Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Almost Returning to the Normal Routine.

I have been absent for a while. Moving takes up A LOT of your time. I want to thank all of the people who sent their well wishes and let you know that I will be back to full strength on Monday as the last pieces of the puzzle that is the new house should be in place. (I am actually borrowing my wife's computer to do this as my office is not yet set up and functional as I wait for my desk to arrive.)

So, if you have emailed or written a review or just said "hello" and heard nothing in response, it is simply because I have not been able to get to the internet and find your missive. It is sort of like being on an island and cut off from the world.

A few people who deserve some thanks (and I will do so more formally soon) are James Thorn--that collection is super and I am so honored to be a part of it with all of the other talented writers. The Bookie Monster--Shana Festa has written some spectacular reviews for Ava and the DEAD series that you can find on Amazon. If you have not been to her site yet...you really are missing out on some good stuff. Go see. 

Well...I would love to stay and visit, but more delivery trucks arrive today and I have to get the vacuuming done before they arrive.

Monday, April 7, 2014

A Love letter to my readers (part 2)

The view from my living room window today!
Looking back, I still can't believe things have panned out to where they are today. I have to pinch myself to confirm that it is not a dream. (Although I don't actually know if that works.) I get to do what I love for a living, and along the way, I have met some amazing people. I could also say that I have met some real bastards...but I want to focus on the positive. Maybe I will revisit the darker side of this at another time. It would be full of betrayals, lies, and vile hatred. Makes for a titillating read, but it can also make the writer seem like a venomous jerk. I try to rise above such things these days. It doesn't mean I don't feel them, but lambasting others is so petty. On to the good stuff...

By June of 2012, I was already scanning the classifieds. Sales were good...not great...and Denise was one of those people you heard about on the news. Masters degree and an accountant unable to find a job because she was "overqualified and probably prone to move on as soon as the economy improved." She was told that so many times and it was REALLY starting to discourage her. I was making enough to pay the bills almost, but we were still struggling to stay afloat. One car problem or medical issue and we were done for financially.

Any time she caught me looking for work, she shut it down saying that my books were gaining momentum and that was where I needed to focus my energy. It was around that time that I landed a pair of editing contracts that made all the difference in the world. (As you read this today, I am actually starting on my editing certification through UCSD distance education!) 

I still remember the first time we broke 1,000 units sold in a single month. I was so happy. Sure, it wasn't King or Koontz money, but it was better than minimum wage and I was doing what I love. As the year pushed on, the numbers continued to grow (despite efforts from some) and with the release of DEAD: Siege & Survival (book 5 of the DEAD series) I saw my first appearance on the Amazon Top 100 Horror Books within a day of release. It was the first time I had a book release to triple digit sales the FIRST day! There was some dancing around the living room that night I can tell ya.

With each release, the sales were growing. At one point, book one, DEAD: The Ugly Beginning was actually on the top 100 at the same time as Book 5! And with that, the snowball began to grow. I also began to start to feel the pressure. I had a "best seller" of sorts and I had a growing audience that looked forward to the next release within days of the latest book becoming available. I was also smart enough to know that I had to start cultivating a new audience for when DEAD eventually concludes. My "That Ghoul Ava" series is where I have those hopes pinned. Horror/comedy with a dash of darkness...if you have not tried her yet, you really should. 

My little girl!
As the year 2012 came to an end, I was blessed by spending it with my daughter Ronni who I had not seen since she was two. We  have become so close in this past year...I really am the luckiest man in the world. Anyways, as 2013 arrived, Denise was getting small temp jobs and my books were still picking up steam. This is when many of you starting discovering the DEAD series. And I owe a great debt to those of you who had been along for the ride and told your friends, family, and random stranger about my little zombie series.

In November, Denise finally landed her dream job. My books were now being released on Audible by the amazing crew at Falcon which was opening me to an entirely new market and I started looking at the possibility of buying my first house (using my VA loan).

In February, I made the move. In March, Denise and I went to look at houses. The one she fell in love with just happened to be a house that I had delivered phone books to back in November of 2011. This was one of those houses mentioned in part one that I could never imagine living in. On Friday, April 4, 2013, I picked up the keys and drove out to see a sign in the front yard of MY new house.

I just put my car in park and stared for almost 10 minutes at this sign.
This house is amazing. I will post some pictures in the near future once all of the furniture arrives. But for now, take a peek at my backyard with a waterfall and koi pond and about 75-100 various species of plant. It is a dream come true. It is YOU and your support that made this happen.

All mine!!!
So I want to thank you. Each of you who has read my books. Whether it was just one...or all of them. (20 titles at last count!) YOU made my dreams come true. For that, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I will never be too big or too successful to remember that it is YOU who make me what I am. It is YOU that I work for. I may be technically self-emloyed, but it is each of YOU that are my employer. I hope to continue to earn a place on your shelf or ereader or Audible.com playing device. So, do not take these two words lightly. They are meant with utmost sincerity...

THANK YOU.

Friday, April 4, 2014

A love letter to my readers.

It is hard to believe that my life has changed so much in less than three years. I have pondered how I was going to approach this post. A lot of feelings are fighting for position at the moment. So...here it goes. Just fasten in and hang on because I have no idea where this ride will be going. The one thing I hope you all take away from this is that YOU ALL have a huge part in making my life into the fairy tale success story that it has become. I will never be able to thank you enough. So as you read this, understand that to get from where I was to where I am...I could not have done this without EACH OF YOU!

Most of you know where I was three years ago (prison), and so I am not going to spend a lot of time on that. Lord knows we have beat that topic into the ground enough and I made it clear that I was done talking about it (except when I go back each year as a motivational speaker). This is about the journey that started in June of 2011 when I came home, and how it led to where I am right now. When I came home, I was just wrapping up the third DEAD book, (DEAD: Fortunes & Failures) and on a good month between three Zomblogs and the two books in DEAD, I was MAYBE selling 20-30 books a month.

Finding a job was my top priority, but it was not going well. I finally got a job delivering the paper. That meant (for those who don't know) that I went to work at midnight, waited for the truck to show up to the station, stuff the ad inserts, load my car, and hit the road. I had one of the largest routes (450-550 papers), so I usually got home between 6 or 7AM. Denise was also out of work (construction got hit hard in that financial meltdown and she is a construction accountant...so that was not good) and barely squeaking by on her unemployment. We had separate residences until November so we were taking our already thin finances and maintaining two households.

With things getting worse by the week, I took another job delivering phone books door to door that November. I would stack bags of phone books in the back of the truck and hit the road around 7-8 in the morning until around 3 or 4 in the afternoon. My goal was to keep Denise's car from being repo'd and to try and provide a little bit of a Christmas for her that year. This was also when we dipped our toes in the KDP program and gave Zomblog away over the course of a two day freebie weekend that saw 10,000 units fly away. That was to be the event that kickstarted my book sales.

Here is a shade of irony. This is where my life mirrors one of those cheesy holiday movies. One day I was delivering phone books to a VERY nice neighborhood. It was cold and a bit of sleet was falling. My beard was a bunch of ice crystals and I could not feel my fingers or toes. I was toting between 10-15 bags of books--one bag weighing about 8-10 pounds--each time I got out of my truck. I would go up one side of the street and down the other, placing a bag of phone books on each porch by the front door. All the houses looked warm and beautiful as many were now decorated for Christmas. I could see all the people inside looking warm and happy. I remember this one area VERY specifically because it was just so beautiful and the houses were amazing. Denise and I had been talking about our dream of some day having a house and I recall very distinctly thinking it would never be one of those beautiful homes up on the hill. (We will get back to that later.)

That year, Denise did not lose her car...we had a nice little Christmas, and something was starting to happen to my book sales. We had gone from 20-30 a month to breaking a hundred! It was exciting. People were actually starting to read my books. Reviews were showing up on Amazon from people that I did not know (in real life or through Facebook) and people were really liking my stuff! But then the numbers kept rolling...and we went past the 300 books sold mark in one month! By the time April of 2012 came, Denise had convinced me to write full time and quit my job. She was still looking for work, but we would find a way to get by. She believed in me and convinced me that my time was better spent writing. It was the toughest thing I ever did...but on April 5, 2012...I devoted my life to being a full time writer.

Come back Monday for the rest. This got a little long winded and I know that most of you don't want to spend your entire morning with some silly little blog.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

If I had only known...

If you have ever bought a house, then you can either continue on and laugh, or just shake your head.

Today, if all goes well (and it has NOT up to this point, so why should it start now), then I will be signing the docs for my new house today. I should tell you that I am not ever going to be confused with an optimist. I am simply used to bad things happening the moment stuff starts to look too rosy.

I will say that this house is a dream house. When I saw it, I considered it a house I would go to when visiting friends...certainly not the house that I would own. It is out in the foothills of Mt. Hood and has a three-tiered backyard with a waterfall, pond, and about 100 different exotic plants. 

I will save you much of the tale and just say that this experience was almost too much for me. I would have shut the deal down if not for my wife. Honestly, I don't need the stress and all of the nonsense. The person from the mortgage broker was a nightmare, telling me on FOUR separate occasions that it was a "done deal" only to have the underwriter ask for something else. I had to cancel furniture deliveries and ended up TOTALLY depleting my savings to get this done. We have two rooms left to furnish and a refrigerator to purchase and no means to do any of that until the end of the month (if we are lucky). 

The part that made it bad was the misinformation that I was given on multiple occasions that I believe should have resulted in a person losing their job. I did not realize that blatant lies were something an employer allows from his or her employers. Still, I have been told that this will all be worth it when I walk through the door. As I sit here, I can't honestly say I believe that, but I will let you know in a few days. I hope to be back to my normal routine in about a week or so.

Until then, if you are so inclined, my "That Ghoul Ava" story is in a bit of a contest. If you vote for it by following the link below, I would be thankful.


Friday, March 28, 2014

Buying a house is making me crazy!

So I needed a laugh...join me, won't you?




Yep, so how about some zombie spoofing?



And if you hated World War Z (or even if you sorta liked it)...



Seriously...if I don't laugh, I may lose my mind.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Some people just don't get it.

I have been absent for a spell...house buying is some intensive stuff. Did you miss me...or are you scratching your head and asking yourself, "Was he gone for a week?" Well, I will be in and out these next couple of weeks (now is a good time to send a guest post if you have one) as the whole moving to the new house thing comes on full tilt. But today I wanted to swat a few pinatas. So join me...won't you.

First off, this is not directed at any single individual. I am making generalizations and using a mish-mash of examples. A few trends in some of the social media conversations catch my eye every so often and I feel the need to post a rebuttal. One is the concept that free e-books are destroying the world. Now I can personally attest to the fact that, if used properly, they can be an effective marketing tool. The first time I ran Zomblog on one of those promo deals, it gave 10,000-plus people a chance to decide if the series was one they would like to continue. They did...and three months later I quit my "day" job. It helped that DEAD: The Ugly Beginning did fair two weeks later with a respectable 5,000-plus free downloads.

Having been in the entertainment business before (club DJ and sports talk radio) I am versed in a few aspects of how things operate in the world of marketing to an audience. According to the folks that worked down the hall where the offices are plush, it is a 10:1 ratio of people who will complain about something versus extend a compliment. (Just another reason to ignore negative reviews if you still trend positive.) If you give something out for free, you have about a 5% net of the people that you will hook and bring back for more. Now these are all just numbers, but they do help with my point that I am about to make.

First, let me tell you that my "free" days are over. I have no problem with putting my stuff at 99 cents, but by the same token, I would not be where I am now without those freebies. For the up and coming writers trying to slice off a piece, if you think giving your stuff away for free will put you over the top, think carefully. First, if you already have a few books in the series, then giving away book one can be a good marketing tool. I will warn you that the landscape has changed in the past three years and many free books remain unread. So if you have great numbers on that promo event, don't think ALL of those people will grab your next book. And if this is your ONLY book to date...then you are wasting time and energy. 

The free book should be used as a marketing tool for your series. That is really the only use for such things now. The new trend is to get together with some folks in your genre and put together an e-compendium for a buck. Ditch egos and the idea of riches here, but if you can bring six full length stories under one set, then each author promote the box set, you can cross-pollinate each other's fan base and everybody wins. Here is an example...I am currently part of one of those compendiums (find it HERE) with some VERY talented authors. The set is selling nicely, but each of us has a responsibility to push it up that hill. To that end, we have this to offer...click on the link and see how to get free signed copies from some really talented guys (and me too!).


The bottom line here is that every tool in your belt has its place. Some will work better than others, but don't disregard something based on a few nay-sayers. If you can only see every problem as a nail, then all you know how to do is hammer. Marketing is a multi-layered concept that takes all of your tools being used in effective and efficient ways. Used wisely, the free book is a way that you can lure people in to your series as long as you realize that many books remain unread and you have to hope that yours is one of the lucky titles to stand out and make a reader dive in. (COVER ART!!!) And one final word...it will be YOUR TALENT that puts you over the top.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

One way to ROCK!

Yep...I used to keep the long hair.
If you have been following me on the various social media outlets, then you gotta know I love my rock. I am a big fan of the 80s Hairmetal scene--groups like Ratt, Poison, Motley Crue and the like. Some of my all time faves are (of course) KISS, Van Halen, and Aerosmith. I list them separately because they are not really "Hairmetal", but instead, just good old Rock 'n Roll.

Calling Dr. Love...

Lately, I have found a thriving local scene of tribute bands. What is a "tribute band"? That is a good question. You see, I have played in cover bands. Those do the music of various artists (and I covered most of the ones listed above). A tribute band goes that extra step to give you the look and feel of a single band.

David Lee Roth and Michael Anthony?
One of the best on Portland is a band called Unchained. They cover Van Halen...and to say cover does not do them justice. They have the look and the sound down pat. You would swear that is Eddie Van Halen flashing that smile as he tears through all those songs that you know and love; David Lee Roth jumping and wailing; Alex behind the kit; and Michael Anthony on the thundering bass. Pretty damn close.

Dokken...Ratt...Warrant? It's all there!
I saw Maiden NorthWest recently. They brought up a few guest vocalists and one very special fan who got to live his dream to play guitar on the band's rendition of Flight of the Icarus. ANd what made it better was how the band swept him into the performance and made him one of them. That is a memory that young man will never forget.

A night to remember.
And most often they play in packs. Triple Bills at the Hawthorne Theater are not uncommon.


And some of these guys even remember you from last time. I have seen Poison'us a couple of times now, and the guys are very friendly.


And many of these guys pull duty with multiple bands. So you may see familiar faces when you catch the next gig. And the guys are always happy to tell you where they will be playing next and with which group. These bands are all of the talent, playing all your favorites, and at a fraction of the price. Not only that...but when they say "We love you people!" they often prove it after...

Me and Nikki Sixx from Motley Crue?
 (or even before) the show as they come out to the crowd...

Spot the Ace Frehley fan!
...and sometimes they bring friends...

Unchained...Unchained Girls...and a fan for life!
The last show I was at, Motorbreath (The World's Greatest Metallica tribute band) packed the stage with fans from the crowd to wrap things up with a blistering version of Seek and Destroy. That night I saw Foo Fighter, Alice in Chains, and Metallica. Sure, there were different people playing the music (hasn't KISS been doing that for the last several years?), but the sound and the energy was off the charts.


And if you are wondering if they can pull off some of the more complicated sounds...then check out the band I saw last week. This is Jar of Lies, covering Alice in Chains. 


So if you love some good rock, but don't want to dole out big bucks for an often generic and uninspired concert put on by people who don't know you and don't care who comes as long as they get paid, then check your local listings...do some searching on Google. Once you find where they play, you will be hooked. I know I am.