To write the sequel or not

I was in fifth grade when I watched High School Musical for the first time. My neighbor, who was really into plays and musicals at the time, recorded it and brought it over one day. Personally, I thought all Disney Channel movies were a little corny, and this one was no different. I could acknowledge the talent involved but the story was so-so. Still, I told him that I liked it because I knew it would make him happy.

When High School Musical 2 came out, a friend from school taped it and invited me over to watch it at her house. She was in love with Zac Efron, just like all the other girls in my class, so she was incredibly invested and maybe a little obsessed. I just couldn’t take the movie seriously. It was even cornier than the first one. I snorted and chuckled and rolled my eyes a lot, and she gave me dirty looks every time. At the end, she mourned the fact that she would have to wait so long for the third one and she went on and on about how much she wanted to be Ashley Tisdale when she grew up and wasn’t Zac Efron perfect? “It wasn’t that great,” I told her to which she gasped and declared that we weren’t friends anymore. Well, not really, but she was stunned and disappointed.

I just didn’t get what the hype was all about. I mean, sure, the actors were cute and yeah, it was something that hadn’t been attempted by Disney Channel before. But to me people on the big screen weren’t real people. I was never going to meet them. So why pine after them? It didn’t make any sense to me. I loved the Sound of Music and Fiddler on the Roof. This musical seemed like it was trying a little too hard to be modern and cool.

Needless to say, I didn’t watch the third one. By the time it came out, I wasn’t afraid to tell people what I thought of the franchise. In fact, I took pride in the fact that I was one of the few kids in my grade who were outspoken about their indifference to the series. And ever since then, I’ve gone against the flow when it comes to popular books, movies, and TV shows. I came to the conclusion that hype about any one thing was more than likely just noise. So a bunch of people like this thing. Okay, that doesn’t mean I’ll like it or that it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. It just means that a lot of people like it.

That’s kind of how I feel about writing sequels. Nowadays it feels like every author has written a series or is in the middle of writing a series or has only ever written books for one series. As a reader, I’ve encountered series that completely blew me away. The Graceling Series, The Lunar Chronicles, the Chaos Walking Trilogy, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, and The Heroes of Olympus Series to name a few. These authors did amazing jobs moving their characters and their villains through plot after plot after plot until they reached their ultimate goal and had their final showdown. Then there was that one trilogy that I absolutely loved where the author finished the story off perfectly. The bad guy was gone, the sought-after artifacts were collected, the love triangle was resolved, the conflict was over…and then she decided to write another three books.

The fans were ecstatic. They wanted more and she was giving them more, so why not be happy? But I was skeptical. The ending was so perfect. How could she justify continuing the story? Who would the bad guy be now? What would be the new goal these characters would need to reach? Still, I gave the fourth book a try. While there were parts about it that I liked (the dialogue and the return of certain beloved characters) I was grief stricken. She was putting her characters through more hardship. It was like she just couldn’t let them be happy! The new villain was someone that had been mentioned once in passing in the previous book. It seemed random, not very well thought out at all. So I chose not to read the other two books. And I decided I wasn’t going to write a sequel to any of my stories unless I had the perfect plot.

I’m sure that author had her reasons for continuing that series even after she’d told her fans that she was only going to write three books. And they were her stories so she had every right to keep writing. I’m not condemning her for her choice because it was her choice. I just hate that that one book turned me off to the entire series.

I’ve written a book and then moved onto another project, only to realize that I really missed those other characters. The temptation to throw a plot together just for the sake of being in that world with those particular characters again is a strong one! But I don’t ever want to disappoint my readers the way that fourth book in that one series disappointed me. So even though a few people have expressed an interest in seeing my stories turned into series, I’m holding off on writing sequels. I’ll admit it; I’ve brainstormed some ideas, created some outlines, and written a few chapters for a sequel to all three of my currently published books. But I’m not about to share that with my fans, not until those stories are completed and my beta readers have told me they’re as good as the first books.

I’ve heard that publishing a book every year until a series is done will garner more fans and do wonders for book sales. While that does sound great to me, I’m going to take my time with these ideas of mine. I figure, if people love my books enough, they’ll be excited about the sequel even if it comes out two or three years from now. What my fans think means more to me than sales. If/when I finish a sequel, I will let everyone know. Trust me! But in the mean time, I’m just going to keep writing as inspiration strikes. I hope my fans can be patient with me and be satisfied with the books I publish in the mean time.

Advertisements

Something I’ve learned about book marketing

I feel like I’ve been waiting my whole life.

Waiting until I was old enough to drive. Waiting until I was old enough to date. Waiting until I was old enough to go somewhere on my own and not have to take my sister or my brother with me. Waiting until I was old enough to live on my own. Waiting until I was done with school. Waiting until I could get a job and earn my own money. Waiting until I could buy my own car. Waiting until I could get married. Waiting to hear back from agents. Waiting to get that publishing deal. Waiting for children. Waiting to be able to make a living as an author.

You’d think I’d be an expert at waiting right about now. But I’m not. Whenever I have to wait for anything, I fill the time with whatever I can in the hopes of distracting myself. I wrack my brains for things that I can do to speed the process along (whatever the ‘process’ might be). But most of the time, there isn’t much to do. And so I pace and growl and sometimes cry and pace some more.

My husband teases me all the time because I made the mistake of telling him that I once asked God to give me patience. “Are you really so surprised that He’s making you wait for everything? You asked for patience. This is the way to get it.”

I was fourteen when I prayed that prayer. I had hoped God would just grant me patience. You know, sprinkle some dust over my head, flood me with peace so that I wouldn’t feel so antsy and helpless. And sometimes He does do that for me. (Not so much the dust sprinkling, but the peace flooding part.) Sometimes I’m honestly okay with waiting. But once I’ve waited for a certain amount of time, I think, “I should’ve gotten what I was waiting for by now.” Aaaaaaand cue the pacing and growling and crying.

This has been especially true concerning my book sales.

You guys who visit my blog, who like my author Facebook page, who agree to read ARCs for me, who sign up for my newsletter, who follow me on Twitter or Instagram: thank you! You make my day every day. Seriously. I’m over the moon that anyone reads my books and likes them.

But considering the time and energy I’ve been pouring into book marketing, I was expecting to see a significant rise in sales. When I wasn’t seeing it, I tried to be patient. After all, it’s a big world and the internet is even bigger. I know it takes time for people to find things, no matter how much I post on social media. So I pressed onward, continuing what I was doing in the hopes that I would see results eventually.

Months went by and still no giant leaps in book sales. Before I could start pacing and growling and crying, I decided to try a different approach. I read more articles and watched YouTube videos and asked the advice of more seasoned authors, all so that I could get some insight on what I was doing wrong. And it turns out, my whole book selling mentality was wrong. I kept hearing that authors aren’t just selling their books; they’re selling themselves. But I was so determined that people wouldn’t want to know more about me. Let’s be honest. I’m boring. My books are much more interesting. I was putting the spotlight on them instead of me, so sure that once people started reading, they’d come to love these stories as much as I did. And then tell their friends about them. That worked but only to a certain extent.

One particular interview with a book marketing specialist had me realizing that people will take a chance on pretty much anything an author writes so long as they like the author. Building a relationship, securing a foundation, creating an expectation in the reader; these create life-long fans and friends. This was eye-opening to learn but also discouraging. If you’ve read even one of my previous blog posts, you know that I struggle with making friends. But I determined to try.

For the past week and a half, instead of mass-posting on Facebook book promotion sites, I’ve just posted random stuff on my author and personal pages. I created a Facebook video ad for the first time. That was fun! I have been ignoring Instagram this whole time (which was a HUGE mistake apparently) so I started being more active on that. I posted a few book marketing pics but I mostly just liked other people’s stuff and followed more bookworms and authors. Concerning Twitter, I shifted the focus from my books to the books of other authors. And you know what? I’m a lot happier. Because I don’t feel like I’m selling anything anymore. I’m just another person online, sharing little pieces of me with a like here, a comment there, and a random post all the way over there.

I’ve stopped obsessing about numbers and it’s so freeing! Plus, I realized something; I’ve only been a published author for six and a half months. It takes a lot longer for people to discover a new book to love with than just six and a half months. My books aren’t best sellers yet. Let’s be honest. The best sellers get most of the attention. And maybe I’m not ready to get that much attention. Maybe this time of being a semi-known author will prepare me for the day when I’m well-known.

So to all of my fellow authors who are struggling with book sales; take a breather. Give yourself a big heap of grace and a little more time. I’m not saying you should give up on book marketing completely. That won’t do anything for your sales obviously. But try not to stress about it too much. Pick two platforms that work the best for you and stick with them. In the meantime, learn everything you possibly can about book marketing and focus your energies on becoming the best writer and friend you possibly can be. I think you and your readers will appreciate it in the end.

A second look at Asta and the Barbarians

We’re a little less than two weeks away from the publication date of my new adult fantasy, Asta and the Barbarians! You’re probably not nearly as stoked as I am but that’s okay. You just need another excerpt to get you interested. *wink wink* Here’s chapter two! Links to preorder will be available at the bottom of the page for anyone who’s interested. Thanks for stopping by!

 


 

Chapter Two

They came for me at dusk. I hadn’t attended the beginners’ classes as I was instructed. I had been warned of the consequences. Now, they were going to deliver. I had cried so much that day. I didn’t have the strength to be afraid. My guards watched the two members of the academy’s security team escort me down the hall. Heads poked out of the rooms. Soon we had a group of followers, students anxious to witness the first whipping of the general’s precious miracle. Down the stairs, out of the building, across the square, to the whipping post we went. They chained my hands to the post and retreated. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the young warriors gather. Some cheered. Some sneered insults my way.

Viggo stood at the front and smirked, arms crossed. And some simply peeked out of their bedroom windows. I recognized the sensible friend of that damned Viggo, watching from a second-story window. He was lean but strong, with a bushel of curly black hair. He leaned forward with his palms against his writing desk and looked down at me, brow furrowed in anxiety.

The director walked into my line of sight, dragging a cat-of-nine-tails behind him. Nails, bits of broken glass, jagged blades, and fish hooks had been attached to the ends of each tail. I stared at the thick splintery post before me and braced myself. There was a crack and then I was struck. The impact sent me to my knees. Countless bites of pain sank into my flesh. I grunted but didn’t cry out. Shutting my eyes, I leaned my forehead against the wood and took a deep breath. Then the director jerked the whip back. The tearing of clothing, skin, and muscle was audible.

The pain was excruciating. I screamed loud enough to sear my throat. Blood poured
down my backside and splashed against my calves. It was not so dissimilar from the blood that ran while the general tortured me. Instead of imagining I was in a different place as I did back then, I allowed the pain to rob me of my will to live. There was a second crack of the whip. Now that my nerves were exposed, the sharp ends sank in and took hold. I couldn’t breathe. The director tugged three times before the whip came free.

I trembled and let out a sob. The shouts and laughter of the spectators were blotted out by my heartbeat, pounding loudly in my sensitive ears. My vision began to fade. The third time those tails bit into my flesh, a sharp piece of something embedded itself at the nape of my neck. When the whip was pulled back, I felt the piece scrape against bone. I leaned heavily against the post, the splinters biting into my face. It didn’t matter. My back…

I’m coming, Mother, Father, Sylvi…

But death didn’t come. The whip didn’t strike a fourth time. The director shouted at the crowd to go back inside. My guards were given permission to unchain me. They carried me to my room and tossed me onto the bed, jarring every bone in my back. I pressed my face into the pillow and screamed.

“Let that be a lesson to you,” one of my guards said over my yells. “The number of lashes will increase if you decide to skip your classes a second time—and don’t think we’ve forgotten to tell the director about your death wish. He has half of the security team watching this building, your window especially.”

The door slammed shut and I was left to bleed alone.

“Father,” I said. “I’m sorry.”

My father seethed. “Sorry? The groundskeeper caught you in the cemetery with the stable boy, and you’re sorry?”

I rolled my eyes. “It was just a dare. Nothing happened.”

“You know it hasn’t been easy to arrange a suitable marriage for you,” my father growled as he paced the length of his study. “And now that I’ve finally found an honorable man who is willing to take you…” He rounded on me, dark eyes narrowed. “Do you think Kustaav will still want you after this story gets out?”

I leapt from the chair. “I don’t care if Kustaav still wants me! I’m not property to be signed and shaken hands over. I should have an opinion as to who I spend the rest of my life with.”

My father rose to his full height. “Your mother was married to me on her father’s command. Your friend Irma was married to that blacksmith one town over. Your sister is to be married to Torsten in three weeks. Every woman in this county marries who their fathers choose. What is so special about you that you alone are allowed an opinion in this matter?”

I opened my mouth to speak, but he continued before I could reply.

“Is it because your foolish father overlooked tradition and allowed you to attend school after the age of sixteen? Is it because your father looked the other way when you secretly began taking fencing lessons? Could it be that, by ignoring your lack of propriety, I made you believe you would be exempt from every rule of society?” My father snorted. “Well, I’m sorry but you are gravely mistaken.”

I clenched my jaw when my world grew misty.

My father ran a hand through his thinning hair and took a deep breath. “I’m going to speak to the stable boy tomorrow. He will no longer be a member of our household staff. He is never to talk to you again and you are never to seek him out.”

“His name is Fiske,” I said. “And he’s my friend.”

“I will smother any rumors that spread because of your thoughtlessness and beg Kustaav to take you,” my father said as if I hadn’t spoken. “You will personally apologize and assure him that you are still a virgin. You two will be married by next spring and you will no longer be my burden.”

I reared back as if I’d been slapped. “Is that all I am to you? A burden?”

The church bells tolled. My innards tightened. My father walked around his desk, eyes dark with worry. He yanked the curtains of the window aside and looked out. The study door burst open to reveal Sylvi and my mother.

“It’s happened, Canute,” my mother said, her voice choked by fear. “Heaven help
us!”

My father ambled toward them. “You know the plan. Pack only the essentials and head for the capitol.” My mother and sister made way for him to pass. He fetched the crossbow from its hooks on the wall and turned to give us a grim look. “Ride hard.”

Mother threw her arms around him. “Take care of yourself!”

“I will. I love you, Aulin.” He gave Sylvi a kiss on the forehead. “Be strong and take care of your mother.”

“Yes, Father,” she whimpered.

He turned to me but I refused to meet his gaze. “We will meet again.” Then he was gone.

 

My mother sobbed in the seat across from mine, red-brown curls bouncing over her shoulder slightly with every hiccup. Sylvi patted her back and murmured that Father would be all right. I leaned against the carriage’s small window, hoping to catch a glimpse of our home. I could hear the screams of panic as we thundered down the street. Our coachmen shouted at the horses. My town…I wanted to look away, but all I could do was gawk. Kenshore was being pillaged and burned. My people fled, taking only what they could carry with them. Some galloped beside us on horses. Some clutched their children to their chests and ran. And still the barbarian raiders gained on them.

The men of our town had been training since word of the crusade reached us five years ago. Traps had been set, weapons had been distributed, plans had been made. How were these foreign warriors already running rampant through our streets? Could it be that the rumors of their invincibility were true? Buildings burned. Swords sliced the air. Men were slaughtered in the streets. Women were dragged by their hair behind houses and into dark corners. Children were cut down where they stood without hesitation. I slapped a hand over my mouth to keep from vomiting.

Something struck the side of our carriage. The door I leaned against was thrown open and I was ejected into the horde of people with a shout. 

 

Men with eyes that glowed like liquid copper surrounded me when I woke. Men dressed in strange, form-fitting armor and carrying all manner of sharp weapons. I scrambled to my feet, tripping on the frayed trim of my dress and hastily brushing the hair out of my face. Their looks of hunger and vicious glee were replaced by shock and surprise.

“Gosta,” one murmured to his neighbor. “Look at her eyes.”

“You can still have her, Gosta,” another jeered. “The general need not know.”

My heart hammered painfully against my ribs. Were brown eyes special on their island? Could my eyes somehow save me?

The one called Gosta grimaced in disappointment. “The general always knows. Grab her.”

“It’s called medicine,” said a sarcastic voice from the other side of my door. “It will help dull the pain. It might even help her heal faster. I’m sure my father wants her in class as soon as possible. How do you think he’ll react when he hears you turned me away?”

“She’ll heal quickly enough,” one of my guards grunted. “She doesn’t need your medicine.”

“And if she has broken bones? If there has been lasting damage done to her spine? If an infection has spread? We’re impervious to most illnesses, but we aren’t completely immune. A physician has never set foot on the academy grounds. My father isn’t going to call one now, not even for Dotharr’s Miracle. I’ve helped numerous other warriors-in-training who have faced the whipping post. I’m the closest thing to a doctor she’s ever going to see.”

There was a moment of silence while the guards deliberated.

“The director already gave us permission,” another voice muttered.

The door opened.

I bolted upright in bed only to crumple back against the bloody sheets with a cry of agony.

Viggo and his sensible friend entered the room. I didn’t have the energy to be surprised, much less speak.

“I was handling it,” the young man whose name I didn’t know said under his breath.

“You were taking too long,” Viggo retorted.

I writhed in pain for a moment and curled up in a ball. “Go away.”

“As you wish,” Viggo said, stepping back.

His friend gave him a look of disapproval before smiling at me. “My name is Bryn. I’m an aspiring doctor, despite my glowing eyes. I can help you if you let me.”

“It doesn’t matter,” I sobbed. “I just want to die.”

Viggo rolled his eyes, but received an elbow to the gut before he could comment.

“Nobody is dying,” Bryn said. “At least not today.”

“It reeks in here,” Viggo grumbled. He stalked over to the window and yanked it open.

Bryn sat beside me on the bed and opened his satchel. “If it bothers you so much, why don’t you track down someone from Housekeeping and request some fresh bed sheets?”

“I’m not your errand boy!” Viggo snapped.

Bryn produced a rag, then continued rummaging through his bag. “Or you can stay here and breathe in the lovely smell of blood and oozing wounds. Do what you wish.”

Viggo simmered while Bryn selected a bottle and set his satchel aside. The aspiring doctor poured green liquid from the bottle over the rag before turning to me. “I need you to turn onto your stomach if you’re able.”

“It hurts to move,” I said with a sniffle.

Viggo threw his hands in the air and marched out of the room, grumbling under his breath.

“I’ll do what I can from this angle then,” Bryn said, then gently pressed the damp rag into my shoulder.

I bit my lips but still let out a whimper.

“I’m sorry. This will sting initially, but it will kick in after a few minutes.”

I shut my eyes and let the darkness take me.

 

I woke to an exasperated grunt. “You think your father will let you become a doctor after all our hard work?”

“All of my hard work, you mean?” It sounded as if Bryn were fighting a smile.

“Yes, of course, your hard work. You could graduate in six months’ time if you did as you were told and dedicated yourself to your courses. Is that not what you want? To be rid of this place?” Viggo asked.

There was no more pain. I opened my eyes to find myself facing the legs of my writing desk. I lay on my stomach on the floor, in nothing but my undergarments. My cheek was pressed against a blanket. Bryn worked somewhere behind me. I could feel the warmth of him against my sensitive back.

“I want the freedom to make my own future.” A substance of some kind crinkled like paper pinched or rubbed between two fingers. Something clinked against glass. Maybe a spoon stirring a liquid mixture in a bottle? “Once the stamp of this academy is added to my record, the only occupation I will ever be considered for is that of a soldier,” Bryn continued. “I can’t be admitted into Ishem’s School of Science until my father expels me.”

“So the past month of training was for nothing?”

“It appears that way, yes.”

Viggo sighed in frustration, but there was sadness in his voice when he spoke. “Why are you so intent on ending our friendship?”

Bryn laughed. “Your friendship I will keep until death, but this isn’t my calling. I know where I truly belong.”

“Blasphemer,” Viggo said, although the insult sounded half-hearted.

“Puritan,” Bryn shot back.

Viggo chuckled, but it was cut off. “What was Dotharr thinking, sending a woman to the general? Warriors are always men.”

Liquid was poured out of something. I could hear the rush of water as it slid through a funnel. Then the squishing of wet fabric and the dripping of excess water. The smell of herbs drifted through the air. “Now who is the blasphemer? Maybe that’s why Dotharr chose her. The best warrior is the one no one expects.”

Viggo scoffed. “She won’t last three days here.”

“I’ll take that bet,” Bryn said. “A day on the grounds and she’s already broken the rules. She has more spirit than you give her credit for.”

“Says the man tending so dutifully to her wounds,” Viggo said. “Having spirit does not mean she’s capable of completing the courses.”

“We’ll see.” A shuffle of movement, a shadow on the floor beside me, drawing
near.

I lifted my head and turned to face him.

“Hello,” he said, perking up in surprise. “How are you feeling?”

“I’m awake.”

“Yes,” he said with a nod. “That’s something. You slept through the night and most of today. Your wounds have sealed. You should be developing scabs by tomorrow evening.”

“Why did you help me?” I asked. “I have nothing to give in return. You must have known that.”

Bryn smiled softly. “A very wise woman once said, ‘A world without kindness is a dark and hopeless place.’ And that isn’t the kind of world I wish to live in.”

My eyes stung with the coming of new tears.

Viggo rolled his eyes and turned to leave. “I’ll see you at dinner, Bryn.”

“Until then,” Bryn said over his shoulder. His glowing eyes fell on my face again. “What’s your name?”

“Asta.”

“I would like to hear your story, if you are willing and able to tell it, Asta.”

I rubbed my face against the blanket. “You won’t like it.”

“We are rarely fond of the truth,” Bryn said with a shrug. “Tell me anyway.”

 

To Preorder:

Amazon: getBook.at/barbarians

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/803680

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/asta-and-the-barbarians 

Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/asta-and-the-barbarians/id1359718982?mt=11

Nook: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/asta-and-the-barbarians-becca-fox/1128197571

The next novel

I’m excited to announce that I’m finished with my first draft of my first ever science fiction novel, The Andromeda’s Ghost. I’ve been working on this manuscript on and off for over a year now. It’s been fun but also challenging.

While I love Star Wars, Star Trek, and The Chronicles of Riddick, I don’t consider myself to be a sci-fi fan. I’ve only ever read a handful of sci-fi books (Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card and The Han Solo Trilogy by Ann C. Crispin). Honestly, I struggled through the techie and sciencey parts of those books. What I truly love about all of these stories are the plots, the characters, the world building, and the unique challenges the characters are faced with. I’m confident I nailed those parts of my sci-fi manuscript. What I’m more concerned with is the techie parts I included. And the fact that it’s written exclusively from a male’s perspective.

As you can imagine, I’m pretty good at writing from a girl’s perspective but I’m still learning how to sound like a convincing guy. My husband has helped me with this in the past and now I’m having a male friend read over The Andromeda’s Ghost to give me some feedback on how believable the main character is as a young adult male. We’ll see what he says.

While I wait for his feedback, I’m getting ready to dabble in my other stories.

But then I got an interesting thought: I could query this manuscript to agents. I Dare You to Love Me, In the Dark, and Asta and the Barbarians are all under contracts. Any sequels I end up producing for them will have to be presented to their respective publishing houses. But this sci-fi and it’s sequels are free from commitments right now. With some published books under my belt, would that better my chances of getting a literary agent for this book?

Don’t get me wrong; I’m so thankful for Tirgearr Publishing and Inkitt. They took a chance on me and published my books when nobody else seemed interested. Working with them has been easy, enjoyable, and educational. But book marketing is turning out to be my weakness in this industry. I’ve tried all the free avenues and have spent as much money as I can to promote my books. I’ve read articles and reached out to reviewers. I’ve seen adequate sales but, considering all the work I’m putting into this, I feel like the number of books sold should be a little higher. I don’t mean to sound like an ingrate. I’m just being honest.

According to the author forums and Facebook pages I’ve visited, hiring a publicist isn’t worth the money. But having a professional to work side by side with me, give me weekly tips, and carry some of the load sounds really good right about now. I’m just so tired of putting in the effort every single day and not seeing satisfactory results. I feel like I’m in an infomercial, giving that desperate look to the camera and saying, “There has to be an easier way!” Will having an agent make that part of being an author a little easier? I don’t know. But I’m so tempted to try putting myself out there again.

A part of me doesn’t want to open myself up to rejection. I mean, I have two publishing houses that would be willing to publish this manuscript for me. It would be so much easier to pick one of them and get it done. But I don’t just want to see this manuscript in print. I want it to be distributed to as many people as possible.

Uuuuuuuuggggggggghhhhhhh!

Calling out to my fellow authors, those with agents and without: What do you guys think I should do?