Sons of Devils is Out today!

Those of you who’ve known me a while will have seen me blog about this book and Angels of Istanbul, its sequel, for years. I know there are folks out there who want to see epic historical fantasy where the protagonists are queer, but the story is not about the queerness – the story is about the protagonists having badass adventures and saving the world.

There are folks who are tired of queerness being considered a talking point or an obstacle to get over, and who just want novels where queer characters’ sexuality is treated the same way straight characters’ sexuality is treated. Namely, it’s an important part of their character, but it’s not going to get in the way of the adventure.

That’s what this is.

Yes, there’s a love story. Yes, it influences the plot. But you could say the same thing of Star Wars without deciding that Star Wars was therefore a romance.

What this actually is, is my homage to Dracula, where I kept everything I liked about Dracula (Romania, the UST between Dracula and Jonathan Harker) and turned it up to eleven. Then I dropped everything I didn’t like (rainy Victorian Britain, het romance) and added the Ottoman Empire. Everything’s better with the Ottoman Empire.

Anyway. To all those people who said they wanted to see queer literature that was (a) not about coming out or dying, (b) not limited to romance, here it is. I hope you like it!

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British scholar Frank Carew is in Wallachia to study the magic generator on nobleman Radu Vacarescu’s land. There, his party is attacked by bandits and his friends are killed. Pursued by a vampiric figure, he flees to Radu’s castle for help.

Unfortunately, this is precisely where the vampires came from. If allowed, they would feed unchecked and spread their undeath across the whole Earth, but Radu maintains a shaky control over them and keeps them penned in his tiny corner of the country.

As Frank recovers from his assault, Radu finds himself falling for the young man. But loving Frank and not wanting to lose him leaves Radu vulnerable to his demons’ demands. Can he bear to let them feed on the man he loves? Or must he give in to their blackmail and set them free to feast on his entire country?

You can get it here

Or join me on the virtual tour to hear more:

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RIP Samhain, Long Live the Samhain Backlist

This morning, Samhain’s website has gone dark, only redirecting to a farewell page. It’s the end of an era but not the end of the world. Having had notice, and feeling too fuzzy-headed to write, but capable of doing a bit of light administrative work, I spent the last two weeks reformatting the five books of my Samhain backlist and making new cover art, so that I could make them available on Amazon and Kobo immediately, and in paperback asap.

The paperbacks are also formatted and uploaded, but I’m waiting for Createspace to deliver proof copies to me so I can check they’re okay before I finally press the ‘publish’ button.

One bonus of this crash course in formatting for paperback is that Lioness of Cygnus Five should also be made available in print at the same time. The proofs are in the post, so it shouldn’t be long.

Unfortunately I haven’t yet had a rights reversion letter from Samhain, so I can’t put the ebooks up today after all. But they’re working through the authors alphabetically and I’m a B, so I hope it’ll be in the next fortnight or so.

In the mean time, I really need to re-do my website with the new covers!

Speaking of new covers, here they are:

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Plus, I liked the cover for The Reluctant Berserker so much that I’m keeping it, so that one still looks like this:

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Watch this space for when I can make them available again. As I say, I hope it will be soon.

How to make simple but effective cover art

With Samhain closing its doors, hundreds of authors are now wondering what to do with their backlists. I’ve been busily making mock-ups for new cover art for my own books, and I thought this might be a good time to repost this “Absolute basics of making your own cover art” post. Learning how to use a photoshop-type program like Gimp takes a long time and a lot of effort, so if you’re reasonably well off but short on time, I think your best option is probably to buy your Samhain covers, or pay a professional to make new ones. If you’re short on money but long on time, however, this might be the point to teach yourself how to make book covers.

First of all, go to http://www.gimp.org/ and download The GIMP. (This stands for “GNU Image Manipulation Program” and has nothing to do with leatherwear unless you want it to.) The Gimp is almost as powerful as Photoshop, more than capable of allowing you to make highly professional book covers, yet totally free.

It’s also offputtingly complicated and has no user manual, but who cares about that, right? 🙂

So, today let’s make a cover for a book which you are going to upload to Smashwords. Smashwords likes its book covers to be 2400 pixels tall by 1600 pixels wide. If you want to make a cover for Amazon, you’ll need to check what dimensions they recommend and use those instead.

Read the rest of this entry »

Samhain Publishing to close on the 28th

So, in an email that went out to Samhain authors this morning we were asked to keep this confidential, but as it’s already out in the public here on The Digital Reader I think that part of it is moot.

Samhain has just announced that they will in fact finally be closing on 28th of February (ie in 18 days time.)

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If you’re a Samhain reader who’s been storing their books in Samhain’s cloud, this would be the time to download them to your own hard storage so that you don’t lose them the way readers lost books they bought with All Romance Ebooks.

Authors are getting their rights back once the closure has happened, and I intend to reformat my books and self-publish them as soon as I can. But as you know, I’m still recovering from an operation and I have a deadline for a new manuscript which I intend to turn in first, so it may be some time before I can get around to re-launching my backlist in print.

(Ebooks may be faster, depending on availability of cover art. I’m looking into buying some of my covers back from them. All the haggling with the artist that went on to make the cover of The Reluctant Berserker as authentic as possible was in my view 100% worth it, and if I can possibly keep that one I will. It’s gorgeous. But otherwise, making new cover art is quite fun, though laborious.)

If there’s a book of mine you haven’t already bought, but were idly thinking of getting on some future day when you felt like it, let me know and I’ll prioritize my re-release list to get to those ones first. But if I can beg a favour, I would ask you to hold on a little longer and get them from me, rather than buying them from Samhain now. On a callously monetary basis, I will recieve much more of the royalties if you buy from me than if you buy from them – and you will probably get the book cheaper too.

My royalties from Samhain halved during this last year, so I am quite pleased at the prospect of having my rights back from them, but I’m still sad about this. They were an excellent publisher while it lasted – which is why they have so much of my backlist. There was a time when, in my view, they were the best m/m publisher out there. The genre will be poorer without them.

It does seem to me that the m/m publishing boom has finally burst. This may yet have its good side, in that the people who leaped on the bandwagon because m/m seemed like the place to get easy sales will find somewhere else to go, and we’ll be left with the people for whom it actually has meaning. I think that’s been quietly self-selecting inside the genre for a long time anyway.

tl/dr

Download your Samhain books to your own storage now. They’ll be gone on the 28th.

Foxglove Copse now available for pre-order

Well, provisionally, following my surgery I am more or less happy to declare that I am not dead yet 🙂

I’ve also come out of the hospital to news that the Porthkennack series is now available for pre-order.

A complete change of pace from the historical-fantasy of the Arising books, the Porthkennack series is a shared universe series, where several authors write stories based in the same location. In this case, the location is a small seaside town in Cornwall, and the ‘several authors’ are me, Joanna Chambers, Charlie Cochrane, Garrett Leigh, and JL Merrow. Each book is a standalone, but locations and some characters may be shared between them. (You’ll find Garrett’s Brix from Blood Rush has a walk on part in my Foxglove Copse, for example.)

The series is planned to contain mostly contemporary novels, but with a few historicals thrown in for background. I’ll be writing one of the historicals for the second wave, but my first novel in the series is the contemporary Foxglove Copse in which eco-traveler Sam Atkins and local boy Ruan Gwynn investigate what looks like a nasty bit of cultic activity on Ruan’s aunt’s farm.

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Blurb:

After a massive anxiety attack, Sam Atkins left his high-powered job in the City and committed himself to life on the road in a small van. Six months in, he’s running out of savings and coming to the conclusion that he might have to go home to his emotionally abusive family.

Needing time to think, he takes a walk through a copse by the Cornish roadside, only to stumble upon the body of a ritualistically killed sheep. As he’s trying to work out what the symbols around the animal mean, the sheep’s owner, Jennifer, and her nephew, Ruan Gwynn, come upon him.

Ruan is a kind-hearted young man with a large supportive clan, and since he and Sam feel almost instant attraction, he doesn’t want to believe Sam is a sheep-killing cultist. In fact, the moment he lays eyes on Sam’s miserable solitary life, he wants to rescue the man. But as the killings escalate, he and Sam need to stop whoever is actually to blame before they can concentrate on saving each other.

Foxglove Copse available here for preorder

And if you would like to read the rest of the Porthkennack books, you can find them here on the collection page.

Meanwhile, I hope to soon be fit enough to start writing again on my second novel for the series, which is the first Age of Sail novel I’ve done for a good long time, and is currently five chapters long out of a planned thirty.

Captain’s Surrender Paperback

The proof arrived this morning and was a joy to behold, so I have okayed it, and you should now be able to buy a paperback of the new edition.

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I don’t know how long it will take until it’s available on Amazon or other retailers, but it should be available right now on the Createspace website here. (From which I may say I get the maximum royalties 😉 )

Now that I know that worked, one of my projects for the new year will be to do a paperback version of Lioness of Cygnus 5. (The last time I tried, I got a doorstop of a book 600 odd pages long because it was doublespaced with extra spaces between paragraphs throughout. This time I will do it properly, reformatting everything and then cutting and pasting each chapter individually into the template.

It is, I have to say, worth it. The new version of Captain’s Surrender is a very good looking book, with a nice large text size that makes it easy to read even without your glasses. Very professional! I am pleased.

On other news, I have finally started work on Contraband Hearts – the second of my Porthkennack books. This is going to be an Age of Sail book from me! A new one, after all hope was lost. It’s not going to be a naval one, though – this one is smuggler versus Customs officer, with some wrecking, some mining and some pilchard fishing just for local colour.

Subject to my health, the plan for this year is:

  • Blog posts for the Arising series release tour
  • Write Contraband Hearts and get it to Riptide before August.
  • Edit Foxglove Copse
  • Release Lioness of Cygnus Five in paperback.
  • Edit Heart of Cygnus Five and release in ebook and paperback
  • Edit Waters of the Deep (sequel to The Wages of Sin) and release in ebook format
  • Edit Pride of Cygnus Five and release in ebook and paperback
  • Write something else – possibly a Trowchester murder mystery book. Or – if I don’t have time after everything else – the third Jasper and Charles story, so I can bundle Wages of Sin, Waters of the deep and Torments of the Damned into an anthology of Unquiet Spirits novellas.

Ideally I would like to get back to the point where I have a ratio of one book in need of editing to one book in first draft stage. My concentration on producing new stuff in 2016 has left me with a serious second draft/editing backlog.

Interesting times

Well, what an interesting year 2016 was, (in the sense of ‘may you live in interesting times.) My father died in February. We had always had a rocky relationship, and making sure he was cared for in his final two years, when he was suffering from dementia, was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. 2014-2015 brought the rest of my dysfunctional family back into my life in a big way too, putting me in their spotlight in a way I hadn’t had to endure before. I soon discovered I was not going to make it without help, and I put myself into therapy to try to make myself into the sort of person who could cope with this.

It was a year’s course of therapy, and how I wish I’d done it earlier! I learned that I had the right to say ‘no’ to my sisters. This did result in one of them deciding never to speak to me again – but after the months of weeping and raging over the rejection had settled, I discovered that I didn’t actually want to talk to her much either. So I am actually quite proud of her for making a move that did us both good, in the long term. Our family had always caused us pain – let it end, then.

And I’m sad to say that when my Dad died this year, that also came as a relief. I debated not saying this, because it’s not the sort of thing you’re allowed to say about your family. But then I remembered that this was also the year in which I promised myself I would stop being silent, and I decided I would say it after all.

I loved him – all my life I wanted his approval and raged because it seemed to me that although he loved me, he profoundly wanted me to be someone else (and therefore he didn’t love me at all.) Although the last two years almost killed me – literally, the stress symptoms were wild – I’m thankful that we had them, so that (maybe) he could see that my refusal to take money from him was because I didn’t need to be paid to love him, and so that I could see that his insistence on trying to give me money was because it was the only way he knew of to express love.

(We fought a lot about money. Dad used it as a way to gain power over people, and to accept it was to accept a position of subserviance. Everyone could be bought, but he didn’t think there was anything wrong in that – it was just the way his world worked. He honestly couldn’t conceive of anyone doing anything for any motive other than money. My writing was a mystery to him, when I could have earned much more in almost any other job.)

I also had the chance to finally get to know him as one adult to another. It amazed me to see in him the self same anxiety and depression I had been suffering all my life, and that my daughter now shares. It was an eye opener to realize that he too was maybe not entirely responsible for the workings of his own brain – that the desperate thing that whines and batters itself against the closed windows of the inside of my head was in him too. I wish he’d been able to have therapy too, before it was too late. It would have helped him. But he would have laughed for scorn at the very idea. I never told him about my own.

I never told him about his trans grandson. He would have ridiculed us both if I had, and so he never saw his grandson as he truly was… and now I’m just making myself sad.

In February my father died, and after the funeral I went through six months of feeling liberated; I felt wary – waiting for the other shoe to drop – and guilty for not feeling any real grief. (By contrast, when my mum died I felt like the world had ended and it was not to be rebuilt for two full years.)

I don’t know whether I’m a terrible person, or whether dad reaped what he sowed in raising us the way he did. But 2016 has been for me the first year ever when I have not been wrung like a dishrag with anxiety about my family of birth. I have felt hopeful and balanced and strong as a person for the first time ever. I even looked forward to Christmas with no fear that I would get everything wrong and be disowned. It was very odd.

But the world is not like a story, and every time you think you’ve got to a satisfying conclusion something new comes along to throw you back into a state of human turmoil. 2016 was also the year when I found a lump in my abdomen, which has grown rapidly to the point where I now look 6 months pregnant. On 1st February 2017 I will go in for a hysterectomy, at which point we will find out what it is. Is it a huge fibroid? Is it something more sinister? We just don’t know.

And then of course there is the state of the world. I doubt that 2017 is going to be better than 2016, with Trump as president, and Brexit on the way. The future is full of dread.

But even as I say that, I remember that my major lesson in 2016 was that nothing quite turns out the way you expect. The Lord has given me strength to get through two years where I wanted to die. He brought me through without being broken, and enabled me to treat my father as well as I could and make the end of his life as bearable as I could, even though I was terrified of him.

I guess I’ve learned not to look too far ahead. The future may be full of dread, but the present is full of warm electric light and the sparkle of the holographic stars with which I’ve decorated my walls. Good came out of the evil that I endured in the past, and if there is evil to be endured in the future, I have God’s promise that he can bring good out of that too. In the mean time I am counting my blessings while I have them, because I’m beginning to see that the present moment is all I really have.

End of year sale

Just a quick post to say that along with lots of other brilliant bargains, Labyrinth, Blessed Isle and The Crimson Outlaw are available for 99c in Riptide’s end of year sale. Scoop ’em up for cheap while you can ;)*

*if you want them and don’t already have them, of course. I don’t want to make assumptions.

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Given that the Arising books are coming out soon, you might be interested in The Crimson Outlaw. While I was writing Sons of Devils (the first in the Arising series) I found myself wanting to fanfic myself by shipping Radu with Cesar. I’m not entirely sure how that turned into the story of young Vali and his adventures with Mihai the bandit, but the workings of inspiration are a mysterious thing. What can I say? I really liked the Romanian setting and wanted to use it more. It’s distinctly odd that this one came out so long before the book that inspired it, but they belong together, thematically.

The Crimson Outlaw also has the distinction of being a Romanian story entirely without vampires. I don’t know why, but that amuses me.

The light shines in the darkness

and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:5)

A bible reading which I am finding reassuring in these times 🙂

I made a Christmas card thinking ‘ha, this is funny. It’s a marine but it looks like Santa, so it’s really appropriate for me:

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But then I thought ‘yet how festive are the redcoats, really, when your audience contains many people for whom they were the enemy? We’re talking about a wish for peace on Earth here!’

So I made another one which was a little less risky:

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Happy Christmas or other seasonal festival, or just general happiness for those who don’t celebrate anything at this time!

Cover Art reveal for Angels of Istanbul

In a little while I’ll be able to put this on my own site, but for the moment you can only see it here:

Angels of Istanbul cover art on Night Owl Romance. Isn’t that lovely? I will admit that I head-canoned Frank as being played by Tom Hiddleston in his Wallander days, and the resemblance is definitely striking 🙂 I can’t wait to put up both covers, as they look extra nice next to each other.

There were other things I was going to say when I opened this blog post to write it, but I can’t now remember what they were. Other than to mention that in honour of Rogue One the next Age of Sail book is going to open with Perry writing a letter home to his mother (who is still alive) and feature a dashing smuggler character who (when he is on shore) lives with his mother (who is still alive.) As a mother myself, I’m tired of being thought of as inconvenient and dispensible for the hero’s journey.

My temporary title for the next Age of Sail book – which will be book two of the books I’ve been asked to write for the Porthkennack series – is Contraband Hearts. Which clues you in to the smuggling theme, but is possibly a little cheesy. It may not be coming out under that title. Watch this space 😉

later…

….Oh, that was it! I also wanted to let everyone know that Captain’s Surrender and Lioness of Cygnus Five, plus all my other self-pubbed books were now available on Nook and Kobo for those who don’t like Amazon. I’m also going to put them on Smashwords when I’m not befuddled with Christmas, and print will be available as soon as I get through the proofing stage.

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