Hi. It’s Teaser Tuesday again. Here’s a snippet from one of my earliest books, Morgan’s Choice. This is the first 230 words, where you’ll meet the main character, be introduced to the problem, and see the setting.
Steam rose from Jones’ food pack, filling Curlew’s tiny common room with the aroma of beef stew. “That’s one month down.” He took the container out of the warmer and brought it the two steps to the table.
Morgan glanced up at him, still chewing, as he sank down on the bench opposite. She swallowed her own food. “Yeah.”
One month’s worth of the existing food supply gone. Another month, maybe a little longer if they rationed even further and then perhaps they’d be fishing Tariq’s body out of the cargo hold, wondering if a bit of cannibalism might be in order. The thought made her gag but at least it was an option. Running out of air—that was something else altogether.
She speared some more synthetic plast-food from her own food pack and lifted it to her mouth.
A staccato bleeping shattered the silence.
She flung her fork on the table, leapt through the forward hatch into the bridge and dropped into the captain’s chair, her heart pounding with a mixture of excitement and tension, hope and apprehension. She flicked off the wide-range scanner’s alarm and reached into the computer system with her mind to adjust the sensors to maximum magnification. Something had just come out of shift-space close enough to trigger the warning. Maybe she’d got it all wrong and Curlew was still in Coalition space. Because otherwise…
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Question: what do you do when you don’t feel like writing?
Answer: Mess about with “marketing” graphics.
It is, it really is, just super fun. Here’s a few for my space opera, Starheart. Kevin Radthorne created this image for me.
Here’s another one, based on a previous cover.
(Starheart is set in the same universe as the Iron Admiral but the events occur a little before the Iron Admiral books)
Freighter Captain Jess Sondijk has her life under control until the Confederacy’s Admiral Hudson boards her ship in a search for contraband. Sondijk and Hudson have their own set of questions.
For Jess, it’s a matter of her husband’s perhaps not so accidental death. For Hudson, it’s that somebody’s trading with the alien Ptorix – and offering them a large enough prize to induce them to part with their beloved starhearts, the jewels they call the windows of the soul.
While Jess’ interests are more personal — abducted friends and family — Hudson’s are broader — the end of his career at best and interspecies war at worst — in a deadly game of political intrigue, murder, and greed.
Which will win, following hearts’ desires or chasing starhearts, with the stakes higher than either is willing to pay?
This book contains sex scenes and strong language.
Read an excerpt here
Hi there. I’m pleased to announce that book four of the Ptorix Empire series, Crisis at Validor, is out there for you to read. As usual it’s an action-packed adventure as Brett Butcher and his childhood sweetheart Tarlyn Delphin scramble to prevent an inter-species conflict on their home planet. Readers will get up close and personal with the decidedly non-humanoid Ptorix, and meet another intelligent but not technological species, the berzhani.
Yes, of course there’s a love story with complications. Here’s the blurb:
Newly-promoted Captain Brett Butcher is about to achieve his life-long ambition to command a battle cruiser. But before he takes up his new posting, he goes home on leave, hoping to perhaps catch a glimpse of his first love, the unattainable Lady Tarlyn.
When the queen is assassinated in a terrorist attack, Tarlyn’s life is thrown into turmoil when she, too, becomes a target. The last person she expects to rescue her is her childhood sweetheart, Brett Butcher.
As Validor’s Ptorix and human populations face off over a group of islands neither owns, the calls for war grow louder. Torn between love, duty and ambition, Butcher and Tarlyn struggle to prevent an inter-species conflict, while the ember of love that has smouldered for so long bursts into flame. But with planetary peace at stake, both will be forced to choose; love or duty.
And here’s an excerpt. Brett and Tarlyn are making their way by boat to Berzhan Island. To do so, they have to pass through a chasm between the open sea and a lagoon. It’s known as the Walls of Death because when the tide is running, it’s like trying to ride a waterfall. Here we go…
As the sky lightened, the gap between the cliffs became clearer on the display. The water looked calm, completely flat. “Are our chronos right?” Tarlyn asked. “It looks so calm.”
“Only on the surface. Underneath, it’ll be a chaotic churn. Then the water gets its turn to tumble over the edge.” Brett’s voice was tight, which gave her some degree of comfort. It was nice to know she wasn’t the only one who was scared.
The console beeped and a message appeared. “Danger. Rough water ahead.”
Brett reached across and took her hand, squeezing gently. “It’ll be okay.”
She conjured up a smile, and squeezed back, grateful for the warmth.
The Walls of Death loomed. From here the waterfall was invisible, only implied by the white water spreading out at its base in the lagoon. Even if she couldn’t see it, she could hear it, a low rumbling growl that warned of things to come. The current had them, speeding the boat even faster. With every second the low growl grew. Tarlyn clutched the console, her legs hooked around the footrest on the seat. She was breathing too fast, hyperventilating. Tarlyn held her breath as Windrush shot over the curling wall of water at the entrance to the chasm and into the maelstrom between the dark walls. The growl was a thundering roar that rang and echoed, deafening her. The boat slammed into the waves, bucking and weaving against the force of the water. A wave smashed up over the bow and into the weather shield protecting the bridge. The boat slewed sideways, throwing Tarlyn out of her seat. Brett still had her hand. Fighting the panic, she dragged herself back to the chair in time to see a close up of one of the cliffs, too close to the bow. Her heart hammered. If they hit those rocks the boat couldn’t survive.
This is the fourth book in the Ptorix Empire series.
Don’t forget to visit some of the other sites in the showcase, and find out what else is happening in Science Fiction Romance.
Writing the book, I’ve found – however difficult it might be – is the easy part. Marketing it is way, way harder. There has been a plethora of posts about why it’s so much harder now to keep your author head above the flood of new books being published every day. And there’s Kindle Unlimited and BookBub and blog tours and NetGalley and a million other ways that aspiring hopefuls can jump up and down shouting, “pick me, pick me” – all for a price, of course.
I’m no different to all the other small voices out there. My sales have been declining for months, despite having fourteen titles. One of those is a novella, three are longer short stories and the rest are novels. I could just ignore the sales and carry on doing what I do, but I don’t write for myself. I want other people to enjoy my books – and I know some do. So what to do to increase discoverability. (Don’t you love that word? Makes you sound like an exotic holiday location.)
For a start, I put my two paranormal novels and my space opera novella, each of which sold less than five a month, into Kindle Select. None of those titles were selling anywhere else – Smashwords, Kobo, Apple, B&N or Omnilit – so it didn’t cost me to take them down from those sites. I saw results after a few days, with the number of borrows quickly outstripping sales. Mind you, that simply means I could buy three cups of coffee each month instead of one.
Sales had also dwindled to almost nothing for my science fiction romance titles. I’d written a new book for my Ptorix Empire series, and that was released on 15 January. No, I didn’t do a blog tour. I’ve never felt they did much for me. But the book is on the list for NetGalley in February, and I’ve touted it on a few blogs as well as my own. A few fans purchased the book, but it certainly wasn’t walking off the virtual shelves. Sales in January amounted to six. Wow.
There are four books in the Ptorix Empire series. The first, The Iron Admiral: Conspiracy (IA:C), has been around since 2010 and is part of a $0.99, 11-book boxed set, Nebula Nights. (you’ll find purchase links if you’re interested.) So I decided to make it free. For good measure, I made Supertech, a short story that introduces Morgan Selwood who stars in the Morgan Selwood series, free as well. The idea, of course, is try one, buy the rest.
The story for IA:C is quite different. I have found that I make more sales on Amazon US than anywhere else, by a very long way – well over 90%. So what I’m showing here is only Amazon US.
I made the book free at all outlets except Amazon (where you can’t offer a free book – I set it to $0.99) on 18 January. I did not advertise, beyond one Twitter post. The graph below shows what happened after Amazon price matched.
The first peak was simply from being in Amazon’s free books section. Then the initial excitement died away. The second peak is as a result of buying a US$15 ad on eReader News Today. The book raced up the Amazon lists and was soon #1 free in store for Galactic Empires and #1 Space Opera and #1 Romance Science Fiction. The big goal is top 100 free in store. It didn’t quite get there, but it reached 110 which is pretty good for a novel in a niche market like SF romance. To date, there have been over 4,000 downloads.
Of course, we all know free downloads don’t necessarily mean readers, let alone fans. Many a free book languishes on a reading device, ignored and forgotten. But some people certainly did read the book. I’ve seen a substantial (in relative terms) increase in sales of the second Iron Admiral book – in fact all three titles in the series. And sales of my Morgan Selwood series have also improved.
Although I make most of my sales on Amazon, I will always make my books available elsewhere. Readers like choices and not everyone wants to use the Kindle interface on whichever reading device they own. I’ll take the novella out of Kindle Select when the three months is up, but leave the other two, which hardly sold anyway.
One thing I learned from this exercise is you don’t have to be in the Kindle Select program, where your book is exclusive to Amazon, to get the benefit of a short period where your novel is free. I reduced the price of IA:C to $0.99 on Amazon, and free everywhere else. Amazon soon price matched. In fact, the campaign was so successful, Amazon put the price back. I had to ask them to price match, which they did. Mind you, I’ve heard people complain they can’t get Amazon to stop offering their book free, even when the free offer period finishes at other vendors. That’s a risk to take into account.
I’m not a great believer in giving away my hard work. Writing IA:C took literally years of effort through a number of iterations. But I’ve earned some money from the book and I made a strategic decision to use it as an introduction to my work. I do not think the free options is feasible if you don’t have a swag of other titles. In both cases, I set the first of a series of a number of books free. Time will tell how long this initial boost will last. Meanwhile, I’d better get back to writing that next book.
I read today in a newspaper article that systematic excavation of Beacon Island in the Abrolhos group off the West Australian coast has begun with the discovery of a new grave.
That might not mean much to many of you, but it does to me. Beacon Island is the modern name for Batavia’s Graveyard, the site of one of the most despicable episodes in Australian maritime history. In 1629 the Dutch merchantman Batavia was wrecked on a nearby reef. One hundred and eighty survivors managed to make their way to the tiny, desolate coral outcrop we call Beacon Island. The ship’s captain and most of the officers took the Batavia’s long boat and made a perilous journey over uncharted waters to the city of Batavia (now Jakarta) to fetch help. When rescuers returned five months later, they discovered that in their absence about one hundred men, women and children had been murdered. Jeronimus Cornelisz, who had been the Batavia’s undermerchant ( a senior position in the Dutch East India Company), recruited a group of thugs who systematically did away with the old, the inform and the very young. I’ve written more about the history here.
Although many victims were drowned, or were killed and their bodies disposed of in the sea, some were buried. We know this because the facts were recorded in a journal, and some remains had already been found on Beacon Island. However, over the years the wreck of the Batavia passed into the pages of history and the location of the ship, and the island where the subsequent events took place, were forgotten.
The wreck site was finally located in 1963. But by then, fishermen had discovered the rich grounds around the Abrolhos Islands and built shacks on some of them – including Beacon Island. If I remember correctly, one victim’s skull was found when a clothesline was being erected. So excavating this important historical site had to be balanced against the rights of the fishermen who used their shacks in the few months of the fishing season to earn their livelihood.
Now, at last, the shacks are gone.
I’ve heard Beacon Island is not a comfortable place to be, especially at night. It has been called the island of angry ghosts for a reason. I hope the archaeologists find the graves of the Predikant’s wife, six of his children and their maid. They were slaughtered in one hideous attack, and (according to the journal) their bodies buried somewhere in the shallow ‘soil’ of Beacon Island.
Congratulations to the powers that be in Western Australia. Beacon Island should be preserved as a historical site, no less important than places like Port Arthur in Tasmania. Perhaps with some recognition, some of those angry ghosts will rest in peace.
I’ve also been privileged to visit the Abrolhos Islands Wallabi Group, where the drama unfolded. Here’s my description.
Most of you know I’m a practising member of the Science Fiction Romance Brigade, a vibrant, active community of writers of science fiction romance. One of our number has taken it upon herself to create a brand new library for readers where you can find the latest and greatest, the free and the back lists of authors writing in the genre. You can search by author, category, pair groupings (MF, MM, MFM, FF etc etc), and series. SFR Station is a great new resource and I encourage you to try it.
We have a Facebook group for readers, the Scifi Romance Group which is a discussion and fun group for lovers of the genre. It’s public, so please join and take advantage of what’s new, what’s fun, and games and giveaways.
We also have a fanpage if that’s more your thing.
If you write SFR, or you’re an SFR editor or cover designer you might like to join the brigade at our website. And/or join our very active Facebook group. We have a heap of networking opportunities which we’re more than willing to share.
Summer storms are a fact of life where I live. They seem to pop up out of a clear blue sky. This one is no exception. I hear it first, a low rumble in the distance outside my window. There it is, a vast cumulus tower, its curves bright white in the sun. A look at the radar shows we’ll probably be in its path.
When the sky grows dark I go outside to watch its progress. The soaring thunderclouds are invisible now, the sky a uniform deep grey blanket except for that ragged leading edge, like fingers dragging a cloak of cloud in their wake. Lightning flashes all around me, sometimes high up in the cloud, making it light up inside, sometimes a spear of brilliance stabbing into the ground.
I count the seconds for the thunder. One… two… and then the rolling bouncing rumble like a bowling ball in the gutter. Or the sharp ear-bursting cymbal crash followed by a drum roll.
The very air is electric, making my skin tingle. There is no wind down here, but there is up there. The finger fragments have passed me, now heading for the sea. Now the first heavy drops of rain begin to fall, leaving a polka dot pattern on the hot paving. And with the rain comes the wind, bending the palm trees and swirling around the veranda.
I retreat under cover and watch the sky show as the storm surrounds us with noise and fury. Bolt after bolt of lightning hurtles down, thunder bangs and crashes while the rain beats down with an added timpani of hail.
The seconds between the lightning bolts and the thunder lengthen. The storm is gone almost as quickly as it developed, leaving 22mm of rain in as many minutes.
Not long after, the sun breaks through, bright as a searchlight on the trees. Of course there’ll be a rainbow. And there is, along with a brilliant sunset.