Oct 7 2012


  • Davy is potty-training himself. Just…out of nowhere, he started asking to sit on the potty. The first few times nothing happened, but we praised him for it anyway. Lately he’s been actually using the potty for its intended purpose, about once a day. I’m delighted but also baffled. Can it really be this easy?
  • The Millennial Sword is now at #45,107 in the Kindle bestseller list, which is…not very high, except that yesterday morning it was at #162,077. So that actually represents something of a meteoric rise!
  • I feel like there ought to be a third item to put here, but I can’t think of one.

Oct 6 2012

Book Review: Graceling, Fire, Bitterblue

I read very quickly, which at least in my case is not really something to brag about. When I’m reading, what I’m doing most of the time is skimming. I don’t seem to have conscious control over this: I fall into a sort of reader’s trance, where I’m building the images of the book in my mind, and I’m not aware of every word as it goes by. (I do seem to slow down for dialogue, which I “hear” in my head, word for word.) I only know that I do this because when I’m reading something that requires careful attention—dense or very stylistic prose—I’ll keep getting tripped up by my tendency to skim ahead. I’ll blink “awake,” out of that reader’s trance, and find that I need to go back half a page to pick up from a point that makes sense. And for a while I’ll go slow and pay attention to every word, but then I drop back into the deep-reading state and I start skimming again.

As a tangent, I think this is the reason that I kind of hate watching videos online. I’m not a big fan of YouTube, and when people link to video clips, I’ll rarely watch them. (Otters are the exception. Always click for otters!) I hate video tutorials too. I was always the kind of student who would have benefited much more from being left in a quiet room with the textbook than from being forced to sit through lectures. I just can extract information so much faster by reading—there’s something kind of painful about being forced to slow down to the speed of video or speech, and my attention tends to wander. Still, I would be a better reader if I could make myself slow down a tad.

Anyway, I finish most books in a few hours. When I’m done I’ll have good recollection of the major points of characterization and plot, but I can easily miss subtle details. What’s more, sometimes my memory of books fades almost in the same way that dreams fade, once you wake up.

When I picked up Bitterblue, which is the third book in a trilogy, I found that I had pretty good memory of the events from the first book (Graceling), but could recall almost nothing of the second book (Fire). Fortunately, Bitterblue is a continuation of the story from the first book; characters from the second do show up near the end, but the setting and important players are mostly carried over from the first.

The world of Graceling is kind of a standard Euro-medieval one (I remember feeling like the worldbuilding was a bit thin, in the first book) except that some people are born with special powers, or Graces. These people always have eyes of different colors, like one blue eye and one green, so it’s obvious who the “gracelings” are. Graces can be very specific: there is for example a character in the books who can determine what anybody would most like to eat at a given moment. (I adore this power and want it for myself.) But some people are born with broader Graces. Katsa, the main character of Graceling, has a Grace for killing. This makes her an extraordinarily useful asset of the crown, and while she’s given some status as a result, she’s also not free. The first book follows her struggle for independence and the consequences of her rebellion, and I remember it being a fun, quick read with some genuinely harrowing parts near the end.

I obviously liked Graceling well enough to pick up Fire, which I am going to classify as “forgettable,” as I have forgotten nearly everything about it. (I only remember enough to be sure that I actually did read it!) Bitterblue, though, is something more ambitious. It’s an extended meditation on the aftermath of trauma, almost an elegiac book, where the tension builds less through physical confrontation and narrow scrapes (though there are some of those) but through the nagging, abrasive feeling of things out of place, secrets festering, puzzles lacking pieces, doors lacking keys.

Bitterblue is the young queen of a kingdom that, after the climactic events of Graceling, is recovering from an intense shared trauma. Nearly everyone in the story is scarred in some way. Bitterblue herself lacks parts of her memory. The story follows her struggle to lead her people to healing, while also confronting the growing evidence of a conspiracy within the kingdom to obscure important pieces of the past. I liked Bitterblue as a character, and I found the book a compelling—though, again, sometimes harrowing—read. I’d recommend the trilogy as a whole.

Oct 6 2012

People Like Free Stuff

Final promo stats: 1314 free copies of my book given away over the past four days. I briefly cracked the top ten in Amazon’s list of most popular free e-books in the Contemporary Fantasy category, peaking (I believe) at #9:


It’s even possible that I climbed a spot or two after I went to bed—there seemed to be a surge of last-minute interest in the book, which I think is an excellent sign, as it suggests that people were sharing the link with their friends. On the list of all free e-books The Millennial Sword was at #373. Now it’s switched over to the paid e-books ranking, starting out near the very bottom: #162,077 with a bullet, baby. Woooo!

Oct 5 2012

The Millennial Sword: Last Day Free

It’s the last day of my free launch promotion for The Millennial Sword. As of right now 933 copies of the book have been downloaded; I’m very confident that it’ll cross a thousand downloads before the end of the day. It’s also currently listed at #14 on Amazon’s list of Top 100 Free Books in the “Contemporary Fantasy” genre. This is the kind of thing that authors get excited about even though it doesn’t particularly mean much. The real test of whether or not the launch promotion was a success will be if I start seeing reviews crop up on Amazon, Goodreads, and other sites.

I have some details that I can share about the paperback version. It will probably be available next week, and it will be priced at $12.99. This is on the expensive side because I’m doing print-on-demand; I don’t benefit from the economies of scale that are involved in a large print run. To be honest, I don’t expect to sell many paperbacks. What I have heard is that having a paperback version available tends to boost e-book sales: that $2.99 digital price looks even better when it’s next to a $12.99 paperback. Plus, I can get copies for my family members and give them away at Christmas.

Over the next few weeks, what I really need to do is stop obsessively refreshing my Amazon sales stats and my book’s Goodreads page, and get back to working on my second novel. As I think I mentioned before, e-book authors almost never make huge sales on a single title—instead, they earn income by building a solid backlist of titles that each sell in modest but steady numbers. I would like to have a second novel to publish by the end of next year. But doing that will require closing down my web browser, and putting in some actual work!

Oct 4 2012

Book Review: The Raven Boys

So I’m going to try to post more book reviews. I guess I’m hyper-aware right now of how much reviews mean to an author!

The other day I read The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater.

From the book description:

“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love…or you killed him.”

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive. Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her. His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble. But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little. For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

I really enjoyed this book—it’s well-written, with compelling characterization, a great setting, a twisty plot, fresh and interesting ideas. My only complaint is that the ending was pretty abrupt, and left a lot of the novel’s main conflicts unresolved. It’s the first book in a series so I assume the dangling plot threads will all pay off in later books, but I would’ve still liked more closure at the end of the book.

Oct 3 2012

Technical Notes

On the first day of my launch promotion, The Millennial Sword was downloaded 369 times. If the numbers continue at this rate, I’ll get over a thousand downloads before the free period ends on Friday. If even half of those people (500) actually read it—and half of those (250) like it—and half of the ones who like it (125) tell their friends…then I will consider the promotion a great success.

Most of what I’ve read about indie publishing suggests that books with 15 or more Amazon reviews get a lot more traffic. I think this has to do with Amazon’s search algorithms and the way that they promote material on their site. But I have to remind myself not to be impatient for Amazon reviews: people need time to actually read the thing, after all!

A couple of technical notes: some people in the UK had trouble getting the download. The link for our cousins across the pond is: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Millennial-Sword-ebook/dp/B009JW9K4M/. That should let you grab the book without any problems.

ALSO, while the Nook version of the book won’t be out for a few months, I wanted to let Nook owners know that there are free programs that can convert between e-book formats. Calibre seems to be one of the most popular. I would expect the formatting might not be perfect after an automated conversion, but if folks with the various non-Kindle e-readers want to grab the novel while it’s free, Calibre might be a good option for you.

Oct 2 2012

Free Promotion Now Live

The Millennial Sword is now free to download from Amazon! Feel free to spread the link around; the launch promotion will run through Friday, after which the e-book will return to its normal price of $2.99.

Some of my early readers have been posting their reviews, which is lovely. Dom Camus called the novel a “vivid, elegant remix of a classic theme…a cleverly arranged story involving some classic themes from English mythology blended with some well-observed writing concerning the heroine’s life in modern day America.” And Jessie Bennett described it as “a love song to San Francisco, a San Francisco where there are goblins in the subway and were-panthers at cocktail parties,” which I think sums it up perfectly.

Reviews are going to be the lifeblood of this book, so I am very grateful to everyone who takes the time to spread word about it. Thanks so much!

Oct 1 2012

Announcing: The Millennial Sword (and free promotion)!

Big news! My first novel, The Millennial Sword, is now available from Amazon!


Isn’t the cover art amazing? It’s by my friend Jessie Bennett. She did such an incredible job, really, I can’t even begin to describe how much I love this. To my eyes Morgan le Fay has a gorgeous pre-Raphaelite quality to her face, and the way she’s rising out of the water is somehow both sinister and compelling. Hey Jessie, have you thought about taking the text off and selling prints?

Clicking the art will take you to the Amazon page for the book. It’s currently only available for the Kindle, although I’m working on putting up a paperback version, and there will also be other e-reader editions to follow. In the meantime, though, even if you don’t have a Kindle, you can read the book on your computer, iPad, or smartphone by using this app.

The e-book is priced at $2.99. But! Starting tomorrow, and continuing through Friday, I’m going to make it available as a free download. The reason I’m doing this is that e-published books rely on word of mouth and good reviews—that’s really the only way for a first-time author to build sales. So my four-day FREE launch promotion is designed to get some attention and pull in reviews. There’s no strings, but I would ask that if you read the book and like it, that you leave me a review on Amazon, Goodreads, or whatever social media networks you use. I really can’t overstate the importance of Amazon reviews—it’s the main sales driver for indie publishers.

I’ll put up another announcement when the free promotion begins! I am just about vibrating with excitement, if you can’t tell!