Compare and Contrast (Book Releases, That Is)

Well, this is rather odd.  I have two books releasing today, and I don’t think it’s possible for any author to have two more different books hitting the market simultaneously.

Darkbeast Rebellion

First up:  DARKBEAST REBELLION, by Morgan Keyes (that’s, um, me.) This is the paperback version of my middle grade fantasy novel, second in the DARKBEAST series.  Here’s the back-of-the-book blurb:

Keara, her friend Goran, and the wily old actor, Taggart, are fleeing for their lives. They have all spared their darkbeasts, the creatures that take on their darker deeds and emotions and lift their spirits. But their actions defy the law, which dictates that all citizens must kill their darkbeasts on their twelfth birthdays.

There are rumors of safe havens, groups of people called Darkers who spared their darkbeasts and live outside the law. To find the Darkers, the trio must embark on a dangerous journey—and evade the Inquisitors who are searching for them everywhere. In the middle of winter, freezing and exhausted, Keara and her companions are taken to an underground encampment that seems the answer to all their hopes. But are these Darkers really what they appear to be?

DARKBEAST REBELLION is a steal, at $7.99 in paperback.  You probably won’t find this book in stores — Barnes & Noble declined to carry it in physical stores for unknown reasons.  (Rumor has it, they didn’t like the story of a girl who rebels against the religion of her parents.) But it’s widely available online:  Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound


And then there’s my second release for the day…  CENTER STAGE.  That one’s by Mindy Klasky, and it’s the eighth volume in the Diamond Brides Series.  The back of the book blurb tells you what it’s all about!

Actress Lindsey Ormond has always followed the rules – be nice, keep quiet, and never, ever get involved with a bad boy. But her good behavior has yielded lousy results – she was just left at the altar for the second time in two years.

Raleigh Rockets center fielder Ryan Green keeps life simple – play ball, have fun, and keep an eye on his recently widowed father. When Ryan attends Lindsey’s disaster of a wedding, another sizzling task hits his to-do list – help Lindsey learn how to break the rules.

Before long, Ryan is showing Lindsey just how much fun she’s been missing – in the bedroom and beyond. But Lindsey’s brother Zach (part of the Rockets’ management team) disapproves of their new relationship. And Zach just offered Ryan’s father the job of a lifetime.

When the conflict moves center stage, will Ryan choose Lindsey? Or will his obligations to the Rockets and his father send Lindsey back to her stifled life alone?

If you like stories about jilted brides, about guys who fall in love with the kid sister of their good friend, about good girls learning how to be just a little bad, then this one is for you!  You can read a sample here:

And you can buy CENTER STAGE here:  (Amazon Kindle | Amazon Print | Apple | Createspace Print | Kobo) (More links coming soon!)

So? What are you waiting for?  It’s time to get reading!

Read More

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

I was going to write a long post about all the things that happened this year, but I was having trouble finding a way to make it as interesting and touching as it *felt* to me, inside my head.  So here, in bullet form, are the high points of my 2013 writing life (in no particular order):

  • After a gap of several years, I published a new Jane Madison novel, Single Witch’s Survival Guide [Buy now!]  I continue to love, love, love Jane and David and the world of Magical Washington!
  • I saw the publication of Darkbeast Rebellion [Amazon | B & N | Indiebound], under my pen name, Morgan Keyes.
  • After several years of participating on the group blog, Magical Words, I sadly bid farewell to the site in its current incarnation.  I look forward to seeing how the site owners change MW, and I hope to participate in its future life!
  • I joined Book View Cafe, where I get to interact with amazing authors every day, as we work cooperatively to bring you the best ebooks possible!
  • I joined Twitter.  Finally.  (Please, please, please follow me.  It’s lonely in my corner of the Twitterverse!)
  • I reissued the As You Wish Series, with all new names and all new covers, better reflecting the feel of the series (Act One Wish One [Buy now!], Wishing in the Wings [Buy now!], and Wish Upon a Star [Buy now!]

And here’s what I’m looking forward to in 2014:

  • The Diamond Brides series (nine short romance novels, featuring the players on the Raleigh Rockets baseball team and the women who love them).
  • At least two writers retreats with some of my favorite writer-type folks, enabling me to meet my tight deadlines on the Diamond Brides.
  • At least three Super Sekrit Projects, which may or may not come to fruition, but which are fun for me to play with in the interim.
  • A massive Contest and Book Giveaway in January — watch this site for tons of free prizes!

So?  How about you?  What do you see when you look back on 2013?  When you look ahead to 2014?

Read More

The DARKBEAST REBELLION Post I Didn’t Want to Write

Sigh.  I didn’t want to write this post.  But I think it’s important to share the news with you, my readers.  (That is, the readers of my pen-name, Morgan Keyes.)

DARKBEAST REBELLION is a victim of our one-bricks-and-mortar-chain-bookstore economy, here in the U.S. 

What does that mean?

As recently as a couple of years back, when Borders competed with Barnes & Noble (“B&N”) for readers’ dollars, each chain carried a different inventory.  Sometimes, Borders championed a book, series, or author.  Sometimes, B&N did.  Sometimes, both chains jumped on board.  An author who found herself with lots of sales at Borders could poke B&N and say, “Hey, look at what you’re missing out on!”  (And vice versa.)

When Borders folded, many authors worried they’d see substantially lower sales.  In part, of course, that was because readers had fewer places to buy books.  In part, though, that decrease would result from the lack of competition.  No one could say, “Hey, look at what you’re missing out on!” (Amazon, of course, continues to compete with B&N, but the reader-experience is vastly different between Amazon and a physical store.  Readers cannot browse books on Amazon the way they can in a physical store; they’re far less likely to discover a new-to-them author.)

Alas, the DARKBEAST series is a textbook case of what authors feared when Borders shut up shop.

Initially, B&N declined to stock DARKBEAST in its physical stores, despite uniformly rave reviews from Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, the Horn Book, and Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books.  B&N’s decision was made, nation-wide, by one person, the children’s buyer.  Although I’ve tried very hard over almost 18 months to learn the reasoning behind that course of action, I’ve never heard a real explanation.  Various ideas have been floated:

  • The book uses vocabulary words that were beyond various State-approved and -recommended grade-level lists.
  • The book involves the potential of harm to animals (and actual harm to one animal, off-stage) and is therefore inappropriate for children.
  • The book tells the story of a child who rebels against the religion of the adults in her community, choosing individual action over blind faith.

After months of pressure from my publisher, Simon & Schuster (“S&S”), B&N finally agreed to carry DARKBEAST, placing a very limited number of copies in a limited number of stores.  (Nationwide, they bought in the mid-three-figures.)  Those books were shelved in the general middle grade fiction section, rather than the “New Books” children’s section, because the book had been out for several months by the time B&N agreed to carry it.

Shortly after B&N agreed to its very limited distribution of DARKBEAST, B&N and S&S entered into a business dispute, whereby B&N refused to stock the vast majority of S&S titles.  As a result, any store that sold its copies of DARKBEAST could not restock those books.  Ultimately, B&N sold slightly more than half of its tiny stock of DARKBEAST.

And then DARKBEAST REBELLION was released.

B&N passed on the book, saying they would not stock it because sales of the first book were too low.  (Yes, the sales they had delayed by months.  The sales they limited by making a tiny initial buy.  The sales they hampered by not re-ordering.)

Throughout this frustrating time, S&S has made valiant efforts to promote DARKBEAST and DARKBEAST REBELLION.  They have arranged readings for me at independent bookstores and at schools, and they have paid for me to attend various book festivals and independent booksellers conferences to promote the books.  They sent out dozens of copies of both books to reviewers and book bloggers, and they awarded dozens of copies to a variety of online contest winners.  They went back to a second printing on the hardcover of DARKBEAST, they printed DARKBEAST as a $6.99 trade paperback, and they intend to release DARKBEAST REBELLION as a paperback, down the road.

But where does that leave me today?

DARKBEAST and DARKBEAST REBELLION are novels of my heart.  They’re the type of book I loved to read when I was a child.  They *trust* middle grade readers to ask difficult questions and to confront hard truths.  And yet, these books are languishing, “hidden” from the vast majority of potential readers because our one remaining bricks-and-mortar chain won’t sell them.

What can you do?

  • Tell people this is happening — to me and the books I love, and to other authors, too.
  • Post links to this blog on your own blog, Facebook page, Twitter feed, or other social media.
  • Buy DARKBEAST (Amazon | B & N | Indiebound) and DARKBEAST REBELLION (Amazon | B & N | Indiebound) at stores that sell them (Amazon, B&N’s online store, or independent bookstores).

We’re not talking about a huge number of books to make a difference between success for the DARKBEAST series and failure.  Four-digit sales are all we need.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to be grateful for all the hard work that everyone at Simon & Schuster has done to promote DARKBEAST and DARKBEAST REBELLION.  And I’ll be brought to tears by the support of so many of you — my loyal friends and readers.  And I”ll continue to hope for the best for Keara, Caw, and the Darkbeast world….



Read More

Southern Festival of Books

I had the pleasure of spending the past weekend at the Southern Festival of Books, in Nashville, Tennessee.  The Festival was held on the War Memorial Plaza — right near the State Capitol, various legislative buildings, and assorted other state buildings.  My panel was on Saturday afternoon — at the very end of the day — and it was held in a legislative room where visitors needed to clear security before being allowed entrance.  I feared that I would be alone in the room.

My fears turned out to be totally unfounded.  My co-panelist (Kristin O’Donnell Tubb) and I got to speak to a crowded room.  In fact, here’s the view from the last row:


(I’m the little red blob that you can see at the center of the panel, far, far from the back.)  Kristin and I each spoke for a few minutes, and we read from our books, and then we answered questions from the audience.  After the panel, we traipsed over to the War Memorial Colonnade, and we signed books.  I was thrilled to learn that the festival booksellers sold out of DARKBEAST, and they only had a handful of REBELLION left when I stopped by on Sunday afternoon.

The Festival was wonderfully well-organized.  They took care of shuttles to and from the airport, and when I checked in, they presented me with a fun goody-bag, full of Tenneessee treats (moonpies, Goo-goo clusters, cashew brittle, and Jack Daniels!)  Everyone was incredibly friendly and enthusiastic.

We had a good time in Nashville, aside from the Festival, as well.  We visited the Johnny Cash Museum and the Country Music Hall of Fame.  We hiked out to the Parthenon, near Vanderbilt, and we trekked up the hill to the Capitol, to see the gravesite of James K. Polk (the only president who went to University of North Carolina, and therefore of interest to one of the people in our party :-) )

We enjoyed great food — barbecue at Jack’s and chicken fried steak at Puckett’s and pancakes at the Pancake Pantry.  (For the latter, we met up with friends D and J, who drove into town to see us — we felt especially honored!)  And we generally felt like we were away from home for a very nice trip!

Now, I’m back at home, trying to catch up on all the exciting work that drifted in over the long weekend…

So?  Have you been to Nashville?  If so, what did you think?  And if not, what did *you* do on your weekend?

Read More


I need to write-up a post about the amazing time I had in Nashville, attending the Southern Festival of Books.  Before I get to that, though, I wanted to let you know about an interview I completed for my friend Maria V. Snyder.  You can read her fun questions and my answers over on her blog:

And just to encourage you to comment on that interview — I’ll be giving away books to *two* commenters!  Check out the interview and leave a comment now!

Read More