year, playing games together again has bonded us in such a wonderful way. If I get nothing else done this year, our improved relationship will have been worth it.