Last weekend, my sis and I traded cars so she could take her boys camping. No biggie. I picked up the Jeep and, as is my driving habit unless it's damned cold or pouring rain, rolled down the windows. Thus I heard a not-really-great grinding noise when applying the brakes. Not much of a biggie, really. My father and I can change out break pads fairly easily.
So Monday we popped off the wheel, and discovered a nice handful of broken-up metal rattling around in there.
That's a biggie beyond my and my father's ability.
And thus the crisis of yesterday: Do I cancel 4th Street and put those funds toward fixing the secondary car, or do I attend 4th Street and just... deal without a car the best I can for a few weeks?
Y'see, even though the work out here has been better, I've been playing catch-up, and am still working to regain the financial buffer that was eaten by moving from Indiana to Colorado. I have the money for 4th Street OR the vehicle repair. Not both. And that's crummy right now.
I don't want anyone to think I'm unable to make ends meet on the important stuff. This isn't that sort of crisis. It just... sucks. It means no camping, no dashing out to meet someone, extensive coordination to continue helping watch my sister's kids (made more complicated by the fact she lives on the Air Force Base), and much pre-planning to confirm client meetings.
And it shuts down almost completely the ability to find quiet and solitude. Truly, that's the part making the choice tough. Until the end of July, I won't have adequate funds. Until the end of July, I won't have an independent living space. (We're remodeling, so...). Until the end of July, please forgive me if I whine and gnash my teeth. Taking a short evening drive has been keeping me quite sane. We'll find out this week if my hips can hold up long enough to replace the drive with an adequate walk.
And in the midst of all that, some people made my all weepy-eyed with offers to help. Honestly, my first impulse is to shoo that away out of... pride? Habit? Ego? All of those things? But I'm also coming to understand for myself what I've so often told others, and choosing to not push away.
So. *deep breath*
- I do have a Patreon! One dollar gets you in the door, and more dollars gets you more. :) We're aaaaaalmost halfway to the goal of adding a monthly video. Check out the reward levels, and do check out the milestones. If you're in the mood to support, I'd be grateful to have you aboard. And if you're looking to be helpful, that's a speedy and direct way.
- If you're already a patron, or cannot/don't wish to be one, your help spreading the word is extremely helpful.
- As always, buying the available books--for yourself or someone else--is a gift that gives twice: once when you purchase, and once when your purchase bumps the novel's visibility for other potential buyers. Leaving a review on the book-buying site, or even a rating at Goodreads, also helps!
- Breath of Stone's release is looming near, and on its heels is the silly little cookbook, so you'll have a chance to pick up something new as well!
- And if you're attending 4th Street, please say hello to me. :-)
Thanks to the wonderful work of Cabil Services, we have the perfect cover for Breath of Stone.
I love it. I love, love, love it. And I totally love how the two covers work together.
Now: One of the most wonderful comments a writer can hear from readers is, “I hope there’s a sequel!” And I do a happy dance of joy for each reader who said that after reading Sand of Bone.
I so wanted to have that sequel, Breath of Stone, completed for you by the end of April. Alas, it simply isn’t going to happen without sacrificing quality (and sleep, and sanity, and paying my electric bill…). In the spirit of total honesty, I confess I both greatly overestimated what I could accomplish in the time available to me and greatly underestimated the number of life events that would demand my time and emotional energy.
I hope to do better on both in the future, and apologize for the delay.
The revised target date is July 2015. The additional time will make it a better story.
See, the thing is, I’m really excited about the story Breath of Stone is shaping up to be. There’s all the action and intrigue of Bone, but the stakes are higher, the choices more brutal, and the characters more demanding of their own dwindling faith. No one reaches the end unscathed.
Actually, no one reaches the halfway point unscathed.
But for all the darkness, there is hope and devotion and deserved loyalty as well.
And though Breath of Stone completes the major story arcs set forth in Sand of Bone, there are plenty of openings for another pair of novels if y’all tell me, “I hope there’s a sequel!” again.
Thank you for understanding, my darlings. I intend to give you a story worth the wait. You deserve nothing less.
And if you want to be among the first to access Breath of Stone, receive a free ebook of Serpent Heart, and have input on future projects, consider signing up for the Sand and Stone Newsletter.
The Review: As you might know, fantasy author Mark Lawrence put together the framework of the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off (details here), and Bob Milne of Beauty In Ruins is the book blogger randomly assigned to evaluate Sand of Bone. Can I just say that any review whose opening sentence includes the phrase “quite astounding” is enough to make this writer do the Snoopy happy dance? Check it out for yourself–both the praise and the critique.
*quickly pulls out soapbox*
And I’ll reiterate my belief that connecting more trade-focused/trade-exclusive reviewers with quality self-published works is vital if we (writers and reviewers) want to remain relevant to the conversations readers–those marvelous beings who sustain us all–are having about books the trade industry might not known exist. If a self-published writer pulls down seven to eight thousand sales in pre-orders, and the majority of trade industry participants have no idea who that writer is–let alone that she exists!–that’s an issue to be considered, my darlings.
*slides soapbox back under the desk*
The Musing: In the past, I’ve discussed my approach to reading and analyzing reviews. In short, I believe the old advice of “Don’t read your reviews” is rather unhelpful because analyzing reviews help the writer identify what she can do better on the marketing front as well as the writing front. A writer who understands what her supporting readers love is a writer better able to reach similar readers. It’s with that in mind that I fold Milne’s review into my understanding of why people like and dislike all or part of my work.
More than one reviewer (though, thankfully, not the majority!) have mentioned the pacing flagged for them somewhere in the middle. Of those who specified why, it’s about an even split between basic training elements and palace intrigue elements. (Of those who didn’t specify, it’s quite possible everything felt slow to them. ) Yet folks on both sides say they are glad they pushed through that section to finish the novel, so… what gives?
On the surface, it can seem to confusing, even contradictory. Should I reduce the palace intrigue? Should I reduce the military/training aspects? Should I just let it be and assume readers who enjoy one but not the other will continue to “push through” to the end?
The answer is no, no, and no.
Truly, Sand of Bone’s final chapters would have delivered a completely different visceral package had either element been missing. The decisions made on the palace-intrigue side would carry completely different implications without the military and basic training elements. The consequences on the military side would be so much less important were it not for the palace intrigue.
As a reader and a writer, I want both elements in my stories. I’m as interested in what happens on the frontline as I am in what happens in the secret bunker. I want to know what the soldier and the general thinks, believes, fears, and contrives. So the solution isn’t to choose a “side,” but to improve my ability to write compelling chapters that unfailingly funnel the reader to turn to the next chapter regardless of the story elements.
Last Call: The Sand and Stone Newsletter will go out to subscribers the night of Wednesday, April 22. It’ll include your link to a free and easy download of Serpent Heart, the latest news and cover reveal for Breath of Stone, and an opportunity to give input on future projects. If you’d like to be part of it, sign up here.
Do reviews matter?
The answer depends on who you ask, how you define “reviews,” and what you mean by “matter.”
Ask a trade-published writer, and you’ll likely learn a review is first and foremost something written by a pro or semi-pro reviewer that will appear in an industry-supported or industry-centric publication. That sort of review is expected to (fingers crossed!) boost enough interest and offer enough praise to filter down to the general readership in time to impact sales in the first week (or month, on the outside) after publication.
Ask a self-published writer, and you’ll likely learn a review is first and foremost something written by a reader, directed at other readers, that will appear on the online retailer’s sales page for the book or (second best) on a site like Goodreads. That sort of review is expected to (fingers crossed!) boost enough interest and offer enough legitimacy to immediately impact the reader’s purchasing decision in the first week, the first month, the first year, and far beyond.
But no matter who you ask, the truthful answers all share one critical element:
We know visibility impacts sales. But visibility doesn’t create sales. That takes a connection between what the reader is looking for and how the reviewer expresses herself. Seemingly neutral words can make all the difference. Describing a novel as having “humor mixed with the action” gives the reader a different impression than “action-packed, madcap adventure.” I’d investigate the first one and ignore the second one, even though both phrases could accurately describe the same novel. I’m convinced the seemingly random impact of reviews on sales is due less to a positive or negative review and more to the language it uses.
For example, after its inclusion in StoryBundle, Sand of Bone began to be described by reviewers as military fantasy as well as dark fantasy. I haven’t noticed a big difference in sales, but I’ve noticed a sharp rise in reader engagement—the critical foundation to any writing career because an engaged readership is more likely to purchase your next book. The words a reviewer used connected me to a different segment of fantasy readers, and those connections were the best thing to come out of my StoryBundle participation. (The money certainly wasn’t bad, either! :) )
In Bloggers: Wind or Windsock?, author Mark Lawrence speaks to the question of how much blogger reviews might impact sales. (Truly, it’s difficult for the trade-published to know. They lack direct and immediate access to the majority of sales data. Me, I can immediately see the impact or lack thereof because my sales data is mine to access at any moment. But I digress.) He puts some numbers behind his observations, but still comes up with the answer of, “Maybe it helps! Fingers crossed!”
Might the numbers Lawrence uses in his blogpost be more indicative of reader engagement than reviewer connections? Maybe. For those who are prevented by a blogger’s or industry publication’s policy from accessing many review venues, the answer is, “Fingers crossed!”
And that’s why I wanted Sand of Bone to be part of the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off. Not because I think there’s a straight line between trade-publishing and reviewers and immediate sales and fame, but because I know visibility does the workaday job of increasing the likelihood a reader who likes what I write will find me.
But there is a second reason, and it’s a tiny tad more altruistic: I want the artificial barriers between trade-published books and self-published books to be smudged by the Blog-Off.
I will never forget the puzzlement of a genre professional first hearing the name “Hugh Howey.” Howey had at the time sold more copies of a single book than most genre writers will sell in their lifetime, but those who prided themselves in knowing everything about the industry had no idea who he was. Me, I would have been troubled to discover I’d not known about the work and writers who were impacting—and changing—the industry I worked within. Alas, what I saw immediately following the revelation was a doubling-down on the separation that left many readers understanding they had to access different sources to find complete news.
As I discussed in Women, Reviews, and Self-Publishing, the lamenting of diversity in industry-centric forums that pointedly exclude all self-published works frustrate me to no end. A large number of writers who have been shut out of the industry due to the documented biases in the industry are now self-publishing. Writers who didn’t even want to deal with those controversies opted to go directly to self-publishing. Writers who were tired of dealing with abuse within the industry decided to self-publish.
So anything that connects industry-centric sources, reviewers, and publications with the growing self-publishing community is a win in my book. After all, readers are purchasing, enjoying, and discussing self-published works from writers many industry sources haven’t even heard of, and the number of readers discovering self-published works is growing. Certainly self-published writers will benefit from connecting with an audience that looks almost solely to industry-centric reviewers to provide information on worthwhile reads. But the reviewer will also benefit from expanding her reading experience, sharing her discoveries, and connecting with readers who are largely ignored by many of the industry’s supporting resources.
SFWA recently enacted its policy to expand membership qualifications to include self-publishing income. As a SFWA member who watched the internal and public debate on the matter, I knew there were far more self-publishing writers who’d meet the income guidelines than most trade-published members believed, but also suspected the desire of self-published writers to join the organization was vastly exaggerated by those same members. It turns out both of us were right and wrong. Yes, the flood of self-published applicants surprised existing members with their sales numbers. Yes, the flood of self-published applicants who wanted to be in SFWA surprised me.
But one of the things I most remember is Locus Magazine’s reporting that SFWA “favored loosening membership standards by more than six to one.”
First, there is a load of bias in the phrase, “loosening membership standards.” There is no byline for the item, so I don’t know who wrote it, but do indeed know the genre readership has moved beyond that person’s knowledge and understanding. Just as I’d rather get my tech advice from folks who can tell me about cutting edge computing rather than the TRS-80, I’d rather get my industry news from folks who understand publishing opportunities that have been around for quite a few years now.
Second, take note of the phrase, “six to one.” I’m no math person, but I’m fairly certain that translates to around 85% of SFWA’s voting membership who approved of admitted self-published writers under earning standards equal to trade-published writers. Isn’t 85% a fairly significant majority? Isn’t a significant majority a fair reflection of prevailing opinion?
So if readers are purchasing enough self-published genre books to make writing them lucrative for many authors, and genre writers want self-publishers acknowledged as professionals alongside trade-published writers, it makes sense that reviewers would want to be part of the transition, if not on its leading edge.
Believe me—I get that reviewing is time consuming. After all, I’m a single mother who homeschools her teenage son, runs two businesses (one of which includes teaching karate four to six days a week), and sill wants to write stories.
So what might help bridge the transition? What might help connect up-and-coming writers outside the industry to reviewers within it?
Things like the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off.
Do I want Sand of Bone to fare well? Of course. Fuck yeah, I do. I want everyone to say it’s the best novel EVAH.
But in all honesty, I want the participating reviewers to enjoy many of the novels. I want them to be surprised by the stories and the production quality. I want them to be intrigued. I want them to be excited. I want them to be so pleased they’ll from now on look at good books versus bad books rather than self-published books versus trade-published books. I want their decisions to be difficult because of an abundance of good reads.
I would rather this open the door to increasing connections than be a token experience.
Yeah, I can be hopelessly unrealistic in my aspirations.
But, my darlings, this hope is totally reasonable.
If you want to know about upcoming releases, appearances, sales, and more, subscribe to the newsletter.
Somewhere along the way, I ended up writing military fantasy.
I didn’t intend to, really. Maybe way back, when I was first putting stories together, I had a notion. But really, I can’t recall ever thinking to call them “military fantasy.” But once others applied that label, and when I read their reviews and impressions… Let’s just say I’d forgive you for not believing me, because of course it’s military fantasy.
So here’s how the truth tapped me on the shoulder:( Read more... )
Item the First: The membership of SFWA has spoken and, by a vote of 6-to-1 in favor, has changed their governing by-laws to allow writers whose success comes from independent publishing to qualify for membership. Detailed procedural guidelines are being hammered out, and it looks like authors will be able to begin applying by March of this year.
Last summer, I had my own dilemma over whether I should join. And after I joined, I had my own disagreements with some of the organization’s choices, and I seriously expect I’ll have a couple more in the months and years ahead. Yet and still, I am so danged happy–relieved!–to see this vote go through. The support of the voting membership was loud and clear. I’ll be sticking around.
Anyone who has questions about it, feel free to ask. If I don’t know the answer, we’ll see if we can find someone who does. :)
Item the Second: The Indie Fantasy Bundle is entering its final week! At the bottom of this interview with Brad Beaulieu are links to all the other author interviews. In them you’ll find talk about worldbuilding, alchemy, international relations, history, windships, subversive genre-play, wish fulfillment and more. It’s a fascinating group of people, and their diverse works reflect that.
If you’ve already picked up the bundle, thank you so much for supporting the authors and the charities! It’s a wonderful thing, knowing so many new readers are finding and enjoying our books!
Item the Third: The sequel to Sand of Bone is still moving forward apace. Breath of Stone is currently slated for an April 2015 release. If you want to be on the early warning list, sign up now for the Sand and Stone newsletter!
Item the Last: Sand of Bone received a marvelous review from The Book Adventures! Happy writer! In the current market, when there are so many more choices–quality choices, mind you–it means a great deal to not only be noticed, but to know the story was enjoyed.
Excellent forward progress was made on Breath of Stone, the sequel to Sand of Bone. Considering I cut thousands of words with a fell swoop not too long ago, I'm pleased to have gained ground once again. Best of all, the collection of chapters that actively fought to escape the rules of a timeline are now behaving properly. I'll still need to do some trimming of edges here and there, but no characters now need teleportation to arrive at their proper plot-required destinations.
I'm closing in on the sprint. I can feel that sense of urgency coming—the sudden clarity that happens when I can hold the entire plot in my head while, at the same time, focusing on an individual scene. By the end of the week, barring intrusions, I should hit stride again.
Oh, and I had a birthday yesterday. Nothing terrible happened. In fact, it was rather pleasant. Best of all, my sister—who readily points out she is the younger sister—flew into town last night. Icky roads and flight delays meant she didn't arrive until around midnight, but we stayed up until 3am to make up for it. So worth it.
Maybe I'll actually risk planning something fun and interesting and ambitious for my 45th birthday next year.*
And in the meantime, links and commentary!
The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck: You've seen this -- I know you have -- but I include it because the thing I celebrate most about growing older is the ability to better discern what is worth caring about. And the older I get, the more interested I am in action over advocacy, involvement over analysis, and problem-solving rather than problem-uncovering. I realize, too, that those who prefer advocacy, analysis, and problem-uncovering would look at my choices and wonder what the hell good I think I'm doing that's actually valuable. That's okay. I know what I'm doing.
How Secular Family Values Stack Up: First of all, please know I'm completely uninterested in slamming/stereotyping the faithful and the believing. I was raised in the American Episcopal faith ("Catholic with options"), spent time at Benedictine monasteries, and strongly considered spending my life in religious studies. The path to my current secular life is long and winding and not for this post. Suffice it to say I am not surprised by what the article claims. And my sensitivity on the issue is most certainly influenced by the fact I've for years been surrounded by some extremely judgmental and unloving folks who have justified their actions through religion. Regardless, I found the article interesting.
Yes, Women In Dragon Ago Could Use Longswords: In addition to pointing it the mental gymnastics some folks go through to accept fighting dragons while dismissing female fighters (a pointing I heartily agree with), the article uses historical facts rather than play-acting assumptions to make its point. Sadly, I must admit the "Women do too fight!" argument is rapidly tumbling into my "no fuck to give" bucket—not because I don't have knowledge of the situation, but because the "No, they don't!" crowd is increasingly irrelevant on multiple fronts. Yes, some in the creative industry—many of whom, not surprisingly, say they just love strong women—will cling to their self-affirming bias. But there are many more who don't. And an increasing number of writers and creators who have been marginalized are trading in the approval of the establishment for the support of their fans.
(Besides, as a martial artist, I admit an unseemly satisfaction comes from throwing a bigger, stronger, cocky opponent who doesn't yet understand that force is not the same as power.)
Indie Fantasy Bundle: If you haven't already checked it out, please do! If you have, thank you! If you're interested in giving those writers more support, you can do simple things like add the books to your Goodreads lists, leave reviews for the ones you've already read, and let others know about the Indie Fantasy Bundle.
Speaking of StoryBundle, I'll be curating for them again! A whole post on the curating experience will be coming later in the week. In the meantime, the details of time and theme of my upcoming bundles are still settling into place. But if you're an author interested in being part of a future bundle, leave a comment or drop me a line and I'll let you know how to submit either directly to me or to StoryBundle.
Lastly, if you'd like to be updated on StoryBundle projects and know first when Breath of Stone is released, remember to sign up for my not-too-often newsletter.
*For those who have no clue what I'm alluding to: I had planned a complete weekend getaway with a group of friends to celebrate my 40th birthday. Instead, I spent it in a VA hospital with my not-ex-but-separated-from husband, helping him eat his first meal in three days while trying to find out from the doctors why he'd had multiple heart attacks in two weeks, and reading lab reports that indicated the diagnosis would be end-stage liver cancer. There is no need for you to mention this in comments if you feel awkward or obligated to do so. If, however, you have questions or are seeking support/information/sharing, I'm more than willing to discuss it.
Getting away from phone calls, business, internet, and at-home reminders of everything I could (should?) do other than write was the motivation for the trip. There have been far too many issues of late I've had to deal with--one of which resulted in me asking a past client if she often worked for free since she expected me to do so--and I needed to clear my head. I needed a break. I needed to be out of touch. I needed the peace to sweep away what I want to leave behind in order to make room for what I want to do.
With all the other things happening these days, I was finding it impossible to wrap my head around how to make changes to Breath of Stone’s original outline that properly and deeply incorporated the seemingly small changes to Sand of Bone. I had trouble keeping track of the diverging and converging plotlines. And I had to figure out how to keep the character arcs I wanted while considerably shortening the action arcs.
I am happy to report it worked. I read through piles of old material--deciding what would stay and what would go and what order the "staying" parts should be in. I shuffled Magic Index Cards. I got reacquainted with storylines and characters and intentions. I got my book back.
It did help that, due to my food-forgetting, my meal preparations were no more distracting than heating a boxed soup on a Sterno stove (and that little thing is awesome!) and opening bags of peanuts and dried fruit.
The remainder of today is for a little writing followed by necessary chores and teaching. The rest of the week is for plowing ahead before I lose momentum. While it would be awesome to say I can finish the draft by the end of October, thereby clearing the deck for a possible NaNoWriMo attempt, that would require consistent 5K-word days. Since not showing up to teach and ignoring my son aren’t viable options, I’m going to say that October 31 finish date is out of the question.
One the other hand, finishing the draft by the end of November isn’t unrealistic. Let’s give that a tentative shot, hmm?
Added note: Younger me would have been affronted at the shock others had to find a woman camping alone. Current me finds it amusing. Is it really such an odd thing?
I want you to love Sand of Bone.
Yes, of course I want folks to buy the book, but I want you to love it even more.
If you love it, you’ll stay up later than you should to read just one more chapter. You’ll suck in a breath when the unexpected happens. You’ll smile when one Blade tries, awkwardly, to flirt for the first time. Your muscles will tense and your pulse will quicken when the fight begins. You’ll let out a long breath of relief when someone at last understands. You’ll feel joy and betrayal, anticipation and dread, satisfaction and hope.
You’ll finish the story and want more, and spend time thinking about what will happen next because the “more” isn’t available yet.
I’m working on that more right now, my darlings, because I love this story. I want you to love it with me. The greatest motivation is knowing others love it, too.
I should be writing on my non-fiction projects. They really shouldn't be that hard to finish up. They're based on workshops I've given for years. I have PowerPoints, outlines, and audio recordings of the workshops as a foundation. And you know what? I can't stop thinking about the sequel to Sand of Bone long enough to write more than a paragraph or two at a time. Thus I'm permitting myself to write nothing but fiction this week. We shall see how the brain is working by next weekend.
So the sequel, Breath of Stone, is indeed underway and I'm pleased with the way the opening chapters are running. I'm squishing what was two novels into one, made possible by the complete removal of an entire storyline, and the story will be better for it so long as I stay out of my own way. There might simply be Too Much Stuff. A few other things might have to be set aside. We shall see.
The Other Thing!
I haven't been camping for two years now, and I miss it terribly. Alas, my son has no interest in camping these days, and my nephews--who love to camp--are in Colorado. But I used to go camping alone all the time in my 20s. Why not now? So I booked a campsite for later this month, and it'll be all mine for two nights and most of three days. Gambit will come with me to act as an alarm system. (And yes, I travel with protection.) When I return, I'll post pictures and details and such. And I'm so damned excited about it!!
The proper version of Sand of Bone was available through Amazon within about four hours of uploading. No fuss, no muss.
On the other hand, I've now pulled the novel from distribution via Smashwords, though it'll take who-knows-how-long for it to be actually be pulled. Days after I uploaded the proper version, Smashwords notified me today that they couldn't use the epub file I'd uploaded.
Keep in mind this is the same epub they rejected the moment I uploaded it, and I already uploaded a the DOC file that they accepted. But, it seems, they are still focused on the rejected epub for distribution purposes. The Smashwords website, oddly enough, is using the other file rather than the epub.
So. Since I can't immediately replace the ebook file at BN, Kobo, and other places, since I can't count on corrections being made in a timely manner, and since I can't now correct the problems myself, I'll be moving all my stuff from Smashwords.
I can't upload directly to BN or Kobo until Smashwords pulls the title. I apologize to those of you who are waiting.
This is the situation many writers have run into: it's a great system until something goes awry. Then the process of correcting it is cumbersome, time consuming, frustrating, and rarely satisfying in the end.
Time to check out Draft2Digital.
In the meantime, I'll keep Sand of Bone on the Smashwords site if you're one of those readers who'd absolutely love to have it in an epub format and don't mind sideloading.
Aside: The entire situation also motivates me to move "consider setting up direct-sales on my website" to a higher position on the to-do list.
My job as a publisher is to do a good job producing those stories for readers.
I failed at that second job this week.
For reasons I still don't know, my ebook formatting went sideways. Parts of Sand of Bone looked like a proper book. Other parts were block paragraphs with weird spacing. I spent hours redoing and undoing and redoing again... then realized I was mistakenly working on a pre-proofreading copy.
Alas, the proper copy wouldn't show up as formatted correctly either. So I went the through the undo-redo-undo-do-again process. Finally got proper html, epub, and mobi files.
Uploading and previewing then came to a grinding halt due to computer issues. Every online preview informed me my browser wasn't compatible. What changed, I don't know. After much more random messing around and pacing and rending of clothing, I figured out how to see what I needed to see.
Then Smashwords wouldn't take my epub, so I reverted to the doc file. Its mobi preview looks good, but until it loads to other sites, I won't know for certain. And that could take more than a week. Grr.
The Amazon file is already updated, and looks good and professional. I'll be contacting KDP about the updated file and, if they think the formatting change is significant enough, they'll email updating information to all those who've already made a purchase.
I'm so embarrassed. Sigh.
My lesson in all this is to be MUCH more diligent in my file-checking. As I said, I have no idea why my standard template -- the same template I've used for every other piece I've published -- came out all twisted on the other end. But in the end, it doesn't matter why. It happened, and it's my job to do what I can to prevent it from happening again.
Sand of Bone is available for Nook through Barnes & Noble.
My favorite thing about the review? She discusses her grimdark limits as a reader and where Sand of Bone falls on that continuum — information so important to readers choosing their story experience.
I want the folks who buy Sand of Bone to be GLAD they did so. I don’t want readers surprised by a book that’s darker than — or not as dark as — their expectation. As I’ve said before, my goal as a publisher is not to sell as many books as possible. It’s to sell as many books as possible to readers who will enjoy them.
And folks have been buying Sand of Bone through Amazon and Smashwords! Hooray and thank you! (And it’s been nice to see Sword and Chant get a little bump as well.) Now all you wonderful Nook readers can get in on the action.
Remember to sign up for the newsletter that’ll keep you up to date on my upcoming books, convention travels, writing progress and more!
“Searingly vivid, and grittily realistic, Sand of Bone slams the reader into a harsh desert world full of complex people, tense moral dilemmas, and an exhilarating jet of the weird. Do not start this one late at night!” — Sherwood Smith
Coming Soon: Barnes & Noble Kobo
Syrina – descendent of the gods, one of the Velshaan who rule the deserts and deltas, cast out by her bloodkin for daring to reject their intrigues.
They thought exile to Salt Hold – surrounded by parched earth and outcast Blades who despise her – would end her defiance. But Salt is safer than the grand alcazar of home when she uncovers the secrets of commanding sand, fire, water, wind – the power mixed with ambition that nearly destroyed her bloodkin in generations past.
Pyrius was the desert's most respected Blade Commander until the bloodkin sentenced him to Salt. But he finds a way to keep his Blade vows while still exacting revenge: serve the exiled Velshaan Syrina. When her bloodkin's threats become actions, Pyrius sets a plan in motion that will either prevent the looming civil war simmering in the desert's heat or see them all fed to the sands for sedition.
Because Syrina's ability to touch the desert's deepest elements is still fickle and raw – too weak to defeat her bloodkin, strong enough her bloodkin want her crushed. But the gods demand a soul in trade, and the fate of the living rests upon the redemption of the dead.
So what has me fretting prior to release?
Typos. Stupid typos.
It's a professionalism thing, I suppose. Once a certain baseline of writing ability is met, "good story" becomes subjective. But an incorrect gerund, missing comma, or extra hard return? That's just plain wrong. But no matter how many people read the novel, no matter who I pay to proofread, no matter how meticulous I am about every little change and correction, a mistake is bound to be missed or -- worst of all! -- created in that final round of editing.
And that's the fear I'm sitting with right now.
Once upon a time, I lived near deserts and I loved them. It was natural, then, that deserts became the living and breathing setting for Sand of Bone.
When I was a kid, my grandparents owned a piece of desert property outfitted with a one-room cabin outside Apple Valley, California, on the edge of the Mojave Desert. Apple Valley was a little tiny place at the time – less than a tenth of the population it is now – and for a kid raised in the suburbs of Orange County, it was about as middle-of-nowhere as I could imagine.
Our family spent a few weekends every year up there. It being the late 70’s, my parents let me roam the desert at will for hours as long as I promised to never try to catch a snake or explore the abandoned mineshafts.
I never broke the first rule (though I did watch my cousin catch, and get bitten by, a red racer), and sort of skirted the second rule. I mean, really! I was nine years old, my head was filled with adventure stories, and the mineshaft was right there! Alas, by the time I was twelve, I’d seen some movie about a collapsing mineshaft. That movie did a better job of keeping me out of the mine than any threat my parents made.
The stars at night were incredible — glitter strewn on deep blue silk. And I could see at night! I could walk right out the front door and around the hilltop in a dark that wasn’t really dark after all. I didn’t know then it had to do with rods and cones and how eyes adjust to light. So I told myself stories about magic in the land that gave people “desert eyes” – a special ability to see the open desert by starlight as clearly as I could see it by day.
As a young adult, I made numerous trips to sites within the Mojave (including the time I tried camping there in August and ended up sleeping in the car wearing nothing but my hiking boots), and high deserts and low throughout the Southwestern United States. Whenever life felt too tight, I longed to head to the desert.
It’s hard to explain the magic of deserts to people who’ve experienced them only from a car window on the way from one more exciting place to another. It isn’t barren at all. It is instead completely comfortable with its unfilled spaces. There is freedom in the great openness, a thinness to the air that pulls me forward, a longing to just be still and watch the wind pass its touch from dry grass to grit to jackrabbit ear.
In my mind, much of Sand of Bone’s SheyKhalan desert is akin to those deserts. Instead of deep and shifting sand dunes, most of SheyKhala’s landscape is made up of rocky plains, wind-scoured ridges, salt flats, and jagged canyons. But there are parts of SheyKhala, such as the region around the Daggers, that look more like this photo of the Libyan Desert:
The sand atop rock, the spires of dark stone, the painfully blue sky… That’s where the characters do a great deal of living and dying. And in the sequel, Breath of Stone, a very special group of characters exist in a place that looks almost exactly like that photo.
Will you picture the same desert for Sand of Bone as I do? It doesn’t really matter if you do, really. I’d rather you have in your mind the desert that you feel — the open place that will draw you in then leave you to fend for yourself, that will challenge you to expand your limits rather than have mercy for your mistakes, that will tell you being alone is perfectly fine while at the same time proving the importance of community.
Because that’s what wild and dangerous places do for us.
And now, back to polishing the manuscript…
I have a newsletter starting up! You can even sign up for the newsletter if you'd like. :)
It’s absolutely awesome!
I love the colors, the images, the grab it makes for your attention. I love it so much, Ego-Blair decided she wanted a poster of it to go on her wall.
And when can that attention be turned into reading excitement? In less than three weeks.
Newsletter subscribers get first dibs!
Cover design by The Cabil Creative Services.
Half of my first summer as a teenager was spent in a compact car, driving back and forth from Southern California to New Orleans with my mother and nine-year-old sister. I was torn between huge curiosity and excitement, and the nagging certainty spending so much time with my ultra-extroverted mother and sister would cause my head to explode. I remember we argued daily, but remember more clearly all the places we saw along the way.
It was the first trip I took after deciding I could, just maybe, write a novel someday. Every part of me was primed to store experiences and research with the intention of one day using it in a book. One excursion in particular made a huge impact: Carlsbad Caverns.