Networking & Genuine Fans

Hola kiddies! Months and months ago I was on Author’s Row at MileHiCon; my best con so far for networking, sales, and fun. I’m calling out networking in this post because recently I’ve been chatting with one of the authors (James Hunter) who was near by at MHC and we’ve struck up conversation about what he’s working on, what prospects look like in other genres, etc. These things are vitally important for authors to share with each other, and here’s why:
When a market is about to explode, readers are hungry for the genre and consume everything in it too quickly. If demands aren’t met, they start looking for the next genre to catch their interest. However, if there is a higher volume of available content, they’ll stay in the genre. Proof of that, you can see on Google Trends.

Paranormal Fantasy popularity:
You can see there was a big spike for it in October 2009, and that date we saw a few paranormal fantasy/romance type books come out. However, the author community didn’t respond with enough vigor, quickly, and the readership got bored. (I’d also like to call out that Kindle Direct (launched in 2007, not popular until late 2009) and other self-pub/indie-pub options were not as viable as they are now, so that could’ve hurt the market too.)
Because I wanted to share more of these interesting learnings, here’s a light off-topic veer for a second.
Sci-Fi has spikes in November:
But only just recently when they started figuring out the release cadence, and they’ve slowed the degradation of the genre readership, possibly even turned it around.
This is a really good thing.
Fantasy has Spikes in September, and is very stable, whereas Urban Fantasy specifically has spikes in August and is tapering off.
So then, know when I show you this next chart what it could mean for the genre if we don’t hop on the bandwagon fast.
Literary Role Playing Game, or LitRPG. James has already written and published his piece for the genre, and it’s the best received book he’s ever had. Here’s the pudding, you find the proof:
What other graph does this remind you of? Paranormal Fantasy?
Let’s not allow that to happen. Rally up, author’s. It’s time to blow the doors off a new market and bust in there! (but not get her pregnant because that would be rude)

There’s obvious data about release cadences, they’re structured and planned to keep readers locked in a genre loop, or genre juggling (reading the new stuff from one right as a new one comes out in the next genre).
Alright, enough about that. Next on the docket is Genuine Fans. Though maybe I should’ve broke this out into multiple posts, because I have plenty more to say on the above (I learned a few things at COSine! Which… I guess I’ll blog about next >_>)
I met a gentleman named Vincente at MileHiCon, and he first approached the author next to me. I stood by quietly and allowed my boothmate to chat him up, see if he could make a sale. Vincente mentioned he liked sci-fi (my boothmate had none), which was right about the moment I noticed his SpaceX jacket.
With a little too much enthusiasm I exclaimed in a flurry, “ARE YOU WITH SPACEX?” No, he said, but he liked what they were doing. We discussed the recent launches, and what we were excited for, and then a magical thing happened. He asked me about my only sci-fi book on the stack.
We chatted a bit more and he decided, to my surprise, to buy it. I’m always a little surprised when a male buys my books since they typically feature strong, independent ladies (a girl’s gotta have role models… and mentors… but that’s another post).
Then another magical thing happened, he, of his own volition, wrote a review on amazon. And not the “It was good, 4 stars” review, but he looked at it critically, and gave (I hope) his honest opinion about it, which included some space for improvement and more research on my end (happening in the next book, promise).
Lots of parenthesis happening in this post.
So, you thought it was as magical as it could get at that last bit, right? Wrong. Turns out Vincente lives near Colorado Springs, which was where COSine is held. Magic and sparkles: he showed up to chat with me about Sway’s Demise, and then bought both books in the Verge of Desolation series! It’s less sci-fi in the first volume, so I’m hoping it doesn’t bore him to death, but vol.2 is most certainly my most polished work so far (except maybe Inamorata which I love to death).
Wow! For the first time ever, someone came to talk to me about my book, and buy more of them because they liked the first! Someone other than my mother or friends, that is. I know it may sound silly for me to be so stoked, but this feels like finally crushing a 4 in bouldering when I’ve been trapped at 3+/4- for 6 months solid (that happened too, but I rarely talk about climbing, so I guess you guys aren’t in the know about how much awesome that was for me =p)
I did it again. Seems like this has gone on for long enough, with way too many parenthesis. I’m off! Peace out kiddies, and thanks, Vincente, for being totally awesome =)

Why do a Giveaway? +Revolt Giveaway!

Hey there kiddies! I know I already did a little bit of a post on giveaways, but didn’t include much info… before we dive into the topic, check this shiz out:

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Goodreads Book Giveaway

Revolt by J.D. Harpley


by J.D. Harpley

Giveaway ends January 05, 2017.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

10 copies up for grabs, 16 days to enter and share… Get it!

Why are giveaways important for indie/small pubs, you wonder? Because we don’t have the power of a huge publisher, with a massive network of subscribers and reader, we have to spread the word by giving the words away for free! I suppose “have to” is strong, but it’s a good idea.
I like to run Goodreads giveaways because they’re very simple, and nearly always the giveaway winner will write a review once they finish the book. That’s pretty rare.
What are the main points, then!

Spread the Word About a New Release

Giveaways are a great way to get the public aware of an upcoming release. Doing a giveaway before the book launches is also an awesome incentive for the readers who like to have “seen it first” or “post the first review”. Hipsters…
Using a platform like Goodreads will allow readers to happen across your giveaway without actively seeking it out, unlike Rafflecopter and many others where there’s no “central giveaway depot” people can hang out in and browse.
P.S. You can use Rafflecopter for free, but the free version blows a goat. If you’re little, start with Goodreads =)

Increase Visibility of an Older Title or a Series

Giveaways don’t have to be for new titles. If you’ve got an older book out there that you:
  • Just revamped (I’m in the process of doing that for all my works now!), or 
  • You’re just looking for more reviews, or 
  • It’s the first book in a series and you want to get people into it and buying the rest,

Then this is for you!

What Giveaways Can’t Do/Other Cons

Unfortunately, there are a few drawbacks to giveaways.
  • Readers aren’t required to leave a review
  • You won’t get bumped in the charts on Amazon/Apple iBooks/etc
  • Cost is all up front and all on you
  • The Post Office sucks

    For small-time authors, the rewards far outweigh the cons, and for larger authors, the cost isn’t a huge deal to them and it just increases their fan following. Overall, it’s worth it. It also feels pretty good to know 500+ people want to read your book ^_^
    That’s all for now kids. Stay safe in these crazy times, and don’t forget to Revolt =P
    Peace out!

    Tunes – The Auditory Stimulus You’ve Been Missing

    Hey there kiddies! Are you visual writers? ‘Cause I totally am. What better to bring an epic movie scene in your head to life than the power of some sick beats, chill ambiance, or a death metal screamfest?
    As I write this I’m listening to some pretty chill stuff, but in honesty, I spend most of my time listening to heavy metal, rock, and electronica to write. I feel it helps inspire action scenes, which I’m writing a lot more of recently.
    I almost feel as though this is a “duh” post… I mean, if it is, just tap out now, I’m not going to blame you.

    So, I’ve been writing Revolt:

    If you can’t tell from the cover, it’s a bit of cyberpunk, even a bit of adventure, and a whole lot of action. My super slick (and slightly crazy) heroine, Hopper, needs a lot of inspiration to bring to life.
    For Revolt I listened to a lot of Celldweller (ok, I won’t lie, I always listen to a lot of Celldweller/Scandroid/Circle of Dust), Bring Me The Horizon (Doomed especially, love that song right now), Starset (because space!), and then copious amounts of trance/techno from various artists (my current favs being Seven Lions, Tiesto never leaves the list, and DJ CHEFF ^_^)

    I need to get back in the headspace of writing Earth’s Peril, because the next book on the list to tackle is Eli’s Revenge (tentatively named, I’m really not sure if I’ll follow Eli or not. His story on Earth is a bit boring… lots of walking and survival stuff, Vendum telling him how much longer it’s going to take and what the other robots around the world are doing etcetc… HOWEVER, Bedelcast’s story is interesting as fuck.) That was a long sidetrack. Alright, so I’m a little tipsy… sue me. How I’m going to get back in the headspace of writing the EP series will of course be to read the first book, and then jam out to the same stuff I did when writing it, lots of epic alien and space movies too.

    Back to the Duh part of this post from an even longer sidetrack.

    1. Identify the mood of your writing

    It’s important to know what kind of feeling you want your readers to be experiencing when they’re consuming your media, because then you can correctly select the tunes to stimulate that atmosphere! Writing a laid back, slow love scene? Probably going to want some Sneaker Pimps. Needing a main character who is about to defy a regime, likely want something mainstream and easy to digest like Five Finger Death Punch. About to go into an epic, final boss type battle; bust out the Apocalytpica.

    2. Verify that your mood matches the music, matches the scene you’re writing

    If one of these components are not like the other, the scene’s likely to come out a little janky. Which is fine, I guess. You can always edit later. But I honestly feel if you’re not in the headspace to write a certain thing, you should not do it. Lots of author promote the “power through” mentality, which works… but you’ll end up wanting to rework it later. I’m rambling… mostly because I, once again, feel like this is duh territory.

    3. Lyrics can mess up your flow

    I’ve noticed that some of my best writing comes when I’ve listened to a song so many times, I know all the words and don’t even need to comprehend the lyrics, because I know them, OR when there are no lyrics, OR when the lyrics are in a different language. I’ve listened to a LOT of Eisbrecher, Megahertz, Oomph!, and Rammstein. But also, a lot of F(x), Boa, and other really silly Korean boy bands.
    Welp, that’s about as much Duh as I can handle. I hope this was useful for you, or entertaining at least… peace out kiddies.

    MileHiCon: such a different experience!

    Hey hey kids. So, if you follow my posts (which, I’m guessing the only person who reads these are my mom… HI MOM!) you’d know that I did MALCon in August. Well, that was an experience, lemme tell you what. But MileHiCon, holy cow… what a different kind of experience.
    As you well know, I was in the vendor room for MALCon, but for MHC, I was on the Author’s Row. Here’s what I learned:

    1. Respect your mates

    My row was probably one of the best positioned, and it made a huge difference for sales. Unfortunately, my mate and I got trapped in a bit of a corner, and so traffic flow sucked when there was a ton of people. The most important thing to do it respect your mates, because A.) It’s the right thing to do, B.) They’ll respect you back, C.) You’re gonna see these people again… likely at the next con…… and D.) You’re all going to have more sales and a better time if you do.
    Let me define what I mean by “respect” because it isn’t just the courtesy of not farting in your booth space, it’s much more.
    My mate didn’t have any sci-fi in his lineup. It was all zombies, murder thrillers, one military, and one high fantasy. I did not have any zombies, murder thrillers, or high fantasy in my lineup. When either one of us got to chatting with a person, and realized they didn’t want to read our genre, we pointed them at the person we knew had what they were looking for. This was good for everyone. Instead of the person saying, “Oh I’m not into that stuff,” and walking off, we passed them along to someone they would buy from, and typically they did.
    Not only the above, but I had a good fricken time with my mates! We got a little tipsy, laughed, told stories, kept each other entertained during lulls, watched each other’s booths when we were away (and even made some sales for each other!) and exchanged really useful information. All in all, this was the best takeaway and the best part, my new friends ^_^

    2. Presentation is more than what’s on the table… but that matters a lot too

    I was not the only author without a mega banner hanging behind my head, but just about. They’re not super expensive and they’re really friggen cool looking. Get one.
    The backs of my books are super boring… The art is cool, because the artist I had for each one was an illustrator, but not particularly awesome graphic designers. I’m a graphic designer (so says my degree), and it’s about time I put that to work. Book backs shouldn’t just be a wall of text. They need to have flavor, and personality. Because most of the cool illustrations are going on on the front, the back needs something else to keep it intriguing. Spice that shiz up with some InDesign layout awesomeness.
    You’d think this one would be a no brainer… but make sure people can actually pick up your stuff and look at it. The first and second days I had my books further back so that all of the free shit (stickers, bookmarks, chapstick, candy, newsletter signup, etc) was all up front and grabbable. Wrong. Fucking. Move. I ended up (due to my mother’s prodding) rearranging everything at the end of the second night, and it did result in a better pick-up-and-touch rate for people, but not necessarily a higher purchase rate.
    Shiny shit at an angle is hard to see… Glossy book covers look friggen awesome, but gloss makes it invisible when there’s reflected light pounding your potential customers in the eyes. Remove one of the three factors (light isn’t really doable, so scratch that, two factors): Get some mat books (I have one and it seemed to pull some people in well!), and don’t put your glossy stuff at an angle.

    3. Medicine bag needs to be more inclusive

    I learned from MALCon that I needed to carry tums, advil, and excedrin on me. I totally did that for MHC, but it wasn’t enough. My medicine bag needs more… importantly, it needs purell… When you’re on author’s row, you shake a lot more hands than when you’re a merchant. Purell… Purell your fingernails. Purell your wrists. Purell for your eyes sometimes because yes, you will see some shit…
    Not really medicine, but medicine for my phone… bring a portable charger (and remember to update your Square software before the con, fortunately I did)
    Caffeine and snacks.

    4. Don’t be anti-social

    Another duh moment, but if you don’t step outside your comfort zone and flag some people down, you’re never going to get a sale. If you don’t get any sales, stay positive. There’s nothing worse than a whiny little bitch on author’s row. I sold least of the other 3 authors in my row, but kept my shit positive (mostly with dry martinis), and stayed upbeat, because I wasn’t there to make money. Let’s get that clear (wow we’re diverging from the topic here). It’s not about the money. It’s not about the money. Cons are about meeting fellow authors and learning as much as you can from them, meeting fans (or potential new fans), making real connections, and selling a few books, praying the people you sell to will review them (or even read them in the first place).
    So, don’t sit in your corner and hope people will come to you and ask you what your books are about. They won’t. Get off your ass, work up 20 seconds of courage, and say hi to someone. The common phrases we used were “What do you like to read?” or “What do you love in a book?” or even got specific because Stant Litore is fucking amazing and say “The eternal question: Aliens, Zombies, or Tyrannosaurus’ in space.” That always got a laugh out of people ^_^ Stant is the friggen best.
    Alright, this is going too long… here’s a few pics. Peace out kiddies.

    It’s time to Revolt

    That’s right kiddies, time to rise up against the corporations and take your life back, whatever life you have left after getting your arm and leg ripped off and replaced, your guts torn open and put back together, your… wait… who am I talking about here? Someone specific? Mayhaps… Alright, I can’t hold it in any longer!!!

    Jen has departed, leaving mechanically augmented Hopper at the top of a dimensionally phasing building wondering what’s next.
    Riding home, she encounters the strange but intriguing Ravin, a man so desperate to make a change in their cruel world, Hopper’s never fully sure she can trust him. Her thirst for revenge against the doctors of The Mill shapes the revolt of their century as she adopts Ravin’s quest for freedom and unravels a secret which cuts deeply into her heart.
    Return to The Mill with Hopper and Ravin on their bloody adventure to destroy the source of the depraved experiments and save the world from the true evil that plagues it.

    Welcome to the next installment in the Verge of Desolation series: Revolt.

    The Neon Demon – A Movie Review

    I know, I know… I’m books… but this is too much to pass up. The Neon Demon, an Amazon Original, starring Elle Fanning (didn’t even have to look her up), Jena Malone, Bella Heathcote, and Abbey Lee… 6.4 on IMDB, 54% on Rotten Tomatoes… f*ck all those f*ckers. PS for this paragraph, not censoring myself from here on in…

    This movie was ridiculously good. An all too brief view into a world 99.9% of people could never understand with a sexy retro neon twist. I don’t know how else to describe it than that.

    So many of the scenes were undeniably perfect, the character behavior fantastic. Elle delivers a kick-ass performance, as usual (I love this girl). The very word narcissism quivers when it thinks of her. She is perfection, she is the embodiment of everything and everyone in the fashion industry. She is a goddess.
    Until she soaks up her fame too far, casts off people she shouldn’t, leaves herself open for ambush. A diabolical glance at what it is to be a model (fucking yuck), and what these psychotic bitches do behind closed doors.
    Let us define beauty, absolute. This movie covers it in such a way that leaves you hollow and jealous. Fuck this movie. It’s amazing.

    I have no other words to say. See it.

    Night Kiddies.

    Mailing Lists

    Hey hey, everyone. Sorry about the silence. These past few months have been all about supporting my self-published work (Sway’s Demise), support for the anthology launch (UnCommon Origins), wrapping up the final edits on the sequel to The Mill (I have the name, but I’m not going to tell you yet!), wrapping up edits for my YEAG 2017 submission, which is one of the coolest damn projects I think I’ve ever been part of, and feelin’ like a bawler for getting into another Con! If you’re in the state of Colorado, or will be traveling here for the biggest Sci-Fi literary gathering in the midwest, please stop by and say hello to me at MileHiCon on October 28-30th.
    Alright, on to what we’re here for.

    The Mailing List Dilemma

    Why, dear lord, why? I avoided getting a mailing list for a long time. I didn’t want to spam and harass people. I didn’t want to piss people off. I didn’t want to waste electrons sending something to someone who will just delete it straight away. But, I’ve apparently misjudged them. According to many author sources, Mailing Lists are the watering holes through which readers actually interested in your content gather to ingest it. Did I just refer to the readers as some kind of sub-saharan herd of animals? Never mind that.

    Why You, and I, Need a Mailing List

    As stated above, the mailing list is for the readers who are truly interested. Since mailing lists are opt in, and they can opt out at any time, you’re not really burdening someone with another electronic sheaf of paper they’re not interested in seeing. They might not want to see it at that very second, or that week, but eventually it’ll be opened (even if it’s just to unsubscribe). Onto the reasons:

    It’s an excellent content delivery tool
    Have a short story you want beta read? Running a giveaway? Want to shower your readers with free words? Have a launch coming up? While Facebook and Twitter are easy to share (if your readers share), mailing lists are a much better way to get eyes on your content. With other social media, you can guarantee you’ll only ever reach 10% of your followers, unless by some miracle it has the right combination of words and images to start trending. Not only that, but on social media followers have to click out of that platform to get at whatever you want them to see. With your mailer, everything you want them to see (or a decent preview of it) are right there in their email.

    It gives you a semi-accurate count of your devoted followers
    You can see how many subscribers you have, how many are opening your emails, how many are following links out from your mailer, and get replies from people to your redirect address. You can then:

    Segment user groups to target your most valuable readers
    A smart woman who taught me (and encouraged me) how to set up a mailing list just recently shared a story that I think is very valuable. She had a book she wanted reviewed so she blasted the whole list of subscribers and only received 11 reviews out of some 4,000 subscribers. Then, she targeted only the readers who opened the last ten emails and interacted with them in some way, then let them know it was an exclusive opportunity. The results were staggeringly different. She received nearly 30 reviews!
    Additionally, when you have a new work release, you can target the people who open but don’t often click with some special deal/promo code/offer. You can also reward your more dedicated clickers =P

    Get beta readers
    Sometimes editors miss things. Sometimes all of your editors miss a thing. You don’t have endless amounts of money, and while it may suck a bit to lose the $300 you would potentially gain from giving your book away to beta readers, the return is infinitely more valuable. 50 people reading your work are bound to find some more issues with the story, plot holes, general content complaints, etc. You can also get a good preview of whether or not you’ve hit your target audience this way, and learn to tailor your writing a bit more in the future (or pick a new target audience ^_^).

    Ooo, we’re starting to run long! I’m going to cut it off here for now, and maybe to a part two…… We’ll see! Later, kiddies.

    MALCon Denver – Cons Are Awesome

    So, my first con. Myths and Legends Convention. Let me just say, I feel spoiled.

    They asked me if I needed a water refresh…

    Like, holy hell. They came around to my booth several times a day. “Need a water? Need coffee/soda? Anything?”
    I asked for ibuprofen – received. I asked for water – cold and delicious. They kept me company when the panels went on and there was a dip in customers. They told me jokes, helped me move, kept me sane! I’ll tell you, my weekend was made 100% better by these guys.
    The rumor mill churns and churns, and I’ve heard very bad things about ComicCon, and many other cons. They don’t care about you, they don’t care about your feelings/hopes/dreams. They’ll charge you out the ass to dolly your stuff up to your booth. You can’t bring and use your own dolly. Your booth is a long way away from your car. They’ll laugh as they watch you haul 50lb boxes of books half a mile to your location.
    I highly recommend doing a smaller con for your first. It’s intimate, you meet tons of people, REAL people, you get treated like a god, and the price is f*ckin’ right.

    I was noticed by publishers ^_^

    Because the event was so small, there was lots of potential to be noticed. There was a publishing studio in the vendor room with me, and a “collection of writers”. There were at least three publishing studios attending the con as civilians. I have many people to reach out to at the end of this, and damn it, I’m feeling overwhelmed… but that’s a good thing!
    Getting noticed felt super good. My ego’s been stroked once, twice, and thrice over… some might say too much. In any case, it can be a nice confidence booster for someone who’s been operating in an empty silo for 11 months straight.

    I made back the cost of my entry, and had some for spending!

    Yes, I had to buy table runners, tableclothes, bookmarks, stickers, business cards, chapstick, postcard flyers, door hangers, and that doesn’t even include the money spent on stock to sell! However, I have more than enough left over (because duh, you buy in +1k pack bulk) for the next con, and the next.
    The things I bought for this one con will serve me for at least 4 more to come.

    There were gobs of amazing people to meet

    I met more than my fair share of fun, quirky, unique, fantastic, and all-around wonderful people. Smaller cons are so amazing for that. People have time to stop, say hi, interact, learn a bit about one another. I think my favorite human I met was on the last day. He came by with his brother (an author with whom I traded several books that just shot to the top of my TBR) and noticed I was alone. He stayed and chatted for at least two hours, which I’m sure sounds ridiculous. But it absolutely wasn’t. We went on to discuss ideas he had, characters he’d dreamed up, amazing worlds he’d created, and he wasn’t even an author. It amazes me how many people don’t consider themselves storytellers, but are such incredible storytellers!
    I personally feel that storytelling is human nature, and all humans are capable. Whether or not all humans want to do it is a different subject.
    This is running long, and I feel I might bore you… so here are tons of pictures!
    Oh look, it’s me! Our Booth.

    Jeremy at the booth.

    Some very cool Steampunk cosplay

    The Princess Bride cosplay to end all cosplay. Indigo is in the back with a ROUS on her back!
    An amazing corset+dress+skirt shop! She was very proper as I took her picture.

    Some of the coolest terrariums I’ve ever seen. DINOSAURS!

    Out in Colorado Fiction group. They focus on GLBT writing and inquired if I had any. It just so happens… ^_^

    Some of the awesome prizes available for the silent auction!

    My nextdoor neighbors throughout the con! I uh… bought myself a viking headband. That thing is siiiiick, and warm =)

    Very nice woman who makes some of the coolest unicorn and demon horns! Gosh dang it, I’m so nerdy!
    I’ll definitely do MALCon again. If they’ll have me, I’ll for sure do the author’s row next year. I didn’t manage to sneak out there for pictures because I was much too concerned with my booth presence, but I promise I’ll collect much better pictures at the next con.
    For now, this is me signing off. Night kiddies!

    Book Review – Owl in Love

    Hey kiddies, I picked this up at a used book store in Boulder for $.67. On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being I’d never read this book, 10 being of course I would, this book was a -15. It was so far removed from what I normally engage with, but still, I ended up being pleasantly surprised.

    Owl in Love by Patrice Kindl

    It’s novella length, about 200 pages, and I must say, a very uncomfortable read at first.
    Owl is a 14 year old shapeshifter (who turns into an owl, fancy that) in love with her 40 year old science teacher.

    But alas, I remember being 14 years old and having a crush on men who were in their 30’s-40’s and then there’s always Patrick Stewart, Sean Connery, and for some terribly odd reason, Kevin Spacey…

    Back to the matter at hand. The story is well written, the prose very readable. Not only that, but Kindl somehow takes the very essence of birds and converts that to a human readable form. It was so unique and engaging to have this different perspective. I enjoyed that part enormously.

    Throughout the book, we follow Owl in first person past tense, and there are excerpts from a foreign character in third person past whose name we don’t learn for a long time.

    We learn that Owl has no friends at school, and through desperation to get closer to her science teacher, befriends a loud-mouthed girl named Dawn. A mystery begins to unravel as reports of an escaped young man from a correctional facility begin to spread through Owl’s small town. In owl from, she encounters a new resident who seems quite off, and things start getting more tense in all aspects of Owl’s life.

    I won’t divulge much more than that because it’s such a short read and I don’t want to give everything away. In any case, it states it is a book for teens, but I was still able to enjoy it. Just fair warning that the first 40 pages feel a bit icky to an adult, though Owl does act very mature for her age.

    4/5 overall, cute little weekend read.

    Book Review – Bloodwalker by L.X. Cain

    Hey kiddies! Long time no talk. I won’t bore you with the details of my life, but it’s not in a super stable spot right now, which is why I haven’t sent much love your way. I apologize.

    On to what you’re here for, a review of the dark fantasy murder mystery book, Bloodwalker, by L.X. Cain (even the author’s name is scary!)

    Bloodwalker – L.X. Cain

    Let me start off by saying Bloodwalker was my very first murder mystery novel, and I enjoyed the hell out of it. I wasn’t expecting to, but it happened all the same. Cain starts with a bang, letting the readers know right away there’s big trouble in the traveling circus of Zorka Cyrka.

    Bloodwalker does not disappoint on the gruesome sounding name, for the contents within will fill your mind with waves of crimson and the smell of rot. Throughout the book we follow two heros from chapter to chapter, Rurik and Sylvie. Though both have some of the expected cookie-cutter heroine/hero attributes, Cain sets them apart with rich and unique characteristics stemming from their even more unique pasts.

    We know from the first few chapters there are two factions of sorts, the Skomori (Sylvie) and the Zorka (Rurik). Though they work together at most times, the tension is still high, and the Skomori disdained. Cain never fully elaborates on the matter, but I hope to see a second book disclosing more.

    Though I didn’t look up every cultural and setting reference myself (and I’m not very familiar with Central Europe), Cain does an excellent job of painting an amazingly diverse and real world. With lines like, “Inch by inch, murk swallowed the tall grass and bushes that marked the boundary…” or, “Silver duct tape fluttered in the wind, peeling from rips and holes in badly-patched canvas. Sloping roofs sagged. Rusty poles propped up lopsided awnings…” one cannot help but fall under the clutches of Bloodwalker, until it begrudgingly sets you free.

    Though the wealth of description is often welcomed, there were a few scenes (the two mentioned above) where the character is in some kind of chase, and suddenly we stop to take in the surroundings. That was a minor pacing problem I felt took away some of the tension from these excellently fostered action scenes. There were many other scenes in later chapters that didn’t suffer this at all, and one of the final fight scenes where the pacing was laser fast the entire time. Delicious!

    FROM HERE ON THERE WILL BE SPOILERS… You have been warned.

    The book opens to Rurik, a former Strongman turned circus security due to an unfortunate lightning incident, chasing a clown through a run down train station and prying, with much difficulty, a child from the man’s grasp. He’s pieced together the string of child disappearances that have been following the circus like the plague, and has finally found the one at fault, but the thief slips through Rurik’s grasp.

    Enter Sylvie, frightened, nervous, without confidence, and a bride-to-be. She and two other Skomori girls arrive at the Zorka Cyrka to be married off to their Skomori men, but nothing goes as planned. While preparing for the ceremony in the unused, broken down RV, things go wrong for the girls and Sylvie is left alone, assaulted by a man from the circus who’s taking what we know to be evidence of the clown kidnapper. After a scuffle, a sack of children’s bloodied bones fall into her lap. Being a Bloodwalker, Sylvie does not shy away from investigating, only to find something more horrifying than a corpse. Bite marks–human bite marks, on the bones.

    Her mother swears her to secrecy, but Sylvie allows a small peep of information to Rurik just as she’s being married off (with some difficulty) to the worst man from her nightmares. Before Rurik’s able to investigate the RV, it’s burned to the ground, and the new Strongmen of the circus, the Markarov family, are implicated.

    As Rurik continues his tireless investigation to save the innocent youth, Sylvie is slaving away for a husband who verbally abuses her, treats her like a prisoner in her own home, and beats her viciously. At this point, I’m angry at Sylvie. It was understandable for her to trust her mother and stay quiet (mostly) but when she’s being beaten and accepting it as “the way things are” I became upset.

    I dislike women without a backbone who can’t stand up for themselves, but Cain does the victim mindset well. Sylvie acts as she would: a nineteen year old girl married off to a later twenties-thirties something man after being told Skomori men can be harsh all her life. I suppose it’s in her way to just accept it, and deal with it, but it pisses me off all the same. I couldn’t wait to get to Rurik’s scenes during this part of the book, but never fear, she finds her spine in time.

    As we get closer and closer to the truth, characters start dropping like flies. There were two that were quite predictable, but some I had no idea were coming. As we go further and further down the rabbit hole of this gruesome tale, fewer things are making sense without some unnatural explanation.

    And then Cain smacks you right between the eyes with a blood chilling description of the monster responsible for the deaths. By this time, we’ve been given many hints and a few bombs, but I was a little surprised by the reveal (which I refuse to divulge!).

    To surmise, I cringed, I gasped, I pondered, I theorized, I begged and pleaded, then finally the ride was over, and I wanted more. I can’t wait to see what’s next for Sylvie and Rurik!

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