My book is now published. Amazon were happy straight away. Smashwords had a problem converting to epub because there were hidden text boxes in the word document. Now sorted. I hope they don’t suddenly reappear in the Kindle version because Amazon don’t seem to give you the opportunity to reupload unless they’ve asked you to!
Well, I’ve uploaded it to Amazon and Smashwords, wrestled with possible blurbs (many many thanks to Rebecca Cohen) and agonised over categories, tags, etc. Apparently you’re not expected to have both mm and mf romances in the same story. Real life should clearly not intrude on fiction… I’ve hopefully given each site the correct versions. For example, Smashwords won’t have anything to do with docx whereas that’s Amazon’s preference even though till about a year ago they liked a web page. Their cover sizes differ, too. I’m never convinced they’ll use my correct pen name because of course I have to use my legal/banking name with them for tax purposes. I’m also usually terrified that they’ll shout at me because something has gone drastically wrong. The only time they ever did was when I forgot to tick the ISBN box, but you never know! I’ve chosen a price – at random really, because I can never decide what price things should be. It’s a question of a selling point rather than actual worth, after all. I suspect the Kindle version won’t have a live table of contents because I got stuck, for the first time, on creating one that looked reasonable. Smashwords do it for you provided you format the chapter headings a certain way. Now I’ll live with low level angst until both sites tell me the book is live – and then till Smashwords tell me whether they consider it worthy of distribution to various other platforms. I’ll let you know!
I have a new book coming out soon and I’m quite excited. It’s called The Seekers and is a stand-alone completely unconnected to any of my other stories.
It’s all edited and ready but I’ve been struggling with the table of contents which a friend assures me is not obligatory and not really necessary with a novel. Smashwords do it for you, but Amazon expects its authors to be more competent… I usually manage tocs fine but this one keeps disintegrating.
Anyway, I’ve also been struggling with the blurb. The trouble is, the book has more than one romance thread and could appeal to both mm and mf readers. So I haven’t quite known how to pitch it! It grew out of characters initially developed for an online game.
Twin fairy princes and their sister are escaping from an abusive and manipulative father. They cross the ocean in search of a better life and head inland accompanied by a motley crew of companions picked up along the way. There’s a slow burn same sex romance, an m/f romance that strikes like lightning but is destined to last, and a choice for an ace character that will also impact the others. Much of the story involves jewels, mined and sold, which inspired the cover.
It’s written, beta’ed, edited, proof read, and formatted to within an inch of its life. The cover is done and approved by my editor. It’s all ready to self publish. Actually, it’s been ready for about a month. And I still love the characters.
So what, you ask, is the problem?
The problem is both simple and insoluble: the right tags for Amazon and Smashwords.
Here’s the planned blurb:
The Seekers follows a group of people on a quest in a fantasy world. It’s a quest to escape rather than to seek. Twin fairy princes and their sister are fleeing their abusive and manipulative father. A dark elf is tired of the humdrum nature of his job as manager of the family mines. A young goblin on his travelling year needs to sell the contents of his pack before returning home. They meet almost by accident and have no idea where they are going. There is one unexpected m/f marriage in the desert and another in the hall of the mountain king. There’s an ACE character who falls in love with travelling and journeys on alone. There’s a slow burn m/m romance that ends in a HEA by the last chapter. So the novel asks what people really want, and gives them their sometimes surprising hearts’ desires.
OK. With me so far?
I get to fiction/fantasy and then get stuck. I want to stress the mm romance but can’t play down the mf ones. None of the romances are particularly explicit and are more interesting in terms of character development and family/friendship group reactions than in terms of sex. And yet – there’s at least one sex scene. It’s a quest rather than a romance and there are no thriller elements though there are moments of extreme danger. But it isn’t by any means a high fantasy quest of the usual kind.
The tag trees on the publishing sites simply don’t allow for much of this.
It has dawned on me why my latest WIP is going so slowly.
Way back in October I participated in a Monsterfest in the ushobwri community on Dreamwidth. Every day for a week we posted flashfics or drabbles about different mythical beings. One of my ficlets was about a human/fae mm romance and the characters nagged me to write their full story in at least novella form, and give it a happier ending. The nagging was successful in that I decided to comply.
There shouldn’t be any problems. The outline plot (or most of it, if you forget the ending) is there already, and the characters are very real in my head. (In fact, they chatter non-stop.) But it has been going incredibly slowly. Snails would be faster. Or sloths.
The trouble is, my brain thinks I’ve already written the story. It’s even on AO3 in the community collection for 2021 – all 657 words of it. Really, really long…!!! And although I have to change the ending that’s already done, in my mind. So expanding the tale is proving very boring indeed!
I’m used, I think, to not quite knowing what’s going to happen as I write. OK, if there’s a crime to be solved I know the solution, even when I’m not sure about the perpetrator. But on the way from the beginning to the end I just watch my characters and report what they get up to.
Not this time.
Also, the story is firmly resisting any hint of a title. As a working title (well, I have to have those for files, saving and so on) I’m calling it ‘Rip Van Winkle for now’ because it’s very vaguely based on that although my human is from the middle ages. A title would, I think, make me more likely to put in some work. Who knows?
It doesn’t help that my beta is not reading quickly for reasons beyond her (or my) control. So I have nobody pushing me to write faster. Plus my usual editor has just sent back the first draft of a novel which is just begging for amendments and formatting. (Why on earth would those appeal more than writing??)
I’m nearly up to 15k words and will definitely reach at least 20k if I can ever motivate myself. So – plot, characters, location and length are all in place. It’s not exactly writer’s block.
All I have to do is finish it. (‘But you already have,’ says my brain.)
The annual Smashwords Read-an-e-book week starts on Saturday 6th. This time I’ve put the first volume in each of my series into the sale. That means that for a week, Growing Up Fae and The Scroll are free on Smashwords.
Growing up Fae is the first in a four volume fae saga that has plenty of mm, mf and ff romance and lots of adventure.
The Scroll is the first in a six volume fantasy series that follows a trainee detective in an elf kingdom. She has two sidekicks, her gay brother who provides the romance sub plot, and a young dragon.
Please note that all volumes in both series are full length novels. I suspect the low pricing I’ve gone for so far might have made people think they were either novellas or YA so I’ll be looking to put the prices up soon. If you’ve thought about trying them, now’s the moment! There’s more information about both series under the books and buy links tab.
I’m currently working on a new fae saga in a completely different ‘verse.
Meanwhile, I’ve been watching TV quite a lot on February’s long dark evenings.
I’d recommend most of these – they should all still be available.
Death in Paradise *****(bbc iPlayer) I’m not that keen on cosy mystery books but I adore this series with its exotic location and the way it lets little known actors shine.
The Romantics and us with Simon Schama****(bbc iPlayer) Some newish information about some artists though plenty of stuff I already knew. Well presented of course. Note that Desperate Romantics***** is also currently on iPlayer and I loved that series. I had the DVD but am not sure whether it survived Portugal.
Trigger Point**** (itv hub). Some silly plot devices but Vicky McClure is awesome as always and there were times when the suspense was so great I had to cover my eyes.
Mary Beard’s Forbidden Art****(bbc iPlayer) I don’t think she always understands what causes people to dislike a piece of art or be offended by it. She speculates from her own reactions. For example I can’t cope with looking at illustrations of violence because they make me feel the subjects’ pain, not because I think they’re inappropriate subjects for art. There’s enough violence in the news without looking at it as art.
The Green Planet – David Attenborough**** (bbc iPlayer) I tend to fall asleep to the eye candy. I thought the last programme on plants in cities was the most interesting. It kept me awake, anyway.
The Impressionists: Painting and Revolution**** (bbc iPlayer). Some lovely insights into the lives (and locations) of the impressionists. I’ve visited Giverny but was hazy about some of the others.
This one wasn’t really worth the four hours I spent on it.
No Return***(itv hub). A lot of questionable plot points in this story of a family holiday gone horribly wrong (teenager arrested for rape of another boy) and the acting didn’t lift it out of the ordinary.
This short mm romance is set in my fae ‘verse. It is very loosely linked to Living Fae in the sense that Harlequin, the main narrator of that series, visited Australia and met one of the characters briefly in one of the volumes. But these are Australian fae, living near the Murray river, north east of Adelaide in South Australia and they are not normally in touch with their British counterparts. I have visited some of the locations I describe, and my account of the wildfires owes much to my own knowledge of the Portuguese fires as well as to my Australian friends’ experiences. So I placed my paranormal romance in a very real.setting. Murray wants to ask Morgan to marry him but the right time for a proposal never seems to arise then events overtake them. Despite the worries about the fires I can assure readers there is a HEA ending to this tale.
I am extremely grateful to my editor, MA Naess. She lives in South Australia and kept an eagle eye on all aspects of the story. I got very confused over the correct usage for Big Bend, partly because I’d just been reading Blake Allwood’s romance series set in the US location known as Big Bend. I made the cover pic/post header based on a photograph by Dave Hoefler on Unsplash.
You’ll find the story under the Free Stuff tab. It’s currently the last in the list. (They are not in publishing order but divided by type and as I said, this falls in my fae ‘verse.) Enjoy!.
I’ve enrolled my books in the Smashwords End of Year sale which runs from 17th December till 31st December. They’re all at 50% off which means the novels are now $1.49, the novellas and story collections are $0.99 and Silver Chains is free. The coupon will automatically be applied at checkout.
If you’ve ever thought about reading any of them, take advantage of this. In the new year I am considering raising some of the prices because I strongly suspect the low price makes people think the novels are just novellas or short stories.
I’ve also written you a holiday gift story which is now under the free stuff tab here. It’s called King of the Wood and is about plant shifters and mm romance (nothing explicit). The cover is based on a photograph from our garden. I thought it was very good of the holly and ivy to grow together for me!
I’ll be posting some holiday recipes later this week – before most of us do the celebration cooking, anyway!
(Incidentally my free stuff page is a mess but one of my friends is going to help me sort it out after the holiday. Meanwhile, you can still download stuff – it just looks disorganised.)
Boring thrillers: a contradiction in terms? It’s something I’ve been promising to write about for a while now.
I like crime stories but I’m quite fussy about them. To begin with, I want to be in the position of the detective, amateur or professional, and I don’t appreciate being given the criminal’s pov, or some prologue that gives the solution away. I like being asked by the author to investigate alongside the detective and draw sensible conclusions then check them against the eventual ending. I like it when the author plays fair – no deus ex machina at the last minute and preferably no ‘well they were insane and nobody knew’. ( I read a couple like that recently.) I don’t like things that are too gruesome as we ‘watch’ though I don’t mind the investigation of gory crimes. Nor am I keen on really cosy mysteries, partly because I don’t often find them realistic; most investigation is done by professionals, either police or private detectives, not by amateurs.
Having said all that, I’m fairly careful about what I buy or borrow, and always read the blurb. I don’t read many reviews, in case of spoilers. I look at the first couple of pages and if an entire novel is clearly going to be in present tense I tend to turn away. Not a criticism because it’s clever and I know there are people who enjoy it – I’m just not one of them. It’s also a literary ‘trend’ and that’s something I don’t want in my genre reading.
However, recently I have read a number of thrillers that passed all those initial tests and then turned out to be totally uninspiring.
There are the police procedurals that are more about the procedure than the crime. I really think we can skip too much time explaining how a police station works. Even differences between different countries can be covered very briefly. Forensic science labs likewise. I want results and then the detective’s reactions to them.
Some stories have so many characters and so many threads introduced very early that my brain switches off. I have no objection to a cast of hundreds if they’re brought in gradually!
Then there are crime stories that are more about the detective than the crime. Yes, I want an interesting detective so that they come alive on the page and engage my sympathy, but I really don’t want chapter after chapter about their family or their problems till it detracts from the main plot.
That brings me to another kind of boring – boring detectives. I don’t necessarily want a superhero (in fact I don’t much like superheroes) or someone with so many quirks they aren’t real, but I do want them to stand out from the crowd. The same goes for their partner or sidekick. I’m happy with them finding romance – with each other or elsewhere – but again, it shouldn’t overwhelm the plot.
I love most Scandi-Noir on TV but have tried some Scandinavian novels and found them lacking. I think the actors and directors must bring extra life to the characters when books are used for series.
So when I give four or five stars to a crime story you’ll know it has passed all my tests. I’ll mention a few writers I love: Charlie Cochrane and RJ Scott both write mm romantic crime mysteries. KJ Charles does the same and includes magic. Phil Rickman’s Merrily Watkins series is wonderful, as is Ian Rankin’s Rebus. My comfort reading includes Lindsey Davis’ Roman detective Falco. There are others but this isn’t a critique or review post. It’s just to explain why sometimes in my reviews I talk about thrillers being boring.
And you know, when I invest time (and money) in a thriller, the last thing I want is for it to be boring!
Every October a writing community I belong to on Dreamwidth runs a monsterfest. The mods give a number of prompts and the members can write to those, rec appropriate things they’ve read or watched or just discuss the monster/legend in question. All the prompts concern fantasy creatures of one kind or another.
I don’t always write but this year I did and my contributions – all short ficlets – are now on AO3. At least one will be expanded and turned into a novella (or even a novel) eventually.
I find writing drabbles and ficlets to prompts a very good writing exercise. Everything has to be finished quickly, must stand alone and should be accessible to readers with no prior in-depth knowledge of the topic. That’s harder to achieve than it sounds.
Some members write fanfic responses. All mine are inspired by various fandoms but are not specific. The pieces reference well known legends, and none contain any sex or violence. The last paragraph leads back here, to the short story I gave you for Halloween.