Friday, 10 June 2022

It’s my ten-year author anniversary!

This week, June 7th to be precise, marks ten years since I published my first book, The Wolf’s Call. It’s been an interesting decade to say the least. I wasn’t an overnight successduhbut my first book did well enough during its first eight months that I could keep publishing through several leaner years.

How the cover has changed over the years

If you’re wondering why it sold well for only such a short time, Amazon changed its algorithms in 2013 and prevented self-published books from appearing in searches before traditionally published books. It cut the income of many self-published authors to a fraction of what it had been, mine included. I was lucky to have started before the change happened. Otherwise I might have given up ages ago.

But I persevered. Last month, I published my thirtieth book, so I’ve published an average three books a year. The milestone belongs to Tracy Hayes, P.I. for the Win. It’s the tenth in the series and I’m glad that it got the honours. It’s my most popular series by far, and the book ends a longer arc too.

What have I learned, then, during this decade? It’s been an amazing curve from a clueless but hopeful to knowledgeable and realistic.

I’ve learned that shorter books suit my writing style best. Mine are fifty thousand words average, though the newer are a bit longer. I can pace them better and make them more interesting than my longer books. They’re better for me financially too, as I can’t realistically ask more than $3-4 for them, whether they’re forty thousand words or a hundred thousand.

I’ve learned that publishing more books really is the key for financial success. When I started, I thought it meant any book that I managed to publish. But it actually means, at least for me, more books in the same series. It wasn’t until book seven of P.I. Tracy Hayes series that people really took notice. And the same goes for my other series too.

I’ve learned that my readers like light mysteries over contemporary romances. I like writing them better too. I have many ideas for romances, but all of them have been postponed to far future.

I’ve learned not to be embarrassed about marketing my books. Back when I started, social media was the only marketing channel for me, but the mere notion of telling people of my books made me break out in sweat. I’m over that, and although I don’t think social media sells books any better than it did back then, it’s easier for me to do it.

I’ve learned that one pen name is better than two. When I started, I had different pen names for paranormal and contemporary romances. Hannah Kane had to retire, and I republished my contemporary romances as Susanna Shore a few years ago. They still don’t sell, but at least I don’t have to maintain two identities.

I’ve learned to make book covers. I’ve always done all my covers myself. They still can’t compete with the professional work, but the current cover of The Wolf’s Call is miles from the original. Good thing people back then didn’t expect self-published books to look professional.

The first cover of The Wolf's Call

I’ve found that I like making covers and it’s a good way for me to relax between books. I have a great many covers waiting for books that might never be written.

But perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned in the past decade is to call myself an author. I felt like a fraud for a long time and didn’t like to talk about it with people I didn’t know. This week was basically the first time that I outright told a random person that I’m an author. It was wonderfully liberating.

I’m still not making a living with my writing. But for the first time, that goal is within sights. I’m in a good place personally and professionally about my career. And there’s a lot to come.

My next book will start a new series, making it the fourth ongoing series I’m publishing at the same time. The Reed Files is a spin-off from P.I. Tracy Hayes books. The first book is called The Perfect Scam and it’s an international mystery set in France. I’m very excited about it and I hope readers will find it. The book will come out on July 31, a perfect way to launch the next decade of my author career.

For my next decade, my goals are to become more entrepreneurial, or at least more efficient about things like advertising. It’s more of a point and shoot tactic now. I’d also like to tackle audio books at some point. Currently, they’re not worth the cost for me. And, of course, I’d like to make a living from my writing. And that means writing more books. Looking forward to it.

Friday, 4 February 2022

Books with magic are for adults too!

I spotted a review of my book today that gave me a pause. I’m not upset with the review. Only a fool would be upset with five stars and a reader actually taking time to write down a few words. What made me do a double-take was the reader’s notion that the book was written for teens.

I’ve never written anything for a younger audience. I didn’t like being a teenager and don’t care to relive the experience, and I don’t understand the current generation of teenagers at all. I’ve read enough cringe-worthy YA where the current day teen protagonist enjoys the things that made the author happy in their youth in the 70s and 80s to know to stay out of that game.

The book in question is Hexing the Ex, which starts my House of Magic paranormal mystery series. The first-person protagonist, Phoebe Thorpe, is twenty-seven, has a university degree, a steady job, active social life, ex-boyfriends, and a current crush on her boss. There are no bedroom scenes, with or without the door closed, but I consider her an adult, and she was written for the adult audience in mind.

The tone of the book is light, and the mystery isn’t terribly gruesome. The next book is slightly darker and the upcoming third book darker still, but the overall reading experience should be joyful. The reviewer here definitely found it such, which delights me.

I have another mystery series too, where the protagonist, Tracy Hayes, is twenty-seven. She has no college degree, but she has an ex-husband and a string of minimum wage jobs until she lands a job as the apprentice to a private investigator.

The mysteries of P.I. Tracy Hayes series are a bit darker, there are murders, and themes that have made readers issue trigger warnings, but the overall tone aims to joyful too, with family shenanigans and romance. There are some references to bedroom scenes, but nothing overt.

Both books have cheery, colourful illustrations on their covers. Maybe younger people like them more, but the idea was to capture readers who like light-hearted books. I think it has worked perfectly. Before this, no one has ever suggested that either series is meant for teenagers.

Its impossible to know what makes a reader view a book one way or another. I’ve reviewed books myself that others have perceived completely opposite to how I saw them. I can only make a guess at the elements that some readers find more suitable for children, and that is magic and paranormal creatures.

My assumption, fair or not, is what triggered me to write this post.

Book twitter is full of rants by writers of adult fantasy who rage against their books being classified as YA. The tendency of bookstores and libraries to shelve fantasy with YA seems to indicate that only younger audiences are allowed to enjoy imaginative worldbuilding and fantastic creatures. Theyre stating that adults should steer away from fantasy, no matter how dark, gruesome, or erotic the books are otherwise. And more often than not, it’s fantasy written by women that gets this treatment.

Maybe that applies to my little paranormal mystery with its urban fantasy setting too. That isn’t to say it’s not suitable for younger audience; teenagers might enjoy it even. But adults need not to be ashamed of enjoying fantasy elements in their reading either. You’re not alone in finding them a pleasure. I definitely do.

If you’d like to check out either or both series, you can find more about them on my webpage, the series starting with Hexing the Ex and Tracy Hayes, Apprentice P.I. If you’re waiting for the next House of Magic book, it’ll come out on March 20th. The name and cover will be revealed soon.

 

Thursday, 30 December 2021

Summing up my year

It’s time for the end of year post—the rather dismal seventh post of the year. When the year began, I pledged to write more blog posts, yet here I am, with no more posts than the previous three years, a far cry of 2013 when I wrote forty-four posts.


My year has been good, despite the ongoing plague situation. I’ve stayed healthy, as has my husband, and we’ve managed to work from home for two years without getting on each other’s nerves. Covid hasn’t touched any of my family or friends, and there hasn’t been other upsetting events either. The only thing that has suffered is our fitness, as we’ve stayed indoors too much for our general well-being. I’d pledge to work out more next year, but I know I won’t keep that promise, so it’s best not to make it.

I’ve had a productive year—apart form this blog. I’ve published five books, which is a personal record. Two of those were written the previous year, but then again, I’ve also written one complete and two partial books that’ll come out next year.


The year began with Wolf Moon, book 7 in Two-Natured London series. Then there were two P.I. Tracy Hayes books, P.I. on the Scent and Unstoppable P.I., books 8 and 9 in my contemporary mystery series. And finally, I launched a brand-new series, House of Magic, paranormal mysteries set in alternative London. The first two books, Hexing the Ex and Saved by the Spell are now out.

All this publishing activity helped to make 2021 the best year of my career so far. For the first time, I was able to pay for myself for writing. It’s not even close to a living wage, more a token, but it’s a huge milestone that I hope won’t be a one-time miracle. Becoming a career author is still my long-term plan and dream, and being able to live on my writing is an important part of it.


I also—finally—published all remaining P.I. Tracy Hayes books and House of Magic books on paperback through Amazon and IngramSpark. I’ve avoided the latter for its fees, but I joined Independent Book Publishers Association, which offers promotional codes to IngramSpark for its members. I like the quality of IS books better, especially the paper that is more book-like than the printer paper Amazon uses, and now the paperbacks are available on other vendors than Amazon as well.

Through IBPA’s special member program, I was able to offer early copies of my books on NetGalley too. Both House of Magic books were available there for three months, and I was happy with the results. The books were well received by the reviewers and the early reviews helped to give the series a great launch. I’ll definitely use that option next year too.

I changed my newsletter provider to MailerLite in November. I joined BookFunnel at the same time too to be able to distribute copies of my books more easily and grow my subscriber list with the help of BookFunnel’s promotions. If you want to join my mailing list, you’ll get Starters, a bundle of four of my books as a thank you. It’s a low-level commitment. You’ll basically get a newsletter when I publish a new book.

While I’ve neglected this blog, my reading blog has flourished. I wrote seventy-one posts, most of them about NetGalley books I’ve received for free in exchange for reviews. I enjoy writing reviews and find it highly educational as an author too. You can read about my reading year on this post.

I’ve made ambitious plans for the new year. I want to publish eight books, which is sort of doable, especially since one of them has already been written. Magic for the Highland Wolf, Two-Natured London 7.5 will come out on January 16. There will be two House of Magic books and two P.I. Tracy Hayes books. I’ll also launch two new series, both spin-offs of the latter. Jonny Moreira and Tracy’s brother Trevor will both have their own series. More about those later next year.

I’d like to thank you, my readers, for staying with me and reading my books. Next year will be the ten-year anniversary of my self-publishing career and I hope you’ll be with me through it too. Happy and hopefully better 2022 for you all!


 

Friday, 5 November 2021

Changes to my newsletter and other news

I’ve changed my newsletter provider. Old one was good enough, but it didn’t allow the same flexibility as the current one. The new provider also links more easily with BookFunnel so that I can distribute books and other gifts to my readers when I need to.

I’ve also changed the thank you gift every subscriber receives. For a long time, it’s been a short story set in my Two-Natured London world. What I’ll do with the story remains to be seen. I’ll probably add it to The Wolf’s Call, or make an edition of short stories and add it to that.

From now on, subscribers will get my four-book bundle, Starters, when they confirm their subscription. Downloads are provided by BookFunnel and they’re safe. Starters consists of The Wolf’s Call, Tracy Hayes, Apprentice P.I., Which Way to Love?, and Personal.

If you’re an old subscriber, please subscribe again. I won’t be transferring the old subscriber list (the old provider doesn’t easily allow lists to be transferred), so you’ll stop receiving my newsletters. And that way you won’t miss out on the book offer.

If you want to subscribe and get the book, fill in your email address here. Thank you for subscribing!

In other news, the ninth P.I. Tracy Hayes book comes out on November 14th. In Tracy Hayes, Unstoppable P.I. Tracy avoids jury duty by agreeing to investigate whether the accused truly is guilty of the crime he’s on trial for. You can read the first two chapters and preorder the book on my webpage.

Tracy Hayes, Unstoppable P.I. by Susanna Shore
 

Justice is blind. Tracy is not.

If I had a bucket list, jury duty wouldn’t be on it. Luckily, I had a way out—but I might regret taking it.

Jury duty isn’t exactly at the top of Tracy’s bucket list—not that she has one. But then she’s offered an unexpected out: her brother Travis asks her to work for the defense instead. He wants her to prove that his client is innocent.

Easier said than done when everyone and their aunt knows the accused is guilty.

But the case that looked straightforward turns out to be anything but. Could it be that the man everyone is convinced killed his wife is innocent after all? Tracy and Jackson need all their ingenuity to uncover the truth.

And that’s not even the most difficult task on Tracy’s list. Her sister’s wedding is approaching, and their mother wants Tracy’s help planning it. To top it all, she’s promised to help Jonny Moreira escape mafia.

A lesser woman might find things overwhelming, but luckily Tracy is unstoppable.

Book comes out on November 14th.

Wednesday, 18 August 2021

Saved by the Spell has arrived!

A splendid, perfect and addictive book!

House of Magic, my new paranormal cosy mystery series has advanced to its second book. Saved by the Spell came out on Sunday, and it has already some nice reviews.

Phoebe Thorpe, the assistant to an antiques dealer in London, has had a steep learning curve about the world of magic and paranormal creatures around her. And it’s about to become steeper. A spell makes her repulsive to men, and the mages, her boss and landladies, are stymied. Only the Archmage can helponly he’s gone missing. You can read the first two chapters on my webpage.

Hexing the Ex, the first book in the series, is also the first book I’ve ever placed on NetGalley for early reviews. I did it through IBPA (Independent Book Publishers Association) for three months, and it was available for download for all.

It was an interesting experience. The book was downloaded about three hundred times, of which about seventy readers have reviewed the book so far; sixty or so have also published their review elsewhere. Reviews were much more mixed than usually, everything from one star reviews by readers disappointed with the book to excited five stars.

Early reviews do help with the visibility, and Hexing the Ex has done fairly well among my more popular P.I. Tracy Hayes series. Encouraged by this, I placed Saved by the Spell on NetGalley too. So far about thirty people have read it, mostly those who liked the first book too, so the reviews have generally been more favourable.

The book is available on NetGalley until October 20th, 2021. If you’re a member, you can download it there. And if you do, please leave a review everywhere. They do make a difference.

Tuesday, 27 April 2021

Announcing a new series!

I’ve started writing a new series. I’m already writing two, so adding one more seems like a foolish endeavour. But what can I say? It needed to be written.

The series is called House of Magic. It’s a combination of mystery and magical, with supernatural entities added to the mix. The protagonist is Phoebe Thorpe, a perfectly ordinary assistant to an antiques dealer. Only, it turns out the antiques dealer is anything but ordinary.

The series is set in London, but it’s not the Two-Natured London of my paranormal romance series. Supernatural is hidden from humans, and most people don’t even know magic exists. It’s not a romance series either. It’s more like my P.I. Tracy Hayes series, where mystery is at the forefront, with all sorts of shenanigans on the side. This one is lighter on the murders though.

The first book is called Hexing the Ex, and it comes out in June 6th. Here’s the description:

I didn’t expect to be evicted the first thing I returned from my holiday, but thanks to my roommate Nick, that’s what I was facing.

It’s not exactly easy to find a new place to live in London, so when Phoebe Thorpe spots a room-to-let sign at the window of a magic shop, she doesn’t hesitate. The room is perfect, even if chores are part of the rent. There is only one thing odd about her new landladies. They seem to believe magic exists.

Phoebe doesn’t believe in magic, but unfortunately magic believes in her. A mysterious statuette is sent to her boss, Archibald Kane, and she accidentally triggers a curse meant for him. Naturally, the first person she curses is her ex-boyfriend. But why would anyone want to curse her boss, a perfectly ordinary antiques dealer? Or is he?

Phoebe sets out to break the curse with the help of her new housemates. But it isn’t easy trying to solve a mystery she doesn’t even believe is real. Then again, that hellhound chasing her seemed pretty solid… Maybe there’s more to magic than hexing one’s ex.

Hexing the Ex by Susanna Shore

And here’s a sample of the first chapter:

I’m not one for premonitions. I don’t interpret every shiver in my spine as a portent, and I don’t believe my Aunt Clara’s bones when she declares that they predict doom. She just picks a random news item and announces that her bones knew it was going to happen.

But when my sandals sank into a soaked carpet as I stepped onto the small landing outside my flat, I knew everything was not well inside.

My second clue was the flood of water that flushed over my ankles when I opened the door.

Oh, bugger.

I abandoned the luggage I’d laboriously dragged up the steep stairs to the third floor, and crossed the small foyer in a couple of soggy leaps to the bathroom where I could hear the water running. I yanked the door open and got my feet washed a second time.

The sight inside turned my bones liquid, but I stiffened my spine and waded through the water to the running shower and the prone figure lying under it—on the drain.

“Nick!”

I kneeled by him and was instantly drenched by the shower. “Bloody hell!”

Sputtering, I reached blindly for the faucet and turned it off before focusing on my flatmate again. I lifted his head that was mercifully wedged in the corner so that it was above the water, and patted his cheeks. He was breathing, but completely out of it.

My temper flared now that I knew he was alive. “You bloody dope-head! What have I told you about showering when coming down from your high?”

He’d passed out in the shower before, but he’d never caused such a flood. Mostly because I’d been home and had been able to prevent disaster. But I’d been away on a holiday for two weeks, foolishly thinking that I could trust him not to wreck the place while I was gone.

I tried to take a hold under his arms, but his slack body was surprisingly heavy, and his wet skin was slippery. Getting up, I wrapped my hands around his wrists and pulled, which worked better. The drain finally open, the water began to surge down with a deep gurgle.

Sliding and gliding on the wet bathroom tiles, I dragged Nick to the hallway. The wall-to-wall carpet was soaked, but he was wet anyway, so I just dropped him there. His spread-eagled lanky form revealed details of his anatomy I really didn’t want to see but—sadly—had witnessed before.

Then I fetched my luggage from the landing, carried it to my room that was miraculously dry, and stripped to my underwear. I’d soon be sweaty cleaning the mess Nick had made, so there was no point wearing clothes. Then I headed to the bathroom and got to work.

Happy homecoming, Phoebe. Happy fricking homecoming.

***

You can continue reading on my webpage. And you can preorder the book here.

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

Prepare for the P.I. on the Scent!

I have a really ambitious publishing schedule for this year. I’ve barely recovered from the launch of Wolf Moon (thank you everyone who have read it so far) when it’s already time to prepare for the next one. Tracy Hayes, P.I. on the Scent comes out on April 4th.

Tracy Hayes, P.I. on the Scent by Susanna Shore

P.I. on the Scent is the eighth book in my P.I. Tracy Hayes series of light mysteries. (I prefer light to cosy, btw, because Tracy is a P.I. in training, not a complete amateur.) It takes place about a month after the previous book and it’s March—though not yet St. Patrick’s Day like today.

The blooming spring messes with Tracy’s head and she wants to start gardening. Jackson, who finally became her boyfriend in the previous book, eventually obliges. But since it’s the two of them, a visit to a gardening centre puts them in the middle of a mafia turf war—pun intended.

Meanwhile, Cheryl Walker, the agency secretary, gets defrauded by a dating scammer. When he ends up dead, she’s the prime suspect. Naturally Tracy and Jackson will do everything in their power to find the real murderer. They definitely don’t lack for suspects.

I’ve been planning to write about dating scammers for a while now. I’ve read so many stories over the years of people who have sent all their money to a stranger they’ve met online, only to discover they’ve been conned. But the most interesting scammers are those who meet their victims in person. How are they able to make their victims give them endless sums, maybe even take out loans to fund their scammer?

The point of view in my book is that of the victims. It’s not easy to learn you’ve been fooled out of your money, especially if you’ve been in love. No wonder our scammer ends up dead.

Here’s a sneak peek into the book:

“Do you think this is some sort of payback?”
    Jackson startled. “Payback for what? I don’t think Douglas even knows about the arrest. Besides, the way I see it, he owes us one.”
    “Yeah, ‘cause that’s how the mafia works.”
    He managed a ghost of a smile. “Let’s try the direct approach. Moreira promised us a favor. This would qualify.” I grimaced and his brows shot up. “What?”
    I should’ve told him at the time. Now it seemed like I was being deliberately secretive. But I had no choice if we wanted to help Cheryl.
    “Remember the garden center today?”
    “Difficult not to,” he said dryly. “Go on.”
    I inhaled deeply and plunged in. “While you were arranging things with Oleg, I went to check the yacht. And I witnessed Douglas and Moreira giving the owner of the rental service a hard time. Moreira was manhandling him.”
    His brows shot up. “And you didn’t tell me, why, exactly?”
     “You were so happy about the contract,” I said feebly, but it sounded like the excuse it was.
    Jackson regarded me calmly for a few heartbeats, as if considering his words carefully. He didn’t seem angry. “Moreira was a criminal when you met him and he hasn’t stopped being a criminal. You’ve always known that.”
    I sighed. He was right. Just because Moreira had been helpful didn’t make him a reformed man. “So I should call him?”
    He tilted his head sideways and a slow smile spread on his face. “You should visit him in person. It’ll be much more difficult for him to resist you if you’re in the same room.”
    “I should’ve worn a shirt with a deeper neckline, then,” I mused, eyeing the plain T-shirt with apprehension.
    Jackson grinned, giving an appreciative glance to my chest too. “He’d know something was up the moment he saw you if you did.”
    Couldn’t argue with that.
    “What if Moreira is here in Atlantic City?” I thought to ask.
    “If he was in Brooklyn earlier today, I doubt it.”
    I hoped so. I needed time to collect myself before facing him. He tended to unsettle me, and I needed my wits about me when asking him for a favor.
    The drive passed mostly in silence, but it wasn’t anxious silence anymore. It wasn’t entirely restful either though, with Jackson deep in his thoughts. He worried for Cheryl. By the time we reached Moreira’s hotel in Red Hook in Northwest Brooklyn, I’d worked myself into a state too.
    It was half past eight, and even though it was Sunday, the place was fairly busy, people lining to the restaurants on the long ground floor gallery, or climbing the wide stairs to the next floor, where the casino was. Not bad for a hotel that had only been open since January.
    I felt dowdy and out of place in my capris and T-shirt as I crossed the marble floor of the luxurious lobby to the reception desk, but that was nothing new. This place did it to me every time, even though many people there were dressed very casually too.
    To my bafflement, the woman behind the desk positively lit up when she saw us. “Are you here to see Mr. Moreira?” she asked before I’d had a chance to introduce us. I managed a baffled nod and she instantly picked up a phone and announced us—with our real names.
    “He’ll be with you presently.”
    “Thank you,” Jackson said calmly, and guided me to wait at the far end of the reception desk, even though the woman had looked like she wanted to keep talking with us.
    “What was that about?” I hissed, and he shrugged.
    “We did save the day here only three weeks ago.”
    That was the big diamond case.
    “But we were using false names.”
    “Newspapers used our real ones,” he reminded me. It had been great advertisement for our agency and we’d been insanely sought-after ever since.
    Moreira emerged from the elevator, looking like the picture of business casual in the tan pants and white shirt of his Panama suit, though he’d given up the jacket. I eyed him with apprehension, trying to read his face for signs that he had reverted to his old ways, but he spread his arms, a welcoming smile on his face.
    That did not ease my worry.
    “If it isn’t my two favorite people in the world. What can I do for you?”
    What the hell?
    “Are you dying? Am I dying?” I asked, baffled, making him laugh. I wasn’t entirely sure I’d heard the sound before, and while he had a good laugh, it did nothing to ease my worry.
    “We haven’t forgotten the diamond exhibition yet. You’re greatly admired by the entire staff here. I’m just playing for the audience.”
    That made more sense.
    “In that case, remember how you promised us a favor in return?”
    His harsh face turned serious. “I think we need food for this conversation.”

***

I hope you enjoyed the snippet. You can read the first two chapters on my webpage. And you can preorder the book on Amazon, iBooks, B&N and Kobo.