April 2021 Update

Posted on April 30th 2021 ⋄ By Sara Cleveland ⋄ Category: News, Release Announcements, Self-Publishing Woes, Writing

My performance for Camp NaNoWriMo was, predictably, abysmal. Finding the Dragon is sitting at just shy of 8000 words (some of which I think will be thrown out) as I write this. That’s a far cry from the “modest” 23k goal I set. Still, I’m not beating myself up about it too much; April was a very busy month.

My sorry excuse for a word count chart from Camp NaNoWriMo

Let’s start with the highlight, of course, which was getting ARCs out for Courting the Dragon. Printing ARCs through Barnes&Noble Press worked out much better than I could have anticipated. Depending on when I get the copy edits back I may be able to do a second run of corrected ARCs, which would be super swell.

Paperback ARCs of Courting the Dragon still in the box.

Which brings me to an update about the paperback availability of both Courting the Dragon and Saving the Dragon. Saving was priced at $9.50 and Courting was planned to be priced at $14.99. This was due to the price restrictions with KDP’s Expanded Distribution (this is what put my KDP paperback in Barnes&Noble stores, BAM, etc). I’ve decided after seeing how the Barnes&Noble printing works to cut the KDP Expanded Distribution and simply run print editions on both platforms. This means that the paperback will only be available from Amazon.com and BarnesAndNoble.com. However, it also means that I can drop the prices to $7.99 for Saving and $10.50 for Courting. I plan to do the same for Finding, and may even offer paperback pre-orders through Barnes&Noble. We’ll see.

I have two other announcement related to the availability of both books.

First, in addition to Kindle, Nook, Google Play, and Apple iBooks, both books will also be available from Rakutan Kobo. The regular price is still $4.99 for Courting.

Second, for this week only (April 30th to May 8th), Saving will be on sale across all the eBook platforms. For this one week you can pick it up for just 99 cents.

Saving the Dragon and Courting the Dragon in paperback, each with a bookmark sticking out of the top. In front of them is a mug that says "I just happen to prefer spells to sewing needles."

Another fun thing this month was lining up some prizes for the big giveaway in June. I won’t tell you all about the grand prize basket yet, but I will tell you about the awesome coffee mugs! You can’t see the whole phrase in this photo since it wraps around, but they say “I just happen to prefer spells to sewing needles.” I got these from the wonderful @skyekelrose. Check out her Etsy shop here.

On a more personal note, things have taken a minor left turn for me recently. A few days ago I started having more than my usual twinges in my neck and wrists. My right hand was basically unusable for a day. Just placing my hand on a computer mouse was intolerable. This didn’t help my already lacking word count for FtD. After much icing, sleeping with a wrist brace, and Advil, I am feeling much better. However, things are still tender and I don’t know how well I will be able to keep up with writing and the blog in the short term. For now I am going to plan on maintaining my upload schedule and social media presence, but please be aware that there may come a time that I have to step away for a week or two. We’ll see what the doctor says.

You can find all the retail links for Saving the Dragon here.
You can find all the retail links for Courting the Dragon here.
Digital Advanced Review Copies of Courting are still availble. You can request one here.
Read my FREE short story “The First” here.

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#IndieApril Fantasy Round-Up

Posted on April 26th 2021 ⋄ By Sara Cleveland ⋄ Category: Reviews

For this last Monday in #IndieApril I wanted to highlight the best of the best Indie new releases that I’ve read this year. I wanted to do this by genre, but quickly realized that the overwhelming majority of what I read is fantasy. And then to my dismay, I realized that the overwhelming majority of that could be classified as Fantasy Romance. Oops. So I will be making recommendations in these fantasy subcategories:

  • Fairytale Retellings
  • Fantasy Romance
  • Misc. Fantasy

To qualify for this list, a book must have been released between April 2020 and April 2021. Now through April of next year, I’m going to try to do a better job of getting some variation into my TBR pile so I can do more categories. Or maaaaybe I’ll get a panel together for this next year. That’d be fun, right? Ahem. Anyway, without further ado, here are my favorite books for #IndieApril:

Fairytale Retellings

To qualify for this category the novel or anthology had to be explicitly described and marketed as a fairytale retelling.

Top Pick – Villainous

I have to give this one to Villainous, hands down. This anthology is packed with awesome, and sometimes twisted, retellings of some of your favorite classics, and some stories that don’t see as much love. My personal favorites were the Bluebeard’s Wife and Piped Piper retellings.

Runner Up – A Song of Sea and Shore by Katherine Macdonald

I did a full review on this one that you can read here, so I won’t dwell too long. Macdonald does an amazing job of keeping the haunting beauty of Anderson’s original tale while ramping up the stakes. As with many of Macdonald’s books, it is advisable to keep the tissues handy.

Fantasy Romance

Rather than a Top Pick and a Runner Up in this category, I have decided to give a Spicy pick and a Sweet pick. Spicy obviously has some smut in it, so read at your own discretion. 😉

Spicy Pick – Queen of the Wild by E.M. Howell

Again, there’s a full review that you can read here. This one has lots of action and laugh out loud moments paired with some delectably steamy romance.

Sweet Pick – The Searching Songbird by E.P. Stavs

This one is definitely my favorite in The Shendri Series (so far). You can read my full review on it and book 1 here. Lily is just a delightful protagonist, and Draven is just perfect for her. The pacing and the writing style make it a quick, fun read.

Misc Fantasy

Okay, I know this isn’t really a sub-genre, but I haven’t really read enough books in any other subgenera to justify more categories. So, everything that isn’t a fairytale retelling or romance was considered.

Top Pick – The Shield Road by Dewi Hargreaves

This is another book with a full review, which you can find here. This short story collection blew me away. The amount of worldbuilding crammed into these stories is breathtaking.

Runner Up – Birthright by M.A. Vice

Birthright is the beginning of what is gearing up to be an epic series. Some of the descriptions and prose are just absolutely haunting. You can read my full review here.

Other Honorable Mentions

  • The Fires of Treason by Michele Quirke – Historical Fantasy
  • Of Goblins and Gold by Emma Hamm – Fantasy Romance
  • Six-Gun Sorcery by Andrew Slinde – Fantasy (I haven’t finished reading this one yet, but I’m enjoying it so much I wanted to make sure it got a mention).

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Get Courting the Dragon Early!

Posted on April 23rd 2021 ⋄ By Sara Cleveland ⋄ Category: News

It’s finally time to head into ARC season! I have a limited run of physical ARCs available in addition to digital copies that will be disbursed through Booksprout.

If you are interested in doing an Advanced Review you can do one of two things:

  • Click the link here to download a digital copy from Booksprout
  • Email me here to request a physical proof.

What is an ARC (Advanced Review Copy)?

An ARC is a copy of a book that the publisher and/or author send out to early readers. The goal is to launch the book with some positive reviews either on or immediately following the day of launch. Sometimes (like in this case) ARCs may be uncorrected. This means any grammatical or formatting errors you encounter will likely be fixed in the final published book.

In my case, I would ask that if you notice any glaring errors you please shoot me an email or a DM on the social media platform of your choice. It would really help me out a lot. Just please keep in mind when writing a review that the book is still with the copyeditor and will also be going through a proofreader before publication.

Where should I post my review?

One excellent choice is Goodreads. You can post a review there as soon as you finish the book. Any of the retailers carrying the book are also excellent choices, although you will have to wait until launch day (June 20th) to do so.

Courting the Dragon will be available on:

*Note: Kobo is a new platform for me. I just recently added Saving the Dragon to it. Courting the Dragon will be my first release to launch with Kobo on Day 1. It is available for pre-order there NOW.

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A Song of Sea and Shore

Posted on April 19th 2021 ⋄ By Sara Cleveland ⋄ Category: Reviews

This week’s review is of A Song of Sea and Shore by Katherine Macdonald. This is another Twitter find (nobody’s surprised at this point…). As always, this is my honest opinion and I did not receive any compensation for doing this review.

About the Author

Katherine Macdonald is a UK author and English teacher who lives in Kent with her toddler child and two cats. Personally, I find the cats’ names quite amusing: Admiral Roe and Captain Haddock.

I have had the distinct pleasure of many pleasant interactions with Macdonald on Twitter. You can find her here. The #MarchOftheWhumps she and author L. V. Russell hosted was an absolute blast to participate in.

Book Details

A Song of Sea and Shore is available in Kindle eBook and Paperback from Amazon.com. It is enrolled in Kindle Unlimited, so you can read it for free with a subscription. Other wise the eBook is $3.99 and the paperback is $11.99 USD. This is what I paid for them.

The paperback comes in at 288 pages of story (there’s a few more pages of afterward, author bio, etc). The book is in English, and I’m not aware of any plans for audio or translation at this time.

4 teaspoons of tea leaves

Design

This is one of my least favorite covers among Macdonald’s fairytale retellings. I’m not a big fan of the multicolored text or the kind of spotty lens flare thing the image has going on. Unlike many (I would say most) of Macdonald’s covers, this one actually feels indie. Putting it side by side with the glory of The Rose and the Thorn is almost unfair. It does however do the job and did not detract from my desire to read the book.

3 teaspoons for exterior design.

The interior design is really nice. There’s some whimsy without feeling chintzy. The decorative font on the chapter headings for the print edition is charming, and I really enjoy the cute little seashell details used on the title page and around the quote from Hans Christian Andersen’s original story. I did not notice any major formatting issues with the print book nor the eBook edition.

5 teaspoons for interior design.

This brings the average for design to 4 teaspoons.

4 teaspoons of tea leaves

Premise

Okay, so this is a fairytale retelling. That by default means it has to work even harder than your average fantasy book at having a killer premise to counterbalance the fact that it’s basically a remake. In my opinion, A Song of Sea and Shore does not disappoint in this regard.

Here’s my summary of the premise: A conflict is brewing between the merpeople and the humans. From the Sea Queen’s perspective, the humans have been flaunting their treaty with her. From the humans’ perspective… well, mermaids are just a myth, right? Desperate, Neri makes a dangerous deal so she can go to land and convince the humans to honor the treaty before her vengeful mother wipes their kingdom from the earth.

Macdonald seriously amps up the stakes compared to the original Little Mermaid tale. Instead of one mermaid’s heart and soul, Macdonald puts an entire kingdom at risk of obliteration. With this being marketed as a slow-burn romance you know you’re most likely going to get that HEA*, but Macdonald makes you sweat for it with these stakes.

4 teaspoons.

4 teaspoons of tea leaves

Characters

The main couple of this love story are Neri and Kai. Neri is the daughter of the Sea Queen Maris, while Kai is the prince of a human kingdom. The two of them met when they were young, and Neri has carried a bit of a torch for the prince ever since. It’s too bad he doesn’t remember her for much of the book.

I found Neri to be brave and determined. Being in her head during the 1st person sections was not as onerous as some 1st person books I’ve read. I’m a talker and a writer, so I can only imagine how frustrating it would be to loose the ability to communicate effectively, even if only temporarily. I really felt for Neri through the whole story.

Kai is a thoughtful and endearing prince. Having said that, of all the characters in the story, he probably made the least impact on me. Writing this review weeks after having read the book, I’m struggling to recall anything about him that stood out.

There is a side couple as well, Hans and Greta. Hans is one of Kai’s friends and valets. Greta is the librarian, who happen to be deaf. It is Greta and her sister Hella who teach Neri how to communicate with everyone around her without her voice. Greta also is the source of some sass, giving poor Hans a hard time in his courting. They were a very enjoyable side-thread.

I think Maris and the “Sea Witch” deserve a mention here, too. Their history together is heartbreaking, although I won’t go into it because I don’t want to give any spoilers. Although she is in some way the antagonist for much of the story, Maris is truly a loving (and terrifying) mother. I would have actually liked more of Maris in the story.

All in all, I give the book 4 teaspoons for characters.

3 teaspoons of tea leaves

Worldbuilding

Really there was just enough worldbuilding to feel like there was a world. It wasn’t a blank room. Much of the worldbuilding was related to the mermaids or was otherwise more of a vibe. It got the job done.

3 teaspoons.

5 teaspoons of tea leaves

Plot

There’s a bit of a rollercoaster to this plot, with plenty of surprises I did not see coming. It’s well paced and keeps you engaged. I made the mistake of reading a few pages, and next thing I knew this book was jumping its place in line with the TBR** pile.

The plot definitely lived up to the promises of the premise and certainly gave a new spin on the story while still paying homage to the original Andersen tale.

5 teaspoons.

5 teaspoons of tea leaves

Writing

I might as well have been a water fountain for at least the second half of the book. Macdonald’s writing is poetic, and can hit you right in the feels. If you don’t like being weepy even after you put the damn book down, you might want to avoid. However, if you like ugly crying through your lunch break and going back to work with a red nose, please proceed.

One of the things I’m not a usually a fan of is books that are largely 1st Person POV that intermingle chapters of 3rd Person POV. A Song of Sea and Shore does this quite a bit, but it didn’t bug me too much. The scenes with other POV characters added a lot to the story, and given that Neri has literally no voice for much of the book being directly in her head was somewhat necessary.

I don’t recall any massive editing mistakes. I do recall thinking a few word choices were odd, but nothing that majorly distracts or takes away from the book.

I really waffled on whether or not to give this section 5 teaspoons. The overall style, voice and poetry of Macdonald’s work is amazing, and I know the whole 1st/3rd mixed POV thing isn’t a turn off for a lot of readers. In the end, I decided to give it 5 teaspoons and let go of my own bias.

4 teaspoons of tea leaves

Final Thoughts

A Song of Sea and Shore left me wanting to dive into more of Macdonald’s fairytale retellings. However, I think I’ll need at least a week between them to recover from the emotional rollercoasters. An excellent book, and well worth the read.

Final score is 4 teaspoons.

**TBR – To Be Read
* HEA – Happily Ever After

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EPIC #IndieApril Book Giveaway

Posted on April 16th 2021 ⋄ By Sara Cleveland ⋄ Category: News

I just wanted to highlight this awesome giveaway on Twitter hosted and organized by the lovely Michele Quirke for #IndieApril. 12 books by 12 awesome Indie authors across multiple genres are up for grabs! Check out Michele’s tweet for instructions on how to enter. Winners will be drawn on April 23rd.

Giveaway graphic by the very talented @CatGraphic

Here’s your guide to the books! Please note, I have not read all of these. Some are not within genres that I typically read and/or review. In some cases, I’m guesstimating the genre based on the Amazon indexing and book blurb. I will link my reviews of the books that I have read.

The Fires of Treason by Michele Quirke
Historical Fantasy – Read my Review
Paperback

Saving the Dragon by Sara R Cleveland (that’s me!)
Fantasy Romance
Kindle

Mars and Mayhem by K.M. Hasling
Science Fiction
Kindle

Shattered Moonlight by K.L. Bone & Erin McFadden
Fantasy – Twisted Fairytale
Kindle

Songbird by Karen Heenan
Historical Fiction
Kindle

The Dancing Crow by Des M. Astor
Urban Fantasy
Paperback

Birthright by M.A. Vice
Fantasy – Read my Review
Kindle

Ascension of the Phoenix by Jessica Piro
Action/Thriller with Paranormal Themes
My review on this is still pending
Kindle

Dancing at Midnight: The Life of June Parker by Rebecca Graves
Historical Fiction
Kindle

Paper Castles by B. Fox
Contemporary Fiction
Kindle

7 Days in Hell by Iseult Murphy
Horror
Kindle

Mark of a Demon by Despoina Kemeridou
Paranormal Romance
Kindle

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