Posts Tagged With: ebooks

Editing and Cupcakes

Draft #3 of Cerulean Bound is officially done and off to my editor and alpha reader!

It took about three months to slog through all the revisions, and I only managed to cut 3k words — but in my defense, I added about five new scenes, so it’s frankly a miracle the word count didn’t shoot through the roof. I’m still aiming to get it down below 100k before I’m done with it, but this is a good start.

In other news, my best friend has bought her first house (woo!) and now lives only 10 minutes away. As such, we had a “walk the dog and bake cupcakes” date on Thursday. Check out our mad cupcake decorating skills (and my friend’s mad photography skills):

 

 

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Categories: Writing | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

Imminent Danger Now Permanently 99 Cents!

In an attempt to create more interest in my books, I’ve dropped the price of Imminent Danger And How to Fly Straight Into It down to 99 cents. Hopefully this will encourage people to give it a shot, since I know that I’m much more likely to buy a self-published book if it’s cheaper, especially when I don’t know the author.

It really grates my cheese that books have become so devalued, but at the same time, I get it. I’m a consumer as well as a writer, and it’s a real gamble to spend money on something with unknown quality. Especially in self-publishing. For every excellent book I buy, read, and love (*cough*Catskinner’sBook*cough*) there are three more that turn out to be real duds. So I’m way more likely to risk 99 cents on a possibly-great book rather than $2.99+.

I’ve kept Chasing Nonconformity at $2.99. I figure that if someone reads the first book and loves it, they’ll be willing to pay a price for the sequel that’s a teensy bit closer to the price books should actually be set at. When I think back to the years of writing and re-writing and revising and editing that went into both of my books … yeesh. But then, that’s the life of a self-published author. And, honestly, I love it. I just wish it was slightly more lucrative!

In conclusion, this is my desperate gambit to attract new readers. If anyone has any thoughts or suggestions on my ploy, by all means, share your wisdom!

 

Unrelated media of the day:

Here’s a happy song to help get you through Monday!

Categories: Self Publishing | Tags: , , | 9 Comments

My Experience with Amazon Marketing Services

In my continued desperate attempts to get people to read my books, I decided to try out Amazon Marketing Services. For anyone who doesn’t know what that means, it’s basically a marketing service run by Amazon where you create an ad that will show up when people browse related products. You set a CPC bid (i.e. how much you pay when someone clicks the ad), along with a max budget. Then you sit back and hope the people who click your ad are willing to take the next step and purchase your book!

 

My marketing adventure …

I set up the ad for my first book, Imminent Danger And How to Fly Straight into It, back in January of 2017. The CPC bid I chose was $0.35 — as in, every time someone clicks the ad, I pay Amazon 35 cents. I tried a cheaper CPC bid (25 cents) but it wasn’t getting any views, so I had to up it a bit to make it worth Amazon’s time to actually show my ad.

My max budget was $200 although, SPOILER ALERT, I totally did not run through all that money. Hahaha, can you imagine? That would mean people would actually have to click the ad.

Sarcasm aside, I did see a tiny bit of return for my investment, although definitely not nearly as much as I put in. Here’s the stats on my campaign, which I ran for about 4 months starting in January of 2017:

amazon marketing services results may 2017

 

Let’s break those numbers down …

17,990 impressions: # of people who saw the ad (or the ad showed up while they were browsing Amazon and they ignored it)

199 clicks: # of people who clicked the ad (costing me 35 cents per click)

1.106% CTR: the ratio of clicks to impressions

199 DPV: same concept as “clicks” (not sure why this is a different stat)

$69.65 Spend: amount of money I spent to get people to click the ad

$0.35 ACPC: average cost per click (because I could raise or lower the click price if I found it wasn’t getting enough views)

6 estimated orders: # of sales they’re pretty sure happened because the customer clicked the ad

$15.94 Estimated Total Sales: the amount of royalties I made off selling those 6 ebooks (which doesn’t make sense because I know for a fact I make less than $2.66 per ebook sold …)

 

So what does this mean?

I spent approximately $70 to sell $16 worth of books. It’s possible some people clicked the ad, saw the book, decided to buy it later, and therefore their sales didn’t register with the “estimated total sales” measurement — but my sales have been fairly pitiful, so I doubt that. All in all, an interesting experiment, but a failed one in my opinion. I wish it had turned out better, but ultimately the point was to see if the system worked — and for me, it definitely didn’t.

I think this sort of “cost per click” system would work a lot better if the product being sold had a higher sell price — as in, you’re paying Amazon, say, $1 per click, but you make $20 if the product sells. That would make the initial payout worth it. For a $2.99 book, however, I just can’t see how this kind of marketing makes financial sense unless the purchase rate is much, much higher.

 

Anyone else have experience with Amazon Marketing Services, or something similar? I’d love to hear about it!

Categories: Self Publishing | Tags: , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

New Short Story Collection by A. Renfro

Fellow self-pubbed author Anthony Renfro has published a new horror short story collection, and I’m helping to spread the word! If this looks like something you’d enjoy, check it out! If not, thanks for tuning in, and have an awesome weekend 🙂

 

6 tales of terror filled with gore and suspense.

bumps

Need to Feed

Another year. Another massacre looming. When the sun rises on the Old West town of Saltwater Junction this town will face head on two fierce predators. Vampires who stalk you in the sunlight, and werewolves that transform with the sunrise. This short story rewrites the legends and all you’ve ever known about these creatures of the night. Where do you go when there’s no place left to hide?

Fear of the Scarecrow

This short story is about a desperate man hungry for revenge. Sometimes revenge comes with a price.

The Man from the Road

A man suddenly appears on a road. He’s lost, confused, no clue as to how he got there. He starts to walk and stops suddenly. There’s a bonfire in a field nearby. He sees people dancing around this fire. They are performing some kind of ritual. He turns to flee, but he’s captured. No chance of escape. He hopes he is only dreaming, because all of this seems a bit too real.

Gluten Free

Suicide by Gluten? In this short story one man opts out in a most unusual way.

The Dead of Winter

A short story about an apocalyptic nightmare in a crisp frozen landscape filled with winter and living corpses.Two men try to find safety in this dead world. Hoping to ride out the night. Hoping to find warmth and shelter. Hoping not to become food for the zombies.

The Lot

This short story is about a Christmas Tree lot that has evil intentions.

EXP from Fear of the Scarecrow

Tommy pulled himself out of his nightmare thoughts and looked up at the scarecrow again. He took another bitter shot of cheap liquor, grimaced, and then put the bottle away. He pulled out the scrap of paper with the old witches incantations scribbled on it, and then he took out his wife’s wedding ring. He placed the gold band on the ring finger of the scarecrow, slipping it over the burlap flesh that seemed too life like for something so inanimate. It fit perfectly. He looked down at the paper, and then up to the moon. He read these words out loud.

“BY THE LIGHT OF THE FULL MOON!”

“AVENGE ME!”

Tommy looked from the moon to the scarecrow who was now alive. Its eyes burned an eerie green color, and its cut out mouth was now filled with razor sharp teeth and plump red lips. The scarecrow broke the bonds that held its wrists and ankles in place, and floated out towards Tommy, who, of course, took a few steps back, stopping when his butt reached the green corn stalks.

US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01KBPYYLE

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01KBPYYLE

AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B01KBPYYLE

CA: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B01KBPYYLE

Categories: Random | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

A. Renfro’s “The Dead of Winter” Free Today!

Fellow self-pubbed author Anthony Renfro is giving away his short story for free today. Check it out!

DOW2

A short story about an apocalyptic nightmare in a crisp frozen landscape filled with winter and living corpses.Two men try to find safety in this dead world. Hoping to ride out the night. Hoping to find warmth and shelter. Hoping not to become food for the zombies.

THE OPENING

Eric surveyed the road ahead and behind him. The world was filled with death. The highway was littered with silent, rusting cars sitting on rotting tires, waiting on drivers who were never going to drive them again. Ripped apart, torn open and partially eaten corpses littered the ground in various forms of decay. The corpses ranged from children to elderly adults. The zombies had done a number on them when they went into their “feeding frenzy.” The bodies that weren’t on the ground or pulled from their cars were still seated, and most of them still strapped into their seat belts, like they were still driving to whatever destination they had been going to before the world fell into death’s harsh embrace.

Eric breathed in deep and felt the cold air settle into his lungs. Bitter winter winds whipped at his face and tore at his clothes, trying to get inside the protective layers. Flakes of snow fell from the sky, nothing more than flurries.

“It’s something,” Eric replied, looking down at the white and grey cat in its carrier. He then put his eyes back on the man sitting with his back against a car.

US: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01CR9BLB8?*Version*=1&*entries*=0

UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B01CR9BLB8?*Version*=1&*entries*=0

AU: http://www.amazon.com.au/gp/product/B01CR9BLB8?*Version*=1&*entries*=0

CA: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B01CR9BLB8

(Note: a couple of his other stories are also free, so check those out as well if you’re a zombie fan!)

Categories: Self Publishing | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Chasing Nonconformity Teaser — Prologue

Ramping up for our super special awesome Friday, October 9th release date, I present to you a teaser from Chasing Nonconformity. This teaser will be … the prologue!

A bit of background — this actually started off as the first chapter of the book, but a few beta readers were concerned with the idea of starting the book and not being in main protagonist’s POV. So I moved the chapter to later in the book, but it didn’t really work in terms of pacing. I eventually ended up making it the prologue, since prologues can get away with crazy shenanigans like being from a new character’s POV.

Anyway, here it is in all its prologue-y glory. Read, laugh, enjoy.

~~~

The Prologue

Electricity crackled along the curved blades of Sebara’s twin electro-scimitars as she wove them around her body in intricate patterns. From high above the imperial palace training grounds, the midday sun blazed down on her head and warmed the sand beneath her bare feet. Her tanned skin was slick with sweat beneath her sleeveless white tunic and pants, and strands of her long black hair—pulled into a high ponytail—stuck to her neck. But Sebara, who had lived her entire life on the desert planet Rakor, barely noticed the sweltering heat as she leaped through the air and slashed down her scimitars as if decapitating an unseen foe.

Then she caught a glimpse of movement at the courtyard gate—a statuesque woman in black and gold armor was marching toward her across the sand. Sebara slid her blades into the scabbards on her back, crossed her fists against her chest, and sank into a deep bow. “General Zandara,” she murmured. “You honor me with your presence.”

“Rise,” the general said.

As she straightened, Sebara tried not to let her apprehension show. This was the first time the leader of the Rala’kamil—the elite all-female military order charged with protecting the Rakorsian imperial family and their allies—had spoken to Sebara since she’d become a cadet three years ago. What does she want? Sebara wondered. Have I done something wrong?

“You train with great enthusiasm,” the general noted.

I’ve definitely done something wrong. Cautiously, Sebara said, “I enjoy practicing. A Rala’kamil cannot be too skilled with her blades, or too in tune with the physical limits of her body.”

It was a direct quote from the Rala’kamil training manual, which was sure to please the general. In truth, Sebara practiced obsessively because she loved the rush of exhilaration fighting gave her. But that’s not the sort of thing you admit to your commanding officer.

“I’m pleased to see you’ve taken your lessons to heart,” Zandara said. “Now, for the reason I’m here—I have an assignment for you.”

Sebara instantly sank into another bow. “I am ready and eager to serve the empire.”

She made sure to keep her tone and expression neutral, but secretly she was elated. She’d only graduated from cadet to Rala’kamil three nights ago, on the eve of her eighteenth birthday, and had expected to wait several months before receiving her first assignment. I wonder who I’ll be guarding? Probably some minor dignitary on one of Rakor’s tributary worlds. Or maybe a planetary governor’s wife?

“Your task,” Zandara said, “is to serve as bodyguard to his imperial highness Prince Trystan Gara’dar, second son of Emperor Ka’zarel.”

“No!” Sebara blurted.

She immediately clapped a hand over her mouth, horrified at her outburst. But Zandara just sighed, rubbed the bridge of her nose with a pained expression, and said, “I assume you’ve heard the rumors?”

“I have,” Sebara admitted. “Apparently the prince is … eccentric.”

The general snorted. “That’s a very diplomatic way of putting it. Perhaps you’ll succeed in this assignment after all.”

“If I may ask—why choose me? Surely there are more qualified Rala’kamil.”

“I would like to say it’s because you graduated first in your class, and because your instructors have told me you are an intelligent and promising young woman with admirable passion and drive. And while those things are all true, the real reason is that Prince Trystan has gone through more guards than I can count, and I’m running out of Rala’kamil to assign him. You’re the most qualified Rala’kamil at the palace who has not already guarded him and subsequently begged me for a transfer, and so you are receiving the assignment.”

Although Sebara had never backed down from a challenge in her life, she still found herself daunted at the prospect of guarding the thirteen-year-old prince. From what I’ve heard, he’s not just eccentric, she thought. They say he’s a sensitive, overly-emotional boy who spends all his time reciting poetry and chasing flutterers in the cactus gardens. In other words, he’s the exact opposite of what a proper Rakorsian prince should be.

“Is there a problem?” Zandara asked.

Sebara swallowed her reservations and bowed a third time. “Not at all, general. I am honored to accept this assignment.”

“Good. Report to Prince Trystan’s quarters immediately. The emperor has demanded his presence in the throne room, and it is not wise to keep the emperor waiting.”

Sebara nodded. Then she turned and sprinted out of the courtyard, kicking up clouds of golden sand in her wake.

*          *          *

After changing out of her sweat-stained training clothes and into her black and gold body armor, Sebara traveled by aircar from the Rala’kamil barracks to the palace.

The Rakorsian imperial palace was massive and sprawling, built on the shores of a crystalline lake at the center of an oasis deep in the Valdarik desert. It was comprised of several dozen buildings—ancient, beautifully preserved structures with soaring archways, massive stone columns, colored glass windows, and mosaic tile floors—connected by winding walkways lined with frond-leafed trees and flowerbeds.

Sebara left the aircar parked on a stretch of gravel beside the lake. She hurried up the stone steps into the South Wing and strode quickly through the wide, airy corridors toward the imperial suites. On the way she passed servants dusting and cleaning, courtiers going about their business, and Skin Slicers—the emperor’s personal elite fighting force—standing guard outside important rooms.

Finally, she turned a corner and found herself facing the twelve-foot-high, bronze double doors that led into Prince Trystan’s private chambers. Two muscular Skin Slicers in red and gold armor flanked the doors. Sebara took a deep breath, then marched up to the intimidating pair.

“I am Sebara of the Rala’kamil,” she announced. “I have been assigned to protect Prince Trystan. Open the doors.”

Before she’d joined the Rala’kamil, Sebara would have never dared to raise her voice in a man’s presence. But now she could speak to most men as their equal. She was very much enjoying her new freedom of speech, although she would never admit it aloud.

One of the Skin Slicers nodded, and the other slapped his hand against a DNA scanner on the wall beside the doors. The gilded sunburst pattern in the center of the doors split in half as the bronze panels slid into the walls. Her head held high, Sebara marched through the opening, between a pair of braziers burning sweet-smelling incense, and into the prince’s sitting room.

The room was bathed in golden sunshine streaming through floor-to-ceiling windows that overlooked the sparkling lake. The walls were covered in silken hangings and colorful paintings, and the mosaic tile floor was cushioned with layers of woven carpets. Elegant vases with fragrant flowers, benches strewn with decorative pillows, and tables covered with messy stacks of paper were spaced throughout the room.

The young, golden-haired prince of Rakor stood beside an easel in front of the windows, enthusiastically splashing a paintbrush across a large canvas. His sun-kissed face was speckled with paint, as was his yellow sleeping robe.

“Your Highness,” the Rala’kamil said formally. “I am Sebara. I have been assigned as your new bodyguard. It is my deepest honor to serve you.” She crossed her fists against her chest and bowed so low that the tip of her ponytail brushed the carpet.

The boy didn’t even glance toward her—his gaze was fixed on the painting.

“Your Highness,” Sebara tried again. “I am Sebara of the Rala’kamil. I have been assigned to …”

She trailed off. The prince seemed utterly oblivious to her presence.

Losing her patience, Sebara snapped, “Prince Trystan!”

She instantly regretted her harsh tone, but the boy just turned, stared at her for a few seconds, and then grinned.

“You must be Sebara!” he exclaimed. “Mother told me I was getting a new Rala’kamil today. It’s absolutely wonderful to meet you!”

“I … you as well,” Sebara said awkwardly. “Your Highness, the emperor has requested your presence in the throne room. We should leave immediately.”

“Yes, yes, right away,” the boy said. “But first you have to see my masterpiece!” He beckoned her toward him with his paint brush. “I’m very proud of it, and no one else besides Mother has been interested in looking at it.”

Sebara had a strong feeling he wouldn’t take a single step toward the throne room until she looked at his painting. Sighing inwardly, she strode over to the easel.

When she reached Trystan, he tilted his head and stared intently up at her face. “You have lovely eyes,” he said. “They’re as dark as shadow opals, and look as if they hold as many secrets as the sky holds stars.”

“Thank you?”

“You’re welcome!” The prince turned back toward the easel and jabbed his paintbrush at the canvas. “What do you think?”

Sebara stared at the painting. The abstract swirls of color were meaningless to her, although she did find them surprisingly pleasing to the eye. “What is it supposed to be?” she asked.

Trystan threw his hands in the air, nearly knocking over the easel. “I am attempting to capture the soul—nay, the very essence—of Rakor itself!”

“The essence of Rakor is a bit … chaotic.”

He laughed. “My mother says life is chaos. Things are always swirling and changing, no matter how hard you try to keep them in place.”

“I’ll be sure to keep that in mind, Your Highness.”

“Good,” Trystan said, smiling. “I can tell we’re going to get along splendidly, Sebara.”

She bowed. “As you say, my prince.”

“My last Rala’kamil wasn’t nearly as nice as you,” the boy continued. “She would never look at my paintings. She wouldn’t listen to my poetry either. In fact, she barely even said a word to me.” Lowering his voice confidentially, he added, “I think it was the Wokzmar incident that pushed her over the edge and made her ask for reassignment.”

“What happened?” Sebara asked, curious to find out what the prince had done to drive away his former bodyguard.

Trystan blinked. “Wait, you actually want to hear the story?”

“I wouldn’t have asked if I didn’t want to know.”

“We are most certainly going to get along,” the prince proclaimed, bouncing on the balls of his feet. “Okay, well, as you probably know, the dictator of Wokzmar—Kzagmar the Lesser—visited a few weeks ago.”

Sebara nodded. “I remember passing him in the halls. He was … fearsome.”

Trystan laughed. “If by ‘fearsome’ you mean huge, hulking, and hairy, with talons longer than my hands, then yes, that’s who I’m talking about. Anyway, Father was holding a departure banquet for Kzagmar before he returned to his home planet. During the banquet, Mother made a particularly amusing joke in which she compared the Tetrarchy High Council to a troop of snitzni monkeys, and I laughed. Unfortunately, I laughed while the dictator was talking, which is apparently a horrible insult in Wokzmarian culture. So he challenged me to a duel to the death.”

“You fought him?” Sebara demanded.

Trystan shuddered. “Of course not! Violence appalls me. I have no interest in hurting anyone.”

It appears the rumors were right, Sebara thought. He is little more than a soft-hearted child. Kari save Rakor if this boy ever sits on the imperial throne. Putting her glum thoughts aside, she asked, “How did you avoid the duel?”

“Mother had the dictator thrown out of the palace. Actually, first she tried to have the sun priests burn him on their sacrificial pyre, but Father said he needed him alive for trade reasons.” Trystan stared down at his paint-stained hands. “That wasn’t the end of it, though. Father was furious with me. He said I had disgraced both him and the empire by refusing to duel.”

Although Sebara had no idea how to relate to the boy’s bewildering dislike of violence, she understood the shame of disappointing one’s father. On the day she’d left home to join the Rala’kamil, her own father had condemned her choice and accused her of abandoning her duty to her family. They hadn’t spoken a word to each other in three years.

“It is my opinion,” she said, “that sometimes children must risk their parents’ disapproval in order to do what is right for them.”

Trystan’s eyes widened. “I feel the same way. You’re very wise, Sebara.”

“If you say so, my prince.”

“I do say so,” he declared. The boy took a deep breath, released it, then said, “Right! Enough melancholy for one morning. You wait here while I get dressed, and we’ll hurry to the throne room. No point in upsetting Father any more than I already have.”

The prince disappeared through a door at the end of the sitting room, leaving Sebara standing beside the easel, her head spinning from his mercurial moods. What a strange boy, she thought.

While awaiting his return, Sebara re-examined the painting. It’s really not bad, she thought, smiling slightly as she hovered her fingers over the colorful swirls. I still maintain it looks nothing like the essence of Rakor, though.

She strode over to a large gilt table overflowing with sketches and canvases, and surveyed the prince’s artwork. These are surprisingly good. If only princes were supposed to spend their time on meaningless pursuits like art, instead of doing more important things like learning how to fight and how to rule …

Just as Sebara was admiring a beautiful sketch of two Rakorsian girls sitting by a fountain holding hands, Trystan returned. The boy was now outfitted in lavish crimson and gold robes, complete with ceremonial golden shoulder spikes.

“How do I look?” he asked, wriggling his shoulders uncomfortably under the thick fabric.

“Like a prince of Rakor,” Sebara said truthfully.

She waited for him to lead the way, but Trystan looked expectantly to her, so Sebara shrugged and proceeded out the doors with the boy at her heels. The Skin Slicers sank into deep bows as Sebara and Trystan walked past.

“Your Highness,” the guards murmured in unison.

Trystan waved a hand distractedly at them as he said to Sebara, “You know, I’ve never understood why everyone calls me ‘highness.’ Is there someone out there who’s a ‘lowness?’ Not to mention Rakor is an overwhelmingly flat planet, being mostly covered in desert. There really aren’t very many high places. Except the sand dunes, I suppose. And there are a few mountain ranges over on the eastern—”

“Perhaps we might discuss this at a later time, my prince?” Sebara suggested. “Preferably when we are not late for an appointment with the emperor?”

“Excellent idea, Sebara,” Trystan said, tugging at one of his shoulder spikes so it stopped scratching his neck.

They walked quickly through the ornate palace corridors, past soaring stone arches, twisting columns, and sapphire pools in sunny courtyards. Servants and planetary governors alike bowed deeply when the prince approached, and whispered behind his back after he had passed.

Finally, they turned a corner and entered the throne room’s antechamber, where grandiose golden doors—flanked by a pair of Skin Slicers—were set into a wall carved with images depicting several thousand years of Rakor’s bloody imperial history.

“My name will be up there one day,” Trystan murmured, gazing at the wall. “Assuming my brother stays in exile and Father names me his successor, of course.” He shuddered, as if the idea of being named heir to the throne of Rakor would be a horrible fate.

Then Trystan stopped mid-stride, gasped in delight, and fell to his hands and knees on the stone floor. One of the Skin Slicers coughed, as if fighting back a laugh.

“What are you doing, Prince Trystan?” Sebara whispered, flushing red with embarrassment.

Trystan traced his finger along a golden vein in the red stone floor. “I had no idea they replaced the quartzine in here for Machura marble!” he enthused. Pressing his ear to the floor, he added, “They say you can hear the song of the universe in Machura marble if you listen closely enough.”

The other Skin Slicer snorted.

“Please get up, Your Highness!” Sebara begged.

The boy showed no signs of moving. So Sebara crouched down, grabbed his arm, and hauled him upright.

Trystan gaped down at her hand on his arm, then up at her. “Are you allowed to grab me?” he asked.

“Yes,” Sebara said, hoping that if she said it confidently enough, she would make it true. Releasing his arm, she added, “Shall we continue into the throne room? The emperor is waiting.”

Trystan grimaced, then reluctantly started walking toward the golden doors, which swung open at his approach. He led the way inside, with Sebara trailing a few respectful steps behind.

They started the long walk toward the throne, passing through a forest of forty-foot-high, intricately carved stone pillars supporting the coffered metal roof high above their heads. If the architect was attempting to make visitors feel tiny and insignificant, he did an excellent job, Sebara thought nervously.

As they passed the fifth pair of smoking braziers, a deep voice boomed from the dais at the far end of the room: “And so my worthless son finally slinks into my presence!”

Sebara looked toward the dais. She had previously only seen the emperor at a distance, either on the news or when he gave speeches from his balcony. Close up, Ka’zarel Gara’dar cut an imposing figure, standing tall in front of his golden throne wearing lavish crimson robes, a sun-shaped crown, and a dark scowl.

Trystan stumbled to a halt. “Father, I apologize for—”

“You dare address me from so far away?” the emperor demanded, his gray eyes flashing. “Come here!”

Trystan and Sebara hurried to the end of the carpet. When they reached the steps to the dais, they stopped, crossed their arms against their chests, and bowed deeply.

“Better,” Ka’zarel snapped. “Rise.” The emperor’s gaze flickered to Sebara, then fixed upon his son. “Now you may speak.”

“I apologize for making you wait, Father,” Trystan said, his eyes downcast. “I was … preoccupied.”

“Of course you were,” the emperor said, sneering. “Luckily for you, the subject of this audience is the more unsatisfactory of my two offspring—which, at present, is your brother. Although I have every confidence you will find some way to surpass Varrin again. You are, if nothing else, consistent in being a staggering disappointment to me.”

“Yes, Father. Sorry, Father.”

“Look at me when I talk to you!”

Trystan hastily looked up at his father, balling his fists at his sides. The golden spikes on his shoulders quivered.

“You are spineless,” the emperor proclaimed, his upper lip curling in disdain. “If only you had your brother’s courage, and he your obedience.” Ka’zarel took a step back, sat on his throne, and barked, “Fino’jin!”

A tall, muscular, middle-aged man with a rough-hewn face covered in unsightly scars stepped out from behind a pillar. Sebara knew the commander of the Skin Slicers by reputation only—a peerless warrior and a fearless leader, possessing an almost fanatical devotion to the emperor. Like all Skin Slicers, Fino’jin wore red and gold armor, and the hilt of an electrified longsword gleamed over his shoulder.

Fino’jin clomped over to join Sebara and Trystan in front of the throne. Crossing his fists against his chest, he bowed swiftly to the emperor and said in a gravelly voice, “I live to serve.”

Ka’zarel nodded, then returned his attention to Trystan. “Fino’jin tells me your brother has recently lost his mind,” the emperor said. “It was bad enough when he was flying around the galaxy as a lawless mercenary, but now he has supposedly allied with a Ssrisk and a terrestrial!”

“A particularly devious terrestrial, my lord,” Fino’jin said. “She has poisoned your son against you. Every day he spends with her is a day he drifts further from your grasp.”

The emperor’s knuckles turned white as his hands tightened on the throne’s gilded arms. His eyes still on Trystan, Ka’zarel said, “Fino’jin’s report has led me to realize I have left this matter unattended for long enough.”

“What matter is that, Father?” the boy asked cautiously.

“I need an heir. Varrin is smart, strong, and courageous—everything you are not. But he is out of control and beyond my reach. Which is why I am tasking you with a mission: find your brother and return him to Rakor.”

Sebara realized she was gaping at the emperor, and hastily averted her eyes.

“How am I supposed to find him?” Trystan asked helplessly. “I’ve never even left the palace! I have no idea how to track someone across a cactus garden, let alone across an entire galaxy.”

“I am well aware of your incompetence,” the emperor said. “That is why Fino’jin will be assisting you.” He glanced at the scarred Skin Slicer. “Tell my son about the shuttle.”

Fino’jin fixed Trystan with a sharp look. “After ex-Admiral Kratis flew his battle cruiser into Tetrarchy-protected space and got himself killed, Prince Varrin stole a shuttle from Kratis’s ship and escaped. Since the shuttle is Rakorsian, I can track it. It should lead us straight to your brother.”

“Once you locate Varrin,” Ka’zarel said, “you will convince him to come home.”

“I will?” Trystan squeaked.

“Don’t interrupt! You are always tormenting me with your flowery turns of phrase—use them on your brother instead. Perhaps you can succeed where that fool Kratis failed.”

“And if I can’t?”

“Even if you fail,” the emperor said, “at the very least it will get you out of the palace and away from the empress’s coddling. Perhaps the vacuum of space will awaken your masculinity in a way the oases of Rakor clearly cannot.” Ka’zarel clapped his hands once, sharply. “Report to the royal spaceport. You lift off in an hour. Now get out of my sight.”

The boy flinched. Then he bobbed his head, turned, and hurried back down the long carpet. Sebara bowed to the emperor and strode quickly after Trystan. As soon as the prince and his bodyguard crossed the threshold, the golden doors slammed shut behind them.

Trystan instantly bent over, hands on his knees as he gasped for breath. Sebara felt like doing the same, but knew the Skin Slicers flanking the doors were watching them. “Your Highness,” she said quietly. “Perhaps you might prefer having your panic attack in a more secluded area?”

He nodded and straightened. They hurried from the antechamber and stopped in the first empty corridor they found. The boy slumped back against a stone pillar and clapped a hand over his face. “How in Kari’s name am I supposed to convince my brother to come back to Rakor?” he moaned. “I was eight years old when he left! What if he doesn’t recognize me? What if he does recognize me, but still doesn’t want to listen? What if …”

Sebara blocked out his rambling—she was busy trying to come to terms with the abrupt new trajectory her life had taken. I knew protecting the prince wouldn’t be an easy task, but I never expected to be sent off on a secret mission to recapture the lost crown prince on my first day!

Trystan suddenly dropped his hand from his face and stared wide-eyed at Sebara. “What if Varrin tries to kill me? I know they say blood is the strongest bond, but technically we’re only half-brothers!”

Sebara took a deep breath and straightened her shoulders. “Your brother is not going to kill you,” she said firmly.

Trystan’s blue eyes widened with hope. “He’s not?”

“No. Because if he tried, I would stop him. I have sworn my life to protect you, Prince Trystan, and I will not fail you.”

“But what if Varrin kills you first?”

“Commander Fino’jin would protect you.”

“What if he kills you and Fino’jin?”

A muscle twitched in Sebara’s jaw. “Then I would suggest you run as fast as you can in the opposite direction, and hope your brother’s aim is off that day.”

~~~

Chasing Nonconformity comes out this Friday! Mark your calendars!

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Slowly but surely, we’re getting there (with the sequel)!

August has dawned sunny and hot, and work on Chasing Nonconformity proceeds slowly but surely.

All the beta reader feedback is in and has been incorporated into the manuscript. The book is currently with my editor/manager/mother Linda Schneidereit, who’s doing a final read-through of the story in case she wants to make any last-minute suggestions. She really, really likes to make last-minute suggestions. We’re putting her on a 10-step program. (Just kidding, mom, you know I appreciate you!!!)

Once she gets done that, I give it one more read-through, then format it for print and ship a proof copy to myself. Read it through one more time, make any necessary changes … and voila! Published sequel ready to go!

So I’m still aiming for an end of August release date, although my plans were slightly discombobulated by mother’s trip out East to visit me. Which was awesome, actually — we did all the Nova Scotia touristy things, like see Peggy’s Cove, Lunenburg, the Bay of Fundy, etc. But it did push the sequel stuff back by two weeks, so now we’re attempting to get our ducks back in order.

In conclusion, the timeline for Chasing Nonconformity‘s publication is slightly delayed but hopefully will happen by the end of August. If not, we’re talking early September. But I’m working my hardest on it, and I promise I’ll get it out to you guys as soon as humanly possible!

Stay awesome, and have an excellent Tuesday.

 

Unrelated media of the day:

A fun song for all you Castlevania / video game lovers out there.

Categories: My Works, Self Publishing | Tags: , , , | 15 Comments

BIG Imminent Danger Sequel News!

As you may know, my mother and I have spent the last few months doing an intensive edit of Chasing Nonconformity (sequel to Imminent Danger). And I am almost ludicrously pleased to announce that finally — FINALLY — we’re done!

What does this mean? Well, first, I’m going to spend the weekend re-reading the entire thing to make sure we didn’t do anything too crazy during our editing sessions. Then, early next week, I’m going to send the book out to my top-notch beta reading squad. They’ll read it, send me comments, I’ll spend about a month going through them all and making revisions as necessary, then I do a bit of formatting, and then BOOM! Sequel is published! Summer 2015, baby!

On that note, anyone want to be a beta reader? A few of you have already expressed interest (Misha Burnett, Celeste DeWolfe), and it’s possible others have and I’ve just forgotten about it because my memory is laughably terrible. SO, if you’d like to beta read, please let me know! You’d have about a month to read and send me your comments — and your reward, of course, would be a shout-out in the Acknowledgements section and my eternal gratitude.

That’s all she wrote! Wooooooo!

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Totally related media of the day:

So as I was SHWOOP-ing over the past 5 months (gasp!), I randomly tweeted fun SHWOOP moments. I shall now share my favorites here. No worries if they don’t make sense out of context — very little that I say or do makes sense.

 

 

 

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Bumper Sticker Giveaway — Haikus + Winner!

Huzzah for spring!

This past weekend, I ran a haiku contest, where the best haiku-ist would win an awesome Imminent Danger bumper sticker featuring Varrin looking super sassy. The haikus are all in, and it’s time to announce the winner!

But first, the runners up …

Spring has come at last
Flowers and leaves are waking
Sneezes are coming

— Charles Yallowitz

By some lucky stroke of fate, I don’t actually have seasonal allergies–but I know plenty of people who do, so I know how much it sucks. Still, what’s a little sneezing when it means lovely sunshine and tweeting birds and all sorts of other Spring goodness?

My friend Michelle Proulx
Soon we’ll meet Camos again
As our half elf pair

— Denise Gow-Morse

This is, of course, in reference to the Pathfinder campaign I’m playing with Denise and her husband. Camos is the hilariously standoffish half-orc who has a serious chip on his shoulder and likes to say “That is acceptable” to basically any question posed. Also, I’m pretty sure he’s going to murder us in our sleep at some point. But I still love him.

Here is my exit
But it’s under construction
Welcome to Memphis

— Misha Burnett

This haiku reminds me of “Last Exit to Eden” by Amanda Marshall. I feel like getting into an old muscle car and driving off into the sunset.

Blowing a gale here
A spaceship would be useful
Off to build an Ark

— Paula Acton

Oh dear! I suspect the lovely Paula Acton was suffering through some icky weather when she wrote this haiku. I hope you got that Ark built in time!

And now, the winning haiku

All is dark and still.
The humans are now sleeping.
Soon, I must make noise.

— Thomas Weaver

This haiku ended up being the winner because I currently live with two dogs and three cats, and it just really spoke to me on an emotional level. Of my roommates’ five animals …

  1. Dog #1 likes to lick every inch of the kitchen floor and freak out at literally everything
  2. Dog #2 (puppy) likes to walk onto the pee pad, then scoot backwards juuuust enough to completely miss the pee pad while doing her thing
  3. Cat #1 likes to sit outside my roommates’ door at 7am and meow meow meow meow meow until they feed him
  4. Cat #2 likes to get locked in rooms, panic, and pee on the bed/couch/whatever soft and difficult-to-clean surface he can find
  5. Cat #3 likes to wait until I open my bedroom door, dart past me, run under my bed, and refuse to leave no matter what I do — oh, and he also likes to up-end garbage cans, shred toilet paper, taunt the dogs …

For the record, they are all very cute and generally quite pleasant and amusing to live with.

Anyhoo, Thomas Weaver is the big winner! His bumper sticker will be in the mail and on its way just as soon as I get his address and figure out how to package a bumper sticker that’s precisely one inch too long for an envelope.

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Unrelated media of the day:

He just looks like a super chill dude …

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It’s Spring! Time for a Bumper Sticker Giveaway!

After the longest winter of my life, I am ridiculously happy to announce that spring has OFFICIALLY HIT HALIFAX, CANADA!

Phew. Honestly, you cannot imagine my relief. Things were getting pretty grim for a while there. I’m looking at pictures from Celeste DeWolfe over in South Korea, who seems to spend all her time going to Cherry Blossom festivals and eating giant cotton candy balls, and then I look out my window, see seven-foot-high snowbanks, and think “Aw man.”

But today it was above zero and the snow’s finally melting and everything is glorious! Therefore, I have been inspired to run a …

Imminent Danger bumper sticker giveaway!

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The prize: 

1 bumper sticker, as follows …

bumper sticker 1I have one on my car, and it’s super fly. You will be literally the coolest person in the galaxy if you have this bumper sticker on your car.

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How to enter:

Since I’m feeling whimsical today, in order to enter I want you to write me a haiku. Post it in the comments on this blog post, or post it on my Facebook page, or, heck, even tweet it to me (@michellishelli).

The haiku can be about anything you want — my book, sheep, the dichotomy of good and evil, whatever floats your boat. I’ll pick my favorite, and the winner gets an awesome bumper sticker!

In case you don’t know, a haiku is three lines, with the syllable scheme 5/7/5. Here’s an example:

Holy cow, it’s a

super awesome giveaway

I sure hope I win

Terrible? Yes. Technically correct? Also yes! Haiku me, people!

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The deadline:

Let’s make it … 9 am EST on April 13. So that gives you the weekend to think up an awesome haiku and send it my way.

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Happy haiku-ing, everyone!

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Unrelated media of the day:

Categories: My Works, Self Publishing | Tags: , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

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