Friday, August 31, 2012

FFF - The Law Office of Lando Calrissian

Injured while working for the Empire? Call Lando Calrissian. He'll fight for you. You have his word. (Big cheesy grin)

They speak Jawa...
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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

My Experience With KDP Select

Earlier this year I chose to walk away from my publisher and dive into the realm of self-publishing. On August 22nd & 23rd I ran my first promotion using Amazon's KDP Select option. I made my first book, Rocky Mountain Oasis, a Christian historical romance, free on Kindle for those two days.

 Prior to the promo days I sent notification to TONS of lists that the book was going to be free on those two days. Many of the lists I notified at least 2 full weeks in advance, and I think that helped me to get chosen for several of them that hand-pick the books they allow onto their lists. I used Katrina Parker's wonderful list found here:

In addition to that on the free days themselves, I worked my fingers to the bone posting all over Facebook about the opportunity to download my book for free. I solicited the help of my friends to spread the word with shares, and I belong to a couple of author groups that are very supportive to spread the word about those kinds of things. I also tweeted about the promo and directed the tweets @ many lists that then retweeted the information to their followers for me. On day 2 of the promo, I posted to a few more Facebook pages I discovered, and then went back to the pages I'd posted to the day before to thank people for sharing and downloading and let them know where the book was ranked on the free list.

Early on day 2 I hit the #3 spot on the Kindle free list. That was pretty cool. What was even better was that just an hour or so later I jumped to the #1 spot in the entire Kindle store. I stayed there for most of the day - slipped in the afternoon to the #2 spot, but retook #1 just a bit later, and then at about 10:30pm on the 2nd day, I dropped off to #2 again. So I ended the free run in position #2 of all Kindle free books. I gave away 39,748 books! That in itself left me in awe.

During the free days, sales of the 2nd and 3rd books in the series were steady and climbing. I ended up selling 75 of the 2nd book in the series, and 51 of the 3rd book in the series during the two free days. Since then sales have remained strong and steady and I've been very pleasantly surprised by the numbers of sales I've made. I've almost hit 500, 300, and 200 sales for each book respectively (#1-3). Not a lot in the grand scheme of things, but much better compared to the number of sales I had the couple months before.

Rocky Mountain Oasis
Click the Cover to go to Amazon
At the time of writing this post it is Monday evening. I'm still fairly high on several lists, however sales today seem to have trickled off quite a bit. We'll see if this is the end of the run, or not. Another thing to consider is will a promotion like this be as effective a 2nd time? Perhaps if I can find different lists to promote the book on, but likely not, since many who follow the lists will have downloaded the free book this first time around. 

There has long been a debate on whether to set your price to .99 after your free days or leave it at the price you had it set at before it went free. I chose to leave mine at my asking price of $3.77. Interestingly enough, I had a friend who had his book free at the exact same time as I did. He chose to go with the .99 option after his free days ended. Since he ended in the #3 spot directly behind me on the Kindle free list on the same day as I did, I did a little comparing between his and my sales figures. While he had consistently better sales with his .99 impulse buy price point, each time I did the math I still came out ahead on the money end. Here's the kicker though, his book has now gone back to its normal price and he's higher in the Amazon lists than me. It still remains to be seen whether his strategy will be a better pay off in the long run.

Some things I've learned through this process:
1. Give yourself plenty of time for promotion ahead of time.
2. Plan on spending most of the day on your free days working advertisements, posting to Facebook pages, and creating and sending Tweets.
3. Don't be embarrassed to ask your friends for help spreading the word.
4. At least in my case, it took the book a bit to show up on the paid lists once it went off of free. So don't panic if it doesn't show up for a few hours.
5. Don't forget to keep your promotions going once the book reverts to paying status. I probably haven't done as much of this as I could.
Anyhow, I hope this has been a little bit informative. Do you have any questions for me about the process?
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Monday, August 27, 2012

The Sensual Writer Introduction

The Sensual Writer

A series in five parts. Check back on these dates: Seeing vs. Looking - September 5, Touching vs. Feeling – September 24, Hearing vs. Listening - October 15, Smell vs. Aroma – October 24, Taste vs. Flavor - Nov 12

Aristotle, that great Macedonian philosopher, 384-322 BC, is credited with developing the theory of five human senses during his focus on biology and psychology.

Why five? I compare this concept to the periodic table of elements: purism. Each element stands alone. I have no way of visualizing anything without physically looking at it. Even if I imagine an object, I must have some prior experience to arrange the information in my mind. How do blind or deaf people understand their world? Such people have concepts based on how their other senses work together to create a unique perception. If I feel vibrations, does that translate to an auditory experience? Can I understand the concept of soft or hard by any other means than touch? Taste and smell are somewhat joined, but each is unique and stands alone.


A debate is ongoing whether to add to these five. Pain, Temperature, Motions of various types, Depth, Balance, Magnetic pull, even Extrasensory, Compassion, and that elusive Sixth sense – Intuition, are all candidates. Then there are the other odd categories of those with mixed-up senses: some visualize accompanied by a particular odor, or hear a tone that is deeply associated with a color or a scent. These unusual Synesthetes can make for particularly interesting character traits. Another aspect of the conversation around known senses stems from communal understanding. “Green” is the same all over the world. “Salty,” “Hot,” “Smoke,” may not have the same names in any language, but are culturally translatable perceptions. Someone once asked in a workshop whether the meaning of a sense changes if the perception is taught differently. What if what English-speakers know as “white” is “green” to Senegalese? Carrying the concept off-planet for spec and sci-fi writers, the opportunity to develop other senses or ways to communicate are endless. I tried to pick a few scenes from some of my favorite shows and books to illustrate this concept, but it would take too long. If you’d like to share, though, in the comments section, that would be excellent.
Adding all the stimuli we receive, building upon our remembered experiences, and our reactions create perception. Most of you are familiar with the story of the blind men describing an elephant after touching one part of it. It’s common knowledge that if four people witness an accident, there will be several different variations of the event, depending on the perception of each witness. Layering your writing with different senses gives the reader unique insights to your work. Each reader has his or her own action/reaction to particular stimuli, and if you can leave enough ambiguity or create the right recipe of sensation, your story becomes more than a quick read or listen, but a perfect storm of reaction that will stay long after the last page.

Clipart provided by Classroomclipart
I’ll use this scene from my upcoming book to flesh out the concept. Here is the scene stripped of most of the sensory details. With each post, I’ll add the layer of the sense we’re discussing.

A few References for more information:

READER QUESTION: Which sense is the least important to you and why?
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Friday, August 24, 2012

'Nuf Said.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Interview with William Landay

Recently, I read Defending Jacob, written by former prosecutor William Landay. It was an amazing book that I'll have to reread just to study the technique he employed. The story explores the effect on the family of the arrest of their fourteen-year-old son for murder--the doubts, the pressure, the need to stay upbeat and normal. The story itself is compelling, but the weaving of it is astounding. Takes a mastermind writer to do something like that, and I believe Bill fits the description.

While I was researching him, I found this quote: “Novelists — all storytellers — approach the world through misdirection, from oblique angles, through stories. We come on like crabs, scuttling up to the truth sideways. A more direct, forthright sort of person would be writing essays or memoirs or some other form that addresses the world head-on.”

I loved his description, and I enjoyed interviewing him. Hope you will enjoy the results:

Q: Congrats on having Warner Brothers option Defending Jacob for a movie! How is that going so far?

A: So far it’s been great, but we’re in the very early stages still. We have a screenwriter and director, Steve Kloves, who directed one of my all-time favorite movies, The Fabulous Baker Boys, and more recently scripted seven of the eight "Harry Potter" movies. So, a big-time talent. I’m honored to have him on the project and excited that Defending Jacob will mark his return to directing after a long period where he has focused on screenwriting. Besides the "Harry Potter" movies, Kloves was nominated for an Oscar for adapting Michael Chabon’s novel Wonder Boys for the screen, so he has a deep understanding of the issues involved in book-to-movie projects. He and I have been exchanging emails the last month or two about writing and so on, and I can tell you he is a good guy, to boot. So, all positive.

Q: Defending Jacob is an excellent psychological study of the impact of traumatic news on a family, in this case, not so much the fourteen-year-old defendant himself, but on his parents. Your characterization is amazing. For a prosecutor, you illustrate incredible powers of empathy to be able to step into the shoes of a defendant’s family and convincingly describe their side of the story. Did you allow yourself this empathy on the job? Do you draw on your experience as a prosecutor for your characterization?

A: Yes, absolutely I drew on my experience as a prosecutor in drawing Andy Barber and his world. That is the one irreplaceable advantage of having done the job for eight or so years: I know and understand that world intimately, I can speak the language fluently, I understand the process as an insider. No amount of research could replace that.

In some ways, it makes it daunting to move on to other sorts of stories after Defending Jacob. Of course I could keep writing about prosecutors and their cases, but I have no desire to write the same book over and over, to churn out the literary equivalent of TV’s “Law & Order.” I hate the idea of falling into a rut. As Orwell said of Dickens, “What people always demand of a popular novelist is that he shall write the same book over and over again, forgetting that a man who would write the same book twice could not even write it once.” Amen. So I will have to venture out of my comfort zone — it’s the only thing I’m comfortable with.

As for “allowing myself” to empathize with defendants and their families while I was a prosecutor, I’m not sure I ever had any choice. I just have that sort of over-sensitive temperament. I was able to do the job, of course. But I was never able to harden myself quite enough that I could forget that defendants were people, too, even the worst of them. That is probably the reason I would not have lasted forever in that job. But it is also probably the reason I can do this job. The ability to empathize is essential for any writer. Imagining what it is like to be someone else is the essence of the job. I’d go even further: it is the special power of novels, the gift that novelists have to offer their readers. Only a novel allows you to enter the consciousness of another person, even if it is a fictional one. Only novels allow the audience actually to feel what it must be like to be someone else. Other dramatic forms (movies, TV, plays, etc.) all show you the character visually. Of necessity, they remain outside their characters — the audience sees them from a distance, from the outside. That is an exercise in sympathy, not empathy. No less valuable, of course, but different in kind. Ian McEwan had a beautiful essay in the Guardian in the first few days after 9/11 where he wrote, “Imagining what it is like to be someone other than yourself is at the core of our humanity. It is the essence of compassion, and it is the beginning of morality.” That is a novelist’s credo: novels train readers to empathize and so make them better people. Nothing less.

(I will now stop quoting famous novelists and write my own damn answers. I promise.)

Q: I saw a “tweet” about Defending Jacob, saying the novel was “one of the most frustrating books I've ever read. So many unanswered questions and I feel betrayed by the author/narrator.”

To a certain extent, she’s right. You didn’t wrap up the novel in pretty paper and pink ribbons. Much is left for the reader to determine, but you did leave her with enough information to come up with her own conclusions. Since the story is told exclusively through the POV of an unreliable character, I’m thinking this is by design. Right?

A: It is definitely by design. In fact there was some feeling at Random House during the editing process that I should add a chapter near the end that removed all this ambiguity — you know, the drawing-room scene where the detective solves the mystery, the baddy confesses, and the reader can sigh with relief knowing exactly what happened. Life just doesn’t work that way. We never know with 100% certainty what happens in our absence. That is equally true of parents and prosecutors, the two perspectives from which Andy Barber views this story. I think that is one reason people find the story so moving and so close to home: we all know that feeling — doubt, worry, uncertainty. Every parent has felt it.

One aspect of your question I disagree with: Andy Barber is simply not an “unreliable narrator.” In fact, he abhors dishonesty. He is a veteran of the court system, and the idea of swearing an oath to tell the truth is something he holds sacred. Where Andy misleads — where he withholds or shades his story — it is part of the chess match with his inquisitor, Neal Logiudice. (For those who haven’t read Defending Jacob, the novel is told within the framework of Andy Barber’s grand jury testimony during one very long, grueling day in the witness chair, where he relates the entire story to a grand jury investigating the case.) But Andy never lies, either to Logiudice or to the reader.

That, too, is very much by design. In an earlier novel of mine, Mission Flats, I had a narrator who pushed the line of “unreliable narration” further, and a few readers complained that I’d broken the rules. Well, I was surprised to learn that there were rules but happy enough to have broken them, and I would cheerfully break more if I could find them. But in Defending Jacob I wanted to achieve the seemingly contradictory ends of giving readers a genuine shock at the end while never actually misleading them — never resorting to the dreaded “unreliable narrator.” The way to achieve that was to build Andy’s storytelling into the story itself — to show him narrating the story “on screen,” as it were. That is, Andy is very frank with the reader from the start: I am on the witness stand and the stakes are very high. You understand right from page one that I am not at liberty to tell the story as if this were a mere novel. That is not an unreliable narrator (unless all narrators are unreliable). It is a thoroughly frank narrator confessing at the start that he cannot be frank in his storytelling.

Q: You said: "But Andy never lies, either to Logiudice or to the reader." His honesty came through on the stand, but he seemed to do a lot of lying to himself. He rationalized quite a bit and never once admitted to himself that his kid could've taken a life. In his own thoughts, for instance, when he wasn't on the stand, much less to his wife when she pressured him. I believed his rationalizations for quite some time in the story, but finally shifted and wondered if he'd ever admit it to himself. That's where I got the "unreliable narrator" idea. What am I missing?

A: I think that's exactly right. Andy is completely honest with the reader but is not -- and maybe cannot be -- completely honest with himself. That may make him an unreliable narrator, I suppose, but not unreliable in the sense that he intentionally misleads. He is not a con artist. He is just a victim of his own biases and emotions -- like the rest of us.

Q: This novel is so intricately layered, I can’t imagine that it wasn’t planned and plotted down to its last punctuation mark, so I’m certain you’re an outliner. Do you have a particular method of outlining you follow?

A: I am a fanatical outliner, it’s true. But I don’t really have a method. I write extensive outlines, not just so I will know where I’m going but so that the prose will have that feeling of certainty right from the first page. As a reader, I hate books that meander for the first 50-100 pages while the writer searches for his story. I want to feel, as a reader, that I am in good hands right from the start.

With that said, all my outlining tends to fail in the end. The book — if it is working — morphs as it grows. It happens organically, in the moment of creation. Little by little, it diverges from my outline, and every hundred pages or so I have to stop and reassess where I am and where I am going.

I do have a pretty analytical mind. I like putting together complex plots. And as a reader (and moviegoer) I like seeing them come together too. There is something satisfying about a story that seems impossibly complex and fragmented all being magically knitted together at the end.

Q: How long did it take you to get published? Did you receive a lot of rejections before you finally hit the jackpot? Do you have older manuscripts dry-rotting in a drawer somewhere?

A: I spent most of the 1990s teaching myself to write. I was a prosecutor for most of that time, writing on nights and weekends. Toward the end, as I got more serious about it, I would take sabbaticals from the DA’s office to write full-time for several months, until the money ran out, or the inspiration, or both. So, yes, I do have several manuscripts dry-rotting on my hard drive.

But I never had much rejection, thankfully. I am my own worst critic, and by a very wide margin. All those years in the '90s when I was discarding manuscript after manuscript, the trouble was not that editors were unsatisfied. No editors ever saw those god-awful manuscripts. The trouble was that I was not satisfied. To me, the point was never just to write a mediocre novel and settle for the joy of seeing my name on a book cover. The point was to write great books — as great as I was capable of, anyway. So, by the time I had a novel that I thought was good enough to shop to publishers, I’d already been through the wringer. Which is to say, I’d had plenty of rejection — from myself. Thankfully, that book, Mission Flats, sold quickly, and I was off and running.

I don’t recommend this to other aspiring unpublished authors, by the way. One of the chestnuts that published authors peddle to newbies is to turn off the “inner editor,” and I am sure that is sound advice. But I just can’t turn off my own. I wish I could, honestly. I would have produced more books by now. Maybe they would not be quite as good, but an author can never judge his books accurately anyway. The key is to produce a lot and trust that somewhere in all that output, there might be one or two of the deathless, transcendent books you are dreaming of. I understand this — but I just can’t do it. I have to believe, deep down, that the book I am writing has a chance to be great. Otherwise I find it very hard to get out of bed in the morning. There are easier ways to make a living, after all. If you’re going to go into novel-writing — as foolish a career choice as there is — you might as well swing for the fences. Otherwise, why not just be a lawyer or a dentist or a ditch-digger and sleep soundly at night?

Q: How did you learn to write fiction — how-to books, conferences, Internet courses? Do you still study the craft? Do you learn from other authors? Is there one who frequently inspires you through his or her technique?

A: I learned through trial and error. I suppose I read a lot. Watched a lot of movies, too, which help enormously (the plot structure of movies is much easier to see and usually follows an obvious formula). But I never took a course or joined a writers’ group or anything like that. I’m too stubborn to listen to anyone else, I guess. Then again, Shakespeare and Dickens never got an MFA, either.

As for writers who inspire me, I tend to be attracted to good sentence-writers more than clever plot-makers. Just a few names off the top of my head: Updike was the most graceful fluent sentence-writer. Fitzgerald. Tom Wolfe is flashy but I liked him a lot when I was younger. Roth and Bellow, of course. DeLillo and Cormac McCarthy. Doctorow, especially Billy Bathgate. The point is just to hear the sound of good, confident, fluent English sentences. When I hear that sound, I want to rush to my typewriter (or computer) to capture it — or my own version of it. If you feel that urge upon reading very good writing, then maybe you are a writer, too.

Q: As far as marketing goes, you’re an enigma. Granted, with Defending Jacob, you got blessed with that rarity — publisher-arranged promotional tours and marketing dollars — but for the most part you do very little that authors are ordered to do these days. Your Facebook page is largely neglected, your tweeting is sporadic and primarily in response to those who tweet to you, your blog gets few comments, and you put out only one book every five years. How do you maintain your fan base?

Actress Sarah Michelle Gellar
with her copy of Defending Jacob
A: Well, I’m not sure that I have ever had much of a fan base, at least until Defending Jacob broke through, so I certainly wouldn’t say that my personal marketing efforts are a model for anyone.

But I actually feel like I do a lot. I have written quite a bit for the blog, though I have neglected it recently. There are lots of reasons for that — mostly that I’ve been so damn busy touring and writing in support of Defending Jacob, but also because so many people are reading the blog now that it has been a little inhibiting. I have enjoyed blogging about my writing process in a way that is — by my introverted standards — pretty naked and revealing. That was easier when I felt like nobody was reading the thing. Now, not so much.

The other thing, of course, is that all this self-promotion gets to be a job in itself. You can spend all your time tweeting and blogging and Facebooking if you like, but in the end only your books matter. I have a family, and I write slowly and meticulously — and I try to confine the online stuff to the little time I have left over. To me, that is the right order of priorities. I highly doubt that on my death bed I will be content to say, Sure, I could have written more and better books, but I sure was a hell of a Twitterer.

Also, just to be clear, I don’t think that I am as absent online as you’re suggesting. I just don’t broadcast as much — I don’t push as much material at my readers as some other authors do. But I am very available. I get emails every day and answer every one. I check my Facebook page every day and answer every visitor who leaves a comment. I try not to be obnoxious about filling every subscriber’s Twitter and Facebook feeds with messages promoting Defending Jacob, but that is not the only way to promote oneself online — it may not even be the best way.

Q: On your website, Bart Simpson tells us, “Don’t have a cow, man. More books are on the way.” What’s in the works now?

A: Oh, if only I knew. I have been agonizing for the better part of a year now over my next book. It is not so much that I am anxious about following up a hit like Defending Jacob, which is what everybody presumes. It’s that I always want my books to be great, and that sort of pressure makes it hard to get to page one. Every concept has to be — or at least has to seem — immaculate, brilliant, genius. And of course creativity just doesn’t work that way. The greatest “high concept” idea can be botched in the execution (and usually is), and the simplest idea can be carpentered into something transcendent.

Q: Any words of wisdom or encouragement you’d like to share?

A: Wisdom, no. I suppose I’ll just say “thank you” to everyone who has supported Defending Jacob. It’s been a wonderful six months, with more to come, I hope. I am truly grateful.

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Friday, August 17, 2012

Fabulously Fun Friday ~ Bedtime Story

This one cracked me up. Enjoy!
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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Beyond Busy? 20 Tips to Boost Your Productivity

Author and Speaker Janalyn Voigt

As we scramble to write, edit, submit, connect, and promote, often all in the same day, writers are beyond busy. With more than ever to do, we have to work smarter to survive.  The following 20 tips will boost productivity.
1. Develop routines to dispatch mundane duties. As you complete one task, you won’t have to stop and think about what to do next.
2. Get the most difficult chores out of the way first so you can free the rest of your day for more pleasant activities.
3. Set an ending time for each activity. If you don’t, even a simple task can take hours.
4. Allow yourself breaks when you need them. You’ll do better work when you return to your desk.
5. List all interruptions to your workflow as they occur. In a quiet moment evaluate why they happened and brainstorm for solutions.
In the Office
6. When you’re tired of sitting, set up your computer so you can stand while working. While you’re at it, do a few simple stretches now and then. You’ll improve your circulation and think more clearly.
7. Make sure the room where you work is well-ventilated or you’ll struggle to stay awake at the computer, which won’t help your productivity.
8. Your office chair should be comfortable. It’s hard to focus when your legs cramp or your back aches.
9. Drink lots of water. Dehydration makes it hard to think.
10. Remember to feed yourself even while in the throws of creative passion, but don’t fill yourself with junk food and expect to be sharp.
11. Leave the Internet off until you’ve completed all writing for the day.
12. Invest in a smart phone which lets you read news, emails and ebooks at odd moments or while doing mindless tasks that leave one hand free (like stirring).
On the Phone
13. Turn the phone’s ringer off when you need to concentrate.
14. When you take a phone call, set a timer. When it goes off say your break is up and end the call.
15. Before you make a phone call jot down what you intend to cover, and don’t let yourself get sidetracked.
Email Tips
16. Don’t set emails to pop up when they come in. Instead, handle them all at once after you finish writing.Check email when other chores are done. That way you’ll have less time to dally over them.
17. Tell yourself that you must get through all emails you received that day but that you can’t go beyond the time you allot. You’ll be more choosey about what you read. Set a timer if you need help stopping in time.
18. Unsubscribe to one email list every day until your email inbox reaches a more comfortable level.
19. If a phone conversation rather than an email would save time, schedule the call.
20. If you receive blog posts by email, consider whether reading them in a feed reader would be more efficient for you. I use Google Reader.
My list is by no means exhaustive. If you have more tips to share, please comment.
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Monday, August 13, 2012

Things I've Learned Going With KDP Select

Recently I took the plunge with a publicist/marketing guru and made my five Indie titles available through Amazon's KDP Select. For those of you who don't know, KDP Select provides independent authors a chance to market their books to Amazon Kindle's Prime Membership for 90 days, allowing for free publicity in exchange for 90 days' exclusivity for e-books.

I released five of my novels on KDP Select, starting off by making the first one free to download for 3 days. Jefferson's Road: The Spirit of Resistance climbed steadily in the rankings, going from somewhere in the middle of nowhere to breach the top 40 free e-books of all kinds in less than 36 hours. I made it to the top spot in two categories (political fiction and men's adventure), as well as top spots in other significant categories.

 By the time the freebie was finished, I had given away over 6300 copies of the book. I won't see a dime from the freebies, of course, but the idea is that the exposure will help me sell more books in the future. After the book went back to "sale" (ie: costing money), I immediately plunged in the rankings, dropping to somewhere in the 500K range. A few sales later, I'd climbed back into the familiar territory of 40K to 50K.
As it stands right now, I've sold about twice my normal rate of sales for the month, and August is barely half over. I'm expecting to do easily four times my normal sales for the month.

There are definitely some things I've learned through the process that I think might benefit those of you considering something similar.

First of all, be sure your book is down from other sites for about two to four weeks before going live
with KDP Select. Like many authors, I've sold my books across a number of platforms, relying on Smashwords to do my distribution. When I started with KDP, I took the books off Smashwords and raised the prices from $.99 and $2.99 to $4.99 across the board. Unfortunately, there are a few other sites that are still selling my books at the old prices, and Amazon is still price-matching these books - meaning that I'm not getting the full benefit of the sales that I could be, even though I've done everything I can to take the books down
(that I know of!). This hurts the bottom line. Amazon could penalize me for still having the books available elsewhere, but they haven't done so just yet.

Second, be sure you identify your target audience. Figure out who reads your books (or reads books similar), and find ten to twenty blogs and forums where these people hang out. This'll require research on your part, but it's quite helpful. Go to these sites and be active on them for a month preceding your launch. About a week before you "go live," ask for permission from the site owner to post a note that your book is going to be free for a few days, and that you think their readers might enjoy grabbing a copy while they can. I had one site that approved my free book deal as an "event," only they did so the day the freebie ended. Yes. It took them that long. A little more lead time would've been quite effective, I suspect.

If you're not doing so already, be sure you have links and blurbs to your other books in the back of the one you're offering for free. You want to build up a solid readership among those who are giving you a try for the first time.

Build a decent website. I've found that Wordpress (gasp! I'm on blogger promoting another platform!) is quite useful in this regard. I don't know HTML, and being able to build a site with a WYSIWYG editor is quite handy. Include a section in the site where people can sign up for your newsletter. Try to publish something newsworthy at least once a month, though two to three times is better. Offer additional freebies, contests, giveaways and so forth. Your readers will want to know you, the author, so give them a view of your world.

And this almost goes without saying, but what the heck: have more than one book to sell. Spread your giveaways out a bit, so that people actually buy the book instead of just waiting around for another freebie. A week or two is plenty. If you have books in a series, don't offer the second one for free if you've just offered the first one. Those who are interested enough will fork over the cash to buy the second book. And that's what you really want to create: readers willing to buy your books.

My marketing efforts are continuing, so I'll keep you posted on what else I learn as this develops. Cheers!
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Friday, August 10, 2012

FFF: Facebook Funnies

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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Breaking The Rules: Writing Third Person Omniscient

Charlie Jane Anders dispels one of the greatest Rules myths of all - not to write third person omniscient. Instead, she clarifies - write third person omni if you will, but be very careful, and don't muck it up. There is a grand tradition of writing third-person omni, and we lose track of that history at our peril. For years, we've read about the dangers of writing from third-person omniscient, and writers have learned the lesson. However, I wonder if in the process of learning how to write better fiction, we've forgotten how to be great storytellers.
Many of science fiction's greatest novels are written in third-person omniscient. And this should come as no surprise, because nothing lets you depict a complex situation full of people (and creatures) with their own points of view, like a narrator who can view the whole scene from outside.
The reasons not to write third person omniscient are myriad, and they're valid as far as they go. Writing from this perspective is both difficult to pull off and really easy to get gloriously, comically wrong.

But that doesn't mean you shouldn't try it.Check this passage from the great Douglas Adams. Watch how the point of view shifts between his characters.
The sun was beginning to dry out the mud Arthur lay in.

A shadow moved across him again.

"Hello Arthur," said the shadow.

Arthur looked up and squinting into the sun was startled to see Ford Prefect standing above him.

"Ford! Hello, how are you?"

"Fine," said Ford, "look, are you busy?"

"Am I busy?" exclaimed Arthur. "Well, I've just got all these bulldozers and things to lie in front of because they'll knock my house down if I don't, but other than that . . .well, no not especially, why?"

They don't have sarcasm on Betelgeuse, and Ford Prefect often failed to notice it unless he was concentrating. He said, "Good, is there anywhere we can talk?" 

I grew up reading third person omni. My favorite series growing was Tom Corbett - Space Cadet. Those books were fast-paced, simplistic, and as jumbled as a herd of cats on bathing day. They were also great fun.

In her article, Charlie Jane Anders lists and explains why you might want to reconsider writing a third person omniscient point of view. (She gives great examples of each of these points, so be sure to nip on over and read the full article - it is well worth your time.)
  1. It's easier to be funny with third person omniscient.
  2. It lets you info-dump.
  3. It gives you versatility.
  4. You can have a narrator with a personality.
  5. It lets you tell stories about more than one person.
 The article ends with delightful insight.
"Do not fear omniscience — once you know everything, you will know there is nothing to fear."
Note: I haven't written about head-hopping in this post. We'll get to that in a future post.
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Monday, August 6, 2012

Book Reviews - Whys and Hows

How to Build a Great Book Review

By Lisa J Lickel  

So you rely on reviews before you visit that new restaurant, shop in that store, see a movie, play or television show, download that song, or…buy that book?

Reviews, taken with a grain of salt, reviews can be powerful consumer tools. We all know about the critics with their thumbs up or thumbs down, the critic who either hates or loves everything. How do you read the review in order to understand it?

These are things we'll explore in a helpful review.

What is your review mean to accomplish? If you've agreed to help an author as an influencer (next month's topic), then you are obligated to write a review that is meant to encourage readers to buy that book no matter what you personally think of it (within reason). If you're simply a fan reading a book by an author you love or one who is new to you, then you can write whatever you like; if you are a professional or semi-professional reviewer, then you need to follow your instincts in a way that helps a reader decide whether or not the book is a good purchase.

A helpful review includes:

General information title, author, copyright date, ISBN, publisher and price. If you are putting this review on a personal site, you may want to include purchase links. If the author or publisher has not supplied them, you can go to an online retail site, look up the product and copy the code at the top of the screen.

The review is written in present tense throughout, except when referring to past events in the story. This is a reflection of your own writing, so make it clear, concise and use your best skills.

Start with a killer hook bottom line, what did the book do for you?

Short summary of the story often the back or inside sleeve contains a teaser, but this summary should reflect the fact that you have read the book and may have a few personal observations. If you like the book, you want to entice potential readers to buy it; if you didn't like it, you can be neutral or matter of fact. The summary includes setting and plot and what happens without giving away the ending or major twists.

Comments regarding the quality of writing, style, flow, characters, appropriate research or believability, what kind of emotions it evoked from you. If you like the book, you can say so here, or let a ratings system reflect this. If you did not care for the book, you should say why. Remember, the author has put time into this work and unless entirely self-published, and also has relied on a publisher or editor to stamp the final product. The author doesn't always have final control of everything about the book, sometimes including editing, cover and design.

Summary statement that may include a comment about who would like this book and possible market comparisons.

General, reasonable lengths for reviews runs 250-500 words, but that's simply my suggestion. You should be able to get everything out in that amount of time, and much less than 200 words probably means you couldn't find much to say.

If you write reviews for a particular company or review site, there may be other standards to follow. You should indicate the source of the book in your review, whether or not the author or publisher gave it to you at no or reduced charge. It is not required to say whether or not you were paid. You may be required to give a rating. If you are afraid to hurt anyone's feelings and automatically give the same high rating for each book you review, it will be hard for readers to trust your reviews.

Fan reviews can be a few phrases long, just enough to share what you really thought about the story. Putting reviews like this on Goodreads and retail sites are a good way to connect with other readers and potentially find new authors to try.

If you want to share an occasional personal review or even offer an accompanying interview with the author on your personal site, you are then free to explore what the author might have been attempting to convey. Readers tend to flock to sites that showcase their favorite authors. Of course, offering a free book in a drawing is also a huge draw; usually there are no fees or other issues with this type of activity, although it's easy enough to check state regulations where you live. You must always ask the author ahead of time if he or she is willing to donate a book or other gift; if you give away your own copy, you can do what you like according to regulations in your area.

So, write your reviews according to their purpose, include the basic information and your comments that are meant to influence the reader, and be honest in a helpful way.


By Michelle Griep

 c. May 2011


Historical fiction

ISBN 978-1936835027

Michelle Griep’s latest novel, Undercurrent, is the adventure of forever. Ancient history lovers everywhere: know ye this, you can’t turn pages fast enough and your heart will ache for more when you flip the last one.

As soon as a mysterious stranger wishes Cassie a safe journey on a research trip with her students, the reader knows she’ll have anything but. Pulled into the legendary sucking vortex that appears on Midsummers Eve off the coast Northumberland near Knifestone, Professor Cassandra Larson, PhD cannot escape her fate when she falls overboard.

Cassie wakes up on the other side of her life, rescued by a strange man accused of murder and running for his life. Once she deciphers his unique speech and picks up on a few other clues, the professor who specializes in ancient Norse culture realizes she has stumbled into the penultimate research project – up close and personal look at life a thousand years ago. Trouble is, she can’t figure out how to get back to the 20th century. As she learns to adapt, Cassie wonders if she even wants to go back.

The lusty Alarik, product of 10th century Norway, is a prince falsely accused of killing his cousin. He must clear his name if he is to inherit rule, or become jarl, of Rogaland. Alarik’s brother, the scarred Ragnar, has fallen prey to the new religion, Christianity, something even Cassie can’t understand when she meets him. Cassie is soon caught up in the politics, betrayal, and dangers of the time as the brothers seek to exonerate Alarik before the ruthless and evil sorcerer Torolf can take the land by force.

Griep’s unfaltering attention to every detail in her research and portrayal of the customs, lives, clothing, food, and language makes the reader live on the trails, in the villages, and at the final battle when the man who would be king makes his stand and impacts the lives of everyone around him with the depth of his conviction.

With characters such as Magnus the simple giant and Tammy the enthusiastic fan of Dr. Larson, the reader embarks upon a wondrous and magical voyage that will stay long after the story meets itself. Readers who enjoy the likes of Diana Gabaldon or Richard Matheson’s Somewhere in Time will enjoy this book. Undercurrent gets the rare five as one of what will be an all-time favorite on my shelf.

Reviewer: Lisa J Lickel
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Friday, August 3, 2012

Fabulously Fun Friday: The Perils of Gaining Amazon Book Reviews

I hope you enjoy this tongue-in-cheek video on how to gain book reviews on Amazon.

Author Gets Educated on Amazon Book Reviews
by: GoblinWriter
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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Raymond Chandler: "They pay brisk money for this crap?"

This hasn't been the best week for us at AuthorCulture. Our Monday writer didn't get her reminder two days beforehand and completely missed her post. We all gave her a good ribbing for it and a good time was had by all.

Guess who missed his post this morning? (This is, you understand, a rhetorical question.) So I present this letter from Raymond Chandler who apparently had no love for the Science Fiction of his era.

6005 Camino de la Costa
La Jolla, California

Mar 14 1953

Dear Swanie:

Playback is getting a bit tired. I have 36,000 words of doodling and not yet a stiff. That is terrible. I am suffering from a very uncommon disease called (by me) atrophy of the inventive powers. I can write like a streak but I bore myself. That being so, I could hardly fail to bore others worse. I can't help thinking of that beautiful piece of Sid Perelman's entitled "I'm Sorry I Made Me Cry."

Did you ever read what they call Science Fiction? It's a scream. It is written like this: "I checked out with K19 on Aldabaran III, and stepped out through the crummalite hatch on my 22 Model Sirus Hardtop. I cocked the timejector in secondary and waded through the bright blue manda grass. My breath froze into pink pretzels. I flicked on the heat bars and the Brylls ran swiftly on five legs using their other two to send out crylon vibrations. The pressure was almost unbearable, but I caught the range on my wrist computer through the transparent cysicites. I pressed the trigger. The thin violet glow was icecold against the rust-colored mountains. The Brylls shrank to half an inch long and I worked fast stepping on them with the poltex. But it wasn't enough. The sudden brightness swung me around and the Fourth Moon had already risen. I had exactly four seconds to hot up the disintegrator and Google had told me it wasn't enough. He was right."

They pay brisk money for this crap?


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