Book Review: Fate War Alliance, by E.M. Havens

book coverFate War: Alliance is the first book in the Fate War series.

Genre: Steampunk Romance

Overall **** 4 out of 5 Stars.  I was provided a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

An arranged marriage between Prince Cole and Princess Samantha provides the alliance needed to defeat the Fate Army.

Prince Cole is your basic playboy-not-interested-in-being-King.  Princess Samantha is anything but basic.  When Cole’s brother is killed, Cole is forced to step into his place as next-in-line to the throne, but he doesn’t exactly go willingly.  Sam wants to escape palace life, but before she can, her parents send her to a “finishing” school and wipe out her uniqueness and free will.

After being forced to wed and then consummate the marriage in front of a room full of strangers, Cole and Samantha get off to a bit of a rocky start.  He wants to get to know her, but all she wants to do is please him, and the two wants don’t exactly compute.  Eventually, Cole is able to coax out pieces of the true Samantha: she’s a fast reader who retains everything she’s read, she loves horses, dessert is her favorite part of a meal.  But Samantha is constantly at war with herself, having been “taught” in the finishing school what a true lady is and Cole’s behavior won’t let her follow her what she’s “learned.”

When it is finally revealed that Samantha’s mother repressed her daughter’s genius in order to hide her paternity, Sam finally accepts herself for who she is and allows her true self to come to the surface.  Cole gifts her a tinker shop and she shows aptitude for battle.  When the Fate army begins closing in, she proves herself capable of of much more than building trinkets by leading the Alliance army to victory against the Fate.

This was my first foray into the steampunk genre and I quite liked it!  Because the world is based on something I was already familiar with, Victorian England (with some medieval elements), the world-building didn’t throw me.  It intrigued me.  Havens does an excellent job of dropping in phrases and technologies unique to her world while giving the reader the context clues needed to figure out what those references mean.

The heat between Cole and Samantha was ABSOLUTELY FANFREAKINGTASTIC.  Havens teases the characters and the readers and when things finally happen, it is well-worth the wait.  It’s sweet, it’s sensual, it’s loving.  And then, to top it off, the reader can tell the characters genuinely like and care for each other, beyond lust and love.

Character Development: **** 4.5 out of 5 stars.  Samantha is one of the most complex characters I’ve ever read.  Her constant internal battle is not only well-written and believable, it is also so unique.  She merges the two stereotypical female characters we’ve come to expect in Princess stories: the weak, damsel-in-distress, needing her Prince to be her Savior, with the strong, bad-assed, take-no-crap-from-anyone warrior, and she does it in a way that is not stereotypical at all.  I don’t think I’m explaining this correctly, but read it, and I think you’ll get what I’m saying.  I loved Samantha, because to tell the truth, I’m a little sick of female characters who are strong only because it is un-PC to write a female character who isn’t strong.  Samantha is weak AND strong.  Insecure AND confidant.  Subversive AND dominant.  But she’s not all obnoxious about it.

The other characters were also really well-written.  Cole started out a little cliche, but he grew on me, especially in his good intentions towards Samantha.  Zeb was amazingly well-done, and he was only featured in a few scenes, so I imagine he’ll have a larger role in the next installment.  Then there’s Jasper.  Oh Jasper. For a character who appeared only once and who didn’t technically say anything, he was incredibly interesting.  There’s mystery surrounding him – we don’t know if he’s good or evil, we don’t know why he joined the Fate army, we don’t know if he’s somehow controlling Samantha in her dark periods.  So many questions, but good ones!  I didn’t feel unsatisfied not knowing the answers to them, it just made me ready to read the next book.

Plot: **** 4 out of 5 stars.  A lot happens in this book.  We meet Cole and Samantha, they begin their married life, and Cole begins Samantha’s “re-education.”  Then there is the discovery of Samantha’s true self.  They fall in love.  Samantha finally enables herself to trust Cole and become intimate with him.  The Fate army draws near.  Samantha proves she’s more than just a pretty face by leading their army.  The progression of the plot is steady, the tension between Cole and Samantha perfect.  There were a few scenes of conflict between Sam and Cole that felt a little forced/contrived to me, which caused me to remove one star, but for the most part, it was beautifully plotted.

Writing Style/ Voice of the Author: **** 4 out of 5 stars.  Havens keeps it simple, which I really like.  The story was easy to read, the dialogue flowed well and felt natural.  The book is a breeze.  There were a few awkward scene jumps, but for the most part, I liked the pacing.  The author’s voice never intruded.  I said it in my review of Gone Girl, and I’ll say it again: nothing ruins the flow of a book like the author’s voice intruding.  Havens showed her story beautifully .

Favorite Lines:

“Although he had managed to cooperate as little as possible over the years with his father, King Arnold, his duties as Prince could no longer be ignored.  Duty.  He just couldn’t understand how societies so technologically advanced, and continuing to advance, could hold on to such archaic and simply barbaric traditions.”

“Sprocket Defend!”

“Sam found it wasn’t just warmth that soaked into her body from his touch, strength seeped in, too.”

Purchase Fate War: Alliance

Kindle

Paperback

HeadshotAbout the Author:

Who is E.M. Havens? I’m a lot of things. The word that seems to define me most at the moment is mom. It can be all consuming. Not only am I a mom of three (one of them is a teenager…pity me), but I also home-school (pity me more). I share this awesome responsibility with the love of my life, best friend, and soul-mate husband.

Add to that, the twenty-five chickens, twelve turkeys, ten guineas, nine pigs, three barn cats, two Great Pyrenees guardian dogs, a Chihuahua, a house cat, and a goose, it makes for one crazy, full, and certainly entertaining life.

Somewhere in there I find the time to write.  I started out young writing poems, then moved on to songs. I actually have a Bachelor in Music with a secondary in Science because I can’t stand English. Yes, the writer hates English.  I like to read the story for the experience of reading the story, not to nitpick each letter and comma. But I digress.

I eventually found blogging and really enjoyed sharing my life that way. When an unfortunate turn of events separated me from my music equipment, I decided to use my overactive imagination, my love of reading, and my new found hobby, prose writing, to release some of my creative energy.  I wrote my first novel and loved the experience. Fate War: Alliance is actually the second novel I wrote and the first to be published.  Now I’m working on my third and several sequels to Fate War!

So that’s pretty much me, sitting in the Arbuckle Mountains of Oklahoma, reading, writing, collecting eggs from the coop, and being a schoolmarm. It’s a pretty great life.

E.M.’s Blog

Author Facebook Page

Fate War Facebook Page

Twitter

Author Interview: E.M. Havens

E.M. Havens is the author of the Steampunk Romance series, Fate War.  The first book in the series, Fate War: Alliance is available now, and I spoke with E.M.  about the book, being a writer, and a few other random things.  Come back tomorrow for my review of Fate War: Alliance.

I don’t know much about the Steampunk genre – can you explain some of its characteristics for my readers?

Steampunk generally refers to a story/movie set in Victorian or Wild West era with alternate fantastical, steam powered technology. The ascetic is usually lots of brass, silver, and gold with gears, cogs and of course steam. While the 1800’s London or America is the norm, steampunk can be done in other centuries and in made up places, though hardcore steamers might balk. Fate War is a bit of a hodgepodge. It’s a fantasy world loosely based on Victorian England, but I’ve thrown a little medieval in and there will also be many surprises in the next installment.

You write in a couple of different genres – do you have a favorite genre to write, and why?

I write in different genres because I’m a new writer and I haven’t found my niche yet! LOL! I think my favorite genre is just whatever happens to be fueling my passion at the moment. When a story won’t leave me alone, it doesn’t matter what genre it is, it’s my fave.

Your characters are very well-written.  Do you base them on people you know, or do they spring from your imagination?

My characters are not based on any one person. They do exhibit characteristics of different people I know and interactions I’ve experience with others. Mostly, I just try and see life from that characters perspective and they seem to come alive. There are actually a few chapter after Sam’s big reveal with the Queen that were not in my outline because when the truth came out, Sam just didn’t react how I imagined. It was very disconcerting for me as a new writer. I tried to write the next scene I had planned but Sam just wouldn’t/couldn’t carry on the way I had envisioned. I finally just went with her and eventually we came back to the story line. So, to answer your question, it’s a little of both.

Tell me about the next book in the Fate War Saga.

Wouldn’t YOU like to know! I’m being pretty tight lipped about it, but I’ve left clues on my facebook page every now and then. Without giving too much away, I will say that we continue to follow Sam and Cole as they settle into their new roles…and it’s not going to be easy. As a matter of fact, there is much I’m dreading about writing a few scenes because it’s going to hurt. We will get an answer to “What the heck is going on with her freakin’ eyes!!!???” I promise. We will also get answers about Jasper and the Sovereign. In addition, we will follow some other well loved characters such as Captain Jensen and Hope. There will also be a plethora of new characters and love interests to keep things steamy!

I talk a lot on my blog about becoming a “real” writer.  When did you feel like a real writer?

I think it was just last weekend. LOL!  It was the strangest thing, for the first time in my entire life, when someone asked me, “what do you do?”, I answered, “I’m a writer.” It actually shocked me. I usually just say, “I’m a stay at home mom.” But it just came out. Then when they said, “Ohhhh….well are you published?” I answered yes and they proceeded to check out Amazon and download my books! I felt….real. LOL!

Tell me something completely random about yourself that has nothing to do with Fate War or writing.

I was in show choir in high school. It was really fun, but nothing like Glee…NOTHING like Glee. Okay, a little like Glee. Friday’s were spirit day’s and our director wanted us to wear shirts to support our group. That’s all well and good…and we did…but we were ridiculed relentlessly. Not because we were the show choir geeks, but because some idiot did not have the foresight many, many years ago when they named the group, that it might be a little awkward for a bunch of kids to walk around high school all wearing shirts that said, SWINGERS.

*

Thank you, E.M. for stopping by and introducing me to Steampunk.  Now everyone, go and buy her book!

Purchase Fate War: Alliance

Kindle

Paperback

About the Author:

HeadshotWho is E.M. Havens? I’m a lot of things. The word that seems to define me most at the moment is mom. It can be all consuming. Not only am I a mom of three (one of them is a teenager…pity me), but I also home-school (pity me more). I share this awesome responsibility with the love of my life, best friend, and soul-mate husband.

Add to that, the twenty-five chickens, twelve turkeys, ten guineas, nine pigs, three barn cats, two Great Pyrenees guardian dogs, a Chihuahua, a house cat, and a goose, it makes for one crazy, full, and certainly entertaining life.

Somewhere in there I find the time to write.  I started out young writing poems, then moved on to songs. I actually have a Bachelor in Music with a secondary in Science because I can’t stand English. Yes, the writer hates English.  I like to read the story for the experience of reading the story, not to nitpick each letter and comma. But I digress.

I eventually found blogging and really enjoyed sharing my life that way. When an unfortunate turn of events separated me from my music equipment, I decided to use my overactive imagination, my love of reading, and my new found hobby, prose writing, to release some of my creative energy.  I wrote my first novel and loved the experience. Fate War: Alliance is actually the second novel I wrote and the first to be published.  Now I’m working on my third and several sequels to Fate War!

So that’s pretty much me, sitting in the Arbuckle Mountains of Oklahoma, reading, writing, collecting eggs from the coop, and being a schoolmarm. It’s a pretty great life.

E.M.’s Blog

Author Facebook Page

Fate War Facebook Page

Twitter

Write What You Know

One of my co-workers said to me today that it was hard separating me from Abby in Twenty-Five.  She said reading the book was like reading my journal.  And she’s exactly right.  It took a long time for me to allow anyone I knew in real life to read the book because she hit the nail on the head – I poured my emotions into Abby’s story.  Her feelings are my feelings.  The things that happen to her haven’t happened to me, but the way she feels about them is.

You have probably heard the old caveat, “Write what you know.”  That’s what I did with Twenty-Five.  I wrote about the person I knew best in the world – myself.  It’s embarrassing and liberating at the same time.  The book was written five years ago and I’ve changed even more than Abby does in the course of the story, but it doesn’t change the fact that at one point in my life I was feeling very vulnerable, frightened that I would never amount to anything, a hundred percent sure no one would ever love me.  I’ve moved past some of those things, and some of them I’m still working on; knowing that I’ve exposed myself to the world, though, is freeing.  I don’t have to hide my fears.  I don’t have to hide my morals.  They are who I am.  And that’s what I wrote.

A Day in the Life

So, I am not an author every day.  I have a full time job and a social life when I can swing it, so sometimes my author life gets pushed to the side.  But some days, a lot of author-y things happen.

Like today.  I got up early and submitted information to ten websites that promote free Kindle books (my next free days are coming up at the end of the month).  I plan on submitting to a lot more over the next two weeks and hopefully one (or two or three) will bite and actually feature my book.  Increased exposure leads to more downloads, which can lead to a higher ranking after the promo ends, which leads to more visibility, which *hopefully* will lead to more actual sales.

After the tedious task of filling out form after form for those websites, I headed over to a photographer to get my professional and official Author Headshot taken.  We had a lot of fun with different poses and backgrounds, even some props!  Don’t worry, though, nothing cheesy!  I can’t wait to see how they turn out.  She said she should be able to get me the images to look over by next week and I’ll post the ones I like for you all to ooh and ahhh over.

From the headshot shoot, I went straight to work.  No author stuff there, but as I am not making enough money writing to support myself yet, it’s kinda author-y because my paychecks enable me to you know, eat and stuff, while I’m working on my next book!

And after I post this I’ll be leaving to meet with my critique group.  They are getting chapters 7 & 8 of The Maidening Ceremony.  I hope they are ready to just GUT it.  My first drafts are so terrible – I really depend on my critique groups (online and in person) to tell me what sucks and what is passable and what is actually pretty good.

When I get home, I’ll obsessively check my sales (AGAIN) on Amazon and CreateSpace and probably stop by the KDP forums to see if anything new and helpful has been posted.  And THEN, if it isn’t too late, I’ll either do some critiquing on TheNextBigWriter, or I’ll actually write!  Whew.

And that’s a day in the life of a new author.

A New Reason to LOVE Pinterest

I was browsing around some book blogger sites yesterday and one writer mentioned using Pinterest to create inspiration boards for her characters and books.  I thought, wait a second!  Another excuse reason for me to waste time on use Pinterest!  Sign me up!

Needless-to-say, I went on and created an inspiration board for my new WIP, Lark.  I didn’t look for anything intentional, just browsed my friends pins, the “Everything” tab, and the “Popular” tab.  And I found quite a bit of useful inspiration.  Most of it was for the MC, Honor, but I’ll probably do some more digging this weekend to collect inspiration for the other characters, namely Sedric (and Zara), Bonnie (and Caron & Lang), and Valor ( and Mabry, Shyla, & Handor).

Check out the Inspiration for Lark board HERE.  Feel free to follow that board, or all my boards, and I’ll follow you back.

Found on Pinterest - Inspiration for Honor's haircut
Found on Pinterest – Inspiration for Honor’s haircut

First Month Stats

internet-statistics_1July is over.  My first month of self-publishing is over.  I’m hoping that sharing my findings will help those out there considering self-publishing.

I enrolled in KDP Select for the e-book.  I choose the 70% royalty option and priced the e-book at $2.99 US, with comparable prices for other markets (UK, France, Germany, Canada, etc).  My royalty for the e-book is approximately $2.03.  I used 2 of my five free days early in the month, on July 3rd and July 6th.  My thought process for the free days being that people would be on (or about to be going on) vacation, likely a beach vacation, and would be looking for something easy to read.

For the paperback, I went with the publish-on-demand (POD) service CreateSpace.  I priced the book at $10.99 US, again with comparable prices for other markets.  My royalty for the paperback when ordered through Amazon is $1.90 (no one has ordered it through CreateSpace, so I won’t worry about their royalty).

Now the good stuff – the stats.  Here are all the details from the first month:

Money Spent

ISBN for the paperback – $10.00

Proof copy of the paperback – $8.28

Business Cards (with Title of Book, link to Amazon’s page where people can buy the book, and all of my Social Media contact info) – $49.52, purchased through Staples online print center (500 cards)

Copies of the paperback for Gifts, Giveaways, and In-person sales – $187.65 (35 copies)

Shipping of a paperback copy to a Book Reviewer – $2.75

Total Costs: $258.20

E-books Sold

USA – 64 copies

UK – 267 copies (that’s right, they like me in the UK)

Canada – 4 copies

Total Sales: 335

Royalty Total: approximately $680.05 (this is calculating $2.03 royalty for each copy, though the exchange rates may cause some differences.  I’ll know a firmer total when I receive the report on the 15th)

E-books Borrowed

USA – 3 copies

UK – 5 copies

Total Borrows: 8

Royalty Total: Not sure what the payout will be for borrows yet, I’ll find out in my monthly report around the 15th, I believe.  The average for the past couple of months (according to KDP community message boards) is approximately $2.00 per borrow, so $16.00

Free Downloads over 2 days

USA – 487

UK – 152

Canada – 4

France – 10

Germany – 14

India – 3

Total Downloads: 670

Royalty Total: $0.00, duh 🙂

Paperbacks Sold

Through CreateSpace – 18

Royalty Total: $34.20

In-person by me – 12 + 2 copies that were given with a promise of payment later (I know where they live!)

Royalty Total: (I spent $5.34 on each copy and charged $10.00 when selling them) $55.92

Total Sales: 30

Paperbacks Given Away

3, though I have plans to give a few more away

Royalty Total: $0.00 again

Profits

Approximately $527.97.  For someone who never expected anyone to even read my book, let alone pay for it, I am REALLY happy with that number.  Even though I won’t actually see the money for a couple of months (Amazon doesn’t pay out until 60 days after the end of the month in which the royalties are made and CreateSpace is 30 days after the end of the month in which the royalties are made).

Marketing

I did very little marketing.  I posted the link to the book on my personal facebook page and several friends and family members shared it.  I then created a Facebook Author fan page, a Twitter account, and a Goodreads author page.  I asked on my facebook pages for friends to leave reviews on Amazon and Goodreads IF they read and enjoyed the book.

11 reviews have been posted on Amazon, all 5-star, 10 by people I know.  The one person who I didn’t know, heard of the book through a friend of a friend.

14 ratings have been posted on Goodreads, with 5 actual reviews.  (10) 5-star, (1) 4-star, (1) 3-star, and (2) 1-star.  (5) of the 5-star ratings are from people I know, the rest are from strangers.

I’ve listed 2 giveaways on Goodreads.  The first giveaway is for the US and Canada, for 5 copies.  I started it on July 8th and it will end on August 8th.  So far, there are 758 entries.  The second giveaway is for the UK, for 1 copy.  It started on July 15th and will end on August 15th.  So far, there are 98 entries.

483 people have added Twenty-Five to their bookshelves on Goodreads.

I have two book bloggers doing reviews, but those will not appear until next week at the earliest.  From what they’ve said in our email exchanges, it sounds like the reviews will be positive, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed there.  But, even bad publicity is good publicity, right?  I’m raising the prices on both the e-book and paperback tomorrow, and doing 3 more free days on Amazon the last weekend of August.  I’m going to reach out to sites that promote free e-books before the second free promotion, which I did not do with the first 2-day promotion.

I did not tinker with the book’s description, cover, or tags in the first month, though I may once the higher price kicks in if I see that sales have dropped.

So, that’s it.  My first month of self-publishing all laid out.  I said in my last post I was happy I’d done it and I’m even happier today.  I am so proud of myself and my book for taking a chance and taking the leap.  These numbers are modest, I know, but they are mine.  And they are more than I expected, especially the e-book sales in the UK.  I can’t wait to see what the next month brings.

I’m Glad I Did It

It’s been three weeks since I self-published Twenty-Five, and I have to say, I am so happy I did it.  Before taking this leap, I really wasn’t sure about self-publishing.  I’d read articles saying that the stigma had been lifted and more books were being published by the individual authors than by publishing houses now, but it was still a big risk for me.  What if I pressed the “upload” button and then never sold a single copy?  What if I did sell copies, but then got bad reviews?  I struggle with rejection issues, so this was one of my biggest fears.  I didn’t want to fail at this, at writing.

My book is my proudest accomplishment.  But, it still is strange for me when people I know read it.  Again, that fear of rejection.  What if they don’t like it?  Will that somehow mean they don’t like me anymore?  It’s so silly to be so proud of something and hold it to your chest without giving anyone else the chance to see how awesome it is.

So, I did it.  I took the chance and I created the e-book and the paperback.  And you know what?  People like it.  I’ve actually sold copies!  Sure, a lot of the copies I sold were to family and friends, but then again, a lot weren’t.  It’s only been three weeks, and I haven’t had thousands of downloads, but my book is in the hands of hundreds of people.  Hundreds.  I don’t  know if I ever expected that.  I haven’t made much money because the majority of those hundred were free downloads, but money isn’t the point.  The point is, I wrote a book and now people can read it.

And I can’t even tell you how awesome that is.

I can tell you, though, that it really makes me want to get another book out there for them to read!  I’m working on that.

The Paperback is Available!!!

That’s right, you can now order the paperback version of Twenty-Five straight from CreateSpace by going here.

It is $10.99, plus shipping and handling.  In 5-7 business days it will be available on Amazon, and I’ll post again when it is!

Whew!  The past two weeks have been such a whirlwind watching the e-book gain sales and free downloads, starting the Twitter account, running the Goodreads Giveaway, and finally getting the paperback ready.  I feel like the best is yet to come, though.