Monday, 30 December 2013

A year’s end

It’s time to look back at what I’ve accomplished this year. I feel like I’ve been constantly occupied with something or the other so, in that respect, a busy year. I didn't finish everything I busied myself with, however, so I don’t necessarily have that much to show for it. But I have something.

I published two books this year, both in my Two-Natured London series, Warrior’s Heart in March and A Wolf of Her Own in December. I had planned to publish three books, but it took me longer than I expected to finish the latter book. Sales have been slower than the previous year and I’m not entirely sure why. They have been steady, however, and my books have got some nice reviews too, encouraging me to continue.

I ran a free period for the first time for The Wolf’s Call last weekend, during which it was downloaded for almost 2500 times across the marketplaces. I don’t have anything to compare that figure with, but I’m happy with it, especially since I didn’t really advertise the free period. At the same time, Warrior’s Heart was on sale and that went nicely too. Hopefully I gained new readers who want to continue with the series.

I’ve written 43 posts on this blog – this one is 44th – and 33 posts on my reading blog I began in March. Both have had a steady, although not terribly massive, audience. I haven’t calculated how many posts I’ve written on Google+, but since most of them have been re-shares of cat pictures, that’s not terribly important. The same goes for my tweets that are far too numerous.

The best part of my year by far has been the social media. My accounts on Twitter and on Google+ have gained many new followers, a delightful number of which have engaged in both silly and serious conversations throughout the year. In general, independent authors are wonderfully encouraging to one another, making it a pleasure to check in on my accounts every morning.

I have learned enormously this year about writing and publishing. Some of it I’ve already tried in practice, some I’m yet to test out. Nothing goes to waste though. I’m sure I’ll be able to put most of it to use eventually.

I’m not good at making promises for the New Year – or I can make them, I just won’t keep them. But plans are another thing entirely. I intend to publish at least two books, hopefully three. I’ll continue to write this blog and my reading blog too, and I try to send at least three newsletters to my subscribers. On top of that, I’ll continue to spend far too much time on Twitter, so if you need me, come look for me there.

Thank you for this year and I hope we’ll meet the next year too. I wish you all a very happy New Year 2014!

Monday, 16 December 2013

My top ten UF reads in 2013

Here’s a brief recap of my favourite UF books this year. It hasn’t been a terribly prolific year of reading for me. Ever since I began writing, I haven’t had as much time for reading as I’d like. I had managed to read more than ten UF books, however, and picking ten among them was relatively easy.

It’s easiest to present them in alphabetical order. None of the books stand out as particularly great and putting the rest in any order would be impossible. That’s mostly because I only read the latest additions to series I was already following. Some sequels were the best the series had to offer so far, some less so. The latter were left out of the list.

Jim Butcher: Cold Days
I had really waited for this book to find out how Butcher would bring Harry from the realm of the dead. The book didn’t disappoint, even though the changes in the Dresden universe in his absence weren’t entirely to my liking. A good book, but I haven’t waited for the next one with quite the same excitement.

Karen Chance: Fury’s Kiss
The third book on the Dorina Basarab series was the best so far. The previous books were slightly confusing and Dorina wasn’t always a character I’d root for, but in this book she came to her own. I’m really waiting for the next book.

Karen Chance: Tempt the Stars
The Cassandra Palmer series had a new book out this year. Like always, it was a great romp across the dimensions and time. The romance between Cassandra and Pritkin finally took off too. Sort off. And, again, a cliff-hanger that left me eager to read the next book.

Eoin Colfer: Artemis Fowl and the Last Guardian
This was the final book in a great series. And I think it was the best so far. A very fitting ending.

Larissa Ione: Rogue Rider
This was the last book in the Lords of Deliverance series. It wasn’t the best UF I’ve read, but it was the best book in the series. It pulled off the impossible task of preventing the end of the world admirably and managed to turn the villain of the series into a romantic hero.

Darynda Jones: Fifth Grave past the Light
I actually read both this and the previous book, Fourth Grave beneath My Feet, and liked them both. I chose the latter for the list simply because it was slightly better. It opened the universe to a new direction and was the first book in the series so far that didn’t see Charley almost dead at the end.

Diana Rowland: Touch of the Demon
This fifth book in the series took it in a whole different direction – and dimension. I’m not entirely sure it qualifies as UF at this point, but I included it anyway, as the series takes place on earth otherwise. A great book with many twists and turns that kept the reader guessing.

Nalini Singh: Heart of Obsidian
Not the only book in the Psy/Changeling series I’ve read this year – or the only book by Miss Singh. But it was one of my favourites in the series, and definitely much better than the previous book, Tangle of Need. I liked the romance, loved the hero, and can’t wait to find out how the continuing story arc develops.

J.R. Ward: Lover at Last
I really waited for this book that would finally bring to conclusion the love story between Qhuinn and Blay. I’ve written more about the book on this blog earlier, so suffice to say, it was a great book that nonetheless left me slightly disappointed.

J.R.Ward: Rapture
I don’t like the Fallen Angels series as much as I like the Black Dagger Brotherhood, but Rapture was a great book and I think it's the best in the series so far. However, despite the cliff-hanger, I haven’t rushed in to read the next book that came out recently.

Bonus book:

Tom Pollock: The City’s Son
I haven’t finished reading this book yet, but half-way through, I can tell that it’s by far the best UF book I’ve read the whole year so I didn’t want to leave it out. Read it if you can.

Monday, 9 December 2013

What makes fantasy ‘urban’?

I’ve suffered a slight existential crisis writing my upcoming book, A Wolf of Her Own. Not a debilitating crisis, merely a question nagging at the back of my head. Am I writing urban fantasy?

There seems to be two approaches to genre writing. One school adheres to genre conventions, attacking impurities, and ejecting from the canon authors who do not follow the rules. Another school believes that an author has a freedom to write what they want, that genres do not matter, and that any resemblance to genre conventions is coincidence. Others still, that genres are dead altogether.

Personally, I like the framework a genre offers, but I try not to be a slave to it. Any genre needs innovations to remain interesting to authors and readers alike. Nevertheless, I have fancied myself an urban fantasy author. I like the sound of it. My Two-Natured London books are set in modern, albeit parallel, London, the city a character among others.

Urban fantasy is, by definition, fantasy that takes place in an urban setting, i.e. in a city. According to Wikipedia, it doesn’t even have to be a modern city, as long as the setting is civic. But my upcoming Two-Natured London book is set in the countryside. Hence the minor crisis. It’s not merely the setting that is country. The driving force of the story is agricultural. So, can a book that features sheep and pigs be urban fantasy?

I would like to think it can. I have explanations ready too. Genre is more a guideline, not a rule; London is mentioned in my book, and the two main characters have their lives there; the book is third in a series that is otherwise set in London; the fantasy elements remain the same as in the previous books. But. It’s not the hectic urban environment energising the book; it’s built around a slower pace of a farm.

So, I’m constantly of two minds about it. It’s paranormal romance, yes, but can I call it urban fantasy? What do you think? Do you think a city is the most important defining factor of urban fantasy? If not, then what is? And if you do, is there a name for a similar genre set outside a city?

A Wolf of Her Own by Susanna Shore
In the meanwhile, the book should come out later this week. Those who subscribe to my newsletter will get a notification by email. For the otherwise curious, there is a sample chapter on my webpage.

Monday, 2 December 2013

A new look

My website has a new look – again. Readers of this blog may recall the previous redesign that was pretty trying. This time everything went smoothly and painlessly, the changes more cosmetic than structural.

The biggest change is the colour scheme. The first two versions were red, to reflect the name of the site, Crimson House Books. This time round, I went with blue. I had a beautiful picture of wolves and I used its petrol shade.  It’s the same colour I had used for links in the earlier version so I didn’t have to change those.

I used part of the picture in the sidebar on the left and repeated it in full on the bottom right corner of the front page. The latter has already divided opinions, with me for it and my husband and sister against.

Another great difference is that I gave up the separate pages for my two pen names. I didn’t have time to update them and the same information was on the main page anyway. Other than that, I reorganised the elements on the front page. I think it looks more orderly this way. Take a look and tell me what you think. Should the wolf picture on the right stay or go?

You can find a sample of A Wolf of Her Own there as well. It’s chapter two, so the subscribers of my newsletter have something new to read too.

The book will be published in December.