What am I up to?

Greetings, Champions! Just a quick update today as I’m a bit short on time, but I wanted to bring everyone up to speed!

A lot of Champions have been wondering what I’m doing now in August, AKA are asking if I’ve started King Arthurs yet. Unfortunately…I have not. About once a year my brain decides “No. If I write one more sentence about magic and fantasy, I am going to shut down and begin reciting lyrics of all the songs you hate.” (This includes insanity-inducing music like Never gonna give you up.) To combat this I usually write a non-fantasy story for a few weeks to give my mind a break. That’s what I’m doing for the next two weeks, actually. I’m basically having a writing get-away.

I do this because I love my stories, and I don’t want them to be forced. So, to keep my passion going, it’s really in my best interest to play around every once in a while. I’m hoping to eventually publish this particular story that I’m working on, but it will probably be a long ways off because in September the next King Arthurs book and Sleeping Beauty are going to top my priority list.

So, if I’m only going to work on this non-fantasy story for two weeks, what I’m I doing for the last stretch of August? I’m going on vacation! Woohoo! This will be the first major trip I’ve gone on in a while, so I’m really looking forward to it. Obviously during that time I’ll be unable to answer comments and reply to emails, so I’ll post right before I leave. I am a little nervous as this will be the first time since I became a full-time author that I’ll be completely cut off from the internet for a significant length of time. Hopefully I won’t get Champion-separation-anxiety, but I’m not making any promises.

In the meantime I have to express my thanks. Some of you old-time Champions have been picking up the slack and answering a few comments that I haven’t had the chance to get to–whether it’s directing someone to the Timeless Fairy Tale timeline, or just chatting about books. Thank you! When I write it’s really hard for me to stay up to date with my website, so I really appreciate it when you bring the newer Champions up to speed!

Finally, I wanted to say thanks to: Sacha, Deanna, Hollie, and Sydney, who sent me some letters when they mailed in their envelopes to get a Heart of Ice postcard. You guys are so sweet, and the absolute best! Thank you!

That’s all for today. I hope you guys are doing well, and have a lovely week. Thanks for reading, Champions!

Fanart and Audio Book!

Happy Friday, Champions! I’m going to bust right into this because I’ve been waiting forever to share this news, but Red Rope of Fate‘s audio book is now available for purchase!

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Ta da! Isn’t it pretty? If you want to hear an audio sample click here to go to Tantor media (the publisher of the audio book) and right below the picture is a sample of the first few paragraphs of the book. Listening to it simultaniously fills me with awe and makes me want to scream into a pillow. When I decided to forgo traditional publishing I pretty much gave up on the idea of having audio books, so watching Red Rope turn into an audio file has been incredible! (The narrator, Lucy Rayner, did an amazing job!) It’s available on Audible and Amazon, but I think the cheapest spot is if you buy the MP3-CD directly from Tantor, though I have no idea what their shipping is like.

We’ll have to celebrate its release, but my brain is playing dead right now as I spent the morning playing with Create Space. (Good news: Heart of Ice’s paperback should be available next week. More News: Myrrhlynn is hoping to tackle Sacrifice’s paperback cover this weekend, so it shouldn’t be too far behind Heart of Ice. Slow news: B&B’s paperback revision is in progress.)

But the fun isn’t over yet! I received some fantastic fanart just when Swan Lake was released, but this is the first time I’ve had a chance to show some of it off! Today’s incredibly talented artist is our very own Hobbitlady97! She made a pretty awesome sketch of Elle of Beauty and the Beast. She said the portrait of Elle is specifically after Severin’s curse is broken, but before he comes after her in Verglas.

Hobbitlady97

I think her hair is my favorite part. That might sound odd, but my drawings/stick people usually end up with three hairs on their head because I lose patience or their haircut looks like a bunch of noodles, so I can really appreciate how difficult it is to pull that off!

Okay, that’s it for now, but next week I should have something fun in store for everyone! Until then, thanks for reading, Champions! Have a splendid weekend, and thank you for being you!

Fan Art!

Before we dive in, I just want to post a reminder that today–October 12–and tomorrow–October 13, are the last days you can enter the Lost Files of the MBRC ebook raffle. (Click here to enter!) I’ll be giving away ten copies instead of the originally planned five because of all the entries, so your chances of winning are better than you think.

Okay! Today I get to share a special treasure with you, Champions, that has me absolutely chuffed! A tremendously talented reader–who goes by the artistic name of Keepsake20–made a beautiful illustration of Merlin and Britt from King Arthurs and Her Knights. Check it out!

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I was going to put a smaller version in this post (This is still scaled down a bit) but then I thought NAH~~!

I’ve got to say, she really nailed them. She included Merlin’s obsession with wearing gray, and did a fabulous job with his face and hair, and I think she perfectly captured Britt’s willowy build and her feminine features that give her a little more of a fairy or elf-like look. Truthfully I had a bit of a moment when I saw the image. It is so incredible to see life breathed into these characters through an entirely different medium.

Keepsake20 sent a link of the image to me, but I highly suggest checking out her Deviant-Artist page. She has some amazing art, featuring everything from Disney Princesses to Harry Potter to superheroes!  (Here’s the link to the Merlin and Britt image if you want to see it in its original glory and splendor.) She’s given me permission to put this beauty on my website, so it will pop up sometime soon as I try to find a perfect place for it.

This does bring up a topic I don’t think I have directly addressed before. If you’ve created fan-art of something from my stories–or fan anything, really–and would like to share it, don’t be afraid to send me a link in an email or comment on the blog! My creativity funnels mostly into writing, but I love and appreciate other kinds of art, too. (And when I say “fan-art” I don’t just mean drawings or digital paintings; I’m including photography, poetry, anything you can think of!)

Thank you for reading, Champions, and thank you again to Keepsake20 for this beautiful image! I hope you all have a splendid day.

A Chat with the Editor

Earlier this past weekend/week, I gave you guys the chance to submit questions for my editor, Jeri. She’s generously answered many of the inquiries I received. To make it easier on Jeri, I condensed and combined some of the questions, and anything in italics is from me–I couldn’t help putting in a few side-notes in addition to asking the questions. Now, before we get started, I want to give a little bit of background info.

Jeri–or Editor #1 as I usually refer to her–has worked with me since I released The Wild Swans in 2014. She’s edited almost all of my books–although some she didn’t get a chance to take a crack at until recently–and she’s the only editor I use for everything. (Editor #2 just works with me on Timeless Fairy Tales. Jeri has gone through all of my stories.) I consider her to be an excellent colleague, but she is also an awesome friend and has the best taste in books. Okay, we’re ready to get going!

KM Shea: For our first question, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Jeri: Oh, wow. An interview and a personal question? I feel like I have a spotlight pointed at me… I’m a working mom with three kiddos, a fantastic husband, and two dogs. I was born and bred in the West and have lived in multiple states and cities around the Rockies. I have an MA in English, and with that I taught technical writing and composition for years, leading me into the editing world. However, editing hasn’t been my day job for a long time. I just do it for fun on the side while I work in corporate training for my 9-5.

K: How did editing become your career?

J: I actually stumbled into editing from an academic pathway. I planned on being an English instructor (after I realized doctors don’t get to go home very often) and worked as an adjunct at four different universities/colleges while we settled and started our family. The class I loved teaching the most was technical writing because commas and grammar make me happy. That technical writing background was absolutely mandatory for what I do to help KM Shea. An editor must know when to use a comma and when to use a semi-colon, to know the difference between a phrase and a clause, a compound and a compound-complex sentence.

From there, I worked as the senior editor for an academic research program for several years. In that role, I got very good at figuring out what authors meant through their context and at being able to articulate it for them without changing their voice. That skill/talent is critical. KM’s voice is so awesome that you want to hear her, not me. So it’s important for any editor to have the gift of…translation, so to speak—to be able to pull out of an author’s context what she’s really trying to say and to keep the “fix” clean enough to sound like her, not like the editor.

Editing is kind of a marriage between those two skills—the technical, math-like nature of grammar and usage and the gut-feel of knowing what an author really meant to say, but didn’t. (KM Shea: She’s right. While I mostly wax poetry about Jeri’s ability to fix my various cases of comma abuse, her ability to tweak a sentence so it is structurally complete but sounds the same is just as important.)

K: What is your editing process? Do you edit while you read, or read the book first then edit, do you watch for specific things, or just fix whatever errors you find?

J: I read and edit simultaneously. But, this comes down to the difference between copyediting and editing. And I kind of do both. Because KM’s nice and patient with me, she doesn’t care that I make organizational and character recommendations as I go—acting as more of an editor. And for that, I have to read. (KM Shea: *snorts* What she’s not telling you is those “recommendations” point out critical flaws. Addressing them help flesh out and fix the characters/scene/story.)

But, I make copyediting changes as I go, too, wiping out commas and spelling errors. And then I do a second pass after KM has made revisions because, like everyone, I’m human and miss things the first time around. (KM Shea: She’s being generous. She also has to take a second pass because I’ll make changes and add paragraphs/scenes and muck the whole thing up again.) As KM has mentioned in her posts, I think I have two talents: though I can’t make up a story for the life of me, I am good at finding the holes in the stories others weave. And I know how to fill those holes and what that character would say or do (especially if the characters are as awesome as they are in KM Shea’s books). Then, I know where the punctuation should be changed to make that meaning come across and to be true (as much as is possible, with some artistic license) to the English language and all its crazy intricacies.

Continue reading

Questions for the Editor

The Puss in Boots character poll closed! You champions waged an impressive total of 251 votes. Puss won with an overwhelming 75 votes, and Gabrielle was not far behind with 68–which I have to say is a closer race than I thought. Well done, Gabrielle! The stray, orange colored kitty snagged third place with a surprising 41 votes, and Steffen came in fourth with 26. (I can say the results of this poll would knock Steffen off his high horse. He placed not behind one, but two cats.) Steffen’s siblings came in fifth with 15 votes, and King Henrik was right on their heels with 14. Finishing up the poll was Timo, with 10 votes, and Moritz and the ogre with a vote each.

Thank you to everyone who voted! Not only is it fun to see who was the Champions’ favorite, but it’s also useful for me so I better get to know your likes and dislikes.

Now, for the actual news of this post! Editor #1 has agreed to let me interview her for the blog, so you guys can get a peek of the editing/working as an editor/whatever you want. Editor #1 is the lovely lady who has waged war against my terrible usage of commas, and also checks for overall story/character balance, and consistency. In example, in Puss in Boots she helped adjust the ending scenes with Steffen so Gabrielle (and hopefully readers) would better see his love and sincerity, making their happy ending more believable. In the Snow Queen she pointed out a character I had been a little lazy in characterizing, and she caught physical feature inconsistencies. (One character’s hair color changed halfway through the book!) She’s done so much more than I could ever explain, and she has the patience of a saint to keep forging ahead with me, even though I switch farther/further in just about every book no matter how many times she has explained it.

While she just finished the first read-through of The Snow Queen this past weekend, she’s also been working through my backlist with me for the past year or so. This summer the King Arthur books got a bit of a face-lift as she found typos, and made more comma corrections than I care to remember. This same patient lady, as I mentioned above, agreed to answer some questions! So submit any question you might have for Editor #1 in the form below by Tuesday, September 22! I’ll compile a list, and then send the questions on to her.

I think it’s worth mentioning that some of my favorite books–like Edenbrooke–were recommended to me by Editor #1. She fits right in with our reading tastes, Champions, and her sense of humor is absolutely wicked! So don’t be afraid to ask her questions by using the form or commenting on this post! Until next time, thanks for reading!

April Fools!

I’ve got two reader questions to answer, but let’s start out with a freebie! Mark your calendars, on April 1, Life Reader will be free in honor of Asher and Aron–a pair of socially awkward practical pranksters! Pick up a copy to witness their fun!

And into the questions we go! Lauren asks How do your family and friends respond to you as a fairy tale romance writer? Do they take your work seriously?

To me being taken “Seriously” means that my family and friends don’t judge and/or lecture me about my career choice, and that they’re happy for me. So yes, my family takes my work very seriously! To begin with, my cover-artist, Myrhlynn, is my sister. She reads my work and has listened to me talk storylines and characters for hours, and she does a lot of marketing. My mother helps me proofread, and she is good at catching the times I accidentally let a character fall off. (You have her to thank for the scene in Farewell to the MBRC when Doggie attacks Krad.) My father and other sister are still quite proud of me, even if they don’t read my work. (My non-reader sister thinks it’s a stitch that I’m an author, and she goes around collecting names, amusing stories, and fun facts for me. 80% of the animals in my  books are based off her pets.)

I have a handful of close friends who are so supportive, and who have served as cheerleaders along my journey. Moreover, my extended family is also quite supportive and happy for me. Being supportive does not mean I don’t occasionally receive a good ribbing, but that’s half the fun of being an author!

I will say what has surprised me is the  people I meet and/or am introduced to, who ask me inexcusably rude questions about my financial status and stability. It seems that people who have a passing acquaintance with my family feel it is within their right to pass judgement on me and my career, and they have no qualms about inquiring how I pay for things.

I try not to let them bother me, though, because I’ve read about and met a few authors that have the reverse problem–their families are the judgmental ones and strangers are the ones who accept it.  I am so blessed that the people closest to me–the ones I spend the most time with  and love the most–are the ones who are happiest for me. A few sour grapes will not be allowed to steal my joy from me when I have such an amazing family and wonderful friends!

And now for an editing question! JB says: I’m one of those readers who spots typos in everything I read. I can’t help it; they just seem to jump right off the page at me. I’ve always wondered – do authors want to know when readers spot a typo or an error of some sort as they’re reading through their books? Or do they wish readers would turn a blind eye to any minor mistakes that managed to slip into the final version and just enjoy the story they’ve worked so hard to tell?

This is a tough topic to tackle for me, not because I’m particularly emotionally charged about people finding errors–goodness knows what horrors I’ve put you poor Champions through with this blog post alone–but because of the Amazon update/edition policy. I love Amazon. They have my loyalty and my thankfulness because without them I wouldn’t be able to do any of this. However…trying to get updated books to readers is a nightmare.

Here’s what happens. Reader $ finds an error and lets me know, I correct and upload a new version of the story. Reader % finds two errors and let’s me know. The thing is, Reader % bought her copy before Reader $, but she is rereading it, or perhaps she hasn’t had a chance to read it yet, so one of the two errors Reader % found has already been corrected and uploaded, she just doesn’t know it. And then Reader @ comes along, and she bought her copy after Reader $’s correction went live, but before Reader %’s correct error went live…. You see how things can get confusing? Just wait, it gets worse.

sad panda strikes back

Nothing makes me into a sad/cranky panda like the Amazon update policy.

Amazon will only update a book (That means allow readers to update their copy OR force an update onto their Kindle) if a book shows “significant” change. I uploaded a new version of B&B in January, and it has about three new paragraphs of text in the ending scene, and about 50 punctuation corrections. I’ve gone back and forth with Amazon a couple of times, but they won’t update it. What is even more terrible is that as a reader you cannot delete your old copy off your kindle and account and repurchase the new edition. You’ll get the same book  you deleted off your kindle, even though you repurchased it. I have only once been able to successfully convince Amazon to update one of my books, and it took many errors. So what happens when I upload copies of my books–correcting only a few errors at a time? Even if I go through 30 editions and the last book is far more professional/edited than the first, it won’t show significant improvement over the previous edition, so Amazon won’t change it.

That being said, I have a few abandoned children–cough Robyn Hood cough–that could really use some attention, but my schedule won’t allow for it. I’m far more picky about tracking errors through Timeless Fairy Tales than I am through Princess Ahira or Red Rope of Fate. It’s unfortunate, but I have to play favorites.

I do know some authors get downright offended over readers sending in corrections–which is silly–and others just don’t have the time to track the errors through the editions and uploads. But here’s my take on it: I do like it if people let me know about terrible errors, (I say terrible because once or twice I’ve had people try and correct dialog that I purposely wrote errors into) but I recognize it’s better in the long run if I sit on all the errors and have an editor go over it another time or two before I update it again, in hopes that Amazon might be kind and let me send this update out to all readers who previously bought the book. My goal as a writer is to make my books as entertaining and enchanting as possible. If there was an error that really threw you off, that is not a good thing, and that’s my fault, not yours.

That’s all for today, Champions! Enjoy your free copy of Life Reader, and good luck avoiding the usual tricks on April 1!

Wild Swans Cover Reveal

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I have big news! Big News! Next Monday, April 28, The Wild Swans will be available for purchase! You guys have been wonderfully patient with this release, which I thank you for. I hope you find your patience well rewarded when you get your hands on this book. 😉 You’ll see what I mean when you read it.

Anyway, Myrrhlynn did another fantastic job with this cover. It has a ton of imagery that comes directly from the book. First of all there’s the obvious, the swans. In the Wild Swans seven princes are turned into swans, so this is a reference to them. Elise lives at a pond (see the surroundings) with the swans, taking care of them. And finally, every evening at sunset the seven princes are human for one hour. If you look at the cover it is almost sunset…*wink, wink.* From a purely artistic viewpoint I also loved the font she chose. It’s so beautiful and the swirls and curls remind me of swan feathers.

I’m so lucky to work with such a talented cover artist who loves books and understands their beauty! Thank you, Myrrhlynn!

I am in talks with my good ol’ pals down at Amazon to try and arrange for you guys to get the updated version of Princess Ahira. (Remember it will be available for free this week Thursday through Saturday. Spread the word like a good book gossiper, please!) I shall keep you posted on our agreements, efforts, treaties, and enduring friendship. And in my last bit of news my dreadful ear infections are gone. I woke up this morning and could hear normally, it was a fantastic feeling!

Thanks for sticking in there with me, Champions. Have a great week, and I will see you Wednesday. Until then I plan to go drink in the sight of Myrrhlynn’s beautiful cover. There is something very soothing about it…

I’m shocked

I was double checking some historical references to King Arthur for extra content I included in my newly released King Arthur and Her Knights three-pack. (It contains Enthroned, Enchanted, Embittered, a short story about Sir Kay, and some extra content, so if you haven’t picked up any of the King Arthur books but you are interested in them I recommend you get this volume for maximum content.) In my research/wanderings I stumbled upon several paintings/pictures of Merlin.

What surprised me was that in these pictures Merlin was young and handsome. Now I know my idea to make Merlin a hot younger guy is creative, but not necessarily original. There are a few books–even a few series–that take a look at Merlin’s life when he was younger. Typically most people don’t make Merlin so handsome/young for a King Arthur story, but there was even a TV show that starred a young Merlin.

But these paintings….they were old. We’re talking illustrations from the 1800s all the way to 1600s or 1500s. Can I please get a “Whaaaaaaat?” Mind you, about 95% of King Arthur illustrations show Merlin as an old guy with a long white beard, but I never knew that readers, authors, and illustrators–people who heard the original legends–even thought a young Merlin was a possibility. It just goes to show how we modern readers make assumptions about books and stories in the past and we think modern authors are the only writers who dare to reject common held beliefs, when they aren’t!

My shock aside, I would like to celebrate my three-pack’s release! Myrrhlynn did up another fantastic cover for it.

KingArthurWhen Myrrhlynn said she would make a new cover for the three pack, I assumed she would mash all three covers together. Instead she decided to make a new cover entirely–sort of how the image on a box set of dvds is different from the individual dvd cases. The ebook still contains all three covers, so the idea of a whole new cover for the set is pretty awesome. Thanks Myrrhlynn! (Did you notice the signature pink crown? I also love how Myrrhlynn used feminine, swirly font for the her part of the title.)

That’s all for today, Champions. I will have a Wild Swan update for you this Wednesday. Until then!

Broken email + Embittered fun

Good day to you, Champions! I apologize if some of you tried to reach me over the weekend. Yahoo email went down on me and I suspect I  lost some of your emails. If I haven’t gotten back to you and you are reading this, please send your message again because I think I am caught up by this point.

Email woes aside, it’s time for me to have Embittered-spoiler-cover fun! If you haven’t read Embittered and you don’t want any spoilers, you had best skip reading this post.

So here’s the thing. Do you remember Britt beating the snot out of Maleagant with a joust? Merlin and Co. then tricked the foul duke into thinking there was a large army surrounding Camelgrance, which is why he left so swiftly. Myrrhlynn very thoughtfully chose to portray this in the cover. If you look at the cover after reading the book you probably assume it symbolizes the forest around Camelgrance. WRONG! Well, you are right, but not totally right. It does portray that forest, but it specifically portrays that forest when Merlin and Britt are pulling their heist/scare tactics against Maleagant. How? Myrrhlynn added pieces of armor into the trees, which you can see if you zoom waaaaaaay in!

spoiler

I couldn’t include the entire stretch of armor because the image would be huge, but the pink arrows point out three shields that are on the left edge of the forest. Isn’t that awesome? I’m such a detail geek, things like this really make my day. The super fun thing was that Myrrhlynn presented me with an armor-less cover, as well as this armor cover I used. Comparing the covers side by side you see the glints of armor through the trees–although the trees are so thick and far away you can’t really tell exactly what it is when the image is viewed at a normal size. In other words, the cover pulls the exact same trick Merlin and Britt played on Maleagant!

Thanks again, Myrrhlynn, for this fantastic cover. I cannot stress how lucky I am to have a cover artist who reads my books–She produces the most fantastic, detailed covers! I think Life Reader is my favorite, with B&B in a close second, but I’m pretty prejudice all around towards Life Reader. What do you guys think?

Embittered Sneak Peak

I have the fantastic cover art for Embittered! Champions, please give a big thank you to Myrrhlynn for once again doing a bang up job in cover creation.

EmbitteredI love the font Myrrhlynn used and the way it really makes the blue of the sky pop. It’s gorgeous. Again, Myrrhlynn sunk a lot of book foreshadowing into the cover. The majority of Embittered takes place in/around Camelgrance, the castle and home of King Leodegrance. King Leodegrance, as you may or may not remember, is Britt’s ally and more importantly, the father of Guinevere. Camelgrance is located in the center of a vast field and is mostly surrounded by a forest. The physical landscape plays an important role in the climax of the book, which is why Myrhlynn chose this particular image. Also, if you could zoom waaaaaay in on the forest you can see a secret, which I’m going to reveal a few weeks after the book is out because if I did it now it would be a major spoiler and the King Arthur and Her Knights Champions might pelt me with rotten fruit. A fun fact for those Champions, a pink crown has appeared on every King Arthur cover and is something of the series’ calling card.

In more great news, I got a decent start on The Wild Swans today. I had a few false starts last week, but I’m finally pleased and happy with the first five pages, so the race is on! Thanks for reading, Champions, and another big thank you to Myrrhlynn for another meaningful and equally beautiful cover.