Category Archives: publishing

On being social

I’m not afraid to admit it, nowadays: I’m an only child. Back when I was a child, in the 80s, it was a sort of novelty, us singular children– most of my friends had at least one sibling, and some had two or three more. It wasn’t until I was 10 that I even met another only child.

I didn’t mind being an only child, and it was only romanticized notions of siblinghood I longed for– the fantasies I had of a sister always revolved around the idea that she was close in age to me, and had my exact interests, and also thought I was super cool. I could have dug a sister like that.

As it was, I was one of those people who learned, early on, how to entertain myself. The kids on my block, my easy-access friends, had to go home for dinner just as I did, they went out of town, and church and the like, and so I was alone often. I like to differentiate between “alone” and “lonely.” Certainly I was the latter from time to time, but, truly, it was a rare occurrence. I was a voracious reader, and my parents were happy to indulge the obsession. I had bookshelves full to bursting, and was taken on frequent trips to the local library. I wrote, even from a young age, making friends of characters, and creating worlds and experiences for them.

I am an incredibly shy person. I’m not sure if it’s due to this alone-ness, or if I would have been naturally disposed to this personality even with a passel of siblings. At any rate, it is far easier to be shy when you’re okay with being alone– I can’t imagine being an extrovert who is painfully shy, the agony of wanting and needing social contact to feed your energy, yet being terrified of talking to others. That I garner my energy from quiet and solitude makes my shyness mostly inconsequential: it’s easy to never learn to swim when you live in a desert.

I have to say, though: all of this makes it hard to be sociable. I’m good with a person or two– I have a small group of good friends, people I feel know me well and I know them. I’ve met them through various channels– online, in class, at work, and living above me in an apartment. The thing is: it took awhile, and I am very poor at it.

Oddly enough, those who meet me tell me I’m outgoing and bubbly, talkative, and can’t believe that I’m painfully shy. I have been told pointblank that I’m not an introvert, that it’s not possible, because of how I react to people (which leads me to wonder: what is the appropriate behavior for an introvert in a social setting? To scream and duck? To sweat profusely and refuse to speak? I’m fairly certain, as an attribute, introversion would have fazed out of our DNA if it was truly that difficult to endure, but that’s a different topic). I’m a good actor, I suppose, or my anxiety drives me into some kind of stand-up comedy. I give a killer punchline while convincing myself that you hate me.

The internet is a blessing for people like me: you can meet people on your own turf and have time to figure out what to say and how to say it! No one can see you! You’re a genius with spellcheck! In the early days (back when we paid for AOL by the minute), I hopped into chatrooms and bulletin boards, and was quickly treated to my earliest dose of internet attacks. I was young, though, innocent still, so that I plugged along.

There was Diaryland, and Blogspot, when I got older, and then Livejournal. I participated on a couple boards for young and radical mothers, joined up on forums for writers and role players. I was, dare I say, POPULAR.

However, in the past few years, things have shifted. Perhaps it’s my age, and my inborn tendency to be stubborn, slowing me down. I feel like the crotchety old lady waving at the kids on her lawn. I DON’T UNDERSTAND THE NEW SOCIAL MEDIA. I can roll with Facebook, but apparently that’s for grandmas anyway. I’m okay with Twitter (and have some absurdly low join number, making me either elite or pathetic), and I’m moderately capable at Tumblr. Past that, I suck.

Social media is all about conversation, but, it feels to me, like walking into a room of strangers and having everyone stop and turn to look at you and wait for your introduction. “Hi, I’m Lorrie! My favorite book is… uh… I have one, I’m sure. Favorite movie? Um, that one, with the blonde…?”

My husband hangs out on Reddit, which appears a little like a crowded bar where the drink names are in a different language, and I can’t find the bathrooms. Goodreads groups confuse the hell out of me, with huge threads where the replies overlap and I’m genuinely afraid of making a fool of myself with my poor memory for what I’ve read in the past year, let alone my life (intellectual cred is much more difficult to fake).

I’m making an effort. I’m seeking out blogs now, something I’ve avoided over the years as the internet seemed overrun with them. It seems less threatening: even on blogs that garner a lot of comments, it’s as though I met up with the writer in the corner of a party and we’re sharing a laugh. It’s calming.

Being social on the internet is apparently one of my jobs now, in this writing and publishing gig. I feel a bit like I did when I changed schools at ten: nervous, and kind of nauseous. I’m myself, but also a brand, and I really REALLY want people to like me.

Hey, how about you leave some links for blogs you like in the comments? I’ll bring you a glass of wine and we’ll hide out by the garage door for a bit, take a breather from that party. I hope you like my jokes.


Hipster call to support indie publishing!

Now, listen here, you hipster. You put down that caffe crema and turn off that Dandelion Hands album, stop stroking your beard and reading Teju Cole, and focus on me.

You’re not a bad guy, Mr. Hipster. You like to support the indie spots in town – you visit the coffee shop that has no siren on its sign but prices even higher, with a pierced barista who refuses to smile; you still buy vinyl, from the punk store that employs the barista’s clone; you patronize the ancient barber down the block for your weekly hot neck shave; you even take your dollars to the bookstore run out of a decaying storefront that keeps a cat and sells more used books than new. You’re conscientious about how you use your money, to whom you pay, and what you support. You’ve contributed several Indie Go-Gos, Kickstarters, and GoFundMes for filmmakers, artists, bloggers and nostalgia generators alike. You’ve got good taste. Better than any of your friends.

So why are you still only reading books from the big six publishers? Go take a look at your bookshelf and jot down the names of the publishing houses for me. I’ll wait.

You’ve got Random House and Penguin on your list, don’t you? HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster? You missed Hachette and Macmillan, but my point is: out of those books you glanced over, only maybe one was from a small house (nope, that one you just wildly defended? That’s an imprint of Penguin). I’m not judging your reading selection – those are some really great books, and every writer deserves an income. That you pursue such a wide variety of authors and genres is quite commendable.

However (you knew there would be a however, right?), you’ve missed a beat. Where you strive to spend your dollars with businesses and people who, you feel, embody your beliefs more closely, by shopping locally, organically, and ethically, by giving more money directly to the producer of your goods, you’re not doing so with your reading.

There are more writers than books, truly, and definitely more than books that are published with the aforementioned publishing houses. For every book on the shelf by Jonathan Safran Foer, there are about a thousand other people typing madly in their ill-lit apartments and on their work latops, in coffee shops and on college campuses, in cushy studies and between two squalling babies. There are more stories than books published, too, more stories about fantastic new worlds and the drudgery of the same life troubles, characters with no vowels in their names and at least 654 named Mary.

But, you say, self-publishing has no regulation for quality! Any dumbass can write something and have it uploaded to Amazon in minutes, complete with a shitty cover and no editing!

Right you are. But, if you’ll remember, big name doesn’t equal quality. Remember Twilight? Remember 50 Shades of Grey?

Like anything indie, self- and independently-published works have a wide variety in quality. Indeed, some people finish a 50 page Word document, save it, and hit upload on Amazon with nary a thought for formatting, editing, or even spell-check. They make a cover in Paint. This appears on searches next to best-sellers, next to meticulously-created works.

Music the same way. Anyone can record a song on an iPhone nowadays, on a computer, and have it on the web in a few minutes. A Facebook fan page can be arranged before the file is finished formatting. A BandCamp site can be created with just a login and a credit card. This, of course, doesn’t mean that every band on BandCamp is shitty – far from it. Are there awful albums on the site, terrible sounds that can hardly be called music? Well of course.

Generally, you’re happy to give a band a listen, right, Mr. Hipster? If it’s not in the Top 40, you’ll check out a sample, maybe even throw in a buck to download. Indie bands and musicians helped change the face of how we listen and collect music as we know it. Napster, and everything that came after, made it easier to access bands that might not be able to afford a van to come to your state, or press CD’s to sell at shows, let alone ship to stores hundreds of miles away. The sounds of the world were suddenly in our reach. Big record labels were terrified.

Now we have hundreds of indie labels, ranging from companies created to curate some of the best rock bands, like Frenchkiss Records, to labels created specifically for a single artist to maintain and control their own vision of their music, like Ingrid Michaelson’s Cabin 24 Records.

Indie labels are celebrated in music. So why not your books?

Of course you’re going to have to sift through some stinkers. Not everything brought to print or digital is going to be worth your time. And of course it might take more time and effort than going to your local bookshop (even that one with the cat, hipster) and picking up whatever cover catches your eye. But isn’t some of the glory in finding something truly special, in being the person just that far ahead of the curve?

Writers, like artists, like musicians, work – long and hard hours crafting and creating engaging stories, and then even more time polishing them. Self- and independently-published authors continue working: in formatting and graphic design, in coding and advertising. From start to finished product, and well beyond – after all, once the book is published, the work of getting people to read it has just begun.

To appeal to your egalitarian side, Mr. Hipster, I want you to know: I hold no bitterness against the traditionally published, or, even the publishing houses that take them on. A large amount of the books I read, myself, are from those very lists. There is, indeed, often a reason these people were picked by Random House, by Penguin: they’re usually pretty damned good (and profitable, but that’s a different subject). You’re welcome to read them just like, in the securely closed confines of your house at night, you’re welcome to crank up your secret Maroon 5 albums. No one is taking your hipster cred for that.

But you’re going to lose points if you don’t put your money where your mouth is. Indie means indie, means supporting those who are doing the work, and getting more of your money to those creators. Indie means fostering the new and the interesting, and the weird, and demanding your right to it.

Think of it this way: would you be happy listening to only what the radios want play? Why should you be happy only reading what the publishing houses want to print?

You can get back to your espresso and iPod now, Mr. Hipster. I believe in you, even if I think you need to lose the beard.

This blog entry is mostly a work of satire, and should be taken tongue firmly in cheek. When I say mostly, I mean I wildly support the work of Teju Cole and other authors of his ilk, and I’ve been known to drink Starbucks. But I really do hate beards, and think you should buy more independent and self-published authors if you believe in supporting artists and progressive thought. Because duh.


Exclusive Excerpt: After Life Lessons – The Interlude

Have you read After Life Lessons yet? If so, I have a treat for you! A few weeks ago, L.C. Spoering and I released a little bonus collection of short stories called After Life Lessons – The Interlude. It’s just a bit of fun to tie us over between books, and to go into some details that we couldn’t fit into the tight structure of a novel.

And the best thing, newsletter subscribers can get it for free! Or you can buy on Amazon or Kobo. :)

 

Blurb

At long last, Emily, Aaron and Song have found a home on the small farm in Kentucky where Annika took them in. Knowing nothing of the trials and journeys that lie ahead of them, they can allow themselves to heal – in mind and body – as they become farmers and gatherers, as they become a family.

After Life Lessons – The Interlude offers nine snapshots of their lives from the perspectives of the different characters. It paints their present and digs up their past, and leads the reader through two years of rest, until Aaron, Emily and Song are ready for their next adventure in After Life Lessons – Book Two.

After Life Lessons – The Interlude contains scenes of graphic adult content.

 

Excerpt: After Life Lessons — The Interlude

Aaron.

The barn at the edge of the property is still in view of the house, looming large in front of what must have been a field years back and now sprouts weeds and wild flowers.

Annika doesn’t know if it’s sound, or if anything has been kept in it for decades. Inside, the light filters down through cracks and rotted holes in the roof; old birds’ nests perch feathered in the eaves. The whole building rattles with the wind, but my unprofessional inspections show it sturdy, termites unaware of its existence, just like the rest of the world.

We tied the horses up outside. The weather has mostly held recently, but we built a tent anyway, with a tarp unearthed from the cellar. The horses seem amused by this, as much as Song and Lani, who duck in and out to offer handfuls of grass to the horses in the heat of the sun.

They’re back at the house, now, for lunch and for school– Annika’s damned strict about school. I’ve been in the barn all morning, working on the roof, in the loft where it joins the wall. I’m not confident enough to climb up on the outside, and it doesn’t seem to need as much work as I feared.

Emily is worried about the floor, says it’s supposed to be softer for the horses’ delicate hoofs, but I figure we can worry about that once we have them secure. I don’t like thinking about them out there, tied up in the dark, presented like a buffet. We take turns watching them, unknotting their ropes, feeding them. It’s not a permanent solution.

In the long run, we’ll need a fence, too, a place for them to graze. There’s enough meadow behind the barn, but it’ll take some planning and a lot of wood, and some skills I’m not totally sure I possess. I think we’re all trying not to think about it. One step after the other.

From up here on the ladder, I can see her– Emily, heaving a can of water around the garden. It’s so heavy it seems to dislodge her hip as she leans away from its heft. She’s gained weight herself, and muscle, and, as she moves, her face arranges itself in that determined grimace I’ve grown to know.  It makes me smile, and I stop affixing patches to the holes in the roof. I am mostly hidden from view, so I indulge myself: she’s kind of impossibly cute like that.

She’s wearing jean shorts and a flannel shirt, red and way too big for her, so she’s knotted it around her stomach and in the crook of her arms. The rubber boots make her feet look unnaturally large as she trudges through the soft earth.

She likes the garden, keeps adding almost every day. Either she digs up new patches of earth, or tries to rally enthusiasm to find more crops in the neighboring properties. She’s good at it, too: she has that smile and the determination of a mother.

She eventually catches me watching her, and waves, and I wave back, only a little sheepish. I’ve tried to reason with myself, but mostly have given up– I’m allowed a few weeks, months, years, right? My arm’s barely healed, after all. A guy who faces death gets to moon over his pretty girl and act like an idiot for a fair amount of time after that.

When she moves my way, I climb carefully down the ladder. She’s got the bucket, still, and I assume she intends to water the horses, but I enjoy pretending she’s coming to see me anyway.

“You know it doesn’t have to be perfect, right?” she asks, that cheeky grin on her face, even as she peers up at the roof. “We just have to make room in there, give them a proper place.”

Her accent makes words sound like she’s gone and dug up a dictionary, even if I know they’re not special, or even unusual. Proper, from her mouth, sounds Shakespearean.

“Might as well do it right the first time,” I say, my own accent as jarring as ever next to hers, and I instinctively try to flatten it out, the way she tells me not to– it’s just something I do, out of habit.

She ducks under the stallion’s neck without letting go of the halter she took hold of. It brings her so close, I can smell her hair.

“Are you okay working up there?” she asks, her small hand sneaking up my shirt.

“Why wouldn’t I be?” I’m instantly distracted, and the mare whinnies behind me, like she can tell. We still haven’t given them names; Song and Lani can’t decide. It’s the first thing they’ve ever fought over.

“You know…” Emily pulls her shoulders up like a kitten. She looks sad, and then winces when the stallion tries to make a sudden grab for the water, biting mare and little one out of the way, and yanking at Emily’s arm.

“Are you worried about me?” I can’t help the sing-song my voice takes on, and she makes a face at me. I’m grinning again, as wide and dumb as ever. She pokes her tongue out, that cute pink thing, and I want to pull her close, get her away from those animals.

“Just… protective,” she smiles, but she’s distracted, restraining that damned horse. The barn can’t be finished soon enough where I’m concerned.

“Wanna come see how it’s going?” It’s transparent, very much so, and she snorts, and then laughs, looking over at the little horse.

“You need an inspection?” she asks, raising her eyebrows.

I look up towards the main house. Everything looks quiet; the kids are likely busy with their math and reading for another hour at least. It can’t be selfish, I reason; it makes sense in my head.

“Come on.” I take her hand. When she smiles the way she does, I wonder how in the world I got this lucky.

[...]

New Release: Trading Tides

Remember a few months ago, when I talked about writing this a lot? Well, Trading Tides is finally out now. And in order to celebrate the release, we have a new series edition cover for Driftwood Deeds as well! :D

Detail of female hands tied up

Remember Driftwood Deeds? Because you should definitely get a copy and read it, if I may say so myself, hehe – if just so that you can check out Trading Tides!

DriftwoodDeedssmallDriftwood Deeds
(Breaking in Waves #1)

Release Date: 9th December 2013

When journalist Iris Ellis visits a sleepy seaside town to interview recluse screenwriter Paul Archer, he offers her insights into never acted upon fantasies of dominance and submission. Too curious to deny herself a taste of them, Iris gives herself up to Paul’s gentle guidance, but when she realizes that a taste can never be enough, she must find the courage to ask for what she needs or risk losing it all.

Called a “gem for fans of BDSM romance and the perfect starting point for readers new to the genre” by RT Book Reviews, Driftwood Deeds is a novella of sexual awakening as well as consent and communication in bdsm.

Publisher: A Hotter State

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Or set the mood on the
Driftwood Deeds Pinterest Board and Playlist

DriftwoodDeedssmallTrading Tides
(Breaking in Waves #2)

Release Date: 17th July 2013

Love, they say, is magnified by absence.
After the dream-like quality of Iris’ visit at Paul’s sea-side home, she is back in the routine and drudgery of her city life. Struggling to put a label on what they have together, they phone and write letters, trying to sustain the flame, until they can make time to be in each other’s arms again. But once they are, how do you pull back into proportions a love so magnified it burns?

Publisher: A Hotter State

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Amazon.com \\ Amazon.co.uk \\ Amazon.de
B&N \\ Kobo \\ ARe Romance \\ Smashwords \\ Goodreads
Or set the mood on the
Trading Tides Pinterest Board and Playlist

 

Cover Art Adventures

As a writer, we’re supposed to hate and eschew clichés like vampires do garlic and crosses. They should make us shrivel and cringe, and sometimes they do. Sometimes they don’t and we reach right into that trow of overused phrases and sprinkle them around our prose, anyway.

Here’s one that I hate and that makes me cringe: Don’t judge a book by its cover.

Now, as a cliché (i.e. we’re not actually talking about books but about people) it doesn’t work because we all USE our “cover” to send messages. That’s why goths dress the way they do, and punks and why business-people wear all the same boring suits :) . I’ve grown up a fat chick with a pretty face, and like everybody else, of course,  I’ve always been aware of being judged by my looks, but just as aware of the messages my choices in clothes and make-up etc. send to people. That’s why we wear clothes. And even if we don’t care (and quite often I don’t, I just dress in what’s comfortable) that still sends a message that we’re the kind of people who don’t effing care what we look like when we go to the grocery store.

So I reject the cliché. Don’t be a superficial asshole, but also stop pretending like how we dress, what we say, how we act in public says NOTHING about us as people. Of course it says stuff about me. Not everything, by far. And most people may be inept at reading all those signals correctly, who knows, but there’s a correlation between a person and their “cover”.

I also reject the premise: There is also a correlation between a book and its cover. And it’s intricate and fascinating and it’s something to love and explore rather than just put off as superficial, image obsessed internet culture.

I love good covers. And I love the process, too. After writing, it’s kind of the funnest part of this whole publishing deal, and I have to admit, the fact that I get to design my own covers and work with artists and do all of that, is one of the biggest incentives for self-publishing for me. Because yeah, I don’t like that lack of control, leaving the public, outward representation of my work to people who aren’t me. I LOVE doing them, love the process of creating a cover that is not only pleasing to the eye, but also represents the content, the genre, the target audience, and yeah, your own brand. That’s fascinating stuff.

When By the Light of the Moon was first published, I did have some impact (i.e. I was asked to describe a few possibilities and I had the opportunity to suggest small alterations), but I was never happy the cover. I always felt slightly weird asking people to read my book, almost like I had to say “I know, I know what it looks like, but please…? Could you do that thing that I don’t believe in and reject, where you don’t judge the book by its cover?” And that’s an uncomfortable position to stand and to market yourself and your book from.

The re-release cover of By the Light of the Moon is different. I can fully stand behind it and say “I love this cover.” That doesn’t mean everybody will, or that it will connect with anyone who chances upon it, but I love it. I can stand with both feet on the ground, shoulders back, chin held high and promote it.
It took ages to get there, though (which is e.g. what a good cover says. It says that the publisher or author believes in the book enough to spend ages, or a lot of money working it out). I think I have at least 10 different cover mock-ups for By the Light of the Moon on my computer. And I don’t mean evolving ones (then we get into the hundreds), but complete separate ideas from completely different source images. In the end, the only one I sort of liked would have relied on a very expensive photograph and I just didn’t (and don’t) have 500 bucks to blow on a cover. So I went back to the drawing board and changed my tack. It’s fantasy, after all, maybe photography is the wrong way to go.

Landscape without Owain-wolfy.

Landscape without Owain-wolfy.

Now, I am very lucky to have grown up in a family of artists and so I could go to my grandmother (whom I chose because I thought her personal style resonated most with my writing and my ideas for a cover, and I still hope I didn’t somehow insult my grandfather by not asking him). And we talked a LOT. I told her about the book, about my ideas. She talked about painting proportions and constraints and in the end, she painted something that I liked, but that I also didn’t know how to use. It was a little too colorful, with too much going on and at first I completely despaired of ever getting this right.
In the end, and after soooo many attempts, I found a way to limit the color and the busyness of the painting (if you want to compare, I took out most of the reddish/purple hues from the dress, the sky etc. and pumped up the real red in her hair; I got rid of her hands and the shore at the bottom of the painting and yeah, in the end, I added a tree that wasn’t there for color contrast balance).

Roswit Balke, my grandmother, working on my beautiful cover.

Roswit Balke, my beautiful grandmother, working on my cover.

This time around, and for Lakeside #2, I could take all those experiences on board and give my grandmother a much better idea of what I needed. And I think it shows. I was there yesterday to look at the progress, and we sat together, talking, looking at pictures of wolves and drew one into different copies of the same painting. It was a lot of fun, but I look at the unfinished work, and I can already see, that i will have to work a LOT less hard to make this a cover. It’s basically already one, and all I have to do is add the title.

I write a lot about how writing is learning. Every day. But this stuff is as well, and I’m really grateful and appreciative of the lessons I am given and allowed to learn on this journey.

Owain-Wolfy is stalking the forest, making his way into the picture.

Owain-Wolfy is stalking the forest, making his way into the picture.

For me, getting really involved with my covers, is almost an extended part of the writing process. It allows me to translate the written word into a visual impression, it makes me think about what my books are, what they represent and how I want them to be seen and i love that part.

It doesn’t always work – i.e. for After Life Lessons, we chose a very calm and thoughtful cover because we did want people to judge the book by it. And still we get a lot feedback about the gory action-ridden zombie bonanza they expected (and didn’t find inside this very calm cover). But that’s all part of the learning process. And it’s all good. It’s all part of the fun.

 

PS: Just putting it out there. I am open to advising authors about covers or helping them realize their dream visual representation. So if you’re still looking for a cover artist and like my stuff, why not send me a quick email at laila@lailablake.com.

New Release: By the Light of the Moon (Lakeside #1) + Giveaway

Less than two months ago, we celebrated the release of After Life Lessons on April 8th 2014. It was a coincidence, the desire to hold fast to the traditional book release Tuesday, and a conscious disassociation with April Fools Day a week previous. It was, however, the one-year-anniversary of my very first book release.

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On April 8th 2013, Crimson Romance released By the Light of the Moon, and started something really important to me. We have since gone our separate ways, but I will never not be grateful for the opportunity they gave me – in particular the then editor Jennifer Lawler, who believed in me. It was difficult time for me, maybe the lowest of my life yet, and the fact that someone did – someone thought I was good enough to publish meant the world for me and shaped the way I’ve approached writing ever since.

The imprint changed over time, as everything does, and even before I submitted Book 2 in the Lakeside series, I had a feeling my writing didn’t fit in there anymore. In the end, we decided to part ways over creative differences regarding this series – which I wished to take away from a mostly romance trilogy and towards a more general fantasy story with a strong romance side-plot. I decided I was better off doing it myself, but my gratitude remains with Crimson Romance and the wonderful authors I met there.

The Revisions

From the first, even before the original publications, there were things I wanted to change. But the imprint was on a schedule, and I had been stupid enough to start submitting before I was 100% sold on my own manuscript. I was impatient and silly and never would have thought anyone would actually pick it up; I just wanted to be part of the game, you know?

But once it was published, unsurprisingly, it was exactly those issues that kept readers from enjoying the book to the extend they, and I wanted to: the beginning was too complicated, too slow. I’ve spent the last half year, on and off, over and over again, finding ways of unraveling the complications and speeding it up. I created artwork, edited out a host of errors and wrote a few new scenes.
Some of it was painful – like loosing the beautiful lesbian prologue between a Fae and her servant spy. But I think in the end, the book is much better for it.

The Content

By the Light of the Moon is the first book in a romantic paranormal fantasy trilogy, set in alternate history medieval times. It follows the life of a young noblewoman suffering from mental illness and ptsd, her forbidden love story with her shape-shifter guard and the sinister forces around her. It’s a story about magic and love and deception, and I can’t wait to finally promote it the way I always wanted to, to bring the trilogy to it’s conclusion.

Withdrawn and with a reputation for her strange, eccentric ways, young Lady Moira Rochmond is old to be unwed. Rumors say, she has been seen barefoot in the orchard, is awake all night in moon-struck rambles and sleeps all day. Some will even claim her ghostly pallor and aloof manner are signs of illness, of a curse or insanity.

The hopes of the peaceful succession to her father’s fief lie in an advantageous marriage. When a suitor does show interest, her family pushes for a decision.
Almost resigned to the fact that she has no choice but to play the part she has been given in life, Moira is faced with Owain.  A member of the mysterious Blaidyn creatures and a new guard in her father’s castle, he is specifically tasked to keep her safe. He is different from other people she knows and when one night under the full moon, she makes the acquaintance of the wolf who shares Owain’s soul, her life starts to change and to unravel.

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The Giveaway

As always, what fun would it be if I didn’t let you all enter to win something? a Rafflecopter giveaway

 Get your copy today and make a girl really really happy :)

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Release News Spring 2014

May is knocking on the door with — at least here in Cologne/Germany — a lot sunshine and birdsong. There hasn’t been much time for blogging recently, or maybe I just lacked that fire that always drives me to some issue-laden post about society and women and writing.  And so I let the thoughts percolate until the fire is back, but I still wanted to give you all a quick update on what has been going on this month and where we stand.

After Life Lessons

As you probably know by now — because we’ve been flogging it a lot — After Life Lessons finally came out earlier this month. With editing, formatting, graphics and review solicitation, it really took up the better parts of February and March in a way I wasn’t quite prepared for. But it’s finally out and work starts to taper off just as feedback is streaming in.
It’s actually doing quite well, better than we expected and we’ve had a lot of great support from readers and the overwhelming response was pretty damn positive.ALL400-6001

We expected that it would be hard sale, mixing zombies (which make people expect and hope for action and adventure) with both romance and more women’s fiction/general fiction elements that slow down the action and take the book to a place we enjoy. And while the responses have shown that there was some basis for this concern, they also proved that the majority of people followed us down this different path and largely enjoyed it very much.

We really are grateful for that leap of faith on the side of our readers.

On the side of actual news, we finalized the first draft of After Life Lessons – The Interlude this week. As we discussed before, it is a collection of 9 short stories told from various first person points of view (mainly Aaron and Emily, of course, but also Song and Annika). They showcast their lives in the 2 years they spend at the farm they find towards the end of After Life Lessons (Book One) and so bridge over nicely to the start of After Life Lessons (Book Two), which is where we plan to end the series.
After several rounds of editing and formatting, we will officially release After Life Lessons – The Interlude in July 2014. Friends and readers who sign up to our newsletter, will get it for free a little ahead of time.

 

Lakeside Series

BTLOTM -- color600x900After the rights to By the Light of the Moon were returned to me earlier this year and the book vanished from online retailers, I’m ready to release the revised and edited version next month, on May 27th 2014.

It was really a wonderful process to finally go back in and to fix some of those issues that I’ve been having with the book ever since I realized a publisher actually wanted it, but then it was too late. I gave the book a different start, changed some of the motivations and relationships. It’s essentially the same book, and I don’t think that readers of the original version will need to read this new one to follow the series onward, but I am a lot more proud of it the way it is now.

I’m about to move into formatting it and going through all the necessary steps to get it out there to you, but at the same time, I am also starting to edit Lakeside #2 – A Taste of Winter, which I hope to finally release in September or October (only a year after I originally hoped to release it).

To stay informed about those releases, you can also always sign up for the Lilt Literary release newsletter.

 

Breaking in Waves

Driftwood Deeds has been out for almost 5 months, and so it’s no big surprise that we are moving towards the release of the next installment. Trading Tides is currently with my lovely publisher A Hotter State and going through edits and other publishing processes. We hope to release it towards the end of June.tradingtides1

Trading Tides takes Iris back to her work in London and follows her experience of longing and difficulty in a distance relationship. At 35k, it’s a bit longer than Driftwood Deeds, but still just within novella parameters.

The last installment of the Breaking in Waves series should also come out sometimes towards the end of the year. It will be called Saltwater Skin, be told from Paul’s perspective and take both of them back to the sea and into a final HEA.

 

Other Releases

In terms of anthologies, I also have some new things to report. After Kristina Wright’s Best Erotic Romance in February and Shawna Kenney’s Book Lovers in March, I actually have a few new ones lined up that feature stories of mine.

Bossy – Five Productive Tales of Lesbian Lust, Harper Bliss (May)
A Princess Bound – Naughty Fairy Tales for Women, Kristina Wright (May/June)
Bound for Trouble – BDSM erotica for women, Alison Tyler (July)
The Big Book of Bondage, Rachel Kramer Bussel (July)

And in addition to that, Ladylit will release a small collection of just my lesbian short stories sometime this year. How exciting is that?

New Release: After Life Lessons

“Years ago Emily had believed that fear could be overcome by repetition, but now she knew that wasn’t true.” — After Life Lessons

This is not only true for zombies, it’s like that with book releases, too. Excitement, panic, joy. It doesn’t become lesser or easier, which seems like a fair trade.

This one, has a very special place in my heart for a number of reasons: it’s a work of friendship and love and synergy, and the creative process behind it was one of the most enjoyable aspects of writing I’ve ever done. It’s good not to be alone, to bounce off ideas, to encourage and care together.
ALL400-6001After Life Lessons is also my first self-published venture. It’s a step that scared me a lot less because I had Lorrie there with me, all the way. It meant being able to touch, feel, breathe every step of the process and now I’m tied to every part of this book and nothing has ever felt quite so much my own.

It’s a good feeling. And a nauseating one, because damn, it’s good to have someone to blame, just in case, hehe.

I’m proud of what we did with After Life Lessons, I’m proud of what it is; I’m proud that it’s different and everybody remarks upon that, I’m proud that it’s finally out and of the countless hours of work that went into it.

So after Lorrie blogged about this on the 8th. This is my own little belated Happy Release Day to myself. And I’ll get some cake and take a deep breath and accept that now is the time to let go of an obsession that driven me for months, that now, the book is yours, no longer mine.

If you’re here on my blog, that means something to me. That means this is reaching the right person: Thank you. Thank you for your support and your interest. And thank you for believing in this incredibly exciting time in publishing.

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo | Smashwords

Below, you’ll a video I recorded this morning and you can listen to the first chapter. I was a little bit sick, so excuse the voice, but I didn’t want to put it off any longer. I hope you enjoy. You can also read along to most of it here: Excerpt I

Reading Women Writers

What an awkward subject. I find myself feeling foolish for bringing it up – “reading women writers” – because, in 2014, shouldn’t this be a non-issue? I’m a woman, many of my friends are women, many of the writers I know personally are women. Given we make up roughly half the population, we should make up half of the books on the shelves, right?

I always forget how poor I am at math.

On average, women make up less than half of the published and promoted authors today – some arenas, even less than a quarter. Even looking through my own library recently, I was surprised (and ashamed) to discover that I own far more books by men than I do by women. 

I like to think I’m an enlightened person. My parents raised me to be a thinking, inquisitive member of the world. I like to read a variety of books, on a variety of subjects. I lean towards what’s generally known as lit fic, or upmarket fiction – stories about people being people and learning about other people. I’m a feminist and have been since before I understood there was such a thing – I was the kid who couldn’t believe anyone’s ability was defined by their sex. I support women’s rights, equality, and an elevated thought process for all.

How is it, then, that when I’m asked who my favorite writers are, they’re invariably men? When I think of my favorite books, they’re written by men. I realized, today, outside the teenage girl standby of loving Sylvia Plath (and those shameful Babysitters Club books of yore), I didn’t read another book by a woman until I was in high school and was given Pride and Prejudice.

In college, I was exposed to Margaret Atwood and Sandra Cisneros. I read books about the craft of writing, by Anne Lamott, Annie Dillard, and Natalie Goldberg. I had great inspiration in my favorite writing instructor, and the fantastic Catherine O’Neill Thorn, who mentored me for years. 

Yet, ask me books I’ve read, authors I’ve admired, and they’re all men.

I’m bothered by this on a fundamental level. I am not against men as writers, and I don’t think anyone would accuse me of that. Indeed, I love reading what others have crafted, and generally care very little about the person behind the work – I want something good, something interesting, something compelling. I may be rare in that I honestly think very little of the writer of books: outside reading more of a person’s writing, I never bother to find out their politics, their beliefs, their opinions. Hell, sometimes I barely remember names. 

What’s the issue then, you might ask. If all people are equally as interesting, then why does it matter who wrote the book?

The issue is this: if women aren’t read, then we’re only characters in someone else’s story. We’re not writing the words, we’re not telling the tales. Our lives, then, are lived out through the eyes of another person, a person who, as a male, cannot understand the actuality of living as a woman.

Does this mean men can’t write women (or the opposite)? Of course not. Some of my favorite books, about women, have been written by men, in a moving manner. However, only reading books by men is like only seeing half of a movie: you’re missing out on the other part of the story, the rest of it.

Publishing traditionally favors men. This is not the fault of modern male writers, obviously: this is inborn, and perpetuated in a scope that is rather hard to grasp. Equality still isn’t a full thing – women are still underpaid, and lacking in basic rights on a lot of levels. Our media still tends to heavily favor men. This means more books that are accepted for publishing are written by men, and more authors that are promoted are men. This, quite naturally, leads people to believe that men are the thought-makers, the story-tellers, the ones with something to say and greater talent with which to say it. It’s a vicious cycle, one that is self-perpetuating: publish a man, promote a man, think only men are capable, lather, rinse, repeat. Men sell more because there are more books by men to sell!

Women have a voice. Women have talents and thoughts, beliefs and interests, and we’re doing ourselves a disservice not to explore these, experience these, and make them a part of our own considerations as well.
Why, then, are women not published? See above: we’ve created a market that favors men. Do none of these men deserve this? Of course not: the great majority of published male authors earn their acclaim, through both talent of works, and sheer effort put into producing interesting reading.

It comes down to money. There is still a pervasive sexism that causes men’s works to sell more. I’ve met more than one man – often, thinking, thoughtful, intelligent men – who have said, point-blank, they don’t read books by women, and usually on purpose. Our media is slow moving: we’re still surprised when a woman can write a crime mystery – who wasn’t shocked to find out it was JK Rowling behind Robert Galbraith? Often, books penned by women are labeled “chick lit” or “women’s fiction,” pushing them out of the realm of “legitimate fiction” which is almost entirely populated by the likes of men.

There is nothing wrong with “chick lit” or “women’s fiction,” or the traditionally female-dominated genre of romance. However, that men get the simple, straight-forward, main genre of “fiction” and women, when allowed, are relegated to a second tier, a set-apart realm that, often, is meant to indicate lesser writing, is upsetting.
How do we go about changing this? Read women. It’s really oddly simple: read more women. The numbers are what drive change, so buy more books by women. Seek out stories penned by female authors.

I almost feel like I should add an apology here, or a reassurance: you can still read your favorite authors! Men are okay! But this is not about men, or padding the feelings of such. The majority does not need our assistance. The balance is gained by assisting the minority.

Read more women. It will do us all good.


Episode 4: Beta-Reading

lilt4

in which Laila and Lorrie discuss beta readers and beta reading – what to expect, how to facilitate the process and how to read the results.
(If the application doesn’t work for you, please click here for the audio-file!)

What about you? Have you had any good experiences beta-reading?
Or would you like to try and don’t quite know how to get involved in it? 
Credits:

Our intro music was taken from the Free Music Archive: 
GeeNerve - Pink Fish Signs (Take Two).

Filed under: Episodes