Blending history and romance with Edale Lane

Edale Lane is the author of the award-winning 2019 debut novel, Heart of Sherwood. She is the alter-ego of author Melodie Romeo, (Vlad a Novel, Terror in Time, and others) who founded Past and Prologue Press. Both identities are qualified to write historical fiction by virtue of a masters degree in history and 24 years spent as a teacher, along with skill and dedication in regard to research. She is a successful author who also currently drives a tractor-trailer across the United States. A native of Vicksburg, Miss., Edale (or Melodie as the case may be) is also a musician who loves animals, gardening, and nature.

Merchants of Milan, Book One of the Night Flyer Trilogy, is a work of alternative history/historical romance. It isn’t entirely historical as there are no accounts that I am aware of after exhaustive hours of research that refer to a flying vigilante in Renaissance Milan. However, the period accuracy in regard to science, culture, art, architecture, political, and military history declare it is not a fantasy composition by any means. The novel falls into that branch of fiction where the author asks the question, “What if?”

What if there had been a 16th century superhero?

Neither is this story a classic formula romance. I like to include romance as an element in my novels because, well, people really do fall in love. There are few universal truths, but one of them is that everyone wants to be loved. Furthermore, most normal people also want to bestow love upon another as well, be it a friend, parent, child, or romantic partner. In Merchants of Milan, all of those expressions of love are realized. 

One initial reader was skeptical, however, about how I would pull off a same-sex relationship in a historical setting. In this case, it was not as difficult as one may think. The Renaissance was first and foremost a “re-birth” of science and learning from the Classical Age. While the Roman Catholic Church still held much power and influence in the Italian city-states, by 1502 the philosophy of Humanism had burst into full bloom. Educated citizens (and Italy boasted more of those than the nations of northern Europe) looked to the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations for knowledge that had been lost during the Dark Ages.

It was noted that these societies placed little emphasis on who one chose to love and same-sex relationships were accepted for those who wished to pursue them. While the masses still engaged in the most fundamental activities of the Church – baptism, paying of tithes, weddings, and funerals – they no longer abided by every directive laid down by the clergy.

As Madelena stated, “The Church has no moral authority to speak to such matters, not while we have a Pope who openly keeps a mistress and has fathered children with her despite his supposed vows of celibacy. The Church can mind its own business and keep its hypocritical nose out of ours.”

Historians know that some Renaissance artists, members of various noble and royal families, and even clergymen were gay, but there was very little fuss made about it at the time. No one was arrested, beaten, or imprisoned for their sexual orientation, but that didn’t mean nonconformance went without a price. Gossip could ruin reputations, money could be lost if one’s business was boycotted, and if a man persisted in practicing no discretion, he could be excommunicated (which was a big deal). Therefore, Florentina and Madelena determine that it would be in everyone’s best interest to keep their liaison private.

Florentina has a lot of sneaking around to do. First, she can’t let anyone know she is the masked vigilante the whole city is talking about, and then she has to hide her relationship with Maddie from everybody in order to protect her family from any potential backlash. It’s a wonder she gets any sleep at all. But I remember college days when I was twenty; I managed on very little sleep, so I figure Florentina can do the same!

Three powerful merchants, two independent women in love, one masked vigilante.

Florentina, set on revenge for her father’s murder, creates an alter-ego known as the Night Flyer. Madelena, whose husband was also murdered, hires Florentina as a tutor for her children and love blossoms between them. However, Florentina’s vendetta is fraught with danger, and surprising developments threaten both women’s lives.

Merchants of Milan is the first book in Edale Lane’s Night Flyer Trilogy, a tale of power, passion, and payback in Renaissance Italy. If you like gadgets and gismos, rich historical background, three-dimensional characters, and fast-paced action with a slow-boil lesbian romance, then you are sure to love this series. Buy this one of a kind novel today and let the adventure begin!

Twitter:   @EdaleLane

Official Site:  https://pastandprologuepress.lpages.co/

Coming soon: a new anthology featuring Elizabeth Donald

Gently he pushed her onto the bed and tucked the blankets around her. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I don’t like to go, but we grownups have to do that sometime.”

“Okay Daddy.” She rubbed her eyes, which was the universal signal for sleepy child, thank God. “The shiny people will keep me company.”

“Shiny people?” That was a new one. “Who are the shiny people?”

Rowen’s eyes were drifting shut even as she spoke. In her sleepiness, her voice sounded more like Debbie on the cold meds. “The shiny people in my room.”

“Okay, you have fun with that,” he said, smiling. He leaned over and kissed her on the forehead. “Dream pretty pictures.”

He stood up, his knees popping a little more than he liked. He walked to the door and reached for the knob. Then he caught sight of himself in the large mirror over Rowen’s dresser. “Oops,” he laughed quietly. He was still wearing the silly crown.

He stepped over in front of the dresser and removed the crown, wincing as its plastic curlicues caught in his hair and pulled a couple of strands free. I need to keep the hair I’ve got, thanks, he thought ruefully.

He laid the crown on the dresser. In the mirror, he caught movement behind him.

“Sleep, little lady,” he ordered, turning around.

Rowen was asleep. She lay perfectly still in her toddler bed, the blankets he’d tucked around her undisturbed.

Then who was moving behind him?

Coming soon from Crone Girls Press: Coppice and Brake, an anthology of dark fiction edited by Rachel Brune. This anthology includes an original short story by Literary Underworld founder Elizabeth Donald, who will also see two short stories appear in River Bluff Review this month!

“Shiny People” is a short story inspired by a tale told at a convention last year, and Elizabeth is delighted that it has found a home at Crone Girls Press. River Bluff Review will include two other original stories: “Dear Katrina” and “Sergeant Curious.”

Elizabeth Donald is a dark fiction writer fond of things that go chomp in the night. She is a three-time winner of the Darrell Award for speculative fiction and author of the Nocturne vampire mystery series and Blackfire zombie series, as well as other novels and short stories in the horror, science fiction and fantasy genres. She is the founder of the Literary Underworld author cooperative; an award-winning journalist and instructor; a nature and art photographer; freelance editor and writing coach. She is married to author Jim Gillentine, and their family lives in a haunted house in Illinois. In her spare time, she… has no spare time.

You can preorder a print copy of Coppice and Brake from Literary Underworld for $10! Preorders for the ebook edition are coming soon from Crone Girls Press, and we will have print copies available at conventions throughout the rest of the year.

The Best is Yet to Come from John F. Allen

John F. Allen is an American writer born in Indianapolis. He is a founding member of the Speculative Fiction Guild and a member of the Indiana Writers Center. He began writing stories as early as the second grade and has pursued various forms of writing throughout his career. John studied liberal arts at Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis with a focus in creative writing and literature, received an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force and is a current member of the American Legion. John’s debut novel The God Killers was published in 2013 by Seventh Star Press, and he has had several novellas, short stories and articles published since. He is also an avid reader, accomplished visual artist and jazz music aficionado.

I knew early on in my writing career that I wanted to explore stories written in a wide range of genres. This also reflects my diverse reading tastes. I didn’t want to be pigeonholed into writing the same type of stories, because my readers only expected them. I’ve seen other writers who are known for one particular genre for years, who later write in another and aren’t as well received, mostly because they aren’t known for those genres. I’m not saying that is the case for all authors who cross genres later in their careers, but it happens and when it does it’s very unfortunate.

It has been my philosophy that I’d write stories and novels in various genres from the beginning of my career and publish a short story collection which contained multi-genre stories, so that my readers can get a sampling of my versatility as a writer. This is why my first short story collection, The Best is Yet to Come, contains ten multi-genre stories which range from literary fiction, science fiction, fantasy, horror and beyond. 

During my time as a writing student, my assignments were largely literary fiction stories and the mechanics of story-writing in general. This was actually of significant importance to my genre fiction writing, as it helped me to ground my writing in the commonality of the human condition, which is the most important through line for all fiction writing, in my opinion.

However, there are many specific and unique elements which each individual genre offers for both the reader and the storyteller.

For example, science fiction offers the writer and their readers to explore the scientific and technological marvels of our world, as well as those expanded possibilities from the storyteller’s imagination. As a writer, I personally find science and technology to be fascinating subjects and often read news articles, magazines and academic journals for my own interest.

So when an idea for a science fiction story presents itself, I’m able to utilize the knowledge from my reading to add validity to the fiction and ground it in our reality. This accomplishes two things. Firstly, it acknowledges the scientific and technological progress mankind has made and is continuing to make. Secondly, it offers hope that the progress made will create a brighter future for generations to come or serves as a warning for the consequences of misusing that progress and potentially darker times ahead.

Another example is the fantasy genre. This particular genre allows the reader to experience things from the perspective of a foreign world, usually steeped in magic and mysticism, with an ancient-like setting that is devoid of scientific and technological progress. This genre challenges the storyteller to utilize human history and folklore as elements in their tales, while maintaining the human condition through line. As an armchair historian, this fascinates me in that it allows me to reach into the rich tapestry of human history and pull from the real-life stories, people and settings to create.

When the idea for a fantasy story begins to percolate in my mind, I draw upon ancient histories, people and their cultures as the base for my world building. This serves as the bridge and connective tissue with which the reader can relate and accomplishes similar objectives to science fiction. Firstly, it acknowledges the historical and cultural progress mankind has made and is continuing to make. Secondly, it offers hope that the progress made will continue to move forward in positive and progressive ways, while we learn from the mistakes of the past and avoid repeating them.

Genre writing also gives the storyteller and the reader, the opportunity to explore cultural and racial diversity from the human vantage point. This is particularly important in opening new and exciting settings to the reader, as most genre fiction is it often told from a Eurocentric perspective lens.

Human diversity in genre fiction opens up new settings and points of view to the reader and allows the storyteller to express themselves in a much more personal and passionate manner. With any luck, this very same passion from the writer is translated in their work, the benefit of the reader, which affords them a new and exciting experience.

Featuring ten stories collected for the first time, The Best Is Yet to Come presents nine years of creativity spun from the mind of John F. Allen. Action and adventure are ever-present in these stories, but be prepared for some drama, horror, fantasy and science fiction as well.

This volume includes a holiday story, “An Ivory Christmas,” featuring Ivory Blaque, Allen’s bold heroine from his acclaimed urban fantasy series The God Killers.

Also included are:

“Forest of Shadows” is the debut of a fabled, ancient warrior named, Jaziri, Prince of Kimbogo Province.

You may want to think twice before venturing out into the dark woods of rural Indiana in “The Legend of Matchemonedo.”

A young set assistant of a 1950s science fiction serial gets to embark on the journey of a lifetime in “The Adventures of Star Blazer.”

A young woman in late 1970s Indianapolis learns to be careful what you wish for in “HoodRatz.”

When a woman struggles to care for her ailing father, she discovers the truth behind her troubled past in “The Sweetest Autumn.”

Long ago, a noble samurai finds forbidden love with a beautiful, ebony-skinned princess in “The African Princess.”

A mysterious, military operative is sent on a covert mission in Egypt, when he encounters an alien monster bent on revenge in “Lazarus.”

Forty years ago, a young boy discovers that family means everything in “The Chocolate Malt.”

The Best is Yet to Come also features the special bonus short story, “Witch Way is Up.”

Explore the words of John F. Allen today!

Anybody Want to Play War?

Tommy B. Smith is a writer of dark fiction, author of The Mourner’s Cradle, Poisonous, and the short story collection Pieces of Chaos, as well as works appearing in numerous magazines and anthologies throughout the years. His presence currently infests Fort Smith, Arkansas, where he resides with his wife and cats.

Did the experience of writing in a new genre help you grow as a writer and storyteller, and if so, in what way?

While my previous works have landed within the realms of horror and dark fiction, and even fantasy in the case of a few short stories, my newest novel is a coming of age story—or as I’ve also called it, a coming of rage tale, titled Anybody Want to Play WAR?  

It’s the story of Bryce Gallo, a teenage boy attacked by a dog, who suffers terrible injuries. He recovers in the hospital, but is left with a terrible scar, a stark reminder of his narrow escape, and here the story just begins. It’s the tale of an outsider, of family dysfunction and consequences, and Bryce’s struggle to adjust and ultimately face the world. 

While this one doesn’t fall into the horror genre, past readers will find whispers of the darkness they’ve come to recognize, and it’s my hope that newer readers should also find plenty to enjoy in this character-driven story. 

As an author, I appreciated the freedom afforded in writing this particular book. Remaining squeezed inside a box for too long can become uncomfortable. 

As with other occasions, once I found the proper “zone” for myself to begin this undertaking, I adapted my approach to suit the story and its direction. 

I recognize the value in reading outside one’s oft-chosen genre and exploring other creative arenas. These experiences offer fresh alternatives and learning opportunities. For the sake of growth and development as an author or otherwise, it’s useful to remain open to areas for potential development. 

This book allowed for me to exercise character development on a higher level, and also proved a deeper experience in world building. There are many layers to the setting of St. Charles, and that includes my release of 2018, The Mourner’s Cradle.  

If handled properly, character development and world building are valuable tools which enable a seamless spectrum of possibilities. These are tools which transcend genre, skills which may serve to enhance our storytelling arsenal. To commit my best, I owe it to my readers to keep a multitude of tools within reach. 

As well, I found a challenge in labeling a story which does not easily fit in the molds of standard genre fare, but authors have penned coming of age stories across many years, decades and even centuries. Why shouldn’t I establish my variation on the concept? 

In the end, I’ve carry forward with my motivations, and this time, it was Anybody Want to Play WAR? A liberating task, and at its best moments, a learning experience. Just as our stories are works in progress until the final edit’s completion, as purveyors of words and worlds, so are we, as long as we are willing and determined to make it so. 

— Tommy B. Smith

Follow the rest of Tommy B. Smith’s blog tour at Tomorrow Comes Media!

Brutal injuries can leave scars. As the teenaged survivor of a savage dog’s rampage, it’s a lesson Bryce Gallo will never forget.

Struggling to cope with his damaged appearance, along with a newfound fear of dogs and mounting anxieties at home and school, he flees his suburban home into the moonlit streets of St. Charles.

Along the roads of suburbia and through the shadowed heart of the city, he encounters Wheels, a maintenance worker for a series of apartment buildings; Paloma, known to some by the moniker of Lady Luck; and a woman in a dark house who is, as far as Bryce can fathom, like no one else he has met before.

His new life is not without obstacles or enemies, he learns. The future is a battlefield. Fire and smoke loom on the horizon, and his dangerous course may see the lives of his family and friends forever changed.

Kindle Version:  https://www.amazon.com/Anybody-Want-Play-Tommy-Smith-ebook/dp/B07Y45ZYG2/

Amazon Print Version:  https://www.amazon.com/Anybody-Want-Play-Tommy-Smith/dp/1948042843/

Barnes and Noble Link:  https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/anybody-want-to-play-war-tommy-b-smith/1133901518?ean=9781948042840

Happy holidays!

We are extending our Cyber Week Sale! Use the code CYBER19 to get 10 PERCENT OFF on your order in time for the holidays, or use HOLIDAZE25 to get 25 percent off one item!

Here’s some ideas for the readers on your list:

Hey look, it’s another Cyber Week Sale!

Okay, you were deluged with Black Friday emails. And then it’s Small Business Saturday, and Giving Sunday… or is it Giving Tuesday? We lose track, too.

And then there’s Cyber Monday, so named because it’s the point where we all go back to work and don’t feel like it, so we sneak some holiday shopping online when the boss isn’t looking. Which turns into Cyber Week, because really, no one is in the mood for work.

Here at LitUnd Towers, we decided to give you a break from the deluge on Black Friday. Besides, we had pie.

But we do have some awesome gift ideas for you, and a code to get you a discount on your holiday shopping. Use CYBER19 at your checkout and get 10 percent off all your holiday gifts!

Keep in mind: Quite often Literary Underworld is cheaper than Amazon. Some of our books are out of print, and deeply discounted as low as $5. Some of our small-press books are half price, and others have been discounted by the author below Amazon list price. Add in the discount code, and you’re getting the best deal on the internet.

Remember: when you shop Literary Underworld, you’re buying directly from the authors and publishers who created these works. You’re supporting creators with the largest possible percentage of the sale. That’s the reason LitUnd exists, folks.

So here are a few ideas for the book fans on your list, with many more in our store!

We hope you’ll choose to do some holiday shopping with us at Literary Underworld. Remember that you can have your purchase shipped directly to the recipient and get it gift-wrapped, if you so choose! In some cases, signed copies are available at no extra cost – just ask.

Remember that all shipping is $8 flat rate no matter how many books you buy! And if you live in the St. Louis area, you can pick up your purchase directly from us without having to pay extra for shipping. Once or twice a month, we set up for an afternoon at a local coffeehouse and patrons can come by to pick up their books. If you’d like to do that, please select “local pickup” for your shipping option and we will be in touch with details.

Thank you for shopping at Literary Underworld, and happy holidays!

Gail Force: Dennis Upkins interviews Gail Simone

Underlord Dennis R. Upkins recently had the opportunity to interview comics superhero Gail Simone. As Denny says in his prologue to the interview, if well-behaved women seldom make history, Gail has made history in defiance of the male-dominated comics industry.

Gail created the Women in Refrigerators concept, which called out misogyny and the sidelining of female characters in comics as perpetual victims to motivate male heroes. She went on to write several comics lines, including the longest run on Wonder Woman for any woman writer, as well as Birds of Prey and Deadpool.

A few excerpts from Gail’s discussion with Denny:

On Women in Refrigerators:

GAIL: Like most jobs, you get tested, you make errors, choices are given to you where the road isn’t clear, but I think your gut is a fair indicator of what the right thing to do is, most of the time. And I do feel lucky that the Women In Refrigerators AT LEAST named a trope that seemed to permeate adventure fiction on all levels. It was never my intent to tell people what stories are ‘off limits,’ it was just to say, ‘doesn’t this seem a little tired to you?’

It was never even intentional activism, it was a frustration I had to voice, and the wonderful thing is, people of all genders got it, they had the same uncomfortable feeling. So that was worth the constant hate mail and rage that was sent my way. None of that meant very much to me, still doesn’t.

On pushback against diversity in comics:

GAIL: I had great editors on Deadpool when I got started, and we raised sales and fan/critical reaction hugely. But they got promoted and the new editor was just awful. He said my Deadpool, which was literally FULL of shooting and action and boners, “had too much estrogen.” That’s a direct quote, someone actually gave this genius a job.

So that kind of thing happened, I remember a bit of pushback on making a character gay very early on. However, I have to say, DC was really advanced about that at the time, in particular. I don’t remember them ever pushing back about diverse characters, even things like the first Transgender character in a Batman-universe book. They were behind us, and I am very appreciative of that.

On the future of the comic book landscape:

GAIL: I want comics shops to be healthy. Comics will mutate and absolutely SHOULD be in as many venues as possible. But the front line is comics shops, and they’re being obliterated by piracy, rent hikes, and other factors, it all has to be addressed. Other than that, I want more The Walking Dead style hits, books that bring in readers who weren’t reading, say, Spider-Man.

On advice for aspiring creators:

GAIL: I say bring your principles with you. No one wants to be preached at while reading Batman. But acknowledging a wider world is saying, “I do not accept that this world that I love, this universe that I am so deeply entrenched in, has to stay mired in amber since 1940.”

Also, if your plot is dragging, have Spider-Man web some dude.


Dennis R. Upkins is an Atlanta native and member of the Literary Underworld. He is the author of Hollowstone and West of Sunset, and regularly critiques and analyzes the representation and portrayal of minorities in comics and media. When he’s not out saving the world and/or taking it over in his spare time, Upkins’s hobbies include drawing, modeling, acting, photography, cosplay, rollerblading, martial arts and of course writing. His website can be found here.

Read the full interview here at 30up! And check out Denny Upkins’ work at Literary Underworld!

Guest post: Elements of a compelling thriller

Today’s guest author is Michael Houtchen, whose debut novel Tybee Island H-Bomb premieres this week from our friends at Seventh Star Press. Here’s Michael’s story in his own words:

Kentucky has always been my home. I was born in Owensboro and raised in Daviess County. Life was simple back then. I grew up with outhouses, hand-pumps, and coal stoves. If you wanted hot water, you heated it on the stove.

Michael Houtchen

Both of my parents have passed on. I have a half-brother, Danny, but most of our younger lives he lived with his father, so we didn’t get to see each other often. Looking back, sadly, it was like being an only child. My closest friends were the cows, chickens, pigs, goats, sheep, turkeys, geese, ducks, and horses my dad kept on our small farm. I hope I didn’t leave anyone out. Farm animals can be so jealous. Our grocery store – mason jars of mom’s canned vegetables and the occasional trip into town to the IGA.

My dad was a woodsman. You could give him a shotgun, a box of shells and a book of matches, and he could disappear into the forest for weeks. I used to hunt with him, but I was never the woodsman. I can’t tell you how many deer, squirrels, rabbits, raccoons and ground hogs I’ve eaten.

My wife, Stephanie, and I have five kids (three boys and two girls) and eight grandchildren (five boys and three girls). All but one son live here in town. You should see Christmas day at our house.

I’ve had several jobs during my lifetime. When I was thirteen, I had a summer job. I was a soda-jerk at the Utica Junior High School playground. The school is now defunct. It is not my fault the school went defunct.

As an adult, I started out as a janitor. Loved the work, but not the pay. Mapping came next. In other words, I was a draftsman who created maps from surveys. I did that for over twenty years. Mapping full time and going to Brescia College (it’s now a university) at night, I got a bachelor’s degree in computer science. Career change: I was a computer analyst for over twenty years.

There came a day when I realized I was the dinosaur of computer science. Technology had passed me by. So I up and retired. That was in 2014, and I haven’t missed working a day. Truth be known, I do miss the people I worked with.

Notice: I’ve said nothing about writing. I could tell you a pretty good story, but putting it on paper was another thing. Stephanie, my wife, asked, “And why not?” I had no answer.

I should keep this short, so, I will tease you with two important events that happened in my life; two events that I haven’t already discussed. When we meet each other, don’t hesitate to ask me about them.

Monday, September 6, 1965, was a Labor Day, and I was out of school. On that day, I came in contact with a high voltage powerline. Seven thousand two hundred volts entered my hand and exited my head and my feet.

That’s not a typo. It was 7200 volts. I was given up for dead for three days. There is a “rest of the story” as Paul Harvey used to say. Ask me about it when we meet.

The second event: September 17, 2017, I was ordained a permanent deacon in the Catholic Church. It keeps me busy these days. If you’re not sure what a permanent deacon does, Google it.

There you have it: My life story summed up in 1,000 words or less. It sounds like a writing contest, doesn’t it? There’s so much I left out. I could tell you about riding the rails, or the time I hung myself. But those will have to wait until we meet.

Michael on the elements of a good thriller:

A solid series plot.

I like for each book in a series to be standalone, but the overall series could have a well thought out plot, a “traveling” storyline, if you will, traveling from book to book.  I wrote a four book series, and I knew were each book was going and how each book tied together.

Interesting characters.

Without interesting characters, the series could/would get boring or grow stale.  Adding/removing characters helps keep the storyline fresh.  Yes, after a while, there’s nothing wrong with killing off main characters or having them move away.  People will hate you, but that’s real life.  Never, never kill a pet!  Just look at John Wicks.

Realistic situations.

A thriller takes place in the world with real world situations — no hocus pocus.  Even if the series takes place on, say, one of Saturn’s moons, it should still have real world situations, like the 1981 movie Outland staring Sean Connery.

Plot twists.

A good series will take you down an expected path, just to come to a dead end.  But don’t drop the solution in the last chapter, or by the introduction of a new character with the solution near the end of the story.  Work your way, chapter by chapter, to the solution.  Keep the reader, guessing.  I love hearing people say   ̶   I thought it was this person until you killed him.

Research.

Take the time to do the research.  I once had a “scene” where a person was starting a helicopter.  I went through all the buttons and gauges just fine, only to find out, I had the pilot in the wrong seat.  The helicopter inventor was left-handed, so pilots sit in the right seat.  A pilot friend, who flew helicopters in Vietnam, pointed out my error.

Tybee Island H-Bomb

The government lost a hydrogen bomb around Tybee Island, Georgia, in 1958, or is that an old wives’ tale?

If it is only a tale, then why are three young men trying to find it, in hopes of selling it to make a dirty bomb?

Before the week is out, six friends from Kentucky will get caught up in kidnapping, murder, and treason, while trying to save one of their own and perhaps the citizens of Tybee Island and Savannah, Georgia.

Kindle Version:  https://www.amazon.com/Tybee-Island-H-Bomb-Michael-Houtchen-ebook/dp/B07V6T7BWC/

Amazon Print Version:  https://www.amazon.com/Tybee-Island-H-Bomb-Michael-Houtchen/dp/1948042789/

Barnes and Noble Link:  https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/tybee-island-h-bomb-michael-houtchen/1132868604?ean=9781948042789

Guest blog: The biggest hurdle of being indie

Today’s guest blogger is Joann H. Buchanan, whose latest book is being released this week from Seventh Star Press. Joann was raised in a military family and at the age of 19, followed in her father’s footsteps and joined the Navy. She went to college at OPSU in Oklahoma, majoring in CIS, but the love of writing made her ultimately come back to it. After Dark is Joann’s fifth book. Joann and her husband John have five children and live happily in the heartland of middle America.

The hurdles of being indie

Everyday there are over 500,000 books published on Amazon. That is the biggest hurdle. How to stand out in a sea filled with water?

The most obvious answer is marketing. There are a lot of indie authors who can’t afford to market a book the way it should be.

There are a few ways to get around this.

One, hire someone who is versed in marketing and can make it easier on you or two,  gather a few people who are in the same boat and work together. The second is probably going to end up being the most rewarding because you make friends in the journey and you don’t feel so alone. Also, set your expectations one day at a time. If you receive a review about your book and it’s fabulous, use that to keep moving forward. If you are able to help a friend spread the word, use that to keep moving forward.

That’s the most important thing… keep moving forward. Ultimately you are your own worst enemy. If a new author focuses on the fact that you aren’t a number one best selling author right off the bat, then you are focusing on the wrong thing.

As a friend of mine has told me, this is a marathon, not a sprint. In other words, be prepared for a long journey and celebrate every step that moves you forward.

I have been fortunate in this business in that I have not only made money, but I have connected with some amazingly talented people. They have given me a map when I was lost, an ear when I wanted to vent and a laugh when I have felt down. Allow yourself to exist in the moment. Eventually the bottom line will take care of itself as long as you are existing in the moment.

The other thing, appreciate your fans. They don’t have to buy your book. So even if they don’t particularly enjoy one book but they loved another, tell them thank you for reading it. I think some writers forget the fans. One of my favorite things to do is answer emails from fans. They are everything when it comes to the literary world.

The question is what is the biggest hurdle for an indie writer—I think the biggest hurdle is ourselves. We should band together to make things easier. I’ve seen authors put others down instead of celebrating accomplishments. Don’t do that. Remember that today it is their turn but tomorrow it may be your turn. Wouldn’t it be better to celebrate one another and help one another than to walk all over one another or allow jealousy to rule?

If you are an indie writer and you want to work together to move forward, let me know.  I will gladly be part of your group to help one another move forward. To me, that’s what it’s all about.

After Dark: Children of Nox series No. 3

The time of three arrives….

The stained one is revealed.

The dream protector’s power grows.

A demon possesses the body of Jonah.

All the pieces are in place, guided by Trinity.

Gods, goddesses, and supernatural forces converge, and a clash of powers looms that will determine the fate of the world.

What will come after the dark?

The thrilling conclusion of the Children of Nox Series awaits you!

Joann Buchanan

Jane Friedman Knows Lots About Publishing

On Saturday morning, a meeting room filled with people from all stages of publishing. Multi-pubbed award winners to aspiring writers who hadn’t finished their first draft yet, working in all genres, found their spots and settled in.

Jane Friedman has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in business strategy for authors and publishers. She’s the editor of The Hot Sheet, the essential industry newsletter for authors. She also maintains an award-winning blog for writers at JaneFriedman.com; her expertise has been featured by The New York Times, The Washington Post, NPR, PBS, CBS, the National Press Club and many other outlets.

With those kinds of credentials, it’s no wonder people were engaged and interested for the day-long workshop called “Are You Ready for Success?”

The main points included learning how to build an author platform, optimize branding and messaging to appeal to readers, and employ strategize in your website, blog, newsletters and social media to reach and engage your audience.

The first point she made was to define “platform,” which she equated to visibility. Right off the bat, the audience was asked to think, not in terms of individual sales, but in terms of how we reach our audience at large.

And the only way to reach that audience was to do the work.

In other words, write the book.

Building an author brand. The idea of a brand is to build an expectation in readers for what you deliver in text, design, and action. Presenting a unified, even repetitive image across all your media helps solidify that brand in the readers mind through consistency.

Optimizing your books starts with metadata, which consists of the book description, cover, editorial reviews, categories and keywords. She mentioned that one of the ways readers know what they like is through comparison, which is why you often see phrases like, “If you like X, you’ll love Y!” in book marketing.

Whether or not those comparisons are entirely accurate, knowing who and what is selling in your genre or niche can help you identify your target audience. Yasiv.com is a helpful tool for finding similar books, as well as looking through your also-boughts, checking reviews for mentions of similar authors, as well as Goodreads lists and those media roundups of “Top 10 Whatever Books To Read Next.”

Writing compelling book descriptions is more than telling the plot. Using headlines, bold type, and white space effectively, including editorial reviews from bloggers and media, as well as working in appropriate categories and keywords can help readers find you in their searches.

She also suggested updating your book descriptions periodically to take advantage of new trends. A little work every few months might bring in fresh readers.

Consider your strengths in generating leads. Are you a good blogger? Can you do a podcast or run a Twitter chat? Maybe you’re great at networking – not all authors are introverts. All of those and more are ways to generate leads, which in publishing translates to finding readers.

One way to discover some of your possible lead generation avenues is to do a SWOT analysis. Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Focus on maximizing what you can (write more books!), and taking the chances that come your way.

Platform Assets: Website first, because it’s your official face as an author. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it should be functional. It should look like you – an opportunity to reiterate your branding – and it should have all the information about your books a reader or a potential contact might need.

Social media is another platform asset, because it’s a way to connect you to the community of readers, as well as a way to network with other authors and publishing professionals. It is not your best selling tool, but it is a way to brand yourself and build relationships.

The final leg of your platform asset is your email newsletter. When you build your list organically, it consists of your most engaged readers. They’re the ones who will evangelize for you.

She addressed a few different strategies for producing original content. For instance, readers enjoy media content lists — what you’re reading/watching/listening to/streaming right now. Q&As and interviews with other authors are of interest, as well as behind the scenes peeks into the writing and publishing process. Finally, funny is always a good bet for entertaining, value added content.

You can also send out RSS feeds, blog roundups and automatic digests for newsletters.

One of the biggest keys to maintaining a vibrant, engaged newsletter list is consistency in frequency, format, look, and voice.

If you need a priority list for your platform assets, attend to your website first, then your newsletter, then pick one social media platform where you can show up regularly.

But the best way to build readership?

Write more books!

If you’d like to find out more about Jane Friedman, visit her website at https://www.janefriedman.com/ and sign up for her free newsletter, Electric Speed, at https://www.janefriedman.com/free-newsletter/

If you’d like to learn more about the Missouri chapter of Romance Writers of America, the organization that hosted the special event, please visit https://www.morwa.org/wp/

Sela Carsen is an award-winning author of paranormal and sci-fi romance — with or without sex and dead bodies. Your pick. She maintains a permanent nerd-on for fairytales and mythology, and openly hoards reference books about obscure folklore. Born a wanderer, she and her family have finally settled in the Midwest. Until they move again, at least. http://selacarsen.com/