How to make lemonade and pre-orders and Los Nefilim

And no, the post is NOT about Beyoncé's visual album; although I will be keeping her grandmother's general theme of making lemonade. (My grandmother used to say the same thing about when life gives you lemons, make lemonade--it's a southern thing, get over it.)

OKAY! So things happened yesterday! The omnibus ebook edition of Los Nefilim hit the airwaves! And there was rejoicing and marketing and tweets and retweets and some small confusion over the print edition. This is where the lemonade comes in ...

The print edition will be published on June 14, 2016. I know some of you were disappointed, but we're going to make this delay work in our favor.

We're going to make lemonade.

Here is how:

Pre-orders help an author for many reasons. One: of course, it tells the publisher how many people are really interested in purchasing the novel and what kind of print-run they want to anticipate. Two: pre-orders count toward that first week of sales, which can sometimes make or break an author.

I will be using my time between now and June 14 to write blog posts and interviews and whatever I can do to help get the word out about Los Nefilim, but I can't do it without your help. I need noise, lots of loud and furious noise about Los Nefilim and much help in spreading the word about the upcoming print omnibus.

Reviews, excerpts, and interviews all help me. Shout-outs and recommendations on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Twitter, Reddit, and Facebook all go toward that noise, and I can't do it without you.

As we get closer to June, I will be running some contests and giveaways, but between now and June, please help me make some lemonade by getting out the word on Los Nefilim.

Estoy en deuda contigo,

T

Artistic expression as opposed to works written to market

A common fallacy in publication, and in music to be honest, is that artistic expression does not sell. I'm not here to give you polls, facts, and figures, but instead I want to give you a very tiny sampling of the differences between the two forms of expression so you can read them and see which appeals to you. I don't want it to appear as if I'm punching up or down at other authors; I'm going to use music lyrics to show you the difference in form.

The thing to remember here is that the more artistic song lyrics were bestsellers and so were the songs that were written to market. Neither style is right or wrong, because both styles are simply geared toward different audiences. 

A very brief note about the four selections: I'm writing this really fast, so I haven't explored all of the variations on this musical theme; however, the four selections are all men. Many, many female artists will fall on either the artistic or written to market side of the fence (see Beyoncé for artistic form as opposed to Donna Summers' 1980s and 1990s catalog for the lyrics to some of her highly marketable works).

The reason this sample is all male is because it is easier to search "boy bands," whose songs are almost entirely, without question, written to market.

As you read these, think about your own prose. This is, sort of, a self-test for you to take in your head. Ready? Here we go:

Artistic expression:

Dig if you will the picture
Of you and I engaged in a kiss
The sweat of your body covers me
Can you my darling
Can you picture this?

--When Doves Cry, Prince

Written to market:

Oh, I just wanna take you anywhere that you would like
We could go out any day, any night
Baby, I'll take you there, take you there
Baby, I'll take you there

--Kiss You, One Direction

Artistic expression:

Well you're dirty and sweet
Clad in black, don't look back and I love you
You're dirty and sweet, oh yeah
Well you're slim and you're weak
You've got the teeth of the hydra upon you
You're dirty sweet and you're my girl

--Bang a Gong, T. Rex

Written to market:

For all the times that you rain on my parade
And all the clubs you get in using my name
You think you broke my heart, oh, girl for goodness' sake
You think I'm crying on my own. Well, I ain't

--Love Yourself, Justin Bieber

So now that you have this information, what do you do with it? Again, think about your own prose and decide which kind of writer you are. In determining your style, you can better find and market your work to the appropriate audience. There is a market for artistic expression, and while you might have to work a little harder to get noticed, you can make your work artistic and marketable. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

And the world moved on ... Los Nefilim

I don't have a lot of clear memories from my childhood, but there are a few, and some of my best memories are the days, especially the nights, that I would spend with my grandmother. My grandparents had a farmhouse that they heated with a wood stove even though the rest of the house was wired for electricity. I remember snuggling down under a mountain of quilts with my grandmother beside me, and she would answer my hundreds of questions, or just listen to me talk.

The cool thing about Grandma was that she answered me like I was an adult; I always knew she would give it to me straight. She never told me to be quiet, or to not be so bossy, or any of the other things adults said to me when I was a child.

On one of those many evenings that we shared, she and I were in bed at my parents' house. I remember being so happy, and on that particular evening, I felt exceptionally safe and secure. I told her I hoped nothing ever changed. To my surprise, she laughed and said that everything changes, nothing stays the same forever, and that I needed to learn to change with the world around me.

To her surprise, I burst into tears, because I wanted to be six years old forever, and I wanted my grandmother to live forever, and of course, I wanted to feel safe forever. The thought of the world changing terrified me. The concept seemed unstable. Why change? Why disrupt happiness?

What I didn't understand then was I wanted the feeling of safety to last forever, not for the world to stay the same. But I was six, and as a child, I thought like a child, and my grandmother, well, she was so much wiser than me.

Nothing stays the same. In spite of our desires to freeze-frame life, the world moves on. Attitudes change, perceptions change, people change, and unlike the six year old child that I was, I now embrace change, even when it frightens me.

As I grew up and began to read, I happened upon R.A. MacAvoy's brilliant Damiano series in A Trio for Lute. Damiano is a witch, who loves his little town and his life there. When an army marches on his city, he takes it upon himself to make a deal with Satan, because Damiano wants to preserve his hometown exactly the way it is. Satan argues against the deal at first, telling Damiano that if his town doesn't experience privation and war, the city will likewise become stagnant and die. The devil's argument is that adversity leads to growth, a polemic that Damiano ultimately rejects, persisting in his desire to save the town.

As a condition of his bargain, Damiano is forced to leave his hometown, never to return, and by leaving, by experiencing the very change and adversity that he doesn't want to visit on his town, Damiano grows wiser and more worldly. In regards to the town: Satan was right. The world moved on, but the town did not. Peel back the layers of those three novels, there are metaphors there, the kind that I love.

As I became older and discovered adversity and grew through my pain, I began to truly understand my grandmother's wisdom. Everything changes. Nothing stays the same forever. The world moves on.

Not wanting to be left behind in the changing world, I learned to travel through books. Likewise, I write about people and cultures so that I might research them and gain a better understanding of the world in which I live.

In the process of trying to comprehend this ever evolving world, I wrote a novel, it didn't sell, and at the time I was very frustrated by that particular turn of events, but now, in hindsight, I am glad. In spite of all my research and numerous attempts to avoid tropes about gay men, I accidentally wrote those very tropes into that story without realizing it. If I get a chance to re-do the novel, I will, and I will do it differently.

The world moved on, and I listened and I learned.

However, I was so pleased with the characters from that novel, I wanted to resurrect them in a different way. The loveliest thing about embracing change means we get second chances, or as Diago likes to say, "Our incarnations change us."

When you read Los Nefilim, you see those characters, Diago, Miquel, and Guillermo, in a new form.

It's no longer Guillermo's story--I don't think it ever was. Diago Alvarez is my protagonist, and Diago is gay, so is Miquel. With these stories, I wanted to reverse the negative stereotypes of gay men that I had read about or seen on film. For a long time, these perverse images were all that were available and colored people's perceptions: the gay man always on the prowl for sex, or the prancing effeminate male, or the man dying of AIDS. Each of these stereotypes indicated that living as a gay man had terrible consequences. The not-so-subliminal message is that to be true to one's sexuality risks unhappiness, ridicule, and death.

Yet I knew gay men who lived happy fulfilled lives with caring partners. When I write about Diago's and Miquel's relationship, I am showing you what I have seen in my friends. Two men who love one another and are trying to work through life's everyday difficulties while remaining true to themselves.

You know, just like any other couple.

Well. There are a few differences ...

Welcome to Los Nefilim where Diago's world is changing around him, and he is struggling to keep up. He isn't entirely comfortable with his sexuality, but he has something very important in his life: close friends who love and accept him for who he is, not who he sleeps with, and a loving understanding partner, who wants nothing more than to protect him. It is love and acceptance that sustains a person through even the most violent changes, and in these opening novellas, Diago experiences quite a few of those, but he keeps getting up, a little taller each time, because adversity gives him the impetus to grow emotionally.

Collected together for the first time, the three novellas—In Midnight’s SilenceWithout Light or Guide, and The Second Death—brings to life the world of Los Nefilim, Spanish Nephilim that possess the power to harness music and light in the supernatural war between the angels and daimons. In 1931, Los Nefilim’s existence is shaken by the preternatural forces commanding them … and a half-breed caught in-between.

Diago Alvarez, a singular being of daimonic and angelic descent, is pulled into the ranks of Los Nefilim in order to protect his newly-found son. As an angelic war brews in the numinous realms, and Spain marches closer to civil war, the destiny of two worlds hangs on Diago’s actions. Yet it is the combined fates of his lover, Miquel, and his young son, Rafael, that weighs most heavily on his soul.

You see, the world moved on, and I listened and I learned, and when the opportunity arose to make critical changes to the story, I grabbed the chance. These novellas were an absolute joy to write. I hope you enjoy them half as much as I loved working on them.

Whether everyone is ready for a protagonist like Diago or not is still up in the air, but let me tell you something, I have no regrets.

The world moves on, and I listen and I learn, and I hope I never stop.

Saludos,

T

[Guest post]: An Excerpt from Final Flight: A Clockwork Dagger Story by Beth Cato

I'm delighted to share a release day with my fellow Harper Voyager Impulse author, Beth Cato. Nominated for a 2016 Nebula for her novella, Wings of Sorrow and Bone, Beth is both a dynamic author and a lovely person, who spins tales with fascinating characters in intriguing worlds.

And I have a portion of one of her stories for you today. In celebration of her latest release, I have a special treat for you: an excerpt from her Clockwork Dagger story, Final FlightAnother breathtaking short story from the author of The Clockwork Dagger and The Clockwork Crown, Final Flight is set in the same world of her Clockwork Dagger series.

Captain Hue hoped he was rid of his troubles once Octavia Leander and Alonzo Garrett disembarked from his airship Argus. But he was quickly proved wrong when his ship was commandeered by Caskentian soldiers. He is ordered on a covert and deadly mission by the smarmy Julius Corrado, an elite Clockwork Dagger.

Now Captain Hue must start a mutiny to regain control of his airship, which means putting his entire crew at risk—including his teenage son Sheridan. As the weather worsens and time runs out, it’ll take incredible bravery to bring the Argus down … perhaps for good.

Amazon     Barnes & Noble     HarperCollins     Kobo

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An excerpt of the very beginning of the story:

I stood at the rudder wheel of my airship Argus, in command of a ship I did not truly control. We flew north, destination unknown. A soldier stood several feet behind me. His pistols remained holstered—he wasn’t daft enough or desperate enough to fire a weapon in the control cabin of an operating airship—but he had already proven adept with his fists. My co-pilot, Ramsay, was currently getting patched up, as the sarcastic commentary he had offered was not kindly received.

Throughout the cabin, tension prickled beneath the surface like an invisible rash we couldn’t scratch. Everyone stood or sat rigid at their posts, gazes flickering between their gauges, the windows, and the soldiers in our midst. These were soldiers of our own kingdom of Caskentia, in green uniforms as vibrant as the sprawling valley below. They had occupied the Argus since that morning.

This was the second time in as many weeks that my airship had been commandeered. The previous time, rebellious settlers from the Waste had claimed it by force. I rather preferred them. Wasters made for an easy enemy after fifty years of intermittent warfare. This occupation by our own government was ugly in a different way.

My fists gripped the wheel as if I could leave impressions in the slick copper. The futility of our situation infuriated me. I couldn’t stop the Wasters before. And now I couldn’t stop this, whatever this mysterious errand was.

My son, Sheridan, was on board somewhere. I needed him to be safe, not snared in any more political drama. The Wasters had used him as a hostage to force my hand; I didn’t want these soldiers to do the same.

“Captain Hue, sir.” My co-pilot saluted as he entered the control cabin. I assessed him in a glance. Bandages plugged his swollen nose. Blood still thickened his thin brown moustache.

“You are well enough to resume your duties?” I asked.

“Yes, sir. I’ve felt worse after a night of leave.”

Ramsay knew his job; if only he could control his fool lips. I stepped back to grant him control of the rudder and leaned by his ear. “Corrado said this would be over in days. Bear through.”

I saw my own frustration mirrored in his eyes, and in the other crew as I walked from station to station. I muttered what assurance I could and exited the control cabin. I needed to find my boy.

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Like the start of the story? Read the whole thing for just 99-cents--and that includes the first chapter of Beth's novel out in August, Breath of Earth!

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Beth Cato is the author of the Clockwork Dagger steampunk fantasy series from Harper Voyager, which includes her Nebula-nominated novella Wings of Sorrow and Bone. Her short fiction is in Clockwork Phoenix 5, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Daily Science Fiction. She’s a Hanford, California native transplanted to the Arizona desert, where she lives with her husband, son, and requisite cat.

Follow her at BethCato.com and on Twitter at @BethCato.

I'm still here: taking care and trying for quality over quantity

Authors are just chock-full of advice about writing and publishing and commas.

Okay, we don't know shit about commas.

BUT we can swing a mean panel discussion on characterization, story-building, marketing your book, and how to manage a write-until-you-drop work schedule. As a matter of fact, push ... Push ... PUsh ... PUSH ... is mostly what you hear us say. And it is true that we often have to manage grueling schedules to get our work done.

What we don't talk about enough is self-care, which should be part of your writing routine.

I'll tell you a story--no, really, this one is true.

I went to the doctor recently for my annual checkup. My blood sugar was up, along with my weight, and all the things that come after a certain point in adulthood. I was exhausted all the time. I felt bad all the time, but I couldn't pinpoint the source of my malaise.

Some nights I went to bed at eight o'clock. My diet consisted of cereal at breakfast, and at lunch, of a sandwich, chips, and a candy bar. Often we had healthier fare at dinner, but I would either consume too much of it, or I'd be too tired to fix dinner, and we'd wind up going out to eat.

Last year, my doctor let me off with a warning. This year, he said I had to get it together. So I've been eating healthier food (cut out the chips and candy and reduced the carbs), and I started walking on a regular basis.

The walking takes time away from--you guessed it--writing. Yet I'm getting more quality writing done.

How does that work? you may ask.

And you may.

I'm staying up later in the evenings, because I have more energy. My brain is sharper, and I don't feel exhausted all the time.

Although taking care of myself has cut into the quantity of work in terms of blog posts, it has enhanced the quality of my writing. Please don't take this to mean that people who write quickly, or who produce a lot of works in a short amount of time aren't quality authors. There are an incredible number of factors that go into how much and quickly someone can produce a work. Some authors can easily produce two good books a year and several short stories.

It's just that I'm not one of those authors. Partly because of many factors beyond my control, but also because of the way I write and how I tend to edit as I go. Some days I can easily pump out four thousand words, and on other days, I consider it a victory if I manage some editing and two new sentences. It also helps me to step away from a manuscript or story for at least two weeks, maybe more, before coming back to it for the final edits.

My novella In Midnight's Silence was written at the end of 2014. During 2015, I wrote two novellas at approximately 33,000 words each, or the equivalent of a 90,000 word novel. Those words came quickly, because I already had the novellas mapped out when In Midnight's Silence sold to Harper Voyager Impulse. Those 96,000 words do not account for blog posts, interviews, and shorter works of fiction that I produced in order to promote both In Midnight's Silence and Without Light or Guide.

Things I didn't factor into my deadlines: a month of edits on the front end of a new novella and a month of promo on the back side of the gig. However, even knowing what I know now, I probably wouldn't have scheduled them differently. I wanted about six months between each work and with the help of Harper Voyager, it worked out beautifully.

Now that The Second Death is out in the world, I've been focusing on promotion and a new novel. All of these things consume a lot of my energy. Which sort of brings me back to taking care of myself. My free time is short, so I have to manage my time very carefully, and factor in that self-care. I do that by focusing on projects that pay, or projects that help me promote the novellas (i.e. blog posts and interviews). Since I am also involved at The Supernatural Underground, you will sometimes find my monthly post over there rather than here.

The point of all this is: I can't do all the things anymore, so sometimes those things, such as they are, will get quiet here at the blog; although not for long.

All this eating right and exercising more has helped my mental health, too. Walking is wonderful and frees my mind. I'm able to burn energy and quiet the voices in my head long enough to achieve a little peace and serenity in my brain. For me, that is a necessary and pivotal part of my mental health. My brain tends to run in overdrive 24/7 and I need to remember how to slow down and listen to the quiet.

I've also been reading more of other people's works, and that, in turn, helps me produce more quality work. Since I'm more alert, I've able to read more analytically. I learn by writing, but I also learn by reading quality books. I'll be talking about some of those books later. For now, I am enjoying them as a reader and a fan. I also want to write a Goodreads review for each book, because I think it is important to support other authors, and reviews, even a couple of sentences, can help someone else.

So that is where I have been and what I've been doing. I'm also working on a short story with the Los Nefilim characters, maybe one with Rafael since he is so many people's favorite. I've no shortage of ideas percolating in my busy brain, but I'm going to take care of myself so I can be around to write them.