So, I’m finally screwing my courage to the sticking place and trying a Kickstarter for my next book. It will be for my YA dinosaur epic Mark of the Conifer.

Hatched beneath a solar eclipse, the young raptor warrior Sunstrike enters the world in the shadow of Sol— the goddess of the dinosaurs. Sunstrike is devoted to Sol’s holy law and takes pride in keeping the Pact, the sacrificial regard between hunters and hunted.But the balance of nature is destroyed, and darkness spreads over the land in the shadow of the Empress Charr, a vicious tyrant bent on ruling the North American Cretaceous. Her conquering regime carries a strange and terrifying magic: the knowledge of fire.

His faith in Sol shattered, Sunstrike sets out on an extraordinary quest for justice. When he becomes the protector of the last free herd, he faces challenges to his honor, his courage, and the lives of his friends that will reveal a terrifying destiny.

Sunstrike must face the Empress, even as his dreams foretell that to fail will mean the end of the world — and to win will mean the ultimate sacrifice.


If you’d like to get official updates and so on, the Facebook page is here.

Official start date is Sept 1st!

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Arpeggios of Art

I wanted to do some character art pieces for the Highsong series in order to promote it. I’m an artist myself, but I do not do my own book covers. (Those are done by my good friend Erika Baird.) It’s just a personal preference thing, and I love the covers Erika does. In my pursuit of traditional publishing, I’m hoping to do some illustrated YA. But there’s nothing like some art of your characters to bump things up a bit.

Writers tend to really, really forget that illustrators are amazing. I’m part of SCBWI (Society of Children’s Books WRITERS!!!!!  and illustrators) and recently attended WIFYR (WRITING!!!! and illustrating for young Readers.) The illustrators tend to get left by the wayside, despite being storytellers, too. Visual storytellers. And the job of a good illustrator is to sell your book by making its cover look awesome.

If you are self-publishing, please take the time and the money to get a great artist. Don’t do it yourself if you have no background in illustration or commercial art. If you are a graphic designer and that’s all, you probably are not going to be able to pull off a fantasy art cover with firebreathing dragons. (You might be good at setting the text, though.) As a self-publisher, the art for your book should be your biggest expense.

A few rules for dealing with artists:

  • Don’t insult them by offering pittance. They have bills to pay. And you get what you pay for.
  • Give the artist room to interpret. That’s their job. If you send them ten pages of description of what you want the cover to look like, that’s really annoying and insulting, AND is overstepping your boundaries. They’re the artist, remember? It’s their job to interpret in their own unique style!
  • Choose an artist based on their style. Don’t ask a fine-art painter to try and give you an anime comic kind-of cover. You’re asking for disappointment and a frustrated artist.
  • Be professional when you approach an artist. Query them the same way you would an agent. Ask them their fee, but also let them know what your budget is. If the answer is no, move onto the next artist you had in mind.

I can hear people saying “Well, don’t you ask Erika for all sorts of stuff?” I don’t, actually. She’s an awesome artist and I know it. All I do is suggest a subject matter and ask her for a color scheme. She reads my manuscripts, so she knows what’s going on in the story. And what she chooses to do is always great and a pleasant surprise. Highsong‘s cover was a gift from her, but when it came time to do Risen I asked for a blue color scheme. My third book is Ninth (which is in rewrites at the moment), but I’ve already put in a request for a black and red scheme. I look forward to what she comes up with!


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Concertinas of Consortiums

So, I live out in the middle of nowhere. I know that I say I live near Austin, but that’s because that’s just way easier to say. But my tiny library has ebook borrowing, so I figured I’d post about it.

I had seen a sign in the library about it, and the Highsong series is out there, so I figured, what the heck. I asked the librarian while I was checking out: “So, if theoretically someone wrote an ebook, how would you get that ebook?”

Answer: the library has what’s called a consortium, a collection of ebooks that are accessible by about 80 libraries in the Central Texas area. That’s a lot of people reading my ebook.

So then she asked the title, and I said, “Highsong.”

“And who’s the author?”

I honestly didn’t know what to say to that. I know we’re supposed to be all gung-ho about marketing a book, but I couldn’t bring myself to admit it.

I needn’t have bothered. “Oh, you’re the author! Oh! We’ll get our head librarian to read it and then if she likes it she’ll put it into the consortium. What’s the genre?”

“YA science fiction.”

“She’s always looking for YA.”

So there you go. Another tip for you to try. Because believe me, if my middle-of-nowhere podunk library has access to an ebook consortium, odds are yours will, too.

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Canzonas of CreateSpace, Part 1

I thought I would give CreateSpace a shot, since I’d heard about it and it wouldn’t get in the way of the Highsong series being Amazon exclusive. I’ve also had quite a few would-be fans say they don’t have Kindles but would like to buy the book in book form.

So, things you need to know.

1. Your formatting is the same. Whatever you used to make your ebook look good, you will need to have the same tricks for your CreateSpace book. (As a matter of fact it asks you at the end if you want to go ahead and make your print book an ebook on the Kindle.) I had actually discovered a much better way of formatting on Risen, so I had to go back and reformat Highsong in the same way. There is a print preview that is a godsend; I uploaded mine about 5 or 6 times to play with margins and such.

2. You will need to resize your document’s page. I opted to do the 6×9 book size, since my story is a novella. So this little trick is actually under File>Page Setup, which I usually never bothered with unless I was printing. (Which in a way, I am.) Under the Paper tab, you can set your page size from 8.5×11 to 6×9.  Your formatting, if you’ve done it right, won’t be an issue with the resize, but you will have to play with your margins a bit. I’ve read way too many self-published books that had giant, straight-laced margins that crammed the writing into a column, and I didn’t want that. I switched between playing with CreateSpace’s preview and Word’s margins before I got what I liked. I didn’t play with fonts for chapter headers or anything, but definitely after doing this I’m excited to do so for future projects.

3. Uploading your .pdf will take forever and you must babysit it.  One of the more annoying aspects of my experience. I am an illustrator, so I took my ebook covers and footled around with them to make them accessible enough real book covers. You can generate your own template for a proper bleed and all, and CreateSpace asks for Print Quality .pdfs. Therefore, your .pdf, which is the only image format accepted, will be huge and take forever to upload. I had to keep resending and resending the thing, because the upload bar would get to 22% or even 40% and then decide it needed to quit. Oddly enough, surfing the Net while I uploaded seemed to help. (I would have thought it counterproductive, but whatever works.)

I am waiting on my proofs for both books now. A little hesitant, since this is the first time I’ve done something like this, and print-on-demand has such a bad rep. My next post will let you know how it goes, what mistakes I made, and what I did to correct them.

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Risen Available on Kindle Now!

Just in time for Cyber Monday!

Purchase it here.

Nearly two years after surviving the incident on Ptaal, the unique psychic abilities of Harp Hess and his dolphin companion Sia have captured the attention of the Ninth Democracy. Isolated from his mother and trained at a secret facility to battle the alien threat of the Viciss, Harp is reluctantly on route to his first real battle.

But an ambush leaves Harp and Sia stranded, in the company of a ragtag militia desperate to save a doomed planet. As Harp struggles to form an uneasy alliance, Sia realizes this time, their greatest enemy may come from within …

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Rigadoons of Regret

Finally, FINALLY, Risen is being published, I swear! Just in time for Cyber Monday, the sequel will be available.

I apologize that things took so long! Most of it was computer trouble, but a good chunk of it was also getting other writing projects ready for critique and presented to agents and whatnot.

But for those who follow the blog, I have some art to reward your patience!

RisenThis was done a while back, just as concept for some of the characters that appear. Leviathan the humpback whale, Trig the Pacific white-sided dolphin, and of course Zei, Sia, and Harp from Book 1.

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Risen Resurrection

So, it’s been a while. I’ve been working on many other writing projects, but the sequel to Highsong is nearing completion. I’ll announce the official release date soon, but in the meantime here’s a nifty preview of the cover for Risen. RisenCoverLoRes


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Elegy of Efforts, Part 3

So this week, I’ve done some more things to drum up popularity for Highsong and thought I’d share them.

* Took out a Facebook ad, because they offered $50 for free.

* Took out a small banner ad on one of my favorite webcomics, Gunnerkrigg Court. What the book has earned so far will pay for it, so yay!

* Emailed the Guys at Penny Arcade, because what the hell.  I’ve got nothing to lose, do I?

* Posted on The Domestic Fringe’s Fiction Friday.

* Asked folks in my ring to tag-bomb on Amazon, and also traded tagging with a lot of folks on the Amazon indie/ebook forums.

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Refrains of Reviews

I promised I’d talk about requesting reviews from folks.  Really, the whole process reminds me of querying.  You pitch your book, and these people will accept or reject it.  Luckily, most of these guys are not nearly as picky as literary agents.  Good reviews are key to getting book sales.  And really, there’s only two rules in approaching a book reviewer.

1. Be polite.  I can’t stress this enough.  Most of the people on the ebook or indie scene are just everyday folks who happen to like books.  They have lives, and they have time constraints just like everyone else.  Don’t make assumptions of any kind, and that includes sending them stuff unasked.  You ask permission to send them something; don’t just attach your ebook and hurl the email at them saying “Let me know when the review is out!” It’s up to you to make the book sound interesting, which is where your pitch lines and summaries come in handy.  You can include links to the book and its reviews, but considering the average attention of an Internet user, there’s no guarantee anyone’s going to click on that link.  Keep your emails short.  Treat it like a casual but way shorter and  friendlier query letter, and you’ll probably get a good response.  If you get rejected, DO NOT be pissy about it.  Move on to the next one, and maybe even at least send an email thanking the reviewer for their time.  You never know when you might write something that is to their preference, or that you may have been rejected because these people have a 6 month’s supply of books to read.  And may have accepted your book for review 6 months down the line, but you decided to be a jerk, so …

2. Do your research.  At the very least, you need to know the name of the person you’re emailing, and their genre interests.  I did run into a lot of people who said quite plainly “NO EBOOKS.”  I’d’ve been wasting my time trying to cajole them into Highsong.  I also don’t want to send my sci-fi book about dolphins to a chick-lit reader.  It just wouldn’t click. Most book review blogs have a tab that outlines their preferences of how to approach them.  I found I didn’t really need to tailor my letter that much when requesting a review.  Title, word count, publication date, a pitch line, and a link to my book trailer were about it.  (Which is another difference from querying a literary agent; everyone says “Include something personal about the agent!”, which can get kind of tiresome.)   Most of the time, if you flub your attempt, you won’t get a reply.  One of the first requests I sent off (number sixteen, but I don’t count it because I messed up) stated clearly that she only accepted .mobi file types.  I discovered this about three seconds after I’d hit “Send” on an email that said I’d be happy to send her a .pdf.  After figuring that out, I changed the line in my request to “a .pdf or any file you prefer.”  Catering to the crowd never hurt anyone.

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Flutes of Fiction Friday

My entry for The Domestic Fringe’s Fiction Friday.  I figured I’d post the first chapter of Highsong.

Fiction Friday with The Domestic Fringe

Chapter 1.

The Trellia had a song all its own. Harp heard it.

The science-vessel’s twin engines cutting through light years of space sent an imperceptible hum through the structure. Sometimes he rested his hands against metal just to feel it. It was comforting, like the ship was alive, and protective. But that was the sort of stupid thing everyone on the ship would expect from a thirteen-year-old boy. So he kept his mouth shut, especially when he was in the intern’s bay listening to the jokes and conversations of xenobiology and xenogenology students ten years his senior.

He lifted his hands away from the Trellia’s soothing cadence.

Lightning pain flashed up his skull. He winced and ran a careful hand over the back of his head, feeling the restraining bolts there. The smooth plates hid long needles, anchored by a halo of metal that ran to his forehead, which fed a steady stream of paralyzing sedatives into his lower brain. The needles stung if he moved his head too fast, and sometimes his heartbeat made them throb.

He sighed, straightened the Braille generators on his wrists, and tried to get back to work. The generators picked up the digital readouts of the displays and created somatosensory signals. Running his hands over the smooth display panels felt like touching small bumps of Braille.

Thoughts from the other interns began to rise and fade in his mind. His restraining halo beeped a warning of a change in brainwave activity. He knew why the Risen called the sensation “mindsong”. The outside thoughts leapt, wild and dissonant, threatening to catch Harp up in rhythms of thought that weren’t his. His head ached with every chord.

He pressed his hands against the metal edge of the table. The Trellia’s own song enveloped him, driving away the chaos. He needed rhythm, constant cadence, be it psychically or chemically induced. His headache eased. His restraining bolt gave a two-note beep, indicating a return to stable patterns.

“Hey, kid, move, will you? We need this panel for our calculations.”

Harp turned his face, frowning. He recognized intern Ress’s voice; he heard him direct that cold arrogance towards his peers all the time.

“Ress!” Another voice, female and shocked. Maya had a nervous tremor that came out when she presented a finding or confronted someone. “Be nice to him!” She dropped her voice to a whisper she thought Harp couldn’t hear. “He’s blind.”

Harp twisted his lips and swiveled his chair to face them. “The Captain sent me here to help you, you know.”

Ress snorted. “Really? Because it’s so helpful of you to sulk over here, hogging a panel we need, and working on … oh! Trajectory calculations for cargo ships.” His voice turned mocking. “With all this complicated math, I can see why you couldn’t be doing this in your personal quarters.”

Harp bit down on a flash of irritation. His mother, Captain Cait Hess, had urged him to go among the others instead of hiding in his room. If he didn’t behave, it would mean an extra lecture from Lieutenant Locuxu. “You haven’t told me what you’re working on, but—”

“We’re attempting to simulate a stable planet as a control group, so that when we arrive on the rim world Ptaal our comparative readings will be accurate,” Maya said gently.

Harp bristled at her. “I know what a comparative simulation is!”

Ress snorted. “Look, can you just get out of the way? You can’t do what we can do; it takes years to learn the kind of stuff we know, all right?”

“I can do whatever you can,” Harp said with molten calm.

His heart pounded. He hated it when people thought being blind meant he was stupid. Before Ress could answer, Harp swung back to the readout panels and opened his mind to Ress’s mindsong.

The knowledge wasn’t much. Harp’s mathematics outstripped Ress’s; it was the specifics of the simulation Harp lacked. But he knew it now, as his fingers blurred over the readouts.

Maya gasped. “What’s he doing? Ress! He’s building it!”

Ress’s could only sputter in reply. Harp knew the simulated planet was rising out of the holographic displays in the center of the room. He spun the data built by the interns into the final build, correcting a few equations here and patching an algorithm there. His mind roared, blazing with the energy of two minds. His head, normally so heavy with the weight of the metal halo, sang light and free.

The other interns exclaimed in astonishment.

“Look, the magnetic core of the planet is stable now! How’d he do that?”

“Our weather patterns are fixed!”

“I bet that threw off all sorts of things.”

Harp finished, sending a copy of the file to his personal log to review later. He couldn’t even smirk in triumph before pain exploded behind his eyes.

“It’s beautiful.” Maya sounded surprised.

“Wh-what did you do?” Ress said. “Download me?”

Harp choked, feeling a warm trickle of blood from his nose before his spine spasmed. His halo emitted a shrill note of alarm. Panic seized Harp. He couldn’t hear anything but the roaring in his ears, or feel anything but pain. He fell, or was falling.

No real thoughts anymore. Just bursts.

Panic. Fear.



Available for purchase here and here for $.99 .

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