Monday, October 21, 2013

Huge 99¢ Sale! 28 Books from a Dozen Authors!

Yep, here in St. Louis, there's a definite Autumn feel in the air. Time to cozy up with that Kindle by the fire. It's the perfect time for a humongous (yes, I said HUMONGOUS) 99¢ Sale! 28 Books from a Dozen Authors! The eBooks listed on fellow writer, Michael K. Rose's blog page, Myriad Spheres, are only $0.99 October 21-25. A few are always 99¢, but the majority are being offered at this special price for a limited time. They represent some of the best work from a dozen diverse authors, including yours truly, of course!
Click on the link below and check it out!

 99¢ Sale! 28 Books from a Dozen Authors!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Write! Like A Boss!

So one day you're on top of the world, with a glowing 5 star review  and a successful turn on the the top 100 bestseller lists on Amazon, and you're feeling like you could be a real writer after all... the next day you're slammed with a 2 star review, and the reviewer doesn't seem to have found any of the good points of the 5 star reviewer... Happens to the best of us, right? "There really is no accounting for taste." That's why this blog post comes at the perfect time. Love the attitude. And, by the way, my favorite scene from the Incredibles involves Edna, the super hero costume designer. As she says, "I never look back, darling! It distracts from the now!" ~Jeff
The following is reblogged from
Write! Like a Boss!
One of the movies we love here in the secret bunker is The Incredibles. I love a good Bond movie and The Incredibles is superheroes in a Bond movie. It’s a lot of fun, though, for me, the most effecting scene is where the missiles close on the plane with kids on board. Having kids makes you cry easily and I’ve cried during that scene several times over.
Kind of a Spoiler
In the original plot for The Incredibles, the plot called for the plane to be piloted by an ordinary human — a sweet old man and friend of Elastigirl — who gets killed in the explosion. That was revised when they decided it was too dark a turn for a kids’ movie.
The best scene
For my wife, She Who Must Be Obeyed, the scene she always brings up first is the attack on the city.
Samuel L. Jackson, primed to defend innocents and come out of retirement, really sells it when he sees the devastation and shouts, “Honey! Where is my super suit?!” 
His wife’s reply: “Oh, no you don’t! I have been planning this dinner with the Robinsons for weeks!”
Honey! Where is my super suit?!“ 
The juxtaposition of the mundane with a superhero’s clothing needs is funny, but it doesn’t stand out as much for me. She Who Must Be Obeyed is not wrong. (That can never happen.) However, it underlines that we can’t predict how our writing will be received. We must write for ourselves and hope others of like mind will find us (or we must find them). When I wrote for magazines, I was often surprised which bit of a column provoked outrage and what spurred letters of admiration. People won’t necessarily unpack your book the way you thought you sent it.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Amazon Changes Free eBook Policy for Associates

Amazon to Change Free eBook Policy for Associates - GalleyCat :
"Next month, Amazon will change its policy for associates who help readers find free Kindle eBooks online, making certain sites ineligible for advertising fees. Here’s more from the company:

Starting March 1, 2013, Associates who we determine are promoting and meet both conditions below for a given month will not be eligible for any advertising fees for that month within the Amazon Associates Program …
1. At least 80% of all Kindle eBooks ordered and downloaded during Sessions attributed to your Special Links are free Kindle eBooks
2. 20,000 or more free Kindle eBooks are ordered and downloaded during Sessions attributed to your Special Links. 
The company predicted that the new policy will only affect .1 percent of its associates and will not count for advertising fees accrued before March 1, 2013. 
The online retailer explained in the FAQ: “the Amazon Associates program is designed to compensate advertising partners for referring paid business to Amazon.” If your site exceeds the free eBook limit on any given month, you can still be a member of the Amazon associate program."
Amazon's recent change in policy undoubtedly will affect those of us who have continued to use KDP Select free book promotion as a marketing tool. Kindle On the Cheap sent out a plea to its members today on Facebook: "Amazon has placed a limit on free Kindle book downloads that our community could go over in just a few days, putting our site in peril. Anytime you click to Amazon from our site, a cookie is opened for 24 hours and any free Kindle book you download counts against us. Please, to help us stay open, do not click and purchase a free Kindle book in the same browser where you browse books from (our new blog coming March 1) or our Facebook pages. Or, please use your device to search in the Amazon store for the freebie and download it that way."
For KDP Select promotions to be truly effective, book sites that promote free books have been essential for getting the word out and leading people to download our free books. Other similar sites will also, if they haven't already, be forced to change how they include free books, if at all. I have been leaning away from continuing with KDP Select and the time to make a change may be now. The free book promotions on Amazon may have run their course and this is probably not such a bad thing. The glut of freebies out there has weakened the overall strength of indie books. Time to regroup, adjust , and move forward.
What does everyone think?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

4.5 stars Amazon Kindle

From the first paragraph, you are hooked . . . characters are strong, realistic, and story line drags you right into the pages. Thrills, chills, a little romance, and great attention to detail. Could not put my Kindle down - stayed up til 3 am reading so I could find out what happens to everyone!"~Debra Field

"Things are rarely what they appear to be in this deftly written novel of intrigue and judgment. Eb is a wonderful character, masculine yet real, dealing with real human challenges, trying to find inner peace in a world writhing with turmoil and hidden and half truths. The ending is powerful and, like the rest of the book, complicated and satisfying." ~Martha Bryce

Ex-Army helicopter pilot Eb McLean is struggling to deal with his emotional scars and return to civilian life, but a sudden explosion and vicious murder throw him back into another kind of war. Now his sister Maggie's car is burning in front of their restaurant and hardened FBI agent Nick Kavadas wants to nail Eb for the crime. Eb finds himself in a race against time to find the real killer and peel back the layers of deceit and lies which threaten to destroy everything he holds dear. But whom can he trust? ATF Special Agent Danielle Ricci, who may be harboring a secret of her own? The sexy, but deadly, Imme Amoud? Or could his involvement with her be a fatal attraction? In the frantic hunt for the killer Eb is forced to confront his own tortured past. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Love in a Mystery/Thriller? What's Love Got To Do With It?

 Who needs a heart when a heart can be broken? Why, your protagonist, of course! Exploring the human side of characters is an important element of a story, even stories within "non-romance" genres, like mysteries and thrillers. For example, exploring  a protagonist's relationships and developing love interests not only adds an element of suspense (such as when the reader is not sure if the hero will get the girl), but gives your main character a dose of humanity which will hopefully resonate with readers. 

In my Eb Maclean books, Fortress of Lies and Judgment Tramp, the protagonist wants love but has an underlying fear, because of his past, that he may be unworthy of it. He is "damaged goods". His desire to love again and fear of remaining distant from it, is a driving force behind solving the books' central mysteries and peeling back the layers of deceit within his own family. Eb's trust and anger issues, as well as his (not necessarily ungrounded) paranoia further complicate things.  His two sisters keep secrets from him, and he often finds himself in danger because of them.

A protagonist's love life can serve a useful purpose within the story framework--and more than that, it can be a foundation for every other aspect of the story. Janet Evanovich uses the two men in Stephanie Plum's life to give her access into a shady world that she would otherwise never experience. Ranger is her mentor, helping her to learn and survive as a bounty hunter, and Ranger's business interests also provide an almost endless number of mysteries for her to solve. Stephanie's other love, Joe Morelli, is a cop. It's natural that Ranger and Joe Morelli will tangle with each other occasionally, just as it is also natural that they will occasionally come together to help Stephanie when she's gotten herself in too deep. The other loves in Stephanie's life, her worry-wart mother, her long suffering father, her eccentric grandmother, all contribute to the chaos. The end result of those complex (and oftentimes comical) relationships is a fiction writer's dream.

Relationships always come with baggage of some type or another, and that can help us make sense of why a character does certain things--and often the key relationship in someone's life provides the impetus to drive a character to risk everything to solve a mystery. Eb Maclean isn't looking for trouble, but when someone puts a bomb in his sister's car he is forced to find them--because his sister, Maggie, won't be safe until that person is caught. Eb's deep love for Maggie is revealed when the reader sees what lengths he will go to in order to catch the bomber, and the possible consequence of losing her raises the stakes of the game--to a point where Eb must solve the mystery or lose everything that he cares about.

Love can also allow us to see a softer side of a character--and at the same time reveal what humans are capable of doing for love. A person can commit a crime for an altruistic reason--a man could rob a bank to get money for an operation that might save his son, and it could spiral out of control from there as the situation turns into a hostage crisis inside the bank. Is the man a good guy who made a bad choice--or is he a bad guy with a good motive for this one particular crime? The story could be written several different ways, but the love for his son would tend to humanize the man in the reader's eyes in any case. 
There are many ways that a protagonists' love life can mold a story--and working the relationship angle to the fullest can make the difference between a flat, lifeless story and a great read. Love has everything to do with it--because it is a big reason why people do what they do.

How does your protagonist's love life impact the plot of your work?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Starting at the beginning of your story..the real beginning.

Believe it or not, The Guns of August is a book about a certain time...August.

More to the point, it's a book  about events taking place in Europe during August of 1914, as the great powers of Europe bluffed, blustered, and ultimately stumbled into WWI. (The Guns of August is considered to be the definitive book about the start of WWI).
August was the final month of decision for the European powers--the month that turned the short war that all the principles thought they were fighting into the long, bloody, tragic war that actually occurred. Germany, France, Russia and Britain reached the decision to go to war in late July and early August, but the event that many people associate with starting the war is the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand by Serbian nationalists in June of 1914.

So it would make sense that The Guns of August would start somewhere within that 1914 timeline--but that isn't the case at all. Barbara Tuchman, the Pulitzer prize-winning author of The Guns of August, started her book with a description of the funeral of Edward Vll in May, 1910. It's the perfect place to begin the narrative, because the leaders of Europe attended the funeral, and the intrigue at that event does a great job of setting the stage for the conflagration to come.

Tuchman then spends several chapters covering other aspects of the lead-up to war, and the events of August, 1914 aren't delved into until chapter 6 of her book.

The point of the above dissertation? Barbara Tuchman knew what she wanted to write about--and she knew just where to start the story for maximum effect. Tuchman realized that the reader needed background in order to understand the story she wanted to tell, but she never forgot her main subject (described aptly by the title of the book)--and the result is a masterpiece.

Budding fiction writers often get into big trouble when they confuse background details with the plot of their story, and they get into further trouble when they enter the story at the wrong place in time. Sometimes they start the story too soon, and the book ends up with 80 pages of fluff before the real story begins. Or worse, the story doesn't start when it should, and the reader is left abandoned on page 2 in the middle of nowhere without anything to hold on to, and shortly thereafter gives up on the book.

Starting the story at the right point in time is one of the most critical judgments a writer can make--and there's no set formula for success.Every book is different, and a writer has to go with his or her gut and hope it leads in the right direction.

I knew I had a good start on my book, Judgment Tramp, when I reached the halfway point of the first draft and I was still comfortable with my first chapter. Looking back, I realize that the action in the first chapter provided a tipping point for the story--and all of the intrigue, twists and turns in the book could logically flow from the moment in chapter 1 when a bomb went off in Maggie's car. That event was the "what" of the book, and the reaction of the characters in the book to that event is the "why" of the story. Everything I did in the plotting of the book related directly to those two principals, and in doing so I successfully followed the same logic that Barbara Tuchman used when writing her book.

The real beginning to a story is the beginning that makes everything afterward flow smoothly towards an exciting, satisfying ending--but even more important, a good page 1 needs to lead to a great page two, and a better page 3, and.... 
Finding that entry point into a story is easy sometimes, but often it isn't immediately apparent--and I think most writers struggle with it more often than not.

When I look back at the work I haven't finished, or the books I wrote that I'm unhappy with, the entry point into the story is usually a major part of the problem. Just like Barbara Tuchman, it's important to know what story we want to tell, and then determine the best place to start in order to give just the right amount of back story to draw your readers in, and build toward a satisfying climax and ending.

So what questions should we be asking ourselves to help us determine the best point at which to start our story?

I can think of three different timelines right now:

1. The moment when the protagonist first realizes the magnitude of the challenge that awaits. In Judgment Tramp, this moment is when the bomb explodes in Maggie's car. Someone dies in that explosion, but for my protagonist, Eb Maclean, the horror of the murder is initially secondary, because he realizes that the bomb was meant to kill his sister--and that's all he can think about. 
In a romance novel, it could be the moment when a woman meets her eventual lover--even if the character doesn't initially understand what's happening.

2. The moment when a character understands the cost of a prior action. A novel might start with the death of a character, and then flashback to the events that led to his or her demise.

3. A funny, absurd, or poignant moment in your protagonist's life that is interesting solely because of what it reveals about the character. Lawrence Sanders was adept at using that device in his Archy McNally mystery series. The actual story can begin later--but the beginning can make the reader fall for the character and instill a desire to learn more about his or her life.

What do you think? Give me some ideas on how you might approach this in your work. I'd love to get your perspective!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Twitter Following: What's Your Policy?

I took a bit of a hiatus from Twitter over the holidays and guiltily tackled the task of going through the list of tweeps who had followed me while I was "gone". (I'm positive they have been racked with anticipation). My norm has been to do this on a daily basis and I "follow back" a good 90% of those good folks who have chosen to follow me. A year ago I was a total neophyte to this twitter thing and made the common neophyte bumbles. For example, I made the annoying mistake of following absolutely everyone back with an invitation to look at my book or blog. (Yes, I was THAT guy!) I have picked up a few pointers since those early days. I realized as I was going through this rather extensive list of new followers that I had developed my own personal policy regarding who to follow, and it's this policy I'm choosing to share today. Do you need a personal policy for twitter following? I tend to think it's a good idea. The sheer number of tweets can become overwhelming and as your twitter following grows, it becomes harder and harder to sort through, and respond to relevant tweets.     
1. I follow only actual people and there are very few actual people I won't follow. I know you're real if you're not an egg (an actual photo of you is especially appreciated), and if you have taken the time to write even one line about yourself. You don't have to have won national awards, be Batman by night, or own a house in Maui. Just something, anything. 
2. If you are obviously trying to sell me something, or you are a business only that I am not interested in, I won't follow you. Sorry. I have a hard enough time wading through the tweets as it is.This is especially true if I click over to your tweets and find there are no reciprocal tweets. If you never retweet anyone else, then we're not gonna be good twitter friends.
3. I like inspiration as much as the next guy. I need inspiration. But, I realized sometime back, I don't really want every quote, affirmation, insight,etc. in my twitter stream. Before you conclude that I am a curmudgeon, I'm not talking about people who tweet the occasional quote, positive saying , etc.. Love those. No, I'm talking about the twitter sites devoted totally to this activity. I honestly never realized there could be so many.. 
4. Twit Validation. Ok, I am a Twit and I don't think I should have to validate this... Seriously, if I have to apply to follow you... Come on, folks, this is just too time consuming, and frankly, I'm not sure if you should be on Twitter if this is a huge concern. Twitter is a hugely public forum. That's the nature of this social media beast. My policy: I won't jump through hoops to follow least not on Twitter.
4. Lastly, I rarely look at my direct messages anymore because they are filled with spam or well-meaning people (like I was) who ask me to go check out their product. I will probably follow you, but I hope you learn, as I did, that this is an approach that others generally don't appreciate.
 Happy tweeting!
~Jeff 8^D