Do you like free books?

How about a free autographed book?

Even better, a free autographed book with an exclusive piece of fanart featuring the first line of said book?

Then you might want to follow Behind the Willows.

She often has montly Book-at-the-Door giveaways, with a chance to win a book she’s read and enjoyed. All you have to do is guess which book she’s offering in a comment, and you get entered for a chance to win the book, art print, and any other potential goodies.

Hint for fans of my books: this month’s giveaway features a signed copy from yours truly … but you still have to guess which of the three it might be. 😉

But hurry! The giveaway ends April 25th!

Pulling myself out of the pit.

I have some bad news, and I have some good news. As the type that likes to get the painful stuff out of the way immediately, I’ll start with the bad news.

I’m struggling with writer’s block. 😦

Specifically with Dual Blessed. I’ve gone nearly a month and a half without any idea of how I’m going to get from the beginning to the end. I’ve got a good start, and I know how I want it to end … but that middle is like an empty blank wall.

The good news?

I think I’m finally starting to tear down that wall. I did some heavy adjustments the day before yesterday, and after removing a couple of unnecessary scenes (cute ones, but ultimately unnecessary and probably the source of my stagnant plot) I jotted down a couple of new ideas to explore.

I’m still going to take things slowly – I don’t want to force the story. I want a satisfying resolution, one that meets my high standards and sets the book above the previous installments, and I hope my readers do too. It may mean this last volume is delayed a little bit, but I promise you: I’ll make sure it’s worth the wait.

Author signing event recap!

Author signing event recap!

First, I’d like to say I’m incredibly sorry for the dso many people!elay on posting a recap of my first ever book signing. I may have gotten a little over-excited and posted pictures on my personal Facebook page … and then promptly forgot that I had other social media outlet
s eagerly awaiting news.

So yeah … Sorry. >.<

If you couldn’t tell from the above statement, the author signing event went spectacularly! I had a good number of people show up to support me (around 30 or so, characters with their respective booksI forgot to keep count – but still a great number for an unknown author like me) and even had a few fans show up in costume!

Out of the 26 print books I took with me (yes, odd number, I know) I sold 24 – a completely unexpected success. Most of my research prior to the event said I’d be lucky to sell five copies. Some even went to complete strangers! It helped that the venue (Half Price Books) had a great sale going on, and the store was packed. And since I was right by the front door, I had the perfect opportunity to chat to a lot of potential readers. Of course, I also had a lot of fun. Who wouldn’t have fun living their dream?

Fan photobomb

.All in all, I had the time of my life. I’d like to extend a special thank you to everyone who attended: your support and enthusiasm made all my effort totally worth it!

my crew

Great friends and fun times.

And for those who couldn’t make it, never fear! I had so much fun with my first author event, I can’t wait to plan the next. Keep an eye on my blog (or subscribe to my newsletter) for future events!

laughing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winter is coming to Myrillia … in more ways than one.

The very astute reader might remember that the final events of Fire Blessed took place in autumn. So yes, naturally the seasons are going to change as events progress.

However, a certain Ice Blessed individual is going to have his moment in the spotlight as well. Gee, I wonder if you can guess the as-yet unannounced title of my third book?

My newsletter subscribers received an exclusive first-look at book three’s official title in my February issue. Now, I present to the rest of the world:

icetwittercard

*cue trumpets and confetti*

I have wanted to announce this title for ages, but held back until the release date crept a little closer. There’s nothing more frustrating (to me, anyway) than getting a title and then waiting forever for the book to come out. Especially when said title allows your brain to run amok with theories and characters and ideas. At least, my brain went nuts the minute I thought of the title … which, actually, was halfway through writing Fire Blessed.

I mean, I can’t give Marius a book and leave poor Lucien out in the cold … heh.

Okay, enough with the cheesy puns. Here’s the nitty gritty regarding where I’m at in the release schedule:

  • The rough draft is completed and edits are in progress.
  • Four alpha readers have already gone through the manuscript and provided feedback.
  • The cover is finished – no, you can’t see it yet. Subscribe to my newsletter if you’re impatient. 😀
  • I don’t have an exact date yet, but it will be available by the end of May. Even better? You should have an exact date by the end of April!

Stay tuned for the many, many goodies I have in store! In the meantime … let your imagination run wild. 🙂

Another milestone.

Another milestone.

So, technically I’ve been sitting on this news for a couple of weeks now. I’d offer my apologies, but I regret nothing. I simply had to wait until I was back at home with my proper laptop, so that I could ensure I shared this amazing, incredible, spine-tingling moment properly with you all.

Guys. I have fan art.

Someone has read my books and enjoyed them enough that they felt the urge to create something. Not only that, but they wanted to create it in my universe!

Look!

Fanart one

Note the series title along with the elements … love it!

fanart two

Two of my favorite characters … so glad to know fans love them too!

I have goosebumps. Seriously. I never even considered that my work might inspire someone to create art for it. I don’t know if I want to shriek with glee or cry …

A huge amount of thanks and love goes out to Tim P. for his beautiful creations. These are going straight to my Facebook page for the series. And if anyone else out there wants to make fan art … by golly, I’ll feature yours too. 😀

 

My Writing Journey – Part Five

Previously on My Writing Journey Parts One through Four – I accidentally discover the plot for my first novel, suffer through the first week of Nanowrimo, discover  a devoted beta reader, and finish the draft of my first book. Instead of letting said draft sit for a month, I last a week before diving into revisions.

That probably says a lot about my personality. I was so excited, so eager to have that book in my greedy little hands, I simply couldn’t wait. After all, for winning Nano that year, I won two free paperback proofs from Createspace and one free hardcover through Lulu. I could get three free copies of my book, just like that!

Now, in addition to the physical goodies, I also had the opportunity to enter into a few contests – which I did – and I also received a few free resources on publishing and marketing. One fun reward was a complimentary manuscript review that broke down my writing style (sadly, said file is no longer available to download – how dare they not keep it available online indefinitely!) I just remember that I use a lot of dialogue in my writing, which is something Louisa May Alcott also did, and that I apparently write like Ray Bradbury and Stephanie Meyers. (Two incredibly different types of writers, I thought.)

While I waited for the results of the publishing contest to get tallied, I reread my book and looked up the basics on publishing. Guy Kawasaki’s APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur- How to Publish a Book ended up being one of the most valuable resources I received from Nano – I didn’t read it cover to cover, but it had some great advice on how to avoid the ‘self-published’ look. For example, as a reader, have you ever noticed the running heads along the top of books? I sure didn’t, not consciously anyway. But as Guy pointed out, if they aren’t in place, many readers will notice that something looks off. They may not know exactly what it is, but something about the book will feel ‘unfinished’ or ‘unprofessional.’ Eep! Those running heads also have rules associated with them – the author’s name belongs on the left, and the name of the book or chapter title goes on the right. This book is also the one that taught me what belongs on your front matter page: something I’ve been complimented on multiple times!

Through yet more research, I also learned that the 50,000 word novel I wrote for Nano was actually more of a novella, or a short novel. According to publishing statistics, a proper fiction book generally had closer to 70,000 words.

This, of course, sent me into a panic. My book wasn’t long enough?! (This may or may not have been the leading cause of only taking a week before jumping back into my book. Oh, who am I kidding, this is exactly why I started working on the book again.)

I dived right into a whirlwind of reading and revision. I tweaked lines and entire sections to read better. I added several new scenes that fleshed out a few of the side characters (including my new favorite character who originally had no part in the book – he was a name of a friend – but who ended the book with a plot twist and cliffhanger of epic porportions.) I also added a fun little flirty scene to develop the romance between two characters. At the end of it all, I managed to push my book up to 75,000 words – right on target!

Even more exciting, during my revision process, I found out that one of my coworkers was an editor! An-honest-to-goodness, I-went-to-college-for-it editor. In fact, she was in her final year of her master’s degree, and she was willing to edit my book for almost nothing! Score!

Well, not so much.

Don’t get me wrong – she was an excellent editor. She critiqued the heck out of my book, and pointed out all sorts of educational aspects of how I handled different morals and themes. (That was fun to listen to, especially since half the time I hadn’t done any of it on purpose.)

No, my mistake was twofold. First of all – remember how I said that Nanowrimo said to let the book sit for a month? I really should have listened: it’s impossible to explain the perspective you’ll gain from walking away from the story for an extended length of time. I revised too quickly – the shiny sense of accomplishment and love of the story as it was hadn’t worn off yet. Hard to revise accurately if you’re still in love with the words already on the paper.

The second half of my mistake? Settling on the first editor I came across. While my coworker was an excellent copy editor, she didn’t have experience in fiction editing. Sure, I needed a copy editor, but I also needed a content editor – someone who not only spots when I use a comma incorrectly, but who also notices when I overuse certain sentence structures or points out when my characters blinked for the hundredth time. (After meeting my current editor and letting him at my manuscript, I feel an irresistible urge to poke myself in the eye every time I use the word ‘blink’. It’s my most overused form of body language.)

Of course, I didn’t realize any of this until over a year later.

Like I said, I was completely intoxicated with success. Not only had I written a book, but I had even started on the second in between edits! (To be fair, the epilogue of book one begged for an explanation – so the first six chapters or so of the sequel focused on telling key events from the first book from an alternate character’s point of view. Which made it incredibly easy to get started – I already knew what happened, I just had to reveal what was going on behind the scenes.)

By this time, January 2014 had arrived, along with the crushing disappointment that my book didn’t win the publishing contract contest. Oh, well – just because I didn’t win a contest didn’t mean my book wasn’t worth publishing. After all, Murph loved it! In fact, thanks to the copy of Scrivener that my in-laws got me for Christmas (with my Wrimo winner’s discount, of course) I figured out how to create simple eBook files to send to a few of my other guild-mates who also loved the story. (Note: I haven’t included the fact that my family all liked my book, because I believe there’s an unwritten clause somewhere that states they’re required to like whatever I decide to write. After all, they have to live with me afterward.)

So, I had a revised book and I had an editor. Time to start looking for publishers, right? Or at least an agent.

I spent a week looking at agents and reviewing how to write a query letter. After a few dead ends, I found one agent that accepted books in my genre. After carefully reviewing what she was looking for (and thereby finding my new all-time favorite author), I decided to take the plunge and sent her an email, following the exact specifications that she requested. (Namely, a single page letter and the first chapter of my manuscript.)

Now, I definitely sent that initial query letter with a healthy dose of realism. I knew I had a .00001% chance that the agent would get my email, read the first chapter, and then decide she simply had to represent me. Did I hope such a thing would happen? Of course I did. But I sent that letter fully expecting to get my first (of the legendary many) rejection letter – and I did.

However, while I waited for that inevitable rejection, I did a bit more research on traditional publishing. One of the resources I found (I can’t remember where or what it was called) stated that even if I found a traditional publisher right away, it could take over two years to actually see my book in print. In fact, the reality for a brand new no-name author to get their book published drifted closer to six years.

Yeah, right. Remember December and the week of restraint I managed? There was no way I was going to wait that long to hold my debut novel in my hot little hands.

There you have it folks. Fact number one: the reason I decided to go the self-publishing route – the only reason, I’m ashamed to admit – is because I’m impatient.

I started researching and formatting my book into a print-worthy file before I even heard back from the agent. Needless to say, I wasn’t particularly broken-hearted when I got the rejection. (In a weird way, I got really excited about it. Look! My first ever rejection letter! And she was nice about it!)

“Wait,” you say. “You researched how to format your book? Don’t you just send a plain word document and let the printer do the work?”

Well, yes and no. You can pay the printer to format the book for you. Or you can send the unformatted version and have a hideous mess on your hands.

Let me share a couple more facts about the type of person I am, in addition to being impatient.

Fact number two: I can be incredibly stingy with money. Especially when it’s something I can do myself and save thousands of dollars.

Fact number three: My research skills and ability to follow instructions are superhuman, and I’m just OCD enough to need my book to look like, well. A book. From a technical standpoint anyway.

I can’t even guess how many hours I spent formatting that first book. I read through my copy of APE and scoured countless articles on Createspace. I started with a Createspace template, and I learned how to set margins and adjust trim size. I found out what smart quotes were and what fonts worked best for novels (I prefer palatino linotype). I wasted an entire day adjusting dialogue to eliminate widows and orphans (the solitary stray lines or words that float alone at the top of a page or bottom of a paragraph) before I learned there’s a button for that in Microsoft Word. Apparently, it’s called ‘widow and orphan control’ and it can be found under the paragraph tab. Just so you know.

(My husband laughed his head off when he showed that to me. I responded with a stream of language so foul, I refuse to repeat it here. There’s nothing more frustrating than realizing you’ve wasted hours due to sheer ignorance.)

Once I had the technical parts of my book finished, I scoured through my hoard of books to see how other authors handled their copyright pages, acknowledgements, and author bios. I picked bits and pieces I liked from everything I read – my disclaimer on my copyright page is a good example. I don’t think you have to have one – but by golly, I wasn’t going to let some dude named Sebastian try to sue me ten years from now for basing my fictional character on his life story. (Although, if one shows up looking exactly like my Sebastian and manages to shapeshift into a panther, I’ll consider giving him whatever he wants.)

Then came my least favorite part of writing a book.

The cover pitch.

Shudder.

Run away while you can, little authors. Here, there be nightmares.

Okay, so it’s not that bad. But really – no one in their right mind wants to take a 70,000 word novel and squish it down into less than 200 words.

No one.

To be continued in a new series – My Publication Journey – starting Dec. 1st!

Nanowrimo Week Two: drifting further behind.

Nanowrimo Week Two: drifting further behind.

To be honest, I almost didn’t post today. I dislike negativity, failed goals, and accountability – so it would have been far too easy for me to ‘forget’ to update you all on my abysmal progress so far with Nano.

I’m officially 6,000 words behind. Granted, that means I’ve written a total of 20,000 words – which certainly isn’t anything to sneeze at. Celebrate the little successes, right?

But I hate that I haven’t been able to keep up with my word counts. It’s not like I have writer’s block – I know exactly where I’m going with the story. It’s not that I don’t have time, either. I only work 40 hours a week, and I haven’t even procrastinated with World of Warcraft much. (I think I played an hour on my day off last Wednesday.)

After reviewing my notes and tracking attempts over the past week, I’ve come to a few conclusions regarding my difficulties though.

  1. I caught a cold – or at least a severe cough. It’s hard to stay motivated for anything when you don’t feel well. Focusing on a computer screen when you haven’t been able to sleep (due to aforementioned cough) usually won’t end well. I should give myself a little bit of credit for trying.
  2. The Pomodoro method of writing is not for me. With this method, you concentrate on writing for 25 minutes, then take a five minute break to check email, get a drink, etc. It’s supposed to help people who are easily distracted to focus on the project at hand. Now, I’m easily distracted to an extent, but I’m also incredibly single-minded. Really, if I can play a video game for 4+ hours without a break, I can probably manage a similar length of time writing. In fact, I’m starting to suspect that’s how I produce results – it takes me several minutes to get going with the story, but once I’m in a groove, I can churn out 2,000 words easy. The problem with the Pomodoro method is that I’m just starting to get going when the timer goes off – and I immediately take that break, even though I could have kept going for a bit longer.
  3. Writing a follow up book to a series requires a lot more careful thought, fact checking, and creative problem solving than writing the first book to a series. Yes, you have a cast of familiar characters to work with – but now you have to be careful that those characters still act like the same characters they were in the first two books. Any new plot twists or developments have to be carefully weighed and checked to be sure they don’t contradict events in previous books, and you have to extremely careful that you follow the rules and histories created in those initial books, as well. In short, writing a third book to a continuing series – especially one as richly detailed and complicated as I made mine – is exhausting.
  4. Twitter is not my friend when I don’t have good things to say. I think I posted my word count once last week. After that, I just didn’t have the heart to post triple digit numbers. It made me feel like a failure – which I’m not, darn it!

So, what am I going to do? Am I going to give up?

Heck no. I think I have a handful of fans out there who’d hunt me down and threaten bodily harm – or negative reviews – if I didn’t finish my series in a timely manner.

No, I’m going to keep plodding along. 900 words are better than no words, after all!

I’m also going to stop with this silly 25 minute writing sprint thing. I’m going to sit down and write until I want to go to bed, or until my head hurts from thinking too hard, or until I just can’t stand looking at my laptop screen anymore.

Finally, I’m also going to let myself do a little bit of non-novel writing. In fact, I already did a bit of non-novel writing (which is how I discovered that the Pomodoro method doesn’t work and that book three is oodles more complicated than I gave it credit for).

At the request of a fellow writing buddy (who, coincidentally, is also the graphic artist that designed all of my incredible cover art and promotional items), I put together a document detailing my initial Nanowrimo journey, and the subsequent adventure in writing, revising, and publishing my first two books.

At her suggestion, I’m going to break that document up into manageable segments and post it here for other writers who might be dealing with writer’s block, insecurity, doubt, the sheer effort involved with the writing process in general, or any number of other issues that plague us author-types.

Here’s hoping it helps someone else find that inspiration or motivation they’ve been looking for. 🙂

Channeling my inner Gollum

Channeling my inner Gollum

I’m mildly – but only mildly – ashamed to admit I’ve been hunched in a corner for the last day mumbling “My precious …” and hissing at sunlight.

Neither of which are a very unusual occurrence, now that I think about it. I frequently get over-excited and possessive, and I’m most definitely a nocturnal creature. It’s why I work nights.

But, too, it’s not everyday you get something like this in the mail:

Covers

Look at it.

Mock bookshelf

(Yes, those are World of Warcraft Collector’s Edition boxes propping up my books. Go ahead. Ooze jealousy.)

Lying down ... because why not?

My … precious

*Ahem* Of course, you all know what this means. The paperback version for Fire Blessed is now available! Granted, it might take a day or so for Amazon to get their stuff together and update my product page, but here are some links anyway.

amazoncoverfire

UnBlessed now available in paperback!

UnBlessed now available in paperback!

Stage one is now complete: the second edition of UnBlessed is available through Amazon and select retailers in paperback!

Let me just say that the cover is absolutely gorgeous in print. Like, incredibly gorgeous. Don’t believe me? Lookie:

New frontNew spine

Just look at that book: the colors, the design, the spine.

Now you can wait impatiently to see what books one and two look like lined up together … mwahaha!

(To be perfectly honest, I’m still waiting on the final proof copy for Fire. I had to make a few minor changes – but, oh, does it look incredible!)

Want a copy of your own? Visit my Books by Crystin page or click on your favorite retailer below. Hint: If you really want to support this starving artist (well, not starving – but I definitely want a cookie), use the direct link!

  • Direct
  • Amazon.com
  • (Barnes and Noble link to be included in future: it takes a while for indie titles to show up in their system.)

Also, as an early celebration for the soon-to-come paperback for Fire Blessed – with matching artwork – I’ve updated my blog look to reflect the fiery theme. Nifty, isn’t it?!

For those who can’t get enough of those gorgeous flames, here’s a nifty desktop wallpaper you can download and show off to your friends and family. (Hint, hint, wink, wink.)

Fire BG

Once again, huge thanks to Winter Bayne for the incredible images and cover art!

Only one more day left!

Have you managed to pick up a free kindle copy of UnBlessed yet? Well, what are you waiting for? The sale ends Friday 9/25! Even worse, I don’t remember the exact time the sale ends, so procrastinators probably shouldn’t wait past 10 PM EST. I mean, you wouldn’t want to miss out on a free book, would you? Especially one that has reviews saying stuff like this:

I loved way too many things about UnBlessed to fit into this review.

or maybe this:

Possibly the next rising star of fantasy authors?!

or my personal favorite:

I could tell you…

I mean it. There’s a reason I’ve hit #4 in my category on the Amazon Free Bestseller list … twice. Go take a look at the reviews. I don’t have many, but hey, quality over quantity! At least, I think that still applies to book reviews. Of course, any of you who’ve already read UnBlessed can feel free to add your own opinions about the book, here or on Amazon. I’m not picky.

Sadly, the 99 cent sale for Fire Blessed has ended … but you can still pick up a discounted kindle copy for $1.99 until tomorrow, 9/25. After that, it’ll be back at the regular $4.99 price – hurry and grab your copy while it’s half price!

And just in case you worried that book one was a fluke, I’ll include one of my four reviews (hey now, I published in May – reviews take time! At least, mine do …)

Goodwin Hits a Homer with this Second book in the Series!

Hurry over to Amazon and get your copies today – at least be sure to grab the free version of UnBlessed. After all, who doesn’t love free stuff? Remember, you can read kindle books on your laptop or computer – you don’t have to have a kindle! Try the ebook first, and if you like it, you can always buy a paperback later. 😉

Here’s links to simplify your buying experience:

Buy UnBlessed here.

And Fire Blessed here.

😀