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Patterns in the Dark Audiobook Available

| Posted in My Ebooks |

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patterns-in-the-dark-audiobookHello, audiobook fans!

As you may already know, Podium Publishing is producing my Dragon Blood series. If you haven’t grabbed it yet, the first three books are available in one collection (a crazy good deal if you buy with Audible credits or if you already own the ebook, since you can add the audio for only $2.99 through Amazon).

Now, the fourth book in the series, Patterns in the Dark, is also available.

You can pick it up at Audible, Amazon, or iTunes.

Thanks for listening!

5 Tips for Getting Accepted by Bookbub

| Posted in Book Marketing |

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I mentioned on Twitter last night that I’d snagged another Bookbub ad for one of my boxed sets, and someone asked what the trick was, since they had been trying for years to get accepted. I thought I’d do a write-up with some tips, since I’ve had 20-odd ads with them over the years, between my pen name and my regular name (there’s one tip: you can technically have two Bookbubs in a month if you have two names). I don’t apply every month, but I do it as often as it makes sense. Maybe one day I’ll have enough series out there that I can keep cycling through my Book 1s and have a different one to promo each month of the year.

For those who haven’t heard of Bookbub, it’s the one sponsorship site out there that pays off for most authors who use it, meaning you’ll often make your money back and more on Day 1 or 2 of the ad if you’re doing a 99-cent title. If you’re advertising a free book that’s the first in the series, you’ll often make the money back and more in the sales of the subsequent books, though that usually takes a little longer, as people have to work through the series. Bookbub is also the most expensive site out there, with ads in some categories costing over a thousand dollars. But right now, the size of their subscriber base is far, far larger than that of any of the other sponsorship sites.

As you can imagine, they’re popular with authors wanting to purchase ads, too, and they hand at more rejections than acceptances. So, what’s the trick to getting an ad? I’m sure most, if not all, of this is already out there, so I’ll attempt to keep my list short. I’ve also included a video of an interview with a Bookbub employee at the end, and she answers a lot of questions about what they’re looking for and why some books are chosen over others.

1. Have a professional cover

They get tons and tons of submissions and can afford to be picky. I’m a subscriber to the sci-fi and fantasy lists, and it’s super rare to see a cover that looks homemade (usually when it happens, it’s an old trad published book!). Plenty of indie books get accepted, but they all have covers that look like a pro made them.

If you have a truly awesome cover (and sometimes it’s hard to self-judge on this), your odds can only get better.

2. Make sure you’re offering a big discount

I’ve had $2.99 books that I wanted to drop to 99 cents get accepted, but they’ve stated straight out in interviews that they want to give their subscribers the best deal possible. I believe this is why the boxed sets get accepted so often–a lot of these are 6.99 and more, and the authors are discounting them to 99 cents. If you’re selling your ebook at 99 cents or 2.99 right now and planning to apply eventually, you may want to bump the price up to 3.99 or 4.99 for the three months prior.

3. Make sure you’re promoting Book 1

Unless you have the kind of open-ended series where someone can jump in at any point, make sure you’re applying with the first book in your series. (If it is an open-ended series, I would mention that in the comments box.) Bookbub has specifically stated that they prefer Book 1s.

4. Have a LOT of reviews

I’ve had books accepted where there are less than 100 reviews on Amazon, but it just seems to be much more likely that you’ll get a spot if it’s clear that your book is already popular and that lots of readers have liked it. The more competitive the category, the more true this appears to be.

Yes, it’s a chicken and an egg thing — how do you get that many reviews before you’ve used something like Bookbub and gotten massive exposure? If you’re struggling to get reviews, consider doing a free run and using some of the smaller and less picky sponsorship sites to get some exposure to your book at the same time. Also, in the back of the book, politely ask your readers to leave a review. Believe it or not, that does make people more inclined to do so.

I’ve heard that Bookbub looks at reviews on Goodreads as well as Amazon and some other sites in determining whether to accept a title, so if you don’t have much going on over at GR, you might consider doing some giveaways there of physical books or just asking your regular readers to leave reviews there.

5. Make sure you’re a good match for one of their categories

With the stuff I write under my regular name, it’s easy. It’s all fantasy. I request the fantasy category.

With my pen name, things get trickier. It’s science fiction (space opera) romance, and they often balk at the idea of putting those kinds of books into their sci-fi category (I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s dominated by male subscribers).

The first two times the pen name got Bookbub ads, they insisted on putting the books into paranormal romance. That’s usually vampires and werewolves and the like, and the stories are set on Earth and have magic in them (in short, they’re fantasy). I didn’t think my space adventures would be a good fit. I paid for the ads anyway, because even a bad Bookbub experience tends to pay for itself or at least get you a lot of exposure, but they definitely underperformed compared to what I was used to. I knew that even with the romance element, the pen name stuff would do better in straight up SF.

So… when it came time to submit a boxed set, I redid the cover and gave it a pure space opera look (stars, a planet, a space ship!) with no sexy shirtless guys or couples in the clinch. I also composed a blurb that mentioned that romance was included (along with adults scenes), but which played up the adventure sci-fi aspect. The boxed set got in, and it did extremely well.

Tip: it’s tougher to get a Bookbub ad with a KU title, but if you can, you’ll probably do really well running it as a Countdown Deal, since you earn 70% on that 99-cent book instead of 35%, and you’ll also get a lot of extra borrows.

Note: you may be asking if it’s worth redoing your blurb and maybe even your cover just to have a better shot at fitting into a Bookbub category. It probably is, not just because of Bookbub, but because the book might very well perform better in general if it seems more inline with a specific category’s tropes. Sadly, originality isn’t usually what sells books. An original story on the inside is fine, but in general, people seem to be more likely to buy more of what they already know they love!

If you have any other Bookbub acceptance tips, please leave them in the comments. Now, here’s that interview and a couple of links to helpful articles on the Bookbub blog too:

Shattered Past, a New Fantasy Adventure Novel (links and excerpt)

| Posted in My Ebooks |

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While I was debating whether to write any more novels with Ridge, Sardelle, Cas, Tolemek, etc., I decided (a beta reader may have convinced me) to write another side story, this time with Therrik getting a chance to be the hero (or maybe anti-hero?). And he’s not alone. I’ve brought in a new heroine to add to the cast.

If you’re looking for a new action-adventure fantasy novel to read, one with a little romance, then here’s the blurb and the first chapter of Shattered Past:

ShatteredPastWebAn elite forces officer with a dreadful reputation.
A bookish paleontologist with a love for mysteries.
An ancient stronghold full of secrets that will take both of them to unearth.

Professor Lilah Zirkander (yes, she’s related to the famous pilot, and no, she can’t get him to autograph your undergarments) is looking forward to a summer in the paleontology lab, researching and cataloging new fossils. But that summer takes an unexpected turn when the king sends her into the Ice Blades to a secret mine where ancient dragon bones have been discovered. Rumor has it that they’re cursed and dangerous, but Lilah is more concerned about dealing with the outpost commander, a fierce officer with the temperament of a crabby badger.

As punishment for irking the king, Colonel Vann Therrik is overseeing the hardened criminals working in the remote Magroth Crystal Mines. He would like a chance to redeem himself—and escape the loathsome duty station—but nothing is going his way. Cursed fossils have delayed production, miners are trying to escape, and now a scientist has shown up, making demands on his time. Worse, she’s the cousin of his nemesis General Zirkander. As if one Zirkander in his world wasn’t bad enough.

Investigating the fossils leads Lilah and Vann into the depths of Magroth Mountain where centuries-old secrets lurk, and a long-forgotten threat stalks the passages. To have any chance at survival, they’ll have to work together and perhaps learn that neither is what the other expected.

Available at: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks, Google Play, and Smashwords.

Chapter 1

Professor Lilah Zirkander walked down the aisles between the desks, setting exams facedown in front of students who alternated between looking warily at her and gazing longingly at the clock. She stood between them and their summer vacation. Well, they stood between her and an exciting summer project too.

“For those of you who need to pad your academic résumés—or need extra coursework to complete your degree—Professor Haytar has informed me that we’ll need a couple of assistants for our summer project,” Lilah said.

“Are you going out to the field again, Professor?” Natashi, a third-year student, asked. She was one of the few students who had seemed to enjoy the class, taking it because of an interest in the subject matter, rather than because it satisfied a math requirement, without actually requiring much math. As if math was something to shy away from. Hmmph.

“No, the project will take place in the science lab.”

Lilah handed out the last exam to the sandal-wearing boy in swimming trunks who had drawn his answer to the last essay question. Had it been an anatomically correct drawing, she might have awarded a small amount of credit, but his dragon skeleton looked more like a lizard skeleton, and it included genitalia completely inappropriate to either.

“Most of our government funding was siphoned off for military use this year,” Lilah added when Natashi’s face fell with disappointment, “so we can’t afford any projects that involve travel.”

Lilah also found the news disappointing, since she enjoyed her annual escapes from the campus, but a quiet summer without any students to teach would be appealing too. She secretly hoped that nobody took her up on the offer for extra credit. It wasn’t that she didn’t like the kids, but teaching left her feeling fraught. Research was so much more appealing than dealing with people, especially young people. They were so… recent. And mouthy. Who could fathom them and enjoy their company? She much preferred fossils.

“We will be undertaking an intensive cataloging project in the lab. All those fossils that were unearthed in the Sundaran Ice Field last summer are waiting to be studied and labeled for a museum exhibit this fall.”

“Dragon fossils?” the student with the propensity for drawing asked, his gaze jerking from the window to Lilah’s face for a rare moment of eye contact.

“It’s an amazingly complete collection of Glophopteris rugoniana specimens.”

“Gloph-what?”

The student behind him slapped him on the back. “Plants, you idiot. It was on the test.”

“Ferns, to be exact,” Lilah said. “Giant ferns from more than three million years ago. Iskandoth used to be quite the tropical haven.”

Several sets of shoulders slumped. Lilah admitted that fern fossils didn’t pack the museum the way that dragon bones did, but there was so much to learn from studying them. And dragons were frustrating. She had given ten years of her life to trying to identify their ancestors so someone could complete their phylogenetic tree in a manner that made sense. Alas, she had never found the missing link. Plants had proven less of a mystery, thanks to the fact that their fossils were so much more easily found.

Shouts and cheers and the stamping of feet came from the hallway, some lenient professor letting his or her class out early. Typically, Lilah would not be disposed to do the same thing, but when two-dozen hopeful sets of eyes turned in her direction, she sighed and relented—it wasn’t as if those distracted brains would process anything else she said today.

“You can come see me after class if you’re interested in the summer work or in my paleobotany class in the fall,” Lilah said and waved toward the door. “Go. Enjoy your—”

The rest of her words were buried in the slamming of books, rustling of clothing, and overall noise of a mass exodus. Lilah dropped her arm and headed to her desk. Let them enjoy their youth. She planned to enjoy the solitude of a campus largely free of noisy students.

“Professor Zirkander?” Natashi asked. She was the lone student left in the room, and she looked oddly nervous as she clutched her books to her chest and smiled tentatively.

“Yes? Are you interested in the cataloging project?” Lilah liked Natashi more than her other students. She studied hard, earned good marks on her papers, and showed a genuine interest in the field. She also dressed appropriately for a place of learning, eschewing the swimming trunks and sandals fashion that had cropped up of late.

“Maybe, ma’am, but I was also wondering… uhm, you’re related to General Zirkander, the pilot, aren’t you?”

“He’s my cousin,” Lilah said warily, having a hunch as to where the conversation was going. She endured such inquiries at least once a month. Multiple times a week after a newspaper article highlighted the actions of Wolf Squadron in driving off some Cofah attack farther up the coast. “I don’t know him well,” she added, waving vaguely toward the north. The capital where the flier pilots were based was more than two hundred miles up the coast.

“You don’t visit him?”

“Why would I do that? I don’t need anything from the capital. I don’t even have a horse for traveling that far.”

“But he’s General Zirkander!” Natashi said with the dreamy look that suggested she probably kept a few newspaper clippings of him in her notebook, ones that highlighted his face with hearts drawn around it.

“I can’t imagine what we would talk about.”

Lilah distinctly remembered Ridge—Ridgewalker, thanks to his parents’ fondness for quirky names—teasing her for reading books instead of playing with the other kids at one of those dreaded family get-togethers they had endured as children. He was an only child and had been delighted to run around with age mates, hurling balls like a fool. Lilah, with three older brothers, hadn’t been nearly as enamored with the idea of siblings and playmates.

“Oh.” Natashi bit her lip. “Well, uhm, just in case, would you be able to get his autograph for me if you happen to see him?”

Lilah forced herself not to roll her eyes. She was thirty-seven now. Entirely too mature for eye rolling. “If you haven’t graduated by the time I see him next, I’ll keep it in mind.” Along with the fifty-odd similar requests she’d had in the last year. At least Natashi didn’t pull out a bra and brazenly suggest that Ridge might like to sign it.

A throat cleared in the doorway. A short-haired, clean-shaven man in an army uniform leaned in, looking at the student and then at Lilah.

“Professor Zirkander?” he asked.

“Yes?” Lilah waved the man in, though she couldn’t imagine what would have brought him to the science and history college. Classes? There was a small navy outpost a couple of miles outside of town, where soldiers visited to practice sea-based exercises, but they did not usually have the time or interest to enroll. “You’re not looking for General Zirkander’s signature, too, are you?”

“Uh, no, ma’am. I already have that.” He lifted a beige folder as he walked down an aisle toward her desk. He stopped a few paces away, clasped his hands and his folder behind his back, and looked at Natashi. “I can wait, but I need to speak with you in private when you’re done, ma’am.”

He nodded at Natashi, giving her a slight smile. He wasn’t much older than she was, and he was handsome in his tidy, pressed uniform and his polished boots. Natashi would do much better to stare dreamily at him, rather than at pictures of someone who had crossed forty already.

“I’ll send you a message about the summer project, Natashi.”

Lilah dismissed her student with a nod, curious as to what was in this soldier’s folder. She was inclined to think uncharitably of the military, especially since they had been getting so much of what should have been the college’s funding of late, but she was sure this youngster hadn’t had anything to do with it. Besides, he had a sweet face and reminded her of Lieutenant Bakstonis from the Time Trek series. She wondered if her visitor had read the popular books and would understand the reference.

As soon as Natashi disappeared, shutting the door on her way out, the soldier opened the folder. “My name is Lieutenant Sleepy, ma’am. I’m from Tiger Squadron, and I’m here to fly you to the capital.”

“Pardon?”

“Sorry, it’s a nickname. You can call me Lieutenant Derkonith, if you like. Or Jhav.” He smiled and glanced at her neck, where she still wore the promise necklace her late husband had given her. At least, she thought that was where he was looking. Breasts weren’t far from necks, after all, and a lot of male gazes got hung up on her chest, no matter how demurely she dressed. At least the young men—students, as well as soldiers—weren’t usually impertinent enough to grab, bump, or make assumptions that her chest was available for handling. She’d had to snap at a couple of the distinguished professors over the years and had earned a reputation for being… difficult. As long as they let her keep researching and publishing papers, they could call her whatever they wished.

“My confusion wasn’t derived from your name, Lieutenant, but rather from your belief that you’re flying me somewhere.”

“Oh. Well, that’s in the orders, ma’am. I’m to allow you time to pack clothing and to collect whatever tools and equipment you need.”

“How generous of you. What happens if I refuse to go with you?” Lilah accepted the paper, so she could see for herself what this was about.

“He said you wouldn’t, ma’am, especially on account of your classes being finished today.”

“He? General Zirkander?” She bristled at the idea of a cousin she hadn’t spoken to in nearly five years making assumptions about her.

“Uhm, King Angulus, ma’am.”

She blinked and stared down at the paper, glancing at the signature on the bottom. General Zirkander’s messy scrawl was on there, yes, but King Angulus Masonwood III had also signed the page. Nerves twisted in her belly. What could the king want with her? She’d never met the man or even been in the capital for one of his public speeches.

Reading the entire document might help. She started at the top, mumbling to herself as she skimmed it. “…your presence humbly requested… possible dragon fossils unearthed… top-secret facility… determine if the bones are legitimate, and if so, if they should be removed for study or if demolitions can continue.” She gaped up at the pilot. “Demolitions?

“I don’t know anything about the facility or the demolitions, ma’am. I’m just here to give you a ride to the capital.”

“Is that where the bones were discovered?”

“No, ma’am. But we’ll pick up General Zirkander there. Oh, I was told to tell you to pack warmly.”

Lilah looked toward the courtyard, which was lined by lavender bushes that had been blooming for weeks already. “Somewhere in the mountains?” she guessed.

The pilot shrugged. “I’m just a lieutenant, ma’am. They don’t tell us much. I assume the general will give you more details. But I do know enough to recommend that if you have any weapons, you may want to pack them too.”

Weapons?” That was almost as alarming as the idea of demolitions in an area of scientific importance. Were they going somewhere that wild animals would be a problem? She did have a collection of hunting rifles, though she hadn’t been out on safari since Taryn had passed away, so she hadn’t practiced with them in years. It was rare for rhinos and wildebeests to rampage through the streets of Port Yenrem.

“Do you have any, ma’am? The general said he’d send a bodyguard along, but it might not be a bad idea if you take a pistol or at least a dagger. In case, uhm. Well, I’m not supposed to know this, but I heard the general growl something about Colonel Therrik being in charge of where you’re going.”

The way the pilot said the name made Lilah think she should be familiar with it. She knew of a few historically significant Therriks, but hadn’t run into a modern person with the name. Was it some other soldier who was mentioned often in the newspapers? If so, she wouldn’t know about it, since she much preferred historical texts to current events.

“I’m sure you’ll be fine, ma’am. I shouldn’t have said anything to alarm you. Besides, the king said he’ll give you some orders to take with you, orders that will ensure Therrik is polite to you.”

The man had to be forced to be polite to a woman? That didn’t sound promising.

“Is this Colonel Therrik not someone known to cooperate with visitors from academia?”

The lieutenant rubbed his jaw, as if in memory of a painful punch. “I think he’s more likely to eat visitors from academia.”

~

If you want to keep reading, please grab Shattered Past from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks, Google Play, or Smashwords.

Dragon Blood Bonus Scene #4: A Fowl Proposal

| Posted in Cut Scenes and Fun Extras |

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The final bonus scene in the series is here! Also, for those who were wondering if Soulblade would be the last Dragon Blood, I’m almost positive that I’m going to write one more with all of the main characters before letting them retire. Also, look for Shattered Past, a side novel with Therrik and a new heroine, which will be out after January 22nd.

Read first:

Dragon Blood Bonus Scene #4: A Fowl Proposal

General Ridgewalker Zirkander did not usually pilot his flier over the capital and land in the street in front of his house, but this was a special occasion. He made sure his picnic basket was still secure, then hopped out of the craft, pleased that a couple hours of daylight remained. Once on the ground, he touched his breast pocket–again. The bulge nestled inside reassured him. He had left work early to visit Azerta’s Fine Jewelry and pick up the custom-made promise necklace for Sardelle.

Dragon Blood Bonus Scene #3: Fowl Revelations

| Posted in Cut Scenes and Fun Extras |

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This is the third in the series of Dragon Blood bonus scenes set between Soulblade and Shattered Past. You can read the first one here and the second one here.

Dragon Blood Bonus Scene #3: Fowl Revelations

General Ridgewalker Zirkander flopped down in his comfortable-if-hideous chair in the duck blind, groaning as he draped a leg over the armrest and settled in. He had been working non-stop for the last two weeks, and it hadn’t been the enjoyable kind of work, such as patrolling the shoreline, hunting down and shooting enemy aircraft. No, he had been lecturing at the academy, choosing graduating officers for the squadrons, training everyone on the new models of fliers that were rolling out, and traveling all over Iskandia for inspections. He’d hated inspections when he had been the one being inspected, and he found the rigmarole even more tedious as a general. Instead of enduring one inspection, he had to endure one at every base he visited.