Playlist: May 2023

Playlist: May 2023

Playlist: May 2023

Of Blood & Oil

This month’s playlist is inspired by my latest release, Of Blood & Oil, which is book three of my Not the Same River series.

It follows Violet as she goes from gobby orphan to treasured warrior in six books.

A hunted portrait. A twisted duke. An embarrassing crush.

When a hunted portrait arrives at the priory for safekeeping, Violet makes a disturbing discovery or two about her immortal neighbour. And an unwelcome one about herself.

As the resourceful Penhaligons try to figure out what’s so special about the painting, a sinister duke makes a bold move in his bid to claim it. But the painting is not the only thing he’s after.

Can Violet and the Penhaligons outwit the duke and bargain their way to victory? Or will they learn that they’re not the only ones with betrayal in mind?

This book features a vampire who doesn’t know where his trousers are, a stray nephilim, judgemental goats, and an MC who hasn’t quite got a handle on romance.

Happy listening!

Gothic Christmas witch with amber eyes and fiery red hair

Coloring the void – M83

Anachronism – Crywolf

Colder – Edwin Raphael

Angel’s Song – Arlo Parks

Under My Skin – SPC ECO

Speak Loud – Trills

Call Me What You Like – Lovejoy

From Eden – Hozier

Hypnotic – Zella Day

Fade Into You – Mazzy Star

Neptune – Sleeping at Last

Milk & Honey (Alt Version) – Billie Marten

I Found – Amber Run

Breathe – of Verona

Blood//Water – grandson

Litost – X Ambassadors

Illuminate – WILDES

Monster – Half Moon Run

Make It Holy – The Staves

Moon Begins – Florist

Pay – Ramsey

Heavy in Your Arms – Florence + The Machine

Swell – Twin Caverns

You Made Me Human – Richard Wells

Your Name – Lissom, Julien Marchal, Lowswimmer

Great News for Readers: Kobo Plus Comes to the UK & US

Great News for Readers: Kobo Plus Comes to the UK & US

Great News for Readers

Kobo Plus is now available in the UK & the US

 

It’s been a long time coming, but there’s finally an alternative to Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited programme for readers in the UK and US. Kobo Plus has been available in its native Canada since 2020, when it was also made available to readers in the Netherlands, Belgium and Portugal. The programme was expanded to Australia and New Zealand the following year, but I’ve been waiting somewhat impatiently for it over here in the UK.

 

So, why do we need an alternative to Kindle Unlimited?

Well, that’s down to personal preference. For me, it’s a number of things, the first being Amazon’s stranglehold on the ebook and audiobook market (through Audible). You can read about Audiblegate here. The reason I sell my books widely in the first place is because I want readers to be able to access my books wherever they shop as well as from libraries.

Kindle Unlimited’s requirement for exclusivity would put my books out of the reach of libraries, international readers that KU/Amazon doesn’t serve, my own subscription platform, my own website, and all other ebook retailers. I’m not prepared to do that. Not when among the perks of going exclusive with the world’s largest ebook retailer are having your books removed from sale because the Amazon bots found them on a pirate site, having your page reads stripped* for unspecified and alleged suspicious reading activity that they don’t have to explain, having your rank stripped**, and having your publishing account shut down without warning, explanation or recourse, while they “withhold” your royalties. Let’s just call that what it is, shall we? It’s theft. Imagine being the sort of company that behaves like this in 2023.

*Page reads are how KU authors get paid. If someone reads your 100-page book, you get about 40p. If Amazon decides the reader didn’t actually read the book, they can, without providing proof, claim there was “fraudulent page read activity” and just… not pay you. Fun, right?

**Rank stripping is where Amazon makes your rank in the store, or in your categories, invisible to readers. This behaviour tends to coincide with author promotions. For example, an author has just paid a huge amount of money to promote their free/99c book with a Bookbub Featured Deal. This is the holy grail of promotions, costing anywhere between $100 and almost $4,000 USD, depending on your genre and how much you’re selling the book for. The advert for the book goes out to Bookbub’s mailing list, who click and buy. The book goes flying up the charts, where more readers can see it and buy it. That’s what promotions do for authors. It’s why we use them. Amazon notices a lot more movement on the book than usual. But instead of assuming an author has a promotion running (something authors do all the time), Amazon thinks something shady must be going on, so they strip the rank, making the book invisible, and crippling the promotion. This lowers the return on investment on the promotion itself and stops it from catching the wave that makes promotions worth it in the long run. In short, this behaviour costs authors money instead of giving them the boost they paid for. For the sake of transparency, Amazon does this to indie authors in general, not specifically KU authors. And I’m sure it has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that Amazon wants us to pay for ads on its own ad platform. Nothing at all.

Obviously, Kobo Plus isn’t available everywhere either, but because there is no requirement for exclusivity, this is just another channel through which our books can be made available.

Another perk from my side is that I get paid every time someone reads my books, so if you go through my entire series a second or third time, I’ll get paid for each read through. Kindle Unlimited only pays authors for the first read, so if you spend an entire month going through an author’s back catalogue for a second time, the only one who gets paid is Amazon. With Kobo Plus you can support your favourite authors even more.

 

What’s in it for readers?

Kobo Plus’ ebook subscription is cheaper than KU in both the UK and the US, since Amazon recently raised its UK price. And in fact, readers in the US will get a particularly good deal. For the current price of KU’s ebook subscription, you can get a combined ebook and audiobook subscription at Kobo Plus. That’s $9.99 a month for all the books you can read or listen to.

In the UK, it’s £8.99 for ebook OR audio and £11.99 a month for the combo deal. Is that a bargain, or what?

There are fewer books in Kobo Plus right now than there are in Amazon, but it’s only three years old. There are still over a million books in there, and you can expect it to grow as more authors take their books wide.

With Kobo Plus, you can support authors, knowing that they’re not getting shafted behind the scenes. You can support them over and over again with re-reads. Everybody wins.

There’s also a free 30-day trial, so you have nothing to lose by giving it a go.

Check out Kobo Plus

The first three books* in my Not the Same River series and the first book of Tales from the Noctuary are available to read in Kobo Plus.

*book 3 is in preorder, but will be available in Kobo Plus on its release.

 

Playlist: February 2023

Playlist: February 2023

Playlist: February 2023

From Tangled Roots Come Twisted Wings

This playlist was inspired by From Tangled Roots Come Twisted Wings, book two of my debut series, Not the Same River, which released on all major online retailers at the end of January.

Navigate to the Books or Not the Same River sections in the menu above for more information on the series.

Happy listening!

Gothic Christmas witch with amber eyes and fiery red hair

Touch – Daughter

Oxytocin – Billie Eilish

Demon – Sad Night Dynamite, Moonchild Sanelly

I Must Cry Out Loud – Mother Mother

Stakes – Vancouver Sleep Clinic

Faux – Novo Amor, Ed Tullett

Murky – Saint Mesa

Torches – X Ambassador

Dangerous Game – Klergy, BEGINNERS

Play with Fire – Sam Tinnesz, Yacht Money

You Made Me Human – Richard Wells

Temples of Our Gods – M83, Anthony Gonzalez, Joseph Trapanese

SkyWorld – Thomas Bergersen, Two Steps from Hell

Singularity – Elephant Music

Muddy Waters – LP

Don’t Close Your Eyes – Sam Tinnesz

Despicable – grandson

Made for the Battle – UNSECRET, GAITS

I’m Sending You Away – M83, Anthony Gonzalez, Joseph Trapanese

Outro – M83

Time – Mikky Ekko

Marigolds – Kishi Bashi

Resolutions – Scott Buckley

WIP Snippet #7: A Valentine’s Day Surprise

WIP Snippet #7: A Valentine’s Day Surprise

WIP Snippet #7: A Valentine’s Day Surprise

Of Blood & Oil

 

In honour of St Valentine, comes this snippet from book three of Not the Same River. This is not so much a work in progress as a done deal. Of Blood & Oil is going through its final copy edits, ready for publication on April 28th this year.

For those of you who celebrate, Happy Valentine’s Day!

character art of Raven Albright. Young man with long black hair and makeup.

WIP Progress

Of Blood & Oil: draft complete, 132,460 words

Series: Not the Same River (#3)

Stage: edited, ready for publication

Publishing date: April 28th 2023

Of Blood & Oil is available to preorder now from a number of online retailers. More will be added soon.

On Valentine’s Day, an unexpected box arrives for Seth—unexpected because there’s no way he’d open it at the kitchen island otherwise. He pulls a dark blue scarf from the package and pinches his face into a pouty frown. “I didn’t order this.”

I check the packaging while he runs his fingers over the silky stitches, but there are no clues on the printed label.

I rub the scarf between my fingers. “So soft. And it matches your eyes.”

“Very funny.” Seth stares at the small card in his other hand, his expression blank. “That’s what the note says.”

I laugh. “Somebody has a secret admirer.”

“Shut up.” He pulls the scarf over his head. “I don’t have anyone.”

“Looks perfect,” I say.

“Yeah, it’s all stitched, so I don’t have to knot it myself, but…”

“What?”

“Well, obviously someone’s been watching me,” he says. “This is exactly how I wear my scarf.”

“That thing you wear is not a scarf. It’s a bunch of holes sewn together with stubbornness and nostalgia.”

“Two words,” he says, one eyebrow arched high. “Your. Coat.”

“I’m getting rid of it. Tomorrow.”

He’s still rubbing the soft scarf around his neck. “Don’t you think it’s creepy though? They must know I need a replacement, and I reiterate, because they’ve been watching me.”

“Yeah, and they printed the label, so you wouldn’t recognise their handwriting.”

He frowns. “The note’s handwritten.”

“Let me see.”

He hands it over and says, “I don’t recognise the writing.”

It looks vaguely familiar, but all I can see behind my eyes are the many and varied handwritten pages of [SPOILER], and they never settled on a handwriting style in their whole life. It’s also unlikely they sent Seth a valentine scarf from beyond the grave.

He’s rubbing the thing on his cheek now, but he stops to sniff the air. “Are you baking?”

He says baking like it should be criminalised.

“Just a baguette,” I tell him.

“I shouldn’t wear it,” he says, but his eyes are already in love with his new scarf. “I don’t want to encourage… Oh god, what if it’s a woman?”

“You really don’t know who sent it? Like, no clue at all?”

He shakes his head, then gets a faraway look in his eyes like he’s mulling over possibilities.

Archer comes in while I’m assembling my valentine treat to myself. I try not to think of [SPOILER] or the new batch of tea I found stuffed in the pocket of that ridiculous coat. I didn’t even feel them put it there.

“What the hell are you doing to that baguette?” Archer demands.

“Getting it ready for a romantic night out,” I say.

He leans over my shoulder. “What are you making?”

I nudge him away. “Hash brown baguette.”

“You want fries with that?”

“Shut up, funny boy.”

“No, really. I’m not sure there’s enough carbs in it.”

I laugh. “Just find me some hot sauce.”

“Not even sriracha can save that abomination,” he says, slamming the red bottle onto the worktop. “Where did that come from?”

I turn around to figure out what Archer is talking about, but he’s looking at Seth.

“There’s no label,” Seth says. “Must be handmade.”

“Seth has an admirer,” I say, then sink my teeth into my abomination baguette.

“Probably the postman,” Archer says.

We both turn to stare at him. “What?”

“Yeah, the postman is totally into you.”

WIP Update: January 2023

WIP Update: January 2023

WIP Update: January 2023

Thirteen at the Leash

 

Today, I finished writing my first book of 2023. Weighing in at 37.6k words, Thirteen at the Leash is the longest of the Tales from the Noctuary series. It’s also the last in the series, so that’s two complete series that I’ve written now. It’s about a resurrected murderous cult of witch shifters, whose only target is vampires. Let’s just say they’ve gone a little off the rails since they came back to life.

Below is a first draft snippet from chapter 1.

Click on the picture below to see my Pinterest board for this project.

character art of Raven Albright. Young man with long black hair and makeup.

WIP Progress

Thirteen at the Leash: draft complete, 37, 692 words

Series: Tales from the Noctuary (#4)

Stage: drafted

Projected publishing date: Summer 2024

Gabriel sighed as he laid the telephone receiver in its cradle. “Why must these people hound me so?”

Jelly, his capable assistant, looked up, a subtle smile on his face. “What is it now?”

“The Thirteen Club.” Gabriel closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose, massaging away the pressures of the job. “Protestors on the doorstep. Almost a hundred this time.”

“Well, I have an answer as to why they hound you so,” said Jelly. “I shall quote you as a reminder.” Jelly put on an authoritative voice that Gabriel thought was rather overdone. “Any trouble, and I want to hear about it. The first sign of trouble, do you hear me?

“I do not sound like that,” Gabriel protested.

“On every day of the week that ends in a Y,” said Jelly.

Gabriel wasn’t sure why he let the man get away with such cheek when they were in private, but he couldn’t find it within himself to make him stop. “Get your coat on, then.”

The Best Investment I Ever Made in Myself

The Best Investment I Ever Made in Myself

The Best Investment I Ever Made in Myself

Settle in because it’s essay time.

This is a post for writers, especially for those of you who’ve been struggling to get your publishing shoes on. It’s about the one course to rule them all: Publish & Thrive.

I’ve been writing for many years. I finished writing my first book long before the self-publishing boom, but I put all thoughts of being a published author on hold while I raised my family. Then, in 2014, I heard about NaNoWriMo (forever late to the party), and started writing a book that had been in my head for almost thirty years. It was supposed to be a standalone, but we all know how that goes. One book became two, then four, then five, then six.

Then came the endless rounds of editing, the relentless grip of impostor syndrome, and the exhausting spiral of self sabotage.

Self publishing had become a big thing by the time I finished writing that series in 2017, but I couldn’t publish yet because what if it wasn’t good enough? What if I just tweaked those books for another few years? That would make them good enough, right?

I mean, no.

Adding extra glitter to a cake doesn’t make it more edible. My books weren’t necessarily getting better; they were just getting a teeny bit prettier, but not to everyone.

The weight of those people’s opinions had me making minor fixes for years, until I realised that I’d just been slathering my books with frosting only to scrape it off again.

Don’t ask me why I went with a baking analogy here. Not that I don’t love cake (who doesn’t love cake?), but I’m not any kind of baker. I should probably have just gone with too many cooks spoiling the broth, because that’s what was happening to the books I’d poured my heart into.

That’s just the writing part of the story. I haven’t even got to the publishing part yet.

I assumed I would just put my books into Kindle Unlimited because that seemed easy, but I had made a lot of writer friends on Twitter by then, and the hassle they had with Amazon put me off publishing altogether.

I started using their experiences as an excuse to never put myself out there. I was so scared of trying and failing, but I was getting older, and my health wasn’t what it used to be. And I started thinking about regrets. What if all my good health years were behind me? What if I never published a book? Would I resent myself forever? Just how many regrets did I want looming over me for the rest of my life?

So, I looked into wide publishing, learning all I could, so I would never be at the mercy of Amazon’s algorithmic whims. And I learned a few things. I learned lots of things in fact, including that I really wanted the freedom to make my books available to libraries, and to those parts of the world that Amazon doesn’t serve. I pumped my brain full of information, determined not to make the same mistakes others had made. But that doesn’t worry me anymore. Mistakes are inevitable part of any new business starting out.

And that’s what I’ve made myself—a new business. I am an author, publisher, marketer,  formatter, copywriter, web designer, and more. I hesitate to call myself any kind of designer, because my attempts at promo images are stone cold trash, but I’m working on it.

All this is to say that self-publishing is not for the weak. It’s a long hard slog, but as soon as I realised I needed to treat it as a business, I became both more terrified and more determined than ever. But I was still floundering.

I’d found the Heart Breathings YouTube channel by then, and had become obsessed with Sarra Cannon’s kanban board and HB90 planning system. And through that channel, I found the Heart Breathings Writing Community  on Facebook. I was participating in their YouTube sprints, meeting other writers, showing up for them, and for myself.

But I still wasn’t publishing. I was still letting fear rule me.

I’d bought a publishing course for indie authors before, but I’ll be honest, I never finished it. I was a little reluctant to buy another one, but I knew I would get through Sarra’s course because I work best with accountability, and those weekly live Q&A sessions gave me the kick up the bum I needed to get the work done.

I’m not sure I would have been ready for it even a year before, but when I took Publish and Thrive back in August of 2022, I was in the process of setting up a newsletter and giving my scrappy blog a makeover. I was fiddling with things tweaking and gilding.

But the course had a huge impact on my mindset. The “Thrive” part of Publish and Thrive was absolutely what I needed to hear, and by the time the course was over, I’d set up the preorder for Book 1 of my series, which launched the following month.

The confidence I gained from this course was astounding, and I can’t wait to go through it again, knowing just that little bit more about being a published author.

Because that’s the best thing about Publish & Thrive—you get lifetime access, so you can join in over and over again, go through it at your own pace, or go back to lessons when they become more relevant to where you’re at. And you get access to any new content Sarra adds in the future, including her excellent masterclasses.

Sarra has been busy re-recording all the videos for the February 2023 round with new and updated content, and she is currently opening only one round of Publish and Thrive this year, so if you’re thinking about taking it, now’s the time.

I can’t emphasise enough how the live weekly Q&As motivated me and helped me realise I’m not alone in this. Writing can be a lonely business without community, so if you do nothing else with this post, please do yourself the favour of joining the Facebook group.

But if you can relate to my struggles if you’ve been putting off publishing until you’re better prepared, or your book is perfect, or you’re certain you won’t make any mistakes, there will never be a right time to publish. There will always be some reason to wait.

I know this because I’ve been there.

But now I’m here. On the other side.

I’m a published author, with a second book coming out tomorrow, and a third going into preorder. And those books are available everywhere. I have a steadily growing newsletter and even get emails from readers. I’m not quite living the dream yet, but I can feel it coming.

Now, it’s your turn.

I don’t endorse things often, but this course is without doubt the best investment I ever made in myself.

So, when I got the chance to become an affiliate, I jumped at it. It means that at no extra cost to you, should you decide to click on the link below and purchase the course, I’ll receive a commission for sending you in Sarra’s direction.

Trust me when I tell you that she will help you find yours.

Publish & Thrive

Registration closes on February 4th at noon EST (5pm GMT).

Gothic Christmas witch with amber eyes and fiery red hair

Here’s what’s included in the six-week course:

  • Live kick off call on 4th February
  • Weekly live Q&As at the end of each of the six modules (typically 2 hours)
  • Hours of videos for each module, unlocked one week at a time
  • Additional masterclasses
  • Workbooks
  • Past Q&A videos
  • Lifetime access (including new content as it’s added)
  • A private Facebook group for students

Topics covered:

  • Market research and preparing to publish your book
  • Publishing your book, including vendor upload walkthroughs
  • Running your author business
  • Marketing your books
  • Sustainability in self publishing
  • Successful author mindset
  • And more!

For more information, head over to the course page here.

Heart Breathings Links