Oct 142015
 

Critter notes –

Last week I mentioned some of the furry critters we’re learning to share space with.  Some are harmless, like the rabbits, deer, and armadillos.  Others are nuisances, like the opossum from the other night, or the moles that dig in the yard.  And of course, some are downright nasty.  Just ask Bella and Cricket about that skunk.   :pain:

Brown Orb WeaverSomething else that we’ve noticed lately though, doesn’t exactly fall into the furry critter category.  There are some BIG spiders here that seem to be relatively common.  Now, we’re used to the little grass spiders, wolf spiders, etc, that are common in the Houston area, but these suckers are huge by comparison.  I’m pretty sure that they’re Brown Orb Spiders, but since I’m no expert, I could be wrong.  This not-so-little beauty keeps weaving its web just to the side of our front entrance.  I’ve knocked the web down when it gets too close to the walkway, since MBH is considerably less tolerant of our eight-legged neighbors, but he keeps building back up in the same general area.  I generally don’t have much of a problem with them, and I’ve noticed them all around the neighborhood, so I guess they’re simply more common here.

Cricket has a couple of hot spots on her back, and she’s chewed strips into her fur with all the gnawing.  I looked online, and found that a vet recommends treating it with diluted povidone iodine.  So I made the diluted solution, took her on the back patio, and swabbed the affected areas.  (I’m supposed to do this twice a day until the spots clear up.)

Coming back inside though, I saw this little guy on the left. Black Widow-01 And while I don’t mind sharing space with Orb Weavers, a Black Widow is another thing altogether.  First came the bug spray. Black Widow-02 That was quickly followed by my size twelve spider stomper.  I might not mind spiders, but I’m no saint, either.   :shock:  I have several friends who usually mention spiders and flamethrowers in the same breath.  Black Widows are enough to make me think they just might be right.

So, on to writing notes…

Giveaway notes –

Last weekend was the big giveaway.  Okay, maybe not all that big, but it was a giveaway.  Friend and reviewer, Carol Conley from the “I’m a Voracious Reader” book review blog, contacted me a few weeks ago to let me know she had read Ghost Story, and wanted to know if I would consider running some free days to coincide with the release of her review.  Now, I generally don’t like doing free days, since my experience with them has been mostly negative in the last couple of years.  They worked really well for me back in the early days of Amazon’s KDP Select program, and I’ll never forget that first nail-biter when I put HPM up for free shortly after it released.  In a single day, I gave away more than 11k copies of Half Past Midnight.  That giveaway, and the reviews it sparked, shot followup sales through the roof for the better part of the following year.

For a new author, just getting his feet wet in the world of indie publishing, it was nothing short of miraculous!

Of course, shortly after that, Amazon changed their algorithm, as they so often seem to do.  The next time I ran a book for free, it didn’t do nearly as well, but wasn’t a total loss.  So I tried it again later.  The third time I did it was with the release of Streets of Payne.  This time, not only did I not get as big a response, I completely lost all momentum and sales actually went down.  When I checked into it, it seemed that moving from the Top 100 Sold, to the Top 100 Free was a sales killer.  Since “free” was not “sold”, SoP‘s sales rank dropped like a stone.  No visibility, no sales.  It was the exact opposite of the Ouroboros Effect I wrote about in an old post “In answer to Mike’s question…“, and this time instead of boosting my sales, it actually killed them.

So no, I don’t like doing free days any more.  But Carol is a friend, Ghost Story is just a novella, and it’s not like it was really selling all that well anyway.  So what did I really have to lose, right?   :-/   And while I was putting Ghost Story out there for free, why not also throw SoP out again?  It wasn’t selling either, so what could it hurt?

As it turned out, nothing.  It didn’t hurt, and there actually was a slight bump in sales afterwards.  Not huge, but a few extra sales is a few extra sales.  Yay team!   :-)

Year 12 notes

I have problems with what I call “transition scenes” when I’m writing.  I get scene “A” pretty clear in my mind, and I go after it, flying through it like there’s no tomorrow.  I can see in my mind where scene “B” is, and how it should run.  But the transition from “A” to “B” stumps me.  For whatever reason, I get hung up in the minutia of who says what to trigger what, and why did this do that, and… I get stuck.  I just got through one of these transitions yesterday, and I have to say, I get a little frustrated with myself.  I feel like I should be able to knock out three or four thousand words a day.  Instead, I’m lucky if I average over one thousand.

Yeah, I have problems.  But I’m progressing.  Not as quickly as I want, but I’m progressing.

Speaking of writing, I need to get back to doing just that.  So time to stop whining, and get back to work.  Take care of yourselves, and stay safe.  I’ll talk to you later.   :bye:

Jul 152015
 

Mailchimp signupYay!  I got the visual editor for my website working again (mostly).

Just in time for Wednesday, too.  And I’ve got a lot going on with my writing since the last blog post. First and foremost, you will notice a new signup field on my site. If you’re reading this on the actual site, you will see it over there on the right. The header presently reads “Sign up for new release notifications”. If you’re getting this in a feedburner email, the signup form looks like the picture accompanying this post. At the moment, it’s not much to look at. Maybe I’ll be able to pretty it up later on, but for now, I thought it was more important to get it up and active.

Now that last sentence will likely get a “huh?” out of a lot of you. In other words, why the push to get the mailing list going?

Like I said, I have a lot going on with my writing now. And ironically, a lot of this is due to an inspirational roadblock I hit on Year 12. Without going into a lot of detail, I hit a brick wall with the plot on Y12… lost the flavor. There was a day of panic, hair pulling, and chest beating before I decided my time would be better spent moving on to another project. Not wanting to actually start a whole different book, I instead began a project that I’ve had percolating for quite some time. It will be the story of how the antagonist from Half Past Midnight managed to roll into Rejas at the head of a small army. The story should be another novella, similar in length to The Road to Rejas – possibly a bit shorter. I’ve tentatively titled it Crazy Larry.

Additionally, I have another project that I’ve been slowly working on. It’s going to be a short story collection, and it came about because there are a few particular stories that some of you have asked me to publish, but I’ve not felt right about. Not that I don’t think they’re good, it’s just that I don’t feel right charging a reader 99¢ for a short story that will only keep them occupied for a few minutes. Yet 99¢ is the least amount that epublishers will allow you to charge. And let’s face it, after paying for editors, cover work, and formatting, I at least need to recoup my expenses on the work, right?

But if I put them all into a collection together, along with some that very few people have ever seen before, then I have a single edit, one cover, and can sell it in good conscience, knowing that I’ve given the reader their money’s worth.

And since the story collection is a bit shorter than most of my work, I’ve decided to throw in the beginning of something else a lot of you have been asking for. I’m adding the first chapter for the Streets of Payne sequel (working title Payne and Suffering).

So if you want to receive announcements about these, or any other writing I do as it nears release, please sign up for the mailing list. I’m not going to spam you, or bother you with the day to day miscellany. I figure, if you really want to torture yourself with that stuff, you can just read my blog, right?

And that’s it for now. Back to writing.

Stay safe, folks.  :bye:

Apr 052015
 

So much for my vow to post a minimum of once a month. Shortly after I posted that vow, my father’s health took a turn for the worse. He passed away on February 25th. All I’ll say is that this is not the place to dwell on it.  I’m just glad I got the chance to get up here and spend at least a few months with him before he left us.

But this is my writing blog, so I’ll try to keep to it on subject. As the title says, Chucklers has been submitted to a small press. I won’t post any specific details yet, because I don’t know whether or not it will be accepted. There is a blind acquisition process where the manuscript will be stripped of any identifying information and will go before a group of editors who won’t know who wrote it, judging it based on the merits of the writing. I like that idea, but it also scares me. It’s the old fear that at some point, someone is going to read my stuff and figure out that I’m nothing but a hack. I think many, if not most writers go through the same feelings of self-doubt. I would imagine that any sort of craftsman or artist does. Or am I just that insecure? :-/

At any rate, this is the first time I’ve submitted to a small press. Until now, everything I’ve done has been indie. So I called to talk to them about the process in hopes of learning what to expect, and just as importantly, what to NOT expect. I already knew the basics. Assuming the manuscript is accepted, the publisher takes care of the editing, cover art and cover design, formatting for e-book and print, and the headaches of the actual publishing. That means I wouldn’t spend the money on outside services that I normally spend on my books. However, it also means that I surrender a significant amount of control over the process, as well as fifty percent of whatever money the book brings in. I also have to get over my nearly obsessive daily tracking of my sales numbers. What it really boils down to is that if they accept my work, they are agreeing to be an equal partner in the business venture that Chucklers represents. In short, they become an investor in the book. It will take some getting used to, but my insecurity is my own. This is simply the way small presses work.

When I sit back and really think about all the ins and outs, the only real concern I have is with the schedule. When I put the money up on my own, I pay for outside services (editing, cover art/design, formatting) and as soon as it’s done to my satisfaction, I publish. Assuming I don’t take too long with my edits, the time from manuscript submission to the editors to publishing the finished product is usually three or four months. Going through the publisher, it’s going to be closer to a year… possibly longer.

Now, that doesn’t mean I sit on my thumbs and wait for a year. It simply means that I have to put Chucklers out of my head for however long it takes to get word on whether or not the manuscript is accepted. It means I need to shift to other projects and get them moving. I need to do things like set up a Mailchimp mailing list, get some backlisted editing done, and get other works written and ready for publication. I received a phone call a few weeks ago reminding me that I had unfinished edits on the short story Ghost Story. I need to pull that out and brush it off. Get it finished and ready for final publication. And it’s time to get going seriously on the sequel to Half Past Midnight. For those who may not know, the name of the sequel is Year 12, and it’s officially going to be my top priority writing project.

There are also a few other writing projects I have in mind, but until I see how things go with Chucklers, I won’t know when I’ll be able to start them. All I can say is that I HOPE to get them done this year. But if I can get on schedule here, I stand poised to get two more novels written (and hopefully published), publish Ghost Story before Halloween, possibly publish another short story, and possibly write & publish another novella in the HPM universe.

So wish me luck. This year promises to be a completely new learning experience on many levels.

Jan 112015
 

So the “Blog Post” template for Word seems to have worked! This is fantastic. It will make my blogging so much easier and faster. :)  If anyone is interested in trying it, the option comes standard with MS Word 2013. Simply go to File>New and select the “Blog Post” option. If it isn’t already part of your installation, Word will then go online & download it. You have to fill in some basic info, like the web location of your blog, but it’s only a couple of questions, and they’re very basic. I mean, how much easier can it get than “location of your blog goes here”?

Now, I know a lot of you are cringing in horror at the thought of using a Microsoft product, and that’s your prerogative. But I’ve never been one of those folks that has a problem with them. I know there are a lot of people who think any product sold or offered by a large corporation such as Microsoft or Amazon is inherently evil. As for me, well, call me a sellout, or call me a realist. All I know is that I had a job for nearly two decades because of Microsoft. Most people in the IT field, whether they like MS or not, wouldn’t have a job if it weren’t for them.

So, you can make your own decision regarding Microsoft products. I think I’ll continue to use them. At least, for now.

On the writing front… Chucklers is moving along. The majority of the first book in the series is written, but the devil is in the details. And this book has a LOT of details. The hardest part is trying to meld the timelines of the various storylines in such a manner that I don’t lose the pacing of the story when I piece it all together. Initially I thought I would approach the chapters of the story in a similar manner as I did in HPM. In that one, I began each chapter with a date and timestamp. But that simply won’t work with Chucklers. It’s just way too complex. Much more so than HPM was. HPM was a single storyline, told from a single POV. As such, it was easy to lay things out in a linear fashion and tell the story as it occurred.

Chucklers, on the other hand, is really five or six intertwined stories that include more than two dozen characters, told from the POV of roughly half a dozen of them, and they are all happening at the same time. Trying to keep all that on a rigid timeline is nearly impossible. As a result, I’ve had to temporarily remove most of my time markers throughout the story, so that I can shuffle the various POV chapters around in such a manner that I (hopefully) won’t lose tension when I need it, and will be able to let the reader “rest” at appropriate times.

To that end, I’m using a couple of tools in addition to my regular MS Word software. One of them, I’ve used before, but not nearly as extensively as I’m using it now. That is yWriter5. This program is what I like to call “the poor man’s Scrivener.” It does many of the same things that Scrivener does, but where Scrivener costs $40, yWriter5 is free. And to be perfectly honest, I’ve been perfectly happy with yWriter5… until now. And the lack of satisfaction is because of the second tool I’ve recently begun using.

Aeon Timeline – Aeon is an incredible timeline management program that allows me to track all the different scenes in my story in a visible, time stamped, color coded, and easily juggled format. And it can now be synchronized with Scrivener. And what that means to me, my friend, is that instead of writing my chapters in MS Word, copying them into yWriter5, looking at the POV frequency and pacing in Aeon, juggling the beat points in Aeon as necessary, then going back and moving entire chapters in yWriter5 and MS Word, then renumbering the chapters as necessary, I could simply make a change in Aeon or Scrivener, and synchronize them on the fly.

I have to say, that is an EXTREMELY tempting proposition. Especially since the book I’m working on is the first in a series of similarly complex stories. The only thing that has been keeping me from making the purchase is the fact that by all reports, Scrivener has a bit of a steep learning curve, which would delay my writing while I learn the software. But would it delay it more than all the back and forth that I’m doing now with the clunky method I’m using? I don’t know. I’m still on the fence with this one.

If any of you read this and have used the Scrivener / Aeon synchronization tools, please let me know. I would love to hear your experiences, good or bad.

 

And that’s it for now. I need to get back to writing. So as always, stay safe. :bye:

Jun 152014
 

Yeah, I’ve been quiet for a while.  Ironically, it’s not because I haven’t been busy.  Quite the opposite.  Life has been pretty “interesting” for the last few months. As in “may you live in interesting times” interesting.   :struggle:

My wife & I sold our house about two months ago. The idea was that we would downsize to a smaller house with more property. But during the interim between selling the old house & buying a new one, we were going to stay with family members. We expected it to be a matter of a few weeks, possibly a month or two.

But right after we moved in with them, life jumped up and smacked us all. We had a few crises that have demonstrated to us that Murphy is alive and well, and apparently has taken a liking to our family. I won’t go into details, because those stories aren’t mine to tell.  But a minor side effect has been that I haven’t been paying much attention to marketing for my writing, and to be perfectly honest, I don’t know when this is going to change.  As a result, my numbers have slipped drastically, and I simply don’t have the time or setup to pursue the “traditional” marketing venues.

Streets of Payne 800 Cover reveal and PromotionalSo I’m going to try an experiment here. It may work, and it may not. I just figure this is the perfect opportunity to try something off the wall.

My book with the worst numbers right now is “Streets of Payne”. I don’t know if it’s because the book is cyberpunk, and there simply isn’t the following for the genre that there once was, or if it’s because that’s my newest book, or if I’ve made a mistake with the cover, or blurb, or categorization, or what… All I know for sure is that the thing isn’t selling.

So here’s my experiment. If you think you might be interested in a cyberpunk-ish techno-thriller, check out Streets of Payne. If it looks like something you might be interested in, buy it.  I recently lowered the e-book price to $2.99, so it’s not like it’s going to break the bank.  And for the first three people who purchase the novel in the next 24 hours, and can provide me with electronic proof of purchase, I will give you an Audible.com promo code for the free download of each of my three published works in audio format.

So, buy “Streets of Payne” in print or electronic format within the next 24 hours, email me (jlb DOT author AT gmail DOT com) with your proof of purchase, and I will send you promo codes for the free download of the Audible.com audio book versions of “Streets of Payne“, “Half Past Midnight“, and “The Road to Rejas“.

I will do this for the first three people who contact me with proof of purchase before 10PM central time, Monday night.

And then I’ll do it again for the NEXT 24 hours… and the next… until Friday night, or until I run out of codes, whichever comes first.  Like I said, I don’t know if this little experiment will help, but I figure it probably can’t hurt, either.  Right?   :-?

And that’s it for now.  As always, stay safe.   :bye: