Thursday, January 31, 2013

Books read in 2013: January

Rather than save up what I read over the year and deliver the list to my readership in one big list, I've decided to break it down month by month. Might incentivize me to do a better job keeping the list updated.

So here is the list so far. Asterisks denote books unfinished for various reasons ("not my cuppa" or "it's not you, it's me").

No re-reads so far (re-reads will only count if I re-read the whole book - just dipping into and old fave and reading a chapter while I wait for the oven to heat up doesn't count).

  • Shutter Island - Dennis Lehane
  • Fobbit - David Abrams
  • Rebecca - Daphne du Maurier
  • Dimiter - William Peter Blatty *
  • Savage Night - Jim Thompson
  • Ragtime - E. L. Doctorow

First book for February will be Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Nerd alert

On the way in to work today, I was listening to the classic/album rock radio station, as usual. I was annoyed when a song came on that actually makes me angry: America's "Horse With No Name." Specifically, the line "there were birds and plants and rocks and things."

Things? THINGS?? All of the nouns in the English language to choose from and they couldn't think of just one more for that verse? Zero points for effort! Not to mention losing points for shamelessly ripping off Neil Young.

But then AC/DC's "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap" came on next and made me feel much better.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Writing craft: Pixar's rules for storytelling

It's a given that you can learn a lot about storytelling by reading books. But movies can also be an excellent guide. And here are 22 rules for storytelling, courtesy of Pixar movies. Very good rules, methinks!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Ashes release date, cover, and description!

Good news! My suspense novel Ashes, the first book in a two-book series, will be published and available for purchase on March 19.

It will be available in print at Amazon and at select California independent bookstores, and as an ebook for Kindle, Kobo, iBooks, Sony Ereader, and more.

To whet your appetite, here's a description and the front cover.

Anonymous. That was Jennifer’s life. But when she survived a domestic terrorist attack and her last-minute escape became the iconic image of the event, that life was over. Wanting only to disappear and become just another face in the crowd, she cashed in on her unwanted fame and moved to a small town, hidden away and safe.

Retired. That was Sean’s life. A former covert operative – the kind the government denies exists – he’d been pushed unwillingly into a life of suburban peace and quiet. But his retirement ended when he saw Jennifer’s rescue; from then on he only wanted to find those responsible for the attack, even if it meant turning rogue.

What Jennifer and Sean will both find is that nothing goes to plan, and their paths will cross in a way neither could have foreseen.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Day After Yesterday at Super E-Books

The Day After Yesterday is today's featured book over at Super E-Books. Check it out, and while you're there take a look at the many other books the site lets you know about. Fill up that Kindle or Nook you got for Christmas!

Monday, January 7, 2013

The fun of unhappy endings

Those of you of a certain age will most likely remember the Choose Your Own Adventure book series fondly. For those of you who don't know, they were kids' adventure stories in which, at various points, you got to choose which action to take and therefore affect the outcome of the story in ways good and... not so good.

As any of you who've read the books will recall, there were bad endings aplenty. In fact, the whole series was fairly morbid for books aimed at kids and young adults. I seemed to get the "and you were never heard from again" endings all too often, which probably explains a lot about why I write what I do (if I ever get bored I'll write a Choose Your Own Adventure version of one of my books).

To stroll down memory lane, go ahead and check out these sites: Lose Your Own Adventure and You Chose Wrong will give you a bunch of unhappy endings for your adventures. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Move over, Ray Harryhausen!

My son just did his first stop-motion film. 9 seconds of Master Chief being awesome.

This just blows my mind. I could never pull off something like this. Better start saving up for film school!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Looking back on 2012

Usually at the start of a new year I look back and list the reading I've done for the past 12 months. Unfortunately, due to a variety of reasons I didn't keep very good track of my reading this year. I read a lot of books, but I also went through long stretches when I skimmed books I'd read a gazillion times before, or spent my reading time flipping through cookbooks. So my apologies for no list o' books, as I usually provide.

But the real story, I think, is that in 2012 I published my debut novel, The Day After Yesterday. This has been a thrilling experience on so many levels. It's very validating to see your book on shelves and on the web for sale; to see reviews that understand what you were trying to accomplish with the story and characters; and to finally, finally get paid for your work. (Not that I've made a huge amount of money, but it's the first time I've been paid for writing that wasn't part of the day job.)

I've learned a lot with this book, and will put what I've learned to work later this year, when I publish my two-book suspense series: Ashes will be published in March, with Reckoning to follow some time in the fall (exact date TBD).

So for what it's worth, here are some observations and lessons learned from my jump into self-publishing.

  • Get an imprint - that is, a publishing name for you and you alone. This will prevent you from having to use, for example, the CreateSpace imprint from Amazon, which some readers and reviewers avoid. Be sure to get a nice logo that you can use on letterhead, marketing materials, and so on. 
  • Make sure you get ISBNs. This is crucial if you're publishing multiple books in more than one platform (print and ebook). You can buy a bundle of them from Bowker. 
  • Don't be shy - tell people you're published. I know how difficult it is to hustle one's works. It requires a certain amount of social skills, and frankly if I had a plethora of those I wouldn't be a writer. Find a way to mention it without bragging or sounding pretentious, and I think you'll find people are generally impressed and interested. If you have a print copy, carry one around so you can show people.
  • Don't be shy - ask people for reviews. This goes for asking friends and family members for Amazon reviews. This also goes for asking bloggers and others to review your book. Not every request will pan out, but some will, and over time they add up. Be gracious and thank reviewers for their time and consideration - this can benefit you in the long run. If a reviewer likes one book of yours, if you ask nicely they may be receptive to reviewing your next one.
  • Don't be shy (are you sensing a theme here?) - talk to your local indie bookstores. Some may have established consignment programs that you can participate in (some will also provide advertising if you pay for it). Some may not have an established program, but are still willing to take on your book. Which leads to....
  • Follow the golden rule, and respect your fellow indie book folk. When an indie bookstore stocks your book, pick up the unsold copies at the time agreed-on, or provide postage or some other easy way for the store to return the books. Indie bookstores have a hard enough time these days without having to worry about your books and how long those will be clogging up the inventory. Likewise, respect the book bloggers who are receptive to reviewing indie books. If the blogger says they're too overwhelmed to take on new books to review, respect that. Check back later and see if the schedule has cleared up. If the blogger focuses on, for example, science fiction or romance exclusively, don't send them your cozy mystery. Target blogs that take your genre or are open to any kind of novel. And above all: SAY THANK YOU! In person, via email, or send a thank you note. I've done all three, and now have stores and blogs who are looking forward to my next effort. It's nice, and it pays off. Karma, people.
  • Don't get mad when things don't pan out. Sometimes a review request or other promotional opportunity doesn't pan out. Sometimes you get a bad review. Don't take it personally, and above all do not turn into one of those writers who gets into an online grudge match with the critics. Just repeat the wise words of The Dude and say "Yeah, well, that's just, like, your opinion, man" and move on.
  • Take time to edit, polish and otherwise make your book the best product it can be. Self-published work has a perception problem, and only by producing quality self-published product can we change that perception.
  • Remember the great trade-off of self-publishing: you have the freedom to publish whatever you want, whenever you want; but you have to make things happen yourself. You're responsible for getting your book reviewed, and for getting ads, interviews, and other publicity. You're responsible for getting your book into the available ebook formats and into bricks-and-mortar bookstores. It won't be easy, and while there are free options out there, you will have to spend some money. Find out what your options are - again, don't be shy. Ask around. Do some research. But don't get so involved in the marketing of your work that the writing ceases to be fun. Get enjoyment out of making your work available, and take pleasure in the recognition and revenue you get, no matter how much (or how little it is). 

Above all, have fun.