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?   Confused

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

Apr 042014
 

Zandy-02Yep. Lots of changes.  First and foremost, I’ve gained a new daughter.  Last month, my son got married to a wonderful young woman, whose only fault seems to be that she was insane enough to tie herself into this family.  So here’s to insanity and happiness.  May it last them for the rest of their lives. Heart

And there are other changes in the Brackett household.  As a matter of fact, one of the biggest upcoming changes IS the Brackett household.  See, we’re in the process of getting ready to move.  When we first moved into our current home, our family unit was considerably larger.  There was me, my wife, my mother-in-law (whose back surgeries were beginning to get the better of her), a son, daughter, a dog, and a cat.  We also have other family that we wanted to be able to accommodate if they wanted to visit and needed a place to stay, so we found a nice house, big enough for our needs–six bedrooms, game room, lots of entertainment space–it’s been a great house.

Fast forward thirteen years… my mother-in-law has passed on, the kids have grown and moved out, and it’s just me, my better half, and two dogs in that big ole’ house, and we decided it’s time to downsize.  So we put the house on the market, and it sat for several weeks with a showing here and there, but no hard nibbles until a few weeks ago.  Then, suddenly, it went from “Hey, there’s someone who might be interested…” to “Hey, is April 17th a good day for closing?”  Shock

That was just over a week ago, and needless to say, we’ve been scrambling ever since.  But here’s the real kicker… we don’t have a house to move into yet. We’re in one of those domino situations where we have to sell our existing house before we can afford to get another house.  Luckily, my sister and brother-in-law are in a similar living situation, their two sons having moved out a few years back, and they’ve offered to let us stay with them while we look for a new home.  In the meantime, there are all sorts of arrangements to be made on utilities, packing, storage, etc.  It’s going to be a frantic few weeks.

On the writing front, there are things a-brewin’.  Wink

HPM and R2R (audio books) – I’ve taken the plunge, and have contracted with the talented Corey Snow to do audio versions of Half Past Midnight, and The Road to Rejas.  This is something I actually started on almost two months ago, and the work on HPM is at this time just a few weeks away from completion.  Corey has an amazing voice (one of the female betas I sent a sample to, mentioned something about dampened undergarments)  Shock  and he’s doing a great job with it.  I’ve been listening to the uploads on my commute to and from work, and I’ve noticed a few things.  One is how much work Corey puts in to his performances.  The guy is an amazing professional.

The other thing I noticed is of a more introspective nature.  I’m listening to my debut novel.  (My debut novel… it sounds like such a strange thing to say.)  It was something that began as a private exercise back in the 90’s – something that I never expected to actually publish.  Writing was just something that I liked to do.  It wasn’t like anyone was ever going to want to read it.  And that manuscript was picked up and put down so many times over the next several years that it’s amazing that it was ever completed.  Career changes… kids… just life changes in general, continually kept me from even considering doing anything more than writing as a hobby.

Not worthyAnd now, I’m listening to someone putting voice to my first novel.  It’s surreal in some ways.  It’s humbling in others.  Even as I listen to what Corey has sent me, I can recognize a younger me in the words–a less experience me.  I listen and think, “I could have done that so much better.”

I think that’s a good thing.  Now that I’m taking my writing seriously, I can see the growth in my work.  Like I said… a good thing.  And while HPM will always hold a very special place in my heart, I can’t help but wish I had done a better job with it.

Don’t get me wrong. I know better than to spend time worrying about what I might have done.  And I’m sure not going to go back and rewrite it.  HPM is the past.  But Y12?  I’m confident that Y12 is going to be much better.  I’ve learned so much from so many talented people, that I can’t help but think that with each piece of writing I produce, I will grow in this craft that I’ve come to love.  And someday, I’ll be able to point to a body of work with real pride.  Maybe I’ll feel more worthy when someone contacts me and tells me that they like my writing.  Because to be perfectly honest, I’m not there yet.  I’m thankful, yes.  But I still feel like Wayne and Garth, bowing and scraping before Alice Cooper.  I feel I’m “not worthy!”  Smile

Ghost Story – I’ve already mentioned in previous posts that Ghost Story is completed.  You’ll note that the progress meter on that title (right hand widget bar) is now green and has been moved to the bottom of the list for now, pending input from the editor.  You’ll also note that there are a few more projects listed.

Chucklers face onlyChucklers – The apocalyptic horror collaboration with Edward Lorn has been moving pretty well… sort of.  Unfortunately, Ed has gotten very busy with other projects, and says it looks like he’s going to be tied up for quite some time.  Luckily, we decided to write the novel from the point of view of several dispersed characters and groups.  That means I can continue to move forward with my characters for a while, without much input from him.  And he’s such a freaking fast writer, that he should be able to catch up to me with very little effort once he gets a chance to jump back in.  So I’ll continue moving ahead with it for a while, as long as the story keeps my attention.

The only bad thing about this is that Ed and I found that working with one another seemed to speed up our output.  There was something about being able to bounce ideas and chapters off one another that kept the story hopping for us.  It became almost a game, each of us laughing as we came up with ways to help one another in the scenes we were working on, interacting in a way that somehow made the work better than just the sum of its parts.  I’ll miss that.

But the story is a good one, and I do want to see it through.  I’m having fun, finding new characters along the way, and new ways to torment them.  Yep, that’s me, the kid with the magnifying glass on the ant hill.  Wink  Chucklers is still my highest priority project at the moment, but with Ed dropping out for a while, the urgency is considerably lessened.  So I’ve opened up a few other projects that I’ve been keeping on the back burner…

Y12 prelimYear 12 – Yes, the long promised sequel to Half Past Midnight is finally going to become a reality.  The story has been banging around in my head long enough, and it’s gotten pretty insistent on being released.  So I’ve finally opened a new folder on the computer, and am beginning the process of bringing Zach’s story to life.  I have a cast of characters, an overall story arc, some interesting side plotlines, and most of the story itself ready and waiting to be told.  This is going to be a new way of writing for me, since I have traditionally been a “pantser” in my writing.  This will be the first time that I’ll be working on a story that is already mostly formed in my head.

I suppose that’s to be expected, since I’ve continuously been kicking it to the back burner for about two years now.  Every time I started to work on it, something else came up and took priority.  But in each instance, I spent more time thinking about what was going to happen, until finally last summer I pretty much knew the whole story line.  Just a few weeks ago, I was discussing it with my wife.  There was a final plot element that I couldn’t figure out… an underlying motivation for a major plot sequence.  And in her typical fashion, my wife was able to break it down into a more basic question for me, pointing out that I had been unnecessarily complicating things.  Once I viewed it from her suggested POV, everything fell into place.

WC1 – This one is a new project.  It’s a more traditional science fiction tale that I had the idea for back in 2011.  I took a bunch of notes, and wrote a first chapter… and then promptly lost it.  Frown  Recently, I found those notes, and part of that first chapter again.  There was still quite a bit of it missing, but the parts that I recovered really excited me.  When I read through the notes, the idea for the whole story really grabbed my attention.  Wow!  It was actually a good idea!  Who knew I could come up with something that could catch my attention not only as a writer, but as a reader?  It was good enough that after I re-read the chapter fragment, I was pissed that there wasn’t more to read.  And that tells me that I need to get it written.  Wink  So the code name for this new title is WC1, and it promises to be quite a ride.

All right.  That’s enough for now.  It’s time to get back to work.  So as always, stay safe people.  Bye

PS – It was brought to my attention a few weeks ago, that the comment option on my blog wasn’t working, and that no one was able to leave comments.  I believe that has finally (hopefully) been fixed.  I would appreciate it if some of you would leave a short comment here to confirm.  Especially someone who has never commented on the blog before.  There are some settings that seem to affect people who have never posted more stringently than those who have.  And if you find that you CAN’T leave a post, please drop me an email at “jlbDOTauthorATgmailDOTcom”.

Thanks, everyone.

Jan 172014
 

I know, I know… more than two months?!?!  Yes, it’s been a LONG time since my last blog post.  But you know what?  I don’t really feel all that bad about it this time.  Between the holidays, writing, and getting the house ready to sell, the fact of the matter is that I’ve just been busy.

Getting the house ready sell?  Shock

So you caught that, eh?  Well yes, we’re reaching that point in our lives where we’re looking to slow down and downsize.  We aren’t getting any younger, and our focus is shifting from the proverbial rat race, to trying to simplify our lives.  We moved into our home just about fourteen years ago.  At that time, we had kids and my mother-in-law living with us, and bought a home big enough to comfortably accommodate all of us.

Bella and Cricket

Bella and Cricket

But now my mother-in-law has passed on, the kids have grown and moved out, and it’s just me, my wife, and our two fur-babies (Bella and Cricket) in that big old house.  We no longer need all that square footage on the inside.  We need more on the outside.  See, you put a big house like ours on a standard lot, and the house takes up more of the available lot, leaving a smaller yard for the “girls” to play in.  Between that, and the fact that I am really itching to get more land so that I can get on with some of my self-sufficiency plans (gardening, maybe some chickens or quail, high volume water storage… who knows?), we are looking to change our living arrangements.

And that means patching, and sanding, and texturing, and painting, and caulking, and all the other things that have to be done to make a house more attractive to potential buyers.  Now, the truth of the matter is that my wife has been doing the vast majority of all this work.  She has already shown she has an amazing eye for decorating, and I’m more than happy to be the cheap labor to her superior eye.  Of course, you know what happens when you hire cheap labor.  Side Frown

However, I have gotten some writing done…

Ghost Story – The short story for next year’s Halloween horror anthology (tentatively titled Once Feared) is finally done.  It’s been turned in and either is, or will shortly be going through its paces with the editor.  And of course, now that I sent it to the editor, I’ve already found more mistakes.  Frown  But that’s relatively normal.  As a writer/storyteller, you hate to turn loose of your work, knowing that there are imperfections in it that you’ve missed, wanting to hang on to it to polish it “just one more time”, knowing that the editor is bound to be shaking his or her head when they find your mistakes and wondering just what the hell you were thinking when you let such obvious mistakes get past you.  Yeah, some of us are relatively insecure.  Eek!

Chucklers – While Ghost Story is in the anthology editor’s hands, I’m freed up to work on my next project(s).  I’ve decided that I will focus most of my attention back on Chucklers, the collaborative novel I’m doing with Ed Lorn.  We’ve gone back and forth with this one, and between the two of us have written upwards of 40k words on it.  And now, we’ve decided to start over.

Yeah, I can hear the gasps and groans out there as you all read this.  It sounds like a huge setback.  But the reality is that it really won’t be that big a deal.  You see, we’ve decided that the “voice” for the novel needs to be shifted from first person to third.  As we progressed with the tale, we began to struggle with the scope of it, and gradually decided that it was too big a story to be told from such a limited number of POVs.  The way we had it, I was writing from one character’s POV, and Ed was writing from another’s.  Initially, that worked great.  It was an intimate, yet horrific story of two small groups of characters surviving an apocalyptic event.  Eek!

The problem is that there is so much more to the story than just what these characters will personally encounter.  That’s the trick with writing from a first person point of view.  On one side of the coin, you get to put the reader directly in the POV character’s head, giving them an intimate view of the world as seen through the protagonist’s eyes.  But the other side of the coin is that if the story depends on a lot of action that occurs away from your POV character(s), you can’t tell the reader about it without breaking them out of that intimate mode of storytelling.

Additionally, we quickly discovered that we needed more than just the small group of characters we were initially planning to use.  So we’ve decided to give you the full picture.  We’re going to give you a ring side seat to the end of the world, and I hope the results will blow you away.

But in order to do this, we need to rework the 40k that we’ve already written.  I guess it’s not really starting over, but it will delay us a bit in getting back into the full swing of actually writing the novel.

Year 12 – Ed is currently working on another project (actually at least three other projects that I know of – the man is a freaking writing machine) and won’t be free to start back on Chucklers for a few more weeks.  So if I manage to get the Chucklers rewrites done before he’s ready, I think I’m going to finally start the HPM sequel.  The story has been percolating for quite a while and lately won’t seem to leave me alone.  That tells me that it’s ready for me to start.  Y12 will be coming to life soon.

Streets-of-Payne-AudioBookStreets of Payne – I can hear some of you scratching your heads at my mention of this one.  SoP has been out for several months, after all.  So why am I mentioning it now?

Because the audio book is now out!  I’m so excited about this.  The actress (Joy Nash) who voiced the manuscript is absolutely perfect for the character of Amber Payne.  I couldn’t be more pleased with the results.  So if you like audio books, Streets of Payne is now available in that format on Amazon, Audible, or iTunes.  I am checking to see if I can make a sample available for you to listen to here, but until then, you can go to any of the three links above and listen there.

All right, I’ve gone on for long enough.  Time for me to shut up for a while.  So until next time, stay safe, everyone! Bye

Oct 202013
 

thermalimage2IMP – Well, it isn’t great, but it’s progress.  Just under 2000 words on the IMP story (working title is “Ghost Story” – real imaginative, isn’t it?)  The good news is that I think I’m past most of the framing, and am getting into the meat of the story now.  Hopefully that means it will go much easier now. I don’t know why this one has been such a problem, but let’s hope the problem is past, and the progress is faster.  Wink

SoP – In the meantime, October marked the end of my Kindle Select period, and I have now made Streets of Payne available for Nook.  I hope to have it up on Smashwords next week as well, and I plan to look into making it available for Apple and Kobo soon.  My next step is to work on some marketing for it.  I’ve got to do something, because as much as I like the book and the characters, I haven’t sold a single copy this month.  If I can’t turn that around, I’ll have to assume either there’s no market for this particular type of book, or I’ve done something terribly wrong with it.

That’s it for tonight – short and sweet.  But I’ll be back in two days with an interview of new author, Stephen Kozeniewski.  If you’re interested in a new take on the zombie genre, check him out.  After all, how often do you find a pulp style detective… who happens to be a zombie?

All right.  Good night everyone.  Stay safe.  Bye

Sep 222013
 

Status updates – I’ve been working on a few “smaller” projects recently.  The first of these, I just can’t talk about yet.  I thought I would be announcing this one today, but there has been a road bump, and the official announcement will have to wait.  As for the second smaller project… well, I can’t really go into much detail on this one, either.  However, you’ll notice a new widget to the side for a short story.  I’ve been invited to write for an upcoming anthology (yay!).  Better yet, all of the authors have agreed to donate the proceeds to charity.  Yes, I know anthologies don’t sell well, but once I was contacted about the theme of the anthology, I got an idea that absolutely demanded to be written.  So it will.  The story is currently going by a working title of “IMPs“, and the first thousand words jumped out of me last night.  It has to be finished by December, so there’s plenty of time for completion and polish.

Chucklers is proceeding slowly, but steadily.  The process on it has changed a bit, and it will likely take longer than Ed and I anticipated, but it will still happen.  In the meantime, Y12 has been clamoring for release, and I’m beginning to contemplate the idea of working on multiple projects at the same time.  I’ve tried to avoid working this way in the past, but the voices are getting louder.  LOL.

Controversy –  Some of you may know about this, but I imagine many of you will not.  It’s something that really only affects authors and reviewers, so it may not interest many of you.  However, there has been a recent article making the rounds that was supposedly written by someone who used to work for a company that sold reviews to authors in order to help their books climb the rankings and increase sales.  I’ve explained my take ad nauseam about the relationship between rankings, title visibility, and sales (see “In answer to Mike’s question…” from February of 2012, and “Answering Mike again” from March of that same year), so I won’t bore you with it here again.  The article in question (and I have intentionally not linked to it here – I won’t give it any more exposure than it has already gotten) accuses several well-known authors of buying reviews to elevate sales.  This comes in the midst of the Goodreads controversy in which reviewers have accused authors of stalking them in retaliation for bad reviews, and authors have in turn accused reviewers of banding together to trash their books for no good reason, lowering their rankings (and so their sales) in a form of cyber-bullying.

There has been rampant speculation regarding the veracity of the claims on either side of that argument.  After all, there have been authors in the last years who have admitted publicly that they did, indeed, purchase blocks of reviews.  Others have admitted to trashing other authors with sock-puppet reviews in an effort to damage their competition.  For some, their admissions came with an apology.  For others, they simply looked at the practice as nothing more than a cold-hearted business tactic that they used to make themselves more successful in the industry.

There has been speculation that the recent “outing” article was written as an extension of some of the Goodreads cyber-bullying.  I don’t know, I don’t claim to know, and I don’t really care.  It is what it is.  I will say this – I have seen examples of both sides of the Goodreads controversy.  Neither side is completely innocent.  There are some authors who behave badly upon receipt of a negative review.  There are also reviewers who have attacked authors for doing nothing more than daring to ask a them a question about what it is they didn’t like about their book.

And I’ve seen what some of these bullies can do when they band together.  I read a post from a budding author said she had actually decided not to publish her first book, because her reputation was trashed before the book ever came out – all because she dared ask a reviewer how he could give her book a one-star review before the book had ever been released.  His response was to gather a band of other reviewers who decided to “put her in her place” by posting several more one-star reviews – again, all on a book that had yet to be released.

I myself, recently received a one-star review for my recent release that was an obvious hatchet job.  Streets of Payne is a recent release, has received only three reviews on Goodreads (all five-stars), and seven reviews on Amazon (five were five-stars, one was a four-star, and one was the one-star).  The one star review simply said:

Don’t buy. There is a reason why Amazon “give” it for free. Boring……Amazon don’t offer good books. The r fooling us.

This same reviewer posted the exact same review for nine other books.  The exact same, word for word, review – remedial grammar and all.  Then he posted a tenth review, a five-star for another book:

loved it very much. its a great book. very special make you see the world in a different way. enjoy.

I leave it to you to draw your own conclusions about this reviewer.  I do note that six of the nine one-star reviews have since been removed from Amazon.

So why am I bringing this up?  What does an article that accuses a bunch of authors of buying reviews have to do with me grumbling about a bad review that I received.  After all, shit happens, right?  Move on.  Nothing to see here.  Right?  Right?

Well here’s the thing – when I read this article that purports to out a bunch of well-known authors for buying “at least 500 reviews”, there were a couple of names on the list that just absolutely pegged my bullshit meter.  Today, one of them spoke out.

Any of you who know me, know that there are a handful of authors that I reference repeatedly as gurus in the field of indie publishing.  You’ve seen me mention Nathan Lowell, Michael J. Sullivan, Imogen Rose, and others.  One you probably haven’t seen me list often is Hugh Howey.  Hugh is best known for his Wool, Silo, and Dust novels.  The reason you haven’t seen him mentioned much on my blog is that I only became acquainted with Hugh’s works in the last few months, and as you have no doubt noted, I haven’t been posting as much on this blog as I should.

But here’s the thing – I had the great fortune to meet Hugh at LoneStarCon a few weeks ago.  He won’t remember me, since he was constantly surrounded by other fans, but his take on the industry, on his successes, and his views toward his readers were almost exactly the same as mine.  He was a man who struck me as someone content to take the slow road, as long as it was the road of integrity.  He was an author who understands that the new model for the writing industry not only allows us as story tellers to connect directly with our audience, but it actually requires that we do so.  He understands that this is a business that allows some of us success, while others of us will continue to struggle, that it is a mixture of skill, persistence, and luck that determines who rides the wave, and who crashes beneath it.  And he absolutely understands that whatever your level of success, it can all change tomorrow.  In the end, all you can count on is the fact that you will eventually be left standing alone with your karmic debt.

I’ve listened to this man’s words on panels, and read interviews on him, and I follow him on FaceBook.  He is one of those few people in the industry that I truly look up to.  I’m a fan, yes.  But more than that, I respect the man.  Not just his writing, but his words and actions.

Today Hugh Howey responded to the accusation that he purchased reviews.  He responded with a well written, and thought out post on his blog.  One of the things that struck me in his blog post is his statement that he had tried for so long to remain silent as some people attacked him with trash reviews, or comments, or other open articles.  He has always viewed it as part of the price of fame.  And as he noted, he is lucky enough to have a large and loyal following that more than compensates for the small amount of negativity aimed at him.  Not many of us are so lucky.

But one of Hugh’s friends has also been accused of buying reviews, and he decided he’d been passive long enough.  Not because he was accused, but because a friend was.  Again, this is a man of integrity.

At the end of his blog post, Hugh makes a pledge.  He calls it his “Declaration of Integrity”.  Many of his readers have begun calling it the “Jolie Pledge”, named after a cherished pet that Hugh often refers to in his postings.  Hugh’s pledge says:

I, Hugh Howey, have never paid for a book review in my life. I swear this on my life and on the life of my beloved dog and faithful companion of ten years, Jolie. May she rest in peace. And may the accusers and accused alike find peace in their hearts as well.

I think this is a wonderful idea.  I like to think that I am also a man of integrity (or at least I try to be)  Wink .  I try to keep from commenting on or criticizing those whose views I don’t agree with, unless they enter into my “personal space”.  Yes, I keep the troll hammer handy, and will not tolerate trolls here on the blog.  But I encourage honest and open questions, comments, and debate.  And I will never belittle another person for their personal beliefs.

So I will also make my declaration here.  I will take the same stand that Hugh has taken.

I, Jeff Brackett, have never paid for, and will never pay for a book review. I give my solemn word on this.

And while Hugh wishes peace for the accusers and accused alike, I will simply say that I wish both the accusers and accused find the justice they deserve.

What can I say?  Hugh is a better person than I am.  Wink

That’s it for tonight.  Be safe, everyone.  Bye