A year ago today I was biting my nails and waiting for my first self-published book to show up on Amazon’s sales page. Today I have six novels in The Outlier Prophecies series published with number seven sitting on my hard drive with a mere couple thousand words left until I can call it done.

I’d started self publishing as a distraction from the longer waits and heartbreaks from my longer, more involved novels moving through the traditional publishing process. I have an agent, I really like her, and I’d love to some day sell a book to a bigger publisher. It will happen! I’ll keep trying. In the meantime, I write a heck of a lot faster than that. So I decided to start Outliers as something to pour some of my energy into.

I’d fallen in love with the characters from a short story I’d written. That short story became the beginning of the third book in the series, The Werewolf Coefficient. I kept wondering how they got to the point they were in the short story, what happened to them after? And the more I thought about it, the more I knew I could make it a really fun series. Fun for me at least. I hoped some readers would come along on the ride. And they did!

One year ago I’d made some pie in the sky goals and dreams. Here’s how it went:

I wanted to make back the money I put into each book. That might sound funny to some people, but the truth is that most self-published books do not accomplish this. Averages were against me on this goal. Here’s how I did…

Romancing the Null and Conditional Probability of Attraction “earned” out after three months.

The Werewolf Coefficient took slightly over two months to earn back the money I invested in it.

Standard Deviation of Death and Big Bad Becker earned out in their first month.

Shifter Variance did it in a few weeks.

So beyond those months the books have been earning a positive income, which is great. I’m so excited to have reached that goal. Also the marketing money I’ve put in: A) worked, and B) also earned that marketing money back too. So my venture into self publishing was not an expensive hobby, it’s something that I can morph into a career with more effort and better targeting. I’d like to make a respectable yearly salary and so this year I’ll be looking at ways to work toward that goal as I write more books to either be self-published or try putting them on submission through my agent.

The next goal was to grow a readership. I hoped for at least 500 organic newsletter sign ups in a year. By organic I mean that they didn’t come from friends and family, but from genuine strangers who read the books and liked them enough to want to know when the next one would come out. Currently, I have nearly double that number in newsletter sign ups a year later.

I’d also hoped I could get fifty reviews in a year. This is a bit harder. The only way to get reviews is to have a lot of sales. I sent a marketing package to a lot of bloggers and advanced readers and did get some response. A few read and reviewed the book, which helped potential readers decide if it would be a book they’d like. Reviews give a more detailed and honest reaction to a book than a description does. Reviewers are able to explain the style and type, what a book might be similar to and really help readers hone in on their decision to download or buy. But that accounted for less than ten of my overall reviews in the first year on Romancing the Null. After Romancing the Null earned out the money I’d invested in the cover and editing, I set it to free. Then I did a promotion on that book as free at least once a month for a few months in a row. This was to hopefully get more reviews and also more downloads. If people liked the first book they would buy the rest. I saw Romancing the Null as a really long sample into the first installment of the storyline. I continued to send the book off to bloggers as I’d find sites that might be interested in the book. I didn’t relax until I got to that goal. If I heard of a friend (or friend of friend) who read the book, I’d beg for a review. That helped a lot and I got more reviews and pushed me into the over-fifty club.

Securing both legitimate blogger reviews, endorsements from bestselling/award winning authors, and having over fifty verified purchase reviews helped me get bigger promotions and so on. Today, Romancing the Null is at eighty-four reviews.

The last goal was one I told only close friends and other writers. I wanted to publish six books in a year. When I published Shifter Variance in December I reached that goal. Big Bad Becker (book 1.5 in the series), though I call it a novella, is actually the length of a novel. It’s just a short novel. I didn’t want to leave readers feeling I’d cut them short, so I claim it’s a novella and let them be pleasantly surprised that it’s actually much longer than most novellas out there.

What’s next?

Book six, Correlation of Fate should be ready to publish in April. So that’s what’s next!

Also Ali Hale gets a book (Half Cup Magic) some time this year. Ali is Kate’s quirky baking-obsessed witch cousin from The Outlier Prophecies Series. I think she gets more fan mail mentions than Kate, or even Becker!! Which is saying something because readers are crazy about Ian Becker.

Also I have a contemporary romance that I plan to publish between now and May. I kept saying May, but now, it’s ready to go. I might get impatient and just publish it. I don’t know. But I’ll show you the beautiful cover and description below:

GoodGirlsGuideSmallerWebUse

 

Good Girl’s Guide to Talking Dirty

Talking dirty as a phone sex operator isn’t what straight laced school psychologist East Winters had in mind as a portable counseling job. But after being budget-cut out of employment, she needs the cash to get out of town fast and hitchhike to Maine for her dream job working at a school with a bigger pocketbook and no knowledge of her family’s nasty history.

Ex history teacher, Ansel Andersson, resents his boss tacking on a team driver at the last minute for his first cross-country delivery. Sure, she’s a sexy redhead that gets him hot and bothered, but he had other plans. Historical sites. Greasy food. Avoiding his PTSD issues from surviving a shooting. Oh that—he’d rather not think about it.

You know what? Maybe this clean, proper psychologist is exactly the perfect distraction. If he could only get her to stop running off blushing into her phone, he’d teach her all kinds of filthy things.

I love comments! Every time you comment East Winters gets a ring-ring on her phone…

115 days

nye

 

122 120 115 days until the New Year. It still feels weird to be in 2016. Heck, it still feels weird to be in the 2000s. The world was supposed to end at the end of 1999 didn’t you know? (According to Prince who sadly won’t see the next New Year coming in.) Why am I suddenly fascinated by the passage of time? It’s not my birthday or January or exactly half way through the year when people usually realign their goals and notice the clock. It just hit like a wave that reached a bit further on the beach than expected. It caught me by surprise this unsettled feeling. This ticking of the clock.
We make excuses to ourselves. The ‘woe is me’ club. I have a kid going to college. I have a new job that’s sucking the very marrow out of my life. I have a daughter getting married and don’t get me started on all the house projects that are half done. I have many reason why I don’t have time to have big goals, and even if I do I can excuse myself from achieving them with very good reason.
But the key word in that sentence is EXCUSE.
Summer is over and autumn is coming then winter and the seasons roll on, the years roll on and unless we stop and say this is important. This moment is important. What we do right now is important. Then we lose it. We lose everything.
Because this is what my life is about. It’s about time and how you spend it.
Unless we stop and take a real intense look at our lives. We will wake up tomorrow wondering how did it get to be 2026. There will be the work and the grandkids and the never-ending chores. Life will never get truly less busy.
We need to learn to prioritize what gives our lives meaning and jam it full of all the good things. Make those hard decisions. Minute by minute. 122 120 115 days left of this year. What are you going to do with it?
(The time from conception until the birth of this blog post was 7 days. Tick tock)

Lock Up Your Batmans: Interview with Beth Cato

Hey all! Tina here. Tomorrow I’m headed out to Kansas City, MO for WorldCon. BUT before I go I wanted to share a little something. Recently, I had the extreme pleasure of interviewing Beth Cato who will have a book release on August 23rd, Breath of Earth. WHICH YOU SHOULD ALL TOTALLY BUY.

I first learned about what an awesome storyteller Beth is after I read her book Clockwork Dagger. It’s a fabulous Steampunk that also echoes a lot of second world fantasy–the world building is that rich. It also has some really fun characters that will have you reaching for the second book (Clockwork Crown) as soon as you finish the first. And as of today, August 15th, 2016–It looks like there is some kind of special on the books, so they’re at a really low price!

After releasing her first series, Beth grabbed the attention of a lot of readers and also was recognized for a Locus Award and Nebula nomination. I would love to be her when I grow up! Also, I see her as a big sister of sorts as we share the same agent. So, we’re ‘agent siblings.’

Anyway, I’m such a huge fan of Beth and so I emailed her to ask if she would answer a few questions and she said YES!!

*throws confetti*

WARNING this is not your mother’s interview questions. We had a lot of fun with it.

Interview with the Fabulous and Hip Beth Cato

1. I’m sure you’ve played this game before. You must choose to link each of these choices to each of the following (Ex. Who on the list would you kiss, who on the list would you marry, who on the list would you kill/vaporize with a laser beam, or send to another dimension):

Kiss, Marry, Kill

Adult Harry Potter, Mr. Darcy, Batman

Kiss: Batman
Marry: Adult Harry Potter
Kill/Zap to Alternate Dimension: Mr. Darcy (but I might steal his period clothes first)

2. Tell me about a book you wish could be never ending.

Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway. It’s a novella that came out earlier this year about a boarding school for kids who dropped through portals into other worlds and then returned to Earth. Some of these worlds were in Narnia-like kingdoms while others were darker or more scifi, and some of these kids lived out whole adult lifetimes on the other side. The psychological repercussions of that are deep. The whole concept of the book is brilliant, but the execution of it is profound, and for me, personally relevant. I waited years for my own portal to open.

3. Tell me about your Zombie Apocalypse weapon of choice.

Long bow. Distance is a good thing when it comes to zombies with brain cravings.

4. Another game. This one is called “I would never.” Your job is to come with with five items/events/things you would *never* do, but one of them has to be true (as in you actually did it).

I would never:
– jaywalk and be hit by a car as a teenager
– dance in public, ever
– talk to a major rock band on the phone
– bake cookies for my congressman
– sing in front of a thousand people

5. Poof! One of the characters you’ve created in your fiction has just come to life and like Pygmalion is a *real* live human/creature. Who is it and why.

Leaf the gremlin from my Clockwork Dagger books. He’s like a naked green cat with bat wings, adorably hideous. I’d love to give him a big hug! Gremlins are incredibly intelligent but are abused and maligned in my books. They deserve lots more cuddles.

 

Check out Breath of Earth on Sale August 23rd

 

Book description and details:

Breath of Earth
After the Earth’s power is suddenly left unprotected, a young geomancer must rely on her unique magical powers to survive in this fresh fantasy standalone from the author of acclaimed The Clockwork Dagger.

In an alternate 1906, the United States and Japan have forged a powerful confederation—the Unified Pacific—in an attempt to dominate the world. Their first target is a vulnerable China. In San Francisco, headstrong Ingrid Carmichael is assisting a group of powerful geomancer wardens who have no idea of the depth of her power—or that she is the only woman to possess such skills.

When assassins kill the wardens, Ingrid and her mentor are protected by her incredible magic. But the pair is far from safe. Without its full force of guardian geomancers, the city is on the brink of a cataclysmic earthquake that will expose Earth’s powers to masterminds determined to control the energy for their own dark ends. The danger escalates when Chinese refugees, preparing to fight the encroaching American and Japanese, fracture the uneasy alliance between the Pacific allies, transforming the city into a veritable powder keg. And the slightest tremor will set it off. . . .

Forced on the run, Ingrid makes some shocking discoveries about herself. Her powerful magic has grown even more fearsome . . . and she may be the fulcrum on which the balance of world power rests.

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The Outlier Prophecies Frequently Asked Questions

Hey all!

It’s been a while since I updated this blog. *takes it out, dusts it off* Pull up a chair and I’ll tell you what I’ve been up to.

First of all, I’ve been working on The Outlier Prophecies series. Kate and Becker keep me pretty busy. And if I’m not writing about Kate and Becker, I’m answering questions about them. So, I thought I’d put some of those frequently asked questions below for pure entertainment and so readers who might not wish to contact me can have a place to obsess over these fabulous characters and get the inside scoop.

So here are some frequently asked questions in no particular order:

Q: When does book four come out?

As I type this I got an email asking this exact question…then a Facebook message. Yes, this is my most popular question. It comes out early August. I turned it over to my copy editor and it should be back later this month. I then format it and hopefully if Amazon cooperates it will be available sometime in the first two weeks of August. I’m so excited to get it out and see what readers think. I know I left people hanging on the last one. I figured I get these books out quick enough that it wouldn’t be too bad, right?

Q: Speaking of, you write pretty fast. How many books are in the series?

I’m writing these books fast. I think I’m writing them fast because they are so incredibly fun. And readers love them and that’s highly motivating. I’ve planned six books in the main storyline. There is also a few novellas in the works as add ons. After I finish this story arc, I’ll assess if I want to do another set (which basically correlates to how interested readers seem to be and if the books become more popular), but from beginning to end of the current storyline, I’m planning on six.

The other half of that answer is that I’m planning on writing/publishing them all in a year. I have four done. Book five is being written. I have until March 2017 to reach that goal. So two more books in nine months. I think I can. I think I can. I think I can…

Q: What do Kate Hale and Ian Becker look like  (And while you’re at it, Lipski and Ali too)?

I have a pinterest board on that. And the second most asked question is if the model on the cover is a fair representation of Kate–that answer would be not really. Kate (as described in the books) is Filipino, Native American, and Scottish/Irish/Welsh. I see her looking more like Liza Soberano (as you can see on my Pinterest board). My cover designer who is from the Philippines couldn’t find any stock photo models that fit the description and were wearing business attire. Or he found photos of models who were wearing business attire but with a huge smile on their face, like they were selling us something–it didn’t fit the mood for the series or was the wrong pose for what he needed for the cover. It also had to be selling for a reasonable price and available for my cover artist to buy. Stock photos of Native Americans were usually in head dresses or leather jackets. Filipino’s were in traditional garb as well. My hope is that someday we can redo the cover to represent Kate better. Someone who has both her Asian and Native American roots with professional attire.

Q: I love your covers! Who does them?

That would be the talented Christian Bentulan from Covers by Christian.

Q: Who does your editing?

That would be the fabulous award-winning and bestselling writer/editor Alicia Street. And yes, I love her, she is a genius.

Q: The supernatural people in your books are fantastic. Where did you come up with the ideas?

I can’t take credit for any of them. They’re all researched supernatural creatures from cultures around the world. I wanted the supernatural cultures in OUTLIER to mirror our contemporary diversity. I embellish the creatures and details, or take liberties to have them be more human. After all, it’s been years of supernatural interbreeding with each other and humans. So, it does dilute their original form.

Q: There are gay people in your books

Also asked as: There is a typo in your book where character G who is a female has a wife. Or character B has dads and not just one dad, if his mother and father divorced you should explain that.

Er, uh, yes? I guess I missed something here (and those are not typos). There are gay people in my life, so I figured to make the book more realistic there would be gay people. Look, it’s an advanced pagan society and in Kate’s world it’s not as big of a deal there. Sure, there is prejudice (some pagans believe power can only be passed between man to woman, woman to man or whatever), I couldn’t find a way around that for some things.

Q: Do negative reviews bother you?

No. Everyone has a right to state their true opinion. And we all don’t have the same likes/dislikes. I know there are people who like my writing and I focus on them, that’s who I’m writing for. Sometimes the constructive feedback of reviews is helpful. If a lot of people complain about a certain thing (like, say I don’t ground the reader in a scene) I know I need to work on that in that case. So that’s helpful.

Q: What else are you working on?

The Outlier Prophecies book five, of course!

I have an Outlier Prophecy novella from Becker’s POV (takes place between book one and two) that is done and I’m editing it right now.

I’m also working on a diesel punk novel (Diesel Punk: A SF or Fantasy that takes place between WWI and 1950–the time when diesel became a popular fuel). It’s a science fiction that takes place during the Great Depression in a shantytown. The Outlier Prophecies is something I consider a comedy, this book isn’t a comedy.

I’ve also got a few short stories outlined. I also have a contemporary romance novel (definitely a comedy. If you like your romance funny, this will be the book for you) that I will be publishing soonish.

Q: Will Ali get her own book?

Yes! But let me get through the current plans I have now, then I can focus on the mess Ali’s been brewing behind Kate’s back.

Q. Which character are you? Do you base characters on real people?

Short answer is that I don’t base any characters on real live people that I know. I make these characters up! It’s the fun of writing :) None of them are like me, but since I wrote them all I guess they are me in some twisted little way.

You can ask any questions you’d like to know below.

Hakuna Matata

mufasaI love cartoons. I can be just as engaged with a cartoon as I can a real television show or movie. One of my favorites is the Lion King, and over the last month a quote from the movie has been resonating with me.

For those of you who have not seen the movie in a while or (gasp!) have never seen it at all here are some highlights (spoilers to follow). Believing he was the cause of his father’s death, young lion cub prince Simba runs away from home looking for a refuge. He runs across some new friends who introduce him to a hakuna matata way of life(it means no worries). All his basic needs are fulfilled, companionship, relative safety, food, but still something isn’t right. His best friend from childhood discovers his hiding place and tells him his homeland is in dire straits. She begs him to return and fight his uncle for the crown. He refuses, not ready to give up his cushy life, even though he is not completely satisfied.

A scene close to the end is what has been pestering me. Right after he refuses to return, Simba meets up with a spiritual representation of his dad, Mufasa.

Mufasa has to step in to remind Simba of what was really important. He will never be truly happy without being true to himself. He is a prince and has a duty to be king and protect his people.

“Remember who you are.”

The line keeps chasing around in my head.

Of late, I got a new job. It’s a pretty good job, a lot of responsibility, a decent amount of money, but it takes up (forgive the pun) a lion’s share of my waking hours.

The nice part of the deal: I don’t have to worry about having a roof over my head or transportation or food. I’ll be able to help my kids if they need me. But with all the potential vacations, home refinances, and coffee drinks that I didn’t make myself, I keep reminding myself that this is temporary, a port in the storm of life.

Because, this isn’t who I am.

I need to remember who I am down deep in my bones, and when my finances are organized again, when my books start selling to a profit, then I need the courage to return to my own Prideland of being a full-time writer.

I need to be like Simba. He gave up his little paradise to fight for his pride and to become who and what he was born to be. It was not easy, but he did it. I can’t be seduced by all the excuses, of being too tired to write, too weary to query, too exhausted to take a class. I have to stay on the path and fight the fight against my own personal Scar. And not get too addicted to the comfort of having money.

And, I will do it when the time is right.

But until I leave this little port I am going to enjoy the ride… hakuna matata.

Have you ever had to remember who you are? Kick yourself for forgetting what was most important? Please leave a comment. Or just stop in to say ‘hi’.