The winners of the RJ Blain Swag Pack have been contacted. Please check your emails (including the spam folder!) to see if you’re a winner. One winner has already contacted my human (congrats, V! Enjoy your gift card, and the rest of your prize will be on the way as soon as the books arrive so they can be signed!)
The second winner’s email begins with a d, and you have 7 days to get back in touch with me before a new winner is drawn.
~Tia the Majestic
The Girl Who Shot First, Book One of the Death Fields, is a post-apocalyptic thriller in which people are very quickly infected and become vicious with a side dish of cannibalism.
Yeah, it’s one of those books. There are zombie plague like elements, although the victims are less zombie-like and more “I will dine on your face right now rather than amble in your general direction for the next twenty minutes.”
My human enjoys books like this sometimes, and since she has an ear infection right now, she may have enjoyed the prospect of the slow heat death of the universe–wait, murderous plague–more than is likely socially acceptable.
In case this is a concern to any of you, my human read this while attempting to become a mermaid today. She hasn’t figured out taking long baths won’t actually turn her into a mermaid, and I’m not sure how to break the news to her. Reality is a cruel mistress.
So, back to the book.
One thing that really got my human’s attention, and doesn’t usually work for my human, was the way this book weaved between the past and the present. Rather than a direct, on-going narrative, it tells snips of story, melding everything together into a cohesive whole.
This is often why my human will retry things she may not have liked in one book, as she might enjoy it in the other. Mood matters, too. When my human wants to watch the world burn because her ear has declared civil war against the rest of her head, these sorts of books are right up her alley.
My problem with writing the review of this book is that there are a lot of hints that happen early in the title that count as spoilers, and as I’m being a generous feline today, I don’t feel inclined to spoil the read for you.
Using human-standard starring systems, I’m giving this three of four paws, and the tip of my tail is twitching a bit. It was different in style and tense than my human normally reads to me, but we found the story engaging enough. It’s one of those stories my human expects death, doom, and destruction, so unlike other titles, she refused to become attached to anyone or hold hope for good things. This was probably a good decision. It toed a careful line of being engaging and having interesting enough characters.
My human did find many of the characters difficult to relate to, but considering the type of story, this isn’t necessarily a disadvantage. Your mileage will vary though. As for the writing itself, it did the job without distracting from the story, which is all my human needs (or wants) when her ear is waging civil war with the rest of her head.
Now, if my human could let me go back to sleep rather than whining and making me write reviews at 2:30 AM (human time,) that would be great.
The Sneaky Kitty Critic here. The past few weeks have seen a lot of humans asking my human where a certain next book in the series is, and why it isn’t out yet. So, I thought I’d take a few minutes to discuss it with you!
My human’s books help pay for the household (and my food.) As a result, she has several categories of books she works on.
The in-demand books get the priority. These are books her fans buy reliably. When you purchase a book, she’s paid a royalty for the sale. That money feeds me. In order to keep enough money to feed me and my sister plus pay the rent and the things humans eat so they don’t whine or be hungry, she needs to release in-demand books once every few months at a minimum. It’s a harsh reality most readers don’t want to think about.
The covers cost money. (Anywhere between $140 through $850 dollars.)
The editorial costs money. (On average of $500-600 a novel.)
Marketing costs money. (Usually a minimum of several hundred dollars a month.)
Maintaining my missives to you humans also costs money, but it’s negligible in comparison.
But, the financials of writing aren’t your problem, readers. But the books you purchase pay for those things plus put food on the human’s table. (And in my belly. I eat a lot.) At a minimum, it takes 200 nice readers buying my human’s books for her to pay back her expenses on a single title. Some of her books cost the equivalent of 500 copies to pay everything back. Only when she sells this many titles (of each book!) does the royalties go to helping pay her expenses and feed her family.
She’s fortunate in that she has a lot of amazing readers who buy her books, but it often takes a month or two after each book has released before she can start adding money to the household funds. It can be very scary and stressful on my human, but she loves to entertain, so she perseveres.
If a series isn’t being worked on, it’s because the first book or two just didn’t sell. If the first book hasn’t earned out, she can’t justify writing the second book. That’s tragic, but it is what it is. While my human will work in these titles, they’re shunted to the back of the line behind books that put food on the table.
You, the reader, often decides what my human writes. If you want to see a specific series be written, buy the books in that series–and get your friends to buy the books in that series.
In no particular order, here is the short list of books/series that fall under the poor seller categories:
While continuations of these series will be done, my human has to work on them as play projects. So, once she’s finished the drafts and they’re ready for an editor, they’ll go to the editor and are slid into the production cycle, but my human can’t realistically promise dates on these titles. They’re labors of love, and they take away from her ability to help provide for her household.
Steel Heart, the second Jesse Alexander novel, is the first labor of love novel that’ll be given a publishing slot. The third Dae Portals novel has a publication slot at the end of the year. I expect the next Requiem for the Rift King novel will have a 2019 slot. After that, it all depends on where I get with them while they’re play-project status.
I understand humans don’t like to think about the business of writing, as it takes away from the charm and magic of it, but the reality is… these books cost a great deal of money to produce. Books in these series often take a year or more to make back their expenses–if they make back their expenses. Water Viper has made back its expenses, barely. My human invested a great deal of advertising dollars trying to jumpstart this series, and unfortunately, the book simply didn’t perform as she hoped. That happens. It just didn’t hit the market.
But it has made back its expenses, which means my human can justify adding it into her publication rotation. It just hasn’t performed as well as she hoped.
There are many reasons an author might abandon a series, but for my human, the number one reason she will delay working on a series or a book involves money. Books aren’t cheap, and to keep her career alive, my human must write the books people want to read.
So, for those of you who do want to see more of the series listed above, please be patient. She’s working on them, but she has to work on them slowly, because these books don’t put food on the table or pay back their costs.
It’s here! After some bumps and bruises, the Captive King has a cover! Daqri from Covers by Combs did the art, and my human is super happy with it.
This story touches on so many things she likes about fiction. She’s been able to play in a sandbox, blending fact and fiction to make an alternative history, one filled with magic, curses, and the brutality of the ancient world.
She also got to learn a bunch of new things about modern and ancient cultures, and she’s tried really hard to mix and match reality with her desire for the story.
And no, this is not a King Midas story. You will find a lot of references to the Nahua, Mayan, and Ch’olti’, however.
Note: Ch’olti is technically a dialect of Mayan; in the Captive King, Mayan refers to as the predominant branch of Mayan. Ch’olti is an extinct version of Mayan, where the Mayan referenced is still spoken today. This is a fun fact that isn’t delved into the book at length, so I’m happy to tell you this! My human is so fascinated with the Nahau, the Mayan, and the various other lost Mesoamerican cultures. Some of you might be giving me the stinkeye for using Mesoamerican instead of Meso-American or MesoAmerican, but my human went with Mesoamerican because that’s what her favorite encyclopedia (hint: not wikipedia) uses.
Too much fun facting? Okay. We’re done with the fun facting.
Let’s move on to the other part of this post, the one where I discuss some of my human’s plans for the future.
She has been challenged to set some goals–and step outside of her comfort zone and ask for direct support from other humans.
Predictably, while my human was able to do this in a small scale, it falls to me to do the public asking, as she’s a furless chicken. I’m waiting for her to start squawking. I mean, really, human. What’s the worst that can happen?
Other humans can say no and perhaps mock you a bit?
… and that describes my human’s worst nightmare in a single question. But, I stray.
My human had several issues trying to step outside of her comfort zone for this challenge. First, she didn’t have a goal she could ask direct support from other humans for. She was going to try for a bestseller list run for Huntress, but I’m being realistic here: it’s not happening.
It’s not that my human is afraid of work. It’s not that. It’s not that my human is afraid of failure. She expects that. I think it’s more that my human has made as many plans as possible around not bothering people.
Bothering people requires a certain amount of extroverting behaviors on her part, and she is so not good at this.
My human has decided that her goal for this year is to have one of her titles reach 100 full-priced sales on release day without help of a preorder. For purpose of this, it is the day I send a missive for my human announcing a novel’s release!
On February 12, the Captive King releases. It goes to the editor very soon, much to my human’s dismay, as she still has a lot of work left to do on the book. The holidays screwed up her schedule. She’s also sick, which isn’t helping anything. Poor human.
Can my human find 100 other humans who are willing to gamble on her writing skills and all buy the book on February 12? It would make my human’s heart happy–and meet the requirement for her to step outside of her comfort zone on this challenge.
It would probably help if my human wrote a description for the Captive King.
We’ll just call it a novel surprise, and I’ll leave you with this small snippet of the book for your enjoyment…
“The last time a woman attended an auction looking like she’d just come in from the fields, she charmed herself a king,” a man murmured behind me.
The last thing I needed was to be compared to the talk of the entire auction, the future wife of Montana’s king. I scowled, clutching the polished wooden box containing the jade necklace to my chest. “I was at a temple, not a field.”
A field would’ve been a lot nicer; in some ways, I appreciated the respite from the smothering jungle humidity and the incessant attention of loving mosquitos.
“A temple? Were they having a mud-wrestling competition?”
I bit the bullet and turned to face him. Like every other man present at the auction, he wore a suit, although his was navy rather than the standard black. Unlike everyone else, he wore a plain black mask, just enough to cover his face so he couldn’t be readily identified. I found his lack of feathers, gemstones, and trappings reassuring.
He was either like me, a goose stuck among swans, or he was an elite with no fucks left to give about what anyone thought of him. Either way, it worked in my favor.
He was just different enough I might be able to get an intelligible conversation out of him.
Then I noticed his pin, which declared him as Bachelor #103, placing him firmly in the category of the type of man my boss wanted me to sell the precious jade necklace to.
This may come as a shock to you, but my human sometimes plans things out. With 2018 right around the corner, it’s time for my human to announce some of her goals. Some of the dates may change, although she will be working hard to keep on schedule. I’m even planning on getting her a cute little tea kettle (electric) for her workspace so she doesn’t have to leave her chair to do her work and keep hydrated. Aren’t I considerate?
Next time I write on my fancy website my human bought for me, I’ll show you the cool writing tools she uses! It drives the male human insane, which is half the fun.
First up, February 12, 2018, she will be releasing The Captive King (A Royal States novel.) We don’t have a cover for the book yet, but she’s finishing the main draft of the story either today or tomorrow. It goes to the editor in January, which gives her plenty of time to do the whole editing thing she so enjoys.
When she isn’t being rushed, she really enjoys editing. Don’t tell anyone I told you that, though.
After The Captive King, she’ll be working on A Guiding Light, another novel set in the Royal States world. While there are some reoccurring characters in both The Captive King and A Guiding Light, they both focus on new kingdoms and new couples. After my human is finished A Guiding Light, she’ll be working on Huntress, the turkey shifter story.
What? My human might have made a new world, but her colors haven’t changed all that much. Really.
While she’s working on these primary projects, there are a few other projects she’s working on. One is a spin-off of Null & Void, dealing with one of the sisters of a certain haughty princess nobody likes. It’s called Cold Flame, and my human has no idea when it’ll be done. It’s currently a play project. She’s also working on a trilogy of stories dealing with the fall of the United States and the rise of the royals. Like with Null & Void, Montana plays a large role in the trilogy. The trilogy has no name–nor will my human name it. They’ll be marked as Royal States novels, but it’ll be made clear the stories are a set in the description.
On the Witch & Wolf front, it’s quiet; my human has booked an editorial slot for Wolf Hunt for in August, and she’s been working on Dustin-centric stories. She’s also reworking elements of Balancing the Scales (Karma and Jake’s story) so she can get to work writing that. License to Kill will conclude their story. Originally, she was going to do three books, but as she’s on a tighter budget and doesn’t want to buy another cover for the set, she’s going to work them into one longer novel.
The same applies to Sean and Andrea’s story (Nature of the Beast.)
My human is hoping to work on No Kitten Around (A Magical Romantic Comedy (with a body count)) for the end of 2018 along with the solo releases of Serial Killer Princess and Whatever for Hire.
Beyond that, my human is going to write what she enjoys–and try not to kill herself adding to much to her plate.
2019 will mostly be dedicated to the Witch & Wolf world, writing as many of the stories to conclude the series as possible.
She’s also going to try to fit in Steel Heart, the next Jesse Alexander novel. (We’re thinking right after Huntress.)
While my human has a tentative schedule, it is up for change, and to keep her stress levels limited, she won’t be doing preorders. Huntress is the only novel in 2018 that will have a $0.99 release point, keeping a promise she originally made to people. Due to pronoun’s closure, she won’t be doing a bestseller run. It’s too much stress, and honestly, not enough of a reward for trying.
There comes a point where ego must fall to the wayside for keeping the career moving forward. $0.99 releases are loss leads for authors hoping for listing–or good rankings.
My human wants to keep writing, so this just isn’t a realistic choice for her at this point.
And for the final tid-bit for 2018… when Huntress releases, she’ll also be releasing a coloring book for your enjoyment as a thank you for putting up with her shenanigans.
Next week, I’ll begin featuring covers of my human’s upcoming works, sneak peeks at the stories she’s started, and other goodies!
Thanks for reading.
P.S.: For those of you who like print-edition things, Null & Void is now available for your dead-tree collection enjoyment.
The 15th’s gremlins have struck again. This was after reconfiguring the server, giving the system more memory and goodies to help it out, and crippling the send rate to lower the server load.
Did it help?
Nope, not one bit.
Even better, my human can’t figure out how to restart the damned server application that’s responsible for nothing working.
She’s pretty unhappy over this issue, in case you weren’t aware.
So, once gain, we’re working on fixing it.
Maybe this time we can figure out how to make it not suck so much, but it may just involve manually sending mailers to smaller groups of people to make sure the server doesn’t go tits up–or find out what’s going on.
We emailed support. We’ll see what happens.
My human is feeling very discouraged right now, because this should not be happening. Same place as last time, too.
So very frustrating. So very frustrating.
:insert incoherent screams here.:
My human has no luck.
Today, her primary computer stopped working. She is very sad, and thanks to holiday timing, it may take some time to be fixed. Fortunately, the machine has a good warranty, so it’ll be repaired without charge. It’s just a matter of taking it into the store.
The male human is going to take care of it, and in the meantime, she will be working on her precious little laptop.
I’m kinda thinking the laptop did it in a fit of jealousy.
In good news, my human had literally backed up everything mere hours before the fatal fall of her imac.
My human is taking this as a hint she should be handwriting everything until the holidays are over.
In other good news, my human’s curse doesn’t extend to my ability to do things like send you amazing missives. The next one will still be on schedule. Even better, I’ll be posting my letters for your enjoyment on my website! (So if you don’t subscribe, you can still check them out!)
Of course, some things won’t be posted to my website. I have to reward my loyal servants somehow!
I am hoping that this is her paying in advance for good luck.
She could use some of that, poor human.
This steampunk romance was a lot of fun. My human has had this book on her kindle for a long time, but finally got around to reading it to me. Some of it is over the top, which my human likes… except the heroine was so virginal it was a little embarrassing for everyone involved. This was a nice change of pace.
I mean, really. It’s time for some blunt human mating ritual content here. This heroine was so virginal she needed a man to explain what arousal was.
Yeah. My human did a full-body twitch over that. I get the whole pure maiden thing. My human does, too. But it was just so… so… so…
We understand the heroine is mousy, but holy lords of steampunk romance, she’s not five. She’s a woman. There are men in the world written. Good looking men in the world, too.
Mousy doesn’t mean completely lacking a libido before achieving sexual enlightenment and become rather… hungry.
Yeah, my human had a bit of an issue with that tidbit. It didn’t stop her from giggling or liking the book, but it drove her right up a wall. It took me almost an hour to get her down from the ceiling. Humans, they can be so unreasonable sometimes.
I will never be convinced that Galactic Shade Griffin’s mother didn’t hate her. Hippie or not, hatred is the only reason a mother would name her child something that awful. This name, presented with an almost cheerful resentment in the opening of the novel, sets a certain tone for the rest of the book–and makes my human giggle like a maniac.
Your mileage will vary.
Now, amusement over that aside, this is a YA and has everything you expect from a YA, from a full-frontal assault on the realities of bullying and the pettiness of some members of the human race.
And yes, there is plenty of evidence that Shade’s mother harbored a rather unhealthy amount of resentment for her choices in life, one resulting in a daughter.
This is not your normal YA read, and that’s fantastic. While my human found some things about the book that made her twitch, this one is worth taking a second look at. However, adult humans among you–do remember this is a YA. This wasn’t written for you. It was written for older teens facing the crueler elements of their lives.
Sometimes humans forget that.
As the description promises, this book delivers some fairly hard-hitting subjects, so if you have been the victim of bullying, ever considered cutting or other self-destructive behaviors, or have been in drug-addiction situations, this book may hit you hard.
My human made me say that, because this book is worth looking at because it addresses these things with a rather blunt directness while adding in a full spectrum of paranormal trappings.
My human likes when she finds a book that toes the line between YA and the adult world, making it accessible for her without feeling dumbed down for readers who do not need the world dumbed down for them.
Teens aren’t stupid, and this book writes to teens who are, as they do, slowly becoming adults.
And we think that’s a great thing.
It’s just a little hard to read at times.
A Little of Chantelle Rose starts with a girl playing an extra who finds out the hard way life in the spotlight is just as awful as people make it out to be. It’s presented as a romantic comedy, but really… I’m not sure what this book is.
This confuses the hell out of me, because my human writes whacky romantic comedies that are about as realistic as the idea of everyone being nice to each other for a change.
In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb and say I really don’t know what the deal with this book is. My human wanted to like it, but the opening had a few grammatical and punctuation hiccups that made her squint and tilt her head every which way.
Then she decided she needed to dig a treasure out of a candle because I guess that’s just what perturbed humans do when they don’t know what else to do.
She has finally returned to reading to me. After the initial hiccuping start, it dives into the over-the-top contemporary romance she likes, although it’s… strange. It had humor, which my human liked. It had heartache, which my human does like in small doses. However, it just didn’t pay off in a lot of ways. When my human reads about pre-mating rituals or mating rituals, she wants more of a payoff than sexual gratification. She wants to finish the book feeling a little happier because somewhere in the fictional world, characters found happiness.
That just didn’t happen for my human in this book. This one was just… strange. That’s the only word I have for this book: strange.
This book contains love triangles and everything you might expect from a contemporary romance that tries to be something a little different. I can’t say it was good or bad. It’s a book I’ll have to read again to try to figure out just what my human and I missed to make sense of this thing.