The Conjurors Collection: First Three Books in My YA Fantasy Series Available for $0.99

The-Conjurors-Series-3D-Omnibus-300x200If you’re a lover of teen/young adult fantasy, check out the first three books in The Conjurors Series for $0.99 today through September 20. The Conjurors Collection, Books 1-3, is available on Amazon if you’re interested in checking it out.

I welcome all feedback and reviews, so if you decide to read it let me know what you think!

Click here to check out an excerpt from the first novel, The Society of Imaginary Friends. Below is the blurb for the series:

Belief is a powerful magic.

Valerie Diaz has a power that she can’t contain, and it’s killing her. Bounced between foster homes and the streets, she only has time to concentrate on staying alive. But a visit from the imaginary friend of her childhood opens a world of possibilities, including a new life half a universe away on a planet that is bursting with magic.

The first three books of The Conjurors Series follow Valerie on a journey that straddles two worlds. In order to survive, she must travel many light years away to a realm where anything is possible. But choosing to embrace her potential will set Valerie on a treacherous course – one filled with true love, adventure and perilous danger.

This collection includes the first three novels in this young adult fantasy series: The Society of Imaginary Friends, Knights of Light, and Guardians of the Boundary. Purchased individually, the ebooks would cost $10.

Edge-of-Pathos-300x200You can also check out the fourth and final book in The Conjurors Series, Edge of Pathos, for $4.99 on Amazon. It is not included in the collection.

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Why Every YA Author Should Post a Book on Wattpad

e56666b5164c669f57b13bcc8fd05f54I know I’m a little late to the party, but recently I had a wonderful experience posting the first novel in my YA fantasy series, The Society of Imaginary Friends, on Wattpad. It’s been so rewarding that I recommend that any self-published YA author upload a book on this site. Did I make money? No. Did I connect with hundreds of grateful fans who were thrilled with my story? Yes!

Wattpad is a site where authors, many of whom are new writers, post their books one chapter at a time for free (my book’s page is here, if you’re curious). Readers can vote if they liked a chapter, and can comment on every chapter. There is a great app so that you can read on your phone, tablet or computer. Also, because all of the books on Wattpad are free, there are a lot of young, avid readers yearning for good YA fiction to read.

For me, this was an opportunity to connect with the readers whom I had written my series for. Many, if not most, of the people who have downloaded my series on Amazon are in their late teens or are adults. On Wattpad, the majority of the readers of my story are 13-18, my intended audience, and they responded warmly to my novel. Their positive energy has reinvigorated my writing, and is at least as rewarding as any paid sale of my books that I’ve received.

If you want to connect to a devoted YA readership, definitely publish at least one of your novels on Wattpad. Below are some tips to make the most out of your experience.

Once your full book is posted, make it a Featured listing. (This is free.)
When I began posting chapters of my book on Wattpad, I had very few readers. Even when I posted it on the Wattpad boards for “young adult” and “fantasy” and read and commented on other authors’ books, my story was relatively unknown. That’s when I discovered that Wattpad will promote your book as a “featured” story for free once most or all of the chapters of your book are published. Once I was featured, I had a couple thousand readers a day for the first week, and after that continued to have hundreds of new readers checking out my story for weeks afterward.

Reply to all comments on your book.
One of the best parts of Wattpad is that it is a chance to hear what your audience thinks of your writing. The readers on this site are vocal, which I loved. I received valuable feedback about what characters were resonating with my audience, and when the plot was getting slow. Most of the comments were very positive, and it brightened my day to read them.

Check your book’s engagement and demographic stats.
Wattpad tracks a lot of helpful metrics about who is reading your book. Demographic information including the gender, age and geographic location of your readership is very telling. You can quickly assess if your cover and blurb are drawing the audience you are targeting. Wattpad also tracks how many votes and comments each chapter received. This is helpful to see if certain chapters receive more or less attention, and help you identify where readers are losing interest, or where their interest is piqued.

Bask in the sunshine of your fans adoration.
Best of all, all that positive energy directed at me from my new, enthusiastic Wattpad fans put a fire under me to keep writing. Self-publishing can be a long, lonely road, and knowing that readers are devouring my work and begging for more, even if they can’t pay for it, made all that work feel worthwhile.

Do you have any additional tips for success on Wattpad? If so, please share!

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Author Interview: Alistair Cross on Writing Vampire Horror

Crimson CorsetI’ll admit that I have always had a weakness for a great vampire story, and Alistair Cross’s fast-paced horror novel, The Crimson Corset, absolutely fits the bill. This story is no Twilight; it’s a gritty, nail-biting read that reminds you that vampires are not for cuddling. Add to that strong female characters and unique twists, and you have an excellent read.

In this interview, Alistair shares some of his writing best practices, inspirations, and advice for fellow authors.

Tell us a little about yourself.
I read a lot, write a lot, and spend a lot of time removing my cat from my shoulders and face so I can see the computer screen and do my work. I love the arts and am especially enchanted by great writers and great musicians. Outside of writing, I enjoy photography, loud hard music, and running. Especially when it rains.

What was the original inspiration for your vampire novel, The Crimson Corset?
It’s hard to say. Different aspects of this novel were inspired by different things. The White Room (a kink dungeon in the Crimson Corset nightclub) was inspired by a dance club I went to several years ago. My antagonist, Gretchen VanTreese, was inspired by a woman I saw on television. The character of Brooks, my protagonist’s brother, was inspired by a pizza delivery boy. The plot itself came from a mix of things too extensive and jumbled to accurately identify.

You have created a powerful female heroine in your tale. How did you develop her as a character?
I wanted Samantha Corbett to be strong but feminine, and for this, I drew inspiration from several literary heroines – everyone from Katniss Everdeen to Scarlett O’Hara. I gave her a rough home life because I wanted her to have an inherent knowledge of her own strengths and weakness before coming face to face with her real tormentors, the vampires of the Crimson Corset. I wanted her to have a strong will, a sharp wit, and the kind of survival skills that would hopefully get her through the nightmare that awaited her in the story. I liked her from the beginning and wanted her to survive, but wasn’t sure until the end whether or not she would. So I gave her the qualities I thought she’d need – and hoped for the best.

Your protagonist, Cade, has a unique voice. How did you develop his personality?
Cade Colter remains one of the most difficult characters I’ve ever written. It’s always harder to write good guys because they have to be interesting and likable. When it comes to villains, they just need to be interesting; they’re so much easier.

I developed Cade’s personality through trial and error. I originally had a hard time finding his voice and eventually realized it was because I was trying to make him into something he wasn’t. As I continued writing, I learned to trust him and once I did, Cade presented himself to me, fully-formed and ready to be written.

Many of the readers of this blog are self published. Do you have any advice or marketing tips that have worked well for you?
Author interviews, guest blog posts, and reviews have worked well for me. Whether traditionally or independently published, the goal is to achieve exposure. Once people know about you, the book sales will follow, but trying to push a book is often an exercise in futility. It’s counterproductive to force your product on consumers. You just have to let people know you’re here and what you have to offer – and then allow them decide whether or not they’re interested.

What is the most unusual thing that has ever inspired your writing?
The mating habits of porcupines. I’d elaborate, but the subsequent data is unsavory.

Is there anything else you’d like us to know about you?
Last year, my collaborator, Tamara Thorne, and I began a horror-themed radio show called Thorne & Cross: Haunted Nights LIVE! It airs on Thursdays at 9:30 pm EST and we have featured guests such as Charlaine Harris, Laurell K. Hamilton, and Christopher Rice. We talk about writing, horror, ghosts, and all kinds of fun things, so check out our Haunted Nights LIVE! page on Facebook, and come give us a visit.

If you have any other questions or comments for Alistair Cross, comment below!

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How to Bundle Your Books on Amazon

The-Conjurors-Series-3D-Omnibus-300x200After publishing the final book in The Conjurors Series, Edge of Pathos, I decided to look into the benefits of bundling the books in my series. I read a great blog post by Lindsay Buroker on the subject, which convinced me to package the first three books in the series together for marketing purposes. Bundling my books wasn’t difficult, but it did involve a learning curve, much like everything in the self-publishing world. To save you some time figuring it out on your own, below is a practical overview of how to build and publish a book bundle on Amazon based on my research and experience.

Creating and Formatting the File
If your book bundle will be on Amazon, you need to create a separate document with all of the books you are bundling combined that you will post as a new book. Include the title page for each book, but make sure that you don’t paste your back matter (e.g. About the Author, Afterward, Acknowledgements) more than once, so the bundle appears cohesive. For your table of contents, I recommend only linking to the titles of each of the books in your bundle, rather than listing all of the chapters.

Cover Art
Most authors who bundle their books create a 3D image of their books as cover art. Some have an entirely different and new cover image to entice readers, while others recycle one of the images from their series for the cover art. Because the cover for the first book in The Conjurors Series, The Society of Imaginary Friends, has been well-received, I chose to use that image with a new title (The Conjurors Collection, Books 1-3). The 3D image also showed the spines of the three books in the bundle, so it was clear what is included.

Bundle Blurb
If you’re like me, writing the blurb for your book is a kind of torture. I spend more time crafting those 150 words than I spend crafting 5,000 of my novel. But it’s still valuable to create a unique description for your book bundle, rather than just repeating the descriptions for each of the books within the bundle. You want to hook readers with a pithy description that will draw them into your world and help them quickly identify what kind of series they’ll be reading. Also be clear about what is and isn’t included in your bundle. I specifically mention that the last book in the series is not in the bundle, so they aren’t disappointed or angry when they realize they have to purchase the last book separately.

When it comes to pricing your bundle, don’t sell yourself short. Your bundle should offer a significant savings from buying your books individually, but keeping your price higher will make discounting your bundle more powerful. I priced my bundle at a couple of dollars cheaper than the cost of buying the books individually. I chose this tactic not because I’m expecting to make a lot of money off of the bundle, but rather because if I give it away for free or at $.99, I’m hoping that I’ll attract a lot of readers who will go on to try out the last book in my series.

The last thing that you need to do once your bundle is published is to get some reviews for it, which can be the most difficult step. But in this case, you don’t need to find new readers to write your reviews. Tap existing readers who have written reviews on your books to write a review for your bundle, or even copy the review they’ve written for individual books for your bundle. I recommend providing bonus material, such as a short story, to boost your chances of having readers post their reviews. I also decided to solicit reviews through Story Cartel, because I had good luck with that venue in the past (check out my post on the subject here), as well as host a LibraryThing giveaway, which yielded a few reviews for me with prior books.

Have you bundled your books? If so, what tips do you have for creating and marketing your bundle?

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Edge of Pathos, Final Book in The Conjurors Series, Now Available

Edge-of-Pathos-300x200After hundreds of hours of writing, hundreds more of editing and marketing, and almost 400,000 words, The Conjurors Series is complete. I self published the final novel in the series today, Edge of Pathos. You can buy a copy here, if you’re interested, or you can email me through my contact page and I’ll send you a free review copy in any format you request.

I can’t swear that I’ll never return to the world and characters that I built in this series, but for now, I’m looking ahead to a new project and a chance to create something from scratch that incorporates all of the things I’ve learned writing The Conjurors Series.

You can check out the blurb for Edge of Pathos below. For those of you who follow my blog and writing, thank you for your support. Every positive email I’ve received has made me happier than I can express, and every negative review has made me a better writer. I’m grateful to you all.

Edge of Pathos

Never pause, never doubt, never yield. Rise and fight.

Valerie thought she understood loss. Her entire life has been defined by it. But now, she is facing the most frightening loss of all. Her own mind is slipping away, consumed by the power that burns through her every time she saves a life.

As the Fractus sweep across Earth, using the strength of their magic to subjugate the powerless, Valerie struggles to lead the resistance, constantly one step behind her enemy. When Reaper taps into a powerful new source of magic, Valerie knows that solutions that worked in the past won’t be enough to defeat him. She’ll have to reimagine how magic can be harnessed in order to combat a force dark enough to dark enough to enslave all of humankind.

In the final novel of The Conjurors Series, Valerie must bury her pain and uncertainty deep inside of her and make the hardest decisions of her life with no one to guide her. The fate of two worlds depends on it.

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How to Weave Believable Technology into Your YA Dystopian Novel (Part 2)

file000898499863As I mentioned in my last post, Part 1 on this topic, it is with glee that I leave behind the world I’ve been writing about for years to enter a new one. It’s radically different than the one I left behind, not even set in the same time. I’m visiting the future, and am learning about the technology I’ll find there. For the first time, my day job is kinda helpful, as I work in Silicon Valley at a high tech company, where we geek out about what the future will look like all the time.

I’m a believer that the best place to generate ideas for plausible ideas of future technology is to check out cutting-edge technology from today and extrapolate. Below are some resources that might trigger ideas for you.

Technology Websites
No surprise, there are a lot of online resources to sift through if you’re interested in technology. They range from those too mundane to yield exciting inspiration to those so futuristic that they don’t feel plausible. The sites I regularly check out are TechCrunch, which covers the latest technology news, and Fast Company, which doesn’t exclusively focus on technology, but rather innovation. If you’re interested in learning about how electronics function in a little more depth, check out the text and videos on SemisMatter to become more knowledgeable.

Technology-Focused TED Talks
If you haven’t heard of TED talks, they are awesome. Some of the most brilliant people alive share their expertise on everything from writing to technology to business. These brilliant people deliver short (18 minutes or less) talks on all kinds of topics, like robotics, biotechnology and space travel. And you can watch the videos of these talks for free on their website. They have a great search feature, including a way to filter by topic. Check out their most viewed talks and their technology topic talks. You’ll be educated without realizing it, and I defy you not to be inspired by some of the technology that you’re introduced to.

Consumer Electronics Show (CES)
CES is perhaps the most famous technology trade show, where the coolest up-and-coming technology is on display. Unfortunately, this is an industry event that isn’t open to the public, but there is a lot of media coverage of the event. If you do a search for the 2015 show, you’ll hear about the hottest technology that was present. I got distracted by a 3D printer that prints dessert, but that’s another story. Search for new coverage of CES for the past three years or so and you’ll start to notice trends that you can weave into your story.

Reference for the truly geeky.
For those interested in a dense but thought-provoking read about the extremes of what our future might look like, my favorite book, which I encountered in my day job, is The Singularity Is Near, by Ray Kurzweil. It blew my mind and made me grateful to be living in an age of exponential growth of technology. Maybe I’ll have a chip in my brain before I die (by choice!) or tiny robots will be released inside me to cure me of diseases. I sure hope so.

If you’re interested in how some famous ya dystopian authors have handled technology in their novels, check out my last post on the subject.

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How to Weave Believable Technology into Your YA Dystopian Novel (Part 1)

CityI’m in the process of closing my current series and beginning a new one, and I’m thrilled at the chance to create a new world from scratch. My next series will be dystopian YA, and in preparation I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the kinds of technology that I want to incorporate into the world. When I’m engrossed in a well-written YA dystopian novel, the technology never feels foreign. I think that’s because it’s a natural extension of technology that exists today, and therefore feels so plausible that it doesn’t give me pause. On the other hand, when technology is not done well, it often feels superfluous, like a special effect that isn’t really essential to the plot.

Below are some of the ways that successful YA dystopian authors seamlessly integrated technology into the worlds they created.

Have relevant technology interact with the setting of your novel in a way that shapes your protagonist’s mental landscape.
Under the Never Sky, Veronica Rossi
In Under the Never Sky, the heroine, Aria, lives in an enclosed city because the outside world is considered toxic. As a result, space is at a premium. So that people don’t go crazy by being trapped in tight quarters, the Internet and virtual reality mingle to create a world of infinite space. As a result, in reality people may be weak or even malnourished. So when Aria is cast out of the city into the toxic outdoor world, she is more vulnerable than the “savages” who have spent their lives fighting for survival, and are therefore in prime physical condition. This unique use of technology and setting feels like a natural extension of how the Internet works today, and it isn’t superfluous. It’s essential that it exists in order to drive the plot forward.

Modify an existing technology by taking it to the extreme.
Unwind Dystology, Neal Shusterman
Today, kidneys, hearts, lungs and other organs can be transplanted, but imagine a world where that technology is taken to the extreme, and eyes, arms, even brains can be transplanted. One of the creepiest YA books I’ve encountered was Unwind. The premise is that parents can choose to have their kids “unwound” when they’re teenagers – have every single body part donated to science, so their troublesome teen is effectively gone, without officially having been murdered. Most of the technology in this series isn’t creative, but this one strong premise makes it feel wildly futuristic and spookily familiar at the same time.

Have your young protagonist interact with technology of the future in a way that adults wouldn’t.
Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card
Ender’s Game is a classic, and a longtime favorite of mine. The setting, though it is in a very futuristic world complete with space ships and flashy weapons, is also not particularly unique. It’s technology we’ve seen in Star Trek and a number of popular sci-fi books. What makes it unique, however, is that the protagonist is a kid, and he reacts to it differently than any of the adult protagonists of other books and shows do. He finds creative ways to manipulate this technology, and ultimately is himself a victim of his own innocence when it comes to the power of the technology he wields. As a YA author, considering how your young protagonist will inhabit the world you’ve created is crucial. Remember that they are learning about it alongside you and your reader, rather than guiding you through it.

MedicalInvent a medical technology that solves a current problem in a way that creates a new one.
Uglies, Scott Westerfeld
There are a number of effective uses of futuristic technology in the Uglies series, but the most dramatic is the extreme plastic surgery that everyone undergoes to be made beautiful as they enter adulthood. Aside from looks, this also includes messing with the brain so that people are placid drones who don’t question the status quo. What worked well with the way the technology was handled was that the author didn’t over-explain it. The mechanics were hinted at, but specifics were left to the reader’s imagination.

Incorporate technology that affects the social structure of your world.
Matched, Ally Condie
In Matched, it is less the physical technology that takes center stage, but rather software that matches soul mates to each other that forms the premise of the series. It’s easy to think of futuristic technology in terms of things, like hovercrafts, but this more subtle use of technology can be even more believable and compelling. Matched, like Uglies, seamlessly wove in technology without over-explaining specifics of how it works. In hardcore sci-fi and fantasy, this would never fly. But with YA readers, it works well. Imagination supplies answers where needed, and readers are more interested in the character development than geeky details.

For those interested in learning more info on how to create believable technology for your dystopian YA novel, my next blog post shares resources that can inspire you if you’re having trouble envisioning what the technology of the future will look like.

Posted in Craft of Writing, Insights from Popular YA Fantasy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments