6 Accomplishments, 6 Learnings, 6 Goals

GoodBye-2017-Welcome-2018-HD-Photos-1024x1024 (1)As 2017 came to a close, I found myself thinking, “this isn’t my best year. Not my biggest year.” But certainly it was a year of growth, change, and big pivots. The market has shifted, as has my focus. Every year, I use my learnings of the prior to inform the next. 2017’s work has set me on a whole new trajectory, and I can’t wait to see where it goes.

6 Accomplishments of 2017

  1. Hit the Top 100 (Top 50, and 20 as well) on Amazon three times in the US on my own titles. Hit the Top 10 in AU, UK, CA, and IT. Also, Top 10 at Barnes & Noble and Kobo, and Top 50 at iBooks. This is on par with my performance of 2016 as well.
  2. Finished the House of Crimson & Clover series. This was something I never thought I would do. 12 volumes, 13 lagniappes, and multiple boxed sets. But closing this door led to the opening of the broader Saga of Crimson & Clover, where the world continues in different ways.
  3. Launched the Saga of Crimson & Clover. Created unique branding and outlined three new series with releases in 2018, all within the same world. Endless possibilities await, and I could not be more excited.
  4. House of Dusk, House of Dawn Was a Top 10 Kobo Cover of 2017. This wasn’t something I submitted to. Kobo picked from among the 2017 releases and then notified those authors on the list. I was first a Top 10 Sci-Fi/Fantasy pick, and then as voting narrowed down, I made it into the final Top 10 for the year.
  5. Broadened horizons. In addition to getting more of my books into audio this year, I also welcomed opportunities to partner with Nook, iBooks, and Kobo. House of Dusk, House of Dawn, for example, was invited to an exclusive early release with Nook.
  6. Research trips add more exciting locales to Crimson & Clover. I always visit New Orleans each year, but in 2017 I also went to Paris, which became a key setting in my upcoming release, A Tempest of Discovery. In 2018, I look ahead to a spring trip to Italy.

6 Learnings in 2017

  1. Most paid advertising, with few exceptions, is DOA. The days of stacking tons of newsletter-based paid ads on a sale or new release seem to be over. Most simply do not have the ROI, and as readers get newsletter fatigue, they are narrowing down what they subscribe to and read. This makes services like Bookbub even more elusive and important.
  2. Facebook is entering the realm of impossible for reaching anyone. First, it was the pay walls. Now, it’s the unforgiving algorithms. This isn’t a debate on whether Facebook should be making it harder or not, just an observation that it becomes ever more important to find a way to engage on other platforms.
  3. Multi-author boxed sets used to be a key strategy for my publishing goals, both in terms of reaching new readers, as well as revenue generation. With the market oversaturated with these sets, my titles doing much more than sitting on someone’s Kindle is idealistic at best. If I do enter into one in the future, it will have something clear and marked that sets it apart from the competition.
  4. Thinking like readers has never been more important. Marketing books tends to follow the pattern of “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” Just as there are trends in genres, there are trends in cover design, in marketing techniques, etc. Because of this, the way to emerge ahead of the trends is to think like a reader. What grabbed your eye? Why? Think beyond books, too. What made you stop and look in other forms of media?
  5. Need be more present and accessible. Due to the growing limitations of places like Facebook, it’s easy to just neglect to spend the time. But, Facebook or elsewhere, technology continues to provide more ways to be available and accessible. Podcasts, for example, or even live videos. The key is finding ways to make those channels engaging, rather than just one more thing.
  6. Your tribe is so important. Every year I’m reminded of this, but every year it bears repeating. The authors, readers, bloggers, etc. I am close to have been beacons of light in dark times. Few people know your struggles the way another artist does. Holding on to them, supporting them as they’ve supported you, is a key element of turning a solitary profession into a community.

6 Goals for 2018

  1. Launch 3 brand new series. With the pivot away from a single series into a universe of stories, I have three new series launching in 2018, all different genres but within the same world. I have releases planned for January, March, and the summer (book one for each), and will shift to the second book in each series in the second half of the year.
  2. Continue to strengthen my audio presence. Most of The House of Crimson & Clover is now in audio, thanks to my lovely narrator LC Kane. Want to finish this series and shift to the new ones releasing in 2018.
  3. Look into a marketplace on my website. Some authors have shifted their readers to a marketplace of their own for ebook retail. As Amazon strengthens their market stance and competitors get pushed back, it becomes more important for us to have some control over our digital inventory.
  4. More focused spending. With paid advertising via newsletters and social media waning, it’s time to pivot into other mediums. Find what works. Test, trial and error. Abandon what isn’t paying off, and embrace what is.
  5. Find ways to be more accessible without taking time away from writing. This is always the challenge, right? But I believe that it’s not the time you spend, but how you spend it. Effective uses of time are never a waste. A ten minute podcast might do more for reaching readers than 10 minutes of Facebook posts.
  6. Look to 2019, 2020, and beyond. There are three series coming, but there are more burning in the back of my mind. Need to get them outlined and on the calendar, and look for ways to continue to expand the world in a way that appeals to new readers but satisfies old ones.

 

What are your accomplishments and learnings from 2017? How are you looking ahead to 2018?

Happy New Year!

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House of Dusk, House of Dawn A Top 10 Kobo Cover of the Year!

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Thank you so much to those of you who voted “House of Dusk, House of Dawn,” from the Top 10 Fantasy/Sci-Fi list all the way to the Top 10 of 2017 finals. The cover didn’t win, but I sincerely mean this when I say I am beyond honored to have made it into the finals. Top 10 of how many thousands of books released? Humbled. Truly. Thank you!

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House of Dusk, House of Dawn is a Kobo Top Cover of 2017!

HouseofDuskDawn_ebookI am absolutely humbled and thrilled to announce that Kobo has named “House of Dusk, House of Dawn” as a Top 10 Fantasy/Sci-Fi Cover of 2017! This is such a tremendous honor. Many of you know that in addition to writing the books in this series (duh), I also designed all the covers.

Voting for this category is open for the next few days. If “House of Dusk, House of Dawn” is also a favorite of yours, please consider taking a moment to vote. The site is mobile-friendly and is a quick as a single click to vote.

You can vote here.

The Top 3 from this round will go on to the next round. I’ll keep everyone posted on how far this one goes!

Sarah

Breaking Down the Playlist: House of Dusk, House of Dawn

HouseofDuskDawn_ebookMany authors create playlists for their books, filled with the songs that inspired scenes, characters, or storylines. Throughout the House of Crimson & Clover series, I’ve shared my playlists for the books on my website. Some of these songs were helpful background noise. Others are at least partly responsible for how a book turned out.

As I wrap up the final House of Crimson & Clover book (I’m still not used to typing those words), I’ve created a playlist filled with songs new to the series, as well as those that played pivotal roles in the creation of earlier books.

Here’s some “behind the curtain” notes behind how I chose a few of the songs that appear on the playlist for the final book in the series. The full playlist is at the bottom if you want to add it to your Spotify.

“House of Dusk, House of Dawn” Playlist Notes

Imagine- A Perfect Circle: Maynard James Keenan is one of my favorite artists, and his songs have appeared throughout the playlists for this series. I thought it only fitting to choose one of my favorite covers of one of my favorite songs for the playlist of the final book. The idealistic hopefulness of this song also resonates as this book begins with every single character part of a fight for a better world and a better life.

The Night We Met- Lord Huron: Both the chords and words of this song have a way of sinking deep into your soul. As soon as I heard  it, I knew it would be the backdrop for a particularly difficult chapter. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do, haunted by the ghost of you,” is the kind of line I wished I’d written myself. I don’t want to spoil anything, but you’ll know when you get there.

White Blank Page- Mumford and Sons: I wrote all of “Asunder” to this song on repeat (much to the chagrin of my long-suffering husband). Asunder primarily tells the story of Jacob and Amelia’s separation, which was layered with so many complexities and complications. The powerhouse of emotion behind the vocals on this song put me in Jacob’s frame of mind, and kept me there, heart clenched tight, stomach in knots, all the way to the finish.

Where is my Mind?- Maxence Cyrin: I wrote a majority of Nicolas’ scenes in “The Illusions of Eventide” to the Pixies version of this song. Nicolas has always been the character in the series most vivid to me. The most loud. Which is interesting, because in many ways he’s the least grounded. He floated through most of the books, lost, confused, and on the verge either a total meltdown or complete enlightenment. Frank Black’s warbling vocals captured Nicolas’ frame of mind quite well, but I love this calmer version as a way to bring things full circle for the character.

I Go to the Barn Because I Like the- Band of Horses: Finn is not an innocent character, but I have always felt from him, and written into him, a sense of innocence. He is most vulnerable in life when he finds himself standing before Ana, heart in hand. This song perfectly captures that sense in Finn that he is out his element in the face of something he has never wanted more, or needed more, in his life. I wrote most of his scenes in “Bound” to this song, and many in the books that followed.

Everlong- Foo Fighters: This is, of course, the song that brought Jacob and Amelia together, in a scene that happens prior to the start of the series, but is revisited several times on the page (for the first time in “Midnight Dynasty”). I chose this song because I loved it, but also because I have had this recurring dream for years that I’m pulled onstage at a FF concert for a drum solo on this song. I air drum this song in the car more than I should. Writers give their characters little gifts all the time. I thought, who better than to give this to than Jacob?

Dreams- Cranberries: Since this song came out, when I was in middle school, it has always represented happiness even in dark times. A sense of joy after a long storm. As if saying, with a smile, “ahh… at last.” I always knew this would appear somewhere at the end of the series.

A Praise Chorus- Jimmy Eat World: Simply, this song is what gave me the title for the series. I knew what I wanted to convey- the sense of two powerful families, two powerful dynasties- but struggled for months with the right title. This song was on my playlist and one day the words “clicked.” I know Jimmy Eat World borrowed “crimson and clover, over and over,” but I still owe them credit for the moment everything came together.

A few other notes. Alt-J has played a huge part in setting the stage for the second half of this series, and “Intro” is one of my favorites of theirs. It feels fitting as a start to the book. Pendulum is one of my favorite electronic groups, and “Witchcraft” has the right amount of energy to jump us straight into the biggest battle of the series. But every single one of these songs was chosen strategically, and their placement in the list is equally intentional.

You can find the playlist below on Spotify:

Pre-order House of Dusk, House of Dawn now:

In the end is our beginning.
Google Play: http://bit.ly/2ueOkxx

Introducing: The Saga of Crimson & Clover, a World of Southern Gothic Fantasy

I have an exciting announcement, one which will enhance and re-shape the world of Crimson & Clover going forward, allowing me to leverage the potential of the vast world I’ve built while continuing to produce stories with crisp, new ideas.

I would like to introduce to you The Saga of Crimson & Clover, an overarching universe that will contain multiple, perhaps many, series within.

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But first, let’s back up a bit.

If you are a reader of The House of Crimson & Clover Series, I imagine one of the draws for you to be the fully fleshed and developed world. If so, we have something in common. I have, for many years as a reader, sought out series with a sense of universe behind them, becasue I find it easier to lose myself into the escape reading creates. There’s a saying somewhere about how readers choose to live in many worlds, not just one. And as a reader, I would be perfectly happy with a series that never ends, if it was within a world I love and there was still compelling stories to be told.

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The Saga of Crimson & Clover, a world of Southern Gothic Fantasy containing multiple or many series.

As an author, I’m not so very different. I’ve spent as many hours developing this world, and its characters, as I have writing them. I could throw together an encyclopedia, there’s so much material. Think of it like the proverbial tip of the iceberg. I’ve only been able to share a sliver so far.

 

As I near the end of the current arc of major storylines in The House of Crimson & Clover Series (Prophecy, Curse, Empyrean War, etc.), which will be wrapped up in Volume 10 (fall of 2017), I look forward to exploring the ideas I have for the C&C universe overall. I see a lot of our main characters continuing on as the story is pulled in closer to New Orleans, and other branches of the family (The LaViolettes, the powerful female-led line, for one, and far more on the Sullivan side) coming further into play. I also want to explore other potential storylines, such as returning to mysterious Summer Island, or maybe even some Empyrean tales set in Farjhem. When I do, I want them to be contained within their own series, so new readers don’t have to read 40 books to catch up, while existing readers can continue to enjoy all this universe has to offer.

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The House of Crimson & Clover, a 10 Volume Paranormal Southern Gothic series within the broader Saga of Crimson & Clover world.

I plan to restructure the world of Crimson & Clover to accommodate more stories and additional series within that world. The overarching world will be The Saga of Crimson & Clover, and within that saga will be different series, each of which can be enjoyed on their own (self-contained), or to enhance their enjoyment of the saga overall.The series you are all reading now (Volumes 1-10), is, of course, The House of Crimson & Clover series. When I continue the story, this will begin another series, The Midnight Dynasty series. Although it will be a continuation of the lives of the characters from The House of Crimson & Clover Series, it will also begin new storylines that don’t require the former series as a prerequisite. The main thing I want you to take away is that all of these individual series can be read on their own. You can read The Midnight Dynasty series without having read The House of Crimson & Clover series, as I’ll provide just enough backstory for new readers to track. The number of books per series will vary, depending on the story I need to tell.

This is a visual representation of how the Crimson & Clover universe will be structured:

The Crimson & Clover Saga 

The House of Crimson & Clover Series

Prequels
Volumes 1-10 (Final book fall 2017)

Vampires of the Merovingi Series

Volumes 1-? (First book planned summer 2017)

The Midnight Dynasty Series

Volumes 1- ? (First book spring 2018)

Example” Series*

Volumes 1-X

Crimson & Clover Lagniappes

Bonus Stories

 

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Vampires of the Merovingi, a brand new series within the Saga of Crimson & Clover, coming Summer 2017

What’s not changing? The House of Crimson & Clover Series, and the books within, haven’t changed. The Crimson & Clover Lagniappes (Bonus Stories) can still be read as standalones, at any point in the series. 

The main change to be aware of is that now The House of Crimson & Clover will be part of a broader universe, with more stories and series on the horizon.

*Example Series, to me, means endless possibilities. As I mentioned above, I have endless ideas, and the more nuanced this world gets, the more possibilities open up. I could honestly see myself writing in this universe the rest of my life, and that’s why breaking out additional series, to me, is the right move. It helps give readers different entry points, and lots of options.

 

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Midnight Dynasty, a new series within the Saga of Crimson & Clover, coming 2018

 

Q&A

 

Q: What does this change about the existing House of Crimson & Clover Series?

A: Nothing specifically. The House of Crimson & Clover series, and all titles within, will remain the same, and all the Lagniappes (bonus stories) can continue to be read as standalone stories. What IS changing is that this series will now roll up to a broader Saga of Crimson & Clover universe.

Q: What about the Lagniappe (bonus) stories? Are those tied to a single series, or all?

A: Since all titles within the Crimson & Clover Saga, no matter what series they belong to, all sit in the same universe, I see the Lagniappes in the same way. These stories tend to revolve around specific characters or occurrences that are not tied to the progression of the stories, but shed more light on a person’s past or experiences. Lagniappes, then, are tied more to the saga then the individual series within.

Q: What will the additional series’ be about?

A: The possibilities are endless here, and I have so many ideas brewing. I can tell you The Midnight Dynasty series will be more centered around the Deschanels and Sullivans at home in New Orleans, and more family-centric drama. This includes introducing and exploring other branches of the family, such as the LaViolettes. I also have a series, Vampires of the Merovingi, in production, which will be more of a historical fantasy bend, covering the de Blancheforts and how they stepped into their live as dhampir (vampires). Those are the two series I will focus on in the near (next 1-2 years) future. Beyond that, I have lots of ideas, and it’s a matter of prioritizing them.

Q: How many books will be in each series?

A: The answer depends on how the story arcs progress for each individual series. I can say The House of Crimson & Clover Series is definitely a 10 book series. At this point, I can’t predict how long the others will be.

Q: When will the last House of Crimson & Clover series book be published?

A: Fall of 2017.

Q: What are the next series’ coming after The House of Crimson & Clover?

A: Vampires of the Merovingi, a historical fantasy series about how the de Blancheforts came into their powers as vampires, and Midnight Dynasty, which centers around the Deschanels and Sullivans with matters closer to home (a continuation of where the story in The House of Crimson & Clover left off, but can also be read on its own. The first series will be out in summer of 2017, and the next series in early 2018.

Q: Do I have to read The House of Crimson & Clover before I read the other series?

A: Not unless you want to. I’m intentionally structuring each series to be read on their own. Undoubtedly, there will be those who preferred to read the different series in a specific order, but it won’t be required.

Q: What can we expect from you in 2017?

A: In the spring, Volume 9 of The House of Crimson & Clover, Within the Garden of Twilight, is releasing. Closer to Halloween, expect the final volume of the series to be released. Also, this summer, the first title in Vampires of the Merovingi will be available.

Q: So you have three series listed here. What comes beyond those?

A: It’s hard to say. I have so many ideas, so many notes, that I could write within this universe for years and years to come. Once I have The House of Crimson & Clover wrapped up, and both Midnight Dynasty and Vampires of the Merovingi well on their way, that will be the time for me to prioritize those ideas into next steps.

Q: What about projects outside of the Saga of Crimson & Clover?

A: In all honesty, for me writing has always been about following the passion, and the vast majority of my passion lies within the world of Crimson & Clover. But I do occasionally dabble elsewhere. From time to time, you’ll find original work from me in projects designed to raise money for charity. These are usually very short reads, but they fall outside the world of Crimson & Clover. I also have a title available in the shared sci-fi world of The Complex, titled The Last Dryad. Beyond that, Becket and I are still writing our mystery series, The Text Message Serials, and are currently exploring our options for publication.

 

Have You Visited The Complex?

After a brutal war between Humans and Metas an uneasy truce is declared in the Seldova solar system. At the conclusion of the treaty signing, the Complex is created on the lone planet, Lorn. The Complex is a blended community of Humans and Metas, all sent to test the waters for a more peaceful existence between the two races. Living under a domed community can only mean one thing for the Humans and Metas. Chaos.

Visit The Complex

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THE LAST DRYAD by Sarah M. Cradit

A future torn by war. A love that could change everything.

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BLADE OF FOREVER by Scarlett Dawn

The stars align when two all-powerful Giants, with supernatural ‘swords’, flip a Human woman’s galaxy upside down.

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HALCYON by Demelza Carlton

Catch a siren. Stop the storm. Whatever the cost.

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CURSED by Dylan Quinn

Cupid has a death wish but when her curse sets its target on the most powerful man in the universe, even the goddess of love may not be strong enough to resist.

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HUNGRY TOUCH by Shona Husk

He wants to usher in a new era for the Incubi, but the traditionalist will do anything to stop him.

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THE CURSE CATCHER by Laura Thalassa

Can a woman break her captor’s ancient curse before it’s too late, or will the beast prevail and destroy them both?

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NIGHT WHISPERS by Calinda B

Someone’s stalking her, in her dreams. If he doesn’t destroy her, will he be her seductive salvation?

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PROCRIS by M. Stratton

When magic decides an outcast Strogi should be forever linked with a Human they discover they are allowed something neither one thought they’d ever have, love.

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ARRESTED IN PEACE by Jason Halstead

A vengeful woman must decide between the death of love or a love of death.

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THE LAST DRYAD by Sarah M. Cradit

A future torn by war. A love that could change everything.

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DEATH’S ECHO by Rachel M. Raithby

She’s spent her life avoiding death’s echoes, now they may be the only thing that can save her.

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BALANCE POINT by Katherine Rhodes

Three people. Two mates. One chance to save their destiny.

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SHADOW OF RUIN by Cherie Marks

To obtain the impossible, she must overcome the shadows of her past.

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*The Complex books can be read in any order.


100 Iconic Photos of New Orleans Through the Ages

Yat Lagniappe

I’ve compiled a listicle of my favorite historical photos of New Orleans.  Through its complex history, New Orleans experienced a series of issues: slavery, war, riots, segregation, hurricanes, etc.  I stopped prior to 1980 to keep it as historical as possible.  I kept it at 100 to keep it succinct, but there are many more that should belong here so feel free to add any of your favorite photos in the comments section.

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