Literary genre: haven or prison?

Creative Commons licence.
A little over a year ago, I wrote a post for the Guild of Dreams blog where I wondered about how important it is for a writer to remain within a genre. Now that I have just sent my third manuscript to an editor, I find myself wondering about that again. Without asking anyone’s permission, I am re-examine that issue.

When you start out writing fantasy — or romance, or science fiction, or mystery, or any other category — do you have to stay within it? Is writing something in another genre akin to crossing a border into a foreign territory?
For a novelist, is the genre a prison or a haven?

It looks like my career as a novelist is turning into an experiment to measure that.

My experience in the fantasy genre

My first published full-length novel qualifies as epic fantasy. I prefer the term “historical magic realism,” because  The Bones of the Earth has realistic, fictional characters alongside real, historical characters. It’s set in a real time and place, and then adds fantastic or magical elements. But for most people, “fantasy” is the shorthand term.

My next novel, One Shade of Red, stepped way out of epic fantasy and history. It’s a comic, erotic parody of Fifty Shades of Gray, and qualifies as romantic erotica. Or erotic romance. NOT porn.

My third novel (to be published) is one I started over 10 years ago, a memoir of my father-in-law’s experience as a draftee into the Soviet Red Army during World War II. So far, I’m calling it Between the Vise Jaws. But that may change.

Return to fantasy

With that done, I am now turning to a contemporary urban paranormal type fantasy, Dark Clouds. I posted the first chapter on this blog a couple of years ago.
Dark Clouds grew out of a pre-Hallowe’en writing challenge, the source of which I cannot remember. But the challenge was to write the scariest opening line I could, and in a humourous mood, I thought of “Matt always knew when his mother was coming over.”

Photo by Garry Knight via Flickr Creative Commons

And I took it from there, making Matt’s mother a witch, then the Queen of all witches. Then I thought “what if Matt, the Witch Queen’s son, was immune to all her spells?”

Once I finished writing the story, I thought it could be the beginning of a novel, or at least a series of stories. So I thought I would call the novel The Mandrake Ruse, in the style of 60s-era spy stories like Man from U.N.C.L.E.And I could write a bunch of novels about The Witch’s Son.

Now that I’ve been toying with the idea for a couple of years, I realize that I have those titles mixed up, so when I do publish the book, it will be called Dark Clouds, and the first chapter will be “The Mandrake Ruse.” It just makes so much more sense.

Does genre-hopping hurt my credibility as an author?

A number of readers, and my family, too, have asked for a sequel to The Bones of the Earth. And as you can see from the cover, it’s “Book One of the Dark Age Trilogy.” I do have rough plot outlines for two more books about Javor and his adventures in the seventh century, but I also have this burning desire to write some other stories, first.

Had I a contract with a publishing company, my publisher, editor and/or agent would gripe about this. “Readers who liked your first book want more of the same!” I can hear one of them saying. “You’ve proven there’s an audience for that story, and they’ll be disappointed if your next book is totally different.”

I think every artist or creative person faces that dilemma: those who liked your first work will come back expecting more in the same vein. Delighting them with something new and completely different is a steeper hill to climb — you’re working against the very expectations that you created.

On the other hand, I am a writer because there are stories that I want to write, and my imagination doesn’t necessarily fit into categories defined by someone else.

I don’t read in just one genre — why should write in just one genre?

The most commercially successful authors stay within the categories they’re known for: John Grisham, Jodi Picoult, Tom Clancy, Dan Brown, Stephenie Meyer … it’s a long, depressing list.

On the other hand, some of the best writers have written in more than one genre, or have succeeded both artistically and commercially when they’ve gone beyond the slot assigned to them at some point in their careers:

Ray Bradbury — known for science fiction, especially Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles, Bradbury’s also celebrated for Dandelion Wine, the story of a young boy’s “magical summer.”

Stephen King started with horror and is still best known for It, The Shining and Carrie, but he has successfully transitioned into science fiction, non-fiction and, it could be argued, literary fiction.

Guy Gavriel Kay began writing fantasy fiction with The Fionavar Tapestry series, continued with his almost-historical magic realism, and moved to historical fiction with Ysabel in 2007.

Margaret Atwood went the other way. Established since the 60s as a main force in current literature, she surprised the book world with the dystopian science-fiction The Handmaid’s Tale, more recently Oryx and Crake — although she denies they’re science fiction.

The big question

What will this do to future sales prospects? Will readers of The Bones of the Earth who check my new publication be disappointed or delighted by Between the Vise Jaws?

Will fans of One Shade of Red be totally turned off by a war memoir?

Or will my hopes be realized: that writing in different genres will spread my appeal to new audiences?

What do you think? Leave a comment!

Father’s day sample: Advice

For Father’s Day, I present a fatherly excerpt from my latest book, One Shade of Red.

Picture: Wikipedia Commons

Sunday dinner with my parents followed a routine that varied only with the seasons. I’d usually show up after 6, when my Dad would have almost finished barbequing the steaks to black shoe-sole consistency. But since I had come early this time, I had to help out like I had when I was 14.

I entered the kitchen from the back yard at the same moment that Dad came in from the hallway. “Hey, big guy!” he boomed, as usual, while opening the fridge and taking out a big, flat dish. Four big, red steaks marinated in a thick, red sauce. “Came early to help out?”

“Helping” Dad meant starting the barbeque — no propane for him. He insisted on charcoal, and that meant starting an hour before you wanted to eat, pouring briquettes into the ball-shaped bottom of the barbeque, dousing it with some liquid that smelled suspiciously like gasoline and trying to touch a lit match to the fluid while standing as far back as you could. After that, “helping” would involve fetching barbeque utensils, barbeque sauce, another bottle of beer and anything else that came to his mind.

“Sure,” I said, reaching for the tray. That brought me close to him, and I realized for the first time that day how reluctant I was to stand next to him, now that I was taller than him. I had outgrown Dad in height a couple of years ago, but being able to look down on him did not make me feel any stronger than him, not with his wide shoulders and forearms like wrestling anacondas. But for how long had I been so loathe to stand close enough that my height superiority was obvious?

“It’s too soon to take the steaks out, son. You can start the briquets burning.”

My heart sank.

While we waited for the briquettes to turn gray, I sat on a patio chair and chatted with my Mom. I was guiltily aware that I didn’t do this much, and she loved it. “So, how’s the book?”

“Exciting. Lots of action, and I can really see eye-to-eye with the character. Sometimes, I’d like to do the things he does.”

“It doesn’t seem like your usual reading material.”

“I’ve read everything by Bulgakov and Nabokov and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I thought I would try some of these new writers for a change.”

At supper, my little sister and I dutifully chewed through the steaks and kidded Dad about his complete lack of barbequing ability, as usual.

“What are you talking about? They’re perfect!” he argued, as usual.

At least I could wash it down with beer. Diana, my sister, wasn’t old enough, yet, but Dad let her drink some of Mom’s wine.

Supper over, Dad said he had to work on a contract and went upstairs to my old bedroom, which he had converted into an office. After Diana and I cleaned up the kitchen, I went up to my old room, too.

“Dad, I need some advice.”

I have never seen anyone simultaneously look so surprised, gratified and thoughtful. He put down his mechanical pencil and took off his bifocals. “About?” Without glasses, his hazel eyes squinted a little.

I sat down in the “guest” chair in his office — an antique foreman’s chair, made of solid oak or something. It weighed a ton and was as comfortable as sitting on stone. I had always wondered where he had found it. It was as far removed from his desk chair as a feather bed from a Catholic altar.

“You know I hired Tyler to help with cleaning pools. And I set him up with a bunch of clients.”

“I’ve never found it wise to hire your friends. It never works out,” Dad said.

“What? But you’re friends with John Andrienos, and he’s your foreman on half the jobs!”

“I hired him and then made friends with him,” Dad answered. “That’s okay. That works: you work alongside someone, come to respect them, become friends. It’s natural. But when you hire a friend to work for you, they seem to think your friendship is a free pass or something.”

“You’re right. Tyler isn’t working out.”

“What do you mean, specifically?”

“He’s always late. Half the time, he doesn’t show up at customers’ places. When he does, he never does a full job. The customers are getting pissed off.”

“Have you spoken to him about this?” Dad leaned back in his comfortable, ergonomic chair and swung his glasses between his fingers.

Dad loved being asked for advice.

Photo from Noel Kingsley’s blog.

“Yah, I told him the issues. I even gave him a warning.”

Dad looked out the window, where the setting sun made the sky pink and orange. He pushed his thick grey hair back from his forehead before answering. “I’ve heard he’s had some employment problems, already.”

“He’s been fired three times already this year.”

“Hmm. Sounds like Tyler has a problem. Three employers already have had enough of him, and now, you.”


“So, what do you want advice with?”

This was hard. Dad had this annoying habit of making you voice exactly what you mean. Using real words.

“What should I do?”

Dad looked at me with his unnerving look. “What do you want?” he asked finally.

“Huh?” God, you can be lame, said my brain.

“What do you want for your pool-cleaning business?”

“Geez, Dad, why do you always have to make these talks a lesson? I want it to succeed.”

“Good. And what does that mean?”

I knew this answer from years of business lessons from the city’s most philosophical contractor. “Profits.”

“Let’s cut to the chase, son,” Dad said. “You have a problem: your employee is causing customers to complain. What is the outcome you want from this?”

“I want my customers to like me again.”

“So, what do you need for that to happen?”

Dad: always making me confront reality. “I need … to get rid of Tyler.”

“Not necessarily. Do you think that Tyler can change? Can he behave differently, so that he doesn’t make your customers leave?

“I don’t know. Anyway, I’ve decided I don’t need to worry about that anymore. I need someone to replace Tyler. I just can’t take back all his clients — there aren’t enough hours in the day.”

“So, you’ve decided to let Tyler go?”

I took a deep breath. This was still hard to say. “Yes. But who can I get to take his place?”

“You want a recommendation?”

I nodded. “You know a lot of people.”

Dad looked at the sunset again. “You know, the construction business has slowed down a lot, lately. I haven’t had enough work to give out to my usual crew.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s not your fault, son. You know, I’m glad you’ve found a new way to make money this summer. It’s taken a lot of pressure off my shoulders.”

“So, do you know anyone that could help me?”

He looked out the window again. “You know Philip Lamontaigne? Bob and Maureen’s son? He’s a bit older than you, but he’s a good worker. I have not had enough work this year to be able to hire him, and he’s been looking for work.”

I remembered Philip. One of those skinny guys with a skanky beard. He always had weed on him, always had a new girlfriend and a next girlfriend. “Phil is a good worker?”

“I had him on-call last summer. He never failed to show up on time, always did more than asked of him.”

Note to self, by S@Z, creative commons license

Wow. Phil Lamontaigne, professional dirtbag, was a good worker. “So, you think he’d be a good pool cleaner?”

“Can you show him the ropes?”

“No problem.”

Dad flipped through screens on his laptop and wrote a phone number on a post-it note. Dad has always loved post-it notes.

One Shade of Red is an erotic comedy e-book, available from Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, the iTunes bookstore and other e-retailers.

Sample Sunday: The heat is on

The heat is on. Summer is here in Ottawa. Even though I’m spending a lot of this weekend in cold water, the air is heavy and thick with moisture.
This week’s sample is from my erotic romantic comedy, One Shade of Red. Most of you already know that it’s a spoof of the biggest bestseller, 50 Shades … you know the one I mean.

In this excerpt, the hero, Damian, is working outdoors during the hottest summer in Toronto’s history. And this is before the mayoral-crack scandal.

Seeing a man working in the hot sun does something to some women … at least, we men in the hot sun hope so.

By the end of the third week, I had Mrs. Casales’ pool and deck looking much better. In fact, they looked great.

For no reason I could define, I had gone well beyond pool cleaning. I had cleaned the inside of the pool and scraped out all the slime and goop, vacuumed the accumulated dust out of the bottom and cleared the skimmers until they looked new.

Every time I had come, I had scrubbed the concrete pool deck. I even went to far as to bring clippers from my parents’ tool shed and hack back the overgrown hedges so that they would not drop so many leaves into the pool. I told myself that I was only making my work easier for myself in the long run, but my brain did not believe me.

Mrs. Casales obliged me by exclaiming how much better her whole back yard looked every time I finished. Occasionally, her two little kids, a boy and girl, both under 10 years old, would scamper in and wait impatiently when I told them they had to wait after I poured in the chlorine. “The water’s not good for swimming yet,” I said every time. “You’ll have to wait at least an hour.” They would stand at the side of the pool, bouncing on the balls of their feet, until one would think of something else to do and they’d chase each other across the yard or into the house.

Mrs. Casales always came out with iced tea or lemonade when I was done, and we’d sit at her patio set and chat about the pool-cleaning business, or the upcoming university year, or sometimes about her kids.

She seemed cheerful enough when we talked, but she never mentioned a husband. I remembered what Alexis had said about her marriage breaking up, but I did not know how to ask her about that without risking spoiling her mood.

At the end of the third week, the sixth time I had cleaned the pool, deck and the back yard in general, I took a deep breath and surveyed my handiwork. Part of my brain demanded to know why I had gone so far beyond pool cleaning, and another part of my brain refused to admit why.

Mrs. Casales came out of the kitchen with two bottles of Heineken. No children were in sight. “The water is perfectly balanced today, Mrs. Casales, so the kids can come swimming right away,” I said as I took a bottle from her hand.

“The kids are at their cousin’s this afternoon. We’re alone today,” she said and took a sip of her beer. “And call me Leda.”

On that hot afternoon, cold beer went down like salvation. I could feel heat radiating off my skin. I pressed the cold bottle against my hot forehead, relishing the ache it caused.

We sat at her squeaky, unsteady patio table. I stretched my legs in front of me. Mrs. Casales’ — Leda’s — pool was the last on my itinerary, and the day seemed to be going in an excellent direction.

I looked at her; she was wearing a thin cover-up over a two-piece bathing suit. I watched her neck pulse as she drank more beer. She had tied her crazy hair with one of those scrunchie things that girls like. “Thanks for the beer.”

She wasn’t bad looking, I thought. A little overweight, but that gave her nice curves. She was no Alexis, but to borrow Patrick’s tired joke, I wouldn’t kick her out of bed for eating cookies.

“Thank you, Damian, for doing such a great job. I appreciate how you’ve gone well beyond the pool cleaner’s job description. I did notice the way you trimmed the bushes and neatened up the whole yard.” She patted my knee and moved a little closer toward me.

“It was just to keep so many leaves and branches from falling into the pool,” I said. “So it made my own job a little easier.”

“Nonsense. You were trying to make me happier. And I truly appreciate that, Damian. Really, I do. And I should pay you back. One good turn deserves another.”

“No, no, the payment is what it is. We agreed. A deal is a deal.”

“Then, I should pay you back in some other way.” She looked right into my eyes.

My mouth felt dry, and pouring more beer into it did not help.

“Do you always work with your shirt off?” she said, and I suddenly felt conscious of my bare chest.

“Just when it’s this hot…”

I could not finish answering her because her mouth pressed against mine.   One Shade of Red is an erotic comedy e-book, available from Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, the iTunes bookstore and other e-retailers.

Sample Sunday: An argument with the girlfriend

Despite the weather, summer is coming fast. So for this week’s Sample Sunday, here’s an excerpt from my hot summer novel, One Shade of Red. This one introduces the reader to the hero’s long-time girlfriend, the girl next door: Kristen.

Image: Angry Girlfriend by jasonippolitoLicensed under Creative Commons

Argument with Kristen

“Well, look who’s here. Hello, stranger.” Kristen’s voice had that clipped sneer in it. She folded her arms across her chest.
I put on my best smile and held out the flowers from the grocery store. “I finally got the bank account straightened out. Wanna have something to eat and hang out?”

It had taken a week of text messages, emails and a fax between me, Nick and the bank before the bank would give me access to the Pool Geeks account. I could deposit the cheques as well as take money out. So, finally, I wasn’t paying for the privilege of working. The first thing I did with the access was take out a hundred bucks to take my girlfriend out.

Kristen couldn’t suppress her smile when I held the flowers under her nose, although she tried to. Finally, she took the bunch and sniffed. “Well, since you brought flowers … Where are we going?” She looked up at me, blue eyes shining through the flowers. Her mouth slowly spread into a smile.

“Why not Mama Toni’s? And my parents are away for the weekend, so I got a DVD.”

Kristen pretended to think about it for about two seconds. “Let me put these in some water.”

I stepped inside her house — her parents’ house — and waited like I had so many times before. Mrs. Petri came out of the kitchen, wiping her hands on a towel. “Oh, hello Damian,” she said. “Why don’t you sit down?”

My breath caught whenever I saw Mrs. Petri — even after all these years. She was the neighbourhood beauty: tall and fit with bright blue eyes that she had passed on to her daughter. Her hair was done up high, exposing her long neck, and she wore a sleeveless t-shirt and short pants. I wondered why she always showed more skin than her teenaged daughter.

I followed her to the kitchen and sat at the table; I knew from experience not to sit on the “good furniture” in the living room. Mrs. Petri poured me a cup of tea from the pot that was always filled. “Would you like a cookie?”

I took one from the plate in the middle of the table. Mrs. Petri baked regularly, and I loved her cookies. That’s how I first made friends with Kristen. When I was five, I was in a bunch of kids who came over to the Petris’ to play. I went back for the cookies. Through school, Kristen and I alternated coming over to each other’s houses for homework and other activities. I preferred being at her place, sitting at her mother’s kitchen table and munching on cookies. Those cookies were all that got me through long division in Grade 3 and A Separate Peace in high school.

I ate three cookies before Kristen returned from upstairs, dressed in her going-out-for-cheap-dinner clothes: khaki pants, a scoop-neck blouse and sensible shoes. She had tied her long, straight brown hair into a pony-tail. Kristen resembled her mother in her blue eyes and symmetrical, delicate features, but she was smaller, shorter. She was like a pretty doll: perfect and fragile. The prettiest girl in my grade, she was more for looking at than holding.

“Thanks for the cookies, Mrs. Petri,” I said as Kristen pulled me to the front door.

Mr. Petri came in from the garage at that point. “Where are you going?” he asked.

“I’m taking your daughter out for dinner and a movie,” I answered as cheerfully as I could, but I dreaded the response I knew was coming.

“You know you’ll never save money for university if you keep eating in restaurants,” he said. “A boy your age who lives on his own should know how to cook for himself.”

“Oh, Daddy,” Kristen said, pulling me out the front door.

“It’s alright, Mr. Petri,” I said, trying to sound casual and relaxed. Short but with broad shoulders and muscles that rippled in his lower arms, Mr. Petri always made me feel nervous and inadequate. Come to think of it, so did his daughter.
“I just got paid by three different customers.”

I knew what he was going to say next: “You should save that money in a bank. You never know what you might need tomorrow.”

“Oh, Daddy,” Kristen repeated and pulled me out the door.

“Be sure to have her home by midnight!” Mr. Petri called after us. And of course, it took three attempts to get my car started as Kristen’s father watched us from his front porch. By the time I could pull away from the curb, my face was burning.

Kristen and I could never agree on Mama Toni’s restaurant : I thought it was expensive; she thought it was cheap. Of course, she never paid for the food. She thought it was a quaint little place with mementos and pictures from Italy and New York on the walls; I pointed out that it was part of a chain and was owned by a foodservice corporation in Philadelphia. But we both liked the food and I liked to show off just a little by drinking Italian beer — which cost over seven bucks a bottle.

Hell with it: I felt the pool-cleaning cash burning a hole in my pocket.

Kristen ate about a quarter of her plate of pasta; she refused wine on principle and sneered at me every time I took a sip of my Moretti.

“So where are your parents tonight?” she asked while we waited for the bill.

“Up at the cottage for the weekend.”

“Why didn’t you go with them?”

“I don’t live with them anymore, Kristen. I’m a grown-up now. So are you. Besides, this way we have their whole house to ourselves.”

She narrowed her eyes at me. “I thought you said you didn’t live with them anymore.” She sipped her water delicately. Even though she could be judgemental and fucking annoying, she was very pretty in a delicate, little-girl way. A little too thin, maybe. She’d like it if I said that. She worked hard to keep her weight down.

“I do have a key to the front door. So we can watch the 50-inch plasma in full theatre-surround sound.”

She dabbed her lips with her napkin, then folded it carefully to cover the food left on her plate, as if she couldn’t bear to look at it anymore. “What DVD did you get?”

Fight Club.

“What? Why?”

“Hey, it’s the perfect couples movie.” I had been waiting all day to say this. “For the ladies, Brad Pitt gets naked. For the men, big, fat, ugly guys beat him up. What more could you ask for?”

I thought it was pretty funny. I still do.
What did you think? Leave a comment!
One Shade of Red is available on 

Sample Sunday: cleaning the pool in the hot sun

It’s the long weekend, the beginning of the summer season for many in the northern hemisphere. Some of us start to dream of the luxurious, lazy season ahead, lying by the pool … any pool … because most of us don’t have a pool …
In reality, the weekend for most of us means cleaning barbeques, raking lawns, turning garden soil … it’s a lot of work.
For this week’s Sunday sample, I have an excerpt that shows all the work that goes behind the idylls, lazing in a backyard pool. This is from my second novel, One Shade of Red.

In Chapter 2, the hero, Damian, has to re-clean his first —  client’s pool, for free, because he didn’t do it right the first time. Ah, the trials and lessons of youth.

So there I was, back at the pool under the mid-afternoon sun, scraping and scrubbing disgusting, smelly slime off the tiles. I had taken my shirt off and put it back on again when I felt my skin begin to burn, and now the cotton was saturated with sweat. Every so often, I reached into the pool and splashed my face. I thought about getting into the pool and staying cool while I cleaned, but I didn’t dare the risk of making Mrs. Rosse any bitchier.
“Now even the fussiest bitch has to be happy with this,” I muttered as I wiped off the very last of the gunk.

“That’s much better,” made me jump and I dropped the debris net into the pool.

I turned to see Mrs. Rosse in her jogging suit: tight blue-and-white top stretched across her breasts, matching tight shorts, expensive Nike running shoes with the top edge of pink half-socks peeking above the ankles. I made an effort to raise my eyes to hers, away from the outline of her nipples pushing against her top. I dropped the bucket and slimy water slopped onto my feet.

“Sorry to scare you,” she laughed and stepped to the edge of the pool. “I just wanted to say that the edge looks great. Nice and clean, now. I guess it’s my fault, really, letting it get as dirty as I did before having someone in to clean it.”

“I didn’t hear you come in,” was all I could think to say. I wondered if she had heard my out-loud thought about fussy bitches.

She laughed, but carefully inspected all around the edge of the pool. I got down on my knees, face burning, to try to fish the net out without getting all wet. When I stood up again, she was standing right in front of me.

“You’re awfully cute,” she said. My mouth opened, but nothing came out. What do you say? I tried to smile and tried even harder not to look at her nipples. “I think you deserve a tip for your hard work,” she added.

What did you think? Leave a comment.

And if you want more:

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Progress report: One Shade of Red

Image: Creative Commons

 I have learned a few things in the year since I published my first novel, The Bones of the Earth — even some things about publishing books. I tried to apply them when publishing my second book, One Shade of Red.

I’ve known the importance of promotion and advertising any product for a long time. Even as a kid, I saw ads promoting the power of advertising. I knew that if I wanted my book to sell well, I’d have to figure out some way to promote it.

The problem, however, is that advertising costs money. Money I don’t necessarily have, money that I need for my other indulgences, like food and heat and gas. And taxes.

In the past year, though, I have also learned about some promotion and advertising I could afford.

And I learned is that results of promotion are not always what you expect.

What I did

After I released The Bones of the Earth at the end of 2011, sales were not what I had hoped. So I read, I researched, I spoke and corresponded with a lot of people who know, or who said they knew, about how to promote a book. I listened and I planned to take as much of their advice as I could for the release of my second novel.

I ramped up my participation on Twitter and joined some great, fun groups on Facebook. I was invited into the Guild of Dreams fantasy authors’ group and corresponded more frequently with other writers. And as you faithful readers have noticed (thanks, by the way, for coming back here every day!), I increased the amount of blogging I do, and wrote guest blog posts for others.

Even before I was finished with the first draft of One Shade of Red, I started talking about the book in person and on the Net. I put little teasers on my blog and tweeted things like “Coming soon: a sexy spoof of 50 Shades of Grey.”

I put samples on my blog for Six Sentence Sunday, too, until that fun site closed.

I solicited and received some excellent and very encouraging advice from an excellent writer, one known for both erotica and other writing, too: Charity Parkerson. Thanks, Charity!

One of my most important decisions was involving the amazing members of Independent Authors International. As I’ve blogged before, Gary Henry and Cinta Garcia de la Rosa were invaluable editors and reviewers. Ben Wretlind and Bruce Blake contributed excellent copy-editing and proofreading. Thanks, all — I really could not have produced as good a book without you.

Another iAi member, David C. Cassidy, designed a fantastic cover. I can’t say how happy I am with it! Thank you again, David.

Once I had a fully edited version, I sent advance review copies to some good friends who are known for good book reviews. Their response was very positive — and I made sure to tell them I wanted honest reviews, and not to spare my feelings. I am very gratified to read their responses, which you can find on Goodreads and Amazon.

Blog tours

By February, I knew I was getting close. I set a deadline of the end of March to launch One Shade of Red as an e-book. When I realized that was the Easter long weekend, and the April Fools Day followed immediately, I chose April 2 as the official publishing date.

Taking a cue from Bruce Blake, I organized two blog tours. First was a cover reveal a couple of weeks before my launch day. Thanks to everyone who posted that stunning cover:

CR Hiatt

Rachel Thompson

– Christine Nolfi

Bruce A. Blake

Wodke Hawkinson

Doug Dorow

Linze Brandon

Lisa Jey Davis

David C. Cassidy

Jesi Lea Ryan

Next, I set up advertising on Wodke Hawkinson’s Find a Good Book to Read and on Rachel Thompson’s two book promotional sites, the Indie Book Promo and the related but more specific Romance Promo Central and the Erotic Promo. [

The launch

Launch day was April 2, as I said. For one week before and one week after, I organized a blog tour. (I did not realize until it started that the blog tour coincided with Passover.) Ten generous bloggers agreed to post an excerpt from the book; each person got a different excerpt. Thanks to everyone who participated:

Alan McDermott

Siggy Buckley

Charity Parkerson

CR Hiatt

Dawn Torrens

Bruce Blake

Cinta Garcia de la Rosa

Doug Dorow

Frederick Lee Brooke

– and Shannon Mayer.

Also, Joyce Strand agreed to feature the my guest post about why I wrote a book like One Shade of Red, which is such a departure from my earlier work.
It’s amazing how many people will say “yes” when you ask a favour.

For launch day, I set the price at 99 cents, and for my first book, too. Opening special!

The results

Sales that first day were gratifying — not huge, but it seemed that the market at least noticed that my new book was available.

After that, sales dropped off.

However, starting that day, sales of The Bones of the Earth started to surge on Amazon’s UK site. I don’t know why, but sales have been steady there ever since, and now the full edition and Part 1: Initiation Rites, a stand-alone novella which is also available as an e-book, are in the top 100 of the Historical Fantasy category — depending on the day, sometimes ahead of some major titles like Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Mists of Avalon and Guy Gavriel Kay’s Tigana.

I had heard of this phenomenon before: the best way to sell more books is to publish more books. But this is the first time it has happened to me.

It’s curious that this sales spike is restricted to the UK. Come on, Americans — are you going to let the Brits outdo you in buying The Bones of the Earth?

You can still beat them in buying One Shade of Red!

LIFT OFF! One Shade of Red available TODAY

It’s out! My second novel, One Shade of Red, is now available on Amazon and Smashwords!

And to celebrate, I’ve put it on sale: just 99 cents TODAY ONLY!

One Shade of Red is my parody of the biggest bestseller ever, Fifty Shades of Grey. Whether you liked or hated that book, you’ll get a kick out of my spoof. And if you get it today, it’ll only cost you a buck!

Need more info to make up your mind? This is what it’s about:

Women want the perfect man, so they can change him. But when university student Damian Serr discovers a rich, beautiful woman who’s voracious about sex, he doesn’t try to improve on perfection. It’s all that he can do to hold on for the ride.

Damian has always followed the rules, always tried to please others. At 20, he still dates the girl next door because his parents like her parents. When Nick, his university roommate, asks Damian to take over his pool-cleaning business so he can take an internship in London, Damian can’t say no — especially to Nick’s first and only client, a rich widow.

But widow Alexis Rosse is far from helpless or lonely. This beautiful financial genius is busy turning the markets upside-down, and she revels in sex wherever, whenever and with whomever she wants.

Over the summer, Alexis gives Damian an intense education. Day after day, she pushes him to his sexual limits. The only question he has is: will she break them?

“So well-written that it flows easily, hooking the reader right from the beginning. I had real problems to stop reading it.” — Cinta Garcia de la Rosa, author of A Foreigner in London and reviewer of Indie Authors You Want to Read.

“How nice it is to see a dude lit-style book! And well-written at that!” Lisa Jey Davis, “Ms. Cheevious”

“So hot, you’ll want your own pool boy.” — Charity Parkerson, author of The Society of Sinners

What’s more, I’ve also set my first novel, The Bones of the Earth, on sale for just 99 cents today on Amazon and Smashwords.

Get One Shade of Red for just 99 cents NOW on Amazon or Smashwords.