Dec 062018
 

Just a short post here to catch up with everyone.  I’ve obviously fallen off the wagon with regards to posting here in a timely manner.  If you check the dates, you’ll see that my weekly blog post has been missing for a month now.  That happens every year around this time, with the holidays.  Our big one this year was Thanksgiving.  Hope yours was good (those of you who celebrate Thanksgiving). We managed to make a whirlwind trip down to see family for a couple of days. We drove down Wednesday, spent Thanksgiving day at my son and daughter in law’s new home, rested on Friday, and drove back on Saturday.  It was way too brief, but well worth it.  Even more so since my daughters, mother, sister, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, and one of my nephews also made it over to visit.  It was the first time in several years that we were all able to spend time together.

Of course, right after we got back, I got sick.  Nothing terrible, just the typical chest cold.  I still have a touch of it, but I’m getting better.  Unfortunately, MBH has it now.  Yeah, I made her sick… even more so than usual. 

Hmmm… what else?

Ah, well, I got a ticket a few weeks ago.  Actually, I guess I need to back up a little bit more for this one…

See, MBH developed some eye issues that made it unsafe for her to drive.  Lattice degeneration that resulted in some torn tissue in her right peeper.  Luckily, she recognized that something was wrong and got in to see an ophthalmologist quickly.  The doc did some laser magic on her eye, and she’s healing up nicely now.  However, there were a few weeks where her vision wasn’t good enough to drive, so Yours Truly did the honors.  It was actually pretty nice, being able to drive her to and from.  But one afternoon, my foot was a bit too heavy on the accelerator, and I found myself on the wrong end of a speeding ticket.  

In other news, I’ve been studying the marketing side of the writing business.  I keep saying I’m going to change some of the things I’m doing with regards to writing.  One of the things I started looking at was why I’m not selling.  See, things have changed a lot since I first got into this.  Back then, you wrote a book, you published a book, you placed the book in a few mailing lists, and then you left it alone while you went and wrote the next story.  That’s not the case anymore.  At least, not if you want to make a living at it.

So I’m having to study some of the new tools available for writers.  I need to learn more about keywords and how Amazon has changed them.  I need to learn more about Amazon Ads, leveraging newsletters, working your title through Amazon’s niche categories so it can climb into the larger categories…  and the more I read, the more daunting it is to realize how far behind I’ve fallen.

So you may see more of the old style “Learning to Write” posts in the future as I go through various lessons and try different things.  Some folks will enjoy them.  Others will likely roll their eyes at the writer tech-speak that will ensue.  Of course, if no one leaves me any comments, I won’t know either way, right? 

Writing progress – 

AP2 – The second Amber Payne novel is mostly finished (I think).  I’ve settled on a new title… “The Payne Before The Storm“.  Or maybe I should drop it to “Payne Before The Storm“… Anyway, all but a few scenes are written. But because of all the cutting and rewriting, many of the chapters are a huge, jumbled mess.  This has, by far, been the most difficult book to write that I’ve done.  But stay tuned for a cover reveal in the near future.

IMR– This was the so-called “sekrit projekt”, and unfortunately, it fell through.  The author who contacted me about it said that his attorney had advised him to not job the project out.  He was going to have me write a prequel series that led into his current series, and there was too much chance of confusing the overlapping intellectual property rights.  That’s a true bummer, since I was actually very excited about the project, and had already written a few chapters and had ideas for six different books.  But nothing written is ever wasted.  What I wrote for that project can be adapted later.  When and/or if I ever get back to the “Warrior Clan” series I was fiddling with, these chapters might fit right in with just a little adjustment.

PE2 – So with IMR off the schedule, it looks like the next book in the lineup will probably be a new Pangaea novel.  Looks like it’s time for Sean Barrow to mount his camelo again. Wonder what he and his friends will run into this time?  

 

And that’s enough.  I said I was going to make it a short one, and that was more than 800 words back.  So I hope you have a wonderful holiday season.  And whether you celebrate Christmas, are in the midst of Hanukkah, or celebrate any other holiday, whatever it may be… stay safe!  

Apr 252018
 

There’s been some recent grumbling about Amazon’s new review policies. It seems that you can no longer leave book reviews on the mighty ‘Zon, unless you have purchased at least $50 worth of goods on the site.  Not books mind you, just $50 worth of goods.

It’s apparently their attempt to address the mass scamming of reviews that some writers have been putting up for the last few years.  Yeah, you know when you find that new release that has tons of five-star reviews and you think, “this must be a good one. I’ll just drop my hard-earned cash here and see what all the fuss is about.”  Then you find that the book is little more than a nasty pile of something that came out of the south end of a north-bound bull.

That’s because unscrupulous authors have been scamming Amazon’s system by hiring click farms that (for the right price) create tons of fake Amazon accounts to write reviews on items they’ve never laid eyes on.  The bad thing is that, in their attempt to rectify the situation, Amazon keeps coming up with new ways to “fix” the problem.  And it’s like they almost always either get it wrong (like when they tried to say that your social media “friends” couldn’t write reviews, and ended up deleting reviews written by reviewers who happened to follow authors they liked on Facebook), or the scammers just change their game to get ahead of the new rules.

For instance, when the Kindle Unlimited program began, Amazon authors got paid a percentage of a multi-million dollar “pot” based on how many people read their books past the 20% mark.  There were authors who immediately began publishing short stories and serialized fiction.  Each title read gained the author the same percentage of the pot, so a ten page short story earned the same amount as a five hundred page epic fantasy. 

Needless to say, there were suddenly TONS of short stories being published.

After a couple of years, Amazon figured it out, and changed the KU payment system to a percentage based on pages read.  Each page read gained a percentage of the pot.  Scammers later learned to put links in their books that jumped the reader to the back of the book.  For instance, you might open a book that has a raffle for a $100 gift card.  The link to the offer is in the very beginning of the book.  The reader clicks to enter the drawing, and the link automatically takes them to the last page of the book, where they fill out the form, never realizing that they just gave the author full credit for reading a book that might never be completed.

To make matters worse, some scammers began simply filling manuscripts with all sorts of garbage they copied willy-nilly from the internet, pumping the page count up to tens of thousands of pages, then front loading the “book” with links that took the reader to the back.  So the reader downloads the book, opens it up, sees the click bait at the front, and clicks to the back.  They might then try to read the book and find that it’s nothing more than thousands of pages of absolute drek, so they either return the download, or simply delete it, not realizing that they have just given the author credit for having read however many thousands of pages.

So Amazon put out new terms to authors, making such actions illegal, and threatening to remove author profiles when someone was caught violating the new terms.  Unfortunately, until then, it was common practice for many authors to put their tables of contents in the back of the book.  Think about it.  An e-book is basically a web site, full of links that tie one part of the book to another.  A table of contents is a list of links that go from one part of the “book” to another.  And many authors considered it good business to load that table of contents in the back.

Why?  Because it allowed them to get more of the manuscript in front of the reader when they viewed the sample on Amazon’s web site.  You know the “Look Inside” link that lets you see the first 10% of the book?  Well how do you feel when you click the link, and then have to scroll through the cover, and the copyright page, then author notes, table of contents, and other forward matter, before you actually get to read any of the sample?

I know some legitimate authors who lost money because books that had been out for years were suddenly found to be in violation of the new terms.

And now we have this problem of fake reviews.  It’s been a recognized issue for a few years now, and Amazon has been floundering about, trying to figure out how to fix the problem.  For a while, they tried a tattletale system where people could report books that were suspected of scamming reviews.  That quickly became a fustercluck when legitimate authors found their accounts suspended.  Amazon never would state what the author had done, only giving out a generic, “you have been found in violation of terms and conditions…” but never stating what specific violations.

It was often suspected that the scammers were reporting legitimate authors in order to muddy the waters, but there is apparently no way to know for sure.  So this is Amazon’s latest attempt to stop scammers.  The idea is that, if only legitimate customers can leave reviews, then that should stop the click farms from being able to “sell” reviews.

But there are already people complaining about it.  There are concerns that reviewers who buy in the US will no longer be able to load their reviews on Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com.au, or any other country where they don’t normally shop.  So even though a book is available in countries all over the world, reviewers will only be able to post their reviews in the country in which they bought the requisite “$50” worth of goods, or its equivalent in whatever nation.  There are also concerns that reviewers won’t be able to write reviews early in the years.  For instance, a reviewer who begins buying books in January, before they have purchased their $50 of good for the year, might not be able to leave reviews until they’ve done so.

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.  I don’t think there are any easy answers.  I almost feel sorry for Amazon at times.  After all, it’s not them who are trying to scam the system.  They’re just stuck trying to get ahead of the latest scam du’ jour.  Unfortunately, their fixes often create as many problems as the scams, and it seems that there are too many honest people caught in the “fix”.  I sincerely hope that isn’t the case this time.

 

My writing –

Payne and Suffering has been moving in spits and spurts.  On days when I have a distinct scene in my head, I can fly through the writing.  The problem comes when I finish those scenes and have to move into the transitions. And I think the problem stems from the way I write… the fact that I’m “pantsing” my way through a story that I haven’t been able to fully see.

This usually doesn’t bother me, and it took me a while to figure out what’s different with this book.  In just about every other story I’ve written, whether it be novel, novella, or short story, I’ve had one of two things firmly in mind.  I’ve either got a pretty good idea of what the ending is going to be, or I have a good feel for my antagonist and/or their motives.  With P&S, I’ve been floundering with little more than a few key scenes in my mind, and a general idea of what the antagonist is trying to do, but little of the motivation behind it.  So I’ve woven this vast and intricate mystery in my mind (at times so complex that I lose track of who’s doing what), and I’ve not taken the time to really understand the why of most of it.

Today I was writing a scene in which Amber and Richard are starting the third day of their case.  The two of them are sitting at their desks, and Richard asks Amber “…what’s on the agenda…?”

And I realized I didn’t know.  I’m the one writing the freaking story, and I didn’t know what needed to be done next!

It wasn’t really that I didn’t know what leads they needed to follow, but rather that I didn’t know which one needed to be followed at that moment.  Because there are several leads in my mind, but some of them are dependent on others, so some things have to happen before others can be discovered, and I was trying to jump too far ahead in my mind.

Yeah, they need to go here to find this… but wait, they can’t do that until they know about such and such, and they can’t know that until they decrypt the files from that computer.  And they don’t have the computer yet because they don’t know it exists! 

When I realized just how complex things were getting, I knew I was going to have to do something I almost NEVER do.  I was going to have to create a cheat sheet for myself just to track events, leads, and solutions.  I’ve only had to do this once before, and that was on Chucklers, where I had six different point of view characters, in four different locations around the country, and had to synchronize their stories so that they would all come together at the right point in the book.

But I did it.  I made my cheat sheet.  I spent time writing about three pages of notes, and I actually feel better about where the story is going now.  Let’s hope this clears some of the fog out of my brain.

For now though, P&S has passed the 40k word count, and is still moving, and I hope to have the first draft done late May or early June.  Wish me luck.

And that’s it for now.  Stay safe, everyone.  :bye:

 

Jun 072017
 

WW84ALots of writing news this week.

First, I’ve been listening to some new podcasts about writing.  (Well, new to me, anyway…)  They are less about the craft of writing itself, and more about the business side.  By the way, if you’re a writer, and want to hear some good tips about marketing and sales, try David Wood’s “Wood on Words” podcast.  The other one I’ve just started listening to is “Authorcast”, co-hosted by (again) David Wood and Alan Baxter.

I also got a chance to read (and blurb) an ARC of Ed Lorn’s upcoming novel, The Sound of Broken Ribs.  It is definitely Lorn at his best.  If you like horror so twisted that you can’t tell the good guys from the bad, then this is definitely one to watch for.  Fair warning though, Lorn holds nothing back.  If you need trigger warnings, just assume they are all given.

And that brings me to something that I said I was going to start doing a LONG time ago, but never actually did.  I’ll be reviewing books as I read them.  I can’t hold to a schedule with this.  Mainly because I simply won’t review anything I read that I can’t recommend.  That means I won’t be reviewing anything that I don’t consider at least a four-star book.  That’s not to say I won’t end up reading some clunkers, but when I do, I simply won’t review them.

This also means I won’t be telling anyone in advance what titles I’m reading.  After all, if I mention that I’m reading XYZ by Joe Blow Author, and then I don’t review it, you would know I didn’t consider it worth the effort.

Other news…

End Point Pangaea is off to the publisher.  Well, technically, “Pangaea Exiles” is off to the publisher.  In the end (no pun intended), the “End Point Pangaea” title just didn’t work for me.  I started writing the story with the idea that there would be a single location around which the story would be centered, and for whatever reason, I initially had it in my mind that it would be called “End Point”.  I don’t know why it came to me like that, but as the story grew, the idea of a single location was just too unbelievable, as well as too confining for the series.  So when I sent the manuscript to the publisher, I also requested that we change the title.  We’ll see what they say.

Year 12Y12 is officially going to be an audiobook, and Corey Snow (aka VoxMan) has officially accepted the offer.  Of course, it’s all dependent on his schedule, as he is booked through some point in June.  That means that will be the earliest he can start on it.  But I’m just so happy that Corey will once again be the voice of the Half Past Midnight universe that waiting a bit longer is NOT going to be a problem.

Crazy Larry – While I wait on word (and the inevitable edits) from the publisher for the Pangaea project, I’m going to be hammering away at Crazy Larry.  I know I promised several of you that my next project would be the next Amber Payne book (Payne and Suffering), but when I spoke to Corey about voicing Y12, he indicated that he would also be interested in doing Crazy Larry, and wanted to know when it would be ready.  There’s absolutely no way it will be ready by his June opening, but I might be able to finish the first draft and get it to beta readers in a few weeks.  After that though, it will need to go to editing, get a cover, etc.  Too many of those steps are outside of my control, so I expect CL will likely still be a few months out.

Payne and Suffering – And just because P&S isn’t going to be my primary WIP for a while, that doesn’t mean I won’t be working on it at all.  Two chapters are already done, and I will continue to work on it as time permits. My plan is to have more Amber Payne in your hands by late fall.

WW84BRPotW

And this week’s pic is one to give you a few shivers. I was working in the garage last week when I moved a box away from the wall and found this little lady.  Now, I’m not normally one who believes in killing snakes or spiders on sight, and I don’t have any sort of phobia with them.  But a black widow is NOT something that I will leave alive around my home.   I snapped the picture so I could be sure of the identification (the spider was around the corner, and so it was difficult to get a direct look at it), and when I zoomed the picture in and saw that my suspicions were correct, I got the bug spray and sent the deadly girl to “the bleedin’ choir invisible”.  That means that this pic is now the only record that she ever existed, and I have to admit that I’m completely comfortable with that.  If you love spiders and think I shouldn’t have killed her, just send me your mailing address and from now on, I’ll make it a point to jar them up and send you the next ones I find.  Of course, you’ll have to cover the postage.  :wink:

That’s it for now, except my reminder to stay safe.  And I’ll talk to you again soon.   :bye:

Apr 052017
 

WW78AI’m going to keep the post short this week. See, it’s MBH’s birthday week, and she rightfully gets most of my attention.   ;-)   So a quick synopsis of recent events…

We went to a local AKC dog show last Sunday, and I have to admit, it was a little disappointing.  Of course, I found out from a friend last night that we went the day after the main events had already taken place.  He said the big show and awards were on Saturday, and that his favorite breed (he raises dobies) had taken third in show.  Maybe we’ll go on Saturday, next year.

New Tech!  We recently switched our data plan.  Living out in the boonies means our internet options are limited to satellite, and… well, that’s pretty much it.  And for those of you who have had to deal with satellite internet limitations, it comes as no surprise that satellite internet means that you have what’s known as “metered” internet.  For us, it meant that we had a limit of 10GB of data available per month. Not only that, but at 5mb/s, it was pretty slow compared to what we were used to in Houston.  The only up side was that we had what was called a “Free Zone” of unlimited data transfers between the hours of midnight and 5AM.  That allowed me to schedule some of my data downloads (like podcasts, iTunes, or other regular downloads) for when they wouldn’t count against my data limit.

WW78BRecently, we changed plans to a newly available 12GB plan that gives us 12GB per month at twice the speed (10mb/s).  Not only that, but when/if we go through that initial 12GB, we are then only throttled back to the previous 5mb/s speeds.  So in essence, we now have unlimited data, albeit at still relatively slow speeds.

And since we now have a decent data plan, we decided to try again with a new wireless router.  Doing a little research, I found a nice little (affordable) router by a company called Securifi, called the Almond.  It’s a compact touchscreen router that sets up in just a few minutes.  It has allowed us to hook our Kindles back up to local wireless without having to tether them to our phones anytime we want to download something.  It will also allow me to move about the house with my laptop, and still remain connected. I’m not really sure if that’s a good thing, yet.   ;)

WW78CBut the biggest change has been that I have now been able to hook up the Echo that I bought over two years ago!  Yes, I was one of those who was in the pilot program for the Echo back in March of 2015, and got it at half price.  And when I realized it was going to very quickly chew through my 10GB data limit, I decided we would be better off leaving it in the box.  With the arrival of the new wireless and data plan, I just hooked up the Echo, and Alexa has been entertaining us for the last few days.  It’s really been nice.

Writing news –

EPP End Point Pangaea is beginning to wind up.  I haven’t gotten to do much writing this week, and I can’t talk about why just yet.  But once I get back on it, I anticipate less than a week before I finish the first draft.  After that, I’ll begin my self-edits, and depending on how they go, I may be putting out a call for beta readers around the end of this month.  So if you’re interested in reading my latest in its “warts and all” form, then watch for my call for betas. If you follow me on Facebook, that’s likely to be where you’ll see it first.  EPP promises to be a bit of a departure from my normal writing.

WW78DY12 -Speaking of my normal writing, (how’s that for a segue? 8-)  ) I finally got around to buying some of the trade paperbacks of Year 12, so I can now send autographed copies out to those of you who have asked.  I bought ten, and am down to seven at the moment.  If you want one, let me know and I’ll try to make sure it happens.  Either PM me on Facebook, or email me at “jlb.author@gmail.com”.  Cost is $12, plus shipping.

Hmmm… I suppose I should put that as an option on the “My Books” page of this site, shouldn’t I?

One other note regarding Y12 – I was contacted by a very nice gentleman the other day regarding putting the book out in audio. He is a voice actor, and while his plate is pretty full for the next few months, he encouraged me to pursue the option of publishing the book in audio format.  I explained that it had been out for audition for almost two months now, and wasn’t getting much traction.  I think I’ve managed to scare off most of the actors by placing the most difficult dialogue in my audition file.  For those of you who have read the book , you remember the section where there is a short conversation in Cherokee?  It’s ten phrases, and it’s in the audition file I uploaded.  So far, only one person has tried to tackle it.

WW78EWhen I explained this to the gentleman who contacted me, he didn’t seem very concerned. I found out that he is practically a neighbor, lives here in Oklahoma, and said he should be able to find the proper pronunciations and inflections pretty easily.  In other books, he’s had to learn to pronounce Greek phrases.  So who knows?  Maybe the Year 12 audiobook will happen after all.

RPotW –

Here’s a confession.  This week’s “Random Picture of the Week” isn’t all that random.  Think of it as a clue as to why I’m not getting much writing done this week.  For those of you who know me, you’ll probably know immediately what’s going on.  You’ll also now probably know why I won’t talk about it just yet.  But rest assured, next week all will be explained.

For now, though, let’s end this post.  You fine folks stay safe, and I’ll talk to you next time.   :bye:

Mar 292017
 
WW77a

MOUNTAIN POSE

Yep, as the title of this week’s post will likely tell you, we’ve been doing a little yoga at the Brackett household.  It’s something that my wife has explored before, and it really helped some of the back issues she had a few years back.  And since I stopped my martial arts classes five years ago, I’ve begun to develop some serious tightening of my tendons and ligaments. To combat the problem, MBH talked me into doing some yoga with her.

WW77b

CHILD’S POSE

So three or four times a week, we set up in the living room, pop in a DVD (one that she has long since memorized and no longer has to look at, though it has me fumbling about trying to shift from one pose to another), and I embarrass myself by trying to look graceful as I lug my phatass through the most basic of exercises.  But don’t you worry about me.  I’m a quick learner. In fact, I’ve pretty much mastered two of the poses already… mountain pose, and child’s pose.  That means I can stand up straight with my hands held in front of my heart, and I can fall to my knees with my head on the floor with the best of them. ;-)

As far as the sitting, squatting, stretching, shifting, and balancing that goes with moving from one pose to another… well, let’s just say I’m still working on that.   :-/

All right, moving on to the writing news –

EPP End Point Pangaea is moving pretty well, sitting at a bit under 65K words. Some days the writing flows really well, with me knocking out 2500 to 3000 words, other days I spend fixing items that I messed up previously.  For instance, did you know that you can make cloth from bamboo?  Well sure, I guess many of you did, because unbeknownst to yours truly, this is evidently a big deal in linens.  Bamboo cloth sheets and pillowcases are a luxury item.  And it just so happens that I had been trying to figure out what people in my late Triassic setting could use as a cloth substitute, since during that time period none of the usual cloth sources had yet evolved… no mammals meant no hairs or wool, no flowering plants meant no cotton or other sources of blend-able fibers.  In short, I was about to call it quits on their ability to have much in the way of cloth until we went to the local home and garden show where one of the vendors was selling (yep, you guessed it) bamboo sheets and pillow cases.

And in my typical OCD manner, that meant I had to go back and find any references to anything in the book that could have been served better by having cloth instead of leather. But I’m caught back up now, and the numbers should begin to rise quickly again.

SoP – I recently read about a new promotional site for audiobooks called “Audiobook Boom“.  It’s basically a newsletter similar to those that have done so well for written and e-books, like Bookbub and the like, only it’s just for Audiobooks.  The rates were very affordable, so I figured I would give it a try.  Streets of Payne has always been one of my favorite books, but it never seemed to get the attention that I had hoped it would.  So that was the book I put in my ad.  I got some codes for free promotional copies of the audiobook for both US and UK readers, and so far, I’ve given away about twenty of them.  Hopefully they will result in some decent reviews.

WW77cAnd finally, Random Pic of the Week!

Set the picture gallery spinning and tap… and we get a picture of our chickenfoot dominoes. Um…. I’m not honestly sure why I have a picture of them on my phone, but here it is.  Some of our closest friends come to stay with us for a few days two or three times a year.  When they do, we often spend several hours in the evenings playing chickenfoot.  It’s a bit of a holdover from when we lived in Houston and used to have a monthly game night.  It was a pot-luck with the hosting household cooking a main dish, and everyone else bringing side dishes. We would eat and laugh and eventually begin breaking out various games to while away the hours.  We played Scattergories, Pictionary, Trivial Pursuit, Taboo, or whatever other game lent itself to keeping us all amused until we had to go home.

Now that we’re in Oklahoma, it’s seldom that we get to have a regular game night anymore. So when we get visitors that we know enjoy such things, we break out chickenfoot.  I’m not entirely sure why we settled on this as our default game, but we all seem to enjoy it enough that we spend hours with friends, food, and fun.

What more can you ask for?   ;-)

And that’s it for this week. Time to get back to writing. Stay safe everyone.   :bye: