Reflecting on 10 Years of Publishing

September 26th, 2021 marks the ten year anniversary of my career in publishing. On that date in 2011, my first book, St. Charles at Dusk, was released to the masses, realizing a lifelong goal and simultaneously changing my life, forever. I was only aware of one of these things on that day, though. The second piece I didn’t understand until much later.

It’s a piece I’m still understanding, ten years later, and will understand differently ten years from now.

Times were different in 2011. When I released my first book, I didn’t know a single other author, nor did I know feck-all about publishing. My husband was the one who did the initial research that got the wheels turning. I have him to thank for lighting the fire under me that led to the eventual acceptance that perfection is the enemy of progress. I could spend another ten years working on the same book (and it would still never be perfect), or I could move forward and give my creativity and imagination space to grow and stretch.

It was another two years before I released my second book, The Storm and the Darkness, but it was that story that spawned an entire literary universe, and would take me down the path that led me here.

Throughout those years, I had highs and lows. An equal share of both, I’d say.

In 2020, the pandemic just getting started, I finally felt as if I’d earned my stripes, and I started work on my first epic fantasy world, Kingdom of the White Sea. I was nervous, perhaps for the first time, about whether what I could produce would be good enough to earn me a place in a genre I had a profound respect for.

But it was also where I discovered my identity as a writer. Where I finally saw the path I wanted the rest of my career to take.

On September 14th, I released my 41st story. Coincidentally (or perhaps not) this is also the summer I turned forty-one.

Ten years in, I’ve had more learnings than I could ever articulate in a blog post. But there are some that stand out more than others. Many I wish someone had helped me to understand when I was a fledgling author.

If you’re reading this, and are a writer, perhaps even one of these can save you some heartache and bring you closer to your goal(s).

Which leads me to…

1.   Set Meaningful Goals

This seems obvious, but I suspect it’s also the part of running your own author business that gets neglected. And this is a business. It’s not enough to say “I want to be famous,” or “I want to live independently off my royalties.” It’s perfectly fine to want those things, but you better have a plan if you intend to make it there. If your goal is to make a million dollars, first you have to make a thousand. Build on your successes with goals that make you stretch further. Measure everything you can. When I didn’t know what was working for me, I couldn’t replicate that success. When I didn’t know what wasn’t working, I got stalled in the wrong places.  

Whenever I’ve set generic goals like “do better than last year,” all I did was exactly that. When I’ve set specific goals, such as “increase top-line revenue by 30%,” and plotted actions that would support that, I’ve achieved that goal. In 2022 I’ll set my loftiest goals yet, but I’ll do so having a solid understanding of what worked to get me where I am now, and how to build on that (and yet, I’ll still cross my fingers that the results continue to be replicable).

2.   Write, Write, Write, Write, WRITE

So, look. You’ll hear a lot of authors say this when they’re asked what the key is to building their business and selling books. I heard it when I was new. I’ve said it dozens of times to people newer than me. I’ve said it just this week. But you won’t really believe it until you see the power of backlist go to work for you.

Readers who love something you wrote, and have nothing more of yours to read when they finish, will move on. They might even forget how much they loved your book. If, on the other hand, they’ve worked through ten of your books, now you have a superfan.

Backlist funds my future projects until they are self-funding. It’s allowed me to work with the best designers in the business, and to take advertising to the next level. But it wasn’t any of that until I had enough books written and published.

So, write. Write until you have more books to show for the effort, and then keep writing. The sooner you can tap into your backlist (and convert more casual readers to superfans), the easier everything else will become.

3.   Embrace Time Optimization Early

Protect your writing time like it’s Aztec gold.

Let’s face it—we ALL have competing priorities. As I type this, I have three demanding pugs waiting to be entertained. That’s to say nothing of my corporate career (which I lovingly refer to as my Clark Kent job), husband, family, and other household responsibilities. The only time I’m not working is when I’m sleeping (and I dream about work, so…)

This is even more true within the time spent managing your writing business. Because you will have to spend time marketing, brand building, connecting with readers, and all those boring business details (bank accounts, taxes) that are, yes, boring, but necessary. It’s VERY easy for social media, especially, to suck up all your time. Once that time is gone, it’s gone. And the less productive you are at the end of the day, the more you feel defeat. That defeat, for me, is a creativity killer.

The more I get done? The more I want to get done. A 2k word morning is more likely to turn into a 5k day for me. A 1k morning often stays that way.

I’ve started scheduling my social media time. I don’t even look at my accounts until I’ve finished my morning writing (or editing, or world-building, depending on where I’m at in the process), and then, unless I’m in the middle of a release cycle, I will ignore them again until later in the day. I also schedule my advertising time, marketing time, etc.

4.   Hold Tight to Your Writer Friends & Groups

I can’t tell you how much I wish some of the awesome author groups that are around today were around when I started. Wide For the Win, Alessandra Torre’s Inkers, 20Booksto50K, etc. This is where I’ve met a lot of my author friends, who are really the only people in the world who understand what it’s like to live with a thousand voices in your head. They know the pain of losses and the thrill of victories. Authors speak a different language. I wouldn’t be where I am without my author friends. I guess this one is less of a learning and more of a reminder to hold tight to these relationships. They make an otherwise solitary business less so.

5.   Understand the Difference Between Learning and Comparison

Writer groups and network are invaluable, but the sooner I learned that not everyone finds success doing the same things, the easier my life became. Authors are generous people and many of us are happy to share what worked. Understanding where your variables intersect with someone else, and where they vary, will help determine what may be worth trying, and what will just spin your wheels (and probably cost you money). There was a lot of trial and error involved in this for me. Knowing your audience is a huge part of winning at this, and can’t be overstated. I’ll say it again, anyway, because there’s a difference between knowing what genre you write in, and knowing who your audience is and what their expectations are: this is research worth doing, and it’s research that never stops.

6.   Pay it Forward But Also Know How to Say No

One of my favorite parts of being part of the author community is being able to use my experiences and knowledge to help newer authors find their footing. I myself learned a ton from other authors, and paying it forward is the best way I know to appreciate that. Problem solving is my love language. When one of us wins, we all win.

And yet, our time is limited. Those competing priorities are still there, and our writing time remains invaluable. It’s the one thing above all else that keeps our business moving forward. There are times when something has to give, and you’ll have to say no, and often time that will mean saying “no” to your author friends. And that’s okay. I can’t always join my friends’ release parties, because sometimes I’m underwater, and overwhelmed, and I have to take my to-do list back to basics. I’ll still share their releases and cheer them on from the background. And when my head returns to the surface, I’ll be able to do more for them.

You cannot drink from an empty cup. Nor can you serve from it.

7.   Celebrate the Big Victories, But Don’t Neglect the Milestones

Authors are notorious for releasing a book and then immediately jumping into the next one without stopping to reflect. Finishing a book is a big deal, whether you write one a year or twenty a year. Take that deep breath and (quickly, if you must) celebrate. This is advice I’ve given myself for years, and have rarely followed. I really am trying to get better at it.

The smaller milestones matter, too. The journey is a big part of the destination in what we do. The days where I double my average wordcount leave me almost euphoric. Any time I’m able to focus without diversion for more than an hour at a time is like winning the lottery. The positive reinforcement you get from yourself for moving through your challenges is more fuel for success. Always be working for yourself, not against.

8.   Advertising is Painful, But Don’t Put it Off

I told myself for years that Facebook ads, and AMS ads, were too complex, and I’d never get it. All the while I knew what I was telling myself was a lie, and that this lie was holding me back from where I wanted to go.

I finally invested in a not-cheap-but-incredible Facebook Ads course (Skye Warren’s, if you’re curious; worth every penny) that changed everything for me. Suddenly, it “clicked.” And when it clicked, the rest fell into place.

One of my goals for 2021 was to achieve the same mastery with AMS ads. I’m not there yet, but I’m working at it.

I’m still learning. I’ll always be learning. But I’ll be getting my work in front of more readers while I do it.

9.   Brand is Queen

Entire books have been written about identifying and building brands. Knowing who you are, how your work fits seamlessly into that, how everything you post and say and do is a reflection of both. Brand is you. Who you are in a public setting (and social media/internet is our main public setting) is a reflection of that brand, for better or worse. Once I really learned this, social media actually got easier for me, as I knew what my priorities were (and weren’t).

This is not me saying “shut up and write.” I find few things more insulting than insinuating that people in the public eye should give up their right to an opinion on things that matter. We all have a voice, a right to that voice, and should use it, if we feel called to do so.

10. Drama: Abort, Abort!

I won’t lie and say that some fresh tea won’t make me stop scrolling. Nothing will steal my attention faster than some juicy beef. But I don’t engage. I don’t comment on it, throw my hat into the ring by picking sides, post about it, or even vaguebook about it. Nothing positive can come from it, and the resulting heartache only makes it harder to find the words, the time, and the inspiration. Anything that hurts my brand is counterintuitive to the goals I’ve set for myself, and it overshadows the work I’ve put in. Drama is anathema to creativity for me, and creativity is what powers me.

It’s hard to believe ten years have passed and yet, at the same time, I can hardly remember a time in my life where the publishing world wasn’t at the center. I can’t wait to see where the next ten years leads me.

If you’re an author new to publishing, and wondering where the heck to get started, I understand that this can be a daunting period. But there really is a wealth of resources that didn’t exist when I started. Alessandra Torre has some great “getting started” advice on her website (and her Inkers group on Facebook is fantastic). Joanna Penn is a legend, and has books, podcasts, and a website with years and years of invaluable info. I often recommend David Gaughran’s non-fiction craft and marketing books, and if you want to save yourself some early heartache, check out Becca Syme’s “Dear Author” series, to develop the right habits and mentalities before the bad ones take over. These recommendations only scratch the surface of what’s out there to take advantage of, but it’s a good start.

If you’ve read to the end, thank you. It’s a heck of a lot easier to write about fictional characters than real ones.

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.


The Eric Shaw Quinn Series | Part 1 of 3: A Guest Post from Eric

RT2_MSTR-ESQ-IMG_0800-SoftFilter-croppedI’m thrilled to introduce a three-part series with the diversely talented Eric Shaw Quinn, New York Times bestselling author and co-host of The Dinner Party Show. On June 7th, he released his most exciting and ambitious work yet: a biographical narrative of the powerful love between biblical heroes David and Jonathan. Widely lauded as a beautiful retelling of 1 Samuel 18:1 & 3, Quinn sat down to chat with me about the book and his experiences in sharing it with the world.

The series begins with an “in his own words” guest post from Eric, continued the following week with an interview, and, finally, the best for past: an exclusive excerpt from The Prince’s Psalm!

Schedule:

Part One: Guest Post Written by Eric Shaw Quinn (July 5th)
Part Two: An Interview with Eric Shaw Quinn (July 12th)
Part Three: An Exclusive Excerpt from The Prince’s Psalm. (July 19th)

The Prince’s Psalm- A Guest Post by Eric Shaw Quinn

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I’m not really a Bible person. As a gay person, I never really felt welcome in the Christian church around which I grew up. I wasn’t sure what offended me more. The Christians who used their bible and their faith to justify discriminating against and even killing gay people, or the Christians who claimed they didn’t hate “the gays” but did nothing to stop the destructive actions of the lunatics who did. One thing was for sure. Both groups turned me off to the whole thing. It turned out to be a personal blessing as it allowed me to explore my spirituality unfettered by outdated ideas. I got the chance to decide what I believe and what I don’t believe. Without five-thousand-year-old, out of date rules to encumber me, my faith continues to evolve. The only thing I’m certain about is that I don’t believe in organized religion. I think it’s a harmful and destructive force responsible for most of the evil in the world today.

My father is a man of strong faith. He’s had his own struggles with religion. In his lifetime, he’s pursued a career as a minister, studied for a doctorate of divinity at SMU and left the church altogether over its views and inaction on segregation. More recently, Dad was personally shaken when his delegation to the Methodist convention was denied a chance to speak about standing up for gay people against those Christians who wanted to use the church as a weapon against others. His faith remained strong, however. Later when his own minister decided to be a dick in public about the incident at the convention, my father stepped away from his church’s regular organized observances. Still, despite being in his eighties now, he continues his work at the church-based soup kitchen he helped start after he retired. That’s just one of his Christian outreach efforts where he tries to do “unto the least of these.”

It was the nineties, the heyday of Christian hate against gay people. On the television airwaves and beyond, alleged Christians felt free to just say whatever hateful, hurtful thing they wanted to and about gay people. Yet my father’s faith and his belief in his own mission was strong enough that he turned to that same faith for answers to his conflict. In a Bible study group with whom he was reading and discussing the Bible chapter by chapter, he came upon the first book of Samuel and, as he read on, to 1 Samuel chapter 18 which begins:

And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.

2 And Saul took him that day, and would let him go no more home to his father’s house.

3 Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul.

My father could see the truth in these beautiful words. These two men — one of them arguably the second most famous person in the Bible – were not only in love, but pledging their commitment to one another as David was taken into Jonathan’s family. This was gay marriage, right smack dab in the middle of the holy book that was being used to argue against the idea and to justify the hatred of and discrimination against gay people throughout the world. I don’t know where my father was when he read these words or what his Bible study class had to say about it, or if leapt to his feet and raced to call me or just remembered to let me know what he’d found when we next spoke. I do know that from the moment I first heard those words more than twenty years ago, the novel that became The Prince’s Psalm was born in my heart. Thanks Dad, for sharing your faith with me and for inspiring me to tell Jonathan and David’s love story.

To learn more about this story (including links to where to purchase), click here.

 

Cover Reveal: Jessie’s Girl by Lindy Zart

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Book Title: Jessie’s Girl

Author: Lindy Zart

Cover by: Mae I Design

Publisher: WaWa Productions

Genre: New Adult

Release date: 2/26/16

Synopsis:

The road trip from Minnesota to Pennsylvania and back is meant to be the final adventure before four friends go their separate ways in the fall.

Except nothing goes as intended, beginning with the unexpected addition of Catherine Tate, Jessie Keller’s new girlfriend. Sam Kent denies his attraction to her while simultaneously deflecting unusual interest from his pal Hannah Lopez. Dickie Dean is the socially inept book lover who surprises them all.

Amidst a malfunctioning vehicle, being caught in the middle of a robbery, beer drinking, mosquito attacks, and other teenage drama, the five experience courage, broken hearts, fear, and laughter. Most importantly, they make memories.

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28525124-jessie-s-girl

YouTube Book Trailer: http://tinyurl.com/hjs75oy

 

Amazon: http://amzn.to/1UPP9mW

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/607510

 

Author Bio:

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Lindy Zart is the USA Today bestselling author of Roomies. She has been writing since she was a child. Luckily for readers, her writing has improved since then. She lives in Wisconsin with her family. Lindy loves hearing from people who enjoy her work. She also has a completely healthy obsession with the following: coffee, wine, bloody marys, peanut butter, and pizza.


Author Links:


Newsletter: http://tinyurl.com/zznk8th

Google.com/+LindyZart

Twitter.com/LindyZart

Facebook.com/LindyZart

Instagram: ZartLindy

Lindyzart.com

Lindyzart@gmail.com

Listen to the playlists for Lindy’s books on Spotify.com

Get an eBook autograph from Lindy at Authorgraph.com

Check out Lindy’s YouTube channel.

The Hinterland Veil (C&C Volume VII)| Cover Reveal + Pre-Order Available!

TheHinterlandVeilCover_ebook.jpgI hope everyone had a wonderful holiday with their loved ones! Many of you have asked me about release information for Volume VII, and so I’ve been busy with a holiday surprise of my own.
THE HINTERLAND VEIL will be released on March 22, 2016! Volume VII picks up the story threads of Finn, Aleksandr, Anasofiya, Agripin, Nicolas, and Mercy, bringing each of their adventures to a climax. From Ireland to Scotland, from Finland to Russia, the Deschanels are back to fight for what matters most.

PRE-ORDER YOUR COPY NOW!

The campaign begins. Bravery conquers fear. Fate races time.
Amazon | BN* | iTunes | Kobo*| Google Play 

*BN and Kobo are on holiday hiatus from publisher updates. Pre-order will likely become available around the new year.

Don’t forget, The House of Crimson & Clover Volumes I-IV is still on sale for $.99 (90% off list price!) until 12/31. A perfect time to catch up on the series, or send the gift to a friend!

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Amazon | BN | iTunes | Kobo | Google Play | Goodreads

Season’s Greetings!
Sarah

Book Review: House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski

71Vmj-9DZYLNothing I ever say about this body of work (I hesitate to call it a novel. No other work of fiction exists like it.) will come close to offering up the sum total of my thoughts. I’ll do my best.

It took me a couple years to pick this book up. While I cherish my physical books, I often buy unknown (to me) authors in Kindle format, and take the books on my travels. The lack of a Kindle option kept me passing it over on my reading list, until it didn’t. Heading into my annual New Orleans trip, something told me this was the book I had to have with me. So I ordered it.

This is not an easy read. Nor is it a page turner. It certainly isn’t a book you can or should pick up when you’re sleepy or distracted. But it is, hands down, the most ambitious work I’ve ever held in my hands. And yes, I’ve read (and love) War and Peace.

The Navidson Record, or the story that everything else in this book centers around, is, at its core, with all the loveliness and exquisite detail stripped away, a tale of found footage. Especially disturbing footage, from narrators who don’t have the funds for special effects of the nature required to create their extraordinary experiences within the house, leaving behind years of speculation by critics, experts, psychologists, paranormal hunters, authors, and all nature of individuals.

Pulling back further, telling the story is Johnny Truant, an incredibly unreliable narrator who has come across a collection of analysis on The Navidson Record, and, as he begins to assemble and make sense of it, his own reality spirals further out of control. Most of his contributions to the story are a collection of nonsensical ramblings, sometimes for pages and pages on end, with seemingly no connection to the narrative. In the back of the book, there is also a collection of letters from his institutionalized mother, known as P, whose exact diagnosis is never given but evidence leans toward schizophrenia. As with P’s words to her son, it is unclear how much of what she relays to him is the result of her paranoia and hallucinations, and what is real (if anything). Similarly, It is unclear how much of Johnny’s rambling is a retelling of reality and how much is simply from the fabric of his imagination. After all, he tells (and shows us) what a practiced liar he is (not to mention his relationship with drugs).

687637As Johnny adds footnotes to The Navidson Record, he continuously tells the reader that most of the sources don’t actually exist, and his research turned up no evidence of any of the people involved in the project. Again, it is unclear if this is because it does not exist to him, or to us, or both.

At the center of the tale is, of course, The Navidson Record itself, a story told through Hi 8 footage, cassette recordings, interviews, journal entries, and critical analysis. Will Navidson, his family, and all those he brings into his terrifying discovery of a house with continuously shifting dimensions and intentions, all react very differently to events, both at the surface and deeper down, where the house leaves its mark. Deeper still, the Navidson Record is really two stories: that of the wonders of the house and what it means/where it came from, and the enduring relationship of Will and his partner Karen. Taken separately, they are both fascinating, rewarding stories, one relying on the supernatural, and the other, something more sublime. Taken together, the tale seems to send a deeper message, about the restorative and unshakeable nature of love itself. Will and Karen are not necessarily sympathetic characters, but your sense of what drives them toward one another is nothing short of magnetic.

Layered in through the 700+ pages were exhaustive source notes, quotes, psychological analysis, and all manner of detail that, while overwhelming to the reader, helped to bring this into something cohesive. Dare I say it, real. Was it all necessary? Not to tell the story, no. But I suspect the author wanted to do far more here than simply tell a story. He wanted to leave his readers changed. Questioning.

I could dive in further, but, truly, this isn’t a book I can explain effectively to others. My husband asked me what it was about, and I started to tell him, then came up short. Read it for yourself. Push past the slow parts and rest assured, every detail, every word, every layer is part of this tremendously powerful and delicate dance.

Bravo, Mr. Danieleswki.

Pick up a copy here.

Cover Reveal: Empire of Shadows (The House of Crimson & Clover Volume 5)

After months and months of working to smooth and color the text for this fifth volume in the series, Empire of Shadows is off to my editor at the end of the week. Guess what that means? If you guessed coed naked pillow fight, you would be wrong. But if you guessed cover reveal, you are the winner!

Speaking of winners… I’m holding a contest over on my Facebook page. $10 Gift Card is the prize. If you like free stuff, I recommend checking that out. The pinned post has the deets.

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Still working on an appropriate synopsis and blurb, and hope to have that soon. Pre-order will be live in the next few weeks.

What else can I say? This is my most ambitious work yet. So if you’re not caught up on the series yet… I recommend carving out some time! Below you’ll find a ton of shameless retailer links for your convenience or to ignore. Continue reading