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Update and Angel Stakes cover reveal

The first featured image is Andrew discussing handling weapons with Maria at White Box Studio.

 

Inside Straight

I’ve completed my major edit pass and the text has gone to Lauren for the final checks on spelling and grammar. The book will be published on the 31st October, and I’ll put it up for pre-orders a week or so before. I’ll make sure you know it’s up on Amazon. 🙂

Relaunch of series

The pre-order of Inside Straight will be combined with a relaunch of the whole series with new covers. That means I have to reformat all the print books (previously printed by CreateSpace), change the audio covers, sharpen up the blurbs, and insert a brief (!) summary of previous books and cast list into books 2 – 6. I am so looking forward to that. Lol.

At the same time I’ll start releasing ‘bundles’. The first will be books 1-3 combined into one eBook, and sold at a discount. This is to capture those readers for whom one book at a time is not enough. Yes, this is a thing, and quite a large thing apparently. The second bundle of books 4-6 should go up sometime in December. These bundles will require their own eBook covers, which I will reveal here on the blog.

The relaunch will combine the new covers and bundles with an advertising campaign.

When I first published on Amazon, the only marketing tools under my control were covers, blurbs, newsletters, Bookbub (and similar), reviewers etc. With the possible exception of Bookbub, these tools have less and less direct, primary effect. Why? Because Amazon has changed. They used to have fairly neutral ranking and promotional algorithms. If you sold, and got good reviews, your ranking went up in a straightforward manner, and they promoted you in their newsletters. Now, to get the same effect, you have to reinvest part of your sales in the Amazon advertising machine. That’s what I’ll be doing, to the tune of approximately 20% of my target income. Gulp.

(This is not to say that reviews no longer work. I’m still very keen on reviews. Just a few words if you haven’t already. Please. 🙂 )

I may also try Bookbub and similar newsletters as well. And I’m considering building my own newsletter too. I have a current mailing list, but that is *strictly* for new book releases. The general newsletter will (among other things) explore the lore of the Athanate/Were/Adept world, especially those parts that don’t quite make it into the books. I may write some short stories which would go out in the newsletters.

Merchandise

I hear you. I’ll have some T shirts, coasters and stuff made from these covers and some photos that don’t make the covers. I have no schedule yet.  🙂

Angel Stakes cover

Books 1-4 have concentrated appropriately on Amber with weapons – the handgun, submachine gun and the shotgun. These demanded action poses to convey the best impact. However, although Amber uses weapons in Angel Stakes, there’s a different feel to the book. Amber rights old wrongs. Amber stalks her enemy almost as a personification of justice. The second werewolf ritual takes place in this book as well, and whereas Amber can almost convince herself that the first halfy ritual down in New Mexico (end of Cool Hand) was a fluke, the evidence that it’s an ability she has becomes overwhelming in Angel Stakes.

So I wanted something less to do with physical weapons, but more to do with a rather spooky, witchy Amber coming to get you.

I think Andrew and Maria hit this brief out of the park. What do you think?

Print book image

And the eBook cover

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Bite Back 6 teaser chapter 2

Here’s chapter 2 of Inside Straight.

I’m NOT intending to publish this book all on the blog, and it’s structured as a novel rather than episode-ending-on-cliffhanger, so you should regard these chapters as teasers. It’s just intended to keep the blog ticking over with a chapter a month, and I sincerely hope to be publishing before we even get to the quarter point.

You will note in these chapters that there are references to what happened in the novellas: The Biting Cold, Winter’s Kiss and also Change of Regime. These novellas are part of the overall Bite Back story from different viewpoints and take place chronologically at the end of Angel Stakes and beginning of Inside Straight. TBC and WK are set in Michigan, CoR is set in New York.

What else?

As I’ve posted on Facebook, the publication of A Threat Among the Stars has been a disaster, for whatever reason. I’ve relied too much on word of mouth perhaps, and I need to get much more serious about advertising on Amazon, Facebook, Bookbub etc.

Anyway, first priority is to get Inside Straight completed.

Chapter 1 is at

https://henwick.wordpress.com/2018/12/24/christmas-wishes-and-bite-back-6-teaser-chapter/

 

 

Chapter 2

 

There was, and the distraction was welcome.

It was Mykayla. A few months ago, she’d been a happy-go-lucky Denver girl who liked raves, and had a crush on me and Bian, not in that order. Now she was Bian’s kin, and an Aspirant—a human training to become Athanate. Diana had chosen Mykayla as the first person she wanted me to infuse, to test out whether my infusion would actually reduce crusis, or turn people into hybrids. Or something else entirely. It might even kill.

Mykayla, crazy girl, had actually volunteered.

She was training this morning: Aspirants go through a vigorous physical program, so that when their time comes to be infused, they’re at the very peak of condition. It helps with the dangers of crusis.

What state would House Lloyd’s dying kin be in? What if…

I pushed the thoughts away and concentrated on Mykayla.

I hadn’t been monitoring her progress while I was away in LA, so I was surprized by the change. Her exercises on the training mats and the sleek look of her body impressed me. Let alone the dedication to get up this early to work out.

She wasn’t alone. Haven was busy, even the gym, even at this hour.

Colonel Laine had recruited soldiers from our old battalion, Ops 4-10, after the whole Ops 4 group was disbanded. They’d started out based in Wyoming, but as of a few weeks ago, Haven was their HQ. They were working directly for House Altau now and they were taking their new role as seriously as I would expect from former Ops 4-10 personnel. It wasn’t just people in the gym at strange hours, there was a new multi-channel comms system covered the area, patrols 24/7 with staggered shifts, biometric monitoring of active personnel and surveillance of the locality across the spectrum.

I could see they were just begging Basilikos to try attacking Haven.

It was intended that small teams of former Ops 4-10 would be sent from here to just about every House in North America. Skylur had declared that North America was his territory and he intended to strengthen his sub-Houses so that there was no weak point for Basilikos to exploit.

Colonel Laine looked to have that objective all in hand.

Keith had wandered off to find breakfast and any familiar faces from Ops 4-10, leaving me alone when the training ended.

Mykayla came bounding over.

“Hi, Amber!”

We hugged.

“Hi yourself. You’re looking good, girl.”

“Yup! I’m ready.”

I didn’t need to ask what she meant she was ready for. The girl wanted to start the process of transformation by being infused by me.

“You’re ready when Bian says you’re ready,” I said and sat back down on the bench.

“Come on! Tell me I’m not in top condition,” she insisted. Her face got a little sly look to it. “Get a load of these abs.”

She opened her gi and lifted her sweaty shirt.

Yeah, great abs, and an entirely intentional opportunity to appreciate the cutest little pink-nosed puppies too.

I snorted and grabbed her by her canvas training pants, lifting her up as she squealed and depositing her next to me on the bench.

I was laughing, and after a little pout, she joined in.

“Bian put you up to that, didn’t she?” I asked.

“Sort of.”

“Either she did or she didn’t. Come on, Mykayla, spill.”

“She bet me. Said if I got you into bed, she’d agree I was ready to be infused.”

I laughed harder and gave her a hug. That was typical Bian, but Mykayla hadn’t quite seen all of it.

“Could have been a double whammy,” she said indistinctly and sighed, her face pressed against my shoulder.

“Congratulations,” I said.

She leaned back and looked up at me suspiciously, as if I were teasing her some more.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, Bian might have a horrible sense of humor, but look at it this way: do you think she’s irresponsible?”

Mykayla frowned. “No. Not at all. I don’t understand.”

“Hundred percent responsible?” I prompted her. “Ninety? Eighty?”

“Hundred, of course.”

“So, let’s say you aren’t ready to be infused, but there was a chance, oh, one in ten, say, that we actually ended up in bed. That’d make her only ninety percent responsible, unless…”

Mykayla frowned again before suddenly it dawned on her. “Oh! Unless it didn’t matter. Unless she thinks I am ready, and getting me to try and seduce you was a joke.”

“Congratulations,” I said again.

“Oh, Amber!” she leaped up from the bench and did a handspring followed by cartwheels in a complete circle so she ended up back in front of me.

“Today? Now?” She bounced on her toes.

My fangs were throbbing with anticipation, which was distracting, but I managed a shaky laugh. No matter how eager my Athanate was to infuse someone, I needed help to go through the process, and I wasn’t in any hurry. No one knew what would happen when I infused someone.

The thought of it scared me.

“When Bian sets it up,” I told her, and sent her off to shower.

She disappeared, and on cue, Bian came into the gym, her brow furrowed.

I leaped up from the bench.

“What’s up, Pussycat?”

She gave me a distracted cuddle.

“Skylur says it’s all our call, Round-eye: granting House Lloyd sanctuary, infusing her kin, the whole thing.”

“What? But we wait for Diana at least before trying that infusion, yes?”

I really didn’t want to try this without my Mentor, Diana. Using eukori, she could guide me through infusing Scott and Mykayla. Diana was the Kumemnon, the eldest living Athanate. If anyone had a chance of ensuring things didn’t go wrong, it was her.

“Maybe not,” Bian said and sighed. “That’s part of what’s so worrying. There’s been a change of plans. Diana’s still on the way with Alice in the van but I’ve got no way to contact them because Skylur’s already in New York. The situation there is more urgent than originally thought.”

“How so?”

“Apparently, there’s a large group of diazoun Houses who’ve been hiding out in Long Island.”

I frowned. New York state had been the territory of the Warders, prior to their dissolution at the last Assembly. The Warders had claimed their domain as independent, while secretly cooperating with Basilikos.

A strong and secure Athanate House might decide to allow one diazoun House to sit on its borders. Two, if they were very quiet and respectful. But a ‘large group’ of Houses?

“The Warders let them?” I asked.

Bian snorted. “Not really. Apparently, the Warders just didn’t have a clue what was going on. Naryn stopped there on the way to his new domain in Boston, and the leaders of the diazoun presented themselves to him, figuring they’d never get away with hiding in Skylur’s territory.”

“They got that right. Well, I guess they all give him their oaths or go to Ireland. Simple. Isn’t it?”

The Irish Athanate had declared themselves independent from all Athanate politics and Ireland itself was open to any as a refuge.

Bian wrinkled her nose. “If it’s so straightforward, then why is it urgent for Skylur to go there rather than making sure Diana gets here safely?”

Good point.

“Skylur didn’t explain?”

Stupid question. Bian snorted.

“On the other hand, he did mention a bit of background,” she said. “It was your supplicant, House Lloyd, that started the process which ended with House Prowser finding out the location of the slave auction in LA.”

That rocked me. If that was true, why hadn’t it come up in the telephone call with Amanda Lloyd? I owed her. She had to know that, and yet she hadn’t tried to cash it in.

I searched my memory. “When Prowser spoke to me in LA, she talked about a sub-House and a court case or something…”

“Yeah. That’s the one. Anyway, the good news for you, I think, is that House Prowser has given up any claim to House Lloyd as a sub-House and waived her rights to Blood payment or feud with you.”

I swallowed. Athanate politics was prickly, and frankly, given my own response to thinking of someone taking any of my House away, I could understand why.

So why would Prowser give up part of hers?

Maybe I’d got lucky. Maybe I hadn’t.

“You’re not sure it’s good news?” I asked.

“You mean why did she do it?” Bian smiled. It was an evil sort of smile. “Maybe she knows something about House Lloyd that we don’t?”

“Has anyone ever told you you’re paranoid, Pussycat?”

“Yeah, lots of people, but they’re all dead, because they didn’t see it coming.”

 

A Name Among the Stars on Wiki!

This arrived out of the blue, just as the sequel, A Threat Among the Stars, hit the stands.

It’s a list of 10 selected Speculative Fiction books, each with a twist of mystery included in the plotline.

I enjoyed reading the list (and adding the others to my tbr), and I enjoyed a synthesized voice actually getting the pronunciation of my name correct (HEN-ick, not Hen-WICK)! The voice had a little more trouble with Zara’s surname, Aguirre.

Have a look at their list – as I say, they’re all on my tbr now.

https://wiki.ezvid.com/m/10-sci-fi-and-fantasy-books-with-a-twist-of-mystery-rLVhdS-bSUid0

 

 

Bian’s Tale book 1 released

And here’s the problem with using WordPress as a medium for telling a book in episodes – I can’t make the blog ‘threaded’. So, when I have an announcement like this, it sits in the middle of the current episodes for A Threat Among the Stars.

Anyway – here’s the link for A Harvest of Lies – Bian’s Tale book 1:

<<https://www.amazon.com/Harvest-Lies-Athanate-Nineteenth-Century-ebook/dp/B07DBPK2B6/>&gt;

 

 

New serial story begins!

Ha! The time to write has rushed upon me. I said I wanted to write something completely different. The result of feedback was fairly strongly in favor of SciFi Romance. Love in Space. Romance Among the Stars. Whatever.

I have no idea yet what it will be called. A Name Among the Stars? Dunno. When I publish, I may use a pen name. It’s fairly normal when changing genres for writers to do that. It would lose me some cross-over… so I’m still thinking.

Kissy-kissy… No, not really. This is a romance, but it’s in an adventure setting. You know I make my heroines suffer, so welcome to Zara, the lass I’m throwing into the deep end.

I started this last night after dinner, and wrote about another 3 hours today. I was really trying out the style and getting a feel for Zara, so that’s the sort of feedback I need. Can you see her? Do you feel that connection? For some reason I’m writing in the present tense again. It just felt appropriate.

This will be longer than Change of Regime, so I will try, as part of my writing development skills programme, to write a couple of chapters at a time. Again, all in development time.

Acknowledgment to Nick Foreman for the SciFi art.

Comments, feedback, opinions…all welcome.

++++++

I have had to remove the episodes I posted here to fall into line with Amazon’s policies on Kindle Unlimited books.

The full novel is available on Amazon:

USA https://www.amazon.com/dp/B076WZBFVJ

UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B076WZBFVJ

Germany https://www.amazon.de/dp/B076WZBFVJ

When I post stories on my blog, they will remain for at least a month after completion.

Update and progress

Change of Regime

The serialised story that appeared here on the blog is now available as a novella on Amazon. It’s edited, and there’s also an additional chapter, an epilogue, which didn’t appear on the blog. It’s 25k words long.

USA https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0711ML84S/

UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0711ML84S/

The appearance of this novella and also the fact that Bian’s Tale is my priority at the moment has prompted several people to contact me asking why Bite Back 6 is not my priority project. I’ll take the opportunity to answer that here.

Firstly, Change of Regime didn’t actually take any time from my writing schedule. It was conceived, planned, plotted, written and delivered in my development time. Do I need development time? Yes. I want my books to be 20% better than other books and I want readers to tell me the books get better and better. Part of what I do to achieve that aim is I practice and experiment with writing styles and tools. Change of Regime allowed me to look at multiple PoVs, use the present tense and trim down descriptions. It also kept me fresh for Bian’s Tale. I’ll continue to use my development time in this way – which means any new serialised novellas/novels will be produced in the same way – a chapter a week. (Development time is 2-4 hours at the weekend).

Secondly, I’m writing Bian’s Tale as my priority project now for several reasons, not least because readers asked me for it. However there is a hard-headed economic reason as well. I’m losing readers, and I’ve been losing readers ever since Sleight of Hand – each Bite Back book I release has fewer readers than the last. Now, some of those may be readers who love the story and are waiting for me to finish the series so they can binge. Great, but not something I want to rely on. So, what can I do to gather more readers into the series? Write other books, like Bian’s Tale and Change of Regime. Submit stories to anthologies like The Biting Cold (which went into the ‘A Very Paranormal Holiday’ anthology) and Enzili (which went into ‘Vampires of the Caribbean’ anthology). Serialise novels. Marketing. Etc. Etc.

New serialised story

Okay, Change of Regime was well received, so I will continue to use my development time to produce serialised stories. The next will be away from the Athanate storyline. I did show you an example a couple of months ago, a chapter from a steampunk story set in Africa, but the response to that was muted. I will write that story anyway, but perhaps not as a serialisation.

So what do you want to see here on the blog? I have an outline for a Sci-Fi Romance and another for a Horror. Place your votes in the comments.

New pages on the blog

I’ll be adding a new page or pages on the blog to handle the serialised stories (when I work out how to do it!).

Other stories

I mentioned Enzili above. This story is in the Vampires of the Caribbean anthology, but will shortly be available for me to publish seperately. Now… Enzili is a short story and ends with the resolution of one major incident, which was all there was space for. There are three other issues that are left ‘for later’, and I have the plot to resolve these in ‘Enzili 2’ (not decided on a name yet).

Do I publish Enzili now and Enzili 2 when I write it? Hold off publishing Enzili until I have Enzili 2? Hold off until I can put it all together and make 1 novel instead of 2 novellas?

Vote in the comments.

Progress

All writing was on hold while I spent the last week with Jessica in New Orleans, where she’s filming ‘Underwater’ with Kristen Stewart and others. Back now.

Bian’s Tale is still being problematic. I’m getting feedback from beta readers on the first 2 sections (out of a total of 5 for the first book), but the feedback is not concentrated on one single issue. It will sort itself out, but it is taking longer than anticipated.

Inside Straight, Bite Back 6: I have some good chapters done and loads of scenes sketched out. This book is nudging me, wanting to be written NOW.

 Audiobooks

Unbelievably, we are STILL waiting for Angel Stakes to go through ‘checking’ and ‘processing’ at ACX/Audible. I have no control over this part of the production I’m afraid.

Raw Deal is done. I have submitted a minor correction and the audiobook should shortly go into the ‘checking’ and ‘production’ at ACX/Audible.

 

 

Teaser first chapter of Enzili

Debra Dunbar and I exchange messages every now and then, y’know: S&M clubs, vampire hangouts, getting away with murder, how to hide bodies, etc. Usual writer’s stuff.

Last year we got to talking about vampires in the Caribbean. She had a short story that filled in some early history of one of her characters. We talked about soucriants (local vamps), and I said I’d write something in that setting if she put together an anthology. I sketched a couple of ideas in my notebook.

Didn’t think anything more about it until she actually went ahead and put together a group!

I came up with a final idea quite quickly. It’s set in the 1790s on the island of St. Mark’s, in the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean. It incorporates vampires, slavery, voodou, the position of women in that era, politics, the sugar industry, the British class system and emerging technology!

The name of my story, ‘Enzili’, refers to the voodou goddess of love and women, who is also the goddess of witches.

It was hugely enjoyable to write. I used the opportunity to experiment with 3rd person narrative, two points of view and British historical dialogue, all of which I hope gives it a very different feel from Amber in the Bite Back series and Amanda in the Outsiders series.

It was even fun to have to rein myself in—yes, yes, I know Amber would just punch him in the face, but Lady Margaret can’t do that!

‘Vampires of the Caribbean’ was a success and, as planned, was withdrawn for each author to use their story in other ways. My story, ‘Enzili’, is now available as a novella on Amazon.

(There was a sample here of chapter 1, but that potentially gets me in trouble with Amazon, so I’ve taken it down. You can still get a sample from Amazon.)