Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Finish things. --Neal Gaiman

Quotes of the Week

Asking a working writer what he thinks about critics is like asking a lamppost how it feels about dogs.
--Christopher Hampton

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Lessons Learned About Marketing

While I was at Balticon, one of my favorite panel discussions was about promoting your books without being obnoxious about it!

Here is a list of things I captured in my notes.

Social Media Self Promotion:
  • The best marketing is to write a book that doesn’t suck.
  • The worst marketing is to constantly scream “buy my book” on every social network available.
  • Keep writing. Your next book is a great marketing tool for your other works. 
  • Have a great cover, blurb, and first chapter that hooks the reader.
  • Be present on social media: Facebook, twitter, blogs, and others like Instagram.
  • Consider podcasting or a Youtube channel.
  • Do book signing events and advertise them online.
  • Have a great author page on Amazon.
  • Find your own voice. Your own topics. Your own fan base.
  • Tell followers about new releases and special offers when they happen.
  • An energized fan base is a great word of mouth marketing channel.
  • Share your life as you feel comfortable about sharing. Be sincere.
  • Reach out and engage readers and fans.
  • Offer free kindle edition weekends now and then.
  • Use an email list. But use it sparingly. Like new release announcements.
  • Have fun. Enjoy interactions. Keep writing.
  • Join the writer community, online, in writers groups, in lit conferences, in meetups.
  • Help other authors.
  • Write short stories for anthologies.
What not to do:
  • Do not just post “buy my book” all day every day.
  • Do not send an auto reply to twitter follows that says “buy my book”.
  • Do not spam the hell out of people.
  • Don’t be an asshole on line.
Where opinions differ:
  • Don’t discuss politics on social media. 
  • Don’t discuss religion, gender, gun control, capital punishment or abortion.
  • Some say don’t lose half your readers by pissing them off.
  • Others say discuss it all to find your tribe.

Monday, May 29, 2017

READING: The Aeronaut's Windless

This week I am reading The Aeronaut's Windless by Jim Butcher.

This is the first book in a new series called The Cinder Spires by Jim Butcher. It is steampunk with excellent world building.

Here is the description from Amazon:

Since time immemorial, the Spires have sheltered humanity. Within their halls, the ruling aristocratic houses develop scientific marvels, foster trade alliances, and maintain fleets of airships to keep the peace.

Captain Grimm commands the merchant ship Predator. Loyal to Spire Albion, he has taken their side in the cold war with Spire Aurora, disrupting the enemy’s shipping lines by attacking their cargo vessels. But when the Predator is damaged in combat, Grimm joins a team of Albion agents on a vital mission in exchange for fully restoring his ship. 

And as Grimm undertakes this task, he learns that the conflict between the Spires is merely a premonition of things to come. Humanity’s ancient enemy, silent for more than ten thousand years, has begun to stir once more. And death will follow in its wake...

--Great stuff. Highly recommended..

Friday, May 26, 2017

The Fast Friday Indie Interviews: A.L.Butcher (Alexandra Butcher)

Tell me about yourself, Alexandra ?

Hi! And thank you for having me here. I’m a Brit, currently living in the Southwest of England but born in the Southeast. Erm… let’s see. I love reading, writing, animals and nature, history, mythology,  theatre, movies and gardening. Not all at once. Currently, I work full-time and don’t have nearly enough time or energy for writing all the stories bouncing around in my head begging to be told. I have people living in my head, and sometimes I wonder if there is room for me.

I’m creative yet cynical, I prefer animals to people.

Tell me about your current Book:

When confronted with a deadly bargain, Coel the bard must weigh the odds, and succeed or die.

Coel, the bard, thinks his life has taken a turn for the worst, but he hasn't met the Thiefmaster yet. An ill-conceived notion of earning more money to pay off his debt and escape a dark past leaves the minstrel in a situation he can't escape and with a deadly bargain. Will he survive his mistake? Who is this mysterious patron?

What are you working on now?

Many things😊 Another Tales of Erana novella, Book IV of the Light Beyond the Storm Chronicles, a short murder story, a Legacy of the Mask tale, and a mythic story.  I tend to work on several things at once, as I find it hard to focus on one thing. Which is probably why it takes me so long to finish anything!

Where is your favorite place to be when you write?

At my desk, in my conservatory, with the woods behind and my doggy next to me.

What is your favorite lesson you have learned about the business of writing?

I wouldn’t say it’s a ‘favourite’ but it’s true that success is relative. Most indies don’t sell a great deal, so writing for the money is a lost cause for most. Write because you can, you must and because you cannot not. Define  success in small goals – finishing a book on time (or at all),  having the courage to publish, making readers smile, or cry. In my case (and I have said this before in previous interviews) it was seeing my terminally ill mother smile when she saw my first novel in print. Despite everything when she found out I had a book she told EVERYONE, and I mean EVERYONE – neighbours, friends, family, carers, visitors. For a while, she was happy and proud, despite all the horribleness of cancer. Of course, it wasn’t a cure but it made her happy. That, to me, is success.
I never thought I’d have the energy to write what I’ve written, to summon up the courage to publish it, and that people would read it. Every step of that is a little success. Life is full of little successes.

What is your favorite Website?

Erm, Wikipedia, Mythic Scribes, I don’t know I look at a lot of websites. I don’t have a favourite.



Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Quotes of the Week

You want to write a sentence as clean as a bone. That is the goal.
—James Baldwin

Cut out all those exclamation marks. An exclamation mark is like laughing at your own joke.

Fairy tales are more than true not because they tell us that dragons exist but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten
—GK Chesterton

Read a lot. Reading really helps. Read anything you can get your hands on.
—J.K. Rowling

I don't want life to imitate art. I want life to be art.
—Carrie Fisher

Talent is helpful in writing, but guts are absolutely essential.
—Jessamyn West

The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.
—Terry Pratchett

I made mistakes in drama. I thought drama was when actors cried. But drama is when the audience cries.
—Frank Capra

It is not the object described that matters, but the light that falls on it.
—Boris Pasternak

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Tuesday Tips: Titles

Today's Tuesday Tip is about Titles.

My first novel Still Falling did not always have that title. The original title that was just Falling. I liked it. It was simple and meaningful for the story and I went an entire year using it as the working title.

I was glad that I had the notion to go to Amazon and search for that title. When I searched I discovered that several hundred books were already titled Falling and most were romances.

This began my rules for titles. Rule number one is to make sure it is unique. Don't get so set on your title that you cannot change it.

There are other reasons to change your title. I pick working titles during the outlining phase. The title for my next novel was initially A Proper Darkness. When I was finished with the first draft a better title emerged from the writing: Virtues of the Vicious

Here are my simple rules for titles:

  • Make sure your title is unique on Amazon
  • Don't become tied to your title
  • Keep them as short as possible 
  • Make sure it doesn't convey the wrong genre

--Titles are more important than you may think.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Just Released: Worlds Enough. Fantastic Defenders

Now available on Amazon! My First fantasy story!

   Worlds Enough: Fantastic Defenders

Here is the description from Amazon:

Across astounding and magical worlds, five heroes step forward to defend against magical threats:

  • A sorceress in a besieged city faces a malignant force even more dangerous than the city's would-be conquerors.
  • An unassuming bureaucrat stumbles upon a threat to a vast empire and deals with it in his own inimitable fashion.
  • A resourceful bodyguard for an infant princess, trapped and surrounded by merciless assassins, finds a unique way to hold them at bay.
  • A mage press-ganged into the Royal Navy finds himself volunteered for a dangerous secret mission on foreign soil.
  • A disgraced royal guardian who failed in protecting his king hunts down those who cost him his honor.


My most recent story is in this Anthology called: The Once Damned

--Check it out!

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Fast Friday Indie Interviews: Tuppence Van de Vaarst

Tuppence Van de Vaarst

Tell me about yourself, Tuppence .

Starting with the deep question. I'll start with a safe subject, reading. I don't remember not knowing how to read. According to my mother, I taught myself when I was three. Since then, I've almost always had my nose stuck in a book at some point or another. I started writing my own stories when I was eleven, starting with a very bad rewriting of one of the Greek Myths. It's been an obsession ever since. I've saved everything I've ever written, too, which means there's a large portion of memory on my laptop that is all word documents in various states of completion.

As for the rest about me: I was born in Texas, grew up in Germany, spent most of my life in Virginia, and have lived in Hawaii, Maine, and am currently in Ireland studying for my Masters in Medieval Studies. You might say I have an incurable wanderlust, which I completely blame on my father. I have also participated the SCA, a medieval reenactment group, performed at multiple renaissance faires in the Northeast United States, spent four years in the Coast Guard, and invested far too many hours in both video games and pen and paper tabletop RPGs.

Tell me about your current Book:

What would life in the past have been like? That is the underlying question for most historical fiction. When writing Caribbean Magic, however, I took the question a step further. What would life have been like if there was magic? And what better setting for a historical fantasy than the golden age of piracy?

Josephine Crawford is the outspoken and tomboyish daughter of an English plantation owner. Her heritage, however, is much more complicated than her father's. Not only is her mother one of the native Taino, but her mother's blood has left her a legacy of magic. Unfortunately, Jo has very little idea how to use that magic, and it may be too late when a rich gentleman comes seeking to marry her. To escape a marriage of slavery, Jo runs away and finds herself thrust into a life of violence, adventure, blackmail, danger, and passion. In order to survive, Jo will have to learn quickly.

What are you working on now?

What am I not working on? I have far too many ideas congregating in my head. The foremost among them currently is the sequel to Caribbean Magic, which will center around Jo's brother Miguel. I also am working on a retelling of the Robin Hood legend in a series of novellas. The first one of those, Outlaw's Call, won first place in a short story competition at my community college. Oh, and there's my Master's thesis, which does need to be completed this summer.

Where is your favorite place to be when you write?

As long as I have my laptop, I can be anywhere! I've done most of my writing at various desks in the many places I've lived, but I've also taken my laptop on airplanes, ships, and just outside in the sun. Sometimes I'll also sprawl across my bed and write there. The place isn't the important part of my writing, the ideas in my head are.

What is your favorite lesson you have learned about the business of writing?

That publishing a book is very much like performing on stage. This may seem like a strange statement, but everyone knows about stage fright. I've performed on stage before, and learned to overcome it. When I started the publishing process, however, it was one long drawn-out battle until I finally went for it. Now that it's done, I can enjoy the results, but the preparation and anticipation is far scarier than the reality.

What is your favorite Website? I can spend hours on that site, and it's sometimes good inspiration for story ideas. I dare anyone to go onto that site and not open a dozen tabs and wander down innumerable rabbit trails.



Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Quotes of the Week

Show me a hero and I will write you a tragedy.
—F. Scott Fitzgerald

Everyone has talent. What is rare is the courage to follow the talent to the dark place where it leads.
—Erica Jong

Anytime anybody tells me the trend is such and such, I go the opposite direction.
—Clint Eastwood

Remember we are mortal, but poetry is not.
—Patti Smith

A blank piece of paper is God’s way of telling us how hard it is to be God.
—Sidney Sheldon

There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.
—Joseph Brodsky

Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler's heart, kill your darlings.
—Stephen King

You'll go through a phase where you will imitate your favorite writers and that's fine because that's a learning experience too.
—JK Rowling

There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.
—Somerset Maugham

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Tuesday Tips: The Hammer Through

This was some of the best pieces of advice I ever received about a first draft:

  • Hammer though the first draft without ever going back to revise. -Mark Henshaw
  • Give yourself permission to write a shitty first draft. -Ernest Hemingway
  • A first draft should not take more than three months, a season. -Steven King 

To actually manage the Hammer Through, here are some big things that help:

  • Eliminate distractions. (TV, Phone, Facebook, Internet, squirrels outside the window)
  • Eat right. Hydrate.
  • Get exercise.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Set aside writing time daily, first.
  • Write even if you don't feel inspired.
  • Write the story for yourself. Write a story that you want to read.

Some people go to coffee shops or the library to write. I can't do that. I always write at the same place and times. I have created a Pavlovian association with my desk and productivity.

Never answer the phone when you are writing. They can text or email you. Unless it's your wife who knows what your reserved writing hours actually are.

Use National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) to build the habit if you like. Then  keep at it.

--For me, every month is NaNoWriMo!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Reading: The Windup Girl

This week I read The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi.

Here is the description from Amazon:

Anderson Lake is a company man, AgriGen's Calorie Man in Thailand. Under cover as a factory manager, Anderson combs Bangkok's street markets in search of foodstuffs thought to be extinct, hoping to reap the bounty of history's lost calories. There, he encounters Emiko. Emiko is the Windup Girl, a strange and beautiful creature. One of the New People, Emiko is not human; instead, she is an engineered being, creche-grown and programmed to satisfy the decadent whims of a Kyoto businessman, but now abandoned to the streets of Bangkok. Regarded as soulless beings by some, devils by others, New People are slaves, soldiers, and toys of the rich in a chilling near future in which calorie companies rule the world, the oil age has passed, and the side effects of bio-engineered plagues run rampant across the globe.

What Happens when calories become currency? What happens when bio-terrorism becomes a tool for corporate profits, when said bio-terrorism's genetic drift forces mankind to the cusp of post-human evolution? In The Windup Girl, award-winning author Paolo Bacigalupi returns to the world of "The Calorie Man" (Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award-winner, Hugo Award nominee, 2006) and "Yellow Card Man" (Hugo Award nominee, 2007) in order to address these poignant questions.

--I have had this book for years. Finally got through it. Not really my cup of green tea.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

NEWS: Caribbean Magic

Tannhauser Press is pleased to announce the release of  Caribbean Magic by Tuppence Van de Vaarst.

Jo has always known that her father wants her to marry well, but she has no hope for that. After all, she is half Taino, and discrimination runs rampant among the English plantation owners of Jamaica. But when Mr. Reddings, a very respectable plantation owner, makes an offer for her hand, she realizes she may be wrong. Mr. Reddings has plans other than marriage for Jo, however, and Jo finds herself thrown into a world of betrayal, blackmail, piracy, sailing, and magic… 

 --Now available on Amazon!

World Building

Friday, May 12, 2017

Fast Friday Indie Interviews: David Keener

David Keener

Tell me about yourself, David.

I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was ten years old. I’d discovered my Dad’s collection of Andre Norton novels, and I wanted to write SF adventure novels just like those. My parents fed into this by buying me a typewriter (yes, I know, I’m showing my age), which was like the greatest present EVER.

Then life got in the way, I guess. I found out that the whole publishing industry was basically a machine for taking money away from writers, with all kinds of questionable gatekeepers, roadblocks and what any professional in any other field would call predatory practices. So I kind of gave up on The Dream until 2012, when I ended up having dinner with Hugh Howey, the best-selling author of Wool, and a few of his fans at the 2012 Worldcon in Chicago.

Hugh was the one who made me realize that this indie-publishing thing was a game-changer. The gatekeepers could be bypassed. Good stories could float to the top solely on their own merits. Suddenly, being a writer was a real option again. And my career in software development and project management was ideal preparation for creating products like ebooks, print editions and audio books.

So, here I am. The Dream is alive, finally. I’ve been writing for a while now. I’ve been honing my craft. My writing group and my Beta readers seem to like my stories. So 2017 is the year I start Publishing. The little birdies are tumbling out of the nest…
I work mostly at the novelette (roughly 30 – 70 pages) and novella (71 – 160 pages) lengths. Between anthologies and solo indie-published works, I’m expecting to release a story every 4 to 6 weeks in 2017.

Tell me about your current Book:

My Current Book? Um, that’s not really how I work, because I don’t seem to be a novelist (yet, at least). Since I work primarily at shorter lengths, I’ve got multiple works that have just come out or will be coming out within the next month.

I’ve got a novelette, “Road Trip,” appearing in an anthology called Reliquary, on the theme of relics:  Rocco Fitch, a wounded veteran of the war in Afghanistan, doesn’t have much left to live for. He’s disabled, unemployed and his wife has left him, taking their daughter with her. Then a beggar, a war veteran like himself, offers to sell him a road.

It’s a mash-up of different genres, which seems to be my specialty. This one’s an urban fantasy buddy story with a crime/military slant and some truly badass bikers.

I have a series of stories about a Royal Bodyguard in a fantasy setting that I’ve been working on. The first one is appearing in May in an anthology called Worlds Enough: Fantastic Defenders: Even though Lydio Malik is the Royal Bodyguard for the infant Princess Analisa of Salasia, his fellow bodyguards ridicule him for his foreign heritage and his almost obsessive attention to detail. But when disaster looms, the kingdom’s enemies will discover that when he says, “Over my dead body!”—he means it.

This is a fantasy thriller story with chess overtones, like the movies Die Hard, Highlander and Searching for Bobby Fischer all got together and had a love-child.

And finally, I’m publishing a novelette called “The Good Book” as a solo story:  Malcolm Jameson is planning to throw himself off a bridge when a passing bicyclist stops and hands him a magic book.

Unsurprisingly, the book has a considerably different plan for Malcolm.
And a bad attitude.

This one’s my outlier. It’s got a magic book in it, so it’s technically fantasy. But it’s really a story about finding a purpose in your life, so I guess it’s maybe really slipstream or magic realism or something painfully difficult to market.

What can I say? Sometimes my muse leads me into strange territories.

What are you working on now?

Well, that’s an unexpectedly complicated question. My fellow writers in my writing group tell that I must be some kind of mutant, because I work on about eight stories at a time. It’s either some strange form of ADHD, or else a carry-over from the software development side of my life (the side that pays the bills), where I’m used to multi-tasking like a banshee. So, it’s kind of like I have a pipeline
( going, with multiple stories in progress at once, but all at different stages.

Right now, I’m working on a story called “SkyriZe” for a zombie anthology that I was invited to contribute to. My story summary is:  Jack Johnson’s a computer nerd. He never expected to survive the zombie apocalypse, but he did. And in the worst place possible: the 88th floor of a skyrise in Manhattan, the most zombie-infested city in the country, maybe even the world. He’s got to escape the deadly tower he’s trapped in, plan how to survive long-term and, oh yeah, maybe eventually figure out how to reboot civilization.

Then I’ve got a story appearing later this year in another anthology called The Curator, on the theme of priceless artworks discovered in long-lost cache, with each story about a particular artwork. My story is called “Catalyst”: It’s 2636 and a traveling exhibition of priceless artworks has gone missing in the war-ravaged territory that used to be modern Brazil. Emily Dunkirk and her band of art historians and mercenaries are going to rescue the works. The obstacles to their success are fierce, and they’ll find more than they ever bargained for. They’ll also learn that, sometimes, the greatest works of art are painted in blood.

After that, there’s a sequel to “Road Trip” in the works and a couple sequels to my Royal Bodyguard story, plus, well, just go check out my Coming Soon ( page on my blog. There’s a LOT of stuff in the pipeline (ideas are NOT a problem for me (it’s time that’s the problem (hey, move over Deadpool, you might be breaking the 4th wall all the time but I’ve got TRIPLE-NESTED parentheses))).

Where is your favorite place to be when you write?

My house has a big kitchen with a 12-foot-long granite island. It’s like the ultimate desk, with lots of room to spread out. I generally sit on a stool at the island, often with multiple laptops going. Of course, it’s complicated because She Who Must Sometimes Be Listened To periodically insists that I clean it off. In fact, just to torment, uh, I mean tease, her, I generally refer to the island as my Desk.

What is your favorite Website?

Gosh, how can you pick a single web site? The Internet is awesome, and terrible, and pervasive, and, ultimately, a real game-changer that I think people are still underestimating. It’s information at your fingertips. Just about anything you want to know, you can find out something about it on the net.

Some of the sites I visit most often are…Wikipedia (, Locus (the online presence of the industry magazine for the SF/Fantasy field) ( and, because I’m a movie buff, too: Box Office Mojo ( and the Internet Movie Database (


- If you can’t get your name on Twitter, well, go for something (hopefully) memorable.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Another Interview: The Dirty Dozen (12 Questions)

I was interviewed by another blogger!

She calls it The Dirty Dozen!

There are twelve questions. I answered so many that It had to be cut into two sets of a dozen! Here is Part 1.


Quotes of the Week

Great dialogue has transparency. Something is being said while something else is being felt.
—Robert McKee

Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.
—Steven King

A good writer is basically a story teller, not a scholar or a redeemer of mankind.
—Isaac B. Singer

If you don’t turn your life into a story, you just become a part of someone else’s story.
—Terry Pratchett

Find the key emotion; this may be all you need to know to find your short story.
—F. Scott Fitzgerald

To finish is sadness to a writer—a little death. He puts the last word down and it is done.
—John Steinbeck

I write one page of masterpiece to ninety one pages of shit. I try to put the shit in the waste-basket.
—Ernest Hemingway

I don't try to guess what a million people will like. It's hard enough to know what I like.
—John Huston

Respect your characters, even the minor ones. In art, as in life, everyone is the hero of their own particular story.
—Sarah Waters

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Tuesday Tips: Book Signing

Last weekend I did a book signing. I also did a talk for my writers group about how to host a successful book signing. I have sold a ton of books this way and have learned a lot every time I do another one.

Just to make things easier I made a checklist:

  • Write some books that don't suck
    • I'm serious
    • This is a prerequisite
  • Tell a pile of people you are signing books
    • Facebook
    • Twitter
    • Email
    • Online groups
  • Make it easy for people to buy your stuff
    • Paper
    • Kindle
    • Audio
  • Have fun with it
    • People can tell you are having fun
    • Be approachable
    • Get lots of pics for social media!

Things to bring to make it easy and professional:
Good Signage
  • Have more books than you will need.
    • Running out is bad
  • Have a variety of books
    • Your novels
    • Anthologies you are in
  • Pens to sign stuff
    • Favorite pen and backups
    • I like Sharpies for signing
  • $200 in cash to make change
    • A cash box is a good idea as well
  • Be able to accept credit cards
    • Have a VISA/MASTERCARD plaque
    • Test your Square BEFORE the event.
    • Add your new titles BEFORE the event.
  • Have good signage
    • Profession signage draws in people
  • QR Codes for Kindle Unlimited versions
    • Free books for readers cash for you
  • Business cards/book marks
    • Keep them in your cash box. Lots of them
  • Table cloths
    • Makes it look nice.
  • Shopping bags
    • It's a small thing but people like it
  • A folding chair (just in case)
    • Even a guest chair for people to chat
  • Book stands and racks
    • Readers need to be able to see your books
  • Downloadable freebies
    • Free short stories are nice
  • Email list signup sheet
    • Collect email addresses
  • Bowl of chocolate candies
    • Draw them in
  • Bottles of water
    • You will get thirsty from all the talking
  • Food if it's a long event
    • Power bars, if not a real bagged lunch
  • A case to pack all this inside
    • Makes it easy to set up
    • More than one if you need em!

Always get there early to set up. It lets you get a good spot. Always be extra nice to your hosts/organizers/contacts. Make friends and have fun. 

Keep in mind that you can be completely prepared, professional and ready and still not sell any books. It's happened to me a couple times. You just need to have the foot traffic. And it also helps if the traffic you get are people from your target audience.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Read Some Short Stories!

There is a new anthology available called Tranquility and Other Myths. It is a collection of Fantasy and Science Fiction stories from my favorite writers group in Virginia.

I have a short story in this collection called,  Doctor Clark Loves Pizza

If you have memories of Delio's Pizza, in Batavia New York, from the 1980's, this is the title for you.

This book is now available on Amazon for about $6.99.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Thanks for coming to see me!

I wanted to thank everyone that came out to see me today at the Manassas Reads Book Festival in Old Town! It was a good day even though it was a bit on the cool side!

As promised, here is the link to the FREE short stories!

Come see me today!

Come on down to the Harris pavilion in Old Town Manassas Virginia!

How to be a Novelist

Friday, May 5, 2017

The Fast Friday Indie Interviews: John Murzycki

John Murzycki

Tell me about yourself, John?

I spent many years working as a high-tech marketing professional. It was rewarding, and I enjoyed much of it. But as long as I can remember, I wanted to write novels. I always loved reading, especially great books that would transport me to another place. I would marvel at how the author could make a story come alive.

In recent years, I began considering plot ideas that I took from my career in high-tech. I would often wonder about the unintended consequences of technology. What might happen if technology developed in a way we had never expected? And then I began to think about how I could write that idea as a fantasy story.

When I left a job last year, I decided to take the plunge and write full-time. I'm so glad I made this leap. The joy of completing and publishing a novel has been fantastic.

Tell me about your current Book:

What would happen if a computer virus evolved into something much deadlier than anyone ever expected? That's the underlying premise of Elthea's Realm. The book is part thriller, part futuristic sci-fi, and primarily fantasy.

At the outset of the story, five friends begin receiving messages asking about a college course called The Utopia Project that they took eight years earlier. Now someone wants more information about their involvement in it. The team leader in that project calls them together at his mountain retreat so they can try to figure out what is going on. At this point, the story evolves from thriller to fantasy as the friends are rescued from potential danger by a benevolent people who transport them to the enchanted land of Elthea's Realm a place with islands held high above the water by a single pillar. The people who rescued them are called the Astari, and they help the friends understand why they are being pursued by an evil force called the Bots, who continue to attack them even in this paradise.

The Bots will stop at nothing to kill or capture these particular companions. To make matters worse, the Bots begin to wage war on Earth's computer infrastructure. As the story unfolds, we learn more about what might happen if instruments of our technology become more than we can control.

What are you working on now?

I'm writing the next book in the series. I haven't finalized a title for it yet, but it will continue the adventures of the Utopia Project team. I'll examine the origins of the evil Bots in more detail and why they are so determined to destroy all that is good on Earth as well as on Elthea's Realm. This next book brings us back to the land called Elthea's Realm, and we meet others, including a group of people from Earth who ended up there many years earlier. I'll explore some new races in this land and how they figure into the battle against the Bots. I expect to publish it later this year. Beyond this, I have rough outlines for several other books in this series and some thoughts on a new series that will be a more traditional fantasy.

Where is your favorite place to be when you write?

I wrote the first draft of Elthea's Realm longhand on legal size paper. I would write anywhere. I was so energized with telling the story that I just wanted to get it down on paper without thinking about sentence structure or grammatical issues, or anything else. I just let it rip. Of course, that meant it took me more time to go back and clean it up in subsequent revisions, which I did on my computer at my work desk. That's where I now do all my writing, including first drafts. I like a place that's my own. When I sit at that desk, my mind automatically understands that it's time to work. But I think about plot ideas no matter where I am or what's going on. When a new plot idea or snippet of dialogue comes to me, I often have to stop whenever I'm doing to jot it down.

What is your favorite lesson you have learned about the business of writing?

I discovered that book review sites are overwhelmed by requests for reviews. That's something I hadn't expected. When I first embarked on this road, I thought they would be an excellent way to inform other readers of my publication. What I quickly learned was how saturated they were by requests, and how many of the top sites charged a significant fee for a review. I guess it's only fair. They're in business just as I am. And although they are still an impartial jury weighing in on the quality of a novel, getting entry to their services is not as easy as I had originally thought it would be.

I also believe it's important for an independent author to understand the production process of copy editing, cover design, and marketing. If you do any of these poorly, it reflects on the quality of your writing.

What is your favorite Website?

I honestly can't say I have a favorite. I know Bing is a search engine, not a website, but I often look at it on most days to see the photo they post each day and to catch the top stories.

I live in Massachusetts, and I've been a fan of the New England Patriots football team for all my life. So on occasion, I read the ESPN blog on the Patriots.



Wednesday, May 3, 2017

I shall live badly if I do not write, and I shall write badly if I do not live.
—Françoise Sagan

But with writers, there's nothing wrong with melancholy. It's an important color in writing.
—Paul McCartney

There is no such thing as simple. Simple is hard.
—Martin Scorsese

It's harder to write in the third person but the advantage is you move around better.
—Ernest Hemingway

If you don't like what you're doing, it's unlikely anyone else will either.
—Billy Wilder

Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard.
—Anne Sexton

You start by writing to live. You end by writing so as not to die.
—Carlos Fuentes

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Tuesday Tips: Selling Books

I admit that I do not know nearly enough about the marketing end of being an Indie Published Author. I do know that the best marketing, Number 1, above all, advice is: Write a book that doesn't suck. The Number 2 rule probably is: Find the right Audience.

Let's presume you have already written your book, found your audience and placed it in the right categories on Amazon.

Now What?

There are four things that are the key to getting people to invest the time to read your story. Oddly the price is less important that I initially believed. It's a small matter weather it's $0.99 or $2.99 or $4.99. You need to convince the reader to invest the TIME in your book.

There is only so much more time until I die and I will never be able to read all the books I want to read by the time I'm dead!

Here's how you persuade readers to spend their time:

  • The Title 
  • The Cover
  • The Blurb
  • The Preview

When I realized that I did this for the books I read, it became clear to me how important these items are for a reader trying to decide to invest the time in your book.

The Title

I have said this over and over. Your title should be unique. It should be easy to find with an Amazon search. Please be especially careful about cross genre confusion. My first novel was originally titled FALLING. Prior to publishing I was smart enough to do an Amazon search for it and found hundreds of Romance novels titled the same. So STILL FALLING was born.

The Cover

You must have a kick ass cover that is eye catching, professional, contains the genre and tease. Remember that getting your book to the right audience is paramount. A great Scifi/Action/Adventure could be hated by a reader that thought they were buying a romance. The Cover is the first hook. The thumbnail is the part that brings in the reader.

The Blurb

You must spend serious time planning and writing your blurb. It must be well written, and set the stage for an exciting or romantic or scary story. It hooks the reader in farther. It confirms that this is the kind of story they are looking to spend time with.

The Preview

You only get one chance usually to make the first impression. I always read the preview. It has to hook me. It has to set the tone, light the fuse, set the bombs timer going, it has to make the reader afraid to not buy the book for fear of not knowing what will happen.

Make sure to take the time and focus on all of these. I know I suck at blurbs. I always get help with my blurbs.

--These are not ALL you need to do. But these are the foundation that needs to be in place when your audience arrives.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Manassas Book Festival on May 6th!

Reading: The Untethered

This week I read The Untethered by S.W. Southwick.

Here is the description from Amazon:

A juvenile delinquent chases his dream to build the greatest aircraft in history--and the world tries to stop him. A rising political star runs from her childhood dream--and the world encourages her on. A self-loathing geneticist hides below the streets of Las Vegas--and rebels against the whole world. An artist tries to make his father proud--at the cost of everything he loves.

When all four lives collide, each must make a choice. And the world will never be the same. 

--I really enjoyed this book. Highly recommended.