My Robot Army

Some of you who follow me on social media know that I’ve been starting to amass my robot army. I have a Roomba. I have an Amazon Echo. I have this vision of myself as Judy Jetson, walking around in a dress while my robots take care of all the housework. So this year for Christmas (yes, I buy myself Christmas gifts) I got a Hue hub and a bunch of smart light bulbs. They connect to my WiFi, and my Alexa, so all I need to do is walk around the house and tell Alexa to turn various lights on and off.

Yeah. That’s the idea anyway.

The first box came and after installing all the bulbs, I plugged in the hub and discovered it wouldn’t power on. That meant I had to go around and change all the bulbs again, so I could box it all up and send it back as defective. The second set worked, and I spent hours connecting it all through the Hue App, creating lighting groups and naming individual lights. Then I activated the Hue skill in the smarthome part of my Alexa. Voila! Judy Jetson!

So here I am two months later having a bit of buyer’s remorse. Here are some of the issues with my not-so-smart home:

  1. Sometimes the hub can’t find certain lights, and not matter how much I shout at Alexa, she calmly informs me the hub isn’t connected to that light. After a few tries, I have to get up off my butt and turn it off myself.
  2. The names are EXACT. And my memory isn’t what it used to be. So when I tell Alexa to turn on the Boys’ Bedroom Light, she insists there’s nothing by that name. After a few tries I realize that I need to say “Boys’ Room Light”.
  3. Sometimes Alexa can’t hear me clearly from across the room, and it’s easier to reach out and flick the switch then move closer to the Alexa.
  4. Sometimes Alexa pretends to be deaf and just ignores me.
  5. Sometimes Alexa informs me she can’t connect to the WiFi for some unknown reason.

If there’s a brief power outage, the lights default to “on” when the power returns. Imagine being sound asleep in the middle of the night and suddenly every single light in the house comes on. Worse, because there was a power outage, Alexa isn’t on, and even when she does come online, she informs me very loudly that she can’t connect to WiFi because it takes my internet router a while to cycle on. Meanwhile every stinking light is blindingly bright in the house and I have to get up and walk around to turn them all off.

Yes, I know there is some kind of fix for this, but I’d need to research it, and download a bunch of stuff, and spend hours setting it all up. I’m thinking it would be easier just to buy a UPS for my internet and the Hue hub, and another one for the Alexa, because throwing money at a problem always works, right?

Judy Jetson, I’m not. But hey, the Roomba works great!

Wolves, Audio, and The Imp

Just a quick post to update everyone about distribution! First, the Northern Wolves Series is now available at all retailers. For links on Juneau to Kenai, Rogue, Winter Fae, and Bad Seed, click HERE. I also plan to put together a box set with all Northern Wolves books in it and make it available by the end of the month in both e-book and paperback! Right now, the Northern Wolves books are in e-format only, but I plant to have a paperback version for the box set.

Cornucopia (Half-breed Series, book 3) is now available in Audio! We’ll begin production of books 4 and 5 in this series in the spring.

No Man’s Land (a novel in the Imp World) is currently removed from sale for a short stint in a box set that will be available exclusively to Amazon and in Kindle Unlimited. Stay tuned for more information on that project.

Queen of the Damned (Imp Series 9) is coming! The preorder is up at all retailers and the paperback should release at the same time. Audio for that book will start in February, so expect it to be in Audible and other audio retailers March-ish. For links on the e-book, click HERE and scroll to the bottom.

Stay warm, and read on!

The Power of The Cover

One of the first things new authors learn is how important their book cover is in attracting readers. It’s got to look professional. It’s got to stand out, but still communicate the genre norms in a recognizable fashion. It’s got to look good in thumbnail.

What people don’t always tell new authors is that there’s a learning curve in discovering what works and what doesn’t. Be open to feedback from others about your covers, and don’t be afraid to rebrand. I did. Twice.

Here’s the first cover for A Demon Bound. It was early 2012, and the world wasn’t filled with all these amazing freelance cover artists like it is now. My Photoshop skills were nil, and my goals were modest. I wanted to publish my book so friends and family could read it. Deep in my heart I hoped it would take off, but I was a realist. I didn’t have high hopes.

What I did have was a boyfriend who did photography professionally, knew Photoshop, and offered to do my book cover. I was a babe in the woods, but I still had enough sense to scroll through the Amazon bestseller lists in my genre and show him what I thought would work.

He hated those covers. Here’s where I made mistake #1 I didn’t trust myself. And mistake #2 I took cover advice from someone who didn’t read, let alone enjoy, the genre I was writing.

I let The Boyfriend take the reins and watched while he did a photoshoot, then created a book cover that had a whole lot more to do with noir/thriller than urban fantasy. There was no fantasy element. It was monochromatic. The book sold 5-10 copies a month after my family and friends bought theirs. Books 2 and 3 had similar covers. Reviews loved the book, but in 2012, when indie authors were flying high, I couldn’t get off the ground.

First Rebrand: These are so much better with fantasy elements! Sales picked up immediately. But there’s still a problem. Do you see it? Can you tell?

This artist creates gorgeous artwork and covers, and her strength is in making them look ethereal and magical. Guess what this series isn’t? Ethereal and magical. It’s about a foul-mouthed imp anti-hero with tons of violence and laugh-out-loud quirky humor. The model also is very young, and in spite of the artist’s efforts, she’s far too young to represent my main character. Now, in all fairness, this artist has done some great edgy work, but that isn’t her default, and I wasn’t able to communicate exactly what I wanted, because at the time I didn’t know myself what would work best.

Once again, mistake #1, I didn’t trust myself. I knew when I got the proofs that this model looked too young. I knew that some of the series covers seemed far too young-adult, and not edgy enough, but I figured this wasn’t my area of expertise and just went with what the artist put together. They were gorgeous. The books were selling well, but I knew they could do better. And the nail in the coffin was when I entered a website contest, and the feedback came in. The judges said that I should remove my erotica titles from the website, because they were out of place with all my YOUNG ADULT books.

My covers made it look like I was writing sweet, magical, young adult fantasy. Which meant the readers who wanted edgy f-bomb heroines weren’t picking up my book at first glance. Which meant that I probably had a lot of confused young adult readers buying my book.

Second Rebrand: NOW we’re smoking! Clearly adult, edgy model. These are urban fantasy covers. And the uptick in sales shows that I’m finally hitting the mark. So don’t be afraid to rebrand with new covers. And if you ever ask for a cover critique, put on your big girl panties, and try not to let it sting if people tell you they’re horrible. Don’t have the money to spend $400 or $600 on covers? Save. Get the best cover you can for now, and save. Trust me, the right cover will earn that back lickity-split.