Life before publishing used to be so simple: Work my day job, play with my son, spend time with my wife, save a little time for other stuff, and WRITE WRITE WRITE WRITE WRITE. Sure, it was a struggle sometimes, but I made it work, and here I am a month after publishing...and my life is upside down. The little stuff I never really had time for has dropped away completely, and I find myself struggling to do the other things.
So, after one month of being published, here's what I know:
My Writing Isn't Enough
I always imagined once I wrote my book, polished it and perfected it, submitted it and had it picked up by a publisher, my work alone would sell my book. Like wild fire my stories would spread from person to person, magically selling themselves while I crank out the next book, but a harsh truth awaited me.
I wrote my stories to share with the world, but guess what, the world doesn't hear or see my story in the mass of others out there. I'm a nobody, just one among thousands of authors who fight daily for a chance to be seen. It sounds harsh to write this out, but it's a fact of the publishing industry today. With so many authors out there, it take hard work to stand out in the crowd.
Marketing Is My New Job
For the first couple years of college, I studied graphic design and advertising because I thought it's what I wanted to do. When I realized how badly I wanted to be an author, I changed my major and focused on writing instead. Part of me wishes I'd stuck it out with advertising because it would help me out nicely in my new career as "Book Marketer".
As I mentioned above, books don't sell themselves, and unfortunately, they also don't sell based on the writing itself. That leaves me to tell people how good my writing is, to entice them to read it, and to get them interested in what I write about. I do this by way of ads that I design and test myself, by making blog and Facebook posts, and by interacting in different online communities. Because my book is in eBook form only at the moment, I'm focusing my efforts online, but I'm prepared for marketing once my book goes to print.
I don't mind marketing in itself, it's the amount of time it takes to do it. Not only do I have to find time to write, but I have to find time to design ads, post them, and interact across the interwebs with new readers and potential readers alike.
Being A Career Author Requires Non-Writing Work
If I have any chance of being recognized as a serious author, I cannot stand back and let my book do nothing, hoping for it to be recognized by "someone important". Even though I'm struggling to find time to write, I cannot let marketing fall to the wayside. It feels to me that I'm giving up writing for selling books, but my editor, S.R. Howen, recently reminded me the truth of how things stand:
Books don't sell themselves, too many new writers and authors feel that their career is art, said with a glass of wine in one hand and a vision of a wing chair in front of a fireplace dancing in their head. Art is something you do for yourself, and maybe a few friends, but making a career out of it, earning a check and fame, if you want to make a living out of it, you have to look at it as a job. And part of the job is to market. Good writing sells, but not if no one ever hears about it. Your book is a new product, and if someone wants to sell a new product they need to let the potential buyers know it's out there to buy.
Wise words, and they've stuck in my head, a constant reminder that even if it feels wrong, I'm still headed down the right path.
Be Prepared For Anything
When I first started down the road to publishing, beginning with query letters, I wasn't prepared for the challenge ahead. After two years and finally getting a publisher, I was caught with my pants down again when marketing became a mainstay.
One rule I'll remind myself of daily is the same rule I learned in the Boyscouts...Be prepared. I've only been hardcore into marketing for a month now, and I can only imagine what the future will bring. Our online world changes every day, bringing new and exciting ways to connect with people. As a new author seeking recognition in the sea of new authors, I'll need to be prepared for change when it comes.
It's 1985. Malachi Blackfeather has spent twenty years in the Army. Two of those years as a Vietnam POW. Now that he's out, all he wants is some peace and quiet to figure out what to do with the rest of his life. Between the flashbacks, and an over interest in sex that is now being called sex addiction, finding his path isn't easy.
Kat is trying to escape an abusive marriage. Her soon to be ex is a master at manipulating the system, and her family thinks she should stay with him, "because no other man will want her." She's looking for escape in any form she can get it.
When they meet, sparks fly. Trapped by a blizzard, can two damaged people, who think there is no chance of love in the world for them, find each other, and survive an unforeseen circumstance that puts both of them in danger?
Mystery, romance, and danger, fill this novel, with a story that will draw you in and not let go.
A woman’s voice broke my moment of bliss.She walked past me as if she didn’t see me. Set a backpack on the floor near the curved end of the bar, leaned forward and grabbed a bar rag--used it to mop the surface of the bar in front of her.
My first impression of her--short. Then, too skinny, and her dark hair on top of her head in an almost bank-teller type twist--not very attractive. She wore a black and white button up poet’s shirt, belted around her narrow waist over a mid-thigh length black denim skirt. The front of the shirt gaped open over breasts that belonged on a woman twice her weight. She either didn’t know that too many buttons were open, or she wore it that way on purpose--the top half of the lacy black bra she wore an open invitation.
Davin set a Bloody Mary on the bar in front of her. “On me,” Davin told her.
She took a sip and watched herself in the mirror. “Wicked,” she said, still watching herself in the mirror.
Davin went to the other end of the bar, and she let out a laugh. Not the sort of laugh I expected. It was deep, throaty, a flash of sexual heat went through me--that voice was Indian--one any man would have done things for to hear her scream his name. “Davin, come on, you’re so stingy with the olives.”
“Get ’em yourself,” he said.
She leaned over the bar so far that her skirt pulled up in the back almost to her ass. She wore a garter belt to hold her line-up-the-back, black stockings in place. The shoes she wore--black stilettos, with metal heels so thin I wondered how she’d walked across the floor so quickly and quietly in them.
As many olives as ice cubes went into her glass, all the while she kept watching herself in the mirror. When she picked up an olive with adrink pick and took a long time playing with it on her lips, before it vanished into her mouth, I realized she wasn’t watching herself in the mirror. She was observing the reaction of every man in the room to what she did--watching my reaction. Her gaze met mine in the reflection. Dark eyes. Rimmed in black, with long black lashes. She licked her crimson-tinted lips. Tilted her head a bit. Reached up and pulled a clip out of her hair.
Hair the same raven color as my own tumbled down her back all the way to her waist. She shook her head.
“So much better,” she said.
I turned away from the mirror. Went to the pool tables. Pro or cock tease? My bet was pro. Too calculated. Playful innocence in clothes that had every man in the place watching her. Skinny women got hurt too easy, made me feel like I would break them with a touch. And a pro, no thanks. I didn’t want to pay for what I needed--paid for wasn’t real.
The cue ball cracked into the triangle formation of colored balls. Some satisfaction in that. Drew my attention away from the whore at the bar, whose laugh washed over me again. She obviously knew Davin well.
“You and the jerk official now?” Davin asked her.
Number three ball in a corner pocket. A glance at the bar. She saw me look at her in the mirrors.
“Jackass didn’t show for court, came all the way down here, and the shit bag doesn’t show. Even his lawyer looked embarrassed.”
Another ball spun across the table, vanished into a pocket. Solid or striped didn’t matter when you played alone.
“Never knew why you married him,” Davin said before he refilled a beer glass. So, maybe not pro, recent almost divorcee--celebrating freedom.
The door banged open, the brass bell on the hook above it jingled, and Jake came in followed by a group of college kids. All preppy and lost in their own world.
“Hey, man,” he said and moved straight to the pool table. Opened his stick case and put his cue together. “Sorry I was late, buddy had an issue today, had to meet up with him, help him out with a problem.”
I put quarters on the edge of the table. So Jake’s promise of a woman was bogus. I should blow the place and head out of town before...
“Hey, Jake, didn’t think you’d keep your promise.”
Shaunna Wolf is the erotic pen name of S.R. Howen. For more than seven years, S.R. Howen has been an editor at Wild Child Publishing. She also runs workshops on how to craft a winning synopsis and query letter. S.R.Howen has written for both Freya's Bower and Wild Child Publishing. Her most recent work, Life Flight, is an erotic romantic suspense. She also has an erotic science fiction novella, The Forge, under Shaunna Wolf, was released in July 2006. A former military brat, then military spouse, and a traditional naturalist, S.R. Howen currently lives in Texas, with eleven cats (three of them the non-domestic sort) three rabbits, and four fish, one husband and her daughter. She is working on a sequel to The Forge and on several more traditional fantasy novels. For more info on her and her works please visit her web site. www.srhowen.com
Life Flight is Available in print and eBook. Pick up your copy today!
Today I'm hosting fellow fantasy novelist RobRoy McCandless. Rob and I have been riding a very similar train...in that we both released books within days of each other, and it's been great getting to know him better. His book, Tears of Heaven, is an urban fantasy available now at Wild Child Publishing and Amazon.
Joss Whedon, a personal hero of mine and writer/producer/director of so many wonderful titles and characters has repeatedly been asked in interviews, “Why do you write strong female characters?”
I love this question. It says so much that is right (and wrong) with our society. Whedon’s answer is now bordering on the culturally axiomatic. It is so well known (at least in my circles) that it can be thrown out as casually as “sword of Damocles” or “Pyrrhic victory” and actually be used correctly.
Whedon's final resolution is: “Because you’re still asking me the question.”
I’ve been writing (hopefully) strong female characters for a couple of decades now. I didn’t set out to do so. There was no conscious effort to make my work specifically male or female. My very first, very immature story was about my group of friends. Because I was, have been and always will be interested in heroic fantasy, it was in a heroic fantasy setting. Everyone carried swords, everyone was heroic with their swords, and that was essentially that. It was a story meant for my friends, and I thought highly of all of them, regardless of their gender.
That was really all there was to it.
One of my favorite characters in that story (and perhaps this was because she was one of my favorite people in high school) was an average height/average weight girl who carried an extremely above-average sword great sword. There was nothing Freudian in this. I just liked the joke: Initially, in my un-realistic, fantasy way, she was just that strong. The sword/girl had no specific magic power making such an unwieldy weapon wieldy.
She was just that strong.
That character stuck with me, and as I met other, strong women in my life, and honored them (if you can call it that) with characters in my writing, I found more and more that I was telling their story (the female characters, not the real-life women). So much so that I wrote whole universes specifically for these characters, not to the exclusion of male characters, but simply with the traditional genre roles leveled out.
So, while I prefer Whedon’s response very much, agree with it, and wish I could have said it myself, my answer to the question is somewhat different.
Why do I write strong women characters? Because women are that strong. They are just that strong.
Excerpt from Tears of Heaven
“Throne be damned,” the rogue hissed.
The fight was not going well. Del should have brought Marrin. Ahadiel had told her to bring Marrin, but that only made certain that she wouldn’t.
Del gasped as the rogue landed a solid punch into her stomach and ribs. The air whooshed from her lungs. He followed with a stab of his fingers into her right arm. Cold-filled pain suffused her shoulder and caused it to spasm painfully. She spun away, awkwardly. Her right arm felt like it had been shattered, pulverized into pudding, useless as gelatin. The cold-forged iron spike she’d been holding dropped from useless fingers and clattered to the floor. The rogue looked at her with brutal menace in his eyes and flame licking around the lids.
It would have been a good trick.
If only it was a trick.
The flames were all too real.
Fortunately, Del didn’t suffer from the same fears that mortals contended with. A rogue divinity hissing heresy and spouting fire, literal fire, around his eyes would have left a mortal quivering in terror until the Last Judgment.
She’d seen it happen.
“Leave now, little half-breed,” the rogue said. His voice had a sibilance that surrounded her, whispering in both of her ears intimately. “Leave, and I will not kill you. Stay, and I will make your pain a torture. I will see you last for days upon days, and I promise you abuses you could not dream.”
Del said nothing.
People think they want to meet an angel, but they really don’t. The awful truth is that meeting an angel is the scariest, most life-altering moment of any mortal’s short existence. Angels have always had their voices raised in songs of praise and their wings dipped in rivers of blood. When the Throne needs a mortal slain, or an army felled, an angel is sent. When a city or nation needs to be leveled, and the ground sown with salt for a thousand years, an angel is the destroyer.
Flood, fire, famine, disease, pestilence and death are conjured through an angel.
Angels should be a human’s worst nightmare embodied.
Rogues were an order of magnitude worse. An angel was a messenger of destruction, operating under orders from the Throne. Rogues had no direction, no channel for their power. They sought only dominion through the most direct means possible.
“Go, little girl,” the rogue gestured with his right arm, the one where she’d managed to drive a spike through his wrist.
It would have been stupid to engage the rogue, or really any opponent, in conversation. Witty banter was for the movies. Errol Flynn and John Wayne could while away the hours as they faced a bad guy and spouted catchy one-liners.
In the really real world, Del knew better than to take time out of her busy schedule.
She still held a second cold-forged iron spike in her left hand. She wanted to drop it and reach for her last SIG Sauer .45 behind her back. Most melee weapons against a rogue were nearly useless. Unless it was the right weapon. She shifted her grip, stepped into the rogue with speed no mortal could, and stabbed with enough power to lift the rogue off its feet. Rogues might be strong, but the laws of physics were stronger. The foot-long spike punched into the rogue’s left shoulder and only her fist on the weapon stopped it.
The Host takes care of their own.
Even if they have to hire it done.
When the rogue landed, he immediately lashed out with inhuman strength, and this time Del was thrown off her feet. She held onto the spike caught in the rogue’s arm, and her own shoulder jerked painfully. Not for the first time, she wished she was even the lowest form of immortal.
A mere angel could shrug off the pain that now threatened to overwhelm her.
One of the higher choirs, a Principality or even a Grigori . . .
Pain washed over her vision and bright red sparks danced in front of her eyes. When she thought her shoulder would come clear of its socket, the rogue gave ground. It wasn’t much, and even in her current state, Del wasn’t certain it would be enough, but it would have to do. She clumsily seated her feet on the ground, uncertain of the positioning, gripped the spike firmly, and threw all her weight backward. She thought that she would bend in half before the rogue was thrown. His body slammed hard enough into the floor that ceramic tiles popped and shattered, cutting around them like shrapnel.
She didn’t waste the time she’d gained. Del dropped her knee down hard on the rogue’s chest and caved it in. The rogue’s eyes went from slightly stunned to pain-filled and angry. The Host may not have mastered, or had even an understanding, of most emotions, but anger, righteous or otherwise, was right up their alley.
Her right arm hung useless, but since her left was dominant, it didn’t matter. She jerked the cold-forged iron spike free of the rogue’s shoulder and slid forward on his chest, so that his head rested between her knees, while the balance of her weight rested on his shoulders and immobilized his arms. Her more than powerful thighs clamped down on his jaws and seized his head.
In any other context she would have thought they were doing a porn scene.
In this context, she almost wished she were doing a porn scene. It would have been less painful, except to her dignity.
There were things even Del wouldn’t do for money.
His arms flailed, powerful but useless. He tried to claw at her, to gash huge bloody rends in her legs. All he could manage was to tear the floor with ear-shrieking scratches. Now, desperation entered the mix in his eyes.
Desperation was something only a few divinities truly understood.
About one in three knew it intimately, and every one of them was a rogue.
“Omnia glorium Solii,” she spoke the words as she brought the cold-forged iron spike up above her head. She couldn’t help but say them. They were automatic, a natural force, like gravity. All for the glory of the Throne.
She brought the spike down, hard and fast, slamming it between her knees. It went into the rogue’s right eye, destroying the chakram, out through the back of his skull, through the ceramic floor and stopped two inches into the concrete. The rogue’s head was pinned to the house’s foundation.
Whoa, Del thought, and shuddered from the force she’d exerted.
“It is finished,” she intoned aloud, the words flowed out of her without conscious effort.
Power flowed out from the rogue’s body into the air and the earth, and partly into her. Power, like a strong wind danced all around her, grabbing at her clothing and her hair. She rolled off the rogue, and pushed herself away awkwardly with her feet, until her back met a wall. Then she stared, cradled her injured right arm, and gasped for breath.
There was no lightning show or gaping black hole in the floor with the cries of the damned reaching out of Hell itself. Those, Marrin often observed, were only mortal theatrics, a way to visually comprehend the inconceivable. Mortals always had a tough time with intangible concepts. Lust was often mistaken for love; visual beauty was equated with internal worth, and wealth with wisdom. Death was a skeleton wearing a robe and carrying a scythe.
What did a skeleton need with clothes?
The release of power abated. An almost peaceful silence, in a strange contrast to the titanic fight, replaced it. She glanced at the room, which might have been a kitchen. Holes the size and shape of flying bodies could be seen in almost every wall of the abandoned house. Del was amazed the building, condemned for some time now, still stood after the beating she and the rogue had dished out to each other. Perhaps, it was a testament to the builder who might have believed or hoped his work would stand and serve forever.
The Fallen proved that nothing does.
Thirty seconds had passed since she drove the spike into the rogue’s head and destroyed the necessary chakram. She’d destroyed some of the house’s foundation as well. In that time, the rogue changed from a fierce creature the size and shape of Andre the Giant to a representative of the Lollipop Guild.
Not one of the larger reps either.
The rogue’s body grew smaller and smaller, more compact, squat and less recognizable. Now, it was the size of a basketball, now, the size of a grapefruit, now, a walnut. Smaller and smaller, until Del could only make out a dust mote that contracted further still.
Then, with a pop no louder than Orville Redenbacher’s best, even that vanished.
The iron spike clattered to the ground and steamed slightly.
Here it is everyone, this is the moment I've been waiting for. Today I get to share with you the beginning of a story I've poured countless hours and effort into. In my mind, I'm introducing you to a child I've kept in the shadows most of my life. I hope you enjoy!
Order today at Wild Child Publishing or Amazon!
Spirit Summoner will be available to all starting tomorrow, but if you want it today, my book is live at Wild
20 years ago, I began writing the book that would turn into Spirit Summoner. It suffered multiple revisions and rewrites, and a couple solid years of editing. In two days, my dream of publishing this story will finally be real, and I'll be happy to share it with you all. In celebration of the remaining two days, here's something about Feywen and Lacdur, the two Dwarf warriors.
Pre-order today at: