book cover, MoC

All that and a side of fries

My poor, neglected blog. My apologies to anyone who might visit here thinking I'm a regular updater with lots of interesting news. My schedule is so tight with things to do, that I have a choice of either stroking the blog or writing books. So I pick the second most of the time.

However, I'm here today with a heads-up on a few things. First, about my fantasy romance MASTER OF CROWS. When rights to distribute reverted back to me, the publisher (Amber Quill Press) requested the take-down of both the digital and print formats. They were successful with the first, not so much with the second. Createspace, which issued the print format for them never took it down, despite repeated requests from AQP and from me. So, after a year, AQP did a workaround--they raised the price to prevent further sales on a book they no longer have rights to distribute (Thank you, AQP!).

So, the print edition issued by AQP is now priced at $2,999.99.

The Kindle edition (and all other digital formats in which MoC is available) is still $2.99.

We're keeping our fingers crossed that Createspace will finally go in and remove that edition entirely.

I'm considering re-offering MASTER OF CROWS in print as a second edition with the cover that's shown on the digital format and with a much, much lower price than the $2,999.99. I'll update here if another print edition goes up in the near future.

Second, I seriously lucked out in getting into an anthology with three other writers I've wanted to hook up with for a very long time. The four of us are working on our stuff now and hope to have the anthology out there during the summer months. I'll update here with more details once we're finished.

Third, and I had to mention this because if you haven't read it, do so. I've added Dorothy Koomson's MY BEST FRIEND'S GIRL to my very short list of desert island keepers. Gawd, what a fabulous book!

I'm posting links to the title via and because there are two different covers for this story. I haven't got a clue as to what the U.S. cover has to do with the story except in a very abstract way. The UK cover is perfect and a far more accurate reflection of the story's premise. Plus it's a lot more subtle than the screaming yellow, pink and blue of the U.S. cover.

I'm currently re-watching L'Allee du Roi (told from the POV of Louis XIV's morganatic wife, Francoise de Maintenon). While I'm familiar with this bit of history, the movie is in French, and I don't speak a lick of French (Spanish and Russian, yes. French--and I'm lost), so I've been bugging my lovely friend Shiv for translations on particular scenes. Great film with costuming to make you drool.

Back to the mines, folks. Have a good one.
book cover, MoC

I like "free". How about you?

If you're like me, celebrate X-mas and end up dead broke after the holidays, then the following might be of some interest.

Kristen Painter, author of the House of Comarre series and Dark Kiss of the Reaper, currently has her story THE PERFECT DISH up for free at Amazon:

This freebie goes until tomorrow, so if you'd like to try out her work, this is a great way to do it.

Bettie Sharpe, author of A Cat's Tale and Like a Thief in the Night, has her Cinderella retelling, EMBER, up at Amazon for .99 and for free on her website:

As a fan of fairytale retellings with a twist, I loved this version of Cinderella. Dark and edgy.

Enjoy and Happy New Year!
book cover, MoC

Happy Holidays and short sale

A packed schedule hasn't left me any time to post on LJ the past couple of months. So while my house is quiet and I haven't yet girded my loins to tackle the crowds at the grocery store today, I thought I'd do a quick entry here.

For those who celebrate, I wish you a very Merry Christmas. For those who don't, I wish you a lovely weekend. There will be food and lots of wine at my house this year (there are perks to working at a winery), and time spent with friends and family. A good year for some, a much harder one for others. We will celebrate and commiserate together and hope 2012 is a better year than 2011.

A quick announcement. From now until 12/27/2011, the e-book edition of MASTER OF CROWS is on sale for $.99 at Smashwords and only Smashwords. It is available in all formats for download, including Kindle and Epub. I didn't lower it at Amazon because by the time they get around to lowering the price, the sale will be over.

At Smashwords:

I also put up an author website showing what I have out and what is coming soon. Stop by and visit if you get a chance.

Happy Holidays!
book cover, MoC

Long time between drinks and a re-release

I was unpleasantly surprised by the length of time that passed between my last post and this one. I should have updated sooner. However, I'm of two minds when it comes to author blogs. They're useful vehicles for introducing yourself to readers and give those who are interested updates on books. On the flip side, they can be minefields of TMI.

I'm a reader too, and I'm just not that interested in an author's daily doings, his/her political leanings or religious convictions (or lack thereof) or what they did on date night with their spouse last week ~shudders~. I think the saying "Familiarity breeds contempt" has a lot of merit in some cases. I'd rather my books speak for me. So if you see the occasional post with long stretches of silence in between, it's because I don't want to bore you with the mundane events of daily life, subject you to endless rounds of promotion or blow out time that I need to redirect to writing the next story.

Since my last post, the publishing industry has witnessed a massive game changer with the advent of Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing program. The role of gatekeeper is in flux as is the role of publisher. With traditionally published, established authors embracing self publishing, the SP stigma is fading. I'd also like to think it will be the death of the vanity publishers--those outfits who charge writers fortunes to print their books, grab distribution rights and charge outrageous prices for books no one can afford and won't buy.

I recently joined the ranks of those who were with a publishing house but also chose to self publish. I love the idea of keeping my distribution rights, picking my cover, setting my price, choosing my editors and overall controlling the packaging of the end product.

Effective in July, rights for MASTER OF CROWS reverted back to me from my publisher Amber Quill Press. I'm thrilled because it's given me the opportunity to put a new, beautiful cover on it, make additional edits and change the price for the e-book version.

MASTER OF CROWS is currently loaded to Smashwords and Amazon and in the review queue at B&N. If you'd like to take a peek at the content, 30% of the book is loaded as a sample reading on Smashwords in HTML format. About 10% is loaded as a sample at Amazon.

Ebook Short Description:

In an isolated fortress, the Master of Crows battles an ancient god for possession of his soul. Renegade and heretic, he dreams of ways to defeat the god and destroy the priesthood who would execute him.

Sent by her masters to betray him, a woman comes who possesses a weapon he can use to triumph over both...but only at the ultimate sacrifice.

A tale of love and allegiance.

I'll post an update once the book goes live on Amazon and B&N.

Louisa Gallie is the artist who created this cover. This work, titled Beyond Neith, and others reside in her gallery on Deviant Art:

Louisa and I are currently working on another book cover project for a Beauty and the Beast retelling. I've seen the rough mockups; they are incredible. I hope to have Louisa do an interview about her artistic process and her approach to the creation of a book cover. If she agrees to it, I'll post here.
book cover, MoC

The Power of Print

This may seem like sacrilege to say this as most of my work is in e-book format, but there is something about the printed word that holds a spark of magic I don't think digital formatting can capture.

Let me 'splain. I just received a nice box in the mail from friend and fellow author Mel Sterling. The book, a fantasy anthology called Under the Rose (published by Norilana Books), contains stories written by Mel and our mutual friend (now deceased) Teri Smith, as well as other authors. Mel signed the book for me and left me a lovely note. I wish with all my heart that Teri had been able to do the same.

For one moment, as I held the book, read Mel's note and read the introduction that talked of Teri's passing, I felt that magic--the physical power of the words on the page, the good will and affection of a dear friend, the whispering spirit of one fiercely intelligent, vibrant woman gone too soon from this world. I can't wait to read their stories and all the others in this anthology.
book cover, MoC

Branding the genre, torturing the author, repulsing the reader

Anyone who's read this blog knows I'm a bit twitchy when it comes to book cover art. I hear and read a lot of arguments from various publishers about why particular cover art, even if it's crap, is used on books of a certain genre. A lot of it has to do with branding. Most of the arguments are full of holes.

I write Romance. It's the red-headed stepchild of fiction genres, and personally I think a lot of that has to do with the cover art and the back blurb--the two things the author usually has no control over in the book production. And if there's anything guaranteed in this world besides death and taxes, it's that if you write and publish romance, you'll be assigned at least one craptastic book cover--P.C. Cast not withstanding.

Granted, a preference in art is highly subjective, but I think there's a crossover point where 99% of the viewers are going to either say "WTF?!" or "Ewwww." If it's not dead doll Poser work or dismembered models pasted together via poorly executed Photoshop work, it's homogenized poses and the ubiquitous tramp stamp.

I'm all for branding. It's good business and good marketing to make a particular mark and style and be known by it, but does the genre really want to keep the reputation its earned with bizarre, repulsive cover art and ridiculous back blurbs?

I received notice of this most excellent entry by a reader via a Google alert. I applauded; I cheered when I read. I can only wish the industry would pay attention to voices like these.

~preachy blog entry brought to you by the letters S and D for sleep deprived~
book cover, MoC

Artist Interview with Nathie Block

Happy Monday, kids. Over the next few weeks, I'm hoping to post interviews with some of the fantasy artists whose work I've either commissioned or am just wowed over on this blog. First up, as promised, I'm posting an interview today with the awesomely talented Nathie Block.

I came across Nathie's work while browsing Epilogue and Deviant Art galleries and was stunned when I saw her illustrations. Since then, I've licensed work from Nathie, and am thrilled to see scenes from Master of Crows come alive under her hands. I'll be honest. I think her landscapes and animal art are fantastic, but her men...~whistles~.

See what I mean?

Anyhoo, without further ado, the interview:

1. I first discovered your beautiful artwork on Epilogue and then on Deviant Art. Can you tell us about your history as an artist? What type of training have you had? How have you developed over the years and what art style do you prefer now?

I grew up in an artist´s household. Since I could hold a pencil I painted. I was so used to having always art supplies lying around, so I thought it was normal. My Dad is a painter and before he retired he worked as graphic-designer. As I graduated from basic school I applied to an art school. At that time computers were not affordable for a private person, so I worked with the usual traditional media. The techniques of digital paintings are self taught, but it paid absolutely off to have a traditional training.

I work also part time in an advertising agency for some hours a week, but I always wanted to be a fantasy illustrator, and I got back into business 2 years ago. I work as freelancer for a game company. I had alot of arguments with my dad about the job, he said that stuff will never sell and complained that I am always painting demons, warriors and mages. Now he collects proudly the magazines and role playing books where I am published and show them off to his friends. He recently tried even digital painting on my computer and liked it. (He is born 1926.)

I absolute adore realism in art and I love also more loosely painting where you can see brush strokes. What I absolute don´t like is "modern" art. I like to look at a picture and want to see what is going on instead of guessing it. ;)

I am more into illustration than "art".

2. Who are your favorite artists and how do they inspire you?

It may sound cheezy, but I admire my dad, though I tease him with all his "happy-sunshine-paintings".

Here are some of his works:

The reader may also expect here the usual "Oh gods, yes, Frazetta, Vallejo, Rojo" thing, but nope, none of those artists are inspiring me. I love looking at their art, but my head is already overcrowded without influences from outside. I can happily inspire myself through music, stories, long walks in the forest and looking at nature and landscapes. Yes, I do see trolls in tree barks and animal shapes in clouds, and worse, they demand to get painted.

3. What is your favorite medium in which to work?

For digital painting I prefer: Mac Hardware, OSX, Adobe Photoshop CS Versions, Corel Painter and a Wacom Intuous.

Traditional: the good old pencil, acrylics, airbrush and colored pencil. I wish I had more time painting traditional stuff.

Everyone wants digital artworks today, but that allows me to transfer files easily all across the world.

4. Your website - - showcases a variety of subjects--people, landscapes, animals. All are incredibly lush and complex. Do you use an existing frame of reference such as a photograph or another painting in which to start your project? Or do you just begin with a basic idea and build up from there?

Do the pictures inside my head counts as reference?

Yes, I use references. Every professional illustrator uses them, like IKEA catalogues for example. Or a mirror for looking how a certain grimace looks.

An illustration fails when the viewer asks: "Is that a mushroom?" and the illustrator replies:" Uh no, this was supposed to be a lamp." An illustrator´s job is to create believable pictures so that the viewer knows exactly what is going on at first glance, and sometimes every illustrator needs references. Not always, but sometimes.

When I travel I take alot of pictures of almost everything. Certain rock structures, vegetation, foliage, buildings, architecture, animals, and so on. But I don´t overpaint photos. All is painted from scratch on, mostly started with a small thumbnail that will be blown up to printsize and refined. It´s a neat trick to get basic colors everywhere in seconds without filling actually the space with a pencil.

5. You illustrate exceptionally beautiful men. Not only are they handsome, but their faces have such great character and life in them. I am especially fond of your character Rydan. Can you tell us a little more about him?

I created Rydan first as a character we call in german "Kanonenfutter". (cannon fodder, ist that right?) He was just created for the purpose to set the basic plot for a story, sacrifice his lover and kill himself. That was quite some years ago. But things went different.

He was one of those strong characters who wake you up in the middle of the night, sitting beside you pouting and telling you that it would be completely unfair just to kill him. He would deserve a better fate, like being an inspiration for my paintings, changing his whole world for better, get rid of the cruel cult rites his father invented and he would really try to be a very inspirational character if I´d let him. (translate: just being a pain in the ass for the creator.) Now that was a deal. ;) He´s still alive and we have even some character issues in common, a thing I don´t like to happen for my characters, but all the bad manners fit him better than me so I decided to go along with it. And now tell me that creative people are not crazy.

6. You are currently working on a project called the Bad Boys calendar. What inspired you to start this project, and can you tell us a little more about the men who represent each month?

Some people asked me over the last years if I´d do an artbook or calendar, so I decided to go for something useful.

I made a poll over at Deviantart, asking the people which subject they would like to see - fantasy landscapes, sexy fantasy girls or sexy bad boys. The latter won with high percentage, so I went with that. Not that I would complain about that! ;)

I made also a journal which kind of bad guys the people would like to see, and I took some of the suggestions, like pirate, vampire, drow, biker, demon, angel.

7. When will the calendar go on sale and how can we order it?

This whole thing will be on a prepaid basis an I will take orders from end of august to the first 2 october weeks. After that it will be printed and shipped. Since it is a completely private and self publishing thing I thought I would be happy if I´d ever sell 20 pieces, but I think it will be quite around 200 pieces - or more.

8. Do you accept commissions? Are you taking commissions now? How about licensing?

Hmm. I accept very seldom commissions from private persons due to my limited time. I might open 1-2 slots in october again.

Licensing - yes, all works that were not commissioned by others, and non-exclusive only.

9. Any specific projects planned for the future?

Yes. I always wanted to illustrate the gods/godesses of the german and norse mythology.
And a fantasy landscape calendar. Then, of course, world domination, but I lost my "Userfriendly Guide for World Domination" recently in the subway. So that has to wait.

10. If you had to choose your favorite painting of all the ones you've created, which would it be?

I don´t have a particular painting I like most. It always changes. My both fave paintings are right now Silhara with his orange slice and a new one of Rydan of which I am working right now - it depicts Rydan as the "soul" Nightwing.

Nathie, thanks for gabbing with me and giving me and others insight into an artist's process and inspirations! I'm looking forward to seeing more of your work appear on your Deviant Art Gallery in the near future.

Folks, if you have any questions or comments for Nathie, please feel free to comment here.
book cover, MoC

Bad Guys Calendar - and it is sa-mokin'!

Okay, I'll just reiterate once more...I'm bad at updating. The interview I mentioned I'd post with Nathie Block - the artist from whom I licensed work for Master of Crows and who also illustrated this for the book:

...well, that will wait until Monday when LJ isn't quite so dead. I hope you'll all stop by, read and comment. Just as a teaser, I'm linking to a calender project she's been working on for 2010. I think it goes up for sale within the next couple of weeks. It's called Bad Guys. I think it should be called Hot Guys for obvious reasons.


...will take you to her main page at Deviant Art. Look to the left and scroll down to where you see Bad Guy Project. She has them all nicely grouped their with the month tag. As I'm quite partial to long white hair, I'd have to say the drow, representing May, is my favorite.
book cover, MoC

Pausing for this commercial break

I suck at updating my blog. I always mean to keep up with it, but Real Life keeps me running so hard, it's hard to stop for that breather and update.

Anyhoo, I'll have an interview up tomorrow evening with the fabulous artist, Nathie Block. She is the first in a set of interviews I'm doing with artists whose stuff I love and who've done illustrations for me. I always find it fascinating to hear about the artistic process. I couldn't draw a stick figure if the fate of the world depended on it, so I'm envious and admiring of those who can words and ideas to vivid life on canvas (whatever the canvas format).

Until then, I leave you with a great blog entry from the Urban Fantasy and Young Adult author, Rachel Vincent. She gives a nice bullet point list of what an author controls in readying a book for the marketplace (uhm, almost zilch). Take a look-see. It's an interesting read.