Announcing the relaunch of Riona, Jerry, Dee, and Marc! Say hello to All My Exes Die From Hexes!
Now, the first question you have likely is, are these new books? No. I want everyone to understand that completely: THESE ARE NOT NEW BOOKS. They are the same books released before as the Pure Souls Series. I don’t want anyone to buy these thinking you’re getting new Pure Soul adventures. If you’re curious why this has come about, I wanted to let you know the why.
Pure & Sinful was the third book I ever released, and the Pure Souls series (four books in total, plus the series prequel), the first series I ever wrote. Through the years, I had changed covers a few times, keeping up with market trends. Last year, when I released the last book in the series, I was disappointed with its performance, and at the over all poor performance of the series as a whole. It basically boiled down to several factors I was able to identify:
- TIME TO WRITE THE SERIES. Today’ indie authors are churning out books like crazy. Most indie authors can put out a new book every 2-3 months. However, almost 5 years passed between when I released book one and when I released book four. That meant readers often had given up on the next book, or forgotten too much of the plot from a previous installment to enjoy fully the later one.
- COVER MISMATCH. As noted, I have changed cover several times through the years, but when I went back and looked at the last iteration, I realized there was a big disconnect between what the covers promised (they suggested gritty, dark paranormal fantasy), and what the book actually delivered (sarcastic and comedic quips punctuated with sexual tension and the occasional tender moment.) A cover is a book’s promise to the reader, and my covers weren’t keeping it.
- TITLE MISMATCH. When chatting with a group of writers recently about the worries I had over letting this series down, one of them wisely pointed out to me that having the term “pure” in both the series title and the first book maybe a bad choice for a series with such a high heat level. Like the cover issues discussed above, this one also invited reader in with the expectation of certain kind of experience the book didn’t deliver on.
Despite all thi, choosing to republish the series from scratch wasn’t an easy decision. Example: Even though the later books were light on reviews, the first book had over 70 reviews on Amazon (US site), with a 4.3 average. It had never gotten a 1-star review. EVER. Do you know how rare that is? Through sales or free giveaway promotion, over the last five ears, I have moved more than 23,000 copies of Pure & Sinful, and it has NEVER HAD A ONE STAR REVIEW. So, yes, taking this step didn’t come without a lot of deliberation.
In the end, however, if I wanted to give the series one last shot at finding its audience, I had to be pragmatic. Once I understood the above issues, it became the option that made the most sense. And the only way to address the issue of lag was to pull the original books and reissue them as if new.
So, there it is. Now, all I can do is hope that the readers who I know are out there that would enjoy the series are able to discover it. If you’ve been a Pure Souls reader, would you consider spreading the word to other readers you think may like them? The release/distribution schedule is as follows:
October 1: The Motion of the Potion
October 10: Once You Go Demon (I mean, come on, I couldn’t give up *that* name, could I?)
October 20: Hex Goddess
October 30: When Spell Freezes Over
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.
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.
AVAILABLE FROM MOST MAJOR ONLINE RETAILERS.
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>>
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.
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.
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.