Thursday, December 15, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Image borrowed from www.irenesdreams.com wallpaper designs.
Well, it's that season. The nights are cold, the wind howls through the eaves and snow blankets the land... unless you live in northern California, where the air turns crisp, fog obscures the landscape, and rain falls for weeks at a time. I don't mind, I love the fog and rain. I'd like a little snow now and then and I miss the four seasons I grew up with, but I can't complain. In fact, I have so many blessings. I try to remember to be thankful for them each and every day. I also try to remember that so many others have so little, especially in times of economic turmoil like these. When I can afford to, I try to give to charity. When I can't, I still offer my prayers and best wishes. I would encourage you to do the same.

Reflections:

It's been a strange, wonderful year for me. Financial hardships seemed trifling as I reached for my dreams and took my destiny in hand. With a whole new landscape of possibilities, I turned my back on years of meaningless come-ons, long-waited rejections and apathetic disregard. I took the leap into the great unknown one year ago. I followed the footsteps of the very few, walking a path that at the time seemed fraught with peril. Until this last year, self-publishing was the last resort of talentless losers who were doomed to be forever rejected by the all-powerful gatekeepers of our sacred treasury of commercial literature. Those who dared, inevitably failed. Their humiliation was public, and they were forever kept in disregard by those powerful figures who frowned down upon us from above. Then something changed. A few new opportunities opened up. A few brave people took those first steps, and a lot more of us followed.

I live in a world that has changed so much I can barely quantify it all. Self-publishers are now Indie Authors or Indie Publishers, not the hapless rejects we've always been told they were. In fact, some of them are making millions of dollars. Many of them are outselling traditionally published authors. E-books outsell paper books to the tune of millions of dollars now, and sales are increasing more than 100% year over year (paper sales are dropping nearly as fast as e-book sales are rising). Big publishing houses are struggling to keep their doors open and to keep e-books down, but it's not working. Big bookstores are vanishing at astonishing speed, along with their small independent counterparts.

In my little corner of the landscape, sales are climbing as they have been all year. When I first began publishing this spring, I was seeing an average of two or maybe four sales per day. Over the summer, Amazon juggled things around and a lot of e-publishers lost market share. Not me. My sales crept up to eight per day, then ten, then twelve. I now average almost twenty book sales per day and that number keeps rising.

Compared to the big boys, I suppose that's not a lot, but it means a lot to me. First of all, it's validation. It tells me that I can write sell-able books. It tells me that some people out there do like my writing. In fact, some of them like my writing enough to buy all my books, give me five-star reviews, and tell all of their friends about me. And the fact that my sales have built steadily throughout the year confirms to me that what is happening is word-of-mouth. It has to be, because unlike the big boys, I have no ad money. I have no marketing campaign, no commercials, no standup at the front of Barnes & Noble. And when it comes to visibility, I'm at the back of the line. My books don't show up on the front page anywhere, and they won't until I've sold tens of thousands. But maybe, someday...

In the meanwhile I'm going to savor the rest of the season. I'll watch my trivial book sales add up with a growing sense of satisfaction, but I'll keep writing. And I'll enjoy the company of family and friends. I'll enjoy good food and health, and I'll relish the many blessings that I enjoy, and I'll wish the same for all of you.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Tinkerer's Daughter featured on Daily Cheap Reads, and a great (and touching) review!

First an announcement: The Tinkerer's Daughter will be featured on Daily Cheap Reads on Thursday. This is a great site that goes out of their way to provide exposure for Indie authors and books. They require a minimum of reviews, so they don't just put every $0.99 novel up there. They're trying to promote books not just based on price, but on value. Please check it out, and bookmark the site for future reference. If you own a Kindle this is definitely a place to visit frequently.

Now, onto other matters. I don't like to pay too much attention to reviews because a writer can easily obsess over these things. If we take them too seriously, a bad review can seem devastating and a great review can be unduly ego-inflating. When it comes to matters of the ego and depression, writers are notorious, so it's best to take everything we read with a grain of salt and focus on putting our creative energies into our work. I try to do that, and for the most part I think I do it fairly well.

Some readers may remember the last time I mentioned a review here. It was a turning point... my first ever one-star review. You can read that post here. I won't revisit it now, but... I've never pointed out a review that made me feel especially good. I have had a decent number of four and five star reviews since I began publishing earlier this year, but as I said, I've done my best to take it all with a grain of salt. This weekend I got a review that I couldn't just ignore, because it was so touching. The review was done by Dale at Chilli Tween Reads. This is a sample of what he had to say about The Tinkerer's Daughter:

"I cracked this open on my kindle reader this morning and found myself unable to put it down. The story unfolds beautifully with just enough action and drama to quickly draw you into Breeze's world... The story is well set in a pre-industrial revolution time period. A time that conjures up the amazing worlds of Jules Verne or H. G. Wells. To spice things up and add a new twist to the nascent steampunk world he adds a touch of elfish type high fantasy.

"Sedgwick has a narrative style that is reminiscent of the old masters like Edgar Rice Burroughs, (he wrote Tarzan). His narration powers ahead like a locomotive on full steam. Smashing through chapter after chapter of suspense and excitement... The last story of Sedgwick's I reviewed was so fundamentally different to the story here, the only commonality is the excellent writing."

Wow. Did Dale really mention my name in the same sentence with Edgar Rice Burroughs? Now mind you, I'm not going to blow this out of proportion. It was a compliment, and I'm sure Dale in no way meant to compare me to the literary greats he mentioned. I know better than anyone that I walk in the shadow of these giants and I'll never come close to their talent except when I read (re-read) their books. But to have a reviewer tell me that I cast their reflection is the greatest compliment I could possibly receive. I grew up on books by Burroughs, H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, and J.R.R. Tolkien. They were my literary bread and butter, and I still consider them to be some of the best writers who ever put pen to paper.I know I don't have the literary skill nor the imagination of these writers, but to hear that my words recall something of them, is the greatest possible compliment. I hope someday I can live up to it.

Thanks Dale, and all the other bloggers and reviewers out there who take the time to spread the word about my books. I don't have the deep pockets it takes to promote a novel. I can't buy commercials or ad space, and I can't afford much more than the few dollars that I spend on stock photos for my covers. It's word of mouth and reviews that get my books to new readers, and I couldn't do it without you guys. I know you're overwhelmed by the number of authors looking for a review these days, but take heart in the fact that we really do appreciate you. We need you. And here's something else for you to think about:

The publishing business used to have 'gatekeepers,' people whose sole job it was to determine who got in and who didn't. Originally, it was editors. Then it was assistants. Then the publishers passed the job on to agents. Then the paradigm shifted, and you know all about that. This is the fallout. Writers publish themselves. Retailer/ distributors get our books to readers. Up until that point, there are no more gatekeepers. No more literary agents,  junior editors, or editors in chief. It's all up to the people now. Those who seek out our work, who enjoy it enough to review it and share it with others; these are the gatekeepers who make or break our careers. Bloggers can pass the word on to hundreds or even thousands of potential customers all at once. We need you guys in ways you don't even know. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

R.I.P. Anne McCaffrey (1926-2011)

Fantasy author Anne McCaffrey has passed away this week at the age of 85. I will never forget her books or the magical world of Pern, where humans ride dragons, flitting back and forth between the dangers of reality and the stark emptiness of the nether. Anne's work was inspirational, unique, and unforgettable.

I first experienced Pern in the third or fourth grade when a teacher handed me Dragonflight, the first book of the series Dragonriders of Pern. I went on to voraciously read everything else Anne had written. I can't deny there were many times I fantasized about writing my own books about people who ride dragons and communicate with them telepathically. The idea was just so cool, so unique. It spoke to me in the same way that the elves of Middle Earth did. In my mind, Pern almost became real. It was a place I wanted to visit, if not live.

In time, I grew up and began building my own worlds. I didn't copy Anne, even if I might have liked to, but I still allow myself the luxury of returning to her world now and then. I guess it's time to pull those old books off the shelf. Rest in Peace Anne McCaffrey, and thank you for everything you've given us.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

New release! Murder in the Boughs, Nov. 15, 2011

UPDATE: Murder in the Boughs, Hank Mossberg, Private Ogre Book One is now available:

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Smashwords

Murder isn't showing up on the B&N page or search results yet, but I am assured it's live. It can take some time to start showing up in search results. Also, for posterity, here's the shortened version of the blurb:

Mike Hammer meets Grimm's Fairy Tales in a world where nymphs walk darkened streets, imps are slave traders, and gnomes are elite hackers. In Jamie Sedgwick's new mystery, Murder in the Boughs, Hank Mossberg is a hard-boiled San Francisco detective who must race against time to rescue a kidnapped girl, expose a ring of "pixie dust" dealers, and find the killer of a high-elven San Francisco kingpin



Original  post:

Murder in the Boughs will be available Nov. 15. Those of you who get my newsletter already have the info on how to get a FREE advance review copy of the e-book. I will also be giving away several paper copies through Goodreads, and maybe a copy or two through this blog as well. I'll post all pertinent links when they're available. In the meanwhile, this is what it's all about:

Murder in the Boughs, 
Hank Mossberg, Private Ogre Book 1

Mike Hammer meets Grimm's Fairy Tales in Jamie Sedgwick's new mystery, Murder in the Boughs. Hank Mossberg is a hard-boiled San Francisco detective with his feet in two very different worlds. The first is the gritty concrete jungle, where Hank's unique skills allow him to track down the city's most notorious criminals, some of whom the police can't or won't even believe in. The second is the undercity, the hidden side of San Francisco where elven mobsters rule the underworld, nymphs walk darkened streets, imps are slave traders, and gnomes are elite hackers.

The trouble begins when Hank stumbles onto a briefcase full of the illicit drug known as pixie dust. He finally has the evidence he needs to bring down the notorious Kaiser gang, but then the gang's leader is murdered and the pixie dust disappears. Hank is hot on the trail of the killer when he gets an urgent call from a desperate woman whose daughter has been kidnapped, only the kidnapper is no ordinary criminal, and even Hank's unique skills might not be enough to bring the girl home.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Review: Velocity Cruz Android 2.0 tablet

 

We all know about the Kindle and the forthcoming Kindle Fire. We also know about the iPad and the tsunami of tablets converging on the market. I was curious about some of these gadgets, and I had the opportunity to do some shopping for a relative's birthday this weekend. After a lot of comparing, I chose the T103 Cruz by Velocity, based on a combination of features and price. I purchased this particular Android tablet on sale for about $89 from Tiger Direct's Amazon storefront.    


Features:

    Full color TFT display
    7” diagonal 16:9 800x480 screen
    Capacitive touch screen – ultra responsive!
    Android 2.0
    512MB RAM
    4GB AND 8GB bundled SD cards
    Supports PDF, TXT, HTML reader files
    MP3, WMA, AAC, WAV audio support
    MPEG-4, H.264, H.263, MOV, AVI video support
    JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP image support
    802.11n wifi
    Built in speakers
    Microphone
    Headphone jack
    Mini USB
    Li-Ion battery - up to 10+ hours of life, 24+ standby
    Dimensions: 7.5"x 4.75"x .6"

Pros:
Of immediate note is the battery life of 10+ hours. At this point, we don't have a full 10 hours on the device but the battery life is definitely holding up. After several hours of use both Saturday night and throughout Sunday, the battery is still at 50% capacity. Most of this time was spent surfing the internet and watching YouTube movies (the proud recipient of this device is a 12 year-old boy). The video and sound on this thing are crystal clear! I was amazed by the quality of video. The 7 inch back-lit display left me in awe; it's perfectly suited for the type of video you find on the internet, probably producing a higher quality image than a desktop monitor due to the small screen.

The wifi setup was quick and painless. Email was a bit trickier but still not difficult, once I understood the menu interface. Being an Andriod system, the menu button brings up options on just about every screen, from the home screen to the various addons and apps. A number of apps come preinstalled, including email, internet, app store, a notepad and an office suite. I must also mention that this is a capacitive touch screen(like an iPhone), which is fast becoming the standard. You can smoothly navigate the menus and apps with a touch, and you can also flip the pages of your e-books by sliding your finger across the edge of the screen. The display also turns automatically when you rotate the tablet side to side, or even upside down, and it has similar zoom and scroll features to what you'd find on an Android or iPhone.

Obviously, the pros of a device like this are many. The color touchscreen is gorgeous and provides most of the functionality we've come to expect from much higher priced devices. Battery life is phenomenal so far. The built-in 500 megabytes of memory are supplemented by two SD cards with an additional 12 gigs of storage space! Sound and video are good, setup is easy and intuitive, and features abound. It can play and store music and movies as well as e-books, and can run numerous e-book apps (I installed the Kindle app right away and it works just fine).
 
The cons:

    With all the features and accessories for this device, for some reason the manufacturer chose not to to include a paper manual. This is a minor inconvenience since the manual is available in electronic format in the apps menu... if you can figure out how to operate the menu system and then locate the strangely titled app. (Couldn't they just call it the Owner's Manual, or something similarly obvious?)

    Start-up is surprisingly slow. I expected it to turn right on like a cell phone or any other electronic device that doesn't have a hard drive, but no, this thing takes forty-five seconds to start up. 

Obviously this $100 (or less) tablet doesn't come with 3g or any other cellular network. (That may be a con to some, but in my opinion this type of device doesn't need it. Why pay $40 a month for a digital plan when most of us are rarely more than a few minutes away from wifi? And for those times we are away, we've got 12 gigs of storage. That's a lot of music, video, and e books.)

    Daylight, full-sun viewing: Ain't gonna happen. This is a backlit screen, and in this aspect it's inferior to the Kindle's e-ink. Surfing the internet or checking your email under these circumstances will be tough, and this is NOT how you want to read a book. The screen glare is horrible in sunlight. There may be screen accessories on the market to improve this problem, but I still don't think the experience would compare to the Kindle's simple, elegant screen.

Summary:

This technology is amazing and is certain to change the world. We can purchase a device with this capability for less than $100, and that price is only going down. That said, a tablet like this is not a PC, or even a laptop. This device is awesome for surfing the internet and entertainment, but I wouldn't want to write 100,000 words on it. Or even 10,000. As cool as it is, its not a replacement for a laptop, nor is it a replacement for a Kindle if you're an avid reader. The true Constant Reader will want a device that can download books as well as display them anywhere, under any circumstances. The fact that you need shade to use this device knocks it out of that competition for a lot of people.

If you're looking for something with vast functionality, a sort of electronic jack-of-all-trades, this or a similar device may be for you. Kids will LOVE these. However, if you're looking for a device specifically for reading, you may find the Kindle to be a more appropriate purchase.

I'll give the Cruz a few weeks and update this review. I'll be taking note of things like battery life, performance, and (hopefully) consistent functionality. I'll also be looking for a chance to try out a Kindle Fire and compare features.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Death of Publishing

  I've never been one to cheer on the death of the  publishing industry. I've questioned their policies and I've wondered about their business practices, but it has always been my dream to walk into a bookstore and see my books on the shelf. Over the last few years, I've watched mystified as they shunned their own midlist authors and closed their doors to new writers. I've watched them completely ignore espresso printing machines that can sit in a bookstore and print on demand any book you want in less than ten minutes. I've watched them do their best to destroy this new electronic e-book medium. Instead of opening their doors and giving everyone a shot (ultimately allowing only the best sellers to reach print) they've shut their doors entirely and overpriced digital books, in many cases even more than their paper counterparts.

In April of 2009, Mary Walters wrote a blog post that was something of an open letter to literary agents and publishers. This post set the internet aflame at the time. I remember reading seething responses on a number of agents' websites, followed by page after page of comments agreeing with everything the agents had to say. Of course, in those days you had to follow an agent's blog if you ever hoped for that agent to read your submission, thereby giving it a chance to get to an editor at a publishing house. Agents didn't actually say that you had to kiss butt, but the implication was there and nobody did anything to downplay the idea. After all, if an agent says you must read and comment on my blog, research my preferences, and mention these things when you submit to me, that agent is clearly fishing for something other than great writers.

If you take a look at her bio, Mary is an award winning writer who has published books traditionally and served as Editor in Chief for a legacy publisher. The publishing world looked different a few years ago, and Mary made this post at no small peril to her own career. In those days the e-book was really just a fledgling idea and no one was really making money at it. Careers were both made and destroyed by those we once called the gatekeepers. You may know them as 'literary agents.' Here's a sampling of what Mary said:


"...I am a member of a growing company of writers of literary fiction whose works you have never seen and probably never will.It’s not that we are lacking in the talent and credentials that might attract your interest: indeed, we have already published one or two or three books with respectable literary presses, attracting not only critical acclaim but even awards for writing excellence. Our work has been hailed as distinctive, thoughtful, darkly comic. As fresh. Even as important! Reviewers have compared us to Atwood, Boyle and Seth. To Tyler, Winton, Le Carre.That you have never heard of us nor read a single paragraph we’ve written is not—as you might think—a side effect of the cutbacks, mergers and downsizings that have devastated the book-publishing industry in recent months. Nor is it yet more evidence of the impact of electronic media on the printed word.
No.
The substantial and nearly unassailable wall that separates you from us has been under construction for decades. You can find the names of its architects and gatekeepers on your telephone-callers list, and in your email in-box. They are the literary agents—that league of intellectual-property purveyors who bring you every new manuscript you ever see, those men and women who are so anxious to gain access to the caverns of treasure they believe you sit upon like some great golden goose that they would likely hack one another’s heads off were they not united by one self-serving mission: to ensure that quality fiction never hits your desk..."

 Writers are still adding new comments to this post, and no wonder. It seems a lot of people got tired of playing the waiting game with agents who were too busy blogging and taking month-long vacations to respond to their submissions. It was that bad, and even worse. The internet is still of complaints about how agents signed authors and then ignored them, how agents made them jump through hoops revising again and again only to finally reject the finished work, or agents who never bothered to respond at all. These same agents who required writers to research them, read and comment on their blogs, and address their submissions by name, could not be bothered to respond at all. In some cases, they couldn't even be bothered to respond to writers who they were contracted with.

A few days ago, Kristine Kathryn Rusch made a similar post, this time regarding the practices of publishing house editors.  Kristine is another award winning and incredibly prolific writer (numerous genres and pseudonyms), and says:

"In the past two days, two different editors have told me that I don’t know how publishing works. One deigned to explain to me how something in book production worked when I questioned a scheduling problem in the publishing house. The other told me I had no idea how to write a good book in my genre...
I probably wouldn’t be this mad if it weren’t for the other editors who have treated me this way. The mystery editor with two years experience who told me—an Edgar-nominated, multiple-EQMM reader’s choice winner, and a bestselling mystery writer—that I don’t know the mystery genre. The agent who told me—the award-winner in every genre I’ve tried including mainstream—that I don’t write well enough to publish a novel into the mainstream.  The sf editor who told me—the bestselling, Hugo-award-winning editor & writer—that I don’t know what science fiction is. The unreturned phone calls, the unanswered important emails, the unfulfilled promises, and the lies.
I’m really tired of the lies."

Ouch. I can only shake my head when I read stories like this. It seems that publishing houses think they're too big to fail. I guess that's easy to believe if you also believe you're just selling paper. Problem is, that's not true. There is a degree of skill and creative talent involved in the creation of a novel, and now some of those pesky authors have decided to work for themselves. Agents are turning into publishers and authors are turning into publishers and publishers are turning into... what?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Wine Country Update and Seasonal Wrap-up

Well, it's that time of year, as the image to the left shows. I took this picture a few days ago. At the time I had just racked my first ever batch of Chardonnay. For the non-initiated, that means that after my wine finished fermenting, I allowed the dead yeast and 'lees' to settle to the bottom of the fermenter, and then I transferred the wine into clean containers to rest and age. I have about 5 1/2 gallons of chardonnay, which will make about 25 bottles when it's ready.

I also have 1 1/2 gallons of wine I made from wild california grapes (vitis californica) which I found growing along the riverbanks. That batch was high in acid and low in sugar, but with a few adjustments I think it might turn out okay. Next to that, I have two gallons of pear-mead, thanks to my sister's vigorous pear tree. That was from earlier this summer and I think it's almost ready to bottle :-)

And now the best part... tomorrow, I'm scheduled to go pick up 250 lbs. of Cabernet grapes. Cab has been trouble the last couple of years. It's the last grape to finish, and between the late frosts, early rain, and generally cooler summers, Cab has suffered. Anybody who tells you different is lying. 2010-2011 Cabs will only be good based on the experience and skill of the winemaker, presuming they came from NorCal. A few vineyards  with good sun and high altitude might skate by with little damage, but as of last week local vintners were scrambling to pull the Malbec and Petit grapes before they exploded. Literally. That's what happens when the grapes are almost ripe and then we get rain. They swell up like water balloons and explode when you touch them. Or look at them. Or walk by.

Anyway, the weather has warmed this last week, creeping up into the low 80's. Hopefully, that will be enough to put my grapes in the right sugar/acid balance so I don't have to fuss with them too much. If all goes well, my 250 pounds of grapes might turn into 75+ bottles (I know, small play but I'm working up to a full barrel). So wish me luck!

So, as of October 2011, here's the damage (both in wine and text):

Vino:

2 Gallons Strawberry Wine
1 1/2 Gallons Blackberry Wine
1 1/2 Gallons Wildvine Wine
2 Gallons Pear-mead
5 1/2 Gallons Chardonnay (skin-fermented)
15-20 Gallons Cabernet Sauvignon (coming soon!)

Literature:

5 Novels published
1 Anthology published
2 Shorts published individually

3 Novels written (two in revision for late 2011 publication, one on hold until the time is right)

Plans:

By the end of the year I'd like to finish one more book, but I'm torn about what to write. I could work on the sequel to Tinkerer, which would be the logical step since Tinkerer is far and away my best seller, but I'd like to work on a sequel to Murder in the Boughs, even though the first book isn't pubbed yet and I have no how the public will receive it. Yeah, I know what my agent would say right now, but I don't have an agent. So do I follow my heart, or do I follow the $$$? Can I do both? We'll see how the year pans out.

I hope the rest of you are enjoying your autumn, and I hope you're ready for the holiday season... it's almost here!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Hank Mossberg, Private Ogre...

Coming this fall:
 


Mike Hammer meets Grimm’s Fairy Tales in Jamie Sedgwick’s new mystery, “Murder in the Boughs.” Hank Mossberg is a hardboiled San Francisco detective with his feet in two very different worlds. The first is the gritty concrete jungle, where Hank’s unique skills allow him to track down the city’s most notorious criminals, some of whom the police can’t or won’t even believe in. The other is the undercity, the hidden side of San Francisco where elven mobsters rule the underworld, nymphs walk darkened streets, imps are slave traders, and gnomes are elite hackers. 

Hank’s troubles begin when he stumbles onto a briefcase full of the illicit drug known as “pixie dust.” Hank thinks he finally has the evidence to bring down the notorious Kaiser gang, but when the gang’s leader, a high-elven kingpin known as Anthony Kaiser is murdered, it’s Hank’s job to solve the crime. Then Hank gets an urgent call from a desperate mother whose daughter has been kidnapped. But the kidnapper is no ordinary criminal, and even Hank’s unique skills might not be enough to bring the girl home.


 Murder in the Boughs will be available soon. Also coming this year, Shadow Born, part two: Shadow Rising.

To get a free advance release preview of my upcoming titles, sign up for my newsletter! In the meanwhile, stay tuned here for more news!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Amazon sets the e-book world on Fire



Unless you've been living under a rock, you know about Amazon's latest gadget, the Kindle Fire. Amazon announced this beauty a few days ago and since then the internet's been burning up with speculation about how this will affect the tablet business, e-books, media devices, and more specifically the Apple iPad.

I can only speculate (just like everyone else) as to how this will work, but here are my thoughts:

First, this gadget is cool. It's everything I want that a Kindle is not. It has a full color screen, and full media capabilities. It also has a touchscreen, and it has wifi. That means I can access Amazon's content just about anywhere, as long as I'm near a coffee shop, McDonald's, or a town square. Some reviewers have already bemoaned the lack of 3G. Okay, fair enough. These people don't want convenience, they want more. Being able to access the internet just about anywhere is convenient. Being able to access it anywhere, all the time, is more than convenient. And frankly, it's more than 3G provides.

For $199 bucks, that's something I'm willing to accept. I don't need to download a movie or e-book from the top of a mountain. I'll download it before I go and save an extra $600 or so over buying an iPad. I'll also save $50 a month on the data plan they've been trying to force down my throat, thank you very much.

The Kindle Fire runs an Android operating system which means it will run apps, and Amazon will have a convenient app store waiting for you. Here's another cool feature. Note the book covers lined up on the screen below, almost like a bookshelf. Full color and magnificent, almost real books on an almost real shelf. You touch them and scroll back and forth, allowing you to view your entire library with a touch of your finger, or shop for new titles just as easily. That's pretty cool.



What more can you do, besides read books, magazines, and comic books? You can listen to music, watch movies, surf the internet, and no doubt play games. There's no telling where this will go but in my opinion, the $199 price point and the extreme value of this personal media device mean that iPad may be in trouble. Eventually. Check out this quote from the Harvard Business Review:

"...for a relatively lengthy time period, both Amazon and Apple will thrive. But at the same time, both will be improving their products. Apple will continue to pump out more powerful, often higher-priced, tablets... Meanwhile, the Kindle Fire will improve as well — coming to be able to perform ever more of the functions that an iPad can perform at a significantly lower price point... At that point, it will be too late for Apple to respond and the tablet market leader will no longer be Apple. It will be Amazon.

"Students of disruptive innovation have seen this phenomenon play out in numerous industries: steel, disk drives, microchips, computers, automobiles, retail, music recordings, and aerospace to name a few. And the initial symptom is always the same — a competitor enters the market with an "inferior" product offering that the incumbent player simply refuses to worry about..."


Is Apple going to get in front of this and do something about it? It's hard to say, but there's a lot of skepticism out there. I've lost count of the articles and commentary I've read over the last few days claiming this device is a failure and that it can never compete with the iPad. Are they right? I don't know. But I know which one I'm buying.


And the ear-shattering question that nobody seems to be asking? How will this affect the paper book market?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Dark Shadows



 I have a hard time keeping up on the news about upcoming movies, especially since Hollywood has finally realized that good fantasy and horror can draw an audience and therefore it seems every studio must release a new genre film every few months, at most. The latest news that snuck up on me: living legends Tim Burton and Johnny Depp have teamed up once again, this time in a film remake of the 60's Gothic soap opera Dark Shadows.

It appears that the release date for this film has already been changed once or twice (no surprise with Depp working on Pirates of the Caribbean films) but IMDB now shows the release date as May, 2012. As with every Burton flick, an entire cast of wonderful actors will work alongside Depp, including: Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass and others), Helena Bonham Carter (Harry Potter films, etc.), Christopher Lee, and the gorgeous Michelle Pfeiffer.

I've been aware of this old TV series for a long time, but I don't think I've ever watched an episode, which is probably unusual considering I love vampire films and monster movies. I have a collection of old films on DVD that includes all of the old black & white Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Wolf Man movies, including the sequels and most of the remakes. I have the entire Blade series on DVD, including the TV show. Also, The Interview with the Vampire and Queen of the Damned, and the Dracula 2000 movie with Johnny Lee Miller, who's also in the Dark Shadows cast. I could go on but I think you get the point. I've even considered writing some vampire fiction, though lately I've been consumed by my fantasy writing and since vampires have become so... sparkly lately, I'm not sure my book ideas would sell right now.

I think I was probably dissuaded from watching the series by the angst and drama of soaps in general, in which it can take forever for anything to happen and most of the efforts towards tension and conflict are quite poorly done. I don't know. I suppose I'm going to have to go look up the series on Netflix or Hulu and watch it all now. Thanks, Tim Burton and Johnny Depp. I think.

Cineplex Movie Blog

Dark Shadows News

Friday, September 30, 2011

Have I got an idea for you!

  
That's one of the usual reactions you get when you tell someone you're a writer.

It's incredible how forthcoming people are with their great ideas. Don't they know that they could take their great idea, write it into a book, and sell it for millions of dollars? Of course they do! But why should they do that, when all they have to do is give their idea to a writer-friend and have that person do all of the actual work? Then, the "idea man" can just sit back and collect the profits from his brilliance. That's what America's all about right?
 


And of course, us authors being the friendly, congenial, and tactful people we are, rarely have the backbone (or discourtesy, depending on the situation) to tell these helpful people that we already have lots and lots of ideas that we'd love to write, if only we had the time. Nor do we mention that the spaceship discovered by archeologists under 100 feet of ice in Antarctica premise has already been done,or that the half-elven prince in search of a magical sword to save the kingdom really isn't that great of an idea anymore.

One of the things writers learn through thousands of hours of experience is that the story's premise usually has very little to do with its success. A premise is a gimmick. It's a spaceship in the ice or a magical sword (or ring) and that's all it is. A bad writer can take these ideas and kill them. A great writer can turn them into bestsellers. In either version, the premise remains the same. It's the execution that matters. One of the things I love to read in reviews is "I loved this character so much!" When I hear that, I know I've connected with someone. I've taken an empty page and turned it into a story, and more importantly, into characters that my readers can actually feel for. That's not to say I'm a great writer, though I would certainly like to be at least good on some level, but it does tell me that I have succeeded somewhere, with some readers, at doing what I'm supposed to.

Now here's the crux of the matter: Your idea won't work for me. 

What does that mean? Well, it's like this. In order for me to develop a world and characters that seem real and organic, I have to be interested. And the ideas that interest me most are the ones that I create, because those come from the places that my mind goes when I'm being creative. And being a writer, I have lots and lots of ideas like that. I have notebooks full of them, waiting for me to explore and create and refine them into stories. I have a lifetime's worth of notes sitting under my desk right now, and I'll probably never get to half of them. And with that being the case, why would I invest hundreds of hours in someone else's idea, doing months of labor all by myself, and then happily hand over a percentage of the profits? That doesn't make sense at any level. Imagine going up to an architect and saying, "Hey, I've got this idea for a house! It's got a steep roof and gables, and a really long covered porch. Why don't you build it and then give me half the profits?" I can't think of any trade where someone would expect that, except with a writer.That's not to say that the spaceship under the ice doesn't have potential. It does. But it's not for me to write, it's for the person who had the idea.

Now, if a person should feel like they really want to help a writer out, here's a good way to do that: Buy his or her book. Review it. Tell some friends about it. Spread the word. Building that kind of relationship with a writer is likely to be far more rewarding than offering him or her that great idea and creating an awkward, uncomfortable situation for everyone involved. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Melanie Nilles guest post

This week's guest is Melanie Nilles, another Indie fantasy author from the Kindleboards. She has a new fantasy book out (her 12th title!): Tiger Born


The Writing Journey of Melanie Nilles:


I've been writing for a long time. It started in grade school, but I didn't get serious about it until I was a freshman in college.  I always loved making up stories, but I had always loved reading. The problem was that I have always been picky about what I'll read. I started writing as a fun escape from the difficulties of my life and to create stories that I would want to read.

Going back into grade school, I remember the first time we were asked to write our own stories. It was in third grade, and I won't forget how that story took Thumbelina and turned it, but my ending was a letdown. You know, I have a terrible memory, but I can still envision that classroom and that story. It sticks in my mind quite clearly.

We also had a program in our schools back then called the Young Authors program. One student from each class at all the local schools was chosen to attend this conference. We created our own stories and submitted them to be accepted. I had always wanted to go and you could only ever attend once between first and sixth grade;  and in sixth grade, I was finally chosen. I remember listening to a children's book author talk, although I can't remember what it was about. I asked my mom to buy one of his books for me and he signed it. While a mouse chewed a corner of that book, it still meant something to me. It was the first time I had an autographed book and got to meet an author in person.

While at the conference, we were put into groups and asked to write a short story. I had trouble making something up on the spot but I managed. It was pretty lame, even by my standards back then, but that was our task, so I did it.

I didn't do much with writing after that, except for letters (actual handwritten, snail-mailed stamped letters because we didn't have internet back then). I had half a dozen pen pals I wrote back and forth to at one point and I enjoyed it. It was a way to express myself, especially in high school.

But it was in college that I really focused on creating characters and a plot and actions that built to a climax.  I put down my first novel then and was hooked ever since on that writer's high of immersing oneself in another world and letting the characters talk through the author in the act of putting words on paper. I used a spiral-bound notebook and typed it out late at night in the computer lab in those first three years of college.

In my fourth year of college, I bought my own computer. I had trouble creating at the keyboard and found it easier to write in a notebook that I could easily stuff into my backpack during classes and come out when I had time between. In the evenings, I'd type out anything I wrote. I later started creating at the keyboard. I was lucky to finish one novel a year to that point and thought that was pretty good, although my writing was terrible back then. Workshops and critique groups over the years have helped me improve greatly.

It took sixteen years and about six or seven trunked novels since my college freshman year to write a story that a small publisher contracted. I was never a short story writer, but I loved novels and this one was part of a series. That's when things started happening for me, and that was only three years ago. Since then, the publishing landscape has already changed.

Two years ago, I decided to start self-publishing with Amazon's Kindle program and Smashwords. I haven't looked back since, although if a big publisher offered the right contract, I wouldn't turn it down.

It's been a long journey and, while the road behind and the road ahead are full of many bumps, I wouldn't quit for anything. I have always been a writer and always will be.

Melanie Nilles also writes as M. A. Nilles with her twelfth published work, TIGER BORN, under that pen name. You can read more about her at www.melanienilles.com.

Tiger Born links:
Amazon.com
Barnes and Noble
smashwords.com


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

5 Winners!

Just a quick note to congratulate the 5 winners of the Shadow Born contest at Goodreads. The books will be going out ASAP! This is my third Goodreads giveaway, and each has netted over 1,000 entrants and hundreds of to-be-read additions. I can't thank the team at Goodreads enough, nor the fans who are kind enough to star and review my work, and help it get into the hands of others.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Paying it Forward


The Liebster Award is a bit like a chain letter, but in a good way. The idea is that bloggers who receive this honor can pass it on to other bloggers, particularly those we feel contribute something useful to the community but have less than 200 followers, and therefore could use some exposure. Karen Woodward recently honored me with this award, and I've spent a few days (okay a week!) putting together a list of my own. This was difficult because I have to choose only five bloggers and there are so many people out there doing wonderful and interesting things.

Well, I've finally completed my list. I would encourage you to take a look at these blogs, you might find them as enjoyable as I have!

Young Readers At Home
Owl Tell You About It -Laura Ashlee
Lexi Revellian
Scribbles N Jots -Barbara Kloss
Writing Loving It

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

September Blues

September is turning out to be a challenging month for me. I know I'm behind on blog posting... I really need to thank Karen Woodward for the award she sent me. I'm going to pay it forward as soon as I can, honest!

Anyway, I have been busy with a lot of things, not the least of which is an inconvenient issue with my bank account. It started when I pulled my last music CD from distribution. I've been so busy writing (books) lately that I haven't had any time to write, produce, or publicize my music. Because of that, my last CD had been sitting there on the digital shelves, selling just a few tunes every month. That would be okay I suppose, but unlike e-book distribution, it costs me money to keep my CD available. And without me realizing it, my distributor automatically renewed my distribution contract for another year. This resulted in a good chunk of cash disappearing from my bank account about two weeks ago. Since then, I've been trying to get the issue sorted out. Customer service at the distributor lost track of my emails, and in the meanwhile -because my account was overdrawn and I had complained to the bank about the unapproved renewal- they canceled my check card thinking I had been defrauded or something. So now I think I've finally got my money back, but I have no ATM access.

In the midst of all that, I've been trying to batten down the hatches for winter, which usually starts up in about a month with a rainstorm that lasts until, oh, June. I have a project vehicle I'm restoring (a 1966 Chevy Impala SuperSport) that has a lot of exposed and rusting metal. I've swapped the old blown 327 for a throttle-body injected Chevy 350 and replaced the 1966 factory brakes with power disc brakes. The car's running and more or less roadworthy now, but I'm running out of time to get it sealed up before the rain starts. I'm also finishing (or fixing) several projects around my house, including a bottle rack I just finished building in my garage. That one's for my wine hobby. I have about 350 empty bottles (kindly donated by a local winemaking club) that I'd like to fill with some Cabernet and Chardonnay as soon as the grapes are ready... another event that's also barreling down on me like a freight train. I'm supposed to be getting 250 pounds of one, 150 of the other, and I'm expecting the Chardonnay grapes to be ready ANY DAY. That means I've been cleaning up the garage and making room for my fermentation tanks and bottles in the midst of all this. And I haven't even mentioned my real job. I won't bore you with the details.

Also, I'm now writing the last chapter of my new book, which is the second new title I've written over the summer, for a total of probably about 140,000 words. I know, I know. For some people that's just ONE book, but forgive me if I'm a little ADD. I'll be revising over the next week or two and then I'll let it sit for a short while before I release it this fall. (The other title is the sequel to Shadow Wars, which I may not release until I have the third installation finished.) 

So, Karen thank you once again. I'll be getting that list ASAP. I'd also like to post some new pics of the Cabernet vines I planted in the backyard this year, if time permits. In the meanwhile, I hope you are all enjoying the last weeks of summer and stocking up on lots of good books to read when the cold weather hits!


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Guest interview: John Blackport

 Rick Rivoire is flush with money, women, and prospects. He protects his country as one of the Rainguns, an elite regiment of spellcasting cavalry. But national policy drifts ominously into slavery and religious persecution, sparking rebellion. Joining the rebels could land Rick on a prison ship, in slave-irons --- or atop the same gallows where he watched his father hang. The alternative looks no brighter. He must either defend a government whose actions disgust him --- or risk everything he has.
Warning: This book contains graphic violence and some explicit sex. It is intended for adults only.
Q: John, your story sounds quite unique. What influenced you?
A: Stories by Bernard Cornwell; George Macdonald Fraser; and to a lesser extent, C.S. Forester and Patrick O’Brian.  My hero is a cavalry mage.  He conjures his own magical mount whenever he can, because he doesn’t get along with horses very well.  He also thinks of magical theory only when he must --- the way the men of Sharpe’s Rifles rarely think of ballistics theory, even when they must conserve their ammunition.
Q: This is historical fantasy, which is certainly a unique genre. From where did you draw inspiration?
A: In a way, I was inspired by the real-world wars that America has been involved with over this last decade.  I wanted to show how politics, money and religion can all interact to drive fundamentally good people to seek the ruin of other fundamentally good people. These forces are not cancers that can somehow be surgically removed from society, they are part of being human.
Q: You've certainly put a lot of thought into this book. Tell us how and why it's different than everything else out there. 
A: I always knew I liked fantasy, but I also knew I didn't want to write about another Dark Lord who wants to destroy everything for no apparent reason. The appeal of this trope is similar to real-world conspiracy theories: there's some comfort in the fantasy that all evil ultimately comes from the same place.
I believe the real truth is both more depressing, more uplifting, and more fascinating.  The real truth is that there are no simple answers: our lives, both public and private, truly are as complex and confusing as they appear. But that's also what makes them wondeful. 
 
Raingun is now available at Amazon and Smashwords
A sample chapter and more available at the author's website.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

And the Winner is:

Julie! Congrats. Your new Kindle is in the mail and should be there in a couple days.

Unfortunately, not everyone could win. However, those of you who are signed up for the newsletter, keep your eye out for something special this weekend. You are all signed up for the newsletter, right?

Also, there will be more giveaways coming, so you may get another chance! Hang in there.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Moment You've Been Waiting For...

is almost here! This is just a quick reminder that today is the LAST day to enter to win a new Kindle wi-fi! Those of you who follow my blog and/or newsletter are already entered. All you have to do is wait. To make it official, I'll pull down the entry link tonight and then choose a winner! I will post the results after I've contacted the winner, in the next day or two.

In the meanwhile, I have a new contest running on Goodreads. I'm giving away 5 signed copies of Shadow Born. I hadn't planned to do this just now, but then I remembered Goodreads has a policy that giveaways should be planned within six months of publication and, well it's getting to be that time. So while you're waiting, head on over there and sign up!


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Guest post by Z.D. Robinson

There are a lot of great new ideas out there in Kindleland, and there's no better place to find them than on Kindleboards. Over the next few months, I hope to introduce you to a number of these new Indie fantasy authors I've met on the forums.

Z.D. Robinson, proud father (again) and author of The Great Altruist joins us today to talk about his book and the journey that led to it:

I used to write a lot of stories when I was younger. In middle-school, my stories consisted of just a long paragraph devoid of good sentence structure and even a basic comprehension of grammar. And most of them were about lone Ninjas assaulting island fortresses. That's what I get for watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles all the time. And that's what also happens when you come close to failing sixth-grade English.

In high-school, my grammar never improved and my stories were no less deep. Now they were about loner high-school kids saving their dream girls from government takeovers of the school. Really shoddy stuff.

Orwellian themes aside, it was at this time that I created my first solid characters. James and Genesis were born in my mind, but I had no idea how much these two people would influence my writing for the next eighteen years. Or how Genesis would even appear on occasion in depression-induced hallucinations. (More on that later.)

James was loosely based on myself, even though he displayed a lot more cool and poise than I did. He wasn't even like me; he was just a version of myself I wish I could be. No more was this evident than after my parents divorced and I came up with a story that would go on to figure prominently in my debut novel over a decade later. It was about a young man, again called James (mainly because I'm bereft of original ideas), and his quest to save his parent's marriage. How he was supposed to travel through time was a complete mystery. But the story - although about time-travel - was less about the method and more about the character interaction and the lessons learned. Think of a more dramatic version of Back to the Future.

I eventually came up with a vehicle for time-travel. I wanted the person to be tiny (think Tinkerbell) so that he or she could travel by James's side to provide guidance along the journey. When I decided the character should be a woman, I used the name Genesis. I didn't know how or why she should be tiny, although I was quick to decide she would NOT be a fairy. And I chose to follow time-travel convention by making her perpetually naked (the idea being that only organic matter could travel through the time-field displacement - think The Terminator). [Note: There's also a philosophical reason for her nakedness - something to do about her confidence superseding petty body-image conventions. That's the "deep" reason for it; the other is Freudian and probably self-explanatory.]

By this point in my life, I was married. I was diagnosed (inaccurately, I would learn years later) with bipolar disorder. The depression was so severe that creatively I was dead. But I had developed this kind, beautiful woman in my head that I would talk to like an imaginary friend while driving around for the cable company. That might sound really strange; and it was. But those "hallucinations" were quite mild and actually quite useful in getting to know her character. I don't recommend this to other writers, as hallucinating your feature character can lead dangerously close to John Nash-style schizophrenia. If you've seen A Beautiful Mind, you'll understand what an unproductive time that can be.

Eventually, a story came together. James was central to my book, but Genesis had a lot going on. I soon came up with an interesting backstory and additional adventures for her. And I compiled those stories into a novel about a selfless woman who uses her unique powers to help people fix mistakes from their past. It's not that original, and I'm sure the constant nudity of the protagonist may come off sophomoric and juvenile to some, but early reviews have shown it to be entertaining at least. And isn't "entertaining" the reason a lot of people read books?

While I write mainly for funsies, I take the story very seriously. Having grown up on Back to the Future and Peggy Sue Got Married, time-travel is a staple of my story-telling. Some people hate it because it's been handled so poorly in the past. I'd never say that my plots are hole-less, but if you like stories about naked people traveling through time (and shoot, who doesn't?) then The Great Altruist won't be a total waste of time.

Having completed a novel (and working on two presently), I can say I've come a long way since those early ninja and high-school peril stories. I also no longer hallucinate tiny, naked women. Writing about my parent's divorce was very cathartic (although I should add that the details in my novel are NOT based on any actual events.) I'm also the proud father of three young boys. 

If you want to know who I really write for nowadays, I'd have to mention my wife. She reads all first drafts long before anyone else is allowed near it. If she doesn't like something, it goes. If she loves it - or cries while reading it - I leave well-enough alone and don't touch it again. She has a good BS detector and is very good at catching plot holes, so while not everyone may like my work, at least I know the most important person in my life does. And most importantly, she has a way of telling me something stinks without saying those words exactly. There is an exciting moment I look forward to when I ask her what she thinks of something she just read, and she pauses to frame her words. Those seconds hang in the air for what feel like forever. Little does she know it, but the next words out of her mouth will probably change the course of my career. When I consider that without her I might still be writing about ninjas, I can't think of better hands to be in.

Links:
Z.D. Robinson.com
The Great Altruist at Amazon.com

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Aqua-what?

 I'm posting about this subject because I find it fascinating and important... and because I'm going to try to build an aquaponics system myself. First of all, what is aquaponics?  

From Wikipedia: Aquaponics (pronounced: /ˈækwəˈpɒnɨks/) is a sustainable food production system that combines a traditional aquaculture (raising aquatic animals such as fish, crayfish or prawns in tanks) with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water) in a symbiotic environment. In the aquaculture, effluents accumulate in the water, increasing toxicity for the fish. This water is led to a hydroponic system where the by-products from the aquaculture are filtered out by the plants as vital nutrients, after which the cleansed water is recirculated back to the animals. The term aquaponics is a portmanteau of the terms aquaculture and hydroponic.

Ok, sounds good as long as you know what aquaculture and hydroponics are, but let's make it simple. I borrowed this picture from the website of a middle school that did an aquaponics experiment. The photo clearly illustrates how aquaponics works, and indeed, how effectively.



Simply put, the water from the fish tanks is used to feed the plants. The wastes created by the fish are consumed by the plants as fertilizer. Then, the clean water flows back to the fish and makes them happy. This retailer has a very basic video detailing one of the systems they sell, and will help give you an  idea of what to expect.

So why is this so important? Well, first of all, it's a highly sustainable process. You can grow huge quantities of food this way in a very small space, using very little energy. You can do this with a small aquarium near a sunny window in your living room. Some people have built small systems for the balcony in their apartments. In fact, one group in Wisconsin is growing one million pounds of food on three acres. They're growing veggies and leafy greens and edible fish, almost a complete diet!And quite a bit healthier than a lot of the stuff we tend to grab at the grocery store.

So what does a system like this require? You can see from the photos that all you really need is a small fish tank, a small grow-bed, a pump, and some creativity. It's possible to use decorative fish like goldfish or  koi, but it's also possible to use tiliapia, trout, and any number of other popular food-fish.Because the water is recycled, you use only a fraction of the water it takes to farm traditionally. You do have to feed the fish of course, and you will need to pump and aerate the water. You may also need to heat the water. In a small system, this can be done very inexpensively. In fact, even a larger backyard system might only cost you a few dollars a month if it's planned correctly. But don't take my word for it. Do some research. A small investment in a system like this just might be able to save you a lot of money down the road, and this food is healthy!

Backyardaquaponics.com has some great articles and basic info, and they sell pre-fab systems of all sizes, similar to this:




DIYaquaponics.com is also a great resource, with a fantastic forum dedicated to this subject. The forum link is at the top of the page. Here's another great example of what you can do with a little creativity:


Obviously, some of these giant prefab systems cost a LOT of money. If you've got it, more power to you. I'm sure it's worth the investment just to know what you and your family are eating is real, healthy, un-messed-with food. But the beauty of this system is that you don't need a lot of money to get started. You can pick up the basic materials second-hand and even build your own growbeds. Do you see a use for a system like this in your life? Do you know someone else, a friend or family member perhaps who might benefit from aquaponics? If so then please let them know and forward these links.

For a brief update on my auquaponics adventure, check out this post





Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Guest post by S. Arthur Martin

I talked to some of the Indie fantasy authors over at Kindleboards. I asked them to tell me a bit about themselves; about their process and what makes them different. My first guest is S. Arthur Martin, and this is his story: 


 
Writing is exactly as hard as making the time to do it. Life doesn't slow down so that we can accomplish all of our little pet projects, and you can't just figure out a way to slow everything down and find the time for yourself. Something will always come up. Your car will need an oil change and the crack in your windshield will keep getting longer. You'll need to pick up more hours next week. That new show will be starting tonight and you just won't let yourself miss it.

I'm the last person you'd expect to find the time for commitment to any sort of creative project. My drawers are full of half-finished ideas, my hard drive spattered with 102kb files of partially-written story outlines. When I decided that I wanted to write a novel and finish it, the resolve in my voice wavered with the memory of every unrequited promise I'd ever made to myself. Still, I told everyone I knew. I called my grandma to tell her. I let people I hadn't seen or spoken to for months know what I planned to do. I built up as much accountability around myself as I could possibly find.

But even that wouldn't have been enough, so I joined NaNoWriMo (www.nanowrimo.com). I dragged people along with me and friended them so that they would see my progress bar and know when I was failing and when I was succeeding with my goals. For one month I didn't let myself have a single excuse not to write. Instead, I allowed my writing to be an excuse not to get to other things. Sure, I continued attending my college courses (it actually helped that I happened to be in a Grammar and Usage class at the time). I found time here and there to see friends and loved ones. But I made sure that I was planted in my seat every night for at least an hour, often two, occasionally three, four, or five.

I drew from every experience I've ever had. Names appeared that I'd written into the little name-your-character boxes in every video game I ever played. Places and cultures I'd interacted with influenced every aspect of my world. I didn't know who my characters were, where they were going, what they would face, who they would love and hate, but I just kept writing. If I got stuck, I did something to them to unstick them. At one point, just like I did years ago while I was skiing, they fell off a mountain. When I felt like their journey together was getting too predictable, I forcibly split them up. I created writing opportunities through obstacles for both myself and my characters, and as we traveled together I found that they began speaking to me in their own voices. They told me what they'd do, how they'd react, what words they'd say.

And there it was. My story was complete and NaNoWriMo achieved! I had beaten the odds. Shown my most insipid naysayer, myself, who was boss. I had a story. Complete, beautiful, somewhat fragmented and dreadfully in need of proper editing. But the cliff had been scaled and the summit reached. It was glorious.

So now I have a novel. It might never crack one hundred sales. It might be read by the right person at the right time and see the inside of a bookstore some day. The important thing is that I brought life to something that had been tucked away inside of me for far too long. I believe there is a story in all of us and that we want to share it. If we give ourselves the opportunity to do so, either through our own adventures or relationships with others, or with our music, dancing, or writing... In the end what matters is that the story will be experienced by someone else, and the world will be all the better for it.


To check out Hollenguard at Amazon, click here. It's available in paper and on Kindle. 
Also, be sure to check out his website here.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

And the loser is...

This week, I got my first one-star review. It raised a few questions for me, and solidified a few things I've been thinking about all at once. I know that sometimes people assume one-star reviews come from a writer's competitors or people who have a grudge against that writer, but I can honestly say I don't think that happened here. I don't believe I've ever met this person, so I don't know how I could have offended her. I have to accept that the reviewer sincerely did not like my book. This is how much she didn't like it:

"It's very amateurish, both in style and in content. Don't waste your time."

The lack of constructive criticism aside, I still think a review like this can provide certain value. First of all, it proves that my work is real. Readers often assume that good reviews aren't genuine; that they're just friends and family of the author being kind. I can assure you, that's not me. I have exactly ONE friend/family member who has ever rated any of my books, much less reviewed them. Some writers may have this resource and I say good for them, but I come from one of the other families. You know, they're the ones who take delight in your failures, say unkind things behind your back, and encourage you to give up and fail. That's the environment I was raised in and I frequently visit on holidays and vacations. So a one-star review doesn't hurt me in any deep emotional way, it simply piques my curiosity. It also offers the added value that casual readers now know my reviews are real, not shill reviews posted by my family. Many authors say that a one-star review has helped their sales. It's early in my career, but so far I find this to be true .

Here's one of the things I've observed: Of all the reviews I've gotten, the absolute worst were from giveaways. Does that make sense? I can understand that a person who paid good money for my book and then hated it might want to warn others away, but why someone who won a free copy in a giveaway? What does that person have to gain? I can only guess as to the reasons, and my best guess is to ask why would someone enter a contest for something they don't even want? Of course, that's just a question. It's perfectly possible that the book's blurb, description, and other reviews were completely lacking in such a way that the contestant truly had no idea what they were in for when they entered the contest.

Here's another observation: Almost every popular movie, book, or TV show that I've looked at lately seems to have a rating of somewhere around 3 stars. Two and Four star averages are fewer but seem equally represented, and 1 or 5 star averages are extremely rare. This doesn't prove much except that fans and critics seem to be equally divided, regardless of the genre or even type of work. Any subjective art seems to suffer from this. Which ultimately seems to confirm something I've heard others say, which is that the stars don't count, the review does. Meaning a drive-by one-star rating is as meaningless as an unsubstantiated five-star rating. In order for the review to be of any benefit to other readers, it MUST provide some insight into what worked or didn't work for the story. Otherwise, it's just another anonymous star added to the average of thousands and thousands that came before.



Monday, August 8, 2011

Congrats to the contest winners!

Just a quick note to say thanks to everyone who participated in my blog tour and congrats to the winners of the e-book giveaways. I believe the last of the winners have now been notified. Stayed tuned for more giveaways coming this fall!

Speaking of...

The Kindle wi-fi giveaway is still going on, so if you haven't signed up for my blog and newsletter what are you waiting for?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Waning of the Season

The Darkling Wind giveaway at Goodreads is over, and a resounding success in my opinion. Five winners were chosen this morning out of the more than 1100 entrants. Congrats to the winners and thanks to everyone who participated, and especially to Goodreads who makes these contests so effortless. The five signed paperbacks will be going into the mail tomorrow! I will definitely be doing more giveaways in the future, so keep an eye out.

School will be starting in just a few weeks here in northern California, and as the summer winds down, so do my seasonal promotions. My final summer giveaway is a Kindle wi-fi, which will run through the end of August. The rules and entry info can be found HERE.

I'd also like to take a moment to define my blog for new readers, if that makes any sense. It's been on my mind lately. I see a lot -A LOT- of writers blogging about their experiments with publishing, analyzing their sales figures, and sharing ideas of how to promote your latest work. That's great, but I really don't want to direct this blog towards other writers. I may provide some thoughts and insights into writing from time to time, but my primary focus is going to be on my readers.In other words, I'd like to use this blog as a means to share a bit of myself and my creative process with my fans. That is something I don't see a lot of, and it's something I would treasure from my favorite writers.

I regularly post info here regarding my titles, both existing and upcoming, and also contests and giveaway promotions that I have going on. I have a few more exciting ideas that will pop up as the year progresses, but I don't want to give it all away just yet. I'll just tease you with this:

So far in 2011 I have published 8 titles, including those published under my pseudonym. I have written two more books this year. They are both in the revision phase. One of those is a sequel to Shadow Born, and I am in the middle of another fantasy novel which I hope will launch a new series. I also have plans for a sequel to my best selling novel, The Tinkerer's Daughter. I hope to write that one this fall and publish it by Xmas. For each of these titles, I am planning giveaways and other exciting promotions. If the economy allows, I also hope to give away at least one more Kindle before the year is over.

To sum it up, it has been and will continue to be a very busy year for me. Hopefully, that adds up to something good for you. The future looks promising, so stay in touch!