The first featured image is Andrew discussing handling weapons with Maria at White Box Studio.
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.
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
The weekly episodes of A Threat Among the Stars have been removed in preparation for the release of the book on Amazon in January 2019.
My Amazon page:
My apologies for the silence on the blog.
This is going to be a mixture of family holiday, writer’s retreat, photo shoots and research. I’m not planning to turn up at any bookstores to do signings, but I will be delighted to meet readers at a coffee shop or restaurant if I’m in the area. Message me on the contact email or Facebook.
Family holiday: From the 23rd August to the 5th September, I’ll be in New York, with the whole family. Jessica will still be filming the first season of Netflix’s Iron Fist (she plays Colleen Wing), so the schedule will be worked around that. I do plan to have a visit for Amber to New York in Bite Back, so I will be meeting readers, scouting locations and taking photographs as well.
Writer’s retreat: Home life has been ‘disrupted’ to say the least over the last few months, from replacing floors to garden landscaping. I’m going to find out how well I write when I’m not at home with these distractions. Back in 2011, I visited Denver for research and I did find I could write quite well while mixing it with doing research and being a tourist. I intend to be writing a few hours a day on average throughout this trip.
Research (and photo shoots): I’ve just about exhausted the notes I took from my first research trip to Denver, and the geographic scope of the Bite Back series has grown a lot. I actually meant to visit New Mexico and Los Angeles while I was writing Cool Hand and Angel Stakes, but it didn’t come off. So…this year I get to do the Rockies, north to south.
I have to visit the sites of the Confederation’s main packs: Wind River, Big Horn and Bozeman. I have to visit the equivalent sites for the League in Santa Fe and Albuquerque. I’ll do a side trip to Nevada to take in Humboldt-Toiyabe and Highway 50. And I’ll spend time based in Denver and looking around Colorado. All of the above are for research, but of course, I’ll be touring and hiking and taking photographs and meeting people as well.
The schedule is: 6th September to 18th September in Wyoming and Montana. Starting in Cheyenne, with the farthest north probably being Helena. I may cut through Idaho on the way back. If you have recommendations for spooky, strange or unusual photogenic places, or you’re in the general area at the same time, message me on the contact email or Facebook!
19th September to 30th September. I’m based in Denver. I’m already meeting a few friends and readers and would love to meet more. I will be full of strange questions about Colorado in general and Denver in particular.
1st October to 4th October. Nevada. Route 50 and the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest.
5th October to 10th October. New Mexico. Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Route 14.
Back to Denver, fly to New York and then fly home, hopefully with head and laptop full of ideas, scenes and photos.
If it goes well enough, there’s lots more of America I want to see.
Editing Winter’s Kiss
Current top-of-the-pile project is editing Winter’s Kiss. This is a novella sequel to The Biting Cold, which follows a different set of characters than Bite Back. However, I did rashly promise to weave them together and this is part of the reason that Winter’s Kiss has been a difficult job. While many readers will be from Bite Back, I’m hoping some new readers will come in from having read only The Biting Cold. My task is then to give them enough of a flavor of what goes on in Bite Back to read the series as well.
I’m about half way through editing and I *really* want this finished before I go on the road trip.
Editing So Many Doors
This is a background project. The book was written by my late mother in 1964 and never published. My sister and I have decided to put it up on Amazon, but there’s a surprising amount of style change required to make it ‘readable’ to modern readers. The book is set in Africa, in Northern Rhodesia, on a remote Colonial administrative center and it’s a murder mystery.
Cast list and synopses
A long-promised project. I have a lot of characters, and I’m writing a brief description of each to put in the back of the Bite Back series books, along with a synopsis of the story so far.
Bian’s Tale book 1, Saigon – The Reach of Lies. I know, I should be in Saigon researching this! However, the Saigon I’m writing about is the ‘Paris of the Orient’ in 1900, and that doesn’t exist any more.
I got about half way through writing Saigon a couple of years and it wasn’t going well, so I put it aside. It’s time to get it back out and finish it.
Schedule for publication? You know me and schedules. I’ll post progress.
Bite Back 6, as yet unnamed. Obviously, this will be next year. I have lots of scenes and ideas and I hope to have more from my road trip.
I may try my hand at writing something short and completely different, just to keep everything fresh. If you have a genre you’d like to see me try (there’s a challenge), email me at the contact address or comment here.
Yeah, the usual look at the sales and WiP and stuff.
But first! MILESTONES IN REVIEWS
The US Amazon site logged it’s 200th review! On 31st May, Hao-Ying Feng logged a 5 star review after a binge re-read of the series. Thank you! And thank you to each and every one of you who reviews on Amazon, Goodreads or by messaging me. All hugely welcome and important for me.
AND while I’m talking reviews, 95% of the SoH reviews are 4 or 5 star. That I wouldn’t have predicted when I started.
Almost at the same time, Angel Stakes hit 50 reviews in the 6 weeks since launch, and the percentage of 4 & 5 star has remained the same.
What are the next milestones? I guess 250 for SoH or 750 for the series on US Amazon (currently 604). On the series total, I will ‘cheat’ once Winter’s Kiss is written, because then it and The Biting Cold will be part of the series. 🙂
And then 1,000 for both US and UK Amazon added together (currently 711), or 350 on Goodreads (currently 303).
Winter’s Kiss is more than half way done. As I mentioned in posts on Facebook, this sequel isn’t the same length as The Biting Cold (20k words). TBC was written to a specification on length for an anthology, and WK is just to link the story in with Bite Back, so I have more leeway.
I’ve given a couple of teasers on Facebook, linked by mentions of jazz (Amanda loves jazz). In case you didn’t see them there, here they are again:
“Morning found us just a few miles east of Marquette. The sun inched above the horizon, flooding the car’s rear window with hazy gold, etching the edges of the long, low buildings, and throwing our shadow out in front, where the road unwound like an old jazz song in a smoky club.”
“I switched switches on the music center. Little LEDs started to glow, and I pulled out LPs at random until the words jazz and soul songs caught my eye. A collection of instrumentals based on old songs. The list had some of my favorites, spanning the years.
I put the LP on the turntable. It was lucky it was one of those that loaded the arm automatically, because my hands were shaking.
I closed my eyes and waited; part of the drama and romance that I loved about LPs was that moment at the beginning.
A quiet hiss and crackle, full of anticipation, then the music started. A few falling notes were tossed out from a sax, as a ticking drum marked the beat. The piano picked up a couple of the notes, tossed them back. The saxophone held one note, almost too long, and then just let it drop and tumble and flow into the bittersweet melody of Ain’t No Sunshine.”
What else have I been doing?
The print books are a mess. Cool Hand and Angel Stakes not yet available, the sizes have changed, the covers don’t match. What I thought would be a simple overhaul turned into a nightmare. And to help out, CreateSpace (Amazon’s Print-on-Demand company) have changed their specifications. Everything is a PDF now. Not such a problem for the body of the book, but I have no graphics programs that save as PDF. I ended up loading the image into Word and using that to save. Which of course leads to warnings that my resolution is low. Grrr.
Adding to the frustrations, I use Word for writing, and Word’s print book formatting functions are flakey.
Anyway. I have submitted Cool Hand and Angel Stakes to CreateSpace and they now enable reviewing online, allowing me to skip the physical book review process. The print books *should* be available in the next week or so.
I apologize for the covers. What I’ve done is simply take the eBook cover, added black for the spine and back page and written on the black. All fine as long as the I’ve allocated *exactly* enough width for the spine.
I will do a rework of the covers and get everything to match in size and style, but it’s not on the critical path.
The print book fiasco means that I haven’t progressed with my other non-writing writing project, which is to create cast lists and summaries of story-so-far for each Bite Back sequel.
I did a big review last month, so I’m not going to repeat that since the figures haven’t changed dramatically. Instead, I’ll look at the overview and implications.
Averaged out at the moment, I guess I’m selling 600 books a month and that needs to be 1,200.
I’m still selling 70-80 Sleight of Hand a month, and a percentage of those go on to read the entire series. Amazon only knows the exact figures, but the sales stats suggest to me that about 80% of people who pick up SoH now go on to read all of the books in the series. This is as opposed to the figures of readers who picked up SoH back in 2012, which is about 25%. That low percentage is based on the total sales ever of Cool Hand as a percentage of total sales ever of Sleight of Hand, and it does creep up as some people just take their time going through the series.
What does this mean? Very approximately, I believe that if I had ten Bite Back books now, my monthly sales would be 1,200. The problem is that writing that next 5 will take me 5 years, and in the meantime SoH would slide.
What am I going to do about it? Write realted or unrelated shorter stories that I believe may bring in readers who wouldn’t otherwise have picked up Sleight of Hand, but who like the shorter stories enough to try the series.
I’d like to try out writing novels in two parts – a short story of around 10k words which tells a story but ends on a cliffhanger, and leads straight into a novella of around 50k words. This is close to the way The Biting Cold turned out. TBC was actually 20k words and Winter’s Kiss will be about 40k, and TBC didn’t end on a cliffhanger, but you get my drift.
I have a couple of ideas kicking around in my head – one in the Bite Back world but set in Canada and sharing none of the cast, another a SciFi novella and completely different. Oh, and one set in the 17th century Caribbean that popped up in a conversation with Debra Dunbar (that one might be related to Bite Back).
This does NOT mean that I’m less committed to Bite Back, but I think I can do these things and still get one Bite Back novel out every year. We’ll see.
Other projects – German
German translations have stopped at the moment. I need to get another translator, but I have to say that I need to re-examine the income to see if the cost is justified. I think I’d prefer to hand over to a German publishing company who do this as a business. I need to talk to people.
Other projects – Audio
Julia Motyka is unavailable until September, but assures me she’ll be back in the studio with Angel Stakes then. Audio sales are reasonable (as far as I know) – SoH 1,578, HT 668, WC 504, CH 273. Are there any writers out there with audiobooks who would be okay to share their sales with me?
I asked people on the Facebook site what music Amber listens to. What a wonderful response, and a huge playlist to sort through! Great fun. Thank you all.
I’m planning a trip to America this year. My bio says I’m frequently in the Rockies and I haven’t been. At the end of August & beginning of September, I’ll be with my daughter in New York. After that, I hope to work my way down the Rockies from somewhere around Bozeman, Montana to Albuquerque, New Mexico, taking in Denver, Cheyenne and the loneliest road in the States. I hope to end up returning to UK via Boston and maybe catching some fall colors. This is a research and writing trip, not a book signing journey, but I’ll be happy to sign books, meet readers and attend conventions. If there’s interest, I’ll publish an itinerary closer to the time.
I’ve been asked to put a teaser up. This is the first chapter, which is a real teaser 🙂
It follows directly on from Cool Hand. I originally planned to write Cool Hand and Angel Stakes as one book, with the flight to LA being the mid-point, but only authors like GRR Martin can get away with huge books at such long intervals.
If you want more of a teaser, ask and I’ll email you the first 3 chapters. Be warned, Amber’s situation is not resolved in those chapters, so it would be just another cliffhanger.
ANGEL STAKES CHAPTER 1
Floating down the river of night toward the city of dreams…
Our Lady, Queen of Angels. Where the long dragon spine of San Gabriel sprawls over the trembling San Andreas Fault and four million people cluster in its shadow. Bad Feng Shui, the Chinese mutter, and spit to clear their luck.
Los Angeles. Where glittering streets of plenty cut like knives through the desperate barrios. Where gangs and cults, earthquakes and hill fires, riots and despair and madness, all simmer just beneath the surface, waiting, like the abiding desert, to erupt out through the drains and engulf the city.
LA. The laconic arrogance in the initials of the city that lives, full of myth, pulsing with tales. The city that feeds on dreams, leaving nothing but dust and nightmares. And we are such stuff as dreams are made. Or nightmares.
I knew I was on a plane, flying to Los Angeles, because Skylur had called us, and my oath bound me to him, as tightly as Diana or Bian were bound to him, or my House was bound to me. And I knew that I was teetering on the brink of insanity. That I’d been over the edge. That I’d gone rogue—become an unthinking, instinctive killer, consumed by rage and blood lust. And that I’d been brought back by my kin. Brought back as Were by Alex’s dominance. Brought back as Athanate by Jen’s Blood. And whatever part of me was Adept had been torn and stunned by grounding all the energy that the whole Taos community of Adepts had poured into a lock to hold Diana prisoner on that cold hillside up in Carson National Park. The energy that Kaothos, Tullah’s dragon spirit guide, had reversed somehow.
They’d told me the Athanate would drive my Were rogue, or the Were would drive the Athanate. That the Adept would drive them both rogue. It hadn’t happened like that.
You are none of the things they will think you are.
My great-grandmother, Speaks-to-Wolves, had said that to me in a vision, and she’d been right. My paranormal sides balanced each other. I’d escaped that nightmare, only to emerge into the same one—with a different face. The tide of darkness in my mind wasn’t caused by my competing paranormal instincts, but by the meddling of Colonel Petersen’s psychologists, as I’d lain defenseless in Obs after being bitten by rogue Athanate in the jungles of South America. I saw it as a storm in my head, sweeping in across the cold, high plains, threatening to obliterate me under towering clouds and cracking lightning. My body twitched and jerked with every electric strike.
My kin had saved me, but they hadn’t cured me. The darkness was returning.
And yet, it was as if there were two halves of me. A half that lay shaking and muttering feverishly on the floor between my worried kin, and a half that floated through the cool cabin, granted a clarity of vision that was painful. I’d bound my eukori tightly into my head so that the stain of my madness could not spread, but I was listening to Diana and Bian.
There was a crisis ahead. An opportunity and a danger twisted around each other like mating snakes.
We were going to LA, a place where you could toss away your old life like a bad hand and get a new deal. But also the place where the hollow-bellied god of fame lured dreamers to the great light, only to let it flicker and fade, leaving them blind and starless in the stone jungles, unable to tell truth from artifice. And still believing, still believing, as they offered the last things they had left. Their passion. Their health, heart, soul and youth. Finally, even their children. And the place where Basilikos and Panethus might end their shadowy battle, consuming each other utterly, that a new hope might rise from the ashes.
Floating down the river of night toward the city of dreams…
As they touched the cool, gray asphalt of Van Nuys airfield, the plane’s tires began screaming, and I went into convulsions.