Character Interviews: Sespian (on fathers, cats, and man-to-man advice)

| Posted in Cut Scenes and Fun Extras |


As many of you know, Amaranthe, Sicarius, Sespian, Maldynado, Tikaya, and several others have been dealing with a few… troubles of late. After the events of the Forged in Blood books, everyone expected a long vacation, but transitioning from an empire to a republic is a difficult business, and there have been a few… incidents.

It’s a little early to go into the specifics, but I’ve managed to pull aside one of the key players in these events, the former emperor Sespian Savarsin, to field some questions. I tried to get the notorious assassin Sicarius to join in the interview as well, but after our last chat together, he was oddly disinterested in speaking with me again. I believe you’ll find Sespian’s point of view interesting, however, and with the help of a number of citizen journalists on my Facebook page, I’ve put together an interesting list of questions for him.

**This interview contains spoilers for earlier books in the series and is recommended for those who have read through Forged in Blood 2.

Sespian Interview

LINDSAY: Greetings, Sespian. Come in. Sit down. Thank you. You’re already being more amenable than your father was in his interview. I appreciate that.


He glances around the room.

He’s here?

LINDSAY: No, no. I was referring to an interview from a couple of years ago. As far as I know, he’s not around. Please feel free to answer your questions openly and honestly.

SESPIAN: Of course. I would do so no matter who is in the room.

A concerned frown crosses his face.

The questions aren’t going to be about him, are they?

LINDSAY: It’s possible his name comes up from time to time, but, no, these are about you.

SESPIAN: About… me? Wouldn’t people be more interested in hearing about recent events in the capital? Or about the transition from empire to republic, as seen by the emperor-turned-common-man? Perhaps some speculation on the future of international relations with the enemies we now seek to make peace with?

LINDSAY: Uh, it’s possible something like that will come up. Not… likely, but possible. Shall we start?

SESPIAN: Suspicious squint. All… right…

LINDSAY: Good. Oxalis asks, “You took Sicarius’s hand at the memorial for Books. That seemed to mark a turning point in your relationship. Did you have a chance to follow up on that before he and Amaranthe left on their vacation? If so, how did that go?”

SESPIAN: That evening… I believed that my father, whether he shows his feelings or not, considered Books a friend, and I wished to express my empathy. I also felt the loss of the professor, though I did not know him as well. It seemed a fitting gesture. After that, Father was busy preparing for his trip with Amaranthe. They left as soon as the voting had been completed. There was not much time for us to d anything together, though I confess, we have very little in common, and it is difficult for me to know what to say to him when we are alone anyway.

LINDSAY: Thank you for your honesty. How about a lighter question? Katie wants to know about Trog. Where did you get him, and how did you train him to leave “presents” for people you don’t like?

SESPIAN: I… believe the “presents” are delivered to people Trog doesn’t like and has little to do with my own wishes. Fortunately, he does have good taste and chooses his allies and enemies wisely. I got him from a breeder on the coast, the same one who once gave my mother a kitten from a similar line. Come to think of it, that one may have occasionally left presents too. I’m quite certain Commander of the Armies Hollowcrest cursed that breeder from time to time.

LINDSAY: An interesting line of cats. Next, Rebekah has a question for you: “Hi Sespian! How are you? My sister and I are wondering how weird it is for you to not be the Emperor. How are you adjusting to civilian life?”

SESPIAN: It’s a relief. I was willing to accept the responsibility of emperor when I believed the right—the obligation—was mine, but it was a great burden that always accompanied me. Now, I need only worry about taking care of myself. And my cat.

Granted, I do miss some of the conveniences of having a cleaning staff slipping in and out of my rooms several times a day. Learning to do laundry was an interesting experience. And keeping my little flat clean has been more challenging than I would have imagined. My whole life, I thought I was a fairly tidy person; it turns out there were just people whisking in at all hours of the day, clearing my clutter and putting things away for me. I have recently learned a new-to-me term: dust bunny.

LINDSAY: Yes, authors deal with such things, too, I fear. Here’s a question from Pw Finkle: “You have grown up quite a bit lately. What was the best piece of advice given to you during this time?”

SESPIAN: Well, I can promise you it wasn’t from Maldynado… Ah, let’s see. You may have heard I’ve gone to school to study architecture. I’ve been a little… concerned about public expectations. That people will either have high expectations because I was the emperor or they’ll believe I was a mindless figurehead and not take anything I do now seriously. It’s hard to dismiss the concerns, but President Starcrest told me, “Figure out what fulfills you, do it to the best of your abilities, and don’t give power to your critics by paying them too much mind.”

LINDSAY: Nice, I’m sure that one will end up in a fortune cookie soon.

SESPIAN: A… what?

LINDSAY: Never mind. I think you can only get them in Nuria. The next question is from Cindy. “What happened to that box of art supplies that Sicarius gave you when you were a kid? Did you use that a lot?”

SESPIAN: Art supplies? That Sicarius gave me? I have no recollection of him giving me anything. I rarely saw him as a child, and when I did… I always found it—him—disturbing.

LINDSAY: You don’t remember having some nice drawing items mysteriously delivered to your bedroom when you were a few years old?

SESPIAN: I… He gazes off thoughtfully.

LINDSAY: Next up, Ronmae asks, “After meeting Amaranthe and her gang, you seemed very calm and cool about it, how do you maintain your composure specially when Maldynado is concerned?”

SESPIAN: Maldynado is a trying individual, but I dealt with many such persons as emperor. Unlike so many of them, there’s no maliciousness about him. For all that it took me a while to adjust to the idea of having an assassin for a father, nobody in the group truly offended me. What they think of me is anybody’s guess.

LINDSAY: Sharni asks, “Now that you are getting along with Sicarius a bit better, what things do the two of you do together to bond?”

SESPIAN: …Bond? Er. Thus far we seem to have most to talk about when there’s someone else present, such as Amaranthe. Our private conversations are generally awkward. I suppose if we’re working together to infiltrate an enemy camp, we can get along without too much trouble. Opportunities for such activities are somewhat limited though.

LINDSAY: Kelly asks, “Do you want to continue your involvement in the Turgonian government now that it is a republic and you don’t have to act as head of state? Are you interested in studying the fields of biopolitics or post-colonialism?”

SESPIAN: At the risk of sounding like my monosyllabic father… No.

LINDSAY: All right, I have a lot more questions here from the citizen journalists that I could ask, but we need to get this out in a timely manner. One last one from Ameera. “Did you have friends growing up? If not, who did you spend a lot of time with and what did you do?”

SESPIAN: I had playmates brought in from a short list of warrior-caste candidates deemed suitable. They—and our parents—seemed to think we should shoot bows, wrestle, run races, and practice gouging each other with wooden swords. I wandered off whenever possible to read or draw.

LINDSAY: Thank you for your time, Sespian. Say hi to Mahliki for us.

SESPIAN: Er, why would… she wish to hear from me?

LINDSAY: Oh, no particular reason.

Authorial smile.


Thanks for reading everyone! Republic will be out within a day or two.

Can Writing and Self Publishing Novellas Be Profitable? (Pros & Cons)

| Posted in Walks with Lindsay |


I’ve got another audio walk here for you guys today. I’m working on a written post on my experience using 99 Designs and also doing a character interview with Sespian (hope to get that out right before publishing Republic), but neither of those are ready to go right now, so I’ll post this instead.

It was a windy day, and I paused a lot on my recording, so I hope things aren’t too disjointed, but I talked about my own experiences writing and publishing novellas and offered some tips for promoting the shorter works, so I hope the authors out there will find this helpful.



Download: Walking with Lindsay #2

I appreciate all the comments and feedback on my first recording. I know the file is lacking meta tags and isn’t available anywhere except here on the site right now, but if I stick with this and post at least five, I’ll look into getting someone to convert the files, make ‘em pretty, and stick them up on iTunes for me. I’ll need to get “album art” done for that too. Just give me some time. Thanks!

Getting Book Reviews and Building a Relationship with Readers

| Posted in Walks with Lindsay |


After a 2-3 year hiatus from podcasting, I was inspired to try the audio thing again after listening to an interview with SF author, Nathan Lowell. Apparently it’s become a new trend for authors to head out for a walk, record some ramblings on their phones, and then upload them to their websites. Well, hey, I walk every day. It’s a requirement when you have two energetic dogs. I usually listen to audiobooks or podcasts, but I thought… what the heck? I could talk about self publishing or my work for ten or fifteen minutes. So I did.

Since I had just released Balanced on the Blade’s Edge, I decided to talk a little bit about that and how it came to have 50 reviews on Amazon in the first week (I also talked about how to get those early reviews when you’re first getting started publishing and a bit about using social media and a newsletter to build a relationship with your readers).

Now let’s see if I can remember how to upload mp3s and get the little player to show up in a blog post…

Download: Walking with Lindsay #1

If anyone sounds vaguely interested in these podcasts and I end up doing more than one, I’ll figure out a way to get the feed up on iTunes. Thanks for listening!



How to Get Your Book into More Categories on Amazon with Keywords

| Posted in Tips and Tricks |


If you’ve published any ebooks through Amazon’s KDP dashboard, you know they allow you to select two categories (i.e. Fantasy/Epic or Science Fiction/Steampunk) for your work, and then they have a box where you can type in seven keywords, though they don’t really say if those keywords can be used to help you show up in the search results or what the deal is. They’re just… there.

If you browse around Amazon, you may also have noticed that there are subcategories for ebooks that aren’t options in the dashboard (i.e. Science Fiction & Fantasy/Fantasy/Coming of Age or Romance/Paranormal/Witches & Wizards). Because some of these categories are so niched down (and because they’re not selectable on the dashboard), the competition can be low. It might only take a 50,000 sales ranking to appear in the Top 100.

So how the heck do you get into them?

I figured out a while ago that fiddling around with the keywords might do it, but at the time I was doing best guess stuff. Like maybe throwing “swords & sorcery” in there would make me appear in Fantasy/Swords & Sorcery. (That one did work, though as I later learned, all I had to plug in was “sword.”)

Then, a couple of months ago, I heard from someone that Amazon KDP had a help page floating around that told you the keywords that you could use to get into those more obscure categories. However, it wasn’t until I heard the Self Publishing Roundtable’s Keyword & Category show that I got the link for it. (Thanks, guys, and I’m glad you’ve got the audios on iTunes as podcasts now.)

Here’s the link for “Selecting Browse Categories” via the KDP dashboard.

I went through and added appropriate keywords to my own books this weekend. I don’t know if it’ll make any difference in sales for me at this point, but it might the next time I run a Bookbub advertisement or release a new title that could potentially do well in a number of categories. The more places you can show up in the Top 100 (or, even better, the Top 20), the better the odds are that your book will be seen and purchased.

Here’s the before and after for an older novel of mine, Encrypted (you can check what categories your book is currently in by scrolling to the bottom of the sales page):




As you can see, the book shows up in twice as many spots now. With my stuff, it doesn’t usually fit into many categories to start with, so there’s a limit to how many I’m going to get, even with tinkering, but the fellow being interviewed on that podcast said he had seen as many as sixteen categories for one of his books. I’m sure that could make a big difference in sales with a new release or recently advertised book that’s ranking high and appearing in scads of categories.

If you experiment and it makes a difference, let us know!


How to Snag Free Review Copies of Republic & Balanced on the Blade’s Edge

| Posted in Ebook News |


If you’ve been following my updates on Twitter or Facebook or keeping up with the newsletter, then you know I’ve been working on a follow-up novel to The Emperor’s Edge series: Republic. This 200,000+ word, six-point-of-view-character epic adventure has been many months in the making, and now it’s almost ready to go (I’m turning the manuscript in to my editor today, and it should be ready to publish in a couple of weeks).

Republic picks up the adventure a few months after Forged in Blood II ends, with Amaranthe, Sicarius, Maldynado, Sespian, Tikaya and her daughter all having stories to tell. Akstyr is off studying on the Kyatt Islands (look for a cameo from him in the Nuria trilogy I’ll be starting later this year), but Basilard will be back in this one too.

Questions to be answered:

Will Amaranthe and Sicarius manage to return the new president’s submarine without getting it blown up? Will the city fall to a threat so great that even the legendary Fleet Admiral Starcrest has no idea how to stop it? Will a new power step in to take advantage of the chaos? Will Sespian be able to find a new career now that he’s not emperor, or is his cat destined to live on alley scraps? Will Basilard finally find a woman who isn’t daunted by his scars? Will Maldynado get a new hat? (Okay, that one is a no-brainer.)

All this and more in the new adventure…

But wait–there’s more (as someone who watched way too many infomercials as a kid, I always wanted to use that line…):

While you’re waiting for Republic, I have an all new steampunk romance to unleash on the unsuspecting world. Balanced on the Blade’s Edge. This is the novel I wrote in two weeks while my beta readers were going over Republic. It took a couple more weeks to get feedback and to do some edits, but it’s ready to go this weekend. In fact, I have review copies ready to hand out right now. (If I sound really excited as I compose this post, it’s because the Starbucks barista accidentally put caffeinated espresso shots in my customary decaf latte *boing, boing*)

Here’s the blurb and cover art (thank you to everyone who voted and helped pick out the winning cover design on Facebook):

Steampunk Romance Cover Art -- Balanced on the Blade's EdgeColonel Ridge Zirkander isn’t the model of military professionalism—he has a tendency to say exactly what’s on his mind, and his record has enough demerits to wallpaper the hull of an airship—but as the best fighter pilot in the Iskandian army, he’s used to a little leniency from his superiors. Until he punches the wrong diplomat in the nose and finds himself issued new orders: take command of a remote prison mine in the inhospitable Ice Blades Mountains. Ridge has never been in charge of anything larger than a flier squadron—what’s he supposed to do with a frozen fortress full of murderers and rapists? Not to mention the strange woman who shows up right before he arrives…

Sardelle Terushan wakes from three hundred years in a mage stasis shelter, only to realize that she is the last of the Referatu, the sorcerers who once helped protect Iskandia from conquerors. Their subterranean mountain community was blown up in a treacherous sneak attack by soldiers who feared their power. Everyone Sardelle ever knew is dead, and the sentient soulblade she has been bonded to since her youth is buried in the core of the mountain. Further, what remains of her home has been infested by bloodthirsty miners commanded by the descendants of the very soldiers who destroyed her people.

Sardelle needs help to reach her soulblade—her only link to her past and her last friend in the world. Her only hope is to pretend she’s one of the prisoners while trying to gain the commander’s trust. But lying isn’t her specialty, especially when the world has changed so much in the intervening centuries, and if Colonel Zirkander figures out who she truly is, he’ll be duty-bound to sentence her to the only acceptable punishment for sorcerers: death.

Excerpt: read the first three chapters here.

How to Get Your Free Review Copies 

So, how do you get free review copies of these books? Basically, show me you’ve reviewed something else of mine.

If you read the blurb for BotBE, and it sounds like your cup of tea, all you have to do to get a review copy is to have reviewed one of my other novels (you could do it right now, or it could be a review you posted two years ago).

Email me the link at BurokerL AT Comcast DOT net (or use the contact form here, but make sure you don’t make a typo when you fill out your own address — that happens more often than you would think, and I’m not able to email people back), and I’ll send you a free copy of BotBE.

If you read and review BotBE before Republic comes out, send me the link for that review, and I’ll put you on the list for a free copy of Republic as well (you should have about two weeks, but I know folks are waiting, so I’ll publish that puppy as soon as my editor sends it back to me!). I’ll send the review copies right before I upload the ebooks to the various stores, so you won’t have to wait.

So basically, a review posted for BotBE in the first week or two it’s out gets you a free copy of Republic. :)

And just to be clear, these should be honest reviews — I hope you guys will enjoy the new novel, but you certainly don’t have to post a 5-star review to get a copy of Republic.

If you’ve read the BotBE blurb, and it doesn’t sound like a story you would care to read, stay tuned. I’ll post another opportunity to snag some review copies before Republic is ready to go.

Valid review spots: Amazon, Goodreads, Kobo, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, iTunes (it always takes a while for books to make their way to iTunes from the distributor, so email me if you’re trying to post a review, but BotBE hasn’t appeared there yet), your blog, or a blog where you’ve been invited to guest post.

Not interested in reviews, and just want to read?

You can grab BotBE for $2.99 at Smashwords, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon (iTunes coming soon)