Posts Tagged With: self-publish

Cerulean Bound Update

Happy April, everyone!

It’s been pointed out to me by the lovely Celeste DeWolfe that I haven’t blogged since January. Whoops! My incredible bad. Here goes!

Since my January post, I’ve been plugging away at editing Cerulean Bound. I rewrote a ton of stuff, added a bunch of new scenes, completely changed one of my villain’s motivations, etc. I finally finished going through all the editing notes, and now I am at the stage of “re-read the book again and make sure all the edits actually make sense.” This is my favorite type of editing, because I’ve hypothetically worked out all the kinks, so I shouldn’t have any big things to change — just enjoy the story, and hopefully shave off a few thousand words in the process. Streamline, baby!

Once the re-read’s done, I’m going to send it back to my alpha reader and editor for a second go-through. Hopefully they’ll have fewer notes this time, which would mean once I correct the new stuff, I’ll be able to start sending the book out to beta readers. From there … another round of editing, maybe two? My editor is a perfectionist, which is great in that it means the end product is always top-notch, but terrible in that it takes forever to do anything. (I love you, Mom!)

In life news, I recently went to Disney World with my mother, brother, and best friend. It was lots of fun — we ate, we drank, we rode assorted roller coasters, we ooh-ed and ahh-ed at fireworks, etc. Thank goodness for Fast Passes — waiting two hours in line for a 90 second ride is just silly. Some of my travelling companions got hit with a nasty cold during the vacation, but I ate many oranges and managed to escape the virus … until I returned home, and it walloped me in the face. I am now sniffling in my fluffy bathrobe with a mug of hot tea, surrounded by tissues, vitamin C, and throat lozenges. Nooooooooo!

I’m off to make cookies after this, then get down to some freelance proofreading work. (By the way, if anyone needs any proofreading done, hit me up!) Once that’s done, it’s back to editing Cerulean Bound. I’ve also started re-reading Imminent Danger and Chasing Nonconformity, in a valiant attempt to make sure I don’t contradict myself in book 3.

I’ll check back in when I’ve got more news on Cerulean Bound. I know it’s been a long while since book 2 was released, but hopefully there are still a few people out there excited to read book 3!

Have a great week, and stay awesome 🙂

Categories: Self Publishing, Writing | Tags: , , , , , | 10 Comments

Finished Cerulean Bound Draft #2


After noodling over the second draft for about three months, I finally got the darned thing done! I have my editor and alpha reader to thank for this: my editor, for reminding me that she has a ton of free time over the holidays to read it, so finish it already, and my alpha reader for promising to read it over this weekend if I could get it to him by noon today. Technically I got it to him at 12:15, but hopefully he’s willing to overlook the tardiness.

The first draft clocked in at 142,000 words, and I managed to get the second draft down to … drum roll … 110,000! There is still some chopping to be done, of course. I’d like to get it down into the 90,000 range, which is more reasonable for a quick-paced YA story, not to mention that forcing myself to get rid of ~15k words will make the story tighter and better. But I’m pretty proud of losing 30k words in one fell swoop. Hopefully I didn’t cut anything too important …

Anyway, draft 2 is off to my editor and alpha reader. I should hear back from my alpha reader by Monday (we’re doing lunch), but as for my editor … it could take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. It’s difficult to say with her. It’s the off-season in the B&B world, so hopefully she’ll have lots of time to devote to tearing the manuscript apart. Fingers crossed!

In unrelated news, I’m still at my dad’s house for the holidays, hanging out with him and my brother and generally “chillaxing” as the young’uns like to say. We play a lot of Civ 5, go on walks in the frigid outdoors, and occasionally watch movies (just saw Jumanji yesterday — hilarious). I’ll be heading back to Nova Scotia this upcoming Tuesday, which hopefully will not be buried under a mountain of snow when I arrive.

Happy New Year to everyone! My resolution is to write every day. So far I’ve managed it, but we’ll see how that shapes up once I get into the busy B&B summer months. Maybe I should try getting up early and writing before I head downstairs to cook breakfast and clean. Then again, I’m so not a morning person, so maybe not.

Until next time!


Unrelated media of the day:

Every time I listen to this song, I want to conquer a foreign country. Possibly I’ve been playing too much Civ 5.

Categories: My Works, Writing | Tags: , , , , , | 12 Comments

10k Words Cut from Cerulean Bound!

Editing on Cerulean Bound proceeds at … I want to say a “good clip,” but realistically it’s more a slow crawl. I had started November with the intention of getting the second draft done by mid-December (a.k.a. right now) but then I got laser eye surgery and things went a tad sideways.

Long story short, either the LASIK people didn’t do the surgery correctly, or my eyes are just being difficult, because my vision never got up to 20/20. It’s supposed to take a couple of days to clear up after the surgery, but by seven days out, I was still seeing blurry. The surgeon says I’ve “regressed,” which is supposedly something that usually happens around the 3 or 6 month mark, so I guess I’m just special. This means I’ll have to go for a touch-up surgery in the spring, and until then the world is ever-so-slightly out of focus. I can still drive, but the signs are blurry, and I have to make the text on my screen bigger so I can read it.

All this is to say that my editing plans got completely derailed by the surgery, and I couldn’t properly read (let alone edit) for a good two weeks after the surgery. Then my eyes had a bad reaction to the steroid drops (because of course they did) and that knocked off another week of productivity. By the time I got properly into editing, it was basically December.

But! Now I’m back home in Ontario for the holidays, so I have a good two hours every morning of (relative) peace and quiet to get my editing done. There are the occasional (read: frequent) interruptions from my father, who’s very excited that I’m home, but they’re brief so I can usually get back into the editing groove without too much trouble.

As of today, I have officially knocked 10k words off my whopping 142k first draft word count. Now, YA books are generally between 70k-100k words, so I still have a ways to go, but I’ve been able to streamline scenes and even delete a few extraneous characters, so I’m hopeful I’ll be able to get down into the 110k words zone by the end of this edit. That leaves 10k-15k for my editor to chop, which is fine, because my editor loves chopping. If editing doesn’t work out for her, she’d make an excellent lumberjack.

That’s all! Just wanted to check in and let my devoted fans (all six of them) know that I have not, in fact, forgotten about book 3. I’m hard at work, and am doing my best to get it ready for a Spring 2018 release. Stay tuned, and stay awesome!

Categories: Self Publishing, 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

Cerulean Bound (Imminent Danger #3) Update!

Okay, before everyone gets crazy excited, no, I have not finished the first draft. That remains a work in progress. But I figured you guys deserved an update after many months of silence, so here it is:

Cerulean Bound has officially crested the 70k words mark!

Now, what does this mean for the book itself?

I am about halfway through the story at this point, which means the book is on track to be about 140k words long. That, of course, would be the word count for the first draft. After extensive editing and chopping and revising, that number will hopefully be down in the 90-100k words range. So there’s still a while to go before the book is ready for eyes other than mine to see it.

On the upside, 70k words in and going strong! B&B season is gradually coming to a close, and NaNoWriMo starts in a few days, so I’m hoping to bang out the rest of the first draft by early December. Then the editing begins.

My very tentative hope is to get the book out next year. I don’t think it’s realistic to expect it in the spring — probably more like the fall — but miracles can always happen, right?

So there’s the update! Happy Halloween to everyone, and if you’re going to attempt NaNo this year, happy writing!

Unrelated media of the day:

Categories: My Works, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , | 16 Comments

How To Add Headers To Your Book

Scenario: You’ve recently self-published your first ebook, it’s doing awesome, and fans are clamoring for a print copy. You’re eager to oblige them, so you start formatting the book for print. But you just can’t figure out how to get those damn headers to cooperate with you!

Never fear, friend. I’ve got your back.

Note: I’m using Microsoft Word. These steps won’t make sense if you’re using a different program. Ye have been warned.


Step 1: Double click in the Header area of the page 


Now the Header box opens! Huzzah!



Step 2: Get yo Header settings in order, son!

The Header & Footer Tools tab should appear once you’ve opened up the Header area. Click the Design tab and make sure the following boxes are checked:

  • Different First Page
  • Different Odd & Even Pages
  • Show Document Text



  • Different First Page > This allows you to make the first page in each section have a different header than the rest of the section. The point here is to avoid having a header on the first page of the chapter, as it looks cluttered. (See this post for details)
  • Different Odd & Even Pages > This lets you have your book name on the left page, and your author name on the right page (or vice versa!)
  • Show Document Text > This one’s just for practicality. If it’s not clicked, your document text vanishes. Which is silly, so keep the box checked.


Step 3: Set up your sections

So Word has this tricky little function called “section breaks”. To get to it, hit the Page Layout tab and click “Breaks”. At the end of each chapter, click “Next Page” to start a new section on the next page.


How can you tell if inserting the section break worked? On the Home tab, there’s a little backwards “P” button. Click it, and Word will show you all the formatting in the document. Like so …


So you need a different section for every chapter, along with a different section for all the stuff that comes at the start of your book (title page, front matter text, table of contents, etc.), and a different section for all the stuff that comes at the end of your book (acknowledgments, about the author, etc.)

Seriously, you need each chapter to be a different section. I’m not screwing around here. Do it. There are no shortcuts. Just make it happen.


Step 4: Let’s start at the top …

For the start of your book (title page, etc.), you don’t want any headers or page numbers. So leave the Header blank.

Easy, right?


Step 5: The first chapter

In the Header & Footer Tools tab, there’s a tricky little button called “Link to Previous”. For your first chapter, this needs to not be active. You don’t want to link your Chapter 1 header to the first section, because the first section is blank. That means your Chapter 1 header is also going to be blank. Which you don’t want. So make sure it’s not active!


Important! You need to deactivate “Link to Previous” for both the even and odd page header. Otherwise one will stay linked to the previous section, and therefore remain blank. Conversely, if you type something in a linked header, it will change all the text for both this section and the previous section. Which you don’t want.

Next up, you need to actually enter text into your header. Woo! Starting on the second page (remember that we don’t want a header on the first page of the chapter), type in either your author name or your book title (depending on which side you want each one). For the sake of this example, let’s say type in your author name.

header7Now pop over to the next page and add in your book title. If you did this right, your name and title should appear on alternating pages throughout the rest of the chapter, but should not show up on the first page.


Step 6: Time to set up the rest of the chapters!

The rest of the book is really easy. In each chapter, enable the “Link to Previous” button on both the even and odd page. This should copy over the header text from the previous section (i.e. your name and title) and apply them to this section. Do that for every chapter, and boom! Header success!


Step 7: If you have non-story stuff at the end of the book …

If you have a section at the end of the book that you don’t want to have a header, just click your way into the Header in that section and disable the “Link to Previous” button. Then go into the odd and even headers and delete the text. Make sure you disable “Link to Previous” — otherwise you might delete the headers for the rest of the document.


But Michelle, what if I want a different header for every single chapter?

No problem! Just make sure “Link to Previous” is disabled. Then you can type whatever the heck you want in the headers for each section.


That’s it, folks! If you have any header formatting questions or issues, comment below and we’ll work it out. Word is a frustrating and enigmatic program, and will do random s*** to screw with your document, so you might run into problems that aren’t addressed here. For example, right now my Word likes to add a black line to the header when I delete text. Fun! So if you have any problems, let me know.

Happy Friday, and stay awesome!


Unrelated media of the day:

Courtesy of Imgur …

Categories: Self Publishing | Tags: , , , , | 13 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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Chasing Nonconformity Is Approaching!

What do George R.R. Martin and I have in common?

We both take obscenely long amounts of time to finish our books.

But while Winds of Winter is still nowhere near being finished, I’m psyched to announce that Chasing Nonconformity is at the final proofreading stages, and should be published in a matter of weeks!

Feel free to throw your baby in the air in celebration. If you don’t have a baby, acquire one. This is not the time for half-measures. This is the time for VICTORY!

So here’s the official update: The sequel is done. My mother/editor is currently proofreading it for the second (and last) time. Yes, she gets two rounds of proofreading. Then I proofread it. Once that’s done … publication time!

We’ll start off with the ebook, and then proceed to the print book once I get the print cover from Ravven. Speaking of which — if you’re interested in grabbing a signed copy of the print book, shoot me off an email at I’ll write a post about that when the print book actually goes live, but basically it will be ~$10 for the book + shipping. And obviously I’ll throw in assorted swag. What is life without swag? No life I want to live, I can tell you that.

That’s all for now! Thanks for checking in, and have a fabulous weekend.


Unrelated media of the day:

Inspirational T-shirts spotted in Asia:

Find more here:

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Imminent Danger Sequel Update

Great news! Revisions for Chasing Nonconformity are coming along quite nicely. I’ve got all my beta reader feedback in, save for two folks who are sending it my way soon. And I’ve incorporated all the feedback I already have into the story. I’m now in the process of re-reading the book and making random edits here and there as I go.

Once I get the last two remaining beta reader comments back and get their suggestions worked in, I’ll send the novel off to my editor/manager/life coach/mother, who’ll read it through and make her own random edits. Then it comes back to me for another read through. And maybe a few more random edits. Definitely a few more random edits.

Next up, formatting time! The book goes into my Createspace book formatting document, where I add pretty chapter headers and put in page numbers and whatnot. Then I send off the page count to my graphic designer so she can whip me up the paperback version of the cover. Then I print off 2 copies of the book — one for mother, one for me — and we do more reading and editing.

Finally, once we’ve read and edited the proof copies to our hearts’ content, and I’ve gotten the fancy paperback cover from my designer, it’s publishing time! Ebook goes live, paperback goes live — victory!

So that’s the game plan. We’re looking at a mid to late August release date at the moment, depending on when I get that beta reader feedback in, and how long mother’s multiple read-throughs take. She’s busy with house renovations, so she’s low on free time, whereas I’m totally unemployed and have all the time in the world! Huzzah!

Have an awesome week, everyone, and thanks for reading the update!


Unrelated media of the day:

I have a weird feeling I already shared this one, but I never removed the bookmark, so maybe not. Either way, enjoy!

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