The Virgin and the Unicorn

The Virgin and the Unicorn is finally ‘live’!

At last! After some technical problems involving tearing my hair out (after going grey) and relying on wonderful friends, my novel The Virgin and the Unicorn is finally available on Smashwords and Amazon.

Kian, son of a lord of the manor, finds himself with an arranged marriage to a foreign prince. The prince’s sister needs a unicorn horn for her dowry and Kian wonders if his only qualification is his virginity. (Same sex relationships are illegal in his home country.) The marriage brings problems faced by most newly wed couples alongside culture clash and the royal duties that take Alair from Kian’s side. It also brings court rivalries. Eventually, the unicorns of the title appear but are not quite as expected and Kian has no intention of parting one from its magnificent horn. So can the marriage survive, and will the princess ever get her dowry?

The buy links are as follows:

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1101529

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09FB1JC63

Serious thanks and lots of love to all my FB friends especially Tal Valante, Jackie Keswick and Gynn Silva (and Gynn’s cousin).

Oh, and it appears I need to subscribe to or buy a new version of Word. I think I’ll subscribe then I’ll never have this kind of chaos again. My current copy is 2013 and was state of the art when I bought it – so I suppose in this age of built-in obsolescence it has served me well till the last couple of weeks.

A new book is imminent!

I’m about to publish my latest novel: The Virgin and the Unicorn should be available towards the end of next week. It’s a story of arranged marriage and is a standalone but I’ve left room for a sequel featuring some of the minor characters in more prominent roles.

I’ve finished all the final proofreading, the formatting and the cover. I’ve been working on the blurb which I find harder than the initial novel writing. I’m also working on marketing, which is why I’m actually giving advance information this time!

I never realised, when I started out, just how much time is taken on all the peripheral aspects of publication; time that detracts from writing and that, to be honest, I don’t enjoy. I especially don’t enjoy marketing. It requires a totally different skill set from writing, and I just don’t have it! Besides, tagging and marketing are particularly hard, because although the novel does contain one major sex scene, it’s by no means erotica.

Here’s the blurb (which might have some changed details between now and the time when it appears on Amazon or Smashwords).

“I knew you needed a unicorn and I knew I was a virgin and…”

A same-sex marriage is arranged in a Regency-style alternate universe . Can a hard working prince find wedded bliss despite his duties? Does his sister really need a unicorn horn as her dowry and if so how can she get one? Will a young foreigner ever settle in his new country and accept his own family’s attitudes? Find out how Alair and Kian cope in this tale of discovery and romance. There’s only one explicit sex scene (the wedding night) but the discussions of sex and emotion are probably only suitable for adult readers. A full length novel that explores culture clash, social expectations, the problems that beset any young couple and a new slant on some mythical creatures which turn out to be very real.

And the cover, which won’t change other than to have slightly different sizing for the different sites, is the header picture for this post.

Free books in the Smashwords Sale!

The Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale runs from 1st to 31st July. I’ve made the first books in each of my two series free, and there’s a free short story. The rest of my books are at a huge discount of 50%.

So if you ever wondered about my books but were unsure about splashing out, now’s the time to try them! What have you got to lose? And if you like what you read, there’s a whole month to get the rest cheaply.

My fae series, Living Fae, is a kind of fae soap opera or family saga with various mm relationships and a few mf ones. The first book, Growing Up Fae, is told in diary form and follows Harlequin (who narrates the other three books) as he becomes an adult, moves to Alderley Edge in Cheshire (UK) and partners with Yarrow, leader of the local unicorn troop.

My fantasy detective series, The Skilled Investigators, has an elf detective heroine with, as sidekicks, her gay brother (the romance interest in the books) and a young dragon who is growing up among elves. The first book, The Scroll, sees Genef travel to the capital to start her training, with her brother, Fel, who is missing his lover from whom he was forcibly parted.

So: fantasy, urban and otherwise, with mythical creatures and lots of romance. The books are not often sexually explicit (though fairies do it flying) but there is plenty of emotional angst and UST and guaranteed eventual happy endings.

You can find details of all my books on my website, jaymountney.com but take care to follow the Smashwords links during July! You don’t need coupons – the site automatically discounts the books at checkout. And while you’re there, look for some of your other favourite authors!

Smashwords Read an E book week sale

My Living Fae series (urban fantasy/mm romance/family saga, four volumes) and my Skilled Investigators series (fantasy/crime with an mm subplot, six volumes) are half price on Smashwords this week (7-13 March). That’s $1.49 each for full length novels. The same 50% reduction applies to my twisted legend novellas (Lord of Shalott, and Silkskin and the Forest Dwellers) and collections of sci fi and fantasy short stories (Beating Hearts and Three Legends) which are on sale at $0.99 each. No need for coupons – these will be automatically provided at checkout.

You can read an interview with me (with pre-covid short hair) and see all my books here:

https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/jaymountney

You can also find buylinks for individual books on my buylinks page (see the tabs above the banner).

A Free Story for you at Solstice

A free Solstice story for you and some other gifts and price reductions.   My new free novella Across Two Seas is set in the world of my Living Fae Series.  

A quick summary: Eichhorn, from Germany, visiting Alderley Edge in Cheshire (UK), meets Velvet, who has come from Tara (Eire) to lead the Solstice Wild Hunt. Their instant attraction leads to an equally wild affair but will the relationship survive being separated by two seas?  

It takes place after the events in the books and concerns the romance (mm) between two minor characters. I hope it’s accessible to people who haven’t read the series and will give you a glimpse of the world of my fae.   I might get round to formatting it for Smashwords in which case it will be permanently free there, but meanwhile you can find it here on my website as a pdf you can download. To anyone who isn’t sure and prefers e-readers, remember Calibre is a free download and will convert almost anything to the e-book format of your choice.

https://jaymountney.files.wordpress.com/2020/12/across-two-seas.pdf    

That’s my free gift to celebrate the Solstice but the series Living Fae, which is in four volumes, all about the lives and loves of modern fae living on Alderley Edge, is enrolled in the Smashwords end of year sale so they are all half price till Jan 1st. At only $1.49 each and all well over 60k words that’s $5.96 for four full length novels. (I was going to create a box set but time got away from me!)

The titles are:  

Growing Up Fae : the childhood and early adulthood of Harlequin, the narrator, told in diary style. https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/720139  

Tales from Tara : relates the experiences of Harlequin and Yarrow, as they separately spend six months on royal guard duty.
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/913151  

Flying Free: recounts the lives and loves of Harlequin’s siblings. (mm, mf and ff) https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/945685  

On The Edge: this brings us up to date on the lives of the fae of Alderley Edge and includes departures and arrivals.
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/999158  

If you don’t read them in that order you will get desperately confused. Across Two Seas follows them but shouldn’t cause confusion as it isn’t primarily about the main characters of the series. There’s a glossary under the series tab but it needs updating and also needs the timeline I keep promising.  

My fae celebrate the Solstice rather than Christmas so this is the perfect date to launch my new story and slash the price on my series at the same time. It’s my preferred holiday, too, though I also go along with the traditions to fit in with everyone around me.  

Do any of you have children? Another free pdf is a children’s book, Answering Amanda, which is in some respects is the prequel to the entire Living Fae series. It works well for children aged 7 – 11 but young teens also like it, finding the concept amusing. Amanda corresponds with a fairy at the bottom of the garden. (Harlequin’s saga started when the fairy’s big brother pestered for his own novel.) It’s in colour – not just the illustrations but some of the text, and the colour is an integral part of the story – so if anyone downloads it for children to read, make sure you use a device that shows colour, not e.g. a b&w Kindle. Guaranteed no sex or violence, but this website has plenty of the former so please don’t let children explore.

https://jaymountney.files.wordpress.com/2020/02/answering-amanda.pdf    


There are shorter free stories available, as most of you know: fantasy, contemporary, sci fi, mostly LGBTQ but some gen. Just go to ‘free stuff”.

https://jaymountney.com/free-fiction/    

Also in the Smashwords sale, and FREE until Jan 1st, is the first book I self published:
Silkskin and the Forest Dwellers is a retold and twisted fairy tale – Snow White, transported and transformed by taking place in mediaeval Great Zimbabwe with a prince instead of a princess. It’s a novella rather than a novel. As Snow White is a traditional holiday and pantomime story, I thought people might like to see the same (but mm) story told about an African prince. It also seemed a good idea to make it free in this time of trying to make sure that Black Lives Matter.  

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/170617  

So don’t forget: Across Two Seas (free), Silkskin (free), Living Fae series (price slashed), Answering Amanda (free) and a link to other freebies.  

Happy Solstice, everyone! Stay safe and well!

The River: final volume in my elf detective series.

Finally!

The last volume in my Skilled Investigator series is live on Amazon and Smashwords and will be distributed to Smashwords’ varied retailers. (I use Smashwords as well as Amazon to let people choose which e-reader they prefer.)

This time around I’ve had a battle with formatting because Word, which both sites prefer, chose to hide formatting from me and the mess only showed up when Smashwords tried converting to EPub. I think Word hates me. I certainly hate it back! It really shouldn’t be necessary to convert to EPub to see hidden formatting. I know all about pilcrows etc. but this really was hidden – different font sizes appearing in other formats when they were perfect in the source document. As Smashwords said, the only answer was to ‘nuke’ the formatting via Notepad and start again.

It seems like forever since I started this series, and indeed the first volume was already a chaos of plans and notes before I published anything else. I’ve lived with the characters and world in my mind for about ten years now, longer than some relationships last. Genef has, I hope, grown during the series and is now a fully fledged Investigator, mentoring Scratch, who is nearing the end of his own training. There will soon be a dragon Investigator in the Guild after this final case, which takes place in Stoneyhill, Genef’s childhood home, and closely concerns both her friends and the mine where she found Scratch hatching from his egg. There’s the usual gay romance sub-plot for Fel, who finds a happy ending, and there’s romantic hope for Genef too. In case that sounds too sweet and sickly, let me add that there is plenty of death, disappearance and detection for Genef and her dragon companion to solve. I’ll miss them but it was perhaps time we parted company.

Now that this series, and the Living Fae one, are finished, I’m wondering whether to try creating boxed sets. Any thoughts?

I’ve also written a short story in the Living Fae ‘verse, and that’s with my editor; I expect to post it as a ‘freebie’ round about Christmas. Besides that I’ve been working on the rewrites for my stories written for the fandom auctions.

Anyway, all that, especially the formatting fiasco, explains why I’ve been fairly absent this month. I haven’t even managed my monthly in-depth review. All I can say is that I was away on holiday for a week then plunged into formatting which stole my brain.

Meanwhile, buy links:
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1039364
Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08GGC7M32

Smashwords Sale

I’ve put my most recent books into the Smashwords Sale. That means the last two books in my fae series, Flying Free and On The Edge are currently available at $1.20. So is the fifth volume of The Skilled Investigators, The Road. The short story anthology Beating Hearts is FREE.

So if you need reading matter for your enforced stay at home. go along to Smashwords! The sale lasts till April 20th.

Stay safe, everybody!

Smashwords’ Read an E-book week.

Every year, Smashwords have a special Read an E-book week and authors are encouraged to offer their books at a discount.

Last year I participated in the Smashwords Read an E-book Week sale. I was startled by the number of downloads of my ‘freebies’ and hoped that might translate into ‘fans’ who’d actually buy some. It didn’t seem to. There were a few sales but not enough to make the whole exercise worthwhile so this year I haven’t bothered.

However, this year’s sale reminded me of something else. Last year, I wanted to show support for other authors – and for Smashwords, for that matter (I find them a great deal easier to deal with than the ‘other’ place) – so I trawled through a few of the sale categories and ended up with far too many free or incredibly cheap books which I have currently left in their own special file on my hard drive, so that I don’t get distracted from my already overloaded tbr list.

While I was going through, I found a fair number of books where the reader was invited to set their own price.

I found I wasn’t willing to do that and after a while I just stopped looking at the info on anything in that category. I didn’t feel able to download them for free as that might have felt insulting to the author. As I knew nothing whatsoever about them I didn’t feel able to ascribe any kind of sensible price. If they were wonderful and I’d paid very little I’d feel guilty – something that wouldn’t happen if the author themselves had set a low price. If they were awful I would feel cheated at having paid anything at all. I would rather an author gave me something free in the hopes that I’d continue with a series (as I did last year) or charged a low price for the first in a series as a lure. So I felt uncomfortable with this set-your-own-price thing.

Has anyone else felt that, or is it just me?

Meanwhile, the sale starts tomorrow and there are plenty of books at very low prices so go and have a look!

Marketing: a plea for advice

A New Year’s Resolution you are invited to help me keep.

It’s still January (isn’t it?) – and anyway, I had lots of reviews to post.

I’ve been thinking really hard about marketing. I usually do, at this time of year, just before making some kind of New Year Resolution. It never really works, but at least it means I spend a little time considering the options and the various things I could do. So this yeajorar’s resolution was simply to work harder at marketing…

I ought to start by saying that when I began to write novels and novellas for publication, I very quickly abandoned any publishers other than myself. I found I was too much of a control freak to cope with editors, sales teams, etc. That doesn’t mean I don’t use editors – I do, but I’ve chosen them because I like their work, not because somebody else has imposed them on me. Then, having settled for self-publishing, I made the one resolution (in June, not at New Year) I have actually so far kept. As I began the process in 2012 I’m quite pleased with myself.

What’s this amazing resolution? Not to spend any money whatsoever on my work other than the obvious cost of having a laptop, an internet connection and programs such as Word and Photoshop. Things I would want anyway. Oh – and some money on Skype which was the cheapest way to communicate with the US tax people and get a foreign exemption. My editors (more than one) are people for whom I edit in turn, or repay in other non-monetary ways. And yes, at least one is a professional editor. I make my own covers. I do my own formatting. I seek advice from other writers on FB or WordPress. I read the advice given by Smashwords and Amazon. I follow bloggers like David Gaughran for his inestimable advice.

I know my books are as good as I and my editors can make them in terms of language, story development, formatting, etc. Technically, I don’t think I need to change anything.

I also know that because my works cross more than one genre they will appeal to fewer readers than straightforward romance, crime or fantasy will. They are, perhaps, less sexually explicit than many romance books which may also affect sales. On the other hand they are definitely not YA material though some young adults might well enjoy them.

I do find it hard to write adequate blurbs and choose appropriate tags, and this is probably the area where 2020’s resolution will end up initially.

I’m happy with my covers. I personally dislike covers that feature stock pictures of models (sometimes the same one on various different books) – pictures that often don’t tie in with the descriptions of the character inside, or my vision of them, and pictures that in many cases are simply unappealing. I prefer covers that give a glimpse of the kind of world the reader will enter, so I end up not using figures on my covers at all. I find working with graphics programs (and my own photos) quite therapeutic, so sometimes I start creating a cover even before a book is finished. I’m aware that romance novels are supposed to have those stock figures. I’m also aware that stock figures sell copies.

Then there’s pricing. I’ve tried various price levels and have used Smashwords’ sale (when some of my books were free), given coupons for freebies or discounts to people I know or to people who might leave reviews. I don’t think I’m getting it right.

I’ve looked at other authors’ pricing and also at my own buying habits.

I am really reluctant to pay much for the first book by an author I have not tried before unless I am getting recommendations from a lot of people I trust and who I know share my tastes. So maybe I ought to be pricing the first in each series lower? I am also reluctant to pay much more than $3.99 for any e-book – the publishing costs are far lower than for print books and even when I know and like the author anything more than that price usually has to be in a series I’m following and also be a full length novel. But I have actually stopped following some series because of the high prices (e.g. Rivers of London). And yes, I check the length of books before buying; I’m not keen on paying anything for a standalone short story, however good.

I have noticed that anything under $3 tends to be novella length at best, so maybe I’m selling my series short? I personally tend to avoid short stories unless they’re in a collection (I do have a vaguely limited budget) and it’s possible potential purchasers see my prices as indicating reduced content, especially since my first two publications were novellas.

I currently have the following books available with, as they insist, the same price on Amazon and Smashwords.

Series: The Skilled Investigators (fantasy, elf detectives, female heroine, intelligent dragon, sub plot of mm romance)

 The Scroll
 The Market
 The Crown
 The Lantern
 The Road

All full length novels (between 60k and 80k words) and all currently priced at $2.99. The final volume in the series, The River, is finished (currently with betas) and I hope to publish it early in the New Year. Before Easter, anyway.

Series: Living Fae (‘urban’ fantasy with fae living in Cheshire, UK, plus unicorns, with both mm and mf romance)

 Growing Up Fae
 Tales From Tara
 Flying Free
 On The Edge

Again, all at $2.99 and again, all full length. These overlap to some extent but need to be read in sequence to make sense.

Once both my two series are completed, I have wondered about creating box sets and altering the price – maybe make the individual books dearer but give heavy discounts on the box sets. I could probably then justify doing some kind of relaunch. Thoughts?

Novellas: stand-alone stories which are longer than short stories

 The Lord of Shalott (an mm take on Arthurian legend)
 Silkskin and the Forest Dwellers (an mm version of Snow White set in mediaeval Great Zimbabwe)
 Silver Chains (contemporary mm romance)

The first two are currently $1.99 and the last is $0.99 – it got a lot of downloads when it was free in the Smashwords sale. That hasn’t generated any actual sales and whilst I’m happy with the story it doesn’t really showcase my usual style.

Collections of short stories:

 Three Legends (mm retelling of legends)
 Beating Hearts (five fantasy and sci fi stories)

Both currently $1.99

I published a short Christmas story in December making it free until at least the end of January – maybe till Valentine’s Day. Once I’ve sorted out some formatting I might price it at $0.99 or I might just leave it free. I wrote at leisure but published in haste, so the technical bits need tweaking!

 False Starts

2020 will be devoted to The Virgin and the Unicorn, which is written but needs a lot of work. It’s a full length novel, a regency-style fantasy with an arranged royal marriage plus sentient unicorns and a lot of culture clash which is one of my favourite themes. I suppose going by my current pricing it would be $2.99 but I have a feeling I’m getting that wrong.

I’ve tried ‘advertising’ on FB, not only on my own page but also on various groups. Some writer friends have been nice enough to ‘interview’ me, and reblog my posts. I admit to getting confused about where and when to ‘promote’ my books and possibly not doing enough research. That’s definitely part of the resolution!

Meanwhile, I’m not making many sales. Not none, but not many. Not enough, in fact, to make up for the nightmare this time every year of having to deal with the Inland Revenue (see https://jaymountney.wordpress.com/2020/01/09/its-that-time-of-year-again-tax-returns/). So obviously I need to reconsider various aspects of marketing. I’d seriously welcome comments and advice from all and sundry. You could comment here or find me on FB and message me. Or you could email me at harlequinandyarrow@gmail.com

I’d really welcome advice from strangers who happen to be following this blog as well as from people I already know!

By the way, I do have two other resolutions:

 healthier eating for the whole family and paying extra attention to environmental concerns (especially with regard to packaging).
 actually using the jewellery and accessories I have/buy/receive instead of hoarding them, dragon-style. Dragons are, I think, for fiction rather than the dressing-table.