Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Magic Under Glass Musical and Talking Doll People with Tyrolin Puxty

The Magic Under Glass musical premiered the last weekend of July! It had five performances and I was there for all of them except the Saturday matinee.

How does it feel to watch one of my beloved stories play out on the stage?

I must admit, I was a little terrified on opening night. I wrote the script, I worked closely with the composer, and I had meetings with the director and co-director. The guy who plays Erris has also been with us from almost the beginning. And the girl who did costuming was awesome about asking me questions about the intended time period, how fairies should look, etc. So I knew all these people and had talked to them a lot about my intentions with the story. And yet, there is a LOT I had nothing to do with. Casting, makeup, dance choreography, direction of actual scenes, sets...

I didn't REALLY know what I would see when I sat in that theater seat. turned out to be one of the best weekends of my life. I was SO transported. It made me yearn for that world all over again. Are there things I would change? Sure, of course. Some of them are aspects of the script for which I can only blame myself! Some characters weren't perfectly cast, as it was a teen theater camp and the directors had to work with whoever signed up. I have a list of things I would change. And yet, I was amazed at just how much the whole thing did suit my vision, and even exceed it in places. There were moments of the musical I liked much more than the book! I really felt like everyone involved in this at every level was very dedicated and passionate and it was amazing to be a part of this.

Here is just one of the moments I loved to bits: a fun love/reconciliation song between Hollin, Annalie, and her spirits. My original intention was to write Magic Under Glass as a trilogy and bring these two back together in the third book, so to see this happen here was a total squee moment for me. 

A DVD and cast album of the performance is on the way, stay tuned! 

Now, I have #2 in my "created beings" blog tour series to celebrate The Sorcerer's Concubine and The Stolen Heart, my novels that deal with my race of lifelike doll people! With me today is Tyrolin Puxty, the author of Broken Dolls and Shattered Girls. I'm eager to read both of them...they sound kinda creepy, and kinda sweet, and kinda Tim Burton-y.

1. Tell us about the created being(s) in your book! How were they made? Who made them and why? What is their place in the world?

My little dolls were created by the professor, when he deemed their human forms too sick, weak or 'broken' to carry on. I can't say too much without spoiling the end, but the dolls are trying to figure out what their place in the world is. Lisa is convinced the professor is evil and she does everything in her power to expose him, meanwhile Ella is certain he's just the sweet, old man who has cared for her for the past thirty years. 

2. Stories about created beings can delve into many themes, such as what it means to be human, how we treat people who are different, the quest for immortality, and the relationship between an artist/craftsman and their work. What was your reason for telling this story?

I'm fascinated by the concept of 'good and bad', 'right and wrong'. Our choices are a matter of perception. What if a man kills a child to save the world? Many would say he was a hero, but he would be a villain through the mother's eyes.

Belonging and selflessness are strong themes in Broken Dolls, with each character perceiving their circumstances with vastly different mindsets. Ella is happy with her simplistic life, dancing in the attic. Lisa strives to uncover the truth. Neither of them are right or wrong. It's just how they choose to live their life. 

3. Do you have a favorite fictional created being?

Oh, hands down, The Powerpuff Girls. Like, come on! Adorable, intelligent with hardcore abilities like ice breath, laser eyes and the ability to talk to squirrels. There's a website where you can turn yourself into a Powerpuff Girl. I think I totally rock the look. Just sayin'. 

Website: (mailing list should be under the blog section, but I'll edit it and put it on the homepage!) 
YouTube channel 
Twitter: Tizthunder
Twitch: Tyrthunder

Ella doesn't remember what it's like to be human - after all, she's lived as a doll for thirty years. She forgets what it's like to taste, to love. She helps the professor create other dolls, but they don't seem to hang around for long. His most recent creation is Lisa, a sly goth. Ella doesn't like Lisa. How could she, when Lisa keeps trying to destroy her? Ella likes the professor's granddaughter though, even if she is dying. Gabby is like Ella's personal bodyguard. It's too bad the professor wants to turn Gabby into a doll too, depriving her of an education...depriving her of life. With time running out and mad dolls on the rampage, Ella questions her very existence as she unearths the secrets buried in her past; secrets that will decide whether Gabby will befall the same fate...

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Musical Update, and Created Beings Tour Special Guest Beth Revis!

Hey hey!

I'll keep this short because I want to get to my guest authors--FINALLY--but life has been utterly crazy this month. The Magic Under Glass musical (the title has been changed to match the books instead of Clockwork Heart) premieres in just a little over a week in Columbia, MD. Get tickets here!:

Our Erris has been vlogging the process so you can get a tiny peek of all the behind the scenes work to get the music, choreography and everything else to be spectacular! It really only is a tiny peek. I wish I could show you some of the amazing music I've heard at rehearsals.

Onto our first guest for the Created Beings tour! Since the two series I have going this year involve my lifelike living doll people, adult romance between a Fanarlem concubine and a sorcerer in The Sorcerer's Concubine, and a YA subplot that really kicks off in The Stolen Heart, I thought it would be cool to round up as many authors as I could whose books involve doll people, androids-with-feelings, cyborgs, automata, golems, etc. And today we have Beth Revis, whose book A WORLD WITHOUT YOU also releases today (and sounds fascinating)...but she is also known for her sci-fi novels. I spoke with her about THE BODY ELECTRIC, which has a very interesting variety of created being.

1. Tell us about the created being(s) in your book! How were they made? Who made them and why? What is their place in the world?

The beings in The Body Electric are called cy-clones, a combination of cloned and cyborg body parts. They're (of course) an experiment of the government's...and I can't say much more than that in order to avoid spoilers!
2. Stories about created beings can delve into many themes, such as what it means to be human, how we treat people who are different, the quest for immortality, and the relationship between an artist/craftsman and their work. What was your reason for telling this story?

But the creation of cy-clones is highly experimental and not entirely ethical--two topics that I really wanted to explore. When is it too far to push for this kind of technology? Can we "play God" if we're doing it to find a cure for disease...and where is the line for finding a cure for disease and finding a cure for death? A huge part of my story wanted to explore that--at what point do we just stop, and is there even a point?

Another part of me wanted to question souls. I believe in souls, and I wanted to explore the point when the body and the soul disconnect. Are you still you if your body (or a cloned version of it) exists but not your soul? When do you lose yourself?
3. Do you have a favorite fictional created being?

Right now, because I'm in an angry mood, I'm going with the Terminator. That movie always gets me--I love it when he fights so hard that his humanity literally is ripped from his metallic frame.

Find Beth on the web:

Twitter: @bethrevis
Facebook: /authorbethrevis

Instagram: @bethrevis

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Spotlight on Books with Created Beings! Doll People, Automatons, Androids-with-Feelings, Cyborgs, Golems, etc.

Hey all!

The Sorcerer's Concubine is out and what a great launch! The book already has two glowing reviews on Amazon and the rank has mostly stayed above 20k on It's really going well in France, where it doesn't take that many sales to top a bestsellers list. I'm #3 in epic fantasy there!

I spent some money on promo which begins to kick in today. Just one little promo site today, but some solid bookings from the 7th-11th, so I expect the peak rank is yet to come. I'm going to be pretty useless the next few days...

Meanwhile, yesterday I attended the first read-through with the cast of Clockwork Heart, the Magic Under Glass musical. Wow... that was utterly surreal. I hardly know what to say. Seriously, pretty speechless about the whole experience. Hearing our Erris and Nimira sing their love song...*SWOON* If you're in the Baltimore/DC area, I would love to see you there!

All of the books I've released this year that take place in the Hidden Lands, especially The Sorcerer's Concubine and The Stolen Heart, feature my race of lifelike living doll people called Fanarlem. They've been an integral part of the world since I created it, a slave race that gains something closer to equality over the course of the past century. The character of Anubis who appears in The Vengeful Half and The Stolen Heart as the Grim Reaper and world's most adorable dad was created 19 years ago. But I first published this theme in Magic Under Glass and Magic Under Stone, where Erris's soul was trapped in the body of a clockwork man. I was kind of ripping off my own doll people. Or should I say riffing off?

But I don't just love artificial people as a writer, I also love them as a reader/viewer, in all their variations--starting with Sally in the Nightmare Before Christmas, who was the original inspiration for Anubis and all the Fanarlem who came after him. I especially love the theme of someone who is not-quite-human trying to live among humans or wrestle with human emotions. I didn't focus on stories about literal dolls coming to life and living in doll worlds as in most children's stories about doll characters, because mainly, I love when the worlds meet. (Still, I was not that picky about theme in approaching authors. I love talking to other writers about their inspirations, whether they press my buttons or not, and I'm delighted at how many authors got back to me with their interview!)

So, for July, I have gathered up some fellow writers to talk about their created beings, and I also made a master list of "created beings" stories. Please PLEASE tell me if you have any other favorites as I'm sure I've forgotten some!

If the book has a * beside it, we'll be hearing from the author this month!

--The Scorpion Rules and The Swan Riders by Erin Bow (AI...with some twists)*
--The Mad Scientist's Daughter by Cassandra Clarke (androids)*
--Wired for Love series by Greg Dragon (androids)*
--MILA 2.0 by Debra Driza
--Untamed by Madeline Dyer (enhanced humans)*
--The Poppet and the Lune by Madeline Claire Franklin (patchwork girl)*
--Spare and Found Parts by Sarah Maria Griffin (girl builds a boy from scraps)
--The Silver Metal Lover by Tanith Lee (robot with emotions)
--Broken Dolls and Shattered Girls by Tyrolin Puxty (doll people)*
--The Body Electric by Beth Revis (cyborg/clone hybrid)*
--Man-Made Boy and This Broken Wondrous World by Jon Skovron (Frankenstein's monster's son and other artificial characters as well)
--The Mennyms series by Sylvia Waugh (doll people)
--The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker (golem)


--Bicentennial Man (robot with emotions)
--The Nightmare Before Christmas (rag doll Sally)

...I'll add some more as I remember them, too. I just need to get on with my day! =D

The first author interview will be posted soon!

Saturday, June 11, 2016

My new adult fantasy trilogy; The Vengeful Half is on sale; The Stolen Heart is out!

What a week!

I've been waiting for the release of The Stolen Heart before I would run a proper 99 cents sale on The Vengeful Half. Well, my week is finally here! The Vengeful Half is 99 cents through June 16th AND The Stolen Heart is out!

The Vengeful Half: On sale for 99 cents through June 16th!

I also quietly put the first book in my adult fantasy trilogy up for pre-order. This is a totally experimental project for me in imitating the Habits of Highly Successful Ebook Authors: trying to write "to market" quickly. But I also fell deeply in love with this story, Velsa and Grau and how they grow over the course of the trilogy which, I've already written in my HEAD if not entirely on paper... As I said in my last entry, it's still set in the Hidden Lands, but 100 years before The Vengeful Half. I have so many ideas for the sequel already. But I'm also deep into book 3 of the other series. So much to do!

This book is an adult romance. It has sex scenes. So if you're related to me, please don't read it, or don't tell me you did. And like, if you do, please just remember, I'm trying to make money here. =P

Official blurbiness:


Born of wood, cloth, and a substantial dose of magic, Velsa is a Fanarlem, a beautiful artificial girl. Raised to be a concubine, she has seen her friends at the House of Perfumed Ribbons sold off to be the pets of wealthy men. Now her own dreaded day has come. Grau Thanneau is a kind and handsome sorcerer who expects to own a spectacular piece of spellwork--he doesn't realize that everything he has been told about Fanarlem is a lie. Velsa is not a dull-witted doll, but an intelligent and luminous soul who captivates his heart. Neither of them expected to fall in love, in a land where the law will never recognize her as his equal... 

When Grau brings Velsa with him as he serves in the border patrol, they encounter odd magic sent from the High Sorcerer's palace--or is it magic at all? War is brewing, and with it, the winds of opportunity. Velsa has powers of her own, powers no Fanarlem girl should have, but when the enemy attacks, she might be the only one who can stand against them. 

I'm experimenting with offering this one for 99 cents during the pre-order and initial release.

(Click here to pre-Order The Sorcerer's Concubine!)

More updates soon! I am trying to write this update while on a brief vacation to my parents' house in the Asheville area (and heartily tired!).

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Stolen Heart cover and Self-Publishing: 2 Months In, Hard Decisions, New Projects

The cover for book #2 of the Hidden Lands, The Stolen Heart, is out and about now!

The daughter of a wealthy and corrupt businessman, Thessia lived a pampered life. But she has fallen for the one boy she can’t have: Lester Alamont, a talented young sorcerer…and a Fanarlem. Fanarlem, a highly realistic race of ‘doll people’ created by magic, were considered only fit to be a slave race for centuries, and to Thessia’s father, that’s still the only thing they’re good for.

Alfred Brawder, Thessia’s former fiance and the son of an organized crime boss, is trying to go straight by attending Thessia’s school—and he still wants to see her find happiness, befriending Lester and encouraging the clandestine relationship. But in the traditional world of Atlantis, forbidden allegiances quickly lead to violence, and for Alfred, keeping his hands clean proves harder than expected…

As much as I love book 1, I love book 2 even more because it progresses the characters emotionally so much!

However, I've been dealing with rapid-fire business decisions in my new indie publishing career. Recently I scheduled a brief 99 cent promotion. On the morning when I was supposed to go lower the price for the sale, Amazon informed me that my book file was too large to make into a 99 cent book! This is thanks to the pictures. I had to quickly hack 2/3rds of the pictures out of the book or the promised sale would never happen. Talk about painful, after all the work I put into them. The pictures are never going back in, because never being able to put the book on sale is just not an option...

At this point, I am generally faced with the tough call that the pictures are not paying for themselves.  Some of you loved them, and I love you for it because I was so happy doing them... But, I've learned that the story has to stand on its own and I'm sensing that very few people picked up the book just because of the pictures. I could probably write 1-2 extra books a year in the time it takes me to do the artwork, and I lose a substantial chunk of my sales on delivery costs. So, soon I will be pulling the remaining 1/3rd of the art out of TVH and offering ALL the art as a free extra. Subsequent volumes probably won't have art because I just can't justify the time to do it...but I do still draw all the time, just in a lot of more of a sloppy way, so I'll post that stuff around periodically.

I also had to face the fact that while I very much wanted to offer my book at all the major retailers on a philosophical basis...I have only sold a whopping one copy outside of Amazon in the past few months. So, the book is now exclusive to Amazon so it can benefit from page reads on Kindle Unlimited and the sales Kindle offers.

A part of me hesitates to talk about all this so openly. It sounds like a lot of "OOPS". But, part of the reason I liked the idea of going indie is because I DO like to talk about things openly, including business. I'm a Capricorn--business is my jam! (When my Capricorn sun is not being overruled by my quirky Aquarius planets and the tormented emotions of my Scorpio moon, that is.) And the cool thing about indie publishing is that you can observe what's working and what isn't and make changes. 

With that in mind, I've also been wanting to write an adult fantasy romance because I think the market is stronger than YA, and in the past 10 days I've written almost the entire draft of one. Literally, the entire story hit me in one day and I've just been writing like a fiend ever since... I'm far enough along now (it will be a shorter book!) that I can say with certainty that I can release The Stolen Heart on June 10th and then The Sorcerer's Concubine on July 10th! It's still set in the Hidden Lands, but many years prior, so the feel is more high stands ENTIRELY alone from the main series but also sheds a lot of light on the situations in that series. And it has a few sex scenes, which I was very embarrassed to write, even though see above about "adult romantic fantasy" + "stronger market"...but I think the book would actually lose something pretty important without them. So I want to say this book is for adult readers, but then I am aware of the irony that most teenagers--in public school, at the least--probably still know more about sex than my homeschooled self...(really it's true...-_-;;;;;...I feel like no matter what I do I'm still going to get reviews that say "this should have been a middle grade!!")

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Self-Publishing, One Month In

It's been a little over a month since The Vengeful Half came out, and I decided I wanted to be a bit transparent about the process, because the more I learn about indie publishing, the more I realize there is a huge divide in perception and knowledge between traditional and indie YA writers. Many traditionally published writers know almost nothing of the indie market. This includes me, and so self-publishing was a very scary prospect to me! But, I'm learning more all the time and I'd like to pass it on.

 Starting Line

There is a lot of info on starting out as an indie publisher from scratch. And there is also a lot of info on traditional publishing. There is NOT much info about hybrid publishing in the YA market. Even less so because the indie published works many YA hybrid authors publish are things like tie-in novellas, short stories, or sequels their publisher turned down. The data on launching a brand new series is almost nil. Would my prior published books give me any kind of advantage? I had no idea. I suspected the answer was "very little" because my most successful book released 6 years ago, and most of the bloggers and such who loved it are not blogging anymore. (Some of them are now writers or publishing professionals themselves!) I have also taken a lot of social media breaks and basically been terrible about retaining fans. Part of the reason for this was because all through my traditional publishing career, the Hidden Lands books have burned inside of me and I really wanted to talk about THEM, not the books I was selling. This is an awkward way to maintain an "author face". So I am hoping I will be able to have a more consistent presence now, but either way, I don't have a lot to draw from.

Launching the Series

I put the Vengeful Half up for preorder about a month before its release on March 10th. I blitzed all my social media with the announcement of the Hidden Lands series. Between Twitter, Facebook personal and fan page, Blogspot, and Goodreads I have about 4,500 followers. It sounds like a lot, but that number is misleading, because a lot of them come from my YA author "boom era" when Magic Under Glass and Between the Sea and Sky came out, 2009-2010, and are not fresh followers who have had a recent interest in me. And also, of course, there is a lot of overlap. Once I had announced the series, I emailed a slew of bloggers offering review copies to try and get some reviews. I put up a LibraryThing giveaway for e-ARCs, a Goodreads giveaway for a paperback, and I purchased a 1-month NetGalley Co-Op for March. Much of indie book success seems to hinge on paid advertising, but I did no other marketing because I decided to save any paid marketing for book 2. Since I don't have a lot of money, I want paid advertisements to be able to benefit from sell-through into a second book. Some of the paid advertising sites require a certain number of reviews so I decided to focus on getting reviews instead.

I launched the book at $4.99 and decided to go wide, putting the book in Apple, Kobo and B&N, rather than keeping it exclusive to Amazon. Most of my sales occurred on the day I announced the series and on release day. Then I went almost a week with no sales at all, so I dropped the price to $2.99 to see if that would help, although I did it quietly because I wanted to measure organic sales, not sales from friends. At first, no change but then I went a week with 1 sale a day. At the 1-month mark, I have sold almost 50 books, of which 14 were paperbacks, most were at $4.99 and about 7 were at $2.99. Several of my sales were to Europe including two of the paperbacks.

Was it what I expected? Yes, it was about what I expected. My book is not written to market, or marketed to market, nor was it advertised or put on sale, so I didn't expect many organic sales, but I did definitely get a few, maybe to my pre-existing fans though. A lot of people, including me, don't buy series until they are farther along, so I expect a decent chunk of people are just waiting for me to write more.

What I Might Do Differently Next Time

The hard part about indie publishing is all the choices, entirely in one's own hands. All of my regrets are huge "MIGHTS" because if these other paths wouldn't have ended up being successful, I would have regretted them even MORE because they weren't my first instinct. But, I might change the way I do things next time due to results. --I may consider more "typical" covers. When I commissioned my covers I wanted something that captured the anime/magical Mafia feel of the books, looked cool, and made for a nice thumbnail. But I have since learned that the most successful indie books tend to look like every other successful indie book. Unique is not considered a virtue. So I am always second-guessing my covers. On the other hand, you know, I REALLY wanted to like my cover and they were cheap, and it's not like every book with a typical cover sells either, so...who knows.

--I think I maybe should have launched at 99 cents and booked a few cheap promos. I probably wouldn't have made much on them, because of the lack of other books in the series, and I would've lost some money from my loyal readers buying the book at 99 cents instead of $4.99, but I could've gotten the book a little more traction for a stronger book 2 launch. On the other hand (there's always that), why rush? I have 4 more books in this series, 4 more chances to promo and benefit from sell-through immediately, so patience is perhaps a virtue.

--Should I have done a pre-order? I didn't get any rankings boost on Amazon when the book came out because most people had already bought it, and that wasn't great, was probably good to learn the process with a pre-order. In the long run it doesn't matter much. But I may not do a preorder for The Stolen Heart. --Should I have included so many mini-comics and art pieces in the book? It takes a huge chunk out of my Amazon sale price. I think I should have kept the delivery cost under 50 cents... In future books, I'll be scaling back on the art a bit because I just can't pay that much delivery cost per book.

--I think if I could turn back time I might have given the book a 90 day stint in Kindle Unlimited, Amazon's exclusive program. Although I hate the idea of keeping all my books exclusive to Amazon forever, so far I have sold exactly ONE book outside of Amazon. I'm pretty sure I would have made at least more than $2 through Kindle Unlimited page reads. I think promo and time are both necessary to make money on the other platforms and since I didn't plan a lot of promo, and time is not on my side right now (kiiiiiinda broke right now) I should have just done KU at first, then pulled it out for book 2 when I did more promo.

Going Forward

The Stolen Heart releases June 10th. I don't expect to see a lot of sales for The Vengeful Half until that book releases. Right now I am focusing on finishing book 3, and then I will start gearing up some more aggressive promo for book 2. This book probably won't be a shining star right out of the gate. Magical Mafia isn't really a hot concept at the moment, and it's also funny and has quirky world-building, which confuses some, and also has a lot of epic fantasy elements that don't become apparently immediately. But the readers who love it really really love it, so I hopefully I can find my people and not completely lose my shirt doing it...

I also think I might benefit from a "funnel book", a more commercial book that I can market in a more straight-forward way, but still tie in to the Hidden Lands world. I have a few ideas for other side series that might serve this purpose.

Despite not making a profit yet, I am ENJOYING myself 100x than I ever did writing my other books. I have never been SO excited to sit down and write every single day. It's amazing to be able to plot a five-book series and already consider the NEXT story arc, to foreshadow things that won't happen for a long, long time, and to include the comics and all the quirkiness that makes me keep returning to this world again and again. It's rare for an indie book career to take off with just one book, so I am not worrying about numbers much at this point.

If you enjoyed this post you may also enjoy my post on Why I Decided to Self Publish, and if you want to be kept abreast of my publishing news, be sure to join my mailing list!: Jaclyn Dolamore's Writerly News

Monday, March 14, 2016

Musical Update, Vengeful Half giveaway, video and more!

I have a little more info on the Magic Under Glass musical, Clockwork Heart. The venue will be Reservoir High School in Fulton, MD. (Note: The show is not being put on by a high school. The CCTA just uses high school theaters over the summer.) The show dates are July 28th-31st. I still don't know times or have ticket info, but...will keep you posted!

The Vengeful Half is now out, and available at Amazon as an ebook and paperback, and as an ebook at KoboBarnes & Noble, and iBooks. A couple of people have asked me where they should buy it. You should buy it anywhere you like buying books, it's all good, but if you have choices, Kobo is the best place to buy the ebook. Due to Amazon's file delivery charges, my royalty gets pretty hammered there. Though this is not a problem with the paperback.

I did a video this week to celebrate the release, showing just a few of the 20 years of sketchbooks and notebooks I've filled writing about the Hidden Lands!

I also did a guest post at the Tea and Titles blog: 4 Tips for Writing Compelling Characters. Specifically, I considered writing Alfred, because he is my favorite character. Oh, if only every character was as easy to write as Alfred! Sample: "Some of the most common advice given in writing books is that a character must want something very badly, and that desire will drive the entire plot. Even better, I think, than writing one thing, is wanting two things that can’t be had at once."

Trish at Wide Angled Life has been so supportive of The Vengeful Half and is giving away an ebook copy at her blog.

See a few of you at the New York Teen Author Festival this weekend! =D

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Clockwork Heart...the Magic Under Glass and Magic Under Stone MUSICAL!!

I finally get to tell you the news I’ve been sitting on for a year!!!

I’ve sold the theatrical rights to Magic Under Glass and Magic Under Stone…to create a rock musical based on both books, called Clockwork Heart!!! I wrote the libretto, and the music is by the crazy-talented Michael Francis Kline.

And HEADS UP, Baltimore/DC! The world premiere (that’s fun to say) will be directed by Toby Orenstein and performed this summer by the Columbia Center for Theatrical Arts in Columbia, MD. They’re a non-profit organization that I’ve heard amazing things about and I am so excited for them to put this on! The performances will be the last weekend in July (exact details to come).

By pure coincidence, that’s the same weekend Harry Potter and the Cursed Child opens in London, and if you won’t be there, well, it would be nice to have an evening of YA fantasy theatre anyway, wouldn’t it?

Readers, I am so excited to share this with you. For one thing, I wrote the libretto, so it’s very faithful to the books. But what I am even more excited for is the music. From the day Mike first played some rough drafts of these songs for me on his guitar…well, if it was possible for my jaw to literally drop out of my skull, we would’ve needed an ambulance that day. He took my playlists for the books and drew from them for inspiration, weaving together 1970s rock, indie, and traditional/world music influences, and brought such an innate understanding of these characters and the mood of my books. I can honestly say that I don’t think David Bowie or Freddie Mercury or Colin Meloy or Arcade Fire or anyone I might have chosen to write a Magic Under Glass musical in my dreams could’ve done a better job of capturing this story…and writing some DAMN catchy music to boot.

I can’t believe I’ll be seeing Erris and Nimira’s love story play out on the stage!! I hope to see some of you there!

They will also be doing a cast album, so if you can’t be there in July, you can still enjoy the music. I also hope to have some songs to share before then so you don’t have to take my word for it.

(And since someone always seems to ask if they can be IN these things, it is part of CCTA’s paid summer camp for ages 14-21:

Also, FYI to reviewers, my new book The Vengeful Half is up on NetGalley. It comes out in two days--eep!--and I'd be honored if you choose to spend some time in my beloved world.

And on the 19th and 20th I'll be at the New York Teen Author Festival! Come say hi!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

On Self-Publishing an Illustrated YA Novel

I wanted to just write this up as an offering to the Google gods, because when I was looking into publishing The Vengeful Half I had a hard time finding initial resources about indie publishing and illustrated novels. I found stuff about comics and picture books but nothing about just weaving little pictures into the books.

So I'm going to write up the little FAQ I could've used. I am by no means an expert, but at least it might help someone.

Q: Can you add pictures to an e-book and if so, how is it done?

Yes! I used the software Vellum (which is only for Mac) which very easily allows you to plug pictures anywhere in the text. Vellum forces you to choose between four sizes, but I didn't find this to be a problem. There is no way to 100% control the size of your pictures anyway, because different e-readers will display them differently. Vellum has a preview feature you can look at as you go, that shows what the picture will look like on different common e-readers. I found this very helpful! However, I have gotten one feedback already that a large picture got cut off even though this didn't show on any of the e-readers in Vellum's previewer. I adjusted the size to be a tad smaller but I have yet to find out if any other readers will have this problem.

Q: What about the print copy for Createspace or other print-on-demand publishers? How do I create that?

I got my partner to do this for me. He used iStudio, a $30 program for Mac. You can also use older versions of Pages but not the latest version. I can't comment on software for PCs. I also can't tell you anything further about how the heck he did it...

Q: Are there any issues I should be aware with uploading picture-heavy files to Amazon, etc.?

Yes, unfortunately, Amazon will charge you a delivery fee for your files to Kindle IF you choose the 70% royalty option. Therefore, an image-heavy file will take money out of your royalties. I added either a single illustration or a multi-panel comic to about 40 chapters or so, and my delivery fee is $0.82. That is a pretty decent chunk and it is a bit of a financial disadvantage for me, as I can't price my book too low without being forced to switch to the alternate 35% royalty.

It should be noted, Vellum's site will tell you that Kindle compresses the files themselves so you can leave them large. However, we brought down the delivery cost SUBSTANTIALLY by shrinking the files ourselves, to below Vellum's recommended minimum. This didn't seem to harm the viewing quality at all.

None of the other major e-book retailers charge a delivery fee or have strict minimum file sizes so you can expect the full royalty at Nook, Kobo, etc.

Q: What kind of pictures did you use?

Mine are all black and white line art scanned as grayscale. I don't have experience with color. I wanted the pictures to be easily visible on B&W e-readers.

Q: How is the picture quality on your basic e-reader?

A: The pictures, admittedly, don't look *AS* good on my 1st gen. Nook as they do on paper or read on, say, an iPad screen, but they'll do. There are probably techniques for creating art to look its best on e-readers but it's probably not realistic to adapt your entire art style for e-readers! And then you'd still have tablet, phone, and print copy readers to consider. One important thing I discovered is that I could not hand-letter the comics I did. I had to replace all the wording with computer fonts.

Q: Is there anything to bear in mind while creating the pictures?

E-readers don't have superb picture quality and they are tall, not long. So don't create big, detailed, wide pictures unless you want readers to have to turn their e-readers around.

Q: Is there a market for teen/young adult or even general fantasy novels with added comics and/or pictures?

I guess I'll find out! But I know what I like and I wanted to create the book I'd love to read, a novel with the feel of a manga thanks to added extras. Comics and visual storytelling is a very different medium from prose. For me, it's possible to express my sense of humor in a very different way by adding comic strips to the text. Whenever I show my sketchbooks to fans of my novels, they love the comics, so I thought...why not just put them in the book??

Q: To my readers: Do you know of any novels for adults or teens that incorporate art? Especially in ways that go beyond simple illustrations, such as comics?

So far I know of:
I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest
Thieves and Kings by Mark Oakley (a series of graphic novels with prose sections)

I would love to know of more! Surely there are more!?

And if you came to this post looking for information on illustrated novels, I hope you'll consider checking out my series, beginning with The Vengeful Half!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Review of "Take Off Your Pants!" by Libbie Hawker, and Thoughts on Outlining a Series

"Take Off Your Pants!" was recommended on some forum threads about writing faster. The paperback is just 8.99 (cheaper still as an ebook but I need this kind of thing in paper for SURE) so I gave it a whirl. I'm somewhere between a plotter and a pantser (someone who writes by the seat of their pants) and always trying to perfect the art of the outline so I'll stop waffling around.

So far this book has been pretty effective for me. She gives a lot of props to John Truby's "The Anatomy of Story", which I have not read, so I can't say how they compare...but The Anatomy of Story is over 400 pages and this is about 100. I really liked how lean, mean and focused this book is, because I already know a lot of the fundamentals of telling a story and in many cases a quick and dirty plot breakdown is EXACTLY what I need. This book does that beautifully. I found her outlining techniques much easier to work with than I've seen in some other books.

If you're a beginning writer, however...although this book certainly IS accessible to beginners, I might start by reading a few books with more depth because it will help you when it comes time to actually write the outline.

The reason I've been particularly keen on creating an outline is because I am currently plotting book #3 of The Hidden Lands series. This is certainly the most ambitious writing project I've taken on thus far. Five books, four main characters and many side characters, multiple antagonists... How I love this story, but sometimes I look at the work ahead and think... "............................"

On the other hand, I've gotten better at what I do! That's such a good feeling! Enough so that I can actually tell you some of the things that help make plotting a multiple-POV, multiple-book series work. It's pretty hard to find advice on this, so I hope it helps! Mind you...I don't know if these rules will apply to all such series. I really won't know that until I try to apply them to my next series!

Tips Ahoy:

--When developing multi-POV, multi-book character growth arcs, keep sight of your theme.

It has helped me a lot for all the characters have a push and pull between two contrary desires. In this case, three of the characters--Alfred, Olivia, and Lester--are torn between a desire for power and a desire to have a peaceful life. They all have slightly different motives for wanting power, however, so their arcs are not quite the same..but that remains a theme for all three of them, and in each book, they make different moves toward one or the other. At the end of book 1, Alfred moves toward the peaceful life. At the end of book 2, he moves back toward power. In book 3, he tries to balance both. In books 4 and 5, he has renewed his commitment toward power, but his MOTIVES for wanting power change as his character matures, so the pursuit doesn't feel repetitive.

Some variation of this is repeated for Olivia and Lester, but sometimes they are shifting in different directions from each other, and this creates conflict.

Thessia is a bit of an outlier. She is more trapped than the others, and for her, power = freedom. She doesn't feel the same pull toward a peaceful life. Her motives for gaining power are more pure than the other characters from the start, and her inner conflict is simply that she is afraid to stand up for herself. But she still ties into the theme of "What is the benefit of power? Why would we want it? Are we growing up to be good guys or bad guys?"

Throughout the series, these questions are also echoed in the side characters, such as Det, who made an infamous choice years ago to commit a serious crime for the greater good, giving each character a chance to ask themselves whether they agree with Det's choice and whether they would be willing to repeat it.

--Give the characters in a multiple POV book series every possible chance to meet one another, grow together, and impact each other's lives. 

In the beginning of book 2, Alfred, Thessia and Lester are at school together, while Olivia is not. In the first draft, Thessia's best friend at school had a lot of influence on Thessia. Meanwhile, I had the problem of Olivia seeming detached from the other characters. In the second draft, I decided to downplay Thessia's best friend and instead found ways for Thessia and Olivia to meet, and Olivia to bring about the character revelations that had previously come from Thessia's best friend. In book 3, once again, I have a character separated from the rest, so in the outline, I tried to find regular spots where the characters would communicate or their actions would have a bearing on one another. Otherwise it'll end up feeling like you have two different books and you risk losing the reader when you switch POV.

--Don't lose sight of the antagonist.

If you're writing a multiple book story and you want to keep the reader invested, make sure you identify the ultimate antagonist from the very first book, and keep them in mind. This has been especially important for me because ideally I want this series to lead into future series, so I've planted the seeds of future plots throughout. However, the first series MUST stand alone and feel complete and satisfying. In this case, I've used the Marvel movies as an inspiration. There are ongoing hints about Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet throughout the Marvel movies, but if you watch one, you don't feel cheated because you don't get the story of the Gauntlet right now. The movies establish clear boundaries between the plot at hand and the suggestions of future conflicts.

Even if you are not planning THAT far ahead, one should still take some time to consider the ultimate antagonist of the story from page 1, book 1. It is highly effective when every minor antagonist somehow feeds into or sets the stage for the ultimate antagonist. Voldemort is an obvious example...from book 1, every individual Harry Potter book's antagonist plays into the overall Voldemort vs. Harry conflict. The character arc of the antagonist should follow a similar pattern to the protagonists, as outlined above. If your characters are, in fact, going to meet the same antagonist in every book, then consider how that antagonist will have evolved into a new and escalated challenge with each encounter.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Why I Decided to Self-Publish

Last year, I was at a crossroads. I knew The Vengeful Half needed to be my next book, one way or another. I've been revising this book for years (that's a story for another day) and I had gotten it to a place where I really loved it, and more than anything, I just wanted to stop keeping it a secret project.

But the tough question was whether to pursue traditional publication or self-publish, and that was HARD. I have been hearing for a while that hybrid authors make the most money in general...but on the writer forums I follow, there is definitely still a whiff of "last resort" to self-publishing. It's a choice you might make with sad resignation after shopping a book around for a while. And if you've had books traditionally published, there are experiences you tend to expect and enjoy from the publication process, like seeing a deal announcement in Publisher's Weekly, working with a great editor who fell in love with your book, and seeing your books at BEA or ALA, that you may feel sad to give up.

Then I started poking around some self-publishing forums and got a very different picture. The first thing I noticed was that self-published writers seemed less depressed. I'm sure there are sad, unsuccessful self-published writers who end up not really participating in forums and just give up, and there is surely commiseration in more private spaces. But...I definitely noticed a change of vibe, especially with the more successful writers. Traditionally published writers are...kind of depressed a lot, even when they're hitting bestseller lists. I also noted that some people were making a lot of money, and they weren't always writing romance or erotica, as I had previously assumed.

However, the self-published authors who are doing well seem to have many of these elements in common:
--Good covers and descriptions (obviously)
--Solid writing
--A long series of books, at least three but oftentimes more
--Writing in a popular genre
--A romantic element in the story (unless the genre is very masculine)
--The ability to put out more than one book a year (sometimes WAY more)

So I can see why it's not for everyone. But if you do have these elements in place, it seems to me that success might be just as likely with self-publishing as it is with traditional publishing, given a particular boost by the fact of higher royalties and control over publication schedule. I can certainly write two books a year and maybe even more, but I haven't published two books a year, because it's been hard enough getting publishers to put out one book a year from me, and I have also sometimes been contracted for projects I was less enthused about, and therefore wrote more slowly and reluctantly, while passion projects were set aside.

If I published twice as many books, for twice the royalties, then I would only have to sell 1/4 the a theoretical world.

In the real world, many ebooks are sold at a huge discount in 99 cent sales and the like, and my advances have been much higher than the amount of copies sold, BUT, I can't expect that to continue. 

Still, I wrestled with the decision. I had a hard time letting go of traditional publishing. It didn't feel to me like a "real book" without it. And yet, what is really more important to me? Putting out the book I want, in the way I want? Or just seeing it on the shelf of Barnes & Noble? (...I don't even live near a large bookstore anymore.) Why should I think this, when some of the stories that influenced me the most were indie comic books/graphic novels? I made some lists to help clarify:

Reasons to Publish Traditionally:
--Advance money
--No upfront expenses on my part
--Working with professional editor/copyeditor
--Potential to be on bookstore shelves
--Potential for reviews in trade publications, starred reviews, state lists
--Greater library sales
--More likely to be invited to events or eligible to apply for book festivals
--Publisher handles formatting, cover, distribution, some marketing
--If book "hits", publisher marketing machine can be amazing
--Sales rely less heavily on Amazon & potentially support indie bookstores

Reasons to Self-Publish:
--Income is more evenly distributed, not a lump sum
--No potential for getting a horrible cover and having to pretend to like it
--Can get books out faster
--Can publish a longer series
--More direct line to readers; i.e., can tell fans "the sequel comes out in fall" and know this is absolutely in your hands, no need to get permission to publish extra novellas, etc.
--Marketing has more of a "long game" aspect
--Can add artwork and "omake" (that's Japanese for extras...and if you've ever read manga you know what I mean)
--No fear of sudden, absurd deadline
--No fear of editor leaving, book getting pushed back, or other common roadblocks

There are some very valid points on both lists. On both lists, a lot are also more theoretical. Traditional publishing has the potential for a lot of cool things: the starred reviews, invitations to BEA, etc. has been very rare that any of that stuff happens to me, and that's true for a large portion of authors. Even bookstore presence is by no means guaranteed these days.

A lot of the pros for self-publishing are simply avoidance of the more unpleasant potentials in traditional publishing. They're only potentials, but they do happen. I've never had a bad editor, but I have had an editor leave...luckily she was great, too, but I've known others that didn't have as much luck. I have had books pushed back. I've had crazy deadlines. It is pretty likely that if you have a few books, you'll end up having some kind of crisis moment. Most of these events are not a huge deal in the scheme of things...but with this book, which is so much a part of me, the dread of some unexpected unpleasantness increases exponentially.

These lists made one thing clear to me: the best thing about self-publishing is the control over the story and its presentation. In the case of this book, it was especially important because I wanted to do something very different with it. 

The other factor I considered...what does moderate success look like, in both cases? Let's say I was making $20,000 a year as an author. As an indie publisher, this means two books a year making $10k each over time, or about 4,000 full price copies. I'm a pretty happy girl. I'm not rich by any means, but the mortgage is paid, there's food in the fridge, and I'm doing what I love. As a traditionally published author, this means selling a book a year for an advance of $23,000, to allow for agent fees. This doesn't sound impossible either. Plenty of people manage this. But it does feel more unpredictable. Taxes certainly don't help. You're not on a salary, so if you average $23k a year, it might be more likely to come as, say, a large advance one year and nothing the next, shoving you into a higher tax bracket in that one year, sucking up a larger chunk of your money, and then leaving you with nothing the next year. This happened to me when I made $70k in one lucky year...had to pay $23k in taxes...and then made a mere $6k the next year. If I'd lived in a state with state tax at the time, as I do now, it would've been even worse! I would have kept more money if the amount had been averaged. 

At this point, it's all conjecture for me. I have no idea how well my books will do, if I'll sell 4,000 copies, or 400, or 40,000. But I can certainly see how some hybrid authors could enjoy great success...and 100% indie published authors as well.

As for which route is best, I think it is highly dependent on the type of book, your individual skills...such as writing speed or ability to conceive of a cover and/or hire a talented cover designer, and your personal dreams. I have no regrets about my five traditional published books, that's for sure. But I hope I can say the same about this series as well.

Monday, February 8, 2016

More books from me! MY FAVORITEST BOOKS!

I must confess, when I was a teenager, I thought the ideal thing for a fantasy writer to do was create one fantasy world and develop it really, really thoroughly until it seems like a real place, and then write stories set in that world for years and years. So I spent the entirety of my teen years writing entirely about a single fantasy world. And on into my twenties...basically, until I started getting serious about publication, and reality slapped me in the face.

As it turns out, go figure, it is hard to sell a "world". Most publishers want, like, a book? Maybe a trilogy?

At some point I realized, if I was ever going to do this, and do it right, I needed to do it myself, and thanks to the rise of indie publishing, I finally can.

Not only that, I illustrated the interior, because I have always been torn as to whether I wanted to be a writer or a comic book artist.

I am so terrified. This story is the story I have been waiting to tell forever. A story about magical organized crime, and doll people, and a world with elements of both high fantasy and pop culture, and my favorite romance ever. And I just put the beginning up for preorder. THE VENGEFUL HALF will be released March 10th.

TFAQ (Theoretical Frequently Asked Questions):

Why self-publish?

The deciding moment came when my partner Dade started asking me what the ideal version of this book would look like. And I thought, well...I would hire someone to do a gorgeous illustrated cover. And then I would add in little extras throughout like mini-comics and drawings of fake products mentioned within the novel. (I told one of my friends that this story is like The Mortal Instruments meets Parks and Rec, and I've also described it as 'The Godfather as a girls' anime'.) And it would be as nerdy as I wanted it to be without an editor telling me to take out the joke that references Totoro...

Where will it be available?

I put up the Amazon preorder first to light a fire under myself! No turning back now! But yes, I am working on getting the paperback version up as well as the other e-book retailers.

Who did the cover?

I did NOT do the cover; I am no cover artist. This beautiful thing is the work of Anastasya Ilicheva aka Pell aka Entrepreneurial: Deviant Art

You said it's a long series. Yikes, how long?

Don't worry! It won't be one ginormous epic that must be read in order. This series will be a complete story in five books and then, if all is going well, I would start a new plot arc that would not require prior knowledge of the world and characters.

When will book two be out?

This summer, for sure! Book two is already done! But it does need a good edit so for now it's chilling while I work on book three.

Can I get a review copy?

Quite possibly! Email me at with a link to your blog/Goodreads or Amazon review page, or basically, somewhere your reviews are posted so I can confirm that you are a real person. Note: Review copies will not contain all the artwork, but the story is not in any way dependent on the artwork.

How can I stay updated and make sure I know about new releases, sales and extra content?

You are all asking that, in exactly that clunky wording, I'm sure, and that's why you want to join my MAILING LIST!

Are you ready for this? Have you made a horrible mistake? Can you get some sleep yet?

Oops...those are just my actual frequently asked questions in my own mind. *hides under bed*

*peers out* More posts soon, about the series and the process of self-publishing!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

David Bowie 1947-2016

When David Bowie died, so many people said they lost the Goblin King. Or a Starman.

While it isn't unusual for actors to be associated with their roles, Bowie went beyond that. Did we ever really believe he was from here? I'm not sure if he was from Faerie, or space. But he always made me feel like I had peeked past the veil of reality.

I'm sure his friends and family would probably insist he was an ordinary, if extraordinary, human named David Jones at heart...that all his personas were just roles and masks.

But a lot of performers have tried to present themselves as alien or magical. Few are so convincing. That isn't something you can pretend. It's just in you.

Bowie came to me, like an angel, at a time when I needed him most. It began when my cousin showed us the movie "Velvet Goldmine", based loosely and not entirely flatteringly on his life and personas. The movie led me to the real man and the first thing I noticed is that he looked just like my favorite of my own fictional characters, Det Arianni. Det was beautiful, weird, a little alien, a little androgynous but decidedly male, idiosyncratic and authoritative. I didn't think a real Det could exist. But I immediately realized that he DID...and by pure accident, they shared the same birthday.

It was like Bowie was in my head long before I knew who he was.

I was 20 years old, thereabouts. Newly adult and confused about how to make it in the world. My parents had taught me a lot about life but they hadn't quite taught me how to be an ARTIST. How to bridge that scary thing of putting your soul on the page, and then sending your soul out to be judged, rejected or accepted and given a monetary value. I was lost in my dream worlds, while the real world seemed mundane and a little depressing. My self-confidence was somewhat shaky.

David Bowie taught me this: You don't have to wait for money and fame to treat yourself like a star. You don't have to wait for the real world to turn magical on you, you can let the magic come from within. You don't have to stay the same. You don't have to listen to what the status quo says.

"Oh no love, you're not alone! You're watching yourself but you're too unfair, you got your head all tangled up but if I could only make you care," he sang. "All the knives seem to lacerate your brain, I've had my share, now I'll help you with the're not alone!"

Bowie made me more brave, and more confident, and more proudly weird.

Many gay kids of the 1970s have said how much it meant to them to see Bowie invading their suburban television sets. In the early 2000s, that vision was still pertinent. I was a girl who identified most strongly with my male characters. Who liked dapper male clothes. I was attracted to guys, mostly, but not the typical ones. At the time the spectrum of sexuality and gender identity were barely spoken of and I didn't know that was an okay way to be, but when I saw Bowie I knew it was.

Few and rare are the people who can truly help others be more themselves, without ever meeting them.

Only for a short time was David Bowie my favorite musical act. After some listens of Roxy Music's "Stranded", my ears fell hard for Bryan Ferry. (Bowie is still #2, everyone else far behind them in the rankings.) But I won't mourn Bryan the way I mourn David. Bowie was more than his music. He was a rare mind. A fashion icon, a visual artist, an actor, a voice who inspired countless other artists.

It is said that the music video "Lazarus" was the last thing we left us, a dark musing on death. But really, it was this photo, wasn't it? Bowie was dark, but he could also be hilarious. Taken two days before his death, the last thing we will ever have from Bowie is a smile full of humor and joy, that seems to say, he is all right...

...and the song goes on forever.