Best Fantasy and Science Fiction

Prisoner of the Crown

The first book in my Chronicles of Dasnaria series, PRISONER OF THE CROWN, is up for Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Book at Fresh Fiction! You can go there and vote for your favorites in multiple categories. I’m super delighted that this book was nominated. It’s up against tough competition, so I don’t expect it to win, but getting the nod is so gratifying.

Our topic this week at the SFF Seven is “Spinning the Spiderweb of Complicated Plots.” Come on over for my thoughts!

The Tide Is Shifting!!

THE SHIFT OF THE TIDE is taking shape! If you haven’t been under a rock these last two days – and if you have, hey, I don’t judge – then you’ve already seen the cover. So much gorgeousness! The incomparable Ravven did this for me. Many people (who haven’t been under a rock, but that’s okay, too) have asked if this is the same artist who did the covers for (RITA finalist!)  THE PAGES OF THE MIND and THE EDGE OF THE BLADE.

The short answer is: no.

But Ravven did an AMAZING job of matching the look and feel of those previous covers. Those were done via my publisher, Kensington. They hired artist Cliff Nielsen to create the images and Kensington’s in-house cover designer, Kristine Mills, took it from there. Ravven did both jobs and managed to capture the same vibe while pinpointing everything about Zynda as I described her.

Because, yes, that’s Zynda – the Tala cousin of the three princesses of the original Twelve Kingdoms trilogy. She’s a powerful shapeshifter, capable of taking many animal forms, and she’s also a sorceress. Just how much can she do? Well, we don’t know for sure! But, like her cousin Andromeda (Andi), she is of Salena’s potently magical line. Zynda has an interesting role to play in unraveling the riddles that plague their realms.

Oh, wait – you’re wondering why I’m doing this book on my own, when the previous five were with Kensington? Yeah, savvy readers will have picked out that THE SHIFT OF THE TIDE will be self-published rather than traditionally published. This partly by my choice, partly not.

See, this is how traditional publishing works, is that they might decide they no longer want to publish a series even though the author (and possibly readers!) think there’s more story to tell. In Kensington’s case, they were happy the books were so well received and have gotten great awards, but the sales weren’t what they wanted. Specifically the print sales. All of these books have sold great in ebook form – which is very typical for romance – and have sold through on the advances Kensington gave me. The print sales, however, weren’t as good as they wanted. What did they want? I don’t know. These decisions are rarely made clear to the authors. Instead, what they do – and did with THE SHIFT OF THE TIDE – is pass on the “option book,” which is the next book I’m contractually obligated to offer them.

Once they passed on SHIFT, which came as no surprise to me for a number of reasons – frankly, I was luckier than most to go that long as many authors get two books and that’s it – I had the freedom to self-publish the rest of the series. That’s pretty huge, by the way. Back in the Bad Old Days, I would not have had this option. The infrastructure to self-publish simply wasn’t there. You know how some of your favorite series suddenly seemed to just… stop? 95% of the time, that’s the reason why. (The other 5% being author going off the edge, burning out, or dying, pretty much in that order.) 

So, I’m planning to do this book and at least one more. After that… it depends! I’ll have to see where the overall arc is and how you all are with it. I’ll have to make my own sales decision. For the time being, I’m *thrilled* that this cover continues the look of the series in grand style. In additional exciting news, my editor for the first five books is freelancing, so Peter Senftleben will be editing these also! I’m also fortunate to have my same production editor, Rebecca Cremonese, who makes sure all of my books are as perfect as my stubborn nature allows. 

I’m shooting for August 15 release date on this. Amazon only allows a 90-day lead on setting a pre-order date, so by mid-May, when we can actually DO it, I’ll know for sure that I can commit.

This is the initial blurb. It will change as, you know, I write the actual story. If you want to learn something about how my process does (and doesn’t!) work, save this and compare it to the final. Could be entertaining!

Free from the hand of a tyrant, the Twelve Kingdoms have thrown all that touch them into chaos. New allies appear–and enemies encroach–from all sides. To survive, they must adapt to this new reality without a moment of doubt…

Growing up in a country where magic was common as dust, Zynda never had to worry about her enchantments upsetting the balance of nature. But the land beyond the borders of the thirteenth kingdom calls to her. It may be foreign and ugly, but the strangeness is laced with an excitement she has never known. Outside her homeland, Zynda’s shapeshifting and sorcery are a potent advantage to nations grasping for dominance–and the thrill of power lures her even as she recognizes the threat she poses to these magic-buffeted realms.

A ruthless enemy stalks them, promising destruction if she does not fight with all her strength–but if she upsets the equilibrium of the land, all will pay, the common people most of all. And a man of this outside world fascinates her, a mossback with no scrap of magic in him. He knows nothing of the fears and temptations pulling at her. But in his steady embrace she learns she must choose well–for the consequences may reach farther than she ever imagined…

 

How to Answer Interview Questions: 3 Tips for Both Pros and Newbies

Sunrise on the Ortiz Mountains the other day created dramatic and crisp pink highlighting on the fresh snow of the peaks. Quite spectacular.

Our topic this week at the SFF Seven is an interesting one:Remedies for Stale Interview/Podcast Questions. Come on over to get my tips!

Twelve Days for the Twelve Kingdoms

screenshot-2016-12-04-08-39-17

As Veronica hinted in her post yesterday, I have similar exciting news! The duology that Grace Draven and I did together, FOR CROWN AND KINGDOM, was picked as one of the Best Books of 2016 by Library Journal!! We are over the moon. What tremendous validation for our joint effort.

Which means, of course, that we’ll have to do another!

I think the others of the SFF Seven are trying to drive me mad, because this week’s topic is Flash Fiction Based on Your Favorite Holiday/Festival Carol/Song/Hymn. Since I’m looking at the December 27 release of THE EDGE OF THE BLADE, I decided to riff on Jepp’s Twelve Days of Christmas. Now, the world Jepp lives in doesn’t have Christmas, and if it did, she’d probably loathe this song, but she still can give it her own particular spin. Come on over to see what I came up with!

THE EDGE OF THE BLADE on Net Galley! (and Other News)

I got this a while back and saved it for you all. Fabulous reader Julie Fine texted it to me upon receipt of an ARC of THE EDGE OF THE BLADE. I think she was pleased. 🙂

I’ve been getting bits here and there about EDGE, which releases in a month on December 27, so I’ll start sharing them. The most important bit of info, it’s on Net Galley now

Booklist gave it a lovely review:

Kennedy (Pages of the Mind, 2016) continues the Uncharted Realms series with Jepp, a member of the queen’s guard more comfortable on a mission than in society, being named as an ambassador. Luckily, Jepp has Prince Kral, once her lover, to help her along. Jepp’s view of how women are to behave clashes with the norms of the Dasnaria hierarchy. She chafes under Dasnarian restrictions until she is summarily banished from court. She just wants to sleep with whomever she wants, whenever she wants. And she wants Kral—again. That’s not too much to ask, is it? Despite her ejection and reluctance to embrace her new role, Jepp ultimately takes to it in her own way, earning respect from the royal family. Fantasy adventure, snarky dialogue, and hot sex help Jepp find her way back to her beloved queen for her next assignment. Readers new to Kennedy’s series will do well to read it from the beginning, though this book can be enjoyed as a stand-alone.
— Ilene Lefkowitz

Exact Warm UnholyIn other news, if you hadn’t heard, two novellas originally only available in collections are now out as stand-alone buys! EXACT WARM UNHOLY, which originally appeared in THE DEVIL’S DOORBELL anthology, is a contemporary erotic romance, with characters unrelated to any of my other series. Kristen Ashley really liked it, saying on her Goodreads blog

And I was again stunned. Stunned by the originality of the concept of this story. Stunned by the emotions it made me experience in such a short expanse of time. Stunned by the beauty of the romance in it that ran parallel to the overwhelming sadness throughout. 

The other, THE CROWN OF THE QUEEN, is a novella set in the world of The Twelve Kingdoms, involving most of the main characters from the initial trilogy and setting up the story that starts up in The Uncharted Realms

Dafne holding the crown of the Thirteen Kingdoms with the stained glass window behind her

Also, a bit of exciting news I think I haven’t yet mentioned elsewhere, I’ll be bundling the first three Sorcerous Moons books into a print volume, using the fabulous cover for THE TIDES OF BÁRA. Will have a release date on that soon! Maybe a good holiday gift! *nods* *flutters lashes*new-landing9

Selling Shovels to Miners

file-sep-16-9-43-03-amThe carrier pigeons delivered my ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) of THE EDGE OF THE BLADE yesterday!! Email my assistant, Carien at Carien at home dot nl (suck up spaces, replace words with punctuation symbols – you know the drill), if you’d like to get on the list. We just need you to review it somewhere, please and thank you, or my publisher yells at me. (Okay, they don’t yell at me, but they sigh at me and make these little squinchy faces.) You can also find preorder links HERE, if you want to skip the (implicit) obligation and go straight for the gold. 

Either way… EEEEE!! Can’t wait for you all to read Jepp’s book!

The other day someone on one of my author loops asked about a workshop she saw advertised that promised to teach participants how to increase their numbers of newsletter subscribers. It was being taught by a guy who also teaches workshops (and sells books) on how to maximize Facebook ads. This author mentioned that the workshop cost $600 and she wondered if it was worth it.

She noted a few things about this guy, which I’m going to list for you here:

  1. He’s an author, selling this marketing technique on that authority, yet hasn’t seemed to have written much in years.
  2. But he promised that participants would make that money back in profits.
  3. She feels a lot of pressure to improve her newsletter subscribership because “everybody” says that’s key.

Here are some things to think about:

  1. For any person selling writing advice – be it ‘how to write a bestseller’ to ‘how to make tons of book profits via Facebook ads’ to whatever – look at how THEY are making their money. This guy is clearly making his money off of writers, not off of books. If his marketing technique worked so amazingly well, wouldn’t he be doing that? Same for people who purport to teach how to write a bestseller. If they know, they’d be writing them, or all of their clients would be. Just saying.
  2. OF COURSE every one of these guys promises this! It’s one of those “guarantees” that sounds great and means NOTHING. If you don’t make back that money, whose fault is it? Why yours, naturally! It’s not their fault if you didn’t implement the information correctly. Meanwhile they have your $600 and you have no recourse.
  3. When the “everybody” who’s telling you something is key are the people who are selling the information on how to do it, take a step back and examine their motivation.

All of this comes down to that there a lot of people out there selling shovels to miners.

This is what happens in a gold rush. Yes, there is gold out there, and a lot of miners are finding gold in them thar hills. There is nothing wrong with being a miner and going for the gold. Nor is there anything wrong with the shovel salesmen. Miners need shovels. 

But the head of my agency (Fuse Literary), Laurie McLean, said something very smart. She said, “There’s a reason the streets of San Francisco are named after the shovel salesmen, not the miners.”

By this she’s referring to the fact that San Francisco grew up as a supply camp for the gold rush miners. Much like Denver, the city was first a supply camp, then grew up as more and more people made their livings around the ones digging the gold out of the ground. 

The metaphor here should be clear: writers are the primary sources, digging words out of the mines to make stories. The people who sell us the shovels to do this – from software, to agents, to editors, to Amazon, to marketers, and so forth – they all depend on us for their living. We need them, sure – but they need us more. Without us, they have no one to sell their shovels to, no primary source of income.

History, however, remembers who?

The streets of San Francisco are named after the shovel salesmen, not the miners.

That tells you who makes most of the money, keeps it, and uses it to become wealthy.

All this is by way of saying, be aware that these people are out there. I’m not saying don’t buy shovels – we need shovels! – but I am saying, be wary of the person wanting to sell you the Super Duper Extra-Durable Supramatic Shovel. Especially if that person is telling you that the Super Duper Extra-Durable Supramatic Shovel is key and all miners agree you have to have one.

Especially if that person used to be a miner and is now making their living selling Super Duper Extra-Durable Supramatic Shovels. 

My Favorite Minor Character

THE EDGE OF THE BLADE

In case you missed my very fun interview with Ilana Teitelbaum at the Huffington Post, here’s the cover reveal for the next book in The Uncharted Realms, THE EDGE OF THE BLADE! I have such mad love for this cover. Of all my heroines so far, Jepp is the one whose cover comes closest to showing her as she looks in my head. She’s also terribly badass, prowling along with her knives. 

Love love love.

It’s timely, too, because this week’s topic at the SFF Seven is “My Favorite Minor Character.” Tune in to find out who mine is!

“On Second Thought…”

cover flat cropI know I haven’t posted here as much, but I’m immersed in writing Jepp’s book, THE EDGE OF THE BLADE. So much Dasnarian Empire … I won’t say “goodness, but wow – this is an interesting story to write!

I’m also finishing copy edits on THE PAGES OF THE MIND. (Aren’t the cover flats pretty?? Just wait until you see this green in real life!) At rate, I was reviewing this scene snippet and it made me laugh. That book is Dafne’s and so from her point of view, but Jepp always cracks me up, so I thought I’d share. 🙂

***

Jepp didn’t reply to that, just watched, then cursed under her breath. “Put your things away. Have your big dagger in your hand. Be ready to run. Or jump overboard. Which means lose the cloak.”

I heard it then, as I hastened to do as she instructed, a beast roaring over the screams of men, along with shouting in a jumble of Dasnarian. A large bird, white, with a long, swooping neck, spiraled over me and landed on the deck, flashing into Zynda, who ranged herself next to Jepp, also in a fighting stance. “Trouble,” she said.

“What is that thing?” Jepp asked.

“I’ve never seen anything like it, but it just swallowed a man whole.”

Normally I’d be perfectly happy to cower behind them—and had been thus far—but curiosity got the better of me and I edged around Zynda to peek down the barge at what they watched. A violet haze rippled through the sky and water, as if emanating from some glowing thing. Then a man flew through the air, landing in the water with a splash. He began to swim for the barge, but a violet tentacle rose from the water, wrapped around his waist, and dragged him under.

“On second thought,” Jepp said, “don’t jump overboard.”

***

Happy weekend, everyone!

The Real Reason I Like Fairy Tales

File Nov 20, 7 35 01 AMLook at the pretty!!! I got a whole stack of cover flats for THE PAGES OF THE MIND. I tried and tried to get a good pic that captures the truly gorgeous green. It looks olive on my screen, but it’s truly more of a deep emerald/light forest green. I love it so hard. Fortunately Past Jeffe was wise enough to save a pristine copy of each of the cover flats from this series. I’d like to get them all framed individually and create a wall collage of them. I hear the cover for the next book, THE EDGE OF THE BLADE, is another winner (according to my editor), but they’re still tweaking and I haven’t seen it yet.

[Open, open, open…]

So, I’ve started work on THE EDGE OF THE BLADE – none too soon, right? I should be on track to finish by the January 1 deadline, however. Up until now I’ve been working on a new contemporary/erotic novel that Agent Connor pronounced “wonderful” just yesterday and sent out on submission under the title FALLING STAR. (*happy dancing with crossed fingers*)

As I was writing on EDGE, a fairy tale trope blew through my mind and I considered weaving it in. Fairy tale tropes are great for that and, arguably, this entire series is essentially a fairy tale retelling, though the later books go farther and farther afield. (Books 4 and 5 are actually part of a new series called The Uncharted Realms, which reflects that.) But, because this and other stories of mine are rooted in fairy tales, I often get put on those types of panels at conventions, and a perennial question is why do I love fairy tales. I have any number of answers to this question, but the real one just occurred to me.

I was thinking about the story “The Red Shoes” – one I brought up at one of these panels, for the gruesome, punitive ending, which incited a discussion of the various endings. I was familiar with at least three that people mentioned. Then I realized that fairy tales were my first encounter with the idea that the same story could be told multiple ways. As an avid collector of fairy tale books even then, I quickly encountered the same story in different books. Finding there were various ways to tell the same story lit up something inside me.

Still does!

Happy weekend, everyone!