Friday, September 14, 2012

Celebrate with me! Giveaway!

Won't bore you with the details of success for my newest releases, so instead I'm doing a
giveaway to celebrate and encourage you to give them a boost into the Best Seller ranks. (LOKI'S
DAUGHTERS is just a few sales short of making the Historical Romance list.)


This giveaway is good until tonight at 10:00 pm. It will be repeated several times in the next
week so you can have lots of chances. You can enter only once per day, please.

1. FREE five copies of either LOKI'S DAUGHTERS OR FIRE DANCE to the first five people
who send me a valid email address to send it. Or if they've already got both and don't want a copy
to give to someone else, they can have a free copy of FAERIE when it releases on Oct. 9 (not
sure if it's possible to give FAERIE away before its release date).
2. I'll give away TEN $1 Amazon gift certificates to the first ten people who ask for those.
3. Any names received after these will go into a drawing pool for more books and more options.
4. ONLY IF YOU WANT, I will also sign you up for my newsletter. Or you can sign up on your
own by checking out the newsletter link on my blog,

Many thanks to all of you for your friendship and support!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Watching the Numbers

One thing I love about being an independent author as well as an Amazon Montlake author is the way I can watch the numbers pretty much as they happen. With my Indie books, I can see both their rankings and their sales numbers, although with the Montlake books I don't have the exact sales counts. But with the two combined, I can get a strong concept of sales as well as compare with what's happening in promotion and other influences.

In the long run, three days of statistics don't seem to say very much. But watching the movements for different books at the point when some new books have come out tells me a lot about how books sell, what might influence that, and what reader prefer.

Here's what intrigues me right now:

Yesterday: FIRE DANCE and LOKI'S DAUGHTERS were released. They started out a bit slow, but that didn't surprise me since each of those books has a long history and over 130,000 books in circulation. The sale started to mount, but didn't jump off the charts.This is kind of normal for my books, which usually start catching on once word of mouth gets going. There had been some sales the night before, too. But I don't know if those were pre-orders or if the book was already being delivered.

By the end of yesterday, LOKI was doing very well, with FIRE DANCE not quite keeping up. But interestingly, my other books were picking up steam. I did put up a new cover for HIS MAJESTY, THE PRINCE OF TOADS, which might account for some of the gain. And more surprising was the rise of FAERIE in the rankings, even though it hasn't been released yet.

Today: Rankings started the morning a little lower than they were the night before, but then started picking up steam again. FIRE DANCE started catching up with LOKI. But then I started watching the others. The last I looked, FAERIE pre-orders were moving into the range of my already released books, and all of those older releases except one were continuing to climb. Books that had been out several years and had dwindled to maybe a few sales a month were suddenly back in the ranks of real competitors. Will they stay there long?

I hadn't done much with those older books in the last few months, being so busy with the upcoming releases. And we all know that book sales almost always follow a standard bell curve, that varies in both length and height, according to the success of the book. So I mostly figured those books had done their jobs and would continue to sell mildly as people looked for the back list.

BUT: has that changed? I saw last year that four of my books, each in their turn, took off rapidly, reached a peak, then dropped off, only to repeat this pattern one to three times. Will there be yet another rise and fall? Just how much does the introduction of one new book affect the older ones?

Well, I don't know. But maybe we're about to find out.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Conflict in Our Fiction, Conflict in Our World

When I first learned two of my Montlake books would release on September 11, all kinds of emotions zinged through me. A very strange time for the excitement of releasing books. But I didn't ask to have my release date changed. Why? Wouldn't a less somber day be better? Maybe. But I think perhaps I have something to say. And fiction often gives us a safe way to explore painful things.

It's a day that will always bring me to my knees on its anniversary. It was a pivotal day that changed our world forever. Nearly three thousand people died as a result of those attacks.We've had eleven years of war, of vengeance, of sorrow, of pain. And we're not done yet. We will never be done.

An ancient Celtic depiction of warriors
I was still doing social work when I wrote these two books, and social workers deal with a lot of painful, ugly stuff. We might start doing the job thinking we have a lot of answers, but it isn't long before we realize we don't know much at all. But when I started writing fiction, I discovered that in making myself go inside the heads, becoming the characters I wrote,  I was gaining insight into people. I was learning in a different way why people do the things they do.
While LOKI'S DAUGHTERS began in the idle, silly musings of a stormy Sunday afternoon with two of my grown kids, I realized the world of a thousand years ago was a harsh one, full of violence, superstition, anger, death-not a funny place. Yet one thing I'd learned about people is that they don't just quit because life isn't fun. And somehow, even if only in the little moments, they find joy. They can turn the oddest things into humor. Gallows humor, it's often called.

I also realized I had two opposing groups of people, both groups (I was thinking originally of races) didn't know much about the other, and didn't think of their opponents as worthy of being called humans.  In a college course on Culture Clash, I had been told that when cultures meet, they clash. Both cultures have their belief systems, their world views, and it's not just a simple matter of talking things over and agreeing to disagree. A group that has different beliefs and actions is a threat to the other's way of life- to their life as a culture. And things can be pretty calm initially but later on as the cultures come closer together, the conflict usually increases. These days, one of the most obvious conflict is with the increasing numbers of Hispanics in the USA. As more contact occurs, more points of conflict occur. However we choose to look at it, there's an aspect and a feeling of threat on both sides. Maybe it gets easier in some ways, but in others it seems to get harder.

An artist's vision of the Battle of Hastings,
Norman against Anglo-Saxons
LOKI'S DAUGHTERS was once criticized because the reader thought the Celtic heroine should just get over it. Talk things out with the hero. She had a point. But in the real world, people have a very hard time letting that happen. There's often something just too deep, something we can't or don't want to let go of, that's getting in the way. That's because culture conflict goes so much deeper than what we admit on the surface. Arienh has this problem because she feels that accepting the invaders is a betrayal to all the relatives and friends who have been murdered. She has no idea that she hasn't finished grieving, and in fact has almost not begun, because she fears it so much. Prejudice is deeply rooted in us, and usually we don't see its real roots. We often choose to blame the surface conflict, which is often plenty adequate to cover our grievances. But that's barely scratching the surface. Underneath is the fear that our world, everything we know and love, how we do things, is all threatened with extinction. And on at least some level, that's usually true.

When I first published FIRE DANCE, I sent a copy to a friend in England, who read it. It deals with one of the most impacting events in English history, the Norman Conquest and settlement. She had a lot of comments, but the one that stuck with me was that she had a hard time sympathizing with the Norman hero because she was a direct descendant of Hereward the Wake, a famous leader of resistance against the Normans. (Read about him-he's fascinating.) Nine hundred years after the Conquest, people in England are still taking sides. But in their time, what the Normans did wasn't all that unusual. They saw, they conquered.

An artist's concept of the Battle of Stirling Bridge. 
Culture clash was as real a thousand years ago as it is today. Muslims and Christians don't do things the same way. As groups, each feels threats from the beliefs and actions of the other. The term Infidel  means far more than "unbeliever", and it's been around since the Crusades. Yet despite this seemingly impossible to surmount conflict, somehow people did begin to blend, meet, marry, get along. Not all of them, not all the time. But that's just as true today in most rather ordinary families.

How could the Celts, Angles and Saxons of the Dark Ages possibly have looked on the invaders from Norway, Sweden, Denmark as human when they saw their kin hacked to pieces or carried off to slavery? But if they'd had a good grasp on their own history, they might have known that their ancestors invaded the British Isles in pretty much the same way. They hadn't just pushed the original inhabitants into boats and said, "Go find someplace else to live". In fact, DNA testing shows that not many of those earliest people survive in today's gene pool.
The Duke of Wellington directs a vital assault
at the Battle of Waterloo 
Even not knowing that, probably the ordinary people of 9th century Britain were just farmers, gatherers and herders, and they weren't well-equipped to fight or resist attack. They just wanted to survive. And the invaders? Why did they think taking from the inhabitants was acceptable? One thing we're sure of is that the Northern people who came to the British Isle wouldn't have had much influence if they'd just raided and left. Their dramatic influence on everything from language and customs to genetics of the British people says they came to stay, not just raid. And in the end, they were really more like the Celts, Angles, Saxons and others than they were different.

So who's human and who's not? Why do our cultures enforce our beliefs that "we" are the good people and "they" are not worthy? In thousands of years, we have not solved this problem. Will we ever?

I don't know. Do you? What do you think? When will we all be human? I do believe, though, that through all their turmoil and pain, people as a group keep on being people. They do fall in love. They do learn to love. They do care about and help each other. Whatever happens around them, they don't stop living.

Monday, September 10, 2012

My Big Promo Ad!

I was going to post something else today, but this is what I got from Montlake, so I had to show it off!
Links don't work-it's for release tomorrow.

About Me

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I write write write. Sometimes I travel. Then I write some more. And I have a great family who understand that I write write write.