100k words and counting

I hit 100,000 words on my next Click Your Poison book the other day. I figure as long as I’m celebrating base-10 accomplishments, from 1k to 10k, I think I should toast myself for hitting 100k words on MURDERED. That’s long for a novel (which typically runs 60-90k words), and I’m not even done yet. Chalk it up to the three storyline schtick. Hopefully it’ll result in a more immersing experience for you, the reader. That’s the plan anyway. Now if I could just finish the first draft! Although, I did celebrate this today as well:

 

1K books sold!

1000

July marks over 1000 copies of INFECTED sold in less than 10 months! Since September 17th, roughly 750 ebooks have sold. Since November 13th, roughly 250 paperbacks have sold.

Thanks so much to all my awesome readers who’ve enjoyed the book and shared it with others. None of this would be possible without you! I am ‘eternally’ grateful (zombie pun intended)…

Lyrical Writing

I believe you write how you read, just as you are what you eat. So as a writer, I need to read well (and often). After perusing this great thread of writing advice on reddit, I found a new writer to consume. I couldn’t help but share.

This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety. Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes, when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals–sounds that say listen to this, it is important.” — Gary Provost

I’d never heard of this author before, but I’ll definitely be checking him out. If his popular “100 Ways to Improve Your Writing” has any more gems like this, I can’t wait to uncover them.

garyprovost

The Living and the Dead

I was asked by my friend and fellow author, Todd Travis, to write the foreword to his new anthology of short horror/thriller stories. I’m honored to have done so and I think I even managed to say something halfway poignant, so it’s my pleasure to share that foreword with you now:

TLATD FOREWORD
by James Schannep

The short horror story is one of the oldest human traditions. Indeed, one could theorize that we evolved into creatures with language just to be able to tell such tales. Prehistoric man’s first thriller—for which he was rewarded with a warm fire, roast strips of mammoth venison, and ample grunts of approval—was called “The Terror at Black Rock” and told of a brave warrior’s near-death experience with a saber-toothed tiger. You see, these stories and their monsters were real, and by hearing them we could learn to avoid Black Rock, especially alone and after dark. The short horror story kept us alive.

These tales are still important in the modern world; whether it’s still being told around a campfire for the benefit of your fellow hikers or if you’re reading this book in bed, ready to plunge down an emotional rollercoaster before safely drifting off to sleep in the comfort of your own home. But what about the monsters—are they still real?

I’m not telling you that Bigfoot is out there (constantly looking over his shoulder and walking with extra long arm-swings, such as the Alaskan scientists in the story In Season hope to find) but certainly the potential exists. The threat of the unknown is real. There are, without a doubt, things in this world we don’t fully understand that are dangerous, and out to get us.

Recent events have proven that monsters are real. I don’t understand the kind of person who would bomb a marathon any more than I do the kind who would shoot up a school or a movie theater, but I do understand exactly what motivates zombies and werewolves. Ultimately, that’s why we love a good horror story, because all the terrible things that we live with, all the hidden facets of society, become tangible and comprehensible. Whether it’s a simple ghost story or something more complexly metaphysical like in The Living and the Dead, we get to break down and analyze the dangers of evil through the reading of stories. We experience something new and terrifying without needing to go down to Black Rock ourselves.

The true genius in Mr. Travis’s collected shorts is that he manages to do both: delight us with thrilling tales of monsters while showing us that true terror lives in the people and world around us. So sit up, don’t relax, and prepare to be terrified, because if you pay attention—these short horror stories might keep you alive. Just make sure you blame Todd Travis (and not me) if you can’t look at the people around you the same way when you’re done.

Happy reading and sweet dreams.

16 April 2013
Orcutt, California

TLaTLCheck out The Living and the Dead, available now!

For fans of STEPHEN KING and DEAN KOONTZ … author TODD TRAVIS (Creatures of Appetite) has gathered a haunting collection of suspense stories exploring the monsters, both living and dead, roaming our world.

– A brilliant biophysicist on the verge of proving there is no life after death discovers, to his horror, that the dead are determined to stop him …

– An abused small town boy finds a special friend in the woods next to his trailer, but his friend isn’t like other children and cannot leave the woods, not ever …

– A group of determined graduate students seek Bigfoot on a remote Alaskan range seek but discover a monster far more deadly than they ever imagined …

– An elderly store manager, disturbed by a stranger eying the armored truck deliveries to his store, decides to take matters into his own hands …

– A beautiful young woman walks the streets of Manhattan at night seeking men, but for her own dark purposes, because for her, night is for hunting …

– A mysterious little girl somehow “invites” herself along on an abduction, leading her captors to wonder who really is in charge …

Five stories of suspense and terror and a short novel exploring the darkness everyone eventually faces when it’s their time to die, THE LIVING AND THE DEAD is a collection one may want to read with all the lights in the house on …

Penny for Your Thoughts

Why YOU Should Care About Amazon Book Reviews

Please, leave me an Amazon review! It’s the best way you can help a writer succeed!”

See that? It’s the new battle cry of many an author, myself included. Amazon keeps its internal marketing algorithms a closely guarded secret, and thus many authors have tried cracking the code over the years. Somewhat of a ‘no-brainer’ has always been “The More Reviews The Better.” Well, there’s more to it than that, and I think I may have just figured part of it out.

And the primary beneficiary of this new knowledge is you, the reader.

What’s the breakthrough? What do you get by leaving Amazon reviews? Cheaper books. I believe that the more reviews a book has, the more Amazon discounts the price. And–this next part is huge–they’re only diluting their own cut. As in, the author keeps the same royalty and the savings are directly passed onto the reader.

Where’s the proof?

Here’s my book, which Amazon offers at a 10% cut. They only started doing so somewhere around the 30 review mark.

ICYP

Here’s another self-published book written by a friend. You can see, more reviews, bigger discount.

CoA

This is a traditionally published book, but you can see that it follows the same pattern.

SIWbI

And lastly, a mega-hit book. Tons of reviews, tons of savings.

WWZ

Note: This is merely a trend I have noticed. I do not have an inside connection at Amazon. But if you love books, leave a review.

Second Note: For whatever reason, this only applies to paperback editions.

So, how about it, penny for your thoughts? If you haven’t left a review yet, please do! It will discount the book for other buyers without hurting the author’s cut. It should go without saying, but I want nothing less than your honest opinion. If you thought the book was a 3-star book, tell me why. If you think it’s 5-stars, I’d love to hear what you loved about it too!

Click Here to leave a review for INFECTED and then go spread the word! More reviews; cheaper books.

A. Wrighton — Interview Swap!

A couple of weeks ago I was approached by an author on twitter who asked me if I’d like to participate in an ‘Interview Swap.’ Through the process, I’ve met the whip-smart and extraordinarily creative fantasy author, A. Wrighton. You can see my side of the Q&A on the A. Wrighton blog here.

Thus far, I’ve been able to accommodate any requests for interviews (Love ’em), but I’ve yet to actually interview someone myself. So I said, “Sure!” and started brainstorming a list of questions. I should’ve asked her why she enigmatically goes only by the letter “A”, but, as I said I’m only a novice interviewer. Here’s the Q&A I managed:

bigheadshot_AWrighton_BW
Author A. Wrighton

Tell us a bit about yourself (bio):
I started writing when I was really little, about 5, and at that point I had been telling stories for a few years. (Yes, seriously). I’ve dabbled in every kind of writing you can think of – fan fic, video games, comic books, novels, novellas, short films, web series, feature films, animation, etc. – and love helping and networking with other writers. I’ve lived in or visited almost every state in the U.S. and I was once fluent in Spanish, Latin, and Arabic. I have a B.A. in English/Literature and I took home the highest honors for my M.F.A. in Creative Writing program. I like fruit, coffee, and football and when I am not writing, I am hiking, sleeping, or playing with my family & two pups. 

And a quick blurb on your book:
World War II with a victorious Third Reich – with dragons and less guns.
What? You said quick!
It boils down to this: Defiance: Dragonics & Runics Part I  is the first in a quartet of epic novels that enlist you in the Resistance movement against a tyrannical dictator who has successfully murdered the entire race of magic-wielding people, the Runics. Following a Prophecy slated to free Solera and return the Realm to greatness, the Rogue Dragonics – Dragon Riders who disobeyed the order to slaughter the Runics – search for The One and the Five Catalysts that will enact the Prophecy and restore freedom and Justice. The Rogues have a breakthrough when they decipher a predecessor’s log and realize one Runic – of untold power – escaped the Council’s grasp. Find her, and the Resistance will be one step closer to the Prophecy’s success. The only problem is – they aren’t the only ones looking for her.

What inspired you to start writing? How old were you?
As long as I can remember I was telling stories. My first recorded (on paper in my mother’s garage) was in Kindergarten when I was 5. I think it has 11 words total.

How would you characterize your writing style?
I don’t characterize my style. I write in my own voice and what you read, is who I am. I bend the rules but only because I know and respect them. If you are looking for traditional styles – I’m not your author. What other people say ranges from a female Edgar Rice Burroughs to an astute student of Hemingway.

How did you come up with Defiance: Dragonics and Runics?
I fell asleep listening to the History Channel. It was either a show about Dragons or Hitler. I honestly don’t remember. I just know that I woke up at around 4 am, grabbed a pen and my notebook and scribbled down (I found it recently): “WW2 with dragons. Don’t &$@! with the dragons. Magic.” After that, I took my love for dragons and history and wove together a story that hopefully serves as a warning to its readers and really calls into question the extent of a person’s humanity in extreme circumstances.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Yes. It’s really easy to say in retrospect that if put into the situation the characters in the Dragonics & Runics series were put into, that you would do the right thing. But then, what exactly is the right thing? Who decides that? Where’s the line? And, if you were actually there – in the war, in the battlesky or in the cities – would you still do what you think you will? There are limits to a person’s humanity and this series really opens that conversation up to the readers.

What books have most influenced your life most?
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
The Sun Also Rises by Hemingway
Stardust by Neil Gaiman
The Pern Series by Anne McCaffrey
The Ancient One by T.A. Barron

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Tim O’Brien. He’s so brutally honest and his characters are so truthful and raw. He bends rules to wield a better story. I just love everything he writes. It’s pure genius.

What are you reading now?
A colleague’s book. Can’t divulge too much now!

What are you working on right now?
The second book in the series – ALLEGIANCE: Dragonics & Runics Part II, the young adult paranormal fiction episodic that I host on my website, and then the third episode on the webseries I co-created and write on – Things Left Unsaid.

Do you see writing as a career? Or just a hobby? How else do you fill your time?
Career. It’s my calling. Right now, it’s not my day job but it will be. I fill my time with my day job and my family. That, and I sleep every third day or so.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging about writing? Writer’s block, etc.
I don’t look at things as challenges but as puzzles. I don’t subscribe to writer’s block so, no go there. What I do find challenging is being an indie author in a not-so-friendly-for-indies book world.  That’s changing, but it’s still got a ways to go and that can wear down on the indie author.

Do you plot out your books or just shoot from the hip?
Both. I work with a bare bones skeleton and then – if it’s an intricate weaving of plot and subplots (like Dragonics & Runics) then I note card it. Otherwise, I just write. 

Defiance: Dragonics & Runics Part I
Defiance: Dragonics & Runics Part I

Who designed your cover?
The amazingly talented Anabel Martinez. She’s well known for her video game art and has amazing fans. I saw some work she did of a character for a video game that was kinda slated as a propaganda poster and I was all – HER! I MUST HAVE HER! I think I started my email with that too…

Who did your trailer?
I did but with some help. All the trailers feature voice-overs directed by Scott H. and there are three different actors that lent their voices to it: Michael Monks, Kiriza Bajos, and Erin Bennett. They’re amazing. The music I get royalty-free from Kevin MacLeod. He’s wicked talented!

What was the hardest part of writing Defiance: Dragonics and Runics?
Figuring out where to “divide” the books (parts) properly so you have a microcosm plot that furthers the series plot and doesn’t cut short the subplots. It’s like knowing where to step on a rickety bridge.

Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Network and work on your craft. Write, write, write. Edit. Edit. Edit. Don’t give up. Don’t stop. And, don’t take failure as an option. Learn from your criticisms and mistakes and get better. Oh, and get used to not sleeping so you can finish that story burning in your mind’s eye.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
You think you know what will happen and to whom, but you don’t. I didn’t even know on some of them. They surprised me, now I will surprise you.

What were the challenges (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?
My heritage is that of a German Jew on one side. You’re probably going “eesh” right now and you’re right to do so. We don’t have a family tree anymore. They’re just… gone. So, really delving into the Third Reich and Hitler and his powerful oratory skills was a challenge. I can’t make the Chancellor seem flat and I wanted him to be as realistically twisted as Hitler was. But, I hate him.  Hitler’s one of the only people I will ever hate. He earned it, if you ask me.The other challenge was keeping everything sorted. Thank god for my OCD organizational skills and making a production bible. It’s often referred to as “My Precious.”

Thoughts on a zombie dragon?
Bad. Ass. Can it have an acid fire breath? Oh! And maybe… his wings are mainly bone with just these rotting sloughs of skin and wing membrane. He can eat goat brains!

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A. Wrighton ESSENTIAL LINKS:
Defiance: Dragonics & Runics Part I (print): http://bit.ly/dr1amazon
Defiance: Dragonics & Runics Part I (ebook): http://bit.ly/dr1ebook  (Coming to Smashwords & others June 2013!)
Personal website: www.awrighton.com
Dragonics & Runics Series website: www.defythecouncil.com
Twitter: @a_wrighton

Free love, Fanfic, and Pirates, Argh

Okay, so last week I posted about my move over to Amazon. It’s currently in progress, but some of these sites take a couple of weeks from when you edit your book to respond. Which, really, is a major indicator that Amazon has their stuff together way more than the other retailers. If I make a change in price, or an edit to the manuscript, Amazon has posted the new information within a couple of hours, 24 hours max. The other retailers, I’ll remind you, take a couple of weeks. That’s ridiculous. If the other retailers moved as fast as Amazon, you could do your low-price promotions without going exclusive. But trying to wrangle them into appearing all at the same time (a pre-announced time) would be a bit like trying to herd cats. Good luck with that.

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Now then, the results of my giveaway trial for “Corporate Zombie” using KDP Select. Prior to the giveaway, I had the story available for free on my website. Then I moved it to Amazon in August of 2012, to prepare for my future as a published author. I’ve sold a total of 27 copies at $0.99 since August. Last Tuesday-Friday, I gave away 128 copies for free in 6 different countries.

Three days after the end of the giveaway, I’ve not yet had any new paid sales. HOWEVER, you can see that my numbers are tiny. In a “real” giveaway, you need to give thousands of copies away in order to see a difference. I only spread the word on facebook and twitter, and even then using only casual posts. So — lesson learned #1 — you have to advertise your giveaway. Yes, you need to pay to spread the word about your free book. It’s counter intuitive, but it works. I’ve seen the numbers from other authors.

During the giveaway, I recieved a new 4-star review on the story entitled “Great short story”:

A great little short story that is a real page turner. A refreshing variation on a zombie story, from the corporate side. I don’t think a 6-page story is worth $0.99, but as a freebie, a very good read.”

First this, then lesson #2:

Soap Box
“Not worth a buck? What is worth a $1? A can of soda? A snickers bar? Let me guess, you assume I spent 10-minutes writing a perfectly edited, plotted out, final draft of the story, happened to have a cover already created, and spent another 5 minutes slapping it up on Amazon. Sound about right? Sheesh.

Alright, off my soap box. Lesson learned #2: Most readers don’t value individual short stories. I already knew this based on my previous sales, but the event & review confirms it. So, if you have short stories, go with an anthology. I hope to “replace” my individual shorts with an anthology some time around this summer.

I also haven’t seen any sort of boost in my other titles. Which, I realized a little too late, is lesson #3: Link your other titles at the end of your books. Don’t expect the reader to find them on their own.

Silver lining: There are 128 people out there who were introduced to my work. Though I love this story, I haven’t had a sale of “Corporate Zombie” since November. So I don’t really feel like I “lost” anything.

Recap: Advertise, Anthologize, Link-ize.

Now for the fanfic and pirates.

Pirate fanfic
I imagine the mashup something like this.

While googling to see if INFECTED had disappeared from other e-tailers (see what I did there?), I found out that I’m much more on the cusp of “making it” than I realized. I’ve been content thus far with relative obscurity. People read my book, like it, tell me so, I feel good, and I write the occasisonal blog post that maybe 10-20 people read. But now, I’ve been noticed: someone wrote INFECTED fan fiction, and (unrelated) someone has pirated the book.

Gasp!

For the fan fiction, I don’t want to embarrass the author too much, but sufice it to say that it exists. I’m flattered. If you really want to see the link, I posted it on my facebook page.

The piracy, however, is a different matter altogether. There’s a website offering an INFECTED  .doc, .pdf, and .epub rip at the low, low price of $Free-95.

Yes, I realize the irony that once I’ve considered book giveaways I discover that someone else has beat me to the punch.

But, obviously, there’s little benefit to me on the piracy site. According to the website, the book has been illegally downloaded almost 200 times since January 24th. Which is more than I’ve had in paid sales over those last two months. The wound is still a little fresh and has left me dazed. I’m unsure what I can or will do about it, but if there are any of you out there with experiences in this arena, I’d love to hear them. I’ll do some research and make another update in the next few days.

Hmm… not fun.

UPDATE: Part Two

Fresh Ink Spilled

I’ve officially begun “Click Your Poison #2” and the subject is (drum roll, please)…

Mystery Books

A mystery! And I don’t mean, “I’m not telling you, it’s a mystery.” I mean a literal murder mystery novel–a solve-your-own mystery, in fact. Which, I believe, is the first of its kind. I don’t think anyone has ever tried a literary puzzle of this scale, letting you (the reader) attempt to piece together the clues yourself. As part of my preparation, I read “The Elements of Mystery Fiction” by William G. Tapply (which is written more for a novice writer than it is for someone who has studied writing but is new to mystery fiction) and in it he says:

Avoid the second-person point of view… I know of no mystery novel that’s done it successfully–or of any serious writers who’ll admit that they’ve even tried.”

Well, Mr. Tapply, rules are made to be broken. In CYP #2, YOU will have to crack the case or the killer will get away with murder. I’m also sticking with the “3 Unique Storylines” convention that I started with INFECTED, but I can’t promise “50 endings.” I’m going to let them occur organically, like I did with CYP #1. Maybe there will be less, maybe more; we’ll see.

BUT! I’m excited. I know the plot and I’ve buried it under layer upon layer of subterfuge, red-herrings, and what-could’ve-happeneds.

Like onions (and ogres), mysteries have layers.

I know the characters, locale, and major turning points, and now it’s time to jump in and let the possible decision points guide the path of the book. It’ll probably be around 8-10 months before I can publish this book, but I’m too excited not to share. Don’t worry, I’ll post various updates (and samples) in the months to come, so if you haven’t already subscribed now is a great time to do so.

In the meantime, I’ve got work to do.

Get ready for danger.
Get ready for danger.

What’s Happening?

Introducing the “Events” tab! See it up there? At the top; next to “Blog.” Go ahead, click it.https://i0.wp.com/www.birthdaydirect.com/images/36603-zombie-birthday-sign600x600.jpg

Now, whenever there’s a writerly event, you won’t have to miss out. Also, if you have an event and want me there, let me know. I’ll bring the party:
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