Tuesday, November 29, 2011

New buy button!

This is for all you authors who've been wanting an official NCP buy button for your page. Just copy and use!


Free writing advice

Authors from the online community seem to have the attitude that free advice is worthless and will pay for advice from people who know nothing -or very little- and have no experience- or very little- and disregard tips from published, experienced authors.  However, in the days before the internet it was the published authors in writers’ groups who freely offered writing and marketing tips to the unpublished or recently published and helped them advance their careers. 

This is free advice/writing/marketing tips from a multi-published author who has had around a hundred works published, sold thousands of copies of various titles and, sadly, had many, many thousands of copies of her titles pirated.   As frustrating and downright infuriating as it is to have your work pirated, having nearly a half million copies of one of your stories pirated is proof that that particular book is extremely marketable- but I’ll get to that later.  

The idea, naturally enough, is THE most important step.  As multi-published author Joan Johnston said at one of the conferences/seminars I once attended, a good idea isn’t good enough.  If the idea you come up with isn’t fantastic, fabulous, something to get you so excited you can’t wait to get to work on it, then it probably isn’t worth doing because the chances are that it isn’t going to grab readers.  Marketable is an idea that is so fresh and original and exciting that READERS can’t wait to get their hands on it. 

This part is tricky.  By fresh and original and exciting, I mean a new twist on a theme with a proven track record.  Occasionally- rarely- an author comes up with an idea that’s so fresh and original that it’s untried, and that sort of idea is very iffy.  It may grab readers and it may not.  Safe is to take themes that are timeless classics—Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, sex slave, abduction …. If you’re a big reader, and you should be, then you’re already familiar with the themes that get you excited and, if you’ve done your homework, you’ve seen that these have such a huge appeal that they tend to shoot to the top of the bestselling lists over and over.  Your writing ‘voice’ will give it freshness, but don’t rely too heavily on that.  You need to come up with new twists that make it more original and exciting and yet remain within the confines of what readers go for. 

Author Dean Koontz said that a professional writer is someone who writes what the market is looking for.  He’s written books in almost every genre and keeps a careful watch on the market.  Rather than sticking to his favorite genre in the face of certain failure, he writes what will sell or is selling—and then returns to his favorite when the market opens up.  In other words, if vampires are ‘out’ this year, you might want to shelve that vampire book you just wrote, wait for a better time to release it, and focus on the ‘flavor of the month’—what is selling?  Any author who wants to be successful needs to watch the market and see what is selling—and act accordingly.  It’s easier than ever for authors to track the trends. 

In the days before the booming internet market and ebooks, the process from writing to publication often took years and that made it hard for authors to keep track of the pulse of the market.  Typically, an author would take months writing a book, months or years to sell the book, and then sit back and wait another year to two before the book hit the market.  The print books hit the stores, had one month to sell, and then any unsold copies ended in the dumpster when the next month’s releases hit the shelves. 

Now, with the internet and ebook publication, an author can usually see their work in publication within six months of contracting on the work and it will stay long enough to make as many sales as it can make.  However, here’s a hard fact—a book that doesn’t ‘take off’ straight out of release isn’t going to.  Persistent marketing can result in a reasonable return over time, but the story either grabs hold of readers or it doesn’t.  If it doesn’t, you’re stuck with a long drawn out search for a handful of sales that will take years to amount to anything even close to a reasonable return for your effort.  I’m not suggesting you throw up your hands and give up on that poor, lonely child.  You put a lot of hard work into it and it’s worth the struggle to get a few more sales each month, but you need to accept that there is something ‘lacking’ there.  Somehow you failed to produce a marketable book and a new cover, new title—new everything isn’t going to make it marketable. 
* * * *
Next step—you’ve come up with a red hot story idea that you know in your bones is going to shoot to the top of the bestselling list and stay there.  Where do you start? 

This is AS critical as the story idea you just came up with.  Writers inexperienced in writing professional grade pieces seem to be convinced that they MUST throw in all of their background before they/the reader can get in to the story.  They worked HARD on their character profiles and background. 

BIG mistake!  In fact, the worst mistake a writer can make.  You have to grab your reader’s attention immediately—preferably INSTANTLY.  The first line, the first paragraph, the first page is where you grab your reader.  OK, that’s old school.  The chances are that, the way readers have become conditioned to instant gratification, if you haven’t grabbed them by the end of the first paragraph, you’ve lost them and if you do that, you’ve lost the sale. 

So as anxious as you may be to jump right into the story, now’s the time to plot.  The place to begin the story is in the middle of the action.  Don’t waste time setting it up.  Jump in.  What event is the catalyst for the story?  The abduction?  The murder?  The first shot of the war?  A chance encounter? 

Whatever that event is, THAT is where you start.  ‘Once upon a time’ doesn’t get it anymore.  Try to think of a first line that will grab the reader’s attention and tell them immediately that ‘things’ are happening and they’re in for a hell of a ride. 

The body lying in the ravine looked like a twisted puppet that a careless child had tossed away.  The fall hadn’t done that—couldn’t have.  It hadn’t been there long.  A wave of horror washed over Jane as that realization sank in and the fine hairs on the back of her neck prickled.  She screamed as a hand seemingly came out of nowhere and clamped down on her arm.  She hadn’t heard anyone approach.  She’d been too focused on trying to figure out what it was in the ravine and why there was something familiar about it.

Your reader instantly knows that this is a suspense/mystery/ or thriller, a murder has occurred, and the heroine may be in danger.  Questions should immediately fill their mind so that they want to keep reading and find out what happened and will happen. 

The fog parted, revealing a dark figure limned by the light of the full moon.  Caroline’s pulse leapt in her veins.  Her throat closed around an unvoiced scream.  Her skin prickled with a sense of danger.  Despite the shadows cloaking the figure, she could see it was a man—a very large man.  Somewhere in the distance, a dog bayed.  The long, lonely cry was taken up by another and then another until Caroline had the sense that it wasn’t dogs baying at all, but wolves, and she was surrounded.

Something like this could set the stage for a vampire or werewolf tale.  Is this the heroine’s first encounter with the hero?  Or will the hero suddenly appear and rescue her, because she’s clearly in some sort of danger?

Polly had watched the glowing light come closer and closer, convinced, at first, that it was a falling star.  By the time she realized there was nothing at all natural about the phenomenon it was too late to run. Frozen to the spot, unable to think of escape let alone figure out how to achieve it, she stared in disbelief at the alien craft as it settled heavily, but soundlessly, in front of her, waiting breathlessly for the thing to open. 

Again, you don’t have to guess what kind of story this is going to be.  You’ve introduced the heroine and the ‘event’ that kicks off the story.  You’ve established conflict immediately—this is an alien and what the hell is he doing here?  You’ve got the suggestion that this might be an abduction scenario. 

The objective is to pack as much of a wallop into that first scene as you possibly can, establish enough questions in the reader’s mind/curiosity about what will happen next as you can, and try to keep them racing toward the finish thereafter.  The first line, paragraph, page, and/or scene is your hook.  The sooner you hook them, the more likely you are to get a sale—so shoot for the first line or paragraph. 
* * * *
You’ve, hopefully, roped your reader into the book with your first scene.  What’s next?  Time to pour all that background in that you worked so hard on?

Absolutely not!  All that background work won’t go to waste if it never actually appears in the book at all—at least not in the form that you’ve written it.  The background is mostly for you as the writer.  You work out who your characters are and what that history is like so that YOU know what motivates them and how they will react in a given situation.  This is IMPORTANT.  It helps you to know where to go with the story and how to plot your scenes.  For example: Your heroine has a phobia of spiders.  If a spider lands beside her she’s going to scream bloody murder and a: run or b: find something and kill it.  Example two: Your heroine talks ninety miles an hour when she’s nervous.  She has a really close encounter with a man that makes her blood race—She talks like an idiot and the hero thinks she is one.  Your hero lost his entire family and he feels responsible. 

An important thing to note here, I think, is that you should never give your hero or your heroine a background that leaves the reader with a bad taste in their mouth.  They do LOVE to see growth, enjoy reading about people that overcome their flaws, but never make them unredeemable.  If the hero actually did behave like a coward, or was off screwing around while his family was wiped out, your reader is going to FOREVER see him in a bad light. 

Also to be noted: first impressions, even in books, are VERY important.  I read a book by a bestselling author once.  The heroine’s first impression of the hero was that he had a huge red nose.  NOTHING could get that image out of my mind.  Even though the story was really, really good and I eventually fell for the hero—I just couldn’t shake that mental image of a huge red nose. 

Ok—back to the background.  You have to make a decision of just how much of that background is necessary for the reader to understand what’s going on and what your characters’ motivations are.  Once you’ve decided what is critical to the understanding, you feed this information to the reader in nibbles along and along as the opportunity arises.  NEVER stop the story at any point to take your reader down memory lane for paragraphs and paragraphs so that you can feed them the information.  As in real life, use the opportunities presented in the story—dialogue that prompts a memory or an event that prompts a memory.  Drop something significant at that point, keep it short and sweet, and look for another opportunity later to elaborate on it a little more.  NEVER have a memory scene long enough that the reader forgets what’s going on in the here and now!

It is critical to the success of the book that you keep a good pacing of forward motion throughout.  It is equally critical to the success of your story that each and every scene that makes it into your book achieves forward motion—it is working toward completion, deepening the plot, or resolving some part of the conflict.  At the same time, each scene needs to ‘show’ your reader a glimpse of your characters’ personalities in the way they act and interact. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Slow Responses

Hi all!

I apologize for not being as fast with responding to your emails, writing blogs, and giving reviews.  I, according to my doctor, am one of the rare and unlucky women who suffer from extreme morning sickness 24/7 during my entire pregnancy term. 
Because I am constantly ill, my work has slowed greatly.  To think, I have 7 months left of this bullshit is enough to drive me insane.
When I do feel well enough to move, I end up doing yoga or walking in order to keep my physical strength in tact.  However, this quickly drains my energy and so I wind up spent for the day and unable to get any other work done. 
Thank you for your patience during this time.  If I don't respond right away, I'm not angry or ignoring you--I'm just really sick.  It takes about a week for me to respond, so please bear with me.

Happy Holidays!

Erin Dameron-Hill

Friday, November 25, 2011

News from THE WERESCAPE!






























Other news... Book 1: COUGAR NOMINATED?













Book 1: COUGAR is nominated for 2011 Best Erotic Paranormal Romance--Shifter at The Romance Reviews. If you're so inclined, please vote for Jackal & Sierra!








CONTEST! CONTEST!

Win an autographed paperback copy of WERESCAPE Book 1: COUGAR this weekend at Outpost #39, i.e. Skhye's Ramblings: Other Worlds & Realities! Chapter 1 and other excerpts are available for your entertainment/consideration.

Friday, November 18, 2011

A great interview!

I recently did an interview on the blog of Jenn Nixon. I think it turned out pretty well!

My Q & A

Just saying "Hello".

Thank you for inviting me to join this beautiful blog. I look forward to contributing in due course. At the moment, I am rather involved with blogging in support of the Stop Online Piracy Act.

All the best,
Rowena Beaumont Cherry

New Release - Alien Salvation by Tracy St. John


Book 4 in the Clans of Kalquor series.


Lindsey McInness and her parents are barely surviving on post-Armageddon Earth.  When a Kalquorian shuttle crashes nearby, Lindsey has no choice but to offer herself to the clan on board in exchange for food and rescue.

Bacoj, Japohn and Vax are stunned when a young woman presents herself to them for their sexual pleasure.  Kalquorians of their youth and low rank have no expectation of finding the elusive Earther mates Kalquorians covet so highly.  But the strong willed and yet yielding Lindsey seems to be a perfect fit for them … until they learn her secret that threatens to tear the entire clan apart.

Genre:  Futuristic erotica
Rating:  Carnal.  Mild BDSM.  Forced seduction.  Multiple sexual partners.

Excerpt:

Bacoj was out of the ship and down the ramp the instant the main hatch opened.  Japohn’s growl followed him, and the brawny Nobek was on his heels in an instant.
            “Bacoj, you wait until I’ve determined we’re clear!”
            The young Kalquorian turned to face his clanmate.  “You’ve been scanning for hostiles for the last thirty minutes.  How much more clear can we be?”
 The massive Japohn stood over him, his blue-purple eyes scanning the windswept beach on one side and the tall buildings on the other.  Long, loose black curls spiraled to his muscular shoulders, left bare by his red-trimmed black formsuit.  Japohn was a behemoth by even Kalquorian standards.  He looked big and clumsy with 300 pounds of bulky muscle, but Bacoj knew his Nobek’s agility was not to be underestimated.  The man was quick and vicious in a fight.  If Bacoj hadn’t been so angry right now, Japohn’s scowl, nearly hidden behind his mustache and goatee, might have given him pause.
Bacoj turned to look their surroundings over.  On the street bordering the beach, abandoned hover craft transports and archaic automobiles on round black wheels dotted the surface on which they had once traveled.  Almost all of them were blackened, burnt hulks of metal and molded plastic.  None of the nuclear explosions that had wiped out most of Earth’s inhabitants had happened here.  The surviving Earthers had obviously turned on each other in an orgy of destruction.
            Japohn’s sharp eyes looked over everything, suspecting every piece of the landscape of harboring enemies.  “We may be under observation from a distance.  Let me do my job of protecting you.”
            Nobeks were the clan defenders, and Japohn was taking his position very seriously.  Too seriously, in Bacoj’s opinion.  He twitched, shaking off Japohn’s heavy hand on his shoulder.  “I’m already outside.  I need to check the engine to see how much damage was done.”
            He strode over the rippled skin of sand, hearing the soft grind of his knee-high boots against the grainy surface.  He restrained a groan at the damage to the underside of their shuttle.  It looked like Japohn had used it for a punching bag.  He opened the engine compartment, wincing in expectation.  “We took a direct hit from that magnetic surge.  It can’t be good news.”
Japohn ran his hand over the hull.  “The whole skin is crumpled.  It’s my fault.  We should have taken the long way and avoided the portal like you wanted.”
Yes we should have, Japohn.  But we always have to do things your way, don’t we?  Bacoj bit back the angry words.  His clanmate sounded sincerely upset with himself, especially since their other clanmate Vax had been hurt in the crash.  And who was really at fault?  He knew who his superiors would blame.


For another excerpt and purchase information, click here.

VOTE FOR COUGAR -- Best Erotic Paranormal Shifter Romance...
















HOLEY MOLEY!


Jackal really is my most favorite hero out of the lot I've created. And post-apocalyptic Earth isn't an easy place to live. Give Jackal a blue ribbon!


Werescape I: Cougar has been nominated by TRR reviewers for Best Erotic Paranormal Romance – Shifter (2011) at The Romance Reviews. Vote at The Romance Reviews until November 30. Results announced December 1, 2011. Thanks! ~Skhye

Praise for WERESCAPE: COUGAR...


"There are only four words needed to describe this wild ride through the werescape: Big. Hairy. Wolf. Cock. Once Skhye Moncrief wove her written magic, I was spellbound and entranced...This tale is pure erotic romance in its most wicked and tempting form as Sierra and Jackal become bound as soul mates while struggling to survive under alien rule. Filled with action, suspense, and of course, verra hawt sex, COUGAR is sure to get your kitty purring!" NOR Top Pick ~Erona Diane Hill


"Wow girl, I am in love, please can I have Jackal all for myself please pretty please? OMG Skhye you did a great job, the book is amazing. I am totally in love with Jackal. In a long time, I haven't seen characters so well-developed as in this e-book. Your book is engaging, and the characters so easy to relate to and to love. I must say I don't think the cover does them justice , but the book is a great and very very well written. And glory of glories the heroine is not a brat. She can kick butt without being a pain in the butt. Wow. ...that was quality there for sure." ~Lourdesatkinson, at NCP's 1st chat site


"Wonderfully raw and deliciously erotic...I bought this book yesterday after reading the HOT excerpt...Truly... you won't be disappointed with this exceptional sci/fi paranormal fantasy by one seriously-talented author!" ~Pearl G at NCP


"I really liked how real the main characters in COUGAR were. Your mate dies but you are in a world where being a woman alone (especially a cougar) is bad news. The conflict Sierra felt with having feeling with her new mate and mourning her old mate was felt. I could easily put myself in her shoes and wonder how I would handle life in her situation. Plus the love scenes, HOT! I am about to read the first three books in the Feral series." ~Bridget Conroy Jackson, review from Facebook


"The love story of Jackal and Sierra is woven seamlessly into a tale filled with lots of action and hot Shifter sex." ~Candy; SensualReads.com


"Skhye Moncrief sure has a gift to manipulate words… an excellent read. Shkye Moncrief found her own writing style and some very very happy readers! okay… I still prefer her Feral series but it is almost a tie with her werescape series." ~Mary's Naughty Whispers



Another COUGAR excerpt & buy links: NCP, Kindle, and ARE.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

How Should a Series Be?

As a fantasy lover, there are some series I love that have stretched to over a dozen books.  In epic fantasy, the same story and usually the same war goes on from the first page to the last chapter.  The same protagonists and their foes appear in each book.

There are some well know romance series that have stretched through ten or more books, but in romance each book is likely to focus on a different heroine and hero though characters from a previous book in the series may appear.  The series part comes in because the story setting is the same, as in town, or as in my dystopian series, The Chronicles of Solonia, in the same year after life as we know it on Earth has changed forever. 

How long should a series run?  I believe some stories take longer than four books to complete but when we're talking about romance series, I think the author has an especially challenging job of keeping the stories fresh.  If the setting is a small town, how many hot guys and girls can there be in one locale?  If it's a fantasy world or a futuristic society,  what new situations will arise in the community to create outside conflict? 

All my series, romance and epic fantasy are four books long.  Epic fantasy is best read in the order they're written but my romance series can be read in any order.  One Good Woman, book #4, in The Chronicles of Solonia, is now available for the terrific new price of $1.99 starting today.  You can read it and completely understand what the dystopia world is like.  Enjoy it for a bargain price and then check out the previous novels, A Greater Good, The Lesser Evil, and A Ruthless Good

How many books do you think should be in a series?  What's the longest series you're read?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Local Independent Bookstores

Many of us book lovers dream of owning and running our own little bookstore.  Who can watch the sweet, old movie, You're Got Mail, without falling in love with Meg Ryan's little bookstore around the corner from the chain store giant.  Of course, like in reality, the little independent family store loses the financial battle and has to close.   Also in the real world, we've experienced the loss of the Borders chain store, proving it's tough even for the giants.

I first discovered New Concepts Publishing at my local Borders.  At that time, places like Borders and B&N carried books from independent publishers like NCP and others.  I bought a few NCP books and decided I wanted these professionals to take a look at my manuscript.  A great relationship was built from that.  But it wasn't long until the 'big' stores stopped carrying books from independent publishers and I could only order my print books online.  That was until I discovered a couple of terrific independent bookstores.

This small, locally owned bookstores not only have better coffeeshops than the big guys, they're wonderfully open to supporting their local authors.  My local store, The Midtown Scholar, has invited me back for their second annual Book Festival in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I'll be part of a panel discussing the path to publishing.

The topics I'll cover will include the importance of networking, attending writers' conferences, joining critique groups and perseverance despite all the likely rejections to come.  And of course, I'll get a chance to promote my own books.  The store is equipped with WiFi so hopefully some of those readers attending will buy my books right then and there.

I'm not a seer, but I believe the future of bookstores may see only the friendly independents as the survivors of the changes going on as more and more readers switch to ebooks. I intend to support all the small stores near me as much as I can as they have supported me as an author and welcomed me as a reader. Do you have a great, little store near you?