Cover reveal: Daughter of the Dark

In June I squeed about the pretty cover in my inbox. It is finalized now, and paid for. Which means  I can show it to the world! Look what the talented Skyla Dawn Cameron designed for me!

 

DaughteroftheDark--Kindle

 

Is it the cover that I thought I would end up with? No. In fact, the first time I saw the sketch: I stared at it and went ” But, but..”, because it didn’t fit my mental image. But it grew on me. Fast. The cover fits the story. It tells what the book is about: The moon tells importance of the moon to the Dhurians, the town tells that it isn’t epic fantasy but more of urban fantasy, the model tells it is someone that has been honed by what she has experienced, and the model’s clothes tells that it is a medievalesque setting.

And I  love the colors in the cover. 🙂

Oh, and it got the stamp of approval from the War Room. I got a case of self doubts, but they reassured me it is was a gorgeous cover that would do its job. One person might have said it was nice to be kind to me, but not all of them. The war room is blunt and packed with experience from the publishing business. 🙂 The only caution I got was to make sure that the back cover copy made it clear that the main character is elf ( well, Dhurian, but it is my equivalent of Dark elves).

 

What I am reading in June

I have had some troubles finishing books lately, but I have read some really good ones.

Shaman Rises by C. E Murphy

I devoured Shaman Rises by C. E. Murphy.  It is the last book in the Walker Papers series *sob*, and it was so good. It wrapped up all the loose threads, and was filled with unexpected twists.  Go and read it!

High Seduction by Vivian Arend

I love Vivian Arend’s contemporary romances, but I was a bit slow in buying this one.  But I’m glad I bought it, since I was craving a good contemporary romance. And it didn’t disappoint.  It was sizzling, fast paced, and filled with action.

An Aria of Omen by Patrice Greenwood

I love, love this series. The setting is intriguing, the characters are well crafted, the plot is solid. The only drawback is that there is so long between releases. *sulks* But she also writes fantasy as Pati Nagle, and I haven’t read those. I’m planning to , though.

 

 

My 2014 Re-reading challenge: January round up

I know. This is a bit late, since it is already February 10th.

In January I glommed on Lisa Shearin’s Raine Benares Novels.  It was nice to be back in this world, and follow Raine’s adventures as she tried to rid herself of the Saghred. The plot were engaging, the characters interesting.  Just like before, the last book was my least favorite. Probably because I really don’t want the series to end.

I also re-read the Moon series by Maria E Schneider.  I really like this series. It has an down to earth view on magic, and I like how it shows the trial and error it sometimes is.  The characters are interesting, and so is the mysteries Adriel and her friends are solving. The only drawback is that the next book isn’t out until  Dec 2014. *grumps* It is especially hard to wait since there is a free short story available, that feels more like the first chapter.

So what am I re-reading in February?

I am slowly savoring the Memory Sorrow Thorn series by Tad Williams. All 12 (!) parts of them, since the Swedish publisher decided to split each book in three parts.

 

The prequel story is done!

I know. In my previous writing update post I said it would be a novella. Well. I was wrong. I had written 3000 words when I realised I had forgotten one important difference between the outline for Cauldron Bound ( the novella) and Exile ( the Short story), namely that the middle of Cauldron Bound was compressed into ” they travelled and met clans, some hostile.”  While the middle for Exile was more detailed.

I’ll admit that I was a bit relieved, since I had been trying to figure how the story would cover 17 000 words.   I’m happy that I wrote the story, since it gave me  an insight into how Jenny managed to leave Dhurig without being caught.

Now I’ll let it sit for a bit, while I focus on getting Daughter of the Dark  ready for publication.   But rest assured that I have plans for this story.

As a side note:  I’m running out of stories to write in this world. I just have two story ideas left! ( Maybe three, if I can find my notes for the third one…)

So it is almost 2014

A part of me is a bit panicked over the fact that 2013 is almost over, but I’m actually glad it is. Even if 2013 was an interesting year, I’m really excited for 2014 :).

It was the year when I travelled on my own for the first time. I’ve flown before, but never alone. It was a bit nerve wrecking, but worth it.

It was the year when I went to Brighton and met a lot of nice people that I knew online and some that I didn’t know online. ( waves at Laura Anne, Catie, Thirzah and Kari.)

It was the year when I said screw it about finding a job, and set out to selfpublish. Since I believe enough in the stories on my hard drive that I think it readers will like them.

It was the year when I decided to give cover design a try, and discovered that for a newbie, I’m not bad at it.

It was the year when I finished something in Swedish. ( Even if I need to type in the second half on the draft.) Unfortunately, I have no idea when I’ll have time to revise it.

I have no idea what 2014 has in store, but I have a lot of plans.

In August, I’m going to Dublin, to Shamrokon. ( Finally!) Sometime in the spring or autumn, I’m planning on going to Spain. ( My family is probably planning something for August, but with luck I’ll be in Dublin then.  Mediterrean in August? Not my favorite place. Even if Sicily was nice.).

Publishingwise, Daughter of the Dark is scheduled for the spring ( May, probably), and the sequel for the Autumn. And the first book in the Cauldron of Rebirth duology will hopefully be out in spring 2015.

( And yes, I know, I should schedule a lot of books for 2014, but I’m taking it slow, since I’m uncertain how long the editing phase will take. 🙂 )

5 things I have learned about Cover Design

I’m the first to admit that I am not a graphic designer, but  the last couple of years I’ve realised that I’ve a good eye for it. Both when it comes to seeing which elements that fits, and what to not to do.

1. Keep it simple

If you decide to design your own cover, keep it simple. the layout I picked for Daughter of the Dark ( image in the center, with top and bottom in a solid color)  is a classic.  The reason I picked it, was because it is almost impossible to screw up for me.  Also,  title and Name is much easier to read than if they are directly at the cover image.

2. You’ll never find the perfect cover image

While browsing the stockphoto sites, you keep on thinking, at least in the beginning: I’ll find the perfect stock image. Guess what? There is no perfect cover image. However, you will find one or two that fits the story. It can be because it hints at what happens in the story, or because it symbolize something that happens in the story.

3. Someone else will use your cover image

Unless you commission a cover illustration, you’ll not be the only one to use a stock photo. But you can lessen the risk by not using the most popular models. Which was what I did for Daughter of the Dark. So if someone is using the same stockphoto? Don’t complain on your blog. It happens even authors that are published by bigger publishers. It is a part of the job.

4. Don’t confuse the reader

This is something that sometimes even publisher forgets, but if make sure that the cover tell the reader that it is a fantasy/ romance/ mystery/ whatever. I’ll admit it, I have stopped reading some books  because their covers don’t tell me which genre the book is. Or worse, it contains clue to something the book isn’t.

5. The cover must pop at several different sizes

So your cover is done, either by you or a cover artist, and it looks fabulous. In full size. But in today’s market, full size isn’t the most important factor. Nope. Today, most books are sold while readers browse online. Which means they need to look fabulous in thumbnails. And black and white. ( This is something that a lot of authors and Cover Designers forget. What’s the point of hiring a cover designer if the Title isn’t readable at thumbnail size?)

Excerpt: Chapter 1 from Daughter of the Dark

Merry Christmas! As Christmas Gift, I decided to post the  first chapter from Daughter of the Dark.  It is been edited by me, but not by an editor. So it will probably be different when the book is released in  Spring 2014.

Chapter One:

Standing in the shadows, I watched the house on the other side of the street. The imposing brick house with its walled garden looked like the rest of the houses in this neighborhood. But that was just the surface, beneath the surface I sensed the wards. If I activated the sight, a rainbow of colors would meet my gaze.

I winced in sympathy. Unlike most of the realms, this realm’s had very low of Elemental magic. In other words, using Elemental magic for spells hurt. A lot. The owner had put a lot of effort in the magic defenses. Why? Why would someone ward a residence?

Unease slithered down my spine. Maybe it is the wrong house.

I dug into the pocket of my tunic, and got out the wrinkled paper scrap. I squinted at Toni’s uneven writing.

Loraine Street 14. I glanced at the street sign. The letters gleamed silver in the moon light.

Yep. That’s here.

I froze when the eeringly familiar howls echoed in the distance.Calm down, Jenny, I told myself. It isn’t Dhu Annwi. Not here.Still, I couldn’t shake off the clawing instinct that it was the Dhu Annwn. All tales about the Dhu Annwi had one thing in common: No one survived their bite.

I shook off the unease.You cannot loiter in the shadows all night, Jenny girl. Get in, deliver the message, get out.

I looked up when I heard the heavy thread of boots against stone. I cursed softly when I saw the Watchman that was approaching.Too late. At least the Dhu Annwi will not be able to get me if I’m in the arrest. It was a faint comfort.

I smiled wanly at him.

I wasn’t doing anything,” I said and did my best to look innocent.

The guard grunted, and grabbed my wrist.His hand slid down to his belt. I held my breath. Please don’t cuff me. The cuffs gleamed silver in the moonlight.Steel or silver didn’t matter, they would burn my skin.

Relief filled me when he didn’t unhook his cuffs.. The relief turned to confusion when he escorted me across the street. The tall gates opened when we approached. The moment we stepped through the gates, the house lit up.

Stunned, I stared at it. My mind boggled at how much shamanic magic they must have used, to create an illusion like that. Shamanic Magic was as powerful as Elemental Magic, but it could be fickle.

The wards tingled against my skin, when we entered the building.

I looked around wide-eyed in the foyer. It was filled with people, some going, some coming.What is this place? It clearly wasn’t the residence Tony had claimed it was.The guard stopped in front of a curved desk, made of gleaming dark wood.

The Drow that the Director wanted to see is here,” he told the blonde behind the desk

My heart stopped. There were only one person in all the realms that was called the Director. IDB. Tony helped them. Tony helped them.

I choked down the bile that rose in my throat.Why, Tony? I forced myself to take a deep breath.If I felt betrayed, it was nothing compare to how betrayed his employer would feel if they found out.

” Wait here. I’ll check. What’s your name?” the blonde asked me.

” Jenny McNeill.” After all these years, it felt natural giving the alias I used, when I dealt with, well, everyone.

Every Drow was taught names are power from childhood. . Because of this, I had opted to take another name during my exile. If not, my mothers assassins would have found me within hours.

I looked up when I heard footsteps approaching. The man coming towards me was dressed in a dark brown doublet and trousers, both made of finely woven wool.I knew that the wool was expensive. Very expensive. The money I would get if I sold it, would feed me and Rhiane for months, maybe even a year if we lived frugally.

Jenny McNeil?” The man asked, a trace of impatience in his voice.

I nodded.

Follow me. The Director is waiting.”

Filled with apprehension, I followed him. We walked up curved stairs, the dark wood in the bannister gleamed in the lamplight. Our footsteps were muffled by the carpet. We passed by exits to other floors. I assumed they contained offices, and interrogation rooms. My heart started to beat harder, the higher up we came. When we reached the top floor, it was beating so fast that I thought it could be heard by the whole building. As we walked down the hallway, I stared at the plain door in the other end. It looked like it led to a closet. I knew it wasn’t. It was the inner sanctuary of IDB. The room where their most important decisions were made.

Aren’t you proud? A mere runner are being allowed inside. I choked down the hysterical laughter bubbling in my throat. Runners weren’t criminals. Not exactly. But we weren’t picky about the jobs we accepted either.

The man knocked on the door.

Enter”, a male voice called out.

A chill offoreboding, crawled down my spine. I wanted to weep when I felt it. I had felt it twice before, and both times my life had changed profoundly.

In that moment, I wished I could turn around and flee to Thyria. Which was a sign of how nervous I was. Normally, I avoided Thyria best I could. Thyria… isn’t the best place for mages, no matter how minor. I pushed away all thoughts of running away and stepped inside.

I swallowed nervously when I heard the door closed behind me. The roomwas deceptively plain. The shelves lining the walls looked like they were made of Mountain fir. Hard to get in the south.Come to think about it, hard to get in the north too. Carpept had the vivid abstract patterns that signified dwarven carpets. I glanced around, and spotted a sword from the elves, and a hammered shield. He has something from all the realms. Does he has something from Dhurig too?

When I reached the desk, I realised that he had something for Dhurig. Himself.Oh, he wasn’t a full-blooded Dhur elf. He was too bulky, his features too square. I also knew that the Archpriestess wouldn’t have permitted a male to reach such a powerful position. And even if she didn’t find out, the elves would have sent out assassins.

Sit”. The director gestured at the chair. I eyed the chair. It looked like it would break if I sat down on it. I shrugged. The worst that could happen was that it broke. I sat down gingerly, holding my breath. When it didn’t break, I let out a relieved sigh.

I have wanted to meet you for a time, but you have been elusive.”

I forced myself to calmly meet his gaze. Inwardly I cursed my bad luck. I had done everything in my power to avoid attention, since my and Rhiane’s life depended on that.. “ Are you really a drow?”

I stared at him. I had excepted anything but that.Most people I met assumed I was half-elf, since elves didn’t have dark hair. .

” Yes. I am a Drow.”

The Director looked sceptical.

My temper flared.

Do you want me to summon the shadow of Gwynfar to prove it?” I added before I could stop myself.

He paled.

The Shadow of Gwynfar was a gruesome summoning, that killed everyone in a limited area.

” It isn’t necessary,” he hurried to assure me.

I hid my relief. The ritual was dangerous, and required more knowledge about the Scripture than I had.

The director glanced at the papers in front of him.

” The reason for my inquiry is that I have a job for you,” the Director explained.

I gave him a suspicious look.

” What kind of job?”

” I am in need of a runner,” he hedged.

I choked back a snort. Even an IDB agent can manage to deliver a message.

” It isn’t as if it is a hard job, so why don’t you ask an agent,” I suggested

The Director shook his head.

” Normally I would do that. But in this case, this isn’t an option.”

Unease filled me. The IDB had jurisdiction in all the realms. It might be a grudging jurisdiction, but they had it.

” Why?” I forced out.

He hesitated briefly.

I need a package delivered to Dhurig”, he said.

My jaw dropped.

Why? Why is he sending a messenger to Dhurig? The questions burned on my tongue, but somehow I managed to swallow them. I also knew that I would never accept his offer. Even if the Dhu Annwi had found me, death by their bite would be painful but quick. Unlike the one planned by my- the Arch-priestess.

I’m sorry, but I’ll never return to Dhurig”, I said flatly.

” I’ll make it worth your time”, the Director offered.

I hesitated. Confronting the Arch-priestess would mean that I would be able to stop looking over the shoulder all the time. No. It isn’t worth being indebted to IDB. Not in the long run. I had other options if I needed protection. Tony would help me. Or Eric. Pain flared at the thought of Eric. Even if our relationship ended badly, I knew he would help me.

No. I am sorry, but I’ll have to decline.”.”

The Director nodded and scribbled something on a card. .

If you change your mind, you can reach me on this number.”

I stared at the tiny card he handed me. A series of symbols were printed on it. It is his private scrying rune, I realized. There were a number of persons that would pay me a lot of money for this information.

I shook off the temptation, and pocketed the card. I stood up, and nodded curtly. When I stepped outside, my escort was waiting for me.I wasn’t surprised. We walked downstairs to the lobby. When we reached the lobby, he stopped and turned to me.

” You will change your mind about the Director’s offer”, he said calmly.

I gave him a wary look. What does he know that I don’t? He is an IDB agent. He knows a lot of things that you don’t.

I doubt that will happen,” I told him.

Before he could answer, I walked away. A part of me expected him to follow me across the lobby, but he didn’t. I opened the doors, and stepped outside.

 

Taking the first steps on a new path

I’ll admit it. When I sat down to start writing the first draft of Cauldron B ound, it felt… odd. The last year, or two, I’ve mostly written in Swedish. Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of the stories I wrote in Swedish, and there were times I wondered if I’d go back to write in English. But the way my brain jolted and spat out 5 different ideas when I decided to selfpublish put that worry to ease. 🙂

In many ways, this is a new path for me. While I have written in English before, this is the first time I start a first draft with the knowledge that unless the draft is riddled with plot holes ( which I don’t expect it to be, since the story is pretty straight forward), it will be published Dec 2014-Feb 2015. It is a bit nerve wrecking, but it is also the first of many stories. Oh, and it is also, the first story that feels like a novella and not a novel crammed into 35 000 words. My novellas tend to be packed with action. Maybe too much action, but why add any boring parts? 🙂

 

On the other hand, it is the first story for me to span 3000 (!) years. From the Dhurian Clan Wars, to present time Kanida. As a clue, the working title for the Duology is The Cauldron of Rebirth Duology.

 

How that happened? Well, I knew I wanted to rewrite a Historical Fantasy short story so that it fit in the Clan Wars, and I knew I was writing about an IDB agent, that stumbled upon something old and buried. But it was two separate stories.  Until I asked myself: What if the artifact they find in IDB 2 was buried by Dhurians during the Clan Wars? And tada. A Duology is born. ( Actually, it might be trilogy. I just haven’t decided about the third story) :).

 

My expectations about Selfpublishing

Right now, I’m editing Daughter of the Dark, before I send it to a friend who has promised to crit it. ( Actually, I sent her an earlier version, but this one is much better.) Moira Rogers wrote a blogpost about quiet success recently, and after I read it I started to think about what expectations I had.

I’ll be frank. As much as I like Daughter of the Dark, I don’t think it will sell a lot. Why? Because that is more realistic than expecting it to be hugely successful.

My goal is to sell 100 copies per month, at Smashwords ( incl. the 12 stores they distributes to) and Amazon.

In more concrete terms, I expect to sell roughly 5 books/ retailer each month. (For simplicity’s sake, I’m counting Kobo and Itunes as one retail channel each, despite the fact they distribute to multiple stores.)

This is extremely low sales, and I know that it is likely I’ll sell a bit more than that. But even those low sales would earn me roughly 200 dollars in a month.  Which, considering the very limited budget I’m living on, would be very welcome.

One side effect of  aiming for low sales in different stores,  is that I can take into account the fact that there will be days when I sell zero copies. Or just one.

Heck, there will probably be months when I just sell one book at some retailers. Like the libraries that Smashwords distribute to, but I still plan to tick that box, since I like libraries. :).

A rambling update

I have been busy editing Daughter of the Dark, and I’m reminded how much I love this story. And I’m also reminded of how much better I am as a writer now, since I last revised it 2009. Which is almost 5 years ago, now. And I have written a lot of stuff since then.  Anyway, the editing of the first part of the duology is done. I think I cut close to 1000 words, mostly in the shape general tightening . And there were some bloopers. I’ll post it one of them next year.  🙂

I also spent sometime creating a mock up for The Queen of Sind, which is Sherezade’s new title. I decided to retitle it, since I didn’t want to confuse people. Even if the premise  is *based* on the set up for Thousand and One Night, it is not a straight retelling.  I have taken the premise, made Shah-Riar a lot less bloodthirsty, but looking for a new wife, and added lots of palace intrigues.  I had a lot of fun writing it, and I look forward to publish it late 2014/ early 2015.   Maybe my Christmas Gift to you next year will be a new book, instead of just the first chapter. 🙂

I also made a mock-up cover for the sequel to Daughter of the Dark, which is called Shadow of Love. What love? You’ll  find out next year!  My plan for the next two years is to release 1-2 e-books/ year. Next year, it will definitely be two, maybe three. Next year, the new story will either be the Clan War short story I’m planning on writing ( although technically it is based on a Historical Fantasy short story I wrote a couple of years ago), or The Alchemist’s Apprentice, which is a prequel to The Queen of Sind. It might be that I include that one in The Queen of Sind, or offers it as a freebie, though.  I’m leaning toward the Clan War story, since it is set in Dhurig, which means there would be a theme in the books.

Next up:  Short story! Probably the Clan War story, although I need to do some research, first.

Oh, and I had an idea about the Brownie Liason, which would make my main character elf, and the brownies gnomes.  🙂