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Posts tagged ‘Sword of Arelion’

Happy Thanksgiving a few days early

Between the knee (torn MCL, medial meniscus and more) and the fact the first of the Thanksgiving company arrives later this morning, writing a post was the last thing on my mind. I considered putting up an open floor but decided to do something I’m not great at — promoting my own work. Below is a snippet from Sword of Arelion, the first book in my Sword of the Gods series.

The second book of the series, Dagger of Elanna, is also available for purchase. The third book, tentatively titled Foil of the Gods, will be published Spring 2018.

The snippet below is not the opening scene but comes near the beginning of the book.

*   *   *

She stared at her hands where they rested in her lap, fingers clasped so tightly together it hurt. But that was nothing compared to the pain lancing her ribs with every breath she took or that where the tavernmaster’s belt had broken the skin of her back. Not that pain was anything new to her. It had been her almost constant companion for so long she now expected it.

What she wasn’t used to was being the center of attention. Her master had told her to never bring attention to herself. Having so many eyes watching her, so many people discussing her as if she wasn’t even there unsettled her. If she could, she would flee the room but something told her that would not be allowed.

So she sat as still as she could, praying they would soon leave her be. Her master would be so angry when they did. She hurt now but it would be nothing compared to what he would do to her once they were alone. Blessed Elanna, why hadn’t she tried to give Master Longbow her mid-day meal sooner? If she had, her master would have been none the wiser.

“What is your name, child?”

She lifted her head slightly and studied the young man kneeling in front of her. With his blond hair and blue eyes, he looked like so many who frequented the tavern. But he wasn’t one of those she had served. She would have remembered his fancy clothes. Then she remembered the others had called him duke. What did he want with her?

Unsure, afraid of what Giaros might do should she answer, she glanced to her left. Longbow sat at her side, his expression concerned and yet oddly reassuring. He placed a gentle hand on her shoulder and nodded. He wanted her to answer the young man. The duke, she reminded herself. She had trusted Longbow before but could she now?

“H-he calls me Sparrow.” She spoke softly, so softly the words were barely audible. Still, they sounded almost like a shout in the silence of the common room.

“And your age?”

“H-he told me eighteen winters.” Without taking her eyes from the duke’s face, she nodded to where the troopers held Giaros in place.

“Child, don’t you know how old you are?”

She heard Longbow’s concern and tears pricked at her eyes as she shook her head. There was so much she didn’t know, but how could she tell them that?

“No.” If possible, she spoke even softer than before. Why couldn’t they leave her alone?

“Child, look at me.”

Something about the voice made her comply. She looked up from her hands as someone knelt next to the duke. The stranger, the one who had tried to protect her from her master, knelt there, his expression troubled. He reached out and she started nervously. He paused and then gently brushed a lock of hair back, revealing more of her face than she had let anyone see in so very long.

“Child, my name is Fallon Mevarel. I am a knight of the Order of Arelion. I swear you have nothing more to fear. I will make sure nothing else happens to you.” He spoke softly, almost as softly as she had, yet there was such confidence in his words and the way he looked at her that she wanted to believe him. But how could she? She had learned the hard way how foolish it was to trust anyone but herself. “Will you answer a question for me?”

She nodded almost reluctantly.

“You said the tavernmaster calls you Sparrow. Is that your name? Is it what you call yourself?”

She closed her eyes as a single tear tracked down her cheek. Why couldn’t he leave her alone? She didn’t want to think about what he asked and what she knew he would ask after that.

“N-no.” She licked her lips, struggling to find the courage to continue.

“What is it then?” The knight’s hand cupped her cheek so lightly she could barely feel it. Never could she remember anyone treating with such care.

“I don’t know.” Once again, she ducked her head and stared at her hands.

“Child, are you telling us that you don’t know your name or how old you are?” the duke asked.

She nodded, too ashamed to look at him or at anyone else. She was a nobody, not worthy of having a name. That was what her master had told her. She was property to be used and discarded at his whim. Would these people feel the same?

“How did you come to be called Sparrow?” the knight wanted to know.

“My master named me. Said I was his caged bird with no more sense or beauty than a common sparrow.”

She glanced up and, through the mask of her hair, saw Fallon’s expression harden as he glanced at Giaros. A spark of hope, faint but real, seemed to come alive at the very core of her being. Maybe she could trust him, this stranger who saw more in the span of a few hours than others had in so very long.

“What do you call yourself?”

Call herself?

A slight, bitter smile touched her lips. She could tell him, just as she could tell him how much she had hated being called Sparrow, hated all it had stood for. But that would reveal much, perhaps too much, about what she thought and felt. After so long of hiding that part of her from everyone, and most especially from her master, did she dare trust this stranger?

But what did she have to lose?

“Please, child. We need to know what to call you and it would be best if it was a name you prefer.” Longbow’s hand closed over hers and gave it a reassuring squeeze.

She drew a deep breath, wincing as her ribs screamed in pain. She could do this. She had to do this if she was to ever break away from her master.

“Call me Cait.”

*   *   *

Here’s hoping everyone has a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

What happens when your muse hijacks you

I’ll admit it. I’m drawing a blank on what to write this morning. I think part of it is because I’ve been deep in editorial mode the last few days. Another part is I made the mistake of reading an article that continues to equate indie publishing with vanity presses and telling those who would listen that the only way to prove yourself is to make it past the gatekeepers of traditional publishing. So, until I can come up with something that doesn’t involve me getting on my soapbox and screaming profanities — I try not to do that here because it embarrasses Monkey — I’m going to inflict, er, treat you to a snippet from the work that hijacked me last month. It is untitled so far and, as I’ve said before, something of a mash-up of Slay Bells Ring (a romantic suspense) and Skeletons in the Closet(UF/modern fantasy and still unpublished). That’s mainly because it demanded it take place in the same setting as Slay Bells but it has elements of modern fantasy/UF. Oh, and it has a semi-sentient house. There are also character overlaps between the books. And I have no idea how or why this book decided it had to be written, much less by me.

Now, this is the rough draft. There will be changes made, including fixing spellings and punctuation, before the book goes live. Also, the usual cautions apply. This is my work, copyright 2016 by Amanda S. Green.

***

 It’s never easy going home, especially when you left under less than ideal circumstances. But that’s the situation I found myself in. It might never have happened if it weren’t for my daughter, the light of my life. Four months ago, Ali turned five. A month after that I finally admitted she presented challenges I didn’t know how to deal with. Fortunately, at least in some ways, my mother did know how to handle my special little girl. Like it or not, that meant returning home to Mossy Creek, Texas, smack dab in the middle of the buckle of the Bible belt.

And that made life very interesting for the citizens of Mossy Creek where normal was not something you encountered every day.

So I called my mother, scheduled a leave of absence from work and made our plane reservations. There were a few stops and starts and the trip had been delayed twice. But now our bags were packed and Ali and I were about to walk out the front door. That’s when my pocket started vibrating. Well, to be honest, it was the cell phone in my pocket that started vibrating but you know what I mean. For a moment, I considered ignoring the call. I knew from the ringtone it wasn’t my mother or any of the rest of the family. As far as work and most of my friends knew, Ali and I had already left town. Even so, years of conditioning had my hand digging into my jeans pocket before I realized it.

“Mama, we have to go!” Ali tugged at my free hand, pulling me toward the door.

“Hang on, sweetheart.” I glanced at the display, not recognizing the number. “Go make sure you didn’t leave anything you want to take with you. This won’t take long. I promise.” I waited until she raced toward her bedroom before answering the call. “Hello?”

“Moira Quinn O’Donnell?” a man asked.

“Yes.” A hint of concern fluttered in my stomach. He might have been calling to sell me siding or solar panels or the like but I doubted it. Something about his voice not only sounded serious but official. Besides, he had used my full name, something very few knew.

What can I say? When you grow up with the name Moira and your mother insists on the proper Irish pronunciation and you live in Texas, let’s just say it is easier to go by your middle name, especially if that name is easily pronounced.

“Ms. O’Donnell, my name’s Peter Sanderson. I work with Julianne Grissom.”

My brows knitted into a frown. “What can I do for you, Mr. Sanderson?”

“Ms. O’Donnell, I don’t want to worry you but have you spoken with your mother recently.”

That flutter of concern spiked and I swallowed hard. Whenever someone started a statement with “I don’t want to worry you,” it usually meant there was something to be worried about. If that wasn’t enough, Julianna Grissom and I were friends going back to childhood. If trouble wasn’t brewing, the call would have been from Annie Caldwell. Julianna Grissom was her very professional, all attorney persona. I closed my eyes and counted to ten. Then I looked toward the hallway, making sure Ali was still safely in her room. Whatever was going on, I most definitely did not want her involved.

“I spoke with her two days ago. Why?”

“Ma’am, Ms. Grissom asked me to check with you. We don’t know any of the particulars, only that the Sheriff’s Department attempted to do a welfare check on your mother after she failed to meet friends yesterday. While there is no evidence of foul play or, to be perfectly honest, of anything being wrong, they haven’t been able to make entry into the house to be sure.”

I closed my eyes and breathed deeply. I had a pretty good idea why the deputies hadn’t been able to enter the house. Unless I was badly mistaken, they hadn’t even been able to enter the yard. That was just one of the reasons why I had moved to Montana more than ten years ago. In Mossy Creek, when someone said you lived on the wrong side of the tracks, they weren’t talking about your financial status or social standing. Far from it, in fact. Life in Mossy Creek had been different from the day the town was founded. Mundane mixed with supernatural and, well, my mother might not be Serena Duchamp but she had been known to cast more than a spell or two.

Then there was the house. I swear it is more alive than a lot of folks I could name. If it did not want to let someone in, nothing, not even a battering ram, would get the doors open. The only thing keeping me from panicking was the belief the house would not keep help out if my mother needed it. Me, it never hesitated to try to lock me out. But Mama belonged there and it would protect her.

At least I hoped it would.

“What can I do?” I asked.

“Ms. Grissom said you were coming to town today. Is that still your plan?” Sanderson asked.

“It is.” I glanced at my watch. Ali and I were going to have to hurry if we wanted to make our flight. “Assuming no problems with our connecting flight, my daughter and I should be in town by five.”

“With your permission, I will let the sheriff know. Ms. Grissom would like you to stop by the office when you get here. Hopefully, we will know more by then.”

“All right.” She thought for a moment. “Have you checked with either my sister or my brother to see if they have heard from our mother?”

“They are my next calls, ma’am.”

“All right. Tell Ms. Grissom I will give her a head’s up when I reach Dallas.” I did not wait for him to respond. Instead, I ended the call and stuffed the cell phone back into my pocket. I had a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach but there was nothing I could do about it, at least not until I reached Mossy Creek. But it did necessitate a slight change in what I packed and in my plans not to check a suitcase.

“Ali, you about ready?” I called from my bedroom as I knelt just inside my closet. There, bolted to the floor was a safe. Inside were my service weapon, several other handguns along with my badge, ID and a few other items. Blowing out a breath, I retrieved an HK .45, pancake holster, ammo and my badge and ID. “Ali?” I repeated as I secured everything in a small, hard-sided case and then dropped it inside my bag that now would have to be checked.

“Mama, can I take Ruffles?” She stood in the doorway, a battered teddy bear almost as big as her in her arms.

“No, baby. Not this time. Why don’t you take Freckles instead?” I asked, referring to a smaller but equally beloved teddy bear.

“Okay.” She grinned and raced back to her room.

Five minutes later, we pulled out of the driveway and I did my best to put Sanderson’s call out of my mind. This was Ali’s first plane ride and I knew she was excited. The last thing I wanted was to worry her. After all, as far as she knew, this was a fun trip to see her grandma. She did not need to know that grandma had apparently gone missing and we might not be able to get into the house because it didn’t like me.

Heaven help me, how was I going to explain the house, not to mention everything else, to a five-year-old?

***

As for the book I’m supposed to be finishing, Dagger of Elanna, I am. One thing this hijacking did was it let me come back to Dagger with a fresh set of eyes. I figured out what was hanging me up in the book and have pushed forward. Hopefully, I will have it finished in another three weeks or so. In the meantime, check out the first book in that series, Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1).

KDP Select or Not?

Yesterday, a FB friend asked whether she should set her new book up on Amazon so it could be “borrowed”. The discussion turned into one a number of people were interested in — in fact, one of the participants asked Sarah if MGC could do a post on KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited from an author’s point of view. Since Sarah is away from home and I didn’t have a topic ready to go this morning, I’m stealing the idea.

I’ve been on the record for some time telling writers that they need to explore how well their books sell on the various different platforms available to us. I know some who sell well on Kobo or Barnes and Noble. Some love Smashwords. But, most of the writers I know have all come to one conclusion: the majority of their sales come from Amazon.

For myself, I had my books on all the major markets for awhile. I used Smashwords first to get into some of them and then moved to Draft2Digital. Of the two companies, I far and away preferred Draft2Digital for ease of use and ease of understanding their reports as well as payment schedules. However, the one thing that was consistent between the two of them was that my Apple sales were almost non-existent. Kobo not much more. B&N I uploaded myself and if I made double digits between them, I had to call it a good month. At the same time, my sales on Amazon were well above 1o to 1. Well above.

So I pulled my novels from the other stores and took them exclusively to Amazon. The first thing I did was sign up with the KDP Select Program. The basic requirement for this program is simple. You agree not to offer your book or short story anywhere else for a period of 90 days. You can set it up so the title is automatically renewed at the end of the 90 day or not. So you aren’t tied into the program if you select it.

The benefits of the program help too. Enrolled titles earn 70% royalties in Japan, India, Brazil and Mexico. You can also choose to enroll your title in the Kindle Unlimited program. More on that in a bit.

Another of the benefits of the KDP Select Program is you can enroll in the Kindle Owners Lending Library (KOLL). What this means is that Prime members can choose to borrow one book a month from the KDP Select books. There is no due date. So they can read the book at their leisure. They can’t borrow another book until that first one is returned. And, as with Kindle Unlimited, you are paid for each “normalized” page read of a book borrowed under KOLL.

Kindle Countdown Deals is another benefit of being enrolled in the KDP Select Program. These are limited time discount deals you can set up.

1) They’re time-based: Not only does this give you more control over how long your book is discounted, but the time remaining for the promotion is visible to customers to increase excitement for the price discount.
2) Customers see the regular price: It’s easy for customers to see the great deal they’re getting, as the regular price is included on the book’s detail page, right beside the promotional price.
3) Royalty rate is retained at lower prices: You will earn royalties based on your regular royalty rate and the promotional price. As a result, if you are using the 70% royalty option, you’ll earn 70% even if the price is below $2.99. (As per the KDP Pricing Page, regular delivery costs apply.)
4) There’s a dedicated website: Customers can discover active Kindle Countdown Deals at http://www.amazon.com/kindlecountdowndeals.
5) You can monitor performance in real time: Your KDP report will display sales and royalties at each price discount side-by-side with pre-promotion performance.

The keys here are that the customers can see they are getting a deal and how long the deal is available for AND you maintain the same royalty rate throughout the sale.

You can also offer your book for free, up to 5 days during the 90 day enrollment period. Note, however, that you receive NO royalties for books downloaded under this promotion.

Then you have Kindle Unlimited. For readers, this is a subscription service that allows them to download up to 10 eligible books at a time without actually buying them. For authors, it is a variation of the KOLL. We get paid not for the number of times a title is downloaded (how it used to be) but for each “normalized” page read. To find out how many “pages” are in your title, you need to go to your Bookshelf. Click on KDP Select Info. Scroll down to Earn Royalties from the KDP Select Global Fund. At the bottom of that section, you will see the number of “normalized” pages for that title.

Now, what does all this mean to an author?

For exclusive rights to your e-book — and it is e-book only, not print or audio — Amazon will automatically enroll you in the KOLL program. From a personal standpoint, I never earned all that much from KOLL. It was great when it first started and I was an early adopter. But as more indies and small presses started taking part, and as some unethical “authors” learned to game the system, the payouts lowered. At that time, everyone earned the same thing. We were paid X-amount per borrow. It didn’t matter how long or short the book or story happened to be. That meant it helped writers of shorter works but penalized those of us who wrote novels. We complained, and so did some readers, and Amazon reworked the payout scheme.

Where my income jumped was with the invention of Kindle Unlimited. I’ll admit I wasn’t sure it would make any difference. After all, how many readers would pay a subscription in order to borrow up to ten books at a time? Then I thought about my reading habits and realized I would save money with KU. First, it meant I’d be more likely to try a new author than before because I wouldn’t be out any money. I could download the book under KU, read until I was hooked or not and then return the book. Second, it is easy. When I go to a book’s product page, I see right there if I can borrow it or if I have to buy it. When borrowing it, I can download it to a specific device just as I can when I purchase it. When I try to download an 11th book, Amazon tells me my limit has been reached and shows me the oldest books borrowed and asks if I want to return it.

From an author’s standpoint, this is a wonderful tool to be used to reach new readers. As noted above, the new rules on payouts are also more fair for writers of longer work than the previous rules were. Yes, folks have gamed the system and Amazon has taken steps to stop it. That is going to happen, be it Amazon or some other entity.

What I have found with the inception of KU is that my normalized pages read has gone through the roof compared to what I used to get under KOLL. My KU payment now ranges anywhere from 1/3 to 1/2 of my monthly royalties. It is higher those months when I have a new title out. What I am hearing from readers who contact me is that they see the announcement for the new title and, if it is part of a series they haven’t read, they will borrow the first book under KU and, if they like it, will then buy it and the other books in the series. I get paid for the number of pages read for the borrow as well as for the subsequent sales.

So, how much do we get paid? It varies based on the money in the global fund (and Amazon sends an email each month detailing how much money is there) and how many titles are enrolled as well as how many normalized pages have been read. I did some quick math and it looks like it runs between $0.006 to $0.004? (or 0.6 cents to 0.4) per normalized page. Based on the figures for June, it came in around $0.0492 cents per normalized page (again, assuming my math challenged brain did the math right). That doesn’t seem like much until you start looking at the bottom line — and you realize that is money you probably would not have made had you not enrolled your book in the KU program. (Figures edited to clarify amounts — asg)

Something else I am seeing is that my short stories are not being borrowed under the KU program at nearly the same frequency as my novels. That may be because folks aren’t worried about spending 99 cents and not liking what they bought.

There is one downside to the KU program for both writers and those readers who also post reviews. Amazon’s algorithms place more weight on those reviews written by “verified” purchasers. Right now, they do not view a review from a KU reader as being from a verified purchaser. So those reviews don’t get as much weight. There has been push-back from both authors and KU reviewers about this. Possibly Amazon will change this in the future. I hope so. Until then, just be aware of it.

So, should a writer enroll in KDP Select and KU? That is up to you. I always recommend an author try other outlets before making the decision. Why? Because they may find that their experience is different from what mine has been. However, if you have done your research and have been following the Author Earnings reports, if you have talked to other authors and asked about their experiences — especially if they write in the same genre you do — then you may have enough information to make a decision without taking time to try out other markets.

For me, it has been an easy decision. I make much more from KU earnings than I did from the other outlets combined.

And now for some self-promo:

I am currently working on Dagger of Elanna, the sequel to Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1).

War is coming. The peace and security of the Ardean Imperium is threatened from within and without. The members of the Order of Arelion are sworn to protect the Imperium and enforce the Codes. But the enemy operates in the shadows, corrupting where it can and killing when that fails.

Fallon Mevarel, knight of the Order of Arelion, carried information vital to prevent civil war from breaking out. Cait was nothing, or so she had been told. She was property, to be used and abused until her owner tired of her. What neither Cait nor Fallon knew was that the gods had plans for her, plans that required Fallon to delay his mission.

Plans within plans, plots put in motion long ago, all converge on Cait. She may be destined for greatness, but only if she can stay alive long enough.

Like all my other books, Sword is available for purchase or for download through the Kindle Unlimited program.