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 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 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 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 some searching on Google. Once you find where they play, you will be hooked. I know I am.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Writing is a marathon...not a sprint.

I am not a big fan of a lot of things about the world that we now live in. People have gotten ruder and more disrespectful. Everybody seems to be in a hurry to get someplace no matter who they cut off or derail along the way. Just about everything can be thrown into a microwave. Places offer five second credit approvals. And then there is the advent of the rise of the indie publishing scene where you push a button and your book is available to the world by the time you get back with that bowl of popcorn.

These days, people expect everything to just happen overnight. That is a problem. No, this will not be another article about editing issues, this is about writers thinking that all that needs to happen is that they send in a story and it should be up and live in a week.

Many of you know that my wife is the owner of May December Publications where I work as an editor as well as the label my books are published under. We have lost more than a couple of titles when authors believed that their books were not produced quickly enough. First, let me say that I was only sad to see one of those titles slip away, but not enough to sacrifice my desire to produce something that looked and read clean.

A great deal of work goes into a book once it leaves an author's hands. The editing alone is can be hundreds of hours worth of work. Depending on the author, that task can be epic. So, if you are a writer, I don't care who you are published through, you need to relax. While much of the world has sped up, and even the publishing world has gone into turbo mode, if you want quality, then it takes time. Now if you are satisfied with being mediocre and don't care what people think when they read your book, by all means, just push the button. But when review after review mentions the absolute horror to read that is your poorly edited work, you have nobody to blame but yourself.

And if your working with an editor or publisher and they ask you to re-work something, do it. Work with them. Communicate. What you should not do is take the file they send you, delete it, and then just send back your original work minus all the edits and notes that they have sent you and a few spelling corrections. It is possible that your high-minded story idea actually goes nowhere and confuses the reader. Or perhaps you have decided that every sentence is a paragraph, but since you are NOT Cormac McCarthy, your "artistic" idea may just come across as poorly written. And if you have butchered your dialog to the point where it reads like a bad junior high English paper, maybe you should read it out loud and ask, "Do people really talk like that?"

Here's to your Monday...I hope it goes well for you and I will return on Wednesday.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Lighten up, Francis.

His name was Francis...but everybody calls him "Psycho". If you called him "Francis"...he'd kill ya. That was ripped from one of my top 10 comedies of all time, Stripes. I was reminded of that scene recently when I felt some of my old pre-anger management mindset trying to creep in and set up house.

The reasons are not important, but it did lead me to give some thought to a few things. I make no bones about how fortunate I feel for being able to do what I love for a living. And despite some poor individuals' misguided attempts to throw wrenches into my happiness, things continue to only get better. (That really has to piss my haters off to no end. to be you. Find a new hobby.)

One of the problems I have with all the tech gizmos and social media is that people hardly seem to talk face-to-face any more. Kids sit next to each other and text the person sitting less than five feet away! Some of the side effects have started to really rear their ugly heads. People ensconced at their keyboards now feel no compunction about spewing all manner of insults and nasty things about others who they DON'T EVEN KNOW. Anonymity has created false bravery as individuals motivated by anything from ignorance to simple jealousy can say whatever falls off their fingertips with impunity. I have talked about this before, but now I am seeing something disturbing, and I believe there is a connection.

I think our social disconnect is spilling into other avenues. Maybe it is just me, but I have seen more hit-and-run reports on the news than I can ever recall in my life. There is a disassociation happening. People are becoming so wrapped up in themselves that they can't see beyond their own wrists. People have just stopped caring about others. Oh sure, we give money to a cause or two...but when it comes to real interaction, we just don't care to try. It is much easier to LOL and OMG our way through life.

I know this is probably going to sound silly...but this weekend, CALL SOMEBODY. Make a live connection with another human. Maybe you have a person you have come to consider a friend, but have never spoken to except through IMs, tweets, and texting. Cross the line and take a step back to the social aspect of life without using "social media". Seriously...I think it has made us a much LESS social generation.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

For crying out loud...just SHUT UP!

I could go a lot of ways after that little banner. I could talk about people who run their mouths in ways they never would if the person they were yapping about was within punching distance...but as a writer, I feel obliged to once again call some of my brethren on the carpet.

It never ceases to amaze me when I see, read, or observe writers get bent out of shape over a bad review. Even more interesting is when they go public with their outrage. Nothing removes the mystery of why you will always be drifting in obscurity faster than when a writer goes on a public tirade because somebody failed to recognize their genius. I have one simple word of advice for all of you who think it is okay to get into a pissing contest with a blogger or random reviewer who gave you one star.

Who do you think you are? Seriously. I defy you to go any credible piece of literature and NOT find a one star review. Here are some of my favorites:

"This book was horrible I hated it omg it put me to sleep not so good hate that I needed to read this" (The Hobbit)

"This is was my first Stephen King novel and it will certainly be my last. I'm not sure why so many people recommend this book!To begin with, King takes 3 pages to explain something that he could have said in a sentence. To make matters worse, most of the details that he spends an ardously lengthy amount of time on are pointless. It is disappointing because the concept for the story has so much potential. Relative to other long books that I have read such as Les Miserables and War and Peace, The Stand is a simplistic and bland novel. The characters - who are all rednecks - as well as the plot of the story are completely uninteresting. To top it all off, the ending will leave you even more unimpressed. Overall, a terrible book." (The Stand)

"This is just your basic run-of-the mill soap opera that could be based on any modern day reality show. I'm just not that into you, Emily Bronte. Sorry. I'm giving my rose to someone else." (Wuthering Heights)

Do you get the picture yet? Bad reviews are part of the business. So when somebody says "A poorly-written knock-off of WWZ. Inconsistent in story and poorly edited, as well." (DEAD: The Ugly Beginning) You deal with it and move on. That is ONE person's opinion. You can't please everybody. If you think you can, then you are delusional and need to find another hobby. 

Yep...I said hobby. If you are confronting critics over bad reviews, then you are an amateur and have no business in THE BUSINESS. And if you are one of those lames who go crying to your Facebook toadies, sending them on mini-jihads against your "evil oppressor", then find that rock you came out from under and get back there where you belong.

Listen up, I realize that it can sting a little, but bad reviews happen to good people. Save up those certain reviews that really made you feel good. And the next time you get lambasted, pull one of the oldie-but-goodies and recharge yourself. But for the love of all that is holy, stop the damn crying. If you want to be taken seriously, then you need to accept that this is part of the job description. It really is that simple.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Can the cure for cancer be a scare away?

Get yours HERE!

The answer is...yes...sort of...

I am thrilled to announce that (while a few days late) the multi-author tome, Let's Scare Cancer to Death, is now available. Inside, you will find some very familiar names and perhaps a few that you will be meeting for the first time. Each person involved in this project did so absolutely gratis. From cover to cover (and even including that amazing art work) the work presented was given freely. Some anthologies offer a few pennies per word, others simply the contributor's copy. But to maximize the donations, nobody was compensated for his or her participation in this endeavor.

Seriously...get it HERE!
Every single penny that this baby generates will be donated to the V Foundation for Cancer Research. A check will be sent every quarter (unless the sales are such that it needs to be done monthly) on behalf of all those who participated. So many of us have been affected in one way or another by cancer. Now is your chance to do something and get some quality entertainment at the same time. I hope you will pick up your copy. The hard copy version should be up soon, so all of you traditionalists just need to wait a day or two depending on how fast it clears final review and is posted to Amazon and such.

I just want to extend my thanks one more time to all of the authors as well as our cover artist +Thomas-Andy Butnariu. This could not have happened without all of you and the work you put forth to make it happen. 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Remember the "very special" episodes from MUSTSEETV?

If you remember the 80s, then you know what I am talking about. That voice over comes in, "Next time, on a very special {insert show title}...". You knew it was going to be one of those "serious issue" episodes. Tootie gets drunk, Arnold and Willis steal a car and go on a three state killing spree...

Well, Ava fans rejoice! I am using my breaks in preparing the cancer anthology, writing the newest (and most epic to date) DEAD along with all that goes in to buying a house (in the last stages as I write this...could be any day now that I get the keys in my hand!) to chip away at the next Ava adventure. Right now, it is titled "Next, on a very special That Ghoul Ava".

I thought I would share a little taste.



Happy endings are overrated. I’m just sayin’.
After a meeting with my ghost writer, Chantal, I have decided, against my better instincts, to agree and share this story. Chantal says that sometimes a dark chapter is important; it lets the readers know that the hero is not perfect. My immediate question to her in response was to ask if she’d been paying attention to my story so far. I mean, I have two actual books under my belt (not counting the pair of short stories that I put together when I was first embarking on this adventure). So far, I would not say that I have come out looking anything like a hero.
Remember the “Must See TV” craze that NBC had going on back in the day? It started in the 80s and carried over to the early 90s. One of the things that became a bit of a staple for the sitcom was the “Next time, on a very special [insert random sitcom title here]…” As soon as you heard that voice over, you knew something bad was going to happen. Whether it was the perv who touched Arnold in his “bad place” on Different Strokes, or Tootie, Jo, Brooke and Natalie attending their first orgy, this was going to be one of those episodes that was light on laughs and heavy on the moral-of-the-story type stuff. (And I may have made up that last Facts of Life show idea, although I know a lot of teen boys who would have totally tuned in.)
This is what you might consider to be one of those stories. While I am sure that you will find more than a couple of moments to give a roll of the eyes and think, Oh, Ava, will you ever learn? This is one of those escapades that is short on ‘lighter side’ and more of the stuff that makes up real life. You know what I’m talking about…disappointment, screw ups and compounding bad decision on bad decision.
What? I’m the only one who does that? Hmm… Oh well, then I guess this will simply give you another reason to feel better about yourself at my expense.
During my little break after all of the excitement with the faeries, I did something I am not exactly proud of: I read. Now before all you literacy types get your panties bunched up, (not to mention the irony of me admitting that I hate reading as you sit comfortably someplace reading this book), I am just admitting a fact. Yes, I am a visual medium kind of girl…sue me! Although I have taken to listening to audio books lately, so a big thanks to whatever genius came up with that idea. Oh, am I blathering on? Sorry. Back to my reading.
That being said, I read a bunch of my contemporaries. I read Sookie, Anita, and Amanda. All I can say is that I must be doing it all wrong. These gals have men—or vampires, werewolves and the like—pawing at them all the time. And judging by the descriptions…it is always hunky types with six pack abs. What do I get?
Sure, I had a vampire beau, but vamps smell like hot garbage to a ghoul, so that was not all it was cracked up to be. No matter, since he is nothing but dust now. Oh…and I have an obscenely disproportionately endowed goblin named Nose Wart who sticks to me like glue.
Perhaps that was why I was so surprised when I was sitting on a bench at Washington Park just trying to enjoy the first blooms of all the rose bushes. They call Portland the Rose City for a reason. For those of you not in the know, roses are to Portland what peaches are to Georgia, beans to Boston, and cowboy hats to Texas.
Anyway, there I was just sitting on the bench…

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Are you a successful writer? Prove it!

Success. Such a peculiar word. It means something different to everybody. For some, it means overcoming an obstacle, reaching a goal, or...getting paid.

I enjoyed a brief visit with +Robb Olson, co-host of +Booked Podcast with +Livius Nedin. We shared some food (Voodoo Doughnuts and bacon wrapped dates) and conversation. WHen I first met the Booked gang, I was in the early stages of my endeavor as a writer and editor. They took notice of one of our anthologies (Midnight Movie Creature Feature) because of a brilliant story titled "Revenge of the Zombie Pussy Eaters"--and don't knock it until you read it...I almost passed on it based on the title alone. Had I done so, I would have never met Robb, Livius, or become aware of the amazing Booked Podcast.

During the visit, I was able to share with Robb how my fortunes have changed so drastically in the past two years. He was able to share a very cool podcast endeavor that will be coming soon to the Booked faithful. It was a nice visit. But it got me to thinking about the idea of success.

As a writer, how do I judge my success? By sales? How do YOU judge your success? (And since I am tossing questions to writers, I will toss one to readers--How do you determine a writer's success?)

I have done a lot over the years, from tracking Soviet submarines during the height of the Cold War, to playing in a band (I had to teach myself guitar along the way), to run in these "extreme" runs. Each one of them has ways to measure your success. But as a writer, I find that measuring stick to be based on very different factors.

When I saw my first book in my hand, there was a very special feeling. But I knew then that it was only a start. For me, my success had a few layers. I wanted to be a writer...not just somebody who writes. That meant one thing--SALES.

I have never made any claims that I am trying to leave a legacy or create a piece of work for the ages. I write zombie fiction for crying out loud. I wanted to earn enough as a writer to support my family. Those first years, I made barely enough to call it a hobby with monetary benefits. However, things started to pick up...word spread...readers began to grow in number. In April of 2012, I quit my "day job" (delivering newspapers in the wee hours and phone books during the day) to write and edit full time.

Looking down into the backyard of my new home!
I have had hills and valleys since then, but next month I am moving in to a house in the hills with a three-tiered backyard that has ponds, waterfalls, and about a hundred different exotic plants. The kicker is that it is ME buying the house! This house is the culmination of my dreams. I made it. SUCCESS!

However, none of this would happen if the stories were not good...if the readers did not see something of value. So then I had to think about those other layers a bit more. I have often said that the biggest thrill for me is to think that I provoke REAL human emotion based solely on words I put in sequence. When I get emails from people who say that I made them actually laugh out loud, I wear that like a badge of honor. (As opposed to LOL, which we often type...but did you? Did you really just LOL? Yeah...I didn't think so.) Guess what? SUCCESS!

So, what do you feel makes you a success as a writer? For some, it may simply be the act of completing a book. A lot of people SAY they are going to write one, but eventually discover that it really is a lot of work. For some, it may be getting that first reader that is not a friend or family member to crack the spine. The fact is, it will be different for each of us. It may have nothing to do with sales figures at all.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Welcome back from the land of the (nearly) dead...

Okay, I am over exaggerating a bit, but I have it on good authority from actual women that kidney stones is at least as bad, but usually worse on the pain meter than child birth. And if you are curious, I named my 4mm bundle of pain "Karl".

So, now that I am almost back to normal (the residual pain feels like a constant runner's stitch) and totally pain med free, it is back to normal...sort of.

Get your copy HERE!

Welcome to the month of March and I am pleased to announce that this month's title is DEAD TREES by the lovely and talented Eli Constant. Some of you may be wondering what this book might be about. Well, let's let Eli tell you in this well crafted blurb:

Subterranean humanoids, existing since the dawn of man, arose from the belly of the planet. Humanity was unprepared. The undergrounders came with nails and claws and speed to kill people in the night, dragging bodies downward into dark tunnels teeming with rabid life. Civilization is now a ghost of yesterday and the remaining humans fight for survival.

One thing’s for sure- a scientist mommy battling beasties better be handy with a scalpel.

Elise Swanson is a widow and mother. She fights and prays that she can keep her little, broken family safe. She drives and drives, day after day, trying to escape a threat that seems… inescapable. Her hope fades, food is scarce and she watches her eldest daughter’s attempts to soothe the younger babe. Then she meets Jason- a father mourning the loss of his son, masking his pain with bravado and charm. He’s strong, despite his sadness, and love re-grows within him. Weeks pass and Jason’s singular desire becomes the continued safety of Elise and her daughters.

Bloody fights with beasties define the survival-road the companions travel. Even a few moments of safety and relaxation elude the group; time and time again, Elise must kiss her children goodbye, just in case tomorrow never arrives.

Against all odds, they reach a government safe zone. Even there, Elise finds that there’s no rest for the weary.

Doctors O’Toole and Peters have been studying the beasties under lock and key, trying to find an answer, but the doctors aren’t interested in saving humanity. Forced to lead two lives, Elise assists the good doctors in their pursuits while working secretly in sublevel lab 8 with her own team, Nick and Jamie. Their combined knowledge may be the key- the only hope humanity has of reclaiming the planet from the beasties. As long as they can keep their research secret, safe from O’Toole and Peters, they might discover the way home, the formula to click Dorothy’s sparkling red shoes three times and begin to recreate Earth as it was… before the humanoids came out to play on the surface.

What will happen when Elise, a neural engineer, Jamie, a medical researcher, and Nick, a computer wizard, are humanity’s best hope? The answer might be surprising. Wrapped up in all the uncertainty, violence, science lingo and beasties, they will find a strange solution to a new Earth.

And her name is Margaret.

Okay...that should at least have you curious. So get yours now. If you have Amazon Prime, make it your borrowed selection of the month. (Eli still gets paid, so that is a win-win!) Come back on Wednesday where I tell you how we are going to help cure cancer....seriously.