Return (Clandestina)

Lord Dorian, Steward of Piques, sat across from Duc Felicien, who had been his childhood friend so very long ago. They had been playing in a creek in the woods when the younger boy disappeared at Springfinding. Dorian himself could barely remember it, but the after-effects had been grand. The duc and duchesse had held out hope for several years, every great change in season bringing with it a wish that their only son would return, but the hope faded as time went by. The steward at the time, his father, took over more and more duties as the grieving couple found themselves unable to. With their deaths came an end to the noble line of Piques. Until now.

It seemed as if only a fraction of the time had passed for Félicien, though. He was still young, a boy, and Dorian’s own children could now be his peers.

“How long were you there?”

“Ten years. Or maybe a hundred,” Félicien replied with a shrug. That those two measurements were vastly different did not seem to bother him. “Time flows, but rarely at a steady pace. How long has it been in this plane?”

“Sixty years. Exactly. You disappeared at Springfinding and today is—”
“The first day of our Midspring, yes,” the young man interrupted. “The celebrations began last night. We escorted those out who would help prepare this plane for Spring, and I went along because I reached my majority.” He smiled and his grin broadened as he added, “I came to cause some mischief, but it seems I have brought much of it with me.”

“It is less you,” the steward said, “and more your return, that has us all..”

“In a tizzy?”

“..Yes.”

The boy was enjoying this far too much. But he was, after all, still a boy. He was too young to be an adult in Piques, but a fée’s majority was at the start of puberty. So he was fourteen or fifteen. That he considered himself fée was also disturbing.

“Well then,” Félicien said, spreading his arms and leaning back in his chair, balancing on the hind legs in a way that should not be possible. “I can always put things to right by just going back—”

“You cannot. You are the rightful Duc of Piques, you have duties.”

“I, duties?” His chair slammed down and Félicien laughed. A dangerous glint entered his eye. “You say this land is mine to do with as I desire?”

“In a way.” Dorian tried to chose his words carefully. “I have been handling the affairs since your parents deaths, but there has been no duc for many years. You have been returned to us, please, perhaps you may take some time to be here. Do this for me.”

“You? And who are you to me?”

“Dorian Louis, your steward. And a friend, from when we were young. It was on an adventure together that you were lost.”

“Dorian Louis,” Félicien repeated softly. A chill went down the steward’s back as he realized he had told someone of Faery his whole true name.

“Very well, then.” Félicien inclined his head. “On our friendship, I shall stay a time. Perhaps there is a reason I have returned after all.”

“Thank you.” Tension eased from his shoulders and Dorian leaned back in his own chair. This would be difficult. He was tempted to let the heir go back, make Ophion continue his duties as planned, but it would be wrong to deny the land its proper ruler. A steward was all well and good, but they were not the duc.

A soft knock had both looking over to the door. Dorian bade them enter and a young girl in rich clothes came in. His daughter, Ophélie.
Out of the corner of his eye Dorian saw Félicien stand and bow to her (more than he himself had gotten).

His daughter curtsied in kind, and then gave her attention to him. “Papa, forgive the interruption, but I was told to come give you aid? Brother has already left.”

“Ah, yes, well- my dear, this is His Grace, Félicien, the rightful Duc of Piques. If you would be so kind as to show him around his home.”

She turned now-curious eyes to Félicien and smiled. “Of course. Your Grace, if you would like to follow me.”

“Thank you, mademoiselle. And thank you, Dorian.”

“I am not the duc yet, am I?” Félicien asked as they left the room. “Surely there must be some sort of ceremony.”

“Well, yes, but as both of your parents are deceased, it is your title already. Though you do not seem of age, so perhaps the actual duties shall not fall to you for a while yet.”

“I am sixty-four,” the boy said proudly. “At least, I was born sixty-four years ago. But I feel not a day over fifty.” When she looked back to him, unsure of how to take his words, he laughed once more.

“And how old are you?” Félicien asked, walking beside her, focused more on her than the path they were walking.

“Fourteen years and a month,” she said. “The month is important.”

“Of course it is.”

“Now, I will show you around the domain and tell you what I know. Brother shall help you after, he knows more than I as he is Papa’s heir, but is not home right now.”

“Oui, mademoiselle, as you say!” Félicien stepped out in front of her, walking backwards while facing her. She tried to ignore him, looking over his shoulder, but it was difficult.

“Your name, my dear?” he asked, having studied her from head to foot. She was pretty, with chestnut hair that was pinned up, and almost-violet eyes.

“Ophélie, though you may continue to call me Mademoiselle.”

Félicien grinned. “Ah, but if I understand this, I am your duc. I may call you as I please.”

“And I am your guide for the day. Without me you shall be lost and confused and the cause of much trouble.”

“I like being trouble.”

She stopped at this and he continued for a few paces before hitting a stand that held a decorative vase.

“Like that?” she asked, as he whirled around to make sure it did not fall.

He turned back around a bit sheepishly. “Yes, just like that.”

“Well then, if you shall follow me?”

He returned to her side, taking her arm and gesturing with his free hand that she should lead the way.

“And your name?”

“Félicien Faunus.”

“Is that your true name?”

“Of course not.”


Pierre’s parents weren’t really characters whose stories I had in mind for a long time. But when I started to elaborate on backstory things began to come up. I am falling more and more in love with Faery and its land and people- something that I didn’t have as a part of Clandestina not that long ago. My favorite part is the messing with time- Félicien has aged only about 10 years or so, but a lot more time has passed for Piques. Time to forget what it was like to have a duc, time for the distrust of fée to simmer. And Félicien does not even care much at all for politics, and from the earlier Scene you’ll know he disappears in another thirteen years to leave Piques alone again with Ophélie’s death. Pierre is inheriting a lot of baggage. Fortunately he takes after his mother and finds people and politics interesting, even if sometimes he’s selfishly busy with dark magic.

 

Changes

I started doing the indie promos on my blog because my newsletter was pitiful. I thought I’d be able to get more eyes here. And for a few weeks my blog still had a larger reach, but now my newsletter far surpasses this blog. So I am going to take down the indie promos soon and no longer have them here. I will try and post more frequently though.

If you guys do want to see promos for new free or discounted indie stuff then by all means you can join the newsletter 🙂 Or, again, go ahead and join if you want insider info before everyone else.

I have also gotten a ‘real job’ for the first time in my life. I did some volunteer stuff, helped out the family business, etc, but never had a real ‘you get a check every week’ job. Now I do. Maybe even two, actually, and both are part-time so it becomes just the one full-time job. Or something.

I think this is actually going to help me with writing too. Because right now, while looking for a job, I’ve had all this extra time. It was easy to fall into bad habits- marathon some Netflix, go read a book, play a game- anything but writing. Not that I didn’t write at all, but I would fall into worldbuilding and map-making, and not actually that much ‘sit down on my ass and finish this chapter.’

Being quite busy the last few days with all these job shenanigans I’ve found I want to make the time to write. I’ve had ideas for Scenes and backstories and extras that are all half-finished right now, but actually started. Hopefully (I say that a lot, don’t I) this will work out well.

Also I need to figure out chapter names for Delphinium. Larkspur was short enough that it didn’t really have chapters, but the rest of the books will. I’m debating whether one-word chapter titles or just numbering them would be better.

So yeah, a lot going on right now, and I’m starting to embrace the chaos.

So much politics, so little time

I’m working on the structure of Triumphe’s political system (what did you think I meant real life politics?). There is a lot  going on in Delphinium, and a lot more planned for the future, so I want to have things set up in a way that makes sense.

So far I have the one kingdom, Triumphe, that does not cover the entire realm of Clandestina, but a good 3/4ths of it. The remaining unclaimed land is just that- unclaimed, with far more fée influence and magic than the mostly human kingdom. Said kingdom has 4 duchies, named after the French card suits (Piques, Trèfles, Carreaux, Cœurs). Each of those duchies has several of their own counties, from two to four. There’s also the Margrave’s territory, which is less a piece of land and more the border between their plane and Faery.

I have a great new mapping software that is helping me figure it all out (Other World Mapper). Once I get it all done I’ll show it off, here and on the wiki (which I am still working on).

Excerpt from Delphinium (Happy Valentine’s!)

“So what did you do this last year?” she asked as they began to walk around the clearing. They heard water and made towards the stream.

“Surgery work,” he replied. “We had corpses to practice on, to be able to know what went where, and why, and how.”

“How did you receive corpses?”

“Several people and families generously allowed us to use their loved one’s bodies after death.”

“I can not imagine that is popular. Did you share each.. Body?”
Pierre grimaced. He had not wished to inform Lizzy of this specifically. “Truthfully most were criminals whose deaths were not deemed important enough to give full funerals. At least this way they would be… of use.”

She took this in stride, nodding her head slowly though shuddering.

“A grim year, then.”

“Quite. Though it was not all gloom and horror.”

“Do tell?” While they had walked their hands had linked and she leaned against him as they found the river.

“We were students after all. Pranks were pulled, curfew ignored, alcohol drunk in excess. I was among the oldest so I mainly watched over the younger men.”

“And when you were younger?” Lizzy probed, reading into what Pierre had not said. He did not meet her eyes, staring up at the trees quite pointedly.

“Your brother and I had our fun at times.”

She laughed. They had gotten into enough trouble as children to guess the level of possible mischief Pierre and Piers could do when alone and bored.

“Anything illegal?”

I killed a man, he thought immediately. Several in fact, but one stood out to him in that moment. A prisoner taken straight from his hanging to his slab, so the students could see what was as close to a living body as possible. He had been not quite as dead as they had thought. After seeing the blood flowing and hearing the man let out a moan, even opening his eyes, many of the students turned away and one ran to alert a professor. Pierre had made it seem that he checked for a pulse, but he squeezed the very damaged windpipe. By the time someone with more authority was in the room the man was well and truly dead. It was deemed a delayed hanging. Pierre remained to finish the lesson even though he had been offered a pass at seeing a man die right before his eyes.

“No,” he told her.

“A pity. I hear from Piers that the best moments are those that might get you a night in jail for your troubles.”

“Oh, did he? What tales did he tell his dear little sister?”

“I believe there was a time when the boys in your dorm snuck in strong wine, or went out on the town. Perhaps those were actually in chronological order, it would explain much.”

“I never did such things.”

“Of course not. Though I now shall have to find myself another companion,” she said with a smile and glance to him. “I would like a partner with experience in such things so I have some guidance when I deem to try.”

Before he could answer she dashed ahead to where the stream was in view. He gave chase. At the edge of the bank she did not stop, pulling up her skirts and jumping to a rock that jetted out in the middle. She made it, arms waving to keep her balance and getting one shoe wet, but staying on the rock. With a laugh she turned and curtsied to him.

“And you think yourself safe there, Lizzy dear?” he called.

He took even less care of his attire, jumping straight into the water, mud, and stones. She gasped, looking around for another place to go, but the far side of the bank was, as named, too far.
He reached her then, grabbing her and swinging her in his arms as she shrieked.

“Pierre!”

“Hush or I shall drop you!”

“You would not!”

He pretended to, getting another shriek from her that had him laughing as he carried her back to shore.

“No, my dear, I would not,” he agreed, finally, placing her down in the grass. Not after she had been ill. Another day, perhaps.

They were the same height at the moment and he kissed her before getting out himself and looking down at his ruined clothes. His shoes were wet and the feeling was quite uncomfortable out of the water. He knelt down and began to untie the laces.

Lizzy bit her tongue to keep from asking naughtily if he would also take off his trousers, seeing as they were wet up to the knee.

When barefoot Pierre hopped back into the stream with the shoes in his hands.

“What are you doing?”

“Leaving my shoes,” he called over his shoulder, going back to the rock. He made sure they would not fall into the water before again returning. “They are quite nice shoes, but hardly my only pair. I am sure there are fée around, perhaps the gift would be appreciated. We cannot spare much food or drink.”

Her one shoe was hardly as wet as his had been but she sat and began to undo her laces as well. Without a word he bent down to help her.

“I shall buy you an even lovelier pair when we reach Piques,” he promised as he turned back to place her shoes next to his.

“Oh, you do not—”

“I insist.”


Not exactly a Scene as it’s from Delphinium and not a stand-alone, but I thought it fitting for Valentine’s. You’ll recognize Pierre’s thoughts from the Scene ‘Hanging.’

26 to 3000 subscribers in two months

I’m going to hit 3000 subscribers to my newsletter today. I’m at ~2900 and expecting a few hundred from a promo in an email soon So I thought I would share how I did it.

First of all join InstaFreebie: https://instafreebie.com?invite_code=acE1gC9YIa
It’s a site where you set up your book for download via email. People get a mobi, epub, or pdf sent to them in exchange for their email. This is great for writers and readers of all kinds.

The second thing you do it go to Pricing and click the Plus Plan. You get 30 days free from Instafreebie to try it out so it’s entirely worth it. With the Plus plan (it’s $20 a month after the first month) you can make it mandatory to join your mailing list in exchange for a book (as opposed to there being a little check to opt-in, and we all know no one ever clicks the little check when signing up for things). I was a little hesitant about this at first, but well, they can always unsubscribe later on if they just wanted the book (mention this in your newsletter! Some folk will mark as spam no matter what though).

The link you want to give out has the word ‘free’ in it- https://www.instafreebie.com/free/ NOT https://www.instafreebie.com/book/

Third: Use Facebook. Yes, I’m serious. There are a ton of facebook groups and pages for authors working together to exchange newsletters, promos, and to help each other out.

There’s InstaFreebie Promos: https://www.facebook.com/groups/instafreebiepromos/?ref=br_rs

FreebieFriday on Instafreebie: https://www.facebook.com/groups/578910405624973/?ref=br_rs

InstaFreebie Push: https://www.facebook.com/groups/674062869429630/?ref=br_rs

InstaFreebie Share Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/instafreebiebooksharegroup/?ref=br_rs

And there are also groups devoted to specific genres.

Then join as many promos as you are qualified to join. Some are free, for others you may need to pay in, many are divided by genre. These are mostly everyone-pitches-in promos, so all those that joined in all spread the word to their newsletter/mailing list/blog/social media.

You can also join Newsletter Swap: http://newsletterswap.com/ and set up your book there, asking others to send your book out to their people (if you’re still growing your list, it isn’t mandatory to actually swap). It lets you put in any store link you want, including Instafreebie.

You’ll collect the emails on InstaFreebie (unless you use Mailchimp, integration with MC is also part of the $20 plan). You can download them as a CSV. They’re broken up into Subscribers and Unverified (need to download them as separate CSV files), the latter being that IF couldn’t send them your book. I put both into my list and find that most of the ‘unverified emails’ do work.

(The Pro plan at $50 a month isn’t worth it, imo. You get to use more pen-names, and change the color of the ‘Claim’ button).

Doing this I went from 26 subscribers in December to almost 3000 today. I have about a1/3rd open rate, and I’ve grown a team of 50 ARC and beta readers 

(Oh, and if you want to join my mailing list, pop over to this page and grab a copy of Larkspur! https://vmjaskiernia.com/newsletter-and-free-books/ )

Happy list building!

2017 plans

Ok, Larkspur is officially back at 99¢ on all platforms. This is after having the best month ever for free downloads- I’m at 1465 downloads on Amazon alone (not counting the B&N/Kobo downloads, or the ~700 insta-freebie downloads). That’s an astounding number of people potentially reading my work. I’m actually a little intimidated, but super excited for (hopefully) some new reviews in the coming weeks.
I thought since Larkspur will now be free from Instafreebie in return for signing up to my newsletter, I’d better make it a buck everywhere else. I’m also planning on a few stand-alone stories that will be on the instafreebie mailing list page for free, but cost money on Amazon and everywhere else.
Now will that be worth it? Am I going to go from over 20 downloads a day to nothing because of the cost of a candy-bar? I don’t know. Likely it’ll drop significantly. Maybe I should have waited until this freebie rush ended, but maybe it’ll be better with all the eyes on it?

It’s been really fun though. I’m loving taking a forward approach with marketing and getting new eyes on my stuff.

As 2016 is wrapping up I’m working on big plans for 2017. Delphinium will be out, and those on my newsletter will get an Advanced Reader Copy (it’ll be the same edition I send to my beta readers, so there may be small issues and some changes between it and the final edition, but nothing super major), and I want those stand-alone books done too. I want to sketch out and get a good chunk of The Wolf Within done, not to mention start (and finish?) Aconitella, the third book in The Larkspur Series.
Yes, I know it’s a lot of work, far more than I’ve managed to do before, but I’m feeling good. A lot of my symptoms and issues with depression and OCD are getting under control. I changed my diet, I’m (trying to) remember my meds.. I know I’ll still have bad days, maybe a bad week here or there, but if I feel as good as I do today, I think I can make writing more of a proper full-time ‘sit down and work’ thing.
So yes- Happy New Year to all, I hope you meet your goals and plans. I’m being a  bit ambitious, but if I even get half of what I want done I’ll be pleased. And I hope you all will be too.

Mailing Lists, InstaFreebie, and marketing

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year all!

I’ve been having a wonderful Christmas season. And the best present I’ve gotten (beside the lovely notebook and galaxy-themed earrings) are my new subscribers!

I currently have 430 subscribers on my email list. 430! And we haven’t even gotten to the several give-aways I’ve signed up to do in January. I’m amazed and so so happy 🙂

It begins with InstaFreebie, a site where you can upload your book, and anyone with the link can download it to their email. There’s a fair bit of customization- how many downloads you allow, the file types, or whether or not they can join your newsletter. For one of the paying plans you can make it mandatory to sign up for your newsletter before you can download it.

I was a little hesitant about this, not wanting to force anyone on the newsletter if they just wanted to read Larkspur– but if it was presented as an option, it was just a little checkmark underneath the space to type in your email. And you and I both know that no one ever checks the little checkmark. Other authors also told me to make it mandatory- after all, there’s an unsubscribe button, so folk can always leave if they really don’t want to  stay.

So I went ahead and made it mandatory, then signed up for every insta-freebie give-away group thingy I could find. One or two now in late December, and like 5 in January-February.

Best decision ever. Last week I had 26 subscribers and never sent an email. Now I have a few hundred, might get to a few thousand, and plan to send stuff out on a monthly or so basis. Info, tidbits, other books in similar genres that look awesome. Should be super fun!

(Oh, and I’m still doing newsletter swaps! I had to retweak some of the wording on the google form, but that will be back soon as well).

I think I’m going to go and make instafreebie a more permanent part of my marketing and mailing list. I’m going to take down the sendinblue sign-up page up in the menu and in the book, and make the instafreebie link the main one to get to my newsletter. Also going to bump Larkspur back up  to 99cents on the ebook sites. And then I need to write a few more shorter works to offer as alternatives on insta-freebie if folk don’t want Larkspur and would rather something else.

Plus Delphinium, and the wiki, and The Wolf Within, and learning how to use my drawing tablet to make ever better covers

EDIT: I lied. Just bumped up Larkspur on B&N and Kobo. I’ll email Amazon about it when they change their prices. From now on my books will only be free through Instafreebie and my newsletter (which now has a nifty page up in the menu). You can, of course, always just sign up, get the book, and unsubscribe  😉