Jilly: Free Novella – The Pulse of Princes

Another year, another Elan Intrigues novella, except this one’s a freebie 😀

You may remember I changed my plan for The Seeds of Exile, the novella I published last month. It’s a sibling rivalry story about Prince Daire of Caldermor and his brother, Prince Warrick. It can be read as a standalone quick read, but it also links the first Elan Intrigues book, The Seeds of Power, with the last one, The Seeds of Destiny.

My initial plan was to offer Exile as a free read to my newsletter subscribers, until I realized the story wasn’t the best choice to introduce new readers to the world of Caldermor and elan. Instead, I wrote a new prequel story about Daire just before he becomes crown prince. He gets a reality check and has to decide whether to challenge the status quo in Caldermor or follow meekly in his father’s footsteps.

This week I finally linked that novella, The Pulse of Princes, to my newsletter sign up page. Yay!

I decided not to offer it for sale, so I won’t be loading it to Amazon or the other e-tailers. I want to keep it as a thank-you for new (and existing) mailing list subscribers. I probably spent more than I should for a freebie—Deranged Doctor Design for the cover, Karen Dale Harris for developmental editing, Anne Victory for copyediting—but I wanted the novella to be of the same quality as my paid Elan Intrigues stories. It is!

Here’s the blurb:

What is a woman’s life worth?

Daire Edevald, heir apparent to the principality of Caldermor, knows his duty. He must make elan, mysterious golden bean-shaped curatives that bring the Edevald family wealth and power. Then he must relinquish the precious pulses to Princess Irmine, his formidable mother, to fund Caldermor’s governance.

But when Daire discovers that the stable-master’s wife is gravely ill after gathering swamp truffles for a royal feast, he feels obliged to help. Twelve pulses of elan would cure her. Daire has made thousands, but he owns none—and Princess Irmine won’t waste a single pulse to save a hireling.

The maidservant’s survival becomes a critical test of Daire’s fast-approaching sovereignty. If he wants to change the principles that drive the Edevalds’ elan use, he must start now. Even if he has to challenge his fierce mother, his dying father, and most dangerous of all, the shadowy immortal guardian of Caldermor.

Here’s an excerpt from the opening scene:

Daire crossed to Lightning and scratched the stallion’s favorite spots around his neck and ears, thinking hard. The answer, when it came, was embarrassingly obvious.

He gave Lightning a final pat and stepped away from his mount. “You said bloodsucker fever can’t be cured, but elan can cure even sharp fever. Surely it can help the body overcome bloodsucker poison.”

“Oh, elan. Elan cures everything.” The stablemaster dismissed Daire’s brilliant insight with a wave of his stubby hand. “Elan’s for people like you. Royalty. Aristocrats. Not for the likes of Vi.”

“Violet got sick hunting truffles for people like me.” Daire waved his own arm in the direction of the palace on the hill and the great houses that surrounded it. “If a few pulses will save her life, why wouldn’t we use them?”

Fisher turned around to stare at Daire, though he kept his arm around Dawn’s neck. He didn’t say a word, just made a kind of soft clicking noise with his tongue. He had a whole vocabulary of noises he used in the stables. This one usually meant one of his four-footed charges had done something unexpected.

“A pulse of elan is worth a year’s wages to a retainer. Two years to serving folk like us.” Fisher spelled it out as though he realized Daire had no idea what his servants were paid. “I couldn’t guess how many pulses it would take to cure Vi. More than a few. Maybe as many as a dozen.”

“A few, a dozen… Our dynasty is built on elan.” Daire spoke as much to himself as to Fisher. “What kind of rulers have we become if we can’t spare the price of a woman’s life?”

Fisher’s eyes opened so wide he looked as though he’d been throttled. His mouth seemed to be gasping for air too.

“I’ll have to speak to my mother.” Daire wondered what she’d say. She wouldn’t be pleased, but she was fair. Violet’s hurts were their fault. If he explained how the problem had come about, surely she should agree it was their duty to help.

Fisher finally found his voice. “Vi is worth the world to me. But Her Highness may not agree.”

Fisher’s misgivings were likely well grounded. Daire grimaced. “My mother bears a heavy load and makes hard choices every day. I hope she will grant me a favor. If not…” Well, they were about to top up the royal reserves with another month’s worth of pulses. And elan matters were the prerogative of the Edevald men, not the crown princess.

*****

If you’re not already a subscriber, I hope this tempts you to give my newsletter a try. If you’re interested, here’s that link again: Subscribe to Secrets & Treats.

Happy Sunday, everyone!

Jilly: Booksweeps Sword & Sorcery Fantasy

Do you know about Booksweeps?

I discovered them last year, when Jeanne included one of her Touched By A Demon books in a paranormal romance sweep. I joined an Epic, Sword & Sorcery Fantasy collection, and it went so well I decided to do it again this year. Here’s the graphic for this year’s sweep:

A Booksweep is a contest that aims to connect avid readers of a particular subgenre with authors who’d like to reach a wider readership. First prize is usually something like an e-reader plus a free copy of every book in the sweep. Second prize is a free copy of every book.

Authors pay to be included. Readers don’t pay to play. They sign up for the sweep by joining the mailing list of the authors they like the look of out of the selection offered. They don’t have to join every list, but each one they join gives them a better chance of winning. Of course they could immediately unsubscribe from every list they choose, but past experience suggests that many don’t—as long as they enjoy the newsletter.

Epic, Sword & Sorcery Fantasy is a nice broad definition and I think the fifty books in the bundle offer something for anyone who enjoys reading this subgenre. There are wizards, warlocks, orphans, slaves, assassins, royalty, fae, dragons, monsters, even a centaur 🙂 .

My book The Seeds of Power is historical fantasy, set in a royal court. It has a strong heroine, chivalrous hero, elemental magic, and life-or-death stakes. I think it will fit right in.

I like stories that highlight a central character—double yay if she’s female—so I’ll be reading the blurbs and Look Inside samples to see which ones best suit my tastes.

Do any of the covers in the graphic above grab your attention? If so I’d love to know which ones, and why.

If you like the idea of Booksweeps, but fantasy isn’t for you there are current and upcoming sweeps featuring romantic suspense, thrillers, inspirational, new adult, paranormal and sci-fi romance.

The Epic, Sword & Sorcery Booksweep runs until Wednesday (13 January). If it looks like your thing, click HERE to join me there (and I hope you win)!

Jilly: 2021 In A Word

It’s 2021, at last!

In recent years, I’ve formed the habit of choosing a watchword to epitomize my approach to the coming twelve months. It’s less prescriptive than a set of resolutions. I see it as a theme. An idea that recurs and pervades.

My recent selections have been:

2017: PUBLISH

2018: TRIMMINGS

2019: CONCENTRATE

2020: WALTZ

With the benefit of hindsight I’d choose something very different for 2020, but a year ago I associated the word pandemic with history books and thrillers. I’d just published my debut novel, The Seeds of Power, and was trying to find my balance as an indie author. I chose WALTZ because I wanted to figure out how to write-publish-market, and a WALTZ is a three-beat dance of balance and elegance. It mixes technical skills and creative artistry. It’s relatively easy to learn the basic steps, but to achieve excellence takes time and application. If done well, it appears effortless and brings joy to both the onlooker and the performer.

I did not learn to WALTZ last year. From March, when the first Covid-19 lockdown was imposed in London, until May or even June, I spent more time following the news than putting words on the page. I worked on covers and other useful tasks until I felt ready to write again. In the second half of the year I published a novella, The Seeds of Exile. I wrote a prequel novella, The Pulse of Princes, which I will make free to my newsletter subscribers (more on that next week). And I acquired covers for The Seeds of Destiny (current WIP) and for an Elan Intrigues box set. So although I didn’t waltz, at least I walked. In the circumstances, I’m calling that a win.

So—what to choose for 2021? My past watchwords have all been under-pinned by the same philosophy—to maximize the joy and satisfaction I receive from my chosen vocation. In 2020 I did that by sheltering within my comfort zone. In 2021 I want to grow my comfort zone. I’d love to add some useful new skills, like formatting and graphics. If I can get better at them, it will make publishing and marketing much easier and I might even come to enjoy them. If I don’t, then I’ll know for sure that those are tasks I should continue to avoid or outsource, and if it takes a little longer or costs a little more—tant pis!

Drumroll…. My watchword for 2021 is EMBRACE.

Even if the first nine days of 2021 have been less than stellar, I choose to believe that there are good times ahead. I intend to EMBRACE them.

Have you made a plan for 2021? Care to share?

Jilly: Sara Sartagne–Joining the Writing Community

What a week! How are your stress levels? As I described last Sunday, I’ve been boosting my mood with comfort reads. When you can’t control the real world, it’s uplifting to take a break in an imaginary one where you know things will turn out just right.

Real-life feelgood stories are even better pick-me-ups than fictional ones, so when my English author friend Sara Sartagne offered to write about her experience as a debut author, I grabbed the chance to share a heartening slice of writing life.

Here’s Sara:

Birthday flowers from a fellow author

Jilly wrote last week about the importance of community and alongside making me yearn to pick up a Georgette Heyer again, it’s made me reflect that, even outside the novels, the writer ‘tribe’ itself is a warm, welcoming one. This blog – Eight Ladies Writing – is a perfect example of a community that gives Jilly the warm and fuzzies, as she calls it. It’s kind, strong and successful. And it’s real.

Like many rookie self-publishers, I made a lot of wrong choices for my first book. Launching on a Sunday. Not double-double-double checking the manuscript for typos and errors (at the time, I couldn’t afford a proofreader) before sending to Josie, who formatted for me. Who formatted it several times. My poor cover designer suffered from my vacillations over type, figures, look and feel – God, I couldn’t even settle on a colour first time around.

But what I learned, through that bumpy first release, was that other writers can be incredibly generous with their time and advice. A number of people were in attendance at the birthing of my first book, patting me on the back, virtually passing me sweet tea and biscuits and cheering me on. They also happened to be all women, which might be to do with my genre (women’s fiction with a healthy dose of romance) but I also think that this is the kind of thing that women do– support each other.

My list of supporters is long, but starts with fairytale writer JA Clement, who I met more than two years ago in a café outside St James’ Park tube. I took two pages of notes as she bombarded me with a host of names (BookBub, KDP, Canva, Scrivener…). In the following years, she’s been around to answer hundreds of questions about the whole process.

The list also includes Jess Ryder, psychological thriller writer (check out The Ex Wife, it’s brilliant). She’s been my developmental partner, helping me patch plot holes you could drive a bus through. Jess was also the calm voice on the phone after I received a particularly curt rejection from an agent who had asked to see a manuscript. I had high hopes of the query, and the book, a stand alone called The Visitor, was very close to my heart.

I had just got off the train at Leeds station; I eagerly read the email from the agent, felt my heart break, and burst into tears. I dragged my suitcase around Leeds snivelling and sobbing for forty-five minutes while Jess consoled and reassured me and gently kicked my arse. Yes, I could write, no, I’d obviously caught the agent on a bad day, it probably wasn’t her genre, she said what? – well, that was just wrong. It was just one agent, and again, I could write, and what’s more Jess was going to make sure I bloody did.

Then there’s your own Jilly Wood, who has read many more books than I have, and who gently suggested I read Goal, Motivation, Conflict to tighten my writing and save myself time and pain in editing. Her advice is something I’ve come to depend on (sorry, Jilly!) and there’s almost no question about the romance genre I can’t ask her and get a sensible, thoughtful response. Her review of my book on this blog was part of a series of events which increased my sales beyond my loyal mates and reluctant family and sent my page reads soaring.

Last but not least by any means, are the authors who have reviewed me on Amazon – constructive, insightful and generous.

As with all good things, it gets better when you pass it on, and with that in mind, I’m going to be writing alongside another author friend for NaNoWriMo. Well, NaNoWriMo Lite as we’re calling it. If we both keep each other up to the mark – as I’m pretty sure we will – that will be at least 15,000 words for the next WIP.

So here’s to community – in fiction and real life. Who’s helped you in books? And helped you in the flesh – or as near to flesh as we get these days?

*****

About Sara Sartagne

Having wanted to be a journalist when she was a teenager, Sara actually ended up on the dark side, in PR. From there, it was a short skip to writing for pleasure, and from there to drafting her first book, The Garden Plot. This is the first novel in a romance series where gardens feature in a BIG way – she inherited green fingers from her wonderful grandmother and gardening is a passion.

Sara recently moved from London to York and is loving the open skies and the green fields. And a HUGE garden! Although not a country girl, she’s discovered the joys of no streetlights, septic tanks and ordering logs. Going from an underground tube or bus every three minutes, bus timetables in a small Yorkshire town have been a bit of a shock.

Sara loves being a writer although it’s not her only job – yet. She’s keeping her fingers firmly crossed. The second book in the English Garden Romance series – Love in a Mist – was released in October 2020.

She loves hearing from readers who have thoughts about her books and characters – and even about gardening! – so please visit http://www.sarasartagne.com (good for news and freebies!) or make contact on Twitter – @Sarasartagneauthor

Kay: The Train Wreck of Traditional Publishing

Did you ever wish you had a traditional publishing contract? Count your lucky stars. Since our pandemic began, traditional publishing has gone off the rails.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch breaks it down for us on her blog. It all began when she tried to order a book in June and was informed that the book would ship in September. Surprised that it wouldn’t arrive sooner, she looked into why that should be.

And guess what? It turns out that traditional publishing isn’t all that nimble when it comes to crises. Here’s the story.

What the heck happened?

When the pandemic hit and bookstores closed, some publishing companies moved their biggest spring and summer releases to the fall, hoping that the situation would have recovered by then. But as the pandemic dragged on, the schedule fell apart, because the fall schedule was already mostly full. Continue reading

Elizabeth: The Break-Even Point

I’ve recently been reading my way through my TBR pile.  I seem to have landed somewhere in the 1950s (give or take a few years) and have been alternating between English mysteries and “strong independent woman” set-pieces.  Portable typewriters have featured prominently in many of the stories and fledgling writers have abounded.  There was at least one family saved from penury by an enterprising heroine who knocked out a novel in no time at all and received a nice advance check just in the nick of time.

Even my non-fiction reading has included authors and references to advances, though in one case it was an author who had missed a deadline and had to return an advance check- ouch!

Anyway, all of this has gotten me thinking about advances and book sales and led me eventually to the question:  Just how many books do you need to sell to earn out an advance?  Continue reading

Jilly: Another Shiny New Cover

Another week, another seven days closer to the end of this pandemic, whenever that may be. I hope you’re safe and well.

And Happy Easter to everyone who’s celebrating today. Even though this is an Easter like no other, I hope you’re able to find the joy in it.

Here in England the weather has turned gorgeous, which makes it even harder to stay inside. I’m lucky that we have a small garden, and if I work at the table in the kitchen I can open the double doors and get a hit of birdsong and sunshine. It helps a lot.

I’m still waiting for the edit report on Daire’s novella, now officially called The Seeds of Exile, but I have a cover, and here it is. You might remember that I found a stock photo of a guy I thought was perfect for Daire—hair, face, expression—but who wasn’t a golden historical fantasy prince. I hoped my cover designers would be able to turn him into one, and I must say they surpassed my expectations.

What do you think? I hope you like it as much as I do.

I’d love to know what signals it gives you. Does it look like your kind of book? If you noticed that cover as you were browsing online, would you click on it to check out the blurb?

Thank you in advance for your comments, whatever they may be.

And huge thanks to the team at Deranged Doctor Design, who are a delight to deal with, not to mention brilliant creatively and technically. I feel very privileged to be working with them.

Jeanne: Using Instagram to Sell Books, Part 3

Today we come to the paper-pushing portion of this series: how to use the attractive, friendly Instagram account you’ve set up to actually sell books. There are several ways you can do this:

  1. The most direct method is to create a flatlay, an Instagram post that features your book cover with an attractive background and post it. You can include a quote from the book, either as text on the graphic or as comment, but remember that Instagram is primarily a visual, rather than a verbal, medium.

Here’s one for Eight Lady Jilly’s debut novel, The Seeds of Power, that I created back at Christmas:BookBrushImage-2020-2-15-11-1047

 

How, you ask, do you make a pretty picture like this if you don’t have a nice background available? Continue reading

Michaeline: Three Questions for Nancy Yeager

Cover: Four Corners of Heaven, young woman in fancy dress,

Four Corners of Heaven came out March 12. (Image courtesy of Nancy Yeager)

Our own Eight Lady, Nancy Yeager, has a new book out this week! Four Corners of Heaven is part of her Harrow’s Finest Five, a period-romance set in the 1860s and 70s (see below for past posts about her series). I got the chance to read the book in beta, and it was a good read. Botany, women’s empowerment and fizzy romantic feelings!

I took the opportunity to ask Nancy three questions about her book, and here is what she said:
1. What’s your new book about? (Is it a stand-alone?)

I’ll take the easy part of that first. This can be read as a stand-alone book, but it the latest release (5th of an eventual 7) in my Victorian romance series, Harrow’s Finest Five. Regular readers of the blog might recall that the series is about “smart women, sexy men, steamy passion, and the occasional scandal.”

Four Corners is about two scientists pursuing a place in history who learn that love confounds logic every time. When their research unravels and forces them onto opposite sides of a scientific controversy, they’re forced to choose between their careers and their love .I think of it as my geeks-fall-in-love story. My goal, though, wasn’t to make them out as awkward or obtuse, absent-minded scientists. It was explore the way that two people who have single-mindedly, almost ruthlessly, pursued a goal and have their eye on the distant prize might be ill-equipped to handle or even recognize love when they trip right over it. And steamy passion. All the books in the series have some steamy passion!

2. What about the book makes you most proud? Continue reading

Jeanne: Selling Books with Instagram

Instagram logoInstagram is, hands down, my favorite social media application. I love how visual it is. I love how it doesn’t lend itself to angry discussions. I have less love for the selfies you find there, but in every pot of honey there are bound to be a few bee parts.

Anyway, for the past couple of years I’ve been using my Instagram account to post pictures of wildflowers that I take while hiking. I am not really a visual person, but I hike with an artist who has been wonderful about helping me understand lighting and composition, at least in this very narrow context. As a result, my IG page is loaded with reasonably attractive pictures of flowers.

I’ve heard a lot of discussions about how great IG is for selling books, but I’m not clear on how to do that. (Unless you run ads. If you’re willing/able to spend beaucoup bucks, I’m sure it works very well.) Unless your post is an ad, Instagram doesn’t allow you to include a working link there, only in your profile. Given people’s dislike of extra clicks, that suggests IG is not a good platform for sales.

So what’s the deal?

Last Sunday I took an Instagram class, taught by Kat Coroy. She explained that Instagram is more of a relationship-building tool. If people come to associate your posts with things they enjoy seeing and a consistent theme, it will predispose them to buying a book from you when the time is right.

That works for me. I dislike being on the receiving end of the hard sell so I’d never want to be on the giving end.

Without poaching material Kat has created and uses to make her living, I invite you to go look at her page and compare it with mine.

While mine won’t make you want to poke your eyes out with a tuning fork, it’s definitely several steps down from Kat’s. And, realistically, it’s never going to look anywhere that gorgeous. But it’s also clear that with a little bit of work and planning, I can spruce it up and have a very nice page that just might make people think, “I’d like to read a book of hers.”

My plans for next year include:

  1. Identifying colors and fonts to brand my page.
  2. Selecting short quotations from my published books and works-in-process.
  3. Alternating flower pictures with quotes to make my page look more like Kat’s.
  4. Interspersing pictures of my book covers (and maybe even an ad or two!).

I’m also taking a class on Instagram for Authors that is being offered by my RWA chapter in January, so I’m hoping to learn even more. I’ll post an update when I’ve made some progress.

What about you? Are there any social media apps you’ve found useful in selling or promoting books?