Archive for the ‘Process’ Category

New Bone Flower Queen Cover

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bfqprelim7I’ve finally finished the revamp of the cover for The Bone Flower Queen, and I’m also almost done with the cover for The Bone Flower Goddess, but will hold off on revealing that one until it’s closer to release date. Right now the new covers are only on the ebook versions, but I’m getting ready to update the paperback covers on both books, so if you’re wanting to snag up copies with the old covers, now’s the time to do it.

It took me a really long time to come to the final concept for this particular book. It went through numerous iterations, and one of my early attempts will actually be the cover for The Bone Flower Goddess. I originally had an idea to do masks on the cover–seemingly easy to do and thematically relevant–but only one of the masks actually turned out looking good. Eventually I abandoned that concept and went back to the drawing board. I also messed around repeatedly with the cover for The Bone Flower Throne, until I had an overall look I really liked (I ended up really not liking the one I posted in the earlier blog post and decided to go even simpler.).

Bone Flower redo 3I still wasn’t sure about what my central object would be, but after several hours of false starts, I finally came up with the idea of the obsidian mirror. I was still wrangling with the jaguar issue though; everything I’d done so far looked a little too realistic and not necessarily “Aztec” or “Toltec”. Eventually I did a line drawing of an actual Aztec jaguar statue, and am pretty pleased with how it turned out. Aside from the smoke, all of the art on the cover is original, drawn in Gimp. I like getting to stretch my creative muscles like this. Self publishing has been very good for my internal artist, which I’d put away for so long….

I’d hoped to revamp the paperback’s sizing, convert it down to 5.25X8, but having discovered that it would require an entirely new ISBN for both books, I’ve decided I’m going to stick with the 6X9 format and just update the covers. I also have plans for a paperback omnibus edition that I’ll sell only at conventions, but CreateSpace’s page limits might make that impractical. We’ll see. At the very least, there will be an omnibus ebook version, which means a fourth cover (Yay!).

 

Release Day! Fugitives of Fate

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Today the ebook version of my first alternate history romance, Fugitives of Fate, comes out.

Driven by fiery visions of the end of the world, Aztec Emperor Cuauhtemoc averted the Spanish Conquest, and now he seeks to end the inter-tribal fighting that would have condemned the empire. When he discovers a woman from his visions working in his palace, he knows he must win her trust: only the infamous La Malinche can help him turn his enemies into allies.

Malinali has spent her whole life in slavery, passed from one abusive master to the next, and to her, Cuauhtemoc is no different than the other noblemen who’ve made her years miserable. Cuauhtemoc, however, is a determined man, and with time and work, her suspicion turns into trust, and trust grows into love.

But is love enough to truly change destiny? Especially when the shadow of unraveled history threatens to turn them into the enemies they were meant to be?

I’ve been waiting a really long time for today to finally arrive. Quite a long time ago, when I was in the midst of writing lots of stuff for my One World alternate history series, I started what I thought was going to be a short story but it soon turned into a novella, and to my surprise, it turned out to be a genre romance. I knew nothing about writing or selling romance, for I was firmly grounded in the speculative fiction scene, and I didn’t think there was a market for it; I’d never read anything like it in any of the magazines I usually read, and it was a novella–that dreaded length that no one in spec fic publishing would touch unless the author was a big name. So I set it aside and sort of forgot about it for several years while I worked on other projects.

It was actually just after the WorldCon in Chicago that I went home and, on a whim, opened the file and gave it a read. And to my surprise, I really, really liked the basic storyline, and thought it would make an excellent novel. I knew little about romance as a genre though, so I started reading historical romances, to learn the ropes, and joined RWA, which I’d heard really excellent things about from other SF authors, and started attending the local chapter meetings. Eventually I sat down to rewrite the story from the ground up, cutting out the more in-your-face speculative elements while keeping others that were absolutely necessary to the universe (folks who have read my One World short fiction know what I’m talking about), and in 23 days, I had a novel-length manuscript finished. It was the fastest I’ve ever written a novel draft

But my usual problems surfaced: my agent didn’t want to take it on because she didn’t think there was a market for it, and though eventually, I did get some interest from a traditional publisher on it, they wanted me to change it so fundamentally, it would be like starting over from scratch.

I didn’t spend a whole lot of time shopping this around to traditional publishers; I was busy working on Bone Flower, and so this always got put to the side, and I was making the move into self-publishing and starting to feel more and more comfortable with it. In the end, I decided to move on with it on my own, so I could keep creative control and tell the story I wanted to tell rather than trying to box it into traditional genre niches. I figured that the best I could hope for was a small press, and from experience, there isn’t much they can do that I couldn’t do on my own, so why not keep the control and put the book’s fate in my own hands?

So, it’s available everywhere now, and early reviews are looking quite favorable. I even got a very nice blurb from my favorite romance author, Jeannie Lin:

“Fugitives of Fate creatively reimagines the lives of two legendary figures, bringing life and humanity to a glorious empire that we only hear about in terms of its demise. I was thoroughly fascinated and enthralled.”

Click here to find links to your favorite vendor. It’s also available in trade paperback.

New Aztec West Novella – Death’s Good Dog

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DeathsGoodDogThe first brand new, never before published Aztec West novella, Death’s Good Dog, is now available for sale on Amazon. Because I’m trying out KDP Select, for at least the next three months it will only be available on Amazon, but if you use an ereader other than the Kindle, never fear! The file is DRM free, and so you can convert the Kindle file to the format of your choice using programs such as Calibre. Because the novella is enrolled in KDP Select, it can also be borrowed for free by Kindle Unlimited users.

So what’s the novella about? Here’s the blurby goodness:

In 1521, while the Spanish were conquering the Aztec people, the Archangel Michael defeated their gods. Three hundred years later, the fierce, bloodthirsty gods of Ancient Mexico still sit dead on the shores of the Black Lake in the underworld, watched over by the only two gods the angels spared: Lord Death and his servant, the Black Dog Xolotl.

When Xolotl accidentally resurrects the old gods and unleashes them on a world that’s long forgotten them, he must return them to the underworld before Michael finds out, or he will be the next god sitting dead on the Black Lake. It shouldn’t be too difficult to wrangle them up though; newly reborn gods don’t remember who they are, or that feeding on human blood will reawaken their powerful magic.

But he might pay dearly for that underestimation when he matches wits with a god driven by a thirst for children’s tears, and the certainty that Xolotl is a traitor against his own kind….

A little background on this story:

About four or five years ago, shortly after I wrote “The Hearts of Men”, I wrote another story set in that same milieu but following a different god than in HoM. It didn’t turn out very well, and I thought it was much too dark and Xolotl was a horrible, horrible character. I put it aside for a few years while I worked on other things, mainly finishing Bone Flower Throne, but while shopping for an agent, I decided I wanted to write a novel-length work in the 1850’s sword and sixguns milieu of HoM.

I wanted to delve deeper into the underpinnings of Mextli’s and Coyolxauhqui’s return from the dead, and thought back not only to that other story I’d written a few years earlier, but even further back to a story I’d actually published back in 2007, “The Divine Conquest of Mexico”. The basic premise of that story was Quetzalcoatl finally decides to return from exile in Europe and travels back to Mexico as a member of Hernan Cortes’s crew, but once he arrives, he finds the angels are planning the conquest of his fellow gods, to ease the way for their human followers to conquer the Aztecs and their allies. I liked the idea of bringing the two religious/mythological traditions into conflict with each other, as a kind of explanation for why the Aztec empire crumbled so quickly, and so decided to peel that element out and use it as the basic building block of the HoM milieu. I also decided that rather than creating the universe completely anew, I’d just make it a natural progression from what I was creating in the Bone Flower books. That way I could continue exploring the changing lives of characters I’d grown to love in the Bone Flower books. So I wrote the first draft of a novel that followed the adventures of the god Xolotl, the cowardly servant of the god of the dead, who accidentally raises all of the other gods from death and he must collect them all before the villainous archangel Michael discovers what he’s done. Episodic misadventure than ensues.

I ended up setting the novel aside though. My agent didn’t want to touch it, since we were having difficulty finding a buyer for Bone Flower Throne and this was more of the same, just even more uncategorizable than BFT. Eventually I stepped away from my agent to go it alone, and shortly after landed a deal with Panverse for BFT, but in the meantime, I set aside the Xolotl novel to focus on Bone Flower. But I always wanted to come back to it and see if it was salvageable, and having reread it a few months ago, I thought parts of it could easily be broken out into shorter pieces and reworked. Death’s Good Dog is the first part of that novel.

More shorter works will come in the coming months, including one telling Coyolxauhqui’s side of the side of the story, and another where we meet Coyolxauhqui and Mextli’s mother, Coatlicue, who is a two-headed snake who controls an army of the undead. I’m very excited to be working on this series again, and I hope fans of the Bone Flower books enjoy these stories while they wait for the final book in the trilogy.

New Covers for Bone Flower

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BFT_ebookcovOne of the many advantages of being an indie author is that you can change strategies midstream, and do it rather easily and painlessly. If something isn’t working, you can reevaluate and make changes, and don’t have to convince a publisher to go along with you.

After much soul-searching and frustration, I’ve decided that things aren’t working with my Bone Flower books. Sales are poor, and even when I ran a .99 promo, I made very few sales, nowhere near enough to even recoup the costs of the promotion itself (and we’re not even talking BookBub size prices. We’re talking $5 at the cheapest, and $45 at the most expensive.). I don’t have a ton of reviews, but enough for me to feel confident that the story is not the issue. That leaves other factors to play around with. Maybe my blurb is all wrong (and yes, I’m toying around with a new blurb, but not seriously yet). Maybe my price-point is wrong (I already lowered both books by $2 in their ebook form, matching the pricing of similar books in my genre. Amazon still thinks I need to drop them another dollar, but I’m not convinced there yet). Or maybe my cover is giving the reader the wrong impression about my book (bingo!)

My editor at Panverse discussed this with me back when sales were struggling and we kept getting puzzling reviews from folks who thought the book was supposed to be young adult. We hadn’t advertised it as young adult; we advertised it as history fantasy and historical romance. I’ve been asked over and over what age group I would recommend the book to, and 99% of the time, it’s the parent of a 12 or 13 year old asking. We both pondered about where they were getting this impression, and eventually we started wondering if it was the cover.

Throne’s cover is absolutely gorgeous. I love it with all my heart, and I love the cover for Queen as well. They are beautiful pieces of art, and people always compliment them, but when I tell them that the book is in the vein of Game of Thrones when it comes to content, they are surprised. “Yeah, I didn’t get that impression at all from the cover.” I sold quite a few books at AnomalyCon a couple weeks ago, but I do wonder how many epic fantasy fans–my target audience–looked at the covers and moved on to the next table because they saw YA fantasy and said, “Not my thing.” And all but one of those sales went to women; the man who bought a copy was a new friend who’d spent all weekend listening to me talk about it on panels we were on together. Statically, men are the core audience when it comes to epic fantasy, and I’m having a really hard time reaching them.

So as much as it pains me to set aside the beautiful covers, I have to think about marketing and genre, otherwise I’m going to continue to languish in sales obscurity. I need covers that shout “Epic fantasy!”, so that I can at least make epic fantasy readers pick up the book and turn it over to read the blurb, or see the cover in search results on Amazon and decide to click it and read the blurb and reviews. And that means new covers. *sniffle*

Bone Flower redo 1After examining quite a few covers on Amazon, I decided the easiest style was an object focus, like GoT or Lord of the Rings. I’m already considerably in the hole on both books, so I needed to do this on the cheap, and those were styles I felt confident I could mimic with my own skills in Gimp. I’ve been working on it for several weeks, toying with different concepts, and abandoning some, but I think I’ve finally nailed down the basic overall look. I might do some more tweaking in the future (going to a textured background rather than a stylized image, for example) but for now I’m testing out the new cover style with Throne, and will run some promos in the near future, to see if there’s any improvement in sales. If the new cover is working, I’ll go through the process of revamping the paperbacks as well.

I’m still in the process of figuring out the covers for both Queen and the final book (which I’m just over 50k into), so I’m holding off on those until I see how things go with Throne over the next month or so as I do promotion.

Bone Flower Update

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BFT_ebookcovI’ve finished republishing Bone Flower Throne to all digital markets. The paperback is available as well, but currently only at Amazon. Hopefully it will trickle out to BN in the next week or two. Many of the Panverse digital editions are still available for sale, and you should feel free to buy either one (I make a royalty regardless), but folks should know that the new edition includes some color interior art that are quite beautiful on the tablets. However, the larger file size does make it run slower on older devices, like the 2nd gen Kindles. I am looking into ways to decrease the file’s size and will update it if and when I do, but for now, those with older devices might want to grab up the Panverse edition while it’s still available (it’s not available on Kindle anymore). Visit the novel’s page for quick links to everywhere you can buy.

BFQ Cover Mock 50 percentAs for Bone Flower Queen, I intend to do the final read-through and copyedit on that next week and have the paper version available on Amazon by mid-month. Digital versions will be available on or after January 5th (BN is closed from Jan 1-4, so there might be a backlog on the 5th, though I intend to have the final version submitted before Christmas). In the meantime, you can pre-order the ebook versions at Amazon, Kobo, Apple, and BN, and they will be automatically delivered to your device on release day. Thank you everyone who has already pre-ordered! Also, if you purchase a paperback edition through Amazon, you get a free digital copy when they become available!

In the meantime, it’s high time I get back to work on the final book in the trilogy. I have a little over 15k already written, and my hope is to have that one out much sooner than a year from now.