You may be wondering what an ARC team is. Well, ARC stands for Advanced Review Copy and it’s a tactic that many authors use to get reviews of their books and help with new book launches. This is one area that I’ve failed in, but I hope to remedy this today with this email.
If you’re interested in receiving advanced review copies of my books in exchange for posting an honest review on Amazon and other retailers send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or if you’d like to be a BETA reader let me know.
What do you get? You get a copy of my latest books ahead of everyone else! Ideally, a week in advance to give you time to read it and create a review.
If you are interested I’ll add you to a new mailing list which I will use to send you the books and keep you up to date with the latest ARC team news.
I’m always in need of reviews for my other books too so just let me know if you’d like copies (reviews must be written for them in exchange).
Hi all, I’m delighted to reveal the new covers for the Sundered Crown Saga!
For a long time I’ve not been happy with the book covers for the Sundered Crown Saga. They looked a bit boring and didn’t convey the action and adventure that lay within.
So, back in August I went on the search for a new cover artist who could breathe new life into the books ahead of the release of book 4 in November. (If you’ve not pre-ordered Voyage for the Sundered Crown go and do it!)
The artist I discovered is a very talented chap from Vietnam who has an incredible back catalogue of work and has been a joy to work with. Below you can see the various stages of the process, the final cover for Book 1 and the other new covers in the series.
The paperback editions will have the new covers too! Do you like them? Let me know!
I’ve been asked quite a lot lately about when will book 4 in the Sundered Crown Saga be released. Well, let me just say that I am working on it and that I hope to have it finished by the end of the year. (Yes, I know I write slowly compared to some authors). To ease some of the wait here’s a sneak peek at an early part of the book. I hope you enjoy it.
A worried shout came from the helmsman. Luxon followed the direction the man was pointing in. A massive wave taller than all the others was coming straight at them. It was the size of a mountain, and as it drew closer, its shadow loomed over the ship. Whitelaw grabbed a rope and began tying it about his waist, the other crew members on deck did likewise.
“I suggest you do the same Master Wizard; this is going to be a little rough,” Whitelaw said with a twinkle in his eye. Luxon gulped and did as suggested. He took the rope offered to him by Whitelaw and rapidly began tying it around his waist. Water poured into eyes, and he could feel it soaking through his overcoat. The massive wave struck causing the Agatha to climb the wall water at a near ninety-degree angle. On and on it climbed until it looked as though the ship would be smashed like a twig. Luxon cried out, expecting the ship to be flipped over. To everyone’s relief, it crested the summit of the waves to plunge down the other side. The descent was a hundred feet, almost causing Luxon to spew his guts everywhere.
Another shout of alarm came from the deck. A fork of lightning split the sky illuminating the giant waves. Even in the turmoil of the thrashing sea, the flash revealed a massive shadow moving against the storm. Luxon’s stomach flipped at the sight; even Whitelaw went quiet.
“Fell Beast!” the captain bellowed. He grabbed the petrified helmsman and set him back to his task.
“Don’t make it easy for the bloody thing!”
Luxon staggered over to the deck’s rail his eyes fixed on the shadow. He couldn’t make out any details of the beast, but it was massive in size and aquatic. Huge taloned flippers were the only obvious feature. The ship began to rise again as it rode another giant wave. The Fell Beast, however, launched itself through the water to push its way through the other side of the wave. Luxon shouted a warning as the creature took up position right where the ‘Agatha’ was due to fall. A long, lean snout, itself the length of a ship, burst out of the water and opened wide to reveal a cavernous mouth filled with razor-sharp teeth. Luxon turned his head to see Captain Whitelaw grab the ship’s wheel in an attempt to help the helmsman steer the vessel. The two men strained with all their might to get the ship to steer through the stormy sea and avoid the beast.
The Agatha turned just in time, avoiding the Fell Beasts snapping jaws. As the ship turned the crew hastily armed themselves with bows, crossbows and whatever else they could get their hands on. Luxon struggled towards the hatch that led below deck; he had to warn Ferran and the others. The Beast exploded through another wave, sending a wall of water smashing down onto the deck. Luxon was swept off his feet, only the guardrail stopping him from being tossed overboard. Other crew members weren’t so lucky. Three sailors were sent screaming into the icy cold waters of the deep.
“Man the harpoons!” Whitelaw bellowed to his men. The ‘Agatha’ was equipped with two large harpoon guns located on the foredeck. Fell Beasts of the Void was a terror the world over, and often ships were destroyed by their talons or tentacles. As a result, most merchant ships that dared venture into the deep sea were armed with harpoons or ballistae.
The squall that had fallen upon the ‘Agatha’ began to recede just as quickly as it had arrived. The waves remained rough and tumbling, but the howling wind and rains were moving quickly southwards towards the continent of Delfinnia, now a brown smudge on the distant horizon.
With the storm quickly passing overhead the Fell Beast was revealed in all its horror. Luxon clung to the guardrail and gasped. He’d read tales of the Fell Beasts that used Esperia’s oceans as their hunting grounds, but he’d never really believed them. The monster that was now stalking the ‘Agatha’ was larger than any creature he’d ever seen including the dragons. Ferran and his fellow Nightblade Welsly emerged from below deck. The specialist Fell Beast hunters ran over to the rail and helped Luxon back onto his unsteady feet.
“What is it?” Luxon asked unable to take his eyes off the beast pursuing the ship.
Captain Whitelaw hurled insults at his men as he ordered them to unfurl the sails. With the storm over it was now safe to use the mainsails once more. The sailors moved through the rigging with incredible skill and agility as they unhooked ropes and pulled pulleys. Within moments the mainsail was deployed. The huge piece of blue fabric unfurled and flapped before catching the wind. With a whoosh the sail deployed, and with a jolt the ‘Agatha’ surged forward, picking up speed.
“It’s a Leviathan,” Ferran said in awe. “There are Void Rifts deep beneath the waves just as there are rifts on the land. This is beyond any Nightblade’s skill to fight.”
Suddenly, a melody began to play, causing everyone to look at the deck. The bard Eripa stood there, her fingers playing expertly over the strings of her lute. Her blonde hair billowed in the breeze, and her long red bard’s cape whipped out behind her in the wind. She began to sing, her voice piercing the roar of the waves and the hearts of every man on board. It was a song of the storms and seas, one of a tempest’s passing. Her song was literally magical. Lightning still lit up the sky, and the rain still fell, but the intensity of the storm began to fade.
Eripa winked at Luxon and the Nightblades as she continued to play her tune. With the storm weakening, the Agatha was able to pick up speed. The monstrous beast was now in pursuit, the waves parting as its enormous bulk barreled through the water. The Agatha’s crew were shooting their weapons to try and scare the Beast off. Luxon watched as a harpoon struck the Leviathan only for it to spin wildly off its thick skin.
“I have an idea,” Luxon said as he rushed to the hatch and clambered down into the hold where they were billeted. Next to his wildly swinging hammock was a chest containing his valuables. He opened it and reached inside. His fingers tightened around a long wooden object; the dragon enchanted staff Dragasdol. A whimper caused him to look up. Cowering in the darkness of the hold was Alderlade. The boy king looked positively terrified. Luxon hurried over to him.
“Are you ok sire?” he asked. The words still felt strange to him knowing that the boy and ruler of Delfinnia was, in fact, his half-brother. Kneeling next to the bleary-eyed lad, he took his hand in his own.
“It’ll be over soon. Stay down here and keep your head down,” he said. He looked over his shoulder to see Sophia stagger over to them. The Witch hunter looked wretched; the sea had not been kind to her stomach.
“I’ll keep an eye on him,” she said weakly.
Luxon nodded and picked up his staff. He ran back to the ladder and looked at them both.
“Stay strong,” he added before climbing back to the deck.
Eripa was still singing, her voice somehow carrying loud and clear over the roar of the waves and Leviathan. The crew were growing increasingly desperate as they continued to shoot everything they had at the rapidly gaining Fell Beast. Luxon ran to the aft deck and raised Dragasdol high. He focused on the fading storm. With a deafening crack of thunder, lightning split the sky and struck the tip of the staff. The hairs on his body stood on end as Dragasdol absorbed the power of the bolt. Electricity crackled and fizzed about him until with a shout he thrust the staff towards the approaching monster. Blinding white-hot power lanced out from Dragasdol striking the Leviathan. Electricity mixed with seawater, vapourising the tough outer skin of the creature. The beast roared in pain, but still, it came.
“Shoot everything you’ve got!” Luxon commanded the crew.
A volley of arrows and harpoons were loosed, and this time the deadly projectiles hit their mark. With its thick hide burnt away by the lightning, its soft under tissue was exposed, and the harpoons punched deep. Luxon ran to the ship’s aft and watched in awe as the massive creature reeled back in agony. The Nightblades dashed to the rail and together pulled their banishing vials from the pouches on their belts.
“We could use a boost here Luxon,” Ferran shouted as he arched his arm back ready to throw the vial. Luxon nodded and focused.
“Now!” he shouted.
Ferran and Welsly hurled the vials as hard as they could. Just as they reached their zenith, Luxon pushed with telekinesis to send the vials soaring through the air where they shattered against the writhing Leviathan. Instantly a blinding light flashed into existence as two portals to the Void ripped open. An unnatural wind began to blow, threatening to pull the ship and its crew towards the tear. Vast amounts of seawater were sucked into the powerful vortex, including the Leviathan. At first, it seemed like the massive creature would escape the pull of the magical portal, but the wounds inflicted upon it by the Agatha’s crew took their toll, and soon its strength faded. With a last roar, the Leviathan disappeared into the portal with a flash. With its purpose fulfilled the portal collapsed in on itself to leave tumultuous waves in its wake.
The Agatha lurched forward once more as the pull of the void rift disappeared, and Eripa’s strange song continued to calm the sea. The crew cheered and let out laughs of disbelief at surviving their encounter with a beast of the Void and the storm. Luxon couldn’t help but laugh with them. Whitelaw clapped him on the shoulder and cackled before pacing down the deck to inspect the ship.
“I can’t believe it. A Leviathan! I’d read about them in the old tomes from Caldaria’s library but never in a million years did I expect to ever set eyes on one,” Welsly was saying to Ferran in excited tones as the two Nightblades walked towards the aft. In the days of the world-spanning Golden Empire, Nightblades had been common on the high seas, but after the Empire’s collapse and the subsequent decline in global trade, ships travelling from one continent to another became rarer and rarer until now, millennia later, the other lands were nothing more than a myth.
“It doesn’t bode well that we encountered one so soon into the voyage. We’ve been at sea for what, a week? If the maps Thanos recovered from Caldaria’s archive are correct then we have a long way to go until we reach Tulis,” Ferran said with his arms crossed.
Luxon looked to the horizon, not to the west where they were sailing, but back towards Delfinnia and the friends they had left behind. Dark clouds swirled in the far distance; he hoped they were not an ominous sign.
Not read the rest of the Sundered Crown Saga? Get books 1-3 below.
*Release Day* Quest for the Sundered Crown is now available on Audiobook! – mybook.to/QuestAudio
WIN a FREE copy of any of my audiobooks!
To celebrate I thought I’d hold a bit of a competition. To win a FREE audible code for the book (and any others of your choice) simply write a review for any of my books and post them to Amazon and Goodreads, screenshot it and send it to me at email@example.com. *All reviews must be new*
Hi everyone, I thought I’d share some of book two in the Empowered Ones series; The Temple of Arrival. I hope you enjoy it and if you haven’t already please sign up to the newsletter.
The monotonous tapping of water striking stone was comforting to Skit. So too, was the constant flickering of the torch ensconced into the slimy stone wall of the cell that had been his home for the past two decades. He gazed through half-open eyes at the iron grate acting as the door to his cell. The howls, yelps and whimpers of his fellow inmates, now that was something that still scared him. It was the sound of madness and insanity; it was the sound made by the Broken. It was constant, and in those first months sleeping had been difficult, but the saying that a man can get used to anything over time had proven true.
He clenched his jaw as he breathed in the damp acrid air. His back was moist with sweat, and his lice filled tunic covered his emaciated body. The cell was small, containing a pile of straw that acted as his bed, the flickering torch that was his only source of heat as well as light and a small dripping pipe that provided him with water.
The sound of iron grating on stone caused him to sit a little straighter. It was very rare that anything different happened to break the tedium of his self-inflicted imprisonment. He only ever saw the caretakers once every few months when they came through and dropped off food. The yelling and cries of the other inmates grew louder and louder until it grew to an almost deafening pitch. Approaching footsteps came from the darkness of the corridor outside the cell until a shadowy figure appeared in front of Skit’s cell door.
Skit’s ruined eyes could just make out a silhouette standing in the flicker of his torch.
“Who’s there?” he asked, his voice barely louder than a strained whisper. When was the last time he had spoken out loud? He couldn’t recall.
“An old friend,” came the reply. Skit’s eyes widened at the voice. Fear twisted in his belly.
“No. Not you. You’re no friend of mine. You’re the reason I’m in here.”
The figure stepped closer revealing himself.
It was who he had feared most. Vavius.
“Now don’t be like that Skit. We were friends back in the day. Fighting side by side against the Supreme and the Imperium. We were good at it too.”
Skit waved a skinny arm dismissively.
“We were fighting the good fight until I learnt the truth about you and what you did. I wonder if during all this time the others ever figured it out?”
Vavius crossed his arms, his blue cloak looking black in the dimness of the Asylum.
“To answer your question, they never did. Although I’m sure, they know some of the truth now. And it doesn’t matter. I’m this close to it Skit; I have the map.”
Skit looked away and spat in disgust.
“Congratulations,’ he replied his tone dripping with sarcasm. ‘Who did you betray for it? Tarv? Yin? Or perhaps Cleo?”
Vavius chuckled humourlessly.
“Two of those three are dead. I won’t tell you which. I’ll let it haunt your dreams while you cower in this hell. Why choose to hide here? Of all places.”
Skit shook his head in despair at the words. How many more would die for this man’s lust for power?
“I hide here because I know it disgusts you. It represents the worst of us. I’m just surprised it took you this long to find me.”
Vavius gripped one of the cell doors iron bars and placed his face to the cool metal.
“You know why I’m here. I need your help. I need you to read the map. I tried to make sense of it myself, but it’s written in ancient Aeranyth. There’s only one man I know who could read such a language, and that’s you Skit,” Vavius explained taking a scroll from the pocket sewn into his cloak. He pulled the string, unfurled it and pressed the parchment to the bars.
Skit squinted at it for a few moments and chuckled.
“I cannot read it,’ he said shaking his head. “You’ve wasted your time coming here.”
“You’re lying. I know you can read ancient Aeranyth,” Vavius snapped.
He channeled his Anger. His limbs grew, as the emotion acted as a conduit to the Power. With ease, he ripped the iron door from its hinges and tossed it casually down the corridor. The crash of its impact set off the Asylum’s inmates, their howls of madness rising until that was all that could be heard. He stepped into the cell and forcefully placed a gloved hand to Skit’s forehead. He closed his eyes.
Skit screamed, but the agonized sound was lost in the howls of the damned.
“So, you need a cypher to read it,” Vavius muttered as he tore his way through Skit’s mind. His eyes snapped open as he learned where to obtain one.
“The Venerable Chamber archives,” he said, before lifting the now unconscious Skit over his shoulder and departing the Asylum.
*The above is a rough draft and is subject to change.
For centuries the Supreme has reigned with an iron fist. The people are slaves to her whim and at the mercy of her followers who revere her as their goddess. Using a supernatural ability, known as the ‘Power’ she is able to channel emotions and convert them into superhuman abilities. Some Resist.Not all live their lives in servitude.
A few rare people also possess the Power and try to fight. These Empowered Ones are hunted mercilessly by the Supreme and her servants, for she knows the threat they pose to her will. None has dared to challenge her outright. That is until now, Elian, a young boy living at the edge of the Imperium discovers he too possesses the Power with devastating consequences for both himself and the girl he loves.
On the run, they encounter a ragtag band of resistance fighters called the Liberators. Among their ranks are others with the gift and their leader Vavius who believes that the key to overthrowing the Supreme lies in the ruins of the ravaged lands of the once mighty Kingdom of Aeranyth.
Pursued and hunted for their gifts by the sinister First Fear and the Hollowed, the world’s fate rests in the hands of the Empowered Ones.
Marketing is quite possibly the toughest aspect of being an indie author. How do you get your books in front of readers? How do you stand out from the crowd? In this series of blogs, I’ll be focusing on marketing and some of the tricks I’ve learnt over the years to generate some sales.
Part 1 –Mailing lists
Making a mailing list has so far been the most effective way for me to sell books and whilst I’m no master at it I thought I’d share what I know.
The first thing you need to do is not worry too much if your book is nowhere near ready. When it comes to marketing it doesn’t hurt to try and get yourself out there early. Also, if you have a huge back catalogue of books it’s not too late to start building a list from scratch.
Who to choose?
There are numerous email marketing services out there and each offers you different functionality and features. To start with I’d choose either Mailchimp or Mailerlite. Both provide the ability to easily create email templates as well as have plenty of options for integrations (more on that later). As a newbie to list building, I recommend Mailchimp (simply because that’s the one I have the most experience with).
Joining Mailchimp is incredibly easy and it takes you through step by step on how to get started. Another benefit of MC is that it provides automation functions which will come in handy down the road.
I, however, am using email Octopus as once your list grows to a certain size Mailchimp and Mailerlite can get a bit pricey. With MC, for example, a list of over 2,500 was costing over £30 a month to maintain and the price goes up as your list grows. With email Octopus, it costs me £20 and I won’t have to upgrade again until I have 10,000 subscribers.
Growing a list
Once you’ve chosen your provider the next challenge is to start growing your list. If you have a website you can easily create a modal popup that will hopefully encourage your site visitors to subscribe.
Sharing the link to your subscription page via social media can also work but what you need is something to encourage people to sign up. In my case, I give away a copy of my novella The Nightblade to those who subscribe. Giving away a short story or piece of artwork can be a great hook.
There are also services such as InstaFreebie (now Prolific works),Book Funnel and the newer Story Origin that all help build list numbers. This is where integration comes in. Each of those services can be linked to your mailing list and automatically new subscribers that come in through that route. InstaFreebie and Book Funnel require a fee but as yet Story Origin remains a free service. The only downside to that service is that it is slightly limiting when it comes to what mailing list services can be integrated.
As I use Book Funnel, I’ll talk about how I’ve used it to grow my list from a few dozen to almost 3,000 subscribers in less than 6 months.
Book Funnel allows users to create and join promotions. All you have to do is set up a book giveaway click on a promo that you like the look of, fill in the form and join it. The success on the promotion comes down to the members of the promo sharing it to their social channels and mailing lists. Sometimes one promotion can generate hundreds of new subscribers.
What to put in your emails?
If you’re working on a book keep your subscribers informed with updates on its progress, the challenges you’ve faced and perhaps some excerpts to whet their appetite. It’s also a great opportunity to work with and help other authors as you can share other authors works in your list and in exchange, they’ll do the same. There are several social media groups dedicated to finding swaps for example.
Write about you as a person. Let your readers learn more about you and let them know you’re human. Other things you can include is news on the latest giveaways, discounts, reviews or character bios and maps.
If you peruse the Amazon Kindle store you will be greeted by more books than you can count. Unfortunately, many of them are likely to have book covers that quite frankly suck and that were obviously cobbled together by the author.
With so much competition out there you need your book to stand out from the crowd. Sure we all want to save money and many authors do take their books to market without spending a penny on anything, but do those books go on to sell more than a handful of copies?
Do it yourself?
Making your own covers can work don’t get me wrong; if you have a background in art and design. Knowing what works is vital to making a good cover. I’ve been doing content creation for years now so feel pretty comfortable using design tools but I know for a fact that the covers I have made myself could be so much better if I had paid a pro.
Getting the imagery and title fonts right for your genre is also key. If you can draw then good for you, you can create something unique from scratch. For the rest of us mere mortals however, we can turn to stock image websites. Free sites like Pexels provide free images to use but these are pretty limited. For a basic package with sites such as Shutterstock or Adobe Stock, you will have a lot more choice. With some photoshop wizardry, you can easily turn a stock image into something unique looking. There are few images out there, however, that been used numerous times so try to use one that no one else has used yet.
Free tools such as Canva and Paint.net allow anyone with an eye for design the ability to create some pretty decent covers.
Unless you’re really lucky and have a family member or friend who is a designer or artist finding the right person to do your book’s cover art can be tricky. Deviant art is an excellent place to find pros and if you’re a signed up member you can post job requests on the job boards. You’ll always get someone willing to offer you their talents but as is correct the artists will ask for payment (no one should work for free after all!)
It was through Deviant art that I met the cover artist for the First Fear and the up and coming second Empowered One’s novel. Having a professional cover is an amazing feeling to have as you’re proud to show it off. There are many other places where artists lurk but in my opinion, you should avoid Fiverr as I’ve heard some horror stories.
There are also many pre-made book cover services out there but again the quality is hit and miss, and you cannot guarantee that what you buy is solely yours.
There are some absolute shockingly bad book covers out there. Be sure to not have yours end up on a list like this one
There are no two words more dreaded and feared by all authors than ‘Writer’s Block’. What is it and how do you get through it? Well, let me try and help you.
I’ve been writing books for over ten years now and I have been struck by Writer’s Block more times than I can count. Pretty much every writer out there will succumb to it at one point or another and to those who claim to have never experienced it- well, good for you I guess (I don’t believe you at all by the way.)
Writing is a strange thing. One day your fingers are whizzing over the keyboard and the words just pour out of your brain and onto the page. Then inexplicably and without warning, you freeze. The words stop coming like a once raging river now baked dry in a drought. How you handle these first moments of horror is crucial to salvaging your workflow.
I’m experiencing a bit of writer’s block myself at the moment and from experience, I know what has to be done to break that wall and press on. It’s just getting the right thought process in place to enact it. There are a few tactics you can try but the most important thing to not do is begin to wallow in despair. Putting pressure on yourself is guaranteed to make the situation worse and prevent the words from coming.
Do something else
Now, this technique might sound counterproductive but bear with me. If you’re like me you no doubt have many other ideas and works in progress on the go or in the planning stages. The key to breaking Writers Block is to trick your brain into unfreezing and releasing all those juicy words once more.
If you’re writing fantasy try your hand at another genre or enter some writing challenges. I personally switch between projects as I find that I’ll often have writer’s block on a certain project but am fine with another. Alternate between your works to keep your mind fresh and your interest high.
This technique had worked for me a few times. I write a lot in my day job so I have to literally force myself to write in order to get paid! Think of Writers Block as a barrier, apply enough pressure onto it and the dam will eventually break. This strategy can fall under the finding the time to write a problem that many writers have as well. Get your ass in that seat and don’t leave until you’ve put down a certain amount of words. They don’t have to be great, just get them on the page.
Take a break and come back fresh
Alternatively, you can simply walk away from the problem project for a few days or weeks. Don’t do any writing, go outside, go on holiday or simply do anything else. Your brain will recharge its words count and when you get that itch to write again, you’ll know that the Writers Block is over.
I’ve learnt that many writers put themselves under a lot of pressure when it comes to Writers Block. I do it myself and so I’ll be following my own advice. Don’t let fans get you down about deadlines or whatever. A book will be finished when its good and ready, you can’t rush these things.