What the #@$& am I Looking At??

After a busy, busy week around the house, we really need to drop some updates!

Firstly, the first book in the Parliament of Twilight series is back in the top 20 for LGBT Horror.

ep 1 top 20 lgbt horror - 1-19-18

And that’s super, duper exciting after our feature on Queer Sci Fi earlier this week.

In addition to that (and only sort of related to our books but still awesome), Nevi has been working with a new art technique and it’s turned out some amazing results. You can see the first of them on her Deviant Art page.

For those of you who are hoping that we’ll drop some more things for you to spend money on, there is our Patreon page. We’re working on some exclusive content that will (fingers crossed) drop around the end of February and you’ll be the first in the know about our upcoming releases, get sneak peeks at the new covers as they are designed, and exclusive looks between the covers of the Parliament of Twilight books. Also, free eBooks of all our new releases for anyone who donates $5 or more per month.

And I thought there’d be more to talk about, but editing is pretty boring. It’s mostly me staring at words and praying they make sense outside of my head.

pexels-photo-68594.jpeg

New Venues

We’ve been hard at work this weekend, doing some updates to the website. You’ll find the biggest changes over on our “About the Parliament of Twilight” page.  We’ve changed that up quite a bit to better explain the world and format of the books.

EBOOK episode 1 full wrap cover VER2Our re-launch of the Parliament of Twilight: Episode 1 with the shiny new cover has been going well. Most of the sites where we have profiles and where we sell the books have been updated. We’re just waiting for the distribution channels at Smashwords to send it out to Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and a few other sites. By the end of the week, the new cover should be everywhere!

In addition to our website, I’ve spent a good long time cleaning up and making our Patreon site beautiful. It’s looking really nice, with a banner from the new cover and some pretty cool rewards for our donors. We’re working on some exclusive content that should start going up sometime in late February/early March. For as little as $1 a month, you can get access to this content (and feel good about supporting a pair of hard working indie authors and their cats!)

We’ve also launched our books on a new platform, the Google Play store! All 4 Parliament of Twilight books are currently available for download to your Android device. Hopefully, this will bring us to a whole new set of people eager for what we have to offer!

 

Evolution

For those of you who have been following along since we began publishing the Parliament of Twilight books in early 2013, you’ve seen quite the evolution of our book covers. You know that I have always designed the covers. And those first covers were drawn by my writing partner Nevi and put into cover templates I “designed”.

They were lovely but the large paintings didn’t translate well to thumbnails and they certainly didn’t appeal to audiences who were willing to throw money at us.

 

So, I went to work redesigning the covers to meet the expectations of our intended market. And they were….. well…..

They were what they were. Not bad, but desperately trying to cater to a very specific audience in the M/M Romance genre while still making a valiant attempt to keep the horror element that runs through the world was hard. Sort of got it, but not really.

Our long time fans (all three of you) will also recall that the books themselves had a fatal flaw. We were writing stories meant to eventually overlap, but each story line was taking place at three different places on the time line. With overlapping secondary characters. It was getting impossible for us as the authors to keep the stories straight and I don’t even know how the handful of readers we had would have managed if our original plan of 3 or 4 books in each story arc had played out.

We did the only thing we thought we could. We re-branded, changing our label name from Wandering Stars Press (which was also the name of a comic book company anyway and was really messing up our  Google search results) to Hermit & Star Books. And we took the stories that we already had, fit them onto a single time line and began writing the missing pieces to thread them together and give more life to the secondary characters who were the backbone of the over all plot.

What came out of this re-do was the ensemble cast that we all know and love today. The stories made sense, the time line was smoothed out, and we were writing at a record pace. But the new books needed new covers. So I put myself through the process of learning a new set of tools. Something more than a photo editor and GIMP.

And they turned out beautifully. With amazing characters on dynamic backgrounds. The response from our readers was awesome. We’re not NYT best-sellers, but we’re regularly in the top 50 for LGBT Horror, so that’s something. And we make a few sales every month, earning enough for a cup of coffee or two.

But there was something off about the Episode 1 cover. Something that made it look out of place next to the other ones.

It was the first. I have learned many, many more tricks to making amazing renders, the program I use (DAZ Studio 3D) has been updated several times. I’ve found hours of tutorials for making my final products amazing.

After dealing with this for almost 3 years (Episode 1 released in late Feb 2015), I finally broke down and did what I swore I wasn’t going to do. I risked the endless cycle of fixing and redoing my past work to take it that elusive place called Perfection. I sat down and redid the cover from scratch. New character design for Jacob. New background. Updating the font and graphics to match the other books.

Then this …

episode 1 full wrap cover

Which wasn’t BAD, but it certainly wasn’t good either. It became something else. Something new and amazing. It became this…..

Copy of episode 1 full wrap cover VER2

 

And I am so much, much happier. I am in love with this cover. So much in love.

And  by the end of the weekend, this new amazingness should be posted on every site where our books are sold.

Get in on this Pre-order

After over a year of re-writes, edits, full-stop plot holes, and feral chupacabra attacks, Parliament of Twilight: Episode 4 is ready for the public!

ep 4 cover Kindle smaller
The men of the Parliament will be forced to discover what they are made of whilst facing Demons and the truth of the internal workings of the Parliament of Twilight itself. 

 

Officially releasing in eBook on December 18th, you can now pre-order it on either Amazon or Smashwords. Also, if you are a paperback lover, Amazon has it available now.  (And for our fans who are outside the US, you want these links for the ebook or the paperback.)

In addition to the excitement of the pre-order, we are also running a giveaway from now until the release date on the 18th. Easy to enter, easy to win spiffy prizes.

And now, back to the writer cave to work on the preparations for Episode 5! Hoping that we will be seeing the release on 5 around April or May 2018. *fingers crossed*

PS- how could I forget the free stuff? If you want to get a copy of Parliament of Twilight: Episode 1 (as well as a few other really cool books) hop over to this post on Facebook and sign up for the Queeromance Ink newsletter. Details on how to get this super cool Paranormal LGBT pack of free stuff is in the post, but trust me. It’s easy and all you need is an email.

 

A Picture’s Worth

Malachite and Marius
Just one of the ten amazing pictures that will be in the Parliament of Twilight Episode 2 Illustrated Edition!!

Finished the formatting for the paperback version of Parliament of Twilight Episode 2 tonight!  And the cover is looking super nice as well.  It just needs a few little tweaks.  We will probably be ready to order a proof copy by the end of the weekend.  The eBook format will take a little longer, since it is really tricky getting the pictures in just right.  We should have an official release date anytime now!

Also, while we are talking about the pictures, in the coming weeks, we will be updating our Zazzle and Etsy stores to include several different ways you can get full color versions of some of the illustrations.  Stay tuned for more info about that.

Is there one that you are particularly fond of?  Let me know via Facebook message or email at hermitstarbooks@outlook.com and I’ll pass the message on to Nevi so she knows which of the illustrations people want to see in color!  There are also some fanart and original pieces already available at our stores!  Don’t be shy about checking them out.  Every like, share, and of course, every sale, is greatly appreciated!

The Questions that Matter #5: What’s on the Shelf?

Today we got our first submission for the Questions that Matter via email!  Thanks for the interesting question, Tracey!

I’ve found everything that you wrote, but what do you read?  What authors inspire you?

So, I’m only going to answer for myself this time, and guess at what Nevi likes.  (But after being together for 17 years, I think I’m pretty much the expert on everything Nevi, so you can trust that my answers are pretty accurate!)

So, Nevi is very much inspired by Stephen King, Anne Rice, and Edgar Allen Poe.  She loves horror novels (not so much movies) and high intensity psychological thrillers.  Recently, we both fell in love with Neal Shusterman (the Unwind books, to be exact) and she’s looking forward quite a bit to reading all of his catalog.  She also reads tons of manga.  Just literal tons of it.  It’s all over the house and she loves it so much.  It combines art with words to tell stories in an amazing way (and was the natural progression from her previous obsession with comic books.)

And as for myself?  Well, I have a special love for Anne Rice and Stephen King as well.  But my real hero of literature is Laura Antoniou.  She’s amazing.  Just wow.  Her Marketplace books changed everything when I read the Slave back in high school.  (And did I mention that Nevi and I have a short story in her upcoming Anthology, No SafeWords 2?  *squeal*flail*hyperventilate* Really, it’s true.  I’m so stoked for it to come out later this year!!)

Anyway, back to my collection of books.  I adore Anne Bishop, Richelle Mead, and was heavily influenced by Jean Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear books.    I’ve just finished reading the Steampunk London series (by Bec McMaster) earlier today and I was not disappointed! I’ve had to fight not to tear through it one after another! I like to drag out the series I love for a little longer if I’m able. I get a little sad when I’m done with a good story and have to leave those characters behind. I know, i know. I can re-read them anytime (and this is a series I will come back to time and again) but it’s never as good as the first time.

Starting the Dark Swan series (Richelle Mead) and working my way through the Unwind books (Neal Shusterman).  Looking forward to breaking into Cecilia Tan’s Magic University books soon.  And after that? Who knows.  I have a huge collection of to-be-read books and try not to think too hard about what’s coming up next.  It hurts my brain.

So, yeah.  I rambled a bit but I hope that you enjoyed my answers!  And if anyone else has any questions for this blog series, please don’t be shy about hitting me up on Facebook or via email (hermitstarbooks@outlook.com)

The Questions that Matter, #4: It’s Hard. So Very Hard.

So, here we are with what is now the fourth in our still pretty new Questions that Matter blog series.  And if you aren’t aware of where it came from, here’s the quick history (for the last time).

We had a release party on Facebook for our newest book, The Parliament of Twilight Episode 2 and it was lots of fun!  We didn’t have many attendees (only 10 brave souls, if I’m being honest) but that was probably because I up and decided on Saturday to host an event on Tuesday.  I’d read a marketing article that said events were a great way to reach people with the new Facebook page algorithms making everything all wonky.  So, I thought, why not give it a try?

Anyone who is interested can still go and answer the two poll questions that I’ve posted to gather a bit of info about what to do for the next one.  Remember, Episode 3 will be here before we know it!

One of the things we did at the party was answer questions from readers.  That was so much fun for me!  I loved doing it when we did our blog tour back in 2013 (while we were still baby authors!) and it was just as awesome as I hoped talking to people and answering questions about our process and characters.

And now that we have that out of the way, let’s get to the last question that came from the release party which is also, ironically, the first question that was asked.  It was our #1 fangirl and editing genius Seth. (and as usual, this was copied directly from Facebook.)

First question! From Seth. Do you (either or both) have a character that is the hardest for you to write and why?

Funny thing is, Nevi and I were just talking about this the other day in the car!

I personally find that Julian the hardest to write. There are plenty of characters that I write who are complicated and sometimes just plain unpleasant, but with Julian it’s really different. He scares me a little because I’m never quite sure how he’s going to react to situations. With most of the others, I sort of already know what they will do or say in most situations. But Julian has this dangerous undercurrent to him that keeps me on my toes.

I’ll track down Nevi and get her to answer this too! Thanks for the question, Seth!

I was never able to convince Nev to answer this one, but she’s super shy, so you know.

Did you have some questions that you never got answered?  Don’t be shy!   You can message me, Dani Hermit, through our Facebook page or via email at hermitstarbooks@outlook.com with the subject “The Questions that Matter submission” and I will post the answers in our blog!

The Questions that Matter, #3: Where do they come from?

I’m sure that you’ve caught on that I’m doing a new series of entries on our blog.  Here’s a little background, just in case you haven’t.

We had a release party on Facebook for our newest book, The Parliament of Twilight Episode 2 and it was lots of fun!  We didn’t have many attendees (only 10 brave souls, if I’m being honest) but that was probably because I up and decided on Saturday to host an event on Tuesday.  I’d read a marketing article that said events were a great way to reach people with the new Facebook page algorithms making everything all wonky.  So, I thought, why not give it a try?

Anyone who is interested can still go and answer the two poll questions that I’ve posted to gather a bit of info about what to do for the next one.  Remember, Episode 3 will be here before we know it!

One of the things we did at the party was answer questions from readers.  That was so much fun for me!  I loved doing it when we did our blog tour back in 2013 (while we were still baby authors!) and it was just as awesome as I hoped talking to people and answering questions about our process and characters.  I’ve decided that I will post the answers as a series of blog entries over the next week or two.

This one comes from my sister-in-law, Jamie-lyn.  It’s one of those questions that you think authors get all the time, but I can’t remember ever having to answer it.  (Note: once again, this answer is copied directly from Facebook.)

Another question! This one is a good one too.

How do you guys come up with the characters?

For me, at least, it isn’t really like I create any of the characters. It’s more like they just show up with all their shit and take it upon themselves to move in.

Generally, the inspiration for characters come from things we watch or read, but more often than not, the character is an amalgamation of several different inspirations before they ever show up in the stories. But once they have been written, they take on a life of their own, growing past the original idea to become entities in their own rights.

For example, it’s well known in our inner circle of friends that Jacob Kruez’s original inspiration came from Zak Baggins of Ghost Adventures. Nevi and I were watching the pilot episode one night and we started talking about how cool it would be to see a story about an exorcist was wasn’t all serious and stuffy. We wanted to have someone who, like Zak and his friends, was sort of a frat boy ghost hunter. That person became Jacob.

But we weren’t done there. We layered in more and more, drawing on so many things that we loved (like anime and reality TV) until we had a 40-ish addict with a serious attitude problem who hated that he was an exorcist and hated the people he worked for even more. Throw in a contrived, totally fake day job as a TV ghost hunter and now, we had Jacob Kruez. In the telling of his story of redemption and falling in love despite his heavily cynical attitude, he’s grown and is becoming something amazing that no longer looks anything like his original inspiration.

Wow, I can really go on! Hope that answered your question!

That’s one of my favorites from the party.  I really enjoyed the feeling of being a “real author” answering “real author” questions!  It was a surreal feeling of realizing for the first time that I’m all grown up and living the dream I thought was impossible when I was a kid.  So very cool!

Did you have some questions that you never got answered?  Don’t be shy!   You can message me, Dani Hermit, through our Facebook page or via email at hermitstarbooks@outlook.com with the subject “The Questions that Matter submission” and I will post the answers in our blog!

The Questions that Matter, #2: The Chupacabras

You probably remember me mentioning this last time, but we had a release party on Facebook for our newest book, The Parliament of Twilight Episode 2 and it was lots of fun!  We didn’t have many attendees (only 10 brave souls, if I’m being honest) but that was probably because I up and decided on Saturday to host an event on Tuesday.  I’d read a marketing article that said events were a great way to reach people with the new Facebook page algorithms making everything all wonky.  So, I thought, why not give it a try?

Anyone who is interested can still go and answer the two poll questions that I’ve posted to gather a bit of info about what to do for the next one.  Remember, Episode 3 will be here before we know it!

One of the things we did at the party was answer questions from readers.  That was so much fun for me!  I loved doing it when we did our blog tour back in 2013 (while we were still baby authors!) and it was just as awesome as I hoped talking to people and answering questions about our process and characters.  I’ve decided that I will post the answers as a series of blog entries over the next week or two.

So, here is a fun question that also came from Lee.  It’s one of those things that I think everyone who read the original Tales from the Parliament books was wondering. (Note: again, this is copied directly from the Facebook Post)

One last question before we head off to celebrate day one of our new release!

This is another from Lee, and probably the most difficult to explain of all!

What is UP with the chupacabras? Or am I just going to have to wait and see? (Oh, come on, you knew I was gonna ask this one.)

The chupacabras. The fucking chupacabras….

The honest truth is that I have no idea what’s up with the chupacabras. We needed a monster that Siris was terrified of and after running through the old stand-bys — mummies, vampires, werewolves, zombies — we didn’t like any of them. But the day came when we had to write a scene about Siris being terrified by a creature and Nevi wrote “chupacabra”.

We both died laughing and since then it’s been a thing. To this day, I don’t think that either of us are completely sure where the hell she came up with that.

And that lead to an interesting interchange in the comments that now has me thinking that maybe we need a chupacabra to appear in one of the upcoming Episodes!

LEE:  I was always wondering what the Hell was so bad about them. Nobody ever seems to like a run-in with one, Siris especially. I think some of the other characters have expressed a kind of disgust toward them. I was just wondering if yours had some kind of twist where they were especially unpleasant, considering your unique take on some other creatures.

ME:  We haven’t run into one yet, but who knows? They might be hella hot, vaguely Mexican shifters. Or they might be nasty redneck skeezy shifters. Or they could just be scary and gross. We tend to tackle things like that as we come to them.

What do you think?  Should we explore the chupacabra issue?  Or do you have other issues you think we need to explore?  Don’t be shy!   You can message me, Dani Hermit, through our Facebook page or via email at hermitstarbooks@outlook.com with the subject “The Questions that Matter submission” and I will post the answers in our blog!

The Questions that Matter, #1: Why did you do it?

So, we had a release party on Facebook for our newest release, The Parliament of Twilight Episode 2 and it was lots of fun!  We didn’t have many attendees (only 10 brave souls, if I’m being honest) but that was probably because I just decided on Saturday to host an event on Tuesday.  I’d read a marketing article that said events were a great way to reach people with the new Facebook page algorithms making everything all wonky.  So, I thought, why not give it a try?

Anyone who is interested can still go and answer the two poll questions that I’ve posted to gather a bit of info about what to do for the next one.  Remember, Episode 3 will be here before we know it!

One of the things we did at the party was answer questions from readers.  That was so much fun for me!  I loved doing it when we did our blog tour back in 2013 (while we were still baby authors!) and it was just as awesome as I hoped talking to people and answering questions about our process and characters.  I’ve decided that I will post the answers as a series of blog entries over the next week or two.

So, away we go with the first and probably the most revealing question.  (note: this is copied verbatim from the Facebook page.)

We got a doozy of a question in from Lee this morning! This is going to take a while to answer, so I hope everyone hangs around for the whole thing!

Here’s her question:
I’ve read your first three books, and was wondering, when did you realize you wanted to write something more episodic? Also, how do you keep your narrative smoothed out so that the story doesn’t just seem like a series of events, but something more cohesive?

WOW. Okay, let’s start with the easy part! Keeping the narrative cohesive. NOTES, lots and lots of notes. We make outlines of the original stories and then we make outlines of the pieces that should have been in between the scenes in those stories. Then we plot out how much we want to include in an Episode. Then we double check that plot. And once the draft is done, we triple check to make sure that we’re still following the timeline.

But as to when and how we realized we needed to change the format of the books? That was something we had to realize over time. The three Tales from the Parliament books were originally written as the first books of their own series. They are set in the same world, but focused primarily on three couples and were in different points of time. We had Ghost House happening first with Jacob & Brodie. Monster next with Julian and Siris and Inertia starting up third with Skye & RT.

What started to happen, because all three stories were part of the same world, was that some of the minor characters began to move between the different stories. And then there were connections between the main characters (Skye is technically the villain at the start of Monster and one of the heroes of Inertia!) It was all getting way too hard to keep the timelines of these secondary characters intact (especially ones like Richard who are alive and well in one and not doing so great in another or the Wolf twins who appeared in Inertia after the planned events of Ghost House 2 & 3 without a proper explanation of what happened to them.)

This was making us completely crazy, but we were writing M/M erotic romances, so we had to put up with it and keep the stories focused on the main couples, right?

But in the process of releasing the second books of Ghost House and Monster, we had a major breakdown/breakthrough with the writing. There was a massive spoiler for Ghost House in the Monster story line. I mean HUGE. Which in the course of the time line, the characters in Monster would know this thing but the readers would be spoiled for a major plot point of Ghost House. What were we going to do?

Well, first we cried. A lot. And swore a bit. Threw things. Then we got our shit together and brainstormed for hours.

What we finally admitted was that we weren’t happy writing in the romance genre. There were too many rules and guidelines (most unwritten, to be honest, but people expect certain things when you call your book a romance of any variety.) We were in love with too many of our characters and wanted to tell all of their stories. And, most important of all, the dark, horrific, amazing world we were building had its own story that loomed over that of the characters. The only way to do justice to the story living inside of us was to change what we were doing.

The final decision was that we would “rebrand” from Wandering Stars Press to Hermit & Star Books, take down the second books, and start from the logical beginning of the Parliament of Twilight story. It’s honestly the best choice that I’ve ever made in regards to my writing. I’m having so much fun telling the pieces that I thought would be forgotten or ignored. I’m enjoying exploring pieces of our world that were going to be left in darkness. And I’m loving being able to let all the characters have a place in the spotlight.

So, yeah.  That was quite a question to answer!  But there it is.  Do you have questions for the authors as well?  You can message me, Dani Hermit, through our Facebook page or via email at hermitstarbooks@outlook.com with the subject “The Questions that Matter submission” and I will post the answers to our blog!