Exploring the Tewakwe

Those of you who are familiar with the Vinlanders’ Saga, will remember that the Tewakwe have had prominent roles in the first two books of the series. Tiva’ti and her people will return in the next (still untitled) book. (That’s why I asked my cover designer, Jaycee DeLorenzo, to put petroglyphs on the new covers.) I’ve reread the earlier novels and have been refreshing my memory of the research into their background. Hopefully that will keep me from making any obvious errors! (Yes, authors do sometimes forget what they wrote in the earliest books of a series.)

How does one research a people who live in a fantasy world that’s associated with  Norse mythology? Well, like the Nuvinlanders, the Tewakwe are transplants from our own past. The Anasazi built elaborate cliff dwellings and places of worship, and disappeared from the American Southwest in the 13th Century. Their thriving civilization seemed to just vanish, giving rise to many speculative theories about their fate.

In the Vinlander Saga I imagine that the Anasazi were brought to Alfheim, or the Fifth World as they call it, by Spider Grandmother. I renamed them the Tewakwe, because the word “Anasazi” is actually a Navajo word, sometimes translated “ancient enemies.” They wouldn’t call themselves that, so I made up a name that they might have identified with.

As for their customs, I was inspired by the Hopi, a descendant tribe who still live in the northeastern part of Arizona. They are a very private people, but we do know that their underlying values are compassion, humility, cooperation, respect, and universal earth stewardship. I’m trying to let this guide me as I develop my characters, while still remembering that they are flawed human beings—just as we all are.

Just in case you missed it last month, Dangerous Talents is free today (Thursday, 9/24). Download a copy, or give one to a friend if you haven’t already.

Stay safe and happy reading!

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What’s Up? What’s Free?

I asked in my last post how you decide what’s worth spending your very precious and limited time doing. It’s a very personal choice. Did it prompt you to make any changes to your plans? Did you make any resolutions?

Like most people, I’ve never found “resolutions” to be very effective as a way to make a lasting change. So the last few years I’ve just made plans and set goals. It’s kind of the same, but with more of a road map on how to get where I want to go. Sometimes I fall short, but it gives me something to strive for.

We’re three weeks into the new year and so far all is going “according to plan.” This is a bit of a first for me. In the past, my behavior would have begun to diverge from my intentions by now. But so far, so good. I’ve been really busy, and enjoying every minute. (Well, almost every minute. Some days writing is like laying brick, as an author whose name I can’t remember once said.)

APOSTATE, Book Three in the Celestial Affairs series, is still in progress. I’m also working on a novella set in Alfheim, the world of the Vinlanders’ Saga. The working title is DARK WINTER’S NIGHT and it’s mostly about the Elves.

Speaking of the Vinlanders’ Saga, DANGEROUS TALENTS  is FREE today. Many of you have already read it (Thank you!) but if you ever wanted to recommend it to a friend, today is a great day to do so. Actually, every day is a great day for you to recommend my books, but tomorrow DANGEROUS TALENTS goes back to its regular price.

Happy Reading!


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A few readers have commented over the years that they loved DANGEROUS TALENTS but not the cover. One thought the DangerousTalents2_600x900woman looked like a bimbo, another observed that it looked like a woman who had inherited a castle saying, “Boy, I really need to get the landscapers out here.” After I enjoyed a good chuckle I decided he was right, and since DANGEROUS TALENTS isn’t about a real housewife doing the landscaper, er, landscaping, a new cover was in order.

My cover designer, Jaycee DeLorenzo  rose to the challenge and created a new cover for DANGEROUS TALENTS. I love it! I think it conveys the idea of a modern woman about to embark on a journey to another world better than the last cover did. That’s what covers are for, after all, to give potential readers, in a split second, an idea of what a book is about and pique their curiosity.

I’d love to hear what you think. Do you think the new cover will make potential readers want to take a closer look?


If you haven’t already done so, I invite you to sign up for my new release newsletter and get a free fantasy short story. I’ll never, ever share your email, and you’ll be the first to learn about new books and special offers. To sign up just click on GET A FREE STORY in the Navigation bar.

Thanks for reading!

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Vinlanders’ Saga Fans Rejoice!

DEBTS, Book 3 in the Vinlanders’ Saga, is finally here!

Okay, that may be overstating your excitement a bit, but for those of you who have been waiting Debts600x900impatiently for another installment about the Talented people of Nuvinland, your wait is over. And if you haven’t read the first two books, DEBTS is a self-contained story. A few old friends from DANGEROUS TALENTS and FORBIDDEN TALENTS make an appearance, but you don’t have to have read the first two books to enjoy this one. (You should read them anyway, though, because they are pretty darn good. Just ask me! 😉 )

What is DEBTS about? Here’s the description:


Son of an Oathbreaker, Aren is desperate to restore his family’s honor, and leaps at the chance Lord Fender offers. His task seems simple enough for a Tracker: bring in a young woman accused of a vile crime. Simple, until his duty to the Jarl conflicts with a debt he owes to the Elves.

Fey-marked and friendless, Annikke flees the wrath of a vengeful lord. When Aren intercepts her, Annikke must choose: trust a stranger with warm brown eyes who promises justice, or protect her daughter—and remain a fugitive forever.

Even better, I’ve made DEBTS free for the first few days before it goes on sale for it regular price. In return, I’d appreciate it if you’d leave an honest review on Amazon. Customer reviews help other readers find books they’ll enjoy.

Also, if you’d like to be the first to know about my next release, please sign up for my newsletter. I won’t spam you or sell your e-dress.


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I’m Back!

I’ve been busy these last few months, and this fall will see a flurry of activity.

  • This month VEILED MIRROR will be re-released as a Castle Rock book with a new cover and some minor revisions.
  • Next month BETRAYED BY TRUST will debut. It takes place in the same universe as LIGHTBRINGER  in 1979. It’s not exactly a prequel, but you will get to see Gideon again.
  • I have the sequel, SEDUCED BY TRUST, outlined, and I already have a cover for it, but first–
  • I’ll be writing a novella set in the Vinlanders’ Saga universe. It’s working title is DEBTS and I already have a cover for it too.
  • After that, I promise to get to work on Gideon’s story, GUARDIAN.

Today I’m revealing a new cover for DANGEROUS TALENTS. I think Jaycee DeLorenzo of Sweet ‘n’ Spicy Designs has done a fabulous job. I’d love to hear what you think of it.


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Secondary Characters as Heroes

Part of the fun of writing a series is having the chance to turn the spotlight on secondary characters. That’s also part of the challenge.

I have a tendency to write stoic heroes who are bound by duty and honor. I also tend to give those heroes friends and brothers who are a little flip and irreverent. These sidekicks do a good job of pricking the ego of the hero, humanizing him. But when it’s the buddy’s turn to take center stage, it becomes my job to torture him. That’s where the problem lies.

You have to make your characters suffer or they won’t change and grow. The trick is to make a secondary character who was a joker mature without losing his personality. He can have a dark, or self-deprecating sense of humor, but when he’s really suffering the reader needs to feel it. You have to make the hero’s pain real and profound for his eventual triumph to be meaningful. Humor can still work in these situations. The character may try to deflect his pain with humor, or he can turn sarcastic and biting.  But however he reacts, he can’t be quipping as usual.

I faced this problem when I wrote Ragni in as the hero of FORBIDDEN TALENTS. He had to become more serious given what I was putting him through, without losing the essence of what had made him appealing in DANGEROUS TALENTS. One technique I employed was keeping the hero from the earlier book, Dahleven, around. By comparison with his older and more serious brother, Ragni is still irreverent. By the end of FORBIDDEN TALENTS he’s gained a bit more gravitas, even if he’s still more than ready to give Dahleven a hard time.


FORBIDDEN TALENTS is FREE from Kindle through Tuesday, 10/16/12.


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One Year of Indie Publishing

This month marks my one year anniversary as an indie publisher. LIGHTBRINGER:  A Celestial Affairs Novel was the first of four self-published titles I’ve released since last October. It has been a busy year, and while I’m usually focused on the next goal I’ve set for myself, this seems like a good time to look back and see what I’ve learned and how well I met my goals.

In terms of sales, I didn’t really have any specific goals. I had no idea what an unknown author like myself could expect. I had read about a few phenomenal success stories, but I figured they were from the far right edge of the bell curve. I hoped that I would join them there, but I didn’t really believe I would. Not in this first year, anyway. My minimum was that I wanted to break even within a year.

LIGHTBRINGER started slow, selling only about 12 copies a month for the first five months. I wasn’t doing a lot of promotion other than blogging and facebook (and not much of the latter).  At this rate of sales I figured that it would take me 2 1/2 years to break even. I was a little depressed. Even the holiday bump only increased my sales to 22 in December, and half of that was because I’d introduced a second title, WITH HEART TO HEAR. But I’d only been at this for a little over two months. Way too soon to get discouraged.

Then I decided to try Kindle Select and use the free promotion after a friend reported significant success with it. Amazon was already changing its algorithms by then, but I still experienced a 650% jump in sales to a little over 80/month. A few months later when I found more sites to notify about my free promos, sales jumped again by 250%. By this time I’d published a third title, DANGEROUS TALENTS.

Overall, in this first year I’ve sold just under 1000 copies of my self-published books (and given away over 35,000). That doesn’t sound like much, but sales are trending upward. I’ve achieved my minimal goal, breaking even on my investment. And I’ve achieved something else that is worth more than money to me: empowerment. I am happy doing what I’m doing. It’s challenging to balance production with promotion. I firmly believe that getting more great books out is the single best way to improve my sales. Beyond that, it’s a challenge trying to determine what works and what doesn’t, and what I’m willing to spend my time on to improve my books’ performance in the marketplace.

Here are five things I’ve learned this year, in no particular order:

  1. Expect to learn as you go. You can’t know it all before you begin.
  2. Be nimble and willing to experiment. Indie publishing is shifting rapidly. Vendors and distributors keep changing their ways of doing business, while new promotional opportunities seem to arise daily.
  3. Keep writing. You never know which book will be the one that catches on. The more books you have out there, the more opportunities readers have to find you.
  4. Think hard about where you invest your time. There will never be enough of it to do everything you want to do. It’s a finite resource. However you spend it, make sure what you do is either productive or fun.
  5. Listen to others, then make up your own mind. It’s your career.

For next year? At minimum I expect to triple my sales. But my goal is to sell ten thousand copies. I’ll let you know how it goes.



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An Accidental Series

I’m guest blogging over at Secrets of 7 Scribes today thanks to an invitation from Casey Wyatt, the author of MYSTIC INK and THE UNDEAD SPACE INITIATIVE. I’m talking about why I’m writing not one, not two, but three different series. Come over and say hello!

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FORBIDDEN TALENTS Is Available on Amazon!

The Kindle version of FORBIDDEN TALENTS,  book two of the Vinlanders’ Saga, is now available on Amazon!

This is Ragni and Saeun’s story, but the hero and heroine from the first book, Dahleven and Celia, are significant characters.

Here’s the “back cover copy”:
As the second son of the Kon of Nuvinland, and a priest of Baldur, Lord Ragni understands the demands of politics. He’s not surprised when his father arranges a marriage for him to the daughter of another Jarl. Unfortunately, Ragni has just fallen hard for Saeun.

Saeun never expected to fall in love with Lord Ragni, but what began as a casual dalliance with a ladies’ man blossomed into a deep passion. But her hopes for the future are dashed when her tools of forbidden magic are discovered. To save herself, and Ragni’s reputation, Saeun escapes into a deadly blizzard—leaving behind everything, and everyone, she loves.

Ragni faces an agonizing choice: enforce the law he’s sworn to uphold, or save the woman he loves.

And while the lovers’ hearts are breaking, a dark and ancient threat to all of Nuvinland is gaining strength.

FORBIDDEN TALENTS will stand alone, but you’ll enjoy it even more if you’ve read DANGEROUS TALENTS.


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To Series or Not to Series

I recently had an online conversation about whether a book being part of a series helps or hurts its sales. Almost everything I’ve read suggests that most readers like series. What they don’t like is not knowing where a book falls in the sequence, or being left hanging until the next book comes out.

When I started writing my first novel, DANGEROUS TALENTS, I didn’t know what I was doing. I was just writing a story I wanted to tell. I certainly wasn’t trying to start a series at that point.

Then my critique group said, “Tell us Ragni’s story!” So I wrote FORBIDDEN TALENTS.

By this time I’d decided that writing a third book in a series that wasn’t selling yet was a bad idea, so I wrote two more stand-alone books, VEILED MIRROR and LIGHTBRINGER. Except some of the characters in LIGHTBRINGER  told me that their stories needed to be told too, so it turned out to be the first of another series. And then I decided I had to tell a story that turned out to be connected to the Celestial Affairs universe, but not actually about the Celestials. I started writing SEDUCED BY TRUST. Then I stopped because the hero’s mom needed her story told first. That’s how BETRAYED BY TRUST came to be written.

The problem with writing multiple series is that you have to keep it all straight. That’s too much for my little brain to remember, so I have  haphazzard story “bibles” that help me keep track of eye colors and name spellings. I’m also creating a series arc for the Celestial Affairs and Trust books.

Some writers just can’t stand to outline because it robs them of the joy of discovery. Fortunately, I’m not one of them. I start with a general idea for a book, some characters, a place and a goal. I’ll write a chapter or three to learn about them, but it doesn’t take long before I have to know where I’m going, so I draw myself a little map which gets more and more detailed as I go along. Usually that’s enough for a singleton, but with three more books in the Celestial Affairs series and the two Trust books to link in, I can’t wing it. I have to know.

So I’m drawing myself a big map that covers all six books. Each of the next two Celestial Affairs books, GUARDIAN and APOSTATE, will stand alone but will build to a big finale in the last book, SERAPHIM. At least, that’s the plan.

So here I am with three series begun, and readers asking for more in each of them. It might not have been the smartest way to go, especially since I’m not the fastest writer, but I’m thrilled my readers are so enthusiastic. (And when it comes out, I promise to tell you where a book fits in each series.)

In the meantime, the next book to be released is the 2nd Vinlanders’ Saga book, FORBIDDEN TALENTS. You won’t have to wait long–it comes out in early October.

Thanks for reading!



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