Reflections & Book Update on Nuts

One of my friends reminded me yesterday that The Almshouse is approaching its one-year anniversary.

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I must say, I’m proud of the little book. Though it dipped in rankings, the book held out its own since early February 2016. I feel a little like a parent whose kid is self-sufficient, and claim no credit to its ventures or its friendship with its readers.

Thinking back, the story used to be just questions floating in my head, keeping me occupied in class while my teachers went on and on about some form of math. I found an old copy of the manuscript from my teenage years, back when I still scribbled in notebooks. For some reason, I thought clam chowder served as a better soup than chicken, and Lyle had spent a great deal of time teaching Julia to dance rather than playing his violin. It’s a good thing I wrote the story in drafts.

Along the same lines of nostalgia, I thought of the little girl who inspired the story, and wondered what she’s been up to. She had been a pretty little girl: blond, with curly hair, around my age at the time I saw her. We had both been preteens, though she a much better dressed one than I. I should also revisit the cemetery that inspired Mansion Park, maybe finally read the epithet on the headstone the girl had been staring at. (When I was younger, I tried to make out the words below the date, but had to leave because my friends wanted to go for ice cream.)

Anyway, I’m working on a prettier cover for the paperback version. The sequel is ~ 33% done, and the third book is ~20% done. Sincerely, From the Other Side is a spin-off, written long ago during homeroom and English, and tags on after the third book. I should probably learn to write in order.

nutsBook update on Nuts: It’s 95% done. I had originally planned to finish the book by September and launch it this month. Instead, it’s November, and Nuts sits one chapter away from completion. It’s been this way for months. (I will ramble about it below.) The copy editor has already started reading the beginning, and I’ll finish it by the end of next week in time for him to get through it.

I really shouldn’t make excuses. The trouble started after I returned from a business trip in early August. I’m an attorney by trade, working in a large law firm with rules, regulations, and people that remind you of the TV shows Suits and The Good Wife. If those shows teach anythings, it’s that law firms are no strangers to bad news. So when I got back to the firm, I found that the partners funding our practice area left with the business. Skedaddled, vamoosed, ran away and left behind a handful of associates. As the most junior person (I graduated law school last December), I found myself with half a team left at a firm targeted by major legal news outlets and headhunters. It was open season on our business, our associates, our clients. Every week, someone left. Every week, headhunters poached us. The legal news outlets went crazy: our firm is sinking, they said. Our firm might collapse, they said.

Well, they’re wrong. We did not collapse, thanks to management rescuing as many folks as they could. The remaining younger associates got sent to different departments, and older partners called in favors to help rescue the team. We’re now a different firm, but at least we’re stable… only we won’t be “we” anymore. I’m off to a new venture, to clerk for a judge. It was something I had planned for next year, but given recent developments, I thought I’d head off now and come back later. Hopefully, this will allow me to do what I really want to do: be a prosecutor.

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Author Stories: C. Gockel

Good morning everyone!

Apologies for the lack of updates. I am still writing, though I wish I had more time. One of my cases is gearing up for trial, so as the most junior grunt at my law firm, I’ve been doing a lot of this:


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I’m still hoping to release either Nuts or the sequel to my first book by the end of the year. I don’t want The Almshouse to be my only book. (One is the loneliest number you’ll ever know…) One of them is half done, but it needs thorough scrubbing. One of my copy editors is on it.

Anyway, to the purpose of this post. Some time ago, I decided to give urban fantasy a try and was surprised by how much I liked it. Specifically, I really liked C. Gockel’s

I Bring the Fire (A Loki Series)

Take a sweet young lady and mischievous Norse god, add a pinch of sarcasm, a hint of romance, and a whole lot of “why is this happening?” and you get the story of a young woman introducing a technically old-man to a new world.  (Seriously, go take a look. I strongly recommend this series, and I don’t have much time to read anymore.) I admit I’m a sucker for elegant prose, and C.Gockel has a beautiful style, so much so that I thought I should ask her if she has tips for us new authors. Lucky for me, she was happy to help!

1. When did you start writing and when did you publish your first book? What inspired you to tell that story?

I started writing Star Trek AOS fanfiction in 2009. There simply wasn’t enough Spock/Uhura in the world, so I wrote my own “how they got together” story. And then I wrote a Sarek/Amanda story, a boy!Uhura/girl!Spock story, a Kirk/T’Pring story (they’re perfect for each other, can’t you tell?), and many more. At some point I started writing Darcy Lewis/Loki. As I wrote it, I started exploring Norse Mythology more and more and discovered that I found Marvel’s and Snorri’s interpretation of Loki unsatisfying. Snorri was a monk in Iceland in the 1100s. He was trying to convert Icelandic pagans to Christianity, and he shoehorned the Norse Gods into a Christian framework. Odin got to be God, Baldur got to be Jesus, and Loki got to be the devil. Marvel made Loki a bit more hapless than the devil, but they definitely made him evil. The more I researched, the more I realized the interpretations of Loki varied wildly across the pagan worshipping world. Even his ultimate evil deed, the slaying of Baldur, was not always attributed to him. Moreover, Baldur wasn’t interpreted as “good” throughout the pagan world. Loki in some of the tales was one of the creators of humans, was the guy you called when no one else could help you, and was worshipped right alongside Odin. He wasn’t evil, he was change and an agent of rejuvenation. I liked the idea of Loki not good or evil, but as chaos incarnate. We tend to think of chaos as “evil” sometimes, but chaos at its most fundamental is change. “Order” is stasis. These things aren’t good or bad unto themselves, the negatives tend to come about when they are out of balance.

2. Why mythological fantasy?

Well, myths are fantasy. Why urban fantasy is probably the better question. I think we live in an age of Chaos. Change is happening at lightening speed. We’re in the age of Loki, so I thought I modern times would be an appropriate setting for the series.

3. How did you get your first book off the ground? What was your first week like as an author?

Before I released I Bring the Fire, I released a short story called Murphy’s Star. I released it only because my husband was nagging me about writing so much fanfiction. I think I made $30 my first month? After that it sold only sporadically.

I started writing I Bring the Fire also to keep my husband from nagging me … but also, by that point, fanfiction was becoming like a shoe that was too small. I couldn’t say what I needed to say within the scope of fanfic. When I released Wolves: I Bring the Fire Part I, I had a brief rush of sales, and then I sold about 1 or 2 a day. That remained the case until I went permafree with Part I.

I kept writing fanfiction until after In the Balance (the novella in between Chaos and Fates.) At that point, the allure of “living” in my own universes was too great.

4. What’s your favorite book so far that you’ve written?

What a horrible question! Why not ask me which of my children I like more? If I’m honest though, I like Monsters a lot, and I like Warriors. Warriors is probably my least well-liked book, but I love the story arc, it’s all internal. Chaos’s incarnation goes from being resentful of his fate to embracing it, and realizing that he can use his power to save the human race from Odin’s repression.

5. Did you always know you were going to write a series? How did you plan it out and how long did the process take?

Yes, I knew I would always write a series. I expected it to be only 6 books though and it became 6, a novella, and three short stories. But I knew how it began, and I knew how it ended. The scenes at the end of Ragnarok with Amy, Bohdi, and Steve were in my head from the day one. It was energizing. When I felt like I couldn’t get through a part I could think, “Oh, that amazing climax is coming! I can’t wait to write it!” And I would write more.

6. How do you deal with criticism/low reviews/trolls?

It depends. I try to be open minded to criticism if it is logical. You should really read your reviews, even the bad ones. I’ve had some technical issues that came out in reviews. Also, I’ve seen what my fans want more of. Obviously, you can’t please everyone. I can only be responsive to criticism if changing the story doesn’t contradict my central theme. Also, you occasionally get reviews that complain about things that simply did not happen in the book. You can only scratch your head at those and move on. I did have a troll when I began. It was very upsetting; it’s hard to understand how a person can put so much energy into trying to bring you down. But something you realize quickly; trolls have much more free time than you do. It’s best not to respond. Eventually, you’ll get more reviews that will cover up their hate, and, not surprisingly, hateful reviews get downgraded and marked as “not helpful” a lot.

I have to say, writing fanfic really helped me learn to deal with criticism. I got betas for my original fiction by being responsive to logical criticism. I also got some serious hate writing fanfiction. One of my stories in particular just made a group of people so angry. Someone wrote an online essay almost as long as the story saying how very wrong it was. I did try to respond … but then I realized, trying to respond was taking me away from writing, and despite the hate I also had a lot of people who were really enjoying the story. They were way more important than my “reputation” among a group of people who were never going to be happy unless I took the story down.

7. What other genres have you considered writing for besides Sci-Fi and Fantasy?

I might write a paranormal romance at some point, and possibly a YA coming of age story.

8. Any words of advice for new or aspiring authors out there?

Just start writing. Write things you enjoy, publish them, and solicit criticism. You can publish in a group like Critique Circle or start with friends. You need criticism. Criticism that makes you cry (or throw your computer against the wall.) It’s the only way to grow as a writer.

So there you have it! Thank you CG for sharing!

You can find C. Gockel’s fanfictions here: https://www.fanfiction.net/u/1959218/StarTrekFanWriter

And her books on Amazon, and other platforms:
http://www.amazon.com/Bring-Fire-Part-Wolves-ebook/dp/B008UUIGB2/
https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/i-bring-the-fire-part-i-wolves/id655735120?mt=11
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/i-bring-the-fire-part-i-c-gockel/1115457768?ean=2940044551565
http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/i-bring-the-fire-part-i-wolves

Also, here is Murphy’s Star, her very first original short story: http://www.amazon.com/Murphys-Star-ebook/dp/B006RCYQUA/

Story Update: Day Dream – Book 2 of The Spirit World Series

First, I want to thank all the readers for being patient with my lack of progress. It’s been an interesting couple of months; I got assigned a big case and it’s been nothing but work, work, coffee, work, sleep, and more work. Some days have turned into a 7:30am-9pm workday, but I realize that’s still pretty lenient compared to New York attorneys. On the bright side, I managed to get an interview with a great SciFi/ Fantasy author, which I will post in my next feature.

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For now, I am putting up the beta chapters of Day Dream, the second book in The Spirit World Series (and the sequel to The Almshouse). The picture above is a link. I’ve resorted to writing them during lunch break, so please excuse the formatting. I hope to get this out as soon as humanly possible. Maybe if I stop leaving the office…

 

Featured!

I received an email today from a review service. It seems they liked my book, The Almshouse and decided to feature it in BTS Magazine. The reviewer, Melanie, was very nice. She said she enjoyed the book and will be posting a blog review for the book on February 10th. Thanks Melanie, and here’s to looking forward to February.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author Stories: Darcy Coates

coveralmsh3This is the first entry of a new series: Author Stories. I got the idea to interview more experienced authors as a way of showing my affection for their books and to learn from their insights. These authors will all be picked based on merit, and no favors or payment were exchanged.  I thought new authors might be encouraged to persevere if they could see the exact steps it took for established authors to get where they are.

When I was editing The Almshouse, I decided to check out the market for ghost stories and haunted house stories.

 

It was originally for market analysis purposes, but I got distracted by a pretty book: The Haunting of Gillespie House. 

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Isn’t this pretty?

I bought the book after reading the first two pages. It seemed different from the other books on the list, probably because the cover glowed blue. Most of the other covers (including my own) used colors with low saturation, resulting in a gloomy atmosphere rather than the feeling that something nefarious was happening in the back yard.

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Darcy’s profile picture

After reading the story, I ran into the author, Darcy Coatesin an online forum. She had written so many books, many of which are in the Top 20 of Amazon Bestsellers lists.

Last week, I asked Darcy if she could share her experience with new authors:

1. When did you start writing and when did you publish your first book? What inspired you to tell that story?
I’ve been writing since I was a young teenager. I started a lot of stories, but didn’t finish many! About two years ago I wrote my first ‘proper’ book, a novella called Ghost Camera. In Ghost Camera, two friends find a strange Polaroid camera that can capture spirits on film. I really enjoyed creating the story – it asks some questions that I’d find challenging to answer. If you had the ability to see what spirits live in your home, including the malevolent or angry ones, would you?

2. Why supernatural suspense/ thrillers?
I’ve always loved horror, especially ghosts and haunted houses. While my friends went to watch chick flicks at the theatre, I’d be buying tickets to Blair Witch Project or The Conjuring. I can’t explain why – it’s just a fundamental part of me, like the need to eat.

3. How did you get your first book off the ground? What was your first week like as an author?
I didn’t, and terrible! :)

It’s very, very difficult to find success with just one book out. Some supportive friends bought Ghost Camera during launch week, and I had a handful of organic sales which gave me the motivation to keep writing.

Following Ghost Camera, I published a series of short stories. But it wasn’t until I released my second novella, The Haunting of Gillespie House, that I began to earn an income from writing. Now that I have more novels and novellas available, Ghost Camera’s sales have also picked up.

(Blanche’s note: Up until this point, I had assumed Gillespie House was her first book. Silly me.)

4. What’s your favorite book so far that you’ve written?
Oooh, that’s tough! It’s like asking me to name my favourite child!

I had great fun with my latest release, The Haunting of Blackwood House. While it’s (as the name implies) a haunted house story, it also has a strong romance subplot and some humour.

5. How do you deal with criticism/low reviews/trolls?
Like death and taxes, one-star reviews are inevitable. The world holds a lot of people who won’t like your story, and eventually some of them will read it and leave a review.

It’s tough (especially the first ones), but the single best thing you can do is see if they hold any valid criticism, absorb the parts that are helpful and discard the rest, then get on and write the next story.

6. What other genres have you considered writing for?
I really enjoy writing other genres, even though the stories all contain horror elements. I’ll be publishing a series soon called Cymic Parasite Breach. It’s a sci-fi survival story that shows an alien invasion from the perspective of five unrelated women. I’ve also written gothic romance with the House of Shadows series, and a supernatural thriller with Dead Lake. That’s one of the things I love about horror – it blends with other genres amazingly well!

7. Any words of advice for new or aspiring authors out there?
I’m going to parrot advice you’ve probably heard a thousand times: read a lot and write a lot! Just like exercise will make you physically stronger, using your writing muscles will do more for you than a hundred How To Write guides.

And there you have it, ladies and gents: stories from Darcy Coates. Feel free to let me know if you have an author to recommend.

Lessons in Writing: Even More Ads

This is probably overdue, but here is another list of ads I placed for The Almshouse. Funny enough, I found a copy of my book on Overdrive, the online library. It disappeared shortly after.

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1. Ereader News Today: Overall, I’d play this in third place out of all the services I’ve tried. Second in terms of number of books sold, and fourth in terms effectiveness; the ad did not pay for itself. However, this is still a fantastic service, and it did produce a good amount of sales (~60) for $30. The acceptance process took about 3 days, and the people at ENT are very easy to work with. I would strongly recommend those who haven’t tried this service yet to try, and for those who have series. Since I only have one book, it may have been my fault for trying to recoup costs off of one book.

2. Fire and Ice Blog Feature: This is a smaller company with nice people and good service. For $5, they feature your book, and just your book, for the day. Unfortunately, it didn’t do much for me, but that does NOT mean it won’t work well for you. I get the feeling romance might do better than thrillers with this blog. Just a hunch

3. Betty Book Freak: Betty is a sweet lady, but please keep in mind this is still a small business. If you’re looking for big results, apply with Robin Reads, Ereader News Today, or Bookbub. Here, my $8 resulted in 8 sales. Perhaps I’m in the wrong genre again; I’ve heard stories from Fantasy authors that it does work.

4.  NewFreeKindleBooks.com: This one was interesting, because they do accept discounted books, and the “free” pertains to author fees as well. The day the ad ran, I got 16 sales by noon. No other ads were running that day. By evening, I found 24 sales. My daily average is ~7 sales, so this is definitely out of my expect range. So either this is an undiscovered source of sales, or a group of readers out there suddenly decided to do their last-minute holiday shopping at once.

Lessons in Writing: New Authors

It’s hard being a new author; most authors will confirm. You just finished your first manuscript, polished it fervently until it shine and sparkles (metaphorically), and it’s the nearest and dearest thing to your heart next to friends, pets and family. But when you enter the industry, you find yourself surrounded by honed veterans with tens and hundreds of manuscripts to their names.

Suddenly, your one little manuscript doesn’t seem so valuable anymore. It’s like having an old dog; it may not be the cutest thing, but its yours, and you want from the world is for them to see how special it is. Yet, you have no idea how much attention is sufficient, and how far you need to go before feeling satisfied.

My experiment

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After a month of swimming through the writing industry, I was able to sell a little more than 400 copies of my book,  The Almshouse. (I did not hit my 500th sale until 3 days after my 1-month anniversary.) I managed to shove it onto the top of the Hot New Releases list for my genre. At its best, it was ranked 3,000-something in Amazon’s paid rankings, and currently it has 19 reviews. Without ads, it sells ~ 5-9 copies a day.

I had no idea what to make of these numbers until last week.

Earlier last week, I was curious as to whether the behavior behind sales for The Almshouse was standard, so I launched an old manuscript under a different pen name. (We’ll call this New Story.) I did the same thing for New Story as I did for The Almshouse, including advertising through all of the channels I’ve listed below in “Ads” and “More Ads” and discounting this new book at $0.99. The result…

I sold 5 copies in 7 days.

It was pretty bad. The gentleman who ran BKnights even offered me a refund because of the abysmal sales. (I still consider him one of the best promotional source; I’m just amused that even he had a hard time peddling New Story.) Regardless of how hard I try to imitate my approach to marketing The Almshouse, New Story simply refused to sell. After 7 ads, most of which were free or cheap, nothing worked for New Story. In the end, I was satisfied with my experiment, and a little prouder of my first book.

The rest of this entry is just a summary of the lessons I’ve learned this past month, but have yet to write down.

1. The first manuscript usually sucks more than the author realizes:
When I started writing ten years ago, I was an idiotic, entitled teenager looking to get lucky. I spent 3 years writing and polishing my first manuscript, and thought it a unique work of literature that the world must see. I spent a year querying agents, got a 33% return rate in partial requests, only to have the blasted thing returned every time with a “not for me.” Frustrated, I complained to several friends that, if only the agents would give it a chance, they would see it was a bestseller. This manuscript is now known as New Story, and the only one who ended up eating her words was me.

2. Friends make decent guinea pigs:
The best thing I did was attempt to read my works out loud to friends. Your friends love you; they want you to succeed. They will do their best to listen to you gush about your novel. So… if your friends’ eyes are glazing over when you try to reach them your work, you know your story is boring, and if you can’t even keep the attention of your loved ones, it’s time to rewrite or give up on the thing.

3. Marketing early is not optional, and neither is math: Amazon does its rank calculation based on “# of units sold” divided by “# of days the book is on the market.”

This means, for every day you do not make a sale, your rank will drop. (This part is common knowledge.) BUT… this also means that, the later you make a sale, the less impact it will have on your ranking.

For example: no sales in 2 days and 3 on Day 3 = an average of 0,0, and 1 sale a day; this will result in an abysmal ranking for 2 days, and a slightly better ranking on Day 3. However, 3 sales on day 1 with no sales for 2 more days = 3, 1.5, and 1 sale a day; this will result in a much better ranking than the alternative.

4. Stick to one genre, the one you read the most: I have no idea why I tried to write a paranormal romantic comedy as a teenager.
I am not a romantic. I’m not even funny. And the most recent book I’ve read involving any sort of hanky-pankying was The Great Gatsby. Most authors have a tendency to write what they want to read, so when they present their books to the public, it’s to draw in everybody else that share their reading habits. If you don’t read romance (like I don’t read romance) you won’t be comfortable writing a “steaming? steamy?” scene about your hot princess or knight in shining armor.

5. Grow thick skin, the kind people get after tanning too long: 
Writing is not a competition, but that won’t stop some people from treating it like one. Unlike desk jobs (or in my case, law) there are trolls, and angry mobs, and even people with personal vendettas. If you read the writers forums, you’ll see some pretty interesting stories about readers giving reviews to the wrong book, or chefs getting 1-star reviews for their BBQ cookbooks from members of PETA. Remember: the reviewers mean less to the reviewers than the author. Don’t take anything one person says personally (yes, it’s easier said than done.) People read stories for different reasons. Some of them might be upset. Some of them might be drunk. Some of them might be rival authors. Just grit your teeth and ignore the reviews. Even Harry Potter has 1-star reviews (though goodness knows why.)

That’s all for now. This is just one person’s reflections. Feel free to take as much or as little to heart!