Thursday, November 28, 2019

Rebooting an Older Series
One of the slots I fill here at Across the Board is to represent the fantasy genre in its myriad forms. Since I've been a member of this fabulous blogging team, I actually haven't talked much about fantasy. Today I aim to get back on track, but mainly because I'm going to talk about my own book series. Sorry-not-sorry.

One of my completed book series is the Stormbourne Chronicles, a trilogy aimed at a Young Adult audience. It's a bit of epic, second-world fantasy mixed with some steampunk elements.  I published the first book, Heir of Thunder with Evolved Publishing, a small press, in 2016. I released the last book, Crown of Thunder, last December. The books, however, languished shortly thereafter.

I loved the world I had built as well as the characters in it, but I was despondent, and lacked the enthusiasm to promote the series. Something about the books bothered me, but I couldn't put my finger on it. Over time though, as I spent more time networking and talking to other YA authors and watching the books they were putting out, I realized what bothered me about my own books: The covers!

In the beginning, my publisher and I worked with a talented artist to develop an original set of
covers. He produced some lovely images, but I they didn't quite project the image in my head of the world I had created, and they especially didn't fit among the current market of fantasy YA covers I was seeing on shelves, on Amazon, Instagram, and everywhere YA books are sold, discussed, and promoted.

Original Stormbourne Chronicles covers
Having original artwork was a precious privilege, but I couldn't deny the covers tended to look more like what I was seeing in the Middle Grade and Children markets. Nothing wrong with that if I were writing Children and Middle Grade books. But alas, that was not my goal or target and I decided it was time to promote these books with the effort they deserved. In order to do that, I had to give them the covers that excited me, and hopefully my readers as well.

First step was to reach out to a new cover designer. Among my YA cohorts, I had seen some amazing covers coming from of a team called Deranged Doctor Design. I worked with them over about a 5 month period (they have a serious wait-list) to come up with concepts and designs. Without fail they produced a set of gorgeous new covers that more accurately reflect the contents and will hopefully catch the eye of my intended audience, both adults and young adults.

My next step was to get the covers out in the world for my audience to see. To the best of my knowledge, the best platform to reach the YA book crowd is Instagram--they take their #bookstagram game seriously and they are producing some unbelievable images. Thanks to a tip from fellow ATB blogger Mary Fan, I found a great Instagram tour service that got my book out to some #bookstagrammers who have been sharing beautiful images of my new covers across the social media platform.

And last but not least, my publisher and I finalized the audio-book edition of Heir of Thunder, read by Aida Reluzco, an amazing and talented narrator who gets every nuance, every accent (and there are a lot of accents!) and every detail exactly right. I'm blown away by her talent. The audio-book has been uploaded at Audible, and we're waiting on the final word about when it'll be released, which should come any day now...

Monday, November 25, 2019

An Author's Gratitude

Another quality post brought to you by Steve!

This week we celebrate Thanksgiving here in the States, so I thought I might start us off by listing some of the people I am grateful for as an author.  So, in no particular order, in 2019 I'm grateful for:

1.  My PA

This is the newest one on my list.  For years now I've dreamt about getting someone to pick up some of the heavy lifting I do, from around the time I realized that you can spend just as much, if not more time doing what I call "writing adjacent" business as opposed to actually writing.  That is, formatting your work, running social media, querying publishers, requesting reviews, and the like.  Earlier this year I just ran into kismet when fellow indie author Jessica Eppley was looking for a part-time job and I realized that was just what I needed: another writer who knows her way around Amazon, Twitter, and the like.  And I've never been more content as a writer, knowing my important but draining tasks are with someone I trust.

2.  My fellow authors

It sounds self-serving to say this on the group blog, but other authors help you recharge and refocus.  They're there to commiserate with and bounce ideas off of.  They can be your beta readers, your cheerleaders, your guides in the wilderness, your mentors, your proteges, and a million other things.  I'm not ashamed to say that some of the people on this very blog I speak to every day, and without their consistent support I wouldn't be where I am today.  

3.  My fans

Without fans, without readers, I'm nothing.  I know, I know, there is such a thing as ars gratia artis, and perhaps there will even be things I never publish and create solely for my own gratification.  But, by and large, we write to be read.  And even more exciting than having readers, is getting to know them, and getting feedback from them, and perhaps, in an even more important way, getting to know them as people and not just customers.  

4.  My girlfriend

None of which is to forget the real people in your life.  Not that any of you aren't "real" but there are the people you chat with online and see twice a year, and then there are the people you see day-in, day-out.  Every day, my girlfriend (life partner, really, but that sounds hokey) is there for me, not just for the writing stuff, but all of the other stuff, too.  The emotional support of a real person can't be overstated.  Make sure you're remembering the ones in your life.


How about you?  Who are you grateful for this year (and every year?)

Thursday, November 21, 2019

What's Lurking Under Your Words?

By Cheryl Oreglia

Sitting on the back deck of our weekend house on the shores of Clearlake I'm mesmerized by the subtle motion of the water rhythmically lapping against the pale beach. The motion of the water has formed ribs in the sand that span out from the rock wall to the waters edge. Our cabin, situated on the eastern side of the lake, in the narrows, sometimes referred to as the neck, because the passage is deeper than it is wide, this is my refuge.

The water line shifts depending on the season, this late in November, without a drop of rain, our beach is about as expansive as I've ever seen it. If you were to wade out into the water at this time of year you would be surprised by the steep drop off, not more than two feet out, this unexpected edge plunges forty feet into the a dark abyss, the swiftness of the cool current sends endless wavelets towards the rabbit ears, or the southern tips of the lake.

Swaddled in a soft throw, cup of warm coffee warming my hands, I shift through my thoughts for topics worthy of posting. The gentle waves seem to harness my attention, and I wonder of the energy that ripples just beneath the water, powerful enough to rib our beach, creating all this chaos, and movement. It made me think of how we tell a story, not only the patterns we use, but the motion of our words rippling just beneath the pages so to speak, drifting on clusters of organized thought.

I tend to rely on patterns of speech, tossed with a bit of humor (I realize this is a matter of opinion), utilizing (exploiting) metaphoric ripples for for the intended effect. I'm one who avoids tension at all costs so it is with forced intention that conflict works its way into one of my pieces. I'm more of a small wave writer, dependent on the reader to ride the motion of my narratives, as if on a raft gone astray.

I could go on but I think you get my tributary of thought.

My point might be overdone but I think the reader thrives on embedded themes in writing, or oppositional motifs such as dark and light, wet and dry, which stirs me right towards a dry martini, capturing both motifs without the help of 007.

A story is felt not only through the use of efficacious words but in ones mouth with the assistance of memories of taste, sensations recalled, emotions unleashed. I've heard this referred to as a form of embodied cognition. Just writing about the child who stuffed a slice of fresh lemon sprinkled with sugar into his mouth and winces as sour and sweetness assault his tastebuds. You might notice your own mouth watering.

Some of my favorite stories contain these brilliant themes so deeply embedded in the narrative that I remain unaware until the last page and my eyes land on that final sentence that anchors the entire tale. I'm thinking Grapes of Wrath, Gone With the Wind, Little Women, Wuthering Heights, War and Peace to name a few.

Sometime there is no dramatic arc, the story simply advances, and then partially resolves, through a rippling of nuances and subtle undercurrents!

What's lurking under your words?

I'm Living in the Gap when I'm not writing for Across the Board, drop-ins welcome.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Wondering what to bring?

Hey there, Boarders! It's my turn today to do a Google Search and my initial thought was "what to bring to a writing conference" because I'm heading to the Romance Author Mastermind conference in Houston as we speak. But then I typed "What to bring" into the Google Search bar, and well... 

Here we are:

What to bring to Friendsgiving? Well, according to PopSugar, Pumpkin Thanksgiving Sangria is a hit, as well as Pumpkin Goat Cheese Crostini. I give the sangria a thumbs up, the crostini? Maybe? Williams Sonoma recommends a sweet potato "crostini" with blue cheese and honey, which looks amazing, but, um, where's the green bean casserole? And the roast potatoes that someone else cooks in their oven? I'm hosting Friendsgiving, myself, and I really really want someone to bring roast potatoes. Also, possibly that sangria. Hint, hint.

What to bring to college? The College Board seems to have a pretty thorough checklist, although I'm not sure I ever had any of the Household and Kitchen Items in 4 years of college. College Info Geek has an even more extensive list, including a desk chair. Do people really do that? Aren't the hard wooden desk chairs a rite of passage?

Lastly, what to bring to ACL? Maybe because I'm already in Texas as I'm writing this, the Austin City Limits Music Festival is appearing in my search results. According to the website, a reusable water bottle is at the top of the list, along with sunscreen and hearing protection. All great suggestions. The 2019 lineup looked amazing, btw, if you happen to be close to Austin and want to keep it on your radar for 2020.

All that said, I'm no closer now to figuring out what to bring to Romance Author Mastermind that I might have forgotten. I have clothes, my laptop and a notebook, as well as a copious amount of snacks. That's all I really need, right?

Any veteran conference goers have any helpful hints, I'd love to hear them!

Monday, November 11, 2019

Back Jacket Hack-Job: WINDBORN

A post by Mary Fan

Hey everyone! My turn to do a Back Jacket Hack-Job! For those of you who are new, this is one of our recurring features, where one of us picks a book and makes gobbledygook out of its back cover description. When it’s been my turn, I’ve typically picked on my own books because, well, I feel a little bad picking on anyone else’s. So far, I’ve done Artificial Absolutes, Starswept, Edge of Evil, and Stronger Than A Bronze Dragon. So basically, all my series starters and/or standalones.

Well guess what? I have another series starter coming out in February! So, in keeping with tradition… WINDBORN, first of the Fated Stars books, it’s your turn in the Back Jacket Hack-Job hot seat! *cracks knuckles*

Being an air nymph sucks. As in, if you leave your enchanted forest, it will literally suck the life out of you, as Kiri’s finding out the hard way. She’s got seven days to get her butt home, or the life will be completely sucked out of her. Except she can’t because she’s been trapped by dark magicians, who are determined to suck the magic out of her so they can use it for themselves. And meanwhile they’ve cast a curse on her so she can’t even use her powers. Or remember where her enchanted forest is. Or recall anything about her life before waking up in their dungeon.

Yeah, being an air nymph – especially  this air nymph – really sucks.

Anyway, that’s her in the background of the cover, giving you the side-eye because she knows you’ll enjoy reading her story more because her life sucks. I mean, how boring would it be if the whole book was about her life being safe and normal. Which is how she felt too back when her life was safe and normal. She kind of had a Little Mermaid thing going on… “I wanna be where the people aaaaare…” and, like any headstrong teenager, decided the thing to do was to ignore the rules and sneak out. She’s probably regretting her choices right about now.

So who are the other two people on the cover, then? Well, the guy on the left is Darien, and he’s the dark magicians’ teenaged apprentice. Poor kid had no idea what he was getting into – he just wanted to learn magic so he could help people and find his purpose and maybe save the world someday. You know, hero’s journey stuff. But it’s kind of had to do the hero’s journey thing when fate has stuck you in the decidedly not heroic role of serving people who kidnapped a girl and are holding her against her will. Fortunately, he realizes that his masters are evil and decides to do the hero thing and break Kiri out. Unfortunately, he’d sworn a life oath to them, and breaking it means they’re going to spend the rest of the book trying to kill him.

The girl on the right is Arrin, a teenaged indentured servant who also decides that rules are for losers and therefore she’s going to run away. Because completing a 20-year contract working for a noblewoman doesn’t seem like the thing to do when you’re getting prophecies about the end of the world. Knowing that no one will believe her, Arrin takes it upon herself to keep her visions from coming true. She knows the dark magicians are involved somehow and goes on a journey to find out just what they’re up to… and runs right into Kiri and Darien. Of course, dark magicians don’t like being spied on, and noblewomen don’t like it when their indentured servants run away. So she’s got people chasing her too.

In conclusion, this book should probably have been titled THREE MAGIC TEENAGERS BREAKING THE RULES AND RUNNING FOR THEIR LIVES.

And there’s some end-of-the-world type stuff involved too – an ancient evil rising, dark prophecies manifesting, signs of the apocalypse… you know, typical teenager issues when you live in an epic fantasy world.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Woe Is The Writer

Morning all. It's KGG here, coming at ya tired. It's a school day and we got home late last night because were were attending my brother-in-law's wedding! That's right. Congrats to Steven and Joe! I know you won't ever see this, but one can never have enough best wishes floating around the Internetverse.
So I'd been wracking my brain for a blog topic. There's a lot of stuff I can talk about right now that has nothing to do with books.

Vintage powder compacts.
Jumping into the workforce after being home with kids for a decade (that's a fun one).
French skincare.
Instant Pot recipes.

But, obviously, those aren't gonna fly here.

Honestly, I feel like I've used up all my publishing/writing nuggets and now I'm floundering to contribute anything to the conversation. My career seems like it's at a standstill. My agent search has petered out and I'm debating on whether I want to try again with a new book, or remain an indie. Ideally, I'd do both but that doesn't seem to be an option right now.

Do I want to start all over with a pen name? Bask in the freedom of anonymity? Start from scratch?
I don't know.

I messaged my friend the other day. "I'm having an existential writer crisis," I said. "Can you help?"

And then she listened to me bitch for an hour. Do I want to keep going the agent route when I don't have the patience needed to survive the glacial speed of traditional publishing? Do I want to self publish whatever I want without worrying about high-concept or novelty? Do I want to burn money on a marketing pyre? Do I want my work to fade into obscurity? Hell, no, on that one.

I also told her that I feel awkward posting in an indie listserv because I have nothing to say. I haven't experimented with pricing or strategized a series launch. I don't have any author income to speak of. I'm simply there wishing people good luck. I'm a lurker. Blech.

I've turned into such a whiner--like my kids except it's about the state of the industry and not about having chicken with mushroom for dinner. It's not a good look.

An author friend of mine said she wished she had started her writing career thirty years prior. It's the one thing I have on my side: time. I'm forty. Which is young, dammit. I have time to figure out how I want this to play out. What is the long game? And how can I get there?

I know I want to entertain. To my make money. To be part of the industry. To have plenty of blog content.

But how the hell do I get there and how long will it take? And most of all, will I have the fortitude to carry on when my books tank or I've burned cash on a marketing bonfire?

Feel free to chime in, preferably with your own tales of woe. I am here for it. We're all struggling and right now, this is how I can contribute. You are not alone. So lay it on me.

Monday, November 4, 2019

It's Been a Good Run

Did you know that Across the Board kicked off in October of 2014? And that I was part of the original group of authors? 

As I look back, it’s hard to believe I’ve been posting articles for ATB once a month for the past five years. But as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. 

My schedule these days has been consumed with my daughter’s two competitive sports (cheer and dance - which ARE sports, by the way) and her school cheer. She’s hit that teenager status, which means I’m also loaded up with a whole lot of teen angst and drama. If you’ve had to deal with any of this yourself, then you’ll understand my decision to call an end to my time here at ATB. What time I do have needs to be put toward getting my (finally) finished manuscript through the next steps. I’ve also been talked into trying my hand at writing articles for mostly on-line publications. Since there are only so many hours in the day, something had to give. 

I have to say that agreeing to be a part of this blog was one of the best decisions I’ve made. It gave me the chance to not only talk about writing and reading, but I’ve also met some amazing people. The group of authors here at ATB are top-notch and I’m grateful to have them as part of my writing tribe. And the reader in me is happy to have found some great new authors to enjoy!

As a close out, I’ll give you my top five posts from the past five years. 

#5 — Google Search: What if they…
#4 — Quality Control for Indie Authors
#3 — Google Search: What does it mean…
#2 — Winter Reading

And my #1 most read post here at Across the Board is…

5 Things No One Told Me About Being an Author

I will miss my time here at ATB, but I will be following all future posts. Can’t wait to see what this amazing group comes up with in the future!

All the best,
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