Seven Things You Must Avoid If You Want to Write

These three books are on sale right now. THE MARK OF THE TALA, the book that started it all, first in The Twelve Kingdoms series. Also THE PAGES OF THE MIND, my RITA® Award-winning novel, which kicks off a new phase in the overall series, and PRISONER OF THE CROWN, first in a stand-alone spin off trilogy, The Chronicles of Dasnaria. If you’ve been thinking about reading my books or this series, it’s a great time to start!

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week regards the writer’s Seven Deadly Sins: the list of things you MUST avoid if you want to finish a project on time. Of course, if you’re supposed to be writing, and you’re reading this, you’ve already broken three of mine. Oops. But never fear! There is still hope for you. Read on.

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 RITA® Award – 2018 Scores

This morning I got a new comment on an old post, which is always interesting. When I saw which post, I totally got it. Last year I put up an article on my blog: The RITA® Award – Is It Worth Entering? Right away I knew why that post, because we all got our scores from the 2018 RITA® Award contest. 

That’s me above, by the way, at this year’s RITA ceremony, with my fantastic agent, Sarah Younger, and one of her newest clients and Golden Heart finalist, Alexia Chantel

I won’t reiterate everything I said last year about the contest, except to say that I still believe in everything I said then, 100%. Even though I didn’t final with either of the books I entered this year. And I’m going to share my scores again, because so many people said they appreciated that I did so last year. 

I entered two books, The Shift of the Tide in Paranormal Romance, and With a Prince in Short Contemporary Romance. 

My scores?

The Shift of the Tide: 9.6, 9.5, 8.9, 7.9, 5.9 – Final Score: 8.7666666667
With a Prince:  9.5, 8.6, 8.3, 7.9, 7.2 – Final Score: 8.2666666667

The Final Score is figured by dropping the highest and lowest scores, then averaging the other three. Finalists in each category are the top 4% of scores, unless there are fewer than four or more than ten, in which case it’s adjusted. 

I’m super pleased with these scores! The average for The Shift of the Tide is second only to that for The Pages of the Mind, which finaled and won last year, so score! And I’m pleasantly surprised by the consistent scores on With a Prince

One interesting trend, the score for the Top 25% in the Paranormal Romance Category has been going up. (25% of all entries had final scores equal to or above that score.) In 2015, it was 8. In 2017, 8.23. And in 2018, 8.3. That indicates to me that overall scoring is higher, and the field even more competitive. I don’t have the 2016 data when I entered The Talon of the Hawk. Maybe I didn’t get my scores that year? Or maybe I deleted the email in a fit of pique because I’d been so hoping it would final. (It won best Fantasy Romance from RT that year after all!) I seem to recall a judge marked it “Not a Romance,” which also happened with The Mark of the Tala. Happens to all of us. 

I also haven’t really tracked the trend in averages for Contemporary Romance, as it’s not my primary genre, but I can tell you the Top 25% score was 8.36, even higher than for Paranormal. Very competitive!

So, onward and upward. You bet I’m entering again for 2019. 🙂

 

Strategy Games and Martial Arts in SFF Worldbuilding

When I was in Denver for the RWA National Conference, my friend and writing buddy, Darynda Jones, and I took a lunch break at Ship Tavern in the Brown Palace Hotel. While there, I spotted this guy and snapped a pic. It seemed like a good omen, because I finished THE ORCHID THRONE during our mini-writing retreat there, and now (finally!) am going back to THE ARROWS OF THE HEART. This image is highly relevant to the story, for those of you who’ve studied the cover. 

Once I finish this blog post, I’m diving back into THE ARROWS OF THE HEART. It gave my own heart a little stab to see I haven’t opened the document since March 20, 2018. That’s over four months ago. A third of a year! Where has it gone??? I have no idea. 

Anyway, our topic this week at the SFF Seven is: If you had to invent a sport or game for your novels (or ever have), what would it be? Come on over to find out mine. 

Books on Sale!

A lot of you have been sharing that the book that kicked off my Twelve Kingdoms and Uncharted Realms series, THE MARK OF THE TALA, is on sale for only $2.99 for 

the ebook version.

 Which is awesome of you all – thank you! Just thought I’d let you all know that the first book in The Uncharted Realms cycle, my RITA® Award Winning Fantasy Romance, THE PAGES OF THE MIND, is also on sale for that low, low price. 😉

Happy Weekend All!

 

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…

 

Writing the Denouement – What’s the Right Amount of Wrap-up?

RITA Finalist in Paranormal Romance for THE PAGES OF THE MIND

So… this is *MY* big news this week. How about you all?

Tee hee hee!

Yeah, okay, I’m still in a daze, totally gobsmacked, and running about in this kind of gleeful haze where I whisper to myself, “My fantasy romance, THE PAGES OF THE MIND, finaled in Paranormal Romance in RWA’s RITA® awards!!!”

To unpack that a little, for those not familiar, RWA is Romance Writers of America and the RITA Award® is our premiere award for published books in the romance genre. (There’s also the Golden Heart, for unpublished works.) Because romance is an enormous umbrella with many subgenres, there are thirteen categories. “Paranormal Romance” is basically all science fiction or fantasy style stories with romance in the story arc. Yeah, it’s a polyglot of a subgenre, but there you are. With entries capped at 2,000, and every entry read and ranked by five judges, it’s a tremendous effort. It’s basically the Academy Awards for romance authors. The winners will be announced at the very glam awards ceremony at the Annual Conference, which will be in Orlando this year, July 22-29.

Okay! Moving on…

Our topic this week on the SFF Seven is on story structure, specifically asking the SFF Seven about the Denouement: How long do you spend wrapping up a novel? Come on over for my take

Releases! Awards!! Ohhhh Myyyyy!!!

THE FORESTS OF DRU, book 4 in the Sorcerous Moons fantasy romance series is out today! Whee!!!

Buy the Book

Also, I’m feeling like it’s a serendipitous day (maybe I should go buy a lottery ticket??) because RT Book Reviews announced that THE PAGES OF THE MIND was nominated for Best Fantasy Romance of 2016 in their Reviewers Choice Awards!!!

I’m particularly pleased to be sharing that honor with two friends who also write books I adore – Grace Draven and Thea Harrison. (CS Pacat was also nominated for the final book in her Captive Prince trilogy, but I haven’t read or met her.)

Very excited to be listed with these gals!

Finally, I’m over at Suzanne Johnson’s blog, talking about *cough* when to end a series. Which I clearly don’t know much about…

The Right Words at the Right Time – Supporting Newbie Authors

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THE CROWN OF THE QUEEN will be available as a stand-alone novella on November 22! (You can preorder now at Amazon, Kobo and Smashwords.) If you already have FOR CROWN AND KINGDOM, this is the exact same novella in that duology with Grace Draven. You can get mine alone for $2.99 or both of us for $3.99. A deal, either way!! If you haven’t read it, THE CROWN OF THE QUEEN takes place between THE TALON OF THE HAWK and THE PAGES OF THE MIND. It’s told from Dafne’s point of view and bridges the events in the aftermath of TALON and sets up her book, which is PAGES.

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is “The person(s) most influential on my early writing career.” Come on over to find out who made all the difference for me when I needed it most