Tag Archives: Chameleon in a Mirror

Aphra Behn and Chameleon in a Mirror

Usually I try to post every year on the death date of Aphra Behn, the first professional woman writer in the English language. I missed it this year (April 16) for a number of reasons, the main one being that I was preparing for the Villa Diodati Workshop, reading stories and writing critiques.

But I have a consolation prize this week: for those who have not yet read it, my time travel based on the life of Aphra Behn, Chameleon in a Mirror, is on sale for only 99c on Amazon until April 28. 🙂

Chameleon in a Mirror

Here’s a short excerpt, based on an incident from Aphra’s life:

Aphra entered the playhouse with more confidence than she felt. The portly playwright, poet laureate of the realm, was giving instructions to the actors and actresses. “Wait here,” she said to her maid. Katherine nodded.
She approached a dark-haired woman standing on the side of the stage. “Prithee, can you tell me where I might find Thomas Killigrew?”
“He’s not here right now, lass,” the actress replied. “But if you want a part in the play, you can speak with Mr. Dryden.”
Aphra felt a surge of sick disappointment. “Nay. I wanted to give him this.” Aphra took the linen cover off the basket she was carrying and pulled out a feathered headdress. The actress gasped.
Aphra’s courage returned. “I brought it and several others back from America. I heard the King’s Company was staging a play where they might be of use.”
“The Indian Queen,” the actress murmured, taking a colorful feather between her fingers. “They would be perfect.”
The playwright joined them so abruptly, they were both startled. “What is the attraction here, Mrs. Marshall? There is work to be done!”
“I had no lines, Mr. Dryden. And you must see what this young woman brought — perfect for The Indian Queen!”
Dryden took the headdress from the actress’s hands, staring at the clever arrangement of colorful feathers. “This is incredibly good,” Dryden said, looking up from the feathers and into Aphra’s face. “Where did you get it?”
Aphra made a hurried curtsey. “I am fresh arrived from the colony of Surinam, Mr. Dryden. I brought the headdress with me, and several others as well. I also brought an assortment of unusual insects …”
Dryden waved his hand in a gesture of dismissal. “You can present those to His Majesty for his zoology collection. But this … this we could use.”
“I would be happy to present them to your company.” The words nearly stuck in her throat in her excitement. “When are you expecting the master of the company, Mr. Killigrew?”
“He did not plan to come to the theater today, to my knowledge,” Dryden said, and Aphra’s face fell. “If you leave the headdress with me, I will give it to Mr. Killigrew.”
“I had something particular to give him,” Aphra stammered.
“I am one of the shareholders of the company, Mrs. …?”
“I will make sure it gets to Mr. Killigrew.”
Aphra pulled a sealed letter out of her basket, along with the painstakingly copied manuscript of The Young King, and handed them to Dryden. “This is a letter of introduction from my foster brother, Thomas Culpepper, and a play I wrote while I was in America.”
“A truly American play,” Dryden said with a sarcastic smile. “Not like our London Indians.”
“Oh no, nothing of the kind,” Aphra hastened to reassure him. “’Tis based on a classical precedent!”
Dryden raised his eyebrows but said nothing.
The actress shook her dark head and smiled. “The times are changing, are they not, Mr. Dryden? Women are already actresses. Perhaps playwrights next?” Dryden didn’t look pleased, and Mrs. Marshall gave Aphra a conspiratorial wink.
“I will give these to Mr. Killigrew, Mrs. Johnson,” Dryden said in a tone of dismissal. “Good day.”
“Good day, Mr. Dryden, Mrs. Marshall,” Aphra said curtseying, and turned to leave.

The actress and the playwright watched the copper-haired woman and her maid leave the theater. “A woman playwright would be quite a novelty, would it not?” Anne Marshall said, baiting the playwright, not well-liked among the actors.
“That it would,” Dryden agreed.
“Enough of a novelty to mean serious competition?” the actress added, a malicious gleam in her eye.
Dryden glanced through the pages of fine handwriting, quickly skimming a passage. He was relieved to see that the writing was bombastic and artificial, and although the public was often pleased with much less these days, he probably would have little difficulty persuading Killigrew not to take it. “Only if she wrote better than this one does,” he said. “Come, Mrs. Marshall, it will soon be your entrance.”

One of the things I love about Aphra Behn is the way she managed to succeed despite the odds. 🙂

Testing new Covers for Chameleon in a Mirror

Since I’ve recently had rather disappointing click-through rates for Chameleon in a Mirror, I decided to try testing some cover designers through Fiverr, just for fun. I wrote about the option in my book Starting Out as an Indie Author, but I had never used it myself. There’s a saying here in Germany, “Probieren geht über studieren.” (Trying is better than studying.) So here I am trying! Here are the cover designs I got from my first Fiverr foray into covers:

Chameleon in a Mirror cover

CIAM cover

For the sake of comparison, here’s the present cover:

And here’s the very first attempt:

What do you guys think? I have to admit, I had the feeling the new covers stood out better in thumbnail for sure, but I’d love a bit more feedback before I finalize. Thanks in advance to anyone who responds!

Aphra Behn: 1640 (?) – April 16, 1689

Aphra Behn, the woman who made it possible for us women to speak our minds (at least according to Virginia Woolf), died 327 years ago today. Not only was she the first professional woman writer in the English language, she (probably) traveled to the English colony of Surninam, wrote prose works that could be argued to be predecessors of the genre of the novel, was a spy in the Netherlands for Charles II, and spent time in debtor’s prison as a result of expenses accrued in service to the crown. But instead of letting that defeat her, she went on to reinvent herself and become a vanguard for women writers. If all of that doesn’t make her worthy of more attention, than I don’t know what does!

Aphra Behn, portrait by Mary Beale
Aphra Behn: 1640 (?) – April 16, 1689

In honor of the occasion, here a brief excerpt from my novel Chameleon in a Mirror, a time travel homage to Aphra Behn:

Thomas Killigrew gave a marginally respectful nod of his head. He had been in the royal employ too long and in too intimate of circumstances to maintain reverence for his sovereign. “You should hear the petitioner, Your Majesty. She is the mother of one who was your spy in Flanders, and her petition has the support of Colonel Culpepper.”
“Blustery fool,” His Majesty said.
Thomas Killigrew nodded. “Certainly. But Mrs. Johnson’s claims are not unmerited. Her daughter Mrs. Behn had a great deal of expense in Flanders, and she served Your Highness faithfully. Perhaps you remember her — it was she who provided the feather headdresses and ornaments used in The Indian Queen and The Indian Emperor.”
“Ah!” Killigrew had finally caught the attention of his fickle employer. “A vivacious copper-haired beauty, as I recall.” Killigrew nodded. “She presented quite an extraordinary assortment of creatures from America for my collection.”
“That she did, Your Highness.”
“We would not want to see a beautiful woman rot in debtor’s prison now, would we, Mr. Killigrew?”
“Hardly, Sire.”
The King examined his fine, long hands, certainly more beautiful than his wide, long nose. “The woman was not as persuasive in Flanders as we expected.”
“No, she was not,” Killigrew agreed.
“Beautiful women should use their bodies when they want to live by their wits.”
The King’s Groom of the Bedchamber snorted. “And kings should use their wits more and their pricks less.”
Charles laughed out loud. “After those lovely bugs she gave us we do owe her something, don’t you think?”
“Absolutely, Your Highness.”
“Show the mother in.”

The rest, as they say, is history. 🙂

Chamelon in a Mirror

Once again, the importance of covers for indie authors

I got a really nice heads up recently on the new cover for Looking Through Lace: in the monthly e-Book Cover Design awards, Joel Friedlander called it “a strong cover that intrigues.”

Looking Through Lace

The 99c promo that is currently running for Looking Through Lace confirms my growing conviction of how important striking covers are for sales. With an advertising investment of less than $60, I have already sold 110 copies of the novella, with a day still to go in the promo. Since investing in the new covers for LTL, Beyond the Waters of the World, and the boxed set of both novellas in December 2015, I’ve already earned back the cost (minus advertising *g*). But the way sales and borrows are going, I should be in the clear on the cost of the new covers soon.

With the new cover of Chameleon in a Mirror, I have also seen a dramatic increase in results on promos.

Chameleon in a Mirror
I did that one myself, but I also ran it and other designs through numerous testing sites before replacing the old cover.

Given the results of my recent promos with these new covers, I can hardly emphasize enough how important I think it is to have a cover that will entice the reader to click.

Go ye forth and get a new cover. 🙂

Results of BookBub ad in the UK for Chameleon in a Mirror

Last year, 2015, I sold an average of 8 books a month in the UK. As many of you know who read this blog, I had a UK only BookBub ad for my literary time travel, Chameleon in a Mirror, earlier this month. Right now I have 124 sales and 6205 pages read across all titles in the UK. Last month, it was 4 sales and 1235 pages read, total.

Here are the best UK rankings I saw during the sale for CIAM:

Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #781 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
#1 in Kindle Store > Books > Literature & Fiction > Historical Fiction > Fantasy
#3 in Books > Fiction > Fantasy > Historical
#8 in Kindle Store > Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Historical

Chameleon in a Mirror #1

The ad cost $100. Income in the UK since the ad went live has been 75 pounds, plus 4100 pages of CIAM read. All together, that comes to about $130 in UK income for Chameleon since the BookBub ad, dependent on exchange rate and what the payout for pages read will end up being this month. CIAM sold nothing in the UK the previous month (December 2015), so it’s safe to say that most of that income is a result of the BookBub ad.

Added benefit: my other books are selling a bit more there as well.

During the sale, CIAM sold 95 copies in the UK, 2 of those before the BookBub ad went live. Now, a week later, sales are up to 115. Here’s the ranking of the book in the UK today:

Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #13,305 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
#17 in Kindle Store > Books > Literature & Fiction > Historical Fiction > Fantasy
#28 in Books > Fiction > Fantasy > Historical
#62 in Kindle Store > Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Historical

Since the BookBub ad, CIAM has consistently been selling a couple of copies a day, and is still in several top #100 lists. At the end of the sale, I started a Facebook ad targeting UK readers with a whopping budget of $1 a day, and since I don’t have an Amazon Affiliates account for co.uk, which would help me track where sales are coming from, I can’t say whether the regular sales are a result of the BookBub ad, or the dollar a day Facebook ad I started after the promo. So I can’t attribute all of those sales and pages read to BookBub. But it certainly got the ball rolling, and I’m trying to keep the book from disappearing into obscurity too quickly with the Facebook ad.

To summarize: I would definitely take another UK only ad with BookBub if that was all they wanted to offer me. The increase in visibility is amazing, and despite the cost, I have made something of a profit and continue to do so. That’s a win in my book. 🙂

Testing more ad sites: 99c sale of Chameleon in a Mirror

Chameleon in a Mirror

I have another 99c Countdown Deal on one of my books going this week, this time for my time travel, Chameleon in a Mirror. BTW, it also got a very nice review recently at The Reading Head. 🙂 Anyway, here’s the lineup for the ads:

Oct. 5 – Ereader News Today ($20) – 26 sales so far
Oct. 6 – Book Goodies ($5)
EbookStage? (free) – I have a question mark on this one because they wanted me to post a Tweet which Twitter rejected as spam. As a result, I’m not sure if they will actually promote the book or not.
Oct. 9 – Booklover’s Heaven (free)
Sweetfreebooks ($5)
Awesomegang (free)

I booked the following ad as well, but I don’t know when they will run it:
Choosy Bookworm ($18)

Total spent: $48

I applied to quite a few other free sites but didn’t hear back, so I’m assuming that the book won’t be carried there. I’m curious to see how this one compares to my recent Yseult promo, on which I spent about twice as much in advertising.

Before the promo, CIAM was at #553,601 on Amazon. This morning it was #9,970 overall, and #66 in historical fantasy. 🙂

I have another Countdown Deal of Shadow of Stone scheduled for later this month and will be testing a couple more ad sites then. As a result, I’ve decided to wait on the summary post of advertising options for 99c sales until after the Shadow of Stone promo, when I’ll have quite a bit more info.

Wish me luck! 🙂

Back to the Evil Dowager Princess for #WIPpet Wednesday

Even with all the guests gone, I’m *still* not back to serious writing. As some of you may have already noticed, I have a 99c sale on Yseult running this week, the first marketing gig I’ve set up in a couple of months. While I have a number of ads running, I have also been doing some of the standard social media stuff.

I also tried to get a Facebook ad set up for Chameleon in a Mirror today, to test the clickability of the new cover image. Steep learning curve there, since I’ve never done a Facebook ad before, and the fact that I live in Europe and want to advertise to the US seems to complicate things a bit. Nor am I a Canva expert, which is what I used to create the image to go with the ad.

Chameleon in a Mirror

Even though they have templates for Facebook ads, I think next time I just use Photoshop. Let me know what you think!

Since Monday, I’ve only managed to get 600 new words written. That’s what marketing does to a gal … But without marketing, I don’t sell a damn thing (or close), and when I don’t sell a damn thing, I get frustrated and don’t feel like writing anymore. Which is why I have finally made my peace with the need to market. 🙂

Next up, WIPpet Wednesday! We are back to the evil shenanigans of the Dowager Princess, in a scene from Facets of Glass which I hope will speak for itself. 11 short paragraphs for 9 + 2:

The apple was lost, but Dowager Princess Zilia had other items from Chiara’s hand with which to find the wayward glassmaker. Before she sent Gaetano to Bohemia, she needed to know the glassworks where Chiara was working in Prague.
“Here, take this goblet,” she said, giving the witch a wine glass with delicate slopping sides that opened out much like the petals of a lily. “I need to find out more about the person who made it.”
Vanna caressed the wooden frame of the mirror and then stepped back. “Magic mirror please show to me,
“Where the maker of this goblet might be.”
After their reflections faded, a glassmaker’s workshop once again took shape in the mirror. This time, Chiara had what looked like a giant pair of tweezers in her hand and was plucking at a blob of glass on a rod. As interesting as this insight into glassmaking might be, it was not what Zilia wanted.
“Can the mirror show us the outside of the building?”
Vanna nodded. “Magic mirror, please move away.
“Out of the door and into the day.”
Zilia found herself wondering why the mirror had to be spoken to only in rhymes. Perhaps it wasn’t even for the mirror and instead was more for the client who booked Vanna’s services?
Either way, it worked. Chiara’s figure disappeared into the mists swirling through the mirror, and shortly thereafter, the image of a narrow lane with colorful houses appeared. As the image slowly focused on the front of the house, the dowager princess could discern a large window with a display of glass vases, beakers, goblet, and bowls. Above the window stood the German name “Friedrich Glas Prag.”
Zilia smiled. Now she knew where to order the glass coffin.

WIPpet Wednesday is the brain child of K. L. Schwengel. If you’d like to participate, post an excerpt from your WIP on your blog, something that relates to the date in some way. Then add your link here — where you can also read the other excerpts.

And the winner of the Chameleon cover contest is:

New cover for Chameleon in a Mirror

I have tweaked the cover a bit in accordance with some of the comments I got here and on Facebook, so it isn’t exactly the one you voted on and/or rated, but it is still (for the most part) the winning design.

On the Help Me Choose My Book Cover site, it barely won, and on Rate Book Cover it comes in a little behind design A — but it also has more ratings, none of them negative. And on Facebook, this design won hands down. So when I count that feedback in, things look much clearer than on the two sites linked to above.

But when it comes right down to it, all of the new designs rank better than the cover Chameleon in a Mirror has now. Thanks very much to everyone who voted and rated! Of course, I won’t know if it actually helps until I do a promo of the book with the new cover. I will of course keep you all posted. 🙂

As to progress, that has been limited the last week. For most of the week, the apartment was Very Full. My niece’s boyfriend left Friday evening, my niece Saturday morning, and my daughter and her boyfriend today. I was able to keep up with my self-imposed translation schedule; writing not so much. From Monday to Saturday, I only wrote 1100 new words. But with the exception of one especially full day, I did manage to get at least 100 words on Shards of Glass written a day, so that it will at least stay in my back brain until I have more time to get back to it again.

Wishing everyone a happy and productive week!

Cover voting for Chameleon in a Mirror now open!

I’m late, but at least I’m showing up for the party. 🙂 So, as I predicted, I haven’t gotten a lot of writing done in the last week. I’ve done a lot of visiting with the visitors, kept up on the translation, and managed to write at least 100 words a day on Shards of Glass, to make sure it stays in my subconscious so that I can jump right back in when things calm down here again. I have also set up a 99c sale for Yseult for next week, for which I had to get the promotion organized. Also, my daughter helped me out with tweaking the new cover designs for Chameleon — and whipped together a third based on our old design, just simplifying it. Here is what can now be voted on:

Cover designs for Chameleon in a Mirror

You can take the poll here.

I have also uploaded all three covers individually to the Rate Book Cover site to see how they do on a “graded” scale. You can find the three covers above here, here, and here.

Do please vote and rate. It shouldn’t take much more than a minute of your time, and you’ll be doing me a huge favor. 🙂 Thanks in advance!

Now on the WIPpet Wednesday. No math this time: we’re nearing the end of the month and the end of the scene in Facets of Glass, so I have to decided to use that as my excuse to give you the rest. 🙂 For the sake of context, I’m also providing the last paragraph from the previous excerpt. After this, we will be returning to the evil Dowager Princess again for a while.

“Yes, but please do not tell anyone,” he said, addressing Anastasia again. “I might be accused of practicing magic illegally. In exchange, if you have not found a way to lift this spell by the time I return from Bohemia, I promise to do everything in my power to help you.” But what? He had no magic, and no access to those who did.
All he had was the trust of the Dowager Princess. He would need to use it well.
Anastasia nodded. “I can see that it might lead to problems for you.”
And you must promise me that you will not kill my step-sister, came Minerva’s voice in his head.
“That is an easy promise to make, seeing as it is impossible.”
I do believe that you truly do not know Chiara is in Bohemia.
He stared down at the prone form. If Minerva’s step-sister was alive and in Bohemia, it could only mean that his journey there to commission the glass coffin was a pretense.
And the Dowager Princess did not trust him as much as he thought.
But he could speak of neither without revealing too much to Anastasia.
“No, I didn’t,” he said. “Thank you for telling me.”
“Telling you what?” Anastasia demanded.
“That she is grateful to me for making it possible for her to speak with you,” he lied.
Anastasia’s eyes teared up. “I am grateful as well.”

WIPpet Wednesday is the brain child of K. L. Schwengel. If you’d like to participate, post an excerpt from your WIP on your blog, something that relates to the date in some way. Then add your link here — where you can also read the other excerpts.

More covers, more progress, and more from Gaetano for #WIPpet Wednesday

As I pointed out in my last post on this blog, the cover of Chameleon in a Mirror didn’t do so hot at a cover rating site, so I decided to try a couple of alternatives. I’ve been tweaking them a bit since, and here are the results:

Do let me know what you think! When I have a chance, I plan to upload them as well to the cover rating site to see if they do any better, but the next week and a half is going to be crazy. We have a number of guests from the States arriving, and there will be a lot going on.

With all the work on covers and packaging that I’ve been doing recently, I haven’t been breaking any records on the new words front. But I did manage to get my quota of 2500 words written on Shards of Glass. It’s already several thousand words longer than I originally projected, and new scenes keep popping up, demanding to be written as well. It will be interesting to see how long the book turns out to be.

Since it is Wednesday, that means it is also time for an excerpt from a WIP for WIPpet Wednesday. Since Gaetano is a popular lad in these parts, we’re sticking with him for now, following wherever he needs to go. This snippet is 19 sentences long for the 19th of the month — plus 2 to end the paragraph. It follows directly after what I gave you last week:

Gaetano suspected that the dowager princess would somehow ensure that her daughter-in-law would be unsuccessful, but he didn’t want to tell her that. “It would be worth a try, Your Grace.”
“Would you tell her for me that I will consult witches in addition to doctors on her behalf?”
Tell her thanks, but I can hear her just fine.
“Signorina Minerva wishes you to know that she is grateful, and that she can hear what you say, she just cannot speak.”
“Except to you,” Anastasia said thoughtfully.
He nodded.
“Then I will be requiring your services on a regular basis to accompany me to Murano to speak with my sister,” the princess said.
“I am afraid that will not be possible, Your Grace,” Gaetano said. “The dowager princess will soon be sending me to Bohemia.”
Bohemia? Minerva called out in his mind. Is Zilia sending you to murder Chiara?
“No,” Gaetano said. “That makes no sense. How could she?”
“You truly are speaking with my sister,” Anastasia murmured.
“Yes, but please do not tell anyone,” he said, addressing Anastasia again. “I might be accused of practicing magic illegally. In exchange, if you have not found a way to lift this spell by the time I return from Bohemia, I promise to do everything in my power to help you.” But what? He had no magic, and no access to those who did.

WIPpet Wednesday is the brain child of K. L. Schwengel. If you’d like to participate, post an excerpt from your WIP on your blog, something that relates to the date in some way. Then add your link here — where you can also read the other excerpts.