An Announcement…and a Surprise

nexuscoverrevisedFirst of all, shout-out to Nexus, which turns 1 today!

*waves and blows kisses*

Hi, baby!

*sheds a tear*

They grow up so fast…

I’ve been kinda quiet lately, huh? Having a day job tends to have that effect. Well, I should say having-a-day-job-and-coming-home-to-a-four-month-old-puppy-who-is-going-through-her-sassy-toddler-phase-and-requires-constant-supervision. And it’s not like I spent nearly two months totally engrossed in Fallout: New Vegas during every possible second of free time. No way.

(great game, by the way)

Anyhow, yes, having a day job does hamper my writing abilities a little, but not to the extent to which I’ve been letting it. My job is such that I’m not actually doing things 24/7 (or should I say 8/5) and I therefore have a reasonable amount of — I hesitate to say “free” time because that doesn’t seem totally accurate, but you get the gist — during which I have ready access to both my on-the-go notebook and Microsoft Word. I’ve got to start getting back into Just Do It mode, because that strategy ended up working incredibly well when Ronan was still in progress.

Wow, that seems like a long time ago, doesn’t it?

12106870_536581763170763_5768380613232963193_nThe whole #DayJob thing hasn’t been totally terrible either because, as some of you who follow me know, I put book posters up in my office. This was both a way for me to still feel “near” to my writing and a shameless marketing ploy. I’ve got hard copies of each book on my shelf and a stash of business cards in my desk. I’ll be honest – I’m totally fishing for questions…and it’s WORKING. One of the MDs (I work in a clinic) stopped by to ask me something a couple weeks ago and saw the posters. Turns out he’s a huge sci fi fan and loves Neal Asher. He ended up buying Dakiti and said he really enjoyed it, and he stopped by again a last week and said he couldn’t sleep the night before so he started Nexus. He says the stories have really sucked him in and he’s loving the characters. Other people have asked about the books too, and while some of them have said the genre isn’t for them, they’ve added things like “Oooh, I’ll bet so-and-so would like it!” So it’s great to feel like I’m still accomplishing something even when I’m not getting much actual work done. Naturally they’re moving me to a different office today though; there’ll be far less foot traffic but also a lot more wall space to hang up cool stuff, so maybe that will help balance things out. *crosses fingers*

Now listen to me blabbering on when the title of this post suggests I actually have important things to talk about…

The Announcement:

omnibustest2WIP2If you follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and G+, you’ve likely already gotten the memo. I’ll confess that I’d actually forgotten about this after the Ronan release, but I’ll be releasing an omnibus version of my series for Kindle, The Ziva Payvan Collection. Sorry, no Goodreads page or anything yet. I’m pretty excited about this though. Sure, it’s just the same stories we’ve already read, but it was fun to put together a new, unique cover (fun fact: this face on the cover is also this face – huzzah recycled artwork!) and I want to try a couple new things in terms of interior formatting. The book will – obviously – include Dakiti, Nexus, and Ronan, and I’ll be including a few other fun little things as well.

The book will be released January 1, 2016. I had honestly wanted to get it done in time to release it today for Nexus’s 1-year anniversary, but alas, I procrastinated, and I want to do a thorough job getting it ready. It WILL be available for pre-order in late December, and it WILL be priced at $0.99 for a limited time. I’ll be posting more details the closer we get to the release.

 

The Surprise:

I’ll admit the Kindle Countdown Deals I did for my books a few weeks back were poorly-timed, because I used up all of my KDP Select promotion days and therefore couldn’t do any sort of sale or free promo for the Nexus anniversary. But I’m hoping to make up for it with…EXCERPTS!

If you’ve paid attention to my sidebar, you’ll have noticed that I currently have three projects going, though I should use the term “going” loosely because I haven’t actually worked on them for…um…awhile (*shoves Fallout back onto game shelf* I’ve been doing a lot of reading too, okay?).

wordmeterI’ve made the least amount of progress on my DREAMER project (the story will actually be titled “Dreamers” but yes, it is an acronym) because I still haven’t nailed all the logistics down. In fact, the majority of the progress I’ve made is in outline form and the excerpt included below is all the further I’ve gotten in the actual prose. I’ve had the idea in my head for a little over three years; it’ll be more of a near-future Earth cyberpunk/psychological thriller type thing…if I ever actually make any progress on it 😉

wordmeterDue to popular demand, I’ve started a short story starring Kat Reilly (working title “I Am Reilly” – AKA one of her quotes from the end of Nexus). It will feature her working on Chaiavis solving one of the cases she mentioned in the main story.

wordmeter (1)The one I’ve been most motivated to work on – mostly because I’ve had scenes and ideas in mind since back before I even started Ronan – is what I’ve been referring to as my Secret Project. There’s been a lot of outlining going on here too but I’ve at least started writing up some of those scenes just to see how they work. I can’t say much about it, other than that it’s set in a familiar universe and will feature some familiar characters. Working title is “Embers” so I changed the word meter color to something more appropriate, but that shade of orange is kind of hideous so I might go back to red… And of course me being me, I can’t stay away from assassin characters for too long so that’s what the excerpt features!

So without further ado, here they are. Bear in mind that these are raw and unedited and may not perfectly reflect the eventual finished products…

 


Dreamers excerpt:

The room beyond the window was dim, with muted gray walls the same color as the concrete floor. A single, harsh light dangled from the center of the room, illuminating the four reclining chairs. Each contained a prone form – two men and two women, it appeared – dressed in thin white medical attire. Bulky goggles attached to each chair obscured their faces, and glove-like contraptions similar in design covered their hands. Wireless electrodes dotted their skin, sending data streams to monitors on the wall. Each of those screens was paired with another one that showed a live, first-person video feed. One user was driving a car. One was on the computer. One was walking through a house, and the other appeared to be out on a run.

He managed to pry his eyes away from the window when the sound of stiletto heels clack clack clacking on the floor echoed through the hall. He turned and found a woman in a sharp navy pantsuit advancing toward him, tablet in hand.

“Mr. Hollander, Nora Morgan,” she said, offering a perfectly-manicured hand. “Sorry to keep you waiting. I trust your tour has been informative.”

“Fairly.” He returned her handshake, impressed by her grip. “Your facility is extraordinary.”

“We’re one of the nation’s leaders in VR tech,” she answered with a nod. Not a single strand of her strawberry blonde hair came loose from the knot at the nape of her neck. “And of course that tech is what fuels the DREAMER Project.”

 


I Am Reilly excerpt:

The interior of the restaurant was darker than he’d expected. Upon further consideration however, he wasn’t sure what he’d expected, if not this. He could have guessed that entering a dark alley and descending a set of dark stairs into a dark tunnel would have led him to a similarly dark space.

He paused in the restaurant’s entryway and swept his gaze over the cramped space, unable to fathom how anyone could stand to eat here. It occurred to him that this trip had taken him far outside the borders of Chaiavis’s prestigious Government District. Here in the Endion Entertainment District, the lower-class citizens had lower standards to match. He coughed against the musty scent of some unfamiliar smoke and reminded himself that he’d come all this way for his own protection. The thought brought him minimal comfort.

The restaurant’s layout was circular, just like the only-slightly-more-reputable club above it. It was late in the day for lunch but too early for dinner, and thus only a handful of customers occupied the space. Some of them looked his way when he entered; despite the fact that he’d dressed down per his contact’s suggestion, he still felt conspicuous standing there in his polished boots and unsoiled jacket. He forced his shoulders to sag a bit in an attempt to mimic the posture of those around him.

Maintaining a low profile was not his area of expertise. It was his job to stand out and be in plain sight. But at the moment, his career, his family, maybe even his life…they all depended on his ability to stay out of the spotlight. That’s why I’m here, he reminded himself with a sigh.

He forced his feet forward, hoping he hadn’t been standing there as long as he felt like he had. The bartender, an older woman with tired eyes and a mop of ragged gray hair, glanced his way and jerked her head toward one of the booths on the far side of the room. He hesitated, but she shifted her gaze back down to the damp cloth she was wiping back and forth over the counter.

A figure occupied the booth she seemed to have indicated, so he cautiously resumed his circuit around the room, ready to reach for his concealed pistol at a moment’s notice. He’d been expecting to find some sort of world-weary mercenary – probably greasy, probably armed to the teeth – waiting for him, so the sight of the stunning young woman sitting there came as a bit of a surprise.

“I was beginning to think you weren’t going to show,” she said, nodding toward the vacant seat across from her.

He took one last look around and then, against his better judgement, slid into the seat without bothering to size her up any further. Anything was better than remaining out in the open any longer.

“Trust me, the harder you try to blend in around here, the worse you’re going to fail. Relax.”

“So I’ve noticed,” he muttered, slouching down far enough that the back of the seat hid his face from any onlookers. The fact that his back was to the door made him squirm, but based on the way the woman glanced periodically between him and the entrance, she’d be well aware if trouble arrived.

The slight accent he’d detected in her voice prompted him to take a closer look at her. She didn’t look it at first glance, but her voice was unmistakably Haphezian. Her skin was ghostly pale, and in the dim light it was difficult to tell whether her hair was extremely light blonde or actually white. She wore it bundled back in a thick ponytail, and he thought he caught a hint of silver when she moved her head. Silver. His attention shifted to her eyes, an intense icy blue. He bristled as the realization hit him: she was one of them.

The woman sighed and drummed her fingers on the table. “It never gets any easier.”

“What?”

“Oh, you know, facing the shock people always seem to show when they realize I’m a Defective.”

Was he being that transparent? “If I’d known Briggs was going to set me up with you, I wouldn’t have agreed to this.”

She lifted an eyebrow. “Charming. If you want to find someone else who can do this job in time and keep your predicament under wraps, be my guest.” She zipped her flight suit and picked up a helmet from the seat beside her, ready to leave.

“Wait,” he said, not prepared to grovel to the likes of her but too desperate to let her just walk away. “I need you to do this.”

“Better.” She set the helmet back down and considered him for a moment. Despite the intensity of her gaze, there was a kindness in her eyes that – if only for a moment – made him feel sorry for being rude. She produced a small data pad from her pocket. “Let’s start with the basics. Kellen Stice, age thirty-five. Hailing from Haphor, you’ve been transferred between offices a total of seven times throughout your twelve-year career with the Haphezian Special Police.” She tilted her head. “Must be your sunny disposition, right?”

Kellen ground his teeth. “Where are you getting all of this information?”

“Relax. It’s my job to know everything I can about you. You don’t get to know much about me; it’s for your own protection.”

His gaze shifted between her eyes and hair again. “I know all I need to know about you.”

“You know nothing about me.” She didn’t raise her voice, but the words were said with enough force to make him regret his jab.

She stared him down for several more seconds before taking another look at the data pad. “You were transferred to the Haphezian embassy here on Chaiavis as a disciplinary measure.” Her arched eyebrows and pursed lips gave him the impression she was restraining herself from making another snide comment.

“Been on the embassy’s security detail for the past six months,” Kellen said.

The woman set the data pad down. “And I’ve lived here for twenty-five years. Been on the streets for seven. This is my turf, and you’ll follow my lead. Got it?”

 


Embers excerpt:

Just go. Run.

The front door of the empty house was just a few more strides ahead. His legs were pumping as fast as his heart was beating. He wasn’t even sure if his pursuer was still behind him, but he was in no mood to find out. To his delight, the door was already unlocked; he punched the controls and slipped inside, taking a moment to catch his breath.

There was no doubt in his mind that this hunter was hoping he’d lead them to his father, the real target in this situation. He was merely a decoy, a distraction to occupy this assassin while the rest of his family fled the city. So far the plan seemed to be working, but the thing about fishing was that it never worked out so well for the bait. If he failed, The Assassin would not hesitate to kill him, regardless of whether he was the quarry.

Once his racing heart slowed a bit, he carefully turned and risked a look out the window. The clearing outside was bathed in brilliant silver-blue moonlight that seemed nearly as bright as the daytime sun. He scanned the tree line for several minutes, watching for any movement or shapes that seemed out of place. Just as he’d made up his mind that he was finally safe, a shadow detached itself from the foliage and stepped into the clearing, striding purposefully toward the house. He shuddered and his heart collapsed into his stomach. This was the same shadow that had just pursued him for three kilometers through the forest, the one that had already killed his sister in an attempt to reach his father.

He was unarmed and The Assassin knew it. Otherwise he doubted they’d be so quick to come out into the open. If they were trying to get inside his head, it was working. Purposely putting themselves in such a vulnerable position was just a reminder of how powerless he was. He had no idea whose house this was, but chances were slim that there were any weapons available. Anything that could be used for self-defense had likely been taken during the evacuation. He at least had the presence of mind to lock the door, and he stood there listening with bated breath as footsteps approached outside.

This house seemed bigger than others in the area and was well-decorated with a variety of expensive-looking objects. The owners were probably well off and had no doubt been some of the first to leave the city. Large pieces of furniture were stacked up nearby, giving him the impression that the front door had recently been barricaded against any attackers. He considered trying to move the stack back to the door, but even if he could move it himself, there was no time. He slowly began to back away, looking wildly about for some other means of escape.

A soft clicking just outside sent him scurrying down the hallway. Based on the skill The Assassin had already shown, he didn’t doubt their ability to breach the lock. Even so, the sound of the door sliding open came far too soon for his taste. He darted into the first room he came to.

It appeared he had entered some sort of study or sitting room. A plush sofa and matching armchairs were arranged around a low table, and a desk and large cabinet were positioned against the far wall. He ran to the cabinet and flung it open, finding it empty except for a couple of deactivated data pads and an old blanket. The bottom shelf was clear, so he ducked down and crawled inside, pulling the door shut as quietly as he could behind him.

There in the confined space, each breath and heartbeat sounded horrifyingly loud. He leaned forward and rested his head on his knees, watching the room outside through the narrow crack between the doors. The moonlight poured in through the window, giving him a clear picture of the area. He strained to hear, willing his pulse to slow. He’d been able to hear nothing but himself since leaving the front door, and he had no idea where The Assassin had gone.

A cold sweat coated his forehead and he shivered, though whether it was due to nerves or an actual drop in temperature, he wasn’t sure. The idea of having been left behind was beginning to take its toll on him. Per his father’s plan, there was a small shuttle waiting for him at the spaceport, but the trek through the forest had taken time he didn’t have and he doubted the pilot would have waited this long for him. Most of the personal transports had either been destroyed or taken during the evacuation, but maybe there’d be something left that would at least get him up to the orbital transfer station. The trick now would be to just make it to the port in the first place.

An unfamiliar shape caught his eye and he leaned over to peer through the crack again, shuddering when he realized The Assassin was standing in the doorway of the room. The galaxy only knew how long they’d been there. He swallowed against the bile rising up in his throat and clamped a hand over his mouth, mostly to keep himself from crying out. His skin crawled as The Assassin took a couple of slow, silent steps further into the room. The moonlight turned their dark clothing a silvery-gray and illuminated severe facial features, and he was surprised to see that the person was a woman. She wore her dark hair pulled back and surveyed the room with eyes that appeared just as dark in the shadows. She had a long combat knife strapped to one thigh, and in her left hand she gripped a suppressed projectile pistol.

The Assassin stood so still that for a while he wondered if she was simply a figment of his terrified imagination. But then her head moved, and she turned to look directly at the cabinet. It was all he could do to keep from squirming. Surely there was no way she could actually see him, but although he couldn’t see her eyes clearly, he was almost positive the two of them were making eye contact.

She knows you’re there, and she wants you to know it. After everything he’d seen, he wouldn’t put such a manipulation tactic past her, but he sat there shaking his head as discreetly as possible, hoping she couldn’t sense the movement and trying to convince himself there was no way she could possibly know where he was.

He nearly wet himself when he saw her take a step, but she simply pivoted and strode from the room as quickly and quietly as she had entered. He leaned forward, straining to see through the crack and hoping he’d catch sight of her passing by the doorway as she searched the remainder of the house. He held his breath and listened for her footsteps but was met only with silence. Then, after what felt like years, he heard a beep followed by metal scraping on metal. The front door had opened and closed. She was gone.

He was torn then between waiting to make sure she didn’t come back and rushing to a window to see if she was setting up an ambush outside. He settled on a happy medium and sat there counting under his breath for three minutes before easing the cabinet door open. When he was sure everything was still quiet, he crawled out, crouching until the circulation had returned to his legs. He moved across the room centimeter by centimeter, half-expecting The Assassin to appear in the doorway again. The journey out into the hallway remained uneventful however, and he breathed a sigh of relief when he saw that the path to the front door was clear.

He stepped out, mentally running through all possible routes to the spaceport from here. He dreaded the thought of going on foot but he hadn’t the foggiest clue how to break into a car and doubted he’d find one available for breaking into anyway. Running wouldn’t be so bad; it would enable to him to hide and maintain a lower profile. But running would also require him to cut back through the same forest he’d just been chased through, and he had no idea where The Assassin had gone.

He wasn’t entirely sure which came first – the explosion of pain at the base of his spine or the realization of exactly where The Assassin had gone. Perhaps he had heard a sound or seen something in his peripheral vision; he couldn’t remember for sure. The next thing he did remember was striking his head on the floor.

Something warm and wet was spreading at the small of his back and he could feel it pooling under him. But there was no pain. He didn’t think he could feel his legs.

The floor behind him creaked and the rough tread of a boot sole came to rest on his shoulder. He drew a sharp breath in through his nose and was blinded by hot tears as a powerful leg flipped him over onto his back. The woman was nothing more than a dark shape hovering above him, distorted by his swimming vision. Though he couldn’t see her face, he could once again feel her icy gaze drilling into him.

She stood there observing him silently for several seconds before bending down and shining a small spotlight directly into his face, blocking his view of what – if anything – she was doing. He did his best to keep his eyes open, not wishing to be caught unaware again, but the light burned and sent pain stabbing through his head so he eventually allowed his eyelids to shut. He wanted to beg for mercy, offer to disappear and tell no one about this incident, but his throat seized up and the words eluded him. He guessed the effort would be futile anyway.

The light shut off after a moment as if she’d finished studying him. He thought he heard her release a disappointed sigh, though it was difficult to hear over his own raspy breathing.

“You shouldn’t have run,” she said.

Her voice was a far cry from what he’d expected. It was low and smooth, and despite the circumstances he couldn’t help but be soothed by it.

I know, he wanted to say as tears spilled down his cheeks. I know that now.

“Please,” he managed as she rose back into a standing position. The moonlight glinted off of the casing of her pistol as she took aim for his head.

He shut his eyes again, reveling in the darkness. There was a soft pop followed by a brief burning sensation in his head, and then…nothing.


COMING SOON!

Book Review: Rath’s Gambit by Piers Platt

27211683I was given a free advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

4.5stars

 

After completing Book 1 – Rath’s Deception – I was excited to continue with this series. It has elements from many of my favorite sci fi stories; the tech is like Terminator, the environments are like Blade Runner, and the structure is like the Bourne Series. There were even hints of – I couldn’t believe it – Fallout, which, as those of you who follow me regularly know, is my current obsession.

Once again, I thought I might end up rating this book 4 stars. I’m not sure if I enjoyed it quite as much as the first one, but when I gasped, grinned, and said “oh no” out loud at a certain part toward the end, I knew it had sucked me in enough to warrant another 5-star rating.

That said, it was different than Deception in that there was a little less action and a little more intrigue. The story picked up right where the last one left off and continued following all of the plot threads that were previously left open. There are also some new political elements introduced that seem kind of unrelated at first, but as the story progresses, these new details start shedding light on some of the “whys” and “hows” readers might have been left with after Book 1.

I mentioned in my last review that I didn’t particularly like Rath as a character, but he has really started to grow on me. I think it has a lot to do with the way his character has matured over the course of the story. Like Jason Bourne, he’s no less skilled now that he’s on the run, but he’s dealing with a lot of pain and regret and is having to find new ways to apply his skills in order to avoid the lifestyle he has come to hate. As another reviewer mentioned at one point, he’s “an assassin you can root for.” Paisen/Contractor 339 is turning into a great character too. She’s focused on the future and (mostly) just wants to do what’s right these days. She’s resourceful but only uses her more destructive skills in the direst of circumstances (which she does find herself in at several points in the book). I’m glad we got to know her character a little better, though I was honestly a little disappointed that we didn’t see more of her. But based on the cliffhanger ending we were left with, I have a hunch she’ll play an even bigger role in Book 3.

With some new allies AND new enemies thrown into the mix, I’m excited to see what becomes of this pair in Rath’s Reckoning !

 


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Rath’s Gambit releases December 1, 2015! Look for it on Amazon and Goodreads. You can also grab a Kindle copy of Rath’s Deception for $2.99 – $2 off the regular price – for a limited time!

 


About Piers Platt:

7265977“I grew up in Boston, but spent most of my childhood in various boarding schools, including getting trained as a classical singer at a choir school for boys. I joined the Army in 2002, and spent four years on active duty, including a year-long deployment to Iraq in 2004 as a tank and scout platoon leader.

When I’m not spending time with my lovely wife and daughter, I’m frantically working on my next book.

To be the first to hear about new releases – and get a free e-book! – sign up for my newsletter HERE.”

The Golden Rule of Marketing

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Pro of self-publishing: you get to do everything yourself.

Con of self-publishing: you get to do everything yourself.

Over the past year or so, I’ve had a lot of people ask me about my experience in the realm of self-publishing. Some have wondered because they’re considering trying it for themselves. Others have simply been curious, wondering how it all works and how I manage to juggle the writing, editing, artwork, publishing, marketing, etc. all by myself. It can be tricky. It can be tedious. It can be time-consuming. But in a lot of ways, that’s half2015-07-22 14.33.13 the fun of it. We’ve all heard the phrase “blood, sweat, and tears” — the more time and effort you put into something, the prouder you’ll be of the outcome. I’ll admit, I despise the process of formatting the paperbacks for my books; I become practically homicidal and I’ll probably bite your head off if you bother me while I’m working. But there’s no better feeling than holding that first proof copy in your hands and flipping through the pages and thinking “…I did this.”

I spent a LOT of time working on Ronan while I was on vacation over the 4th of July weekend and ended up explaining the publishing process — specifically when it comes to self-marketing — to various family members. Since then, it’s been on my mind quite a bit, even more so during the past couple of days because I made the decision to push Ronan’s release up to an earlier date. I had originally wanted to release it on Labor Day but was afraid people would still be out camping/barbecuing and didn’t know if that would affect sales. September 14 just seemed so late, so I ended up changing it to even earlier. The new release date is SEPTEMBER 1. That way, people will be able to download the book in time for the long weekend, and I should have plenty of time to order copies for the signing I’ve been invited to at the end of the month.

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A comment was made about needing to stay on top of marketing if I was going to change the release date, especially if I decided to go earlier. I agreed wholeheartedly and then stopped and asked myself the all-important question: How can I spread the word quickly and efficiently without being obnoxious? Luckily, the Ronan proof arrived yesterday, so that gave me a good opportunity to make the announcement. But then I started thinking a little harder. I asked myself, “Hey, what is my marketing strategy anyway?”

As I mentioned, this is something I’ve been thinking quite a bit about lately, and I was inspired to write this post after reading a guest post called Controlling Your Own Fate by the super-awesome G.S. Jennsen over on Read Write Muse. As you might guess from the title, the post focuses mainly on how indie authors have the power to control their publishing experience and make their own decisions. It’s 100% true, and 100% of the reason I love being an indie author. I love creating my own story, I love creating my own covers, I love to hate formatting the paperbacks. And while I would by no means consider myself an expert, I feel like I kinda sorta know what I’m doing in those areas.

businessman-562572_640But when it comes to marketing, I have no clue. Sure, I’ve taken a couple of marketing classes, but only because all the IT students were forced to take them as part of the overall management curriculum. I’m a poor recent college graduate who can’t afford to hire a publicist, and even if I could, I’m not sure if I’d want to. I get my royalties each month and turn around and spend them on more hard copies or some posters or, in the case of this month, some promotional bookmarks. But despite the fact that I don’t really have a real strategy, I still feel like it’s something I can kind of figure out through trial and error. To me, marketing is just as personal as the actual writing or cover design, and even though I’m sort of muddling my way through it, I love the element of control and independence.

When it comes to marketing, I’ve always started by following one major rule, something I’ve come to call the Golden Rule of Marketing:

“Market unto others as you would have them market unto you.”

I take a moment to ask myself, “What makes me want to buy something?” Well, usually, I see it in some sort of advertisement, and I like the way it looks. Maybe it’s something I need and it’s on sale for a few days. Maybe it’s a brand new product I’ve never heard of but it has really good customer ratings. Those sorts of things are what prompt me to take a closer look by visiting the company website or searching for the product in a store…just like how people go visit Amazon or Goodreads when they’re intrigued by an advertisement for a book. Once I get to the store, I can study the product a little more closely. Maybe it ends up not quite being what I was hoping for; the colors are duller than they were in the ad or there’s some fine print the ad didn’t include. Or maybe this thing is exactly what I needed and I end up being really happy with it. Either way, this is the same experience customers have when they get on Amazon/Goodreads to check out synopses and reviews and decide whether they’re going to buy certain books. They’ll see these details and either a) buy a book because they’re still interested, or b) forego it because they realized it wasn’t really what they were looking for.

Regardless of what I’m shopping for, I want to see an ad for something (preferably in some creative or striking media format) and be able to go dig a little deeper. When I take a closer look at the product, I want to see that it’s exactly how I imagined it (if not better), because I’m not a fan of being led on. If I feel like my time has been wasted, chances are I won’t come back. These are all things I take into consideration when deciding how to market my own books. I try to do it in such a way that I would want to buy them if I were another person who happened to stumble upon them. I also want to attract the right audience, people who will actually want to read the books. In the process of following this Golden Rule of Marketing, I follow three simple sub-rules:

via taytheant - Instagram
via taytheant – Instagram

1) Thou shalt not spam. This is something I’m afraid a lot of authors struggle with. Yeah, you want to sell more copies of your book — who doesn’t? — but for the love of all things, don’t be obnoxious. It’s especially an issue on Twitter. I’ve unfollowed (or at least muted in TweetDeck) a couple of people who posted nothing but ads (and mostly praise) for their books every five minutes. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with sharing a good review — I do this myself sometimes — but there’s such a thing as tact. Besides, if I follow someone on Twitter, it’s usually because I’m genuinely interested in them as a person. Sure I want to keep up with their writing shenanigans, but nobody wants to be inundated with ads. Now maybe book spamming works for some people. Maybe I’m just too irritable, but when I see all that spam, I get annoyed enough that I want to buy anything but that book. I just don’t want to be “that person.” I’m content with creating a new ad once a month or so and pinning it to the top of my Twitter profile so it’s still the first thing people see when they visit the page.

2) Thou shalt be honest. This is another one that just seems really simple to me, but I feel like people still struggle with it. When I’m marketing a book, I try to paint as big a picture as I can (without giving away the whole book, of course) so that readers should, theoretically, know exactly what they’re getting into. I see some people trying to market their books as “bestsellers” simply because they reached x rank in x category on Amazon for-a-couple-of-days-that-one-time. My books aren’t bestsellers — I’m lucky if I sell a copy a day — so I would never market them as such. I try as hard as possible to not share my own opinion about my books, because it should be a given that an author likes his/her own book (this is why I refuse to rate my own books on Goodreads). Like I mentioned, I’ll share the occasional blog post or positive review, and I sometimes include snippets of reviews in the media I create. It’s basically a way of saying, “Hey, in case you don’t trust my opinion because I’m the author, here’s what this other random person had to say about it.” I wouldn’t call attention to the fact that my book had 10 five-star reviews if it also had 20 four-star reviews; I’d advertise it as having an average rating of 4.3 stars. I especially wouldn’t want to see a book marketed as having nothing but five-star ratings and then go find that there’s only one actual rating and it’s from the author him/herself. I try to just be objective and state facts. For me, it’s not even a matter of informing and persuading – I’m just trying to stick to the informing part and let readers make their own decision based on the given information. I never say, “Hey, read my book.” If someone contacts me to tell me how much they enjoyed the story after they’ve read it, I’ll usually ask if they’d be willing to leave a quick review when they get a chance, simply because when it comes down to it, reviews are often what sell more books.

3) Thine advertising media shalt be aesthetically pleasing AND accurate. By accurate, I do partially mean honest, but I also mean specific. Defined. For example, I write sci fi, and I want people to be able to take one look at the media I post and be able to tell it’s sci fi without me having to hashtag it or explicitly say so. I’m not going to use sparkles and rainbows in an attempt to draw the eye; I will use strategically-placed lens flare that matches that sci fi theme. Likewise, I’m probably not going to use a lot of bright, cheery colors when advertising a book series that centers around a cold-hearted assassin. There will be lots of shadows, smoke effects, and probably some blood splatter (hurrah for downloadable GIMP brushes!). The media should help tell the story or at least fit with the theme. Here’s a peek at one of the designs I’ve been playing with for those promotional bookmarks I mentioned:

arivabookmarkPLAIN

It shows the characters in kind of a mysterious light and makes use of the All-Important Lens Flare. In addition, it depicts a theme that isn’t explicitly stated in the back cover blurbs of the books, but it’s still intriguing. The Ronan banner I made to announce the new release date uses all the same elements as the book cover, but I rearranged them and added a new one (because let’s face it – who doesn’t want to look at Aroska? 😉 ). I get a lot of my space/nebula backgrounds from Pixabay and Morguefile — both sites have thousands of stock photos free for commercial use. Pixabay tends to have a better selection as well as better-quality, but I’ve found useful things in both places.

Now the “aesthetically pleasing” part is where it gets a little trickier. Not everyone is an artist; I get that. I’m lucky to have been blessed with some artistic talent, although I’m completely self-taught so I technically still don’t know what I’m doing. But I like straight lines, symmetry, matching color schemes, etc. I have a fairly extensive collection of Ziva Payvan series artwork at my disposal and I like to use it as a marketing tool. As a visually-oriented person, I love to use graphics as an advertising medium, so I try to create things that are a) tasteful, b) informative, c) honest, and d) look nice. I want people to be able to look at an ad for my books and recognize the care I’ve put into creating it (which could very well help lead them to buy the actual book). Quite frankly, I’ve seen some really awful info graphics, as well as some really awful book covers. I find myself wishing I could help the author re-design it, but the majority of the time there’s nothing I can do, and I have to just focus on making quality products of my own.

11202553_1615358292076665_6782762097043617666_nI participated in a free book promotion on the 4th of July with some other indie authors from Goodreads, so I made a simple graphic to advertise it. Obviously there are the cover images for each book, and the text in the ad makes it very clear that they are free and when. The flag image reinforces the fact that the promo is because of the holiday, and the starry background reinforces the sci fi theme. In addition, the partial user review at the bottom gives potential new readers an outside opinion. Overall, the graphic is informative, it states honest facts, it’s symmetrical (although the drop shadows kinda throw everything off), and it’s easily shareable or pin-able and doesn’t need to be posted every 5 minutes to get the message across.

These are just the guidelines I like to live by as I continue on through this crazy self-publishing adventure. As someone who doesn’t like to call attention to herself or be in the spotlight, it has been hard to figure out exactly how to market my books (and myself, for that matter). But that Golden Rule of Marketing is something I’ve had in my head since Day One. I don’t want people’s books shoved in my face, so I won’t shove my books in other people’s faces. I don’t want to be led on by advertising, so I won’t lead people on in my own advertising. I want to create visually-appealing media that reinforces both of these other goals. While I believe everyone should strive to be tactful, honest, and refined, I’m not saying everyone has to follow these sub-rules to a T, but if everyone followed the Golden Rule itself, the indie publishing community could be an even better place than it already is.


Look for Ronan: Ziva Payvan Book 3

SEPTEMBER 1, 2015

News news news!

ronancoverNEWFirst up, Ronan: Ziva Payvan Book 3 has been completed and has officially entered the editing stage! What does this mean?

a) I get so caught up in working that I forget to eat

b) my tendonitis flares up almost every day while scrolling through the massive document

c) most importantly, the book is on schedule for its September release. I still don’t have a definite release date picked, though I’m sure I will by the end of this month.

I’ve already completed my first read-through and have sent it off to first-round beta readers, and I’ve started experimenting with paperback formatting. More on this in a bit!


2015finalist

This past May, I was informed that Dakiti: Ziva Payvan Book 1 had been nominated for Best Science Fiction of 2014 in the eFestival of Words Best of the Independent eBook Awards! I’d never even heard of this, but apparently a variety of books were peer-nominated by different authors, publishers, librarians, and editors. That means someone somewhere out there was kind enough to nominate Dakiti, so that’s pretty cool! Each genre category was narrowed down to 14 nominations, and then volunteers went through each of those categories looking at book excerpts, cover art, blurbs, author websites, reviews, and other sources of information on the nominated books to narrow down each category to seven finalists. They basically looked at the books as a reader would and ultimately selected the titles that did the best overall job of making them want to buy.

Well, after all of that, Dakiti is now a finalist, and voting has now been opened to the public! The polls close August 14, and the winners are announced August 16. It would be super awesome if people could vote 🙂 You do need to make an account in the forum in order to view the list of nominees and participate in the voting – I had to make an account to even look at the nominations list back in May – but it’s a fairly painless process (the Captcha at the end can apparently be a little bit tricky but I didn’t have any problems with it). You can VOTE FOR DAKITI HEREperuse the list of finalists for all categories HERE, and check out the polls for those other categories HERE.

Dakiti is currently leading in the sci fi category with 4 votes, while two of the other books each have 1 vote.


Anyway, Ronan was “officially” completed June 28 and had a word count of 153,554. It’s the longest book of the trilogy, but I think it actually took me the least amount of time to write, mostly because I managed to follow my Just Do It routine so well. I first began outlining it in the spring of 2013 (before Nexus was even finished) and wrote about 15k last July/August. But the rest of it has been written since this past January – that means I wrote ~138k in 6 months while going to school full time, writing a Windows-based volleyball stat keeping application, and maintaining a high enough GPA to graduate cum laude with an IT degree (that year I spent in software engineering really screwed up my GPA…). Needless to say, that’s a lot of writing, most of which was done while I was supposed to be working on other things (anyone else find that you’re actually more productive when that’s the case??). I was afraid I’d cry when I was done, but I think I’ve just been too tired and haven’t really been able to comprehend it yet.

I used an in-progress beta reader – I basically sent her chapters as I finished them – so by the time the book was done, it had already gone through one round of editing. She’s reading the whole thing through again, and as I mentioned, it has been sent off to the first new beta reader, who is beyond ecstatic to read it. I’m beyond ecstatic to have someone besides myself read it, because I’ve spent however long with this story stuck in my head and haven’t been able to share all the juicy secrets 😉

Because I am both a visually- and statistically-oriented person, I put together some graphs to show how certain elements in Ronan compare with the other books in the series.

wordcountAs I mentioned, Ronan has the highest word count of the three books. The values for Dakiti and Nexus here include copyright page, acknowledgements, blurbs for the next book, etc. so the stories themselves are a little shorter. Still, when I was messing with the paperback formatting, the difference between Nexus’s and Ronan’s spine width is only something like a hundredth of an inch, so I’m not worried.

chaptersThis graph really blows my mind because a) I’m still not sure how I ended up with an even 100 chapters in Nexus, and b) despite the (massive) difference in word count, Dakiti and Ronan have nearly the same number of chapters. On average, Ronan’s chapters are much longer than what we’ve seen in the other books (I think I decided the average word count per chapter is ~3k). It also has an epilogue that could sort of count as a 63rd chapter.

venn diagramThis shows the character distribution between books. We have 8 characters who are central to the story and appear in all three books. 11 named/speaking characters were exclusive to Dakiti, 7 were exclusive to Nexus, and there are 18 exclusive to Ronan (don’t worry, they’re not hard to keep track of!…at least I don’t think so, but my opinion hardly counts). 6 characters appear in only Nexus and Ronan, while 5 characters from Dakiti return in Ronan. Surprisingly, there weren’t any who were exclusive to only Dakiti and Nexus, unless I’m totally forgetting something…

deathsObviously we have to keep track of character deaths! There should actually be 7 deaths in Ronan – I totally forgot two of the most important ones when I made the graph, probably because so many people die that it got hard to keep track of. Most of them just don’t have names or speaking parts. *whistles innocently*

named vs. POVAnd this is a statistic that I find really interesting. Out of all three books, Ronan has the highest number of named characters (most of whom have speaking parts) but the lowest number of POV characters. Quite a few of those 32 named/speaking characters have been seen in the other books though so it shouldn’t be a huge pain to keep track of them all. I’ve been trying to cut down on POV characters as I’ve worked through the series, and apparently I’ve managed to do exactly that. 12 people was a lot for Dakiti, especially considering how short it is (and the fact that two of those characters only have a single POV scene).

SO, work will continue and I will keep everyone up to date with my progress. Stop by my Facebook page for regular updates.

I mentioned I’d already started experimenting with paperback formatting. Yes, it’s a little early, but when I was editing Nexus, I actually found it really useful to order a single proof copy before editing was actually complete and read the whole story in “real book” form. It helps me be more objective. I ended up kind of defacing the poor thing with all of my highlighter marks and sticky tabs, but it was a lot easier to find potential formatting issues than it was in the PDF or online proof. Plus I reallllly can’t wait to see the physical copy, so the sooner I can get one in my hands, the better. I’ll likely do one more self-beta-read before that though. For that, I typically create a .mobi file and read from my Kindle, then make appropriate changes to the Word document. When I’m staring at a computer screen, I tend to skip over things because there’s so much extra text within viewing range. Pretending I’m reading a real book just makes me so much more thorough.

If I ever go totally off the deep end, paperback formatting will have been the underlying cause
If I ever go totally off the deep end, paperback formatting will have been the underlying cause

*strategically blurred so nobody can see anything*

If you’re looking forward to Ronan, don’t forget to add it on Goodreads! I can’t wait to share it with everyone!

The Nerdy History of Yours Truly

This gif is an accurate representation of how I felt after seeing the new trailer
This gif is an accurate representation of how I felt after seeing the new trailer

I’d been trying to think of some material for a new blog post and realized I hadn’t offered my two cents on the new Star Wars trailer (well, I have, just not in written format where the masses can see it). Considering Star Wars is what got me writing in the first place, I figured the story was worth telling.

I can’t remember when exactly I really became aware of Star Wars. We used to play a game in PE when I was in elementary called “Star Wars Sock Wars” and it was basically dodgeball with balled-up socks. Each team had a “Jedi Knight” with a piece of PVC pipe that was supposed to be a lightsaber (or “livesaver/lightsaver” as I thought back then) and if someone got hit by a sock, you could go tag them and bring them back to “life.” So of course if your Jedi died, your team was kind of screwed and you immediately directed all your efforts toward killing the other team’s Jedi. Back in those days, I had no idea what a Jedi even was and always felt like the PE teacher treated us like we were supposed to know. I just played along. I knew “Dark Vader” was that big scary guy in the black armor with the weird mask, I’m pretty sure I’d heard of Luke Skywalker or could at least tell you he had something to do with Star Wars, and after awhile I knew who Yoda was because the people who had our dog as a puppy were calling her “Yoda” before she was adopted because of the way her ears stuck out.

Aww, I miss her 😦

Anyway, during the summer between 4th and 5th grade, my sister and I spent a lot of time at our friends’ house while our mom was working. Their sons were our age, and they had all the movies and had asked a couple times if we wanted to watch them. I was always kind of like, “Pssshhh no, are you kidding? Those are boy movies.” I have no idea where that mindset came from because I was never really raised like that. I played with the toys I wanted to play with, watched the shows I wanted to watch, etc. Eventually though, we were at their house one day and had gone to Walmart with them. One of them was a paper delivery boy so he had some extra money from doing the paper route, and he was like, “Okay you guys need lightsabers.” So he bought my sister and I each one of those plastic retractable lightsabers (I definitely still have mine somewhere…). Bear in mind that he was like 10 at this point too – talk about being determined to convert us! We went back to their house and I said “You know what, screw it” and we watched one of the movies. I cringe while saying we started with The Phantom Menace, but honestly it might have been for the best because it had cool special effects and stuff and I’m not sure if I would have appreciated the original trilogy as much at that point. And of course I was young enough that I couldn’t really comprehend the horrible acting. I just thought all the blasters and lightsabers and space battles and pod races were cool. And okay, the space battle and pod race are still cool…and Darth Maul ❤

So then we went home that day and were like, “Hey, we watched Star Wars today!” My parents really had no clue about the prequels (or prequel, I guess, being as TPM was the only one out at the time) but we went to the library and rented all the old movies and watched them for the first time. I remember being terrified of the jawas at first because I’ve always hated things with glowing eyes. So we saw all the old movies, and I don’t remember being weirded out by the crusty special effects at all. Let’s face it – for as old as those movies are, the special effects really are incredible (I personally think they’re better than some of the movies that came out later in the 80’s *cough* Terminator….). And if you watch the Empire of Dreams documentary, you really come to appreciate them even more because of how few resources the production teams had.

No, really – take 2 hours out of your life sometime and watch it. It tells the story of how the original trilogy was made, and it’s seriously insane. Everyone thought George Lucas was a crazy person, nothing was going right during production, and it ended up basically just being a disaster. It’s really fun to go watch the movies after seeing this and see how they all turned out. It’s pretty long, but SO worth it. The entire video is up on YouTube. I’m not sure what happened to the original, but this one below works just fine, even though all the text is randomly in Polish. Check it out

It really was kind of like flipping a switch. I saw the movies and I was like “Hey, you know what, this is pretty awesome!” and I started reading into it and checking out some of the books and basically fell in love with it in a day. Obviously it took me a few years to really understand the political backstory and stuff in the newer movies, but I got the gist of it.

We were at our friends’ house again later that summer and this was around the time Attack of the Clones was coming out so we got to go see that in the theater with them. Then when Revenge of the Sith came out, we got to go see that in the
theater too. I often find myself wishing I would have been alive in 1977 to go see the original movie because all the hype back then was absolutely unbelievable. The hype NOW is just so much fun. I hope this new movie lives up to it. I keep forgetting it’s still like 8 months away…

Everyone’s seen the new trailer right? It’s my goal in life to make sure everyone on the planet sees the new trailer. It has been insanely fun to watch all the different reaction videos and make fun of other people for doing the exact same thing I did when I watched it for the first time.

Source: http://epicstream.com/news/Star-Wars-The-Force-Awakens---Gwendoline-Christie-is-Captain-Phasma
Source: http://epicstream.com/news/Star-Wars-The-Force-Awakens—Gwendoline-Christie-is-Captain-Phasma

I’m one of those people who became hysterical at the end – what started out as a maniacal cackle turned into bawling for no reason, which in turn morphed into laughing-at-myself-for-crying. I still have no idea what the plot is going to be like, but just catching glimpses of what it all looks like is good enough for me at the moment. Also, I’m super excited because that awesome chrome stormtrooper at about 1:20? Yeah. That’s Gwendoline Christie. Aka Brienne of Tarth.

*screeches*

So there you have it. The idea of being able to create new worlds with awesome technology and alien races is what inspired me to start writing. Ziva actually started out as a small filler character I threw together for a couple of scenes in a Star Wars fanfic I was writing with some friends, and now look where she is.

ronancoverNEWIn other news, Ronan’s Goodreads page is up! The release is still a long way off (completion is still a long way off if I don’t kick it into gear here soon…) but it’s still there and available for adding to TBR lists. The finalized cover art and back blurb are also available for viewing, and I went ahead and added a few of the quotes I’ve been posting throughout the writing process. I’ve still been managing to Just Do It every day, but I’ve still been stuck in a little bit of a rut so progress has been slow. I ran into a couple of scenes I hadn’t planned very well for and thought I’d have to skip ahead to some other stuff, but just yesterday I had an epiphany about how to fix all my problems (don’t you just love those??) and should be able to start churning stuff out a little faster. That is, if I don’t continue getting distracted by everything under the sun.

Namely, Two Steps From Hell’s new album, Battlecry.

libraryDakiti and Nexus have also officially made it into circulation at my county library, so that’s really exciting. I stopped in to “visit” them the first day they’d been on the shelf and had to stand there feigning disinterest as I flipped through the pages (screeching in the library is generally frowned upon). They have their little call number and genre stickers and are currently being featured on the “new books” shelf right by the check-out desk. I stalk them on the library catalog’s website every so often, and they’ve been checked out at least once. In terms of subject matter, they’re listed under not only sci fi but also “life on other planets” and “space warfare,” which I think is pretty great. It would be great if I could get more local people to read them. Aside from people I know personally, I really haven’t directed my marketing toward anything or anyone in the area. Meanwhile, I’ve sold more Kindle copies of Dakiti in Germany than in the U.S. during the past month…

Today, I was also featured over at To Read Or Not To Read, and I was really pleased with how personalized the questions were. It’s awesome when bloggers invest a little time in the people they’re featuring. The interview went as follows:

1. You’re a long-time fan of science fiction. Who or what inspired you to become such a fan?

I was actually just reminiscing about this the other day thanks to the new trailer for Star Wars episode VII. I vividly remember the summer between 4th and 5th grade; my sister and I spent a lot of time at our friends’ house, and they persuaded us to watch Star Wars one day while we were there. We actually started with The Phantom Menace (I’ll pause and let Star Wars fans everywhere shudder), but it was enough to captivate my little 10-year-old self. The transformation basically happened overnight. I immediately went to watch the rest of the movies and started looking for other things that fit into the same space opera genre. Over the years, I’ve also fallen in love with the settings in Firefly/Serenity, Mass Effect, and Battlestar Galactica. Ever since I started publishing my own books, I’ve been trying to check out some older sci fi stories, as well as try sub genres other than space opera and space fantasy (e.g. cyberpunk). Star Wars was my first love though, and it’s what inspired me to start writing in the first place.

2. Please tell our readers about the Ziva Payvan series?

These books center around a group of characters who are all members of a superhuman race and work for the main law enforcement agency on their planet. I often tell people that the series combines the sci fi and spy thriller genres because it deals with assassins, conspiracies, and frame-ups but it’s set in a fictional galaxy. My main character, Ziva Payvan, is a spec ops lieutenant with the Haphezian Special Police who leads her team on covert missions and fights to expose the galaxy’s secrets, all while hiding a deadly secret of her own. She by no means thinks of herself as a hero (she refers to herself as a “problem solver” and believes good and evil are kind of relative to the situation) but she often gets the role of hero thrust upon her, which is something she’s not really a fan of. Books 1 and 2 — Dakiti and Nexus — are available in both Kindle and paperback formats through Amazon, and I’m currently about 75% done with the first draft of Book 3, Ronan.

3. What kind of struggles did you face when you created this world?

I think one of the toughest things about creating any fictional world (particularly in sci fi) is figuring out the necessary balance between “foreign” and “familiar.” Typically in sci fi, you’re either dealing with a futuristic or near-future Earth, a futuristic version of our galaxy, or a completely fictional universe with alien worlds. In the case of the former two, the world building is fairly easy from a cultural standpoint because you can base pretty much everything on our world’s current structure. In the case of the latter, you want to be able to make an alien culture unique and interesting, but at the same time you don’t want it to be wacky enough that it overwhelms readers. That’s the boat I find myself in. In the galaxy my story is set in, the central planets support a mostly-human population, while all the non-human races reside out in the Fringe Systems on the outer edges. I still try to give Ziva’s Haphezian culture unique aspects, and that’s a lot of fun, but because the galaxy is basically controlled by humans, I figure it’s okay to include some “familiar” concepts as well. But like I said, it’s hard to find a balance. Some readers have mentioned how happy they’ve been to not be bombarded by too much foreign culture. Others have said they thought there were a few too many familiar concepts that seemed unrealistic for an alien culture. I just have to remember that it’s impossible to please everyone. The world-building elements usually come to me fairly easily, but then I have to figure out how, where, and even IF I should use them.

4. What are some of Ziva’s strengths and weaknesses?

warriorI think one of her biggest strengths is exactly that: her strength. She’s strong in both a literal and more abstract sense. She’s tall, muscular, and physically fit, but she’s also capable of pushing herself mentally and staying focused in extremely stressful situations. When combined, these elements make her a force to be reckoned with and provide her with the tools she needs to do her job and survive on a day-to-day basis. She doesn’t want to let herself get attached to more people than necessary, but she’s extremely loyal and will do just about anything for the few people she is attached to. She’s smart and inventive, and although she doesn’t particularly like doing some of the things her job entails, she knows she’s still very good at them. On the flip side, she’s not exactly a — shall we say — nice person. She’s not very patient; she could sit and wait all day behind the scope of a sniper rifle, but she gets really impatient with other people if she thinks they’re incompetent or not contributing to whatever she’s doing. She’s obsessed enough with the idea of not getting attached to people that she lashes out in order to keep them from getting close to her. She’s also developed a nasty habit of lying to herself and keeping her real thoughts and feelings bottled up, and while that does allow her to do her job better, it also means she’s prone to blowing up and losing composure at inconvenient times. Overall, she’s an extremely enjoyable — albeit complex — character to write, and getting to show the different aspects of her personality has always been a lot of fun.

5. What are some of the things you do when you’re not writing?

I’m currently finishing up a 5th year of college and am on track to graduate in June, so I guess you could say school and homework are some of the things I do when I’m not writing (although I do my fair share of writing when I should be taking lecture notes…shhh, don’t tell my professors). I enjoy working out regularly and reading (sometimes even beta reading) other indie-published books. I also love to draw and play video games, but I’ve been devoting so much of my free time to writing lately that I haven’t had much time for my other hobbies.