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:

 

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:

Jan 052017
 

First of all, I hope you all had a fantastic New Year’s.  I’ve reached that point in my life where quiet is better, so no crazy parties for MBH and I.  Truth be told, we’ve never been much for the wild New Year’s Eve parties. For us, getting our wild on this year entailed fixing one of our favorite meals.  Now, in order to let you appreciate just how different this meal is for us, I have to let you in on a not-so-secret secret. I’m not a big fan of red meat. Sure, I’ll munch on a burger as much as the next guy, and I love sausage and bacon in the morning.  But I’ve never really developed the appreciation most people have of a fine steak or roast.  It’s just not my thing.

But a few years back, I sampled my first buffalo flank steak and fell in love.  I don’t know why, but buffalo just tastes GOOD to me. And luckily, there was a store that carried it near our house in Houston.  It’s a little pricier than regular beef, but both MBH and I liked it enough that it became a semi-regular treat for us.

When we moved to Oklahoma, one of the things on my mind was the idea that we had moved into buffalo country!  It’s true.  Driving around this part of the country, it’s relatively common to see small herds of buffalo, where ranchers raise them like other ranches raise cattle. I just knew we were going to have quick and easy access to more buffalo at better prices.

ww67-aUnfortunately, the truth was much different. I’ve only found a few stores here that carry any buffalo at all, and those stores typically only carry it ground.  I found one place in Tulsa that says they have buffalo sirloin in their frozen food section… sometimes.  But none of them carry flank steak.  :sidefrown:

We searched online and also found some sites that sell the cuts we’re after, and we ordered from one of them… once.  Don’t get me wrong, the meat was delicious, and the people at Wild Idea Buffalo were very knowledgeable.  As a matter of fact, we learned to try some other cuts from them, and loved their skirt steaks and their flat-iron steaks.  The problem with ordering from them was the shipping fees.  Buying half a dozen steaks cost us about $40 in shipping, and that is just something we can’t afford to keep doing.  But I get it.  Shipping meat across the country requires fast, refrigerated shipping.  And that isn’t cheap.

But it’s still outside of our budget.

ww67-bSo for the Christmas holiday this year, we asked our son to bring some buffalo flank up from that store in Houston, where we used to buy it.  It’s ironic that we’re here, in the heart of buffalo country, and the best way for us to get our favorite flank steak is to have it brought up from Houston.  But he brought us four absolutely gorgeous steaks, and one of those was our New Year’s Eve dinner.  (insert a sigh of contentment here)

And as you can see from the pictures, it didn’t go unappreciated.  :-))

On the writing front…

Chucklers, Volume 1 – Severed Press put CV1 on an Amazon countdown sale for 99¢ and advertised it in the Booksends newsletter. The sale ends at 2AM tomorrow morning (central time), or just about fifteen hours from the time of this posting.  So here’s me, crossing my fingers and hoping sales do well.

End Point PangaeaEPP moved slowly for a bit, but I’m back on it today.  Between the holidays, and other writing projects, EPP simply didn’t get the attention it deserved, so the progress meter on it barely moved over the holidays.  That changes now.

FSJ – The Sekrit Projekt went pretty well. For now, I’m waiting to see what happens with it, and that’s all I can say about it for now.

Year 12 – I got the file for the Y12 print interior and, after some quick back and forth changes, I’ve approved the result and we’re moving on to the e-book files and print cover.  I’m hopeful that the final product will be ready to publish VERY soon.   :-D

So that’s it in my world. Time to get back to writing.  So as always, stay safe, and I’ll talk to you more next week. :bye:

Dec 282016
 

ww66-bI hope you had (or are having) a fantastic holiday this year. I know MBH and I did. Our youngest daughter, as well as our son, daughter-in-law, and youngest granddaughter came up to visit, and spend the holiday weekend with us.  So yeah, we got most of what we wanted for Christmas.

It’s true, you know… the saying about your wish list getting shorter as you get older.  At least for MBH and I, it’s true.  Just having part of the family here was more than we could ask for, especially with the youngest member visiting.  I mean, just look at that face.  How can you not be content around such a cutie? :-))

ww66-aWe got to spend time with the kids (even though our youngest “kid” now is a college grad – LOL), going to the movies, cooking, and playing “chicken feet” or just relaxing out on the patio in the evenings.  It was tough to see them head back home, but such is life when families begin to go their separate ways.

On the writing front, I honestly didn’t get much done.  As you can imagine, with the kids here, I had other things on my mind.  But that’s not to say nothing happened.  For one thing, I received the review files for the print version of Year 12, so that’s back underway.

fb-cb1Additionally, I got word early this morning that Chucklers, Volume 1 is about to go on sale, starting on December 30th, and will be featured in the Booksends mailing list on January 1st.  So if you haven’t been able to afford it up to now, this is your chance.

And that’s about it, for now. I’m just getting back into the swing of things, so I should have more to report next time.  For now, I hope you have a happy new year, so take care, stay safe, and I’ll talk to you in 2017.   :bye: