Guest Post: A Month in the Coop by Lucy Blue

The Alley would like to welcome the Little Red Hens! Today we have Lucy Blue here to talk about what a month in the coop looks like and to give you an excerpt from one of their latest releases! Please help me in extending Lucy an enchanting welcome! 


My sister, Alexandra Christian, and I have our very own micro-press, Little Red Hen Romance, through which we deliver our brilliance to a grateful public. At the risk of rendering you all mute and paralyzed with envy, let me give you a rundown of what that means exactly, an average “month” in the life in the Coop.

Week One: What In the Name of the Benedict Cumberbatch’s Quirky Brand of Handsome Are We Going to Put Out Next Month?

Every publishing cycle begins with a lunch meeting conducted in the glamorous abandoned file room full of broken office furniture at the back of Lexie’s day job. Specifics vary, but here’s our basic agenda:

  1. What the heck are we doing this for?
    • We aren’t making any money
      1. Amazon are f*ckers
        • Kindle Unlimited can kiss my a$$
      2. We pay more for cover art than we make every month
    • You’ve got to at least finish your d@mned series
    • I’m still working on that other thing
    • Let’s give it another month
  2. Do we have a theme?
    • Holiday?
    • Is a new season of Sherlock about to come out?
    • I’m still having that Russell Crowe cowboy dream
  3. Do we have anything already written?
    • Sure <maniacal laughter>
      1. I’m still working on that thing
      2. I can dig out my old computer from the attic; I think there’s a story on the hard drive
      3. I still have that thing I didn’t finish when we did this theme last year
    •  Nope
      1. Brainstorming
      2. As long as we put SOMETHING out, we’re fine
  4. Deadlines <laughing so hard soda comes out our noses>

By the time we both have to go back to work at the jobs that actually pay us, we have a pretty good idea where we’re headed. Sometimes it’s not even straight off a cliff. And even if we don’t know at the end of the meeting, we know by the end of that first week.

For example, for Halloween in October, we knew we wanted to do a LRH Nightmare anthology (when it’s your press, you can make up as many imprints as you like!) instead of a handful of standalone shorties. I had a couple of things that were a lot harder and more horrific than our norm that LRH had never published; Lexie had a couple of erotic horror shorts that had been released back to her from the exploding wreckage of her former publisher, and we had several horror-themed shorties in our back catalog that hadn’t been in an anthology yet. So we thought, awesome, all we need is a cover, and we’re done! Except… because we’re masochistic geniuses, we realized we wanted to do some kind of framing story that would give the anthology as a whole some kind of throughline theme beyond “scary sexy stuff!” We talked about the Crypt Keeper and about the awesome Hansel and Gretel riff in the Tales from the Darkside movie, and Lexie had an amazing idea for a story about a haunted writer’s desk that we both loved.

But once she started writing, we realized that 1) it would make a dang fine novel, and 2) she’d never finish it in time to get an anthology out before Halloween, and even if she did, it would take up more space than the stories it was introducing. I was at that same time completely exasperated with the production company that’s filming a horror TV show for pay cable in our small town, and I started fantasizing about a fate worse than death for their lead location producer. And out of that, in the space of a couple of days, came “Living Dead Girl,” the black comedy frame for Until Death. Lex’s desk story was way more complex and interesting, and I hope she’ll finish it. But we needed something NOW.

Weeks Two through Three (or Four or Five): Writing, Compiling, and Covers, Oh My!

This is where I highly recommend working with your very talented sibling. Lex and I have very similar writing styles; we love one another’s work; and we trust one another’s judgment completely. Consequently, we can trade rough first drafts and do edits for one another very, very quickly; we can communicate problems almost by osmosis and get them fixed. I would dearly love to hire another set of talented eyeballs to do edits for us, and I still hope at some point we’ll be able to do that. We both know the mechanics. I have a master’s degree in English lit and used to teach composition; she has a degree in education and used to teach kids how to write; we’ve both published lots of stuff with big, traditional publishers as well as indies; and we each have a fair amount of experience editing other people’s fiction. But we still need another editor. (Enchanted Alley piping in here… I KNOW AN EDITOR!) The same connection that makes editing each other comfortable cheats us of all the many benefits of a truly objective point of view. But right now, we don’t make enough money to pay somebody else, nor do we have the time to give another editor a turnaround schedule that is anything close to reasonable.

This is also when we start working on covers. Again, we do our own because we can’t afford to pay somebody else. (Though my husband the artist has stepped in more than once to help us out with stuff we couldn’t manage.) We try to find stock art that already hews very closely to the vision we have so we don’t have to do much blending of images or many effects—I’m still using Gimp, and I’m not what you’d call proficient. We spend hours going through page after page of imagery to find stuff that will look clean and original, then try hard not to screw it up. With Until Death, Lexie offered to do the cover since I was writing the frame, and I think she did an amazing job. She found an image called “Romantic Zombie” (Andrey Kiselev/Dreamstime.com) and dirtied up fonts and played with colors until she got what I think suits the stories inside perfectly.

Week Four (or Five or Six or Seven): To Market, To Market

Once we have clean versions of each story and covers we like, it’s time to publish. We do everything through Amazon through my Kindle Direct Publishing account. Amazon are indeed f*ckers, and we’d love to expand out to other platforms. But the sad truth is, everybody either has a Kindle or the Kindle app on their non-Kindle e-book-reading device. (The main alternative I’m interested in exploring at this point is iTunes, but they’re f*ckers, too.) As much as I’d love to have a couple of hours every week to exchange emails with a reader who’s trying to open my book on her Cricket phone after downloading it from Alice The Much Nicer E-Bookstore Owner’s World of Romance website, I just don’t. We use my KDP account so we have everything plugged into Amazon’s excellent sales and royalty tracking resources. We can tell exactly how many sales we have all over the world almost the moment they happen. (Lexie either has one reader in Denmark who compulsively checks Amazon to download her stuff as soon as it comes out, or she’s HUGE with an extensive cult of Danes.) Uploading the stuff is very easy—all you need is a cover created to the Amazon specifications (very easy to find on the KDP website), a Microsoft Word version of the story (including any table of contents—Amazon does the conversion for you), all your frontispiece information (authors, editors, etc.), and seven little keywords. Things usually show up on Amazon within 12-24 hours.

We’re constantly marketing stuff, of course, but this is also the week we get serious about that new release, using social media a lot, offering to write blog posts for dear friends kind enough to let us. But I can’t stress enough that marketing isn’t something that you do one book at a time one month at a time; we are constantly on the lookout for ways to get all of our releases in front of the eyeballs of readers who will love them.

I don’t know that I’d advise anybody to take up self-pubbing right now or start their own indie press, even with their darling sister. It’s a much tougher, much crazier market than it was just a few years ago. But all griping aside, we HAVE found a lot of readers, and we ARE publishing exactly the stories we want to publish in exactly the way we think they should be done. And for now, that still makes it worth the aggravation. Next month, we might quit, but for now, we’re thinking about Christmas.

Find us at our website at: http://lucybluecastle.wixsite.com/littleredhenromance or on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/littleredhenromance/ .

until-death-1And check out this snippet from “Living Dead Girl,” the frame story from our latest collection, Until Death: An Anthology of Twisted Love Stories, available now from Amazon:

“That’s supposed to be a love story?” he said, feeling a little sick.

“Of course it is,” she said. Her zombie make-up was horrifying; his crew was talented. But her eyes shining in the moonlight were almost enough to make him not notice. “Rhett’s love for Cynthia was so strong, even after she died, it could sustain an immortal sex demon. That’s beautiful.”

“If you say so,” he said. Twisted but cute, he thought. “I guess that’s what I get for looking for love advice from a zombie.”

“True love is everywhere,” she said. “Anything can bring two people together if they’re meant to be, even zombies.”

“Yeah, that’s what the writers tell me,” he said. “Then half a season later, they kill off the love interest, and the internet goes crazy.”

“I know a story of two people who never would have stayed together if they hadn’t been attacked by zombies,” she said.

“Real zombies?” Maybe too twisted after all.

“Well….my grand-daddy said they were real,” she said. “But he used to tell me spaghetti grows on trees, so I’m not sure we should believe him. It’s a good story, though, a western. You want to hear it?”

The set-up was still at least an hour from being ready. “Sure, why not?”

 

Review: The Dead Seekers by Barb and JC Hendee

Enchanted Review

I’m a tabletop gamer (mostly Pathfinder and D&D), in addition to writing, editing, developing, and publishing games, so I can’t help looking at fiction from that perspective as I read. I’ve previously read and enjoyed the witches series (The Mist-Torn Witches, Witches in Red, Witches with the Enemy, and To Kill a Kettle Witch) by Barb Hendee and Dhampir by Barb and J.C. Hendee. The setting is what I enjoy best about the books, which are all set in the same world—that of the Noble Dead (http://www.nobledead.org/)—which is a bleak, dark, medieval atmosphere where feudal lords make life tough on others, vampires feed on the average peasant in the late hours of the evening, and people fear to travel anywhere after sunset. These books, especially Dhampir and the wonderful The Dead Seekers, a new Noble Dead series, show you what it would be to live in a world like that of the long-running game world variations of Ravenloft—a world infested with the undead, most of whom rule various territories of humans.

So, that atmosphere continues to excite me with the new book focusing on ghost hunters. Yet, what I find refreshing is that the authors do not get bogged down in the world of their fiction: the world remains backdrop to character-driven stories, as I believe it should be. I happen to be one of the readers who believes the setting should not overshadow the story, and that authors absolutely do not have to spend pages and pages providing world and landscape description. If you like that in your fiction, you’ll not find it here. However, if you want intriguing stories and stimulating characters set in a dark world that posits the existence of the undead in a medieval setting, then the Hendees are absolutely your kind of authors!

In The Dead Seekers, the reader is introduced to Mari Kaleja, one of the Móndyalítko, a gypsy folk. At the age of 10, a dark being and controller of spirits killed her family in the Wicker Wood. Since then, she’s been seeking out the one called the Dead’s Man, whom she believes murdered her family with his pet spirits in the forest, to gain her revenge.

The Dead’s Man turns out to be Tris Vishal, a baronet who was born dead. Ever since he was a child, he has seen into the spirit world, and he knows he has a dark half in the spirit realm who wants to kill him and take his place. Tris has spent long years away from his baron father, having left home after his mother’s death to a strange sickness. He, instead, earns his living by legitimately ridding villages and towns of vengeful spirits.

Tris and Mari meet when she saves him from several bandits while he is on his way to remove a troubling spirit of a young girl in another village. She travels with him, seeking to be certain he is the man she seeks, and before long, she is working with him as his translator and following him where the removal of ghosts leads him. Along the way, she uncovers his secrets—and he hers, of course. They are later joined by an interesting alchemist who helped train Tris in his ghost-removing career.

I was simply enthralled by the first part of the book, which really introduces you to the characters, and the pace was fast. The book slowed some when the characters sought the spirit who had created their village ghost in a nearby city’s guard barracks. The pace relaxed because this half of the book centers more on a mystery of the identity and nature of the haunting spirit and its motivations. I eagerly followed the mystery to its conclusion, and was satisfied with the ending.

I absolutely recommend the book to those who like high fantasy with a touch of darkness to it. You won’t be disappointed.

This review copy was received for free via Net Galley. However, the reviewer will be buying a print and electronic copy for her own library.

— Reviewed by Christina


 About the Book

In the New York Times bestselling Noble Dead saga, Barb and J.C. Hendee created an engrossing mix of “intrigue, epic fantasy, and horror.”* Now, they present a bold new series set in the same world, where the destinies of two hunters shaped by the shadows of their pasts are about to collide…

In the dark reaches of the eastern continent, Tris Vishal travels from village to village, using his power to put unsettled spirits to rest. He works alone, having learned that letting people close only leads to more death. Still, he finds himself accepting the help of the Móndyalítko woman who saves his life—a woman whose gifts are as much a burden as his own.

Mari Kaleja thirsted for vengeance since the night her family was taken from her. She has searched far and wide for the one she thinks responsible, known only as “The Dead’s Man.” But before she can kill him, she has to be sure. Mari hopes traveling with Tris will confirm her suspicions. But as they embark on a hunt where the living are just as dangerous as the dead, she learns the risks of keeping your enemy close…

Because it’s no longer clear who is predator and who is prey.

— Book description from Amazon.com


About the Authors

Barb and J. C. Hendee are the New York Times bestselling authors of the Novels of the Noble Dead, including The Night Voice, First and Last Sorcerer, and A Wind in the Night. Barb’s short fiction has appeared in numerous genre magazines and anthologies. She is the author of the Vampire Memories and Mist-Torn Witches series. J.C.’s poetry, nonfiction, and short fiction have also appeared in many genre magazines.


Essential Info

51-7dkomk3lTitle: The Dead Seekers

Author: Barb and J.C. Hendee

Publisher: Penguin

Cost: $13.99 (ebook)

Length: 332 pages

Release Date: January 3, 2017

Purchase Link: CLICK HERE


Links to Other Works Mentioned in the Review

The Mist-Torn Witches: https://www.amazon.com/Mist-Torn-Witches-Book-ebook/dp/B009UZ8U3K/ref=sr_1_3?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1483055654&sr=1-3

Witches in Red: https://www.amazon.com/Witches-Red-Novel-Mist-Torn-Book-ebook/dp/B00FX7LYP0/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1483055654&sr=1-2

Witches with the Enemy: https://www.amazon.com/Witches-Enemy-Novel-Mist-Torn-Book-ebook/dp/B00O2BS67W/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1483055654&sr=1-1

To Kill A Kettle Witch: https://www.amazon.com/Kettle-Witch-Novel-Mist-Torn-Witches-ebook/dp/B013Q70AK8/ref=sr_1_4?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1483055654&sr=1-4

Dhampir: https://www.amazon.com/Dhampir-Noble-Dead-Barb-Hendee-ebook/dp/B002D9ZMJA/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1483055828&sr=1-1&keywords=dhampir

Book Review: Octavia E. Butler by Gerry Canavan

51VBC4RoPsL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Enchanted Review

I’ve recently become intrigued by Octavia E. Butler and her award-winning science fiction, so when Gerry Canavan, a professor of English at Marquette University, came out with this book about Butler, I knew I wanted to read it.  Canavan has delved into the Octavia E. Butler archive at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, to illuminate her character and her works in an accessible way for the general public—not the academic one. He details a shy, depressed, and lonely African-American woman who grew up as an only child to a mother who worked as a cleaning lady for white people. Her father had died when she was only seven. She fell in love of reading at an early age, especially comic books, but certainly science fiction, and was an avid reader. She kept journals throughout her life and practiced a “positive obsession” in writing down her goals and dreams. She wanted to be a writer. She wanted to make good money at being a writer. This, however, would be something that she struggled to do throughout her life, performing odd jobs to make ends meet, and always teetering toward bankruptcy. That would change when she won the $295,000 MacArthur Fellowship (aka “Genius Award”) that allowed her to purchase a home and live more comfortably.

Canavan does an excellent job of analyzing Butler’s various novels through the lenses of her journals and other drafts accessible at the Huntington Library. He shows how Butler focused on certain topics over her career: power, racism, sexism, slavery, procreation, and rape. Though her stories can be seen as “bleak,” she did not see a how the societies she explored could lead to a happy ending. She definitely did not write utopian fiction.

This is a must-read book for any Octavia E. Butler fan, or for anyone who is interested in alternate views in science fiction. Canavan proves an excellent guide through Butler’s fiction, and you’ll want to take time with this book, exploring Butler’s books and stories as Canavan moves through them. There is absolutely so much to be explored here, and I’m sure much fruit will be born from the Huntington Library on Octavia E. Butler. I’ll be rereading and enjoying this book for some time to come.

 

Reviewed by Christina


About the Book

I began writing about power because I had so little, Octavia E. Butler once said. Butler’s life as an African American woman–an alien in American society and among science fiction writers–informed the powerful works that earned her an ardent readership and acclaim both inside and outside science fiction. Gerry Canavan offers a critical and holistic consideration of Butler’s career. Drawing on Butler’s personal papers, Canavan tracks the false starts, abandoned drafts, tireless rewrites, and real-life obstacles that fed Butler’s frustrations and launched her triumphs. Canavan departs from other studies to approach Butler first and foremost as a science fiction writer working within, responding to, and reacting against the genre’s particular canon. The result is an illuminating study of how an essential SF figure shaped themes, unconventional ideas, and an unflagging creative urge into brilliant works of fiction.


51vbc4ropsl-_sy344_bo1204203200_Essential Info

Title: Octavia E. Butler

Author: Gerry Canavan

Publisher: University of Illinois Press

Cost: $22.00 (paperback)

Length: 224 pages

Purchase Link: CLICK HERE


Book Review: Curse on the Land by Faith Hunter

Enchanted Review

The unusual earth-connected being that is Nell Ingram has graduated from Spook School, after having proven her worth to Unit 18 of the paranormal-policing PsyLED division of Homeland Security against the gwyllgi that infested her family’s church-cult in the first book, Blood of the Earth (I absolutely enjoyed Nell’s detailed church background Hunter provided in the first book). On returning home from training, she discovers her own lands inherited from her dead husband, are sick. The evil life force of Brother Ephraim that she had fed to it still lingers underground, but he has somehow linked itself to the church compound of the God’s Cloud of Glory Church and has grown slightly stronger. However, Nell’s dealing with her own land issues and those of the church take a backseat when the boss, Rick LaFleur, informs her that he needs her to report in early for her first day of work, for her special earth-based skill set is needed in a new case involving odd-acting geese infused with magic found on a particular section of land. Nell’s attempts to read the land involved in the initial incidents result in her being attacked by something residing within, and she learns pieces about the underground residents from her perceptions while scanning the area—things that she does not fully understand. As more and more deaths occur, escalating from animals to humans, the PsyLED team races to find answers to the source of the troubles.

This series is set in the same world as Faith Hunter’s well-received Jane Yellowrock novels, but it has its own unique soul (if you will allow the pun), and the books offer up a fresh reader experience in the crowded urban-fantasy field, for Nell Ingram is not a witch, not a skinwalker, nor were-creature or vampire. She is something completely different—and she does not even know what she is. Though the intrigue about Nell’s nature alone will bring the reader along for the ride in Curse on the Land, Faith Hunter’s skill at character development, her vivid world description, and her mastery of mystery will keep the reader enthralled with the book. The Inter-special PsyLED team of weres, witch, human, empath, and Nell truly comes alive in this book (and appeals to the tabletop gamer in me as a very interesting adventuring party), and getting to the underlying cause of the magical disturbance proves highly intriguing.

This is a series you will want to inform your friends about. It is not to be missed.

Disclaimer: The reviewer received an advanced reader copy (ARC) of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Reviewed by Christina


About the Book

Set in the same world as Faith Hunter’s New York Times bestselling Jane Yellowrock novels, the second Soulwood novel tells the story of a woman whose power comes from deep within the earth…
 
Before Nell Ingram met skinwalker Jane Yellowrock, she had no one to rely on, finding strength only in her arcane connection to the dark woods around her. But now she has friends in the newly formed PsyLED team to keep her grounded—even if being part of the agency responsible for policing paranormals comes with dangers of its own….

After training at the PsyLED academy, Nell returns home to her woods to find the land feeling sick and restless. And that sickness is spreading. With the help of her team, under the leadership of agent Rick LaFleur, Nell tries to determine the cause. But nothing can prepare them for the evil that awaits: an entity that feeds on death itself. And it wants more….

 


28953491Essential Info

CURSE ON THE LAND

Soulwood #2

By Faith Hunter

November 1, 2016 | ISBN: 978-0451473325

ROC | $7.99 | 352 pages

Purchase Link: CLICK HERE


About the Author

FaithHunter2Small
Faith Hunter is the New York Times bestselling author of the Jane Yellowrock series, including Shadow RitesDark Heir, and Broken Soul; the Soulwood series, set in the world of Jane Yellowrock, including Blood of the Earth; and the Rogue Mage series, including HostSeraphs, and Bloodring.

Blog Tour: An Import of Intrigue by Marshall Ryan Maresca

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Enchanted Review

I enjoy fantasy, but true High Fantasy has never really been my thing. Maresca takes high fantasy and combines it with three things that I really do like: dark and gritty world building, a solid mystery, and great characters.

I fell in love with this series when I read the first book, A Murder of Mages (review coming soon), but the second installment is even better. The stakes are higher, the world is darker (a change in setting contributes to that) and we get to see some things we thought we’d figured out turned around on their heads (no spoilers!) to really push the complexity and depth of the characters.

I will definitely read the next installment, and I will go look for his other books set in the  port city of Maradaine.

5 Lamps

Enchanted Rating: Five Lanterns


About the Book

This second novel in the Maradaine Constabulary series blends high fantasy, murder mystery, and gritty urban magic…

The neighborhood of the Little East is a collision of cultures, languages, and traditions, hidden away in the city of Maradaine. A set of streets to be avoided or ignored. When a foreign dignitary is murdered, solving the crime falls to the most unpopular inspectors in the Maradaine Constabulary: exposed fraud Satrine Rainey, and Uncircled mage Minox Welling.

With a murder scene deliberately constructed to point blame toward the rival groups resident in this exotic section of Maradaine, Rainey is forced to confront her former life, while Welling’s ignorance of his own power threatens to consume him. And the conflicts erupting in the Little East will spark a citywide war unless the Constabulary solves the case quickly.


picture1Essential Info

AN IMPORT OF INTRIGUE

Maradaine Constabulary #2

By Marshall Ryan Maresca

November 1, 2016 | ISBN: 9780756411732

DAW Mass Market | $7.99 | 400 pages


About the Author

7179557Marshall Ryan Maresca grew up in upstate New York and studied film and video production at Penn State.  He now lives Austin with his wife and son.  His work appeared in Norton Anthology of Hint Fiction and Rick Klaw’s anthology Rayguns Over Texas. He also has had several short plays produced and has worked as a stage actor, a theatrical director and an amateur chef. His novels The Thorn of Dentonhill and A Murder of Mages each begin their own fantasy series, both set in the port city of Maradaine. For more information, visit Marshall’s website at http://www.mrmaresca.com.

Book Review: On Writing by Stephen King

On Writing is a two part book: part story, part instruction (kick in the ass) for writers.

From Amazon:

“Long live the King” hailed Entertainment Weekly upon publication of Stephen King’s On Writing. Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King’s advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported, near-fatal accident in 1999—and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it—fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.

The book begins with a very inspiring story of King’s path to becoming the megastar writer that he is today. He goes through his childhood, young adulthood, struggles with poverty, drug and alcohol addiction, and major life change after being hit by a van. Through it all, he maintained one commonality: writing. He never stopped writing, even when he knew it wasn’t good enough or when he knew it wasn’t good at all.

The latter part of the book is a good swift kick in the pants for writers. It offers suggestions such as blowing up the TV, reading during dinnertime, and killing all your darlings. The overall message is that to be a writer, you have to read voraciously, write constantly, learn the craft, and never give up.

On Writing is a “must read” for anyone who is an aspiring author or just likes Stephen King.

king-on-writingESSENTIAL INFO:

Title:  On Writing

Author: Stephen King

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Length: 320 pages

Price: $9.76 Kindle

Release Date: October 3, 2000

Amazon Link: Buy it HERE