The Witch’s March: Sneak Peak

Prologue: Afternoon Visitors

23 August 1914

            The only sounds in Mons were of bullet-fire and death.  Hattie had done what she was supposed to and continued healing injured soldiers at her post, even when hearing the Germans had first started their offensive at dawn.  Since the very first bomb went off that morning, there was one worry echoing around in her skull: Joey was out there, and he could die while she sat in the background.  Now finally in the city with him, Hattie was more determined than ever to do her part at the front-line and save her brother.  As she reached the back line, she stole away soldiers’ confusion at seeing a woman walking towards the danger before deciding they didn’t have the time to deal with her.  They were forcing young children out of women’s arms that refused to leave the city.  She walked with relaxed shoulders and purposeful strides, trying to keep her face down away from possibly prying eyes.

The blood of the dead flowed through her, fueling her magic despite the grief it struck.  She let it settle into her as a familiar warmth as her eyes scanned through face after face for Joey. Surviving commanders shouted orders of retreat from the closest salient.  They definitely wouldn’t direct her further into their battle.  She ignored them and walked on.

“You there – nurse.”  Of course, people were bound to question a five-ten woman in the middle of a war zone eventually.  She turned to a white-mustached British officer with a large nose and tired eyes.  “How did you get this far into the city?  You need to evacuate now.”

“I’m not in the military, nor am I one of the queen’s subjects, so I’m afraid you don’t get to tell me to leave,” Hattie said.  She shifted her pocket knife out of her sleeve and reached it underneath her low bun to the never fully healed scar there, slicing into the thick skin.  The magic bled out of her like a boiling kettle, furnished by the climbing number of hundreds of corpses around her.  It was nearly overkill to do a simple distraction skill.

The officer walked towards his men to continue shouting orders, and she continued forward on her search.  She knew he was there; she could feel him. With her spell, he would walk right past her if she didn’t stop him.

Now at the front line, with only stacks of sandbags protecting them from the Germans, she found it harder to hide her desperation.  Where was her brother?

The gunfire was ringing, forcing her to put her hands over her ears as she looked around.  The power flowing from the blood in her small cut was dizzying.  When she spun around to turn down another street, she nearly sobbed when she saw him.  He was leaning against one of the shorter stacks of bags, gun in hand as he peaked around the line.

“Joey!” she shouted, hurrying towards him.  His chocolate brown hair was buzzed short to his scalp, his mustache surrounded by growing scruff.  Bags drooped deep under his red-rimmed eyes, and his uniform wasn’t as crisp as he normally kept it.  At her touch, her spell’s power over him broke, and he jumped at seeing her so close, barrel aimed in between her eyes.  She didn’t blink.  “Joey, we have to hold them off.”

“Hat– what the f– what are you doing here?” he asked, his grip immediately tight around her bicep.  “You have to get out of here!”

“Don’t be an idiot, Joey.  Guns clearly aren’t enough to hold off the Germans.  Together, we can do it.”

“You’re the one being an idiot.  Get the hell out of here!” he said, pushing her back away from the sandbags.  “It’s not safe–”

Hattie didn’t distinguish the shot from the constant barrage of bullets, but it struck through her brother’s back all the same.  His eyes widened, and he didn’t look away as he swayed.  An animalistic scream erupted from her throat as she hurried to catch him.  No, she just found him – they were supposed to be safe together.

He looked down at where the bullet had come out through his chest, the blood seeping through his uniform as the men around her suddenly noticed the pair.  She pressed her hand into the wound, the red warm against her palm as she began to whisper her healing spell.

Men started shouting and trying to pull her off of him.  She wouldn’t let them. She couldn’t.  Her spell wasn’t finished.

Joey coughed in a way that shattered her heart as a soldier pulled them both further behind cover.  He looked up at her as the men surrounded him, his mouth twitching into a smile before he completely collapsed.

His smile stayed frozen in place as the men lowered to the ground.  Their attention only on him for another brief moment before one of them pronounced him dead.

Hattie fell to her knees as the world was torn from beneath her.  Other soldiers grabbed her by the arms and began to drag her away, but he shook them off with a scream.  She tried to crawl towards him, but they wouldn’t let her.  Everything spun around her, except him.  As she looked at his body laying there perfectly still, she knew she was too late.

The chaos around her echoed back into words – men shouting orders of retreat.  Two men held either of her arms as they finally pulled her back, her eyes locked helplessly on her brother’s corpse.  Hattie growled before elbowing one of her captors in the gut, making him drop her.  Using all her weight, she swung to punch the other right in the nose.  It crunched beneath her fist, his blood pouring out to add fuel to her already raging fire.  She pried his hand from her arm before spinning around and scurrying back to her brother.

His blood was her blood, and it spiraled through her like a shot of heroin.  She nearly glowed with magic trying to burst through her skin, and it mixed with her anger until her entire body boiled with rage.

She ripped open his shirt, smearing his blood onto her fingers before tracing it on her forehead in a triangle.  Heaven. Hell. Earth.

Her kin’s blood rippled through her like a tidal wave.  Hattie ignored the shouting from the frightened men and walked out from behind the safety of their walls.

Before any Germans could realize what was happening, she released her power like a machine gun.  It shot across the streets in a stinging breeze, followed by silence as the temperature plummeted to freezing.

A single shot fired, and Hattie grunted as a bullet struck her in the shoulder.  She cried out and stumbled but refused to fall, her blood singing her skin red as it soaked into her shirt.

Her hand cradled the wound as she stayed firmly rooted in place, her spell a whisper in the Germans’ ears.  Her voice came from everywhere, ringing around them like a hissing snake – but the spell wasn’t meant for them.

A mist crept from the shadows, and in its haze stood the ghosts of men.  Listening to the call to follow the witch’s march.

Instead of guns, these ghosts held bows.  Their pointed helmets faded in and out, the red crosses on their tunics sliding away like melting paint.  Hattie didn’t care to know which century they were from, and she didn’t care.  Her only concern was if they were as bloodthirsty as the day they died.

Her chanting grew louder, bouncing around the city’s walls as she beckoned the undead forward.  She cried out to them, and they responded by raising their bows.

Arrows shot through the streets like bullets, Hattie taking a fresh breath as she heard the thuds of German bodies falling to the ground.  She had never killed a man before, but she had no regret or hesitation.  One of those men killed her brother, and since she couldn’t be sure which one, she’d have to play it safe and kill them all.

Hattie opened her mouth to shout the order, but it was as if the ghost soldiers could hear her thoughts.  They attacked her brother’s killers mercilessly, gliding through the streets as hundreds of arrows clouded the skies.  More and more of her enemies fell, and she bathed in the power of their blood.

“Look, it’s angels!  God is on our side!” she heard a Brit shout.  No, it wasn’t Him this time, but she didn’t mind giving Him the credit.

A bullet tore into her stomach, and she let out an unexpected yelp of pain.  Hattie pressed into the wound as the blood soaked her uniform in warm, crimson stains, both giving and taking her strength all at once.  She looked around as her soldiers persisted, arrow after arrow flying towards the enemy line, but the Germans were still advancing.  It looked as though even angels couldn’t stop the Devil when they were already in Hell.

Another bullet buried into her leg, and she fell to the ground.  Her archers continued their assault but crowded in front of her, forming a visible barrier for her even if the bullets would just fly through them.  She had done her part, at least for now.  Hattie crawled back towards the British line as her archers continued their assault.

It was clear that Hattie couldn’t win this battle, but she’d be damned if she lost the Great War.  A fellow Ally ran towards her, shouting nonsensical insults as he put her arm around him for support.  Her mind screamed that she wasn’t done yet – there was still more revenge to be reaped – but her body had completely given up.  Her legs sagged, and her Ally held most of her weight as he dragged her into retreat.  She looked back one last time at her brother as the soldier pulled her away towards safety.

No, she wasn’t done yet.  Haste me to know ‘t, that I, with wings as swift as meditation or the thoughts of love, may sweep to my revenge.

~*~

            The battle had taken nearly the entire day, but as the sun began its descent in the sky, at long last the Germans could finally claim victory.  They were to move west soon, but no soldier would miss the opportunity to scavenge the dead for supplies.  Fresh boots, ammunition, and sometimes even hidden snacks were too valuable.

Victory or no, the men were all still unnerved from what had happened.  They argued over what they had seen.  Some imagined they were angels, while others said they must’ve been demons.  A few lunatics even claimed some witch bitch had resurrected them from the dead.

Generaloberst König, this one’s alive!” a German cadet shouted.

The colonel general turned to the voice, and the cadet’s face paled, for half of his commander’s face was burned so deeply he could see the actual muscles tick within his jaw.  The story was that König’s latest encounter with an Element Focuser had left him with half of his face and one less eye, but hearing about it and seeing it were two entirely different matters.

Colonel General König walked over to his shouting subordinate and looked down at the muttering soldier.  It looked as though the shot had just missed his heart; less than an inch to the left, and they would be dealing with another corpse instead of a potential prisoner.

An American, and by his smell, also a wizard.  The colonel general smiled.  How long had he waited for this chance?  “Get this man a doctor.  I need him alive.

Re-Publishing Your Novel by Kristen Brand

Personally, as an Indie author, I’ve always been curious about the process of re-publishing a novel.  I enjoy the creative freedom of self-publishing way too much to ever go for traditional publishing the first round, but what if a publishing company finds my finished work and wants to add it to their shelves?  Well, that very thing happened to Kristen Brand, author of The White Knight & Black Valentine Series.  She was able to re-sell her Steampunk novels, The Ghost Machine and Clockmaker, to Silver Empire publishing, and since she’s my sister, I took advantage and decided her to ask some questions that I’m sure we’re all wondering.

  1. Was your process overall positive or negative?

It’s still in the early days, but everything’s very positive so far! To give a little background, my first experience with this publisher was when I submitted my short story, The Strange Stairs at the Aldebourne Estate, to their Secret Stairs anthology.

The anthology is a collection of stories about the urban legend of mysterious staircases leading to nowhere found in the middle of the woods. I thought the idea was fascinating, and it inspired me to write a short story starring Ella Rosenfeld, the spirit medium protagonist of my steampunk novel, The Ghost Machine. The story was accepted, and Secret Stairs went on to be a smash success and bestseller in the horror genre.

Later, the publisher reached out to me about republishing some or all of my self-published novels. I wasn’t ready to part with all my novels, since I didn’t want all my eggs in one basket, so to speak, and I do like the independence of being a self-published author. But it seemed like a perfect fit for my two steampunk novels, since the publisher had already published a short story from that world and has a catalog of other steampunk books.

2. Did you make any revisions to the text before re-publishing?

Nope! There were no changes to the actual content of the book, only the packaging.

3. Talk about your new cover.

I think it does a great job getting across that this is a steampunk novel with an eerie atmosphere. The dark, decrepit hallway is perfectly creepy and straight out of Auttenberg Asylum from the story. Plus, I love the gear design behind the title.

While part of me wants the girl on the cover to exactly match every single minute detail of how I described the character and her wardrobe on the pages, the purpose of a book cover is to sell books, and this cover is doing just that—and doing it stylishly!

4. How involved were you in any changes made?

Since the changes were all on the book formatting and publishing side rather than editorial, I wasn’t involved much. Which frees me up to write more, so no complaints here.

5. How did the marketing and promotion differ from the first go-around?

It was much better planned, ha! Like a lot of authors, I kind of stumble around in the dark when it comes to marketing. I spent a lot of time contacting book bloggers after I first published The Ghost Machine, only to have a small fraction respond.

My publisher ran a successful Kickstarter to fund the book’s relaunch, getting publicity before it was even out. They grew my followers on Bookbub and put out advanced review copies on Booksrpout. I’ve definitely learned a lot from watching their process.

When I first published the book on my own, I didn’t really try to market it until after it was released. Now, I realize how important it is to plan ahead and put things in motion months in advance. I’m definitely going to put these lessons into practice for my future releases.

 

Chapter 35: How to Price Your Book & When to Set It to Free

You might not think of pricing as part of your marketing, but it definitely is.  One of the bonuses to self-publishing is that you have complete control over your price and can change it whenever you want based on how the sales are going.  Before we get into where your book price should lie, I’m going to go into Amazon’s different royalty plans via KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing).

KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) has different royalty plans based on the format.  For paperback, you’ll automatically be set to 60% with a minimum price of $9.06, but please realize that 60% doesn’t include what they’re taking out for printing.  You can also do expanded distribution where your books becomes available to more readers through bookstores, online retailers, libraries, and academic institutions (for a hit of bringing your royalty down to 40%).  Although this is AMAZING and can definitely help expand your audience, just keep in mind that it just puts your book on a list, and Amazon doesn’t guarantee any extra sales.  It also increases your minimum price to $13.59.

­For eBooks, KDP lets you pick between two different royalty plans.  35% and 70%.  Of course, I would suggest using the 70% in most instances (duh, higher percentage means higher paycheck) but you can only select this option if your eBook is between $2.99 and $9.99.  If you’re writing a long series, I would highly recommend bringing the book down to 99 cents and doing the 35% royalty.  I’ll get more into ‘why’ later… I would also suggest looking at the global market places and bringing the to X.99 across the board.­

One of the bonuses to being self-published is that you have a lot less overhead compared to traditional publishing, as well as the fact you get a higher royalty per sale.  This means that we have the opportunity to change our prices a lot more depending on what we’re seeing on our sales report.

Non-fiction books tend to sell for higher than fiction.  Why?  Because the readers are generally looking for a book to answer one specific question for them, where for fictions the readers tend to shop continuously until they find something they like.  I would suggest checking the top 100 in your category and see with what price you can get away with.  Don’t sell your debut indie novel for $12 when even top sellers in your genre are selling for $8.

I would say the most common price for indie authors just starting out is $2.99 for eBooks and $9.99 for paperbacks.  As you build a loyal audience and start to have more steady purchases, start to up your price.  It’s all about supply and demand.  Once your readers know that they like your books, they’ll be willing to spend more because its quality is guaranteed.

If you can get your book cover artist to make a paperback cover, make your book paperback.  Amazon will produce the books for you.  I’ve done it for my books, and although they’re not the BEST quality, they’re still really good and seem sturdy.  Even if you see you’re not making the paperback sales, I would keep it up there.  Amazon tells its customers the prices of both, and seeing the eBook price compared to the higher paperback price will make your potential readers feel like they’re getting a better deal.

Take advantage of your independency with the price and price pulse.  Price pulsing is doing limited-time price changes for a specific sales period.  You lower your prices for a short time and promote the sale.  Blast it any venue you can find that you’re having a sale.  For Kobo and iBooks, you can schedule price changes in advantage, but you have to go in manually for Amazon.  Be sure to do this a few days earlier than your announced sales date, because it can sometimes take a few days to reflect the change.  Also, don’t forget for Amazon to go back in there to change it back to its normal price once the sale is over.

If you have multiple books out, use the opportunity to set your books to multiple price points.  It’s a great way to spread out your risk and see what works best.  I would definitely suggest the lower price points being at the beginning of your series and upping the price once you know you have the readers hooked.

A question I know a lot of authors ask is “how can a free book make me money?”  Or they think that by setting it to free, they’re undervaluing all of their hard work.  But think of a taste tester at a Publix (or other grocery store… sorry I’m from Florida!).  You try the delicious cheese or dessert for free, and next thing you know you’re buying the whole pack.  As a reader, why would you spend money on a book or series when you have no idea what to expect?  Especially when they can get another book from a big name author that they know they can trust for quality.  That’s why free works best with the first book in a series.  Get them invested in your characters for free, and then they’ll be handing you their money all series long.  In fact, some reports have shown that 60% of readers who buy a free book will go on to buy another book from the same author.

If you’ve recently finished a novel or are about to, and have questions where you should set that price point, comment below and I’ll do my best to help!

Chapter 34: How to Market for a Book Series

Writing a series (or even books aimed for the same audience) is one of the smartest things you can do.  Why?  Repeat customers are much easier to reach than new customers.  On average, it takes three to four books for a reader to remember the name of an author.  And readers tend to shop for new books by author names first.  I’m evidence of that myself, as I pre-ordered both Legendary and Finale when they respectively came out, because I was so in love with Caraval.  Stephanie Garber hooked me on the series and didn’t have to do any follow-up marketing to keep me buying the books.

Various authors, such as Joanna Penn, have also talked about how book sets do better than individual books.  Penn has even said that when she combined a trilogy into a set, the set sold more than each individual book combined.  Why?  Think of when you go to Netflix and are looking for a new tv show to binge.  Do you pick one with only one season or with three or four right there ready to be watched?  The binge mentality of this generation has made it so that some readers won’t even invest in a book series until there’s multiple books available to dive into right then and there.  And don’t forget about branded covers!  Start by thinking of the overarching theme of the entire series, and bring it onto the cover.  Think of Harry Potter and how every book had a similar format adapted for the specific plot.

When you publish a new book in the series, it doesn’t make sense to focus your external advertising on anything but the first book.  You have to bring them into the start of the series, otherwise they’ll look at the ad and likely feel too lazy to seek out the first book themselves.  Advertise for the upcoming book internally in a place where your already existing fans know where to find it – your website, blog, podcast, etc.

Don’t forget about pricing!  It’s good to have a solid, low introductory price.  Free or 99 cents would be ideal for the first book, and then for the second onward pricing at $2.99, $3.99, or $4.99.  Charge more if you see your readers are willing to pay more.  It’s a business after all!

Pick a damn good series title.  Some authors such as Stephanie Garber in her Caraval series I mentioned earlier, or myself in my very own The Freedom Game series, use the first book’s title as the series title.  This is good if the first book title encompasses the series as a whole.  But, if you know the mood of that title won’t fit later on, start thinking.  Think of the overarching plot or, as the wonderful Russo brothers might say, the endgame.  A great example of this is George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series.  Each title is then branded to a similar template: A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows, and finally A Dance with Dragons.

The description of your book and the product pages should also follow a similar template.  Match the description to the tone of the series.  Zero in one each book’s cliffhanger.

Have call to actions!  Each book should end with a link to buy the next one, a link to sign up for your subscription list, and a request to leave a review.  Also, compliment your series through a short series or novella.  Keep it cheaper (around 99 cents) and bring them into the universe.  Make them fall in love with your characters.

That’s all I have for now.  I hope everyone had a happy 4th of July last week!

Chapter 32: 7 Website Made by Authors for Authors

When I first started writing this blog, I did it to document my story as an author. As my journey continued, I also became filled with the desire to help other writers. Once I made the decision to become an indie author and self publish, I had to do research on the business end of things. With my degree in Finance and background in the business world, I kind of thought I even had a head start. Other authors also have valuable insights to give, and I want to make sure you all know where to go. Other than my own (yes, this is also shameless plug), here are my ## best websites made by authors for authors:

  1. https://www.thecreativepenn.com/ by Joanna Penn / J.F. Penn

    Penn’s website includes over 1,000 articles and over 230 hours of free audio and video. I found her website through her podcast, The Creative Penn (once you’re done with the website, I highlight recommend it.

  2. https://writershelpingwriters.net/ by Writers Helping Writers

    This website comes with a myriad of talented and experiences writers. One of which, Becca Puglisi, who is the author of books I’ve suggested in the past such as The Emotional Wound Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma and The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression.

  3. https://goinswriter.com/blog/ by Jeff Goins

    Goins has a website that’s primarily focused on writing tips themselves rather than the publishing side of things.

  4. https://www.makealivingwriting.com/ by Carol Tice

    Tice is a free-lance writer writing for free-lance writers. She even has a free customized report that she can email you based on your writing “tenure”.

  5. http://laurensapala.com/ by Lauren Sapala

    Sapala’s blog also likes to focus on the creative side of writing. Her website is best for new writers.

  6. https://www.thebookdesigner.com/ by Joel Friedlander

    Friedlander has articles about book design, book reviews, podcasts, publishing timeline, self-publishing, social media, and more.

  7. http://avajae.blogspot.com/ by Ava Jae

    Jae is author of the Beyond the Red trilogy and also has a vlog.