Why I re-released the book formerly known as Have Gown, Will Wed.

sub5

The indie author world is weird. W-E-I-R-D. But usually, that’s a good thing. The oddities of this little corner of the publishing industry allows authors to approach both their craft and their business in ways traditional publishing isn’t equipped to.

One such area where this is true is in the case of the re-release. Always had regrets about the way a book turned out or was received? Good news, as an indie author, you can go back an change it.

When I originally wrote Have Gown, Will Wed back in 2014, I was in an odd place in my writing career, especially as it overlapped with my personal life. I was trying to write a romance that both pleased readers, and kept the factional interests I deal with every day quelled. What this resulted in was a work that fell short of my original vision, and frankly (and fairly) disappointed readers, many of whom complained (and fairly) that Rosalind and Xavier’s love story faded to black right where you’d expect a contemporary romance to heat up. They also complained (did I say, “and fairly” yet?) that there wasn’t enough Rosalind and Xavier’s friendship development, something which was alluded to in the subtext but which I decided at the time to parse down. Now, let me pause here and clarify one thing: I don’t change my books merely to suit the market or just because readers ask me to. However, in this case, the readers expressed thoughts I’ve had since originally released HGWW back in 2014. So, a few months ago, I decided I was going to take it down and rewrite it the way I should have to begin with.

In essence, the story hasn’t changed. The names and faces of the involved have not been changed to protect the innocent. The name of the author has. Here is another benefit of the indie author life: the ability to rebrand. I developed a second pen name, Mari K. Cicero, several years ago to publish new adult and young adult fiction, although I’ve released only one other title under that name. As I was rewriting HGWW, it seemed to me that while the characters might be a little on the older side of New Adult romance, the themes and conflicts Rosalind and Xavier face bare a striking resemblance to other NA titles. I won’t straight-up call The Start-Bride NA romance, but I do think some who read in this genre may recognize it as such. As I move forward while looking back, I decided that the re-release would be better aligned with the Mari K. Cicero platform.

Now, for the big question. Should you buy The Start-Up Bride if you already own Have Gown, Will Wed? My simple answer on this is going to be, only if you want to. However, because I think it’s unfair for those who do own HGWW to purchase TSUB (yes, I love acronyms) just to read the few additional new chapters (including the steamy love scene many were looking for the first time), I will send any in this position a free copy of the new book in either Kindle or ePub format. But, sadly, because some have taken advantage of similar statements when I’ve made them before, I need some sort of proof. This could be a screen capture or picture of your e-reader, or a screen capture or picture of your ebook vendor account showing Have Gown, Will Wed present. Just send it to my email, along with which file format you’d like. 

And finally, a request. If you were one of the kind individuals who left a review on Have Gown, Will Wed, would you consider copying your review over to The Start-Up Bride? Because this is technically a new title, the review from the first incarnation will not carry over, and I would be ever so grateful if you were able to help out that way. 

ANNUAL BIRTHDAY BASH (+a giveaway)

giphy

My readers are pretty awesome and every year on my birthday, I offer this small token to show my appreciation. What does my annual birthday bash entail? Basically I mark down ALL my books to the lowest price I can, including a few that will be absolutely free*. The only catch is that you have to hurry, because this only lasts one day.

AND 40 ALSO MEANS MAKING THE BIRTHDAY BASH A LITTLE BASHIER. I mean, what would an author’s 40th birthday bash be without a few great prizes? Now that the Pure Souls series is complete, how about a complete set of THE SERIES SIGNED!? That’s right all five books: Pure & Sinful, Once You Go Demon, With God Intentions, The Devil You Know, and Hung by the Fireplace. And, YES, this is open to international entries as well. Enter here for the giveaway. Winner will be drawn on November 12 and will have 14 days after being contacted to claim their prize, or an alternative winner will be chosen.

 

FREE

SNAPPED

Romantic Thriller

.99

ONCE YOU GO DEMON

Pure Souls #2

.99

HUNG BY THE FIREPLACE

Pure Souls Prequel

FREE

COMPLIMENTS

New Adult Romance

.99

WITH GOD INTENTIONS

Pure Souls #3

.99

A LOVE BY ANY MEASURE

Historical Romance

FREE

PURE & SINFUL

Pure Souls #1

.99

THE DEVIL YOU KNOW

Pure Souls #4

.99

12.21.12: THE VESSEL

Speculative Fiction

 
*Every effort has been made to make prices as shown above reflected across all stores and countries. However, it is is possible some regions or venues did not update in time for this promotion. My apologies if you experience this to be the case, but I am unfortunately unable to address it. .99 above represents the price in USD. Conversions to other currencies may lead to small variations. Prices mentioned above are for the ebook editions ONLY, and do not imply equal prices for either print or audio editions.

Thoughts on turning 40

crypt-keeper-returning-for-m-nights-tales-from-the-crypt-news1

via GIPHY

Looks in mirror…

via GIPHY

via GIPHY

It’s here! THE DEVIL YOU KNOW IS LIVE

TDYK COVER

AVAILABLE FROM MOST MAJOR ONLINE RETAILERS.TDYK COVER

choose your vendor>>

 

And to celebrate the completion of the series, all previous books in the series are just .99USD for a limited time.

Book One: Pure & Sinful  vendor selection>>
Book Two: Once You Go Demon  vendor selection>>
Book Three: With God Intentions  vendor selection>>
Prequel: Hung by the Fireplace  vendor selection>>
Purely, Madly, Demonly: A Pure Souls Collection (Book1+2+prequel)  vendor selection>>

Convos with D2: Why Petunia REALLY hated Harry

petunia-deathly-hallows1
D2 and I got into a long discussion yesterday (she just finished reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix) about why Petunia hates Harry so much, and why the Dursleys were the only option for Harry after Lily and James’ death. We know, of course, that Vernon hates the wizarding world, and Petunia’s distaste for it is almost as great. But other than jealousy, what would sustain so much loathing for an innocent child who was clueless about the whole side society? It’s not a case of hating children; she spoils her own son to an unhealthy point. She welcomes (or would have welcomed) Dudely’s friends on family outings, so her generosity is not merely for her own son. No, it’s just Harry that she hates.
 
We considered, then, the faceless grandparents on each side of Harry’s family tree, and why they’re absent in the books. Obviously they must both be dead, or we’d see them somehow in the series. JKR confirmed their deaths, in fact. We have only positive associations the few times they’re mentioned in the series. i.e. Sirius tells Harry that he was welcomed with open arms in the Potter house after his own family disowned him for not taking up their Pure Blood philosophy, and we know from Petunia’s own words that Lily’s parents are thrilled and proud when they discover she’s a witch. Surely they, then, wouldn’t find any shame in Harry’s existence, and would have been the more humane guardians in lieu of his parents. 
 
The question then becomes, when did the grandparents die? There’s no mention of either James or Lilly having been orphaned while students at Hogwarts. While it’s true they may have died sometime between Harry’s parents leaving Hogwarts and Harry’s himself having become an orphan, it would be ominous and unexpected for four different people to all pass away during that time. UNLESS…. Unless, one considers that Harry’s grandparents died at the hands of Voldemort and/or the Death Eaters. D2 and I agreed on a theory: We know in the books that Lily and James escaped Voldemort/DEs three times. (As did Neville’s parents, of course.) Perhaps two of those times were at either parent’s house, where you’d think they might have run at the beginning, especially with a young baby in tow. You’d want to be around family. The third time? I don’t know. 
 
Now the crick in this theory. JKR said that all the grandparents died natural deaths. But, from Petunia’s viewpoint, once you open yourself up to a world where magic exists, and then refuse to gain any understanding of that world and write it all off as weirdos and freaks, what wouldn’t your mind decide is possible?
 
 
There’s a striking, sobering moment in the Deathly Hallows where Petunia reminds Harry that he isn’t the only one who’s lost someone. It’s perhaps the only time in the movie adaptations that you get a sense of Petunia’s own grief, amplified by the regret of having cut her sister out of her adult life completely. It’s the only time you feel pity and compassion for her. Petunia can never get that back. Lily is gone, and with her, any opportunity for the two to make amends.  And on top of all that, she is stuck with the constant reminder of her sister right under her nose, a living testament to her own shortcomings.

That alone might be reason enough to stilt her where Harry’s concerned, but would that be enough to drive so much vehemence for so many years?

We didn’t think so. Rather, what we think is that, if Voldermort was hunting the Potters, the Evans parents (Lily and Petunia’s mother) became indirect casualties. Perhaps the stress of their child and grandchild being hunted by a despotic mass murderer may have induced muggle illnesses that attributed to their deaths. Afterward, not only can Petunia never amend her relationship with her sister, but she has lost her parents as well. In her eyes, Harry is the reason Dudely will never know his grandparents, that she has only Vernon as emotional support (which we’ve seen, he’s somewhat inept at.) Because of Harry, she lives in constant fear that her child, her husband, and herself are targets by the mere fact that he’s in their lives. Add to that the fact that she is then coerced by Dumbledore to provide for Harry out of family obligation, i.e. the love for and guilt about her sister, and her bitterness, while not excusable where a child is concerned, becomes a little easier to understand. At some level, she loves Harry because he’s Lily’s, and at a much more visceral level, she hates him for that very same fact.
 
Kind of reminds you a little of another character, doesn’t it? 
 
 

In celebration of the first female candidate for president. (Hint: it’s not Hillary Clinton)

Victoria_Woodhull_by_Mathew_Brady_c1870[1]

You’ve probably heard the news by now. Yes, Hillary Clinton is the official nominee for the Democrats in the United States presidential election. However,  several news outlets have qualified the statement to say that she is the first female candidate from a major party. Perhaps you haven’t noticed this, and perhaps you have and just weren’t sure what it meant. And this is where this post comes in, because as you know, I love little intricacies of history. (Case in point: my fascination with what happens to some famous people’s bodies after they die.)

The truth is, Hillary is not the first female candidate for the US presidency. The story behind that, however, requires some qualifications and explanations. To explain, I have to take you back to the year 1872.

This is the time before women in the United States had the vote, let alone contended for public office. This is the era in which Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, pioneers in the feminists movement in America, were arrested because they attempted to vote in upstate New York, and shortly before Senator Aaron Sargent introduced a bill to congress to legalize votes for women. (The amendment based on this initial act would not become a ratified amendment to the Constitution for over thirty years.) One controversial figure in the women’s movement, however, thought such progress, the likes of which Anthony and Stanton were making, was too slow. Victoria Woodhull also believed in a wider platform of social reforms that were needed for America’s women, including a woman’s right to divorce and that men who abused their wives and children should be held to account. She advocated for the equal treatment of women under the law, and was even called up twice to testify on the matter before congress. 

Born in Homer, Ohio in 1838, Woodhull has become a largely forgotten name in the history of the feminist movement in America. This could be attributed to several reasons. She was often slighted by other feminists of her era for being an advocate of the free love movement. Unlike the namesake social movement of a century following, Woodhull’s version endorsed monogamy, but adamantly insisted a woman was not bound to stay with a man simply because they were married, nor that marriage was even a necessity at all. “She didn’t believe the government had a place in regulating affairs of the heart. “I have an unalienable, constitutional, and natural right to love as long or as short a period as I can; to change that love every day if I please, and with that right neither you nor any law you can frame have any right to interfere,” she told a packed house at New York City’s Steinway Hall in November 1871.  She emphasized that a woman’s body was her own dominion, and neither state nor spouse had a right to deny her control of it. She advocated for women to be educated about their own sexual natures, as well as what was understood as birth control in this era.

Because she upheld controversial views, she was often slighted by feminists of her own era. These efforts were aided by the fact that Woodhull’s family had a number of juicy stories the ethics-loose press of her day ate up with a spoon. Her sister and life-long companion Tennessee Claflin had been touted at a very young age by their parents as a psychic healer and communicator to the spirits, which ultimately ended with a lawsuit for wrongful death.  Later in life, Tennessee, a noted beauty, was also rumored to be having an affair with the richest man in the world at that time, Cornelius Vanderbilt. As their two famous children’s profiles rose and sank, the Claflin parents were always nearby to take advantage of the prevailing winds, either praising or lambasting their children publicly depending on whatever way would earn them greater benefit. Victoria’s love life and various social platforms could always be counted on to sell out the daily run of newspapers. 

Victoria was also a great thinker and social innovator. Not only did she spend years arguing for the rights of women in their self-determination, but she also believed that slavery was an abomination that should be outlawed, and that African Americans should have the same rights as their white counterparts. She wasn’t just an advocate, however. Victoria also believed in getting up and doing. In 1870, she and Tennessee became the first female stockbrokers to operate on the New York Stock Exchange. The effort was ultimately unsuccessful,but made a splash across the nation. She followed up this bold direction by becoming a highly-sought after public speaker and she and Tennessee launched a feminist-inspired newspaper later that same year.  This work is best known for kicking off the famous Henry Ward Beecher controversy. A prominent celebrity clergyman, he was reported to having been engaging in an affair with one (some say, several) of his married parishioners. The trial that ensued created a media storm not unlike the O.J. Simpson trial in the 1990s. 

But Woodhull’s pièce de résistance came in 1872, when she decided the only way to achieve her vision was to become President of the United States. She was nominated as the candidate for the newly-formed Equal Right Party, with former slave and abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass as the VP candidate (though he never officially accepted the nomination). Although she never appeared on any official ballots, the attention brought by the effort gave both Woodhull and Douglass the eyes of the nation, even if  just for novelty or ridicule in the eyes of the press, and brought awareness of their respective platforms.

Woodhull, of course, was not without her vices, and the 1870s perhaps mark a high tide in her public profile and success in being an advocate for her cause. Mired in later years by a series of controversies (there’s some evidence to suggest she and/or her sister entered into quid pro quo arrangements trading sexual favors for funding, and Woodhull also promoted eugenics as a science), she would none the less spend the remainder of her life occasionally resurfacing to stir the pot of social injustice in the way she saw best. 

So when you hear people touting this week about our first female presidential candidate, take a moment to remember this asterisk to that claim. There have been many brave women who have stood up to advance our rights, and the fight is by no means over. Victoria Woodhull’s life was interwoven with a number of scandals, some of which in a historical context still sting and make one demean her today.  Although she ultimately ended her days living as an English subject, we should never forget that one woman stood up on stage, ridiculed by society and the press, and made a bold move to change things for us all. 

Cover Reveal: THE DEVIL YOU KNOW (Pure Souls Book Four)

TDYK COVER

TDYK COVER

Where the radio hosts are above average: Thank you, Garrison Keillor

440px-GKpress[1]

Twenty-five years ago, I sat in my father’s rusted out, $100 jalopy in my high school parking lot. Because I was perpetually worried the car would cough out somewhere on the eight-mile drive from home – it did often – on good days when she performed without complaint, I arrived with time to kill. Usually I would pop in a cassette tape of the Pop Diva du jour and measure time in Top 40 chart toppers. However, that Saturday morning, Celine Dion’s latest lay in the pocket of a jacket I’d left behind, forcing me to scan radio stations. On the west end of the dial, I stumbled on to something unlike anything I had ever heard before.

I didn’t grow up in a house where public radio was a known entity, let alone a central part of life. I knew of two kinds of programming: music and talk radio (WJR, which occasionally ventured into sports programming as well). Whatever I had found was neither of those. Transfixed in a cultural reverie, I had my first driveway moment-albeit in the parking lot of high school – as I listened to Dusty and Lefty discuss transcendentalism and its relationship to cattle prodding. The news from Lake Woebegone made me wish I’d lived somewhere where the men were strong, the women were good looking, and the children were above average. Guy Noire’s city full of dark secrets reminded me how boring I found my little town, where two biggest events of the year were homecoming and the last day of school for seniors, when those with combines would drive them to school. (This tradition is still upheld annually.) In the days before the internet, Garrison Keillor’s performances gave me the first hint that there were things in the universe for me to discover beyond the gas station at the end of town. By the time the episode of Prairie Home concluded, I’d missed half of practice, but realized how much more I’d been missing out on all my life. I listened to that station for rest of the day,the next day, and for many, many years to come.

Through the years, I have had various Public Radio loves, from Science Fridays, to All Things Considered. This American Life, to On the Media.  Car Talk was (and is) a consummate favorite, though it exists now only in reruns and a column in the Sunday paper.  I never realized just how effected I was by the NPR and PRI voices until I learned of the passing of Tom Magliozzi, one of the co-hosts of Car Talk, and felt like I had lost a family member. 

Through the years, I’ve introduced my own children to the wonders and importance of public radio, but I’ve never forgotten that magical day when strong Norwegian farmers first opened my ears and my eyes. Even though PHC isn’t going away, and a new host will be taking the reins next fall, I can’t help but feel like an epoch in my life has come to an end with Garrison Keillor’s retirement. But having experienced an awakening before, I can’t help but believe there’s another one just around the bend, where perhaps the women are strong, and the men are good looking, and the children are doing the best that they can.

Thank you, Mr. Keillor, for being the gateway drug that made me a public radio junkie, and for being such a central part of my life. 

The ups and downs of predictable plots…

Some books give readers a tip-of-your-toes, gut-curling-with-anxiety, where-the-frick-is-this-going experience. And others – typically those in genre fiction – are written so that the reader has a basic idea of the route the plot will take, but only the scenery might be a surprise.

Lately, I’ve been debating myself on the value of both. Note: I’m not here to tell you why one is better than another, but rather, to share some of my observations. As always, I’ll be direct and brief.

If you’re a fervent reader, and especially if you’re a writer, you’ve probably heard the “there’s only X types of stories in the world, and they’re all one of those or a combination of those.” The “X”in the equation might vary, but the number is usually quite surprising. I most often here it pinned at seven (such as outlined in The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories by Christopher Booker), though I have heard it pinned in the low twenties as well. Even if that number was set at 1000, that still seems pretty darn low given the billions and billions of people who have lived and the fact that they all have a story. Some, several. But the reality is, when we’re embracing the narrative, plot-driven format, there’s only so many plot rivers for the water to flow to the ocean, and all water flows to the ocean. 

One of the things that makes a book unpredictable, a “page-turner” so to speak, is it’s ability to fool the reader into thinking they’re reading an original story. QUIT, y’all. I hear you already. “Killian, are you saying that authors are openly plagiarizing their stories?” And, no, of course not, that’s not what I’m saying. What I am saying is that, according to the widely-accepted arguments above, there is no such thing as an original plot. That doesn’t mean an author can’t create an original experience in their book. Experience and story are two totally different elements of the craft, but like binary stars,they circle each other, obligated by the gravity they share. [It can also be that a reader has simply never experienced a given plot before reading a certain book which uses it, and hence, the reader experiences a new-to-them plot of something that’s actually already pretty established.]

Now, if you are a fervent reader, you’re familiar with most of these “alpha plots.” In fact, if you’re a reader who sticks inside the same genre or limits themselves to a few, you’ve probably adapted the ability to be able to tell where a story is going early on in the book. A few details might be fuzzy, but you know who the real villain is, who’s a rogue, and which seeming enemy will turn out to be a friend, or at least an ally. But it doesn’t stop you from reading, does it? 

That’s because there are some books which are openly modeled on existing or popular tropes or scenarios, specifically because they want to provide a similar experience to one the reader has already had and is looking to replicate. For example, during the last few years in YA, dystopian stories featuring a smart, tough, but reluctant young leader who emerges to through over the oppressive authorities has been extremely popular. Examples: The Hunger Games, The Divergent Series, and The 5th Wave Series.  The reason that the market can sustain so many books with such similar alpha plots, however, is because they aren’t trying to be original stories. What they are trying to do is to replicate an experience the reader enjoys.  I mean, if I’ve had really good sirloin before, and I get a craving to experience good-tasting sirloin again, I’m not going to go to a vegan salad bar, am I? (Let’s get this straight, this is more than an analogy. I’m never going to go to a vegan salad bar.) I’m not going to find the meat I crave there. If you want to replicate the experience you already had, then get thee to a choppery! 

So, too, with predictable plots. Why do you think Sylvia Day’s Crossfire Series exploded? Yes, it was writing the readers loved, but had it not been for the epic metric ton of 50 Shades of Grey readers salivating for a similar experience, it probably wouldn’t have been the huge, huge hit series it was. This, in fact, is the basis of the “If you like this, then read this” shelves you see in brick-and-mortar bookstores. (Yes, they do still exist!) Because the plot isn’t the thing, it’s the way it makes you feel. 

Now back to the debate I’m having. This week, I’m finishing up the last book in the Pure Souls series. My writing is going in a slightly different direction for a while, and other than perhaps a small novella, I probably won’t be publishing another work for at least six months if not a year. This is so I can finish several books in a series prior to release, and not repeat the Pure Souls experience where Book One and Book Four are releasing four years apart. So, I’m in plotting mode, trying to think of new characters, and doing market research to see what is selling these days, and trying to figure out why. As I make these studies, I see some who complain about a book’s similarity to others, and some who revel in it. An unpredictable plot is one that tends to fool the reader into thinking they’re reading one type of story, and then reverses it, queuing the reader in on the fact that they’ve actually been reading a very different type of story the whole time. (Think M. Night Shamalan, though as we saw in The Village, the mechanism can sometimes backfire if the bridge you crossed to get the reveal turns out to have had no water underneath it.) Some readers, however, hate when they experience something unexpected. Some really, really love to curl up with a new book with an old story. 

As I said, I’m not hear to defend one style of writing over another.  Just thinking out loud, via the little voice that pronounces things in your head as they leak in through your eyeballs.Would be delighted to hear your thoughts as well. 

When less is more. And you hate that.

Today, I had a lesson in the immortal truth: less is more.

Damn it all, and Merry Christmas….

I’ve been dabbling in audio recording in my home for several years. I’ve gone through several iterations of a home set up, including speaking into a small handheld recorder, using a slightly better and more expensive handheld recorder, using a USB mic hooked into my computer, and finally, the most recent iteration: roughly $500 worth of audio equipment set up in a closet dedicated to the purpose in my house. No matter what, the sound quality has always bit.

After I moved into the new house two years ago, I thought the reason I was getting such bad audio quality was the fact that all of my floors were hardwood and that most of the ceilings were very high. To some extent, that’s true. These things will contribute to a poor sound quality if they are not addressed in advance of recording. I’ve tried several tricks including getting sound shields, using acoustic foam, putting carpets down on the floor or hanging them from the ceiling (yeah, that one took a lot of work), but it always ended up sounding like I was recording in a wind tunnel. Which actually would’ve been great, because my house often gets really hot and wind would totally have chilled me out.

Well today, as a “what the hell” experiment, I plugged a cheap $10 set of headphones with a mic boom directly into my iPad and hit record. Granted, the iPad ain’t cheap, but I already had it so I don’t really consider it an extra cost. And lo and behold, I got the best sound I’ve gotten in four years of recording using the simplest set up I’ve ever used and using it on a whim.

Frick. Me. 

Now of course you know me. I’m gonna try to take this and spin it out into a larger life lesson. Or in this case specifically, a lesson on my writing. One of the more uncomfortable pieces of feedback I’ve heard from readers through the years was that my plots got too complex or that my writing was to highbrow. While I certainly think there is a place for writing of that kind, it’s not what I was going for. Which makes me think maybe, sometimes, I’m just to focused on the complexity to realize that what I’m trying to achieve is actually pretty simple. I’m sure others of have this type of experience. It sort of reminds me of the old – was an Amish song? A Quaker song? Something by the Bee Gees? – that reminded us that “’tis a gift to be simple.” Those lyrics also continue on to say that “’tis a gift to be free,” however. $10 ain’t exactly free, but what it would’ve saved me in headache and tribulations to just be simple rather than striving for unnecessary complexity would’ve saved me and everybody who ever listened to recording of me a huge headache.