Thursday, January 24, 2013

Tag, You're It!

I read an interesting blog post today by agent Kristin Nelson that you can find here.  The hot topic this week in publishing concerned "discovery."  Meta data key words reflect one way that end users search for books (and other products online). It got me to thinking about my own "meta data," blog labels, and "tags."  In the past, I have just randomly selected some words that I thought people might search and then find my book.

I did not know that tools on the internet existed that track meta data and searches.  If only I had known.  This would effect the words I choose.  Especially considering that on Kindle Direct Publishing they only allow you a total of seven meta data tags.

My debut book, DARK MOUNTAIN, is a thriller/suspense novel that has elements of paranormal/occult and some elements of horror (especially if people actually ingesting blood makes you queasy).  I chose to use meta data tags for "vampires" and "werewolves" but I declined to mention them in the description.  Then, I also have this dark cover with the tag line, "Sometimes evil runs in the family."  My other five tags were, well, embarrassingly bland.  My name.  The title of the book.  "Thrillers," "suspense," and "Oklahoma authors."

I have changed them now, almost 9 months later.  My tags are now, "Stephen King,"  "horror,"  "vampires," "paranormal thriller," "occult," "Lee Child," and "suspense."  We will see if this increases sales.  This will be an interesting experiment.

My newest book, CRY ME A RIVER, is a suspense/thriller with elements of romance, adventure, and espionage.  It takes place in Colombia.  It has an assassin, a rogue DEA agent, a handsome photographer whose family owns a drug cartel and the woman who hires him.  Of course, she doesn't know his past and soon she becomes a pawn in the fight to protect the family business.

The meta data tags I chose for it seemed fitting, but lo, I have only sold two copies since December 6.  I thought with the Christmas rush and the fact that I gave away over 500 copies of DARK MOUNTAIN, that I would get some attention drawn to this book.  I think it has a catchy cover, but I think that maybe the market is flooded right now.  I don't know.  I think it is the better book.  So, I am experimenting with the data tags on this one as well.  I chose "Lee Child," and "Clive Cussler" for this one as well as "romance," and some other tags that have been getting hits.

We shall see.  I will give it thirty days before I evaluate other ways to boost my sales.  How about you guys?  What are the key words you search for when you are seeking your next read?

Saturday, January 19, 2013

De Ja You

Plots are a dime a dozen in fiction.  One author, Christopher Booker, would have us think that there are only truly seven plots in fiction:  Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, The Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth.  Whether you agree with his assessment, regardless of the finiteness of plots, there are thousand upon thousands of STORIES.  An unlimited, unfathomable, inexhaustible supply of tales. 

And yet, sometimes, we can find similarities.  It would be easy for one to attribute this to influence.  I read Stephen King and then write a story about a girl lost in the woods, or attacked by a dog.  How many stories have been written about authors who have a "dark side" and it comes out to kill?  I could, if I sat and thought about it, come up with hundreds of other examples from authors ranging from Virgil, to Homer, to Shakespeare, to Hemingway, to John Irving, to James Joyce and Nathaniel Hawthorne.

But, what if I said I opened a book to peruse it and found a story strikingly like my own?  One which I had never before picked up?  What if I said my own story is barely published and originally written in 2008 while the book in question was published in 2010?

Some would want more proof.  Alright.  I have published the story in question, the first chapter of a fantasy "Work in Progress," on my website.  You can find it here.  It is the January excerpt.  While you are there on my website, take 2 seconds to enter the contest by answering one simple question.  There is a small prize in a drawing to be held at the end of the month.

Now, the published work, by an author which I like, SM Stirling is here.  You can read the sample (the first chapter) and compare for yourself.

You can see that I don't have a naked person running through the woods, but I do write something similar:  a panther that is able to communicate via telepathy.  Ok, his is a tiger with black on black striping and eyes of molten sulfur (great imagery, I am sure you agree), while mine is a true panther, but there are similarities.

Now, this got me to thinking about every time I have read a fantasy that tread over the same dwarf, elf, and dragon cliche, or every police procedural that walked that familiar path of evidence, motive, accessibility, and concurrence.  It also reminded me of the similarities of romances:  boy meets girl, boy is a bad boy and girl finds out too late, etc. 

I understand that as authors, we tap into the "Muse," and use our imaginations to concoct new, exciting, never-before-written accounts.  We explore and create new worlds, our own sciences, our gods, religions, societies.  We use our existing world and twist history or create new futures.  Yet, every post-apocalyptic story seems similar in ways, don't they?  Fantasy worlds, no matter how divergent, are familiar and share elements.  Every genre has its iconic elements.  Zombies lurch, vampires bite, dragons fly, women are swept up by the leading guy, and police solve crimes. 

I am not trying to be negative here.  I am saying that we share something.  We share the wonderful world we live in and the thousand upon thousands of stories that have been and will be created.  I think there is a wonder in it.  Whether we are succumbing to influence or calling upon a common human theme of love, abandonment, grief, hope, triumph, quest, voyage, or death, we share a common story.  We share a connection.  There is no shame in what we have in common.  There is no shame in our differences either because even in our individuality, we have something in common.

What about you?  Have you ever come across a story like your own, even a simple element?  Or have you read two books and found so many similarities that it made you wonder?

Friday, January 11, 2013

Death of a Protagonist

I am almost 75% through with reading George RR Martin's A STORM OF SWORDS and have invested approximately 2600 pages of reading into this amazingly gritty and realistic fantasy series he has created.  Last night, as I neared the 70% mark, I almost threw the book across the room.

I don't want to spoil the story.  Besides, many may not have read the books. I was mad, though.  Disappointed, infuriated, annoyed, and mad.

For those that are familiar with Mr. Martin, I am sure you know what I mean.  One protagonist, fine.  Several flamboyant tertiary characters, alright.  After GAME OF THRONES and especially A CLASH OF KINGS, I was beginning to get used to perusing the back of the book and considering striking out all the characters who are now dead.  It felt novel that an author was as free with the deaths of so many characters.  To be sure, he has populated this world with more characters than I have Facebook friends.  To kill off a few feels like culling a herd or at the least, As the World Turns.  Turnover is inevitable when betrayal and violence are common.

But, at the end of the chapter after the Red Wedding, I was shocked even beyond the loss I felt from the two noble wolves of House Stark.  The pup, too!  It cannot be!

Before you respond with condolences and a spoiler alert, I already know.  I was weak and flipped through looking for Arya's chapter.  Found it.  Now I am wading through more about the Onion Knight and this weirdly accurate witch, Milisandre.  Sometimes I wish he had put some of these story lines into another book entirely.  I am always tempted to skip them.  I guess some other readers may want to skip the feasts and the tourneys with their endless descriptions of armor and weapons, food and names of folk we will never meet again or that will soon be dead.

Case in point:  the singer that threatened to blackmail Tyrion.  Why even bother?  He's dead in four paragraphs and mentioned in passing during the feast.  But to what did he amount?  Another corpse to add to the considerable pile.  Another sick joke.  I dunno.  I guess I feel Martin's greatness is dulled through the continual cutting of ties with so many well-fletched-out tertiary characters that come and go so quickly.  Their deaths are often more flamboyant than their lives.

Which leads me back to my original complaint and the rubbing of my cat the wrong way, so to speak.  I am developing a love/hate relationship here.  I am aware that some of this is manufactured.  The author is deliberately pulling the strings.  Characters are created for effect rather than catharsis, or triumph.  As far as I can see, the great lesson, the moral of the story, as far as the Red Wedding goes is two-fold.  Lords will always have bannermen that envy their positions;  the only way to deal with them is with strength.  The second is something that I think the author plans to use going forward:  to harm others to whom you have extended hospitality under your own roof is to bring a curse upon yourself.

Despite this, I feel empty, betrayed, and am loath to trust Mr. Martin going forward.  I don't know. Is it just me?  I feel invested in Catelyn and Robb, Bran and to some extent, Rickon.  Jon and Sam.  Dany and even Ser Jorah.  If these people die after we have invested 2600 pages in them and knowing that we have 2000 more pages yet to come, are we not to feel their loss?  Or is that the point?  Unless we care, they do not matter?  Or is it what Little Finger says to Sansa?
"Always keep your foes confused.  If they are never certain who you are or what you want, they cannot know what you are like to do next.  Sometimes the best way to baffle them is to make moves that have no purpose, or even seem to work against you.  Remember that Sansa, when you play the game...The only game.  The game of thrones."--A STORM OF SWORDS pg 841.
 What do you think?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


I appreciated the journey, but not every avenue he took. The final section was drudgery as much of it was regurgitated, poorly written, or trite. I also respect the pioneer spirit for which Konrath is famous. However, sometimes his ego is as large as Rush Limbaugh. Confidence is an aspiring trait. Smugness and self-righteousness is not.

If you are considering self-publishing, or are just a writer and curious, this tome can be instructive, inspirational, and at times witty. Konrath's humor waxes from droll to dirty, but his wit is as fine-edged as a sickle. The thing that I liked most about this book was that it contained as much about the craft and business of writing as it did the finer details of self-publishing. In terms of self-publishing, the material answered more of the "Why?" of self-publishing (the moral, ethical, financial, and cerebral reasons) than the "How?" (formatting, cover art, editing, marketing, etc.).

Friday, January 4, 2013

A Giving Mood

Sometimes evil runs in the family.
Dark Mountain
I have been in a generous mood lately.  I just wrapped up a three-day free Christmas download offer for DARK MOUNTAIN.  Over 400 people downloaded it this time.  Now, over 2,000 people have a copy of Dark Mountain.  I am excited and humbled. 

 I want to keep spreading the love, so I have been giving away three signed paperback copies of CRY ME A RIVER.  I am doing this via  So, if you have a Goodreads account, you can still enter to win until noon Saturday, January 5th.  Click on the link on my website or go to Goodreads and click on "Explore" and then "Giveaways" and then scroll down until you find CRY ME A RIVER.  As of this post, over 400 people have requested to enter for the three free copies.  The giveaway is open to US and Canadian residents only.

Cry Me A River
So, now I have concocted another giveaway.  On my website I have been offering monthly excerpts of my writing.  For the month of January, I have decided to run my first Quarterly Reader's Appreciation Contest.  To enter the drawing for a free Scentsy plug-in, simply read the short (less than three thousand word) excerpt and answer the question in the month of January.  Rules and more information are provided as well as book trailers, and previous excerpts to read.

I plan to continue being generous.  My next title, MANIC MONDAY is set to release by the end of February and I will be offering it only on Amazon, at an introductory price of 99 cents!  It is the first of the MONDAY CHRONICLES and I am super excited about it.  Also, I will be offering DARK MOUNTAIN for free 5 times every 90 days, so watch out for those giveaways if you haven't already downloaded it.

Why am I doing this?  I want to expand my readership is the simple answer.  Also, I am naturally generous.  My dream is that every title I offer is read by at least ten thousand folks.  I don't know 10,000 people personally, so I am relying on good old "word of mouth."  So, if you like my writing, or like me, please spread the word.  Thank you in advance. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Book Review--LOVE DOES by Bob Goff

I am so glad that our youth minister, Mike Baskett, gifted this to me. It is a delightful book and made me laugh, inspired me, and made me almost cry at one point. That is a feat.

I highly recommend this book to people who may struggle with faith from a standpoint of a cerebral, bookish approach. Some people are more inclined to do, rather than to analyze, theorize, or be a spectator. This book is for those people who like to do.

This book encourages us to grow closer to God, to have a more personal relationship with Christ by being servants, allowing Him to use us, and move us. Bob is a quirky fellow, and his writing style is indicative of his whimsical nature. I am so glad I read this book. It is perhaps the best individual book of faith I have read outside of the Bible itself.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year

It is a new year.  I launched three titles in 2013. I have several titles planned for this new year.  This means new writing goals.  New opportunities.  New relationships with new readers.  I am excited about the stories I have to tell and the potential readers who will have a chance to enjoy them.

New writing goals means that I need to be on this blog more in 2013. 

So, here is my resolution:  I will post once every week at minimum. 

Most of these posts will be in the form of writing tips, some will be excerpts of stories, some will be reviews of books, and some will be simply discussion about reading, writing, or publishing.

If you are reading this and are not a follower please consider joining me on my writing journey.  I love to interact with fans, to share stories, to discuss characters and plot, grammar and punctuation.  Come along, comment, and "Like," check out my website or click on the links around my posts.  Life is about engagement, it is about being a participant.  Join with me on this adventure and let's do something great together.