Free YA Fantasy Ebook: The Society of Imaginary Friends (The Conjurors Series)

The-Society-of-Imaginary-Friends-2500x1563-Amazon-Smashwords-Kobo-AppleIf you’re a lover of teen/young adult fantasy, check out the first book in The Conjurors Series for free on Amazon March 14-16. The Society of Imaginary Friends 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 novel. Below is the blurb:

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 Society of Imaginary Friends follows 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.

On the Globe, imaginary friends come to life, the last of the unicorns rules the realm, and magic seeps from the pores of all the Conjurors who live there. But choosing to embrace her potential will set Valerie on a treacherous course – one filled with true love, adventure and perilous danger.

Knights-of-Light-2500x1563-Amazon-Smashwords-Kobo-AppleYou can also check out the second book in The Conjurors Series, Knights of Light, for $3.99 on Amazon.

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Announcing My New YA Fantasy Novel: Knights of Light (The Conjurors Series)

Knights-of-Light-2500x1563-Amazon-Smashwords-Kobo-AppleI’m not going to try to play it cool – I’m excited to announce that the second book in my young adult fantasy series, The Conjurors, is published. Knights of Light is now available on Amazon.

If you want to take Knights of Light for a test drive, check out the free excerpt here. Below is the blurb:

Leading means taking mortal risks. Hiding is not an option.

With a tumultuous year behind her, Valerie is ready to start a life that doesn’t include running from enemies and risking her life. Too bad someone wants her dead.

No matter how much she resists, Valerie is thrust into a position where it is up to her to lead the Conjurors against the power-hungry Fractus or suffer the consequences of two worlds ruled by those who wield magic as a weapon. But the clashes don’t stop on the battlefield. As Valerie finds herself torn between her new love and her best friend, it will be up to her to figure out who she can’t live without.

In the fast-paced second novel of The Conjurors Series, Valerie searches for the father she thought was long dead and begins to come to grips with the immensity of her new power.

The battle has begun.

How to Release (or Re-Release) Your First Self-Published Novel

Cover2When I originally published the first novel in The Conjurors Series in 2011, I had no concept of self publishing. It never occurred to me to promote my book. I simply used Amazon as an easy way for friends and relatives to download my book so I didn’t have to buy them a hard copy and mail it.

Two years later, self publishing had become a phenomenon, and my brother suggested that I market my novel and see what happened. But with a cover cobbled together using Microsoft clip art and no outside editing expertise, I wondered if my book was ready for public consumption. I’m very glad that I did some research and realized that for a self published author to be successful, she needs to have a polished product. A great story is at the core of any good book, but it’s hard to see through typos, horrific formatting, and a generic title that doesn’t provide any clues as to the content inside.

Below are some tips I would recommend any writer take before releasing a first novel or re-releasing an existing story.

  1. Invest in professional cover art. Unless you’re a graphic designer (or are close friends with one) this is a monetary investment that will pay off. It’s the first glimpse readers have of the quality of your work, and it needs to shine. I used Streetlight Graphics, and was thrilled with the quality of their work.
  2. Hire a professional editor to review your writing. I thought I had all of the expertise required to edit my own book – I was a double major in journalism and English in college, and part of my day job involves editing others’ writing. But I was astonished at how many nits my editor found in my writing. She also provided a much-needed sanity check to ensure that there weren’t any inconsistencies in the story. I worked with Shelley Holloway, and found her eye for detail was exactly what I needed.
  3. Evaluate the title of your book. I recommend searching Amazon books and using a search engine to see what pops up when you enter your title. I found that there were at least a dozen books with the title I had chosen, which would make it difficult for someone to search for.
  4. Write a blurb that’s as interesting as your novel. I was glad that I spent some time writing and having my editor review my book’s blurb as well. After your cover and title, it will make the biggest impact on whether or not readers choose to buy your book. For tips from successful authors who have done this well, check out this post.
  5. Create a web presence for yourself as an author. At the very least, have a Twitter and Facebook account that can keep fans, friends and family updated on everything you publish. This is also a valuable place to direct fans as your book attracts attention so they can hear about future works that you publish. I also recommend having a website with information about yourself and your books. A blog is great as well if you have the time. It’s an excellent way to network with other writers and communicate with your fan base.
  6. Consider releasing both an e-book and a physical copy of your book. Despite a slight learning curve when it comes to formatting for an e-book, there is no downside to making your book available in digital form. It’s free and is a great way for you to have giveaways without breaking the bank. At the same time, there is something powerful about a copy of your book that you can hold in your hands and bring to local libraries and stores to see if they are willing to display it.

So I’m proud to announce that I am re-releasing the first book in The Conjurors Series. It has a new title, The Society of Imaginary Friends (formerly Into the Dark), has been properly edited by an outside professional, and is rewritten with some of the knowledge I’ve gained in the years since I originally wrote it.

Below is a blurb about The Society of Imaginary Friends (available on Amazon):

The-Society-of-Imaginary-Friends-2500x1563-Amazon-Smashwords-Kobo-AppleBelief 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 Society of Imaginary Friends follows 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.

On the Globe, imaginary friends come to life, the last of the unicorns rules the realm, and magic seeps from the pores of all the Conjurors who live there.

But choosing to embrace her potential will set Valerie on a treacherous course–one filled with true love, adventure and perilous danger.

The second novel in the series, Knights of Light, will be released in early March. I’d love to hear what you think about my story, and I welcome any reviews!

Waiting to Self-Publish

A couple of months ago I decided to accept that I needed an official cover artist, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve made. Recently I also accepted that it was time to hire a professional editor as well. Coming to terms with spending the money was the first hurdle (along with accepting that I couldn’t do it all myself). But the second hurdle is the waiting.

The editor I’ve chosen is popular (with good reason) so I’ve had to put my plans for unrolling the rewritten first book in The Conjurors Series, along with the almost-finished second book until 2014. That means that the entire series might come out in the same year. It’s so hard to hold back my beautiful new cover and rewrites until I’m really ready to promote the series. It’s also hard to keep the momentum going to begin writing the third book in the series as well, which I planned to release in the late spring/early summer.

All newbie mistakes, I suspect. But it does leave me wondering what other surprises are in store for me in the beguiling world of self-publishing.

For those who have self-published a book, what unexpected hurdles did you run into?

On Retitling My Novel After Publication

shutterstock_152047091My writing kryptonite is naming and titling people and things. From titling my book to naming my villian, I always have to go through an excruciating process that takes hours. I comb through the thesaurus, look up historical references, and poll family and friends. I’ll even admit to carrying around a scrap of paper on my purse full of scratched out titles. What sounds good to me one day sounds cheesy three days later. All that is to say that I’ve decided to retitle the first book in The Conjurors Series from Into the Dark to The Society of Imaginary Friends.

After I wrote the first book in The Conjurors Series, I never gave any thought to self publishing and promoting my novel. I put it on Amazon for the cheapest price they allowed so that my friends and family could read it if they wanted to. Then I promptly forgot about it and moved on with my writing. But after being inspired to finish my series and explore self publishing, I decided it needed a new title. There are roughly 1 billion books titled Into the Dark, and it was no surprise that mine didn’t make the first page of books listed in a search on Amazon or Google. Or the second.

It was time for a title change. This time, I put some real thought into the titles that made sense for my series. Guilds, where people can study various magical professions in the world I created, play a key role in connecting the story from book to book. It made sense to name each book in The Conjurors Series after the guild that played the primary role in that story. Because the Guild called The Society of Imaginary Friends kicks off my heroine’s adventure, it made sense as the title of the first book.

In addition to a new title, I have also invested in professional cover art and made some significant edits to The Society of Imaginary Friends, because my writing has come a long way in the two years since I wrote it. In the next couple of weeks I’ll unveil a new cover, and in November the updated novel and cover will go live.

Have you ever retitled or re-released one of your novels? If so, how did the process turn out for you?

How Not to Approach Choosing a Cover Artist

Picture1When I wrote the first book in The Conjurors Series, I held what turned out to be a naive belief that it would succeed or fail based on the merits of my writing. Now older and (hopefully) wiser, I’m ready to admit that a strong, eye-catching cover is crucial to selling any book – but especially one that you’re self-publishing. If you’re a self-publishing pro, this post is not for you. But if you’re a relative newbie to this world, please learn from my mistakes. Perhaps you’ll save yourself hundreds of strands of hair that you would otherwise pull out your head in frustration.

Unless you’re a gifted artist as well as a writer, don’t create your own cover art.
Even a random person on the street could have done a better job with the cover of my book than I did with my original cover. In my infinite wisdom, I opened ClipArt in PowerPoint, chose an image, and called it a day. To my untrained eye it looked simple and elegant. But friends and family assured me it looked boring and amateurish. When readers agreed, I had to admit that they were right.

Don’t hire someone from O-Desk, Freelancer, etc. unless you have a strong artistic sensibility and know exactly what you want on your cover.
Alas, in my case, my creativity with the written word does not extend to the visual arts. I knew enough to realize that my own cover art wasn’t getting the job done, but figured that surely someone who could draw reasonably well could easily create a dynamite cover. However, without any distinctive guidance from me, or even an understanding if what I was seeing was good, this effort didn’t save me any cash – it was a money sinkhole.

Avoid random web searches for cover artists unless you have the patience of a saint.
After scouring dozens of websites and flipping through hundreds of cover samples, I felt more overwhelmed and less confident about how to fix my cover than ever. I had no idea if the artists whose work I was viewing had been successful in selling books. I was terrified of throwing away more money on an artist who needed guidance from me that I couldn’t provide.

Don’t let your number one consideration when choosing a cover artist be price.
Like a lot of newbies in the self-publishing industry, I’m on a micro budget when it comes to promoting my books. But people more experienced and successful than myself all agree that your cover is the last thing you should cheap out on. I’m not saying you need Dan Brown’s cover artist working for you, but finding someone who can give you a cover that is professional and pleasing can be the difference between success and failure when readers only your see your title and a thumbnail image of your cover before deciding if they want to find out more.

With that being said, there were a few things that did work for me. First was seeing who the pros were using. Some self-published authors thank their cover artists in their acknowledgments or post who their cover artists and editors are on their websites. (And may karma reward them for that!) Another good source was a Goodreads list of recommended cover artists (they have multiple threads on this topic). This was nice because there were a variety of price points. My last tip is to reach out to any friends you have who are artists or at least have a good sense for the visual arts to look at the portfolio of the cover artist  you’re planning to go with before you spend any cash. Worst case scenario, at least you have someone other than yourself to blame if your cover doesn’t come out quite right.

Brand new covers of the first two novels in The Conjurors Series will be posted on my site in October. I hope you come check them out and let me know if I finally got it right!

Jumping into the Rabbit Hole

Alice_in_WonderlandSince I was a kid, I have always been drawn to the story of Lewis Carroll’s (whose real name was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The idea that you could be walking along in a completely ordinary world, and then fall down a hole into an extraordinary one, is mesmerizing.

At night when I can’t fall asleep, I imagine myself falling through Alice’s rabbit hole. As I drop, images flash through my mind of whatever my semi-conscious mind can dream up. Sometimes I find answers to problems in my life or in my writing, and sometimes I am just lulled to sleep by a cascade of pictures that eventually blurs together.

My favorite thing about Alice in Wonderland is Alice herself. One of her defining characteristics is her curiosity, a value that leads her down exciting paths. She isn’t afraid to say yes to something new, and as a result she meets bizarre people and explores strange lands. I have tried to imbue this quality into Valerie, the heroine of The Conjurors, and let her curiosity lead her where it will.

P3240097The real-life inspiration for Valerie is my sister, Cheryl. She has Alice’s curiosity but more brains. Some say that writers create idealized versions of themselves in their main characters, but I realized after finishing the first book in the series that I had unconsciously modeled Valerie’s personality on the most adventurous, fun, compassionate person I know. Her fans call her “Cheryl the Explorer” because she embraces traveling the world and learning about new cultures. She takes smart risks with her life and doesn’t accept the status quo. But best of all, she is kind. She’s someone who will give you the shirt off her back and has a moral compass that always points true north. I just hope Valerie can live up to the person who inspired her.