Saturday, December 22, 2012

Giveaway for both books in Ryoku series

My new e-book "Redemption of Mata Hari (Ryoku, the Game of Power #2)" will be free on Amazon Dec 24-26! Simultaneously, I'm having a paperback giveaway for book one of the series:

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Foundation for the Lost by Scott Rhine

Foundation for the Lost

by Scott Rhine

Giveaway ends January 19, 2013.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Holiday Giveaway for Doors to Eternity

For the holidays, I'm setting the first volume of my epic trilogy to 99 cents and doing a Goodreads give away of the 3 paperbacks.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Doors to Eternity by Scott Rhine

Doors to Eternity

by Scott Rhine

Giveaway ends January 15, 2013.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

Friday, December 14, 2012

Starting a New Horror Book Starring Nick Solace

I finished the third chapter of my next book today, with the working title "Clean and Floss". The main character, Nick Solace (which he pronounces Soul-less), cleans up paranormal crime scenes for the government.
"It all started when the body dump went south. I was in the middle of simple two-swap favor when I got the call."
It's a lot of fun watching Nick. Like the character in "Gross Pointe Blank", he demonstrated a certain moral flexibility early in life. As a lobbyist, he prides himself on living by a strict 10-point code. Number ten is "Never testify: nothing good ever comes of it." So when a mission goes horribly awry, he has to flee so Senate Oversight can't question him. We don't want Congress to know what's really happening out there. Just when he thinks he's safe hiding in London, he encounters a ghost who's trying to destroy a sketch by Leonardo DaVinci--one he never finished. (left)
"Ghosts require a specialist in abnormal psychology because if they were normal, they wouldn't stick around."

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Jezebel Paperback Giveaway

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Jezebel's Ladder by Scott Rhine

Jezebel's Ladder

by Scott Rhine

Giveaway ends January 09, 2013.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

The Lady or the Crocodile Demon

Aaron needed to get back to his wife to help deliver their twins. He was the only one immune to her fire magic if she lost control. But poor word choice with an angel sent him to the Abyss. Now he had to escape and find his way back to Salem across the deserts of the Djinn. When he discovered a woman in the Caves of Ice who shouldn’t be there, he felt compelled to rescue her as well. That’s when things really went to hell.

Hear Mata Hari quotes from The Arabian Nights, Inferno, and the Talmud in the supernatural sequel to Foundation for the Lost.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Love or Money

I just finished the first draft of my Djinn sequel to "Foundation for the Lost." The working title has been "Hero of Fire" but two possible more exciting titles are "Redemption of Mata Hari" and "Tears of the Abyss." My working titles are usually pretty mash potato plain and relate to the inspiration. I wrote it because Foundation is my favorite story so far and the main character deserved closure. Hopefully, the sequel will help shine light on my highest rated story (that only sells 15 copies a month). While it's in edit, I'll work with Renee on the cover. Over Thanksgiving week, I'll try to cook up some advertizing for a few books and decide my next project.

Ladies and gentlemen, the next choice will come down to two options: love or money.

The character that's been whispering in my ear loudest for the last four months has been Nick Solace (pronounced Soulless), a fixer for a special branch of the Smithsonian in DC. His degree is in abnormal psych but he's officially a lobbyist--which explains the odd important people he's always meeting with. I have two short stories with Nick that form the core of my first horror novel. My favorite parts are the asides like when the rental car girl asks him if he want to get a hybrid and save the planet. "From what I've seen today, it'll take a lot more than that." There are tangential links to the Foundation universe and Da Vinci art, but this is a new genre for me, which is always a risk. Authors never know what's going to sell. This could be the next Dresden or only a B side that will take two years of sales to pay off. However, it would be a joy to channel Nick for four months and see what trouble he gets into.

The alternative is "Sanctuary", book three in the popular Jezebel's Ladder series--top 100 high tech for the last four months. About a fifth of the reviews and all the Facebook messages ask for the next book where the astronauts go to another world. I don't have as strong a handle on this and it will take a month of brainstorming before I can write. I know the disaster on moonbase that triggers frantic action and the intended destination, but someone violates Earth's new code of ethics on the trip...and the trip is preempted. Instead, to stay in space, the crew has to re-route to another planet and assist a primitive group to keep our new status. This is my wife's favorite series, but her reaction to my sketch was "Nothing is ever easy." This novel would likely boost sales of the other two books, please existing fans, and sell about ten times as much the first month, but it would be the hardest to make live.

So which will it be: love or money?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Djinn World Building

Before I started writing my newest novel "Hero of Fire", I took a few weeks to build a world where Djinn live. I first researched all the classical sources on Djinn including: Arabian Nights, the Talmud, and the Koran. Piers Anthony did a great piece called "Hasan" that I also re-read. I mixed in several non-ficition pieces about the modern day Middle East. There were several odd, unexplained passages in several of the prime source materials that I decided to leverage in with my world.

I decide to predicate everything on one wild theory: Djinn are crystaline-based intelligences, rather than organic carbon. This makes them almost immortal as long as their core-stone isn't accidentally shattered. It also explains why a Sahir with a ruby or fire-opal ring controls the Djinn servant--if he possesses the core, he can threaten to destroy the Djinn.

Then I take this assumption to natural extensions and fit it into the known lore.
+ They must keep bargains because they are written into the information in their core. Any Djinn children would have a copy of this information, making covenants and grudges generational.
+ There can be Djinn analogues to almost every form of life: bacteria, plants, insects, fish, birds, mammals, etc.
+ They generally have more inborn information/languages/historical knowledge than humans but don't bother with reading or school.

Let's start with one Djinn tribe and show how we can rewrite the rules behind the scenes using this secret key. I begin with the most shunned and "evil" tribe--the Ghul (or ghouls). The legends say they don't change forms, but appear as human males. Ghul lurk/dig in graveyards or ambush lone travelers for a snack. Other Djinn disdain them.

The angle: remember the crystal lump from Harry Potter that could cure any poison: the Persian bezoar? Goats and even prehistoric animals had them riding inside. What if the bezoar were the Ghul? What if it takes over the bodies of recently the dead? If someone dying of poison took one, the bezoar could miraculously "heal" him by having him possessed. If their host is too damaged, they need to dig up or "find" a new corpse to inhabit. This technique for interacting would explain the animosity most tribes feel for the Ghul. Those with religious objections or insufficient skill could take over animals. This subtribe is known as the Hinn and would explain why Solomon could speak to birds and use them as spies. It also explains odd passages in the Talmud where a bird or snake touching an unusual diamond becomes intelligent and carries it away.

Does history fit? Add in fears of being buried alive, zombie tales, vampire stories, and Elvis sightings and we have a consistent framework. The health craze in the 1800s of grinding bezoars to dust would have driven them to near extinction. Guns were a horrible invention because they could decimate a host and possibly shatter the stone by accident. Plagues were a good business for the Ghul. I could see Napoleon's return from Elba being a Ghul--he was poisoned a lot. Their culture probably had to adopt rules about taking over famous people and leaving evidence.

Then I pick a concrete Ghul character and tell history from his point of view. My female lead became the former spy Mata Hari. Researching the woman, her life changes radically from a Java military  housewife to a stripper with a made up past--shortly after her family was poisoned by a rival of her husband. In the 1950s, her head disappeared from the museum--because it was medical evidence. Reborn in that era, she would have taken over someone with the face of a starlet; however, she'd still have the same French accent and her eyes would seem similar in photographs.

I can easily spend 30 chapters viewing the world through this skewed lens and challenging my male main character.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Going to the Library

Well, I've been a "professional" writer for six weeks now. How's it going?

Since I started last April, I've sold over 6700 books on Amazon and given away over 12000. 7000 of those were from one promotion of "Dreams of the Fallen". The Traveler epic series has waned over the year and now Jezebel has heated up to become my bread and butter. So why aren't I working on the third book in that series to cash in? I only have three pages of notes for "Sanctuary" because something else lit my fire this month--Djinn. I've had enormous fun detailing the rules, variations, and propaganda surrounding them. I just hit chapter 20 in "Hero of Fire" and the hero is about to strike back. Writing is a great job. I get to study reams of literature and try to recast it in a way that has a life of its own--much more fun than listening to presidential debates.

My most exciting news this week is that the local library has stocked one of each of my paperback books! The first one checked out was the first to become popular, "Doors to Eternity." The librarians there know my family by name. Nancy, the head librarian, asked me to join a local authors event in November and offered a chance to sell some of my books. Great opportunity... but authors seldom know what sells or how much it will sell. I put Doors out at 99 cents initially because none of my friends or Eos wanted to be bothered, and then it hit the top twenty. I'm still scratching my head. So I've decided to bring about 10 copies of Doors because it's a crowd pleaser, 10 of Jez because its hot right now, and 5 of Foundation because it's my favorite. I don't care about the quantity sold because it's really an excuse to talk about writing. Anything I don't sell I can donate to other libraries or give away on a friend's blog.

Renee (the Cover Counts) was already slated to cook up some cards for me at the same time she does the cover for "Hero of Fire". This way, whenever someone is interested at a party, the post office, or on vacations, I can hand them one. This is starting to feel real.

Monday, October 8, 2012

New Release -- Empress of Dreams

Book 3 in the Temple of the Traveler series has been posted -- Empress of Dreams.
Originally written in 1996-2001, the first "book" was written to be standalone; however, it was far too long for one volume. When people liked my other books, I polished this work, added 150 pages, and split the living child in two. The first volume, "Doors to Eternity", reached number 16 on the epic fantasy list by accident when I gave the second volume away as part of a promotion. This even changed my life. I put in for early retirement as a programmer soon after.

This third volume was spurred by two lines in the second book: Queen of the Pirates, and "being a king is like digging a latrine for the whole country." I decided to examine what their happily ever after would be like for the survivors of "Dreams." Originally called "Queen of the Pirates", there wasn't quite enough pirate and the tale ended up being more about Pagaose's trials. A certain minor character hijacked the entire middle of the book. During her first scene, you'll know who I mean. As research, I read such diverse books as "the Bad Popes" and "the Joy of Sex". Try to combine those in your spare time. This book went into edit the week I transitioned to writing full time. I've been told it's the smoothest and raciest so far--adult and humorous without being too explicit.

Priest, eunuch, and history teacher, Pagaose is rewarded by the gods for his good deeds at the conclusion of the epic fantasy “Dreams of the Fallen.” Reshaped into the perfect image of an emperor, Pagaose is dropped from the sky and given three miracles to guide mankind through the three generations with no contact from the gods. While the College of Wizards plots to discredit or kill him, Pagaose must rally the aristocrats by picking a suitable Empress candidate from each country. Each woman offers him alliances as well as enticements that disturb his dreams—each woman, that is, except the one he wants. Meanwhile, the ruler of the north plans to invade the island of Center, and a nightmarish dragon terrorizes the Inner Sea. After the first few days, this doesn’t feel like a reward anymore.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

How to Tell the Temp without a Thermometer

Real Minnesotans don’t need a thermometer to tell the temperature outside.

60 – people are sunbathing
40 – kids are still playing football and Frisbee in their shorts
35 – there’s salt on the bridge and the rain isn’t draining away, the previous snow on the roof melts
30 – when the sun comes out, the snow on your sidewalk goes away and you don’t have to shovel.  You need a long sleeve shirt to get the firewood, and long pants. The pond is mostly frozen with little holes for the deer in ducks to drink. Snow is perfect for snowballs. We’re expecting another 4 inches tonight.
20 – the kids still take off their pajama tops when you turn the fireplace on.  The dog still goes on 30 minute adventures outside. Deer start nosing the feeder.  You have to scrape ice off the outside of your car.
10 – you need a coat if you’re getting more than an armload of wood.  The kids actually zip their coats while waiting for the bus.
0 – the pond is frozen solid. You’re not going to see that fireplace stone that the neighbor kid tossed in till spring. The snow squeaks like Styrofoam.
-5 – your nose hairs freeze.  The garage feels a little chilly. You need to warm up your car if it is parked outside. Let the deer find their own food.
-10 – you reread Jack London’s “to build a fire” after getting the mail.  The dog only stays out for two minutes at a time and barks ahead so the door is open before he gets there.  The front door ices up when you open it to let the kids out. If you park outside, your breath freezes to the inside of the window. You have to scrape inside the car, and when the blower kicks in, it looks like a snow globe. The cat no longer tries to sneak out the door when you open it.
-15 – your hand sticks to the front door handle when you open it from the inside.  The dog climbs in your warm bed while you are freeing yourself.  Your car won’t warm up even on the ride to Walmart for more sidewalk salt.
-20 – you need two pair of pants to walk out to the mail box.  You miss the 12 inches of snow because those were the warm times.  School is delayed 2 hours, but work isn’t. The car tires get flat spots on them parking outside and you feel like Fred Flintstone going down the road.
-25 – all birds have disappeared.  You suspect the deer may have eaten them. The Florida vacation commercials are running every hour. Your car’s suspension feels like a clapboard buggy. Drive by shootings and bank robberies stop altogether in the Twin cities.  The cashiers at Walmart wear gloves inside. The cats can’t see out the bathroom window any more and are really bored.  They play with the gloves you have drying on the vents.
-30 – Half the cars outside won’t start, the other half has to jump them. Starting motor rods on cars involved in any accident at any time during the year pick this moment to shatter. You ask yourself if this  is what space feels like.  You time how long it takes for spit to freeze. Your dog won’t go outside unless you carry him, and once inside, he starts reading Jack London.
-35 – lawyers keep their hands in their own pockets

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Day in the Life

People ask me how full-time writing is going. GREAT! Since my daughter is in sports and religious education, my days as a writer look something like this:
  • Up before 7, make lunches and help the kids onto the bus.
  • Nap till 9 when Tammy has her first client. Expect at least one phone call or text.
  • Let the dog out. Spray the cats for attacking the dog.
  • Answer email and check Facebook. NO MORE THAN ONE HOUR.
  • Edit yesterday's pages and type notes till about 11:30.
  • Eat while petting the cat. The eating part is optional.
  • Pick three chores I don't want to do. Complete one of them now.
  • Write a new chapter half till 2:00. Print and back up.
  • Get the mail. Race the dog to the box, but let the dog win.
  • Complete another task I don't want to do.
  • Run to the kids school and then to a sports field an hour away. If they've been good, we can get a milkshake once a week.
  • Grade math homework during the game. For home games, I get to do this in the public library.
  • Carry the chairs, coats, blankets, food, water, and entertainment center to our side of the field.
  • Try to type on the computer while Emily is not playing if I can find someplace with no glare.
  • Find something for dinner. When did we have pizza last?
  • Drive an hour home, stopping at least once for something we need: gas, milk, books, Pokemon games.
  • Coerce children into doing homework that magically appears near bedtime.
  • Get children ready for bed. Order child to perform each step because it's different than yesterday. Yes, the teeth, too. All of them. With toothpaste.
  • Check email.
  • Break up fight between children while brushing teeth.
  • Oh yeah, that third task I delayed from lunch.
  • Put girl child back in bed.
  • Write the other half of the chapter until Tammy gets done typing her notes.
  • Put four items on my TODO list for tomorrow.
  • Watch a show on Tivo or Netflix until she's too tired to keep her eyes open.
  • Frantically scribble notes in the dark about things I should change about latest chapter and next few.
Repeat until Saturday. Where we replace school with:
  • mow lawn using lawn tractor with dog on lap
  • force children to clean room
  • force children to do at least one task which scars them for life, preferably outside
  • type notes while watching Scooby
  • wife picks one task for me to do from her list

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Reading Indie Authors

Now that "Empress of Dreams" is in beta-read for a month, I'm researching Djinnis for my next book "Hero of Fire." I'm ready to start write this week while the kids are at school.

During the lull, since I'm now a full-time author, I decided to check out the "competition".  I started out planning to download 10 and spend $30, but I didn't need to; I just downloaded 7 free top Indie authors from Amazon to my wife's iPad.

My first read was "Child of the Ghosts"-- a girl whose family is destroyed by necromancers trains to become an assassin. The cover was awesome. The premise, the character development, action, and magic were tops. It was a satisfying reading experience. I would highly recommend this author and series. I also liked the link to order the next book at the end.

However, I found lots of simple grammar problems, (listed in my review) all of which could be fixed by another editing pass. My review wasn't unique. There were a ridiculous number of errors for something that's now number 20 on the epic list--not to mention a minor engineering error or two. For example: Ancient Rome and even London at it's colonial height didn't have too many 10 story residential buildings. Taking criticism seriously, like you would at a job, half the reviews shouldn't have to complain about the errors.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

In a Name

As so often happens, when I get to the final stages of making the cover, someone objects to my working title. In this case, there aren’t enough pirates in my story. [ insert Monte Python skit--I'd like a piece without so much rat in it, please.] I don’t want to lure people in with a great cover and blurb only to have them disappointed. Here are the top five names:
+ Dance of the Virgins : a definite central theme of the story, a good lure, but it may not say epic fantasy or sequel.
+ A Few Miracles More : funny reference to the emperor’s main weapon and Tashi’s gunslinger-like battles. Says sequel. May be too flippant.
+ Queen of Dreams : could reference any one of three women in both threads. Ties in to previous titles and themes. Solid but a bit generic.
+ The Way of Water : loosely covers both threads. May be too vague and Daoist. May grab the wrong audience.
+ How to Marry an Emperor : sheer funny. Only covers part of the story, but I think it would get the right audience.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Art for Queen of the Pirates

I'm in the art and beta-reader stage for "Queen of the Pirates".
Today's effort was the map of the Inner Islands.

I still need to do another map for the Outer Islands. Renee has done pass one of the cover, but that's not ready to show yet.

The tale started out as a cross between "Shakespeare in Love" and "Dinosaur Island". But after Lady Everyshade took over, it's a cross between "the Bad Popes", "the Joy of Sex", and "the Book of Five Rings." Try putting that in a blurb.

The song that inspired the dance scene at the end was from Shadow Fax, the Odd Get Even album with a little Lorraina McKinnet "Mummer's Dance" thrown in.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Queen of the Pirates - practice pitch

Priest and history teacher, Pagaose was rewarded by the gods for his good deeds. Reshaped into the perfect image of an emperor, he is dropped from the sky on the appointed day and marked by the messenger of the gods. Most of the College of Wizards was too drunk to notice and the rest don't want a new emperor. While the aristocrats plot to kill Pagaose, Sandarac, the ruler of the north, invades to take Center by force. To save Center, Pagaose needs help from Pinetto, Tashi, Sarajah, and her island kingdom full of pirates. To help her claim her throne, all Pagaose can offer are a few prisoners, retired soldiers, and a little advice.

With no allies left, in the middle of a siege, Pagaose has to pick a wife candidate from each country and aristocratic circle to compete in the annual Dance of the Virgins, but someone is thinning the list as fast as he can name them. And then there's the dragon . . .

Did I mention this was a reward?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Barring Unforeseen Disaster

We went to the big library in Anoka yesterday and I checked out ten books on "Arabian Nights" and modern Yemen. Even my son recognized "research for the next book," and graciously loaned me his library card. As I complete the final paperwork for my retirement, I can spend an hour or so each day absorbing desert atmosphere for "Hero of Fire." I've already been brushing up on the Talmud.

I just hit chapter 40 in "Queen of the Pirates". Only 7-10 outlined chapters left. I allow for extra because the big battles I sketch for the end always split into two or three chapters. This one has taken several minor twists even I didn't anticipate. Lady Corrie Evershade is a powerful character and pulls the entire world to revolve around her every chance she gets. I have 14 days till the edit window. Barring unforeseen disaster, I should make it.

Dave Baker, my best friend from high school woke me this morning, calling from his hospital room. After an accident with a chainsaw yesterday, he may lose the use of his right hand. Prayers would be appreciated. The doctors are dealing with the pain, but it was a severe emotional blow as well.  UPDATE: He had five tendons reattached successfully but the nerves carrying sensation from the back of his hand are iffy.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Kurt Vonnegut for Six-Year-Olds

I took a break from "Queen of the Pirates" this weekend to drive my wife and kids on a whirlwind tour of the twelve quilt stores in southwest Minnesota. Tammy really likes quilting and seeing her smile was worth it. In one small town I poked around in  a new + used bookstore while the others shopped for fabric. They don't hate Amazon there like new bookstores because Amazon marketplace helps them sell their books all over the world. This was a welcome change. They had a nice selection of kid's books up front, like "Everybody Poops."

The funniest thing was that in the next aisle, due to childish pictures and titles like "Cat's Cradle" and "Welcome to the Monkey House," someone had shelved Kurt Vonnegut in with the Kindergarten through second grade books. I gently broached this subject with the clerk. She's never read him. I informed her that the first story in one collection of shorts involves drugging and raping a woman. They weren't removed because it wasn't her section. (She was the only one in that day.)

We had a nice discussion about what "Slaughter House Five" was about, as well as the deeper meaning of few Stephen King novels. It felt odd explaining books to a person working in a bookstore (kind of like explaining vaginas to a woman), but I felt compelled. When my wife came in, I pointed out the Vonnegut and she also exclaimed that this was inappropriate for people reading Berenstain Bears books. No reaction from the clerk. My son bought a used Animorphs book for the trip home and we left.

We had some great family time, each of us making selections from the iPod jukebox to sing along to. We had a good meal out and candy for dessert. Now the kids are asleep!

Tonight, Tammy is reading over the first 86K words of "Queen of the Pirates". It's reached a plateau for this emperor's plot thread. He holds the enemy at bay while Tashi, Pinetto, and Sarajah race to find people from her new kingdom to save the empire from the Pretender's invasion. I was shocked to see how many pages it is. My newer style is much more aerated by dialogue than twelve years ago. Still, we should have it wrapped up by my edit slot September 10th. I'm already

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Royal Pain

I just did the paperback formatting for "Contagion". I always find 3 or 4 quirks in the e-book when I paste this up. Believe is or not, Word even has a few bugs. Then I had to re-post the e-book once I had the paperback done. Last night, I finished this book completely, including tagging, getting three wonderful readers to review, sending "free" notices to 150 bloggers, and giving the book away for two days. Whew.

It was a good month; I had record sales for the Jezebel series. Now it's a new month, new book, and we start all over again.

Even though it is the third book in the series, "Queen of the Pirates" is a completely different animal than the others. Though there is a quest to a new land with new magic and lots of action, the central theme is "just because some god names you queen/emperor doesn't mean the people there want you." They like things just the way they are -- with them in control. It doesn't matter if you fell from the sky and look exactly like the picture they painted of the ideal ruler, and pass every test they give you, people will resist. Enter our minor character, Lady Evershade, noblewoman of the first circle, fallen on hard times. The emperor has to pick one candidate from each kingdom, and one of them will become his first wife in the spring. Nightglow, her daughter is one of them. Lady Evershade gets named official chaperone and systematically submarines each candidate. She took over the middle of my book, but it's so LMAO hilarious I'm going with it. It's like watching an ultra-rich cheerleading mom who uses rare jellyfish poisons. Just put her in an important event like the coronation and watch her take over.  It gets even funnier when the emperor shows her a small kindness and she takes his banner with religious fervor.

My only worry is whether the dream sex/sex magic scenes are too much. There's a fine line between selling the story with humor and farce. I don't want to ruin the whole series by JarJaring out on this sub-plot thread. For now, I'll just finish it out and edit later. She just arranged for one of the dancers (a fifteen year old) to disobey and get drunk at a museum fund raiser. The whole chapter was a hoot to write with the stuff that popped out of her mouth. "Mom, where are getting the money for all this?"
"From your dowry. Enjoy the shrimp canapes, dear."

To Komiko:
"If the wife arrives second, send her through the portrait gallery and signal Nightglow to warn the mistress."
"There's an etiquette for covering who's sleeping with who?"
"Whom, dear. A lady always use proper grammar when spreading slanderous rumors. And yes, society is held together by such rules."
"How do I keep track of all this?"
"Merely lay the guest list within three feet of you, and Lady Vapordoom will tell anyone in range."

Later to Anna.
"My reputation would be improved if you weren't so friendly with me in public."
"So you mind if I call you a heinous b?" she mumbled.
"Not at all, but please enunciate clearly. I put you at the children's table for tonight's meal, and I want all the other nobles to know you like I do."

In short, Lady Evershade has been a royal pain, but she's just too much fun not to follow around with a mental videocamera.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Success Breeds Success

My summer giveaway for "Dreams of the Fallen" was a success! Thanks to help from folks like my blogger friends and the Paranormal Readers' Group on Facebook, it garnered 22 more likes. Thanks!
Sales wallowed over the weekend until late Sunday when it doubled from 600 to 1200. By Monday it doubled again and I was #1 epic free (#100 in overall fiction). However, on Amazon, the algorithm is "success is contagious". As I hoped, my first book in that series, "Doors to Eternity" experienced a lift onto the top 100 paid epic list. I sold two months worth in those last two days. Unexpectedly, the second book in my Jezebel series "Sirius Academy" hit the top 100 paid High-Tech Sci-Fi.

My wife and final proofreader, Tammy, started reading my latest novel Sunday and finished over half in the first day. Another reader also submitted her comments. I just copyrighted "Contagion of the Gods." Everything has fallen into place for another book release while the iron is hot. One last check during the paperback formatting and I should go out this week. (I don't want to overuse exclamation points, but I feel like everything in this update deserves one.)

"Queen of the Pirates" has reached the 58K word mark and it's agonizing because I see almost every word of the next four chapters on the island of Center before the plot threads split again. There's a lot more magic in this book, two new types. The meet and exchange portion was only supposed to be about three chapters but exploded into ten. It took an unexpected turn and it is hot. I just have to make sure it stays realistic and tasteful.

When talking to fans at the local book/game store and at the 4H fair, I told them about my idea in my short story "Ghosts of Giardi", and they said the same thing Katy did: "You should do a series on that guy." I think I might, after "Hero of Fire."

Good thing I'm doing this full time starting September 1.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Maps of Ancient Greece

When I make maps for my epic fantasies, I usually use the Tolkienesque toolkit in Campaign Cartographer 3. I can hand-draw any symbols they down have, import into the program, and it looks great. However, "Contagion" is based in the real world, Golden-Age Greece. Most of the maps available on the web are for tourism and have too much modern information on them. I don't want the Crete airports labeled for my mythic era heroes, nor the modern names for countries. The maps old enough to be public domain are usually too cluttered to read well on Kindle. So I compromised.
  • I found an excellent public-domain, vectorized graphic of the area with NO labels.
  • Cropped it to be just the immediate area of the Aegean where my characters sail.
  • Bleached all the color out of it except the land borders.
  • Labeled the important areas by hand in Paint.
  • Colored land/water to add contrast, filling in the holes in the o's and e's a pixel at a time.
  • Someone suggested a hand-written font, but I couldn't get Paint to cooperate without starting from the original blank map.
Here are the results. I did one set with dark sea and the other with lightly shaded islands. I had friends and beta-readers vote of which one they liked best. Since it was tied, my vote counted twice and I'm using the dark background version for now.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Summer Celebration July 20-22

My mid-summer epic release has been delayed, but I want to do something to boost sales and celebrate my pending full-time-writer status. I'm selling about 100 US units a month now of each of my four books that are parts of a series. (Jezebel is selling well in France and England now!) After my success with the "Dreams" giveaway, I found two sites that are rumored to boost freebie volumes by a factor of ten.

They want two days' notice. Since I've missed this weekend, and I got one complaint about "backtracking for plot points and multiple POV in the same chapter", I'm making another edit pass on "Doors" to tighten up. I'll have a minor reissue on "Dreams" for a deleted character who I left in the Cast of Characters page. Next weekend, July 20-22, I plan to do a three day event to give away "Dreams" again. Let's see if I can duplicate last event. If the giveaway is still doing well on day three, I'll extend the offer. Rereading book one of the series is helping me re-affirm key characters in book three (now at 40K words). I am feeling better now about the Traveler series being worthwhile.

So much is happening at once.  I couldn't sleep last night and hand-wrote a key scene in the finale. Pagaose has to choose a concubine at the annual dance of the virgins. No matter who he picks, all the other factions will be offended. He pulls out a wildcard at the last minute who turns out to be a little wilder than he imagined.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Seaweed Is always Greener

Major news: even though I'm only 48, I was accepted for early retirement at HP and could be writing full time as early as September 1! The kids go back to school September 4. That month is looking so good. For now, I have to try hard to focus on July.

While I'm waiting for the last two reads of the sea epic "Contagion of the Gods", I'm plugging away on "Queen of the Pirates": 35K words/14 chapters, and almost exactly one-third done based on my outline. I should just make the mid-September line-edit. Currently, I'm going back for some world building. I've never needed the days of the week before in sword and sorcery, but as the new emperor, Pagaose has a lot of appointments. Try to detail a schedule without day names. I made Imperial days close to ours but more elemental: Starday, Sunday, Moonday, Waterday, Windday, Stoneday, Fireday. I also have a Dawn people legend to write--the Song of Serog, how she lost her seven daughters and challenged the council of gods in her grief. Once I get these ironed out, the next section (where all the heroes meet together again) should write itself.

Oddly, that self-writing thing makes me paranoid. If it's too easy, is it good? Am I just writing another "Love Boat" episode or real pirate action? I have two other stories crowding in my brain now, each one swearing it's better than the one I'm writing now. They always do that. I even have a voice whispering that if I rewrite Traveler 1, two will sell more.

The writing expands to exceed the available time.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Contagion of the Gods -- Next Epic to Release in July

Cas and Weston have finished their edits; only two proofreaders left. I whacked this from about 145K to 125K words and went through ten drafts. I pushed the R rating as far as I could to stretch myself as a writer. It's almost ready. Renee did a great job on the cover.

Sex, violence, and Greek gods. If Pythias reads the future in the sun one more time, he could go blind. Instead he uses detective skills to solve the problems of Golden Age Athens. An epic fantasy in the vein of Gene Wolfe or Tim Powers.

The contagion of the gods is loose again. Two charming but ruthless princes engage in a titanic battle to become the next incarnation of Dionysus. A member of a secret society known as the Sons of Prometheus, Pythias must find a way to stop them. A witch and a horse-legged silenus guide them through the secrets behind the Greek legends in an odyssey that travels to the fabled island of the Gorgons and beyond.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Grand Canyon Trip

We just drove 4800 miles through the American southwest in 9 days. This is one evening.
I got a lot of good ideas for the trip down the rapids in one story and the trek across the desert in another.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Top Ten Observations on Amazon Promotions

Top ten observations from selling book two of a series at different times and prices.
1. at 99 cents, 1 in 14 people will buy book one right away.
2. at $3, only 1 in 25 will buy book one. In the UK, however, this is closer to 1 in 10.
3. giveaways on Mondays have 2.5X the volume than weekends for my genres. I think my target demographic is now computer people surfing to avoid work.
4. Volumes on UK weekend sales are so low, anyone can hit top twenty in a category. (17 a day)
5. there are browsing categories for e-books that e-books cannot select (like Arthurian), as well as categories you can select that don't show on browsing (like paranormal). Some of these dead categories have so few books they can't even make a top twenty and should be trimmed.
6. The easiest categories to score in are the least trafficked at therefore sell the least. Do a comparison of number twenty on each target front page. [ see table below. ]
7. Big publishers get to cheat and put their book in 3 or 4 categories, not just 2. (Does "Game of Thrones" really belong in Sci-Fi adventure as well as the other categories?)
8. Past the top hundred in browsing, your book's sales rank number is meaningless. #109 could be 2000, while #110 100K and #111 4000. They are RANDOM.
9. I tend to get better reviews and more loyal fans from weekend readers.
10. there are a lot of quirks in the system. Several paper books show up multiple times in a list, and a lot of books cheat on the category. Several of the Arthurian books are actually "erotica". Some of the anthology books haven't sold a copy yet this year and are still on the list.

GENRE                 RANK of book 20
action adventure 668
children's literature 726
romance fantasy 802
sci fi adventure 879
fantasy epic 1003
fantasy contemporary 1070
world lit mythology 1865
horror occult 3000
fantasy historical 3191
sci fi high tech 3237
mystery thriller tech 4275
horror ghost 4853
short stories 6416
fantasy series 10759
horror dark fantasy 15558
sci fi series 16398
religious sci fi 16666
sci fi anthology 180287
fantasy Arthurian 369692
horror anthology 472480

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

How to Upload Pretty Books to Amazon

If you upload pure word docs, the Amazon parser will insert/delete tabs at random and trash the professional look of your book. Despite what they claim, they no longer handle DOC files. Neither can they find the pictures if you point to the working HTML. Here's what you need to do instead:
1. format as before in Word, similar to Smashwords but with page breaks for each chapter.
2. add the HTML table of contents at the top
3. compress all images to web size -- this will raise your royalty on every purchase!
4. save the Word file off someplace safe -- mybookPubv1.doc
5. save As filtered web file (same name as above)
6. scan over the result to make sure there are no extra spaces between sections/chapters, repeat till good.
7. exit Word
8. open 7zip application. set format to zip compression
9. click on mybookPubv1.htm, control click mybookPubv1_file folder (with the pictures), and drag both into 7zip window.
10. save as
11. upload this file to Amazon as the book content.
12. download the mobi to your PC and use the kindle fire simulator that Amazon supplies.

If you don't have pictures, just the HTML file will work.
In one hour, I reformatted all 6 of my books, and they look a lot nicer!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Odd Launch

By the time most of you read this on Monday, "Sirius Academy" should be posted on Amazon. I had several last minute edits and the previewer didn't work well, so I hope the story looks good on the real Kindle. I only had 4 font settings and two indentations (none and .3"), and the output indentation was all over the place. I want to give this away as book two in the series, but I don't want to flood the market with defective merchandise.
(My next post shows how to fix this.)

For my weekly Amazon report, I was disappointed in several ways.
1) they neglected to give me the 70% royalty on 66 "Dreams" sales two weeks after the change was made. Oddly, over a hundred other sales got credited to me the week before. Still waiting on that explanation, that's about a hundred bucks worth.
2) Five copies of Jezebel had the wrong price, a really strange one. They only shorted me 1.10 on that, claiming a price match of 1.89. The only outlet is Amazon, there is not matching to be done.
3) Of the two paperback sales I made after reducing the prices, for Jezebel, they kept the price $3 higher, $4.50 of which was Amazon share, costing me about $1.50. They claim it was my first Extended Distribution sale, but show no record of payment.

I sincerely hope this is not an indication of nickel and dime fights to come.
PS. After two days of discussion, I've found that a) the weekly reports erroneously lump free books together with paid, and b) 1/6th of my sales for my epic series may be to an unknown foreign country. I'd really like to find out who. c) it will take them 3 more days to get back to me on Jez.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

2 pictures = 2 kilowords

Here's a link to the story the local news did on my books:

Here are the maps of the island from Sirius Academy. Mira's meta-pod was the last addition.
Island Diagram

Women's Meta-pod

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Riding the Wave

This past week has been awesome! The "Dreams" giveaway helped "Doors" make #16 on the epic list twice. I sold seven months of books in that week. To strike while the iron is hot, I'm pushing to get "Sirius Academy" out as soon as possible. Hopefully, we can keep the momentum going.

Due to a Createspace-Amazon glitch, the paperback wasn't visible on the same page. So my big sellers had zero paper sales. I went to some local bookstores to tried to parlay this ranking into a few sales. I was told that small stores won't order from Ingrams because the margin is too small and the required order too large. The chain store I went to, the ladies behind the counter transformed into furies, just like in "the Lightning Thief." Amazon and everything associated is their sworn enemy. They'll never buy from that channel. The library has free copies but no budget to catalog them till June. Libraries won't buy a book unless it is well-rated in one of the three library journals. One of my relatives is a librarian and she won't read them. My local librarian doesn't want to waste time/money on reviews either. In short, the $40 a book I spent to open channels up was a colossal waste. All I did was make all my books cost $3 more to meet the required Amazon minimum.

As of today, my books are all priced between $9.99 and $12.99. Maybe I'll sell more than one a month now. My profit for each paper book is now the same as an e-book.

In preparation for the sequel to Jezebel, I'm removing the Icarus novella from Amazon and making it free on Smashwords. It was only getting 3 downloads a month--about a dollar. It's worth more as advertizing.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Every Girl Needs Her Own Theme Song

When I was watching Disney's "Sky High" and the main character sees a girl for the first time, "True" plays in his head. However, when writing a character of my own, it's more useful to hear the song that's the touchstone for that person. For Jotham in my epic Traveler fantasy series, that theme was "While the Earth Sleeps" by Peter Gabriel and Deep Forest. [ The Dreams of the Fallen promotion just hit #4 on the Amazon epic list and #67 on overall ebook free fiction! ] Any time I wanted to get the feel for his martial arts and magic, I'd listen to that song and reconnect--even after more than a decade.

In my newest SF "Sirius Academy," I make up a song for the antagonist Kaguya, named for the beautiful Japanese goddess. A group called the Purple Rockets wrote a song about the sensuous way she walks. The female lead, Red, is much less sexually-charged, more energetic, confident, and violent. When she makes her entrance into the pool party after two years of hiding behind flight suits, Collective Soul's "Shine" blares from the speakers. The male lead, Zeiss, has the breath knocked out of his during "Heaven let your light shine down on me" as he watches her. I build for 27 chapters for that payoff.

I've used other songs at touchstones. "All Around Me" by Flyleaf (during romance) and "I Still Believe" (pre-romance) were good for Aaron in "Foundation for the Lost". The demon Merodak was "I Can Explain Everything" by T-bone Burnett, a song about politicians. Whatever helped me envision them is like a tuning fork to recapture that tone. Do your characters have a theme song?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Dreams Giveaway and Alchemy

Well, for the $2 books (selling on the order of 10 a week), there was no change for sales when I raised the price to $2.99. The effect on "Dreams" the sequel to "Doors" from 99 cents to $2.99 cut actual sales by 35 percent and projected by 50 percent. This resulted in an increase in royalties. What did the fall mean, though? Were a third to half of the people only willing to buy at 99 cents, or was the 99 cent list that much better a form of advertizement? Because the other books didn't decline, my guess is the second. How can I prove this? I intend to give exposure another way--the free give-away. I find that the two day give away number divided by ten is a good estimate of how much a book can sell in a week on the 99 cent shelf.
Therefore, I am giving away "Dreams of the Fallen" Monday and Tuesday to give it a boost. Hopefully, all the titles will get drag from this.

What this means long term is that I need to double my sales volume and get health insurance before "full time writer" is an option.

On the new writing front, I'm polishing "Sirius Academy" with help from my friends and inventing new magical rules for "Queen of the Pirates." In the light from the Doors to Eternity, different materials transmute in different ways -- Alchemy. White lotus petals become the precious spirit metal Sesterina. Amber items become hard, unbreakable by spirits. Tiger's eye gems glow for hours when exposed to sunlight. Many things degrade to dust/slime.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Price Points and Trolls

After success with my epic fantasy, I am struck by several facts. The primary one being, at under 2.99 a book, Amazon keeps most of the take. Even with a good performer, you can't make a living on the 99 cent shelf. So this week, I'm going to test the elasticity of my prices. I'll keep the best seller the same, at 99 cents, but price book 2 in the series at the sweet spot. This price point would put me at half the price of others on the same search page for "epic fantasy over 4 stars", and still give me 6 times the royalty amount. At the same time, I'll also raise the price on my 1.99 books to $2.99 to see is there is any reduction. Will the trade off make more revenue or kill the climb of the sequel? Stay tuned.

Why is this important? Because at $2 a sale, I could consider doing this full time if my volume got to only 250 a week. I'm at 175 consistently now, the epics are climbing each week, and I have two new releases planned in the next month or so. I can reach this goal, but how many titles will it take? This experiment will help me plan. Right now, there are a lot of opinions but few answers.

If raising above 99 cents kills the climb, should I try to take the current success of "Doors" and "Jezebel" to a traditional publisher? Do I lobby bookstores and more libraries to stock it? Sell it at conventions? What combination would enable me to take the next step? Don't forget that I'll be watching the kids three days a week this summer. What does playing with children have to do with epic fantasy? We read out loud--Sisters Grimm/Fablehaven/Percy Jackson. I play the troll on the trampoline, and they're the goats.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Jezebel Sequel Excitement

I'm so excited! Beta readers are already looking at "Sirius Academy", the sequel to "Jezebel's Ladder". Here's the awesome new cover from Renee. The book goes to edit 5/6.

Lots of exciting news all around.
  • "Dreams" has broken the 10K ranking level and is climbing to match
  • "Doors", which currently hovers around 6K. I am floored to see the excellent books on the same page as mine, epic fantasy books I rated 5 stars on Goodreads!
  • My local library just shelved a copy of every paperback I wrote.
  • The local paper just interviewed me today for an hour and a half. The story should come out this Wednesday or next.
  • I also started polishing another epic fantasy, "Contagion of the Gods." It's much better than I remember. Renee has an opening for that cover 5/17. 
  • That will give me something to keep me busy while the planning of "Queen of the Pirates" percolates. I have the first ten chapters and last two firm; between those pillar, anything could happen.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Life of Death -- a belated plug
I'm sorry that I was so excited by my own one year anniversary in epub, that I didn't notice the rising success of my friend Weston Kincade (not to be confused with the recently and mysteriously deceased "Painter of Light"). I was one of the first people to read the moving "A Life of Death". Since then, it's had ten five star reviews. Wow! Check it out on Amazon and see why people who read it love it.

"Good horror isn't rubber monsters or eating brains...we like the idea that everyone has secrets they try to bury. Our hero is armed with a flashlight and a shovel. "

~ Scott Rhine ~ Author of Scarab and Foundation for the Lost

Alex Drummond is a troubled high school senior with a checkered past, a broken home, and a surprising ability. When he touches items that murder victims held in their final moments, Alex relives the events in gruesome detail, seeing what they saw, thinking their thoughts, and even feeling what they felt. But who will believe a troubled teen, especially when the murders are so close to home and might reveal skeletons hidden for hundreds of years?

Join Alex as he struggles to find his destiny, understand love, solve the mysterious murders within his small home town, and speak for victims who can no longer speak for themselves.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

first year -- looking back and forward

The rest of 2012, I'm planning to release the sequel to Jezebel (Mira's Journey, draft completed), the sequel to Foundation (Hero of Fire, first chapter written), and Queen of the Pirates (Temple of the Traveler 3).

The previous year of writing books, I've gone from selling nothing the first month to almost 500 in the last month. Wow. The number has been going up by a factor of 1.5 every two weeks. KDP has made a big difference in accessibility, and I've grateful to all the people who've helped to plug my free offers (Indies Unlimited, Weston Kincade, and Facebook friends). I'm also thankful for the people who have responded to Doors to Eternity. Thanks again to my line editor, Katy, for encouraging me to finish the last 130 pages. Splitting the huge 880+ page book after 14 years was rather like cutting apart Siamese twins. Taken together, the two make a complete arc that I'm happy with.

The cool thing is that the characters are still alive to me. In Queen of the Pirates, Jotham will need to fight against the College of Wizards and Sandarac to keep the title of Emperor. We'll see details of the Inner Islands. He gets a little help from his friends, rewarding the loyal and punishing the treacherous. Pinetto will duel the head wizard of the College as the founder of a new branch of magical arts. Sarajah comes into her own as well, gathering followers and acolytes when all she really wants is a boyfriend who isn't half troll. But as always, she does what needs to be done, with humor and the occasional use of thunderous power when men don't listen to reason.

Friday, April 6, 2012

One Year Anniversary

My first book, Scarab, is one year old today!
I'm celebrating with a two day free give-away on Amazon. At 8:00 a.m., it was already at #21 on the hi-tech free list and #9 on the UK hi-tech. Gotta love the British Isles!

By 5:00 pm, #2 hi-tech, #9 adventure, #5 UK hi-tech.

At 7:30 the next morning, I can't sleep (guests for Easter) so I get up to check. Number 1 in hi-tech. Thanks to everyone who helped with the edits, the promotion, and the encouragement. We did it. "Scarab" is one.

Monday, April 2, 2012

We Have Sequel!

As soon as I got the last edits from DJ, I took three hours off work to merge, neaten, copyright, and publish Dreams of the Fallen. I was live by the time I stopped for lunch. Wow, I love technology. Of course, I can't edit the files yet to fix the minor problems I found tonight while formatting the paperback. It feels great to have it done. Everyone who likes Renee's great cover, give the book a like on Amazon:

Scarab is on KDP Select as of Friday and selling better than Foundation. I have a giveaway scheduled for this weekend (Easter); however, I want to give away Dreams too. I'll probably save the sequel for the 13th/14th.

I'm only three chapters away from finishing the first draft of "Mira's Journey." Yes, it's taking about three months to write followed by three months to edit each book in the pipeline. My next two book ideas are "Hero of Fire" (sequel to Foundation) and "Queen of the Pirates" (Traveler book three). The epic fantasy is selling over ten times better than everything else, but I think Aaron leading an army of Djinn through the Cinnamon Desert is a better idea. We'll see; I still have to polish Mira and make up time with my patient wife. I see fabric stores and restaurants in my immediate future.

5 star review: Thanks Melinda!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Map of the Northern Empire

This week looks like another 100+ units sold. Now my local librarian is expressing interest.
This is the map of the Northern Empire with all the important sites visited in the "Dreams". Tammy has 18 chapters to edit, and I have one map left. I can't get the cliffs right, but the new calligraphy tips in Paint are cool. I've learned to create my own map symbols by snipping hand-drawn/scanned images. Campaign Cartographer is great for lots of stuff, but it doesn't write in the hi-resolution I need for paperbacks. I might end up frankensteining the next map.

I have about 6 chapters left to write in the sequel to Jezebel. The title candidates are: Mira's Journey, Jezebel's Redemption, Red, Sirius Problems, and The Index Page. It's really shaping up well! I laugh every time I visit with the characters. After I finish taxes, I get to pick out symbols for the cover. I'm seeing space construction, the South Pacific, whales, and a girl in a flight suit.

Monday, March 12, 2012

first hundred seventy-five week

I had my first week with over a hundred sales! 66 Jez, 33 Doors, 4 or 5 everything else, plus 58 Jez and 6 other in the UK -- new market! Feels strange but good. Go KDP Select!

We're six chapters through the final edit of the Doors sequel, "Dreams of the Fallen". The cover looks great! Though the first two books do tell a complete story, I can easily make it a series. The Sarajah character took over the second half of Dreams and would be one of the two main stars of "Queen of the Pirates" along with the new Emperor.

My biggest obsession right now has been "Mira's Journey," where Jezebel's daughter goes to paranormal astronaut school. I'm at 66.5K words and it's still coming out like a fire hose. The best part is that the characters still surprise me. Her advisor, Zeiss, has a random drug test, not a problem for a straight-arrow like him. But he sees that they're now screening for caffeine; Mountain Dew is really bad for astronauts. He asks her to fill the cup for him, and she does it, giggling, just to see him break the rules. It takes him two years to see her as a woman(not a girl prodigy or a student), but then he vows not to reveal or act on it. Everyone who reads an alien page has a unique experience. His has been the most bizarre yet. After Zeiss becomes active, he sleepwalks so he can sleep on her roof--just to be closer. Worse, he emits a song on whale frequencies, and they don't want him to feel lonely. Young whales in a 50 mile radius cluster around their ship. Try to hide that.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Beta-Readers Needed

Book one is selling well. After an initial surge from the promo, it has settled in a steady 32 a week.
The sequel is written and line-edited. Weston should be adding his pass soon.
If anyone is interested in beta reading "Dreams of the Fallen" (pre-release), let me know.
I'm looking for folks to tell me what parts are too long, confusing, or don't work for whatever reason.


The Holy Mountain is burning. Tashi needs to find what's wrong with the world, so he turns to the Fallen for help. Book two of the epic sword and sorcery the Temple of the Traveler, written in the tradition of the Belagriad and the Game of Thrones.

Civil war breaks out between the gods, and their humans are caught in the crossfire. The Fallen take sides against the established pantheon while the City of the Gods burns. Heroes march north, some to restore the Obsidian Throne, and others to close the final Door to Eternity—the way magic leaks into our world. Tashi can handle the death warrants, trolls, dragon, and panther-headed demon. However, even the Imperial council fears the vampiric High Priestess of Sleep, who has taken the appearance of Tashi's former lover. With the Door closed, she can't transform back to her own shape. The problem is: Tashi's starting to like her.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Updates -- Dreams, Miracle, and Free Stuff

 First an update on "Dreams of the Fallen." Line editing is done and proof-reading/high level edit starts Monday. Renee of theCoverCounts has a great draft cover for me already. I saw it and went WOW. (left) I think the only thing missing is the "Book 2 of Temple of the Traveler" and I'm not convinced we need that. Book one (Doors) has sold over a hundred copies in two weeks.

I'm well under way on the sequel to "Jezebel's Ladder", the first five chapters of "Mira's Journey" are complete (out of an estimated 40). This is just a working title for now. It tells the story of Miracle ""Red" Hollis, Jez's daughter, and her efforts to get through paranormal astronaut school and land on the alien artifact that her mom located. Throw in a little teen conflict with her aunt, international espionage, kidnapping plots, and geek romance, and stir. The characters are already making me smile.

I updated my pitch for "Foundation for the Lost", put it one Amazon's premium plan the day it dropped from B&, and scheduled a give away for this Friday and Saturday. I'm already bouncing up and down with anticipation.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

How to Stay Married as a Writer

This one is in honor of Valentine's Day.

Your spouse can be your hobby’s biggest supporter or detractor--you can influence which. Realize that writers can obsess over their projects. When you're in the zone, you stay up late, ignoring the world while you type one last page. Is your wife complaining she's a computer widow? Do you have fights about your writing time? You need to be creative but she's angry. I'm not an expert, but I've been married seventeen years and there are a few ground rules that might help.
1. Don’t quit your day job. In any genre, you can probably count the number of people on one hand who make a living by writing it. Write because you enjoy the hobby, not because it's the lottery.
2. Agree on boundaries with your spouse. Let her know writing isn't just a phase and it's not going to go away. However, you can agree on limits. Every couple is different and everything is negotiable, but here are some examples:
+ I can type when the kids are at school or in bed.
+ If she watches the kids so I can type on Saturday, I watch them so she can sew Sunday.
+ No computer time with a newborn. They’re only young once.
3. Find out what her passions are and support them. In the movie Phenomenon, they refer to this as "buying her chairs."
4. Pay attention. They call it that because it costs something. If she's upset about something (silent or out loud), ask and listen. Repeat what you heard back to her.
5. Be present. When she's home, be in the same room with her, even if you have to get a laptop. Don’t turn your back. If she asks you a question, put the keyboard down. If you're on a date, don't look at your smart phone.
6. Find reading-related activities to share. We read YA fantasy, Nora Roberts mysteries, and Sue Grafton to each other in the car. My wife has offered to make one of my books into a podio recording with me.
7. Let her know how much you value her opinions and rely on her. Let her be the first reader and first to see sample covers. Mention her in the dedication!
8. When you hit a milestone -- celebrate! When you finish a novel, the hundredth sale on a new book, when you get a 5-star review. Take a moment together away from the computer.
9. Consideration. Learn to write notes by the light of alarm clock numbers. When you get up at one AM with a brainstorm, don't wake her up.
10. Use your writing powers to send her romantic notes from time to time. Hallmark makes nice packs of miniature blank cards, perfect for lunch bags and pillows.