Posts Tagged With: Young Adult

Some Blue Gentian Tweaking

Well, my first Blue Gentian experiment didn’t go that well.  My husband suggested that he didn’t think the book blurb was punchy enough, so I rewrote it to sound a little more scandalous.  No dice.  I kept it up for several months, but my sales dropped dramatically during that time.  Like, probably by half.

So, the old copy is back.  No surprises there, and isn’t it wonderful to be a self-published author where I can change things on a whim to see what happens?  And change it back in a snap when it’s wrong?

But, I’m still left with a book that I believe can sell better than it is currently.  So I have plans to tweak something else.

I was discussing the cover with my dad the other weekend, because I was really torn by the poll on which cover to use all those months ago.  Most people, including everyone who had read the book, liked the one I went with.  But everyone who was a fantasy reader liked the second one, with the girl in the hooded cloak.

“You should go with the one that the people who didn’t read it liked,” said my dad.

And it hit like a revelation that he was probably right.  I was thinking that because people knew the book, they would know what was representative of the book.  But what I really needed to be thinking about was not book representation, but book desirability.  Theoretically, the one that hooks and intrigues people who haven’t read the book is the one to go with.   A side I hadn’t considered, but ultimately saw the truth in.

Sometimes my dad is pretty brilliant.

Also, you guessed it.  Blue Gentian is getting a new cover, posted below.  I’ll leave it up for several months and see what we see on the sales.  I’ll report back when I have something to report.  Cross your fingers for me that this works.  I DO kinda love this new version…

blue gentian jpeg

I’m waiting for Amazon approvals before you can see it on the buying page, but I’ll let you know as soon as I know it’s live.  I’m thinking about running a new cover celebratory sale, too.  We’ll see.


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Self Publishing: The First Month – Amazon Ads

Self Publishing Update

So, I’ve now been the self-published author of a novel for a month.  Aside from the free promotion, I haven’t done anything except run ads via the Amazon system.  I feel like I’ve learned something? Maybe?

I think the book is doing pretty well, actually, for being a first novel in a genre that doesn’t typically sell in the indie market.  And for being a book with only four reviews.

I have sold 4 books since I ended the free promotion.  3 of those were hard copy and another 1 was a Kindle copy.  Kindle copies are where I make my money, so it was nice to have one.  The profit margin on the print book is slim (although not nothing, and I’m not really in this for the money anyway at this point).

I also had several Kindle Unlimited pages read, though that’s also hard to break down.  The reports tell me how many pages, since I get paid by the page.  But is it the same people re-picking up the book, or is it new readers?  We’ll never know…

My ads haven’t been working okay.  I’ve never written copy before, nor do I have any experience with advertising, so I’m being gentle with myself about it.  I’ll be rejiggering the ads today to make them better.

You may already know this, but with Kindle ads, you bid on a keyword.  If you’ve bid the most, whenever someone visits a book that’s classified under that keyword, they see your ad.  You pay if they click on it, otherwise it’s free.

I currently have 4 ads running.  On the first, I let Amazon pick my keywords. Hardly anyone has seen the book on this one – about 74.  On two other ads, I have about 450 people who have viewed it, but only one person on each ad has clicked on the ad and the report estimates I haven’t had any sales.  They don’t take Kindle Unlimited into account, though, so I think this might be where I’m getting some of those extra Kindle Unlimited pages from. On my third ad, about 650 people have seen it, but no one has clicked.

I ran the same exact keywords for all three ads I set up myself, so I’m not sure why everyone’s seeing the one and not the others.

So, I have two goals this month.  The first is to re-do the book description on the ad so it’s a little more punchy.  The second thing is to pick better keywords.  Right now, the ones I’m getting the most hits on are the names of other authors.  I plan to add in a greater swath of authors who I think write things that are like this book.  I’ll leave the Amazon auto-target ad alone, probably.

That’s a rundown of the basics.  In addition to redoing the ads, I’m considering a blog tour.  Most authors I’ve seen who have done it say they basically break even – they make about as much in book sales as they paid for the tour.  Still, I think it might be worth it for me from a review perspective.  The blog tour I’m considering would have 15 stops, so that would be 19 reviews on the book once I’m done if you add the ones that are already there.  I’d definitely consider buying a book with 19 reviews, where I’d look askance at 4.

That’s mostly all I have to say. For those who want to get into the nitty-gritty with me on the ad portion, I’ll post a little more detail below.

The book descriptions I went with on the ads are as follows:

  1. What do a spy, a runaway, a subversive print shop, and a queen have in common? Blue Gentian. You won’t be able to put this book down. (450-ish views)
  2. “Love at first page!” Looking for something new to read? You just found your next favorite epic fantasy with a strong female lead. (450-ish views)
  3. Traditional fantasy gets a makeover in this epic coming-of-age tale about leaving home to find it. You won’t be able to put this book down! (650-ish views)

I went with these descriptions partly because I read a book that told me that ads with “you” in them tend to do better than ads that don’t.

In this next cycle of ads, I intend to run descriptions 1 and 2, but not 3.  I also intend to run one that says “If Lord of the Rings and Little Women had a baby, Blue Gentian would be it. You’ll love this epic fantasy about leaving home to find it.”

I ran the following Keywords:

action, adventure, caravan, coming of age, council, epic, fantasy, female voice, gentian, healer, intrigue, kwed, little women, low magic, medicine, mission, notlimah, printing, queen, quest, shaman, spy, strong female lead, sword, tolkien, traditional fantasy, travel, travelers, traveling, wise woman, young adult

BY FAR Tolkien got me the most views.  Wise woman, shaman, and travel got me the next most, although I’m not sure travel is really doing for me what I’d like it to do.

This month I’ll add:

Shannon Hale, Le Guin, Dianna Wynne Jones, Chrestomanci, Uprooted, Naomi Novik, Wheel of Time, Rothfuss, Jane Austen, Jeff Wheeler, Veronica Roth, Sarah J. Maas, Harry Potter, Patricia C. Wrede

I may also take out some of the others that are probably deceptive (like travel), although it doesn’t cost me anything to bid unless the ad gets clicked on.  We’ll see where that gets me, and I’ll report back in another month!

Here we go…

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Kindle Free Deal Ending

Untitled design

Just a quick PSA to let you know that the Blue Gentian free deal is ending today.  Last chance to download this thing for nothing!  Tomorrow it goes up to $4.99.  Thank you! You may now return to your regularly scheduled Sunday.


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Blue Gentian Update

Untitled design

In case you’re curious…

First of all 77 people have downloaded or bought my book in the last two days, and I’m SO THRILLED.  That was better than I’d hoped for in my wildest dreams.  Thank you all for checking out my work.  This book has been a long time coming, and I’m so excited that you have my back.  I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

In other news (!!!), last night I hit #41 on the top 100 Free Bestseller list for Epic Fantasy, which I NEVER thought to do.  I expected that I wouldn’t break into the top 100 at all.  Although that’s my best number, I’ve broken 50 in all Blue Gentian’s other categories, too. Something else to throw a party about.

Lastly, if you haven’t downloaded your free copy yet, we’re halfway through the promotion.  Just two more days until the price goes back to $4.99.   This is your friendly reminder to get the book sooner rather than later.

And thank you again.  It’s a little scary to launch a book – will people even care?  Will they read it? Will they like it?  You’ve answered at least one of those questions for me with enthusiastic gusto.  I can’t tell you how much that means to me.  I know I’ve said it a bunch, but seriously – THANK YOU.

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Blue Gentian is officially out for publication, and I’m running it free for the next 5 days to thank you all for following me through this journey.  If you could please consider telling someone what you thought of it (especially consider reviewing it!) I would be the most grateful girl on the web.  Thanks in advance.

So what are you waiting for?  Go get your free copy!

Blue Gentian Cover - Final -


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Blue Gentian

Blue Gentian Cover - Final -

Well, thanks to Camp Nanowrimo, I finally have my act together on something.  It’s only been four days, but so far it’s given me the bit of a push I need to prioritize at least some of the writing.  Some days I don’t get much done, but it all adds up, right?  And at least I’m DOING something now…  We’ll see if that continues.

After much ado, I have some amazing news:

Blue Gentian is all formatted and ready to go.  I tweaked the cover a little bit font-wise, as you can see above, and the book will be available for pre-order on Amazon in a couple of days with a release date of August 1st.  I’m going to try and do a thing where at least one of those weeks is a week you can get the book for free (please consider leaving me an honest review if you do download for free). I decided a long time ago that I’m making writing career decisions based on getting lots of people to read my stuff and not based on monetary concerns.  After all, I have a day job.

To say I’m EXCITED would be an understatement.  I’ve been working on an iteration of this book since high school, and it’s finally here and as perfect as I can make it.  Those who have read it for me have been excited about it too.  I hope you’ll consider picking up the book when it goes live.

And thank you for following me here and paying attention to my writing.  It’s you as much as anyone that gave me the courage to get this book into the world.

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Book Review: Wolves of Mercy Falls (Shiver, Linger)


I fell so hard in love with The Raven Cycle books that I started following Maggie Stiefvater on Instagram and Tumblr.  Just so you know, her life is way cooler than yours (and mine).  I offer as evidence her explanation of a race between her and John Green, and their subsequent car fires.  I want to have car fires.  Or, rather, I’d like to have car fire stories I can tell after I’m home and safe.  Bonus points if I don’t actually have to have the car fire to begin with.

Yes, I know.  This is why I’m never going to be that cool.

But her awesomeness and my religion-like devotion to Blue and the boys meant that I needed to see if I had an awesome backlist to read.

The verdict?  While I’ll read the stuff she writes going forward (and maybe the Scorpio book?), I’m not terribly impressed with her older work.  I read the first two books of the Wolves of Mercy Falls series (Shiver and Linger), and I’m not sure if I’m going to read the last one.

The series has all the things it should to be amazing: beautiful writing, interesting characters.  It’s all danger, ice, snow, and wolves with some books and music and high school antics thrown in for good measure.  It’s like if all your fantasies of what Twilight should have been come true.

Except that for some reason the yummy ingredients make a flat cake.

You can see glimmers of the sassiness and truth that made Raven Boys such a gem, but the books never quite get there.  The best character in the whole series is Rachel, who gets very little screen time.  Grace, the main character, is too bland to inspire devotion and not bland enough that you can insert yourself on her without thinking about it too much.  The books are beautiful, but they lack profluence* in places as Stiefvater lingers on the relationship between Grace and Sam or on description. Plot twists are predictable.

I can forgive all those things, though. I have before for other authors.  I think the reason I can’t here is that there’s nothing new to grasp at, to make the other sins worth it.   It mostly feels like a series I’ve read before.  I like that series, I like that this is an ideal version of it, but in the end it has nothing to offer that I don’t already know.

That being said, I was interested enough to read the novels through pretty quickly.  The emotion she evokes in the books is genuine, and I found myself caring, if not about the characters, then about the outcome to their stories.  I will also say that the books won several awards, so I might be full of crap.

And, of course, as I’m looking at the book art to download the covers on the top of this blog I’m also seeing all the fan art and getting warm fuzzies about the series and the characters.

It’s a solid choice as a read, there are just other things out there with more to them.  I would recommend the Wolves of Mercy Falls books to people who haven’t read Twilight, and would heartily recommend the series instead of Twilight.  But if you’ve been down that road already, just go pick up Holly Black’s The Darkest Part of the Forest instead.  You’ll get more bang for your buck.  And if you haven’t read The Raven Cycle yet go do that IMMEDIATELY.


*Profluence: A term coined by John Gardener in his book “The Art of Fiction.” The sense that a plot is flowing, moving the reader continually and evenly toward a goal that is well planned; that we are getting somewhere.  It’s the way the cause-and-effect connective tissue that makes up a novel interacts with the overall plot and story arc.

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Halloween Reads

Halloween Books

Two blog posts in one week, you say?  I know.  I’m feeling like an overachiever.  Or maybe I’m just feeling like I don’t want to fix horrible rough drafts any longer.  I want to do some fun writing instead…

It’s almost October!  In fancy letters on my calendar for Saturday it says “Put up Halloween Decorations!!” So of course (always a slave to my calendar), I will be getting all the macabre things out of cabinets this weekend and putting them all over the house.  I’m very excited about it. Items are deeply tied to memories for me, so I will be thrilled to see the village go up, and the pumpkins collect on my bookshelves again as if they were old friends.

This has me thinking of Halloween reads, of course.  Even if it is 100 degrees here in California, I can still read creepy literature and eat cinnamon flavored things while lolling about in the air conditioning.  Here are some of my creepiest favorites so you can join me:

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black:

Tana wakes up from a party to realize that her entire high school has been murdered in the living room, and a vampire (who probably wasn’t responsible) is tied up in the back bedroom waiting certain death when the sun rises enough to come in the window.  Rescuing him brings her a world of trouble, especially when she agrees to enter a quarantined “Cold Town” where humans and monsters mingle in a nebulous line between predator and prey.  Getting in is easy, getting out impossible, and the whole thing will be broadcast as reality TV for the world – and Tana’s family – to watch.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman:

Neglected Coraline hates the new apartment her parents moved the family to, complete with creepy neighbors.  Until she discovers the door in the living room that leads to a utopian version of the life she hates, complete with mouse circus and perfect parents.  But then Coraline’s Other Mother asks her to stay.  All she has to do is let them sew buttons into her eyes…

The Diviners by Libba Bray:

Evie finds her small town too hot to handle when her ability to divine the past from touching personal objects means she knows a bit too much.  So her parents pack her off to her uncle in New York who runs the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult.  Evie is thrilled to be among the speakeasies, the Ziegfeld girls, and the opulence of the 1920s.  Until something calling himself Naughty John awakes and begins a spree of murdering that maybe only Evie and her pals can stop.

Edgar Allan Poe: Complete Tales and Poems by Edgar Allen Poe:

Seriously, this guy has the creepy thing down.  And he’s been the most consistent October read of mine.  I always sit down to some of his short stories in October.  There are a million collections out there, so pick one that looks good and read away (I pulled the linked one because it’s all of them).  My favorites are The Cask of Amontillado, the Fall of the House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum, I could go on forever… In fact, here:

Sunshine by Robin McKinley:

It was probably dangerous for Sunshine, baker extraordinaire at her step-dad’s diner, to drive out to the lake in the world post-war where everyone now knows that vampires and were-beasts are real.  She didn’t expect to be kidnapped and chained in a room with an imprisoned vampire.  She didn’t expect to be able to save them both, linking them inexplicably together.  And now she’s been drawn into the middle of an ancient vampire war that cannot be won, and she has to pretend it’s all fine lest she frighten the humans or attract the attention of the Feds who would certainly kill her allies.

Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale by Holly Black:

A dark Faerie tale in which Kaye, drifter and groupie for her semi-talented mother’s band, discovers she’s actually a changeling Pixie when they move back to her family home in New Jersey.  Kaye falls in love with the most dangerous knight in the evil Unseelie court, and now she must play a game of identities, both human and pixie, as she tries to keep herself from becoming the traditional Samhain sacrifice.

All links are Amazon Affiliate links.  Happy reading!!

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Books I’ve Drooled Over


The last time I did a summer reading challenge, it didn’t really work out that well.  It was the summer before I entered Chapman, the last summer I knew I might have some time before I was bogged down in scholarship 24/7, 365 (summer classes, man.  And winter interterm).  The challenge was to read ALL new books – nothing that I had ever read before.  For a gal who nurses comfort books like they’re going out of style, that was quite a challenge.  I managed it, but I read 37 books that summer and only 4 of them were books I loved enough for them to matter (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Watership Down, The Graveyard Book, and Of Plymouth Plantation, if you’re interested).

I have had much better luck with this challenge.  So far, of the eighteen books I’ve read, only 3 of them are books I didn’t love.  Several have been can’t-put-it-down all night reads.  These are the one’s I’m about to tell you about.  And recommend that you try them too.  Here they are:

The Wrath and The Dawn by Renée Ahdieh: I love fairy tale re-mixes, and I have been wanting an Arabian Nights tale for SO LONG.  I can’t even tell you.  I even thought about writing it myself, if I could get a concept figured out.  That’s how badly I wanted this thing.  And it’s here, in it’s perfect gilt package, and it is glorious.

First of all, Shazi is awesome.  She’s there to kill the king before he can kill her.  Who doesn’t love a super-spunky protagonist?  And then there’s also Khalid and his really horrible secret, and his hotness, and his hostile kingdom.  The world feels dangerous as well as beautiful, and it has a magical component that is so epically huge that it’s impossible to understand how much it influences the foundations of everything, because in the beginning it feels like it’s only for background atmosphere.

Shazi basically doesn’t get a good opportunity to kill the king for a while and then finds herself falling in love with him.  He also starts to fall in love with her, and then he has to make this horrible choice between her life or the entire kingdom.  They’re married, too, so there’s a lot of hot sexual tension (and sex, although not in any detail – it’s more that you know it’s happening in the cut-away), which is unusual for a YA novel.  But in the wings there is Khalid’s abusive father, a pregnant lady-in-waiting, Shazi’s failed magician father, her childhood crush who wants to rescue her, and a whole host of natural disaster.

My only real beef with the novel is that it’s a cliff-hanger.  Usually that’s a deal-breaker for me, but with this one it isn’t.  Instead of my usual ‘my God, guys – how much money do you want from me?’ attitude about cliff-hangers, I’m just ready to throw a party that there will be MORE (!!!).  This is the best thing I’ve read this summer.  It’s so good I might even read everything Renée Ahdieh writes for the rest of her/my life.  All I can say is that the next one better come out soon or I may die of waiting.

The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han: In this book, Belly goes with her mother every summer to live in Aunt Susannah’s beach house (not her real aunt, but her mother’s college roommate).  It’s just the moms and the kids in the house most of the time – Belly, her brother, and Susannah’s two boys.  The husbands are present only in small days, in glimpses and weekends.  Only this summer everything is different.  The boys that Belly has had a crush on for as long as she can remember seem to have a crush on her back.  There’s a bittersweet feeling that they’re growing up and this summer might be the last one; and then they get positive evidence that yes, this is the last.  This is it.  It all will end.

I do not know how Jenny Han captured my childhood so completely, but she did.  We used to spend huge chunks of the summer on the Southern Maine coast – first at my grandfather’s house in Biddeford Pool and then at my Aunt’s house on Gooserocks Beach.  When my grandfather had a house, Aunt Nancy used to rent hers.  She and Uncle Dennis would move out for the month we were there, leaving Alysson and Leah behind – five girls in a tiny two-bedroom cottage sharing three beds and a pull-out couch.  If two people were in the bathroom, one of them was standing in the shower.  Those are some of my fondest memories, all of us stacked together, running free in the ocean and playing house on the granite rocks.  This book captures that, and all the losses in between when we knew how bad the property taxes were, and we too knew it was all ending, too.

One of my favorite things about Jenny Han’s books is that I always end up rooting for the guy the main character doesn’t get together with at the end.  I think it’s a testament to how real her characters are, and how flawed.  People always look more perfect when you don’t know them as well, don’t they?  I love that I can’t count on anything with her.  Everything is a surprise, even while it feels like something I’ve already lived.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz: This is basically a book about a friendship that blossoms into a deep love over the span of about two years.  Dante and Ari meet at the swimming pool one summer, and they become inseparable after that.  They’re as different as they can be on the outside, but on the inside they’re the same.  Neither of them has come from a wealthy background.  Ari has a brother who was sent to prison, a father who fought in Vietnam, and a propensity to talk about nothing at all.  Dante feels the deep burden of being an only child, wants to talk about everything, and is friendly but friendless.

It’s a good story.  A coming of age thing where both boys are trying desperately to figure out who they are and if they can live with who they are.  I couldn’t stop thinking about it because of the plot.  But what I really fell in love with was the writing.  Sáenz starts off using very simple language, easy thoughts and plenty of juvenile tags to the letters and journals he samples from both boys.  But as their lives deepen, so does the writing style.  And his use of imagery and foreshadowing made me thing of Fante’s masterpiece “Ask The Dust.”  With the added benefit that I didn’t want to murder any of the protagonists for being whiny like I did when I read Fante. It’s a beautiful thing.

Saving Maddie by Varian Johnson: I picked up Johnson’s novel because I liked “The Great Greene Heist” so much.  I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t this.  Joshua is the preacher’s son, and is reunited with his childhood crush Maddie (a preacher’s daughter with a bad-girl image) when she comes back to town to stay with her aunt.  I think I was expecting it to be this thing where she’s bad and he succumbs to it while renouncing his faith or something.  I was expecting drama and drugs and high school hijinks.

Instead I got this lovely story about dichotomies and assumptions.  Maddie struggles with who she is vs who she’s told she should be, and what attempting to live up to her label has cost her.  Joshua learns to have opinions, to rely on more than his parents, to find a deeper faith through reason and questioning.  Both of them learn that parents aren’t perfect, even the good ones, and that love doesn’t really trump all.  Not when there are so many other things in play.  The whole book is a fight about good and bad, and if we can really assign those titles to anyone without knowing the full story.  With some bonus making out to keep things steamy, of course.

I think what I like most about this novel, though, is that it gave me a different perspective on the world.  It felt like my own in a lot of ways, but Joshua’s life centered around things that are foreign to me.  My horizons were broadened. And that was the point of this whole exercise in the first place, wasn’t it?

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It’s Clarion Time Again


I am participating in the Clarion Writeathon again.  I’m probably participating because I’m a dreamer.  Six weeks in San Diego writing for your life with an amazing group of people sounds like the best kind of experience.  I live through it vicariously every year.  Right now, I cannot go – even if I could manage to get in.  There is no way I can take six weeks off from my job and still have a job to return to.  The mortgage doesn’t like that very much.

But some day, I will get there.  I will need a scholarship when I do. So really, I’m just paying it forward in small increments. Consider donating a bit to help us all out?  Every bit helps, and who knows… maybe you will also be funding yourself for someday.  Or join and write with me.  That’s the best kind of participation there is.  My profile is here:

As part of the writeathon, I’m planning on putting the novel up on Wattpad for anyone to read.  I wasn’t sure I should do this, but I’m a big proponent of the fact that if you’re asking people to fund you for writing, they should be able to see said writing.  The Beta draft isn’t done yet, so I’ll be editing as I post.  I’m hoping to post a chapter per weekday, and it will be here:  First eight chapters are already up.

When it’s all done, I plan to put out a call for more concrete feedback.  Like I said, I’m not under any illusions that this thing is finished.  I think it’s SUPER close, though.  Draft 9, for those who are counting…  And please, please, please – if you have comments on how to improve the novel don’t hesitate to tell me.

Just a brief synopsis, and then I’m done.

Okay, I lied.  I also want to thank you a million times over for reading this blog, and for reading my stuff.  I get a little emotional when I realize how many of you there are now.  You’re amazing.

NOW I’ll post they synopsis:

Blue Gentian

Blue Gentian:

Salya has a talent for healing, a deep sense of tradition, and a love for the mountain path she travels every day with the band of traders that is her family.  But on the night she announces her Handcalling, when she dedicates her life to becoming a healer to replace her Grandmother, she finds a boy named Bren unconscious and bleeding by the stream.

While nursing Bren, Salya discovers that he is a spy with information that will save the life of the queen of Kwedregiol. Now she is faced with a decision: she can let Bren journey to the white city, alone and wounded. Or she can go with Bren, abandoning her life as a healer, in the scant hope that they will be able to save the kingdom before the assassins strike.

Something you’re interested in? Here’s that link again:

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