Friday, 29 May 2015

May Reading Round-Up

The Shadow Cabinet (Shades of London, #3)

I loved the first two books in Maureen Johnson's Shades of London series, and I couldn't wait to get into the third. I loved the characters, the witty dialogue and the spooky ghosts, and the plot kept me on the edge of my seat. I honestly couldn't predict how things would turn out!

Starborn


This debut epic fantasy caught my attention because of the premise. There are a few familiar tropes, like a protagonist with a "different" magical gift and visions, but the approach to magic is unique and interesting. The setting and magic system are definitely the strongest aspects, and the author builds an interesting world.

Rogue (Talon #2)

I was a little disappointed in the first book in Julie Kagawa's new series, but I loved the dragon mythology enough to give the second instalment a try. Rogue is a big improvement on the first book, far more action-packed and exciting. From the first page, the pace is relentles. Garret's sentenced to execution for betraying the Order of St George and sparing Ember's life, so she and the rogue dragon, Riley, plan to rescue him. We get the addition of Dante's POV, Ember's brother, as well as flashbacks to Riley's time as an agent for Talon. With the set-up out of the way, the story races along, with that addictive quality of Kagawa's writing. I'm invested in this series now, and interested to see where it leads!


The Girl at Midnight (The Girl at Midnight, #1)

I love stories which combine magic and modernity, and I was swept up in the compelling world of the Avicen and the Drakharin. I absolutely adored all the characters. Echo is a strong heroine, a pickpocket human adopted by the Avicen, a race of feathered immortals at war with the part-dragon Drakharin.We're also introduced to Caius, the Dragon Prince on the enemy's side who just wants the fighting to end, his bloodthirsty sister, and his loyal companion Dorian. The side characters are all given enough development that we're rooting for their unlikely alliance when circumstances drive them to join forces to find the mythical firebird and bring an end to the fighting.

The sense of setting is strong, and Melissa Grey builds up a vivid picture of a world within our own which is entirely convincing - just like the best modern fantasy there is. With that having been said, I noticed some fairly significant similarities with another YA urban fantasy series, though the writing and characterisation are good enough for me to overlook it.

A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #1)

I'm a fan of Sarah J. Maas's Throne of Glass series, and I was excited to read ACOTR! I admit I don't always like fairytale retellings if they stay too close to the original. Luckily, this wasn't the case with ACOTR, in which Maas creates a stunning new world populated by three-dimensional characters and some genuinely terrifying villains. The opening is action-packed, but as I'm not a huge fan of romance-centric plots, I felt the pace lagged a bit in places until the 2/3 mark, when all hell broke loose. From then on, I was riveted! Feyre is a great heroine, strong yet vulnerable amongst the dangerous faeries. The worldbuilding is vivid and when the overarching conflict comes in, the pace is relentless. An engrossing dark fairytale with excellent characterisation!

Avalon (Avalon, #1)

Wow! I was in the mood for some space sci-fi, and Avalon's been on my TBR list for a while. The first in Mindee Arnett's YA SF duology gripped me from the first chapter! A fabulous twisty adventure which kept me hooked from beginning to end.

End of Days (Penryn & the End of Days, #3)

I've been waiting for the conclusion to Susan Ee's epic Angelfall series for what feels like forever, and the finale was just as good as I hoped. I'm sad it's over!

An Ember in the Ashes

There was a lot of hype surrounding this book, but it's definitely well-deserved. I was completely sucked into the compelling, brutal world of the story. The characters are all fleshed-out and have their own motivations. The pace is pulse-pounding, and the plot grabbed me and didn't let go until the final page. It's rare I'm so completely swept away by a book, but I need a sequel!

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Five Tips for Success as a Self-Published Author by Susan Kaye Quinn

Susan Kaye Quinn's Indie Author Survival Guide was one of the most helpful resources I found when I was researching indie publishing, and now she's releasing an updated edition! Here's a post from Susan on her top tips for success as a self-published author.


Can you spot the self-published titles?
Hint: they all are. 
(Caveat: A.G. Riddle started out indie but is now published through Amazon's 47North imprint along with Marko Kloos)

The truth is that self-published titles now regularly top the charts - if not outright dominate them. Successful self-published titles have great covers and lots of fervent fans - often the only way to distinguish them from traditionally published titles is the publisher listing in the description (and the price - indie titles are usually less than $5.99 for single titles).

How do you become one of these successful indie authors? Hard work, luck, and educating yourself about how the indie marketplace works.

Here are FIVE TIPS to get you started. For a full run-down on how to launch your indie author career, see my Indie Author Survival Guide (Second Edition now available). To take your indie author career to the next level, pre-order my For Love or Money: Crafting an Indie Author Career (releases 7.14).

TIP #1: Study the Bestsellers - In both craft and business, studying successful people will help you discern the ingredients of success. Always be striving to take your craft up a level - by craft I mean storytelling, not just the way you string words together. Because as much as we like to disparage that poorly written erotica book at the top of the charts, I guarantee that good stories well told actually do sell. (Alternatively, if you want to chase the latest trend, that's possible now  - there's no sin in giving readers more of what they want, but it's nowhere near as easy as you think.) As far as business, look who is selling in your genre and what they did to get there. Don't follow what people say - look at what they actually do. The actions of successful people often fly in the face of conventional wisdom. (I welcome you to look at my own path to success as well as many other indie authors - often the most successful are not the ones offering advice about it! #yesIseetheirony )

TIP #2: Be a Professional - Don't dabble. Don't dip your toe into indie publishing with a short story that's not going to sell. Go full cannon-ball jump into the pond with professional covers, formatting, editing, the works. Make sure your novel can comfortably sit in the top 100 of your category. This will require up-front investment, but most books can be well-published for under $1000 - and I know of no other legit business you can start for that little money invested. Don't skimp. (Note: on the other hand, don't throw money away on a $3000 cover that will be hard to recoup; be sensible.)

TIP #3: Launch With a Series - You don't have to pre-write an entire trilogy and release the books one month apart... but that's an option now, with indie publishing. If you can write a novel in six months, you could publish the first book, then write and publish Books 2 and 3 within a year. I've seen both models be successful (note: don't wait more than six months between books). Make the commitment to quickly build a backlist and get books into readers' hands. Delivering three connected novels to readers within a year is a strong way to launch a career (note: I'm talking novels here, not novellas or short stories or serials - those are fun, but not career-launchers).

TIP #4: Launch in Amazon then Go Wide -  There's a lot to learn in indie publishing, so staying focused can be key to staying on track - plus launching a new series in the Kindle Unlimited system gives new authors/new series a boost in visibility. Use this to get your footing. Then, when you've established your brand as an author, you can expand to the other retailers (Nook, Kobo, iTunes, Google Play). You'll be a veteran at that point and in a good position to weigh the pros and cons of exclusivity vs. reach.

TIP #5: Never Stop Writing - the single most important thing you can do in your career is write the next book. Generating new IP (Intellectual Property) is the one thing only you can do - the rest can be outsourced. It's tempting to get bogged down in all the latest and greatest changes in the industry, but the biggest lever you can pull to move sales is to launch a new book. Or an entirely new series. You want to study the bestsellers, but always remember: your biggest asset is your uniqueness. Make sure you're continually feeding your creativity, reaching for that next level with your work, bringing out the fullest expression of your abilities. Spend the bulk of your time doing creative work - reading, writing, watching movies, taking workshops, using craft books to boost your skills, exploring new forms, learning how to write faster... whatever works for you to elevate your craft and increase your enjoyment of writing. This is the creative life you want, yes?

I really should have started with TIP #0: Decide What Mountain You Want To Climb - I have an entire section in my Indie Author Survival Guide about making a Mission Statement so that you know you're climbing the right hill before you set off in dogged pursuit of the success you think you want. 
Knowing what will make you happy, then having a plan to get there? That's the only key to success you actually need.

p.s. if all of this terrifies you, I understand. Truly. Watch this webinar on facing your fears and don't let that hold you back. 

Susan Kaye Quinn is the author of the Singularity Series, the Mindajck Trilogy and the Debt Collector serial (as well as other speculative fiction works) and has been indie publishing since 2011. She?s not an indie rockstar or a breakout success: she?s one of thousands of solidly midlist indie authors making a living with their works. The Indie Author Survival Guide is based on her experience in self-publishing fiction?the First Edition was published in 2013, the Second Edition in 2015, updated to account for changes in the industry. It?s a guide to help her fellow writer-friends take their own leaps into the wild (and wonderful) world of indie publishing? and not only survive, but thrive. Facebook | Tumblr | Website | All of Susan's Fiction
Indie Author Survival Guide (Second Edition) now available
For Love or Money: Crafting an Indie Author Career - preorder for 7.14


Those are some great tips (especially #5, which is pretty much my life goal! :D). I'm pre-ordering For Love or Money, which is aimed at authors who've already published one or more books and want to make a career out of it. But I'd absolutely recommend the Survival Guide to anyone considering indie publishing or just starting out!

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Currently...

It's time for another fortnightly "Currently..." update about what I'm doing right now! :)

Loving

Not having the plague. :P I've had two killer viruses in three weeks, which completely knocked me out. It's nice to be able to write without being all fuzzy-headed from flu...

Also, finishing my draft! Technically, it was a rewrite (I'm reworking a duology as a trilogy, so I split the second book in two and turned the first half into a complete draft), but it's nice to have half the battle done. ^_^ Next up: Book 3!

Reading

End of Days by Susan Ee, the third book in the Penryn & the End of Days series (I reviewed Angelfall way back in 2012!). Such an addictive and amazing post-apocalyptic series!

I also read An Ember in the Ashes, which was... amazing. There's been a lot of hype around this book, but it's definitely well-deserved!

Watching

I finished Daredevil, which I loved! Every series seems to be ending at the moment - Arrow, The Flash, Agents of SHIELD... But I've started watching Gotham, so that's keeping me entertained.

Listening to

Angry heavy metal, because I'm writing about the end of the world. ;)

Thinking about

My WIP. Now I'm onto the final book of the trilogy after finishing rewriting the second (evil cliffhanger alert *muahahaha*), so I've been re-outlining and made a start on the draft.

Also, my next fantasy series. I've been working on the worldbuilding and magic system since February/March, so this one's slow-going. But I'm hoping to start writing the first book this summer!

Anticipating

YALC! I know it isn't until July, but I already have my tickets booked, and I can't wait to go back to London and meet some of my favourite authors! :D

Wishing

I could concentrate on writing while preparing to send out review copies of my next book (Nemesis, Alliance Book 2)! *flails*

Making me happy

Well, Darkness Watching was on sale last week, combined with a BookBub ad, and managed to hit the top #1 in two categories! O_O Wow. I never expected a book that's been out (and, well, not selling) since 2013 to suddenly get a new surge of life, so I'm pretty thrilled with the results! YAY READERS! ^_^

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Darkness Watching sale and Alliance short story news!

I have two exciting updates today! Firstly, Darkness Watching is on its first Kindle Countdown promo this week, so it'll be available for only 99 cents for the next two days! Be sure to grab a copy here, if you haven't already. I was lucky enough to be picked up by Bookbub so the book's getting an even bigger boost than usual, and it's all thanks to you lovely readers/reviewers. Promo sites like Bookbub look at the reviews first when deciding whether to promote an author, so every single one makes a difference! :)

Secondly, I've mentioned a free Alliance short story exclusively for newsletter subscribers... and it goes out in today's newsletter! Passages: An Alliance Short Story takes place shortly before the events of Adamant, when Kay's final exam at the Academy takes a detour into the monster-infested swamps of Cethrax. It was so much fun to write! Sign up here for your free copy. :)

And I've set up a review sign-up form (which you can access under the "For Readers" tab above) to make it easier to sign up for review copies of my books. If you're interested in supporting Nemesis (Alliance, #2) when it releases next month and reviewing future Alliance books, this is the place to sign up! I'll be updating the form whenever I have another confirmed release.

Friday, 8 May 2015

Blog Tour Stop: The Demon's Deadline by Tori Centanni

The Demons Deadline
Welcome to the tour for The Demon’s Deadline by Tori Centanni. This is a young adult paranormal novel for ages 14+. It releases April 2nd from OddRocket.
••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
DemonsDeadlineCover
The Demon’s Deadline by Tori Centanni
 
Nicki almost died in the car accident. Instead she was offered a deal.
 
Now she works for the demon Azmos, delivering his mysterious envelopes all over town. Only her boyfriend Cam knows the truth about her after-school job—Cam, who’s (thankfully) as understanding as he is gorgeous and smart. Nicki’s never had Cam’s bold ambitions; her only talent is guessing the killer in a horror movie. All she wants is to graduate high school, marry Cam someday, and live happily ever after… but lately her work for the demon’s pulling her into deeper danger. Danger that threatens her life and also the bonds that matter most to her. Her best friend Melissa, whom she’s forced to lie to. Her grieving father. And Cam.
 
But is it even possible to free herself from the contract that saved her life?
 
And what if she did manage to untangle herself from the arcane world forever — without it, what kind of life does Nicki have left? Once you’ve seen death and darkness, once you know that magic is real, how can you ever go back to being a normal teenager?
 
It’s finally time Nicki faced her own demons….
 
••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tori Centanni is a nerd girl and a recovering goth. She likes dark, quirky stories with elements of humor. When not reading or writing, she can be found baking, watching too much television, and wrangling cats. She lives in Seattle, WA.

AUTHOR ONLINE: Website | Twitter | Tumblr | Goodreads | Instagram
••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••
GIVEAWAY

Tori will be giving away $20 Amazon Gift Card (INT) to a winner of the below Rafflecopter.
  a Rafflecopter giveaway

This event was organized by CBB Book Promotions.

My review

The Demon's Deadline is an engaging read, perfect for fans of YA paranormal. Nicki survived the car accident that killed her mother, but only because she made a deal with a demon. Azmos can show up at any moment, always to ask her to deliver mysterious envelopes for him. But she gets curious about what the envelopes contain, and her friends start asking questions.

Nicki is a relatable teen and the other characters are well-developed, including her dad and her boyfriend, Cam. She has to keep her deal with the demon secret from her friends, but circumstances threaten to expose her secrets. I like that she has a relatively ordinary life aside from her deal with the demon, which is refreshing to read in YA when the protagonist is usually unique and special.

This is a quick read, but packed with character development and mystery. I wanted to know all about the demons and how they operated, and to find out what happened to Nicki and the other characters. This is a complete story, but with plenty to explore in future books. Recommended! 

Friday, 1 May 2015

April Reading Round-Up

Balanced on the Blade's Edge (Dragon Blood #1)

I loved Lindsay Buroker's Emperor's Edge series, so I couldn't resist picking up her Dragon's Blood collection when I found it for only 99p (for three full-length novels, that's a bargain!). These character-driven stories are the perfect mix of action and adventure in a steampunk fantasy setting.

Nice Dragons Finish Last (Heartstrikers, #1)

I picked up this book on the title alone - anything with dragons automatically grabs my attention! This is an urban fantasy set in an alternative modern-day world with magic and supernatural creatures, and follows a dragon banished to the human world by his ruthless clan. An engaging story with great characters!

The Martian

This came highly recommended, so I picked it up before a long train ride and ended up reading it in one sitting! SO good.
25068940

I also picked up the FIERCE bundle of indie fantasy titles, which kept me occupied for a while!

This month, I've mostly been rereading some of my favourites - The Raven Boys, The Dream Thieves, Sabriel... all the fantasy awesomeness. I'm starting a blog feature soon with my top reads from certain genres (like my post on multiple-universe fantasy books a few months ago), so look out for that coming up! :)