Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Excerpt: Diary of a Beverly Hills Matchmaker by Marla Martenson


I’ve taken off my Jimmy Choo eight-strap platform pumps that originally cost seven hundred dollars—and that I bought online for only a hundred fifteen bucks after I got my signing advance on my first book—and put on my walking shoes from Target. I’m just about to shut the computer off when my email chime sounds. Why do I even bother looking in my inbox at this hour?

Hi Marla, Scott here.

I’m still waiting for the 10+ lovelies you promised.



Dear Scott,

Our 10+ young women are very popular and booked well in advance, or they often date one client steadily—which is what we want for you too, right? I’m sure I can have a name for you by tomorrow though.


There’s a second email. It’s cc’d to me, but primarily addressed to Gary.

Gary and Marla,

None of the twenty-three women I’ve dated through your service are up to my standards. I demand that you cancel my contract and give me my money back immediately or I’ll see you in court.


OgodOgodOgodOgod. I blow my breath out about a dozen times. I know Gary will handle this if it gets really ugly, but I’ll have to try to talk the guy out of it first. Shit!

Dear Nathan,

Picture if you will the jurors listening to you plead your case: six horny guys slobbering over the gorgeous women you turned down, and six women who must be restrained from forming a lynching party. See what I’m saying, Nathan?

I start to write a foray into an amicable resolution, but you know what? I can’t deal with this tonight. Nathan will just have to wait. I shut down the computer, turn off the lights, and lock up.

Do I really need this job? I ask myself as I head up Rodeo Drive toward Wilshire. Enough to put up with all the crap?

I hated being a waitress. I made a solemn vow to myself that I would not still be waitressing at forty. My thirty-five-year-old self would think I was so dang successful now, I should stand up and cheer. I make good money and have sold two books. The first one is just about to be released, so it hasn’t earned enough yet to allow me to focus on writing full time.

Is Bobbie right? Is my soul limping? Right now, I’m fondly remembering my waitressing days in Chicago, where I had more time for creative pursuits before and after work. Or are my Oak-leys too rose-tinted as I glance into the past?

Wow! Isn’t that Reese Witherspoon in that Rolls driving by? I walk a little faster and almost catch up at the light at Wilshire. The Rolls turns and I follow. I can see it turn again onto North Canon. I bet she’s going to Spago. I walk a little faster and am half a block away when I see a swarm of photogs, their cameras flashing like firecrackers. I can see a blonde making it inside the restaurant before being totally mauled.

I have to smile as I head back to Rodeo. She’s living the life I was pursuing. At the age of twenty, I left Washington and moved to Los Angeles to pursue my dreams of an acting career—along with thousands of Kelly McGillis wannabes and Don Johnson posers. People used to mistake me for Molly Ringwald and even ask me for my autograph. I would walk down the street and hear, “Hey, Molly!” I’d wave and blow kisses. When I was waiting tables, a few customers thought I was Molly. I went along with it at first and signed their napkins. Finally, I asked the obvious. “Why in the heck would Molly Ringwald be waiting tables in West Hollywood?”

I have pictures of me playing up the Molly look, but I also loved Madonna. The photos of me dressed in her “like a virgin” days: hilarious! None of this got me anywhere in show biz, however. So to pay the bills, I moved on to waitressing along with the rest of the dreamers—just until I landed a part in some big movie that would make me famous. And rich. And allow me to live in Beverly Hills.

Not that doing anything in Beverly Hills isn’t a trip, if you know what I mean. In one of the first of my many stellar jobs, which was just across the street from where I’m right now, fogging up a window—sighing over a red Louis Vuitton handbag that I’ve already priced at $1,110—I often worked the busy Saturday lunch shift where I lost some of my naiveté very quickly. Ron, the manager-host, told us to seat the “beautiful people” outside on the patio so that passers-by could see them frequenting his dining establishment. The “less attractive” tourists were seated inside upfront, and the uglier ones, as he called them, were “positioned in the back.” I felt sorry for those poor schmucks— because they also got the slowest service. And the smaller portions. Sometimes they even got the least appealing or slowest selling food items. “What do you recommend on the menu?” the ugly folks would ask in good faith. “Oh, the dirt sandwich with onions and sauerkraut is my favorite. You’ll enjoy it.”

I begged to wait on the outdoor diners—celebrities, the rich and famous, the spoiled patrons juggling Chanel, Gucci, and Armani shopping bags. I was a bit jealous, of course, of all these privileged people, shopping and dining in Beverly Hills while I worked my ass down to a size zero at two restaurant jobs just to get by. I was waiting on Joan Collins, who came to the restaurant with a party of six. Dynasty was a top-rated TV show, and I did my best to please its star villainess, pouring more of this, fetching another that. And then disaster struck. She called me over to her table. Her fork was missing. “This is an outrage!” she barked.

For all my work, she left me a $2 tip on a $120 tab. The woman was clearly typecast as Alexis, right?

My dream of getting work as an actress got squeezed into the crannies as the years flew by, and I accepted—but never liked—the restaurant work. I mean I should be the one wearing fabulous designer suits at power lunches and dripping with bling at dinner—not serving these hoity-toities. I mostly just got lonelier and felt worse about myself. By age twenty-seven, I was still living alone, away from my family, and struggling financially.

But I was about to ride off into the smoggy sunset with Mr. Fabulous who would, I hoped, save me from the drudgery of two jobs so I could return to acting. I was working in a French restaurant in West Hollywood. Neither Tom Cruise nor Rob Lowe had taken notice of the adorable cashier at Le Bistro Brasserie, so I flirted with Bruno, the cute French sous chef who didn’t speak much English. I spoke French, so he chatted me up tout suite. I let him talk me into letting him crash at my place a few times— he lived forty-five minutes away and knew I walked to work from my little apartment. Success story that he was, he had no car and spent a fortune on taxi fares at night after work.

I must confess that I suffer from RAA syndrome, Rescues Abandoned Animals, and so I helped the guy out. Like, four times a week. He camped on my sofa. You can see where this is going. I mean a bed is so much more comfy than a lumpy couch. Bruno soon had an epiphany: Marriage would save us money. Somehow, it sounded sexy in French. Deep down I knew that he was using me, but I was so lonely. I said, oui.

What was I thinking?

A few years later, Bruno had a chance to work with two brothers who were opening a restaurant in Chicago. He asked me if I wanted to move so far away from sunny California. The only thing I knew about Chicago was that Oprah and Phil Donahue were there, and as one of my guy waiter friends who had visited many times told me, “It’s colder than a witch’s tit.” I had also heard that there was acting work available. I was sick of L.A. and said oui once more.

I loved the Windy City and made some good friends, but the restaurant partners turned out to be very bad people, so, after a year and a half, we broke off our association with them. Bruno decided to take a job in Beverly Hills and move back to L.A. We didn’t have enough money to pay a moving company, so he went ahead of me; I stayed the summer, working two jobs waitressing in order to save enough for the move. I was so exhausted from waiting on tables day and night that when I came home, I often collapsed on the floor in tears, my three-and-a-half-pound Yorkshire terrier, Daphne, my only comfort. But at least I looked good. According to my friends, the fifteen pounds I dropped gave me a “gaunt catwalk allure.”

I finally made it back out to L.A. to be with Bruno, who had by then found his true passion in life: playing poker with the guys. I hardly ever saw him. I should have thought, Yay! I was so depressed, though, I thought I might have a nervous breakdown. I told Bruno that it looked like our marriage was falling apart and that maybe we should just end it. He said that would be just fine with him, since he wasn’t all that attracted to me in the first place. Aaaarrrrgggghhhh! I hated L.A., I couldn’t find a job, and I missed Chicago and my friends. I spent a lot of time crying my eyes out. On top of that, I just never got picked out of the studio cattle calls. I felt like I was nothing. After ten months back in the City of Angels—from hell—I decided to go back to Chicago and start a fresh life. This should have been a “woo-hoo moment,” but I was still a mess. Scars? It’s a wonder my heart still worked. I still have nightmares about those times.

After seven years of marriage, I filed for divorce, packed two suitcases, and put Daphne in my roomy Gucci knock-off handbag. My dad was living nearby in Anaheim with his second wife—my parents having divorced when I was about twenty-seven. He drove me to the airport. Waterworks gushing, I nodded as my dad kept pointing out that this was the best thing I could have done for myself. He was right. My outlook and therefore my luck was about to change.

Oh. My. God. I smell Italian food, and it draws me right out of my memory of those moronic times with Bruno. I’ve wandered along, enjoying the profusion of flowers blossoming along the center divide of Rodeo Drive. The pleasant summer evening is still light at almost eight. Most of the shops have closed, so I have the place virtually to myself. The flowers perfume the streets, but my nose also detects . . . money. No kidding. The air smells like new cars and aroma therapies and salons and perfume and leather goods. Eau de Moolah—that’s the scent along this street. I’ve reached the Rodeo Collection, small, yet the most expensive shopping turf on the planet. You can’t really tell from the outside though. Part of it is sunken with all this ivy cascading over the brick walls and marble columns. There’s an open courtyard three levels down with trees and a small waterfall. The pizza smell that is making my stomach growl is wafting up from a new upscale restaurant.

I love Italian food, but somehow I managed not to bulk up on it back in Chicago, where I worked in an Italian restaurant for the steady income. It was the first time I actually took charge of my life, and I began making a good deal of money doing TV commercials and getting small parts in films and print modeling work. I even had a couple of lines in the Mel Gibson film, What Women Want. Mel was very nice. I got to stand just a few feet from where he was doing his scene. I was so surprised to see what a heavy smoker he was. He would stand in front of the camera, puffing on a cigarette, and then when it was time to do his scene, he threw the lit cigarette on the floor in front of him. After his scene, he would pick it back up and start smoking again. Cig addictions—don’t even get me started.

I was happy there for five years. Chicago holds a special place in my heart—but life was about to call me back to California. I was home for Christmas at my mom’s house in Federal Way when the call came that my father was in the hospital with cancer. I called the airlines, got a ticket, and jumped on the next plane to Los Angeles, crying the whole way down and as I walked into the hospital. I looked at him lying in his bed, knowing that the time had come for us to pay the ultimate price for those damn cigarettes. The hold that cigarettes get on people is like a vise around the throat. Okay, I didn’t mean to go there, but knowing that he was going to suffer just about killed me.

The doctor came into the room and coldly announced that the diagnosis was terminal and that Dad had six months to live, at the most. Then he just turned around and walked out the door.

Neither of us could look at each other.

Then Dad said, “You think it’s too late for me to start eating that tofu and carrot juice you’re always trying to foist off on me?” We laughed and I hugged him.

Back in Chicago, it took me only five days to pack everything, close bank accounts, tell my boss I was leaving, say good-bye to dear friends like Rita—who would take care of Daphne for me— and hire a moving company. When I got back to California, Dad was no longer in the hospital. He had deteriorated so much that he was put into a nursing home. I spent days and nights at his side, crying and praying for help getting through this.

Mercifully he died a few days later. I was living at my aunt’s house, waiting for my things to cross the country from Chicago on a moving truck. The second hardest thing that I’ve ever had to do in my life was to drive over to the cremation place and pick up my dad’s ashes. I paid the four hundred dollars and was handed a cardboard box that weighed about ten pounds. I hid it in the back of the closet of the guest room that I was staying in.

That night, lying on the inflated mattress that was my bed for the next two months, I felt and heard a buzzing sound in my left ear. Then I heard the words in my dad’s voice, “We did okay, didn’t we? I love you.”

“I love you too,” I said.

I always feel Dad at my side in stressful times. Like right now.

I think he’s telling me to do what makes me happy. I feel in my heart that he helped me right after I moved back to L.A., back to Hollywood.

I planned on getting an agent and a job—in any line of work except waitressing—and start auditioning again. I finally found a cute little studio apartment in Hollywood that accepted dogs, a small miracle, and Daphne and I moved in. Decorating the place helped me cope with the loss of my dad, but I still felt very lost and lonely.

I did some French translation work and was also cast in bit parts as an actress. I began doing “audience work.” Yep, they actually pay people to sit in the audience at tapings of game shows and late-night talk shows. I had no idea “audience work” existed as a profession until my girlfriend, Anouchka, introduced me to it. It paid a pittance—six dollars per hour cash, sometimes more—but it was interesting. Getting on the Judge Judy show, for instance, paid a whole $40 for just sitting on your butt, staying awake, and looking interested while people bickered, ranted, and endured magisterial sarcasm.

One evening, I walked to a pharmacy up on Sunset Boulevard to get some vitamins. There I met an adorable little Polish woman from New York who also lived in the neighborhood. Sabrina and I became solid friends. We went to plays and comedy clubs together—it was a lot of fun. She introduced me to one of her girlfriends who was an agent. She signed me right away. In the meantime, Sabrina was always talking about a guy who lived in her building. She told me he was dating a gal, but it wasn’t serious.

I didn’t really care to hear about a guy who was “in a relationship,” but every time I saw Sabrina, she kept talking about this guy. She told me that he played piano at a place in Playa Del Rey. I can’t explain this, but I felt like my dad was nudging me. I was just kind of glowing with expectation the night I decided to go to the piano bar with Sabrina to secretly check him out.


I liked his music, the way he played the piano, and just . . . the way he looked: Latin, handsome, with a warm smile. He came over and sat with us during his break. When he was done for the evening, we all went over to Sabrina’s apartment and had a drink. We sat next to each other on her couch, and our lips, I don’t know . . . they just . . . somehow . . . locked like magnets.


I will receive a belated tip from an old actress for $62.37 (adjusting for inflation and interest accrual).

My happy clients shower me with appreciation.

My Dad watches over me.

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Genre – Memoir
Rating – PG13
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Five Mistakes Writers Make When Querying Publisher

- Guest Post by Elle Campbell

Writing is a skill that requires a lot of inspiration and patience for it to be able to yield a good result. It is a job that brings fictions to life most especially when you are a fiction writer or a novelist as the case may be. Writers need publishers to be able to get their work finished and made available to their clients who are the readers of the book. Publishers on the other hand are the people that help writers to get their works finished and sent to the public at large who will then read the book and make the author and of course the publisher a success in their respective fields of work or endeavour in life.

These two jobs are jobs that go with each other as one of them cannot do without the other and this has made them look more or less like identical twins that are born of the same parents, look alike but behave differently. Despite the advent of the internet technology, writers still need the services of publishers for their work to be able to be finished and get to the consumers as there are also the online publishers that also help writers with their writing works and this includes the e-books (electronic books). Writers always have to query (this is the process of submitting their written jobs to their publisher or a publisher for an aspiring writer) their publishers and this is what this article will be dwelling on.

These twin jobs always go hand in hand and like siblings there are times when there are disagreements (when the job of a writer is rejected by a publisher) between them. There are many mistakes that writers make when they have a reason to query their publishers. This article will however concern itself with five mistakes writers make when querying publisher. The following are some of the major mistakes made by writers in this respect:

1) One of such mistakes is the fact that writers fail to write creatively when they query their publishers. There are many people that are into writing these days like we all know and there is a need for you to be creative in your writing as this is what will make you stand out and be unique among the other writers. The population of the world is growing therefore each field of work is becoming populated hence; only the innovative or the creative will become successful. When you are writing add some little spices that will distinguish your writing abilities from the writing jobs of other writers. This will help make your query to your publisher to be a successful one.

2) The second of the mistakes that will be discussed is the issue of not pointing out all your experiences (professionalism or expertise as you may choose to call it) to the publisher. It is advisable that you do not write a letter that is stating that you are not experienced in the field of writing to the publisher as this will create a negative impression of your writing skills to the publisher right before he or she even starts reading your work. The best thing that you are to state is the experience you have garnered in a particular area of life which you have put into writing a book. An example is when you write a book about how to be a great mom to a girl in her teens; you should create a positive impression to the publisher that you know what you are writing about because you have successfully seen two or three girls through their teen age.

3) The next point that we are to talk about is the mistake of not editing your work before sending it to the publisher. It is advisable that you edit your work right before you send it away to the publisher as this will help you become familiar with the tone of your work and will also make your work to appear professional, presentable and unique. Do not leave this job to the publisher as the publisher has a lot of things waiting for him to perform on his plate or table.

4) Another mistake that is made by writers is the mistake of not building up the points or ideas that you listed out in your work. As a writer, it is important that you write out the full details of your ideas in your work before you send it along with your query letter to the publisher. This will help the publisher understand your points or ideas better as he or she will not be left guessing as to what you mean about what you have written.

5) The last but not the least of the mistake that will be mentioned here is that of the inability to follow the etiquette of writing professional query letters. You can be able to make your query a success simply by the way you address the publisher or through the way you follow professional etiquette of query writing. This can be done by you through the simple act of studying what other successful writers did when they submitted their own query to their publishers.

Query writing can either make or mar your professional writing career so it is pertinent and advisable that you avoid the five mistakes that have been mentioned above and you will be on your way to becoming a successful writer or author.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Writing by the Seat of Your Pants: Outline or No?

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Genre – Murder / Thriller 
Rating – PG13 (some foul language, a few short love scenes)
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Writing by the Seat of Your Pants: Outline or No?

- Guest Post by SD O’Donnell

I am frequently asked if I write from a structured outline or by the seat of my pants. We’ve all heard stories of writers who do it either way. Most are passionate that their way is the right way. After finishing my first novel, my answer is: mix things up a bit.

I started Deadly Memories completely by the seat of my pants. One week when my husband and son went camping and left me alone, I immersed myself in books and movies. I was so immersed in plots, they showed up in my dreams. One morning I woke up with the idea of a catatonic woman being found in a park and the thought just wouldn’t leave. Who was she? What made her run away in such an extreme way? How would she get help if she wasn’t able to interact with people?

I have always been a strong and confident woman in my professional life but my first marriage was abusive. My best friend was the same – a power to be dealt with at work and a victim at home. I often wondered, for both of us, how two such extreme personalities existed in the same person. So I added that puzzle to my dream-inspired story. When the woman came out of the catatonia, she would have amnesia. Having forgotten who she was, she could be anything she wanted to be. Would that person bear any resemblance to who she was when she remembered everything? How and why would it be different?

That’s all I had to start with. I wrote the early scenes and worked out plot points at the same time. I wrote from two points-of-view: the detective that finds the woman and the woman’s. At first, his voice was third person and her voice was first. That didn’t work, so I had to rewrite everything to be in third person. For awhile, I had vignettes of the villain’s point-of-view. That turned out to be overkill, with too much foreshadowing, so I took all of that out. I’d write with the flow, then get to a point when I didn’t like where it was going. I had to go back and replot, then rewrite. Getting the picture? For me, seat of the pants created a lot of rework.

So, I took a deep breath and outlined. To my surprise, that wasn’t the end of rework. Sometimes my characters refused to do what I had planned for them. Sometimes, something that seemed so obviously right in the outline just didn’t feel right once it was written. Then I had to change the outline. And rewrite, again.

It took more renditions than I’m willing to admit here to finalize Deadly Memories. In the end, I outlined some and I wrote by the seat of my pants some. And I figured out that what works for me is a combination of both methods.

The JFK Conspiracy

- Guest Post by LDC Fitzgerald

Welcome! Please allow me to introduce myself. I’m author L.D.C. Fitzgerald, and I’m delighted to be your guest blogger today. My novel, SAVING JACKIE K, is a thrilling adventure to rescue the First Lady!

The story begins in present day, in a world where fifty years ago Soviet assassins missed President Kennedy, killing his wife Jackie by mistake. The death of Jackie K engenders a chronic devastating war with Russia, the country purportedly responsible for the attack. In 2013, a team of renegades accidentally discovers time travel and decides to return to 1963 to save the First Lady.

I’m often asked about the JFK assassination, and the conspiracy to cover it up. It’s a touchy subject; many people are passionate about their own particular views on who was responsible and what role Lee Harvey Oswald played. But it’s an enormously fun issue to debate!

Half a century ago, President Kennedy was touring five Texas cities, trying to garner support for the 1964 presidential election. On November 22, 1963, JFK landed in Dallas, and boarded an open limousine to embark on a motorcade parade through the city streets.

At 12:30 pm, sniper bullets struck down JFK as he rode through Dealey Plaza in Dallas. Hundreds of horrified spectators heard the staccato gunfire, and witnessed the fatal headshot that spattered his Lincoln convertible with bloody tissue.

Eighty minutes later, Lee Harvey Oswald—an employee of the Texas School Book Depository in Dealey Plaza—was arrested for murdering dedicated Dallas Police Officer J.D. Tippit. While in custody, Oswald was accused of the presidential assassination as well. He had allegedly fired his bolt-action Mannlicher-Carcano rifle at JFK from a window on the sixth floor of the book warehouse.

Despite the charges, Oswald never faced trial. Two days later, burlesque club owner Jack Ruby shot and killed Oswald in the basement of police headquarters, as lawmen prepared to transfer the suspect to the county jail. The violence shocked an already grieving nation, when network television cameras inadvertently broadcast the execution on live television.

Kennedy’s successor, President Lyndon Baines Johnson, appointed Chief Justice Earl Warren to chair a committee tasked with investigating Kennedy’s assassination. After ten months of testimony and hearings, the Warren Commission concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald acted as the lone gunman.

Enter the most contentious controversy of the twentieth century. Was Lee Harvey Oswald a lone nut who assassinated the 35th US president? Or was Kennedy the victim of a conspiracy plot?

Subsequent to the Warren Commission report, official investigations corroborated the their findings, until the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) was formed in 1976. Their report in 1979 confirmed Oswald’s three shots from the Texas School Book Depository, the third of which proved fatal to President Kennedy.

However, the HSCA also stated that “Scientific acoustical evidence establishes a high probability that two gunmen fired at President John F. Kennedy,” and that “Kennedy was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy.” Despite these conclusions, “The committee was unable to identify the other gunmen or the extent of the conspiracy.”

Five decades after the shocking assassination, most Americans agree that a conspiracy struck down the president, and suspect a massive cover-up of the truth. Why?

Oswald himself said, “I’m just a Patsy!” A man who previously defected to Communist Russia, was he set up by domestic or foreign agencies? The fact that Jack Ruby silenced Oswald two days later fuels this argument. There is speculation as to whether he even owned the rifle. His palm print was discovered, yet later mysteriously disappeared. And, Oswald hotly contended that photos of him with the rifle were doctored.

The number of shots has been disputed. The Warren Commission alleges three shots, two of which hit the president, including the “magic bullet” that went through JFK and landed in Governor Connally. And the fact that amateur video shows Kennedy’s head being blasted back and to the left leads viewers to the conclusion that the fatal shot was fired from the Grassy Knoll.

If a conspiracy struck down the 35th president, who was responsible?

The US was in the height of the Cold War with the USSR, and had recently squared off with Russia over the Cuban Missile Crisis. The Soviet Union had planted nukes on Cuban soil, within range of the US. Kennedy ordered a naval blockade of Cuba which prevented nuclear war. So, the Russians clearly had motive. As did Fidel Castro of Cuba. Not only did Kennedy quarantine Cuba during the crisis, he also authorized a CIA-led attack on Cuba during the Bay of Pigs Invasion, a failed attempt to overthrow Castro.

Domestically, the CIA has been implicated. The Bay of Pigs mission failed in part when Kennedy scaled back air support. JFK fired the CIA director afterward, nonetheless. Kennedy and his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, also sparred with the FBI over their lack of success in defeating the Mafia. And the fact that Robert waged war against the Mob makes them suspect as well.

Scores of other individuals and organizations have been implicated in the conspiracy. However, to date, no one has proposed a widely accepted answer to who conspired to kill Kennedy. Citizens of the world may well be left to wonder for decades to come.

For a thrilling fictional answer to the most notorious conspiracy of the twentieth century, I invite you to read my novel, Saving Jackie K.

Thanks for joining me today!
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Genre – Thriller
Rating – PG
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Sunday, 28 April 2013

The Simple Answer to the Eternal Question

- Guest Post by David VanDyke

I keep seeing some form of the same question on writing forums: How can I be successful as an independent author?

The answer is the same, no matter how much people wish it wasn’t. It’s the same if you are any form of artist or entertainer.

1. Keep writing, and keep improving your writing

2. Make your work easily available at a good price.

3. Promote your work, and keep learning how to promote better

4. Repeat the above ad infinitum, while improving some more

1-4 above are necessary, but not sufficient. The last piece is:

5. Get lucky

But you will make some of your own luck by doing 1-4 the best you can. In poker terms, you must put yourself in a position to get lucky.

Some folks will never get lucky and break out and catch on, and that’s sad. Some classic writers or artists never had much success in their own lifetimes. That’s how it goes. Life ain’t fair. But if you keep at it, the chances of your work catching on, at least enough to make a living, keeps growing.

It’s also very easy to sabotage yourself. Let me give you an example. I recently looked at a writer’s blog post. It essentially bemoaned the fact that the author had written about ten books and was still only making 5-600 dollars a year. You know what? I immediately looked at the books and diagnosed the problem. Unfortunately I was not able to get ahold of the author – no e-mail or contact widget, and posting on the blog comments go no response.

But what was the author’s problem? Let’s compare to the list above.

1. Keep writing, and keep improving your writing

The books all seem to be well written from my look at the samples, with just a few formatting issues, but not enough to kill sales. Good covers, good titles, a good name or pen name.

Okay, #1, check.

2. Make your work easily available at a good price.

5 of 9 books are listed for $9.99 ebook price.

One is 5.95, two are 2.99, and one is free.

Whoah. Anyone see a problem here?

If I could give advice I would say, drop all ebook prices to 2.99, which would likely triple sales right off, and the author her up for future success. I bet there would be ten times the number sales within a year, and more money. 100 copies a month with a ten book backlist is not difficult.

All the promotion in the world won’t overcome something being overpriced. I bet there are people that read the free book or the $2.99 books and then see the price of the others and say, “well, those books were good but I’m not paying that much.” And those people that stop at the cheap books are not going to recommend to friends, or at least, not beyond the cheaper books.

To reiterate, the dichotomy between giving away one book and overcharging for others is killing sales. It’s like MacDonald’s giving away free burgers but charging $10 for a shake. You ain’t gonna sell many shakes. People will walk in, buy the cheap thing, and ignore the expensive thing.

3. Promote your work, and keep learning how to promote better

It appears from what I can tell that the author is promoting quite a lot. This person claims 20,000 twitter followers. If one in 100 bought one book per month at $2.99, sales would pick up. So promotion is not the problem. I refer back to #2. The author has to compete on price. With established authors and tradpubs slashing prices on all but the hottest bestsellers, who is going to buy these books over one of the other thousand writers of the same genre out there who write equivalently good books?

4. Repeat the above ad infinitum, while improving some more

There’s nothing quite like persistence. I know a guy who’s making a living selling ebooks. He wrote and stored novels for over twenty years, piling up rejections from tradpubs. Then he went the self-pub independent route and now he sells thousands of copies a month. It took over twenty years to reach his dream, which was to quit his day job and write for a living.

He didn’t give up. I’m not either. Will you?

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Genre – SciFi /Adventure
Rating – PG13
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Friday, 26 April 2013

Don’t Surrender the Fate of Your Books to Publishing Executives

- Guest Post by Adele Park

Have you unconsciously surrendered the fate of your novel to the whimsical tastes of publishing executives?  Do you think your book can’t move forward without the financial blessing of others?  Agents and publishers can certainly boost our careers, but I’m not sure they can break them.  In all likelihood, our destiny lies in our own hands.  It took several years worth of groveling at the heels of those in the publishing industry for me to comprehend this.

Even though you’ve probably spent years visualizing the success of your book, how much time have you devoted to thinking about the specific things you want to achieve?  Perhaps you have a vague fantasy involving money and fame.  These things are definitely desirable, but chances are there’s more to it than that.  The act of creation ignites something within us, even if we can’t put our finger on it.  There’s a lot to be said for fully experiencing the moment we are in.

Many of us hold our own dreams hostage by assuming things have to play out in a specific manner.  In my case, I wrongly believed the only way to turn my manuscript into an audio book was to first have it published in hard back.  Under this scenario, I would have had to sell a barn full of books before anyone would ever consider producing it in audio form.

Once I understood I had control over my own dreams, I formed an LLC called Straight to Audio Productions and produced my first audio book.  I recorded and edited an 8.5 hour project using nothing but a mic, a mixer and a laptop.  Miraculously, I was able to get my project listed for sale as an mp3 download on Audible.com.  After that, I built an actual studio and went to work recording Jitters-A Quirky Little Audio Book.  That project went on to win a 2011 Audie from the Audio Publishers Association in the multi-voiced category.   

If you are having trouble getting through to the top brass in the publishing industry, try to find the courage to publish your book anyway.  E-books and desktop publishing companies make this process inexpensive and easy to do.  Don’t miss the chance to live your art just because things aren’t happening exactly the way you had envisioned.  Outcomes are over-rated anyway.  The biggest thrills come from fully experiencing the projects you’re passionate about.  Completing something you’ve been working on for a long time can be anti-climactic, so the trick is to enjoy the process.  Whatever you do, try not to get attached to the outcome.

When you run out of ideas, wing it.  I’ve met very few people who work in the audio book industry, so in my business I make everything up as I go.  Sure, I’ve taken a few wrong turns, but it’s definitely been an interesting journey.  This lack of an industry blueprint has left me free to dabble with different ways to tell a story.  Unlike most audio books which have one person doing the voices for all the characters, my audio books feature full cast of actors who tell their stories directly to the listener.  I’ve also taken the liberty of experimenting with different forms of narration.  Since the lead character in Jitters is a radio shock jock, I thought it would be interesting to narrate the story through a series of newscasts.  With Yikes! Another Quirky Audio Book, I used a series of narration pieces called “Examine Our Navel.”  Like it or not, I probably couldn’t float this idea to any traditionalists in the audio book industry.

It might seem risky, but there are advantages to “going rogue.”  For one thing, you don’t have to follow any rules.  Don’t be afraid to explore the unknown.  Some of the best stuff comes from impromptu moments.

I’m sure we would all love to spend a few days in the Gucci shoes of the publishing industry elite, but let’s not assume this group has it better than we do.  Along with the perks comes more pressure.  Rather than focusing on what our project lacks, perhaps our energy would best be spent being grateful for what we already have.  Besides, there’s no telling where our books will end up – not knowing is half the fun!

Buy Now @ Audible
Genre – Comedy / Satire
Rating – R (language & theme)
More details about the book
Connect with Adele Park on Facebook

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Review: The Golden Lily (Bloodlines #2) - Already started with the next book!!!

I know I am a little behind on my review copies..what with being newly married and so much other family stuff happening..  So, I am trying to keep up on my review copies now, as well as with my own bought ones.

Series: Bloodlines #2
Author: Richelle Mead
Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: June 12th 2012
Source: Bought
Genre: Paranormal, Young-adult

Sydney Sage is an Alchemist, one of a group of humans who dabble in magic and serve to bridge the worlds of humans and vampires. They protect vampire secrets—and human lives.

Sydney would love to go to college, but instead, she’s been sent into hiding at a posh boarding school in Palm Springs, California–tasked with protecting Moroi princess Jill Dragomir from assassins who want to throw the Moroi court into civil war. Formerly in disgrace, Sydney is now praised for her loyalty and obedience, and held up as the model of an exemplary Alchemist.

But the closer she grows to Jill, Eddie, and especially Adrian, the more she finds herself questioning her age–old Alchemist beliefs, her idea of family, and the sense of what it means to truly belong. Her world becomes even more complicated when magical experiments show Sydney may hold the key to prevent becoming Strigoi—the fiercest vampires, the ones who don’t die. But it’s her fear of being just that—special, magical, powerful—that scares her more than anything. Equally daunting is her new romance with Brayden, a cute, brainy guy who seems to be her match in every way. Yet, as perfect as he seems, Sydney finds herself being drawn to someone else—someone forbidden to her.

When a shocking secret threatens to tear the vampire world apart, Sydney’s loyalties are suddenly tested more than ever before. She wonders how she's supposed to strike a balance between the principles and dogmas she's been taught, and what her instincts are now telling her.

Should she trust the Alchemists—or her heart?


Although I have some problems with Bloodlines, I still can't give up on Richelle Mead or this series.  After all, she is the author of one of my all-time favorite series and the creator of the best kick-ass heroine..  So, I have bought both "The Golden Lily" and "The Indigo Spell" and started with this one.

Sydney is better (but still not someone whom I love to be a heroine) in this novel and getting used to being with Moroi and dhampirs.  Eddie (dhampir), Angeline (dhampir), Dimitri (oh, yeah, he comes back), Sonya Karp (remember her? She is a spirit user, turned Strigoi and was brought back to Moroi again) and Adrian (OH GOD, ADRIAN! Wait, I will come back to him later!), along with Sydney, tries to hide Jill from the rest of the supernatural community, so that Lissa's rule continues.  Sydney is also faced with the new problem that her blood is too 'bad' to be drunk by a Strigoi and afraid that anyone might consider her a lab rat, if this is revealed.  Also, there is a new gang called "Warriors of Light", who tries to kill Sonya. 

Apart from all these, Sydney is finally dating for the first time in her life, not that I approve of Brayden-Sydney relationship.  I liked the naiveness of this new 'dating' Sydney and she slowly comes to like and care about Adrian, Eddie, Angeline and Jill.  While Adrian, Dimitri and Sonya are doing a research about restoring Strigoi back, Sydney helps them with their work in spite of her deeply instilled beliefs.  As the story progresses, we see the characters settle down in their new homes and become friendly, loyal and at last, a family. 

Look, I am a fan of Dimitri okay?  But, ask me now again.  I am TEAM ADRIAN!


I have always liked Adrian and felt so sad for him at the end of VA series.  I am happy when Richelle Mead's Bloodlines series came, because I thought at least I will see Adrian living his HEA - and yes, even if its with Sydney.  Its obvious (well, not-so-obvious to Sydney) from the start that Adrian is falling for Sydney.  And I am angry with Sydney for not knowing this..of course, Mead has said that she is naive in the relationship details by bringing in a boyfriend..but still I can't approve.   Adrian is dopy and drunk for the most part of the novel, but I think he more than made up towards the end.  I can see a relationship forming between Adrian and Sydney and am waiting to hear how that works out.

I had already started with the next book - The Indigo Spell!  I think I am liking it better than this one, and I seriously think this series AND Sydney is growing on me..

3.5 STARS!


1.  Bloodlines - Amazon | Goodreads | Review
2.  The Golden Lily - Amazon | Goodreads | Review
3.  The Indigo Spell - Amazon | Goodreads | Review to come
4.  The Fiery Heart - Expected publication 2013 - Pre-order at Amazon | Goodreads

Surrender Book Blitz and FREE BOOKS

I am happy to be a part of the blog tour featuring Rhiannon's "Surrender".   Hope you enjoy the free books and excerpt..

Series: The Ferryman and the Flame #1
Author: Rhiannon Paille
Publisher: Createspace
Release Date: October 2nd 2012
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy / Paranormal Romance

How far would you go to save everything you ever loved?

Kaliel was warned about her love for the Ferryman. One day he will marry the land and leave Avristar forever. She doesn't listen, and because of what she is-- a Flame-- one of nine apocalyptic weapons, she sparks a war. In a desperate attempt to save her home and her love, Kaliel tries to awaken Avred, not knowing she may have to make the ultimate sacrifice.


Krishani tried to turn away, escape into the courtyards, but as the dance floor cleared, Kaliel came into view. She was a vision. She wore a deep purple linen gown that clung to her body and a purple mask edged with silver tear drops. She twirled with the last of the kinfolk and her white hair danced around her. She smiled and laughed, but when she saw him, she stopped, letting her hands drop from those of the kinfolk. She nodded for them to go to the tables and ran her hands down her dress, trying to smooth out imaginary wrinkles. As the song hit a sorrowful lull she stepped towards him.

“Krishani.” She sounded surprised and confused.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Guest Post ~ 8 Things I Wish I Knew About Being a Self-Published Author Before I Published on Amazon

- Guest Post by B.E. Jewell
When I took the plunge and became a self-published author, I thought to myself “How hard can this be?” I quickly found out being a self-published author can quickly become a full-time job, even if the pay isn’t quite there yet. The Hunter’s Son is live on Amazon (click here) and I’m pretty happy with the finished product. These are eight things I learned right away that I wish I knew before I started:
  1.  Writing is Lots and Lots of Work- Being an author, whether self or traditionally published is a ton of work. Writing can become an afterthought if you are not careful. Blogging, tweeting, website maintenance, and general promotion can take up all your time. Be prepared to work hard, but in the end, it will pay off.
  2. Please don’t make me read it again- I believe I have written a really fine novel and some solid short stories. However, there is a certain point where I simply cannot read them another time. During the novel writing process I think I read my entire manuscript at least fifteen times. I could quote passages word for word and began to get glassy eyed when I saw it on my screen. The thing that helped the most was taking long breaks from working on my novel during the revision process. This might mean a few days or a few weeks. Each time I came back I felt refreshed and found new things to enjoy about my writing.
  3. Sometimes I have no clue how to use commas- Revisions are one of the most critical part of writing and probably the most boring part, particularly the edits after the final proof read. Professional editing services are a must and I have a great editor (shameless plug for http://bee-editing.com/) but spending hours on end placing punctuation can get old. My advice would be to pay close attention during your second draft process and don’t be afraid to read some things to brush up on grammar. There are plenty of great resources online you can look at (you can even use my errors from the post to help you out!).
  4. People aren’t just going to buy my book because I think it is great- I never knew how much work promotion would be for my book. It is easy to think that you can put a book on Amazon or Smashwords and people will just buy it. At first this may happen when your friends and family snatch up the book right away, but those sales will dry up quickly. My biggest regret is not starting promotion before my book was finished. Don’t make the same mistake I did.
  5. Everyone has a question for me- I never thought I would have to talk about my book so much. At first, I thought I was bugging people by talking about it so much, then I realized I was talking about it because everyone I ran into wanted to ask a question about it. Be prepared to answer “When did you write a book?” more than fifty times in the first month. At some point, this questions is going to be really cool and at some point this questions will get annoying. Just remember that most people are really proud to know an author because so many of them can’t imagine writing a whole book.
  6. Everyone judges a book by its cover- Go to any online bookstore and imagine seeing a book with a terrible cover. Do you think the book contained within that cover is good? Do you think the person put a lot of time and effort into their writing? I was guilty of cheaping out on my cover when I first launched. I took my rudimentary skills in Adobe InDesign and thought my cover looked pretty sweet, until a few days passed and I started to hate what I had done to my good friend’s picture. Needless to say, a few dollars and a nice lady named Cheryl at http://www.ccrbookcoverdesign.com/ made me feel much better about my book. Unless you are a graphic designer, pay for a book cover. You will make your money back for the cover at some point, and, if you don’t, at least you don’t have to be embarrassed when you show your book to friends.
  7. Self-published authors are the nicest people- Think the self-publishing word is scary? I used to until I met some pretty cool people who are doing alright for themselves in the self-publishing world. Everyone is more than willing to share their experiences and tips on how to sell books. The best part is, most of them don’t even charge for it. Since I published my book, I have been in touch with people from all over the world. Each and every one of them is more than happy to help. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or to contact someone who has a good book. Twitter is a great place to do this. In fact, you can follow me @jewellbe. I would love to talk books, sports or anything you want.
  8. I never knew I would smile so much over something I created- I felt proud when I finished my first novel. I know how proud my wife and parents were of me when I told them it was done, but what really stuck a smile on my face was seeing the finished product online. I have a book and it is for sale. I have sold books in the US, Japan, Germany, England and France. People in other countries thought my idea was good enough that they would spend money on it. That is a pretty great feeling. One I plan to have more and more in the future.
There are plenty of other things I have learned since I published my novel, The Hunter’s Son (which incidentally is available on Amazon). Check it out if you are interested and let me know what you think. If you want to chat some more, reach me @jewellbe on Twitter or check out my blog (jewellbe.blogspot.com). Thanks for reading and best of luck in your pursuit of self-publishing glory.

Buy Now @ Amazon
Genre – YA Supernatural Thriller 
Rating – PG13 
More details about the author & the book
Connect with BE Jewell on Twitter

Guest Post ~ Book Signing Horror Story

- Guest Post by Paul Harry

I was booked for a book signing at a small shop called “The Bell, Book, and Candle”. It was a late signing, scheduled for a Saturday night which seemed a little unusual, but I figured it was probably a small store that catered to the evening crowd. Since I had very little planned for the week and nothing planned for this particular evening I had my agent book the signing with the hopes that I might find a young woman available who might be interested in having dinner with me afterwards. Saturday nights can get quite lonely.

Arriving at the shop around 9:00 PM I was surprised to find that the lights were all off–the place completely black. Immediately I panicked thinking that I had gotten the date wrong, so I checked my i-pad and sure enough the book signing was scheduled for this evening and I was a little early, so someone should be here. Perhaps the owner had to postpone.

I approached the shop and noticed that the windows were blacken out by a heavy dark paper with the words ‘Big Sale Tomorrow’ printed on them. It seemed odd, but not to be dissuaded I knocked on the door to see if any one was inside. I heard a voice say, “just a moment,” then a key in the door. To my surprise a beautiful woman with dark red hair greeted me. She was dressed in a black satiny outfit that rustled softly as she moved. “Hello,” she said. “Are you Mr. Harry?”

“Yes,” I replied, “but please, call me Paul.”

She smiled and opened the door wide. “I’m Anna. We’ve been expecting you.”

I nodded and followed her lead inside, watching her hips sway gently back and forth. My thoughts, shall we say, were primal. She was a beautiful woman.

“May I offer you a glass of wine?” she asked, taking me past several rows of books to the rear of the store. “We just opened a bottle of Pinot.”

“That would be great,” I answered as we entered another room where I saw for the first time a number of other guests. They were all dressed in black formal wear and standing around a white linen table with glasses of wine, cheese and crackers set atop. I immediately felt a little out of place. I coughed, slightly embarrassed. “I feel a little underdressed. This is more than I am used too,” I said.

“Oh this is nothing,” replied Anna. “We like to dress up and role play with our guest speakers. Surely you can understand. I mean being a writer of horror stories and all. We just want to get into your mind.”

I smiled awkwardly as the group of people surrounded me. They smiled blankly at me with eyes glazed and red wine staining their teeth. Some pressed near to me, their lips quivering as if expecting to nibble on my cheek. It was very eerie.

“So which of my books would you like to discuss?” I asked hurriedly.

Anna pointed to a chair, pulling it out so that I could sit. I complied and she poured me a glass of wine.

“We’d like to talk about all your books, especially the ones where you maligned the vampires.”

“Oh, Death on a Cross,” I responded.

“Yes,” the group replied in unison. There response made me uncomfortable. These people seemed a little strange perhaps to the degree of having an agenda.

Anna patted me on the arm and smiled. “Mr. Harry . . . Paul . . . we are perhaps your most devoted readers. We’ve read everything you’ve ever written.” She bent her face near to mine, the scent of her perfume intoxicating me. It was then that I felt my hands being held and handcuffs placed on my wrists. I was quickly subdued and bound to the chair in which I sat. I then watched as Anna pulled out a long, slender knife, her smile wicked, her dark eyes giving my body a lusting look as she cut the buttons off my shirt. I was ready to crap my pants.

Suddenly to my surprise I heard a voice coming from the back of the group. It was Peter, my old agent, the one I had recently dumped when signing with Harpers. He came forth smiling like the devil himself. I was stunned.

“Paul,” he said. “You cheap, rotten bastard. You remember when I said you were the best writer I had ever come across. That I’d promote you work for free–you remember?”

I nodded, my voice silent in my ear.

“Yeah, well no one works for free. And the cheap trash you’ve been pedaling well it’s not fit for toilet paper.”

Though I wanted to respond, the voice in my throat was dry and weak. I struggled to mouth something, but nothing came. Peter came close, breathing heavy and foul in my face.

“My friend Anna here has read everything you’ve written about her people,” he said.

My mind flashed–her people? I looked at her beautiful face and I could swear her canine teeth grew in length right before my eyes. I was a dead man. My tongue twisted in my mouth. I spat dryly, “No, this can’t be.”

“Oh yes,” answered Peter. “It is and it will be. Tonight on this very table these fine folk are going to eat you piece by piece, bit by bit. And then it hit me . . .


Shit, I got it all wrong! Sorry.
Buy Now @ Amazon
Genre – Sci-Fi / Historical / Contemporary
Rating – NC17 for explicit sex 
More details about the author & the book
Connect with Paul T Harry on Twitter

Author Interview – Andrew Seaward

What is your favorite quote, by whom, and why?  

I always liked The Promises of Alcoholics Anonymous: 
“If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace. No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others. That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us – sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.” –Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous 
Truer words were never spoken. Since quitting drinking nearly five years ago, every single one of these promises have come true for me. And it didn’t take that long either. Some of them happened within the first couple months of my sobriety. It’s amazing how quickly my life improved after I stopped putting those poisons in my body. I think a lot of it had to do with the overall improvement in my mental state. Back when I was drinking (fifths of liquor for breakfast), I was constantly depressed, insecure, fearful, sometimes even suicidal. But it wasn’t me. It was the substance; the alcohol. It was affecting my brain, my mood, my central nervous system…turning me from a confident, young, compassionate person into a scared, aging, narcissistic rodent. All I had to do was stop putting that poison in my body and, all of a sudden, everything became so much easier. 

How has your upbringing influenced your writing?  

I think I get a lot of my personality from my dad. A commercial airline pilot by trade, you could easily mistake him for a stand-up comic. Religion, war, politics, funerals—nothing’s so serious my dad can’t turn a joke out of it. He’ll talk your ear off about Charlie Sheen’s crack pipe and, in the same breath, make a joke about the death of Michael Jackson. Dark stuff. MaCabre humor. Nothing’s objectionable and nothing’s off limits. Any time something awful happened, like a fatal car accident or a death in the family, my dad would make a joke out of it, no matter how inappropriate. In fact, the hardest I ever laughed was when I first heard the story about what went down at my Grandpa’s funeral. 

Apparently, my Grandma, or “Tubby” (as she was called on account of her generous proportions), demanded they stop for fried gizzards in the middle of my grandpa’s funeral procession. Supposedly, there was this gas station on the way to the cemetery that had “the best fried gizzards in all of South Carolina.” When the limousine driver told her they couldn’t stop, Grandma pulled out her cane and started whacking him upside the head and shouting “Grandpa would’nt-a-wanted us to bury him on an empty stomach!” 

The driver had no choice but to pull over. It was either that or risk being knocked unconscious. So, they pull into this run-down Citgo on the edge of Charleston, ditching the Hearse and funeral procession in the process. 
Ten minutes later, they were barreling down I-26, passing a bucket of country fried goodness between they’re greasy fingers. The limousine driver even joined in the festivities, though he was having trouble gripping the steering wheel on account of all the grease on his fingers. Grandma just handed him some napkins and told him to “Shut up and put pedal to the metal! We gotta git there before they close that dang casket!” 

My mother, bless her heart, was mortified by the whole situation. She comes from a staunch Catholic conservative upbringing. She just shook her head in disgust, watching as my dad and his morbidly obese brothers smacked their lips and licked their fingers heartily. 

I tell you, I couldn’t stop laughing. It was the funniest damn story I’d ever heard. Morbid, yes, but hilarious. 
I think one day, I need to write a book about ‘ole Grandma Betty. She was quite a character. Really, that whole side of the family is pretty crazy. But then again, whose family isn’t? 

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?  

I always loved to write, ever since I was in grade school. Poems, short stories, plays, you name it. Aside from reading, it was one of the few ways I could escape from the dullness of life in suburbia. But, somewhere along the way, I lost that desire, and traded my pen for a liquor bottle. At first the drinking was a sort of congratulatory trophy at the end of a long night for a job well done at school, sports, whatever. After a few years, I became physically dependent, unable to stop for fear of shakes, hallucinations, even seizures. What resulted was a five year long struggle in and out of hospitals, rehabs, and detoxes all over the country.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Why Book Covers Are Important

- Guest Post by Maggie Harryman

I think the self-publishing phenomenon has forever rendered the old adage, “you can’t judge a book by its cover” as complete and utter blather. In fact, now that I think about it, at least as it pertains to actual books, it always has been a bit silly. After all, we don’t expect to see a memoir by General Petraeus with a cover designed to showcase a heaving-bosomed damsel in distress (although in light of current events, maybe…) or for that matter, a romance novel with a cover that looks more like a textbook.

Once Here Among Us was in the copyediting phase, I thought a lot about its cover (not quite as much as what was between the covers, but certainly more than how to market the book once it was finished).  I’d never designed a cover before but still, having lived with the book and the characters for over four years, I knew my perfect cover had to somehow capture the very essence of the book for curious potential readers. I also knew finding that image or illustration to do that heavy lifting wouldn’t be easy. After all, the book’s cover is the reader’s first impression.  Remember what your mother always told you?  There are no second first impressions.

It’s easy to say now that I knew what I wanted, but it’s probably more accurate to say I knew what I didn’t want. I didn’t want a cover that was confusing—one that gave the reader an expectation that disappointed.  More than once I’ve been halfway through a book, put it down and then, noticing the cover, wondered how in the world someone put the story I was reading together with the image chosen.

For Here Among Us, I got lucky. I got exactly the cover I wanted.

I bought a painting for the cover off one of the big online art websites.  An added bonus, the painter, Carol Chretien, donated the proceeds from each original painting to her local Dalmatian rescue center. I’d already enlisted a gifted graphic designer who was working hard on my website and she did an excellent job of choosing colors that would compliment the painting of a local pub (much of the book is set in an Irish bar/restaurant).  Most importantly she created a cover that was still eye-catching when shrunk down to the Amazon thumb-nail size.  In fact, I had no idea just how successful the cover was until the first time I had a KDP Select giveaway.

I’d read that a successful giveaway was between 1,000 and 4,000 e-books downloaded.  On my first KDP Select giveaway, scheduled for Black Friday, I assumed I’d be lucky to get somewhere in the middle of that range.  Not only had I neglected to advertise ahead of time (not laziness—pure ignorance!) but the giveaway was scheduled for the busiest shopping day of the year.

As the giveaway wore on, I was shocked when I passed the one thousand mark, and flabbergasted when my numbers passed four thousand downloaded.  I kept going back, hitting the refresh button, and it seemed like every time another hundred had flown off the virtual shelf.  Half way through the second day, I passed the 10,000 mark and then the 18,000 mark by the end of the 48 hour period!  At one point and for about three hours, my book was #1 in Contemporary Fiction and simultaneously #1 in Family/Relationship (I have the screensaver shot to prove it).

I’d love to say that I had such a successful giveaway because of my extraordinary ability to weave a compelling tale with unforgettable characters and a riveting plot.  I’d love to, but I’d be lying.  Really…I think it was the cover.  It engaged, enticed, and piqued curiosity. The colors—red and green—popped just before the Christmas holidays (not at all intentional) and the large white letters in the title stood in stark relief against those colors. The layout, the various typefaces and a well-placed quote from a reader on the cover, all lent weight and the sense that this was a professional effort—and by extension, that the story inside would be just as good.  Sales after that first giveaway did not disappoint.

Why are book covers so important?

Because book covers sell books.  And unless you’re writing in some strange literary vacuum (which sounds pretty awful), reaching an audience is important.

Because you really can judge a book by its cover.
Buy Now @ Amazon
Genre – Literary Fiction
Rating – R (Strong language, adult themes)
More details about the author & the book
Connect with Maggie Harryman on Facebook 

Pet Peeves of the Publishing Industry?

- Guest Post by Daniel Black

Oh you have no idea, lol, where to begin.

Let’s see, well right off the bat what comes to mind is one of the basic submission guidelines you will find with almost any publishing house or agent. They have discovered through hours of research at least, that books that have an action sequence within the first twenty five pages sell better than books without an action sequence within the first twenty five pages. So they will not even consider submissions, unless they have an action sequence within the first twenty five pages. This results in such wonderful plot twists as say… a fight breaking out in a lunch line… or the scene I remember so well because of how little sense it made to the story, the gas line.

So next time you read a book, and think, “well that fight was random,” now you know, it was just there because an idiot in New York thought it should be.

What next… hmnnn…

Oh yes, the current method of finding a publisher or agent. You send off piles of submission letters, one at a time, to hundreds of different agents, waiting as much as three months between submissions. You thought the slow production of books was due to writers being lazy? Not even close. As an aside, you can send multiple submission letters off at the same time by simply mentioning the magic phrase, “multiple submissions,” that makes your manuscript disappear into a trash can upon opening.

What else…

The contracts! Writers read, we read a lot; in fact most of us got our start in writing by being compulsive readers. But these contracts! My goodness, you need a lawyer just to decipher the terms, and an author usually has a very good vocabulary, after all, words are our lifeblood.

So my response?

I am an independent eBook author, and I will remain so until an agent or publisher comes to me. This makes it so if I decide it is appropriate for my character to swear, he or she can swear without a publisher breathing down my neck about keeping it “PC.” If there is a spot in my book where I think it would make sense for a sex scene, it can be there; I have complete artistic freedom, and am thus able to write for my readers, what I hope to be a better book.
Buy Now @ Amazon
(soon available as an audio book)
Genre – Dark Fantasy
Rating – R
More details about the book
Connect with Daniel Black on Facebook

Monday, 22 April 2013

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Richard Flores IV

Let me take a moment to share some things you might not know about me.  These are a few things I have never shared, or rarely go in depth about.  But maybe a little self discovery will be good for me, and you can learn a little something about me.

1 – I have no middle name.

People have argued with me on this one, as if I didn’t know my own name.    People tell me constantly, “It’s okay.  You can tell us your middle name.”  I don’t have a middle name.  I’m not trying to hide it.  Do I wish I had one?  I don’t see much of a point to middle names, unless you hate your first name.  Then I suppose it serves as a good back up.

2 – My name really is Richard Flores IV

IV means the fourth in roman numerals.  I didn’t add that to look cool on the cover of books (as I am constantly asked).  I really am the fourth.  My dad is the third and my oldest son is the fifth.  The funny thing about telemarketers, they are constantly calling asking for Mister Iv.

3 – I don’t think very highly of myself.

I have a very poor self image.  I consider myself an unattractive, awkward, and unsuccessful.  This triple whammy of self doubt has surely started with my awkwardness with women.  I did finally break my shy spell in my junior year when I had my first girlfriend and one of only two true loves I’ve ever had.  I guess being recognized by the opposite sex boosted me a bit.  But as I have gained weight with age, my poor body image has returned with vengeance.   It has also made me a very jealous person because I feel that everyone else could come along and take my wife and/or friends from me.

Some things have gotten better for me in the last few years. I’m starting to focus more on my successes and turning my failures into successes.  I wish I could just get motivated to lose weight.

4 – I didn’t always want to be a writer.

In fact, writer is the third in my choices of dream jobs.  I enjoyed writing, but I never saw it as a career possibility (I still can’t make a career of it, yet).

My first choice, as a High School student, was Architect.  But after the hour or two of class, I realized I got bored.  I wouldn’t be able to do it for eight hours or more a day.

My second choice was a police officer.  My dad was one, but I never really wanted to “get shot at for a living.” But this girl who I was attracted to told me about a youth cadet program with the local police.  She said I didn’t have to want to be a cop to join, and she was cute so I joined.  I really loved it.  But I did some dumb things with my financials and my credit scores kept me out.  As I got that cleaned up, my physical fitness kept me out.  But all my formal education and training is in Law Enforcement.

I really was lost until about 2010, very late in the year.  That was when I made the choice to really try being a writer as anything more than a hobby.  I’ll be happy if I can quit my job some day and work on my writing and my magazine full time.

5 – I’m addicted to bad foods.

This is the one thing I try so hard to change, and never can for long.  There was a point where I gave up fast food for over a year.  But, I went right back to it.  I really enjoy Coca-Cola, but I’ve managed not to drink a Coke in almost four years now.  My wife still drinks it and I am always so tempted to drink one.  I love pizza, McNuggets, and French fries.  If I was still active like I was in High School and my early 20s, it wouldn’t be so bad.  But my day job, my business, and my writing are all very sedentary activities.  My hobbies of video games and watching hockey don’t help either.

6 – I really love Lara Croft.

I mean, I don’t want to marry her or anything.  But I just absolutely love her character, her story, and her games.  I am addicted to Tomb Raider. This is something that started with the newer games.  I’ve read all the comic books.  I own the movies.  And I would really really really really (one more) really love to write an official Tomb Raider novel.  I know about the models, the voice actors, and anyone else who has officially portrayed Lara.  I just love her.   So now that I sound creepy, let’s move on.

7 – I identify with females more than males.

Perhaps I am a woman at heart, I don’t know.  But I’ve always found myself getting along with females more so than males.  I have more female friends than males.  I enjoy talking, and not many men do.  I find women have more meaningful conversations.  This is also why I probably write a lot of female characters.   I’m very thankful I found a wife who is not the jealous type.

8 – I have a terrible time with names and titles.

Naming my kids, with the exception of my oldest, was a battle with my wife.  I have a hard time with names.  In most of my novels I spend hours on hours picking names for my characters.  I struggle most with male names (and I have three sons).  Titles, the naming of my books, are very hard.  Dissolution of Peace came in the last minute when I had to either pick one or delay the release.  Names feel permanent to me, and in most cases they are.  So I just have trouble with it.

9 – I’m a pessimist.

My wife is screaming in victory to hear me say this.  I often tell her I am just a realist.  But the truth is I see everyone and everything is a pessimistic light.  Some might say this is the cause of some of my bad luck, others might say my bad luck is what caused this.  I think I’ve been that way most of my life.  I don’t see it as a bad thing.  I do see the good, but my mind always points out what will go bad first.  I firmly believe is expecting the worst and hoping for the best.  I’d rather be pleasantly surprised then bitterly disappointed.

10 – I crave acceptance.

I want nothing more than to be accepted for what I do.  I need the support of my family, my friends, and my fans.  I don’t always get the support from my friends and family, I even think a few of them think what I do (writing) is “cute”.  But it isn’t just in writing.  I want to be accepted as a community member, a good father, and a good friend.  This comes from the self doubt I talked about above.  I often think my friends don’t appreciate me, because it isn’t something we say.  Acceptance is part of the human condition.  We all want a place to fit in.  I just want to be appreciated and accepted by those around me.

So there you have it, 10 things about me that you may not have known.  I may even have surprised a few of you.
Buy Now @ Amazon
Genre – Science Fiction
Rating – PG13 to R (Language)
More details about the author & the book
Connect with Richard Flores IV on Facebook & Twitter

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Author Interview – Jeffrey Gunhus

Tell us a bit about your family. I am the father of five, four boys and one girl. My oldest son, Jack, inspired me to write this book. He was a reluctant reader and I wrote Jack Templar Monster Hunter in an effort to get him excited about reading. It worked!
What is your favorite quality about yourself? I’m pretty good about putting my head down and getting the work done, regardless of what it is. This has proved useful in both building a national company and putting in the hours needed to write novels.
What is your least favorite quality about yourself? High expectations. I find it hard to believe I can’t accomplish something if someone else has already done it. Harry Potter? I can do that. See, it’s nuts!
What are you most proud of accomplishing so far in your life? Certainly, my family is the most important thing to me. Professionally, I’m a co-owner of a company I grew from a small business based in California to a national, $50 million enterprise. That was pretty fun.
What is your favorite color?  Blue.
What is your favorite food? Pizza. Pepperoni and pineapple.
What’s your favorite place in the entire world? Home.
How has your upbringing influenced your writing? I grew up overseas without a TV so books were my refuge. Tolkien blew my mind when I was 10 years old and I’ve been living with one foot in Middle Earth every since.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated? I wanted my favorite books to continue so I wrote the next chapter after they ended. I discovered it was even more fun than reading because the images were even stronger and the characters still surprised you by what they did.
When and why did you begin writing? I won a state award in Colordo when I was 12. With that kind of feedback, I was hooked.
How long have you been writing? Since I was a kid. It’s cheap therapy.
When did you first know you could be a writer? When I discovered I liked doing it so much that I didn’t care if I wrote only for myself. It’s just great living in a different world for an hour or two each day. It’s great fun.
What inspires you to write and why? I love the power of story throughout history and honor that tradition. But it’s really just a selfish impulse to have fun with the story and play god with the characters.
What genre are you most comfortable writing? I enjoy several genres which keeps the writing fun. My recent work on MG/YA fantasy has been a lot of fun.
What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general? Patience. There are always scenes or set pieces I know will anchor the piece, but that it only works if you build characters people care about. That takes care and time and it’s not easy to do.
Did writing this book teach you anything and what was it? I wrote this for my reluctant reader son so I knew I needed to make it as fast-paced as possible. The reviews has been great but one throughline in them has been a desire of readers to know the characters bettter, leading me to believe that I may have moved too fast. Book 2 dives more deeply into the characters.
Do you intend to make writing a career? That makes it sound like work! I love being an entrepreneur too much to give up my “day job” but I will continue to carve out time to write until I can’t type or hold a pen any longer.

Buy Now @ Amazon
Genre – Middle Grade / YA Fantasy
Rating – PG
More details about the author & the book
Connect with Jeff Gunhus on Facebook & Twitter

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