Prism Book Alliance® would like to thank Anna Butler for stopping by today.
Title: Heart Scarab (Book 2)
Author: Anna Butler
Publisher: Wilde City
Cover Artist: Adrian Nicholas
Genre: Fiction, Gay, Romance, Science Fiction
Telnos is an unpleasant little planet, inhabited by religious fanatics in the festering marshlands and unregistered miners running illegal solactinium mines up in the hills. But the Maess want Telnos, and Shield Captain Bennet’s job is to get out as many civilians as he can—a task that leaves him lying on Telnos while the last cutter of evacuees escapes in the teeth of the Maess invasion.
Bennet is listed missing in action, believed dead on a planet now overrun by Maess drones. His family is grieving. His long-term partner, Joss, is both mourning and guilt-ridden.
And Fleet Lieutenant Flynn? Flynn is desolate. Flynn is heart-broken… no. Flynn is just broken
Ten things I wish I had known before becoming a published author
Not in any sort of order!
- Pennames are hard to get right. I wish I’d thought harder about my pen name, and what it should be. In the end, I mashed up my and my partner’s names. If I were to do it all again, I’d look into the benefits of something more gender neutral. Not particularly for the LGBT aspect of my writing, but for the harder science fiction element of the Shield series. I sometimes wonder if military sci fi would be an easier sell if I didn’t have an obviously feminine name!
Whether or not, of course, a writer uses a pen name at all is another question. Most of us like to keep a little distance between our RL self and the author self. I think that’s wise.
- Brands are even harder. We all have to be ‘brand aware’ these days, as if we’re marketing boxes of cornflakes rather then the works of our hearts and brains. Coming up with my tag line was easy enough (I write sci fi, so ‘love that’s out of this world’ seemed to fit!), but I’ve played about with the look and feel of my website, FB etc for more than a year now, trying to get a distinct set of images that people can begin to associate with my name and the books I write. Let’s just say that my first attempt of an arty photo of a fountain pen didn’t exactly scream “sci-fi writer!” to anyone. Even me.
It’s taken me over a year and at least four attempts, but I think I’ve cracked the look: a background that is obviously sci-fi, all in muted greys, and for my icon, a cheerful little retro space rocket on a burst of scarlet flame. That icon is everywhere now: on my website, Twitter, Tumblr, FB… everywhere. It’s part of the swag I hand out at conventions as badges and buttons. I even wear a silver retro rocket necklace. And what that space rocket hopefully conveys is “here’s someone writing old-school sci-fi and who has a sense of humour.” We’ll see how it pans out, anyway.
- Related to the brand thing, making your mind up early what you’re going to call your website, making sure it’s professional and reflects what you’re about, and then sticking to it. Believe me, it’s galling to look at what I first thought was a chirpy and cheerful “annabutlerfic.com” and realise, after buying the domain (for the next ten years! Groan) and setting up all the social media and email accounts with it, that really it just looked juvenile and unprofessional. What did that say about the “Anna Butler” brand? What was I thinking?!
Paying for ten years for a domain name I will never use was an expensive mistake. Learn from it!
And speaking of websites, that I’d understood better how important it is going to be for me. It’s where my web presence will be as long as I remain a writer – Twitter, Tumblr, even FB channel traffic through to it. That front page is the doorway to me and my books. It was six months before I realised that my blog shouldn’t be the front page. That what matters is that people land instantly on a home page that says “Here’s a writer, and here is what she’s written and what it’s about. And here’s where you can find out more…”. The blog is important, but should sit behind that portal. Mine does now. Perhaps it should have done from the beginning.
And your website should be crisp and clean and so easy to navigate a chimp with an iPad could do it blindfold. Make sure links are prominent and easy to follow, that someone landing on your homepage can find your social media links at a glance, that the blog is easy to spot, and that you keep the content fresh. Make sure you have a reason for them to come back, to see what you’ve been up to. If you can’t keep it fresh and topical, they’ll wonder if your novels will be equally static and stale.
And while I’m on the topic of websites and social media, what I’ve learned is that you have to take it seriously. Most publishers at a minimum expect you to have a website, a blog and FB/Twitter. If you can throw more into the mix, they’ll be happy. Join FB groups for your genre(s) where both writers and readers meet. Set some time aside each day, even if it’s just fifteen minutes, and work those media: retweet a fellow author’s blog or comment, like and comment on group posts in your genre, link through to your blog content. Get your name out there.
But don’t ever treat it as if it’s your personal social media account. This is business. Hard, unrelenting business.
Because the person who will promote your book? You. No one else.
You need beta readers who will be hard on you. Friends are great for boosting your confidence, but really a good crit group who will challenge you and force you to think again about the direction your draft is going, or where the characterisation looks shaky or there’s a plot hole so big you can drive a space ship through it– priceless. They should be your first line of challenge, so that what you present to an editor is as good and as tight as you can get it. The editor will find more, of course, but that’s their job. Still, they’ll thank you if you send them a taut, snappy MS rather than an unthought-through hot mess. Beta readers will help you get there.
I owe so much to my crit group. I didn’t know in advance how much, but now I wouldn’t be without them.
I wish that I’d been more savvy about the genres when I started out. My first ever published work was a self-pubbed novella. Aha, thought I, the m/m romance genre is huge and I should label it m/m romance to get it noticed. Foolish move. Anyone reading it will see instantly that it failed hugely on the one thing romance readers want to see: a happy ending. It didn’t even have a Happy For Now. It had a very ambivalent ending.
The point is that when I started out I didn’t realise I wasn’t writing romance in a way that met the expectations of romance readers. I was writing a love story, sure, with gay heroes. But it wasn’t romance. I did the novella, and the reader, a disservice by labelling it wrongly in the hope that I’d catch the trend. These days, I’m much more careful. I want readers to know and understand in advance what I’m writing. I don’t want to leave them feeling cheated and disappointed. That works out better for both writer and reader.
Which leads me neatly on to reviews. Oh, how I longed for them when I started out! I dread to think how often I refreshed the Goodreads page those first couple of weeks! And then I got a stinker of a review on Amazon that cost me my sleep for the next two weeks. Lord, but it hurt. Like the reviewer had scraped me raw and rubbed salt into the exposed patches.
It was a salutary lesson that I wish I’d known in advance: you can’t please everyone. Not every reader will like your style or your plot and they may end up hating the characters you feel you gave birth too, like Eve, in travail and suffering.
And what’s more, they don’t have to like you and your book. They’ve paid their money for your work and they have every right to tell the world what they think of it. Even if that isn’t very much. And you, as writer, have to take it on the chin, and just keep on going. And for the lord’s sake, meet every bad review with dignified public silence. There are too many object lessons out there of authors behaving badly! Don’t be one of them.
And that brings me to the final thing I wish I’d known two years ago: it’s okay to fail. Not every book you write will be a best seller. Not every book will win prizes. Not every book will be noticed. In fact, you’ll be bloody lucky if it garners any praise and sales at all.
Embrace that. Learn from it. Take that stinker of a review and remind yourself of two truths. First, that you’re a writer and nothing and nobody can deny you that, and they’ll have to pry your keyboard from your cold dead hands. And second, and most important, write what makes you happy.
And maybe that’s been the hardest lesson to learn. And not something that I could have been told in advance. But I’m a writer, and I’m happy. I can’t ask for more than that.
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Flynn liked kissing. In fact, Flynn considered himself something of an expert in the art. He’d tried it in all its forms, from the first tentative pressing together of juvenile lips that had you wondering what all the fuss was about, to the discovery that if you just opened your mouth and, you know, kind of moved everything, your tongue suddenly had a lot more positive uses than just allowing you to articulate clearly and swallow things without choking. Flynn got the hang of it, ran with it, and never looked back.
Soft kisses and hard kisses; kisses that were wet and slobbery with people who didn’t know exactly how to hold their lips to get the best and sexiest effect, and wet and sexy kisses with people who did. Kisses that turned the blood to molten lava and kisses that cooled you as you came down. Kisses that inflamed and kisses that soothed; feverish kisses and languid after-sex kisses. Kisses that meant only good fellowship and casual affection, and kisses that were desire incarnate.
Flynn had not only tried them all, he’d made them his own. He was considered by all the relevant authorities to be rather a specialist in the area.
Flynn really liked kissing. He had been gratified by the discovery that Bennet liked it too. Because now he could add slow kisses to the repertoire. Kisses so leisured and intense the world came to a stop while a hot tongue moved over his lips, explored each and every tooth down to the last molar, while teeth pulled at his bottom lip, biting it gently until it was swollen and hot and heavy, and he had to lick his lip to cool it and met Bennet’s tongue with his. Only then, would Bennet’s mouth close over his and start a real in-earnest kiss that lasted several more centuries. Those were kisses Bennet seemed to specialise in.
Flynn was always willing to take tips from another expert. A man should always try to extend his technique.
About the Author
Anna Butler was a communications specialist for many years, working in UK government departments on everything from marketing employment schemes to running an internal TV service. She now spends her time indulging her love of old-school science fiction. She lives in the ethnic and cultural melting pot of East London with her husband and the Deputy Editor, aka Molly the cockapoo.
– a copy of my novella, FlashWired (epub, mobi or pdf) on every stop to one random commentator
- Chance to enter a rafflecopter for
(i) top prize of an Amazon gift voucher (is $50 overdoing it? It makes for a decent prize!)
(ii) second prize, winner’s choice of a Heart Scarab ipad cover or kindle cover
(ii) third prize, a Gyrfalcon iPad cover
a Rafflecopter giveaway
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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