Author: Artistikem

Biting the perma-free dust

For some time I had been trying to tell Amazon that the first book of my series The Caregiver was free over at Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, etc., but they kept ignoring me until yesterday morning when I woke up to find my book not only price-matched to free but with over twenty downloads.

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I had no idea I was in for a very very bumpy ride.

Since writing is a task that requires the use of, guess what? The brain! I was in for a day with no writing because of this new shiny thing that was happening over at my KDP dashboard called sales. Free units, yeah, not exactly sales but it kinda feels like it. It’s more of an ‘I’m broke but yaaaayyyy!’ kind of rush that it sometimes feels like a betrayal to all the hours spent and tears I’ve shed writing that thing that people seem to only care to take notice of when it’s free even though before it was only 99¢ and it has, like, 11 reviews with a 4.3 stars rating and a lot of them are from people I don’t even know and those from people I actually know got no money for them and no, none of them is my mother (she’s still asking where she went so awfully wrong that her daughter writes about gangsters and murder).

Now I don’t know if I want to smile or cry, or do both at the same time.

But that’s life in general.

Now, for the smiling part: The Caregiver got 238 downloads in 24 hours which is more than what it’d get during a 48hr KDP Select promo with me running around in circles all over the Internet promoting it. I did no promo whatsoever because I had no idea that would happen so that’s pretty pleasing. Oh, and it escalated to the 18th position on the Top 100 Free Crime Thriller list thingy.

My mother’s proud of me, the hubby is proud of me, my editor is proud of me, my friends are proud of me.

I’m still working on being proud of myself.

This. Is. So. Damn. Frustrating.

I’m sorry if I’m being too damn sincere because I’m trying to be as logical as I can with this thing since I did maths for it. Yeah, maths! Me!

framed280inbruges

*sigh*

The math was done last November and posted here:

My novella, The Caregiver, keeps hitting the Top 20 and Top 10 in its category when I do the promo thingy. Then, when the free ride is over, it plummets back to the shadows. Meanwhile, The Caregiver Vignettes 1-5, with no reviews, no nothing, doesn’t hit lower than 30,000 in rank in its category. Why? Because it’s free.

As of right now the book has been downloaded 33 times today and that’s an effing record in itself. What’s the thread I’m hanging by? The fact that some people I have not paid or stabbed to get them to read my book have gotten hooked and bought books 2 and 3. I’m crossing my fingers these downloaders actually read it and that they then may or may not want to buy books 2 and 3 and the soon to come prequel and 4th book.

Of course, the fact that books 2 and 3 are already out there was a big part of this whole scheme. I give a little something, they give a little something.

And even if they don’t give me anything I’m sitting here after having not slept well because of OMG OMG OMG ALL THE DOWNLOADS and pondering if hubby will behave during fancy dinner parties surrounded by celebrities. Jaysus, I have to practice how to smile so it doesn’t look like I’m having a full-fledged spasm!

The writer and the photographer

One of the many things I’m grateful in life is my husband. Yes, as cheesy as it may sound, that man is the best thing that’s ever happened to me (aaawwwwee).

Okay, enough of the pink stuff.

Of the many things I wanted to be in life (rock star, marine biologist, stripper, architect, etc.) there were two that were always on the top of my list: writer and photographer. I met my husband thanks to the photography classes I took during my B.A. in Audiovisual Communication. He, a photographer with 20+ years experience, me a student with an expensive camera and what everyone called ‘a good eye’. I love photography and I’m not that bad at it. However, the art that I’ve focused on the most as of late is writing and it has, apparently, taken over the rest of me.

Why do I say this? Let me give you an example:

We have a 6 month old doberman puppy-pony that could give the Energizer Bunny a run for his money. She’s goofy, she’s curious, and she can’t leave our cat alone, no matter how many times Jin-Jing slashes her, she’s always coming for more. One morning hubby walked out to the terrace and saw Carola, the puppy, staring at JJ up on a tree branch. The light was beautiful, the tree leaves looked so green and vivid, Carola’s pose was perfect, you could see JJ clearly through the leaves… “Astrid come out here!” I heard him and, after thinking ‘what does he want now?!’, went to check on what was happening. I was mesmerized by the scene, it was so beautiful. “Where’s the camera!” Hubby cut through my thoughts and my instant reply was “WHY?!”

Why? Because he’s a photographer! He needs to press the shutter on scenes like that to validate its existence. I, on the contrary, assimilate it and store it in my head so I can replay it later.

That’s why I know I’ll never be another one of those things I wanted to be at some point in my life: a photojournalist. Because I’d rather tell you what I saw (write about it to be exact) than show you a photographic reproduction of the moment.

And, to tell you the truth, as long as my readers are okay with that, I’m also okay with that.

So hubby better either carry his own camera or learn to store those images in his mind (and maybe learn to paint?). Yeah.

Read and E-book Week

Read an Ebook Week

You’ve still got today and tomorrow to get 50% off TORN, THE BEAST, and AT THE CORNER OF MARS AND NEPTUNE!

Head over to Smashwords and use code REW50 at checkout: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/artistikem

Or get them from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/s?ie=UTF8&field-keywords=artistikem

Happy reading!

Why you must read Astrid ‘Artistikem’ Cruz’s The Caregiver @ Indie Author Land

I was lazily reading my Twitter timeline when I stumbled upon a tweet from Indie Author Land about their author interviews and thought, why not give it a try?

It was super easy to fill the interview form (it’s not one of those super long ones I tend to avoid because they overwhelm me midway) and I love what they did with it. And the best part? It was FREE!

Check out the interview here: www.indieauthorland.com/archives/7299

And go give them some love!

Their website: www.indieauthorland.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/indieauthorland

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/IndieAuthorLand

Out now! THE BEAST (Book 3 of The Caregiver Series)

Yay! Happy dances are in order. The Beast has been released!

The Beast

The trip to Puerto Rico proves to be even worse than the nightmare Scarlett thought it would. Adrian’s assassination starts what becomes a series of revelations that will bring her face to face with demons from her past.

Stakes get higher as she learns this is more than a government conspiracy but a personal vendetta led by a man scarred by the same two people who made Scarlett’s early years a living hell.

Everyone she loves is in danger and she’s vowed to protect them no matter what. And they’ve vowed to fight by her side in return. What she isn’t counting on is that in love and war, sacrifices must be made.

Get your copy now!

 

Smashwords:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/395358

Amazon International Links:

US http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00HQ8GYJ0
UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00HQ8GYJ0
IN https://www.amazon.in/dp/B00HQ8GYJ0
DE https://www.amazon.de/dp/B00HQ8GYJ0
FR https://www.amazon.fr/dp/B00HQ8GYJ0
ES https://www.amazon.es/dp/B00HQ8GYJ0
IT https://www.amazon.it/dp/B00HQ8GYJ0
JP https://www.amazon.co.jp/dp/B00HQ8GYJ0
AU https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B00HQ8GYJ0
MX https://www.amazon.com.mx/dp/B00HQ8GYJ0
CA https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B00HQ8GYJ0
BR https://www.amazon.com.br/dp/B00HQ8GYJ0

The Beast – Chapter 2 (Book 3 of The Caregiver Series) Teaser!

A/N: Due to the hard times my family’s been going through (I lost my sister on the 14th, later hubby and I lost a coworker, and yesterday we lost a dear and close friend) I’ve decided to postpone the launch of The Beast to mid-January. In return for your patience I’m posting teaser chapters for your enjoyment!

The Beast

Chapter 2

There was no chair that could contain me inside that hospital, nor a corridor long enough to stop my pacing. Millions of things were bubbling inside me.

We had all been questioned about the incident but Police Superintendent Rivero dismissed us. He was a good friend of Adrian’s and obviously affected by what had happened.

There was a Christmas tree next to the nurses’ station with colored lights flashing to high-pitched electronic carols. I was making my way towards it to rip it apart when Armand intercepted me.

Scarlett, you should eat something.” His hand landed on the crook of my elbow, dragging me to a corner with him.

You shouldn’t be here. I need to get you out of here; take you somewhere safe.”

Scarlett, calm down.” He held on to my upper arms, leaning over to level our gazes. “There’s nothing else you can do.”

He saved you.” I still couldn’t grasp what had happened.

Sit down with me. Let me get you something.”

He wasn’t the target after all. It was you. It was always you.”

They’d be very stupid if they tried to get me here with so many cops around.”

There was so much frustration inside me. I knew I had to calm down before continuing the conversation so I shrugged out of his grip and started walking away when Bobby came into sight.

He stretched out a hand to my shoulder but didn’t touch me, only caressed the air around it. I knew that gesture. He used to do that whenever he knew I was in distress.

This particular kind of distress.

The rifle was remote-controlled. There was no one inside the apartment.”

Then we must get to that second hotel.”

No one there either. No documents, nothing. Superintendent Rivero will get us the CCTV videos.”

He glanced at Armand behind me but I pulled him back. “How’s Raakin?”

Devastated. Mahmoud isn’t exactly cooperating. How are you feeling?”

I’m not sick, just pregnant.”

You know what I mean.”

It was starting to dawn on me that I had been exposed to all of them beyond belief. I was feeling naked all of a sudden and there was no amount of clothes that could cover me up.

Like shooting myself.” I pushed him aside and stormed out of the corridor.

I heard Armand’s footsteps begin to follow me, then stop. Bobby must have been the one to bring him to a halt.

Maybe a walk would help me clear my mind. A walk that, if I let myself go with how I felt, would never end.

I didn’t get far though; Kathy had arrived with Eliza and Oksana and her arms went around me the moment I was within her reach.

I can’t, Scarlett…” She cried as she buried her fingers into my aching back. “I can’t lose him.”

I wrapped my arms around her and filed my thoughts for later. “It’s all right.”

He’s going to die, isn’t he?”

I shut my eyes for a second. “I think yes.” I was good at omitting information but never at lying, not in situations like this one.

She trembled and sobbed against me and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for making her go through this.

Sit down. We’re waiting for the doctors to come out and tell us how he’s doing.”

I gestured Eliza to get her into a nearby waiting room. However, when I pushed Kathy off me, she clasped my hand.

Don’t leave me.”

Kathy, I…”

Please?”

Dammit. I obliged. It was the least I could do. Armand was relieved to see me walk into that waiting room and sit next to Kathy, our hands entwined. Eliza sat on the opposite side and took her other hand. Bobby, Armand, Rhys, and Rooney each took a seat at the other end of the room.

I encountered Armand’s gaze the moment Kathy put her head on my shoulder. The amount of love in his eyes made me shiver. How could he look at me after all the shit that had been stirred?

George walked into the room, followed by Larry and, you guessed it, a doctor wearing scrubs and a face of pure defeat.

Everyone stood to hear the detailed explanation of the fatality of Adrian’s wound. I couldn’t listen; as much as I strained my ears no sound made it in. All I felt was Kathy’s hand squeezing mine before going limp and sliding down. I pulled her up with the help of Eliza and George and we set her back in her seat.

Adrian Lang was brain-dead. Breathing with the aid of machines.

A surge of anger ran through me and I tensed under Kathy’s half-dizzy wailing. She was pressing herself further against my chest, her face hidden under my chin and her hands making fists on the collar of my jacket.

I gathered her in my arms. For a moment I wished I could join her, that actual tears were forming in my eyes, but all I could conceive was an immeasurable anger. I couldn’t comfort her. I couldn’t comfort myself. I should’ve felt happy or, if not happy, at least okay with it. But death and murder have one unwavering characteristic: they never feel as you imagine.

The doctor asked if we wanted to see him and, of course, Kathy jumped to say yes.

I didn’t want to see him. I didn’t want to see anyone. Dead or alive.

Armand put a reassuring arm around my shoulders and I had to suppress the sudden need to duck away from it.

We were led into a room smelling of disinfectant. The constant beeping of monitors and the rhythm of the ventilator served as background music. Kathy kept an arm around my waist as we entered together, leaving the rest to watch through a glass window.

Her breathing hitched as we inched towards the man who lay on that bed. His blanched, lifeless face struck me. He looked so peaceful. Not even his signature frown was left.

The crying subsided when Kathy was able to touch him. I studied her profile and she bore no resemblance to the young woman who had sashayed her way around the party the first night after our arrival. No, this was someone else altogether. It was a woman who was slowly landing on the realization that there was an invisible knife stuck in her chest.

Adrian,” she whispered, her hand sliding away from me to caress his face.

There was movement outside and I saw Jin-Jing pushing through to peek into the room. I shot her a warning look, shaking my head, and she understood that it wasn’t the right moment.

He loved you.” I rubbed Kathy’s arm.

I know.” Then she turned to me. “He loved you, too. Even though he wronged you, believe me, he loved you. There were too many conflicted feelings inside him about you.”

I wasn’t catching her drift and, sincerely, I didn’t know if I wanted to.

We’d have a conversation about this later. It’d be more prudent to let the body get cold before we started hashing out truths about him.

I glanced at the window and there was only Jin-Jing now. Kathy saw her and beckoned her to come in.

The small dark eyes framed by the cascading black hair were filled with tears. She took a couple of shy steps then halted, obviously taken aback by the sight of the man lying on that bed. She exchanged a glance with me and I pressed my lips together into a thin line.

Kathy took Jin-Jing’s hand and gently tugged her forward. To this, I stepped back. Not that the latter complained. We were both trying to drop the snideness but failing miserably.

We were sharing a moment of silence when the door opened and a black woman in her late twenties sporting a beautiful mane of curly brown hair peeked in. The moment her eyes fell on Adrian she brought one hand to her mouth, the other to her chest.

Kathy smiled at the weeping woman. “Daniela. So glad you came.”

Reluctant, calculated steps took the woman from the door to the bedside, from where she stroke Adrian’s cheek with trembling fingers.

Bloody hell, you’ve got to be kidding me!

Meet the Characters: Armand Sayer

“Even the strongest and wickedest of us need to find solace.” He whispered, as if not to disrupt her peacefulness. “And I won’t let anyone destroy ours.”

Armand Sayer

Born in London, England, around late July 1948 (don’t have an exact date but he’s a Leo) which makes him 65 years old at the time of book 2. Fathered Briony with his first wife, Marie. I haven’t come up with too many details about his upbringing but it’s mentioned that he comes from an upper class family. No sad or troubled past here. Went to Oxford, where he met business partners Rhys Owen and Eamon Rooney. He got into drug dealing like anyone else enters a business and that is the reason why he conducts it as so. His two closest allies in London at the time of the series are Max MacGowan and Rafael Cisneros.

More than try and come up with details about Armand, I’d like to tell the reasons behind the character. With Armand I wanted to create the kind of bad guy every woman would fall in love with. He’s loving, caring, charming, he’d be the kind of guy you’d bring to your mother… if he wasn’t a drug lord. And that’s the thing about him that I like the most, that he deals in a world ruled by coldness and violence but hasn’t let it turn him into a cold-blooded monster. He’s nicknamed The Beast because of how ruthless he is, however, his inner circle knows how much of a softie he is on the inside. Which is exactly what Scarlett needs. A man that understands her line of work and can love her without trying to change that.

Also, it was what people like George, Ollie, Bradley, and Cat needed. Armand has been a guardian angel for them; someone that has come to their lives in order to rescue them from whatever mess they were in and give them a second chance. All of Armand’s men are loyal to him thanks to this, the fact that he’s been there for them when they needed him.

When it comes to family nobody feels as strong about it as he does. Maybe Vincenzo Pietri does, but that won’t be explained until Book 4. ;-) The biggest dilemma in Armand’s life was the fact that Marie didn’t approve of his business and that went on up until when Scarlett came in and dragged him into her own mess. And it is that same love he’s expressed towards everyone around him that makes him follow her and try and fight the fucktards wanting to hurt her.

In summary, Armand is the villain we all hate to love because he has so many redeeming qualities even I forget he’s a drug lord every now and then.

Want to know more?

You can read THE CAREGIVER (Book 1 of The Caregiver Series) for free at The Caregiver Series Blog and Wattpad, or get it from Smashwords (free), Barnes & Noble (free), Kobo (free) and Amazon (99 cents).

TORN (Book 2 of The Caregiver Series) is available through Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

THE BEAST (Book 3 of The Caregiver Series) will be available mid-January through Smashwords and Amazon (the rest of the retailers will come later).

The Beast – Chapter 1 (Book 3 of The Caregiver Series) Teaser!

A/N: Due to the hard times my family’s been going through (I lost my sister on the 14th, later hubby and I lost a coworker, and yesterday we lost a dear and close friend) I’ve decided to postpone the launch of The Beast to mid-January. In return for your patience I’m posting teaser chapters for your enjoyment!

The Beast

Chapter 1

Arms. Around me.

Hands. Reaching out to me.

George’s face inching closer. Bobby’s eyes, wide as saucers, as he runs towards me.

Someone touched my shoulder and I cringed, even though I couldn’t feel a thing.

It didn’t take long to realize I couldn’t hear either.

Hands helped me to my feet, coaxed me to follow.

At first I wasn’t sure whose hands they were; all I knew was that they were warm, that they felt safe. I focused my eyes and it was Bobby who was dragging me away, walking against the current of police and paramedics rushing to the scene.

Ollie welcomed me into the van, sat me on a seat next to his, and covered me with a blanket without uttering a word. Then Armand climbed in with Bradley and we started moving. The rattling of the wheels on the cobblestones and the swaying of the giant metal cube added to my discomfort. I wanted to puke, to run, to scream, to snap in some way, but I had no strength.

The only time I lifted my eyes was to meet Armand’s. Even when I tried, I couldn’t get the tears to flow. It felt as if they were flooding the inside of my face but encountering a dam when they reached my eyeballs. He noticed and held me in a tight embrace.

Adrian Lang, my grandfather, was dead. My teacher and tormentor had given his life to save the man I loved.

I, on the other hand, hadn’t saved his life in return.

The day I became the protagonist of my own book

These have been some very weird days for me. Since the 6th my life has taken a turn I never foresaw. My sister suffered a stroke that day and died on the 14th. It’s been really hard for me and my parents (we were their only two daughters). Add to that another friend in the hospital and a close friend of my husband dying on the 21st and you get the picture.

However, what’s been even weirder is how all of a sudden I found myself inside my protagonist’s skin. The Beast (Book 3 of The Caregiver Series) will come out this month and the situation with my sister felt as if taken from the first chapters of that book. I don’t want to give out any spoilers, but it all begins in a hospital during Christmas time. Exactly like it was for me and my family. The long corridors, the uncertainty, even the Christmas tree I, like Scarlett, wanted to rip off the wall.

There’s a point in the story where Armand, sensing Scarlett’s distress, brings her a pint of chocolate ice cream. My husband hasn’t read the manuscript, so he had no idea about it when he came home during my sister’s hospital ordeal with a pint of chocolate ice cream in an effort to cheer me up. It was a shock, to say the least, but I like to think it prepared me for what it was to come. It was a confirmation that I was, indeed, living my own writing.

I like to think it gave me the courage to tell my sister to let go if she had to while she was under an induced coma, that everything would be all right, that there was nothing she should worry about.

They say one should write about stuff one knows. When I wrote those first chapters of Book 3 I hadn’t been through anything like it. Now that I have and have reread them, I can’t help but feel the sudden chills running through my system because I recognize myself in those words, in those paragraphs, and in those conflicted feelings.

Now I feel closer to Scarlett than ever before and that can only mean that writing Book 4 will be even a wilder roller coaster than Book 3 was. And that’s a lot to say.