Where’s the Love for Series?

andy-warhol-marilyn

Marilyn by Andy Warhol.

I love me a good series. Like, really love it. Love, love, love, love, loooooove it! I want to take that series out and marry it, I love them that much.

It should come as no surprise, then, to find out that my first novel was the first in a trilogy. To me, a meaty story is something to seek out, something to enjoy over multiple books. Yes, it’s awful to have to wait for the next one to come be published, but not much compares with the excitement of the latest installment in your favourite story finally seeing the light of day.

So why does this seem to be such a rarity in lesfic? Sure, series exist, but it seems many readers avoid them like the plague. This was something that really surprised me when my first book was published and I became privy to what reader tastes are like in a way I hadn’t been before. It seems that not everyone shares my enthusiastic over-exuberance for the series. Many readers a neat little story that wraps up in one book.

On the one hand, I guess I kind of get it. As lesbians, we’re accustomed to seeing those like us killed off or have all manner of horrible things happen in popular culture. Lesbians have been getting a cultural raw deal for a while now, so when we have stories by us and for us, we want our happily ever afters and we don’t want to wait for them. But not every story needs romance. Beyond that, romance isn’t that cut and dried in real life. I know we’re looking for an escape from real life, but sometimes complicated can be interesting. Right?

My trilogy (On Deception’s Edge, books 1 and 2 are already out, book 3: Vortex of Crimson is out this October) is a series. It has what some people might call cliffhangers, but what I prefer to call too much story for one book. There is one romance that works its way through all three novels. My main protagonists deal with all sorts of challenges to their love, but being able to watch them grow and mature into their love was a privilege to author.

And there are other fantastic lesfic series out there too, mine is certainly not the be-all and end-all! Heather Rose Jones’ Alpennia series is fantastic, and I’m awaiting the release of Mother of Souls (book 3) with *so* much anticipation and glee. I was recently talked into starting Fletcher DeLancey’s The Caphenon. I love it so much that I’m very stoked there are two more in that series to go! Jean Stewart’s Isis series is still one of my favs, though I’m incredibly bummed that there don’t seem to be more coming out.

So how about it… If you’re not into series, maybe you can help me understand why. And if you are, what are some of your favourites? I’ve listed all SF/F because that’s what I like to read most. Which ones have I missed there, or what series do you really love in other genres?

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How to Stalk Yourself Online

google-new-logoI wrote a post a couple months ago about how I occasionally google myself. Okay, so maybe it’s actually more than occasionally, but that’s not the point. After writing that post, I heard from a couple new authors who talked about how they hadn’t considered doing such a thing, so now I’m here to bare my soul before you all and describe all the ways I stalk myself online.

Despite the fact that it feels somewhat distasteful to look myself up, I was able to get my first big review by looking myself and my work up. I was able to find where a book blogger had commented that the synopsis of my book sounded good and they wanted to read it. I reached out to them and offered them a review copy. This was with Depths of Blue, my first novel, and this was right after the book dropped. I ended up with a decent number of eyes on it as a result, so it’s a good thing to do, no matter how weird it feels.

I mostly use Google when tracking (very little) chatter that’s going on around my work. I do have a Google Alert set up, but I find that it hasn’t been particularly successful. I almost never get notifications from it, even though I find mentions in other ways.

There is a service called Mention, that I use, and it’s not too bad. The free version only allows you to track one set of keywords, so I have that set to my name. During the trial period, I could track up to five sets, which was nice. I had it set to my name and the various titles of my books, but then the trial period ended, and I couldn’t afford anything but the free version. Mention is nice because it also tracks some social networks, such as Twitter, which Google Alerts certainly doesn’t seem to.

Even with those tools, I’ve still gotten my best results through simple Googling. I’m pretty fortunate in that my name is rather unique. I do get my best results when I search my name as a phrase, so enclosed in double quotes a la “Lise MacTague.” If I don’t use quotes, I get back too much crap. Another thing I do is to occasionally search using close misspellings of my name, i.e. “Lisa MacTague.” I’ve run across a few things that way, both online and on Twitter. Finally, I also will occasionally search the titles of my books as a phrase, and I throw my last name on the search for good measure. It looks something like this: “Depths of Blue” MacTague. There’s so much text floating around on the internet, that it’s important to make sure you’re throwing the appropriate keywords together for the best results.

It doesn’t hurt to try a couple of search engines if you have the time to kill. Searching social media (FaceBook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc…) is also worth taking a look at.

It’s never too early to start stalking yourself online. However, after you’ve been out there for a while, you’ll find that your results lists start junking up pretty badly. It takes more effort to weed through the search results to find things you’re actually interested in, instead of the depressing numbers of sites claiming to offer your work as a free download. I got a little obsessed with it when Depths  first came out and forced myself to cut back, which made me a lot happier. Now, I do a cursory googling every other day or so, and take a look on one social media site a week.

So that’s it. I’d love to hear of other tools and techniques the rest of you are using.

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My plan for 2016

Wow, so the past couple of posts on here have been major downers! I’m not usually such a wet blanket, but it has been a difficult couple of months. Let’s talk about something a little more hopeful today, specifically what I have planned for the year! Yes, we’re already over three months into 2016 (where does the time go?), and the basic outline for the year has already changed.

For the first time, I have a couple of things going that are under contract. It’s been a different experience than writing on my own timeline, that’s for sure. I’m not sure how I feel about it. Anyway, the first half of my year is being taken up with polishing Five Moons Rising for delivery to Bella Books. I’m also on the hook for a romantic short story with them.

You’ve probably heard me bemoaning my lack of comfort with writing short work, and this is the year where I’m determined to kick some of that. In addition to the romantic story I’m working on for Bella’s anthology, I’ve also been working on one which will be freely available on my website. It’s called Touched and is a little hard to explain. I’ll go into it more in a future. I’d like to have a writing sample available for potential readers, something a little less of a commitment than a trilogy.

So that’s the first half of my year buttoned up. Once I’ve bundled my brand new work and short story off to Bella, I’ll be returning to Touched to get it all polished and available for reading.

So what’s going on with the second half of my year? That I’m not quite certain about. The only thing I know for certain is that I’ll be working with my editor on Vortex of Crimson, which is out in October (blurb available now). Aside from that is where my plan gets wishy-washy. I’d like to work on another short story, and I also want to start another full-length novel.

Actually, start is a little bit of a misnomer. In the hopper are two partially-written novels, and a novella which I could easily expand to novel length. The big question is which one do I go for, or do I start something new? The part of me who really likes new projects is all for going for a new one. The part of me that likes accomplishing things tells me I should work on one of those I’ve already gotten underway, or for which I’ve developed an outline. (I have even more novels outlined than I have started, FYI.)

Eagerly awaiting my attention are a high fantasy novel that started out as a retelling of Snow White but has strayed pretty far afield, an urban fantasy about a half-demon archivist, and a prequel to the On Deception’s Edge trilogy, though that one is less prequel and more story set in the same universe about 300 years before Jak ever took a bead on Torrin. I have a list longer than my arm of projects I’d like to start. Suffice it to say I won’t run out of story ideas any time soon.

And all this is on top of a full-time job, family life, and ice hockey. I’m confident I can get to all of it, all I have to do now is decide which all of it I want to do.

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I Google Myself and it Makes Me Sad, Sometimes

I have a secret. I Google myself on a regular basis. Okay, so maybe I gave that away in the title, but it still feels slightly shameful, like I’m going out of my way to look for accolades. I’m not… well not really.

I started Googling myself right after Depths of Blue came out. At that time, I was interested to see if anyone even noticed it. Depths is my debut novel, and I’m still so new to this whole writing thing that I squeak when I turn around. I figure I can be forgiven a little bit for my youthful enthusiasm. It was neat to see the book show up in one place after another. My first Amazon review was a thrilling time. Googling also turned out to be a pretty good tool. I was able to get a copy into the hands of someone who’d expressed passing interest, which turned into my first review on a blog. So it was all good.

And no, this wasn’t where I became sad. I suppose everyone dreams that they’ll blow up overnight, but that hasn’t shown much sign of happening. I’m not exactly a household name, not even in the lesbian community. However, women are finding my novels and enjoying them, and there’s a lot of gratification to that. There’d be a lot of gratification with a nice juicy royalties cheque also, I’m not ashamed to admit as much. I’m not there yet, but one day, I may approach respectable. For now, I have a full time job that pays the bills, so I don’t have to worry too much about such things.

So why does Googling sometimes make me sad, you ask? The first time I noticed Depths available as a free download from someone other than my publisher or their distributors, I was rather taken aback. I quickly saw that those sites didn’t actually have my book available and I was able to breathe.

And then it hit the Torrent sites.

The first Torrent was even somewhat gratifying. I  actually thought to myself “Hey, that’s cool, someone cares enough to pirate this!”

And then it showed up on another Torrent site. And another. And another. It took a few months for that to happen, and I’m sure Heights of Green is due to get the Torrent treatment any time soon. That isn’t gratifying. It’s frustrating as hell.

I know the arguments in favor of pirating people’s intellectual property. All of those poor authors are getting exposure they wouldn’t get otherwise. Exposure is great, but it doesn’t put bread on the table.

“Wait,” you say, “what about the part where you said you have a full time job so you don’t need the money?”

Maybe I don’t need the money from my books to survive, not right now. One day, I’d like to think I could retire from librarianship and write full time. I could write two major projects a year and have the time to engage with my readers, without having to sacrifice time with my family. Pirated copies make that much less likely.

And maybe people are reading the books who wouldn’t have otherwise, but that wasn’t my choice. That’s what it all boils down to for me. It’s all about my choice for my work. This year I plan to release a short story on my website as a free download. Those readers who have discovered my work already will get a little bonus story, and those who don’t know much about me (which is a lot of people!) will get the chance to sample my writing without plunking down $9.99. So I’m not opposed to making my work available for free, but I want it to be on my terms, as is my right.

Torrent sites not only rob me of sales, but they rob me of the choice of what to do with my own work. Frankly, I object to the latter even more than the former. Depths of Blue represents months of my life. I’m proud of my efforts and I want people to be able to share that. I don’t think it’s too much to ask to gain some recompense for the time and the effort I put into it. I think it’s even less to ask that I be the one to make the choice of how my work is accessed.

Googling myself has become a double-edged sword. I run across new readers and opportunities, but these days I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop for Heights. And on that day, I’ll be sad again.

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Emotions

I habbyad to put one of my cats to sleep yesterday. It tore me up. It’s still tearing me up. Abby was a wonderful cat, a little squirrelly, but what cat isn’t. She was cheerful and loving. All you had to do was look at her and she started purring.

One of the perks I’ve told myself about writing is that it’s an opportunity to take those pesky emotions and really drill down into them. Feel them from the inside out, then turn them loose on the page. It’s funny how you can tell yourself these sorts of lies and still be torn inside out when bad things happen. There’s no arms-length, no clinical detachment. Being an author isn’t giving me any kind of armor against what I’m going through right now. If anything, I now have too many words to describe what I’m feeling.

The only thing I’m learning about grief from all of this is that it’s like a painting overlaid another on a canvas. Each brushstroke of loss is affected by the ones below it. Mourning Abby is making me go through losing my father all over again. It’s different this time, more distant, but he’s right there with Abby as I wonder how I’ll get by without them.

Abby was the younger of my two cats. She was supposed to be around for a while yet, while the old lady – Laces – slowly declines. Laces is closer to 20 than to 19. She’s supposed to be sick and frail., and once she was gone Abby and I would muddle along without her somehow. But Abby pulled a fast one. So I’m already seeing the underpainting for the next piece. When Laces goes, I’m going to be a wreck. I have people who love me and it definitely helps, but the painting still needs to be finished, no matter how painful it is.

Maybe I’ll be able to look back when I have some more distance. I’ll look back and say that grief is like a smothering blanket, or a cocoon. It’s like a cold forcefield. An empty room with no doors. Maybe it’s all those things, and I will have something I can spin into my stories.

Or maybe I’ll look back and realize there’s a chunk of time missing from my life, like the 6 months I lost after my father died. I guess only time will tell.

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Review of Depths of Blue

The new year is already cranking. I can’t believe we’re already halfway through January! At this rate, we’ll be at the end of 2016 before I know it.

I have exciting things planned for this year, if I don’t blink and miss it, that is. I’ll tell you all about that in an upcoming post, I promise. My one and only New Year’s resolution for 2016 is to post here a *minimum* of once a month, but I’m shooting to post twice-monthly. No, this post doesn’t count! I have some things I need to mull over in a public forum, because what better place is there for such things?

To tide you over, since I know you’re absolutely frothing at the mouth to know what’s going on in my writing life, I wanted to let you know I’ve received a fabulous review from The Lesbian Review (.com). I’ve never had anything I’ve done called brilliant before, and yet, Depths of Blue was called just that!

Don’t believe me? Well, here’s the quote: “This novel is absolutely brilliant. I am ecstatic to find out that she has already written book two in the series and that she is busy with another novel.” More nice things that were said include “This is absolutely a must-read novel. It has everything you could want in a novel including: a decent length, fantastic writing, a good pace, an unexpected turn or two, great characters and a romance.” and “Lise MacTague has a really refreshing take on this genre. Her world is well created and different enough to make it interesting.”

You heard it here first, and you’ll hear more, from me anyway.

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The Happs

I’ve got a lot going on right now, so it’s hard to know where to begin. Okay, most exciting news first.

Heights of Green is out! That’s right, Jak and Torrin’s adventure continues. If you’ve been champing at the bit to find out what happens with our two intrepid heroes, your wait is over. Check out this excerpt!

Plus, I’m giving two copies away over on Goodreads.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Heights of Green by Lise MacTague

Heights of Green

by Lise MacTague

Giveaway ends November 27, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

You only have a few days left to enter, so if you’re on Goodreads, check it out now!!!

I’m very excited, but it’s taken me about a week to tell you guys about the release. It was actually available on Bella Books’ website since the 16th. I’ve been so focused on finishing the first draft of Five Moons Rising, that I’ve had time for little else on the writing front. I need to figure out my timing on things a bit better. The self-promotional aspects of this gig are still new and uncomfortable to me.

But!!! I did finish the first draft of Five Moons this past Sunday. I’m letting it percolate a little before starting my first round of re-writes. I have lots of things I need to add in, and possibly some trimming to do. There are definitely sections that need to be re-worded. Once I’ve done that, the book will head off to my Beta readers; I’m not going to inflict the first draft on anybody, that would be cruel.

Speaking of Beta readers, I’ve lost a couple. If you or anyone you know wants to beta a rip-roaring (literally) lesbian werewolf tale, contact me.

There are other things happening. I’m on the hook for a couple of guest blog posts, and I’d like to try my hand at another short story or two. I want something to post on my website to give people new to my work a little taste of it. I’ve had some things on my mind, too. Now that my time is a little freed up for the next few weeks, I want to put up a couple more blog posts here.

And hockey season has started, so my weekends are starting to fill with games and practices. And the holidays… Etc, etc…

So that’s all for me. What’s new with you all?

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Five Moons Rising

By Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472–1553)

By Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472–1553)

Now that I’m writing my way through the final climax and denouement of my current work, I feel like it’s time to share what I’ve been working on. It’s called Five Moons Rising, and it’s my first attempt at paranormal sci-fi.

It’s been kicking around almost two years now. I actually started writing it for NaNoWriMo the year before last. I have to confess that 2013’s NaNo was an unmitigated disaster for me. Not because of the writing’s quality, but because November 2013 is when my relationship of fourteen years finally unraveled completely. So…it was a little difficult to concentrate of Five Moons. Also, I could tell things from my personal life were working their way into the draft, and not in a way that improved the story. So after about 30,000 words, I set it aside.

Life happened, like it does. My first novel finally started going through the editing process. (That was a fun experience, and I’ll have to talk about it some other time.) I started a new novel, because I can’t not have a new project going. I wrote a short story which is awaiting its third rejection. (I’ll be posting it on here if it gets passed over again, so keep your fingers crossed.) But all that time, Five Moons kept churning in my head. Finally, a few months ago, I got to the point where I had to decide whether to get back to work on it, or put aside the new novel I’d been noodling on, to the tune of 50,000 words.

So what is it, you ask? I know, I’ve been blithering on about the birth story of my story, but I haven’t told you much of anything beyond the title and that it’s paranormal in nature.

Like many paranormal stories, it takes place in a present day parallel universe where werewolves, vampires, and other things that go bump in the night are real. Unlike a number of other paranormal novels, humans are mostly unaware of the existence of these creatures. They live alongside us, but under our radar. They are the things that make the hairs on the backs of our necks stand up. Ruri Hakonsson is one of those creatures. The local werewolf pack’s Beta, she ends up suddenly and decisively on her own when a lone wolf murders her Alpha outside the traditional dominance struggle. Cast out of her former pack and alone, she struggles to survive without the family structure she’s depended on for decades.

For her part, Mary Alice “Malice” Nolan is a government-trained and modified super-soldier, created for the sole purpose of keeping the monsters in check. Her function is judge, jury, and executioner over Chicago’s paranormal community. She is sent to check on the new situation with the werewolf pack, and kills a pack member. The new Alpha takes exception and has Malice’s sister, Cassidy, attacked and put on the path to turning.

Desperate to find someone who can shepherd Cassidy through the change, Malice does what any sister with genetically-enhanced strength and senses would, and kidnaps a werewolf. Ruri, having finally started to get her life back on track is less than amused when she is forcefully dragged and held in the situation. Her life rests on Cassidy’s continued survival, but the circumstances of the attack make that very uncertain.

Complications arise when Malice’s handler calls in another super-soldier to help her get a handle on the rogue pack. Malice finds herself in a situation where she has to choose between her duty to her country, her family, and a shot at love.

 

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What five months has taught me

juggler

By Tzetzes (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Everything has been moving at breakneck pace since Depths of Blue came out in April. It’s my debut novel, and I’ve learned a lot in the five months since it came out. I’ve learned that being a published author is a lot of work. I don’t mean that in a bad way, but I’ve never been more aware of the amount of work that goes on around the work. The act of writing, polishing, more polishing, and looking for a publisher seemed like enough on its own, and yet that turned out to be only the beginning of the process, and its least complicated part.

I was told that every author (and I’m sure individual results may vary to some degree) has the last work, the current work, and the next work under way at any given time. What does that mean for me? It means I’ve had to figure out how to get where the readers are. I’m hooked into social media (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr). I’ve started a blog. I’ve claimed my author name from Amazon.com. I’m on Goodreads. That’s a lot of screen time! I still have a full time job to attend to as well.

The engagement has allowed me to do a couple of things. For one, it’s allowed me to obsessively track what Depths is doing. Is anyone reading it? The answer to that one seems to be yes, which has been an immense relief for me. There’s nothing more terrifying than letting a piece of yourself go off into the world, and it’s been gratifying to find that people have read and connected to it. I hope that more people do, and that they continue to follow Jak and Torrin’s journey through Heights of Green and A Vortex of Crimson.

The other half of engagement has been putting myself out there for readers. This is difficult for me. No one ever believes me when I tell them that I’m actually very shy, but it’s true. The response from those who have read Depths has been fantastic and encouraging in the extreme. Bit by bit, I’m putting myself out there a little more. It’s a process, but it’s one I’m less trepidatious of undertaking. I’m even planning to attend my first con in July. That is a huge step for me as one-on-one interactions make me break out in a cold sweat. I’d happily present to a room of 100 people, but ask me to make small talk to one person, and I’m in sweaty palms territory. I’m hoping the GCLS convention in Washington, DC will be as much fun as it looked in all the pictures, and I hope it will be one more step to getting over my fears.

So that’s the last book. The current book has been getting Heights of Green in shape for its November release. As they were last time, the folks at Bella Books have been fantastic. I have another bang-up cover thanks again to Sandy Knowles. The inimitable Medora MacDougall has shepherded me through another editing process, and once again the finished piece is so much better for her attentions. The Bella staff have been great about keeping me on schedule, and thanks to their hard work Heights looks to be out on time. The proofs are back in their hot little hands, and they look great.

Because of the way I wrote the trilogy, I include A Vortex of Crimson in my “current book” bucket. It’s been submitted and accepted by Bella. After going through the editing process on Heights, I now know there are some passages which need to be rewritten to match changes that happened as a result of the editing process in Heights. I’m very excited to make those changes, I think they’ll make the final book of the series that much more compelling. Once Medora finished her editing magic on that one, I’ll be even prouder to offer it up to all of you.

And finally, the next book. And the one after that. And maybe a few after that. Five Moons Rising is my next book, and one that Bella is interested in! It represents a departure from the space opera setting of On Deception’s Edge. I’m getting down and dirty with supernatural creatures and working out some of my ideas around the genre. It promises to be much grittier and darker than any novel with sparkly vampires could ever hope to be. There will still be badass heroines battling to be with each other, though Malice and Riss are squared off as much against each other as they are their enemies. The writing process for Five Moons has been much different than it was for Deception’s Edge. It’s been much more of a discovery to get through the story, where Deception’s Edge was fixed pretty firmly in my mind before I ever started writing it. It was the product of a few years’ worth of insomnia, after all.

I’ve been noodling on three or four more ideas. I have my next three books lined up, at least potentially. Right now, the big question is in which order do I tackle them, and what other ideas will I come up with in the meantime. The well won’t be running dry anytime soon, and my biggest challenge is not getting distracted from the current work by the shiny new plot.

All in all, five month has taught me that I’m a better juggler than I thought I’d have to be. As with any other career, it isn’t only the act of doing that takes the time, it’s all the moving pieces that go on around in support of the doing. Every task includes prep, doing, cleanup, and maintenance. It’s so easy to forget about three out of four of those steps when in the midst of doing.

I’ve also learned that being out there isn’t as scary as I thought it would be. I’ve found a community, another one. The other writers I’ve found have been open, warm, supportive, and endlessly accepting of my questions. Hopefully, my day will come and I’ll be able to pass what I’ve learned on to the next group.

Finally, there’s no substitute for overcoming fear and moving forward. I learn by doing, and I’ve learned so much from this last part of the process. I know there’s so much more to come, and just maybe, that I’m up to the task.

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Depths of Blue giveaways!

Heights of Green, the sequel to Depths of Blue will be out in two months! To prepare, I will be giving away four copies of Depths of Blue. There are four ways to enter, which potentially equals four chances to win. Giveaways are happening via Amazon.com, Goodreads, Facebook, and Twitter.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Depths of Blue by Lise MacTague

Depths of Blue

by Lise MacTague

Giveaway ends September 23, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

The Amazon.com giveaway is now live as well. Click on through to enter.

Like, comment, or share on the entry post on Facebook to be entered to win. And yes, each one of those counts as an entry, so like, comment, and for three entries to win! Check out my Facebook page for the giveaway status.

Finally, retweet or favorite the giveaway tweet on Twitter to win there as well. Bip on over to @LiseMactague, or go right to the tweet.

Phew, that’s a lot of giveaways, so you have plenty of chances of winning. Winners will be announced in one week, on September 22nd.

Keep it tuned to any of my social media platforms for chances to win signed copies of Heights of Green when it comes out in November.

 

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