Inktober – #1 – 8


I’ve been participating in Inktober this year, where basically the goal is to draw every day in October. These were all done on the computer, with a tablet, in Krita, which is free, open-source software for artists that I highly recommend! I’ve tried to draw in Photoshop before, and I kind of hate it, and I’m really terrible at coloring things in it. I mean, let’s be honest, coloring has never been one of my strong points, but I feel like that’s changing with Krita. Because it turns out coloring things is a lot easier when you have limitless colors and, like, a bazillion different tools to use them with. As opposed to, say, an old box of crayons or colored pencils. Not that I’m still using crayons or anything, and I do have a box of not-that-old Prismacolor pencils, but it’s the smallest box and I don’t know how to blend anything.

Anyone else doing Inktober? Leave me a comment and a link to your gallery!


Self-publishing vs. Traditional Publishing

As promised, a post taken from an email I wrote. This is an overview of my thoughts on self-publishing and traditional publishing, based on my and other people’s experiences. Though having experienced both, I’ll admit I’m pretty biased towards self-publishing. But whichever route you take, you should know what you’re in for.

Unless you’re a mega bestseller, it’s really hard to make a living through writing in traditional publishing. Self-publishing makes it much easier for the average author (or “midlister”) to earn a real income. Self-publishing also pays monthly (with an initial two-month delay after publication), and you can see all of your sales numbers. In traditional publishing, on the other hand, you have no idea when you’ll get paid. When a publisher buys your book, they give you an advance on royalties (and these numbers range wildly–could be $5,000, could be $500,000, theoretically depending on how many copies they think they can sell in the first year, but honestly it feels pretty random, and different publishers will make completely different offers on the same books).

Anyway, usually you’ll get half the advance on signing your contract, and half when revisions are done, but sometimes the advance will be paid in thirds instead, so one third on signing, one third on turning in the revised book, and one third on actual publication. There is literally no way to know when any of these steps will be done. Contracts can take only a few months to put together, but I’ve known people who had to wait a year for them. Even getting your revision notes depends on how busy your editor is and when they can get around to it, and then once you’ve actually done them and turned them in, the editor has to find time to read them, which could be weeks or months. Sometimes this process goes fairly quickly (as in, only a few months), but sometimes authors get stuck in revision hell where the editor just keeps requesting revisions over and over again for years. It’s rare for it to take that long, but it happens. Publication dates also get pushed forward sometimes, though at a certain point it’s locked in place. Then once your book comes out, you start getting royalty statements, which list your sales numbers, and if you’ve earned back your advance, they’ll also come with a royalty check. But these statements only come twice a year, and they’re six months after the fact. So whatever sales numbers they list are completely outdated, so for the most part, you’re always in the dark about how your book is doing. Publishers can also “hold against returns,” which means even if you’ve earned out your advance, they might not pay you anything because they’re trying to keep a buffer in case copies of your book get returned.


With self-publishing, on the other hand, you always know your sales numbers and how much money you’re making and when it will be paid.


You also have very little control over what a publisher does with your book. You can say no to edits–which a lot of authors don’t realize and end up making changes they don’t like–but the publisher has complete control over the cover and the blurb on the back of the book. (And if the cover offends people, readers always blame the author.) The publisher also controls the pricing and the Amazon categories the book is listed in. Amazon categories are super important for selling books, and putting it in the right combination of categories can have a huge effect on sales. As a self-publisher, you can choose categories and keywords and can change them at any point, but a publisher will set them once and never touch them again.


Traditional publishing is also super slow. It can take years for a book to come out, and that’s after you’ve found a publisher, which can also take years. For my first book, The Rise of Renegade X, it took me a year and a half to find a publisher, and then it took another year and a half for it to come out, but it can take more like two or three, depending on how full their publication schedule is. The book only took me a month to write, but it took another three years for it to hit the shelves. The publisher also did no marketing for it, and the buyer at Barnes and Noble (because yes, there’s one person per bookstore chain who decides if any of the stores can sell your book) had a “personal reaction” to the book (whatever that means) and decided no Barnes and Nobles were going to sell it. That may have contributed to my publisher not marketing the book–it’s hard to say. But basically, most of a book’s fate has been decided before readers even have a chance to buy it. Three years after the book came out, it was out of print, and I was able to get the rights back (because of a certain clause in my contract that said if sales fell below a certain threshold within a certain amount of time that I could ask for my rights back–this clause varies, depending on the contract, and sometimes they’re so convoluted that you won’t get your rights back unless the publisher actually goes out of business). I republished the book myself, along with a sequel–which the publisher wasn’t interested in, because my sales numbers weren’t high enough–and sold more copies of book one in three months than my old publisher had in three years. I had the same cover (different title font, but same art. which I licensed from the artist), and all I did was lower the price on the ebook and change the categories.


Traditional publishers can also get in the way of you publishing other books. Book contracts will have option clauses, meaning the publisher gets to look at the next book you write. This clause can be more specific, limiting it to a similar genre or even a book that only has the exact same elements, so that you don’t get screwed by it. But a lot of them are pretty open (my first one was–it was just any book in the YA or MG genres, which is everything I write). This means that when you write another book–or even just a proposal (sample chapters and a synopsis), the publisher gets an exclusive look at it. The contract will specify how many days they get an exclusive for (45, usually, or maybe 60), and then they’ll either make an offer or not, and you can either take the offer or try elsewhere. The real problem–and the one that nobody ever tells you ahead of time–is that publishers won’t actually look at anything else you’ve written until they’re finished with your first book. This might mean after edits are done, or it might mean after the book is actually published. This means that if you want to sell another book (or, you know, need to, because you have bills and stuff), you’ll probably have to write something in another genre (assuming your option clause allows for that). The publisher will also get first look at any sequels, which makes sense, but this can also tie things up for a long time. I’ve had publishers take months or in one case a year just to tell me that they weren’t going to publish a sequel. In both cases, I was then free to self-publish sequels myself, but sometimes authors end up with contracts that give the publisher complete control over their world and characters, meaning there’s nothing they can do. Which is a really crap situation to be in.


With self-publishing, you can publish on your own schedule. Meaning, if you write fast, you can publish fast, and the more releases you have, the more money you can make. Getting books out can take months instead of years (or for some people, weeks). You can write in whatever genres you want. You can write to any length–a thousand pages, a hundred pages, whatever. And the royalty rate for self-publishing ebooks is currently 70% (if your book is priced between $2.99 and $9.99, which is why a lot of short books still cost $2.99, because anything outside that range jumps down to 35%). With traditional publishing, ebook royalty rates are going to be way lower–ballpark range, maybe 20% – 35%, depending on your contract. Royalty rates for paper books are usually more like 10%. Whether you self-publish or not, most of your sales will be ebooks, and most of them will be through Amazon.


The only catch with self-publishing is that you need to provide cover art. Some people can make their own and do a good job (some people make their own and do not do a good job), but most people will need to pay an artist. You don’t want to skimp on cover art, because your cover is one of your most important sales tools (along with pricing, book description, and categories), but depending on what you need, you can usually get a good custom cover for a few hundred dollars. Sometimes less. (And by custom cover, I mean photo-manipulation covers, since custom illustration covers can get crazy expensive.) There are tons of pre-made covers out there in the $50 – $200 range. They vary in quality, but some are really good. (And you can always change the cover later.) And technically, you can publish a book with, like, just a flat color with some text on it. (I’m not recommending that, but my point is you don’t have to let anything stop you.)


There are other costs you can spend money on, like hiring an editor or a formatter, but those are things you can do yourself. Formatting an ebook takes two seconds. Formatting a print book takes a bit longer, and there’s more learning involved, but it’s still very doable. And also not nearly as important as having an ebook version up for sale.


As for categories, Amazon lets you pick three, but you can also assign keywords to your book, and those will also influence what categories it ends up in. I believe you can also just email them and say, “Hey, can you put my book in X category?” and they will, but I haven’t tried that. You want to research categories that would fit your book, looking specifically at what the ranking is for the top books in that category. How high does the ranking have to be to get on the first page of that category’s bestseller list? How high to get to the top? Ideally, you want to stagger your categories so that at least one needs a much lower ranking to get to the top listing, and at least one where it’s more difficult to reach the top (possibly way more difficult–some of them are tough!). The reason is because Amazon’s algorithms will promote a book that’s at the top of a category, no matter what category it is. This will in turn boost sales, which will boost its ranking, which will bring it higher in the more competitive categories, which will boost sales, etc. (A traditional publisher is never going to do this for you, especially since it takes some upkeep and the ability/willingness to make changes).

How many reviews you have–especially positive reviews, meaning four and five stars–also influences how the algorithms promote your book. One thing that The Rise of Renegade X had going for it when I republished it is it counted as a new release, since it had a new publisher, but it kept the reviews it had accumulated from its original publication. Meaning that the algorithms saw it as a “new book” that had a bunch of positive reviews from day one. That’s just my speculation, though, so take it with a grain of salt. Book 2 also did pretty well, and it didn’t start with any advantages, other than being the next book in the series. It also helped that I ended up releasing them at almost the same time, meaning they both ended up in Amazon’s Hot New Releases, and readers who enjoyed book 1 could just pick up book 2 and keep reading.

The Still Behind on Everything Post

I was looking at some earlier posts, and apparently back in September I thought I was going to write ALL THE BOOKS this winter. I mean, I knew that was unrealistic, so I said I’d probably not have the next Renegade X book done until the end of this year. But what actually happened was I felt super burnt out on writing novels, after working crazy hard to get Phobia and Torment done, so I just didn’t.

Actually, I wrote a radio play. I knew audiobooks were a thing, but I only discovered audio dramas about a year and a half ago (thank you, Home Front), and it turns out I freaking love audio dramas.

I’m also working on a visual novel (it’s like Choose Your Own Adventure, but with pictures, if you’ve never played one). It’s pretty hilarious, if I do say so myself. (Which I do. Obviously.)

And another Dragonbound book and the next Renegade X book are in the works, plus something new I’ve been playing with.

I always thought I’d be the kind of author who could just do whatever was needed at any given time, but it turns out I’m not. Not being able to wrangle myself makes me feel like a bad writer, so I try not to think about it, because it’s not how I pictured myself when I dreamed of doing this as a career. But creativity is often hard to wrangle! (And adding health issues and energy problems into the mix just complicates things.) And the more I think about it, the more I think it probably doesn’t mean anything bad about my abilities as a writer. But it does mean that I don’t always work on the intended projects at the intended times, despite the fact that it feels like every other writer in the world is getting everything done when they say they will no matter what. (Even though I know they’re not. Well, maybe some of them are, but not all of them. Probably.)

So, yes, delays all around. Including a delay on the next audiobook, which I thought would also be out by now, though that one is for a completely different reason. Everyone involved is ready to go, but I have to wait for contracts (read: payment) from another project (one that will make Renegade X fans very happy, though I can’t reveal it yet), and I really thought they’d be done months ago, but they’re taking forever. But once all that gets sorted out, production will begin on the audiobook for book three. And once production begins, it really shouldn’t take very long for everything to get done and for it to come out.

I’ve also got some writing- and publishing-related posts coming up soon, too. People sometimes email me vague writing or publishing questions, and then I write them back with overwhelming emails containing everything I know on the subject. So I thought I’d comb through my emails and actually make some posts.


Soon, Preciousss

Since I’ve had several people ask recently, here’s a quick update on if/when The Betrayal of Renegade X will be an audiobook.

The answer to “if” is YES.

The answer to “when” is VERY SOON. I can’t give any specific dates yet, but production should start in a few weeks or so. At the moment, I anticipate a June release, but, again, I can’t be sure on the specifics yet, so keep in mind that that’s a tentative date. I will post updates once I know more.

Dragonbound 2 Has a Title and Other Announcements

First off, paperback and hardcover copies of The Phobia of Renegade X are now available!

And if you missed it, The Torment of Renegade X is also available in paperback.

Now, onto upcoming book announcements:

Book 2 in the Dragonbound series is called Honorbound. (You can add it on Goodreads here.) It’s not done yet, but I’m aiming for a late 2017/early 2018 release. Watch here for pre-order info or sign up for the newsletter (top of the left column on my website) to be notified when it goes up.

Virginia St. George thinks she’s finally found where she belongs. She’s been living with Amelrik and the other dragons of Hawthorne clan for the last few months, learning their language and traditions, and has become a useful part of the community. Or so she thinks.


But when Amelrik’s father announces that he’s arranged a marriage for him, and it turns out the general populace sees her as nothing more than a human leech taking advantage of their prince, Virginia realizes she wasn’t fitting in as much as she thought, and her place at Hawthorne clan is more tenuous than ever.


If she wants to keep the love of her life and the only place that’s ever really felt like home, Virginia will have to thwart an arranged marriage, stop a war, and prove that she’s just as worthy as the next dragon. Er, human. And she’ll have to do it fast, before time runs out and she’s forced to leave the dragon world forever.

There will also be a book 5 in the Renegade X series. It’s called The Rivalry of Renegade X. (You can add it on Goodreads, too.) While I don’t have a blurb for it yet, I can tell you that Damien’s “good twin” from another dimension shows up and makes Damien’s life more difficult. >:) I’m hoping to have this out sometime next year (probably late next year), but it’s way too early to say.



The Phobia of Renegade X is Now Available!

It’s out! The Phobia of Renegade X is finally here! It’s currently available in ebook format, with paperback and hardcover coming soon (like, hopefully within the next week), and audiobook coming… eventually (but realistically probably sometime next year–I’ll keep you posted). This book has been a long time coming, and I’m so excited to finally get to share it with you guys.

And if you missed the news, I had to change cover artists for this one, but I LOVE how it turned out!


 photo Renegade4 - small_zpsrugpzlil.jpg


Damien’s always been afraid of heights, but he’s never been afraid of fieldwork or of being in the spotlight. At least, he wasn’t before the gala—the one where his grandpa nearly caused a massacre and heroes from the League almost killed his best friend. Now he finds himself dreading the very things he used to love, and all he wants is to skate by in school, avoid fieldwork, and keep a low profile.

But avoiding his fears isn’t as easy as he hopes, especially when the school decides to send him and his best friend to hunt down a dangerous criminal. And as if that isn’t bad enough, it turns out he also has to pass a flying test if he wants to make it through the school year, even though his debilitating fear of heights means it’s pretty much impossible.

In order to pass the test and catch a criminal, Damien accepts help from unlikely allies. But when his mission goes south and he accidentally lets a terrible weapon fall into the wrong hands, he’ll have to overcome his doubts and save his friends from a psychotic killer bent on using his worst fears against him.

The Ten Year Renegade-iversary

Ten years ago, I was just finishing up The Rise of Renegade X. (It was the summer after I graduated college–at 25, not 22 like you might be thinking–and the last Harry Potter book had just come out–I remember devouring it in between writing sessions.) I wrote book 1 in a 28-day whirlwind from concept to finish, and it was by far the best thing I’d ever written. (In fact, for a long time, I worried I’d never write anything as good as that, which thankfully wasn’t true.) A year and a half later, I added another 20k for an editor (which I wrote in a week), but otherwise, it was the same book it is now.

I didn’t write book 2 until six years and six books later, hence the jump in quality. That one took me three months to write, if you don’t count the five chapters I wrote before that but then couldn’t work on for, like, a year due to illness and having, like, no words in my brain. Despite getting temporarily better enough to work on the book, it didn’t last, and I went back to being blank and empty.

(If you’re wondering, I have an autoimmune disease–Hashimoto’s–and adrenal fatigue, which it turns out were caused by crazy severe food allergies. Mostly gluten. And grains. I know what you’re thinking, but gluten is seriously bad news and it sucked out my soul like a Dementor. It turns out autoimmune disease in general is caused by food allergies (mostly gluten, grains, and dairy), so if you have one, please Google the Autoimmune Protocol–it saved my life.)

Somehow I wrote book 3 while being blank and empty. Sometimes my brain would just go blank in the middle of a sentence, and I would have absolutely no idea what words to put next, and I’d have to walk away from it for a couple weeks until I could start thinking of words again. This forced start-and-stop method was really hard, and I don’t think I can express how frustrating it was. Once I finally started healing, I also realized how dampened my emotions were at the time. It’s not exactly that I couldn’t feel feelings… but I kind of couldn’t feel feelings. And yet somehow I wrote a book full of feelings. Just like how I wrote a book full of thoughts and words when my brain was very low on them. I honestly don’t know how I managed to write that book, though I know it was mostly done in little chunks over two years, so I guess that’s how, but still. The more I heal and the better I get, the more I look back and think, WTF? How in the hell did I manage to write any of that, let alone a whole book?

Book 4 took me a year and half, but I wrote most of it in the last six months. Coincidentally when I had some health breakthroughs and started feeling better. (Crazy, right?) It, too, was written in starts and stops and little chunks, though there were less starts and stops and the chunks were bigger, and my brain stopped crapping out in the middle of sentences. I still have trouble writing for long periods of time, and sometimes I hit my limit way earlier than I would like, but overall it’s getting easier. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to write a book in a 28-day whirlwind again (though I wasn’t exactly healthy then, either, it just wasn’t as bad yet, so who knows?). I think these books have gotten too complicated for that, though I’d settle for a three-month writing binge, or maybe even a six-month writing binge, or maybe even a “just being able to write steadily in general” streak.

Anyway, I can’t believe I’ve been writing Renegade X books for ten years. In that time, only a year and a half has gone by for the characters. At this rate, even if I lived to be 100–and kept writing Renegade X books at the same pace the whole time–Damien would never be older than 27. How bizarre is that? Not that that’s how books work, and not that I’m saying that’s how it’s going to go. I’m just saying the time difference between my life and theirs is very different.

Problems with the Newsletter Are Now Fixed

Okay, so, apparently the newsletter signup on the website was kind of a piece of crap and wasn’t working right. Or at least the WordPress plugin wasn’t working. I switched it out for an embedded form instead, and it seems to be okay now. When you sign up, you’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription, and then after you confirm, you’ll get another email with the link to Damien Locke’s Guide to Golden City, which is a downloadable 18-page PDF full of funny anecdotes and snarky conversations between Damien and Riley.

If you signed up for the newsletter and didn’t get your copy of the guide, I just sent out a newsletter with a link, so you should have it now.

If you sign up for the newsletter after reading this and it still craps out and doesn’t send you anything or do what it’s supposed to, please email me at so I can fix it and send you your copy. But, like, hopefully it’s working now and won’t screw up.

Torment Paperback and Some Cover/Release Date News

For those of you who have been waiting, The Torment of Renegade X is now out in paperback! (It’s been up for a few days, but they haven’t merged the listing yet with the ebook, so I didn’t notice. Oops.)

And I have some good news and some bad news about the cover for book 4.  The bad news is, Raul Allen is no longer going to be able to do the covers for the series, which is unfortunate, since I know many of us loved his covers and were looking forward to the new one. But the good news is that I have an amazing new cover artist lined up, and since I’m switching to photomanipulation covers (instead of the current covers, which are illustrated), this means it will also be done much sooner, and everyone can look forward to reading Phobia in mid August. Maybe even more like early August. (I so can’t wait for everyone to read this book. I love it so much, and it meant so much to me while I was working on it, and now you guys are finally going to be able to read it, too.)

I will eventually have all the covers redone to match the new style (eventually as in sometime this fall), and the new cover style will mean less delays and faster publication timelines in the future.