fiction, writing

Campfire Tales worth writing about

I have a story in a new charity anthology!

Campfire Tales Worth Writing About is the newest edition in the Worth Writing About series which features short fiction and other bits and pieces around a theme.
Each sale’s profits go to a charity and this month’s charity is The Abortion Access Fund

My story, Which Tree, is a little weird modern bardic tale inspired by the tabletop roleplaying game Sleepaway.

I wrote it quickly, inspired by an incident in the game of Sleepaway I played the year before last. It has some gender diverse characters and something living in a tree. I wrote it longhand first up and typed it up within a few hours, which was a pretty fun and breezy way to write. I’ve been enjoying writing short fiction to prompts and I’m hopeful I’ll be able to share more little publications like this with you soon!

If you want to capture the feeling of sitting around a campfire and telling stories, this is the collection for you. Buy now

fiction, Writers, writing

Pride Month reading list – local authors

In honour of Pride here’s a selection of books from Kiwi authors featuring an array of rainbow characters – purchase links in the titles and covers. A couple are preorders at the time of publishing, and some are on sale for the month of June 2022.

The Last God (preorder) by Gillian St Kevern
MM high fantasy
Kel, a former prince turned gravedigger, serves the Unknown God. Bitter about the gods’ neglect of their people, Kel’s limited patience with the divine is tested when his former lover, now a famous general, shows up in the tiny town of Farport. Done with being the gods’ plaything, Kel quits the priesthood—only to discover that the unknown god has plans for him and his ex.

Iscar’s shocked to discover that the prince who was too good for a lowly soldier now follows the god of outcasts. He’s even more shocked when the unknown god declares himself to be War and claims Kel as his high-priest. Having experienced all war’s horrors, Iscar is determined to free Kel from the god, escorting him to Celestial City in an attempt to win Kel away.

Kel fights his attraction to Iscar and struggles with his duty to his god. Iscar’s belief that the gods are just, and reward those who are deserving, is challenged by their journey. His allegiance is no longer to the gods, but to his love. But Kel, consumed by doubt, cannot see what a man—or a god—would want in him.


Rival Princes by Jaxon Knight
MM contemporary romantic comedy

There are three golden rules for new recruits at Fairyland Theme Park:

1. No breaking character, even if you’re dying of heat exhaustion
2. Always give guests the most magical time
3. No falling in love.

Nate’s only been at work one day, and he’s already broken all three.

Fast-tracked into a Prince role, Nate’s at odds with Dash, the handsome not-so-charming prince who is supposed to be training him. Nate doesn’t know how he ended up on Dash’s bad side, but the broody prince sure is hot when he gets mad.

Dash has worked long and hard to play Prince Justice at Fairyland. Now, instead of focusing on his own performance, he is forced to train newbie Nate to be the perfect prince. Nate’s annoying ease with the guests coupled with his charm and good looks could dethrone Dash from his number one spot … so why does he secretly want to kiss him?

Fairyland heats up as sparks fly between the two rival princes. Will they get their fairytale romance before they’re kicked out of Fairyland for good? Find out in this standalone MM contemporary romance by Jaxon Knight, set in an amusement park where fairytales can come true.

How to Get a Girlfriend (When You’re a Terrifying Monster) (preorder), by Marie Cardno – FF/ sapphic monster romance

Trillin isn’t technically a person. She’s a tiny breakaway piece of consciousness from the all-devouring Endless, doomed to eventually rejoin it. But when a human witch stumbles into her world, Trillin suddenly has a new reason to figure out individuality–one shape-shifting tentacle at a time.

Sian is sure important magical discoveries are just around the corner, if she can just get her portals to work reliably. Reaching the dimension of the Endless without being eaten on sight is a dream come true, and Sian is determined to explore every bit of it. For science, of course, not for the strangely adorable life-form who keeps popping up and trying to… flirt?

But Trillin’s world can be a dangerous place, and keeping Sian safe might risk drawing the attention of the Endless itself–which will swallow Trillin up along with all her dreams of humanity. Together, can this unlikely duo escape the Endless, figure out the optimum number of appendages, and maybe even find love?


Ten Acceptable Acts of Arson and other very short stories by Jack Remiel Cottrell
Everyone is queer litfic

here are many messages in this book: Never go drinking using your passport for ID. Make sure to apply lidocaine before ripping out your toenails. Magic might be real, but it never fixes the worst of your problems. Try to fall in love with bastards. You or someone you know may be gayer than previously thought. We’re not going to make it to Mars. A locked psychiatric ward needs more books than a single copy of Jane Eyre. Asking time travellers for advice on your exams is considered cheating. It’s not just human houses that become haunted. The key message is this: Life in the early 21st century is often very strange. So are these stories. With a crisp insouciance and gliding charm, Jack Cottrell’s fiery, fey, finely-tuned fictions leap from sci-fi to fantasy, comedy to horror, literary realism to romance, and to hybrids of all of these. Featuring sport, friendship, love, health, family, climate change, artificial intelligence, desire, magic, Greek gods, ghosts, peanut butter, cyber pranks, racial prejudice, and creepy medical advances, his stories play with the allure of the past, the disturbances of our own times, and the dangerous idealism of our future technologies – each one in fewer than 300 words.


Sanctuary by Andi C Buchanan
F/NB

The once-grand, now dilapidated old house they live in has become a refuge for their found family—Morgan’s partner Araminta, an artist with excellent dress sense; Theo, a ten-year-old with an excess of energy; quiet telekinesthetic pensioner Denny—as well as the ghosts who live alongside them. All people who once needed sanctuary for their queer, neurodivergent selves.

Now they offer that safety to the dead as well as the living.

When a collection of ghosts trapped in old bottles are delivered to their door, something from the past is unleashed. A man who once collected ghosts – a man who should have died centuries before – suddenly has the house under his control. Morgan must trust their own abilities, and their hard-won sense of self, to save their home, their family, and the woman they love.


A Gap in the Veil by Samantha Schenk
MM urban fantasy

As a mechanic, Greg can fix just about anything—except his broken heart. He finds solace in witchcraft, solving problems for ghosts instead of looking closer to home.

When a visiting musician dials up the charm after a gig in town, Greg’s life looks to be taking a turn for the better. His plans to keep things simple between them are complicated by the awakening of a spirit bent on corruption. Greg must make choices between moving on or taking the fight to a whole new level and save Wellington from a past it had almost forgotten.


Pride Month sale titles by Noami Aoki
MMF, MMM and Bi


Dark Attraction by Drake LaMarque
MM vampire romance

Brand: A pansexual college surfer dude looking for love in all the wrong places
Gage: A mysterious goth with something to hide who will do anything to keep what’s his

When they meet at a party, there’s an instant attraction but between Gage’s dominant hunger and Brand’s need to submit to him… the fire may be all-consuming.

an MM vampire/human romance featuring lots of spice – start of a series!


Prelude to Love by Anne Barwell
MM contemporary romance

Joel is a music teacher who knows it’s time to forget his ex and move on, while Marcus runs a lawn-mowing business and has come to Wellington to escape the reminders of a recent breakup. Although they’re opposites, when Joel and Marcus connect, their romance has the potential to hit all the right notes.

Too bad neither of them feels ready for new love.

With family and friends in common, dating is risky and things could get messy if it doesn’t work out. When the sweet song of possibility draws them towards romance, a Chopin prelude ends in a seductive kiss. But it will take some practice and perseverance to find their perfect harmony…

Author’s note: This is the second edition of Prelude to Love. The first edition was released by another publishing house. This edition has some added content, and has been revised and re-edited with the end result being a better, stronger story. It uses New Zealand spelling to reflect its setting.

Writers, writing

YA novel Onesies and Ouijaboards out now!

Onesies and Ouijaboards

I’ve returned to the world of Young Adult novels!

Onesies and Ouijaboards is a spin off from my Mt Eden Witches series – involving Basil the library witch from Overdues and Occultism and Monsters and Manuscripts. It’s a standalone novel, and you don’t have to have read the other two before this one, but you’ll get a better idea of the world if you do.

So, why did I write another Young Adult novel after all this time?

Honestly, it was because teenagers asked for it. Not like, by spamming my socials or anything, but over the last 16 months or so I’ve been to a few book fairs (not as many as were planned, due to Covid and restrictions), but I’ve learned a bit. I’ve had a lot of varied teens look at the covers to my Witchy Fiction books and been really interested, but then a few of them have asked if there’s romance in them, and been disappointed when the answer was yes. This happened a handful of times, which isn’t a huge survey at all, but it showed that there was a gap in the market.

So I went ahead and wrote Onesies with the plan of including no romance at all. It’s also my first book with a non-binary solo main character. Arrow came to me at the end of Overdues and Occultism – a grumpy, emo teen who came into the library with their family.

The book was delightful to write. Arrow was firm in my mind as a person who loved fantasy and wanted something more, and the events of Monsters and Manuscripts opened up the perfect opportunity for their story.

This book is going to be available over a lot of ebook platforms, although just for the moment it’s only on Amazon, but watch out for it in the next few days.

Gorgeous cover by Jacqueline Sweet

Be careful what you wish for…

Arrow is fifteen, non-binary, and bored.

It’s one thing to read about magic, or watch ghost hunting shows. But Arrow yearns for something more. When they try out a prosperity spell from a magical library book, things start to go very very right.

Until they don’t.

Arrow’s good luck seems to be affecting a lot of the people around them. From A students suddenly failing quizzes to freak accidents, their good luck seems to be double-sided to say the least. Arrow’s best friend Ren knows not to mess with the unknown, but Arrow’s spell might just affect him all the same.

Arrow’s got to learn about how to wield their magic fast when the power they’ve drawn down proves to be beautiful, but dangerous as well.
***

Onesies and Ouijaboards is a young adult novella spinoff of the popular Mt Eden Witches series. There is no romance, but there are tarot cards, best friends, ghosts and bubble tea

Buy it now!

writing

Writing process? – part six – Publishing preparation

So, this is my step by step for self-publishing. It’s New Zealand based, because that’s what I have experience with. This is the stuff you can do up front, and will make the actually upload process very quick and streamlined when you get to it.

Get yourself an ISBN. In NZ you can get one for free from the National Library here. It’s free to issue but you will need to give them a copy of your book for legal deposit when it’s done, they’ll send the form, etc with the ISBN. Easy!

You’ll need cover art. There’s lots of options here, there are artists on Fiverr and on Facebook. Or you can check the credits on the books with awesome covers and find artists that way, or ask a fellow indie author who has covers you love for a referral. Many, many options. You’ll need to know going in if you’re publishing ebook only or paperback too, because there’ll often be an extra cost for a wraparound paperback cover.

Decide where to publish through. Most authors, myself included, go for Amazon. Amazon is a great choice because it has the widest audience and it has Kindle Unlimited, which is great for certain genre of books. Lots of romance readers are in KU and you get paid per page read, which can be quite lucrative.

You can also go ‘wide’ and publish with Kobo, Apple Books, etc. This is particularly easy if you use an online distributor. I use Draft2Digital for this because they upload books to library wholesalers, which gives me more options to sell. You can also do each website manually, but I like saving time, even if D2D take a little cut of sales.

Write your blurb aka the absolute worst part of the novel creation process. The best advice I’ve seen for this is to look around at blurbs in your genre, which sound interesting. Work out what it is about the blurb which sounds interesting and then do your own version. No copy pasting here, that’s gross and bad manners. Instead, look at what’s grabbing you. Look at what makes you interested, and then draw out the most interesting, hooky things about your book’s plot. I absolutely hate blurbs, but they do get easier with time.

Write your endmatter. It’s up to you what to put in the back of the book. Links to your author social media, links to other books or media you’ve got online, a hook for your next book. A preorder link for your next book, if you’re really onto it. A dedication and a little bio of yourself is nice, too.

Copyright page! Something I didn’t even think of until I was getting my manuscript formatted. You need to make a copyright page to go in the front. There are standard ones you can copy paste online and enter in your own information, dates and ISBN. Just google it!

Register with Payoneer or a similar third party banking/payment service. I like Payoneer because it’s super simple to use, they don’t take much of a fee, and they give you a US and a UK bank account number (among others!) This is great, because if you register on Amazon with a New Zealand bank account number, they won’t wire you any money until you’ve earned past a certain threshold. (I think $100USD). Giving them a US bank account cuts that threshold out, and you’ll get paid a lot faster. They also convert the currency for you when you get paid out.

Register on KDP – assuming you’re going with Amazon, Kindle Direct Publishing requires a separate registration/activation from your regular Amazon account. They’ll ask you some tax questions, and you can register your shiny new US bank account number from payoneer with them. Then once they’ve processed your account you’ll get a shiny ‘add your book’ page:

If you’re relatively sure of how long it’ll take you to get everything ready, you could set up a preorder and share the link around. Preorders are great because they give your book a boost on release day. However, don’t set one if there’s any uncertainty about how long it’ll take you to do. You don’t need to upload a manuscript to do a preorder, just a blurb and ideally a cover image. Amazon will give you a countdown for when to upload your manuscript so it’s processed in time.

Okay, I think that’s enough steps for one blog post. Join me again soon for part two: the actual uploading of the thing, and what to do afterwards.

Previously in this series:
Part One – Starting out
Part Two – Characters
Part Three – Actually writing
Part Four – Sticking to it
Part Five – Editing and redrafting

Marketing, writing

Social Media for authors part one: Your voice, your brand

This is the first in my advice series for building customer engagement with readers as an author.

Disclaimer: I’m still very new at this business in particular so I expect this advice will date quickly. That said, I have been doing professional social media for various companies for almost a decade on and off and I know a bit about engagement.

Before you do anything else, you need to think a bit about how you want to come across to a total stranger. You need to plan your brand.

I’ll admit, if someone asks me what my brand is, my mind blanks out. I don’t like the idea of reducing my entire self to a few words, and I hate the idea of selling myself as an idea. But when it came to a pen name it became easier for me to get my head around it.

When I came up with Jaxon Knight for the Fairyland romances, I knew I could leverage off my love for theme parks, fluffy happy stories, romance and food, as those are all things which feature in those books.

For a more hypothetical example, if I have a pen name to write science fiction stories about spaceship battles in space, then that pen name should have a brand concerned with military tactics, spaceships, physics and all things space. If I was to be posting on social media for that pen name, I could do things like retweet NASA and share photos from the International Space Station. Basically you want to connect to your readers on the things that they’re into and you are too.

In terms of politics, it’s important to decide early on what you’re willing to get into. A lot of authors will recommend not being political at all, just stick to the books and the fun stuff. I think this is impossible, frankly. Nothing you write or release exists outside of politics. The choices you make around what to write and what not to, is political. But that doesn’t mean you want to go on twitter and start fights with politicians as your author persona. Just be mindful of what you choose to share.

I, personally, am okay with complaining about transphobia as my author persona, because I write trans and gender diverse characters, and if people are following me for my books then they’ll know that. If someone who disagrees with me unfollows me as a result, that’s okay because they probably wouldn’t like my books anyway. The upside is that if there’s someone, somewhere who looks up to me as an author and identifies as trans or gender diverse, then they’ll know I’ve got their back. Trust is super important.

Keep your voice authentic to you. Don’t make up a bunch of lies that you have to keep track of, because people will catch on, catch you out and assume you have something to hide. Trust lost! You don’t have to be posting photos of yourself and sharing details of your life, but share enough to show you’re a real person. For example, my Jaxon Knight instagram features a lot of food I’ve made, because I put a lot of food and cooking scenes in my Jaxon Knight books.

So what I’m saying, basically, is that you should think a little about how you want to come across before you get stuck into social media as an author. Think about the kinds of things you can share on your social media, decide how much of your true self you’ll share and what you’ll omit from your real life, and have a think about politics as well.

Take a look at what some of your favourite authors are doing, on their facebook pages and twitters you’ll notice it’s not just ads for their books. They’ll be sharing articles and retweeting people etc.

Take a look at what other authors in your genre are doing as well. Obviously, don’t just copy them, but the more you immerse yourself in the community the more you’ll get an instinctive feel for how to interact in a way that works. Watch and learn, and then do your own version of it.

Don’t fake it, if you don’t actually care about the stuff you share, it will read as dull and flat. Be yourself, but be a refined, targeted version of yourself.

Phew, okay. Apparently I have quite a lot to say about brand and voice, despite finding those terms a little cringey. Please comment if you have any insights or extra stuff to add! In this series I’m going to do some specific Twitter, Facebook and Instagram advice and whatever else occurs to me. If you’d like to see me tackle something in particular please let me know!