Romancing the Fish

fall5Living near a lake (as I do) provides endless opportunities to observe nature and wildlife on a daily basis. And after more than six months (seasonal activity aside), I’ve come to expect the denizens of the lake to behave in a certain way.

The Great Blue Heron stalks the shoreline and squawks at me when the dog and I pass him on the path. The Kingfisher’s haunting call always precedes the sight of him hovering and then diving into the water for a gleaming silver fish, after which he retires to his favorite cedar tree for private dining. There’s a family of mergansers with spiky topknots which patrol the east side of the lake, except when the cormorant pair show up. Whenever the cormorants are around, everybody leaves. I guess nobody likes them. And sometimes, on Thursday mornings, if the sun is shining, there’s a couple fishermen who set up their fishing poles and have a go at whatever’s biting that day. They rarely catch anything, but they never seem particularly disappointed.

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But this week, things were different. It started on Monday–fish were literally jumping clear out of the water!  At the rate of about 3 or four splashes a minute.  We had a couple days of really warm temps, so I just figured that there were a lot of bugs out and the fish were hungry. It was pretty cool.

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I didn’t take these pictures, but you get the idea.

But on Tuesday, the very nature of the lake had changed. The birds were silent. I could hear the splashing even before the dog and I reached the shoreline. There was not a duck or goose or bird to be seen. The waters were literally churning with fish. Big fish. Carp bigger than my arm. Hell, bigger than my leg! Swarming the shallows–piling on top of each other. Squirming, splashing, flopping. Some of these fish were humongous, and I could see even bigger fish a little further out. Kinda scary, actually.

carp4They plowed into the vegetation along the waterline–iris, cattails, even half-sunken logs were rolled and torn out as these enormous carp engaged in a phantasmagoric, orgiastic ecstasy of well, um, spawning activity. It went on all day.

And the next day it was over. Just a few 8-inchers resting in the shady waters beneath the big willow tree. No jumping. No splashing. Just a bunch of flotsam and dying vegetation floating listlessly on the water. The ducks showed up two days later, and now everything is back to normal.

I guess the party is over.

New Cover for STEAM DOGS

The fabulous new Damonza cover for STEAM DOGS is now available on Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and Apple iBooks for $4.99.

000 STEAM DOGS DEMONZA 040516loresA Conspiracy of Magic

Set in an alternate 19th-century Britain, master thief Simon Atters, his best friend Captain Arvel Paretti and his airship the Il Colibri arrive on the Isle of Dogs for the Queen’s airshow. The Brits are looking for an air navy, and Simon and Arvel are looking to win the royal purse–one way or another.  Not even the clever police inspector, Roman Greenslade can deter them. But a beautiful woman and a sinister conspiracy against Queen Victoria disrupt all their plans…

From the Charge of the Light Brigade in Turkey, to the mountains of central Europe, to the Isle of Capri, this story explores a world where magic is wielded as the weapon of ultimate destruction.  I’m excited about this book, and I think fans of historical fantasy, steampunk, and alternate history will enjoy it.

Destiny Blues ebook now FREE!

2016 DestinyBlueslores

I’m happy to announce that Destiny Blues, the first volume in my Hand of Fate paranormal romance / urban fantasy series is now available as a FREE download from the following ebook retailers:
Amazon 
Kobo
Apple iBooks

Download your free copy now!

Some people attract stray cats. With Mattie Blackman, it’s demons.

At work, in her car, even at the foot of her bed. And with the FBI on the hunt for a rogue demon master, she’s desperate to get rid of them. Thwarted at every turn to solve her problem through legitimate channels, she turns to Shore Haven’s sexy mage for the answer: a fate she refuses to accept.

But as the serial killer’s victims pile up, Mattie realizes there’s only one way to stop a demon master. To save her friends and the people she loves, Mattie must choose between her life and her destiny.

“…amusingly off-beat…fun…romp.”

                                                               – Locus

Fans of Mercy Thompson, Sookie Stackhouse, Harry Dresden, or the Iron Druid will likely enjoy this series.

Also available in paperback wherever you buy books.

 

ACX Audiobooks: Can You Hear Me Now?

STARS-THAT-MAKE-DARK-HEAVEN-LIGHT2400x2400Just in time for Hugo nominations, I’m celebrating the arrival of my very first audiobook!
Stars That Make Dark Heaven Light, narrated by the lovely Angela Dawe, is now available from Audible (ACX) as an audiobook. And if you’re new to the joy of audiobooks, you can get two free titles when you give Audible a try.

Here’s the link (click it NOW!) http://amzn.to/1SxOJ4u

Spring Cleaning for Writers

springhouseSpring is here. Time to clean house. Even writers can benefit from a little spring cleaning.

After launching three titles in three months at the end of last year, I realized that I actually have a pretty good start on a portfolio of novels–6 to be exact, as well as a novella, three short story collections and a couple dozen standalone shorts running around.  I’m not a one-book author anymore. I like them all individually, but as a group, they don’t have a very cohesive look.

I decided it’s time to streamline my brand to refocus on the novels, which is what I prefer to spend my time on. Time to give my author platform an upgrade. Go for a more professional look. That means taking down the short stories that were cluttering up my author pages, getting new book covers, updating the look of my blog, writing a new bio, and even setting up a professional/business Facebook page.

springbooks2Brighten Your Brand with New Covers & Blurbs

If your covers are more than a year or two old, it might be a good time to take another look at them; maybe even update your branding a little.  It might take a while to find the right cover artist, but the right cover artist can make a huge difference.  I’ve just uploaded new covers for my Hand of Fate series.  On the recommendation of a friend, I finally settled on Lou Harper, and was absolutely blown away by the results. I found Lou to be reasonably priced and easy to work with.More than that, I feel almost as proud of the new covers as I did of the books when they launched.

And of course, with new covers, it’s time to take a second look at the old blurbs, too. Analyzing the current bestsellers in your genre can give you some good clues about what sort of cover copy is hot right now.  Author Marketing Club and CopyBlogger both have some good tips and training videos.

springbooks3Expand Your Reach into New Markets

And how about expanding your reach? Seems like every day there are new markets for ebooks: 24Symbols, Inktera, Scribd, and Tolino are just a few of the new players.  Have you tried Audio yet? After several earlier unsuccessful attempts at producing and audiobook at ACX, the Audiobook Creation Exchange (an Amazon Company), I finally connected with the right narrater, and I’m hoping to launch my first audiobook in the next week or two– Stars That Make Dark Heaven Light is a novella.  It’s two-hour recoding time is short enough to be worthwhile, but not quite as big an investment as a novel for a first-time project.

Helpful Marketing Tips from the Experts – Gaughran, Penn, and Stephenson

springtoolsSpring is a good time to re-examine your categories and keywords–the basic tools that help your books get found by readers. David Gaughrans’s latest book, Let’s Get Visible offers a lot of good tips on marketing and explains the concept of popularity and how it works with categories and keywords on Amazon. Since every author and book is different, there is no one piece of advice that can help you choose the best categories and keywords for your book, but by experimenting, you may be able to improve your book’s popularity with some new keywords, and in time, grow your audience.

Joanna Penn’s recent post on The Creative Penn talks about her latest brand iteration and offers some productivity tips, such as dictating first drafts.  I do know several successful (and prolific) authors who write this way.  Maybe it’s time to give it a try.

And Nick Stephenson has a pretty amazing bunch of free videos that look at marketing and what it takes to be a successful indie author. His perspective is refreshing, and his enthusiasm is contagious.  He’s got me thinking about marketing in a different way.

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I’ve spent the last six weeks working on the updates, and I’m feeling pretty good about it. To be honest, it was hard work, and will be a while before I see any results, but I’m glad I made the effort.

Time to get back to writing.

Five Tips for Conquering Self-rejection

selfrejection1I never thought it would happen to me. After all, I’m not afraid of rejection anymore. Form rejections don’t bother me a bit, and I don’t save even the personals, although last week I thanked an editor for the nicest rejection I’d ever received. I’ve actually come to be pretty smug about it.

But I’ve recently realized that one of the heresies of conquering the fear of rejection is that you stop submitting your work to paying markets at all. I mean, I’ve got some short stories I could submit–and I’ve even got standing invitations from several wonderful editors who like my work and have asked me to submit my next story to to them, but I can’t seem to do it.

yoda1Maybe it sounds warped, but while I adore these editors and their  wonderful feedback on my stories, I’ve stopped submitting to them. They now represent my ‘good’ editors, and I’m afraid to send them anything less than my ‘best’. I tell myself that my stories all need tweaking, or they’re too short or too long. To my mind, they’re just not not good enough to send–not even to mentors or editors who have repeatedly asked me to send them my next story.

That’s pretty f**ked up.

I’m sitting on five stories that have cumulatively been sent to only three markets, one of which I always submit to because they send rejections in less than three days. Add to that, the list of stories that have already been sold and are now candidates for resale, audio, and international markets, and I’m being ridiculous. These stories should be out working, not lying around in on my hard drive, doing nothing.

So as I battled some serious back spasms this week, which seriously limited my writing time, I decided to implement my new year’s plan to stop self-rejecting. Lucky for me, there are plenty of other folks who have gone through this as well, so I’ll share what I’ve learned.

Don’t think about it. Put Your Words (and Stories) to Work

  1. Always have every story in a submission queue somewhere. Start at the top (the best paying and most prestigious markets) and keep going. There are always new paying markets being added. Don’t give up.
  2.  Keep at least three stories out on submission at any one time. If you drop below three stories on submission, its time to write a new story or two. The more you submit, the better chance you have of making a sale. Stop thinking about WHO you’re submitting to, or what the market is, and you’ll start thinking of submissions as more of a numbers game–which it is. 
  3. Submit to audio markets, like Podcastle and Starship Sofa–who says you your work can’t be sold to podcasts? There is NO downside to this, and an audio sale will help you reach a whole new audience.
  4. Make a list of reprint markets and start submitting your previously-sold stories to those. They pay less than first rights print markets, but there is absolutely NO downside to this.
  5. International Markets offer additional opportunities for sales and are an excellent way to expand your readership. Once again, there is no downside to submitting to foreign markets. Doug Smith‘s book, Playing the Short Game is a great place to learn about foreign markets.
  6. Write to a market. There are always kickstarters and anthology calls out for stories on a theme. If you haven’t anything that fits well enough to submit, write something new! Even if it doesn’t sell to the anthology, you’ll have something new to put into your submission queue lineup.

yoda2I updated my submission spreadsheet this week, and now have three stories out on submission in first rights print markets, one out to a reprint market, and two more out to audio markets–and I’m getting ready to send out some stories to overseas markets as well. It feels good.

The key point is to NOT think about whether your story is ‘good enough’. Yoda is right. Just do it.