Indie Pride Day 2018

Indie Pride Day 2018

Welcome to Indie Pride Day!

It’s big, it’s noisy, it’s multi-genre…it’s Indie Pride Day 2018, when independent and small press authors come together together to make noise about independently-published books and their general awesomeness.

Some people start wrinkling their noses about now, and asking things like: “Indie? Really? Can I, you know, actually buy your stuff anywhere?” or “Those all have those covers done in crayon, right?”

So I thought, for Indie Pride Day, I’d feature a few indie authors I know who write good stuff (you know, use a spell-check, for example) and whose books are free or under $2.00 for Pride Day.

You can check out some quality indie books, find out just how easy they are to get hold of and how addictive they can be, and then, after Pride Day, you can do us again.

#IndieBooksBeSeen

Mourning Cloak (Taurin’s Chosen, Book 1)

By Rabia Gale

Get it for 99 cents on Smashwords

A failed hero. A woman turned into a demon. Their second chance.

Kato Vorsok lost everything the day he was defeated at the gates of his enemy’s stronghold. Deserted by his god, estranged from his people and living in exile, he wants nothing to do with his old life.

Until the night he encounters a wounded mourning cloak, a demon who can walk through walls and spear a man’s heart with a fingernail.

She knows who he is. She speaks his dead wife’s name. And she needs his help.

Kato failed once. Can he fight again—and win?

5 stars:Mourning Cloak presents a startling and richly imagined world to puzzle through and explore.

5 stars:Deep world building, compelling characters and a plot that gets you right at the beginning.

Sci-fi and Fantasy / Dark Fantasy

Sci-fi / military adventure

Through the Hostage: Book 1 in the Cortii Universe

By J. C. Steel

Get it FREE on Smashwords with coupon code SS100

Khyria Ilan is a commander in the Cortii, the most elite mercenary organisation in known space. With a past she can’t remember, and commanders who would love to see her dead, her future is likely to be short: her command faces their ultimate test to prove their right to survive.

When the odds are impossible, sometimes the only thing to do is play the game…

5 stars:A world full of danger, mistrust and political power.”

5 stars: The world-building was out of this world (both literally and figuratively) and full of conflict and betrayal and suspicion and hostility.”

Of the Bauble

By Debbie McGowan

Get it for 99 cents on Smashwords

When nineteen-year-old Kieran O’Sullivan takes a trip to the attic for the Christmas decorations, it proves to be an illuminating experience.

Box includes:
– a hapless but not altogether helpless student
– a pedantic supernatural being (or two, or…well, quite a few)
– a funky older sister
– the coolest mum in the world
– a naughty rescue bunny and her easily led feline sidekick
– an insightful ex-girlfriend
– twinkle lights
– tinsel
– baubles

* Warning – may contain traces of magic and a smidgeon of social commentary (hey, it’s a book by Debbie McGowan – did you expect anything else?) *

Of the Bauble is a young adult, biromantic/non-binary fantasy romance.

5 stars:I love good young adult literature, especially if the protagonist is LGBTQIA and it’s not full of drama centered on homophobia.

5 stars:A really lovely book, with great characters and excellent characterization.

Fantasy / Romance

Contemporary fiction / shorts

Leaps of Faith: A Collection of Short Stories

By A. M. Leibowitz

Get it for 99 cents on Amazon

From Christmas to Easter and from childhood through the end of life, here are ten interconnected stories revolving around one couple and the people who love them. These are tales of friendship, family, sensuality, and all the intimate moments that make them who they are, together and apart. The stories, while standalone, also fill in the gaps before and around the events in the novels in the Passing on Fatih series. Included: a youth embraces his identity; two women build a life together; a former rebellious teen finds her way; a pair of lovers explore each other’s minds and bodies; a man copes with loss and grief.

5 stars:Everyday life stories transformed into something extraordinary by characters who are not often given voice or respect in literature.

5 stars: There’s humour – even in the bleak moments – and there’s sexy times too.”

Pilot: The First in the Crew Chronicles Series

By C. H. Clepitt

Get it for 96 cents on Amazon

It’s not easy being different, but when you have good friends and a supportive family even the scariest criminals can be taken down. Join Crew, in the first of a series of short story length Sci Fi adventures from the author of The Book of Abisan.

5 stars:Loved this fun and clever sci-fi story.

5 stars:An un-gendered, half-alien, poker-playing main character in a space ship, who wins a sex-dust-emitting fairy. OMG, give me more!

Sci-fi / fantasy

Mystery / thriller

The Vestals Conspiracy: A Mystery Thriller Novella

By Tomasz Chrusciel

Get it for $1.73 on Amazon

Nina Monte, a renowned professor of ancient religions, receives a cryptic message. Her former mentor and a prominent Italian archaeologist, Filippo Oliveri, needs her to come to Rome—he believes only Nina is capable of understanding the true significance of his new discovery.

But when she finally reaches the excavation site, Oliveri is gone. Instead, Nina comes across a series of clues that somehow connect an ancient prophecy, a mystical ritual, and a masterpiece of Michelangelo himself. But soon the magnitude of the discovery lures those who will stop at nothing to solve the mystery and, once and for all, silence everyone who stands in their way.

5 stars:Great detail, believable characters and plot. A great lead into a new series which I shall look forward to reading.

5 stars: It’s a fast-paced whirlwind of a journey centered around an intriguing archaeological mystery.”

A Book Geek

A Book Geek

Just what exactly would a book geek do, if one won the lottery?

Honestly, I might well start a bookstore. Except it would be an awesome bookstore. There would be a new section, a used book section, and there would be classes somewhere in book-binding, old-style press printing, and even manuscript illumination if I could find someone able to teach it. Papyrus-making. The works.

The bookstore part would look like a Hogwarts set, and there’d be tourist attractions like ‘Print your own “WANTED” poster!’ going on to lure people in and get them to buy books, read books, and play with books. There would be absolutely effing zero kitschy cushion displays and God-awful scented candles that smell of the wide-open chemical vats.

…I realised at this point in my daydream that I was probably a book geek. Possibly even a book junkie. Don’t judge me.

I got hooked very young. I remember reading those truly terrible ‘Learn to read’ books from Ladybird – ‘Peter and Jane saw a BUTTERFLY!!’ is permanently scarred into my long-term memory from those – before my third birthday. I’d graduated to Barbar the Elephant and Wind in the Willows before age four, and George MacDonald Fraser and J.R.R. Tolkien by seven (explains a lot, if you think about it…).

Not completely illogically, one of my few fond memories of boarding school was the library. First, it was generally avoided and abhorred by the cool kids, and as a bonus, it was full of books. It was also in the oldest part of the school, and had been put together sometime in the 1800s. Some of the books dated from then as well. Before anyone asks, if there were ghosts I never saw them.

To keep the books that weren’t actually antique, but were falling apart, in shape, a book binder would come in every so often, and open up a room which was normally locked. In there was all the paraphernalia needed to stitch and bind books, and if you showed a capacity to sit still and not break things, he would teach you book binding. Beyond the lure of being something to do with books that I hadn’t known existed, book-binding also wasn’t one of the school-approved ‘hobbies’ we had to spend 90 minutes doing on Saturday afternoons, like silk-painting, or photography. While it didn’t get me out of those, it did interest me much more.

Shortly after I met the book binder (dayum, there should be a horror story in that line), I started surreptitiously writing. Very surreptitiously, in the back of classrooms as the balled-up bits of paper and flying elastic bands of an orderly academic environment ricocheted around me, and under my covers by torchlight after lights-out.

These days, I publish my books electronically, and most of my readers buy them electronically, but I’ve never quite lost that fascination with seeing a heap of pages turn into orderly sheaves, get stitched together, and gradually get turned into a book.

E-book publishing 101: Amazon KDP

E-book publishing 101: Amazon KDP

In the beginning, there were the words

So you’ve got a book, a novella, an anthology or some other wonderful and unique permutation of the written word, and you’ve decided to publish independently. Good for you. This means you skidded exuberantly through a first draft, survived the long dark tea time of the soul known as editing, discovered just how bad MS Word spellcheck can be, found beta readers, revised their feedback into your Meisterwerk, edited some more, and you’re getting to the point of wondering WTF comes next.

Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, or Amazon KDP for those of us in the biz, is the one that comes immediately to mind. After all, Amazon is well-known, they’re everywhere, and best of all, they make it really easy for novice authors.

However, don’t forget that there are other options (yes, free to use). I’m also going to talk about Smashwords, Kobo, and Google Play in subsequent posts. These also all let you get your stuff out there, and take a very small percentage of your book price for it – no upfront costs.

Disclaimer – I publish with Amazon KDP, among others.

Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)

Bare essentials:

  • Working Internet browser
  • Word processing software, ditto functional.
  • Your Amazon user name and password, if you have them (no worries if not, you can set this up as you go).
  • Manuscript, ideally in Word .doc / .docx.
  • Your teaser / blurb / back cover text.
  • Book cover
    • For the love of all and any deities, if there’s one thing you’re going to splurge on, splurge on a professional cover. Seriously. Really. Don’t photograph your four-year-old niece’s really cute finger painting and then use MS Paint to stick a title on it. Go and find a good cover artist and get a cover that you can be proud of.
    • Read the KDP cover guidelines.
  • Your bank account details, including the international codes.
    • Probably your bank’s online help will give you this, but if not, give them a call and hold out for a human with a clue.
  • Your tax details
    • Amazon won’t pay you unless they know that you’re either paying tax in the States, or where you are paying it. (Go figure.) If you aren’t American, or lucky enough to live in a country with a tax relationship with the USA, this bit will get tedious. Fair warning.
  • A LOT of patience. Don’t rush this. Don’t hit ‘go’ before your book is set to be the best it can be.

Start here

Go and find the Amazon KDP site. Your first step will be to create your KDP account. They tell you how to do that in their Help section, so I won’t go into it again here. You’ll need that user name and password, your bank account details, and the tax details for this bit. (Oh, yeah – good luck. This is the most tedious, frustrating bit of the process.)

Once you’ve got your account set up with KDP, you need to click through to your Bookshelf. You’ll be faced with that ‘Create new title’ option. (Also, seriously, go and look at their ‘Getting started’ tips.)

Now we’re cooking…

Enter your book details. Hopefully by this point, you know your title, your own name (please don’t tell me if not), and you have some back blurb.

Don’t automatically go with ‘Enroll in Kindle Select’. The pros are that you get some promotional options, and people with Kindle Unlimited can read your stuff for free (yes, you still get paid), and this may make them more likely to take a flyer on you. The big con is…you can’t publish on any other platform while you’re in Kindle Select. Choose wisely.

Work your way through the options – they’ll be different for each book and author.

Categories and Keywords

Pick your two categories. I’d recommend one fairly generic catchall, and one category that’s a little smaller, so you aren’t #3,895,923 in both categories.

Spend a bit of thought on your keywords. These are your opportunity to grab the attention of a wider audience, beyond your categories. Is your work ‘character driven’? Is is a genre crossover with anything? What would you type into the search bar to find your book? Also, clearly, use all seven. It’s free publicity.

A good hack is to go and spy on other authors in your genre. What are their categories? Would they work for your book? Do they have any good keywords in their blurbs, or in their subtitles?

Between the covers

Now – upload your cover. Because you weren’t an idiot (right?), you read the cover guidelines and/or used a professional cover designer, and it meets the file type and formatting standards. Now you get to look at it, looking all official in your set up page.

I would stop right here and spend a moment gloating. Think of it as a reward for slogging through the mire of bank account and tax set up.

Next is the big bit. Now you upload your beautiful, formatted manuscript, complete with table of contents, copyright wording, the flowery dedication to the corner pub for the inspiration, your local café for letting you write all afternoon for one cup of coffee, your Great Aunt Mae for being your beta reader, etc., etc. If you did your homework, and read the formatting instructions, and did a reasonable job  on the editing (don’t skip editing. First, it makes you look like a cretin, and second, Amazon is bringing in the option for people to flag your book if it reads as if you just graduated elementary school), then it should upload nicely.

Look at it, admire it, CHECK IT

Now – preview your book. Yeah, we know, you spent all that time formatting it, and getting the table of contents just right was murder. Suck it up, princess. This is actually another gloatable moment, because…there’s your book, right there, looking like a real ebook. Flick through and make sure everything looks the way you thought it was going to look.

Now you get to click ‘Save and continue’.

Pricing and channels

Next page sets up your royalties and pricing.

Basically, Amazon lets you set up shop on their site for free. They make their money (as do you) when you sell a book. They charge you an amount from your book price based on some alchemy around storing and transferring your book file to the reader. All the rest is yours. Not a bad deal, compared to the pittance a traditional publisher will give you when they sell a copy of your book.

Pick your book price. Oddly enough, cheaper isn’t always better. (Yes, I am going to stand this up with some sources – patience, grasshopper.) For an average novel length (75K – 150k words, let’s say), the recommended price point for sales versus being taken seriously tends to be about $2.99 – $3.99 USD for most genres.

Who died and made me God? Here’s some articles on book pricing you can check out.

Then set up your royalties. I go for 70%, because eh, why not, but where you live, whether or not you enrolled in Kindle Select, etc., will all impact your options here. You can also decide if you’ll give people who buy your print book a free ebook version (assuming you do decide to go with a print copy).

Now…hit ‘Save and Publish’.

Congratulations, you’re a published author!

You can add it to your resumé. Actually, I recommend adding it to your resumé. And your LinkedIn. And tell your friends. Not to mention, Tweet all about it, and make a snazzy Instagram image or Pin it on Pinterest (I like Pablo by Buffer for creating nice images for Tweeting, Pinning, etc.), or whatever your social media vices of choice are. After all, no one will know about your book unless you tell them about it.

Who’d become a vampire hunter?

Who’d become a vampire hunter?

The ones who don’t stand by and do nothing

The crew of the Artemis are an eclectic bunch, but they have exactly one thing in common; they fight to save your ass from something you don’t even believe in.

Most people think that vampires are a European danger, bred in the slums of the Old World. It’s not a word commonly associated with the Caribbean. But near the Equator, day and night are predictable; darkness comes fast, and people come out after dark to enjoy the cooler air. It’s a vampire’s paradise – and before the land around the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico was divided by modern borders, it was better known as the Spanish Main.

Francis Hardy is Bahamian. Son and grandson of Islands fishermen, he’s lived on and near the water all his life, and he’s the public face of the Artemis when she’s ferrying rich tourists to see the beauties of the Bahamas.

Francis isn’t much given to talking about his past, or how he ended up leading a team of vampire hunters. If pressed, he’ll admit to having worked as the strongman in a floating circus when he was younger, but now he’s an old man in a profession that doesn’t generally lead to a pension.

  • Age: 48
  • Born: Commonwealth of the Bahamas
  • Height: 1.80 metres
  • Weight: 115 kg
  • Languages: English
  • Favourite food: Lamb curry
  • Never drinks: American beer
  • Music: Latin pop – Manu Chao is a top pick but then again so is Shakira
  • Quote: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself
  • Most often grumbles about: People who think the earth is flat
  • Personal quirk: Likes to know what’s in whatever he’s eating

Kim Marruci mixes a great cocktail, and she’s the favourite when the charterers want to learn to surf. She keeps a note in the log of how many bad pick up lines each charter group lays on her, and Francis calculates the ‘extras’ bill accordingly.

She was on an exchange year in California when she got news of of her brother’s death, and if he hadn’t left a package to be delivered to her in the event of his death, she would never have known how he died.

Rather than assuming he was doing drugs, or trying to sell it to a tabloid magazine, Kim walked into a hunter safehouse in Sint Maarten a week later and has never looked back.

  • Age: 24
  • Born: Italian Republic
  • Height: 1.69 metres
  • Weight: 64 kg
  • Languages: Italian, English
  • Favourite food: Sushi
  • Never drinks: Vodka
  • Music: Nordic heavy metal – Skalmold and Clickhaze are somewhere in all her playlists
  • Quote: “My eyes are up here.”
  • Most often grumbles about: Charterers
  • Personal quirk: Likes anything that smells of patchouli or sandalwood

Sean Kosinsky handles the barbecues on the beach and makes sure that the beer doesn’t stop flowing. Artemis is the first boat he’s ever dealt with smaller than a cruise liner, and learning to sail isn’t coming easily to him.

He was kidnapped out of his North Carolina college frat house when a clan master was looking for a new plaything, and only a very timely hunter raid on the shelter where he was being kept saved him from slavery or being Changed.

  • Age: 22
  • Born: United States of America
  • Height: 1.86 metres
  • Weight: 86 kg
  • Languages: US English
  • Favourite food: Poached eggs
  • Never drinks: Absinthe
  • Music: Anything from Mozart to Rachmaninoff
  • Quote: “Assuming direct control
  • Most often grumbles about: Boats
  • Personal quirk: Corrects everyone else’s log entries to US spelling

Mary Cox works as chef and tour administrator for Artemis‘s charter tours – and team medic the rest of the time.

She was studying medicine at Edinburgh University when she and a friend were attacked by a fledgling vampire on the way home one night. The hunters saved her life, but were too late for her friend. She and Francis have worked as a hunter team for over five years, which makes them the senior team in the area.

  • Age: 37
  • Born: Scotland, United Kingdom
  • Height: 1.58 metres
  • Weight: 57 kg
  • Languages: English
  • Favourite food: Hawaiian pizza
  • Never drinks: Whiskey
  • Music: Country and blues – Fats Domino is up often on her playlists
  • Quote: “When Robert Burns said ‘A man’s a man for a’that’, he’d never had to deal with charterers
  • Most often grumbles about: People grabbing plants and corals without checking if they’re poisonous
  • Personal quirk: Hates having to wear sunscreen

Jean Vignaud can handle Artemis under sail as well as Francis can, substitutes for Mary in the galley, and climbs the rigging the way most people climb the stairs to bed. Because he’s not a people person, he tends to work as a deckhand on cruises.

Because he rarely discusses anything more personal than the slogan on his T-shirt, the fact that he became a vampire during the reign of Charles IX of France isn’t commonly known. Why and how he chose to renounce being vampire is something even his partner doesn’t know, but his record on killing vampires is exceeded only by Francis’s.

  • Age: 463
  • Born: Kingdom of France
  • Height: 1.73 metres
  • Weight: 78 kg
  • Languages: Latin, French, Provencal, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, English
  • Favourite food: Ginger beef on Shanghai noodles
  • Never drinks: Smirnoff Ice
  • Music: Anything by Dire Straits
  • Quote: “Money for nothing is good.”
  • Most often grumbles about: Powerboats
  • Personal quirk: Rolls his own cigarettes but never usually smokes any of them

Cristina Perez-Batista can sail the Artemis, lead snorkelling tours, or teach charterers to surf behind a dinghy. She doesn’t like having to deal with people but fakes it well enough when she has to.

She jumped ship aged fourteen when her father decided to sail back to Europe, and lied about her age successfully enough to get jobs as crew for a few months before she was picked up ashore by enforcers under the aegis of a sub-clan of Changar. She managed to engineer her own escape and get far enough from where she was being held that Jean came across her before the enforcers did.

  • Age: Nearly 19
  • Born: Kingdom of Spain
  • Height: 1.66 metres
  • Weight: 65 kg
  • Languages: Spanish, English
  • Favourite food: Anything with seafood
  • Never drinks: Beer
  • Music: Anything but classical
  • Quote: “Work is the curse of the drinking classes.”
  • Most often grumbles about: People on boats who know nothing about boats
  • Personal quirk: Hates wearing shoes
Cortiian Word of the Week: Derian

Cortiian Word of the Week: Derian

Derian, pl. deriani

‘Derian’ is a very old Cortiian word, and it literally means ‘rider’. In wider use, it’s a generic title for any Cortiian, rather like ‘citizen’ in the Federated Planets Alliance.

The legend goes something like this; back in pre-spaceflight history, all Cortiians fought from horseback. (Depending on how much of a conspiracy theorist you are, you might see connections to the Earth traditions about ‘nightmare’ and any number of the old Celtic legends about a mounted hunt.)

In actual point of fact, reliable rumour and Cortiian archives indicate that that’s a lovely piece of romanticism, and about what a Central Worlds historian would come up with.

The original Cortii were a mercenary troop (making them, incidentally, the longest-operating mercenary force in human space), and they fought from whichever angle gave them the best advantage. If the shock and awe approach was needed, they would probably have sent in a mounted charge. On the other hand, try sneaking into a fortification on horseback.

However, as spaceflight became increasingly part of everyday life, space, ironically, became a luxury. Overpopulation on the Central Worlds planets, before the advent of population-wide contraception (and the First Colonial Fleet) made keeping large animals of any kind expensive. Space on stations was less of a problem in itself, but the volume of clean air required provided its own constraint. Larger spaceships mass more, and mass is what a drive moves…you get the picture.

Horses became a rarity.

After the First Sector War, the human governments decided that putting some brakes on the Cortii would be a good idea, and forbade recruiting, denied Cortiians interstellar citizenship, and otherwise tried all and any methods short of direct confrontation (which had been proven not to work very well).

By this point, the Cortii had a range of footholds across humanoid space. They declared themselves a separate category of humanoid (see genetic adaptation), and managed to argue that into law as a basis for self-governance.

At about this point, the Cortiian Councils began pushing the use of horses again. As a self-governing sub-species with multiple interstellar settlements, they now had the additional cachet of being a taboo topic in polite society. A few highly visible actions including full mounted units set off a rash of artwork, interactive entertainment shows, and educational programming that did a much better job of recruitment than any formal campaign ever would have, and the Cortiian governing body (the Councils) chose ‘derian’ as their appellation of choice.

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