Decatur Book Festival 2016

Decatur Book Festival BookzillaI scoped out the Decatur Book Festival for a little while on Saturday and listened to a handful of indie authors do the unthinkable… Speak in public!

Check ’em out:

Roger Newman (Suspense Thriller starring a OB/GYN mystery solver)
Michel Le Gribble-Dates (Yoga and storytelling for kids)
Katelyne Parker (Fiction, Hosanna)
James Marshall Smith (Suspense Thriller written by a Radiation expert at the CDC)
Dawn Loetscher (Memoir, Survivin’ the Hand Life Dealt)
Dell Johnson (‘Poetry and Other Muses’)
Bernard Lee, Jr  (‘A Look Back In Time: Memoir of a Military Kid in the Fifties’)

Lots of cool genres and types of literature on display at the DBF. If you’re in the Atlanta area (possibly nursing a Dragon*Con hangover?) you should go check it out!

Brand NEW! The Weird Western StoryBundle

So proud to be part of the Weird Western StoryBundle, launching today!

Boy Eating

Here’s the low-down from the Bundle’s curator, Blair MacGregor:

Welcome to our Weird Western Bundle, where wide frontiers, flintlocks, whiskey and revenge meet swords, airships, terraforming, magic, myths, and dragons. You’ll find stories here set in the snows of old Alaska and the heat of contemporary Arizona, post-Civil War San Francisco and post-colonization planets, and places the seem as familiar as any wooded mountain or wind-swept desert… until tigers and dragons and horses that are so much more than you might assume burst into the scene. The different aspects of the Weird Western spirit in this bundle will give fans of the genre something they haven’t seen before, and folks new to Weird Westerns a wide sampling of its fantastic offerings.

I was raised on a combination of SFF and Westerns. Star Trek and Gunsmoke, Asimov and L’Amour, Lonesome Dove and Battlestar Galactica. I was just as thrilled to shake the hand of Hugh O’Brian of Wyatt Earp fame as I was to meet Katherine Kurtz, author of the Deryni world. It’s been a joy discovering more writers combining the genres, raising their unique voices, and upsetting the familiar with the fantastic. The result is a Western setting that respects history and the people who created it while spinning in unique powers, esoteric challenges, and the terrifying magic of discovery.

You’ll learn the secrets behind the post-quarantined expanse of ranchland in James Derry’s Idyll, and the reasons the man of Joe Bailey’s Spellslinger is ready to make a stand. There’s the subterfuge and wild ride of Gemma Files’s Book of Tongues, and the smart, snappy adventure of Lindsay Buroker’s Flash Gold novellas

Dangerous wonders and determined enemies fill J. Patrick Allen’s West of Pale, and Steve White’s New Worldbrings chainmail and strange powers to the frontier. Kyra Halland puts rogue magery and danger in a dusty Western town in Beneath the Canyons, and Kenneth Mark Hoover gives us a time-wandering lawman in Haxan.

And I’m thrilled to share the debut of Judith Tarr’s first novel of a new series, Dragons in the Earth, set in present-day Arizona, and filled with horses and dragons and the power of the desert itself.

StoryBundle let’s you choose your own price, so you decide how you’d like to support these awesome writers and their work. For $5—or more if you’d like—you’ll receive the basic bundle of four great novels in DRM-free ebook format. For the bonus price of at least $14—or more if you’d like—you’ll receive all nine novels. If you choose, a portion of your payment will go toward supporting Mighty Writers and Girls Write Now.

The Weird Western Bundle is available for only three weeks. It’s a great opportunity to pick up the stories of nine wonderful writers, support independent authors who want to twist your assumptions about the West, and discover new writers with great stories along the way.

The initial titles in The Weird Western Bundle (minimum $5 to purchase) are:
•    Haxan by Kenneth Mark Hoover
•    Dead West Vol 1.: West of Pale by J Patrick Allen
•    Idyll by James Derry
•    Spellsinger by Joseph J. Bailey

If you pay more than the bonus price of just $14, you get all four of the regular titles, plus five more:
•    Hexslinger Vol. 1: A Book of Tongues by Gemma Files
•    Horses of the Moon Vol. 1: Dragons in the Earth by Judith Tarr
•    Daughter of the Wildings Book. 1: Beneath the Canyons by Kyra Halland
•    The Flash Gold Chronicles I-III by Lindsay Buroker
•    New World Book 2: Hair of the Bear by Steven W. White

And as special thanks to our newsletter subscribers, all of you who subscribe get New World by Steven W. White for free! Grab the free first book in the New World series before you start on book 2, Hair of the Bear, found in the bundle.

This bundle is available only for a limited time via http://www.storybundle.com. It allows easy reading on computers, smartphones, and tablets as well as Kindle and other ereaders via file transfer, email, and other methods. You get multiple DRM-free formats (.epub and .mobi) for all books!

It’s also super easy to give the gift of reading with StoryBundle, thanks to our gift cards – which allow you to send someone a code that they can redeem for any future StoryBundle bundle – and timed delivery, which allows you to control exactly when your recipient will get the gift of StoryBundle.

  • Why StoryBundle? Here are just a few benefits StoryBundle provides.
    Get quality reads: We’ve chosen works from excellent authors to bundle together in one convenient package.
  • Pay what you want (minimum $5): You decide how much these fantastic books are worth to you. If you can only spare a little, that’s fine! You’ll still get access to a batch of exceptional titles.
  • Support authors who support DRM-free books: StoryBundle is a platform for authors to get exposure for their works, both for the titles featured in the bundle and for the rest of their catalog. Supporting authors who let you read their books on any device you want—restriction free—will show everyone there’s nothing wrong with ditching DRM.
  • Give to worthy causes: Bundle buyers have a chance to donate a portion of their proceeds to Mighty Writers and Girls Write Now!
  • Receive extra books: If you beat the bonus price, you’ll get the bonus books!

StoryBundle was created to give a platform for independent authors to showcase their work, and a source of quality titles for thirsty readers. StoryBundle works with authors to create bundles of ebooks that can be purchased by readers at their desired price. Before starting StoryBundle, Founder Jason Chen covered technology and software as an editor for Gizmodo.com and Lifehacker.com.

For more information, visit our website at storybundle.com, tweet us at @storybundle and like us on Facebook.

 

 

Idyll Chatter: Bass Ackwards

bass_ackwards_309552032Good news! I’m almost halfway through the first draft of Book 3 of the Idyll Trilogy! Not sure if I’ve revealed the name of Book 3, but I might as well announce it in this post. EXILE!! So ‘Idyll,’ ‘The Wilds,’ and ‘Exile.’ How’s that for long ‘I’ sounds mixed with ‘L’s?

So far, my writing has moved much faster on ‘Exile’ than it did with ‘Idyll’ and ‘The Wilds.’ Partly, that might be a “light at the end of the tunnel” thing. I’m starting to get fired up about bits of positive reaction I’ve received, and I’m excited to complete the whole Idyll Trilogy and show my readers how the book ends. I’ve had this Book 3 climax and denouement sketched out (roughly) since October of 2014! I hope people will find it hopeful and thought-provoking, and maybe a bit heartbreaking as well.

Another thing that slowed down my progress on ‘Idyll’ and ‘The Wilds?’ There was a lot more open to change in the story. In fact, I’ve mentioned on the blog before how ‘Idyll’ went through massive changes during the seven years (yikes!) that I fiddled with it. Zombies to lasers, to neo-cavemen, to comet UFOs. At one point, all of these things (and more) existed in the Idyll world. In Book 2, my main stumbling blocks came from the plot. There were at least three times where I would hit a stumbling block in the story (usually I needed a character to act in a way that didn’t make sense, or the story elements were becoming too complicated to explain), so I would have to backtrack and rework the path until I had a story that was as simple and smooth as possible.

With ‘Exile,’ the potential for detours has greatly been decreased. Most of the world-building is established, the character’s voices have been clearly defined. Also the room for divergencies in the plot has been greatly tightened.

With all that said, a few months back I decided to do something unconventional—maybe controversial—to try to eliminate any stumbling blocks or rewrites. I already know exactly where I want the story to be at about 66% into the book. There’s a big milestone event that happens there, and the fallout from that is what shapes everything thereafter. I had a rough outline that was pretty good at fleshing out the story leading to that 66% milestone, but I was pretty hazy on what our heroes do that gets them to the books climax and the series epilogue.

So I stopped writing from the beginning of the book, skipped ahead to the moments after that 66% milestone and started writing from there! From there I wrote up to the epilogue, which I’m guess will be the last 8% of the book. (The epilogue is going to be pretty loooong! I might end up just calling it the last chapter).

Now I’m writing again from the front of the book, armed with the foresight of what the characters need and what they WILL be thinking in the last third of the book. So, far the process has worked pretty well. I just hope the tone that I’ve fallen into now will match the tone that I was writing in two months ago. But there’s been several times before that I’ve written sequential sections of a book at different times, and then I had to go back and smooth over the tone between them.

Fingers crossed that this will work out, and I’ll keep writing at this steady pace!

Shadow Sideways

Shadow SidewaysFor a moment allow me to channel cinema bad-ass Steven Seagal, who, according to legend, once had this conversation:

SS: “I just read the greatest script ever written.”

Random person: “Wow! Who wrote it?”

SS: “I did.”

With that said, I’d like to say I just published the greatest sci-fi novelette ever written about super-powered ex-spies living in a nudist colony! OK, maybe it’s the greatest sci-fi novelette about super-powered nudists—WRITTEN THIS MONTH. OK, the month is still young. Maybe I should just drop it and go right into the blurb:

–––

SHADOW SIDEWAYS reads like Carl Hiassen meets Robert Ludlum meets H.G. Wells. It’s a near-future science fiction thriller—a novelette that is a quick, witty beach read.

Sly Severance is a retired spy—a man with extraordinary ‘enhancements’ who served with the United States’ most cutting-edge and clandestine special forces team.

Now he lives on a Mexican beach with an adopted family of similarly enhanced retirees. Together they have created the world’s weirdest—and most reclusive—nudist colony. They used to be thieves, mercenaries, and assassins, and now they will go to great lengths to maintain the safety and the secrecy of their beach.

“We don’t like strangers. We don’t like prying eyes.”
“I’ve pried eyes before. I didn’t mind it.”

When a CIA officer ambles onto the colony’s beach, Sly is forced to return to his old way of life. To protect his home, he will lie, steal, fight, and draw blood. And he will find himself in a very dark place, a vantage point where the differences between right and wrong can be as hard to see as a SHADOW SIDEWAYS.

Check it out on Amazon!

 

Should I Change the Name of my Book?

rose_name_62540860One of the major caveats that critics level against self-publishing is that without the weight of a big publisher behind you, your book is likely to get lost among the hundreds of other indie ebooks that come out each week. Now, I agree that getting noticed in the clutter is a major concern, but the advocates of traditional publishing seem to be stuck on this old-school idea that Amazon is a gigantic warehouse storing billions of books—or the online equivalent of a hoarder’s bonus room. There’s a better way for authors to view Amazon. Not as a warehouse—or even as a bookstore—but as a search engine. Think about how a consumer shops on Amazon, versus browsing at a Barnes & Noble outlet. What’s the first thing a consumer does when she goes to Amazon.com? She clicks on that search bar and starts typing.

There’s plenty of great articles that discuss how to ’Search Engine Optimize’ your book to be more discoverable on Amazon. Here. And here. And here. Through proper selection of keywords and categories, you can draw in potential readers who are actively seeking your type of book. And isn’t that more effective than placing your book in a bookstore, where 90% of the customers are just there to browse or drink coffee?

This search engine democratization is another way that Amazon is leveling the playing field between indie and traditional publishers. In fact, you could say that a indie author has an advantage when it comes to Amazon search results…as long as the indie can present their book with a cover and blurb that is engaging and professional. Consider this: a consumer searches for a very specific type of sub-genre (historical fiction supernatural beach-read featuring leprechauns), and she finds two ebooks that strike her fancy, is she more likely to buy the traditionally published ebook at $10.99 or the indie ebook at $2.99?

With all this said, I recently took a good hard look at the title of one of my books, Turning, and started a self-debate about the ‘discoverability’ of that title. When I searched ‘Kindle ebooks’ for ’Turning,’ Amazon spat out 1,934 results. At least twenty of those ebooks were called ‘Turning,’ or some variation of the name that was very, very similar. I had to ask myself the question: If a potential fan found out about my book (through my blog, through Twitter, or some other way) and searched for its exact title on the Kindle store, what would they do if they couldn’t find my book on the first page of search results? Granted, I’m not sure how often this scenario is likely to come up. Hopefully most readers would find out about Turning through a source that would provide a direct link to the book on Amazon. But it’s a big enough issue to consider seriously.

So I started to think of names that would be more unique and more engaging on the Kindle store. It was tough, because I really liked the title ‘Turning.’ My wife did too. It’s simple, it’s short, it would stand out well on a cover. I especially liked the way that the word has a double meaning that obviously implies a transformation (it’s a story about a spirit who reincarnates itself inside bodies of its own descendants) and more subtly implies a theme of cycles and the passage of time. I played with that second meaning a lot throughout the book, with imagery of circles, cycles of the sun and moon, the tides, the idea of reincarnation and Samsara, repeating patterns from one generation to the next, on and on.

First I brainstormed new words that were more specific to the story. I liked words like possession, scion, inheritance, legacy, lineage, vessel, and perennial. I really liked the word ‘succession’ because it has a royal connotation (the evil spirit in the story is named Regina—as in Queen), and it has a ‘hostile takeover’ sort of feel to it. Line of Succession. Yeah, I thought that sounded pretty good. But then, ‘Succession’ is kind of a hard word to say. And also, there were several suspense/thrillers with the same title. In the same vein of royal lineage, I liked The Living End. A historical phrase that sounds like a creepy oxymoron. But apparently there’s a popular band with the same name, which would cause a major issue with Google results, and also at least one other interesting ebook with the same name. I’ve always liked the phrase Vicious Circle, but it was also fairly popular. And I was afraid it sounded too… vicious. I liked the name Law of Possession, which I pulled from the old adage ‘Possession is nine-tenths of the law.’’ But my wife really hated that one.

So what next? My wife suggested the word ‘descent,’ which also has a nice double meaning. But there were a lot of media products with that one-word title, including a horror movie called The Descent. (The first half of that film, which shows spelunkers squeezing through tiny gaps between giant boulders, was way more anxiety-inducing than the half with the cannibalistic subterranean humanoids.) What about Line of Descent? I liked the idea of a inexorable, unceasing line that’s always moving forward (or maybe downward in this case) because I think that’s a good way to describe the reincarnating villain. Although it’s a definite departure from the cycle/circle theme… Anyway, the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. I think it’s more descriptive, more meaty—and less likely to be confused for a vampire or werewolf story. Line of Descent! Yeah! Cue the latter-era Trent Reznor music!

And I’m mega-excited about getting the book out there to be discovered! I expect that I’ll soon change the ‘Turning’ tab and the blurb-page on this blog. And keep an eye out for a Line of Descent promo image that I hope to use as my blog header. Here’s hoping that Line of Descent will be available for purchase by February!