Chapter 20: Victory Lap

This chapter will be entirely dedicated to my happiness, so be prepared for cliches and annoying tears of joy…

When I started writing this blog, The Freedom Game was in the editing stages.  My sister Kristen read it for the first time last summer and as we were living together at that point, I was able to see a lot of her reactions.  She was happy when I wanted her to be happy, and furious at me when I wanted her to be furious at what was happening to my protagonist, Ethlynn.  When she finished it, she said she could genuinely see it on a shelf at a bookstore and my heart nearly exploded.  She also pointed out to me how much I had improved since the last book I finished (one the world will never read due to it simply not being good).  It was then that I decided that nothing would stop me from publishing that book.

The list of rejections goes past being able to count on my fingers and toes.  Several of the agents only responded with template responses, and the rest didn’t respond at all.  Each ‘no, but remember that this is a subjective field, so keep trying’ was another piece of my heart breaking.  The template emails were kind, but they weren’t ‘yes’, and that almost made it harder.  It made me sad rather than angry.

That’s where my sister Kristen and best friend Courtney stepped in.  They were the only two at that point who had read the book.  Not only would they ask about the agent’s responses, but they would ask about my characters.  It hardened my resolve, and I can say now that I doubt this book would be published now without them.

In January I reached out to Y. Nikolova at Ammonia Book Covers.  Several emails and six days later, she had the first draft of the cover drawn up.  That was when I purchased Successful Self-Publishing by Joanna Penn.  With my degree in Finance, I knew that I wanted to do everything right from a business prospective as well as a creative one.  I published in May, because that’s when “Fantasy/Sci Fi” sells the best.  I had people read the book prior to publication because I wanted their reviews posted on the first day.  I studied pricing so that I knew how much I could afford to ask for as a debut indie author.  I did everything.

On May 23rd, it published.  I was at my full-time job for eight hours that felt like eight years.  How dare the real world not put itself on hold for my special day?

I had people texting me pictures of the screenshot ‘Thank you for purchasing The Freedom Game by J.E. Brand’ and every single text was like picking up a piece of my once broken heart and putting it right back together.

It was that same week that I had my first unaccounted for sale.  I couldn’t trace it back to anyone I knew, and my heart might’ve possibly stopped beating all together.  I was also getting reads through people could read it for free (I get paid per page read) and I knew that anyone I knew wouldn’t choose to read it that way.  Within two days eight hundred pages of it were read, which is it being read nearly three times!  Then, on May 25th, a complete stranger rated it 4 stars on Goodreads and my heart might’ve stopped beating all together.  This meant two things: (1) a stranger had read my book from start to finish and (2) they had actually liked it.  It was my first completely unbiased review, and it was still good.

The thing about debuting as an indie author is that it’s a marathon, not a race.  I get a sale here and there.  That review from the 25th is still the only review of my book, and that’s okay.  I write because I love to do so, and I publish because I want to share what I love with the rest of the world.  An expression you often hear when depressed involves “making a mountain out of a molehill”, but let me say when it’s reversed, and every little victory is like conquering a mountain, the world is a very good place.  Every time someone buys my book, it’s another reminder that my dream actually came true.

None of it felt real until the picture posted above.  It was when I held my book for the very first time.  A book that I wrote was in my hands.  I could hold it and it was real.  I could flip through the pages and see words that I had written.  In the back was an ‘About Author’ section with my picture at the top.  The picture was taken after my freakish sobbing finally calmed down and my eyes weren’t as red, but definitely still producing a tear or two.  It was surreal but undeniable.  I’m now a published author, and I couldn’t be happier.

The Freedom Game

I can’t believe I haven’t had a chance to write this blog again.  The real world has a funny habit of getting in the way in life’s biggest moments, and mine did just that.  The past month I’ve been battling twelve hour work days, including last weekend being the first I had off since starting this project.  That means that this is the first chance in a while that I’ve had to excitedly announce that The Freedom Game published TODAY!

Want to know more?


Three years ago, the impossible happened: Ethlynns role in life changed from an ordinary slave to an all-powerful sorcerer.  Now, she’s seeking to become the apprentice of the very person whom she used to call ‘master’.  Why?  Her brother and sister’s lives are still on the line.

With only the clever but awkward Wystan to call her friend, her days of suppression aren’t over.  Despite constantly proving her strength with magic, her peers still look down on her as property.  She does her best to keep her chin up and slave collar clean, acting exactly as her teachers instruct.

Each test they put her through she finds herself questioning who she is and who she’s becoming.  Will she be able to keep herself from becoming a cold-hearted killer?  Is saving her brother and sister worth the lives of countless others?  Ethlynn will have to choose, if she can manage to stay alive…



Secret Stairs

You mustn’t talk about the stairs.

There they stand, surrounded by nothing but forest, pristine as the day they were built. No sign remains of any other structure around them, no ruins of long forgotten buildings. They look… wrong. They feel wrong. Bad things happen if you get too close. Horrible things.

You must never, ever ever talk about them.

Thirty-four of today’s best up and coming writers provide wonderfully unique interpretations inspired by the urban legends of the Internet age. Tales range from science fiction to fantasy, horror to mystery, and one writer even penned a romance!

But you must never tell anyone about the stairs!


Chapter 19: 6 Questions to Ask Your Villain

There are fewer things more entertaining as a writer than creating your villain.  There the ones who propel your story character, wreaking havoc on your protagonist with a vengeance that keep readers on the edge of their seats.  Think back to the villains in books and movies – the ones that have almost a cult following of fans.  Loki, Darth Vader, Joker, Moriarty, Voldemort, Captain Hook, Dracula.  I could go on and on.

Before I go into the questions to ask, I want to make a note.  Recently, I was reading a book with a grey-area main protagonist.  It was the fact she was grey area that I’d been enticed to purchase it originally.  She was enthralled by others’ pain, loving to inflict some of the hurt that the world had thrown up against her for most of her life.  However, the author lost me as a reader rather quickly.  Why?

She told me, rather than showed me.  If you write in first person, it can be very easy to get caught up and write out what you want the readers to know in the thought process of the protagonist.  Don’t get trapped.  Do better.  Show your readers.  Describe the physical and internal reactions and then interlace that with those same thoughts.  (Look into The Emotional Thesaurus if you want extra help describing emotions.)  Throw in stories of what made them how they are.  Add more scenes that give them motive.  Don’t let the ‘narrator’ be telling the entire story; give your protagonist the chance to show who they are themselves.

Now, on to the questions:

  1. What is their primary goal?  I know, this one’s basic, but it’s simply the most important question to ask.  This is the basis of who your antagonist is, and defines him/her as a person.  This is also where you can add layers to the character.  Think of Killmonger in Black Panther.  Although Marvel traditionally sucks at villains, they nailed this one.  Why?  His primary goal.  It wasn’t world domination or nameless revenge.  It was to provide aid to African Americans over the world.  That gave him depth and made him relatable.  It was his means to achieve that goal that made him the villain.  Spoiler: relatable goals and terrible means are two basic but always effective ways to make a love-to-hate villain.

2. Where do they draw the line?  A villain willing to kill children is immediately seen as the worst kind.  Back during the world wars, if a traitor to the country was in a prison, the fellow inmates of murderers, rapists, and thieves looked down on them and would often bully the traitor into isolation.  Do they have issues killing bystanders, or is that just part of the job?  Do they only kill if they have to – instead focusing on thievery and mischief?  Perhaps they’re loyal to a certain people, willing to do anything to the world save that small group?

3. Do they work alone?  The Joker has Harley Quinn; Voldemort has Death Eaters; Captain Hook has his crew; Darth Vader listens to the Emperor.  If you decide to have them work with someone/an organization, then you have another question to ask.  Where do they sit?  Darth Vader wasn’t at the top, and his redemption involved killing the one who was.  People hate Professor Umbridge more than Voldemort in Harry Potter, and she’s almost at the bottom of the evil barrel as far as actual status goes.

4. What’s their biggest fear?  Killmonger would rather die than be held in chains, so don’t automatically revert to ‘dying’ as your answer.  For this one, go back to their goal.  Which one is more important?  Their goal or their life?  Imhotep in The Mummy’s primary goal had nothing to do with his biggest fear.  While he only wanted to conquer, his biggest fear was not being loved by Anck Su Namun.  In the second movie, when she chose running away to save herself instead of saving him, Imhotep found everything else meaningless – letting himself die quickly instead of fight for life – much less conquering any part of the world.

5. What was their life before they became your antagonist?  Are they spoiled, like Lex Luther?  Were they already messed up, and then the world threw even more at them like Dracula?  Were they a respectable citizen until something went wrong like Harley Quinn?  Think back on their biggest fear.  When was that implanted into them?  Before Imhotep fell in love with Anck Su Namun, he was a powerful priest.  It was his love for her that originally had him killed.  His origin story came into full circle when she ran away from him to die.

6. Are they a reflection of your protagonist or the complete opposite?  Moriarty was Sherlock Holmes with a different moral compass.  They had the same great minds that thought at a level of comprehension and curiosity beyond the average genius.  Their observation and deduction skills still lead them on two very different paths.  Two very similar characters have two very different goals.  Then, you have Loki against Thor – night against day.  Loki is a trickster and mind-player where Thor is very straightforward and relies on his brawl.  For every main characteristic you can think of, the other has the exact opposite.  However, they have the same goal (albeit not primary).  They both want to succeed their father as the king of Asgard.

Chapter 18: 5 Ways to Market Beyond Traditional Advertisements

Writing’s the easy part.  It’s why we do what we do.  Coming up with the characters, the plot and subplots, the twist and turns that keep your readers on the edge of their seat – it’s what makes being an author so truly amazing.

But, what more can you do to market your books?  Below I’m going to list less traditional means to bring readers in to become your perhaps most avid fans.  Before I begin, I want to stress that you should pick one or more ways that you ENJOY doing.  You don’t want to force yourself to do anything that you won’t like.  It’s completely unnecessary and will come through as insincere, and trust me when I say your followers will notice.  Also, why contaminate your author career with something you hate?

So, here we go!

  1. Write more books – I know, I know. This one seems obvious, albeit the most fun.  It’s a simple fact.  The more books you have, the higher chance of a potential reader coming across your work.  There’s a simple key to this: stay within a genre.  Use subgenres, sure, but think about it.  Why would an avid science fiction fan look at a Victorian era book?  Or vice versa?  They know they like that genre of your writing, and it would take a lot for them to branch out.  But, with that said, they know they like that genre of your writing.  They already know they like you, and feel safer to make more purchases.  The more you have to offer, the better you can capitalize on this opportunity.  Whether it’s by putting an advertisement of a different book in the back of another one, make sure they know you have more to offer.
  2. Come up with a blog – This of course is my choice of marketing. Although I’ve struggled recently to keep up with consistency due to life crapping on my time, I really love writing each blog post.  One thing to remember is (despite what I’ve demonstrated) to be consistent.  Your followers will know when to check in and will be much more likely to keep up with it.
  3. In-Subject Articles – What you write about specifically would be dependent on your particular genre. Fantasy – how did you decide your rules for magic?  Science fiction – how did you brainstorm your technology?  Space opera – how did you take the leap from world building to universe building?  Historical – what avenues did you use to research that era?  And, so on!  This will draw in writers within your genre, and chances are that if they write in your genre they also read in it.  They’ll see the value of your knowledge and want to see it applied in your writing.  Boom!
  4. Podcast – The best example I can give for this is Joanna Penn. My sister introduced me to her wonderful podcast “The Creative Penn” that she updates every week.  She picks a subject matter and then has a guest speaker who’s a ‘subject matter expert.’  Since becoming a fan of the podcast, I’ve bought two non-fiction, instructional books and a set of three of her fiction books.  That’s five sales for her from one person that she wouldn’t have had otherwise.
  5. Social Media – I don’t want to say just one site because several of them can be incredible helpful. Personally I also run an Instagram account where I post powerful female character from literature.  My sister uses Pinterest where she has several boards for different subjects to do with her books.  Then, she’ll sneak in a pin about her book specifically.  One good trick is that once you’ve built up your account, join a group board.  That means more people will see it and your chances at a click are higher.  In general, this is a less aggressive means of marketing as you don’t have to be quite as consistent with it.  Just be sure that your account page has a link to your website (which I don’t have listed as a means of advertising because I consider it a given you should have one).

So, there are my tips and tricks!  What are some ways that you use?