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Friday, June 2, 2017 - 19:27

Special for LGBTQ Pride Month, the Lesbian Historic Motif Project is doing an all-Sappho month.

We start off with a podcast: Lebian Historic Motif Podcast - Episode 10: Sappho of Lesbos - The Woman and the Legend

The blog will feature four books covering various aspects of Sappho's work, reception, and symbolism. (Well, ok, they were the four books I had with "Sappho" in the title that I hadn't covered yet.)

 

  • Snyder, Jane McIntosh. 1997. Lesbian Desire in the Lyrics of Sappho. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-09994-0
  • DeJean, Joan. 1989. Fictions of Sappho, 1546-1937.Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-14136-5
  • Andreadis, Harriette.  2001.  Sappho in Early Modern England: Female Same-Sex Literary Erotics, 1550-1714.  University of Chicago Press.
  • Vanita, Ruth.  1996.  Sappho and the Virgin Mary. Columbia University Press, New York.  ISBN  0-231-10551-7

And then the month will conclude with another podcast, this time tracing how different images of Sappho's life and sexuality affected how her poetry was translated and how people were inspired to imitate her, including readings of the poetry.

Book Sale!

And just to give you history buffs something else to be excited about, Bella Books is holding a historic fiction e-book sale this weekend! A whole shelf full of historic and historically-inspired fiction (including all three Alpennia books) for just $4.99 each!

Major category: 
LHMP
Friday, June 2, 2017 - 11:48

My publisher is having a massive ebook sale on historical fiction this weekend! (Both Bella Books publications and ones they distribute.) And all three Alpennia books are included!

Pick up some great reads for only $4.99 each.

Major category: 
Promotion
Wednesday, May 31, 2017 - 22:00

So the question all my regular readers are wondering about (let’s pretend for a moment, ok?) is whether my month of “book release re-boot” blogging has, in fact, had an effect on sales of Mother of Souls. The simple fact is that I have no idea. (Please note: it may seem in this post as if I'm obsessing over numbers. And some may feel compelled to suggest to me that this only leads to despair. Obsessing over numbers is how I make a living in my day-job. Crunching data is one of my primary self-soothing mechanisms. Analyzing data makes me happy. Please don't harsh my mellow.)

I alternated between linking the re-boot posts to the Bella Books site and to my own website’s book listing (which includes buy links to both Bella and Amazon). But as the sales data I get from Bella is lumped into half-year increments, there will be no way to tell whether there was any bump in May. I can get a very rough estimate of sales through Amazon via their Author Central features which gives me access to Book Scan numbers for paperbacks. I can also do a rough estimate of Kindle sales by tracking sales ranking changes. Comparing the May 2017 sales in each of those categories for each of the three books to the monthly data for the last year (or in the case of Mother of Souls, the last 5 months), all sales were within one standard deviation of the mean. So: no measureable effect.

But since I’m playing with numbers at the moment, how are the books doing in comparison with each other relative to release date? Looking only at the Amazon data on a monthly basis (and combining Book Scan and the Kindle estimate), The Mystic Marriage is consistently selling about 65% of what Daughter of Mystery did at the equivalent date. And Mother of Souls is selling about 40% of what Daughter of Mystery did. Is this a good retention rate? I have no idea.

I can do a similar comparison on a half-yearly basis for the overall sales totals from my royalty statements, though the figure for Mother of Souls only represents the first two months and so isn’t comparable. (Comparing the release period data is tricky because it depends on when in the 6-month cycle the book is released. Daughter of Mystery was in month 1, The Mystic Marriage and Mother of Souls were both in month 5.)

In this data set, The Mystic Marriage is selling about 80% of what Daughter of Mystery did in the same period, but the percentage has been dropping with each period (from 87% to 68%). The initial data for Mother of Souls shows it at 20% of Daughter of Mystery, but perhaps a better comparison is between the release-period sales of MoS and MM, which reflect the same 2-months data. Here Mother of Souls is selling 130% of what The Mystic Marriage did in the same period (although final numbers may be different once returns are factored in--just comparing first-period raw numbers at this point).

There's also an unknown factor in the form of the Storybundle ebook sales of Daughter of Mystery in the second half of 2016. Once the other books get to an equivalent date, I'll have to figure out how to factor that in. The Storybundle offer came close to doubling the number of ebooks of Daughter of Mystery out in the world, but that doesn't necessarily translate to series interest, as people buying the Storybundle may not have any specific interest in my book. And there was no evidence of a corresponding sales bump (in the Amazon data) for The Mystic Marriage although there was definitely a bump in Goodreads reviews for DoM after the Storybundle. But review data is a different topic.

What this tentatively suggests is that as the series goes on, buyers are more likely to buy from non-Amazon sources. (Technically, the Book Scan numbers aren’t just Amazon, but the whole set of bookstore sales that report through Book Scan. Realistically, though, as my books aren’t carried in chain bookstores, the hard copy sales reported through Amazon are probably primarily direct Amazon sales.

What will be interesting to see is whether that 80% series retention rate holds up over time. At the rate it’s falling, the Amazon-based 65% retention rate may end up being more accurate. And keep in mind that when the first book came out, it was selling in a vacuum. Whereas books two and three are presumably selling to pre-existing readers of the series. In which case, a better metric might be comparing the sales rate to the total sales at that date for the previous book(s).

In theory, shouldn’t returning fans of the series snap the book up immediately when it comes out, with sales then falling off to a more gradual trickle of brand new readers? Well, for that to happen, those returning fans of the series need to actually hear that a new book in the series is out. And that’s where the lack of a “buzz machine” really hurts. So far, Mother of Souls has received precisely three review-like-objects outside of Amazon and Goodreads (that I’ve been able to find). What normally drives readers to new releases in their favorite series is a lot of publicity buzz in advance of the release, or at the very least a bolus of professional-level reviews right around release. Lots of review copies went out, but only the reviewers have the power to convert those into reviews.

Major category: 
Promotion
Publications: 
Mother of Souls
Wednesday, May 31, 2017 - 08:00

One of the things that struck me when I was reading through lists of November 2016 books was the number written by obviously prolific authors (based on series number) that somehow never get mentioned in the SFF blogs, or featured on SFF podcasts, or discussed in the social media spaces where I hang out. It makes me feel...well, not any less hungry for my work to be talked about, but at least a little bit less alone. I'm sure I've heard Nalini Singh's name before, but I was a bit startled to discover how prolific she is: Goodreads lists 164 distinct works! Archangel's Heart is the ninth book in her Guild Hunter series and that is far from the only extensive series she has written in the genres of SFF and paranormal romance.

One of the most vicious archangels in the world has disappeared. No one knows if Lijuan is dead or has chosen to Sleep the long sleep of an immortal. But with her lands falling into chaos under a rising tide of vampiric bloodlust, a mysterious and ancient order of angels known as the Luminata calls the entire Cadre together to discuss the fate of her territory. Accompanying her archangelic lover Raphael to the Luminata compound, guild hunter-turned-angel Elena senses that all is not as it seems. Secrets echo from within the stone walls of the compound, and the deeper Elena goes, the uglier the darkness. But neither Raphael nor Elena is ready for the brutal truths hidden within—truths that will change everything Elena thinks she knows about who she is. Nothing will ever be the same again.


I have no aspirations to write over 100 novels! But I love the sense of an expanding story, like a highway that will take me through mountains and over plains and into unexplored cities. Mother of Souls is another step on that road for my characters, opening them up to the larger world of mysticism and peril that was only hinted at in the earlier books.

The Great November Book Release Re-Boot is a blog series talking about November 2016 releases that may have been overshadowed by unfortunate political events.

Major category: 
Promotion
Tuesday, May 30, 2017 - 11:00

One of the most exciting developments in the speculative fiction field is the growing visibility and recognition of stories rooted deeply in cultures other than the default western European/American ones. I don't say "growing presence" because it is only the wider recognition that is new. Karen Lord has assembled this anthology New Worlds, Old Ways: Speculative Tales from the Caribbean to showcase some of the excellent SFF being produced in her home region.

Do not be misled by the “speculative” in the title. Although there may be robots and fantastical creatures, these common symbols are tools to frame the familiar from fresh perspectives. Here you will find the recent past and ongoing present of government and society with curfews, crime, and corruption; the universal themes of family, growth and death, love and hate; the struggle to thrive when power is capricious and revenge too bittersweet. Here too is the passage of everything—old ways, places, peoples, and ourselves—leaving nothing behind but memories, histories, and stories. This anthology speaks to the fragility of our Caribbean home, but reminds the reader that although home may be vulnerable, it is also beautifully resilient. The voice of our literature declares that in spite of disasters, this people and this place shall not be wholly destroyed. Read for delight, then read for depth, and you will not be disappointed. Includes brand-new stories by Tammi Browne-Bannister, Summer Edward, Portia Subran, Brandon O’Brien, Kevin Jared Hosein, Richard B. Lynch, Elizabeth J. Jones, Damion Wilson, Brian Franklin, Ararimeh Aiyejina, and H.K. Williams.


A solid "sense of place" can be a challenge to develop when creating your own countries or worlds. Even more of a challenge when creating a culture very different from the one I live in. I will make no claims regarding how well I have succeeded. But one of the things that warms my heart in reader comments on the series, is when they say that books like Mother of Souls make them feel like Alpennia is a real location--just one that somehow got left off the maps and out of the history books. If you enjoy that experience, then seek out fiction by writers like Karen Lord that really is about places and cultures that tend to get left off the literary maps and out of the genre history books.

The Great November Book Release Re-Boot is a blog series talking about November 2016 releases that may have been overshadowed by unfortunate political events.

Major category: 
Promotion
Tuesday, May 30, 2017 - 07:00

We're back to the last couple of November releases that I'm including in this blog series. Rachel Neumeier's The Mountain of Kept Memory takes us to a fantastic secondary world where the gods take seriously their responsibility to protect--or their right to abandon--the realms they watch over.

Long ago the Kieba, last goddess in the world, raised up her mountain in the drylands of Carastind. Gulien Madalin, heir to the throne of Carastind, suspects that his father has offended the Kieba so seriously that she has withdrawn her protection from the kingdom. Worse, he fears that Carastind’s enemies suspect this as well. Then he learns that he is right. And invasion is imminent. Meanwhile Gulien’s sister Oressa has focused on what’s important: avoiding the attention of her royal father while keeping track of all the secrets at court. But when she overhears news about the threatened invasion, she’s shocked to discover what her father plans to give away in order to buy peace. But Carastind’s enemies will not agree to peace at any price. They intend to not only conquer the kingdom, but also cast down the Kieba and steal her power. Now, Gulien and Oressa must decide where their most important loyalties lie, and what price they are willing to pay to protect the Kieba, their home, and the world.


In many fantasy settings, one of the things that transports us away from there here and now is the overt presence of magic and the tangible presence of the divine. I always feel strange putting it that way, because many of my readers will assure me that the "tangible presence of the divine" as portrayed in the Alpennia books reflects their own real-life experiences. That can be a little unsettling for this atheist author! In Mother of Souls Margerit Sovitre finds her understanding of the divine nature of mysteries to be challenged by Luzie Valorin's music--a force with undeniable mystic power that seems to draw on a sources entirely unrelated to God and the saints.

The Great November Book Release Re-Boot is a blog series talking about November 2016 releases that may have been overshadowed by unfortunate political events.

Major category: 
Promotion
Monday, May 29, 2017 - 08:00

Of the four encyclopedia-type texts I’m covering this month, this is the one I consider most useful and most academically sound. “Usefulness” is a matter of  what you’re looking for, of course. Someone who is browsing for random story inspiration will have a broader definition. But given that the core purpose of this project is to identify accurate and analytic information about desire between women in history, I consider it essential to make recommendations on that basis.

Major category: 
LHMP
Full citation: 

Zimmerman, Bonnie (ed). 2000. Lesbian Histories and Cultures. Garland, New York. ISBN 0-8153-1920-7

Publication summary: 

An extensive and well-sourced encyclopedia of persons, organizations, concepts, and topics relevant to lesbian history.

This work and it’s companion volume on gay (male) histories and cultures are a massive project drawing on respected scholars across a wide variety of fields. The articles are detailed and each cites multiple sources. Although the organization is strictly alphabetical, there is a topical index at the beginning that lays out the structure of the coverage and provides the headings for specific entries. To give some idea of the coverage, the top-level index under which specific articles are organized include: anthorpology, art, associations and organizations, biography, cultural identities, economics, geography (i.e., the state of lesbian culture in specific countries and regions), education, health, history, language, law, lesbian movement, literature, media and popular culture, music and dance, politics, psychology, relationships, religion, science, sexuality, sociology, sport, theater and film, and theory and philosophy.

The coverage is overwhelmingly modern in focus. By a very rough estimate, of the biographical entries fewer than 20% are for women dating earlier than the 20th century. The articles on specific national histories focus narrowly on a self-conscious “labeled” lesbian identity rather than tracing evidence of female homoeroticism in general. Awareness of pre-modern data is sometimes lacking (for example, the article on the term “lesbian” repeats the erroneous notion that the word was not used in the specific sense of “a woman whose sexual desire is directed toward women” until its adoption by psychologists in the late 19th century). Some of this can be attributed to the vast growth in the field since the year 2000 when it was published (and knowing volumes of this type, the contents no doubt lag the state of the field  at that time by several years). I say all this, not as a significant criticism of the work (which is generally excellent) but to note that those who are looking specifically for pre-20th century material should follow up with other sources as well. Fortunately, there are ample citations given to these more specific sources.

Sunday, May 28, 2017 - 08:00

I'm including a few Bella Books releases from October because a couple of my fellow Bella authors asked me to. And guess what? Bella Books is having a weekend sale! 17% off all orders over $17. In A Woman of Strong Purpose, S. M. Harding has written a heart-pounding sequel to her romantic thriller I Will Meet You There.

Welcome to McCrumb County, Indiana, where retired Marine Corps Colonel Win Kirkland and Sheriff Sarah Pitt had hoped that their deepening relationship might bring some peace and order to their complicated lives. 

Freed from the closeted life after 25 years in the military, Win is fiercely out and proud—and ready for Sarah to move in. But the newly out Sarah has serious doubts about living as an open lesbian among her county’s conservative population. She longs to overcome her fear of exposure, especially since several gorgeous and exotic women seem intent on seducing Win—and she knows she could lose Win to them or to a bullet. 

Win and Sarah’s personal struggles are soon overshadowed by a series of local and international crimes that will blur the lines between hostility and horror, friend and foe, sacrifice and survival. 


How often have you read a book and thought, "But I want to know what these characters do next!" Authors can have that same impulse, leading to a series that moves beyond the first book's premise. When I finished writing Daughter of Mystery, my immediate thought was, "But what about Antuniet? What happens to her?" and hence The Mystic Marriage was inspired. Mother of Souls takes us further, not simply asking "what happens to these characters next?" but following the consequences of seemingly minor events in the previous books and tracing them down surprising new roads. Look for both A Woman of Strong Purpose and Mother of Souls (as well as many other books) on sale this weekend at Bella Books!

The Great November Book Release Re-Boot is a blog series talking about November 2016 releases that may have been overshadowed by unfortunate political events.

Major category: 
Promotion
Saturday, May 27, 2017 - 08:00

I'm including a few Bella Books releases from October because a couple of my fellow Bella authors asked me to. And guess what? Bella Books is having a weekend sale! 17% off all orders over $17Vortex of Crimson is the final book in Lise MacTague's Deception's Edge SF romance trilogy.

All Torrin Ivanov wanted was to get Jak Stowell back, that was supposed to be the hard part. In a cruel twist, Jak is hers again, but her girlfriend is literally losing her mind. The only help can be found on the last planet in the universe to which Torrin would like to return…To cure Jak, they must return to her war-ravaged home planet, Haefen. 

For Jak, returning to her home planet gives her the chance to make good on a promise too long deferred. But will she be able to finally take out her brother’s killer? Or will she be pulled into the dark undertow of local politics… 

The two women soon find that politics pale next to the threat of the one who still hunts Jak. This time he has bait—Torrin’s sister, Nat Ivanov. As their search intensifies, Torrin and Jak realize that despite all of the obstacles in their way, one thing is clear—they can at least depend on each other. But will that be enough?


Like Vortex of CrimsonMother of Souls is a third book, though the Alpennia series is both longer-reaching and less of a single story than the traditional trilogy format. The two books have one more thing in common, though: they're both on sale this weekend at Bella Books!

The Great November Book Release Re-Boot is a blog series talking about November 2016 releases that may have been overshadowed by unfortunate political events.

Major category: 
Promotion
Friday, May 26, 2017 - 08:24

I made a few teensy exceptions to my rules that books for this promotion had to be November releases. One friend had a re-release, one November release was short fiction that I used to bump mention of the related book, and when I mentioned the project on the Bella Books facebook group, a couple of my fellow Bella authors with October releases asked it I could include them too--which I did when I found I had some space open at the end of the month. (Ordinarily, I try to avoid scope creep because it hits my anxiety buttons.) I'm re-arranging the planned schedule a bit to move those Bella books into the next few days because...Bella Books is having a weekend sale! 17% off all orders over $17.

Tempered Steele: Hard Edges by M. E. Logan is a follow-up to the post-apocalyptic dystopian  romantic adventure Tempered Steele: Stoking the Fire.

After a nearly apocalyptic earthquake engendered a societal breakdown, visionary Deborah Steele returned to her isolated family farm and turned it into a safe haven for women to escape from the increasingly misogynistic and dystopian world around them. Her fair and open system of contracting labor for food, shelter and security has bound them together and ensured their survival. So far… 

Outside the farm, however, others are using a contract system as a form of human trafficking. And Deborah’s attempts to protect her estranged love, Joanna Davis, will soon bring the women’s community unwanted visibility, putting them all in danger and forcing Deborah to choose between the sanctuary she has built and the woman she still loves. 


It doesn't take a dystopia for women to need to struggle against misogyny and a society that exploits their labor and denies them a full life. Challenging those forces will always put them in danger, whether of overt violence or the no less hazardous rejection of society. In Mother of Souls, Luzie Valorin faces the choice between acceding to those who think her musical skills are only suitable for domestic amusements--or to support a man's career--and reaching out to sieze the chance for greatness. Perhaps even to change the fate of Europe with her compositions!

The Great November Book Release Re-Boot is a blog series talking about November 2016 releases that may have been overshadowed by unfortunate political events. And at the moment, some of those books are on sale!

Major category: 
Promotion

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