Sunday, December 23, 2012

Blood & Steam: NOW!

Well, I'm posting early this week (and right in the middle of the holiday weekend) because Amazon has simply become too efficient. The process of publishing an e-book once took days, but my latest novel went live in mere hours.

You can find the e-book here:

And the paperback here:

I've held the price down to $3.99 once again on the e-book (it seems to be a comfortable price range), and as always the paperback is $9.99. As always, your likes, tags, and reviews are enormously helpful. 

Also, the Goodreads giveaway (link above) is winding down, but there will be more giveaways coming soon.

In other related news: I recently blogged about several sci-fi shorts I had just published. I've also found the time to come up with new covers for two of my novels, Karma Crossed and The Tinkerer's Daughter. Here's a peek:

The Tinkerer's Daughter didn't have a terrible cover but I thought I could squeeze more out of it. I'm pleased with the result. The new cover is also available on the paperback, but isn't showing up in the Amazon lists yet. It should be visible in a few days. Tinkerer's Daughter is available here:
Karma's cover wasn't quite there either, so this is the latest incarnation. Sadly, the gorgeous girls are gone, but Jonah and his muscle car are looking sharper than ever, IMHO. Karma Crossed is available here:

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Happy Holidays!

This will be my last post before the big holiday, so I'm going to cover several things at once. First and foremost, the important business: 


Second: I have ONE paper-bound ARC of Blood & Steam left to give away. I will give it to the first person who emails me the correct answer to the following question (this should be easy, since I posed the very same question here just a few weeks ago. Be sure to put the word "contest" or something similar in the subject line so your email doesn't go to spam): 

Q: What is the name of Breeze's father in The Tinkerer's Daughter? Once again, this is not Tinker. I'm asking for the name of her true, blood-father.

Should be an easy enough question. Shoot me an email and get yourself a free signed paperback!

Last, and this one is just for a chuckle: Those of you who've read Tinker's War will appreciate the irony of this review posted at Goodreads this week:

"...I skipped ahead to see if it was going to lead where I thought it might, and I was right... She gets herself preggo and turns into a farmer and stay-at-farm mommy. Another book that started out great and then ran out of steam."

/Sigh. Sometimes I don't know whether to laugh or cry. Is this person sincere? Is this a genuine reviewer or another of the sock-puppets we've heard so much about lately? Will potential readers actually believe this review? I hope not! Her frank admission that she didn't actually read the book might give the wary readers a clue LOL. Obviously, I can only roll my eyes and chuckle.

Anyway, for a few more laughs you can read the whole thing here:

That's it for this time. Once again I want to wish you all a warm, safe holiday with friends, great food, and much laughter. Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Kindle Select: Experiences, Conclusions

It has been almost one year since I first signed up with Kindle Select. For those readers who are unfamiliar with Select, let me summarize it briefly: 

With Kindle Select, offers various perks to authors in exchange for exclusivity. Those perks include the ability to give books away for free on certain days (for the purpose of increased exposure) and inclusion of titles into Amazon's Kindle lending library (borrows for which we get paid). That's the short version. 

Like most authors who signed up for Select, I did it with a great deal of apprehension. After all, it's bad to put your eggs all in one basket, or so I've always been told. Granting Amazon exclusivity was a painful choice to make, but frankly it was the competition that forced me into the decision. 

In the past, my titles have been available everywhere. Smashwords, Kobo, Apple, Barnes & Noble, etc. But like most authors, it didn't take me long to realize that Amazon was the only retailer who was actually selling my titles. Smashwords required me to use their "meatgrinder" software that devastates e-book formatting in order to make it compatible with all of the various e-reader platforms. I fought with that program from day one, and I don't care to think about how many months of my life I wasted trying to reformat those books over and over so that they would come out looking halfway professional on a dozen different platforms.

Other retailers have offered simpler, kinder interfaces, but they refuse to sell my books. In fact, they mostly seem to do the exact opposite. They put Indie authors on the equivalent of a back shelf in a basement of used, returned titles. In other words, people who want to find my books can't even find them, much less the casual reader who otherwise may have found them by accident. 

It was a combination of these issues and the resulting lack of sales that convinced me to give Select a try. Amazon at least, could sell my books. Over the last year they have done just that. I get borrows in Select every month, for which I am paid, and which consistently outnumber the sales I receive from those other outlets. But times have changed, and I recently decided it was time to test the market, especially since I've had a few people asking why they can only get my books at Amazon. Six weeks ago, I pulled two of my titles -one novel and a complimenting short story- from Select and re-posted them to Barnes & Noble. Six weeks later I can conclusively say that nothing has changed at B&N. I sold 3 copies. At the same time, my books at Amazon have sold several hundred.Today, my six-week experiment ended and I'm all-in with Select once again, albeit halfheartedly. I truly believe exclusivity is bad, but what else can I do? I need to sell these books. Which brings me around to the other dark side of Select, the freebies. 

Anyone who shops e-books on Amazon knows that the place is flooded with free books. There are hundreds of new titles every single day. You could literally fill your Kindle and never buy another book. The result? Well, sales have been hurt for many of us, especially those of us who weren't in a highly visible position before the change. For a short time, there was a payoff to free and that was in higher sales following the giveaways. Amazon fixed that a while back, making it so that in order to increase your visibility you have to give away about 20,000 copies in a day. Yeah it's do-able, but it's also kind of silly. Giving books away to tens of thousands of people who are only downloading them for free doesn't seem to result in a sales blowout anymore, and now that the advantage of increased post-sale visibility is pretty much gone, there's really no reason to do it. Cannibalizing future sales with giveaways? That seems the most likely result of a Select giveaway now.

In late winter/ early spring of 2012 after I joined Select, I did a few giveaways and the results were impressive. My titles left the "Free" column and entered the "Paid" column in such a way that people browsing the best seller lists could see them. They went on to sell quite well, and led to sales of my other titles, presumably by happy customers who went on to collect the rest of my library. So for a while, I was doing pretty good. I was selling well over 1,000 books a month, and peaked somewhere around 1,500.

Well, all of that's gone now. My books went up the lists and then came back down. Follow-up giveaways during the summer resulted in a few thousand downloads or less, maybe even just five or six hundred, and ZERO post-giveaway sales. In fact, sales nearly disappeared on the titles I gave away. I was tempted to pull my titles out of Select then and there, but I continued watching the borrows, and in doing so I became convinced that the Select lending library is not only throwing some sales my way, it's also propagating more sales down the line. It seems that some of the people who buy my books like them enough to seek out and buy more. What a novel idea. And strangely enough, I've been able to triple or quadruple my prices (and profits) and still maintain solid sales and measurable growth, month after month. 

My conclusion is obvious, and it probably sounds like something you've heard before: The best way to sell a book is to write a great book. And then the next one, and the next... I don't have tens of thousands of fans just yet, so I have to run my publishing platform like a business. I have to go where the sales are. For now, that means I'm in Select. But I'm NOT giving anything away, I'm selling books, and that is how it should be. Perhaps in the future I'll have enough of a fan base to take my business where I want, and still know I'll have sales. I'm not quite there yet, so I'm playing the cards I've been dealt. If things take off in a big way, I'll still be free to revisit this decision. My exclusivity with Select only lasts three months at a time, but my books are on sale forever.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Three New Titles Now Available!

While I've been hard at work putting the finishing touches on Blood & Steam, I managed to find some time over the last few weeks to publish three short sci-fi stories. You can get the full details in the BOOKS tab above, but here's a summary and a preview of the covers:

 OUT OF TIME is a piece of short (almost flash) fiction based loosely on the premise of H.G. Wells' The Time Machine. My story isn't so much about a time machine, but about the psychological and emotional effects on an old time traveler who has seen and experienced perhaps more than he should have. This one was an experiment for me, so it's a little different.
 THE JUDGE is a story that takes place in a distant future where mankind has conquered interstellar travel, aging, and advanced weaponry... But we just can't seem to get rid of crime.
THE LAST HEIST is a space opera type of story with a protagonist named Ash who might remind you of other well established sci-fi antiheroes like Han Solo or Captain Malcolm Reynolds of Firefly. Perhaps a bit more edgy and modern, but all antiheroes have their quirks.

Ash's ex-partner Zed double-crossed him, stealing his money, his ship, and his girl. Now Zed's back for one last heist, but Ash knows better than to trust him this time...

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Blood & Steam giveaway!

This week I'm starting a Goodreads giveaway for 3 signed ARCs of Blood & Steam. You can click on the banner above to join. The contest runs for about 4 weeks and will end somewhere around the time of release. More on that later. If you have don't have a Goodreads account, this is a great time to sign up. It only takes a few minutes and they've got a fantastic website designed to help you find the type of fiction you're interested in, and connect with fans of the same work. Check it out!

If anybody missed the cover reveal, here's another look at book three of The Tinkerer's Daughter:


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Blood and Steam (Tinkerer's Daughter Book 3 announcement and cover reveal)

Revisions are drawing to a close. I'm preparing ARCs and I hope to announce another giveaway soon. And so, this is the official announcement:

Blood & Steam will be available next month.

I haven't set an official release date as of this moment, but I will give you something more solid in a couple weeks. For now, meet River Tinkerman:

It has been many years since Breeze vanished in her spring-powered plane over the icy northern Wastes, but her daughter River is more than happy to carry on her legacy. The Vangar overlords have turned Astatia into a slave state, forcing citizens to work in their mines and factories, stealing their resources for their own greedy ends while they live safely high above in the sky-city known as Juntavar. River has never known any life other than the mean streets of Dockside, but street life has made her strong and resourceful. She's the perfect leader, and that's what her ragtag group of rebels needs most.

When the rebels meet to conspire against their overlords, their meeting is interrupted by three sentinels - Vangar warriors whose bodies have been melded with nine-foot-tall suits of armor powered by steam. River has no choice but to lead the Vangars away from the others, thus exposing her and forcing River to go on the run. Thankfully, she's got Tinker's boneshaker to help her get to safety.

But along the way, River runs into some of the last people she had ever expected to meet. She learns that there still might be a way to defeat the Vangars. She also learns that her mother's fate may have been decidedly different than what she was led to believe. Now, River will do anything to learn the truth about her blood-kin. And one way or another, she's determined to destroy the Vangars once and for all.

Oh, and just a note to add: Have a very happy holiday weekend everyone!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Giveaway #1 !!Contest Over!!!

The Tinkerer's Daughter fans, this giveaway is for you. Today, I'm giving away a signed paperback of Tinker's War. I'll be happy to customize the signature, just let me know what you want it to say. I'm going to make this short and sweet (and it shouldn't be too hard). I will pose a question and the first person to answer correctly in the comment section below will win. Ready? 

Q: What was the name of Breeze's father in The Tinkerer's Daughter
Hint: I'm not talking about Tinker, I mean her real blood father.

That's it, no more hints. The first correct answer gets the book! I'll be stepping out for an hour or so, but after the contest is over I will need the winner to contact me with a mailing address. Good luck everyone!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

'Tis the Season for Giveaways!

I know how difficult it can be to follow a blog. There are so many of them out there that it can be hard to keep up, even if you narrow your list of favorites down to a dozen or two. Obviously, it helps to follow the blog so that it shows up in your feed, but even that can be tricky because so many people out there use different blogging services and they're not all compatible.

To that end, I have installed a "Get Blog Updates by Email" button on this blog that -if it's working correctly- will send a copy of my latest post right to your inbox. I also have a newsletter, but I won't be using that for this promotion. Instead, I will post my latest giveaways on this blog over the next few weeks. They're going to be quick and easy, and my blog followers will get the chance to win e-books, signed paperbacks, and before it's all over I'm even going to give away a Kindle wi-fi loaded with my book collection. In fact, if things go well enough, I might even give away two.

So consider this your heads-up! Watch this space.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

2012 Harvest Wrap Up

First, congratulations to the winners of the latest Goodreads contest. Your copies of "Tinker's War" are on the way. For those of you who didn't win, watch this blog because there's more to come very soon.

Now, the matter at hand: Some of you may remember that last year I said the wine harvest was terrible. 2010 and 2011 were both miserable wine years in California. We had an excess of rain and cool weather for both summers. Spring rains lasted longer than usual and winter started early. Winemakers faced a myriad of complications, not the least of which was that rot had set in before most of the grapes were ripe, forcing vineyards to pick a crop that wasn't ready.

The rains were like that again this year, with the exception that we had zero precipitation during the summer, and we had plenty of warm weather to ripen those grapes. The result?


It's a fact. Vineyards all over NorCal have experienced bumper crops. The harvest numbers didn't just improve, they broke records. There were more clusters of grapes on the vine and the clusters were bigger, and they ripened earlier. Last year, many people (including me) were picking Cabernet Sauvignon in November. This year, the harvest was mostly finished by mid-October. In other words, it was a better than average year.

And the best news of all: A very generous wine family in the Russian River area gave me the opportunity to pick as much Pinot Noir as I could carry! They had finished their harvest, filled their winery's 12 ton capacity, and still had about five tons of grapes hanging on the vine. Sadly, I only have the capacity for a half-ton of grapes, but still that is huge. In layman's terms, one half-ton of grapes equals one barrel of wine. I have, at this very moment, a half-ton of Russian River Pinot Noir fermenting in my garage!

This is very exciting for me because -although I've been making wine for about five years- I've never made a batch of wine this big before. This is also my very first attempt at Pinot Noir. So far I have only made minor adjustments (the sugar was a bit on the low side due to some early rain) and the wine yeast is quite happily doing its job. I won't know how it turns it for a few weeks, and I won't really know for at least a year, but for the moment I couldn't be happier. 

My small home vineyard is coming along as well. A few of the plants haven't done very well and I think two may have died. Several others have taken off, and I'll be pruning them to take advantage of their vigor this coming spring. A few of them were so vigorous that I went against convention and allowed them to produce fruit in the second year. I harvested those grapes a couple weeks ago and I have about one pint of cabernet finishing nicely right now. 

Last but not least  -and completely unrelated to the wine harvest- I have just finished my first major revision of "Blood & Steam." I struggled with the first draft of this book because it's a bit unusual, and frankly it was something of a challenge. Now that the book is done and I'm on to the refining process, I'm quite happy with the direction it has taken. As always the final say is up to the readers, but for the moment I'm quite excited. My plan has always been to release this book in December and so far that appears to be on track. With about nine weeks to go in the year, I just might make that deadline. WOOT! 

Now to start planning those giveaways and contests.... :-)

Friday, October 26, 2012

Tinker's War Giveaway

Just a quick note to inform TTD fans that I'm doing a Goodreads giveaway for 3 signed copies of T2 (Tinker's War). Entrance is easy. If you already have an account, just click on the "Enter to Win" button above. If you don't have an account, you can follow the same link and then set up your account in seconds!

As always, I will be more than happy to personalize a signature message. If this is desired, just contact me ASAP  so I can do it before the books go out.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

My '73 Dodge Charger (Burn Notice) Project

From this blog's inception it has always been my intent to have a different focus. What I mean by different is that I don't spend a lot of time talking about the business and writing side of my life, instead trying to focus on other aspects that some readers may find more interesting. I think -as a general rule- that adjectives, three-act plot formulas, and character backgrounds are best left to the final draft. Nobody wants to read about those things unless they happen to be a writer, and blogs on the subject of writing and publishing are so prolific that you can't turn around without tripping over one. So in my effort to reveal other parts of my life that you may find interesting, I sometimes blog about some of my other projects. Today, I want to show you my 1973 Dodge Charger.

I bought the car in 2004. It wasn't as big of a project as the '66 impala that I restored with my son, but I had my work cut out for me, especially because of the modifications I wanted to make on this car. Here's my confession: I have a dream car, a white unicorn as the characters in Gone in 60 Seconds described the '67 Mustang Eleanor (she was a '73 Mach 1 in the original flick). My white unicorn is a 1968 Dodge Charger. I think it's one of the coolest cars ever made, and if I ever get my hands on one, I'll probably keep it for the rest of my life. Obviously, the '73 was something of a runner-up. It wasn't nearly as desirable, but it was in my price range and I saw the muscle car's potential.

I had it shipped from southern California. It arrived on a flatbed  truck. The body damage was more extensive than I had been led to believe by the seller. It also had bad ball joints and tie rod ends and about a dozen different electrical gremlins. I just barely managed to keep it running long enough to get it in my driveway. As you can see from the stain on the driveway in the picture below, it also had transmission problems. Oh, and it was also covered in purple and silver flames. Yeah, purple.

I didn't snap a picture right away, but this photo shows the state it was in after a couple weekends of work. You can see the original paint that hadn't been stripped yet on the front fender:

Yeah, pretty hideous. But I had plans... 

I had an idea for this car, something I hadn't seen done before. I wanted to make it more like the quintessential Dodge Charger that I'd fallen in love with, and less like the luxury sedan they tried to turn it into in the 70's. I spent the next two years acquiring the parts to convert this vinyl topped SE into a coup. I searched junkyards all over the country trying to find the roller windows, trim, moldings and other parts. I had lots of work to do, both mechanical and body.

When I had finished with the repair work and conversion, I found some mag rims I liked from that era. I ordered new tires, and added my final touch, the air scoop:

Of course, a project like this is nothing without the right paint:

Ok, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking "Hey, it's cool but he just copied the Charger from Burn Notice on TV." Well you're wrong. The thing is, I bought this car in January of 2004. I had it finished and on the road more than a year and a half before the Burn Notice show even started. And since I don't have cable TV, I didn't even see Burn Notice until a few weeks after I sold this Charger in 2008. Ironically, the guy who bought the car from me told me all about the show. Naturally he was a big fan, and insisted that I must watch it. So I looked it up on a Hulu and there it was... my car... almost. And the show's pretty good, too.

Sadly, I did sell the car so I no longer have the joy of driving that beautiful machine. I do miss it, but life is full of opportunities and I'm always keeping an eye out for the next project. Who knows, maybe that '68 Charger I've been waiting for will pop up when I least expect it. I know some purists out there might be upset that I changed my '73 from a vinyl top SE into a coup, but I think it was a major improvement. And frankly, SEs aren't exactly in demand. They're not that great looking, IMHO. So what do you guys think?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Just Proof It!

This is just a quick post to point out the new link on the right side of this blog (the colors aren't working right now but trust me, a link is there!). Mark is someone I met on the Kindleboards a few years back. He was one of the first people outside my circle of readers who offered critical constructive feedback and editorial advice. Back then, Mark didn't charge for his services, but I quickly learned he had something of value to offer. Since then, Mark's been so busy editing manuscripts that he's had to make a business of it. I can fully endorse Mark as a fantastic line editor, but he does more than that. He can tell if your pacing is off, if your story arc needs work, and a dozen other things that you may not have noticed in the rush to hammer out your final draft.

Here's the thing about writing: Everybody thinks they can.

We've all read a book and thought to ourselves, "Hey I can do this." Or we wrote a two-page essay in middle-school that met a glowing review from Mrs. Soandso, and we thought: Yeah, I truly am gifted!

We're all naive at first. Then we learn how hard it is to finish a draft, how difficult it is to follow the various character arcs through the acts of the story, and how challenging it is to refine all of those scenes. We know we must have tension on every page. We must have dialogue that's believable and characters that have depth and emotion. And darn it, all of those rules on grammar that we learned back in elementary school don't even apply to half the stuff we write. What the heck?

Writing gets confusing. It might be trouble with usage and grammar, it might be that forgotten character we had such big plans for in Chapter 3, but who disappeared somewhere in the next 100,000 words. It might also be that we're just tired. We crank out these books as fast as we can type. We edit and revise and then move on hoping that we can come back with a fresh perspective, but that doesn't always work. And the built-in dictionary doesn't always catch our mistakes... okay, it rarely catches our mistakes. That's why we have beta readers. And that's also why, sometimes, we fork out some cash to a pro. Because in doing so, he can help us look like professionals, too. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Tinker's War Reviews Needed

Well, it's that time. Tinker's War has been out for over a week now and though it's been selling well, it hasn't netted one single review. It's looking awfully lonely up there on the Amazon page. Tinker's War could really use some love!

I know it's a big pain to go to Amazon, Goodreads, and whatever sites you frequent, look up the title, and try to brainstorm a review. Especially the review part. You want to be fair to the author and to the readers. You don't want to hurt anybody's feelings. You want to keep your reputation intact. I get it. But let me assure you, even if you received an ARC directly from the author, you are under no obligation to post a great review.  In fact, other readers will benefit more if your review is genuine, and they can often sense whether it is or not. Not to mention that your review is there for other readers in the first place. The author benefits regardless of how you rate the book, because it helps readers to make a more informed decision.

Now I'm not going to beg you to go write a one-star review on Tinker's War. I'm not crazy. But if that's what you need to do, by all means do so. However, I would like to encourage you to write a few lines about what resonated with you. Writing a review can be as simple as: 1) I liked _____, but 2) I didn't like ____. Feel free to criticize. Feel free to gush. Feel free to write two sentences and get on with your life.

I only ask for you to take a few minutes to post a review or two. In turn, your reviews will help me get books into the hands of people who want them, thereby allowing me to continue this career! Thanks once again for your support.

Tinker's War links:

Amazon Kindle Version
Amazon Paperback Version

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Tinker's War Available Now!!!

Tinker's War is now live on The paperback and e-book aren't linked yet, and for some reason Tinker's War is appearing as a sequel to itself rather than The Tinkerer's Daughter, but that should be fixed in the next day or two. Here are the links:

Tinker's War e-book
Tinker's War paperback
My Amazon Profile Page (all of my books!)

Your support in terms of reviews, tags, referrals and of course purchases is very much appreciated. Thanks to all of you, I've been able to pursue my dream as a career for more than a year now. I can't express how much this has meant to me, and how grateful I am to all of my readers. Thank you!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Tinker's Daughter price change, update on Tinker's War, and a word to the puppeteers:

As of today, the price on The Tinkerer's Daughter has dropped to $2.99. It's all part of my nefarious plan to seduce more readers into the series, of course. Today the Kindle, tomorrow the world! Only kidding. I've got enough problems without making the whole world my responsibility.

In related news, I'm submitting the final approval on the paperback of Tinker's War today, and the Kindle version is zipping through the cloud already. I'll post again when they're finally listed for sale. It won't be long now! 

And on to current events:

I have something else I've been wanting to say. I have been trying to keep it to myself. I thought the whole thing would blow over, but it just won't seem to go away. And frankly, the more I think about it, the more irritated I get. Here's what I'm talking about:

The whole world probably knows by now that certain authors, both Indie and legacy-published, have been "cooking the books" on their reviews. How did they do this? Well, there are multiple ways. The first is to pay people for reviews. The second is to make fake "sock-puppet" accounts at places like Amazon and Goodreads and use those fake accounts to give yourself fake five-star reviews. The third is to use those same sock-puppet accounts and try to destroy other authors you consider competition.

Yeah, I know. But here's the thing: A lot of people are defending some of these actions. And in a way, I agree. I had a conversation with Karen Woodward a while back, where I pointed out that even The Beatles and The Beach Boys have used similar tactics. Corporations spend millions of dollars on commercials using fake reviews, and big publishers and famous writers and musicians have been caught promoting their own work with fake reviews. It's almost a tradition.

The problem is, where do you draw the line? Personally, I think it's okay to "pay" for reviews, assuming that those reviews are guaranteed to be fair and truthful. It takes years to build up reviews, and it takes hundreds or even thousands of free copies of books. That's the way the system works. That's how it has always worked, and it always will. You give books away for free, based on the hope that those readers will give you a review. In my experience, you give away about 1,000 free books to get ONE review. Yeah, and I'm not the only one. Most legitimate, honest authors will tell you the same thing.*

*Here's your first clue on whether an author is a puppeteer: I've sold thousands of copies of The Tinkerer's Daughter, and given away thousands more, and I have 22 reviews on Amazon. I can show you examples of this all day long. New and midlist authors don't have hundreds of reviews, no matter how good they are. If they do, you should be suspicious!*

Also, there are services out there like Book Rooster that charge a small fee to distribute a novel to readers who have committed to review that book. As long as those reviews are honest, I don't see a problem with this. You're not paying for a review, you're paying for a commitment. To me, this sounds like paying a promotion company to do the same thing. It is the same thing. 

But some people took it a step farther. This is where things turn gray for me. They made sock-puppet accounts and gave themselves dozens or even hundreds of fake reviews. They used these fake accounts to have fake conversations with themselves, talking about how great their own work was. Okay, this isn't far removed from what the Beach Boys or a thousand other successful examples have done. Personally, I haven't. I think it's dishonest and unethical, but I do see the gray-matter argument and I'm trying not to judge these people. After all, they haven't hurt anyone. The buyers who were deceived can just as easily return the book for a refund, and now they're a bit wiser from the experience. They'll never buy anything from that author again. Unless of course they actually liked the book, in which case everybody wins. 

Now let's move on to category three. These are the lowest of the low. These are the universally hated slanderers who wrote fake reviews in an effort to besmirch and destroy the writers they considered competition. Where do I begin? No author is competition to another author. The market will never be too full of good books. Readers can't get enough as it is, and the damage these "writers" have done in some cases may be irreversible. A new writer filled with potential might just give up the craft after a few of these reviews, and the world would miss out on something that might have been great.

If you've done this, you're not an author and you are NOT writing good books. If you were, you wouldn't have to stoop to this level. You're a scumbag. Your books are garbage, and there's a special place for you in Hell right next to the pedophiles and serial killers. And do you know what else? EVERYONE HATES YOU. Even the people who posted fake five star reviews on their own books think you're a piece of garbage, and they're right. You're a morally bankrupt, unconscionable sociopath and you shouldn't be writing books, you should be seeking professional help, because it's one thing to boost your own rating and ego with fake reviews, but when you set out to destroy another author's career, you crossed a line.

Oh, and by the way, this practice is illegal and against Amazon's terms of service. Amazon and others are developing algorithms to analyze and identify these reviews at this very moment, and those of you who still have them posted should be losing sleep or hitting the delete key as fast as you can. In the meanwhile, lose sleep over this: when you made that fake account and posted those fake reviews, your I.P. was recorded. It doesn't matter what name you chose or how you tried to conceal your identity. They will identify you. And not just on Amazon, either. Recording your I.P. address is standard practice, so you might want to take another look at Goodreads and all those other places you've been trying to game the system.

My recommendation to you is that you start cleaning your nest now, before the Feds take an interest in what's been going on.You might just get out under the wire.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tinker's War Countdown

No big news this week, just a reminder: Tinker's War will be available this weekend.

As of yesterday, I have begun the final read-through on the paperback version, and I hope to upload the e-book any minute. Once the final versions are in cyberspace, it's just a matter of watching and waiting. If all goes well, both versions should be live by Saturday, and possibly even a bit sooner.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Supernatural fans note: '66 Impala project!

Any Supernatural fan can tell you that Dean's 1967 Impala is as much a star of the show as Sam and Dean, if not more. The car is just awesome.

The '67 on the show is a four-door sedan, probably chosen because it's a lot cheaper to replace than the more popular two-doors, which are becoming rare and considerably more expensive. This particular model ran for three years, 1965 through 1967, with only minor changes each year. Most notably, the 1965 had round taillights and a smaller grill. The 1966 kept the grill but moved to square taillights. The 1967 added the wraparound grill and front disc brakes (the first year they were available for Chevy).

Any fan of Supernatural or muscle cars in general would love to get their hands on a car like this. Well, I did. Here's how it happened:

I've got a long history with classic cars. I love hot rods and muscle cars, and even old trucks and motorcycles. I had restored old vehicles in the past, but I eventually ended up selling them. Then, about two years ago, my wife and I were discussing the fact that our son was going to be driving soon and he'd need a car. Like most parents, I believe my kids should earn the things they have. I also wanted to teach my son the value and pride of good, hard work. I got the chance to do just that when I found an old, beat up '66 Impala for sale at a fire-sale price. I showed it to my wife and son, and we were all in agreement. A week later, we towed it home:

As you can see, the car was rough around the edges. Aside from some missing parts, the engine was blown and the transmission was badly neglected. The interior was tattered, the headliner gone. And there were some other problems:

 We went to work right away. We cut out the damaged body parts and welded in new sheet metal. We pulled the blown 327 and dropped in a fuel-injected 350. We bought the 350 from a local salvage yard, and it required a little cleanup as well:


I wasn't going to have my son driving around with the original manual drum brakes, so I purchased a disc brake conversion kit:


In the last two years, my son and I have worked very hard to restore this old beauty. I'm happy to announce we're getting very close. We've had the car running for some time, but we ended up pulling the fuel injection and going to a four-barrel carburetor. That was one of the best decisions we've made yet. The finicky computer just wouldn't be happy in that old car, so it's gone. We also painted - not the final paint, but a basecoat to keep out the rain and protect our hard work. This is what the car looks like now:

I'd say that's a change for the better! I'm very proud of all the hard work my son has done. I'm also happy to say we've salvaged one more classic from a slow, rusty death.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

How to Help Your Favorite Authors... by Lindsay Buroker

This post is a reprint (with permission, of course) of a blog post by Lindsay Buroker. I've considered trying to put something like this together but frankly, after this post there isn't much left to be said. The information  below won't just help me, it will work for any author you like. I promise, he or she will be grateful:
As authors, we spend a lot of time trying to promote our books. Our biggest obstacle is obscurity because there are a lot of books out there. No, really. A lot.

We like to think that good stories are all it takes to make it (in author terms “make it” usually means “become well known enough and sell enough books that I can quit my day job and write for a living”), but you can doubtlessly think of mediocre books that are selling bazillions of copies and authors you love who never make it out of the “mid-list” category.

Sometimes it’s just the author (or publishing house) with the biggest marketing budget who wins, but you, as a reader, have amazing power. Don’t believe for a second that you don’t have anything to do with whether an author makes it, because you do. A lot. No, really. A lot.

Why does this matter to you? Well, authors who get to quit their day jobs can write faster and put more books out for you!

The following are some little things you can do that can make a big difference. Some of them only take a few seconds. Your favorite authors will appreciate the effort. Trust me. :) 

Helping out on Amazon
Amazon is the big kahuna of book sellers, especially when it comes to ebooks, so helping an author “get found” on there can give them a big boost. You can certainly do these things on other bookstore sites as well (nothing against copying and pasting a review, for example), but Amazon tends to have more cool features to help an author get found.
Here’s the list (any one of these things can help):
  • If you do nothing else, consider writing a review on Amazon, even if the book already has quite a few and/or you’ve reviewed it elsewhere. There’s evidence that ratings and reviews factor into the Amazon algorithms that decide which books are promoted on the site (i.e. certain books are recommended to customers who bought books in similar genres). If reviewing isn’t your bag, don’t worry about writing paragraphs-long in-depth studies of the book; maybe you could just pen a few sentences with a couple of specifics about why you liked the book.
  • “Tag” the book with genre-appropriate labels (i.e. thriller, steampunk, paranormal romance). You don’t have to leave a review to do this; you just need an account at Amazon. A combination of the right tags and a good sales ranking can make a book come up when customers search for that type of story on Amazon.
  • Give the book a thumb’s up. This takes less than a second and probably doesn’t do much, but it may play into Amazon’s algorithms to a lesser extent than reviews/ratings.
  • Make a “Listmania” List and add your favorite authors’ books to it. This creates another avenue for new readers to find books. It’s better to create lists around similar types of books (i.e. genres or sub-genres) than to do a smorgasbord, and consider titling it something description so folks will be more inclined to check it out, ie. “Fun heroic fantasy ebooks for $5 or less”
  • If you have a Kindle, highlight some wise or fun quotations from the book and share them publicly (if enough people share their highlights, they’ll show up at the bottom of a book’s page):
Popular Highlights on a Book's Sales Page

Helping out with Social Media
If you’re involved with Twitter, Facebook, Digg, StumbleUpon, etc., you can give your favorite authors a shout-out when they release new books. If they blog, you can follow their site (through Google Reader or other RSS readers) and share the link when they post something that may be interesting to your friends. If they’re on Twitter, you can follow them and retweet their links now and then.
Authors don’t expect you to follow them 24/7 and repeat everything they say (that might actually alarm some folks…), but a little promotional help now and then is greatly appreciated.
If you like to be social about books, you can join sites such as Goodreads, Shelfari, or LibraryThing. You can help your favorite authors by posting reviews and talking about their books on those sites, or you can just use those places to find online reading buddies with common interests.

Helping out with Your Blog
Do you ever talk about books or what you’re reading on your blog? You might consider reviewing your favorite authors on your site (you could even make a few dollars if you signed up as an Amazon affiliate).
Also, if most of your favorites maintain websites, you could add an “author blogroll” list in your menu with links to those sites.

And Lastly…
These days, most authors have websites and contact forms so you can get in touch. If you enjoyed their work, consider sending them a short note to let them know. While it won’t help them sell more books, it’ll make their day.

Thanks for reading (this post and books in general!).

**Authors, you’re welcome to reprint this article and post it on your blog. All I ask is that you give me credit with a link back to my site, i.e. “Originally by <a href=””>Lindsay Buroker</a>” or something like that. Thanks!
-End Post-

So that's about it. I don't have much to add, except to say that most Indie authors have their books published on multiple sites (I don't right now, but may in the future) and could use your reviews in those places also. is the big white whale of Indie publishing right now but reviews will also be appreciated at other sites like, and, among many others.

It's also worth mentioning that every review counts, even if it's just a sentence or two. Believe it or not -I hate to say this but it's true- there are certain peoples out there who think it's fun to troll with reviews. Some of these people especially target Indie authors because they so often get a response. They look for an author who doesn't have many reviews; whose reputation and rating they can seriously damage with a nasty one-star review.

The good news is that ultimately, those people are few and far between. The bad news is that authors you love may never get a chance at this career because of a lack of reviews. A few bad reviews can make a book almost disappear from Amazon's lists. People won't read what they can't find, and even if they do find it why would they buy a book with a two star rating, even though that book might have gotten one five star review from an honest reader followed up by a one star review by a troll? Believe me, it can happen, and it can take a long time for an author to recover. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

First Person World-Building

Most people already know that the term first-person narrative means a story is told through the voice of the main character. For some beginning writers this voice may seem appealing. After all, they don't have to figure out what everyone else is doing and thinking; just what's going in the main character's head! Easy enough, right?


There are many downfalls to writing in first person, the most prominent being voice. Coffee shops all over the world are filled with aspiring writers talking about how they're trying to find their voice. For some of them, they're only making things harder. Anyone who spends a great deal of time and energy developing a unique voice is going to want to use that voice when they start writing. The problem is, that voice will tend to come out when your characters are speaking, and characters shouldn't do that. Every character should have his or her own voice.

Here's an example from my Hank Mossberg Character:

"The hobgoblin shook off his confusion and came back at me with a wide right hook. I blocked it and caught him by the arm. I could’ve punched him again, but I had something more spectacular in mind. I gave him a hard push, throwing him off balance. He staggered back a few steps and then regained his balance, just as I tackled him. We went down in a heap, crashing through a roulette table like it was made of popsicle sticks. We instantly reduced the thing to kindling."

Notice the short sentences, the punchy rhythm? Hank's a big, tough private eye. He doesn't use much florid language, even if he is smart enough to know what those big words mean. And he doesn't stop to tell you about how he feels very often, either. On the other hand, take a look at Breeze, the young girl in The Tinkerer's Daughter:

"I could see my father at the far end of the valley below, heading out across the plains. I fell to my knees and started sobbing. I called out to him, but he didn’t come back. I struggled to understand this unforgivable turn of events. He had abandoned me. I couldn’t have understood that he was a soldier and that he had been called back to war. It wouldn’t have meant anything to me, even if they had tried to explain it. All I knew was that my father had gone, that he had left me.I called out to him, choking through my tears, straining my voice with volume. He never glanced back. I told myself that he couldn’t hear me even though I knew it wasn’t true."

Ah, Breeze. Her voice is so different from Hank's that they might as well be a different species (They are). She's articulate and emotional. She describes every detail of everything she observes and she reflects on how these things affect her, both emotionally and spiritually. You may attribute this to the fact that she's female, and that Hank is a male. That's partly correct, but there's more. I'm not just talking about the difference in IQ or education, either. Breeze is writing about herself as a child, but Breeze -the child- is not doing the writing. An older, more mature Breeze is doing the writing. That allows her to speak in the voice of a full-grown and well-educated woman, even though she's telling us what happened to her as a child. 

This approach has one more advantage. Let's move on to the second most common problem with first-person narratives: world building. 

World building is what writers do when they define the setting of the story. In fantasy or science fiction, this often means developing a set of rules in regards to physics, science, and magic. It also means figuring out the geography of the world, the landscape. It's naming mountains and rivers, villages and cities, and figuring out how long they've been there and how they contributed to the anthropology of the local cultures (and yes, that's another big aspect of world building).

So now the writer has done months of preparation, building a massive world right down to the most minute details, and he's especially excited to show it all off. Only he can't, because he chose a main character who's a teenage girl living in a secluded valley at the very edges of civilization. All she knows about the world is what she may (or may not) have read in a book. So she can't very well describe something she's never seen before. Unless an older, smarter version is doing the writing. That allows the narrator to describe situations she didn't understand at the time, but she does now. This usually works, as long as she makes the distinction between now and then. But it doesn't always work. 

A book reviewer, Pat's Fantasy Hotlist, had some trouble with a recent first-person novel:
"Interestingly enough, there is virtually no worldbuilding to speak of throughout the novel. Other than a few brief revelations regarding the Syldoon toward the end, Salyards introduces a number of what appears to be fascinating concepts and ideas, but he never follows through and elaborate on any of them. This could be construed as a major flaw, but I reckon it has more to do with the fact that the tale is told through the first person narrative of Arkamondos, a cowardly scribe who has seldom been out and about, and who seems to have little knowledge of the world around him."

The reviewer was clever or kind enough to give the author the benefit of the doubt with his world-building, but we can't always count on that. Here's another example: 

In The Tinkerer's Daughter, the entire kingdom of Astatia is on the edge of an industrial revolution. They're just beginning to discover things like steam engines and springs. Now, in our reality, spring engines aren't very practical. They need to be wound by hand or machine and they can't store huge amounts of energy. The more they store, the bigger and heavier they are, and the harder to rewind. So in our world, they're not practical. But Astatia isn't our world (not exactly, anyway) and the same principles don't apply (not exactly, anyway). -Yes I said that twice... hmm. Guess you'll have to read the books and figure out what I'm talking about, huh?-

Sorry. Back on point: Spring engines work great in Astatia. They're extremely powerful and very efficient, particularly when they're made out of the special steel that comes from the Blackrock Mountains. And therein lies the problem. Breeze and the other characters in Book One of that series didn't even know there was a difference. They had never experienced one of our spring engines, so they couldn't compare them. I, as the writer, couldn't relay this information to my readers without giving up the secrets to come in later sequels, and without destroying the credibility of my characters who didn't have this knowledge yet.

One way of dealing with a situation is to have your first-person narrator say something like this: "We didn't know it at the time, but we later learned..." 

You can get away with that once or twice in a book, especially when it comes to naming a foreign piece of machinery or something about another culture. But that trick wears out quick, so you have to use it sparingly. Unfortunately, a handful of readers took my Blackrock Steel evolution as a lack of world-building or a naive physics faux pas. Most were willing to take the story with a grain of salt; to accept it as fantasy and temporarily suspend disbelief, but a few were not, and this showed up in a few reviews. What could I have done differently? Well, I could have used the above trick. Except that I had already used it, and I really didn't want to start giving away secrets that I had planned to reveal later.  I decided to let the world reveal itself in the way I had planned. 

That's another risk you take with first person. How much can you reveal? How much should you reveal? If you make the wrong choice, you'll hear about it. You might hear about it even if you made the right choice. Ultimately, I don't know if I made the right decision or not. I can tell you, sitting here right now, that I have more secrets that won't be revealed until Book Three. Should I change that? I don't think so... but then again I'm just the writer. I'll have to wait to find out what my readers think. This is one more thing to consider when getting ready to write your next first person.

Monday, August 6, 2012

ARCs going out now!

Advance copies of Tinker's War are going out this week. Most of you who elected for an e-book probably already have a copy. If not, check your junk mail filter. If you still don't have it, let me know and I'll get a fresh copy sent out ASAP. 

I haven't received the paperbacks yet, but I expect them by the end of the week. They will ship as soon as I have them in hand. I will also be launching a giveaway on Goodreads (of course!), so keep your eyes open for that.

In completely unrelated news, I'm using Blogger's updated interface - the one they're going to force on us very soon - and I absolutely hate it. The frames are gone so everything looks weird... things just seem to float off the page. The colors are light gray and bright white (not sure yet if this can be changed) and they're kind of hard for me to stare at. There is nothing to separate the posts on my reading list, other than some white space. It's like a print newspaper with no borders. If this really is the wave of the future, it may be time for me to move on to Wordpress, which some of my fans have already suggested. 

I'm not sure how much of this new Blogger interface can be customized, but frankly I don't want to waste the time. The reason I went with Blogger in the first place was because the interface was clean and simple. There was no learning curve. Pick a template and start typing. Get down to business. The only real alternative out there is Wordpress, which can be notoriously tough to figure out at first. Plus, most of the Wordpress websites I see out there really don't have much refinement to them. I'm not against the simple look, but at a certain point it looks kind of cheap. I don't think a massive java website that costs thousands of dollars is the answer either, but something in between is nice. I thought I had that with Blogger and with my website (on an alternate host) but now I'm not so sure.

The one thing I do know is that right when you think you've got things worked out, somebody always gets an idea. Usually, somebody is a person with too much time on their hands and enough power to force the rest of us to go along with their silly notions. Somebody might be your boss, leaving you no choice (if you like and/or need) your job, or somebody might be Blogger or Facebook or Google, in which case it's not an ultimatum but it still doesn't leave you with any real choices. No good ones, anyway.

I'd better stop now, before I start talking about big corporations and modern management techniques.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

6,000 books sold!

 One of the things I treasure about the community of Indie writers is transparency. This is an experiment for all of us, and we're all trying different things. Fortunately, we live in the age of instant information and we can share our failures and successes effortlessly, for the greater benefit of all. 

In this new environment, some writers have found success by social networking, others by pricing all of their titles at $0.99. Or $2.99. Or $9.99. For some, the number "10" has been lucky. Publish ten books, they say, and then everything takes off. Yet others have only published one or two, or instead have chosen to publish short novellas rather than full length novels. For the right person at the right time, each of these techniques has brought massive success. Ultimately though, the true formula for success seems to be writing well and knowing your market. Those two things have always been integral to this business and it seems they always will.

Admittedly, it's hard to keep track of everything going on out there, and this task is made even harder by the moving target - by which I mean Amazon of course. In the last few months, it has come to light that Amazon does some odd things with their search and display algorithms, the most recent being an adjustment that favors higher priced novels. This created a situation where lower priced novels had to sell many more copies to reach the same overall ranking on I tested this myself and found it to be true. I've seen one of my novels priced at $5.99 go from 200,000 rank down to less than 50,000 with one sale. That information in itself would be highly valuable, except for the fact that we know Amazon toys with the individual "weight" of each sale, so we can only draw conclusions as to what this means for individual prices. One of my loss leader titles priced at $0.99 might have to sell five or ten copies to reach a rank of 50,000 on the same day, and we can't even assume that these algorithms function the same all day long. What works at noon may not at midnight. Amazon likes to keep us guessing. 

But it's still good to know where we all sit as individuals. That information is valuable; it gives us a feel for the movement of the market and the business in general. So, this is where I am:

6,000. That's the number of titles sold in approximately 18 months since I began this experiment. That doesn't count free downloads. That number is pure profit. It may seem pretty good or a bit pathetic depending on where you stand. The truth is that 6,000 books is a fairly midlist number in Indie publishing. It's not an abysmal failure by any stretch, but few would consider that mark a phenomenal success. But let's examine those numbers a little closer:

The first point I should make is that my number of published titles has consistently grown over that time frame. I began by publishing a small back log of novels, trying to put up a new one every few weeks. In the midst of that, I was continuing to write, and eventually I began publishing the newer works as well. I'm now reaching the level of about four new novels per year - that's four NEW, full-length novels, it doesn't count short stories or the back list. What that means is that when I started publishing eighteen months ago, I had one title up. A few weeks later it was two. A few months later, it was five. So I began as an unknown with no marketing or promotion, and just a slowly growing list of books. 

I spent that first year analyzing my numbers in terms of daily averages. Thirty sales for one month would have meant one sale per day. I started at less than that, and worked my way up to three a day, then five, and so on... I peaked during the post-holiday shopping season with just under 1,500 sales for the month of February . That number then slid down to less than a thousand, until I hit bottom over the summer with an average of 250-300 sales per month. After selling 1,500 books a month for a while, 300 can feel pretty lousy. But the reality is that I'm still selling several times what I was selling last year. 

The last point is that my 6,000 number has mostly happened in the last six months. The slow build that got me to that number didn't amount to much for the first year. I don't have solid numbers, but my guess would be less than 1,500 of those sales came from 2011. The rest of it has been all this year, and that's not too bad.

All I can do at this point is hope and pray that the growth continues in the same way. I know to expect a surge in business around the holidays and a slump through the summer. That's the way it just seems to work. But if I'm selling three or four times as much next summer as I am this summer, I WILL be making a living at this, and ultimately that is the goal.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tinker's War!

Ten years have passed since the death of Prince Sheldon and the end of his violent coup, and in that time Breeze has been content to fly her spring-powered planes back and forth across Astatia, shuttling ambassadors and nobles from city to city. Steam technology and springs have evolved since the discovery of the unique qualities of Tinker's Blackrock steel, which can store incredible amounts of energy, but word of this steel has spread far and wide and  the years of peace, prosperity, and political bickering have made the nation weak. 

When a horde of barbarian warriors known as Vangars invade by crossing the Frigid Sea in gigantic black dragon ships fueled by precious but dwindling supplies of black tar-like oil, Astatia is all but defenseless.The mighty Vangar warriors assault the capital cities, slaying the royal families and killing or capturing thousands of citizens in one mighty blow, leaving a cloud of acrid black smoke and the smell of death in their wake. Breeze forms a team of rebels intent on defeating the Vangars, but in the meanwhile Tinker has become the Vangars' most valuable prisoner, and her hopes of rescuing him may be too late.

In the midst of the chaos, Breeze finds herself trapped in the middle of a romantic conspiracy to wed her to a young pilot, but Breeze has no interest in marrying her would-be suitor, nor in the young Tal'mar warrior named Tam who would claim her as his own... or does she? The only thing she knows for certain is that she must rescue Tinker and stop the Vangar from learning his secrets or all else will be lost, and the kingdom of Astatia will fall into ruin and slavery forever.

Tinker's War will be available September 15. If you'd like to read it before then, contact me about an advance review copy at

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

I'm Back!!!!!

Whew. 10 Days on the road, 5 days of solid driving, towing my family's 25ft travel trailer through no less than 7 states for a total of nearly 3,000 miles. That's practically San Francisco to D.C.! After a whirlwind adventure, we finally got home Friday night. We spent Saturday unpacking and working on the trailer, and then towed it up to storage. And as soon as I was done with it all, I immediately came down with a cold.

I suppose that's not too surprising, considering the extreme exhaustion that such a trip can cause, but the truth is it started even before I left. I knew that before I hit the road with my family, I'd have to do some maintenance on my truck and trailer because the last place you want to break down is in the middle of the high plains in July, 1,000 miles from home and with no cell phone reception and temperatures often pushing 110 degrees.

I started early, doing some repairs on the trailer and general maintenance on the truck. Then I realized that I not only had to change the transmission fluid and oil, but the front end needed a complete rebuild. Before our trip even began, I had changed the ball joints, tie rods, drag link and track bar bushings... plus the above mentioned maintenance. So really, this trip started for me about two months ago and I hadn't had a moment's rest until Sunday morning, when the flu knocked me on my butt and I spent the day pacing around the house like a mental patient looking for his invisible sneakers.

And yesterday, an old friend came by to ask for help finding a new apartment because the house where he had been renting a room just went into a short sale and the bank gave him two weeks to get out. Hazy as I was, I did what I could. He's got a list of six places to visit today. I hope it all works out for him, and I'm sure by the end of the week I'll probably be helping him move.

At any rate, Sunday and Monday were a wash and I'm only just getting back to reality today. I had big plans for this week but I'm kind of lowering my expectations. I'm getting ready to send out ARCs on Tinker's War, but they won't be ready for a couple more weeks and in the meanwhile I still haven't drummed up any reviews for Death in the Hallows. So my plan is to contact reviewers this week and send out copies of Hallows, and then start focusing on Tinker's War next week. By the end of the month I'll be sending those ARCs out.

In the meanwhile, my blog and newsletter followers are welcome to email me and get on the list. If you want an advance review copy of Tinker's War, let me know! And if you have a blog or other similar forum and would like to do an interview or author spotlight, please contact me. My email address is: