Monday, October 21, 2019

New Release!

Book 4 of the He said, She said series is Available Now! For those who didn't catch the reveal, here's the cover and synopsis. Links are below:

While driving on an isolated stretch of road late at night, Tanja passes a horrifying accident. She hurries back to the scene only to find that the vehicle involved and the pedestrian have both vanished. After a thorough investigation, even the police can find no evidence of a hit and run. However, Sheriff Diekmann seems to recall a similar incident in one of his old cases…

Things get even creepier when Tanja realizes that the man she saw run down that night is the same man who went missing years ago. His body was never found. Suddenly, the Shepherds aren’t sure whether they’re investigating a hit and run or chasing down a ghost.

 This title is premiering at only $0.99US. Grab a copy, tell a friend. Here are the links:

Also, I owe some readers an apology. Book one of this series has been set to FREE -but not in all stores. It seems there are some issues over at KDP. They've been working on this problem for a few weeks now, and so far, still no solution. Once it's figured out, I'll post the updated links for ya. Until then, have a great autumn and enjoy!

Thursday, September 26, 2019

New Mysteries!

Finally! I have big news for those of you who enjoy my mysteries. I have TWO new releases available now -and one more coming soon!

First, allow me to introduce book 3 of the He said, She said mystery series. It's called A Deadly Vintage:


A wine auction should be a fun, exciting time. Not when the Shepherds are around… That is, unless you consider murder exciting!

The victim was a critic: A foul-tempered man loathed by everyone. The suspect is a wealthy man -a billionaire connoisseur of great wines, and a much-loved philanthropist. Tanja can’t understand what would drive a man so revered for his kindness, compassion, and generosity to commit murder. As usual, there’s more to this mystery than meets the eye…

This book is a novella, and the current price is only $0.99US, so grab a copy and tell a friend. Here are the links:

Universal link: Rakuten, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Walmart, etc!

 Book 4 isn't live yet, but it will be out in October. In keeping with the thrills & chills of the season, this one is titled Ghost Story:


While driving late at night on an isolated stretch of road, Tanja passes a horrifying accident. She locates a place to turn around and hurries back to the scene, only to find that the vehicle involved and the pedestrian have both vanished. After a thorough investigation, even the police can find no evidence of a hit and run. However, Sheriff Diekmann seems to recall a similar incident in one of his old cold cases…

Things get even creepier when Tanja realizes that the man she saw run down that night is the same man who went missing years ago. His body was never found. Suddenly, the Shepherds aren’t sure whether they’re investigating a hit and run or chasing a ghost.

This title is also a novella and will launch at the same price. To know right away, sign up for my newsletter if you haven't already.

Next up is Bad Medicine, a short story that introduces Christopher Faust, a detective with a dark secret:


Due to a rare condition, detective Christopher Faust can never venture into the sun. This does not however, prevent the reclusive genius from solving some of the world’s toughest crimes. When a woman comes to Faust about her missing husband and warns that he is about to commit a murder, the detective leaps into action. As the details begin to emerge, Faust has to wonder if he’s doing the right thing. Maybe murder isn’t always so bad…

 This story is available now, but there's a catch. Only my newsletter subscribers have access to this title. If you haven't signed up yet, do it now because you don't want to miss this one. Otherwise, use the download link provided in this week's newsletter.

That's it for now. Enjoy the reads and watch your email for book 4, coming next month!

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Leaving Unlimited?! Thoughts on going wide...

After a couple years of being exclusive with Amazon's Kindle Unlimited program -also known as Select- I've started to remove my books. Some have already come out. The rest will expire over the next few weeks. If you're a subscriber and haven't read any of my books, now is the time. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, here's a paragraph from their website describing the program:

"Kindle Unlimited is a subscription program for readers that allows them to read as many books as they want. The Kindle Owners' Lending Library is a collection of books that Amazon Prime members who own a Kindle can choose one book from each month with no due dates. When you enroll in KDP Select, your books are automatically included in both programs. Your books will still be available for anyone to buy in the Kindle Store, and you'll continue to earn royalties from those sales like you do today" 

So, if you have a monthly subscription to Amazon's free ebooks, you have Unlimited, and if you just have Prime, you have access to the library. With Unlimited, you get to download all the freebies you want from authors like me, who then get paid a little less than half a cent per page that you read.

So why would I leave? Well, that half a cent thing for one . Depending on the book's price, authors can lose a LOT of money in that program. They're also forced into exclusivity, meaning no sales from B&N, Kobo, or anywhere else. Sometimes that exclusivity pays off, sometimes it doesnt. My sales have been lagging for two years -about as long as I've been in KU- and while the extra money I've earned from borrows has helped to make up the difference in the past, they don't anymore. I can only assume this has to do with Amazon's "tweaking" of their algorithms. 

I've noticed recently that Amazon's system is working tirelessly to push my books off the charts. If I run a promotion, or  get a little boost in sales for some other reason, the improvement in rank disappears almost immediately. It seems that no matter what I do or how much readers enjoy my books, Amazon is constantly trying to force me off the charts. When my rank gets worse, sales lag because my books aren't visible to new buyers. And thus begins the death spiral.

I've also found that searching for my books generally leads to about 15 pages of completely unrelated results. Not just a little unrelated -I mean books that don't even contain the words He said, She said (for instance) and aren't even in the same genre. In fact Harry Potter books were coming up in search results before He said, She said. As were nonfiction and historical titles. In other words, these were search results that no one would even want to see! My books were buried. WTH, Amazon? 

I ran a few experiments to test this. With my book He said, She said "Murder," I couldn't even find the book in a general search. I searched by title and author. No better. I edited the book to put the words He said, She said in my keywords. Supposedly, the keywords for my books will help people find what they're looking for, like using the word "mystery" or "thriller" so that the book comes up when buyers search for that word. In this case, the keyword He said, She said made ZERO difference. I couldn't even find my own book searching by title, author, and keyword. 

So I gave the book a subtitle: "He said, She said 'Murder': A He said, She said Cozy Mystery."  That helped a little. Now, the book came up within the first few of pages of search results. But that was after other books which still had no relevance whatsoever. In other words, my book was now almost visible, but still buried in irrelevant search results. Now, I'm no expert, but I do have some experience with this interwebby thing and I'm pretty sure searching for something in a store should produce results that at least sound similar to that item. I don't know how the results could be this screwed up without it being intentional. But why? Would Amazon really screw up their own store like that on purpose? Common sense and a vague understanding of how capitalism works would say "No."

So I'm not pointing the finger at Amazon. Not exactly. They're a huge company, and I believe they are trying to do best by their customers. Unfortunately, Amazon is inundated with thousands of fake reviews and fake products every single day. They're up against a tsunami of crooks trying to exploit the system, coming at them from every direction, and every time they tweak something to fix problem "A," something else happens that no one expected. Now "A" is fixed, but "C" is acting up and nobody even knows where "Q" went. (Let's not even mention the internal problems, like employees who take bribes to alter reviews and search results.)
Let's face it: Amazon is like a monkey trying to ride a tiger. In that kind of situation, all you can do is try to hang on and hope the thing eventually tires out. 

So, I tried one more thing: I made it free

Guess what? Booom! Now, it shows up on page one. Right near the top. Yep. If you want people to find your stuff on Amazon... give it away for FREE. As far as I can tell, that's the only reliable way to get their search engine to notice you. But you'll have to pull your title out of Unlimited to do that. And in the meanwhile, you'll have readers on other sites finding your free book, enjoying it, and then wondering why they can't find the sequels -which aren't there, because they're exclusive to Amazon. So these potential customers get pissed and move on to another author. 

Now, as I said before, there was once a certain payoff for my exclusivity with Amazon. It's the "big" store in ebooks, and by far the best place to sell your wares. Those borrows didn't pay a lot, but they paid something. The thing is, now that Amazon's system seems to be working so hard to hide my books, I'm not getting many borrows or sales. What I'm getting paid in borrows lately I can easily make up by selling my books wide. In fact, I could probably make as much selling paperbacks on the street corner. So there's really no reason not to try. I just don't see much benefit to that exclusivity anymore.

That's not to say I think this is the answer for everyone, or that it's a permanent solution. I may bring some books back. I may decide to rotate -Say, one series this month, another next month. Or, I may get an offer to go exclusive with someone else. One that's even more lucrative... Who knows what might happen? All I know is that right now competition is stiff, and the only person on my team is me. So I'll stay limber and keep moving. That's how you survive.

I have my own tiger to ride.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

School's out! Celebrate with a free book!

Holy cow, another school year gone. I'm sure that means you're busy with squirt guns and water balloons, vacation packing, humming Alice Cooper songs, and so on. However, besides going camping, hanging out at the beach, and taking a road trip, there's something else summer is great for: Reading!

Some of my best childhood memories are of taking a book to a quiet place up on a mountain or down by the river, and letting my imagination take over. In fact, I can clearly remember going through the entire Hardy Boys collection in just a couple weeks one summer. I read The Hobbit twice another year and went on to read and reread The Lord of the Rings every single year thereafter for my entire childhood...

So, maybe I was a freak. In my defense, reading wasn't all I did, it just happened to be one of my favorite things to do. I bet it's one of yours too, or you wouldn't be here. And with ebooks, Kindles, tablets and smartphones, it's easier than ever to enjoy a good novel outdoors. That means it's a great time to load up on books.

To celebrate summer reading time, I've just made He Said, She said book one free. You can grab a copy right here.  I've also adjusted the price of book 2 down to just .99¢! Books 3&4 will be available very soon... keep an eye out for updates.

In unrelated news, I've made one more minor change to this blog: I've expanded on my bio page. Don't get me wrong, this isn't the novelized version (or even the novella), but it does have a few gritty details I'm sure you've all been dying to know (or not). In a way, it's not so much about me as it is about you. Curious? Click the link up above and check it out.

Until next time, have a great summer!

Friday, May 10, 2019

Blog Updates

I owe an apology to those of you who subscribe to this blog via email. For some reason, my mailing app decided to grab a bunch of (very old) random posts and spit them out all over you. I'm so embarrassed. Can I get you a napkin?

This oops may have been prompted by some changes I've been making. An unfortunate side-effect of doing construction is always the mess. Well that, and the fact that you never know what you'll find when you start to dig. Anyway, since the work is ongoing and I haven't figured out yet exactly why this happened, it could happen again. Consider this my advance apology for any further weirdness over the next few days.

Regarding the updates: It begins with those old posts, most of which I have been removing. I've found many of them are no longer relevant and don't really serve any purpose. Some were announcements regarding books I published over the years, or events that happened long ago, or references to articles and websites that aren't even there anymore. I'm trying to get all of those gone. I'm also removing the pages and articles regarding my projects. While it was fun documenting some of that stuff, and I hope it provided some entertainment value, it really doesn't serve any purpose. The truth is that the vast majority of readers don't care that I enjoy making wine, building canoes, and restoring classic cars. Those are details that have nothing to do with writing, and when it comes down to it, you aren't really fans of me. You're fans of Hank Mossberg, Valkyrie Smith, and Breeze Tinkerman. So in the future, I won't be delving too much into the personal stuff.

Also gone are my articles on cover creation. They're fun to read -I think they really do show some good examples of going from crap to okay to maybe even good- and it was interesting to revisit them and see just how bad some of my old covers were. But most Indies have figured out how this works, and if they haven't by now, they never will. The internet is full of articles, tutorials, and books that go into much greater detail and will prove far more useful than my little experiments. Besides, cover making is an ongoing discipline. What looks good today will be outdated in a few months or a few years. Fads come and go, technology improves, tastes change. So if you're like me and you're still trying to master this ever-changing craft, then I probably don't have much to teach you anyway.

Most of these changes are complete now. In the future, I'll try to stay more on top of the housecleaning. I'm also looking into a new design for this blog, but I haven't settled on anything yet. That's all the news for now. Have a great day!

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Hank Mossberg promo this week!

Just a quick post today, letting you all know that I'm running a promotion on the Hank Mossberg series. All books are either free or deeply discounted, except for #6 -and even the last one is a fraction of what you'd pay a traditional publisher.

 You can find the whole series right here. 

 If you don't mind, post a review while you're there! It's a huge help for struggling Indies like me, and I greatly appreciate every single one. And by all means, do share the link with friends. How am I gonna sell movie rights to this thing if nobody knows about it? :)

Have a great day, and enjoy!

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Iron Horse Promo + New Covers!

Now that the Iron Horse saga is complete, I've been going back through the cover art and doing some reworks. I don't think the artwork for this series was terrible -it ranged from acceptable to pretty good, IMHO- but there is always room for improvement. Plus, trends change fairly quickly, and that can leave the books at the beginning of a series in need of an update by the time it's done. This seems to be particularly true over the last few years, thanks largely to independent authors and cover artists who've raised the bar in ways no one could have imagined a decade ago. Art that may have been acceptable back then, even coming from a large publishing house, wouldn't even garner a second glance these days. That means the rest of us who can't pay pros to hold our hands every step of the way must continually raise our game.

I've discussed before on this blog the ongoing process of learning cover design. There are many tricks I've picked up over the years, and I think my work has come a long way. Granted, if you're a writer considering the choice between doing your own work and hiring it out, you may save a lot of time and mistakes by choosing the latter. That is, if you can afford it - if you have money but no time, for example. I tend to be on the opposite end of that spectrum. I make my living doing this. I don't have a day job, which means my income can vary wildly. I also have a family and all the responsibilities and worries that go along with that, so I have to be careful about how I use my income. Therefore, I try to use my time wisely and always improve my own work, whether that be writing a better book, drafting a better synopsis, or designing a better cover to wrap around it.

Which brings me to the point. I want to show you a couple of the covers I've updated, alongside the originals, to exemplify the changes I've made. Once you see them, I think you'll understand why I made the decision to do this.

First, let's look at book no. 1: The Clockwork God 

 The cover on the left is the original, the right is the rework. In this case, I think the original artwork was quite attractive. River makes a nice focal point for the cover, and the slightly blurred Iron Horse behind her ads a little depth without too much distraction, thanks to the color coordination. My only two complaints about this original cover were that the font had to be bright white in order to make it visible, and while the image is attractive, the cover looks more like a movie poster than a book. Maybe not a terrible thing, but not ideal. This is a book, and I want book readers to pick it up, not buy a ticket to see it at a theater.

The updated version contains all the same elements, reorganized in a way to make it more appealing as a book. The ornate frame and brass-like font effects scream "steampunk," as do the colors and the general layout. This version is a bit more busy, and perhaps the extra detail make the image and fonts a little more difficult to pick out, but I believe the overall effect is worth that sacrifice. Even when scaled down, the image still beckons to fans of a certain type of book.

Next, let's look at book four, The Clockwork Legion:

 As you can see, rather than starting with 3d art I had personally developed (like River on the first cover), I used a simple stock image with a little bit of tweaking for this book. This was, in my opinion, one of the strongest original covers in the series. The artwork is simple, contrasting and eye-catching, and it's an obvious call to fans of steampunk and adventure. The skull with the hat and goggles, the parchment, and the font all grab the attention of that audience. The only real problems were that this cover (also) looked more like a movie poster than a book, and it no longer matched the rest of the series.

I used the same frame from book one to dress up this cover. In fact, I used that frame for all five books so there's no mistaking the series for anything else. I also switched back to the original font, which is not quite as eye-catching but is still elegant and steampunky all at once. (In case you're wondering, the first font here is called "bleeding cowboys" and the second is "Birmingham." Try them out and trust me, a good font can make all the difference!) I used a bevel and drop shadow this time instead of the brass texture, which makes the text a little easier to read and fits better with this particular cover. The resizing of the skull also makes the artwork stand out without having to be eye-strikingly bright, which is a bonus, and the frame directs the eye right to that focal point.

If you'd like to see the rest of the covers, check the link to my books at the top of this page. Or better yet, check them out on Amazon and grab them all while you're there! If you already own these books but would like the new covers... theoretically at least, you should be able to delete them from your Kindle or other device and then re-download from your account. This doesn't always work unfortunately, and you may have to go into your Amazon account (manage devices and content) and try it there. And if that doesn't work (sometimes it doesn't) then you have to either contact support or delete the book from your account and repurchase. Also note, these new covers are not available on the paperback versions. That may change eventually, but for now this is a digital update only.

The good news is that the first four books in this series are either free or $.99 right now! Yeah, you can basically buy the entire series for the price of a fancy coffee with whipped cream on top. They're all at the link above. Enjoy.

Friday, March 1, 2019

New Release: Valkyrie 3! Plus, newsletter news, and a freebie!

Book three of the Valkyrie Smith series is here! But first, an important announcement regarding the newsletter:

Until now, I have been using one newsletter for all of my genres. I have come to realize that this isn't ideal, and it's better to let my readers choose what books they want updates on. To that end, I will now have one newsletter for mystery (Gates) and another for fantasy/sci-fi (Sedgwick). If you prefer one and hate the other, you no longer need to be bothered with news that isn't relevant to your interests. On the other hand, if you really like my writing and you want to read it all, you can maintain your subscription to both. I'll provide links and more details when the newsletter goes out this weekend.

Now, at last, here's the info on V3:

Available now at Amazon!

The tables have turned. The Informant is dead; the Collector is on the run. Valkyrie knows the killer’s real name now. She’s about to learn his past. The only thing coming between Val and her long-sought revenge is the final missing piece of the puzzle: Why her? What connects the killer to her family? 

If Val can unravel the plot in time, she might find the answers to all her questions and save dozens of lives. But if her plan succeeds, and she finally meets the Collector face to face, one chilling fact remains. In the killer's own words: “Somebody’s gotta die.” 


In case you're wondering, this book resolves the story arc between Val and the Collector. Out of necessity, it's a bit of a departure from the first two. Don't worry, the thrills, the mystery, and the tension are all there. But you might get to know Val a little better this time around, and I guarantee you'll be surprised to learn the origins of the Collector. DEAD END is now live on Amazon, in both digital and paper formats. As a gift to my readers, the ebook will be discounted to $0.99US for the first few days. Grab it fast, because the price will go up!

ALSO, book one of the He said, She said series is FREE this weekend.  Click the link. Grab a copy. Let a friend know! Enjoy.

Lastly, I'm working on book three of HS/SS right now. The first draft is done and I'll be doing revisions over the next month or two. After some rest time, some editing... It looks like book 3 will be out this spring. I currently have no fantasy or sci-fi in the works, because I've been focused on Valkyrie and the Shepherd detectives, and at the same time I have been working on the addition to my house, which should be done this summer. That means it will be a while before I have another fantasy novel ready to go. Until then, check this space for updates, promos and freebies. Have a great March!